These lesser-known centres can be just as rewarding to visit as their more famous counterparts

Valencia, Spain

Spain's third-largest city is not to be overlooked — its winning combination of city, sun and beach is sure to satisfy. Rent a Valencian beach villa and enjoy a proper paella, but be sure to head into the city's thriving cultural centre as well. With a mix of old and new architecture, there are great art museums, gardens and plenty more to explore.

Naples, Italy

Naples is the home of pizza. Photo / 123RF
Naples is the home of pizza. Photo / 123RF

It's renowned for pizza, but Naples has lots more to offer. As well as being home to the margherita, the historic centre of this southern Italian city is a Unesco World Heritage Site, with treasures among the world's most important. And of course, the food is phenomenal. While Naples can be slightly gritty, there's lots to discover if you're not afraid to explore.

Frankfurt, Germany

A Christmas market in Frankfurt. Photo / 123RF
A Christmas market in Frankfurt. Photo / 123RF

The birthplace of Germany's greatest writer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Frankfurt is also known as Europe's financial capital. With both avant-garde architecture and historic haunts, the city boasts endless entertainment options and a thriving nightlife bolstered by its student population. Every July, the Old Town is transformed for the Schlossfest — an outdoor festival featuring open-air concerts and fireworks over the Main River.

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Birmingham, England

Colourful barges on Birmingham's water canal network. Photo / 123RF
Colourful barges on Birmingham's water canal network. Photo / 123RF

Rebuilt after taking a hit in World War II, Birmingham is now a vibrant cultural centre, in close proximity to some of England's important historical sites — Shakespeare's birthplace Stratford-Upon-Avon being one. In the city centre, the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery has a great collection of pre-Raphaelite masterpieces, or you can learn more about the industrial history of the area at the Black Country Living Museum.

Bordeaux, France

The city of Bordeaux on a summer night. Photo / 123RF
The city of Bordeaux on a summer night. Photo / 123RF

The hub of France's famed wine-growing region, the city of Bordeaux is a vibrant and dynamic city — even Queen Elizabeth is a fan, describing it as "the very essence of elegance". Learn more about the area's greatest export at the Cite du Vin wine museum, where the gift shop boasts 800 wines — 200 from France, 600 from around the world — and sample a drop in the three tasting rooms. Bordeaux also has a thriving culinary scene, with plenty of fresh, local produce.