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Exploring Europe?’s List of Must-see ‘Second Cities’


Five lesser-known, but visit-worthy cities travellers shouldn’t miss

With the summer fast approaching, travel planning is on everyone’s mind and Europe remains a popular option for those looking to combine adventure and history with gorgeous weather and breathtaking sights. In fact, according to bookings made on, Canada’s leading online travel provider, 60% of all Europe-bound travel last year took place between May to September* with Canadians heading over ‘The Pond’ to take in the sights and sounds of the Old Country. Return travellers to Europe, or those looking for an itinerary that will take them off the well-beaten path, can easily take advantage of the close proximity of popular European countries and more affordable accommodations in lesser-known, but equally-worthy cities to experience a new take on the Old World. To help inspire curiosity, has compiled a list of destinations close to some of the most popular cities in Europe that are definitely worth hitting on the open road.

Lovely Lyon

Tucked away just south of Paris, connecting La Ville-Lumiere with the Mediterranean Sea, is Lyon, France’s unofficial centre for gastronomy. Only 489 km away from Charles de Gaulle Airport, Lyon is home to some of France’s finest chefs and family cuisineand benefits from its close proximity to two of the country’s best known wine regions: the Cotes du Rhone and the Beaujolais. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lyon’s rich history could almost overshadow the city’s other can’t-miss experiences such as the scenic Parc de la Tete d’Or and the world-class Nouvel Opera House. Only a 4 hour drive away from Paris and boasting the average nightly rate for hotels in Lyon approximately 15%** cheaper than Paris hotels, you’ll need a good excuse to pass this city up.

Viva Valencia!

Only 350 kilometers from bustling Barcelona lies Valencia, Spain’s third-largest city and arguably one of the country’s most popular tourist destination with both foreigners and Spaniards alike. Valencia’s rich history dates back to the time when it was a central hub for the silk trade,and the pedestrianized old town reflects the ancient past. Its breathtaking modern architecture includes the City of Arts and Science which features a series of futuristic, cutting edge structures that defy the imagination. Be sure to check out Las Fallas in March with the famous paper statues burning in the streets, or La Tomatina festival in late August - an epic tomato food fight that is sure to leave a lasting impression…and a few stains as well as the Motor GP event every year. Valencia is also famous for its long, sandy beach and traditional “chiringuitos” serving the popular “paella” which originated in the city. What’s even better? Valencia offers accommodations up to 36%** less nightly than Barcelona.

Classic Cambridge

Getting away from London’s hustle and bustle is a must for those looking to diversify their European adventure. Just two hours from Heathrow rests charming Cambridge – famous for its reputation as a university town during the school year, but cherished for its dense roster of activities when summer comes along. Immerse yourself in local culture at the Strawberry Fair, a free arts and music festival in early June – or pick your week in July and August and attend the world famous eight-week Shakespeare Festival. With students away for the summer, take the opportunity to visit the University of Cambridge’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, covering nearly 2 million years of human history with a renowned collection of arts and artifacts. It doesn’t take a scholar to see that Cambridge gets an ‘A’ in affordability - particularly when hotels are on average, 18%** cheaper than hotels in London.

Noble Naples

Travellers who’ve exhausted all there is to do in the Eternal City, can head south to the Mediterranean metropolis of Naples, one of the world’s oldest and most storied cities and the former capital of the now defunct Kingdom of Naples which at the time, covered the southern portion of the Italian peninsula from the Middle Ages to 1860. A history spanning thousands of years has left Naples with an impressive roster of classical ruins and medieval castles that has the city centre designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Traditionally viewed as the home of pizza and famous for its local delicacies, Neapolitan cuisine makes Naples a crucial stop for any foodies looking to experience Italy’s most beloved dishes. With an average daily rate that is 29%** cheaper than Rome, Naples is well worth extending your trip.

Remarkable Rotterdam

A little bleary eyed from Amsterdam? Just over an hour away by car is the largest port in Europe and Holland’s second largest city: Rotterdam. With cutting-edge architecture and unsurpassed multicultural diversity, Rotterdam is the epitome of a modern European city. Check out everything from medieval to contemporary art at the Bojimans-van Beuningen Museum, and learn about one of the world’s most active ports at the Maritime Museum. Often overlooked in favor of Amsterdam, Rotterdam offers a more authentic view of the Netherlands, both its long history and its bright future, and Rotterdam hotels are on average of 40%** cheaper than hotels in Amsterdam.

Europe has never been more affordable, thanks to’s Europe Sale. Travellers who book on between March 12 and April 30 for travel from May 1 to September 30 can save up to 50% off hotels through Canada’s leading online travel provider. Thinking about flying to Paris this summer? Enter to win a 7 night trip to Paris where you’ll stay at the 4-star Hotel Pullman Montparnasse and enjoy a bonus cruise along the iconic River Seine. Visit’s Facebook page to enter!

*Based on 2012 total air transactions booked on for European destinations.

** Savings are based on average daily hotel rates for stays in these cities between May and September 2012 booked on and can vary based on star ratings.


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