A visit to Athens will prove to be a trip back in time. You will experience the excitement of visiting places where great historic events actually happened, 25 centuries ago. Even though you've probably come here to see the "glory that was Greece," perhaps best symbolized by the Parthenon and the superb statues and vases in the National Archaeological Museum, allow some time to make haste slowly in Athens. Your best moments may come sitting at a small cafe, sipping a tiny cup of the sweet sludge that the Greeks call coffee, or getting hopelessly lost in the Plaka—only to find yourself in the shady courtyard of an old church, or suddenly face to face with an ancient monument you never knew existed. With only a little advance planning, you can find a good hotel here, eat well in convivial restaurants, enjoy local customs such as the refreshing afternoon siesta and the leisurely evening volta (promenade or stroll)—and leave Athens planning to return, as the Greeks say, tou chronou (next year).
Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, is a cosmopolitan Mediterranean city that incorporates in its urban street pattern, Roman remains, medieval districts and the most beautiful examples of Modernism and 20th century avant-garde art. Not for nothing were the emblematic buildings of Catalan architects Antoni Gaudí and Luis Doménech i Montaner, declared to be World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. To take a stroll through the streets of Barcelona is to be surprised at every step. Pedestrian streets in the old districts, green spaces, and a splendid waterfront filled with modern structures all reflect the city's aim of integration. Barcelona has managed to exalt its past without forgetting its commitment to the future.
Classed as a world heritage treasure by UNESCO, Dubrovnik is a place of ancient streets lined with stone palaces, Venetian-style buildings and bell towers. The city is enclosed by stone walls, and the highlight is a leisurely walk atop these massive walls for a great view of the city and the sea. Entering Dubrovnik, you are greeted by an impressive pedestrian promenade, the Placa, which extends before you all the way to the clock tower at the other end of town. The Orlando Tower here is a favorite meeting place. Just inside the city walls near the Pile Gate is the Franciscan Monastery housing the third-oldest functioning pharmacy in Europe, operating since 1391. For a fantastic panorama of the city, take a cable car ride to the summit of the 1,340-foot Mount Srdj.
This centuries-old capital guards the slender waterway between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, and is the doorway between the East and West. Visitors can explore remnants of Byzantine Constantinople in the Sultanahmet district, where you will have the chance to see ancient splendors, such as the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace. At night the city boast a lively nightclub scene and excellent Turkish dining options that may include cultural entertainment and dancing. Istanbul also features splendid shopping malls, boutiques, and hand crafted items can be found all over the city. No matter where you look, museums, palaces, grand mosques and churches attest to the city’s magnificent history as the capital of three successive empires—the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman.
Portugal’s capital is an 18th-century city—elegant, open to the sea and carefully planned. Most places of interest are within easy walking distance. Rossio Square, the heart of Lisbon since medieval times, is an ideal place to start exploring. Many rebuilt houses with original facades provide stores and restaurants with modern interiors. High above Baixa is Bairro Alto - with its teeming nightlife. There are many monuments and museums, such as Jeronimos Monastery, Royal Coach Museum and Gulbenkian Museum. Two well-known landmarks are the Monument to the Discoveries and the Tower of Belem. A statue of Christ looms above Europe’s longest suspension bridge. Madragoa, Bica and Bairro Alto, Lisbon’s older sections, offer a variety of sights: the Church of Sao Roque, with its beautiful tiles; St. George Castle, which offers a splendid view from its location above the Alfama quarter; the botanical gardens, featuring an unusual, cold greenhouse; and the cathedral, stunning with its Moorish design. Renowned Gulbenkian Museum is the cultural center of Portugal.
It is hard to describe Rome in a few words. Rome is a city so vast and rich in art, historic ruins, monuments and exquisite views, that words can hardly do it justice. Rome’s deep history mixes with its cosmopolitan surface on every corner. This former capital of the Roman Empire has preserved its charm and independence throughout the centuries. Rome's history can be read in every monument and palazzo; in fact, each and every stone bears witness to the periods of splendor, decay, wars, and numerous architectural styles. The city could be described as a gigantic open-air museum, visited each year by millions of tourists, scholars and pilgrims from all over the world.
Santorini is everything that has made the Greek islands legendary. The world famous island of Santorini is the southernmost island of the Cycladic group in the Aegean Sea, and is located north of Crete. Its population is distributed among thirteen villages and just exceeds nine thousand. The marvelous dry climate and unbroken sunshine create year around conditions which are perfect for observation, photographs and videos under an extraordinary variety of natural lights and colors. Enlighten yourself on the Thira, the archaeological sites, the wineries, the churches and the food and wine of Santorini.
Valletta is the capital of Malta. This remarkable fortified city, with its massive bastions, followed the most advanced Renaissance ideas in town planning, with streets laid straight on a grid looking over the Grand Harbor. Outside the 'City Gate' is the famous Triton Fountain. 'City Gate' has public buses and vendors selling soft drinks and all sorts of traditional fresh Maltese bread and sweets. Freedom Square shows an extraordinary capital with buildings of fine architecture of different tastes and styles ranging from the Mannerism to Baroque to Rococo to Neoclassicism. Valletta is a fascinating city for wandering around looking at what used to be the Knight's own cathedrals and Auberges. The city's backbone is Republic Street, which runs straight through the city center to Fort St. Elmo. Valletta has several narrow, steep side streets decorated with traditional Maltese pastel colored balconies and a statue on almost every street corner. There are plenty of shops, cafes, and restaurants to choose from.
Venice is one of the most stunning cities in Italy, with its winding canals, narrow streets, and beautiful Piazza San Marco. Known for both tourism and for industry, Venice stretches across 118 small islands in the marshy Venetian Lagoon, along the Adriatic Sea in northeast Italy. The city is filled with magnificent churches, lavish palazzi and stately bridges, all built among a web of waterways and streets that are works of art themselves. Delight in the Byzantine wonder of St. Mark’s Basilica, gaze at St. Mark’s bell tower piercing the sky and revel in the riches of the city’s museums. Take a stroll across the Rialto Bridge for a bird’s-eye view of the Grand Canal and gondolas. A visit to the Gallerie dell’Accademia is a must, showcasing Venetian masters such as Tintoretto, Bellini, Giorgione and Carpaccio; while the Peggy Guggenheim Collection features modern giants like Picasso, Dali, Pollock and Miro. Venice also offers a wide selection of shops, cafés, and excellent restaurants serving delicious Italian food, as well as international cuisine.
Set in the heart of one of the world's most beautiful bays, Villefranche-sur-Mer sits on the steps of a natural amphitheatre—the terraced hills of the Riviera—gazing out over the sea. The plentiful sunshine of the Côte d'Azur, reflected in the enclosed bay, has given Villefranche-sur-Mer a warmth and climate all of its own and its famous rich, exotic vegetation. Long a spectator to centuries of history, Villefranche-sur-Mer has welcomed civilizations and has a rich heritage to show for it: the old city with its picturesque narrow streets, the mysterious "Rue Obscure", the Chapel Saint-Pierre, decorated by Cocteau, the fortified Port, and, last but not least, the magnificent Citadel built in 1557 by the Duke of Savoy. Today, those massive and majestic walls harbor the Town Hall, an open air theatre surrounded by gardens, three museums and a Congress Centre. Villefranche-sur-Mer is a rich and growing city situated very closely to Nice and Monaco. It is a city with very special character, and the warmth and charm of a fishing village from a bygone age.
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