15 Best Retirement Cities in Europe

Retirement is an exciting time of wrapping up your many years of service to society and starting a new adventure in life using all the knowledge and wisdom you’ve acquired over the years. Then comes the question of where to live – where you have your whole adult life? Or moving to an incredibly beautiful, new location? Well, it’s not like I’m biased or anything, but I feel like your biggest adventure can start with where you live. Check out these places you may not have considered moving to.

 

1. Pau, France

A well-loved area of France, Pau is also known as the Garden City, filled with woodlands, friendly locals and a lively college student community. It is also in Wine Country and has the ancient town Gaves De Bearn within.

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2. Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona is one of those places that is easy to navigate in and is filled with beauty around every corner. It is Spain’s second largest city and will keep your mind stimulated with all it’s historic landmarks.

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3. Gozo, Malta

Why wouldn’t you want to live here? Oh my goodness it’s stunning. Retire to Gozo, Malta which is filled with sunshine and the ocean. Welcoming locals will want to involve you in their Karnival traditions and you will never run out of places to explore by foot and by boat.

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4. Cascais, Portugal

This small town is filled with incredible architecture and breathtaking views. Looking out onto peaceful waters, this little community is filled with incredible restaurants and stunning designer boutiques.

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5. Canton of Valais, Switzerland

Home to the world renowned mountain Matterhorn, this incredible location will not disappoint. Visit the Ice Palace nearby or after hitting the slopes,  take a weekly trip to the closest thermal spa. This little spot will hold a special place in your heart once you settle in for your retirement years.

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6. Abruzzo, Italy

Instead of a city, this region of Italy is absolutely stunning and couldn’t be reduced to just one city. With fantastic house prices and welcoming locals, this area of Italy is well loved by locals and expats alike.

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7. Paris, France

When you’re surrounded with culture, you can only become a better person. Paris is one of those places where you will always keep learning and experiencing new things while travelling through the city for only 1.90 Euros for public transit. With movies, museums, local grocers and bakers nearby, you’ll always get the best of everything. Talk about a luxurious retirement!

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8. Halkidiki, Greece

A gorgeous location with reasonable home prices is the perfect recipe for a successful retirement. Who would’ve thought that you could afford a dream location like this?

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9. Algarve, Portugal

Stunning, isn’t it? With affordable real estate, sunny weather and sandy beaches, I don’t see why you wouldn’t just retire tomorrow and move here as soon as humanly possible!

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10. Dusseldorf, Germany

Dusseldorf is a city filled with culture and overall joy. Listed as the city with the second best quality of life, retirees will find a vibrant city culture in their new home. The city also is a hub of finance, fashion and the arts, so there is always much to see and do any day of the week.

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11. Gdansk, Poland

Listed as one of the happiest places to live, Gdansk will light up your life with it’s strong community. Gdansk is also known as the City of Freedom for playing a vital role in the collapse of communism.

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12. Bruck an der Mur, Austria

This tiny town is clearly under rated. With mouth watering good food, historical monuments tucked away for you to discover, and good health care, what else can you ask for?

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13. Munich, Germany

Discover the historic and photogenic city of Munich! It is considered the most liveable city by the Mercer Quality of Life Index and has the best healthcare in Germany. You can sleep easy knowing that you will be well cared for in this diverse city.

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14. Dorset, England

This quaint little county has views that will make you stop in your tracks to fully take in the beauty in front of you. Dorset attracts retirees so many friendly neighbours await, and there is a high level of health for the 65+ age group.

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15. Bergen, Norway

Did you know that Norway is the world’s happiest country? Bergen is Norway’s second largest city, but has the feel of a small town. Located near dramatic waterfalls, breathtaking Fjords, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, there is no shortage of beauty here.

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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

 

The 10 Best Cities in the World 2015

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

10. London, England

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

elenaburn / Shutterstock.com
elenaburn / Shutterstock.com

9. Kyoto, Japan

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

TungCheung / Shutterstock.com
TungCheung / Shutterstock.com

8. Bruges, Belgium

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

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

7. Prague, Czech Republic

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

Prague, Czech Republic

6. Rome, Italy

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

Vatican Museums Rome

5. Paris, France

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

cesc_assawin / Shutterstock.com
cesc_assawin / Shutterstock.com

4. Sydney, Australia

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

Bondi Beach Sydney Australia

3. Vienna, Austria

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

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

2. Budapest, Hungary

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

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

1. Florence, Italy

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

Florence Italy

15 Amazing Film Locations From the James Bond 007 Franchise

Since 1962, the suave secret agent known as Bond has been thrilling cinema-goers with his climatic action sequences, high-tech gadgets and steamy romance scenes. Everyone loves a good action movie (after all, these films have been in production for over 50 years) but one of the best parts of any 007 film is seeing all the magnificent scenery on the screen as Bond tours around the world chasing evil villains. But did you ever wonder where exactly were these amazing films shot? In fact, these beautiful locations do exist in real life. Here are 15 amazing real life locations featured in the Bond films:

15. Altausse Jagdhaus Seewiese, Austria

Aston Martins. Designer suits. The rugged beauty of the Austrian mountains in the background. High stakes espionage never looked so good. In Spectre, follow James Bond (Daniel Craig) on his globetrotting adventures across Europe. As he tracks down an international criminal conspiracy, he finds himself at Altausse Jagdhaus Seewiese for a daytime spy rendezvous. The historic mountain cottage is nestled in a small village with a stunning backdrop of the Austrian mountain range. Dating back to the Triassic and Jurassic periods, the hills of the quaint mountain town are dotted with houses for postcard perfect surroundings. The cozy log cabin is a favorite spot for hearty food and beer with a view of the waterfront and surrounding mountains. A bit of fresh mountain air, a high-speed chase through the forest, and a snack at this gastropub is the perfect combination to keep 007 in top form.

Photo by: Mi6 Community
Photo by: Mi6 Community

14. Blenheim Palace, United Kingdom

As 007 suits up and jet sets his way across the globe, he stops by the Blenheim Palace in hot pursuit of dangerous villains. In Spectre, he dodges bullets and combats criminals at the Blenheim Palace, an Oxfordshire country house in the United Kingdom. Built in the early 1700s, the palace is a rare example of English Baroque architecture and is considered one of England’s historical treasures. Over the centuries, it has been home to dukes of Marlborough, a prestigious group of aristocrats whose family still owns the revered palace. Plan for an unforgettable day in the English countryside at the World Heritage Site, which consists of an impressive 12,500 acres of grand estates, gardens, and ancient forests. While touring the exquisite and well-preserved grounds of the palace, get ready to imagine the dukes and ladies of the Old World sipping top shelf brandy in the parlor while the butlers and maids did the dirty work.

Amra Pasic / Shutterstock.com
Amra Pasic / Shutterstock.com

13. Vauxhall Bridge, London

In the world of high stakes espionage, James Bond (Danile Craig) returns to his old stomping grounds of London in his latest feature Spectre. In between high-speed chases and sniper rifle shootouts, we catch a glimpse of the historic Vauxhall Bridge, a steel and granite arch bridge situated along the River Thames. Built in 1906, the historic bridge stands out with its original ornate detailing and bright red color. Often used in establishing shots for films set in London, the bridge is featured in a daytime establishing shot right before 007 gets entangled in a deadly spy tryst. Formerly known as Regent Bridge, Vauxhaull Bridge still retains its early 20th century splendor and continues to serve as a main artery of London’s highway system, carrying the A202 over the Thames.

Vauxhall Bridge, London

12. Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice

Follow in the footsteps of the legendary 007 as he suits up for a dangerous mission in Casino Royale. First stop is the historic Church of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice, Italy, for a spy meeting and deadly combat, because in the world of espionage, anything could happen. In this case, the setting is the ancient and revered water city that contains some of the world’s best-preserved buildings, including the San Giorgio Maggiore that dates back to the 16th century. While Bond gets entangled in a deadly showdown with international criminals, the cherished church sits in the background with its unique Renaissance architecture. Get ready to travel back in time to the Old World in a city that still retains its original magnificence of centuries past. Venice is also rare in that it is one of the few remaining walking cities in the world.

Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice
kavalenkau / Shutterstock.com

11. Kaiserbad Spa, Czech Republic

Set in a world of backstabbing, deadly combat, and death-defying stunts, James Bond (Daniel Craig) heads to the heart of Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic for the final showdown at Casino Royale. Standing in for the exterior of the high-end gambling palace is the Kaiserbad Spa, the lavish and opulent former spa that is considered the crown jewel of the historic village. Although it is now closed to the public, it is worth seeing its preserved neo-Baroque architecture up close on a stroll down the nearby Goethova stezka and Marianskolazenska near the Tepla River. Once inside the high stakes casino, Bond has one chance to take down Le Chiffe as he hedges his bets on the poker game of a lifetime. In this deadly game, Bond either wins or dies, but for travelers to the spa town of Karlovy Vary, it’s a leisurely stroll through a charming old-world village.

Photo by: Panoramio/Sergey Brandys
Photo by: Panoramio/Sergey Brandys

10. Venetian Lagoon, Italy

After completing his death-defying mission in Casino Royale, James Bond (Daniel Craig) follows up with M (Judi Dench) with his latest espionage intel while cruising around the Venetian Lagoon on a luxury speed boat. Travelers to the historic water city of Venice, Italy can opt for a more traditional tour of the famous lagoon in an authentic gondola ride. Making up part of the Adriatic Sea, the enclosed bay stretches from the River Sile in the north of Venice. Visitors have the option of booking a tour of the Lagoon or making their own trip in a rented speedboat. Another option is hopping on a cheap water taxi mostly filled with locals who work or live on one of the islands. With hundreds of islands in the Lagoon, get ready to explore the glass-making center of Murano, the cemetery in San Michelle, and the colorful painted houses of Burano.

Venetian Lagoon Italy

9. Grand Hotel Pupp, Czech Republic

In the next generation of the Bond Franchise, 007 (Daniel Craig) puts on his best dinner tux and gathers his high tech spy gadgets for the final showdown between Le Chiffre, a deadly arms dealer. In Casino Royale, the dangerous mission takes him to the historic spa village of Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic. In between combat with deadly assassins, the luxurious old world Grand Hotel Pupp stands majestically in the background. Dating back to 1701, the hotel is a unique example of neo-Baroque architecture in all its well-preserved splendor. Today, the luxury hotel offers vintage style opulence and world-renowned spa treatments in the heart of the popular spa village. After some rest and relaxation, wander around the historic town full of ancient gems like the famous hot springs, the Thermal Spring Colonnade, and Church of St. Mary Magdalene. Bond may fight dirty, but he does it in style.

Irina Burmistrova / Shutterstock.com
Irina Burmistrova / Shutterstock.com

8. Santa Maria della Salute, Venice

Top secret missions, spy rendezvous, exotic locales. Looks like James Bond is back to take out some deadly assassins in Casino Royale, the latest installment of the blockbuster franchise. Along the way, he makes a stop at the Santa Maria della Salute, a well-preserved historic landmark. Situated in the celebrated water city of Venice, Italy, the Roman Catholic Church dates back to 1681 and is quite an impressive structure with its domed ceilings, intricate and opulent Baroque details, and exclusive works by Titian, a celebrated artist of the Italian Renaissance. Designed by Baldassare Longhena, the church was built as a dedication to Our Lady of Health in the desperate hope that it would end the devastating outbreak of the plague. Although the holy structure didn’t curb the deadly disease, Venetians continued to pray and offer sacraments to the saints on the steps of the magnificent Santa Maria della Salute, the gem of Venice.

Santa Maria della Salute

7. Big Ben, London

For international secret agent James Bond, London is spy headquarters in the 1964 Goldfinger, a classic of the blockbuster franchise. As 007 (Sean Connery) gears up for a risky espionage mission involving an international criminal conspiracy, the Big Ben is featured in a daytime establishing shot. One of the most iconic and recognizable symbols of London, Big Ben is the nickname for the clock situated at the north end of the Westminster Palace. Established in 1858, Big Ben holds the honor of being the world’s largest four-faced chiming clock. The best way to get an up close look of the clock tower is a walk on the footpath of Westminster Bridge where you’ll get a breathtaking view of Big Ben, the House of Parliament, and the Lambeth and Vauxhall Bridges nearby. It might be a classic from the 60s, but the historic icons still retain its original splendor.

Big Ben, London

6. Fontainebleau, Miami

In the classic 1964 Goldfinger of the James Bond franchise, the first scene opens up to a sky view of Miami Beach and an establishing shot of the Fontainebleau, one of the most iconic and recognizable hotels in the world. Established in 1954, the hotel has seen stars like Jackie Gleason, the Rat Pack, and other celebrities throughout the decades come through its doors, lounging in swanky jazz clubs and oceanfront cabanas. In the 50s, Miami experienced an economic boom and quickly became the Hollywood hotspot for celebrities on vacation. The hotel has also been featured in several movies, and in the case of Sean Connery’s 007, he’s busy getting some massage action with a cute blonde, and with the pool and a martini close by, of course. After a cocktail and a swim, Bond is ready to talk shop with Felix before suiting up for his next mission.

Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock.com
Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock.com

5. Swiss Alps, Switzerland

Channel your debonair spy swagger and head for the hills, literally. In Spectre, Bond (Daniel Craig) finds himself speeding in his vintage Aston Martin along winding roads of the Swiss Alps in pursuit of deadly international criminals. After arriving in Zurich by train or a direct international flight, hop in a rental car and head to the Klausen Passis, the first large alpine pass and also the passageway directly into the heart of the Central Alps. Another benefit of the Klausen Pass Highway is that it isn’t typically busy, just a few locals, driving enthusiasts, and the occasional suave secret agent. Once inside the Alps, get ready for breathtaking scenery, including ancient forests, and granite plateaus and peaks typical of the Swiss Alps. Along the way, there are several waterfalls, which are the most powerful in the spring and early summer.

Swiss Alps, Switzerland

4. Barbican Center, London

Set in the glamorous but deadly world of international espionage, 007 (Daniel Craig) makes a stop at spy central in London. In Quantum of Solace, the Barbican Center is featured in a daytime establishing shot right before James Bond meets with his MI-6 handlers for intel on his next mission. Standing in as the main office of the Secret Intelligence Service is the Barbican Center, a major cultural venue located on Silk Road. Home to the London Symphony Orchestra, plus several art galleries, theaters, a concert hall, and cinemas, the Barbican Center is a popular hotspot for upscale shopping and entertainment. One of the largest culture centers in Europe, it is easy to spend a day and evening filled with films, concerts, and art exhibitions that are offered almost every night of the week.

Claudio Divizia / Shutterstock.com
Claudio Divizia / Shutterstock.com

3. Instituto Nacional de Cultura de Panama

Standing in for the Andean Grand Hotel and the setting of James Bond’s showdown is the Instituto Nacional de Cultura de Panama, a popular building in San Felipe. As he battles deadly assassins with spy gadgets and designer suits, you might catch a glimpse of the San Felipe neighborhood in a high-speed chase sequence in Quantum of Solace. Housed in a white colonial style mansion, the institute is located in the old courthouse and is responsible for promoting arts and culture of the Republic of Panama. The building is also home to the Anita Villaluz theatre, a popular space for film exhibitions and performances relating to the history of Panamanian tradition and the voices of the future. In the case of 007, it’s just another day of espionage in paradise.

«Instituto Nacional de Cultura Panama» por Mel Ortega - http://www.flickr.com/photos/melortpanama/4294352559/in/set-72157618470965651. Disponible bajo la licencia CC BY 2.0 vía Wikimedia Commons.
«Instituto Nacional de Cultura Panama» por Mel Ortegahttp://www.flickr.com/photos/melortpanama/4294352559/in/set-72157618470965651. Disponible bajo la licencia CC BY 2.0 vía Wikimedia Commons.

2. The Langham Hotel, London

Get ready to enter a deadly world of the elite class and James Bond in hot pursuit of criminal masterminds. In Golden Eye, Pierce Brosnan has a license to kill but first he needs a relaxing evening with a femme fatale. In this case, he finds himself at the Langham Hotel in London, one of Europe’s finest historic hotels. Since 1865, the grand hotel has attracted royalty, celebrities, and high-class villains of 007 fame. Feel like an English aristocrat in the same hotel where Charles Dickens, Prince of Wales, and high society of the Victorian era flaunted their wealth and prestige. If you’re feeling especially extravagant, splurge on The Sterling Suite, an opulent palace fit for a king.

"Langham london" by The Langham, London - The Langham, London. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.
Langham london” by The Langham, London – The Langham, London. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

1. Regent Street, London

In the mid 90s, the Bond franchise was still going blockbuster with non-stop action, and Golden Eye (1995) was no exception. Follow Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond as he tracks down an international criminal conspiracy on a high-speed chase through Regent Street, a major shopping area in the west end of London. He’s driving his BMW 73 at lightening speed but visitors can take a more leisurely stroll to get a closer look at the streets bustling with locals or tourists who are busy shopping or lounging in stylish cafes. Close by the Picadilly Circus and Oxford Circus underground stations, the historic neighborhood dates back to the early 1800s with its well-preserved Georgian architecture as a magnificent piece of old London. Although it took a few centuries to break ground, the result was Regent Street and its stately elegance of Neo-Georgian style.

pisaphotography / Shutterstock.com
pisaphotography / Shutterstock.comslideshow

12 European Christmas Market Images To Get You Into The Holiday Spirit

For many, the holidays just seem to kind of sneak up on us. It’s not that we don’t know they’re coming, or that we’re not feverishly planning with them in mind, but it seems that we rarely get into the Christmas spirit until we’re well and truly in the midst of it. Many European countries enhance the lead up to December 25th with the appearance of Christmas Markets in many cities and towns, which celebrate the season and get everyone into the holiday spirit. The Christmas Market is a long standing European tradition, with roots dating back as far as 1294. To help you get into the holiday spirit a little earlier this year, here are 12 great images from Christmas Markets around the world:

12. Strasbourg, France

Founded in 1570, Strasbourg’s Christmas Market is the oldest and most famous in all of France. The city is known as “the Capital of Christmas” and proudly displays the deep rooted history and traditions of Alsatian Christmas.

Strasbourg France Christmas market

11. London, England

There’s no shortage of beautiful Christmas Markets to explore and enjoy in the city of London. The Southbank Centre Winter Festival, Hyde Park Winter Wonderland and the Christmas Market at Tate Modern are all excellent choices for shopping and general holiday merriment!

Christmas market london UK

10. South Tyrol, Italy

In the South Tyrol region of Italy, each little town has it’s own unique Christmas Market with plenty of holiday cheer. The market in Bolzano is known as Italy’s largest Christmas Market and draws visitors from far and wide to the beautifully decorated Piazza Walther.

christmas market Tyrol Italy

9. Dresden, Germany

Also known as the Striezelmarkt, the Christmas Market in Dresden is one of the oldest documented markets in Germany. The market which runs through the Advent season up until Christmas Eve, celebrated its 580th anniversary in 2014.

Christmas market Dresden Germany

8. Trento, Italy

Each year at the end of November, the little wooden stalls are set up against the historic walls of Castle of Buonconsiglio for Trento’s annual Christmas Market. One of the market highlights is “I sapori del mercatino”, which means “The flavor of the Christmas Market”, in which visitors can sample delicious sweets, schnapps, wine and sausage products.

Orietta Gaspari / Shutterstock.com
Orietta Gaspari / Shutterstock.com

7. Berlin, Germany

Germany knows how to do Christmas Markets extremely well, and visiting them is a popular tradition for many in December. The city of Berlin has over 60 individual Christmas Markets to be explored and while it would be a shame to visit just one, a favorite is Weihnachtszauber at the Gendarmenmarkt.

Christmas market Berlin Germany

6. Basel, Switzerland

The Christmas Market at Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz in Basel is considered by many to be one of the prettiest and largest in Switzerland. Over 180 sellers and artisans sell gifts, decorations, food and more from the market’s traditional wooden chalets.

ornaments christmas market basel switzerland

5. Vienna, Austria

Christmas Markets are a celebrated and well-established tradition throughout all of Austria. In the capital city of Vienna there are over 25 different markets to explore, shop, eat and get into the Christmas spirit!

Christmas Market Vienna Austria

4. Hannover, Germany

The Hannover Christmas Market takes place in the city’s historic Old Town center and features a wide array of vendors for your shopping enjoyment. Over 150 artisans sell their wares including hand carved decorations and locally produced food products.

sweets at Christmas market Germany

3. Vilnius, Lithuania

The Vilnius Christmas Market in Lithuania takes place in the city’s historic Cathedral Square each year in the 4 weeks leading up to Christmas. One of the most recognizable features of this market is the 25 meter high Christmas tree decorated with thousands of twinkling lights.

Christmas market vilnius lithuiania

2. Vipiteno, Italy

This town of South Tyrol Italy features it’s Christmas Market high up in the snowy mountains. Vipiteno is located at 1000 meters above sea level and the tiny town’s market offers visitors a beautiful small-town Christmas atmosphere.

Christmas Market Vipiteno, Italy

1. Frankfurt, Germany

The Frankfurt Christmas Market is widely known as one of the most beautiful in all of Germany. Each December, the town square is transformed with lights and decorated, traditional wooden stalls while visitors enjoy the festive atmosphere of the season.

christmas market frankfurt germany

The 8 Oldest Hotels in the World

Since the dawn of time, humans have been wanderers, from our forager ancestors to today’s modern travelers. But at the end of the day, we always seek shelter: a room and perhaps a nice meal. Until we lose our natural instinct to wander, hotels and inns will always be a staple of human culture. Proof of the longevity of our wandering ways exists in hotel establishments that have existed for centuries—like these 8 historic hotels, at least 1 of which has been offering room and board to travelers for over a millennia.

8. Rambagh Palace, India

Simply put, Rambagh Palace has a storied history. The “Jewel of Jaipur” was built in 1835 for the queen’s favorite handmaiden, a woman called Kesar Bedaran. Later, the building was refurbished and renovated, eventually becoming the royal residence of Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II in 1925. Before that, the mansion had been a hunting lodge and a school. What was destined to become the hotel became a lively scene for Jaipur’s charismatic royalty and the guests they entertained. In 1957, the building became a hotel; its legacy of hosting illustrious guests continued with stays by the likes of Prince Charles and Jackie O., among others. Rambagh Palace continues to live up to its name and its history by pulling out all the stops for those travelers who want to travel in the lap of luxury—even for just a day or two.

Rambagh Palace, India

7. Hotel Balzac, France

Swanky hotels and Paris seem to go hand in hand, but nowhere is that more true than the Hotel Balzac. The hotel was built in the early 19th century by banker Nicolas Beaujon and was admired for its exotic style. After Beaujon’s death, the building changed hands a few times, before becoming a salon for epicureans and champagne aficionados. It was purchased in 1846 by Honore de Balzac, one of the founders of realist literature and author of over 100 novels and plays that depicted life in post-Napoleonic France. Balzac’s legacy lives on, as many famous writers have been influenced by his work. The hotel features collections of books, scenes from Balzac’s works and lithographs that depict the author. Minutes away from the Arc de Triomphe, the hotel’s restaurant is still famed for its contemporary French cuisine offerings.

Photo by: Venere
Photo by: Venere

6. Claridge’s, UK

Located in Mayfair, London, on the corner of Brook and Davies Streets, Claridge’s has sometimes been described as an annex to Buckingham Palace, thanks to its connections with Europe’s royals. The hotel began life in 1812—more than 200 years ago—as the Mivart’s Hotel. In 1850, the Claridges, who operated a small hotel near the property (which had expanded into several houses around it) purchased it and combined the businesses. In 1860, Empress Eugenie, the wife of Napoleon III, made an extended stay. The hotel was purchased by the Savoy Group in the 1890s and demolished, then rebuilt. The 1898 building still stands today. The hotel also still plays host to guests of the royal family, as well as celebrities. Claridge’s hosts a Michelin-starred restaurant, currently Fera, and is famed for their Christmas tree display.

IR Stone / Shutterstock.com
IR Stone / Shutterstock.com

5. Villa Orso Grigio, Italy

This cute little hotel may seem, at first glance, pretty modern. Its architecture is undecided about whether it’s a castle or a church, and it only has 10 rooms—a boutique hotel, to be sure. Even the services offered by the hotel—including wine tastings and spa services—can seem rather modern. But the Orso Grigio originally opened in the 14th century, then known as the Grauer Bär (the Grey Bear, in German). Since then, the property has changed not only hands, but countries too—the market town of Ronzone, in the Dolomite Alps, was annexed by Italy from Austria in the 20th century. The Orso Grigio was originally built to serve nobility and merchants, and if you look closely, you can see that hotelier brothers Christian and Renzo Bertol keep the old world charm alive in their hotel, offering amenities like a cigar room and private gardens.

Photo by: Villa Orso Grigio
Photo by: Villa Orso Grigio

4. Blaue Gans, Austria

The Blaue Gans is a medieval hotel and you can tell; it is called the Blue Goose, after all. The inn is the oldest in the Austrian city of Salzburg, opening its doors in 1350. It’s located near prime historic sites in the city, such as the birthplace of Mozart, which is just a short walk away. These days, the hotel is also Salzburg’s first “art hotel,” housing almost 100 original works of art, which you can find strewn about in hallways, reception and other public areas—making the hotel almost like your own private art gallery. The contrast between modernity and medieval sensibility makes for a striking atmosphere. The hotel also boasts a bar and restaurant, and plays host to celebrations. Visit their “Wine Archive” after a long day of sight-seeing and unwind in the sunshine in their outdoor dining area.

Photo by: Vanguard Voyager
Photo by: Vanguard Voyager

3. Zum Roten Bären, Germany

The name loosely translates as “the red bear” and this Freiburg hotel is reputedly Germany’s oldest. Zum Roten Bären has been around since 1311, and the long line of innkeepers over the centuries can be traced back to the Bienger family that took possession of the inn that year; Wolf Eschger, the current landlord, is the 51st in this line! The building is also one of the oldest in Freiburg itself, with its foundations predating the foundation of the city 1120. The historic hotel is located in the heart of the Old Town, near the Freiburg Cathedral and the Swabian gate, as well as other popular tourist attractions in this university town. If you want local hospitality with access to some of the city’s storied sights, you can’t go wrong choosing Zum Roten Bären as your home away from home.

Photo by: Wikiwand
Photo by: Wikiwand

2. The Old Bell Hotel, UK

This Malmsebury hotel first opened its doors to travelers in 1220. The inn was envisioned by an abbot, probably thinking of putting up world-weary pilgrims traveling through Wiltshire. In a building this old, you can probably expect a haunt or 2. The Old Bell is rumored to be haunted by the Grey Lady, said to be the spirit of a young bride who was stood up at the altar. In the “new” wing of the building, constructed during the 1700s, you can find a bar and restaurant, so you can pick up a bite to eat as you pass through, even if you don’t plan to spend the night. Of course the Old Bell, which bills itself as England’s oldest hotel, offers a full English breakfast and traditional afternoon tea.

Photo by: Booking.com
Photo by: Booking.com

1. Hoshi Ryokan, Japan

Where in the world is the oldest hotel? Consult the Guiness Book of World Records and they’ll tell you it’s in Japan: the Hoshi Ryokan was long purported to be the oldest hotel, although it has since been displaced by another Japanese hotel. Nonetheless, the Hoshi Ryokan opened its doors in 718 and never looked back; the inn has been in the family for 46 generations and has been serving guests for over 1,200 years. The hotel is a traditional Japanese inn (ryokan) and features an ofuro, a traditional Japanese bathing room. In areas with onsen, hot springs, the ofuro will use water from the spring. Ryokan also allow visitors to wear yukata, a more relaxed version of traditional Japanese dress, and most have a relatively informal entrance where guests can congregate and even speak with the owner. Hoshi Ryokan is located in the Awazu Onsen area of Komatsu.

Photo by: Interiorator
Photo by: Interiorator

Lonely Planet’s 10 Most Accessible Vacation Destinations for 2016

The world’s population is rapidly aging and this is having an impact on global business and tourism as companies are slowly starting to realize that accessibility is not just an issue that must be addressed for those with a disability. It’s a real issue that many grey nomads are putting some extra thought into before booking their next vacation. Lonely Planet agrees that with an aging baby boomer population that isn’t willing to slow down when it comes to travel, accessibility is becoming paramount. With this in mind they’ve put together this list of the most accessible vacation destinations for 2016:

10. Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Snowbirds love to head south in the winter, and mexico is a popular winter destination for many including those over the age of 65. Playa del Carmen is only an hour away from Cancun airport but it’s a far cry from the lively Spring Break destination city. Accessible hotels are available and the beach is also easy to navigate with the help of special beach wheelchairs and even special equipment to help you snorkel, even if you can’t swim.

wheelchair accessible beach

9. Barcelona, Spain

The tourism agencies of Spain and especially the Catalonia region have been pushing the importance of accessible tourism for quite some time now. As a result, 80 per cent of metro stations and 100 per cent of public buses are wheelchair accessible. And unlike many old historic cities, the old town of Barcelona is cobblestone free reducing the risks of trip and falls and making it easier for those with walkers and wheelchairs.

Plaza Barcelona, Spain

8. Galápagos and Amazonia, Ecuador

After watching these nature-centric destinations on programs like Planet Earth, they may not seem like an option for those with mobility issues, however they’re a lot closer in reach thanks to Lenín Moreno, a paraplegic who was the vice president of Ecuador from 2006-2013. Moreno’s work is responsible for the inroads in accessibility in this largely inaccessible continent.

blue footed booby

7. Sicily, Italy

When one thinks of Italy, images of cobblestone streets and elevated countryside usually come to mind -not exactly the picture of accessibility. But Lonely Planet says Sicily is breaking new ground on this front and is home to a tactile museum and Europe’s only sensorial botanic garden. Two Guinness world records have also been set here by people with disabilities; the first paraplegic to dive to 59m and first blind woman to dive to 41m.

Sicily, Italy Cathedral of Palermo

6. Manchester, England

Although Manchester is indeed an old city, much of the central business district was rebuilt in the late 1900s. The result is a city with wide, smooth pavements and many shopfronts, bars and restaurants that are completely step free. Perfect for those with reduced mobility. The city’s public transit is also wheelchair friendly and offers service to just about anywhere you’d want to get to in the city.

Manchester street sign

5. Melbourne, Australia

The city of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia has been called the ‘best in the world’ for a lot of things, but it can now add ‘most accessible’ to that list as well. The city’s highly accessible public transit has received global praise and the compact central city core helps earn the city’s status as one of the most accessible cities in the world. Lonely Planet even has a guidebook dedicated to the subject titled ‘Accessible Melbourne.’

Tooykrub / Shutterstock.com
Tooykrub / Shutterstock.com

4. Ljubljana, Slovenia

The capital city of Slovenia is relatively flat, a fact that many aging travelers will appreciate. It’s also equipped with highly accessible public transit which features audio and video stop announcements on buses (because there’s nothing worse than missing your stop!) The main attraction of the city is the 16th century Ljubljana Castle, and while you wouldn’t expect anything built in the 16th century to be accessible, the castle is actually wheelchair accessible.

Ljubljana Castle, Slovenia

3. Singapore

Singapore is arguably the most accessible city in Asia and one of the most overall accessible in the whole world. You’ll find stepless access to most buildings and an endless supply of curb cuts to make sure there are no barriers for those in wheelchairs.  The city’s mass rail transit (MRT) and buses are also designed for the visually and motor impaired, making this city one were there are essentially no limitations.

Ritu Manoj Jethani / Shutterstock.com
Ritu Manoj Jethani / Shutterstock.com

2. San Diego, USA

Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (which just celebrated its 25th anniversary) most of the United States is very accessible, but Lonely Planet picked San Diego, California as a standout in its class. The city is easy to get around with a fairly flat grid system and public transit is easy with a fully accessible tram system. The most notable feature is the miles long beachfront promenade which offers beach wheelchairs to those who need them.

Greta Gabaglio / Shutterstock.com
Greta Gabaglio / Shutterstock.com

1. Vienna, Austria

Like Manchester but perhaps even richer in history, Vienna is a historic city that’s been refurbished to meet modern day demands. Unlike many old European cities, its cobblestones have been removed as have many curbs and central shops, cafes and restaurants are wheelchair friendly. One of the city’s most notable attractions, the Schloss Schönbrunn is fully accessible making it a must-see for everyone, no matter your age.

Schloss Schönbrunn Vienna

UNESCO’S 15 Most Beautifully Designed Cities In The World

Designations from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization are much sought after by cities around the world. Its best known one is the World Heritage Site that calls on signatories to protect and preserve important monuments from a small church to a vast jungle. Less well known but still dandy for planning itineraries is the Creative Cities Network in which cities receive a special designation if it can prove its creative specialty is unique of important cultural and economic significance and is sustainable. One of the most intriguing is Design. UNESCO has identified 15 Cities of Design that “(place) creativity and cultural industries at the heart of their development plans.” It is about not just the urban space but the things that fill space that, to meet UNESCO criteria must enhance the quality of life for people and be environmentally sustainable. And of course make a whole bunch of seriously cool stuff. Here are, in UNESCO’s estimation the 15 most aesthetically pleasing and innovative Cities of Design.

15. Montréal, Canada

The genius of some of the world’s great architects dot the Montreal skyline despite the civic edict that no building exceeds the height of Mont Royal under whose slopes the city was founded in 1642. I.M Pei’s Place Ville Marie still dominates the downtown more than 50 years after its debut. Other stellar works include Mies van der Rohe’s Westmount Square, Buckminster Fuller’s stunning Geodesic Dome and Moshe Sadie’s Habitat, the latter two built for the 1967 World’s Fair has found new life. Old Montreal by the Old Port is a treasure of preserved 19th century buildings on cobblestone streets. It is the home of the Canadian Centre for Architecture as well as the UNESCO Chair in Landscape and Environmental Design at l’ Université de Montréal. UNESCO calls Montreal “The City of Designers” with 25,000 people in design development in one of the most stylish cities in North America.

Songquan Deng / Shutterstock.com
Songquan Deng / Shutterstock.com

14. Buenos Aires, Argentina

For architecture fans and design geeks, Buenos Aires is already heaven. One of its iconic historic buildings, Palacio Barolo is an homage to the Dante’s 15th century masterpiece, The Divine Comedy with the Hell, the ground floor with flame images on the walls, to the mid-level office space, called Purgatory and the upper floors with their fantastic views of the great city being ‘Paradise.” It has a stable of great works on its skyline built in a jumble of Old World Styles from Renaissance to Art Deco. The Planetarium and Women’s Bridge continue the creative tradition into the 21st century. UNESCO notes with praise the use of government incentives to grow the design industry which now accounts for almost a tenth of the giant city’s Gross Domestic Product and “contributes to turning Buenos Aires into a benchmark of design in Latin America: while fostering inclusive and sustainable development.

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

13. Curitiba, Brazil

This city of 3 million people in southern Brazil is at the forefront of sustainable urban development in the world. Already a cultural and design center, UNESCO singles out the city’s innovation for “Recognizing design as an agent for urban transformation.” In this context the term “design” goes beyond buildings in post-modern, futuristic shapes to the materials used to make them. The sustainable city mission was begun by architect and three-term, Curitiba Mayor Jaime Lerner and inspired similar initiatives across the country. Lerner combined an overhaul of mass transit and garbage collection with the promotion of alternative building materials to streamline costs and provide affordable housing. An, NGO (Nongovernmental Organization) Curadores da Terra or Keepers of the earth has developed a process that turns the environmental plague of plastic bottles into a popular, inexpensive building material.

Curitiba, Brazil

12. Bilbao, Spain

What leaps to mind at the Mention of Bilbao, is the beautiful jumble that is the Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Gehry, one of the most famous and renowned pieces of architecture since it opened in 1997. In fact the whole process of reclaiming former heavily industrial urban areas that are in decline or abandoned has come to be called “The Guggenheim Effect, the great Museum reclaimed a derelict section of the old port for a sustainable addition to the city’s tourism infrastructure. The policy continues with the Alhondiga, a beautiful wine warehouse from 1909 on the verge of demolition but rescued and turned into a multi use cultural facility in 2010. Bilbao’s approach using design and technology to transition from an old industrial economy to a modern service economy is the model UNESCO wants more cities to follow, the creation of “major cultural facilities contributing to the economy in terms of wealth creation, employment and social well-being.

Migel / Shutterstock.com
Migel / Shutterstock.com

11. Turin, Italy

Italy has been at the forefront of global design since they built the Roman Senate in 753 BCE. Turin has been called the Detroit of Italy, the home of great automotive brands like Fiat and Alfa Romeo. And like its American counterpart it experienced economic crisis and depopulation in the 1980’s. Still with about the same GDP as the country of Croatia, Turin has used its accumulated wealth  expertise and world class schools to move upstream into more sustainable, knowledge based industries, most notably aerospace. Several of the International Space Station modules were designed here. The greatest symbol of the city’s rejuvenation and transition is the fabulous Lingotto Fiere, which remains futurists despite being nearly a century old. Even Le Corbusier the great French architect raved about it. The old Fiat plant opened in 1922, but then became outmoded in the seventies and eventually closed in the 80’s. It reopened as a multi-use complex, including a hotels, concert halls art gallery shopping mall and a campus for the world renowned Polytechnic University of Turin.

Turin, Italy

10. Graz, Austria

Graz is already home to two UNESCO World Heritage sites. Eggenberg Castle is a grand historical work in the Baroque style. The Old Town is an impeccably preserved wealth of centuries of buildings in wide range of architectural styles. But the small city of 300,000 isn’t resting on those fortunate laurels of the distant past. UNESCO’s website is prone to thick bureaucratic gibberish, but the spirit of the initiative comes through in statements like noting a fashion festival “is committed to cultural exchange on the textile level.” It’s just an example of the injection of sustainability into everyday goods that is providing the basis of The Next Economy in First World places that can afford to lead the way. Consider it the next Industrial Revolution. The Creative Sector in Graz has almost 5,000 companies, mostly small and medium size that generate about $700,000,000 in additional revenue allowing the city to commission innovative, iconic works of architecture that goes beyond fancy buildings for the sake of being fancy to making intelligent design that “and values both the aesthetic component of design as well as its ability to make daily life more livable.”

Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com
Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com

9. Berlin, Germany

Berlin has been one of the creative centers of the world for centuries and is now becoming leader in Design with some 2,400 companies been over $400,000,000 in annual revenue. Its International Center for Design is focused on what it believes is the way of the future: “Environmentally-conscious design is thus the key to a sustainable society.” At its heart is the emerging consumer behaviour called LOHAS “Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability” as individuals seek out healthier lifestyle and environmentally sensitive choices. They have become a world leader in ‘eco-design…to optimize energy efficiency, to minimize pollution emission and waste production.” There are 5000 Design students in the city’s elite schools. Berlindesign.net acts as an independent, fair trade platform for hundreds of independent Berlin designers from fashion to furniture to food. It’s all based on a highly innovative business plan called the “Triple Bottom Line,” in which design marketing and pricing reflect not just profit margins but ecological, economic and social concerns as well.

Berline Germany, Spree River

8. Helsinki, Finland

Design is embedded in the Finnish soul. Or as the Guardian wrote “Design is to Helsinki as literature is to Dublin and samba is to Rio.” Scandinavia in general is known for its modernist, minimalist furniture but Finland itself with a population of 5.5 million has given the world two of its greatest architects, Eero Saarinen and Alvar Aalto. The Finnish capital is an architectural garden of delights. Volumes have been written about the Finns creativity but UNESCO pointed to two things in particular that propelled Helsinki to 2012’s World City of Design status. One, Design is a government priority. The Finnish Innovation Fund stimulates the sector to design solutions to a wide variety of public policy issues from sustainability to education. It especially notes the inclusion of passengers in the process of designing the seats on the transit system.

Helsinki, Finland

7. Dundee, Scotland

A charter member of the global Rust Belt of once vibrant juggernauts of heavy industry, Dundee was made the United Kingdom’s first Creative City of Design. It is a case study in urban reinvention in knowledge based economic sectors and an example of just how broad the discipline of design has become. The booming shipbuilding and textile industries have given way to biotechnology and digital media. Dundee is home to one of the largest teaching hospitals in the world as well as the company that produced the hugely popular video game called Grand Theft Auto. The city is spending 1.5 billion dollars on revitalizing its waterfront, including a striking  Museum Of Design with the goal of making the city an international design center, creatively financed by government and private sector funding.

Dundee, Scotland

6. Shenzhen, China

Shenzhen’s skyline shimmers with stunning, cutting edge architectural design as befits to an emerging innovative powerhouse of 11 million people. The Stock Exchange, the Asian Cairns and the Oct Museum push the design envelope. In southern China close to Hong Kong, design is a multi-billion dollar business employing 100,000 people. A generation of Chinese designers were trained here and excel in a wide spectrum of disciplines, women’s fashion being the most notable but that includes crafts, jewelry and toys. The city has moved upstream into creative, knowledge-based sectors, finance primarily among them as integration with the wealth creation machine that is Hong Kong.

Shenzhen, China

5. Shanghai, China

The Shanghai Design Show is Asia’s biggest and most important attracting the world designing elite, from Jaguar to Nike to Cognac giant Martell. A truly international city home to 25 million people faces enormous challenges in sustainable development. But it has a huge creative sector to meet those challenges and develop sectors that add about $40 billion to the city’s GDP. UNESCO notes that the city was the Chinese leader in creative sectors such as film and music. It takes one look at Shanghai’s dynamic skyline to grasp the tremendous creative power the city is harnessing under the aegis of the Municipal Commission of Economy and Technology. Shanghai’s Creative Cites page boasts 87 Creative Clusters, over 4,000 innovative design-related agencies and institutions, 283 art institutions, 239 art and cultural community centers, 100 museums, 25 libraries and 743 archive institutions. It is perhaps Exhibit A of a city growing its economy by investing in Design.

Top Cities 2013 - Shanghai

4. Kobe, Japan

There is a 21st century about the Kobe skyline partly because of its innovative nature and sadly, from a major rebuild after the catastrophic earthquake in 1995. But in one form or another the city has been adept at self-reinvention through history. As an open port it has absorbed the influence of many cultures and has long been regarded as a cosmopolitan city. There is an old saying that says, “If you can’t go to Paris go to Kobe.” Like the French city to which it’s compared, Kobe is a fashion design center. Kobe Biennale is a major annual art and design event that aims to use the twin disciplines “not only to promote the arts, but also to contribute to the enrichment and environment of Kobe.” In 2015 a number eclectic competitions were held for Art-in-a Box, using old containers as a kind of urban canvas; creative toys, ceramic art, comic illustration and ‘green’ art.

Kobe, Japan

3. Nagoya, Japan

One of the rare cities that has managed to retain its blue collar and artistic pedigrees. It is home to major Toyota and Mitsubishi auto plants as well as traditional Japanese theater, cuisine and craft work dating back to medieval times. All under the magnificent watch of the fabulous 17th century Nagoya Castle. Even the modern manufacturing systems are based on the old Japanese principle of Monozukuri which Toyota defines as “manufacturing which is in harmony with nature and that is value adding for the society… the older sister of sustainable manufacturing.” Also unlike many others on the list, Nagoya can claim a design specialty. An army of engineers advance robot technology as well as a sector that discovers and designs new materials. UNESCO lauds its combination of tradition and the philosophy of Humanism with advanced technology.

Nagoya, Japan

2. Seoul, South Korea

The economy of South Korea is an aggressively powerful export machine barging into giant-dominated sectors like cars and cellphones. Seoul, the dynamic capital, is home to three-quarters of the country’s designers. Seoul’s design sector is heavy on IT related products now honing fashion and digital home appliance design. City government policy acts as a facilitator linking design companies with its thriving industrial base. Dongdaemun Design Plaza is like a modern Silicon Valley of design and creative expertise that not only serves as an incubator for innovation, but transformed one of the city’s oldest, most historic districts.

Top Cities 2013 - Seoul

1. Beijing, China

Far and away the most controversial and debatable of UNESCO’s designations is Beijing, China. However, UNESCO notes the city’s 3000 years rich with history. The architecture and design of the venues for the 2008 Olympics were spectacular but remain underused and unable to be integrated into the city fabric. Meanwhile the brutally bulldozing of the city’s legendary hutongs or traditional neighborhoods of narrow alleys have been documented in books and documentaries. UNESCO cites the huge number of museums and creativity clusters “bearing in mind their relevance for sustainable development.”

Beijing, China

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

15 Amazing Libraries for Literature Lovers

Libraries are those unique cultural institutions that combine art, history and innovation to create a space for people of all ages and backgrounds to indulge in the pursuit of knowledge and exploration of literature. For book lovers, there are few things that compare to wandering amid stacks of a historically or culturally significant building and finding a rare volume of their favorite author or an ancient text pertinent to human history. Luckily, the major libraries of the world that house such exquisite collections work hard to keep them preserved and accessible to the public, and out of the hundreds of worldwide options, we’ve narrowed down the 15 institutions all literature lovers must visit at least once in their lives.

15. Royal Grammar School Chained Library, Guildford, England

The headmaster’s study in Guilford’s Royal Grammar School is home to one extremely unique feature—an original chained library. The custom of chaining books originated with the idea of providing public access to valuable and important texts by affixing them to shelving in public places, an idea that eventually became the predecessor for the modern library system. This particular one in Guildford, England is one of the last remaining chained libraries in the world and houses a collection with works dating back to the 15th century, and most notably, two early editions of Newton’s Principia.

Royal Grammar School
Photo by: The Despectacled Librarian

14. Austrian National Library, Vienna, Austria

As the country’s largest library, the Austrian National Library is found within Hofburg Palace in Vienna and houses upwards of 7.4 million items. The acquisition of holdings dates back to the Middle Ages, with the permanent home at the Hofburg Palace constructed in the early 18th century, and now containing the largest collection of contemporary literature and research materials in Austria, as well as several unique collections, archives and museums. The most notable of these is the collection of Maps, one of the most comprehensive in the world, which today includes 295,000 maps, 45,000 geographic-topographic views, 700 globes and over 80,000 atlases and books of a technical nature. Also impressive is the library’s holding of manuscripts and rare books, a collection comprised of over 500,000 printed materials organized into incunabula (pre-1500s), works from the 16th to 19th centuries and items of rare, valuable and bibliophilic importance.

Radiokafka / Shutterstock.com
Radiokafka / Shutterstock.com

13. Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library, Toronto, Canada

This library houses the University of Toronto’s Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, the acquisition of which started in 1955 under the direction of Chief Librarian Robert H. Blackburn (largely sourced from the University’s main library). The department didn’t have a permanent home until 1973 when Thomas Fisher’s descendants donated their personal collections of Shakespeare and various 20th century writers, accentuating the growing collection’s need for a designated space. The building is now home to Canada’s largest publicly accessible selection of rare books and manuscripts, consisting of over 700,000 volumes including several medieval manuscripts and a set of Pyne’s Royal Residences which was presented to the University by Queen Victoria.

Photo by: Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto
Photo by: Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto

12. Trinity College Library, Dublin, Ireland

Located at the University of Dublin, the Trinity College Library holds Ireland’s largest collection of literature and is home to one of the country’s  biggest attractions—the incomparable Long Room. Built between 1712 and 1732, the Long Room measures over 65 meters in length and contains the institution’s 200,000 item collection of rare and early edition manuscripts and novels, including the world-famous Book of Kells  and one of the last surviving copies of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic. Also interesting to see are the marble busts of famous writers and philosophers that adorn the room, the highlight of which seems to be the one of Jonathan Swift created by Louis Francois Roubiliac.

VanderWolf Images / Shutterstock.com
VanderWolf Images / Shutterstock.com

11. Royal Portuguese Reading Room, Rio de Janiero, Brazil

Brazil’s Real Gabinete Portugues de Leitura, known in English as the Royal Portuguese Reading Room, must be visited as much for its unbelievably stunning interior as for its extensive literary collection. Housing the largest collection of Portuguese literature outside of Portugal itself, the library was built from 1880 to 1887 in the Neo-Manueline style (Portuguese answer to Neo-Gothic architecture) designed by lead architect Rafael da Silva e Castro. Today, the library houses over 350,000 rare volumes spread over three levels, topped with a wrought iron chandelier and stained-glass skylight, making it a must see for anyone who appreciates both literature and 19th century architecture.

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

10. Yale University Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Connecticut, United States

Currently closed for renovation (it will reopen in September 2016) the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University houses one of the world’s largest rare book and manuscript collections. Completed in 1963, the building’s geometric architecture and innovative translucent marble “windows” allow a unique method of filtered lighting to illuminate the interior of the building while protecting its precious contents—thousands of rare manuscripts, papyri and early edition novels. The library is also home to various other literary collections acquired by the University, as well as several temporary and permanent exhibits; amid these treasured displays you can find an early printing of the Gutenberg Bible and Audubon’s Birds of America.

LEE SNIDER PHOTO IMAGES / Shutterstock.com
LEE SNIDER PHOTO IMAGES / Shutterstock.com

9. St. Catherine’s Monastery Library, South Sinai, Egypt

This Greek Orthodox Monastery, officially known as The Holy Monastery of the God-trodden Mount Sinai, and unofficially as Santa Katarina, is the oldest inhabited monastery in the world with origins predating the Middle Ages. Though it is worth the visit just to admire and stand in a structure that has witnessed 17 centuries of history, exploring the monastery’s cultural inheritance is a truly unique experience. Housing an extensive collection of Christian art, the site is also home to a library of over 16,000 ancient texts, including hand-written manuscripts on papyrus and scrolls, early printed books and an archive of ancient documents. While the majority of the works found here are written in Greek and are religious in nature, the library also houses a number of educational works such as lexicons, medical texts and travel accounts. Most notable holdings include several pages of the Codex Sinaiticus (4th century manuscript of the Holy Scriptures) and especially of interest for classical literature lovers, first editions of Homer, Plato and the Comedies of Aristophanes.

Photo by: Nathan Hughes Hamilton via Flickr
Photo by: Nathan Hughes Hamilton via Flickr

8. Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC, United States

Planned, funded and brought into being by Henry and Emily Folger, the Folger Shakespeare Library currently holds the world’s largest collection of William Shakespeare’s work, and is a must see for anyone who is a fan of Renaissance literature. Up until the building’s opening in 1932, the Folgers worked tirelessly to provide the American people with the best possible selection of the poet’s works, and personally took on all of the responsibilities involved with bringing their dream to life, including acquisitions, location scouting and structural planning. Today, the couple’s gift continues to expand, and now (in addition to the Shakespeare) houses an impressive collection of other Renaissance books, manuscripts and art, as well as being home to a world class research facility and numerous public outreach programs.

Photo by:  NCinDC via Flickr
Photo by: NCinDC via Flickr

7. Alexandria Library, Alexandria, Egypt

Opened in 2002, this new Bibliotheca Alexandrina on Egypt’s northern coast is committed to replicating the ancient versions legacy as a universal center for culture and learning. While this was originally regarded by many as an impossible task, the library has managed it, becoming a hub in Alexandria not only for literature, but for performances, art, and special events. A stunning example of modern architecture, the library complex consists of a main reading room (which has the capacity to shelve eight million volumes) and four smaller libraries—a children’s library, youth’s library, multimedia library and braille library. Also on the premises are a planetarium and several museums that exhibit everything from ancient artefacts to antiquarian texts, including a copy of the only known scroll that remains from the city’s ancient library.

RiumaLab / Shutterstock.com
RiumaLab / Shutterstock.com

6. National Library of St. Mark’s, Venice, Italy

This beautiful library in Venice’s Piazza San Marco was constructed in the mid 1500’s after Cardinal Bessarion 1468 literary donation demanded a designated library building. The two level structure, officially called the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana was designed by Jacopo Sansovino and features Doric-style arches on the ground floor and Ionic friezes and sculptures on the second, as well as decorative artworks by Titian, Veronese and Tintoretto, among other. The library is also among the oldest in the country and houses one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of classical literature and historic works. With holdings that comprise upwards of a million total items, among the library’s most treasured pieces are two manuscripts of the Iliad (5th and 6th century) and opera scores and sonatas by Francesco Cavalli and Domenico Scarlatti, respectively.

Photo by:  Iain Cameron via Flickr
Photo by: Iain Cameron via Flickr

5. Russian State Library, Moscow, Russia

With a history dating back to 1862, The Russian State Library is the country’s national library and houses the 5th largest literary collection in the world, containing over 17.5 million books. The institution also holds a renowned collection of maps, as well an extensive amount of specialized items such as journals, sheet music, sound recordings and dissertations. While obviously home to the largest selection of Russian literature in the world, the library also houses foreign works represented in over 247 languages, which comprise approximately 30 percent of the building’s 43 million item collection. The building itself is also an interesting site, with construction more or less completed by 1945, it is a perfect example of Soviet Neo-Classical architecture and offers an insightful contrast to other libraries of this magnitude.

Russian State Library

4. New York Public Library, New York City, United States

Not only is the New York Public Library a city landmark and popular tourist attraction, it is also an extremely important part of the worldwide literary family. With a collection of over 53 million items, the library is the 4th largest in the world, drawing around 18 million annual visitors. Originally founded in 1895, today’s main branch at Bryant Park was opened in 1911 with over one million volumes consolidated from the Astor and Lenox Libraries. The institution has since expanded to include 88 neighborhood branches and four resource centers, servicing approximately 17 million people and offering over 67,000 free programs yearly. Visitors to the main branch, located in Manhattan`s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, can admire the beauty of the building’s Beaux-Arts architecture and interiors and explore the collections in the General Research, Manuscripts and Archives, History and Genealogy and Rare Books Divisions (among others). This building is also home to some of the country’s most significant historic documents, including Columbus’s letter about the New World (1943) and George Washington’s original Farewell Address.

Photo by: Jeremy Keith via Flickr
Photo by: Jeremy Keith via Flickr

3. Vatican Library, Vatican City

Among the many culturally significant things to see in Vatican City, the Vatican Library is no exception. Officially established in 1448 (though acquisition began much earlier) in the Vatican Palace, the current collection tops 1.1 million items and includes ancient manuscripts, codices, classical Greek and Latin texts, and perhaps the most impressive selection of incunabula (text printed in Europe prior to 1501) in the world. Though holding a vast amount of religious texts, the library’s holdings are actually extremely diverse in scope, with notable pieces ranging from the oldest known Bible (Codex Vaticanus) to letters from Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn.

Photo by: Anna & Michal via Flickr
Photo by: Anna & Michal via Flickr

2. Library of Congress, Washington DC, United States

Established in 1800, with the doors of the current building opening to the public in 1897, The Library of Congress in Washington DC is the 2nd largest library in the world, housing upwards of 158 million items. Now a national monument, the building is one of the world’s foremost research centers home to 36 million printed materials in over 460 languages as well as over 69 million manuscripts. It is also here that you will find the world’s largest selection of films, sound recordings, sheet music and maps, in addition to the most extensive holdings of rare books on the continent. Along with this amazing collection of literature, the building itself is also worth the tour, showcasing magnificent Beaux-Arts architecture with interiors and reading rooms featuring fine art, marble halls, carved hardwood, and of course, the incomparable central stained-glass dome.

Photo by: m01229 via Flickr
Photo by: m01229 via Flickr

1. The British Library, London, England

This jaw-dropping institution contains an astounding 625 km of shelving to house its 170 million+ item collection which includes over 300,000 original manuscripts (both ancient and contemporary) and 60 million patents. With figures such as these, it is no wonder that the British Library is the largest in the world, and attract over 16,000 daily visitors. The main building, located in St. Pancras in London, is England’s largest public building constructed in the 20th century and consists of over 112,000 square meters spread over 14 floors. Along with the unparalleled collection of books, maps, newspapers and musical scores, the library is home to one of the world’s most comprehensive selections of literary treasures, including the Magna Carta, The Times first edition and the audio recording of Mandela’s Rivonia trial speech.

Photo by: Andrew Gustar via Flickr
Photo by: Andrew Gustar via Flickr