A tale of two cities

With the growth in popularity of both town and city twinning, we take a look at 10 of the most inviting European destinations with links to the UK.

The practice of ‘town twinning’ and ‘sister cities’ began as an initiative to promote cultural understanding. If you’re looking for some travel inspiration away from the usual tourist hotspots, these places are worth a closer look.

Aix-en-Provence (twinned with Bath)

Commonly known as ‘the city of arts and lights’, this vibrant French destination lies around 30km north of Marseille. The city is situated at the heart of one of the country’s most popular tourist regions and boasts a rich cultural heritage, with a vibrant atmosphere to match. It’s also a great location from which to explore the beautiful Provence region.

Ghent (twinned with Nottingham)

Ghent

Compared to its more expensive and well-know cousin Bruges, nearby Ghent offers a great alternative for those looking for a slice of historic Belgium away from the masses. Don’t forget to check out the famous ‘Three Towers’ (Saint Nicholas’ Church, the Belfry and Saint Bavo’s Cathedral) for fine examples of Gothic architecture.

Freiburg (twinned with Guildford)

Hailed as the world’s greenest city, Freiburg is well worth a stop for the more eco-conscious traveller. With more carbon-neutral homes than the whole of the UK, it seems we could really learn something from the occupants of this sustainable haven in southern Germany. If eco-housing, car-free streets and a socially-conscious ethos appeal to you, then add Freiburg to your list of must-see destinations.

Odense (twinned with St Albans)

A mere 1.5hrs from Copenhagen by train, Odense is one of Denmark’s best kept secrets. Over 1000 years old, this beautiful and lively city has a pleasant, open feel and relaxed atmosphere. Of course this is helped by the fact that much of the city is dedicated to pedestrians and cycle paths. Attractions include the Funen Art Museum and nearby Egeskov Castle.

Reims (twinned with Canterbury)

Reims

With a cathedral to rival the world-famous Notre Dame, Reims has become a firm favourite for those seeking an alternative to the hustle and bustle of Paris’ congested streets. A wealth of great restaurants also provide plenty of opportunity to sample the fine cuisine for which France is renowned. And there are no less than three UNESCO World Heritage sites to explore.

Lucerne (twinned with Bournemouth)

The gateway to central Switzerland, Lucerne is rightly popular due to its stunning location. Boasting a waterside setting and nestled at the foot of a beautiful Swiss mountain range, this city is something rather special. From the beautiful medieval splendour of the Chapel Bridge to the frescoe-lined town squares, Lucerne offers all the advantages of a modern city break combined with an opportunity to sample the beauty of the Swiss countryside.

Torun (twinned with Swindon)

The birthplace of famed astronomer, mathematician and all round genius Capernicus, Poland’s Torun boasts a wonderful mix of architecture and landscapes courtesy of the sweeping Vistula River. If Krakow or Warsaw seem a little too much like tourist hell to you, then this is the place to try.

Narbonne (twinned with Salford)

Situated just 15km from the Mediterranean coast and miles of golden sandy beaches, Narbonne offers that rare opportunity for a city break with sun, sea and sand. Away from the industrial outskirts this city hides a wonderful cultural heritage and architectural flair aplenty. The historic centre straddles the banks of the Canal de la Robine, stretching along a majestic tree-lined avenue. For the hungry traveller, the world-famous open market (Halles de Narbonne) offers a taste of the region’s rich culinary heritage.

San Sebastian (twinned with Plymouth)

Named after Christian saint and martyr Saint Sebastian, this destination lies on Spain’s northern coast, at the heart of world-famous Basque country. Famed for its golden, gently-sloping beaches and picturesque cove, the city offers an enviable blend of chic elegance, lush, rolling landscapes and architectural highlights. Should you wish to visit during the popular summer months, however, be prepared to fight your way through the crowds, wealthy locals and the odd celebrity.

Frascati (twinned with Maidenhead)

Rome

Twinning with a town best known for its world-famous wine certainly has its advantages in terms of raising your profile on the world stage. Just 12 miles south-east of Rome, Frascati is well worth a visit should you find yourself tiring of the Italian capital’s tourist-saturated streets. Wine aside, there’s plenty to see and do amongst the city’s meandering medieval streets. If a change of pace, clean air and good food (not forgetting wine) are your cup of tea, then Frascati is well worth a look.

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