VACATION IDEAS

6 Charming & Affordable European Cities You Haven't Visited Yet

You'll get a warm welcome, find stylish steals, and enjoy food, wine, fashion, and culture that's second to none in these intimate European metropolises.

WHERE TO STAY. Crowne Plaza Antwerp is a 10-minute bus ride from the city center, (Gerard le Grellelaan 10, crowneplaza.com).

GET THERE. Antwerp is 28 miles north of Brussels, a 40-minute drive or a 40-minute train ride.

PORTO, PORTUGAL

Raise a glass to the next great wine region

Most discussions of Porto begin with some kind of comparison with Lisbon, its hustle-bustle big-city neighbor. But we love Porto just for being, well, Porto. (Of all the gorgeous images of Europe we had to choose from, we picked Porto, with its elegantly meandering Douro River, for our September/October tablet edition cover!) The city that gave Portugal its name, this place has been making waves these days with some exciting new buildings, great public markets, and a thriving art scene.

WHY PORTO IS SECOND TO NONE. If you're thinking "What about the Port wine?" You're on the right track. But Porto is about more than just the rich red digestif that bears the city's name. You might say the town is a bit vino-crazed at the moment, with the Douro River region finally getting its due as a world-class wine producer—and one of the most beautiful wine regions on the planet. Here, you will find not only delicious Ports (start with a tour—and tasting!—of the classic Sandeman winery, or a tasting at Vinologia) but also excellent red table wines. And you'll also be delighted by Porto's sense of humor, with wine- and cork-inspired designs and products popping up all over this fun, friendly town.

MUST-SEE SIGHTS. Porto's Casa da Musica is eye candy of the highest order. The concert hall, designed by Rem Koolhaas, is home to Porto's three symphony orchestras and was inaugurated by rocker Lou Reed in 2005. If the casa's quirky design inspires your inner hipster, head down to Porto's Ribeira neighborhood, with its popular cafe and bar scene. If you lose your way on the winding medieval streets leading to the harbor, ask for directions to the statue of Porto native Henry the Navigator. The city is ideal for strolling and shopping. Don't miss the Mercado do Bolhão public market and the contemporary art galleries arrayed along Rua Miguel Bombarda. But the coolest sourvenir of all may be a pair of shoes made of cork from the distinctive shop Porto Signs.

WHERE TO EAT. Aviz is the place to grab a francesinha—a meat-and-melted-cheese sandwich (Rua de Aviz 17, 222/004-575).

WHERE TO STAY. Hotel Miradouro is centrally located near the river (Rua Alegria 598 , albergariamiradouro.pai.pt).

GET THERE. Porto is 195 miles north of Lisbon, a three-hour drive or about two-and-a-half hours by train.

MILAN, ITALY

Bargain shopping in the world's fashion capital

Ah, Italy! A country where a city that's a fashion capital and home to arguably the world's greatest opera company and Leonardo's second most famous painting can be considered a "second city." But Milan, with a population second only to Rome, often gets missed by tourists who try to cram the Eternal City, Florence, and Venice into one trip. Well, we're here to tell you it's time to head back to Italy and spend some time in Milan.

WHY MILAN IS SECOND TO NONE. Sure, you know that Milan is the epicenter of the fashion world, with its Fashion Weeks inspiring—and sometimes dictating—what will be the hip new colors or fabrics for a season. But like its fashion-centric sister city, New York, Milan is also a place to find incredible shopping bargains if you know where to look. Go ahead and ogle the designer duds at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, but duck out and hit the outlet stores on the same street to find deep discounts. Natives swear by Il Salvagente ("the lifesaver"), which offers three floors of bargains at Via Fratelli Bronzetti 16.

MUST-SEE SIGHTS. Art lovers and spiritual travelers visit Milan just to see Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper" at the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Don't miss it, but you should also drop into the Duomo, a Gothic cathedral that can hold 40,0000 congregants. Unwind in lovely Parco Sempione, which is also home to the imposing Castello Sforzeso. This stylish city's artsiest residents hang out in the Navigli district, a center of design and culture and home to Milan's annual flower show.

WHERE TO EAT. Ristorante Papa Francesco serves ravioli and lasagna near the Duomo (Via Marino 5, papafrancesco.com).

SEE THE CITIES!

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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