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5 of Europe’s best up-and-coming city escapes

There is far more to Europe than its capital cities. Pack a suitcase, hop on a plane and road test one of these lesser-travelled delights.

Porto, Portugal



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Lisbon is so last week. If we’re visiting Portugal, we’re going to Porto. This second city has been growing in popularity recently due to its increasingly cosmopolitan attitude blending seamlessly into its deep history.

The heart of the historical centre is found in the Old Town (Ribeira district). While some of the more modern houses have slipped into a bad state, the UNESCO World Heritage site contains grand baroque, beaux-arts and medieval architecture. Colourful houses line squares that are seldom empty – there is always a bar to prop up or a ray to catch.

The cosmopolitan draw stems from the rise in budget airlines that are making Porto more accessible to the weekend traveller. Worked into the history are a selection of incomparable music venues, bars that open out onto plazas and delightful places to eat; old meets new in a way that can’t be compared.

If you like your wine, you’ll be delighted to know that Porto is the birthplace of Port. Kick back next to the docks, take a sip and wonder if you’ll ever want to go home.

Zermatt, Switzerland



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Tucked behind the stark and stony face of the Matterhorn Mountain is Zermatt, Switzerland. Picturesque vistas encompass this quaint little mountain town. Snow topped cabins connected by winding alleys have been keeping visitors cosy since the mid-1800s when its tourist appeal first emerged. Today, ski bunnies and those looking for an adrenalin rush visit in droves.

During the winter season, visitors take to their skis and utilise the freshly powdered slopes. Later in the summer, the snow melts to reveal a lush, green, hikers paradise. During these times, you can catch the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise (a cable car that travels at 3883 meters above sea level) if you don’t fancy doing the exercise.

The mountain has been closed for climbing since July last year, but you don’t have to be at the top to appreciate the subtle pink hue of the morning’s sun that surrounds it each day.

Vienna, Austria



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Making Lonely Planet’s top 10 of places to visit last year, we think that Vienna should totally be on your visit list for 2016. What was once a centre for monarchy is now a cultural hotspot, bubbling with life. From the former summer Schönbrunn Palace to Prater in 2nd district, Vienna’s regal overtones make it the perfect place to laze away a few days.

One of the best parts of the Vienna experience is a visit to their coffee houses. Plentiful in supply, you’re never too far away from an experience that will leave you feeling like royalty. As comfortable as your living room, with the opulence the high ceilings and arches of the building demand; you’ll be hooked after your first sip.

Florence, Italy



Rolling hills, an idyllic riverside setting and a strong urban presence busying itself away within its long, narrow renaissance streets; it’s no wonder that they say you’ll discover more about Florence the more you return.

The arts pose a strong presence throughout town, with gallery after gallery filled with pieces spanning the ages.

For a pure Florence-arts experience, be sure to visit Galleria degli Uffizi. The walls of the gallery itself are a huge piece of history (dating back to the 1500s); but the collection of iconic Italian works was given to the city in 1743 by the Medici family – under strict orders that it never leaves the city.

Dresden, Germany



Stepping into the city of Dresden in Germany is like stepping into a fairy tale. Spires and cathedrals mingle alongside exuberant parks and forests. It’s still shocking to think that all of this amazing architecture was built less than 100 years ago.

If absorbing Dresden's beautiful sites has gotten you a little hungry, then the dining scene in this German gem will definitely have something that’ll hit the spot. Varying in cuisine and price, there is a restaurant for everyone tucked around every corner. Whether you want to look out over at the Semper Opera House, a vineyard or if you want to be hidden away in a historical vaulted cellar… there’s a table waiting for you.