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There are so many amazing capital cities in the world. Each capital reflects the culture of the country, and no two capitals are the same. Often, a country’s capital is the most visited city in the country and can attract many visitors.

Capital cities are often also the most well-known, with many being simply iconic. However, when we step away from the likes of Paris, Amsterdam and Rome, which each are spectacular cities in their own right, it is possible to see that there are fantastic cities and regions overlooked in favour of capitals.

Here are some picks for the best alternatives to capital cities in Europe:

Strasbourg, France. Photo by Georges Christophe
Strasbourg, France. Photo by Georges Christophe

1. Alsace Region, France 

I would absolutely recommend visiting France’s iconic capital at least once. I have had my own romantic getaway to Paris and would recommend it to anyone, taking a romantic partner or not.

It is so jam-packed with amazing sights and things to do that you could go with a partner, friends, family, or simply go alone. When discussing going to France, Paris is likely the first destination that pops into mind.

I have been to France countless times to different areas of the country, with several friends living there, and can contend that there is so much more to see outside of Paris.

My personal favourite is the Alsace Region, a Germanic region of France that looks like it could have been pulled straight out of a fairytale.

The brightly painted buildings combined with the peaceful atmosphere of towns in this region makes it perfect to visit if you are looking for something a bit quieter than Paris.

I first visited the region in 2019 on a small trip around various places in North-Western Europe and absolutely fell in love with it.

The locals are insanely welcoming, the scenery looks like something out of a movie, and it really should be a crime to leave without trying the out-of-this-world chocolate in this region of France.

If you plan to visit and do not have long to do it, my top picks would be Strasbourg, Colmar and Mulhouse. There really is something to see everywhere you turn when visiting and your days there will never be boring. 

Gothenburg, Sweden. Photo by Anna
Gothenburg, Sweden. Photo by Anna

2. Gothenburg, Sweden As An Alternative City

I visited both Stockholm and Gothenburg on a road trip around Scandinavia the summer before starting university. The home of ABBA, Stockholm is one of those destinations I had been so desperate to visit for many years.

My fascination with Sweden in general probably came from my obsession with Zara Larsson when she competed in and won the 2008 series of Talang (the Swedish version of the Got Talent franchise).

Admittedly, I had never heard of Gothenburg before this trip was planned and went there not knowing much at all about it. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but what I found was a never-ending scope of simply outstanding views.

This was not any typical boring city; the streets are lined with the most amazing colours, locals entertain with their instruments, and the best meatballs I’ve ever tasted can be found here.

Visitors can panoramically appreciate the entirety of the city by venturing to Skansen Kronan, to look over the city and take in the beauty of what locals are living in amongst.

Gothenburg also has a variety of canals that visitors can use if they wish to explore the city by boat. Visiting the city on a sunny day is sure to give travellers an unforgettable visual experience, with a bright and bustling atmosphere at every turn.

While Stockholm exceeded my expectations, I really had no expectations at all for Gothenburg, however the unexpected can often lead to the best experiences. 

Brno, Czechia. Photo by Ignat Arapov
Brno, Czechia. Photo by Ignat Arapov

3. Brno, Czech Republic As An Alternative City

It goes without saying that Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, is my absolute favourite travel destination. I have been twice, once for my 18th birthday and also in Summer 2020 when leisure travel started to resume.

I am absolutely in love with Prague as I feel it really has everything; a wide variety of history, unique side streets, amazing nightlife, the best walking tours I have been on, and more.

I believe the city is absolutely faultless and I cannot recommend it enough, Prague is always the first destination I suggest when someone asks me for travel recommendations. However, the Czech Republic is full of smaller destinations catering to tourists, one of which being Brno.

Another destination I didn’t know of until a couple of years ago, Brno is close to major cities such as Vienna and Prague, making it a viable option for a day trip when looking for something outside of capital cities.

The city is full of outstanding architecture, and in comparison to Czechia’s famous capital, is extremely peaceful and perfect for someone wishing to venture to a destination to relax a little.

Brno is a charming destination that could leave a visitor wandering and roaming the streets for hours on end, with so much to see.

For those who love nature and consider themselves nature tourists, the surrounding areas of Brno are perfect for walking and taking in the countryside air. Travel does not always have to involve popular, well-known destinations.

There is a whole world outside of the typical choices of travel, and while these capital cities should be visited at least once, it is important to remember just how much is on offer outside of these capitals at alternative cities.

For exclusive flight deals, car rental reservations and vacation packages, check out CheapOair.

Find top-rated hotels, homes, hostels, cabins and more types of places to stay, wherever you want to travel, here.

Read about more exciting destinations in our articles here:

Author bio: Emma Ritchie

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