Travel lesser known path and explore Europe's second cities
WITH winter fast approaching, travel planning is high on the agenda as Aussies try to escape the chill.
As the Northern Hemisphere dips into Summer Europe remains a popular destination for those looking to combine adventure and history with gorgeous weather and breathtaking sights.
In fact, according to bookings made on Expedia.com.au, 65% of all Europe-bound travel took place between May to September last year.
"For those travellers returning to Europe, or those looking for an itinerary that will offer something a little different Europe's second cities are perfect," Amee Evans from Expedia Travel said.
"You'll save money with more affordable accommodation in these lesser-known, but equally-worthy cities and your earn your travel cred trying something new!"
Expedia.com.au has compiled a list of these second cities - close to some of the most popular in Europe that are definitely worth packing your suitcase for, to get some winter sun!
Tucked away just south of Paris, connecting La Ville-Lumiere with the Mediterranean Sea, is Lyon, France's unofficial centre for gastronomy.
Only 489 km away from Charles de Gaulle Airport, Lyon is home to some of France's finest chefs and family cuisine and benefits from its close proximity to two of the country's best known wine regions: the Cotes du Rhone and the Beaujolais.
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lyon's rich history could almost overshadow the city's other can't-miss experiences such as the scenic Parc de la Tete d'Or and the world-class Nouvel Opera House.
Only a 4 hour drive away from Paris and boasting the average nightly rate for hotels in Lyon approximately 35% cheaper than Paris hotels, you'll need a good excuse to pass this city up.
Only 350 kilometers from bustling Barcelona lies Valencia, Spain's third-largest city and arguably one of the country's most popular tourist destinations with both foreigners and Spaniards alike.
Valencia's rich history dates back to the time when it was a central hub for the silk trade, and the pedestrianised old town reflects the ancient past.
Its breathtaking modern architecture includes the City of Arts and Science which features a series of futuristic, cutting edge structures that defy the imagination.
Be sure to check out Las Fallas in March with the famous paper statues burning in the streets, or La Tomatina festival in late August - an epic tomato food fight that is sure to leave a lasting impression…and a few stains as well, or the annual Motor GP.
Valencia is also famous for its long, sandy beaches and traditional "chiringuitos" serving the popular "paella" which originated in the city.
What's even better? Valencia offers accommodations of up to 42% less per night than Barcelona.
Getting away from London's hustle and bustle is a must for those looking to diversify their European adventure.
Less than two hours from Heathrow rests charming Oxford - famous for its reputation as a university town and various film locations including multiple scenes from the Harry Potter films.
Visit Christ Church, whose Great Hall was the inspiration for Hogwarts Hall and whose chapel is the cathedral of Oxford where 'Alice in Wonderland's' father was Dean.
If you're a fan of wandering around film locations, then an hour's drive from Oxford takes you into sleepy rural Oxfordshire where the popular period drama Downton Abbey series is filmed.
Centred on the magnificent Highclere Castle in Berkshire, the series used several locations in sleepy rural Oxfordshire.
If exploring more of England's history is more your cup of tea then visit 'Oxford Castle Unlocked' and climb the Saxon St George's Tower, Oxford's oldest building, for a magnificent view of the city.
Walk through the ancient buildings and discover stories of violence, executions, great escapes, betrayal and romance.
Be inspired by Oxford and enjoy accommodation of up to 10% less per night than London.
Travellers who've exhausted all there is to do in the Eternal City of Rome, can head south to the Mediterranean metropolis of Naples, one of the world's oldest and most storied cities and the former capital of the now defunct Kingdom of Naples which at the time, covered the southern portion of the Italian peninsula from the Middle Ages to 1860.
A history spanning thousands of years has left Naples with an impressive roster of classical ruins and medieval castles that has the city center designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Traditionally viewed as the home of pizza and famous for its local delicacies, Neapolitan cuisine makes Naples a crucial stop for any foodies looking to experience Italy's most beloved dishes.
With an average daily rate that is 28% cheaper than Rome, Naples is well worth extending your trip.
A little bleary eyed from Amsterdam?
Just over an hour away by car is the largest port in Europe and Holland's second largest city: Rotterdam.
With cutting-edge architecture and unsurpassed multicultural diversity, Rotterdam is the epitome of a modern European city.
Check out everything from medieval to contemporary art at the Bojimans-van Beuningen Museum, and learn about one of the world's most active ports at the Maritime Museum.
Often overlooked in favour of Amsterdam, Rotterdam offers a more authentic view of the Netherlands, both its long history and its bright future, and Rotterdam hotels are on average of 36% cheaper than hotels in Amsterdam.
* Europe has never been more affordable thanks to Expedia.com.au Europe Sale.
Travellers who book on Expedia.com.au between March 12 and April 30 for travel from May 1 to September 30 can save up to 30% off hotels.