International Destinations We Can’t Wait to Visit
Let’s face it: we’re all dying to go somewhere, anywhere right now. But the sad truth is that most of us will not be able to travel for the rest of the year. Here’s a list of some of the places people are dying to go visit. Some of them, like Paris and London, are some of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, while others, like Chiang Mai, Thailand and Bilbao, Spain might be lesser-known, but no less incredible. Whatever their popularity, these cities and countries are sure to have spectacular views, awesome food, beautiful architecture and incredible histories. You’ll want to make sure to add some of these to your travel bucket list.
Seoul, South Korea
Seoul is the bustling heart of South Korea. Half of South Korea’s population resides in the city, making this a metropolis worth exploring. Residents of the city take their nightlife seriously, with incredible karaoke venues, bars and nightclubs, especially in the district of Itaewon. It’s no secret that South Korea is known for its creative street foods, like boba tea, and trending fashion and beauty. The Myeongdong and Gangnam districts feature incredible shopping experiences, and don’t forget to hit up the vast Dongdaemun Market, where shopping and eating converge. Dongdaemun Market is where you’ll find some of the best food. For a historical tour, visit the National Museum of Korea, the Bukchon Hanok Village and one or both of the two imperial palaces located in the city. There is so much to see and do in Seoul. Just make sure you learn a little Korean before you go.
Busan, South Korea
While Seoul may be the bustling metropolis of South Korea, Busan is the country’s bustling, yet laid-back beachfront city. To sit and relax in the sand, visit Gwangalli or Haeundae Beaches. Don’t forget to relax at Cimer Spa, the most scenic hot springs location in Busan. Visit Nampodong Market, where streets are named after what the stores located on them sell, like Book Alley and Fashion Street. Also visit Shinsegae Centum City, the world’s largest department store, complete with ten floors and an ice skating rink. For a more cultural approach to the city, visit one of the several historic Korean Buddhist temples, which are stunning and feature natural gardens, as well as Gamcheon Culture Village, a colorfully painted village and one of the artsiest places in Busan.
One of the world’s most populated cities, Tokyo is famous for its bright lights and its ability to combine traditional Japanese culture with modern-day globalization. The shopping, the food, the people-watching … all are incredible here. Visit the Tokyo Tower, the tallest structure in the city, to get an incredible view of the Tokyo skyline. Take a breather from the crowds at Ueno, one of the city’s oldest parks, where you can see over 1,000 cherry blossom trees, as well as shrines, temples and ponds. Also located within the park is the Tokyo National Museum, the oldest in the country. Interested in watching a sumo wrestling match? Visit Ryoguku Kokugikan, a vast arena that hosts sumo and boxing championships. To find that perfect, authentic souvenir, try the Oedo Antique Market near Tokyo Station, where hundreds of vendors sell one-of-a-kind wares. Last but not least, visit Thermae-Yu, the traditional onsen, or hot spring bath, to get a relaxing soak on.
Kyoto is known as Japan’s cultural capital, brimming with temples, cherry blossom trees, bamboo forests and people wearing traditional Japanese clothing. This is the best city in Japan to learn about its culture, art, religion and, of course, its Japanese tea ceremony. Some of the most amazing temples and shrines to visit are the Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine, the Kinkakuji Temple, a gold-leaf covered temple surrounded by water, as well as the Kiyomizu-dera Temple. Visit the city’s many markets and hot springs and find your zen along the Philosopher’s Path, a narrow trail along a canal from Gingkakuji to Nanzenji. Bask in the city’s beauty in spring or fall, when the cherry blossoms bloom and the maple leaves turn orange and red.
Shanghai is a unique city of varying influences, with an incredible waterfront and delicious food. In Shanghai, visit the Fairmont Peace Hotel and the French Concession to view Europeans’ influence on the city. Take a walk along the Bund, the city’s waterfront, a perfect place to snap a few pics. Learn about Chinese history and culture at the Shanghai Museum. The People’s Square is the best place to people-watch; you can watch people flying kites, practicing tai chi and more. For shopping, visit Tianzifang, Nanjing Lu and Xiantiandi. Take in the view of the city with Shanghai Tower, the world’s second-tallest building. Visit the Venice of Shanghai, the historic town of Zhujiajiao, located only twenty or so miles away from downtown. Take a ride along the canals and visit charming hole-in-the-wall eateries, cafes and shops.
Hong Kong, China
Hong Kong is where East meets West. The city is known for its street markets (try Cat Street market) and incredible traditional food, but it also shares a recent past with the United Kingdom, and English is the city’s second official language, making it more progressive and giving it a distinct culture from the rest of mainland China. A visit to the semi-autonomous Hong Kong is not complete without a ride on the Star Ferry, where you’ll be taken around the island and given many opportunities to take photos of the incredible skyline. Looking for a different vista? Hike up to Victoria’s peak, the highest point in Hong Kong where the city’s biggest mansions are. Take an afternoon’s rest from your adventure at The Lobby, a cafe in The Peninsula, where the decadent design and live band meets high-quality loose-leaf tea and champagne, perfect for a day of splurging. For a lesson in history and culture, don’t forget to visit the Kowloon Walled City Park and the Hong Kong Heritage Museum.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai, Thailand is located about 400 miles north of Bangkok and offers a different, yet no less lively, perspective on Thai culture. The city was the medieval capital of the Lanna Kingdom, dating back to the thirteenth century. Because of this, the hilly area is covered in temples and historic sites for a perfect adventure. Visit the gilded Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and the Old City to bask in the ancient ruins and religious monuments. Chiang Mai is home to several ethical elephant sanctuaries like Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Chiang Mai, where you can learn about these incredible giants and even bathe them! Nature is wild and beautiful here. Visit the Doi Inthanon National Park and discover rare species of birds and other animals. Several local villages are also open to travelers to explore. Most famous is Padung Village, where the women wear brass rings around their necks to make them longer. Whether it’s basking in nature, exploring local geological or cultural wonders, or perhaps just eating great Thai food, Chiang Mai is sure to please.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
The gateway into the ancient ruins of Angkor, Siem Reap has loads of cultural experiences to indulge in. First and foremost is a trip to Angkor itself, an ancient complex that boasts some of the most unique and incredible architecture in the world. Visit the Old Market or Psar Chaa and discover exotic fruits like mangosteen, or taste some local dishes, like those made with red ants. A visit to the Cambodia Landmine Museum offers a harsh reality check, where you can learn about the Vietnam War and the estimated six million landmines that are still active today. Because of the landmine situation, it’s important to book tours to go hiking or exploring. Relax at the spa and learn how to make traditional pottery at the Angkor Pottery Center. Lastly, visit Pub Street to find cheap hostels and great beer.
Singapore is a sovereign island city-state in Southeastern Asia known for being the most expensive city in the world. The Gardens by the Bay is a must-see for anyone and is a great location to take photos. The Gardens’ Supertree Grove and Cloud Forest look like something from another planet. Another popular tourist destination is Merlion Park, where the city’s mascot, a half-fish half-lion statue, stands proudly. To engage in some art escapes, visit the Gillman Barracks, an art haven with multiple art galleries, the quirky and colorful Haw Par Villa, as well as the National Gallery Singapore, the largest modern art collection in Southeast Asia. For a nature walk, visit the Southern Ridges, a 5.6-mile trail that connects five parks together, where you can experience the dense jungle and all it has to offer. For a shorter walk, visit the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Singapore has the most unique zoo: the Night Safari, a zoo only open at night for the viewing of nocturnal animals. It’s an incredible experience you won’t want to miss. Architectural marvels abound in this city, as do temples and shrines. There are so many cultural hotspots, so make sure to do your research to get the most out of your Singapore experience.
Auckland, New Zealand
Home to Middle Earth and some of the world’s most breathtaking landscapes, New Zealand is also home to the bustling city of Auckland. Auckland is nestled between two different harbors, which means there’s ample space to explore beaches and coasts, like Muriwai Beach and Piha Beach, famous for surfing. The city is also just a close ride to Rangitoto Island, home to a dormant volcano. It’s so close that you can kayak there or take a convenient ferry ride over. Auckland is known for fresh, local food: take one of the many food tours the city’s tour companies offer, and you’re guaranteed to be stuffed and happy at the end. Discover Maori history at the Auckland Museum or modern sculptures at the Brick Bay Sculpture Trail. Central Auckland is the place to find exciting nightlife, shopping and restaurant experiences. Take in the view of the most populous city in the country from Sky Tower, and make sure to visit Auckland Domain, the city’s oldest park.
Gold Coast, Australia
Australia’s Gold Coast is located in Southeast Queensland and is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. With the sun shining more than 300 days a year, this place is an outdoor lover’s paradise. Theme parks, wildlife sanctuaries and perfect beaches make for a thrilling or relaxing getaway, depending on what you prefer. Surfer’s Paradise Beach is right next to the city’s skyscrapers. For a less crowded option, try Coolangatta Beach, where the swimming is easier. Also near the beach is a hiking trail that is perfect for spotting whales and dolphins. Explore a rainforest and climb waterfalls at Lamington National Park, just outside of the city, or Springbrook National Park, which features a cave filled with glow worms! For the thrill-seeker, check out one or more of the city’s many theme parks. The city is also conveniently close to the Great Barrier Reef, which makes this a good landing point if you’re going to visit one of the country’s greatest tourist attractions.
Australia’s largest city, Sydney, is also the most multicultural, making it the Australian version of New York, but with better weather. Great food, incredible beaches like Bondi Beach and some of the prettiest buildings are all features of this city, making it the must-see city for many Americans traveling to Australia for the first time. Visit the Sydney Opera House for some culture. Sydney also has a volunteer tour guide program that lets locals give tours, all for free! So if you’re strapped for cash, check out the “I’m free!” tours. Visit Paddy’s Market, a local historic landmark with over 1,000 vendors for street food and souvenirs. For a nature walk within city limits, visit the Royal Botanic Gardens, just a few minutes from the Sydney Opera House. No matter what you’re interested in when you travel, Sydney has it all.
The capital of India, Delhi is a must-see for those visiting India for the first time. This is a city in which the culture and the history are on full display. The India Gate, Humayun’s Tomb and Lodi Gardens are all historical and environmental landmarks, with beautiful parks and architecture to enjoy. Visit the Red Fort and step into the Mughal era. The Raj Ghat memorial is the sight at which Mahatma Ghandi was cremated and includes trees planted by famous political leaders such as Dwight D. Eisenhower and Queen Elizabeth II. A visit to the Akshardham Temple will awe Hindus and architecture-lovers alike. The biggest Hindu temple in the world, it looks more like a golden palace than a temple. The city is also a good spot to launch a day trip to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal. Don’t forget to indulge in the local food, such as chicken korma or seekh kebabs. While the city may be overwhelming at first, it’s an experience you won’t want to miss.
This city is one of the most modern in the world, boasting the world’s tallest building. This city has it all: snowboarding, camel racing, skydiving, urban ziplining and some of the most outrageously expensive shopping experiences in the world. For a local look at street markets, visit one of the souks, or markets, like the Dubai Spice Market or the Gold Souk. Dubai Mall draws in more annual tourists than New York City, making this one of the largest and most popular malls in the world. Take in a birds-eye view of the city atop the world’s tallest superstructure: the 160-floor Burj Khalifa. Dubai is neither for the faint of heart or the cash-strapped, however, so make sure you save before you go.
Mummies. Pyramids. Camels. While Cairo most definitely has an abundance of all three, they aren’t the only things that this desert city has to offer. While it can be busy to the point of being overwhelming, it is also a city that has a rich history and culture to explore. Nicknamed “Umm al-Dunya,” or “Mother of the World,” you can be a witness to one of the oldest civilizations in history. Travelers to Cairo must see the famed and mysterious Pyramids of Giza and, perhaps lesser-known but no less extraordinary, the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, where you’ll find mummies, ancient jewelry and more than a little mystery. South of downtown Cairo is Old Cairo, a holdover from the Babylonian Empire where you can still see some Roman towers that were built during the ancient occupation. Also in Old Cairo is the Coptic Museum, where you can learn about early Christianity and Coptic art. Don’t forget to step into some of the churches in this part of town, too: there’s a lot of them. Visit the Khan el-Khalili Bazaar to purchase some incredible Egyptian finds. There are so many things to see and do in Cairo!
South Africa is one of the continent’s most popular tourist destinations, and it’s no wonder why. Safaris and game parks are the most popular experiences, because they give you the opportunity to see wildlife up close and personal in their natural habitats, where they thrive the best. Not only are the animals reason enough to go on a safari: the environment in which they live is stunning, too. South Africa is meant to be explored; there is no one region that you should commit to fully. The best parks are Kruger National Park, Kgalagadi National Park (for a view of the Kalahari Desert) and the Addo Elephant National Park. South Africa is also great for hiking, surfing and wine tasting. Don’t forget to visit Victoria Falls, one of the largest waterfalls in the world. The V&A Waterfront in Cape Town is a great marketplace where you can find traditional African goods.
Jerusalem is a mixture of Jewish, Christian and Islamic cultures and beliefs that have led to serious and devastating conflicts in the past. This has created a unique city with a culture and history all its own. Jerusalem is famous for Christians and Jews alike because of its shared history with their two religions, and there are many tour companies that offer Biblical tours of the city. The city itself is split into various districts, some cultural neighborhoods, others, like the Ein Karem district, are an artist’s dream. The Old City district, home to 220 historic sites, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Within the city lies a plethora of archaeological sites to explore, like City of David, Jerusalem Archeological Park, the Western Wall Tunnels, the Burnt House and the Temple Mount Sifting Project, an active site where you can participate in sifting through history. The Dead Sea is about a 90-minute drive away from the city, where you can float in one of the rarest lakes in the world.
Istanbul is known as the gateway between East and West. Formerly the city that controlled the Silk Road to Europe and the former seat of the Eastern Roman and Ottoman Empires, Istanbul is just as rich in history and culture as any other ancient city. Take a stroll along the Bosporus and drink the incredible strong Turkish coffees at one of the many local cafes. Visit the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque to take in the incredibly lavish histories of the many religions that once dominated this city. Walk through the Grand Bazaar, the world’s most famous public marketplace, where you can find anything from traditional spices and teas to the famous Turkish rugs. Don’t miss out on seeing the Whirling Dervishes, their performance thought to be a religious experience. The Archaeology Museum is a must-see, too, because of its life-size Trojan Horse replica. To wash off all of the partying you’ll be doing at local nightclubs or the dust from exploring the city’s unique nooks and crannies, go to a hammam, a traditional Turkish bath that is more of a national pastime than a way to get clean. There is so much to see and do in Istanbul.
The legendary birthplace of the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, Paphos is a history buff’s dream. It may not be the most well-known vacation destination, but this Mediterranean island contains a charm and culture all its own. While the island of Cyprus has some of the best Mediterranean vacation staples, like incredible food (try the meze, a variety of traditional Cyprian dishes), horseback riding, beautiful beaches and ample opportunity for snorkeling and scuba diving, Paphos is a must-see if you’re interested in seeing a plethora of archaeological sites. The Kato Paphos Archaeology Park contains structures that date back to before the written word, but the most popular are the Roman amphitheater and villas, covered in mosaics that have existed for more than a millennia. Also at the park is the Tomb of the Kings, an underground burial complex that will make your jaw drop. Christians interested in Biblical history will love to visit Panagia Chrysopolitissa, the site of an ancient basilica that St. Paul began on his missionary journeys, and where he was harshly punished for teaching Christianity. Visit the Paphos Archaeology Museum for an air-conditioned look at some of the smaller artifacts found around the island.
Croatia’s capital city, Zagreb features gas street lights and a Viennese influence. While it may be the capital, it still contains a type of small-town charm, with easy walking and many local cafes and restaurants. The town is split into various districts that had developed over its 1,000-year history. Visit Kaptol, the religious district, for a closer look at the stunning Zagreb Cathedral. Gradec, the merchants’ quarter, features closer buildings and quaint shops and restaurants. Also here are the St. Mark’s Square, Croatian Parliament and Gradec’s last standing town gate, now a shrine to St. Mary. The Lower Town was built in the 1800s and features wider roads and grand neo-classical buildings, where you’ll find museums and high-end hotels. The Lenuci Horseshoe in the Lower Town includes the amazing Botanical Garden and the Croatian National Theater, where plays, ballets and opera performances are held. Don’t forget to get the staple of northern Croatian culture: a red heart-shaped cookie called a Licitar, which you’ll find all over town.
Pula is one of the best places in Croatia to see 2,000-year-old Roman ruins and also relax on the beach. It’s a beautiful city with a variety of different influences, and it’s definitely a place to consider visiting if you’d like to visit Croatia. The Roman arena is the most complete in the world and can be explored to your heart’s delight. Many concerts, events and crowds gather at Pula’s main square, once the forum of the town. Built in 30 B.C., the Arch of Sergii is the monument of millennia, built by one of the town’s most prestigious families to commemorate the winning of a large battle. The Temple of Augustus was converted into a Christian church during Roman times and sits in the heart of Pula’s main square. The beaches around Pula are beautiful Mediterranean beaches, with craggy rocks and stunningly clear cerulean water.
Thessaloniki, the second-largest city in Greece, may not be the first destination you think of when you think of Greece, which is a shame. This city has seen the rise and fall of four major empires, and the evidence of this has survived even to this day. While the city itself is ancient, it features many new modern developments and sits on a beautiful spot on the Mediterranean that is perfect for beach-going and doing water activities. Besides the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of Byzantine Culture and the Jewish Museum, the city features ruins of an ancient Roman forum, the picturesque White Tower, built during the Ottoman Empire, the Hagios Demetrios, built in the place where the patron saint of the city, St. Demetrius, was martyred. Aristotelous Square is a great place to begin walking because it offers a stunning view of the Mediterranean and many of the city’s events are held there. The colorful historic district of Ladadika was once the city’s merchant district and was heavily populated by the city’s Sephardic Jewish population. Now, it is home to the city’s nightlife, with bars, restaurants and hole-in-the-wall taverns to explore the local flavors of the city. Don’t forget to visit the city’s ancient religious monuments, like the Rotunda which was once a Roman temple, an early Christian church and later an Islamic mosque. Today, archaeologists have uncovered Christian mosaics on the wall dating back to the 5th century. Sunny and traditionally Greek, this stunning second city is worth exploring.
Lake Como, Italy
Italy is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and it’s no wonder why. It’s a beautiful country and has some of the most photographed landscapes ever. However, one of the most beautiful places in Italy is Lake Como. The charming lakeside villages, beautiful mountains and cerulean waters draw thousands of travelers to Lake Como each year. Imagine yourself sipping perfect Italian espresso at a local cafe, taking in the view of the stunning lake. Sound like paradise? Lake Como has many local cathedrals and basilicas to marvel at, all in different styles of architecture. To get some stunning photos of Lake Como, take the local funicular train up to Brunate, a small town with charming cafes and terraces. For the athletically inclined, travelers can take a two-hour hike up to Mount Boletto for a higher view. Travelers to Lake Como need to take a boat ride around the lake, enjoying the views of the flowering plants, hilly landscape and the classic Italian-style buildings. There are many little towns nearby to explore, such as Bellagio, Menaggio and Cernobbio. Each has its own local attractions and history, and they all make for wonderful day trips.
Sicily: the largest Mediterranean island and the home of great food, great wine and incredible experiences. Hike Mount Etna, or perhaps just snap a pic from far away. It’s the largest active volcano in Europe and was thought to be the home of the ancient Cyclops. Because of the island’s volcanic nature, parts of it have been transformed into incredible geological wonders, like the Gole dell’Alcantara. Take a tour through this marvel and be transported into what may seem like an alien planet. The local Valley of the Temples archaeological park is the largest in the world and features some of the best ancient Greek ruins around. For some of the best-preserved Roman mosaics, visit the Villa Romana del Casale. Sicily is home to some of the Mediterranean’s best beaches, so make sure to take a day or two off sightseeing to plop yourself in the sand and catch some rays. Sicily would not be Sicily without its sweets, either. Check out some of the local varieties, like cannoli, granita or cassata siciliana. There are so many things to see and do on this island, so make sure to research it before you go so you don’t miss a thing.
Bologna is the capital city of the region in Italy called Emilia Romagna. It has some incredible sights to see, like some leaning towers (though not the Pisa one), the classic, large Italian main square and its religious buildings. The Bologna National Gallery displays some of the best Italian art, with art by Titian and Raphael, among others. The best thing to do in Bologna, however, is eat. Tortellini, parmesan cheese, Bolognese, balsamic vinegar: these are Emilia Romagna’s claims to fame. Travel anywhere in this region to find some of the best Italian food and natural landscapes. The Monte Della Guardia, the longest portico in the world, leads up to the top where you can see incredible views of Bologna and the rest of Emilia Romagna.
Seville is the capital of the Spanish region of Andalusia, famous for its Moorish influence and as the home of the Flamenco. When people think of Spain, they generally think of a Seville-like region: a dry Mediterranean climate with bull-fighting and tapas galore. The Seville Cathedral is the largest in the world and was once a mosque. It’s also the burial place of Christopher Columbus. Next door to the Cathedral is La Giralda, a Moorish belltower that was used to lead the call to prayer for those of Islamic faith. It’s beautiful and unique, made with ramps instead of steps. The Plaza de España is a large plaza with a canal on one side and a large, semi-circular palace, in which many of the city’s administrative offices are located. It’s a great spot to learn about the Spanish provinces and enjoy the day. Another political building, the Moorish-inspired Real Alcázar, is a royal palace still in use by the Spanish royal family today, and part of it is open for tourists and features beautiful architecture. Visit the Plaza de Toros to experience a traditional Spanish pastime, at once frightening, ethically dubious and entertaining. Flamenco shows are performed every night, so make sure to go to a tablao, with live musicians and food and drink. The many museums in Seville are also a must-see for those looking to learn about Spanish history, art and culture.
While Seville may be the epitome of what travelers think when they think of Spain, Bilbao is most likely the exact opposite. Its location on the Bay of Biscay and its industrial and modern design makes this city the capital of Basque country. Bilbao’s skyline is unlike any other: famous architects like Phillippe Starck, Norman Foster and Frank Gehry were commissioned to revitalize the city to make it worthy of the 21st century, leading it to become one of the most art- and design-centric cities in Spain. The incredible Guggenheim Museum and the Fine Arts Museum both offer different types of art that are guaranteed to expand your mind. To get a taste of the legendary bite-sized food usually made with some type of bread as a base and held together by a toothpick, or “pintxo,” stroll through the Casco Viejo, the old quarter, where you’ll find small walkable streets and restaurants. The city also has many walkable bridges to enjoy the view of the city and the surrounding area, as well as a great lookout point called Artxanda Lookout, which is accessible by funicular train. Experience a different side of Spain in Bilbao.
Lisbon is the capital of Portugal, once the world’s most powerful country, which had its hand in many of the world’s most lucrative, and infamous, trades (think: sugar, spice, slaves). Today, Portugal is known for its pretty hand-painted porcelain tiles, and that’s about it. But there’s so much to see and do in Lisbon! Start your tour at the Praça do Comércio, a main square connected to many different types of canary-yellow transportation services buildings and a stunning view of the sea. The São Jorge Castle towers over the city, a Moorish remnant of the medieval occupation. To get some stunning photos of the city and the surrounding waters, head to Belém Tower, a Renaissance-era defense fortification built on the Tagus River. To get a glimpse into the colorful Portuguese tiles that cover many of the historic buildings in Lisbon, head to the National Azulejo Museum, where you’ll learn about the tiles’ unique importance and see many different styles. Don’t forget to sample some of the local pastries and food.
While Casablanca was made famous by the classic movie with its name, it’s really Marrakesh that is the epitome of Moroccan culture and charm. The city itself is known as a bargain lover’s dream, where you can find brightly woven rugs, exotic perfumes and spices, handmade leather goods and so much more. Visit the medina, or old district to discover the many different souks, many of them named after what the merchants sell. Don’t forget to practice your haggling before you go! The medina’s town square, Djemaa El Fna, is the place where the most activity is, where you’ll find snake charmers, fortune-tellers and merchants. The Medersa Ben Youssef, the largest theological school in the country, is one of the most beautiful buildings in Morocco, and it is here that you can take photos of beautiful painted tiles and traditional Moroccan architecture. To see a Renaissance-era burial place, visit the Saadian tombs, the family of which ruled over Marrakesh in the mid-1500s. It’s a beautiful set of mausoleums that was only rediscovered in the 20th century. Also related to the Saadians is the Badi Palace, the home of the once-ruling family. Marrakesh is a beautiful place that will expand your worldview and teach you about a history and a culture that is not usually taught in schools in America.
Paris. It’s a city that speaks for itself. The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the underground catacombs, the Seine, the food. Everything about Paris draws millions of visitors every year, making it the most popular tourist destination in France and one of the most popular in all of Europe. Charming cafes, incredibly delicious (and buttery) food, world-class art and entertainment can be found here. Make sure to visit Paris’ smaller, less crowded attractions, too, like the Musée de l’Orangerie, where some of Monet’s most famous paintings are displayed. Musée Rodin is also one of the most romantic museums in Paris, where Rodin’s famous sculptures are displayed in a villa with a garden. The city itself is meant to be wandered slowly and savored like a fine French wine. No matter what time of year you travel to Paris, you’ll find twinkling lights, dreamy photo-worthy scenes and many memorable experiences to bring back with you. Make sure to learn a few French words and phrases before you go, so you can have an easier time interacting with the locals.
Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
Luxembourg City is the capital of one of the smallest countries in Europe, Luxembourg. While often overlooked, the country is charming and features some of the prettiest towns and forests in Europe. The country itself has over 130 castles! Luxembourg City a charming city, filled with white plastered buildings with dark grey-blue shingles. The historic district overlooks the Alzette and Petrusse rivers and is listed as a UNESCO site. In the city center is the Grand Ducal Palace, a charming cream and blue mansion where the Grand Duke lives. The Grund, or Lower City, is a quieter part of town where you can relax with a glass of delicious wine. A visit to the Bock Cliff is where you can explore the winding underground passageways created as a defense system, where underground kitchens, armories and other rooms were once located. A short day trip is all it takes to visit the surrounding town and villages to check out their castles and other landmarks. If you’ve never heard of Luxembourg before, now is the time to learn about why you should visit.
Switzerland is home to some of the most beautiful natural landscapes in all of Europe: from the snow-capped peaks of the Alps to the verdant green hills and stunningly blue water, any destination in Switzerland is perfect for relaxing and reconnecting with nature. The entire country is worth exploring and has some of the most charming cities and towns in all of Europe, which is why it’s such a popular destination. In Switzerland, you can hike and ski in the Alps, learn how Gruyere and Swiss chocolate is made and do a variety of rigorous and adventurous outdoor activities. Luxury shopping is also big here. Some of the best cities to visit are Interlaken, the most popular destination in the country for summer vacations and outdoor activities; Lucerne, a charming, flower-filled, car-free town straight out of a fairy tale; and Geneva, nestled along the lake that bears its name and the seat of the United Nations. These are only the tip of the iceberg for Switzerland: make sure to research everything this country has to offer and pick the places you’d like to visit based on your interests, so you can make the most out of your trip.
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Amsterdam is most famous for its incredible network of canals that criss-cross the city, lending it a poetic aesthetic. That’s why a trip to the port city is not complete without a boat ride along the canals, where you can take as many pictures of the historic and quaint rowhouses. A walk through the Jordaan, an artsy neighborhood dotted with antique stores and art galleries might get you lost, but only in a good way. Access multiple museums at once at Museumplein, a city district built in the 1800s where many of the museums in the city are located, like the Van Gogh Museum and the Royal Concertgebouw. Visit the Anne Frank House and learn the importance of faith and of remembering history. The EYE Filmmuseum is one of the most iconic new buildings in the city; the museum plays movies and features different exhibits. During springtime in Amsterdam, visit Bollenstreek, the tulip fields, just out of the city. Don’t forget to try the local specialty: herring with pickles and onions, found at small herring carts all across the city. Yum!
The Black Forest Region, Germany
The Black Forest region of Germany is perhaps the most romantic, most spooky and less visited by American tourists. This region has been the birthplace of the cuckoo clock and of many of the fairy tales popularized by the Brothers Grimm. The many charming towns and cities in this region are perfect touchpoints for reconnecting with nature and discovering a slower, yet still welcoming, German culture. Check out Heidelberg, Baden-Baden, Freiburg, Baiersbronn, Calw and Bad Wildbad to start your discovery of the mysterious Black Forest region. Hiking and other outdoor sports are very popular in these areas, and some of the towns are even popular spa destinations, complete with hot springs.
Vienna is perhaps one of the most artistic cities in Europe. The city itself has been nicknamed the “City of Music,” and the “City of Dreams.” It’s famous for being a cultural landmark, having been the central hub for famous musicians and composers, such as Franz Schubert and Joseph Haydn, as well as for its museums, with its oftentimes priceless and iconic works of art. The Kunsthistorisches Museum features artwork by Gustav Klimt, including his most famous work, The Kiss. For some more culture, buy a ticket to one of the operas performed at the gorgeous and opulent Vienna State Opera. The city, a living museum for its stunning architecture, is walkable and easy to wander along the streets lined with local cafes, restaurants and bars. Visits to the Schonbrunn Gardens and the Schonbrunn Palace make for a perfect day tour, combining history and horticulture into a stunning, distinctly Austrian combination.
Prague, Czech Republic
Gothic, Renaissance and Victorian-era architecture combine to form many of the buildings in Prague, oftentimes cited as one of the most beautiful European cities. The city itself has over 1,000 years of history, making this city a perfect exploration of history. The Old Town Square dates back to the tenth century and is where you can find street performers, musicians and merchants. The square is also home to the Astronomical Clock, the best-preserved medieval clock still in operation today. Close to the square is the Jewish quarter, or Josefov, where six synagogues and other historically and culturally significant buildings are located. Visit the medieval Charles Bridge and look into the river Vltava, a view that people had looked out across for more than six hundred years. The St. Vitus Cathedral and the Prague Castle are must-sees for architecture lovers. Don’t forget to sample the incredible food, awesome brews and, a European staple, coffee.
Budapest is actually made up of three cities: Buda and Óbuda on the west side of the Danube, and Pest on the eastern side. The city itself is beautiful, and the architecture lends an artistic vibe to the city. The Parliament Building, built in the ornate Gothic Revival style, lies on the banks of the Danube and is one of the landmarks of the city. The walk along the river is especially scenic at sunset, when the city’s lights turn on and the river takes on a dreamy quality. Heroes’ Square is another landmark, a giant monument to the seven Magyar chieftains, which in Hungarian legend were said to have led the Hungarian people to the area from central Asia. The city is also known for what is called ruin pubs, or shabby pubs in old, previously abandoned buildings, complete with used furniture. They take the “shabby-chic” aesthetic to the max. Central Market Hall is the city’s biggest marketplace where you can find everything from flowers to goulash to furniture. Andrássy Avenue is where you’ll find the Hungarian National Opera House and other incredibly opulent buildings. Don’t forget to relax at one of the city’s hot spring baths, like the giant Széchenyi Thermal Baths or the Gellért Baths. A walk through City Park is also another great way to relax while surrounded by nature.
Bucharest lies on the border of Eastern Europe and has been influenced by Communist and Imperial countries alike. The most perceivable example of this is the city’s architecture, which is a confluence between the classic European, communist minimalist and modern styles. The Parliamentary Palace is the largest administrative building in the world and is worth exploring. Visit the Romanian Athenaeum, where you can watch a thrilling and emotional orchestra performance. Lipscani is the old town of Bucharest, where you’ll find cream-colored buildings dating back to the Medieval Ages. The Romanian Peasant Museum is a tribute to the nation’s people, where you’ll learn about the various dress and culture of the Romania peasant class. The city also boasts a large number of beautiful religious buildings, most of them preserved through the city’s horrible 20th-century earthquake and communist rule. Cismigiu Gardens is a beautiful garden, which in the center has a lovely monument to the twelve most influential and beloved Romanian writers. Revolution Square is where the people overthrew the Socialist Republic of Romania in 1989 and where a tall monument is located today. Bucharest is an incredible destination to visit if you’re thinking of visiting Eastern Europe.
Tallinn is the capital city of Estonia and is a beautiful, charming city that boasts historical and modern-day attractions. While an unfamiliar name to many, the city’s iconic red-tiled roofs and white and cream buildings bear a fairy-tale charm, and the city is known for its cobblestone streets and beautiful architecture. There are five historic churches to visit in the city, as well as a historic district. The city boasts one of the oldest pharmacies and town halls in Europe, so make sure to check out the Raeapteek and the Town Hall. The Viru Gate, a medieval defense for the city’s historic district, is where you can find an open-air market with vendors selling roasted nuts, handmade mittens and other little treasures. Toompea Castle is the historic seat of power for the area, and tours are free, so make sure to book that into your itinerary. Across from the castle is the Alexander Nevski Cathedral, an ornate Russian Orthodox cathedral. The best place to get that stunning panoramic picture is at Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform on Toompea Hill, where local musicians also congregate to play music. The Kumu Art Museum features Estonian artists and exhibits about art under the repressive Communist Party rule. For a more modern side of the medieval city, visit the warehouse district, called Telliskivi Creative City, where live music venues, bars, restaurants and boutique stores are nestled into refurbished warehouses, and where modern street art thrives.
St. Petersburg, Russia
While Moscow may be the powerhouse of Russia, St. Petersburg is known to be the cultural capital of the giant country, offering a slower pace and friendlier locals. The city was the seat of government for three hundred years, so this is the place to find royal palaces and gardens. The architecture here is also stunning and vibrant, with buildings painted bright red, yellow, green and more! Visit the opulent Hermitage Museum, or the Winter Palace, complete with a collection of artwork by the best, such as Da Vinci, Monet and Van Gogh. It’s the second-largest museum in the world, second only to the Louvre. The Palace Square directly in front of the palace-museum is where you’ll find local street musicians and the giant Alexander Column, built to commemorate the defeat of Napoleon. The square also has quite the history with various revolutions, so make sure to research it more if you’re interested in Russian history. The canary-yellow and white Peterhof Palace makes for the perfect day trip. For some delicious Russian food all in one place, visit the Art Nouveau-style Eliseyev Emporium, a marketplace where you can find some of the most creative ice cream and candy flavors in the world. Many of the city’s museums and the stock exchange can be found on Vasilyevsky Island, as well as the Institute of Russian Literature, where fans of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy can peruse some of their original manuscripts. One of the most famous places in the city is Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, a Russian Orthodox church that features bright, colorful Russian architecture. The city’s rivers, canals and bridges make for ample opportunity to get that perfect photo. No matter what time of year you visit, you’ll find something to love in this dreamy, colorful city.
When people think of England, they typically think of London, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s the seat of the British government and economy, and it’s literally overflowing with historical landmarks and attractions. The nightlife ranges from the grungy to the ultra-modern, and the city itself offers great shopping and people-watching experiences. Visit the London Bridge, Big Ben, Hyde Park, Westminster, the British Museum and Buckingham Palace, for starters. Later, try to do something a little out of the way of the traditional tourist destinations, like London’s Chinatown, a booming district with incredible food and traditional Chinese lanterns. Brick Lane is the city’s hub for the Bangladeshi community, where you can find incredible street art, trendy bars and authentic South Asian food. Take a break at Hampstead Heath, a park with lovely views of Parliament. For a booming nightlife scene, try out Shoreditch, a newly revitalized neighborhood with unique bars and restaurants for 24/7 fun. This is merely the tip of the iceberg with London, so make sure you do your research to get the most out of your trip.
Edinburgh has been the seat of the Scottish government and culture for centuries. Today, it is a vibrant city filled with festivals and beautiful natural scenery. Edinburgh Castle, the home of the infamous Mary Queen of Scots, perched high atop the city, is a place everyone must visit on their first trip to the city. Princes Street is the historic thoroughfare through the city, and it is ideal for snapping a few photos of the skyline. St. Giles Cathedral is another must-see, with its stained glass windows and beautiful medieval architecture. For the athletically inclined, visit Arthur’s Seat, a dormant volcano covered in lush green forest. Rumored to be one of the locations of King Arthur’s Camelot, here you will find ruins dating all the way back to 2 A.D. Nestled in Edinburgh’s Old Town are Mary King’s Close, a network of narrow, winding alleyways called closes. Many of these are underground, some are partially collapsed, but the ones that are in good condition are open for tours, where you’ll learn all about these mysterious, once-bustling alleyways. Visit the Scottish National Gallery for some beautiful artwork and collections by Scottish artists. For royal portraits, visit the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, housed in a gothic-revival style building in the center of the city. These are only some examples of everything Edinburgh has to offer, however, so make sure to research the area fully to scope out what you’d most like to see.
Dublin is known for its local spirits, history and culture, and it’s conveniently located in an area perfect for day-tripping through the Emerald Isle. If you’re a fan of whiskey, you have to visit the Irish Whiskey Museum. On the weekends it hosts live music, too, so you can sip and experience traditional Irish music. Dublin is also home to one of the world’s most unique museums: EPIC, the Irish Emigration Museum, which explains over 70 million Irish descendants scattered throughout the globe. From the Great Famine to the Great Depression, this is a great place to learn about the Irish emigration. Check out the National Gallery of Ireland and the National Museum of Ireland for some more culture. The first public library in all of Ireland is located in Dublin, called Marsh’s Library. It still contains its original texts from the 1700s, so it’s worth checking out if you’re a bibliophile. Speaking of which, no literary trip to Dublin is complete without a stop at Trinity College, which has had notable alumni such as Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats and more. The college’s library, the Trinity Long Room, is one of the best and most beautiful historic libraries in the world and is home to the Book of Kells, an illuminated text of the Gospel. The Dublin Castle was the seat of Irish government for over 700 years and is now available for tours. To stroll through an Irish park, visit St. Stephen’s Green and Phoenix Park, the latter of which is home to gentle fallow deer.
Oslo, the capital of Norway and the third-largest city in the country, is home to incredible museums, ultra-modern architecture and more than enough opportunities to get outdoors and get active. This city, home to the descendants of some of the best seafarers in the world, is a bustling port city with a unique culture. Frogner Park is a large sculpture garden, home to 212 sculptures, ranging from the romantic to the downright bizarre. Five of the city’s national museums, including the incredible Viking Ship Museum and the Norwegian Folk Museum, are located on the city’s west side on the Bygdøy Peninsula, so make sure to make a day trip to visit the museums. Visit Edvard Munch’s famous painting, The Scream, at the Norwegian National Gallery, which also features paintings by El Greco, Renoir, Cézanne and more. There are so many museums in this city, so make sure to research them all and decide on which ones interest you most. The iconic Oslo Opera House is designed to look like an iceberg floating atop the Oslofjord. Make sure to buy a ticket to a ballet or opera performance here if you’re interested. If not, make your way up to the rooftop for free and snap a pic of the beautiful natural landscape created by the fjord. To see the Norwegian version of a medieval fortress, visit the Akershus Fortress near the fjord. The Royal Palace and its park is also available for tours. For a culinary trip around the world, visit the Matlhallen Food Hall, where you’ll find traditional Nordic food and international cuisine, too. The city is also a good spot to make your home base and go on some day trips to see the more rural, stunning Norwegian landscapes.
Stockholm is nicknamed the “Venice of the north,” because of its charming buildings and networks of canals and islands connected by bridges. Take a boat tour to see more of the charming city than you would otherwise, and to get some beautiful photos of the canals. The historic Gamla Stan district is a neighborhood of three islands covered in brightly colored buildings. Wander the narrow medieval streets and visit the shops, bars and cafes in the area. The Nobel Museum, the Stockholm Cathedral and the Royal Palace are all places to visit in Gamla Stan. For fans of photography, Stockholm is home to the photography museum Fotografiska. The top floor of the museum also has some of the best views of the city. Another great view of the city is the Ericsson Globe, the world’s largest spherical building. City Hall is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks, where the Nobel Banquets are held. For luxury living and shopping, visit the posh neighborhood of Östermalm, where the buildings are also decidedly fancier, too. There’s something for everyone in Stockholm.
Copenhagen is the youthful capital of Denmark and is a port city where walking and biking are the easiest modes of transportation. Known for its incredible food scene and home to the best restaurant in the world, Noma, it’s a food lovers’ dream. Visit the 800-year-old Christiansborg Palace, the Danish seat of government located near the water. Visit Amalienborg Castle, a complex of four palaces, some of which can be toured, like the Rosenborg Palace. Queen Margrethe II and her family reside in one of the palaces. The National Museum of Denmark is perfect for those wanting to learn more about Denmark’s Viking past. Nyhavn Harbor is a boat-filled, colorful harbor which is a perfect spot to launch your boat tour of the city. Visit Strøget for all your shopping needs, where you’ll find luxury shopping intermixed with boutiques, restaurants and cafes. Lastly, a trip to Denmark isn’t complete without seeing the statue of the Little Mermaid, inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale.
Iceland is meant to be explored. It isn’t enough to travel to Reykyavik and say that you’ve seen Iceland. No, in order to really experience all Iceland has to offer, you have to travel. The landscape is diverse and has some of the wildest landscapes in the world. Volcanoes, glaciers, hot springs, waterfalls, caves and verdant green hillsides abound, making this country a nature lover’s dream. Snæfellsjökull National Park is where you’ll find the Snæfellsjökull glacier, as well as lava tubes and lava fields, with hiking paths that let you experience the natural landscape while also allowing you to whale watch. The Dynjandi Waterfall is gorgeous, and the park nearby has a camping ground so you can camp in the natural Icelandic wilderness. Hornstrandir Nature Reserve is perfect for seeing the crags, waterfalls, bluffs and even Arctic foxes. Cross between North America and Europe on the Þingvellir Plain, where the world’s tectonic plates lay uncovered and separated by water. Relax at Blue Lagoon, the natural hot springs which are said to help conditions such as arthritis and psoriasis. Lastly, visit a smaller town or go camping away from bright lights to get a glimpse of the most beautiful Aurora Borealis in the world. This list is only the tip of the glacier with Iceland, so make sure to research this country to make sure you learn about everything it has to offer.
Quebec City is the capital of the French region of Canada, which is famous for its European-style architecture and its lovely castle-turned-hotel, the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac, the world’s most photographed hotel. It’s perfect to visit all year long, but it’s especially pretty in fall and winter. Fall is when the city’s many maple leaves turn bright red and orange, and winter is when you can do many winter activities, like skiing and sledding. Winter is also pretty in Quebec because the city is beautifully decorated in twinkling lights and other holiday decor. The Quartier Petit Champlain is perfect for shopping at local boutiques and tasting local food; don’t forget to taste some of the local maple syrup! The Musée de la civilisation à Québec is a museum showcasing the region’s rich history, which is perfect for anyone interested in learning more about the history of the French region. A short day trip is all it takes to visit Montmorency Falls, one of the largest waterfalls in Canada. Quebec is a sophisticated city with lovely architecture, local shops and cafes, and outdoor activities for every season.
San Jose, Costa Rica
San Jose, Costa Rica is one of the most popular vacation destinations in Central America. The country itself is known for its safety and commitment to preserving its natural environment, making ample opportunity to participate in some ecotourism. The country is also known for having some of the best night skies in the world, being so close to the equator. Visit the Mercado Central for a first-hand look at a traditional Costa Rican market, where you’ll find varied goods and delicious street foods. The Museo del Oro Precolombino is where you’ll find rare artifacts from the Pre-Columbian native populations. The Parque Metropolitano La Sabana is a great place to stretch your legs and get some fresh air. A day trip or two to the Orosi River Valley will allow you to explore the Tapanti National Park, with natural hot springs and opportunities to tour the rainforest.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Often called the “Paris of South America,” Buenos Aires has a history rich in culture and art, where figures such as Jorge Luis Borges and Pope Francis both called home. A must-visit spot for book lovers is the Ateneo Grand Splendid, a bookstore in what was once a grand theater. Make sure to buy some tickets to the Teatro Colón, a beautiful historic theater that’s famous for its operas. In Argentina, meat is king, so make sure to eat at a parrilla, or steakhouse, to get some local asado. Dulce de leche is also a favorite flavor here, so make sure to get some gelato or ice cream in that signature flavor. Buenos Aires is where the Argentine Tango originated, so make sure to find yourself at Plaza Dorrego or La Viruta to learn from the locals themselves. Built like a miniature city-within-a-city, La Recoleta is one of the world’s most unique cemeteries, with mausoleums that are themed like gothic cathedrals, Egyptian sarcophagi and more. For some beautiful Latin American art, visit the MALBA, or the Museum of Latin American Art Buenos Aires, where you’ll find paintings by Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and more. Whether you’re a fan of historical architecture or would rather visit a place to eat the food and meet the people, Buenos Aires is sure to be a memorable experience.
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