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

12 Best Museums to Walk Among Dinosaurs

If you ever had the inkling to come face to face with a dinosaur, now is your chance. Although there are not any Jurassic Park theme parks as of yet; there are plenty of museums where you can get a more realistic idea of where dinosaurs came from and how they evolved. From China to New York to the land down under these 12 awesome museums give you the chance to walk among the dinosaurs, each offering their own unique spin on exhibits and displays.

12. Jurassic Land, Istanbul, Turkey

Part education and part entertainment, this is the closest you will come to living out your Jurassic World fantasies. Your journey here starts at the museum which features bones and eggs from millions of years ago and takes visitors through the history of dinosaurs with incredible exhibits. The science center is among the favorites and informative guides take visitors through, talking about the incubation units and introducing them to the moving realistic looking dinosaurs.

There is a great digging workshop for kids and after excavating they will receive a certificate. The 4-D theatre is suitable for all ages, although if you have really young kids it may be scary. This interactive film takes visitors a ride to Dinosaur Island and be prepared as you may just want to watch it again and again. Part museum, part amusement park, this is best suited for families with kids.

Via istanbulkesfi.com

11. Iziko Museum, Cape Town, South Africa

You won’t be heading here to see dinosaurs such as the famous T-Rex or Stegosaurus; instead, you will find prehistoric beats from the Karoo Region. This museum caters to visitors who want to learn more about the less known dinosaurs and their cousins that inhabited the continent. The dinosaur hall is where you’ll find a permanent exhibition called Stone Bones of the Ancient Karoo.

Here visitors will find ancient lizards, huge crocodiles and a cast of the most complete skeleton of Heterodontosaurus found to date. Make sure to check out Kirky the dinosaur, arguably the cutest dinosaur in the history of South Africa. The Museum houses more than one and a half million specimens of scientific importance and you will want to explore more than just the dinosaur hall here.

Via fireflyafrica.blogspot.com

10. Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center, Colorado

Although this museum is quite small, it delivers an awesome experience for those looking to learn more about dinosaurs. The center features an awe-inspiring display of dinosaurs, prehistoric marine reptiles, pterosaurs, and fish of North America’s late Cretaceous period. Graphics and life-restoration sculptures are used to help visitors imagine these animals in real life.

What is so cool about this museum is the fact that you can see right inside the working fossil laboratory through the glass windows. This is a great museum for kids as it is not so big they will get tired and there are plenty of activities for them such as a fossil dig box, activity stations, and two short movies. Visitors will definitely want to take advantage of the tour that is included with admission as they run about an hour long and are highly informative.

Via The Dinosaur Stop

9. Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin, Germany

Besides housing an extremely large collection of bones excavated from Tanzania, 250 tones to be exact, this museum is also home to the tallest dinosaur on display in the world. The Brachiosaurus dominates the first gallery, standing at 41 feet, 5 inches tall. Also on display at this museum visitors will find the impressive Kentrosaurus, a spiky lizard that lived in the Upper Jurassic period.

What might be the most impressive here though is the Archaeopteryx fossil, thought to be the best-known fossil in the world and provides the link between birds and dinosaurs. One of the most interesting things this museum has done is install Jurascopes that allow visitors to bring the dinosaurs to life.

Via YouTube

8. Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Atlanta

This museum is home to the permanent exhibition “Giants of the Mesozoic”, where a battle between giants is taking place. The world’s largest dinosaurs are shown here in a predator vs. prey situation and replicate the badlands of Patagonia, Argentina, where the largest dinosaurs in the world were unearthed. This exhibit features the Giganotosaurus, a dinosaur that is comparable in size to the T-Rex, as well as the Argentinosaurus, who scientists claim is the largest dinosaur ever classified.

Visitors will want to look up as more than 20 pterosaurs are shown overhead. Other notable features in this museum are the pterosaur and dinosaur tracks, remnants from an Araucaria tree, a fossilized crocodile, and additional fossil casts. It should be noted that all the fossils are cast replicas of the original specimens as the actual fossilized bones remain in Argentina, where they are considered a national treasure.

Via Expedia

7. Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Science, Brussels, Belgium

The most important pieces in the museum are definitely the 30 fossilized Iguanodon skeletons, discovered in 1878 and helping to make the dinosaur hall Europe’s largest museum hall completely dedicated to dinosaurs. This museum is not just fascinating to walk through though, it actually offers an incredible amount of education through the interactive exhibits including the details of the fossilization process and dinosaur digs.

Parents will love watching the eight interviews with paleontology experts around the world while kids will have a blast in the paleo lab where they can touch and explore real fossils, along with putting together a life-sized stegosaurus and walking in dinosaur footprints. This museum does an excellent job linking dinosaurs to modern-day animals, making it even easier to understand how evolution works. A win-win in our books.

Via Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences

6. Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology, Alberta, Canada

This museum holds more than 130,000 fossils and is the only one of its kind dedicated to the science of paleontology. This museum focuses on education, creativity, and fun while opening visitor’s eyes to the fascinating world of dinosaurs. Visitors will want to make sure to head over to the Albertosaurus exhibit where this close relative of the T-Rex is displayed moving across a dry river channel.

This exhibit was the result of scientific evidence collected from a mass grave. The Dinosaur Hall features one of the world’s largest displays of dinosaur remains that have been reconstructed and a favorite of many visitors. A rotating fossil display will enthuse visitors who are looking to see more of the tens of thousands of fossils this museum has. Make sure to make your way over to the Cretaceous Garden and experience what that environment was like and see Canada’s largest collection of prehistoric plant relatives.

Via fortwoplz.com

5. Zigong Dinosaur Museum, Zigong, China

This museum attracts over seven million visitors a year, in part because of its awesome location atop a fossil site. The excellent reputation it holds comes from the life-like exhibits, unique architecture, magnificent burial sites and incredible environment. Visitors here will experience two floors of displays and exhibits. The first floor features the favorite of many, Dinosaur world where 18 dinosaurs of different species and size are displayed.

The first floor is also home to the burial site, the largest burial site for watching spot-on protected dinosaur fossils so far known in the world. The second floor features a treasure hall, a display of all the flora and fauna from that period and displays on the evolution of dinosaurs and species. This huge roc cave-like museum was the first museum in Asia dedicated to dinosaurs and will surely not disappoint visitors.

Via CNN.com

4. American Museum of Natural History, New York

This museum has one of the greatest dinosaur fossil collections in the world and houses two famed dinosaur halls in the David H. Koch Dinosaur Wing. The Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs is where visitors will find one of the major groups of dinosaurs, the ones with grasping hands. It is here where you will find the infamous Tyrannosaurus rex and the Apatosaurus. Along with the fossils, there is a slew of video footage and photography exploring the history of paleontology at the museum.

The Hall of Ornithischian Dinosaurs features the group of dinosaurs defined by a backward-pointing extension of the pubis bone and include such dinosaurs as the Stegosaurus and Triceratops. The museum has actually developed a dinosaur map to go along with the exhibit and visitors can use the app to help plan their way through the exhibits. For kids ages 6-13 there is a special overnight experience that takes place in the dinosaur hall where they can explore the exhibits by flashlight.

Via Citi Bike

3. National Dinosaur Museum, Canberra, Australia

Home to the largest permanent display of dinosaur and prehistoric fossils in Australia, this is where you should head if you want to know anything about dinosaurs down under. The museum actually follows the evolution of life and just happens to put the emphasis on dinosaurs. The favorite part of this museum has to be the dinosaur garden, with its imposing dinosaur sculptures made out of fiberglass and animatronics.

The museum has only been in operation since 1993 and with 23 complete skeletons, and over 300 displays of individual fossils, it is growing and expanding its collection as each year passes. Special experiences here include guided tours, children’s learning events, and fossil digs.

Via ABC

2. Wyoming Dinosaur Center, Thermopolis, Wyoming

It is one of the few dinosaur museums that have its own excavation site within driving distance and the standout attraction is the 106 foot Supersaurus on display, although their claim to fame here is the Archaeopteryx.  Only 12 specimens exist in the world and “The Thermopolis Specimen” is second only to the “Berlin” specimen in terms of completeness, including a well-preserved skull.

Also, there are over 30 mounted dinosaurs including two Velociraptors and a 41 foot T-Rex that is attacking a Triceratops horridus. Walking through the museums means following the time displays which go from earliest life forms to dinosaurs and finally mammals. The dig site can be toured in nice weather and it’s a rare opportunity for visitors to see dinosaur bones in the ground and the actual excavation of them. The real draw here is the chance to speak with actual paleontologists or to join one of the “dig days”.

Via Pitchengine

1. The Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago

It has the most famous of all museum dinosaurs, Sue, the largest, most complete, and best-preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton in the world. The original skull weighs over 600 lbs and flashes 58 teeth and she is over 42 feet long and 67 million years old. That is just the beginning of this awesome dinosaur experience here at the Field Museum of Natural History.

The permanent Evolving Planet exhibition takes visitors on a journey through an expanded dinosaur hall where you learn about every major group of dinosaurs, where they lived, and what scientists have learned from Sue. Kids will love the fossil play lab located in the dinosaur hall. Don’t miss the 3-D movie where visitors are taken on a ride through Sue’s life, from hatchling to a 7-ton ferocious beast.

Via Chicago Tribune

The 7 Best Turkish Baths in Istanbul

Visiting Istanbul can’t be complete without visiting one authentic, historic hamam, or bathhouse. Steaming, bathing, and rejuvenating massages in one of Istanbul’s hamams is the one quintessential Turkish experience to have and an ancient amenity that has outlasted centuries of modernized social norms. The experience is easily customized, whether just for a soak, a steam, a massage, or all three. But perhaps the most notable aspect of this experience are the visuals, from massive marble slabs, to towering columns and intricate, colorful, artistic details. Don’t miss these seven note-worthy hamams while exploring Istanbul.

7. Cagaloglu Hamam

Istanbul’s Cagaloglu Hamam is undoubtedly the city’s most spectacular and most impressive hamam, favored by locals and drawing thousands of visitors each year. The sweeping arches and curved domes within the hamam’s gorgeous steam rooms are lavish and reveal some of the most ancient and enduring design models of the several centuries. Within the famously documented design are thousands of single tiles adorned in colorful tulips, adding depth to the already exquisite style. Cagaloglu Hamam was constructed in 1741, ordered by Sultan Mahmut I, and though originally only offered facilities for men (a long-standing tradition), today there are baths and a wide scope of services for both men and women within their own separate quarters. Treatments though, are not as long and lavish as one might hope: the basic washing, scrubbing, and range of massage treatments are fairly expensive considering they are pretty short.

Photo by: Cağaloğlu Hamamı
Photo by: Cağaloğlu Hamamı

6. Cemberlitas Hamam

During the late 1600s, renowned Ottoman architect Sinan designed and built Cemberlitas Hamam which has offered one of the most quintessential bathing experiences in the city for centuries. As one of the oldest Turkish hamams in Istanbul, Cemberitas is revered and therefore a popular haunt for relaxing, steaming, and bathing. Built during the last and greatest period of Sinan’s life, this hamam emphasizes his life-long experience, exemplified by the tranquility, practicality, and elegance throughout the entire design, which is fantastic in its simplicity: the hamam is not overly adorned yet still doesn’t lose a bit of appeal. Studied by professionals in many different fields, Cemberlitas features a massive central dome, which is especially beautiful when the sun is shining, lighting up the interior magnificently and heating up the gobektasi, a huge, hot stone where visitors can lay and soak in the warmth.

Photo by: Çemberlitaş Hamamı
Photo by: Çemberlitaş Hamamı

5. Galatasaray Hamam

The legend behind Galatasaray surrounds Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II: following a hunting party he walked through the dense forest and came across a revered man called Father of Roses (Gul Baba), in his small cabin. A celebrated poet and exalted Muslim dervish, conveyed wishes to Beyazid, who vowed to follow them through. Gul Baba requested a mosque and kulliye (adjacent building with facilities including a hamam), to be constructed and the hamam include a massive dome. Beyazid took one yellow and one red rose as offerings, accepted his wishes, and in 1481, built Galatasaray with the beautiful kulliye. The sogukluk (hamam’s cooling off area) is defined by large marble slabs where massages are given following a steam and/or soak. Extremely hot steam rooms are favored by the Turks, and since Galatasaray is a local favorite, the steam room and gobektasi hot stone are just that: piping hot.

Photo by: Tarihi Galatasaray Hamamı
Photo by: Tarihi Galatasaray Hamamı

4. Beylerbeyi Hamam

Near Beylerbeyi pier and ferry, Beylerbeyi Hamam is next to its namesake mosque and easily identified by its wooden façade built in Ottoman style. Sultan Abdulhamid I ordered the building of Beylerbeyi in the late 1800s and dedicated it to Rabia Sermi Kadin, his mother. Traditionally, mosques were always built with adjacent hamams because of the revenue the bathhouses generated for maintenance and updates; Beylerbeyi was built with that in mind, and has been an important source of income for the entire complex. The marble fountain located in the cooling area (the stop between cool-off area and hot bath) is a definite highlight as is the expansive wooden ceiling in the changing area, called the Camekan. Here, there is also a hot stone, which many ancient mosques have, four private rooms (halvets), and 13 fountains (kurnas). Beylerbeyi is a must-see, accommodating women in the morning and men in the late afternoon.

Turkish Bath

3. Kilic Ali Pasha Hamam

Another Sinan-designed favorite, Kilic Ali Pasa takes on the name of a slave who journeyed to Constantinople, eventually becoming a powerful captain, and was renowned throughout the region. He became a mighty 16th century admiral and an integral part of many Ottoman Naval army victories. Kilic Ali Pasha is entirely captivating, with a beautiful Camekan (changing area) and glorious dome atop of the Camekan. Rising about 51 feet in height and 45 feet wide, this hamam is Sinan’s biggest endeavor and one of the most impressive in Istanbul. In more recent years, the hamam underwent a massive, seven-year renovation to repair structural features but the best of original details have been restored. Elephant eyes made of glass, a Kulhan Chimney, marble slabs, stone carvings, and leaded domes are just a few of the original repaired design elements, maintaining original style and structure implemented by Sinan.

Photo by: Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı
Photo by: Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı

2. Haseki Hurrem Sultan Hamam (Hagia Sophia)

The majority of popular hamams were built by Ottoman architect Sinan, and so is Haseki, as he was the most talented and favored of the Ottoman hierarchy. Ordered for construction in the mid 16th century by Suleiman the Magnificent’s wife Roxelana, Haseki is built on the land formerly occupied by Zeuxippus ancient public baths in 100-200AD. Centered within Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, it has ancient ties: Haseki was once where the Temple of Zeus stood before relocation to Constantinople from Olympia. In commission until the early 20th century, the hamam was a prison, an oil and paper storage building, and—up to 2007—a popular carpet market. From 2008-2011, the final restoration brought the hamam to its original luster with thousands of square feet of marble. Today it’s considered the fanciest, with cotton and silk bath wraps and gold plated bath bowls.

Photo by: Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamamı
Photo by: Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamamı

1. Mihrimah Sultan Hamam

Constructed in the mid-1500s, Mihrimah Sultan Hamam is another gift from Suleiman the Magnificent, this time to his daughter Mihrimah. Two facilities were built, one in Edirnekapi and the other in Uskudar. Both were also built by Sinan, the Edirnekapi hamam is a storied bathhouse, with legends tied to a tale of love between Sinan and the Suleiman’s daughter—and so Sinan built Edirnekapi for Mihrimah, without royal approval, and dedicated to the object of his devotion. The Camekan area is shaped squarely, and constructed upon twelve towering columns, presenting a magnificent view. Also within Mihrimah Sultan Hamam is a huge dome that houses four luxurious private rooms (halvets) and the octagonal central heating stone (gobestasi where visitors can lay and warm up. Modern updates (which are often criticized by historians as taking away from original value), include a hot tub and a large pool.

Photo by: Istanbuldagez
Photo by: Istanbuldagez

10 Countries Travelers Should Avoid

Travelers talk a lot about their must-see places; top-ten lists abound, often listing the same destinations over and over. Almost everyone has a bucket list. Less talked about, however, are the countries that travelers would do better to avoid—especially for the time being. Whether it’s political unrest, economic turmoil or concerns about disease outbreaks, you might want to take these 10 countries off your 2016 travel itinerary—and they should probably stay off your bucket list until further notice.

10. Sierra Leone

The countries of Africa’s west coast, including Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, were the epicenter of the 2014 Ebola epidemic. While Guinea and Liberia have been removed from some lists of travel advisories, Sierra Leone remains on the U.S. Department of State’s watch list. Although the agency has issued a general warning for parts of West Africa, which include Sierra Leone, the coastal country is the only one to have a separate travel warning of its own. A new cluster of Ebola cases broke out in August 2015 and, although authorities have been working to contain the outbreak, the continued presence of the virus makes travel to Sierra Leone dangerous. Ebola is highly contagious, so the U.S. advises against all non-essential travel to the country, as new infections may occur. Many medical services are either unavailable, temporarily suspended or provided at ill-equipped hospitals and clinics. Ambulances are generally unavailable.

Sierra Leone

9. Bangladesh

In early November 2015, a funeral in Bangladesh was bombed by a terrorist faction. The bombing occurred during a stretch of four days when violence seemed to uptick around the globe: Beirut and Paris were also under attack. While the U.S. Department of State’s current travel warning expires early in 2016, it seems unlikely that concerns about extremist violence in Bangladesh will dissipate any time soon. Since 2014, a string of attacks have seen both Bangladeshi nationals and foreign visitors killed by terrorist violence. Throughout 2015, writers, publishers and journalists were also threatened, and at least one American blogger was murdered in Bangladesh. The threat of violence against visitors appears to remain credible. Since the controversial 2014 elections, there has been ongoing political turmoil as well, with protests and violence occurring in the spring of 2015.

Dmitry Chulov / Shutterstock.com
Dmitry Chulov / Shutterstock.com

8. Kenya

On April 2, 2015, 147 people were killed when gunmen opened fire on a college in Nairobi. The terrorist group Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility, and the attacks are part of a larger narrative of extremist violence that have plagued Kenya since 2011, with attacks becoming more prevalent from 2013 on. Kenya faces threats from insurgent groups originating in Somalia, the country’s next-door-neighbor, among others. Although many people visit Kenya without incident every year, there does seem to be growing violence, with many attacks directed against locations that tourists frequent, such as airports and resorts. Even nightclubs and shopping areas may be targeted, as well as public transportation and religious institutions, all of which may be used or visited by travelers. Kenyan security has managed to detect or stop other plots, but heightened security may cause disruptions for travelers, especially those of Somali descent.

Nick Fox / Shutterstock.com
Nick Fox / Shutterstock.com

7. Somalia

Somalia is a “failed” state and entered into a state of near-lawlessness in the 1990s. Although the country does have a democratic government, it is weak and not recognized as legitimate by many. As such, the Somali state is often ineffectual. Large areas are controlled by extremist groups such as Al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliate, which has planned and carried out many attacks, including a December 25, 2014, operation at Mogadishu International Airport. Many countries do not maintain embassies and so cannot help their citizens should they decide to visit Somalia. Due to the country’s weak government, many Somalis are suffering, particularly during an ongoing famine in 2015, which heightens risks of violence. Somali waters have become notorious as a refuge for pirates, who have been known to attack in international waters out to 1,000 nautical miles. Somalia remains incredibly dangerous today.

Free Wind 2014 / Shutterstock.com
Free Wind 2014 / Shutterstock.com

6. Venezuela

Tensions between supporters of the policies of Hugo Chavez and his successor, Nicolas Maduro, and opposition parties continue to cause civil unrest in Caracas and other areas of Venezuela. Chavista policies have led to chronic shortages of basic goods and high inflation rates. Both have contributed to violent crime in Venezuela; the country is the homicide capital of the world and “express kidnappings,” where victims are held for only a few hours while their loved ones gather funds to free them, are common. Demonstrations and riots continue as people protest the problematic policies that have caused living conditions to deteriorate and crime to soar. Armed robberies and other forms of street crime also occur frequently. Upscale neighborhoods and tourist areas are frequently targets for crime, so while many continue to visit and conduct business in Venezuela with little issue, visitors must be aware of the risks to their safety.

Caracas, Venezuela

5. Turkey

Although tourism to Istanbul, Turkey’s capital, has been increasing over recent years and interest in visiting Turkey in general has been rising, so too has the risk of violence been increasing over the past few months. While Turkey has yet to encounter the level of violence witnessed in many Middle Eastern and African countries, the country has been a target for terrorist organizations, especially due to its proximity to Iraq and war-torn Syria. An influx of refugees fleeing violence in these countries also has the potential to create unrest in the region. Turkey has initiated military operations in some of its bases near Adana, in the south of the country. Turkey has also experienced internal political unrest in recent years. Demonstrations are common and can turn violent; border areas are best avoided.

Istanbul turkey

4. Ukraine

While some of the Ukraine may be safe to travel to, including western regions and the capital city of Kiev, ongoing tensions in Crimea and the Donetsk region have made traveling through Ukraine’s eastern reaches much more dangerous. In late 2013, civil unrest broke out, affecting the capital and other areas. While the government responded, rebels in Crimea allegedly broke with the state and requested Russian support. Crimea was occupied and annexed by Russia in early 2014. Fighting continued in the rebel-controlled Donetsk region throughout 2014. A ceasefire agreement between the Ukrainian government and the rebels created a dividing line between territories controlled by either group, but clashes continue in Donetsk and Luhansk. Airspace has been restricted since mid-2014, when a Malaysian Air flight was downed over the region, killing everyone on board. Ukraine remains in a state of unrest.

MagSpace / Shutterstock.com
MagSpace / Shutterstock.com

3. Yemen

Located on the Arab Peninsula, the country of Yemen has been teetering on the edge of civil war for years. The country experienced an Arab Spring revolution in 2011. Unrest and violence continued through 2014, and the government resigned en masse in January 2015. The country has been in a state of civil war since March 2015 as two governments attempt to claim supreme power. The U.S. Department of State closed their embassy and have warned Americans living in Yemen to depart as soon as they can. Airports have been closed, limiting travel to and from the country. Yemen, like much of the Arab Peninsula, has been plagued by terrorist operations that threaten the safety of civilians and travelers alike. Piracy in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean pose additional threats, with many pirate operations taking shelter in Somali waters.

Claudiovidri / Shutterstock.com
Claudiovidri / Shutterstock.com

2. Syria

Most people are more than well aware of the situation in Syria right now; the outflow of people from the country has been headline news for months. If so many citizens are trying to escape the conditions of their country, it’s probably not a place you want to be traveling to. The situation in Syria has deteriorated since the outbreak of the civil war and the ongoing conflict has made living in the region dangerous. While some people may want to travel here to offer humanitarian aid or to connect with relatives and ensure they are safe, most will be better served by finding other ways to help, rather than traveling into an active conflict zone. The U.S. Department of State advises that communication is difficult and kidnappings, as well as security check-points operated by extremist groups, pose serious threats for travel.

Aleppo, Syria

1. Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has a turbulent and troubled history, stretching back decades. Although the DRC is currently in a period of relative peace, instability has long plagued the country and its grasp on security is indeed tenuous. In 2015, major protests demanded the resignation of President Joseph Kabila. Elections are scheduled for 2016, which could bring more civil unrest. The country was ravaged by the Congolese Civil Wars, which began in 1996 and are ongoing today. Armed groups continue to roam the countryside, committing violent crimes against civilians and foreign nationals. Travelers are often stopped at both official and unofficial roadblocks. Bribes are common and if a traveler refuses to pay a bribe, they may be attacked or even killed. Infrastructure in the DRC is minimal, with few highways or railways. Boat transport is common, but often unsafe. Diseases, including Ebola, malaria and yellow fever are common.

LMspencer / Shutterstock.com
LMspencer / Shutterstock.com

The Best Places To Spend New Year’s Eve in Europe

New Year’s Eve is a time most of us look forward to putting the old year behind us and starting with a fresh slate in the new year. Many people believe that how we ring in the new year also has bearing on what the year will bring us. For travelers, what could be better than celebrating with friends new and old in a far-flung locale, experiencing local traditions and creating new ones? These 10 European cities know how to ring in the new year; get your year started on the right foot by visiting one of these parties.

10. London

More than 250,000 people will crowd along the banks of the Thames to ring in the new year. Big Ben performs countdown services and the stroke of midnight marks the beginning a spectacular 10-minute display of lights and fireworks. The London Eye, the Shard and Parliament are among the iconic buildings lit up to welcome the new year. Looking to stay out of the cold and rain? Head to the soiree at the London Sky Bar, where you’ll find food and a live DJ, plus fabulous views of the revelry in the streets below. Free public transport all night will help get you to one of many after-parties around the city. Visit the Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park and, on New Year’s Day, take in the annual parade, which features a procession of the Queen’s horses, among others.

London New Years Eve

9. Dubrovnik

Croatia may not be a top destination for New Year’s revelers, but the city of Dubrovnik gets extra points for managing to host an almost intimate party, despite the number of people who come out to celebrate. Less claustrophobic than parties in Zagreb and Split, the festivities in Dubrovnik center on Stradun, the city’s main street, where you’re likely to bump elbows with locals on their way to bars and restaurants filled to bursting with celebrating crowds. The city also hosts a number of Croatian performers, offering up a rich program of music and entertainment for the evening. Start with a cozy meal with friends or family, or, if you’re traveling with your honey, consider splurging on a meal at one of the city’s upscale establishments. Join the crowds in Stradun for the stroke of midnight, then keep the party going by stopping off at a local bar.

Photo by: Eventfully Croatia
Photo by: Eventfully Croatia

8. Stockholm

The Swedes celebrate Christmas in a relatively subdued style, which means they’re all the more ready to let loose and party on New Year’s Eve. Revelry is the order of the day in the nation’s capital, with parties becoming raucous and celebrations pouring into the streets. Fill up on a seafood at a restaurant before moving your party to Skansen, which has been the center of Stockholm’s celebrations since 1895. At the stroke of midnight, a well-known Swede will read the poem “Ring Out, Wild Bells,” as streamers fill the air. Party trumpets and fireworks erupt all around the city. After midnight, participate in some club-hopping and keep the party going late into the night; bars and clubs are often open until 3 or 4 in the morning, giving you plenty of time to celebrate the new year.

Stockholm New Years Eve

7. Paris

It should be little wonder that one of Europe’s most iconic cities makes the list as one of the best places to spend New Year’s. The Eiffel Tower is lit up to mark the occasion and crowds of revelers swarm the Champs-Elysees, which provides fantastic views of the tower. The area turns into a massive street party, with both champagne bottles and fireworks popping everywhere. If you’re looking for something a little different, try Montmarte for excellent views of fireworks without the crowd. If you want something romantic, book a dinner cruise along the Seine and listen to a live orchestra as you sail through the City of Lights. Restaurants and nightclubs also hold soirees so you have no shortage of options for how to ring in the new year. On New Year’s Day, the Grande Parade de Paris caps off the celebrations.

Paris New Years Eve

6. Vienna

Vienna, once the center of empire and a beautiful city beloved by intellectuals and artists, is perhaps the best place in Europe to experience an “Old World” New Year’s celebration. The city’s most famous party is the Grand Ball held at the Hofburg Palace, but there are plenty of other opportunities for revelry in the Austrian capital. The city’s famous Christmas markets transform into fairs and the New Year’s Eve Trail will lead you through the Old City. The party begins at 2 in the afternoon and continues long after the clock has struck midnight. Mulled wine is the drink of choice for this crowd. A spectacular fireworks display highlights the Wiener Prater fair at midnight. On New Year’s Day, join the crowd gathered outside City Hall to watch the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s concert on a giant screen.

Photo by: Room Suggestion
Photo by: Room Suggestion

5. Amsterdam

Amsterdam is known as something of a party city for North Americans, and on New Year’s Eve, the city shows that it deserves that reputation, with impromptu street parties filling the spaces between large, organized revelry in public places like Rembrandtplein, Nieumarkt, Museumplein and Dam Square. Outdoor concerts are complemented by indoor parties at bars. Fireworks go on sale the day before the celebrations, so you can be sure to see plenty of displays. Grab a perch on one of the city’s many bridges and watch the colors explode across the nighttime sky, mirrored in the water below. Grab a glass of champagne and some fried treats (like oliebollen, viamse frites and bitterballen) from the street vendors, then head to the club to keep the party going.

Photo by: Amsterdam
Photo by: Amsterdam

4. Reykjavik

Reykjavik receives only 4 hours of sun on New Year’s Eve, which means the locals are more than ready to celebrate with a festival of light. They start with community bonfires, meant to burn away the troubles of the old year. There are no official fireworks displays organized by the city; rather, there are numerous displays put on by private citizens. Fireworks will often start about half-an-hour before midnight, lighting up every corner of the city as almost 200,000 people get involved. Head to Perlan or Landakotskirkja church for the best views of the city. Plenty of small, private parties keep things hopping, and bars and clubs remain open well after midnight. Since Icelanders tend to go out late anyway, you’ll often find revelers up until the wee hours of the morning, dancing the night away.

Photo by: Guide to Iceland
Photo by: Guide to Iceland

3. Istanbul

Istanbul has been on the rise as a must-see destination for travelers, and what better time than New Year’s? While visiting this vibrant European capital is an experience and a half at any time of year, Istanbul one-ups itself on New Year’s Eve. Start your evening with a traditional Turkish meze dinner in a restaurant in Bebek or Istiklal Caddesi, where celebrations are a little tamer. Afterwards, join the jubilant crowd in the streets of Taksim or another part of the city, where revelers will organize impromptu street parties. If the crowded streets aren’t your scene, you can always book a river cruise along the Bosphorus and watch the celebrations from afar as you sail through the city. The best part is that you’ll have one of the best views for the stunning fireworks at the stroke of midnight.

Istanbul new years eve

2. Prague

Prague is known as one of Europe’s most beautiful cities and one of the most beautiful in the world. The “city of a hundred spires” comes alive on New Year’s Eve, which is also known as Silvestr. The streets will be packed with a rag-tag crowd of revelers, and bars, clubs and restaurants will be filled with party-goers. Much of the fun takes place at Wenceslas Square and Old Town Square. Fireworks are set off all around town (and perhaps with a bit of dangerous abandon), with one of the best displays occurring at Letna Gardens, which can be watched from nearby bridges and embankments. Champagne bottles are smashed during the celebrations, which means you might want to bring a helmet to this party, but who could resist ringing in the new year in the heart of Europe?

Prague New Years Eve

1. Berlin

Germany’s capital has something of a reputation as a party city throughout the year, so it makes sense that the city has a go-big-or-go-home attitude toward New Year’s festivities. The highlight is undoubtedly “Party Mile,” a 2-km stretch between Brandenburg Gate and the Victory Column, lined with bars, food stalls, music stages, party tents and laser light shows. The fireworks begin promptly at midnight, as do the toasts to the new year. Many people then hit the dancefloors of the city’s clubs, partying until well after sun-up. The Berliner Silversterlauf, the infamous New Year’s Eve “pancake run,” is another tradition in the city. Some people run the free 4-km race on New Year’s Day. Berlin expects to welcome approximately a million revelers to help ring in 2016—maybe you’ll be one of them.

Berlin New Years Eve

 

24 hours in Istanbul

Istanbul has long been thought of as the perfect blend of Europe and Asia; in fact, it is where Europe and Asia meet. Istanbul is an ethnic, yet familiar experience; it is exotic enough to be different, yet comforting enough for ease of travel. The people are friendly, the architecture is magnificent and the food is divine. So take a gander at some of the must-sees in Istanbul that make it one of the most intoxicating cities in the world. Get a taste for it in 24 hours, but it is a guarantee you will be back!

5. Marvel at the Hagia Sofia

First a basilica, then a mosque, and now a museum, the Hagia Sofia, built in the early 6th century, is one of the most historically important monuments in Istanbul (although every monument in Istanbul is important). The inside is filled with striking mosaics; the main area, famous for its impressive dome and gold mosaics, are so eye catching most people are reluctant to leave. Since being converted into a museum, the upstairs houses many galleries where you could spend the day wandering and learning Istanbul’s history.

Artur Bogacki / Shutterstock.com
Artur Bogacki / Shutterstock.com

4. Lose Yourself in the Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar: and overwhelming assault on all your senses. Step into this cultural mecca to experience such vibrant colors and smells that the rest of the world will after seem mundane. You could easily spend weeks wandering the heart of the old city; it is chaotic and crazy, yet not at all overwhelming. Wander the alleyways to watch local artisans at work, wander the back streets to discover some of the hidden hotspots and try not to get lost wandering this grand, historic labyrinth. There are obvious tourist spots, but explore off the path a bit and you will unearth a complete different and intoxicating way of life.

Luciano Mortula / Shutterstock.com
Luciano Mortula / Shutterstock.com

3. Rejuvenate at the Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamami

Those of you who are looking for a true Ottoman experience should schedule some time for a traditional Hammam; if you want to augment your experience even further, head to the Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamami, built exclusively for Roxelana , the wife of Suleiman the Magnificent. It is extravagant and relaxing, interesting yet strange, and is the best way to experience an Ottoman tradition still present today.

Photo by: Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamamı
Photo by: Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamamı

2. Tour Around the Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul is the landmark that comes to mind when thinking about Istanbul; upon first glance it is easy to see why it is the most photographed building in the city!  The exterior is easily recgonized for its dome-like structure, and the blue tiles adorning the walls inside are what have given the mosque its commonly used name. The outside of the building is the most stunning part of the landmark; the building is perfectly proportional and the vibrancy of walls is truly spectacular. Although the inside is remarkable and grand, to truly appreciate the grandeur of this building, approach it first through the courtyard (the largest of any Ottoman mosque) and you will get the most breathtaking view.

Blue Mosque istanbul

1. Take in the Istanbul Skyline

The Istanbul skyline is perhaps the most impressive of any majestic skyline; a look across the Bosporus strait offers an expansive view of Istanbul unrivaled anywhere else. To get the most out of the skyline, opt for a sunset ferry ride; as you maneuver around the boats, stand in awe as the sky ignites and the buildings turn black- a great end to a day in Istanbul.

Istanbul turkey

The Top 5 Must-Visit Destinations for Coffee Lovers

“Caffeine fix”, “cup of Joe”, “java”—whatever you call it, warm, delicious coffee has rabid devotees all around the world. Coffee’s worldwide prevalence also makes it the perfect sipper to seek out while travelling, so you can compare how coffee in a foreign city tastes to the kind you’re more familiar with back home. If you’re a coffee lover, consider a jaunt to one of these five cities; these destinations all boast coffee cultures that are certainly alive and kicking (thanks in part to all the caffeine running through their residents’ veins)!

5. Seattle, Washington, U.S.

Yes, Seattle is the home to coffee monolith Starbucks, but smaller specialty coffee shops thrive in this chilly city by the sea, too. In fact, Seattleites consume more coffee than residents of any other U.S. city! If you’re a ‘bucks devotee, then you can’t miss checking out the original Starbucks location at Pike Place Market, which opened in 1971—and is still operating in the same location today. In addition to Starbucks, Seattle is the home base for bigger roasting outfits like Tully’s Coffee and Seattle’s Best, although beloved independent coffeehouses like Café Allegro and Victrola Coffee Roasters help the city’s coffee scene really shine. Turns out nothing goes better with Seattle’s famously chilly, dreary weather than a warm cup of coffee.

Photo by: ctj71081 via Flickr
Photo by: ctj71081 via Flickr

4. Melbourne, Australia

It’s not all vegemite sandwiches down under—Australia’s got some good things brewing when it comes to coffee. Nowhere is that truer than the hip city of Melbourne, Australia’s unofficial coffee capital. Café culture is strong here, with the vibe of coffee shops shifting depending on their locations in Melbourne’s diverse neighborhoods. One thing that unites the city’s coffeehouses, though, is their focus on fostering community; you’ll often find long, communal tables in Melbourne’s coffee shops so patrons can sip their coffee while enjoying one another’s company. For a taste of the best that Melbourne has to offer, head to the Captains of Industry café off Somerset Place. Once you down your flat white, feel free to stick around for a while and pick up some grooming tips from the dapper men that hang out here—there’s even a barbershop and bespoke shoemaker upstairs!

Photo by: Captains of Industry - Gentlemans Outfitter and Cafe
Photo by: Captains of Industry – Gentlemans Outfitter and Cafe

3. Istanbul, Turkey

In Istanbul, they don’t serve up your “typical” cup of American-style coffee, so don’t even ask for it. Turkish coffee is famously rich, dark, and flavorful thanks to a unique brewing method. Turkish baristas grind their beans very finely into a meal, then boil the coffee in a specially designed Turkish coffee vessel called a cezve. The result? A full-bodied, thick cup of joe that’s certain to jolt you awake. Just make sure you don’t consume the last few sips of coffee left in your cup — since the coffee beans are ground so finely, quite a bit of grinds will collect in the bottom of your cup. For coffee sipping with a view, head to Galata Konak Café. The café’s terrace is situated on the top floor of a historic building, affording café goers great views of the Galata Tower, Bosphorus, and Golden Horn.

Photo by: Galata Konak Cafe
Photo by: Galata Konak Cafe

2. Vienna, Austria

Café culture is a point of pride in Austria’s capital; in fact, UNESCO listed the city’s coffee shops as “intangible heritage” in 2011. And with good reason—the stylish Viennese deck out their cafes with inspired furnishings and finishes, making them great spots to while away an afternoon in. On your trip to Vienna, accompany your stint of people watching with a cup of Melange, an espresso, steamed milk, and milk froth concoction that’s especially popular in Vienna. If you’re looking for a Viennese coffee shop that’s just a tad out of the ordinary, head to Cafe Neko, a “cat café” that opened in 2012. Here, you can stroke and play with a handful of rescue cats while you sip on some coffee—talk about a purrfect combination!

Photo by: American in Vienna
Photo by: American in Vienna

1. Rome, Italy

When in Rome, do as the Romans do, and drink lots and lots of coffee. Café culture is strong here, where shots of espresso are served up alongside cups of black coffee that may be slightly sweetened. And if you don’t want to be taken for an ignorant tourist, don’t order milk- and cream-based coffee drinks, like lattes, outside of breakfast time. To Italians, that’s a big no-no; they think milky coffee drinks later in the day contribute to indigestion. A must-stop destination on your Italian café tour? Antico Caffè Greco, an historic café off of Via dei Condotti, which opened in 1760 and owns the distinction of being the oldest bar in Rome. Goethe, Wagner, Byron, and even Casanova were reportedly regulars there. It’s time to add your name to that illustrious list!

Photo by: Italy Travelista/Nancy Aiello Tours
Photo by: Italy Travelista/Nancy Aiello Tours

10 Soccer Stadiums You Need to Visit

One of the best ways to experience a city as a local does is to attend its local sporting events. The crowds are often friendly (as long as no one makes the mistake of wearing the other team’s colors) and they’ll point out the best street food, the cheapest beer, and most likely, they’ll be using local slang to insult the opposition. But not all soccer teams are created equal, nor are their arenas. Read on to find the 10 sporting teams whose arenas should be on your bucket list.

10. Estádio Municipal de Braga – Braga, Portugal

The Estádio da Luz might be “the Cathedral” and Estádio José Alvalade is bright and beautiful, but it’s the Estádio Municipal that should be on soccer fans’ must-visit list. How many stadiums are carved out of a quarry? The Portuguese stadium might be unique in its setting, providing a beautiful place to watch a match. Only two sides of the field are flanked by stands, meaning the stadium is on the small side, holding just over 30,000. But a glance toward the hew rocks on one end, upon which the scoreboard stands, can fool visitors into believing they’re in the middle of nowhere. Look around to the other end, however, and the city of Braga sprawls below. The stadium sits just a 15 minute walk outside the city center, meaning there’s also plenty of opportunity to enjoy the delights of Portugal’s food and drink.

Photo by: Leon
Photo by: Leon

9. Anfield Stadium – Liverpool, England

For neutral fans wanting to catch a game in the country that gave birth to modern soccer, Anfield is by far the best choice. While Manchester United has a slick new complex and both Chelsea and Arsenal are located in London, all three are known for the rather tepid atmosphere pervading their stadiums. So for those seeking both a great stadium experience and a fun city to explore, the choice must be Anfield. Liverpool hasn’t won a major trophy in over a decade, but that doesn’t mean Reds fans are any less dedicated. The stadium is filled to capacity for nearly every league match, and the Kop – where the most vocal supporters sit – is guaranteed to be raucous. Be sure to learn the words to the club’s anthem, You’ll Never Walk Alone, before showing up at Anfield, as the entire stadium sings along just prior to kickoff.

nui7711 / Shutterstock.com
nui7711 / Shutterstock.com

8. Juventus Stadium – Turin, Italy

Serie A was once the top league in Europe, but Italian football is on the decline. That means less money, and less money means once-glorious stadiums like the San Siro in Milan are now crumbling. Juventus Stadium, however, provides not just a bright spot on the peninsula, but a prime model other clubs are in the process of emulating. Filled to almost its 40,000 capacity for every game, all that money goes to the team, a rarity in Italy. For Juventus, that means the ability to buy better players, which has lead to a run of league titles. For fans, it means getting to watch great soccer in the comfort of a modern stadium. For the visitor, it’s a wonderful atmosphere with seats almost right on top of the field. In short, it’s where to go to see the future of Italian soccer.

Pix4Pix / Shutterstock.com
Pix4Pix / Shutterstock.com

7. Maracanã Stadium – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Brazil’s Maracanã is one of the most famous stadiums in the world. Even those who have no idea of its history (the venue was built to wow visitors coming to Brazil for the 1950 World Cup) would likely recognize it as an icon. All those memorable shots of Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue, broadcast to millions during the 2014 World Cup final, often showed the stadium in the background. Visitors might be disappointed to learn they can’t see the famous statue from inside any longer, however, as the roof has been extended to protect nearly every seat in the house. But the upgrades make this a great place to watch a game, from the open, single tier of yellow and blue seats to the airy roof above. And lovers of soccer history will be thrilled to know they’re sitting in the same stadium where the legendary striker Pelé scored his 1,000th goal.

T photography / Shutterstock.com
T photography / Shutterstock.com

6. Celtic Park – Glasgow, Scotland

Celtic played their first match at Parkhead, as fans refer to the stadium, way back in 1892. The park has come a long way since those days when just one wooden stand loomed over the field. Rebuilt in the 1990s, 60,000 seats now enclose the field, and the noise from the stands creates an intimidating atmosphere for visiting teams. Those wanting to catch a game at Celtic Park should try to get tickets to an Old Firm derby, when Celtic play their rivals Rangers. More difficult to find now that Rangers are in the second division, when a tournament draws these two together, these tickets are some of the hottest in Europe. Not only does the Old Firm pit the two most successful teams in Scottish history together, but it brings together passionate fans that absolutely despise the other side, making for a cracking atmosphere.

Cornfield / Shutterstock.com
Cornfield / Shutterstock.com

5. Estadio Azteca – Mexico City, Mexico

Club América is one of the most successful teams in Mexico, and it’s definitely worth a trip to watch them play Chivas Guadalajara, another of the country’s best and América’s most bitter rivals. But the real reason to come to this stadium is for international matches. The Mexico national soccer team, nicknamed El Tri, rarely ever loses a game at its home stadium, largely due to the intimidating atmosphere in the stands, which hold more than 95,000 spectators. Even when El Tri isn’t playing, history gets made. The Azteca, the first stadium to host two World Cup finals, has given the world some of the most famous moments in soccer. In 1970, Italy beat West Germany 4-3 in what’s known as the “Game of the Century,” while 1986 brought not only the “Goal of the Century” from Diego Maradona, but his infamous “Hand of God” incident against England.

Jess Kraft / Shutterstock.com
Jess Kraft / Shutterstock.com

4. Türk Telekom Arena – Istanbul, Turkey

Once the holders of the Guinness Book of World Records title for the loudest crowd noise at a sporting event, now Galatasaray fans behave as though they’re determined to take back their crown. The Türk Telekom Arena isn’t one of the biggest in the sport, holding just over 50,000, but the cim bom faithful know how to create a fantastic atmosphere. Galatasaray supporters are also partial to fire, so keep an eye out for flares and flames coming from the sections that house the hardcore fans. For those lucky enough to score a ticket to the Intercontinental Derby, when city rivals Fenerbahçe come to visit, huge displays of choreography and massive banners exalting Galatasaray are to be expected. Expect to be entertained by antics on the pitch as well, as tempers flare there’s usually at least one sending off.

Photo by: Omer via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Omer via Wikimedia Commons

3. La Bombonera – Buenos Aires, Argentina

Officially named the Estadio Alberto J. Armando, this stadium is called “La Bombonera” due to the fact that it resembles a chocolate box, having originally been built in a U-shape, although the fourth side is now filled with a low stand and VIP boxes. The addition of more space for spectators along that fourth side hasn’t diminished the stadium’s acoustics. The triple-tiered stands along three sides trap the noise, aiding the 49,000 supporters in creating an atmosphere hostile to visiting teams. The smallish capacity can make tickets hard to come by, especially if Boca Juniors are playing rivals River Plate, but the experience of being among such passionate fans is worth the effort. Take time before the game to walk around La Bombonera, admiring the murals depicting important moments in Boca Juniors’ history – particularly the choosing of the club’s famed blue and yellow colors.

Jess Kraft / Shutterstock.com
Jess Kraft / Shutterstock.com

2. Camp Nou – Barcelona, Spain

The biggest soccer stadium that can be found outside North Korea, the Camp Nou is on nearly every serious soccer fan’s bucket list. And no wonder: the stadium plays host to one of the most successful teams in Europe and offers a stage to many of the best players on earth.The fans also demonstrate a fierce pride in Catalonia, the autonomous region in which Barcelona is located. The club’s Catalan motto, “Mes que un club”, is spelled out in the seats, the supporters sing in Catalan, and the region’s flag waves throughout the stands. If going to El Clásico, the meeting between Barça and Real Madrid, read up on the political background for some fascinating insights into the rivalry. Even without a visit from the rivals, however, visitors are certain to see some wonderful soccer played out.

Natursports / Shutterstock.com
Natursports / Shutterstock.com

1. Westfalenstadion – Dortmund, Germany

The absolute best place to go for fans who want to experience both entertaining soccer and a fantastic atmosphere. Officially named Signal Iduna Park, the Westfalenstadion is the biggest in Germany and one of the largest in Europe, holding 81,359 when both seating and standing are included. While standing is not allowed when Borussia Dortmund are playing in European tournaments, it is their standing section that is perhaps the most attractive feature of a trip to the stadium. Die Gelbe Wand, or the Yellow Wall, comprises the Westfalenstadion southern terrace. It was named so because Dortmund’s primary color is bright yellow. The wall is an intimidating sight, featuring 25,000 supporters doing their best to strike fear in the heart of the opposition. Also watch for Dortmund’s tifo, or giant banners, unfurled in impressive displays of choreography as the match begins.

Photo by: lackystrike via Flickr
Photo by: lackystrike via Flickr

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 15 Most Visited Cities in the World 2015

We assume some cities to be de facto tourist meccas; we’re told over and over again that places like Paris, London and Rome are places that every traveler must visit in their lifetime. But have you ever wondered just how many people visit some of these cities each year—or, indeed, which cities attract the largest share of international tourists? While some of the tried-and-true destinations have made the cut for 2015, other entries on the list of the top 15 most visited cities might surprise you.

15. Milan, Italy

Perhaps most famous as Italy’s fashion powerhouse, the city of Milan is much more than that. Located in northern Italy, it is also home to Italy’s largest stock exchange, two major soccer teams and numerous theaters, museums and monuments. Milan has something to offer each one of its seven plus million visitors each year. Notable sites around the city include the Santa Maria delle Grazie, a UNESCO World Heritage site decorated by Leonardo da Vinci paintings. Although the city itself is entirely flat terrain, the nearby Alps form part of its cityscape, and the city’s proximity to Alpine tourist destinations have positioned it as a gateway community. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is the world’s oldest shopping mall and is located on the Piazza Duomo, near the fifth-largest church in the world, Milan Cathedral.

Milan, Italy

14. Rome, Italy

Given Rome’s ubiquitous position as the cradle of Western civilization and European civilization in particular, as well as its unique reputation as a tourist destination, it’s perhaps surprising that Rome didn’t rank higher on this list. Still, with a projected 7.4 million tourists in 2015, tourism to Rome is nothing to sneeze at. Rome is home to some of Europe’s most famous historical monuments, such as the Colosseum and St. Peter’s Basilica. Religious tourism to Rome is still an important factor; although the Vatican is a separate state, it is located inside Rome and many visitors tour through Rome’s churches as well. Under the influence of numerous popes, Rome has undergone a program of patronage since the Renaissance that aimed to make it the cultural and artistic center of the world—a lofty goal and one that has resulted in Rome long being a mecca for people around the world.

eternal city Rome

13. Amsterdam, The Netherlands

When The Netherlands first legalized the sale of cannabis in coffee shops, a running joke became that most young North American tourists would hit Amsterdam for one reason and one reason alone. While some of the city’s 7.44 million international tourists might visit for that reason, there are many other things to do and see in the Dutch capital. Amsterdam is, of course, famous for its cannabis cafes and red light district, which attracts many visitors, but other aspects of its nightlife, including numerous discotheques and world-renowned jazz clubs, are equally attractive to tourists. The city’s architecture, historical buildings and many museums are also incentive for visitors. Anne Frank’s House and the Van Gogh Museum are just two of the many historic sites frequented by tourists. The city is also well-known for its system of canals, which add to its picturesque appeal.

Amsterdam

12. Barcelona, Spain

Capital of the autonomous region of Catalonia, in Spain, Barcelona has a long history of tourism: in medieval times, it was an important site for Christian pilgrims. Today, the tourism industry is still an important and growing part of Barcelona’s economy, with more than 7.5 million people expected to visit the city in 2015. Barcelona rivals Madrid, the country’s capital, in terms of major attractions and historic sites; the city boasts no fewer than eight UNESCO World Heritage sites and many museums. As the largest metropolis on the Mediterranean, Barcelona has also become internationally renowned for its many beaches; many Spaniards vacation in Barcelona for the beaches and the practice is catching on with foreign visitors. Notable sites include the fortress at Montjuic and the Basilica of La Merce, as well as the stunning, yet incomplete, Sagrada Familia Basilica.

Park Guell Barcelona Spain

11. Tokyo, Japan

Whether you’re looking for exciting subculture fashion, interested in experiencing the Japanese tradition of kabuki theater, or just want to eat the freshest sushi in the world, Tokyo has you covered. Japan’s capital city is a sprawling urban metropolis littered with skyscrapers, excellent restaurants and renowned museums, and interspersed with parks and greenspace. Various districts of the city are dedicated to nightlife (Roppongi and Shibuya), fashion subcultures (Harajuku) and electronics (Akihabara). Ancient Shinto shrines and historic castles are a testament to Tokyo’s long history as the center of Japanese culture, and now you can mingle with ultra-modern architecture like Tokyo Skytree and the iconic Tokyo Tower. With slightly over eight million foreign tourists expected in 2015, Tokyo continues to be one of the most visited cities in the world, although it remains outside of the top 10.

Tokyo

10. Hong Kong, China

In 1997, Hong Kong became an autonomous region of the People’s Republic of China. Beginning in the 1970s, the city developed into a global metropolis, functioning as a center for trade and finance. Hong Kong also developed an entertainment industry, producing many popular kung-fu action films. Today, more than 8.5 million people visit the city each year, some for business and others for pleasure. The cityscape is decidedly modern, with the number of skyscrapers outnumbering any other city in the world; architecture has blended between Eastern and Western styles, and elements of traditional culture, like feng shui and dim sum, mingle easily with Western influences. Despite this, Hong Kong is also renowned for its geographical features: its deep harbor has made it an important port, nearby Mount Kowloon offers steep terrain and the rugged coastline has many excellent beaches.

Hong Kong

9. Seoul, South Korea

More than 10 million foreign tourists are expected to visit Seoul in 2015. The financial, cultural and political heart of South Korea, Seoul was first designed as a capital city in the 14th century. The city’s lengthy list of historic buildings and UNESCO World Heritages sites includes palaces and temples, as well as the remains of neolithic settlements unearthed nearby. Two old residential districts are now preserved as museums to showcase traditional Korean culture and lifeways, including hanok houses. Seoul has many more museums, such as the Kimchi Field Museum. But Seoul isn’t all about the past; the city boasts some of the world’s most design-forward modern architecture and was named a World Design Capital in 2010. Ultra-modern buildings mingle with numerous parks, creating a unique and attractive cityscape near Mount Namsan.

Top Cities 2013 - Seoul

8. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The capital of Malaysia will attract more than 11 million international visitors in 2015, making it the 8th most visited city in the world. Tourism and shopping are major drivers of the Malaysian economy and nowhere is that more evident than Kuala Lumpur, which functions as the largest retail center in the country with 66 shopping malls. Major attractions include the Petronas Towers, the tallest twin towers in the world, the National Palace and the Jamek Mosque. Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown, is another notable destination for tourists, and the Hindu celebration of Thaipusam and its procession to Batu Caves is a major cultural festival that attracts visitors from many different locales. The city also functions as a hub for entertainment, art and events, including sports and music festivals. Kuala Lumpur is also noted for its multiethnic blend of cuisines and architectures.

Top Cities 2013 - Kuala Lumpur

7. Singapore City, Singapore

Nearly 12 million people will visit the city-state of Singapore during the course of 2015. Over the last decade, the country has garnered a reputation for being a “luxury” destination, with many high-end hotel chains setting up shop, and the legalization of gambling heralding casino tourism. The island country’s biggest draw, however, is said to be its cuisine: Singapore’s multiethnic mix has led to a unique fusion of Indian, Malay and Chinese cuisines—like the Peranakan style of cooking, a hybridization of Chinese and Malay culinary traditions. There are many restaurants and, in fact, dining is said to be one of Singapore’s national pastimes. Architecture in the city-state similarly reflects the fusion of various cultural influences. Water sports such as sailing, scuba diving and water skiing are popular recreational pastimes, while soccer is a popular sport to watch.

Singapore city at night

6. New York City, United States

The only American entry on this list, New York City remains the U.S. destination of choice for international tourists, with over almost 12.3 million people expected to visit in 2015. Attractions such as the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building continue to draw visitors, while major events like New York Fashion Week pulls in crowds from around the world. Times Square and Broadway also remain popular attractions for international visitors, while shopping, cuisine and nightlife are alluring for many others who choose to take a bite out of the Big Apple. Other notable sites include Central Park and the Brooklyn Bridge. For many, New York remains the premier American destination, ranking well ahead of other U.S. cities like Los Angeles. As America’s largest city, NYC is likely to remain the country’s biggest tourist draw as well.

New York City Times Square

5. Istanbul, Turkey

With over 12.5 million foreign tourists projected to visit in 2015, Istanbul is both the fastest growing destination in Europe and the 5th most visited city in the world. Located along the Bosphorus, the city has been an important center of European civilization since the time of the ancient Greeks. Situated at the heart of two historically important empires, Istanbul has a long and illustrious heritage. It’s easily one of Europe’s most multicultural cities, thanks to its unique positioning on the edge of both Europe and Asia. It was named a European Capital of Culture in 2012. The city boasts mosques and churches, bazaars and malls and a treasure trove of other attractions. Traditional Turkish cuisine, such as kebabs, are popular and the city is also well-known for a vibrant entertainment industry and nightlife. Its historic center, a partial UNESCO World Heritage site, remains the most popular tourist attraction.

Top Cities 2013 - Istanbul

4. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai is the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates and has recently emerged onto the global stage through its innovative architecture, such as the world’s tallest skyscraper and its history of hosting major sporting events. A center of world banking, Dubai has earned a reputation for being both pricey and luxurious—as a vacation destination, it’s often lauded as a sort of playground for the rich and famous. Its skyline is dominated by the Burj Khalifa, currently the world’s tallest building at 828 meters. The Burj al Arab is another iconic structure. Dubai’s attitude is clearly go big or go home: the Dubai Miracle Garden, opened in 2013, is the world’s largest flower garden and the Dubai Mall is the largest mall in the world. More than 14 million people are expected to visit Dubai from other countries in 2015 as tourism continues to grow.

Sophie James / Shutterstock.com
Sophie James / Shutterstock.com

3. Paris, France

Oh Paris,  the iconic city of love with its grandiose Eiffel Tower ranked 3rd on this list. Being the 3rd most visited city in the world says something about how many people travel here each year. Paris will attract over 16 million foreign tourists in 2015, and it is well behind the first and second-place cities. Nonetheless, Paris remains a top-tier destination for many travelers, often considered a must-take trip or a bucket-list destination. The capital of France is noted for its cuisine, including its many bistros and cafes, along with many 3-star restaurants. The Arc de Triomphe, the Palace of Versailles, the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Louvre are all popular tourist attractions. Paris is also known as a center of fashion, hosting the twice annual Paris Fashion Week. The city is also the host of several important sporting events, including the finish of the Tour de France and the Paris Grand Slam tennis tournament.

Top Cities 2013 - Paris

2. Bangkok, Thailand

Thailand’s capital city is on-track to receive more than 18 million foreign tourists in 2015, making it the second most visited city in the world. With world-class shopping and dining and a dynamic nightlife, Bangkok offers something for everyone to see and do. Another major driver of travel to Bangkok is sex tourism; Bangkok has actually earned the nickname “Sin City of Asia” as a result of how many visitors it receives on account of the industry. Other visitors are attracted by the city’s mix of historical buildings, showcasing a variety of influences and cultures. Notable sites are Wat Phra Kaew, a Buddhist temple in the Grand Palace, and Jim Thompson House, considered an outstanding example of Thai architecture. As the seat of the Thai government and the royal family, Bangkok is also a hub for major cultural events, such as religious celebrations and festivals.

Top Cities 2013 - Bangkok

1. London, United Kingdom

London is projected to receive almost 19 million foreign tourists in 2015, making it the most visited city in the world. The U.K.’s capital ranks among its European counterparts, like Paris and Rome, boasting numerous landmarks, iconic monuments and a host of other tourist attractions. The city has numerous museums and a strong arts scene, as well as a world-renowned shopping district (High Street) and fashion industry, which includes the twice-annual London Fashion Show. Notable sites include Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, the Shard, Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster. The city also has a large theater district in the West End, with more than 40 theaters. The British Museum, the Tate Museum and the National Gallery were the top three attractions in 2010. Even the transit system is iconic: the London Underground is the oldest underground railway in the world.

Top Cities 2013 - London