The Best Cities to Buy Property in Europe

There is no better time than right now to purchase property in Europe, especially if you’re looking to snag a hot deal. Whether you are looking to settle down in an Irish cottage where waves crash against the dramatic cliffs or you’re looking to earn rental income in the heart of Turkey, here are the top 15 cities to buy property in Europe.

15. Istria, Croatia

Head to Southern Europe to the super affordable corner that is Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula, where apartments and houses are cheap. Croatia borders the Adriatic Sea and offers two appealing retirement lifestyle options, whether you want to be on the coast or inland- where meadows, vineyards and olive groves are your backyards. The Romans invested in some of their best buildings here back in the day, as did the Venetians when they ruled. What that means for retirees here is a landscape full of fortresses, bell towers, and an architectural legacy.

Rovinj at sunset, Istra region, Croatia.

14. Athens, Greece

Greece took a big hit during the economic crisis which has created a great opportunity to purchase real estate now. Athens, the capital of Greece offers year-round entertainment and inexpensive flights from the UK. However, it’s important to be wary about where you buy, just as you would in any major city. It may be best to consider an apartment in the city center or invest in the Kolonaki and Plaka neighborhoods as these areas are far more affordable.

Source: Shutterstock

13. Zagreb, Croatia

Zagreb, Croatia’s capital is a gorgeous city that is rich in history dating back to Roman times. It’s predicted that Zagreb will see serious growth in the next couple of years which means this is a city you’ll want to have on your radar. In 2018, the country only saw an 8.5% increase in asking prices for condos, however, condos located in Zagreb saw a 20% increase. Further, in 2019 there was a 30% increase in Airbnb homes located in Zagreb which is a great indicator that the city is seeing a surge in vacation rentals. It’s evident that the city’s real estate market is booming and if you want to get in before the prices reach an all-time high, now is the time to buy!

Source: Shutterstock

12. Algarve, Portugal

Home to more than 100,000 resident expats, it is clear that for decades this place has been the hot place to buy. Luckily for those looking to experience the 3,300 hours of sunshine per year this place gets, the market is still affordable. The Algarve’s 100 miles of Atlantic coastline is full of jagged rock formations, lagoons, and sandy beaches. The waters are azure in color and the cliff-top vistas are spectacular, Add in 42 golf courses in the region, plenty of time for sailing and boating and you have yourself one heck of a place to live. Plus the average price per square meter for real estate is just $1,345 US, a pretty good bargain for a pretty special place.

Algarve, Portugal

11. Feldkirch And Bludenz, Austria

Austria is experiencing a real estate boom which is making the secondary cities more appealing. This is because property prices in secondary cities like Feldkirch and Bludenz are far lower than major cities like the country’s capital, Vienna. Feldkirch and Bludenz are both charming alpine cities that are surrounded by stunning forest mountains. Both towns saw a 20% increase in real estate prices in the last couple of years which is higher than the country’s capital which came in at about an 18% increase. These low prices won’t last for long, so now is the best time to buy.

Source: Shutterstock

10. Beara Peninsula, Ireland

There has been a strong surge in demand for family homes in desirable areas of Ireland’s main cities, but that shouldn’t discourage buyers who are looking to purchase in Ireland, it just means you need to go elsewhere. The buying place right now is on Ireland’s Southwest coast, that is if you are looking for a charming cottage or seaside house. This is not where you want to buy as an investor but instead, as a homeowner. The Beara Peninsula is the largest and most remote on this coast and houses here are quite inexpensive. Locals here are opting to buy new houses rather than renovate old traditional farmhouses and prices are rock bottom. Think $80,000 US for a typical Irish farm cottage that is steps away from the ocean and needs a little fixing up. Giant waves crashing onto cliffs, miles of sandy beaches, mountain range and warm air — there seems no good reason why we all shouldn’t be buying a second home in this beautiful country.

Beara Peninsula, Ireland

9. Istanbul, Turkey

Turkey’s property market wasn’t hit as hard as others in the world in the years 2008 and 2009, with recovery times only take about a year and a half. Despite that, Istanbul remains a bargain when it comes to real estate with starting market prices at about $1,000 a square meter. Turkey is a country of the future, with half of its population younger than 30 years of age, which means the time to invest, is now. With the economy growing and being diversified between Europe and Asia it is easier than ever for foreigners to invest here. A construction boom is also taking place in Istanbul as half the current housing stock in the country needs to be replaced or renovated, thus making it easy to get in on buying pre-construction apartments. Getting in early on a new build means discounted pricing and the expectation of price increase over the construction period. The time to invest in Turkey is now.

Istanbul, Turkey

8. Abruzzo, Italy

Abruzzo, Italy is a region that one may not think to consider when exploring properties in Italy but because it’s undiscovered it’s full of inexpensive properties. Abruzzo is full of charming ancient towns and has a landscape unlike anywhere else Italy from boasting hills to mountains. That said, you’ll still be able to indulge in all the things you love about Italy from delicious wine and food to stunning architecture and of course their hot summers. Purchasing a home in Abruzzo will cost you about $50, 000 US dollars, give or take depending on what town you choose to buy property in. Many of the homes are built of stone which helps to keep the homes cool in the summer and they’re also often equipped with open fireplaces to keep the home warm and cozy in the winter.

Source: leoks / Shutterstock.com

7. Rotterdam, The Netherlands

About an hour away from The Netherlands capital, Amsterdam is a quaint city called Rotterdam. Rotterdam is a port city and is full of hip art, plenty of shopping, and has a bustling nightlife. Most importantly, Rotterdam inspires so much innovation that it’s considered the architecture city of Holland. Rotterdam saw a 17% increase in home prices in the past year which far surpasses the country’s average of 10%. In 2019 properties sold in about 33 days which is 11% faster than in 2018. As you can see, the property demand in Rotterdam is growing at a fast rate, making Rotterdam a city you’ll want to invest in sooner rather than later.

Source: Shutterstock

6. Rennes, France

Rennes, France is rich in history, full of luscious green space, and has the appeal of a big city but on a much smaller scale. While there are 90 historic monuments in the old center, you will notice Rennes feels youthful. This is because over 200, 000 residents are students. Between the attractive property prices and the new High-speed rail that can get you from Rennes to Paris in about an hour and a half, there’s no wonder why Renne’s should be on your radar. But keep in mind the high-speed rail will continue to make this an attractive city so now the’s time to buy if you’re thinking of investing in property in France.

Source: lenisecalleja.photography / Shutterstock.com

5. Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Plovdiv is one of the oldest cities in Europe and is the second-largest city in Bulgaria, right behind the country’s capital, Sofia. The town was built around seven hills which is a large part of the city’s history. In 2019, The European Union named Plovdiv the European Capital of Culture which made the city a big focus for the whole year. This title also sparked a number of urban revitalization projects that have caused the city to see steady growth in real estate sales that is consistent with the country’s capital. With the city holding the European Capital of Culture title for a full year now, it’s predicted that the real estate will sky-rocket even further making it a great city to buy into now.

Source: Shutterstock

4. Budapest, Hungary

There is great value to be found all over Budapest and the time to get into the market is now when others haven’t. From 2007 to 2014 the market in Budapest was in a major slump, causing housing prices to hit rock bottom, and it is only now that they are starting to recover. Budapest is truly a beautiful place, both to live and work and that is great for any investor when it comes to real estate as the demand for rental properties continues to increase. Budapest also happens to be a year-round tourist destination offering amazing bathhouses, dining options, and architecture; drawing visitors who often seek out private rentals to stay in. With good yields, low to moderate transaction costs and pro-landlord laws, it is easy to understand why buying property here is the right choice.

GTS Productions / Shutterstock.com
GTS Productions / Shutterstock.com

3. Seville, Spain

Spain is a popular destination, between the pleasant climate, and stunning landscapes there’s a lot to see and do. But for those looking to buy a piece of real estate in Spain now is the time to do so. Spain’s economy suffered immensely during the economic crisis, however, after 2013 the decline started to slow. Now, the demand in real estate is beginning to grow again making it a great country to invest in. If you’re looking to buy property in Spain, the city of Seville is where you may want to start. This stunning city is famous for flamenco dancing and is home to major landmarks from the ornate Alcázar Castle complex to the site of Christopher Columbus’s tomb and more. The markets have shown that Seville has great revenue growth and for those looking to invest in a rental property, the rental demand is high as this city experiences low seasonality.

Source: Shutterstock

2. Apulia, Italy

This is the region that forms the heel of the Italian boot, a region not always thought of when you speak of Italy. But it is here where you can find low-priced properties in a stunning setting. Trulli houses, beehived shaped rural houses are the norm around here and there are plenty on the market for less than $100,000 US. Apulia features numerous sandy beaches on two coastlines, country land overflowing with vineyards and olive groves, and a slew of historic towns worth exploring. Living costs are low, there is an abundance of churches and palaces, medieval streets beckon you and craftsmen line the streets. This laidback, eccentric area is perfect whether you are buying a second home or starting over in life. A true bargain for a slice of Italian history, loaded with incredible scenery and people.

Apulia, Italy

1. Lisbon, Portugal

Time and time again we hear that this is the most affordable capital in Western Europe and it’s a wonder how long this will last as foreigners start to grab up inexpensive houses. For now, though it is quite inexpensive to buy here. A 2-bedroom apartment in a charming neighborhood will set you back about $100,000 US. Lisbon is a city where you can enjoy a European lifestyle, complete with history, romance, astonishing hospitality, and a seaside location for Latin American prices. The climate here is mild, the amenities are plenty and the people are among the most polite and friendly. With a low cost of living, charming hilly narrow streets and the sea at your fingertips. This is the perfect place to scoop up a second home.

Lisbon, Portugal

The Best Attractions On The Pest Side Of Budapest

Budapest is a gorgeous city with two very distinct sides separated by the Danube River: Buda is on the west and Pest on the East. Merged into one city in 1873, both areas have developed very independently of each other and though they share similarities, each has its own, distinct flavour. While Buda is renowned for its grandeur and attractions like Hapsburg Palace, Pest is fiery and lively and home to bustling backdrops of ruin pubs, historic attractions, and replete café culture.

8. Danube Promenade

The Danube Promenade, called Dunakorzó by locals, is set between the ain Bridge and Elizabeth Bridge on the Pest side of the city along the Danube riverbanks. Throughout the 19th century, the area was a popular spot for promenades, hence the name, and as home to a wealth of upscale hotels including The Ritz, The Carlton, and the Bristol Hotel, each featuring wonderful terraces with a bird’s eye view of Buda Castle and the Danube. Elizabeth Bridge (Erzsébet híd), named after the wife of Emperor Franz Joseph, is along this stretch and one of the most exquisite bridges in the city. At the Pest side of the Chain Bridge is Széchenyi István Square, home to Art-Nouveau Gresham Palace. The promenade features more than a dozen interesting sculptures, including the Little Princess (Kiskirálylány), sitting long a stretch of handrail holding on with both hands and wearing an elongated crown.

7. Váci Street

Váci Street is Budapest’s most popular pedestrian avenue in the downtown area filled with everything a city needs: restaurants, bars, shops, and small grocers are found along this stretch in the Belvaros neighborhood. Beginning at Vörösmarty Square and ending by the Central Market Hall, Váci Street is quite lengthy (and runs parallel with the Danube) but nicely broken up into small squares and pretty side streets that lead to the riverside. The summer months bring the crowds and so does the popular Christmas market in Vörösmarty Square. Cafes and shops are a little more pricey than usual (the street is a tourist magnet) so avoid buying but definitely not browsing: wine shops, clothing stores, bakeries, traditional items, and book stores abound. Váci Street displays varying architecture, dozens of large statues, and the beautiful 18th century Church of Saint Michael, where the Budapest Baroque Festival happens.

6. Széchenyi Thermal Bath

Hungarians love water and flock to Széchenyi Thermal Bath in the summer months to cool off in the massive outdoor pools. This thermal bath is one of the biggest natural hot springs in the world featuring 18 pools with both freshwater and geothermal baths on site. Originally built as a palace in Neo-Renaissance and neo-Baroque styles in the early 20th century, the bathhouse has served as the city’s stomping grounds for more than a century. The water source is from hot springs below Heroes’ Square, drilled in the late 19th century and supplying a small bathhouse preceding Széchenyi called Artesian Bath, flanked by stone walls and featuring marble baths and pools. The Palm House is the bathhouse’s rooftop oasis, filled with exotic plants and tall palms thriving in the heat of the baths and the sunlit glass-topped roof.

5. City Park

City Park (Városliget) offers a great escape from long days of exploring city attractions. The sweeping public park is near the city center and provides 302 acres of beautiful outdoor space. The main entrance from Heroes’ Square leads to several renowned attractions and a wealth of green space. In the northwest corner is the Budapest Zoo and Botanical Gardens, first opened in 1866, home to a nature reserve, significant art-nouveau buildings, and more than 1,000 species representing countries including Australia, India, and the Americas. Vajdahunyad Castle is also located in City Park and is a bit of a curiosity. Originally built of wood and cardboard (then reconstructed in brick) to celebrate the millennium, building styles illustrate Gothic and Romanesque, among many others, with the intention of representing design styles over the centuries since the Magyars settled Budapest. City Park also has a café and restaurants and several museums.

4. Central Market Hall

Central Market Hall (Nagycsarnok) is an historic building first built in 1894 when the separate cities of Pest, Buda, and Obuda merged into Budapest. Also called Great Market Hall, this was and still is the city’s largest market. Historically, traders sold meat, poultry, fish, produce, and dairy products delivered to traders directly by boat on the indoor canal. Located by Freedom Bridge, the market was all but destroyed by fire delaying the official opening. Following an extremely prosperous run, the market was again ravaged during WWII, rebuilt poorly, and shut down for safety reasons. In the 1990s, the government restored the market to its original grandeur. Today, Central Market Hall sells a variety of goods; the bustling ground floor contains fruit and vegetable stands, the basement house some fishmongers, game meat vendors, and a supermarket, and the upper floor teems with Hungarian artisans selling traditional arts and crafts.

3. Andrássy Avenue

Trendy and elegant and one of the city’s largest cultural hubs, Andrássy Avenue is lined with wealth of attractions ranging from exhibition halls to top-notch museums to exquisite architecture. Almost three kilometers long, the broad route connects the city center to City Park, beginning at Heroes’ Square and spanning almost as far as St Stephen’s Basilica. Some are surprised to learn Andrássy Avenue is a World Heritage Site that dates back to the late 18th century. Major buildings along the road include the Liszt Ference Music Academy, the Hungarian State Opera House, rows of Neo-Baroque and Neo-Renaissance villas, and stately 19th century mansions. Along both sides of the famous road are buildings boasting beautiful friezes, detailed reliefs, and beautifully carved columns. Foodies shouldn’t miss Liszt Ferenc Square, also called Pesti Broadway, a major café and restaurant center with a diverse array of cuisine on offer.

2. Heroes’ Square

Adjacent to the Palace of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Heroes’ Square commemorates Hungary’s most prominent leaders. Set at the City Park entryway, most arrive to explore the square via the M1 metro line that is now a World Heritage Site and the oldest line in the world. Both City Park and Heroes’ Square, built in the late 19th century, also commemorate the 1000th anniversary of the 895 Magyar triumph over Hungary and the 896 foundation of Hungary. At the monument’s front section, large cenotaph is flanked by a decorative iron chain, dedicate to the heroes that died fighting for national independence. On the flip side, is a major attraction within the square: the iconic series of statues epitomizing the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars. Because of the square’s historic significance and dedications, it’s common to see major political events happening within it.

1. New York Café | The Boscolo Budapest Hotel

The Boscolo Budapest Hotel was once known as The New York Hotel and home the most extravagant coffee house in the city. Located in the Jewish Quarter, Boscolo was once The New York Palace, built for The New York Insurance Company in 1894. With heavy Italian Baroque influences, the palace’s main facade was illustrious and embellished with many statues and reliefs. The New York Café occupied the main floor in the 19th century, a point when coffee houses were wildly popular. Spiraled columns, ornaments, and chandeliers graced the interior, the backdrop to intellectual social affairs during the Belle Epoque period. A great musical scene made its way through in the 1920s and 30s but after WWII, the palace closed. After several poorly received revivals, an Italian luxury hotelier bought and renovated the property, restoring it to its original brilliance by 2006.

The Top Hostels to Stay (and Save) When in Europe

Despite what the movies may have shown you, hostels can be a great and affordable way to travel across Europe. They’re quick, efficient, and provide a no-thrills attempt at necessities. That’s not to say they’re rundown or dangerous, simply bare-bones, and only offering amenities at a fee. For instance, breakfast, towels, or a room that doesn’t share a bathroom. (Don’t worry, you still get your own bed and fresh clean sheets, as well as a place to lock up your belongings.)

By staying in hostels, many travelers have been able to afford longer vacations, while being able to see more sights. But aside from practical reasons, hostels serve as an interesting way to meet fellow travelers, to learn about the local scene, see what types of events might be taking place, and so on. In order to have your very own top-notch European experience, consider staying at any of these hostels:

6. Lavender Circus Hostel -Budapest, Hungary

Travelers can sleep in quirky vintage décor at this location. All while gaining access to some serious amenities on a budget. (Rooms average around 14 Euros per night, per person.) The well known stop hosts various common quarters, a kitchen (with free tea and coffee!), and doesn’t charge for towels. When traveling you can get a great night’s rest, get yourself clean, and even manage some relaxing time before heading back out to see the sights – which are located within walking distance of the Lavender Circus Hostel. Oh, and did we mention there’s free WiFi? Perfect for Skyping everyone back home and letting them know what a stellar time you’re having! Sounds like a win for anyone wanting to check out the beautiful Budapest sights.

Photo by: Lavender Circus Hostel
Photo by: Lavender Circus Hostel

5. The Babushka Grand Hostel -Odessa, Ukraine

Coming in with an even cheaper budget comes the Babushka Grand Hostel. (We’re giving them extra points for the name.) Guests can stay privately for 11 Euros, or share with others for only 7 Euros – a bargain in hostel terms, especially for such a clean and well-maintained facility. It also comes with air conditioning, board games, and a kitchen that’s fully equipped for cooking. A perfect combination for all your traveling needs – add in sightseeing to nearby stops, like the town’s main streets and a beautiful opera house. And there’s no curfew, so you won’t get locked out for losing track of time.

Photo by: Babushka Grand Hostel
Photo by: Babushka Grand Hostel

4. The Independente Hostel -Lisbon, Portugal

Known as a “luxury” hostel, The Independente offers up seemingly fancy décor, but without charging a fancy price. The service, stay, and experience is all said to be pretty fancy, too. The kind of combination budget travelers are constantly on the lookout for. Dorms can be rented for around 11 Euros per person, with suites coming in at 85 Euros per night. Visitors can tend to business at the fax and copy machine, or stick to touristy activities and hop on a nearby train. After all they’re only minutes away from sights like the Tagus river, downtown districts, castles, and more. It’s also set on the boarder between two popular living districts, giving visitors access to either without adding excessive travel time.

Photo by: The Independente Hostel
Photo by: The Independente Hostel

3. YHA St. Briavels Castle -Gloucestershire, England

This stop brings together the perfect mixture of old classics with new trends. Not only is it an affordable hostel, it’s an 800-year-old castle. And it’s even prettier than you imagined. Each room holds its own set of charm, some even with rumors of being haunted. Check out their free library, rent a bike and head to the nearby park, or order a meal at their on-site restaurant. Staying in a castle doesn’t come quite as cheap, however, stays start at 24 Euros, while private rooms come in at 74 Euros and above. However, it’s a rate that still comes in much cheaper than most castle visits.

Photo by: YHA St. Briavels Castle
Photo by: YHA St. Briavels Castle

2. Kadir’s Tree Houses -Olympos, Turkey

Yes this place is as cool as it sounds. With essentially cabin-like dwellings, guests can enjoy an adventure – and a comfy bed – all in one stop. Bonus: it comes with an awesome forest view, a perfect contrast to all that city walking, and is only a short trip away from Mt. Olympos, along with beaches and plenty of water. Kadir’s Tree House comes in at 12 Euros a night (or 22 for a private room) and accepts credit cards – a welcome amenity in the world of hostels. Guests can park without worry, lock their items away in safe storage, or cool down at the bar. And even though its views might suggest otherwise, it’s still close to the town’s shopping center.

Photo by: Hotels.com
Photo by: Hotels.com

1. Kex Hostel -Reykjavik, Iceland

This stop is the perfect hostel for anyone looking to get away from Europe’s traditional classic feel. Rather than its seasoned counterparts, the Kex Hostel comes with a modern twist, even offering up eco tactics, such as using recycled furniture. (Not that it looks it!) Its designer searched high and low (furniture came in from anywhere from Pittsburgh, to all across Europe) in order to create this incredible eclectic and modern mix. And it’s been a hit. Folks are traveling from all over in order to stay at the hostel (at 21 Euros per night), have a drink at the bar, work out in the on-site gym, or even have their hair trimmed at the barbershop. Yep, it’s on site too – which is a perfect way to catch up on your personal maintenance while on vacation.

Photo by: Kex Hostel
Photo by: Kex Hostel

The 10 Best Cities in the World 2015

More than 128,000 readers of Condé Nast Traveler voted for their favorite cities in the world outside of the U.S. and the votes have been tallied. It should come as no surprise that the major cities such as Rome, London and Paris made the list, thanks to their iconic landmarks, fantastic cuisine and abundance of things to see and do. There are a couple of sneaky cities that made this list, ones that are not obvious at first but once you dig deeper it becomes abundantly clear why they are favorites. Discover the top 10 best cities in the world as of 2015 according to the readers of Condé Nast Traveler:

10. London, England

It is one of the world’s most visited cities and offers an abundance of things to see and do for people of any age. London is a mash of wide-open spaces and chaotic cityscape, a combination that seemingly works for this city. Central London is where you will find the awesome galleries and museums, and the most iconic of sites, the double decked buses and the famous phone booths. The landmarks such as Big Ben, Tower Bridge and the London Eye enthrall visitors as does Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and Hampton Court Palace with their beautiful green spaces. There are a ton of restaurants, bars and clubs to choose from when the sun goes down, along with friendly locals. Arts, culture, history- you will find it all here in this city that rates as one of the best 10 cities in the world in 2015.

elenaburn / Shutterstock.com
elenaburn / Shutterstock.com

9. Kyoto, Japan

Step back into time when you visit Japan’s ancient city of Kyoto where quiet temples, sublime gardens and colorful shrines make up the landscape. There are said to be over 1000 Buddhist temples found in this city and it is here where visitors can appreciate the masterpieces of religious architecture. The city is surrounded by mountains on three sides which offer incredible hiking. Don’t be surprised when wandering the streets to find a secret temple or unique shop that you may have passed by and not noticed, as it seems secrets lie throughout this city. A large range of excellent restaurants are located throughout the city, most housed in traditional wooden buildings where you can gaze over incredible gardens while you eat. Experience the ancient times of Japan as you wander the streets, stopping to chat with friendly locals, visit the ancient specialty shops such as pickle vendors or tea merchants and ending your day with a soak in the local public bathhouse. It will be clear why this is one of the best cities in the world.

TungCheung / Shutterstock.com
TungCheung / Shutterstock.com

8. Bruges, Belgium

Entering this city is to be transported into the middle of a fairy-tale that is based in a medieval town. Cobblestone streets, market squares with soaring towers and historic churches at every turn help make this one of the most picturesque cities in the world. Built between the 12th and 15th century, it remains one of the best preserved medieval cities. Dreamy canals link the market squares, nighttime brings evening floodlighting and in the spring the daffodils cover the courtyards. It is one of the most visited cities as well, due to its overwhelming beauty. Visiting in the winter is the best away to avoid the throngs of tourists, and although cold and icy, there is something magical about this medieval city when it’s covered in snow. Make sure you spend at least a couple of days exploring here.

Emi Cristea / Shutterstock.com
Emi Cristea / Shutterstock.com

7. Prague, Czech Republic

This beautiful historic town is worth visiting for the beer alone- kidding, sort of. Arguably, it does boast the best beer in Europe but there are so many other reasons that this city was voted number 7 as the best in the world. It’s maze of cobbled streets and hidden courtyards are a paradise for those who love to wander throughout the city, exploring ancient chapels, awe-inspiring gardens and hidden pubs with no tourists in site. The landmarks are truly spectacular here, from the 14th century stone bridge to the hilltop castle to the lovely lazy river that inspired one of the most beautiful pieces of 19th century classical music, Smetana’s Moldau. Quirky doesn’t even begin to describe this city, with its nuclear hidden bunkers, cubist lampposts and interesting fountains. Marvel at the Bohemian art, discover the stunning architecture and order a beer by simply placing a beer mat on the table.

Prague, Czech Republic

6. Rome, Italy

Italy’s eternal city continues to enthrall visitors from all over the globe. Rome is known for its history, fine art and incredible food. There are endless sights to take in including The Colosseum, Pantheon and St. Peter’s Basilica. There are extraordinary restaurants to eat at, cafés to drink at and tiny local shops down alley ways that serve up the best pizza and pasta you have ever had in your life. Masterpieces by Michelangelo and fountains by Bernini are strewn throughout the city as well as towering ancient churches overflowing with beautiful stained glass and ornate decorations. Whether you are a history buff that can spend weeks wandering through this city, or a foodie who wants to enjoy local wine and fine dining, or someone who just wants to experience an incredible city, full of locals with a gruff sense of humor, Rome should be at the top of your list.

Vatican Museums Rome

5. Paris, France

It has established itself as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, boasting iconic landmarks, cobblestone streets, historic buildings and charming sidewalk cafes. There would be no point in visiting this city if you are planning on skipping the most iconic landmark, the Eiffel Tower. Make sure not to miss the other “big” sights though, such as the Arc de Triomphe, the Notre Dame cathedral, and the impressive Louvre. Finding a place to grab a bite to eat here is almost overwhelming as it’s reputation for cuisine is outstanding. Whether you are looking for a neighborhood bistro or an epic fine dining experience, every single establishment here prides itself on it’s food and wine. Paris also happens to be one of the great art repertoires of the world, with scores of museums throughout the city, from the famous Louvre to the smaller ones boasting contemporary and modern art. There is no shortage of places to discover in this incredible city.

cesc_assawin / Shutterstock.com
cesc_assawin / Shutterstock.com

4. Sydney, Australia

It is Australia’s biggest city and even after spending a month here it can feel as though you have barely scratched the surface of what it has to offer. The city can be loud, in your face and chaotic offering crazy firework displays, drag queen clubs, hip bars, live music and no shortage of parties to attend. Sydney can also be wild in terms of nature, with National Parks bordering the city and working their way into it. Native critters show up in unsuspecting places and parks compete with skyscrapers and suburbs. Spend endless hours at the beach, specifically Bondi Beach, one of the world’s greatest beaches. Dine at lively restaurants, visit the Sydney Tower for spectacular views from the glass platform or spend hours’ people watching from one of the outdoor cafes.

Bondi Beach Sydney Australia

3. Vienna, Austria

Packed with history, host to great nightlife, full of incredible restaurants and home to quiet tucked away corners, Vienna is a city that begs to be explored. It is one of the most musical cities in the world in part due to the great number of composers and musicians that were born here, lived here and worked here. Visitors to the city should count on taking in the incredible music at one of the famous music venues such as the Staatsoper and Musikverein. Dining in the city is always a treat with its bistro pubs serving up delicious brews and wine, or in creative restaurants where chefs are taking things to a new culinary level. An incredible transportation system makes it easy to get around, the city is known for being incredible safe and the locals are both welcoming and friendly.

volkova natalia / Shutterstock.com
volkova natalia / Shutterstock.com

2. Budapest, Hungary

This city is rich in history, natural cites and unique cuisine, drawing visitors from all over the world. A famous hallmark of Budapest is their hot springs that surround the city, making bathhouses one of the most popular activities in the city. Soak your troubles away in one of the many that are located within the city. Budapest is often called “The Paris of the East” due to its stunning architecture including Roman ruins and the Buda Castle which was built in 1265. Don’t count on just indulging in goulash, there is actually a lot more to Hungarian food and Budapest has the reputation of being a food capital, offering incredible dining options along with excellent wine. Discover a city whose history is almost too complex to understand, a city that is rebuilding with hope and reconciliation, a city that will leave you feeling in awe of it.

pavel dudek / Shutterstock.com
pavel dudek / Shutterstock.com

1. Florence, Italy

Despite Rome and its incredible architecture, and Milan- fashion capital of the world; the best city in Italy and the world in 2015 is actually Florence. Some say you can visit time and time again and not see it all. This city is romantic, magnetic and busy, home to incredible world-class art, food and wine. Don’t miss the iconic Uffizi Gallery or the modern-art museum- Museo Novecento, as well as the Palazzo Vecchio, the stunning fortress palace. Head to the maze of streets in San Lorenzo for a food lover’s paradise or to the 400-year-old pharmacy that still sells traditional elixirs in the central square of Piazza di Santa Maria Novella. The narrow streets of this city tell a thousand tales, through its historic buildings, through the food and wine, and it’s no wonder why it’s number one on this list.

Florence Italy

The 10 Fastest Growing Destination Cities in Europe for 2015

It’s little surprise that Europe is full of destination cities. From Rome to Paris to London, people love getting a taste of the “Old World” charm of various capital cities and cultural centers on the continent. But what do you do when you’ve visited some (or most) of the tried-and-true destinations? You can visit some of the up-and-coming destination cities the continent has to offer. Explore 2015’s 10 fastest growing destination cities in Europe—your next escape may be waiting for you on one of these slides!

10. Barcelona, Spain

Whether you consider Barcelona part of Spain or as the capital of an autonomous Catalonia state, the fact that tourism to the city is rapidly growing cannot be disputed. Long an important cultural center in Europe—medieval cathedrals spurred pilgrimage and the kings of Aragon had palaces in Barcelona—the city has been more recently overshadowed by Madrid, Spain’s capital. As Spain’s second-largest city, however, Barcelona has many sites and attractions—something more than 7.5 million people will experience in 2015 alone. Tourism to the city has grown over 6.5 percent since 2009 and is a major factor in the city’s economy. Barcelona’s location has also rewarded it with many world-renowned beaches. With eight UNESCO World Heritage sites, many museums and a fantastic climate, it’s little wonder Barcelona is receiving so much international attention.

Barcelona

9. Düsseldorf, Germany

Düsseldorf, the capital of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, might seem to be an odd destination for tourists, but the city is on track to receive nearly two million foreign overnight visitors in 2015—a growth rate of nearly seven percent since 2009. Düsseldorf has been a major economic hub since at least the 1960s; today, the city is well-known for its fashion and trade shows, which attract many visitors. The city also has a large number of museums, historic buildings and sites and art galleries, which lend credit to the idea that Dusseldorf is an excellent choice for tourists. Nightlife includes the famous Kom(m)ödchen cabaret and the city is home to several internationally known bands, including the avant garde Kraftwerk. The celebration of Karnevel, the “5th season,” is one of Düsseldorf’s biggest cultural events, and occurs from November until February.

Düsseldorf, Germany

8. Warsaw, Poland

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall almost 30 years ago, tourism to Eastern Europe has been increasing, which means that cities like Warsaw, the capital of Poland, are experiencing year-over-year growth in the number of visitors; Warsaw averaged seven percent growth between 2009 and 2015. While conceptions of places like Warsaw as underdeveloped and poor continue to exist, nearly 1.5 million visitors in 2015 will discover a vibrant (and growing) city with a rich cultural heritage. Warsaw’s historic city center was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1980, and almost one-quarter of the city’s parks and gardens, meaning that there’s ample greenspace in this urban location. Warsaw has many museums, although collections suffered heavy losses during World War II; nonetheless, museums like the Museum of Posters—the first and largest museum collection of posters in the world—continue to have internationally renowned collections.

Warsaw Poland

7. Budapest, Hungary

Another city that’s benefited from increased tourism post-1989, Budapest is the capital city of Hungary and home to some 1.74 million inhabitants. Since 2009, tourism to the city has increased nearly 7.5 percent, and over three million people are expected to visit in 2015—and with good reason. Budapest is frequently cited as one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, ranking alongside Prague. Although many of the buildings were gutted by the communist government after 1949, restoration work was undertaken more recently and sites, such as Buda castle have been added to the UNESCO World Heritage list. Budapest’s long history has resulted in a mix of almost every conceivable architectural style, from ancient Roman to the ultra-modern. Famous buildings include the Hungarian Parliament and the State Opera House, as well as many churches and basilicas.

Budapest, Hungary

6. Bucharest, Romania

The tourism industry in Romania is still relatively small, as exemplified in the capital city, Bucharest, being expected to receive just slightly over one million foreign tourists in 2015. Growth, on the other hand, has been by leaps and bounds: the number of visitors has grown almost eight percent between 2009 and 2015, making Bucharest one of the fastest growing destinations in Europe. While Romania may seem to be off the beaten path for many, the capital’s charms are many: The National Parliament, the seat of the Romanian government, is the largest parliament building in the world and the former royal palace now serves as the National Museum of Art. The city is also known internationally for its music scene and nightlife, and is home to some of Europe’s best electronic dance music nightclubs, including Kristal Glam Club and Studio Martin.

Bucharest, Romania

5. Berlin, Germany

As the capital city of a reunified Germany since 1990, you’d expect Berlin to receive a lot of international tourists—and it does; the city is on track to welcome just over 4.5 million international visitors in 2015, a growth rate of eight percent since 2009. Berlin, much like other cities on the eastern side of the Iron Curtain, benefited from the fall of the Eastern Bloc in 1989 and has witnessed a revival of tourism, both domestically and internationally, since then. It’s obvious why: the city has long been a central location in German territory. The result is that Berlin boasts a wealth of historical sites and significant cultural importance in the form of everything from museums to monuments, art galleries to theater performances. Although much of Berlin was devastated by World War II bombing campaigns, many monuments have been restored, such as Schloss Charlottenburg, the largest castle in Berlin.

Berline Germany, Spree River

4. Lisbon, Portugal

Portugal and its capital city, Lisbon, are often overlooked by travelers to Europe; with major centers like Paris, Rome and Madrid close by, Lisbon tends to get bypassed in favor of cities that are considered more “iconic”. Nevertheless, tourism to Lisbon has been increasing—the number of visitors grew 8.3 percent between 2009 and 2015, with over 3.5 million foreign tourists expected to visit the city in 2015. Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world, predating even Rome by centuries. For that reason, Lisbon is famed for its especially rich architectural history. The Belem Tower, constructed in the 16th century, is one of the best-known monuments in the city. The city is also the birthplace of Portuguese pavement, which creates mosaic patterns through the use of stone; this unique form of art can be seen throughout Lisbon’s city streets.

Lisbon Skyline Portugal

3. Copenhagen, Denmark

Denmark’s capital city is expected to receive just over 1.5 million foreign visitors in 2015, but tourism has grown at almost 8.5 percent since 2009. The city, located on the Øresund Strait between Denmark and Sweden, has served as the Scandinavian country’s capital since the 15th century. Although Northern Europe may not be the first place you think of when planning a beach vacation, the city’s geography gives it many notable beaches. Landmarks include the Tivoli Gardens, the Christiansborg castle and the Little Mermaid Statue—the city was home to fairy tale writer Hans Christian Anderson. Copenhagen’s skyline is generally horizontal, broken only by church spires, giving it the nickname “City of Spires”. There are many parks and open spaces in the city as well. The restaurant Noma has been named as the best in the world by Restaurant magazine in four of the last five years.

Alt
Copenhagan, Denmark

2. Hamburg, Germany

While Hamburg is projected to receive just 1.32 million foreign tourists in 2015—less than many of the other cities on this list—growth of tourism to the unassuming Germany city has been well over 8.5 percent since 2009. Founded as part of the Hanseatic League of merchants, Hamburg has long had economic importance in Europe and remains one of the most affluent cities on the continent. Tourism is a major part of the city’s economy, although until recently, most visitors have been Germans. A typical city tour would include a visit to the old warehouse district and at least one of the city’s harbors, as well as a stop at city hall and St. Michaelis church. Reeperbahn is Europe’s largest red light district, while the Schanze neighborhood is noted for its numerous street cafes and laidback atmosphere.

Hamburg, Germany

1. Istanbul, Turkey

With over 12.5 million foreign tourists projected to visit in 2015, representing over 10 percent growth in visitor numbers since 2009, Istanbul is the fastest growing destination in Europe. Few would question why people want to visit the city: located along the Bosphorus, the city has been an important center of European civilization since the time of the ancient Greeks. The center of the Byzantine empire after the fall of Rome and then the center of the Ottoman empire until the early 20th century, Istanbul has a long and illustrious history—and one of Europe’s most multicultural, thanks to its unique positioning on the edge of both Europe and Asia. It was named a European Capital of Culture in 2012 and is the largest city in Turkey. The city boasts mosques and churches, bazaars and malls and a treasure trove of other attractions.

Top Cities 2013 - Istanbul

The 5 Best Thermal Baths in Budapest

Since the 1930s, Budapest was renowned as the “City of Spas”. Today it still enjoys that recognition with more than 15 medicinal and thermal spas, more than any city throughout the world; over 117 springs provide the city with more than 65 million therapeutic liters of water each day. It began with the Romans affinity for hydrotherapy, but it was when the Turks occupied Hungary during the 16th century that the culture of bathing really blossomed. Today, Budapest’s biggest attractions are its collection of 15 public bathing houses hosting millions of visitors annually.

5. Veli Bej

Veli Bej is an historic bathhouse from Turkish times constructed during the 1570s. It has recently undergone a large renovation, restored to its original grandeur and updated with modern facilities. The co-ed bathhouse features long hours, making it convenient for just about anyone to enjoy a soak throughout the day. Veli Bej features one large pool and four separate, smaller pools, each featuring different temperatures. The bathhouse also offers other services including a steam room, popular Finnish spa, a Jacuzzi, showers, and something called “Kneipp Walking”, a practice of walking barefoot in the snow, based upon a wellness philosophy from Bavarian Sebastian Kneipp, a huge advocate of hydrotherapy and one of the founders of the original naturopathy movement. Veli Bej is one of Budapest’s best-kept secrets, a bathing house where you’ll meet mostly locals. Don’t miss the onsite exhibit of Ottoman-era archaeological finds—a small, but definitely interesting, display.

Photo by: Budapest Local
Photo by: Budapest Local

4. Kiraly Bathhouse

Kiraly Bathhouse is therapeutic destination originating from the Turkish occupation of Hungary and is also the oldest of Budapest’s bathhouses. Completed in the 16th century, shortly after the Ottoman’s began ruling in Hungary, the mineral-rich thermal baths were exclusive to Kiraly and featured most key facets of a traditionally built Turkish bathhouse. Today, it’s obvious that Kiraly is in need of some repairs, but the thermal waters are still sublime, the history of the building adds an authentic air and tons of charm, and the experience is definitively one-of-a-kind. There is an original Turkish section within the bath with some Hungarian additions, like the classic wings built at the turn of the 19th century, evident throughout different parts of the building. Prior to soaking there is a dry sauna available, and following a mineral bath, visitors can use the hamam (steam sauna) in one of two side domes.

Photo by: Budapest Local
Photo by: Budapest Local

3. Gellert Thermal Bath

Gellert Baths are well known as one of the most impressive in the city for the Art Nouveau architecture, dating back to the early 20th century. Combining two of the city’s best assets, beautiful architecture and therapeutic waters, this bathhouse is the one to visit if time is limited. A walk through the entryway toward the changing rooms is captivating, with stained glass windows, sculptures and colorful mosaics from floor to ceiling, all designed in Art Deco style. The remarkable architecture is a major attraction, even for those who have no inclination for bathing. Set by the River Danube on the Buda side by Liberty Bridge, there are 13 pools, including three outdoor pools and one large swimming pool, accommodating hundreds of people each day. Indoors, three pools are female-only (the surrounding pool areas are also female-only) and three are male-only sites, providing privacy for modest bathers.

Botond Horvath / Shutterstock.com
Botond Horvath / Shutterstock.com

2. Rudas Bathhouse

Rudas Bathhouse in the Buda district is one of three main Turkish hamams built by Ottoman ruler Sokollu Mustafa and another of the oldest in Budapest. Some original details remain including the octagonal pool and large dome. A large 2014 renovation included adding a Turkish-Hungarian fusion restaurant along with a Jacuzzi with sweeping city views, four brand new pools, and plenty of detailed architectural highlights including ample glass features lighting up the inside. There are six therapeutic pools in total, each different in temperature and size, but the Turkish octagonal pool is the prettiest, gleaming in the dimly lit dome area. The steam and dry saunas are close to the pools as well as an area to rest following a hot bath. Historically, Turkish Hamams only permitted men, and Rudas followed those traditions for some time. Today, some are dedicated to woman and there are also coed weekends.

Photo by: Baths Budapest
Photo by: Baths Budapest

1. Széchenyi Baths

The Széchenyi Baths is one of the biggest public bathing complexes on the continent with 18 coed pools and three exterior coed pools servicing thousands of people weekly. It was first built in 1913 with additional sections added in 1927. The swimming area underwent renovations in 1999, fitted with an upscale bathing area with fantastic features like a water beam massage for your back and whirlpool-type corridor. Open year-round with long hours, the facility is a huge favorite with Hungarians, who living in a landlocked country, love any chance to enjoy bathing and swimming. The bathhouse is well-loved by families visiting with children throughout the year—though note that kids under 14 years of age aren’t allowed in thermal pools, only those with regular water. Széchenyi Baths is in City Park (Budapest’s largest) on the Pest side and the first thermal bath to be built in that area.

Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com
Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com

10 Gorgeous Pools You Won’t Believe Are Public

Lose the notion that public pools are just a concrete chlorine-filled square in the ground or a hot and humid indoor pool and let yourself imagine swimming underneath a beautiful arched glass ceiling, or soaking in geothermal waters with healing properties. Although there are some stunningly beautiful pools that are for hotel or resort guests only, there also happens to be incredibly gorgeous public pools, all over the world. From Hungary to Texas to Iceland, here are 10 gorgeous pools you won’t believe are open to the public.

10. Bondi Icebergs Club -Bondi, Australia

The famous Bondi Baths have been a landmark of Bondi Beach for over 100 years and are widely known for being absolutely breathtaking. The Olympic sized swimming pool was actually built into the rocks and is naturally filled with saltwater that rolls in on the ocean tide. Be warned however though that because of the concrete nature of the pool, the water is actually slightly colder than the ocean. Most visitors like to visit in the summertime when the water temperature reaches the high 70’s. Overlooking the Tasman Sea while doing laps in this pool is something everyone should experience once in a lifetime. You may even find yourself swimming next to a couple fish or picking up seashells from the bottom. There is even a smaller kid’s pool located right beside the main pool for the wee ones to have a dip.

PomInOz / Shutterstock.com
PomInOz / Shutterstock.com

9. Krapfenwaldbad Pools -Vienna, Austria

The neighborhood of Krapfenwaldlbad is one of the loveliest in all of Vienna and just happens to be the home of the beautiful park that features some of the finest swimming pools. There are a total of four heated pools and the main one is perched on a hill overlooking the city. It looks more like an infinity pool that is surrounded by Vienna’s skyline and that is exactly why this pool makes the list. Amenities are in abundance here and include a restaurant with a bar, table tennis, soccer, beach volleyball and a children’s playground. While the pool itself may not be the best looking on this list, the views over the city and vineyards while being surrounded by beautiful people that make it gorgeous.

Photo by: Wien Info
Photo by: Wien Info

8. Venetian Pool -Coral Gables, Florida

What was once an old rock quarry has been transformed into a beautiful pool overflowing with waterfalls and caves. Located in Coral Gables, the Venetian Pool is fed by spring water from an underground aquifer. This historic pool has actually been around since 1921 and surrounded by palm trees and nothing else in sight; you will forget you are actually at a public pool and instead feel like you are on a tropical island. Roaring waterfalls, a sandy beach, nooks carved into the coral and fresh chemical free water are all found here. You will find lots of families enjoying these waters as there is a shallow kiddy area that is connected to the main pool by an island and stone bridge. Feel free to bring your own picnic in here and spend the day away from reality.

Venetian Pool, Coral Gables

7. Thermae Bath Spa -Bath, England

One of the city’s main attractions has always been its famous hot water springs, as they are the warmest geothermal springs found in the UK. For 28 years residents and visitors didn’t have access to these waters and finally in 2006 the Thermae Bath Spa re-opened. Part spa, part pool, this bath house is breathtakingly beautiful, combining both new and old architecture. The open-air rooftop pool shines a brilliant blue and gives visitors views of the historic city, both day and night. But inside it may be the Minerva pool that is even more gorgeous, and futuristic looking. Bright white columns stretch down deep into the pool creating flowing curves and unusual shapes. This pool also happens to feature a lazy river, massage jets and a whirlpool inside. It is not just about the gorgeous public pools here, the building itself is often enough to stop people in their tracks to take a second look.

Eddy Galeotti / Shutterstock.com
Eddy Galeotti / Shutterstock.com

6. Kastrup Sea Bath -Kastrup, Denmark

This award winning open-air pool is located just south of Copenhagen and is conceived to be a sculptural dynamic form that can be seen from the beach, air and sea. The circular structure is meant to provide swimmers with shelter from the winds and to provide washrooms and changing rooms. Reaching the sea bath is as easy as walking out on the long wooden pier which extends from the shore. Once reaching the sea bath, visitors will find a diving platform, springboard, and a variety of benches, plateaus and nooks. Give that the structure is over 100 meters away from the shore, the water is deep enough to try and dive as far down as you dare. When designers created this pool they made it accessible for anyone, creating ramps and other features that allow the less mobile population full access to it. Free to everyone, anytime, this is one amazing public pool.

Photo by: Visit Copenhagen
Photo by: Visit Copenhagen

5. Yrjonkatu Swimming Hall -Helsinki, Finland

It is the oldest public swimming hall in all of Finland and the architecture of the building is both historically and artistically noteworthy. On the main level you will find the impressive pool in the massive hallway with its tiled floors and arched columns. With high ceilings, balconies looking over the pool and looking more like an ancient bath; you will feel transported back in time. Men and women have different swim days here as most people choose to swim nude, and it was actually law until 2001 that no one could enter the pool with a swimsuit. The upstairs in this building has private cubicles with day beds, your choice of sauna and a place to get a drink and snack. Although built in the 1920’s, this pool remains impeccably clean and the perfect way to immerse yourself in the Finnish culture.

Photo by: Inside Out Helsinki
Photo by: Inside Out Helsinki

4. Badeschiff -Berlin, Germany

This floating swimming pool is actually located right in Berlin, in the East Harbour section of the River Spree. It was designed so that citizens could swim in a sanitary environment near the river as the Spree itself is too polluted for safe swimming. The pool shines a brilliant blue and was actually converted from the hull of a vessel. In the summertime the area is packed full of hammocks, sunbathers on the sand, visitors playing beach volleyball and a beach bar. During the winter this pool actually gets a roof and becomes an epic sauna experience. Two Finnish Saunas and a roofed pool attract all sorts of locals and visitors alike to visit here in the winter, mainly in the buff. Insider tip, visit at night when it is all lit up either during the summer or winter for a romantic escape from reality.

Photo by: H. Fuller via Flickr
Photo by: H. Fuller via Flickr

3. Barton Springs Pool -Austin, Texas

This public pool is absolutely humongous, sitting at over three acres in size. It also happens to be unique in that it is fed from underground springs, keeping an average temperature of 70 degrees all year round, perfect for those hot Texas days. This pool is open to the public six days a week and varies in price throughout the months, ranging from free to a mere three dollars. The depth of the pool ranges from 0-18 feet and is surrounded by an abundance of grassy areas. Diving boards, lifeguards, rock walls and the beauty of nature are all present here. Thought to be more of a swimming hole than a pool, Barton Springs has drawn visitors from all over the world. Perhaps it is the enormity of it that makes it so gorgeous, perhaps is the turquoise color of the water, or maybe it is the grace they have taken to ensure it fits right into the landscape. Whatever the reason is, make sure to put this on your list of public pools to swim in.

Photo by: City of Austin
Photo by: City of Austin

2. Gellert Baths -Budapest, Hungary

From the moment you enter into the bathhouse you are transported a hundred years back in time where art and architecture played such an important role in society. This gorgeous public bath house was built in the early 1900’s and has since undergone extensive renovations, making it even more beautiful than before, if that is even possible. Towering columns line both the pools, one an open air outdoor wave pool, the other an effervescent swimming pool. The indoor palace pool may just be slightly more gorgeous with its arched glass ceiling and two-story balconies. The painted windows, the architecture, the adorning fountains and the warm therapeutic waters make this a must stop on any trip to Budapest.

Botond Horvath / Shutterstock.com
Botond Horvath / Shutterstock.com

1. The Blue Lagoon -Reykjavik, Iceland

It is one of the most visited attractions in Iceland but that certainly doesn’t take away from its beauty. Not so much of a public swimming pool and more of an oasis of relaxation, this man made lagoon is stunningly beautiful. The waters are rich in minerals and stay at an average of 99-102 degrees all year round. The water color itself is enough to rave about; a brilliant blue accompanied by white steam that often blows off the extremely hot spots. An interesting fact about the water here is that it is actually white and it is in fact the sun that makes it look blue. These geothermal waters are thought to have healing powers and while you won’t find any diving boards or kids splashing around, you will find plenty of people rubbing their faces with mud and relaxing in the serene setting.

SurangaSL / Shutterstock.com
SurangaSL / Shutterstock.com

10 Things to See and Do in Budapest

Located on both sides of the Danube River, Budapest combines two cities, Buda and Pest and has been the cultural, political and commercial center of Hungary for almost 20% of the nation’s total citizens that call this city home. This city has survived catastrophe since its inception, each time returning stronger than before and has flourished since Hungary’s free elections in the 1990’s. Budapest still retains its historical charm with the culture, architectural details and antique structures that still remain, but also displays vibrant growth.  EscapeHere has assembled a list to consider when planning your visit to this ancient, important European city.

10. Drink Coffee

Seriously, coffee is a cultural touchstone with the residents of Budapest, and they take their version of the strong dark drink as seriously as any other cafe culture city. Almost all Hungarians start their day with super strong espresso, and many more are consumed during the rest of the day. American style drip coffee isn’t really popular, with most coffee consumed in traditional coffee houses instead of franchises.

Cafes (or kávéház) have enjoyed a long tradition in Budapest, becoming popular in the 16th century during the Turkish occupation. During the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the 19th century Budapest boasted over 400 unique coffee houses in the city. Some of these cafes are famous for their history as the centers of intellectual and political progress, and many of the grand cafes have been restored, and the coffee culture preserved with it. Make sure to include the legendary Gerbeaud, located in the center of Budapest and one of the grandest and most traditional cafes in the city as part of your travels. Their famous confection is a sour cherry, drowned and aged in cognac and covered in dark chocolate.

Alexander Tihonov / Shutterstock.com
Alexander Tihonov / Shutterstock.com

9. Go Underground

Choose from caves, cold war bunkers, underground tramways and prisons -under Budapest lays a treasure of haunts to explore. The same thermal springs that feed the famous Budapest baths also create a large network of over 200 caverns under the city. These caverns are unique because they are formed by rising subterranean water instead of rain erosion. The most famous caves open to the public are the Pál-völgyi Cave and the Szemlő-hegyi Cave.

Under the cobblestone streets of Castle Hill is the largest interconnected cellar system in Hungary. This town-sized network of tunnels consists of natural caves and man-made passages. The earliest signs of human existence in these tunnels can be dated back half a million years and was a place to store valuables and food during the Middle-Ages. These caves were used extensively during World War two and the Cold War (as a fallout shelter). Today you can visit parts of the cave system at the Hospital in the Rock Museum.

Felix Lipov / Shutterstock.com
Felix Lipov / Shutterstock.com

8. Explore Budapest’s Roman Roots

Western Hungary was part of the Roman Empire from the first century. BC to the fifth century AD and was known as Pannonia. At the center of Pannonia was its largest town, Aquincum, the ancestor of what is now Budapest. Aquincum was a military base, which was home to a Roman legion of 6,000 soldiers. What remains today is the excavated ruins of the old city which includes remains of an amphitheater, mosaic floors, statues and a reconstructed water organ as the main attractions available to tourists.

The ruins were first discovered in 1778 by a local winemaker, luckily, he recognized what he stumbled on almost immediately, preserving most of the find. In addition to the originally discovered ruins, the Hercules Villa, and Therma Majores (a large Roman bath complex) are also open to the public. Aquincum is found in the oldest part of Buda, Óbuda (it literally means Old Buda).

Felix Lipov / Shutterstock.com
Felix Lipov / Shutterstock.com

7. Dine Like a King

Budapest has always boasted a unique taste profile on the culinary landscape, but recently this city has been swept up in a gastronomical revolution. The recent growth of the gourmet restaurant scene has led to international recognition, like the famous Michelin guide’s Michelin Stars and Bib Gourmand. One of the Star winners is the Costes, which offers fusion cuisine of international and traditional Hungarian dishes prepared by the innovative head chef, Miguel Rocha Vieira.

Onyx, Budapest’s newest Michelin star recipient serves up unique versions of Hungarian dishes. Rich traditional dishes are served in small portions under the watchful eye of the executive chef (and cultural treasure), Szabina Szullo -the first Hungarian chef to receive a Michelin star. If you want something a little lighter on the wallet, consider Bock Bistro, a collaboration of award winning chef Lajos Bíro and vintner József Bock, where classic Dishes are paired with over two-dozen Bock wines and other vintages.

posztos / Shutterstock.com
posztos / Shutterstock.com

6. Look at Some Art

The Budapest Museum of Fine Arts is a great way to take in European culture in this fantastic city. Built in the neoclassical style, the museum building boasts an extensive collection of international art, the only catch being that they do not show Hungarian pieces. You can find The Museum of Fine Arts located next to Heroes’ Square and admission is around $8, they are open every day but Monday between 10am and 6pm.

If Hungarian art is what you are looking for, the best pieces in the country are kept in the Hungarian National Gallery. Located in Buda Castle, their collection consists of all genres, including nineteenth and twentieth-century Hungarian expats who worked in Paris and the United States. If you are looking for something more modern, the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art displays both Western and Hungarian works collected and selected from the last half century.

dsajo / Shutterstock.com
dsajo / Shutterstock.com

5. Take a Bath

Budapest is also known all over Europe as the “City of Baths”, Hungary is a land full of thermal springs, and Budapest is rich in thermal healing pools. Budapest is also one of the few places where you can still experience traditional Turkish baths like the ones from the 16th and 17th century. Turkish baths are pretty close to the Romans and Greek bathing practices, except that Turkish baths do not incorporate steam in their “hot rooms”.

If you want to visit some of the more famous baths, put Rudas, Király or Veli Bej on your list, for a true authentic experience. If you’re just looking to relax and enjoy something more contemporary, there are many health spa-resorts you can visit. If you have a need to be pampered, you can stay in one of several posh hotels with great Spa facilities like the Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal or the Continental Hotel Zara.

Vacclav / Shutterstock.com
Vacclav / Shutterstock.com

4. Visit St. Stephen’s Basilica

St. Stephen’s Basilica is the biggest church in Budapest, able to hold over 8000 people.  According to architectural terms, this building should be classified as a cathedral, however Pope Pius XI only bequeathed it with the title ‘basilica minor’, a fact that has left some Hungarians a bit slighted. It took over 50 years to complete the structure due to the fact that the dome collapsed during construction and had to be completely rebuilt from scratch.

St Stephen’s dome is 96 meters high, the same height as the Budapest Parliament Building, which symbolizes the balance of church and state, although some could also argue that they have the same height because building regulations stipulate that no structure in Budapest can be taller than 96 meters. This building is named after St Stephen, its patron saint and the first king of Hungary. Creepy bonus fact: St Stephen’s mummified right hand is kept in a glass case to the left of the main altar in the chapel, so visit it and wave “hi”.

St. Stephan's budapest

3. Attend the Sziget Festival

The Sziget is arguably one of the largest music festivals in the world, and the biggest annual party in Hungary with about 400,000 people attending every August for a week of music and partying.  This event takes place on Óbudai-sziget (“Old Buda Island”), a 108-hectare island on the Danube and hosts over 1,000 performances every year. The festival started as a student event in 1993 and has grown to an event which boasts that half of its 400,000 visitors arrive from outside Hungary, with a dedicated “party-train’ that brings in festival attendees from all over Europe.

This Hungarian cultural phenomenon has been increasingly referred to as the European equivalent to the Burning Man festival due to its unique features and party community atmosphere. This year Robbie Williams, Florence and the Machine and Alt-J are already announced as main acts for the Sziget Main Stage with many more acts being announced as we get closer to the August event. This year will be full of amazing pyrotechnic, laser, and special effects as well as a gigantic EDM mega-tent. Buy your tickets here.

joyfull / Shutterstock.com
joyfull / Shutterstock.com

2. Drink Unicum in the Zwack Museum

Way back in 1790, Dr Zwack created a herbal digestive called Unicum to sooth the royal gurgling tummy of the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Hungary, Joseph the Second. From that moment on, Zwack and company have been the purveyors of the secret digestif (comprised of over 40 herbs) to the Hungarian royal family’s gurgling innards ever since. The company has survived 2 world wars, exile, state seizure and economic turmoil, remaining one of the most iconic liqueur brands in Europe.

When you visit the Zwack Museum, you can take in the treasury of 200 year old posters and Zwack personal memorabilia which not only tells you of the history of the beverage, but the personal family history as well. After taking in the relics from the past, you can descend into the 2.500 square meter cellars underneath the distillery, where, at the end of the tour, you can sample the classic Unicum or the Plum on tap from one of the oaken casks. Find out more at the museum website.

cristi180884 / Shutterstock.com
cristi180884 / Shutterstock.com

1. Visit the Központi Vásárcsarnok

Also known as the Central Market Hall, there is no better place to get your old pungent cheese and savory meat snack on in all of Hungary. The market is one of five market buildings that all opened on the same day on February 15, 1897, and remains the largest indoor market in Budapest. The original metal roof still exists to this day as a testament to the original builder’s skill, it is notable due to the famous Zsolnay Porcelain tiles which decorate it.  Another fun fact: when the market first opened, ships sailed right into the building using special docks.

On the first floor, the market boasts a large selection of meats, cheeses, fruits and vegetables. Up on floor two, you can sample to your heart’s content at one of the many food stands which mix in with various vendors peddling handicrafts, clothing, art and souvenirs. There is also a section where Hungarian Paprika and Tokaji are sold on this level. In the basement there is a more modern fish market, a supermarket, and a small pharmacy.

Aleksandar Tasevski / Shutterstock.com
Aleksandar Tasevski / Shutterstock.com

The 10 Cheapest Cities to Touchdown in Europe

A trip across the Atlantic Ocean over to the Old World of Europe may only be a fantasy for a number of North Americans. With airfare, accommodations, food, spending money and all the other little things that add up it can be an exceedingly costly trip. Though many people may dismiss the thought of a European getaway as just a fantasy that isn’t fiscally obtainable, that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. One may be surprised to learn that certain cities are much more affordable to visit than others and the reasons for this can range from lower airport taxes to economic struggles. Below is a look at 10 of the best places in Europe to visit by cost:

10. Athens, Greece

Athens International Airport is the obvious international hub of Greece, though that may not be the best plan of arrival for potential visitors. In bound flights to Greece are rarely cheap, and it usually makes more sense for travelers to land elsewhere in Europe and make a short land trip into the country instead. Due to recent economic struggles in the country, hotel prices have dropped quite a bit in the past few years.

Tourism is a major industry and a key part of the Greek economy. Greece ranks as the 10th most visited country in Europe, and saw over 15-million visitors in 2012. Major attractions in Athens include: the Acropolis, the Parthenon, the Agora and the National Archaeological Museum. For travelers on a budget, Greece is an ideal candidate to visit on a trip through a number of countries as prices for hotels and other amenities have dropped from the aforementioned economic struggles.

Athens, Greece

9. Milan, Italy

The choice between Milan and Rome is a difficult one, but Milan comes out slightly cheaper in comparison for tourists. Milan is one of the most important tourist destinations in all of Europe, and will never truly be a bargain destination for visitors. The addition of Emirates flights to Milan, however, means that there are more reasonably priced flights to a destination considered to be truly first class among travelers.

The city is home to two professional soccer clubs that share the famous San Siro stadium, considered a Mecca of sorts to traveling fans that are as vocal as they are loyal and exist all across the globe. Milan is also home to Pinacoteca di Brera, Piazza del Duomo, and the Milan Cathedral. Italy ranks as the 3rd most popular European destination behind only France and Spain, and Milan provides an opportunity to experience a cultured city for a relatively reasonable price.

Milan, Italy

8. Prague, Czech Republic

A country known to savvy travelers as a little-known gem, the Vaclav Havel Airport in Prague is where visitors land. The country has started to gain notoriety for being a great place to visit, and has experienced a major boom to its tourism industry. The secret is starting to get out, however, as prices have started to rise in the past few years as more and more people become aware of the beauty of the Czech Republic.

Younger travelers may be interested in the nightlife offered in Prague, as it is known for being low cost, and home to a large number of bars and clubs that are in close proximity and open late. There are a number of castles, breweries, and quaint towns to visit throughout the Czech Republic, but potential visitors should act quickly as prices are expected to continue to rise in this historic and unique Eastern European nation.

Prague, Czech Republic

7. Madrid/Barcelona, Spain

Though the two cities provide a vastly different experience, both cost travelers an almost identical price. Madrid is home to Barajas Airport, while Barcelona has El Prat Airport. For those with an interest in the “beautiful game” both Madrid and Barcelona provide an opportunity to catch some of the best soccer players in the world plying their craft in the confines of the magnificent stadiums.

The Spanish economy has become fairly reliant on tourism as an industry, which has seen a decline due to economic issues. Luckily for potential tourists, this means costs will be less for a very popular destination. Each city provides a unique experience, with the high-tempo Madrid contrasting perfectly to the quieter Barcelona. Take advantage while the opportunity is there, as Spain is still the 2nd most popular destination in Europe. If possible (and if desirable), visit Ibiza for a crazy night or two, as it is recognized as the party capital of the world.

Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com
Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com

6. Budapest, Hungary

Much like Prague in the Czech Republic, Budapest in Hungary is another less-obvious tourist haven that has started to become more recognized. The cheapest tickets for a flight into Budapest’s Ferenc Liszt International Airport usually involve a stopover in Moscow or Helsinki, though a stop in Zurich is not much more in terms of cost and saves a great deal of time. Similarly, like Prague, prices for Budapest have begun to climb in 2014.

Popular attractions in Budapest include Buda Castle, which includes: the Hungarian National Gallery, the Matthias Church, the Parliament Building and the City Park. Thermal baths are another popular tourist destination, and the Danube River passes through the city providing for great scenery. While Budapest may not be top of mind in terms of European cities to travel to, take some time to learn about its great history before crossing it off a list of places to visit.

Budapest, Hungary

5. Lisbon, Portugal

The westernmost large city and capital in Europe, Lisbon has been on the rise as a popular and affordable tourist destination. Tourism has started to become an increasingly important industry in Portugal, with Lisbon becoming one of the most visited cities in all of Europe. Flights to Lisbon Portela Airport, the international airport in Lisbon are reasonably priced, and the city is known to be much less expensive than other premier destinations in Europe.

Some of the more popular destinations in Lisbon are the Sao Jorge Castle, Belem Tower, Lisbon Oceanarium and the Church of Santa Engracia. Potential visitors should aim to get to Portugal before the tourism industry truly takes off in the country, while flights and local prices are still more accessible for travelers. Take in some soccer before leaving, and maybe get a chance to witness world-famous Cristiano Ronaldo as he continues his quest to break long-held records.

Lisbon, Portugal

4. Paris, France

The dream vacation for a number of North Americans is a trip to the world-class city of Paris. The popularity of the city has led to Charles de Gaulle Airport being one of the busiest hubs in Europe. Because of this, travelers can find surprisingly competitive prices for a flight to Paris. As of 2014, costs have even slightly improved for tourists as well.

Paris is home to a number of France’s most famous attractions, starting of course with the Eiffel Tower. The Arc de Triomphe is another famous monument built to honor those who fought and died for France during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. The world-renowned Louvre Museum is also in Paris, home to the Mona Lisa and many other iconic pieces of art. The diversity of sights in Paris also features the iconic Notre Dame cathedral, a gothic-style church that is as gigantic as it is awe-inspiring.

Top Cities 2013 - Paris

3. Istanbul, Turkey

Despite the significantly further distance to travel to Istanbul in comparison to the rest of Europe, Istanbul can offer some reasonable prices for airfare. Turkey ranks as the 4th most popular destination in Europe, and 10th most popular in the world. With tourism in mind, the government in Turkey has undertaken the development of what will be the world’s largest airport in Istanbul, with the first (of a four part plan) being completed in 2017.

Due to the historical significance of Istanbul, the city is one of the most important tourist destinations in the world. Some of the major tourist sights in the city include the Haiga Sofia, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, Topkapi, Basillca Cistern and Galata Tower. Istanbul is also home to Cevahir Mall, the biggest shopping mall in all of Europe (and 7th largest in the world). The city is also home to a number of museums, sports teams and cultural events.

Istanbul, Turkey

2. Dublin, Ireland

Ireland is a remarkably cheap country to visit in comparison to the rest of Europe. Though Dublin is the capital of the country, the airfares for flights landing at Dublin Airport are less than that of Shannon Airport, Ireland’s other international hub. Tourism provides a significant amount of income for Ireland’s economy with more than 6-million people visiting the country in 2012.

Destinations in Dublin include St Patrick’s Cathedral, the National Museum of Ireland, Trinity College, Christ Church Cathedral and of course the Guinness Storehouse. While at the Guinness Brewery, taste brews that are only available in Ireland, and take a break in their famous lounge. In 2010, the United Nations even awarded Dublin the title of UNESCO City of Literature due to the number of famous writers who are from the city. Travelers should also be pleased to know that Ireland also has no departure tax or comparable fees for air travel.

Bridge Dublin Ireland

1. Moscow, Russia

Even though the distance to Russia is quite far, travelers shouldn’t be intimidated by the fear of an expensive trip. Russia’s national airline, Aeroflot, is one of the cheapest tickets in Europe, and many cheap flights to other countries stop over in Moscow. Russia has seen a rise in tourism likely as a result of the previous Winter Olympics, but the current economic landscape in Russia benefits potential tourists right now.

There are a number of world-famous tourist destinations in Moscow, most notably the Kremlin and Red Square, the political heart of Russia. The city also features the impressive architecture of Saint Basil’s Cathedral, the Winter Palace and the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. The city is also home to the iconic Mausoleum of Lenin. It is important to note the cultural differences between Russia and the west, so it is best to read up on recent political and legislative changes that unfortunately may deter some travelers from wanting to travel here.

Moscow Russia Red Square

10 Most Beautiful and Underrated Cities in Europe

It’s no secret that Paris, Rome, Barcelona and Berlin are amazing cities rich with beautiful architecture, unparalleled history, amazing culture and much more. However, Europe is rich with many other wonderful cities that tend to fly a little under the radar of the average tourist. Traveling to a slightly more obscure city can be as great of an experience as hitting the capitals and bustling metropolises. Here are 10 of our favorites:

10. Heidelberg, Germany

Heidelberg Germany
Heidelberg, Germany

Located in the valley of the Odenwald Mountains and on the banks of the River Neckar, Heidelberg is a picturesque and romantic German city. Heidelberg Castle is the most notable landmark in the city. The city is also known for its historic “old town,” the Philosopher’s Walk up the nearby mountains, many historic churches and the University of Heidelberg.

9. Bruges, Belgium

Bruges Belgium 1
Bruges, Belgium

While Bruges has become more of a destination since the release of the film In Bruges in 2008, the city still lies in the shadows of Antwerp and Brussels when it comes to Belgian destinations. This historic port city is best known for its medieval architecture and numerous canals and sometimes dubbed “The Venice of the North.” Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child sculpture is located in Bruges.

8. Ferrara, Italy

Ferrara Italy
Ferrara, Italy

Ferrara is famous for being surrounded by over nine kilometers of ancient walls. The city also contains palaces dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries, amazing cathedrals and broad streets perfect for strolling through and taking in the sights. Ferrara has also been home to many writers, artists and musicians throughout its rich history.

7. Valencia, Spain

Valencia is the third largest city in Spain, located right on the Gulf of Valencia and in close proximity to Palma de Mallorca and Ibiza. The city’s historic winding streets, incredible architecture and amazing cathedrals make it a great destination. Valencia is also home to an enormous plaza and many famous museums and galleries.
Valencia Spain

6. Porto, Portugal

Porto shared the title as European Cultural Capital in 2001 for good reason. The city is home to numerous festivals throughout the year, such as St. John (late June) and Queima das Fitas (early May). Porto also has a long tradition in music, art and athletics, and is home to FC Porto among other football (soccer) clubs.
Porto Portugal

5. Biarritz, France

Located on the Bay of Biscay, Biarritz is a vibrant seaside city popular with tourists and surfers. The annual Biarritz Surf Festival attracts surfers and fans from all over the world. Biarritz is also located in French Basque Country and just minutes from the border of Spain.
Biarritz France

4. Innsbruck, Austria

Innsbruck is unique in that it hosted the Winter Olympic Games twice (both in 1964 and 1976). The Alpine location makes Innsbruck a hot sport for winter sports as well as hiking, climbing and mountain biking during the summer months. Innsbruck is also home to many museums, castles and historic sites.
Innsbruck, Austria

3. Gothenburg, Sweden

Gothenburg is known as a large university city and is home to cool festivals including the Gothenburg International Film Festival and music festivals Way Out West and Metaltown. The city is known for its rich Scandinavian architecture, museums, sports and rich cultural history.
Gothenburg, Sweden

2. Budapest, Hungary

Although Budapest is the largest city and capital of Hungary, it’s still often overlooked on the itineraries of many tourists. The neo-Gothic Parliament building is a must-see, as are Castle Hill and the Castle District. No trip to Budapest is complete without a stroll down the banks of the historic River Danube.
Budapest

1. Copenhagen, Denmark

While most tourists tend to stick to southern and western Europe, Copenhagen is a destination not to be missed. With historic roots going back to its early days as a Viking fishing village, the sights and architecture are a unique treasure to behold. There are also many beaches surround the city that are a little known secret to add to any great summer vacation.
Copenhagan Denmark