Alternative cities close to major airports: 10 of the best towns to shake off your jet lag in

Find jet lag and big-city life an exhausting mix? These 10 small destinations are a short distance from international airports and supply relaxing, cultural pit stops in which to recuperate before hitting the big time.

UTRECHT, NETHERLANDS

Well-kept, canal-crossed and culture-dense small cities are a Dutch specialty, so why tackle scruffy, crowd-packed Amsterdam until your head is in the right time zone? Utrecht is a 34-minute ride from Schiphol airport and has similar architecture, markets and cultural life to Amsterdam but no tourist tat. A big student population creates good nightlife. You can walk everywhere, and cycle to visit country castles. See discover-utrecht.com

SUZHOU, CHINA

Residence in Zhouzhuang Ancient Town, Suzhou iStock image for Traveller. Re-use permitted. Top 10 jet lag recovery towns, Brian Johnston

Photo: iStock

Although Asia isn't quite jetlag territory, the 10-hour flight and three-hour time difference makes Shanghai exhausting. Suzhou, just 30 minutes away by high-speed train, is a more seductive entrée to China. The ancient town is crisscrossed with canals and studded with World Heritage classical gardens. The Museum of Suzhou has superb Chinese art collections. Suzhou also has an attractive, bustling shopping district. See traveltosuzhou.com

POTSDAM, GERMANY

Potsdam, Germany iStock image for Traveller. Re-use permitted. Top 10 jet lag recovery towns, Brian Johnston

Photo: iStock

Potsdam, just over an hour from Berlin, is a World Heritage beauty created by the kings of Prussia. Palaces and aristocratic villas are set in kilometres of parkland and cloud-reflecting waterways perfect for walking off airplane cramps. The highlight is Sans Souci, former home of Frederick the Great. The pleasant, market-filled town has a lovely redbrick Dutch Quarter filled with art galleries and cafés. See potsdam-tourism.com

SANTA MONICA, USA

Santa Monica Beach Houses and boardwalk. iStock image for Traveller. Re-use permitted. Top 10 jet lag recovery towns, Brian Johnston

Photo: iStock

Okay, Santa Monica is right in Los Angeles' urban sprawl, but this seaside city a 15-minute drive from LAX has a completely different vibe: more chilled, slightly happyish and with a holiday atmosphere supplied by its beaches, famous pier and street-front eateries. The waterfront brings déjà vu thanks to Hollywood movies. Main Street has offbeat shopping, and art galleries and theatres abound. See santamonica.com

VERSAILLES, FRANCE

In rue Satory, Versailles you’ll find many goor restaurants and bars. iStock image for Traveller. Re-use permitted. Top 10 jet lag recovery towns, Brian Johnston

Photo: iStock

Advertisement

Everyone knows Versailles but hardly anyone stays there – or strays beyond its stupendous palace. Yet Versailles town, a half-hour from central Paris, features elegant architecture, cobbled streets, a baroque-style cathedral and several fine museums. Best of all are the cafés, brasseries, cheese-filled markets and umpteen parks for a hearty dose of fresh air and more elbow room than you'll ever enjoy in the city. See en.versailles-tourisme.com

KIZIL ADALAR, TURKEY

Istanbul, Turkey - February 13, 2020: Princes Islands, Adalar District, descent to the Sea of ​​Marmara on the road on the narrow street of Buyukada Island, with holiday villas and gardens. iStock image for Traveller. Re-use permitted. Top 10 jet lag recovery towns, Brian Johnston

Photo: iStock

The tranquil and attractive Red Islands get their name from their red rocks but are better known in English as the Princes' Islands. The favourite escape of urbanites starts a half-hour's highly scenic ferry ride from Istanbul. Of the nine islands the largest is car-less Büyükada, with leafy streets, clip-clopping carriages, Ottoman-era mansions and old monasteries. Avoid weekends if you're looking for tranquillity. See visit.istanbul

MECHELEN, BELGIUM

Mechlin, Belgium - September 15, 2014: People stroll in the Grote Markt, the main square of Mechlin. The square and the streets of the old town are bordered by beautiful ancient buildings. iStock image for Traveller. Re-use permitted. Top 10 jet lag recovery towns, Brian Johnston

Photo: iStock

This handsome historic town is only 11 minutes by train from Brussels airport and yet, despite its 300 listed monuments and laidback ambiance, Mechelen gets far fewer visitors than Belgium's capital. Stroll along its canals, clamber up the interior of the cathedral tower amongst its bells, and kick back on a café terrace overlooking an old square as you enjoy Belgian beer and a pot of mussels. See visitflanders.com

SHARJAH, UAE

View of the central Souq in Sharjah, UAE iStock image for Traveller. Re-use permitted. Top 10 jet lag recovery towns, Brian Johnston

Photo: iStock

It's a mystery why the third-largest emirate is so overlooked. Sharjah has rich traditional architecture, an excellent souk crammed with coffeehouses and shops, several fine museums and the fascinating 8000-year-old Mleiha archaeological site. Its restrained and cultural approach to tourism is refreshing, although the alcohol ban may be a downside to some. Sharjah is 20 minutes by road from Dubai, 90 minutes from Abu Dhabi. See visitsharjah.com

BRIGHTON, UK

Brighton Beach iStock image for Traveller. Re-use permitted. Top 10 jet lag recovery towns, Brian Johnston

Brighton Beach. Photo: iStock

A 70-minute drive south of Heathrow brings you to England's quirkiest town. Brighton was developed as a Georgian seaside resort anchored by the improbable, Moorish-inspired Royal Pavilion. In recent decades, the city has been revived and its retirees replaced with young trendy folk. Streets are packed with boutiques and stylish eateries, and draped in vivid street art. The pebbly and chilly beach will, however, disappoint Australians. See visitbrighton.com

NAPA VALLEY, USA

Early morning start of a hot air balloon trip over Napa Valley CA vineyards iStock image for Traveller. Re-use permitted. Top 10 jet lag recovery towns, Brian Johnston

Early morning start of a hot air balloon trip over Napa Valley CA vineyards iStock image for Traveller. Re-use permitted. Top 10 jet lag recovery towns, Brian Johnston Photo: iStock

An hour's drive north of San Francisco takes you to America's most famous wine region, where you can tour cellar tours and try some of its red blends. Less well known is that the Napa Valley has notable art galleries and sophisticated cultural scene. Cycling, hiking, golf and kayaking on the Napa River will blow the cobwebs away and help you adjust to America's hideous jetlag. See visitnapavalley.com