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Best known as the capital of Charlemagne's Frankish empire, today's Aachen sits at the juncture where Germany meets the Netherlands (the Dutch know it as Aken) and Belgium (where "Walloons" call it Aix-la-Chapelle). But Aachen's history goes back even further than 8th-century Charlemagne. Roman soldiers dating back to the 1st century AD cherished its hot springs (as did Charlemagne, who loved a good spa day just as much as the next guy). Aachen Cathedral, northern Europe's oldest and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the city's main attraction.
The old Burgundian university town of Leuven offers a range of adventures for overnight visitors or day-trippers from Bruges and Brussels. Tourists will find everything from gastronomic tours to architectural gems like the Gothic Town Hall. Nature lovers won’t be disappointed. The Kruidtuin Botanical Garden’s herbal gardens are the oldest in Belgium, and Heverleebos, a “city wood,” offers a respite for urban dwellers. The exploring is easy in Leuven, on foot or on one of the ubiquitous bikes.
Unassuming Brussels is the capital of Belgium, Flanders and Europe. Medieval Grand-Place, is indeed grand, with many 17th-century buildings and daily flower markets. Reopened in 2006, the Atomium, Brussels' Eiffel Tower, provides great views, inside and out. Architecture fans should visit Musee Horta, home of Belgian master architect Victor Horta. St. Gery's clubs and bars are packed year-round. Seafood eateries abound in Ste. Catherine. Walk, rather than get snarled up in traffic, in the narrow streets.
Eindhoven is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands, but you’d never know it from the high-tech industry and cutting-edge design it’s currently known for. If you have kids obsessed by all things wheeled, they will love the trucks at the DAF Museum.
There are 2,000 years of history in Cologne, and visitors here will find everything from Roman towers to Gothic churches to fine examples of modern architecture. Cologne has a variety of museums, too—check out the Museum of Applied Art, the Museum Ludwig and, if you have a sweet tooth, the Chocolate Museum. Be forewarned, though—the gift shop at the latter will utterly ruin your diet.
Lively Antwerp is a hidden gem. Its medieval streets, Renaissance monuments and vibrant nightlife tend to be overshadowed by its reputation as center of the diamond trade and as the world's fifth-largest port. Biking is a popular choice for getting around this stylish Flemish city. See thousands of Old Masters at the Royal Museum and Rubens House. Experience the bustle of life at the Grote Markt. Marvel at the art and architecture of the still unfinished Cathedral of Our Lady, started in 1351.
The capital of North Rhine-Westphalia, Dusseldorf is a regional economic powerhouse straddling the banks of the Rhine River. Altstadt is not just Dusseldorf's lovely old town, but also where the city's nightlife is based and where Altbier, its native dark beer, is plentiful. Dusselforfians take their beer seriously. Königsallee (Ko to the locals), Dusseldorf's famous shopping street, has many high-end stores. And the Museum Kunst Palast has one of the Rhineland's best art collections.
Though probably best known as the capital of West Germany from 1949 to 1990 (and of reunified Germany until 1999), Bonn actually has a history dating back to the 1st century BC. Roman soldiers were stationed here and the largest known Roman fort was built at Bonn. In medieval times, the town gained prominence when the Archbishop of Cologne transferred his seat to Bonn. The city's most famous son is Ludwig van Beethoven, born in 1770 at Bonngasse, where a museum now honors him.
A captivating contrast of old and new, Luxembourg City's past is celebrated by its World Heritage status; its present sway by its position as headquarters for several significant European institutions. Small enough to explore on foot, this compact city offers a wealth of attractions, including dramatic promontory The Bock, underground passages in Petrusse Casemates, Palace of the Grand Dukes and the National Museum. Countless banks on Boulevard Royal, once a fortress moat, hint at the duchy's wealth.
Lingering over pain au chocolat in a sidewalk café, relaxing after a day of strolling along the Seine and marveling at icons like the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe… the perfect Paris experience combines leisure and liveliness with enough time to savor both an exquisite meal and exhibits at the Louvre. Awaken your spirit at Notre Dame, bargain hunt at the Marché aux Puces de Montreuil or for goodies at the Marché Biologique Raspail, then cap it all off with a risqué show at the Moulin Rouge.
From Shoreditch’s swaggering style to Camden’s punky vibe and chic Portobello Road, London is many worlds in one. The city’s energy means that no two days are the same. Explore royal or historic sites, tick off landmarks from your bucket list, eat and drink in exclusive Michelin-starred restaurants, enjoy a pint in a traditional pub, or get lost down winding cobbled streets and see what you stumble across – when it comes to London, the possibilities are endless.
Barcelona feels a bit surreal – appropriate, since Salvador Dali spent time here and Spanish Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí designed several of the city’s buildings. Stepping into Gaudí’s Church of the Sacred Family is a bit like falling through the looking glass - a journey that you can continue with a visit to Park Güell. Sip sangria at a sidewalk café in Las Ramblas while watching flamboyant street performers, then create your own moveable feast by floating from tapas bar to tapas bar.
Rome wasn't built in a day--and you'll need much more than a day to take in this timeless city. The city is a real-life collage of piazzas, open-air markets, and astonishing historic sites. Toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain, contemplate the Colosseum and the Pantheon, and sample a perfect espresso or gelato before spending an afternoon shopping at the Campo de’Fiori or Via Veneto. Enjoy some of the most memorable meals of your life here, too, from fresh pasta to succulent fried artichokes or a tender oxtail stew.
Attracting visitors from all parts of the world, Majorca is a dreamy island destination in the Mediterranean Sea, just off the south-east coast of Spain. There's something for every taste—beaches and coves, a spectacular mountain range, romantic fishing villages and a rustic countryside dotted with almond and olive groves.
The museums of Lisbon celebrate the rich history and culture of this Portuguese capital city. The Maritime Museum is perfect for kids (and grown-ups!) who adore all things nautical, while the Casa-Museu Dr. Anastácio Gonçalves is a hidden gem of colorful artwork. To fully appreciate the city’s dramatic stone architecture you can take a guided walking tour, or customize your own tour, making sure to visit the Padrao dos Descobrimentos, the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, and the UNESCO World Heritage site the Torre de Belem.
Over the centuries, many cultures have added their mark to this prized piece of land. Today, you can experience those influences firsthand by exploring Istanbul’s mahalles (neighborhoods). From the holy sites of Sultanahmet and the 19th-century European elegance of Beyoğlu to the high fashion of Nişantaşı, the vibrant café society of Kadıköy and the football-loving streets of Beşiktaş, it’s easy to see why travelers say that Istanbul isn’t just one city, but many cities within one.
Conquering New York in one visit is impossible. Instead, hit the must-sees – the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art – and then explore off the beaten path with visits to The Cloisters or one of the city’s libraries. Indulge in the bohemian shops of the West Village or the fine dining of the Upper West Side. The bustling marketplace inside of Grand Central Station gives you a literal taste of the best the city has to offer.
The windy city is a cornucopia of modern art, fine dining, cutting edge comedy, and die-hard sports fans. Snap a photo of your reflection in the silver Cloud Gate sculpture at Millennium Park before heading to Grant Park to get hit with the refreshing spray of Buckingham Fountain. There are dozens of museums and theater companies in Chicago, so a cultural experience is never hard to find. You’re sure to laugh your head off at the Second City Theater, the professional launch pad of many famous comedians.
At the shore in Miami Beach, visitors can swim, surf and jet ski in the warm and crystal-clear Atlantic waters. You can also nap on the white sands, work on a tan or simply watch the beautiful people, especially at South Beach, a favorite of models and celebrities.