La Coruña in the ranking of european cities you never thought to visit (but really should)

abril 1st, 2016

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Source: The Telegraph. The problem with apparently known quantities is that, often, they are not well known at all. Europe is a case in point. While our home continent is awash with celebrity capitals that have been endlessly dissected and devoured via a million mini-breaks – Paris and its gleaming avenues, Rome and its noble temples, Madrid and its party ambience – it is also a canvas for a slew of cities that are less appreciated, yet just as deserving of attention.

Who ever dreams, for example, of Eindhoven, of Basel, of Charleroi? Very few of us. But the joy of peering beyond the obvious when it comes to planning a European weekend away is the space this leaves for discoveries: museums of unexpected fascination, local dishes of untold flavour, nightlife of undocumented vigour, vistas of less remarked upon beauty.

All the cities in this feature offer something of this. They are the overlooked, the undervisited. But each has something in common – good reasons to explore them, and at least one direct flight from the UK. The debate on the referendum on Britain’s EU membership may think it is dealing in firm, acknowledged facts, but Europe still has mysteries galore…

2. La Coruna, Spain

Lurking in the north-west corner of Spain, this Galician port (turismocoruna.com) soothes its scuffed, salty soul on a pair of glorious urban beaches – Playa del Orzan and Playa de Riazor – that teem with life on hot summer days. Its cramped medieval lanes are abuzz with tapas bars, its Museo de Belas Artes (museobelasartescoruna.xunta.es) is an underrated nugget of visual wonder which boasts sketches by Spanish romantic Goya.

Other cities in the ranking:

1. Genoa, Italy

The capital of Liguria (visitgenoa.it) wears its Mediterranean heritage with pride. It is still a hard-working seadog, but its Porto Antico (portoantico.it) has been revitalised as an oasis of bars and restaurants, while the wealth it accumulated in the Middle Ages sings in its cluster of Renaissance palaces. The Palazzo Rosso (palazzorosso.museidigenova.it) is among the finest of these gilded shards, home to paintings by Veronese and Van Dyck.

3. Linz, Austria

Austria’s third biggest city (linztourismus.at) spent 2009 as one of the European Capitals of Culture and maintains an educated atmosphere seven years on. Ars Electronica (aec.at) is a fascinating science museum which explores weighty topics like space and the digital world, as its exterior walls rotate through a rainbow of colours. The Lentos Kunstmuseum (lentos.at) is a modern art hotspot whose glass shell is as striking as the sculptures within. Then there is the setting. Both institutions preen themselves alongside the Danube.

4. Stavanger, Norway

Easily accessible at Norway’s south-west corner, Stavanger (regionstavanger.com) has a calm appeal. Gamle Stavanger, its old town, is a nest of narrow lanes and wooden houses, its Romanesque cathedral dating from 1125. Rather newer is Broken Column, a collection of 23 ghostly cast-iron statues by Antony Gormley, which stand strewn around the centre.

5. Leipzig, Germany

The largest urban dot on the Saxony map (leipzig.travel) was a cultured jewel long before it was an Eastern Bloc workhorse. It recalls both these sides of its story. The Museum in der Runden Ecke (runde-ecke-leipzig.de) remembers the state watchfulness of the GDR in an ex-Stasi bunker. The Bach Museum (bachmuseumleipzig.de) celebrates the 18th-century genius in the city which framed his compositions for the final 27 years of his life.

6. Kalamata, Greece

A Grecian gift on the south coast of the Peloponnese, Kalamata (visitgreece.gr) deals in woozy Ionian afternoons – cafes and tavernas lining the key avenues Navarinou and Aristomenous; a 13th century castle raising its head. But it is also a gateway to the region – to the glorious antiquity of ancient Olympia (odysseus.culture.gr), 70 miles north-west; to the soft beaches of the “Costa Navarino”, 35 miles away on the peninsula’s west coast.

7. Eindhoven, The Netherlands

The Dutch narrative rarely touches on the country’s fifth biggest city – but Eindhoven (thisiseindhoven.nl) is more than a name from the football fixture list. It delivers striking architecture in the Evoluon (evoluon.com), a UFO-esque landmark which, though built in 1966, still talks of the future. De Bergen, a district of cafes and fashion stores, does urban flair. The Stadswandelpark, south of the centre, is alive with walking trails and sculptures.

8. Charleroi, Belgium

Cocooned 40 miles south of the Belgian capital, Charleroi (belgiumtheplaceto.be) is more than a swathe of Brussels commuter belt. A relative newcomer, founded in 1666, it offers opera and music at its Palais des Beaux Arts (pba.be) – and Europe’s biggest museum of camera creativity in the 80,000 images of the Musée de la Photographie (museephoto.be).

9. Malmo, Sweden

Pinned so firmly to Sweden’s southern edge that the simplest way to reach it is to fly into Copenhagen and take a 20-minute direct train over the Oresund strait (dsb.dk, singles DK89/£9.30), Malmo (malmotown.com) is a pristine coastal hotspot. There is a definite splendour to its main squares – the interlinked Gustav Adolfs Torg, Startorget and Lilla Torg, with their cafes and eateries; more southerly Davidshallstorg with its design shops. But the city is at its finest on a summer’s day – on the sands of Ribersborgstranden beach.

10. Brno, Czech Republic

Somewhat lost in Prague’s shadow, the Czech Republic’s second city (gotobrno.cz) is still an enticing dot on the map. The traditional capital of the Moravia region dispenses stately religion in its 14th century Petrov Cathedral, and contemporary flair at the House of Arts (dum-umeni.cz) – where exhibitions have covered the likes of Czech artist Milan Houser.

11. Basel, Switzerland

Fixed to the Rhine where France, Germany and Switzerland meet, Basel (basel.com) sells itself as the latter’s cultural capital – via Kunstmuseum Basel, which hosts Switzerland’s greatest art collection (from Rembrandt through Monet to Picasso;kunstmuseumbasel.ch) – and the House of Electronic Arts (hek.ch), where the works are more 21st century, but no less enthralling. Art Basel (artbasel.com), the city’s major art fiesta, is held every June.

12. Espoo, Finland

Part of the Finnish capital conurbation – so much so that it bleeds into Helsinki’s western suburbs, Espoo (visitespoo.fi) is nonetheless an entity with its own identity. Espoo Museum of Modern Art (emma.museum) is the country’s largest museum, a feast of work by first-rate Finns like Ville Andersson and Susanne Gottberg. The city is also a gate to Nuuksio National Park (pictured; nationalparks.fi/nuuksionp) – a realm of forests, lakes and paths.

13. Debrecen, Hungary

Hungary’s second city (eng.debrecen.hu) delivers religious pomp in the Nagytemplom, a vast church of neoclassical majesty, constructed between 1805 and 1824 – and high art in the Deri Muzeum (derimuzeum.hu), where the collection features works by 19th century Hungarian painter Mihaly Munkacsy. Nagyerdo, the main park, is a splendid leafy space.

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