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Top alternative city breaks

Forget Paris, Rome and the other usual suspects – if it’s an adventure you’re after then these offbeat urban destinations will deliver cultural thrills, sensory treats and endless surprises.

Best for art nouveau architecture: Riga

Plan a weekend away to Riga from Glasgow Airport to find out why this vibrant Latvian city has been dubbed Europe’s art nouveau capital. The extravagant architectural flourishes of buildings such as the Riga Art Nouveau Museum (Alberta 12) and Blaumana 28 give the city a unique character, while the medieval Old Town adds to the historic vibe. When you’ve finished exploring the treats on show in Alberta, Elizabetes and Smilšu Streets, relax in one of the cafés springing up all over the Old Town, or take a Latvian food-tasting tour at Riga Central Market (Nēģu 7).  


Best for live music and cosy pubs: Cork

Ireland’s second city is an enticing mash-up of contemporary culture and age-old traditions. Grand Georgian parades stand shoulder-to-shoulder with avant-garde architectural icons, while ancient pubs with nightly Irish music sessions cluster around the glass-roofed Opera House (Emmett Place). Take a short break to Cork from Glasgow Airport to browse contemporary art museums such as the fabulous Crawford Art Gallery (also Emmet Place), snack on delicious fresh produce from the English Market (Grand Parade) or explore the endless sandy beaches at Barleycove and Garretstown. When the sun goes down, dance to traditional live music at An Spailpín Fánac (27-29 South Main Street), one of the oldest pubs in the country, or time your visit to coincide with one of the city’s many lively festivals for an even more upbeat experience.

Best for steaming lagoons and funky cafés: Reykjavík

Not all Iceland’s attractions are natural. Reykjavík, the country’s appealing coastal capital, is quickly establishing itself as city break gold thanks to its unique combination of excellent museums, all-night party scene, exploding cultural movement and – of course – the famous hot springs that dot the surrounding landscape. The city is famous for its quirky cafés, with basement hangout Tiú Dropar (Laugavegur 27) and the Danish-influenced Laundromat Café (Austurstæti 9) currently drawing the coolest crowds. To really unwind, skip the beautiful but crowded Blue Lagoon and head instead to the lesser-visited warm river at Reykjadalur, a short hike from the town of Hveragerði.