Rome, Paris, Barcelona, Amsterdam - Europe's capital cities are awash with cultural delights, historical treasures, stunning architecture and some of the best restaurants in the world.
However, due to their popularity, they are also awash (pardon the rain pun!) with tourists and overly expensive eateries and hostelries. So with budget airlines travelling to an ever growing list of cities, why not consider some that may not immediately spring to mind?
Palermo - If you're looking for Rome with less tourists then this Sicilian capital is for you. The city is an exotic mix of many cultures and delivers an abundance of historical palaces, churches and castles. These contrast sharply with the swanky apartments, cosmopolitan cafes and designer shops provided by Via della Liberta. Alternatively, why not head ten miles west of the city to the fabulous Mondello beach, which hosts the annual World Windsurfing Festival from 14th-20th May 2012.
Gothenburg - Sweden's second city boasts the cobbled streets of Haga, meandering canals and fabulous public parks including Sweden's largest botanical gardens. Sample the finest, freshest seafood in the country's 2012 culinary capital where the restaurants range from small and intimate to positively decadent. Stroll along the historic harbourside or take an open top Paddan Boat tour through the canal waters around the centre.
Valletta - This ancient Maltese capital is a true showpiece of architecture at its best. One of the world's best preserved fortified cities, Valletta's grand squares are linked by a maze of streets and alleyways populated with cafes, bars and shops, many of which remain much the same as they did a century ago. Here you can find unique art and antiques, and a fantastic array of local crafts, with silverware, pottery and glass and the finest hand-woven lace all on offer.
Nice - If even a short break isn't a holiday without a glimpse of golden shores then the capital of the Cote d'Azur is the ideal place to stroll alongside the Med on the Promenade des Anglais, inevitably stopping along the way for fresh coffee and croissant. Get there for the 29th April to witness the start of the Nice half marathon, or from May 16th take yourself an hour down the coast to Cannes to celebrity spot at the Cannes Film Festival. Being second only to Paris in its number of museums and galleries, there is still plenty to be found in Nice to occupy the culture vulture.
Reykjavik - Home to some of the most beautiful and fascinating landscapes, Reykjavik is an eclectic mix of hot springs and spontaneously gushing geysers, snow capped mountains, lagoons and glaciers. A visit to one of the many thermal pools is a must, filled with mineral rich, geo-thermally heated water offering an invigorating experience you just won't find at your local swimming baths! Sample the buzz of the city nightlife or dine in world class restaurants. It’s definitely a holiday destination of extremes and with puffin season approaching, you must take a trip to the Westmann Islands, keeping an eye out for orcas and whales en route.
With these destinations all increasing in popularity year on year, isn't it time you explored them yourself? thebestof Southend thoroughly recommends Karen Goldman – Travel Counsellors Southend; a highly experienced and dedicated local travel specialist, she is ready and waiting to help you plan your trip, sourcing hotels and travel to suit your needs and budget.