Five Alternative City Destinations: Stirling, Leipzig, Richmond, Hull, Singapore
Breaking New Ground
By Richard Jones
However, if you’ve already been to some or all of these places, or just want to try something different, there are many alternative, off-the-beaten-track cities that can give you your fix of culture, sightseeing, shopping and cuisine.
We look at five city breaks that you may not have considered – but perhaps should.
It may be the smallest of Scotland’s seven cities, but what Stirling lacks in size, it makes up for with historic attractions, spectacular scenery and exciting events.
Stirling Castle was once a favoured residence of the Stewart kings and queens who held grand celebrations there. Today, you can meet the costumed characters in its beautiful gardens, with court officials, maids of honour and servants welcoming you into 16th-century life.
The historic 19th-century Stirling Highland Hotel used to be the city’s high school and is just a few minutes’ walk from the castle.
South of the city is Plean Country Park – over 70 hectares of publicly accessible woodland, wilderness and parkland, with a network of paths for walking, cycling or horse riding. Eighty different species of birds can be spotted here, while roe deer, rabbits and foxes roam freely.
The National Wallace Monument, on the shoulder of the Abbey Craig overlooking Stirling, commemorates 13th and 14th-century hero Sir William Wallace.
And finally, Stirling is also a great base for exploring the spectacular mountain peaks of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park to the north west.
Following decades of industrial decline, many people were surprised when Hull was named UK City of Culture for 2017.
The East Yorkshire port has long been overlooked, but new visitors to the city have discovered that there’s a lot more to Hull than meets the eye.
At The Deep, you are taken on a journey through prehistoric seas, past tropical lagoons and into the vast open oceans.
The award-winning aquarium, built on a former shipyard site, is home to spectacular creatures including sharks and stingrays, loggerhead sea turtles and a colony of gentoo penguins.
Special experiences include sleepovers, where families can bed down next to sharks, rays and turtles.
Meanwhile, the Ferens Art Gallery is home to works by artists such as Frans Hals and David Hockney. It underwent undergone a multi-million-pound refit in 2016 before hosting the Turner Prize in 2017.
And with Hull’s rich maritime heritage, it’s not surprising to find out the city has world-class seafood restaurants.
The nautical-themed Humber Fish Company on Humber Street has a menu featuring everything from classic fish and chips through to tantalising lobster.
Music, culture, architecture, street markets, canals and a lively bar and restaurant scene – Leipzig has a lot to offer.
Augustusplatz is the heart of the ‘city of music and of heroes’, while Leipzig’s musical heritage comes to life with a stroll around the Bach Museum or a visit to the Mendelssohn House.
Art lovers will delight in the Spinnerei, once a cotton mill and now a thriving artist community with galleries and artist workshops.
In the evenings, there are around 1400 bars and restaurants to choose from including 400 with alfresco seating in the summer.
Then, the winter weather sets the festive scene for the Leipzig Christmas Market, home to over 260 gift-laden stalls.
The Leipzig Zoo (Zoologischer Garten Leipzig) was founded in 1878 and is one of the oldest in the world.
It is home to around 850 species and known for its Pongoland with gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans.
The Seaside Park Hotel Leipzig, situated directly opposite the city’s central railway station, is truly magnificent. The hotel has recently been renovated and returned to its former splendour as the Grand Hotel which opened in 1913. Even if you aren’t staying there, it is still worth a visit.
Richmond, Virginia, USA
Virginia is for Lovers, as the State’s tourist board’s slogan suggests. And history buffs will adore romantic Richmond, one of the trendiest city break destinations in the States.
A place of rich culture and fascinating history, it is packed with monuments to the American Civil War, US literary legends and, of course, the Founding Fathers.
One of its main attractions is the Virginia State Capitol – the imposing building that was partially designed by Thomas Jefferson.
However, a visit to Richmond isn’t just about looking back. This vibrant town is filled with fashionable bars, shops and restaurants.
Running through it all is the James River, and you’ll find plenty of outdoor adventures, from white-water rafting on the rapids, to hiking, mountain biking or horse riding through the James River Park.
And there’s the culinary scene – the city is regularly voted as one of the best places in the US for food and drink.
The region is home to more than 30 craft breweries along the Richmond Beer Trail – Hardywood, The Veil Brewing Co and The Answer Brewpub all win praise for fun atmospheres and delicious brews.
Singapore, Southeast Asia
If you fancy a weekend break with an Asian flavour, catch a direct flight from the UK to Singapore, the vibrant city-state in the heart of Southeast Asia.
A real melting pot of cultures, the Lion City has influences from India, China and Malaysia, which you’ll notice across its architecture and cuisine.
Sentosa Island, which means ‘peace and tranquillity’ in Malay, is connected to Singapore by Causeway Bridge, and offers powdery beaches, watersports and thrilling theme parks, including Universal Studios Singapore, Adventure Cove Water Park and SEA Aquarium.
Back in the city, you can stroll around the handsome colonial buildings before taking a river trip on the ‘bum boats’.
And it’s hard to miss the sprawling lot by the water in Marina Bay. Two huge futuristic structures – the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest – rise out of the greenery at Gardens by the Bay, which boasts tens of thousands of plants and species.
If you’re after a spectacular view, take the OCBC Skyway, a 128-metre-long walkway suspended between two Supertrees, for a bird’s eye view of the park.
Finally, the Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel is the birthplace of the Singapore Sling. The fruity cocktail, along with a handful of peanuts, is a must-do.