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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.
The crown jewels, Buckingham Palace, Camden Market…in London, history collides with art, fashion, food, and good British ale. A perfect day is different for everyone: culture aficionados shouldn't miss the Tate Modern and the Royal Opera House. If you love fashion, Oxford Street has shopping galore. For foodies, cream tea at Harrod’s or crispy fish from a proper chippy offers classic London flavor. Music and book buffs will love seeing Abbey Road and the Sherlock Holmes Museum (at 221B Baker Street, of course).
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.
The birthplace of both the king of the Olympian gods and of modern European civilization, Crete is a Mediterranean jewel. It’s rich with archaeological and mythological history that’s reflected in its ancient ruins and cultural attractions. Soak up the charming atmosphere of Chania Town’s Old Venetian Harbor or the fortresses and monasteries of Rethymonon. The awesome Minoan ruins of Malia date to 1900 BC, and majestic Mt. Ida is said to be home to the cave where Zeus was born.
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.
The bohemian allure and fairytale features of Prague make it a perfect destination for beach-weary vacationers who want to immerse themselves in culture. You could devote an entire day to exploring Prazsky hrad (Prague Castle), then refueling over a hearty dinner at a classic Czech tavern. Spend some time wandering the Old Town Square before heading over to gape at The Old Town Hall and Astronomical Clock. Prague’s best bars are found in cellars, where historic pubs set the scene for a night of traditional tippling.
The mosques, bazaars, and Turkish baths of Istanbul could keep you happily occupied for your entire trip: an eyeful of breathtaking architecture here, a good-natured haggle over a carpet there. Kick your trip off at the awe-inspiring Sultan Ahmet Camii (Blue Mosque), which is visible from many points of the city. Stroll the Galata Bridge and stop by the Miniaturk Park to see its tiny artifacts. The Grand Bazaar has thousands of shops to browse, while the Egyptian Bazaar is a fragrant trove of spices and fruits.
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.
The dreamy island that provided inspiration to Chopin and Miró now has a reputation as a spring break beach destination. Don't worry, though, if you're vacationing over elementary school spring break-- there's plenty for the younger crowd. Marineland's dolphin and sea lion shows and children's beach attract families. And if you have a Thomas-obsessed toddler, the antique train that travels between Palma and Soller is a must-see.
Even if you’ve never been to this Cyclades island in the Aegean Sea, you’d still recognize it immediately – candy-colored houses carved into cliffs, sapphire waters, gleaming white buildings topped with half-spheres the color of a stormy sky. Here you’ll find peace as you roam the black sand beaches or the streets of a provincial village like Imerovigli. Beautiful Oia is world famous for its sunsets, which seem tinted with every shade of an artist’s palette.
Florence is an art historian’s dream. The Galleria dell'Accademia bursts with works by Michelangelo, who is entombed within the frescoed walls of the Basilica di Santa Croce. Budding photographers can snap pics of the Ponte Vecchio bridge, and serious shoppers can spend a blissful afternoon wandering the shops of Piazza Santo Spirito. Tuscan cuisine pays homage to the region’s bounty. Swipe a hunk of crusty bread across a pool of local olive oil and you’ll be instantly transported to your happiest place.
With its gondolas, canals, amazing restaurants, and unforgettable romantic ambiance, Venice is definitely a city for one's bucket list. Waterfront palazzos, palaces, and churches make drifting down the Grand Canal feel like cruising through a painting. To really experience Venice you must go to the opera or to a classical music performance, nibble fresh pasta and pastries, and linger in the exhibit halls of an art gallery. Label lovers will drool over the high-end shopping in Piazza San Marco.
The largest of the twelve Dodecanese islands on the Aegean's eastern edge, Rhodes is also its most popular. The well-preserved medieval city of Rhodes sits at the north of the island of the same name. High rise hotels line the northern and eastern coastlines. Small villages and resorts dot the island's other shores. Whether your interests are beaches, bars or ancient sites, Rhodes offers an abundance of all three. Authentic Greece can be found in the hilly interior of the 50-mile-long island.
Tribal Terenife still shows influence from the aboriginal Gaunches people. Visitors clamber to conquer Mount Teide (Spain’s tallest peak) and to stretch out on the sands of Los Gigantes. Squawk hello to the playful parrots of Loro Park, or brave the petrifying drive to beautiful Masca Valley. For a true taste of Terenife, sample fresh farmhouse cheese and local bananas. A piece of delicate calado canario lace makes a special souvenir.
This city, full of colorful homes, canals and bridges, is one of Europe's most picturesque capitals. Must-sees on any visitor's itinerary include the Anne Frank House, the Van Gogh Museum and the world's only floating flower market. Rent a bike and join thousands of locals navigating Amsterdam's labyrinthine streets, or just take in the sights on foot. For an unusual and memorable alternative to hotels, consider staying in a houseboat.
Corsica is a laid-back French island, with a breezy vibe that’s part European weekend and part tropical honeymoon. The port city of Bastia flings its arms wide open to weary travelers disembarking from a long ferry trip. For a truly charming Corsican experience, catch a train through the mountains to the beach, passing by rustic villages and grazing cows along the way. Take a few hours or even a few weeks to explore the island’s famous walking trails, including the varsity-level GR 20.
Over 15 million gallons of water bubble daily into Budapest's 118 springs and boreholes. The city of spas offers an astounding array of baths, from the sparkling Gellert Baths to the vast 1913 neo-baroque Szechenyi Spa to Rudas Spa, a dramatic 16th-century Turkish pool with original Ottoman architecture. The "Queen of the Danube" is also steeped in history, culture and natural beauty. Get your camera ready for the Roman ruins of the Aquincum Museum, Heroes' Square and Statue Park, and the 300-foot dome of St. Stephen's Basilica.
Breezy Madeira is an eponymous island in the Madeira Islands, a Portuguese archipelago. The capital city of Funchal was settled in the 15th century and is a colorful collection of gardens, religious sites, and quirky tourist attractions like the thatched-roof Madeira Story Centre. Hike to the summit of Pico Ruivo and you’ll feel like you’ve climbed through the clouds. Unwind over a glass of Madeira wine, an historic fortified beverage that’s musky and subtly sweet.
Berlin is an edgy city, from its fashion to its architecture to its charged political history. The Berlin Wall is a sobering reminder of the hyper-charged postwar atmosphere, and yet the graffiti art that now covers its remnants has become symbolic of social progress. Check out the Weltzeituhr (world time) Clock, topped by a model of the solar system, then turn back time by dining at the historic Zur Letzten Instanz, a 16th century restaurant that was frequented by Napoleon and Beethoven.
Edinburgh is Scotland’s capital city, renowned for its heritage, culture and festivals.
Take a long walk around the centre to explore the World Heritage Sites of the Old Town and New Town, as well as all the area’s museums and galleries. Then stop for a delicious meal made from fresh Scottish produce before heading out to take in one of Edinburgh’s many events — including the famous summer festivals of culture, or the Winter Festivals of music, light and ceilidhs.
The second largest city in Russia, St. Petersburg is the country’s cultural heart. View splendid architectural gems like the Winter Palace and the Kazan Cathedral, and give yourself plenty of time to browse the world-renowned art collection of the Hermitage. Sprawling across the Neva River delta, St. Petersburg offers enough art, nightlife, fine dining and cultural destinations for many repeat visits.
In Vienna, the coffee house isn’t just a hangout: it’s an institution. Lingering over a newspaper with a pastry and a strong espresso drink is, according to UNESCO, officially a Viennese cultural pastime. Walk off your slice of Sachertorte with a self-guided tour of the city’s stunning traditional, Secessionist, and modern architecture, such as the Imperial Palace, the State Opera House, the Kirche am Steinhof, or the Kunsthistorisches Museum, an exercise in ornate geometry.
You've probably heard that Guinness tastes better in Dublin (fresh from the factory), but what you may not know is that Dublin is a perfect destination for the whole family. No, we're not suggesting you let the kiddies drink a pint. Instead, take them to the Dublin Zoo, to feed the ducks in Stephen's Green or on a picnic in Phoenix Park. Scholars enjoy walking in the literary footsteps of such writers as Yeats and Joyce, while discerning shoppers have their pick of designer boutiques.
Krakow is one of the most culturally and politically significant cities in Poland. It was the central site of the Nazi General Government during WWII, and there’s still a residual feeling of solemnity here that’s especially apparent during visits to the Plaszow Concentration Camp and the Oskar Schindler Factory. Both the Historic City Centre and the Jewish District are brimming with cafés, shops, and pubs, and the 10-acre Main Market Square is a medieval feast for the senses.
The biggest resort town on what's called the "Russian Riviera," Sochi is preparing to step onto the world stage as the host of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Somewhat ironically, Sochi is really quite temperate for most of the year, with its Black Sea waters warm and swimmable well into October. The Arboretum and Riviera Park are among the city’s most popular destinations. Serving as a beautiful backdrop for Sochi are the Caucasus Mountains, home to the nearby snow skiing resort of Krasnaya Polyana.