Easter holidays are in just a month and with the spring blooming, the temptation of having a short getaway abroad is quite strong. Here are 5 places in Europe that are beautiful, affordable and “far from the madding crowd.”
If you are a party-animal, your place is at the Studentski grad (Student town), a neighborhood near Vitosha mountain. Originally established as a campus for Sofia’s major universities, nowadays, the place has developed into something like a 24/7 party center where you can enjoy discos, bars and famous Bulgarian banichka (a kind of pastry breakfast). Ryanair, Wizzair and Easyjet have regular flights to the city and a taxi from the airport to the city center costs around 8 euros.2. Budapest – Another fascinating capital with affordable prices and plenty of must-see attractions. The Hungarian city is situated on both sides of the Danube river dividing the city into Buda (the modern) and Pest (the older) part. If you want to admire great architecture, Budapest is definitely your place – from the fascinating Basilica St. Stephen to the buildings on Andrassy ut (major city street) to the remarkable Parliament structure right on the side of the Danube. The main shopping street is called Vaci and there you can find everything from famous Hungarian paprika (red pepper spice) to the latest iPhone As for the nightlife – check one (or few) of the so called ruinpubs, most of them on Kazinzcy street. Szimpla kert is the first established bar and still the most popular one. A pint of local beer is about 2 euros. Another place is Instant, near the Opera house.
If you get tired of the city noise and traffic – you can escape into one of the city baths (fürdő). Built over nearby mineral springs, Budapest baths, offer everything for full body and soul relaxation. One of the best is Rudas gyógyfürdő, a recently renovated SPA center. It has 4 Sauna rooms, 10 swimming pools with different temperatures, including an outside one on the top of the building where you can enjoy the view towards the river while soothing in the hot water. An all-inclusive package for a day is €15.3.3. Bratislava – only a 2 hours’ trip from Budapest and 40 min. from Vienna, the charming little capital of Slovakia is welcoming everyone who is looking to escape tourist crowds and would like to enjoy a good quality beer or wine. The city center might lack the astonishing architecture of Budapest or Prague, but still poses this charming spirit of Bohemia and old Europe. A must visit place is the city Castle and Gran Cru Wine gallery next to it. The winery is built into the rock and will travel you back in time with its decoration, wonderful cuisine and of course great selection of wines. As for accommodation – if you have an adventurous spirit, try one of the Airbnb options in Petrizalka neighborhood – a communist style block of flats which have been renovated and are the most populated region in the capital
4. Peniche – Portugal has the reputation of Europe’s most reasonably priced countries and the capital Lisbon is a must place to visit no matter the season. But if you are looking for something equally amusing, relaxing and not so crowded, then take a trip to Peniche, a 20,000 citizen town right on the cost of the Atlantic Ocean. Peniche is, actually, a well-established surfing place, one of the best on the Old Continent with the season starting from the end of March and continuing all through the summer. The town center is dominated by Fortaleza, a 16th century fortress which is nowadays a Portuguese people love nightlife, but don’t expect big flashing discos – people meet on the street and just sit together enjoying port or red wine until the early morning hours. Peniche can offer cheap hostel accommodation (around 10 euro per night) and plenty of Airbnb options.
Inside tip: rent a car or take a local bus to Obidos, a small village which captures the spirit of old Portugal, with wonderful architecture and plenty of craft shops to get original souvenirs.
5. Syracuse – famous as the birth place of Archimedes, one of the major Sicilian cities has an ancient history, wonderful architecture and one of the best Italian ice-creams. Only a 40 min. drive from the airport of Catania (in the foot of Mt. Etna) Syracuse is the place to see if you want to squeeze a few centuries history in one place, enjoy wonderful seafood, and witness one of the most amazing sunsets over the Arethusa Fountain. Book a room in one of the hundreds of small Bed & Breakfast loggings in Ortygia (about €25), the old part of the city. Be an early bird and wake up with the first sun rays to witness the fishermen sailing, thousands of birds singing and enjoy a cup of strong espresso scremato on foot in any of the local kiosks. During the day, you can sunbathe under the Mediterranean sun at the beaches of Taourmina (1.30-hour drive) and in the evening return to Syracuse to join the locals in their favourite activity – a stroll on Piazza Duomo and ice-cream from the nearby parlours. Bars and restaurants open generally after 8 o’clock in the evening.