Best of Both Worlds – Hidden Gems Just Outside Top Urban Hotspots


Think (or travel) outside the box this season.

With urban hotspots being the obvious choice for many travellers, this list of beautiful alternative destinations are often overshadowed by their better-known neighbours. However, they’re still a great choice for a better-value city break without missing out on the area’s authenticity, history, gastronomy and a thriving culture, and they often come at a lower cost and without crowds of tourists.

Amsterdam – Haarlem, The Netherlands

Only a 15-minute train ride from Amsterdam’s Central Station, the scenic town of Haarlem is a beautiful destination with the charm of Amsterdam, but without the hustle and bustle of a big city. Wander the cobblestoned streets lined with historic buildings and visit the famous Grote Markt, the city’s main square that hosts a bustling market every Saturday. Thanks to its great breweries, the iconic Adriaan windmill and its own collection of world-class museums, Haarlem is an ideal place for an authentic local experience while visiting the Netherlands.

Where to stay: The B&B Het Hart van Haarlem is an elegant bed and breakfast in the historic center of Haarlem, within walking distance from De Hallen and Frans Halsmuseum. Guests can relax in the sun terrace overlooking the garden before strolling around the picturesque streets of this charming city. And with over a third (34%) of Canadian travellers noting that taking photos for social media is what they look forward to most when going on vacation, there’s no shortage of photo opps in this beautiful city.

London – Windsor, United Kingdom

Located less than an hour by public transportation from London, the charming town of Windsor is home to Windsor Castle, one of the royal residences of the British monarch. The castle overlooks the Thames River and its tree-lined Long Walk offers spectacular views. And if you see the Union Jack flying – good news, the Queen is in residence.

Where to stay: Situated on Windsor High Street, just opposite the famous Windsor Castle, Macdonald Windsor offers modern rooms with elegant decoration. Guests can enjoy organic and seasonal dishes at the hotel’s Caleys Restaurant before watching the Change of Guards or hopping on a train to explore London.

Barcelona – Sitges, Spain

Highly endorsed by Booking.com travellers for beaches, restaurants and nightlife, the beautiful coastal town of Sitges is easily accessible by train. If you are looking for a break from Barcelona’s busy vibe, one of Sitges 17 sand beaches should do the trick. Aiguadolç Beach in Sitges is one of the less crowded beaches and draws a smaller mixed crowd, you’ll get the fun-loving weekenders and some family focused trips, but it’s overall quite relaxing and far less busy.

Where to stay: Destino Sitges offers modern apartments with elegant furnishings. Guests can relax in the private balcony of their accommodation and prepare a homecooked meal in the fully equipped kitchen after a long, beautiful day at the beach.

Tokyo – Kawagoe City, Japan

Also known as “Little Edo”, the charming city of Kawagoe is about 30 minutes by train from Tokyo’s city center and is a great place to experience traditional Japanese culture away from the bright lights of modern Tokyo. Kawagoe City will impress you with its street lined wooden houses, antique shops and historic landmarks, including the iconic Toki-no-Kane Bell Tower at the Kurazukuri Street.

Where to stay: Set in a 19th century property, the Ryokan Matsumuraya in Kawagoe is a traditional Japanese ryokan offering simply decorated rooms and a shared lounge. Guests can start their day with a traditional Japanese breakfast before exploring the area’s rich history.

Bangkok – Samut Prakan, Thailand

Samut Prakan is located about 30 km away from Bangkok and is accessible by either bus or car. Home to significant cultural and historical sites, Samut Prakan is an excellent destination for cycling, visiting a floating market or discovering The Ancient City, one of the largest outdoor museum parks in the world.

Where to stay: Na Siri Lake View is a quiet hotel with rooms overlooking the garden or the lake. Guests can savour traditional Thai food at the hotel’s restaurant before getting a complementary bike to explore the surrounding area.

Mexico City – Coyoacán, Mexico

Located in a municipality of Mexico City, the former village of Coyoacan is a great alternative neighborhood to stay in while exploring Mexico City. Today the vibrant area is known as the borough’s “historic center” and is surrounded by beautiful buildings dating back to the 16th to 20th centuries.

Where to stay: Offering garden views and complementary bikes, Casa Moctezuma is located in the Coyoacan district of Mexico City, near the Frida Kahlo House Museum. Guests can prepare their own meals at the fully equipped kitchen before relaxing with their favorite book on the property’s massive terrace.

New York City – Tarrytown, USA

The village of Tarrytown is only about one hour outside of New York City on Metro-North train. Travellers staying in Tarrytown will find a variety of breweries, restaurants and boutiques, while the 17th century Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow is one of the oldest churches in New York and is full of history.

Where to stay: Overlooking Hudson River, the historic Castle Hotel & Spa is about 50 km (31 miles) away from Manhattan, but you’d never know as it’s surrounded by lush greenery. Guests can relax at the hotel’s Sankara Spa while enjoying a great variety of treatments including soothing massages and facial treatments. With more than half (52%) of Canadians prioritizing spending money on experiences over material items while travelling, this is surely an accommodation experience to splurge on.


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James Chung

Founder & Editor in Chief of Hello Vancity magazine. Email [email protected]

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