THE BLOG
09/11/2014 03:40 pm ET Updated Nov 11, 2014

Europe's Hidden Cities

You've marvelled at Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower, sipped Guinness in Dublin, explored Rome's ruins and gazed at Gaudi's architecture in Barcelona. Now you're looking for another European city break and feel like going beyond the biggest and most famous cities.

Perhaps you're looking to discover somewhere quieter, less touristy or simply a different side of one you favorite countries. One of the best things about Europe is the sheer variety of cities just a few hours away by air.

Here are my three top rated European city breaks, tried and tested! If you're looking for something a little different, whether its Sicilian beaches, western Irish wildness or Luxembourg chic, keep reading.

Catania, Sicily

Why Catania? One of the city's biggest draws is its warm and sunny climate, with average temperatures well into the 20s from May to September. There is a long sandy beach, La Plaja, running along the bay to the south, making it ideal if you want to mix up urban exploration and sightseeing with lounging by the sea.

Sicilian food is one of Italy's most distinctive regional cuisines, with Arabic, Spanish and French influences. If you have a sweet tooth indulge yourself by visiting a pasticceria for some cannoli, a traditional pastry filled with sweetened ricotta, candied fruit and chocolate. For the authentic experience, enjoy them with an espresso while people-watching.

Mount Etna provides a dramatic backdrop to the city's stunning Baroque architecture and bustling markets. If you're feeling energetic, it's possible to walk up to the summit or you can take a cable car up to 2,800m.

Some of Sicily's most well-known Roman ruins at Taormina and Syracuse are within easy reach too.

Galway, Ireland

Why Galway? Right in the middle of Ireland's wild and beautiful west coast, the city itself is full of historical charm and if you rent a car you can keep yourself entertained for days exploring the local countryside.

Galway's most picturesque area is the Latin Quarter, with many lanes featuring 16th and 17th century buildings. It's also the best place in the city for shops, bars and eateries. While you can find all your international food favourites in the area, try modern Irish cuisine at least once, with updated classics like boxty potato pancakes served with smoked salmon or eggs benedict.

Outside the city, Connemara National Park offers a hiking routes suitable for a variety of fitness levels, during which you might spot some of the famous Connemara ponies. The rugged landscape provides ideal terrain for golf and there are several excellent courses within an easy drive of Galway city.

Luxembourg

Why Luxembourg? Best known as a thriving international business centre, Luxembourg is ideal for a sophisticated and luxurious weekend getaway.

Culture vultures can feast at the Mudam gallery, which showcases global contemporary art in a specially commissioned building designed by Ioah Ming Pei, best known for the Louvre's Pyramid. The duchy is full of architecture that looks like it's straight out of a fairytale, including the Royal Palace and Chateau de Vianden.

Luxembourg is in the middle of some of northern Europe's best wine producing areas. If you're a wine lover, visit Bernard-Massard, one of the country's leading sparkling wine makers. You can visit the cellars and butterfly gardens before having a tasting.

If you enjoy haute cuisine indulge yourself at one of Luxembourg's 11 Michelin starred restaurants, the highest concentration of stars per person anywhere in Europe. French food predominates at top-end eateries, although Mosconi, the only place to have two coveted stars, serves traditional Italian fare.