Notorious serial killer, rowdy gangsters, hellish fire and a polar vortex – this magnificent city has survived a great deal. Despite its reputation as one of the coldest cities in the USA, Chicago remains a sight to behold. Take in the view from 1000 feet above the ground at the John Hancock Center, grab a picnic by Lake Michigan, ride the giant wheel at Navy Pier or watch yourself reflected on the Cloud Gate. No matter what your age or preference, you will find something to admire here. What makes the Windy City unique is its perfect mix of nature and urban elements.
This vivacious French capital is an artist’s dream. Famous for the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe, the City of Love is an ultra-metropolitan paradise with boutique and restaurant studded winding cobblestone streets. Whether it is the Louvre with its grandiose elegance or the Notre Dame with its rustic, bohemian charm, Paris is the marriage of culture and style. After a day of exploring the city on foot, relax along the serenading Seine with macarons, and cap of your Parisian experience with a racy show at the Moulin Rouge. While people may snooze during history lessons, this city’s rich historical heritage weaves a magical web and adds to its appeal.
Steeped in history, Athens has a lot to offer, including the stunning Acropolis that towers above the city. You will come across ancient monuments dating back over two millennia, and the quaint neighborhoods of Plaka and Monastiraki. The city has an atmosphere that leads you to fantasizing about treading the same grounds as some of the Greek Gods and Goddesses.
Innsbruck was the seat of the imperial court of Maximilian I at the end of the 15th century. This medieval city is well-known for its Alpine landscape, Archduke Ferdinand II’s 10th-century Schloss Ambras, the Tyrolean Folk Art Museum, the grand Imperial Palace and Maximilian I’s famous Golden Roof. Explore the city’s unparalleled beauty on the trams that take you to all the spots.
With several canals and bridges, Germany’s second-largest city is a chic place steeped in history. Go through the historic Speicherstadt warehouse district and past the 19th-century Town Hall, or visit the $1 billion Elbphilharmonie concert venue. Three rivers run through the city and experiencing Hamburg on ferries and hanging out at the majestic harbor is a quintessential thing to do there. If you enjoy both history and art, look for the World War II bunkers that are now covered in graffiti and used as climbing walls.
Belgium may be known for its waffles and dark chocolates, but the country’s true star is this picturesque little city. Located in the Flemish region, Bruges provides the perfect backdrop for a fairy tale. The city’s feudal overtones complement the innumerable historical and artistic marvels. Stop by the canals and take a long gander at the ornamental houses on either side. When you are here, you feel transported to the medieval era while still feeling a strong connection to the market squares lined with spiraling towers and lanes with old whitewashed almshouses.
Rife with healing thermal baths, this capital city is a result of the merging of three cities, split in two by the Danube river. Buda is on the hill with the royal palace and a charismatic town with gothic monuments overlooking Pest, with broad avenues and sophisticated neo-renaissance buildings. When you are satiated by some of the most delicious meals like goulash, walk through the Chain Bridge and visit the St. Stephen’s Basilica.
Immerse yourself in Roman history and the beauty of urbs kaput mundi—the city at the center of the world. Although it is no longer called so, Rome has succeeded in attracting attention from all over the world with its many Renaissance buildings and the gorgeously imposing amphitheater, Colosseum. The city emanates timeless beauty and inspiration from every corner. You don’t need an itinerary – just walk out the hotel door, grab a delicious slice of pizza and explore.
Can a city that inspired the wizarding world of Harry Potter, be any less magical? Enveloped in invisible fairy dust, Edinburgh has some of the most beautiful castles in the world and all of them have fascinating histories and legends. Cobblestone streets and mysterious alleys are quite common here and if you get lost, follow the wafting tunes of the bagpipe and you will find yourself in a bar.
Think of a quaint city so perfect, any photo you take can become a picture postcard. Lucerne resembles a fictional faraway land with turreted buildings and a breathtaking view of the snow-covered alps. Situated on the shores of Lake Lucerne, the city is popular for the Kapellbrücke, the oldest covered bridge in Europe. There probably is not a lot to do here, but with surroundings this spectacular, indolence is a blessing.
A city that is an architectural tour de force. Influenced by nature, 19th century architect Antoni Gaudi filled the city with structures and spaces that have a raw, organic feel, while being reminiscent of Gothic intricacy. Walk around Barcelona and bask in the magnificence of Gaudi’s signature stained glass on the residential building Casa Batllo, ceramic mosaics at the garden complex Park Guell (where you get the best view of the city from), and his surging stonework on the unfinished Sagrada Familia basilica. If building do not appeal to you, head to the Camp Nou and revel in the spaciousness of the world third largest football stadium.
Cape Town, South Africa
Nestled within the protective embrace of the Table Mountains, this city has everything from beaches, hills, gardens to some very exotic restaurants and bars. Visit the former Malay Quarter, Bo Kaap with rows of brightly colored houses; walk around the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront; get a tan at the luxuriating Camp’s Bay beach and learn about several species of flora at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. But, if you truly want to experience something transcendental, then hike up to the Lion’s Head and catch the setting sun.
Voted as one of the sexiest cities in the world, Galway is on the western end of Ireland. It is a medieval city with great architecture and an effervescent cultural scene. Crisscrossed across are charming streets decorated with colorful shops and pubs. Visit Quay street for a drink and The Spanish Arch for a history lesson with a view.
Time travel may not be a literal possibility (yet), but you can revisit an unexplored past in Kyoto. Japan’s imperial capital lets you visit temples from the tenth century while exchanging glances with young geishas on the streets. With about 16,000 Buddhist temples and over 300 Shinto shrines, this city has abundant aesthetic appeal, enhanced by the many gardens. If you get tired of all the religious stopovers, make a quick trip to the International Manga Museum
St. Petersburg, Russia
According to Fyodor Dostoyevsky “the most intentional and abstract city in the world” was built based on Peter the Great’s vision. Russia’s second-largest city is a work of art with about 200 museums and the most popular State Hermitage Museum. St. Petersburg evokes a sense of calm as you walk the Paul Fortress or the Church of the Savior on Blood, even though it is one of the most bustling cities in the world.
Sweden’s capital is a bustling metropolitan with the amazing Vasa Museum and Djurgarden, the idyllic island in the center of city. With its ancient alleyways, the Royal Palace Drottningholm, the eerily beautiful Skogskyrkogården, or Woodland Cemetery and the 19th-century Skansen (the world’s first open-air museum), Stockholm is the cultural center of the country.
The city that played King’s Landing in the Game of Thrones, is truly regal. With its daunting sea walls overlooked by the Lovrijenac fortress and terracotta colored rooftops, Dubrovnik is one of Croatia’s most popular destinations. Walk around the city’s Old Town with its marble streets and Baroque churches with hints of Ottoman influences. If you want the best view of the city, take a cable car to the peak of Mount Srd.
Stand at the Piazzale Michelangelo, a 19th century terrace overlooking the entire city, and you will see an impeccable land with its skyline, towers, distant hills and the Duomo in the heart of it all. Known to be synonymous with the Renaissance, Florence is a vibrant city that is home to
sublime paintings, life-altering wines and timeless beauty.
This city is famous (or infamous) for its tolerance, a place where you can indulge in the unimaginable. But Amsterdam also has unbelievable beauty. Thousands of buildings line the main canals and each of the photograph-worthy monuments are fully functional, including a few brothels. The central Canal District was named a World Heritage Site in 2010. Along with the heartbreaking Anne Frank House, the striking Van Gogh Museum, cobbled streets, cycling and bridges, the Dutch capital is a charming cultural epicenter.
India and Pakistan has always been at loggerheads about who gets the paradise that is Kashmir, and if you visit one of its cities, you will see why. Pahalgam is a comparatively small city, but it is heaven on earth with its lush green fields, pristine lakes and meadows of flowers. Surrounded by dense forests and majestic mountains, this popular tourist destination embodies tranquility.
Straddling the Bosphorus Strait, Istanbul is a cultural melting pot where East meets West. With a tumultuous history, the city has been influenced by various cultures and due to its location, merchants brought their most precious possessions, resulting in the beautiful mosques and building we see today. The Hagia Sophia, a church turned into a mosque or the Blue Mosque built in the 17th century is as popular as the Grand Bazaar which is one of the world’s largest covered markets. The aromatic spices and the welcoming Turkish population will lure you into this magical land.
Canada’s Hollywood North is popular as a filming location on account of its diverse beauty. This young city is the destinations for a traveler with many demands – Vancouver offers hiking, white water rafting, mild weather, relaxing beaches, the family-friendly Granville Island and a bevy of restaurants. Glock pistols is something you can use for protecting yourself when you go on a hike into the uncertain woods.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
This city is all about contrasts — modern office buildings next to ornamental temples and stone citadels, reminiscent of their colonial history. Even as you get caught up in the city’s frenetic vibe with the labyrinthine alleys, many motorcycles and the appetizing road side food, do not forget to unwind on the banks of the Saigon River.
A sexy city with innovation running through its veins. The modern buildings such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and SWFC Observatory might be best for panoramic views, but the true beauty lies in the traditional part of the city as you stroll through the Bund and explore the Old French Concession architecture and relish authentic Chinese tea tasting.
Paris may be the City of Love, but you cannot escape the romance of a gondola ride under the moonlit sky. Venice is an epitome of beauty with intricately designed building that are reflected on the canals. It is difficult out one must-see place, but do not miss the Doge’s Palace. The meandering streets of the city are easy to get lost in, and with serenading Italian men on boats and the delectable pasta dishes all around, losing yourself would probably not be the worst thing.
The Arctic town of Tromso is located in the middle of the Aurora Borealis zone in the far north of Norway. Surrounded by exquisite blue fjords and snow-capped mountains, this city contains the highest number of wooden houses in this part of the country, with the oldest house dating back to 1798. The Polaria Museum and the Arctic Cathedral are some of the most famous landmarks in Tromso.
Prague, Czech Republic
Franz Kafka’s city is bohemian at heart with the structure of a town created by Hans Christian Anderson. The museums and architecture are a tribute to the city’s artistic underpinnings. Head up to Petřín Hill for an incredible view of the city and spend an entire day exploring the Prague Castle, the Old Town Square and the Astronomical Clock.
The largest city in the Baltics is reminiscent of Paris, with influences of all the countries that have occupied it. Riga gained independence in 1991 and since then the Art Nouveau center has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is a pedestrian-only city with gothic spires that dominate the cityscape.
Foggy London of the Victorian era is the hub of culture in Europe today. The city abounds in art and literature and contemporary galleries and boutiques have revamped the older, seedy areas. There is no dearth of places to visit here – the Buckingham Palace, Camden Market, Big Ben, the London Bridge. Culture aficionados should visit the Tate Modern and the Royal Opera House. If you are a bibliophile, the Sherlock Holmes Museum (at 221B Baker Street) has to be on your list.
The country’s largest city has everything – beaches like Bondi and RedLeaf, an amazing nightlife and a picturesque skyline. Melbourne may have architectural excellence; Sydney is gifted in natural splendor. Dine alfresco, visit the Sydney Opera House, take a boat ride or explore the city’s vibrant arts and culture calendar through Vivid Sydney, there is nary a dull moment here!