The Best Cities to Buy Property in Europe

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

15. Istria, Croatia

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

Rovinj at sunset, Istra region, Croatia.

14. Athens, Greece

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

Source: Shutterstock

13. Zagreb, Croatia

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

Source: Shutterstock

12. Algarve, Portugal

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

Algarve, Portugal

11. Feldkirch And Bludenz, Austria

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

Source: Shutterstock

10. Beara Peninsula, Ireland

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

Beara Peninsula, Ireland

9. Istanbul, Turkey

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

Istanbul, Turkey

8. Abruzzo, Italy

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

Source: leoks / Shutterstock.com

7. Rotterdam, The Netherlands

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

Source: Shutterstock

6. Rennes, France

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

Source: lenisecalleja.photography / Shutterstock.com

5. Plovdiv, Bulgaria

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

Source: Shutterstock

4. Budapest, Hungary

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

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

3. Seville, Spain

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

Source: Shutterstock

2. Apulia, Italy

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

Apulia, Italy

1. Lisbon, Portugal

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

Lisbon, Portugal

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

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

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

6. Lavender Circus Hostel -Budapest, Hungary

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

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

5. The Babushka Grand Hostel -Odessa, Ukraine

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

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

4. The Independente Hostel -Lisbon, Portugal

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

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

3. YHA St. Briavels Castle -Gloucestershire, England

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

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

2. Kadir’s Tree Houses -Olympos, Turkey

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

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

1. Kex Hostel -Reykjavik, Iceland

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

Photo by: Kex Hostel
Photo by: Kex Hostel

The 10 Best Stargazing Spots in the Northern Hemisphere

We’ve told you where to find the best views of the heavens in the southern half of the world; the southern hemisphere’s positioning makes it a particularly good location for aspiring astronomers to get a glimpse of our galaxy. But that doesn’t mean that those of us in the northern hemisphere have to miss out on awe-inspiring starscapes. There are dozens of dark-sky reserves and parks and prime viewing spots in more northerly climes. You’ll want to pack your telescope if you plan to travel to any of these 10 locations.

10. Brecon Beacons National Park, United Kingdom

Head to south Wales and you’ll quickly find that sheep outnumber people in this part of the world. Brecon Beacons National Park is a prime stargazing location because of its seclusion. The ruins of the Llanthony Priory provide a stunning backdrop for the night sky. The area near the park is home to 33,000 people and within easy access for nearly 1 million, which means that residents have worked hard to ensure that lighting within the communities near the park are dark sky-friendly. Most of the park is open grass moorland, which makes for plenty of open viewing of the night sky. The park was originally designated in 1957, and in 2013, it became an official International Dark Sky Association Dark Sky Reserve. Once you’ve done some stargazing, be sure to step into the Priory to grab some authentic Welsh ale—the ruins have been converted into a pub.

Llanthony Priory

9. Westhavelland, Germany

The Westhavelland Nature Park, in the state of Brandenburg, Germany, was established in June 1998. With an area of 1,315 square kilometers, the park is the largest protected area in Brandenburg and is home to the largest contiguous wetland in all of Europe. It has also become renowned for its dark skies, despite being just 70 kilometers west of Berlin, Germany’s most populous city. Its location also means easy access for the nearly 6 million people living in the region—and tourists to Berlin. The Dark Sky Reserve, which was certified by the IDA in 2014, is approximately 750 square kilometers within the park. The park offers an extensive education program, including the annual WestHavellander AstroTreff Party and an interpretive program. The Milky Way shines in full splendor over Germany’s first and foremost “star park”!

Brandenburg Milky Way

8. Mauna Kea, United States

Although there are several locations in the Hawaiian islands that are prime stargazing spots, Mauna Kea has to claim the top spot. Located on the Big Island, Mauna Kea Observatory sits 13,756 feet (4,205 meters) above sea level, on the slopes of the mountain, high above the town of Hilo. Here you’ll be able to see northern hemisphere favorites, including the Milky Way, Ursa Major, the bands of Jupiter and Orion, with perfect clarity. Although the largest optical telescope in the world will be off-limits after nightfall, you can still peer through telescopes offered at the visitors’ center, located at 9,200 feet. Free lectures and Q&A sessions at the observatory are complemented by tour packages offered by adventure companies, some of which include dinner. Although Mauna Kea isn’t an IDA-certified site, it remains a popular location for stargazers from around the world.

Mauna Kea night sky

7. Tenerife, Spain

You can probably pick any of Spain’s Canary Islands to get a good view of the stars. In fact, the island of La Palma is a protected area, although it’s not officially a park or reserve. For the best views, however, hop over to Tenerife, the largest island in the chain. Tenerife has passed a law controlling flight paths, specifically with the quality of stargazing in mind. From April through December, you can take a tour of the Teide Observatory. Visitors can also enjoy a cable car ride up to the top of the volcanic Mount Teide to really get a good gander at the stars. Cap off an evening by enjoying dinner at the mountain-top restaurant, with the stars as the romantic backdrop. The semi-annual Starmus Festival is also a popular attraction, celebrating science, music and the arts.

Tenerife Night sky

6. Kiruna, Sweden

The northernmost settlement in Sweden, the town of Kiruna lies about 120 miles north of the Arctic Circle, which means that between December 11 and January 1, there is a period of continuous night. While some of us may not be enthused by the idea of constant darkness, it does make for an amazing opportunity to view some of the spectacular skies. Given the remote location, the skies are truly dark, creating the perfect canvas for the aurora borealis. Visitors can book a stay at the world-famous Icehotel, just 11 miles from Kiruna in Jukkasjarvi. Nighttime “picnics” are offered on northern lights tours. Other activities include ice-sculpting and wintertime sports like skiing. You can also tour the Esrange Space Center, which developers hope to turn into a spaceport in the near future.

Sweden aurora borealis

5. Cherry Springs State Park, United States

There may not seem to be a lot of reason to visit Pennsylvania, but stargazers are drawn to the 82-hectare Cherry Springs State Park. This highly regarded site provides one of the best glimpses into the center of our own galaxy, the Milky Way. The park sits atop a 2,300-foot (701 meter) peak, which allows you to leave civilization (and light pollution) down on the ground. The park offers various programs throughout the year, including its annual Black Forest Star Party in early September, a popular event for amateur astronomers. In 2014, stargazers were lucky enough to spot the aurora borealis not once, but 4 times in Cherry Springs. First designated a dark sky park by the state in 2000, Cherry Springs was proclaimed an International Dark Sky Park by the IDA in June 2007.

Photo by: karenfoleyphotography/Alamy via Travel and Lesiure
Photo by: karenfoleyphotography/Alamy via Travel and Lesiure

4. Kerry Dark Sky Reserve, Ireland

The County Kerry in Ireland is considered one of the most picturesque areas in the country. Situated between the Kerry Mountains and the vast Atlantic Ocean, the Iveragh Peninsula is home to the Ring of Kerry, with numerous scenic attractions along its length. In 2011, the Kerry Dark Sky Reserve became the only gold-tier reserve in the northern hemisphere, and it was officially designated in January 2014. The night sky has long been important to the inhabitants of the region; Neolithic stone formations dating to 6,000 years ago were used to observe astronomical events and track the sun and moon. The area, which is approximately 700 square kilometers, incorporates territory along the Wild Atlantic Way. It is naturally protected from light pollution, although the inhabitants are working to create dark sky-compliant lighting systems to improve the quality of the night skies even more.

ring of kerry

3. Jasper National Park, Canada

Jasper, located in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, is probably one of Canada’s most famous national parks. Not only is it a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was also declared a dark-sky preservation area in March 2011. Although Jasper is not certified by the IDA, sites in Canada must adhere to the strict guidelines set out by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. The guidelines were developed to protect wildlife that is sensitive to light pollution. Every October, Jasper holds a Dark Sky Festival, which includes daytime solar viewings and rocket launches to entertain the kids. There are approximately 100 year-round campsites scattered throughout the park, meaning that you don’t need to visit in the fall to get some spectacular views of the night sky over the Canadian Rockies.

Jasper at night

2. Zselic Landscape Protection Area, Hungary

In the past, the starry skies were essential for Hungarian shepherds guiding their flocks back to fold. Today, Hungary is home to some of the best dark skies in the world; in August 2015, Wanderlust named it the third-best stargazing spot in the world. Zselic Starry Sky Park is located within the National Landscape Protection Area, which was originally established in 1976 to protect the natural assets of the North Zselic region. The Triangulum Galaxy is visible to the naked eye here, and in the spring, you can spot Orion and the Orion Nebula, along with the zodiacal light. The Lighting Society of Hungary and 17 surrounding municipalities have worked with the park to minimize the impact of lighting both within and outside the 9,042 hectares of parkland.

Photo by: RAFAEL SCHMALL / SCHMALL RAFAEL PHOTOGRAPHY
Photo by: RAFAEL SCHMALL / SCHMALL RAFAEL PHOTOGRAPHY

1. Natural Bridges National Monument, United States

This Utah national park was the first IDA-designated International Dark Sky Park, declared in 2007. The park is renowned for its 3 natural bridge formations (hence its name), one of which is the second-largest in the world. The area was first designated a park in 1908. In the summer, the park provides astronomy ranger programs to help share its gorgeous nighttime skies with some of the 95,000 people that visit each year. The Milky Way is very clearly visible and the desert conditions of the area make for many nights of clear viewing throughout the year. During an assessment by the NPS Night Sky Team, the park registered as a Class 2 on the Bortle Dark-Sky Scale, making it one of the darkest skies in the lower 48 states.

Utah stars

The 10 Best Cities in the World 2015

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

10. London, England

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

elenaburn / Shutterstock.com
elenaburn / Shutterstock.com

9. Kyoto, Japan

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

TungCheung / Shutterstock.com
TungCheung / Shutterstock.com

8. Bruges, Belgium

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

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

7. Prague, Czech Republic

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

Prague, Czech Republic

6. Rome, Italy

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

Vatican Museums Rome

5. Paris, France

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

cesc_assawin / Shutterstock.com
cesc_assawin / Shutterstock.com

4. Sydney, Australia

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

Bondi Beach Sydney Australia

3. Vienna, Austria

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

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

2. Budapest, Hungary

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

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

1. Florence, Italy

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

Florence Italy

The 10 Fastest Growing Destination Cities in Europe for 2015

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

10. Barcelona, Spain

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

Barcelona

9. Düsseldorf, Germany

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

Düsseldorf, Germany

8. Warsaw, Poland

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

Warsaw Poland

7. Budapest, Hungary

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

Budapest, Hungary

6. Bucharest, Romania

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

Bucharest, Romania

5. Berlin, Germany

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

Berline Germany, Spree River

4. Lisbon, Portugal

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

Lisbon Skyline Portugal

3. Copenhagen, Denmark

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

Alt
Copenhagan, Denmark

2. Hamburg, Germany

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

Hamburg, Germany

1. Istanbul, Turkey

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

Top Cities 2013 - Istanbul

The 5 Best Thermal Baths in Budapest

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

5. Veli Bej

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

Photo by: Budapest Local
Photo by: Budapest Local

4. Kiraly Bathhouse

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

Photo by: Budapest Local
Photo by: Budapest Local

3. Gellert Thermal Bath

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

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

2. Rudas Bathhouse

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

Photo by: Baths Budapest
Photo by: Baths Budapest

1. Széchenyi Baths

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

Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com
Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com

10 Must-See Churches Around the World

While churches are regarded primarily as places of worship, they have also been long treated throughout history as the centers of cultural and social activity within a community.  This especially rings true of the hundreds of centuries-old parishes, cathedrals and basilicas  scattered around the world that today stand testament to not only the religious commitment of worshipers, but also to the social and artistic progression of our civilization.  Ranging from medieval Gothic Cathedrals to rare Expressionist Parishes, and whether with religious or artistic inclination, here are 10 churches worth checking out (and gawking over!) on your next international adventure.

10. St. Augustine Church, Philippines

This active parish was built of coral stone and bricks in 1717 and can be found in Paoay, Ilocos Norte in the Philippines. Commonly known as Paoay Church, the building is also an example of “Earthquake Baroque,” which, exactly as it sounds, is an architectural term coined to describe the modified Baroque-style rebuilding in places that experienced destructive earthquakes in the 17th and 18th centuries. The most noticeable characteristic of this style is the use of large buttresses on the back and sides of the building (which can be seen at Paoay Church at about 5.5 ft thick) to guard against future earthquake destruction. Also making this site unique is the adjacent coral bell tower, built in 1793 and rising 3-storeys above ground level, used historically as an observation post in several conflicts.

St. Augustine Church, Philippines

9. Salzburg Cathedral, Austria

The site of this Roman Catholic Cathedral in Salzburg, Austria has endured centuries of fires, reconstructions and consecrations (774, 1628 and 1959) with the current building displaying a stunning example of early Baroque architecture designed by Santino Solari. The majestic exterior is quite a sight to behold as it rises above the Old Town cityscape, but it is the interior that is truly awe-inspiring, with the sepia-and white walls adorned by murals, a 4,000-pipe main organ and cathedral portals made my Scheider-Manzell, Mataré and Manzu. Also to be found here are Mozart’s baptismal font, and an exhibition of the excavation of the old, Romanesque cathedral.

Salzburg Cathedral, Austria

8. Bedkhem Church, Iran

Also known as Bethlehem Church and Beyt Lahm Church, this Armenian Apostolic Church was built in 1627 in the Isfahani architectural style (traditional Persian-Iranian). Located in the Julfa quarter of Ishafan, Iran, it was built by Armenian merchant Khaje Petros, to whom an inscription is now found on the south portal of the structure. Though famous for its gilded domes and historic architecture, it is the 72 paintings found within that account for the exquisite beauty of the church, depicting the life of Christ in two rows of masterpieces by notable Armenian artists.

Bethlehem Church, Iran

7. Kizhi Pogost, Russia

Located on a narrow island strip on Lake Onega, Kizhi Pogost, known alternatively as the Church of Transfiguration, is a 37 meter tall structure made entirely of wood, using scribe-fitted horizontal logs joined with interlocking corners (no nails!). The alter was laid in 1714, after the previous church here was struck by lightning, with the updated design providing more efficient ventilation and contributing to its preservation till this day. There is also an aura of legend around the site, with rumor stating that the head builder used only one axe for the entire project, and upon completion chucked it into the lake, exclaiming, “there was not and will not be another one to match it.”

Ilona5555 / Shutterstock.com
Ilona5555 / Shutterstock.com

6. Grundtvig’s Church, Denmark

This amazing example of Expressionist architecture created by chief architect Peder Vilhelm Jensen-Klint and completed by his son, Kaare Klint in 1940 is a Lutheran Church built to commemorate the Danish priest, poet and reformer N.F.S. Grundtvig. Located in the Bispebjerg district in Copenhagen, the most notable exterior feature is the west façade, standing 49 meters tall and resembling the exterior of a church organ. Also quite famous is the interior, which with high, vaulted ceilings and simplistic décor, evokes an atmosphere of tranquility despite the size of the space and the imposing design of the outer façade.

Grundtvig’s Church, Denmark

5. St. Stephen’s Basilica, Hungary

As Budapest’s largest church, St. Stephen’s Basilica can hold up to 8,500 people simultaneously, and provides a panoramic view of the city from the Cupola. A prime example of Neoclassical architecture, the building took over 5 decades to complete, (due primarily to political conflict and structural issues) and changed builders several times before being completed in 1906 by Jozsef Krauser. The ornate interior is truly a site to behold with stained glass windows designed by Miksa Roth and a considerable amount of frescoes, statues and mosaics throughout.  Also to be seen here is the “most precious treasure of Hungary,” the mummified right fist of King Stephen, for whom the Basilica is named.

St. Stephen’s Basilica, Hungary

4. Sagrada Familia, Spain

This “Expiatory Temple of the Holy Family” occupying a 12,800 square meter plot of land in the center of Barcelona remains incomplete till this day. Initial construction began on St. Joseph’s day (March 19) in 1882 under architect Francisco de Paula del Villar y Lozano who later resigned due to disagreements and passed the project to Antoni Gaudi. Gaudi’s vision for the Temple, besides being a place of worship was to “artistically represent the truths of religion and the Glorification of God and His Saints” a concept clearly explored when he abandoned the previously drafted Neo-Gothic design in favor of a more “monumental” design of his own innovation. We see it today in the symbolism of the structure, with each of the 18 towers specifically representing Christ, the Gospels, the Virgin Mary and the 12 Apostles, and the verticality of the structure itself representing elevation towards God.

Sagrada Familia, Spain
Byelikova Oksana / Shutterstock.com

3. Milan Cathedral, Italy

This spectacular architectural feat standing 108.5 meters tall took over 500 years to complete, and was the life work of many architects, master builders and financial backers. Originally commissioned by bishop Antonio da Saluzzo in 1385 and funded by 1st Duke of Milan, Glan Galeazzo Visconti, who had visions of creating the largest church in the world (he wasn’t far off, it is currently the 2nd largest Gothic cathedral in the world), the cathedral was consecrated in 1418 when the nave was undergoing just the beginnings of construction. Today, after several restorations and final additions, the structure is amazingly uniform in its Gothic design, with nave columns reaching 24.5 meters in height and the some 135 spires linked with flying buttresses. The Cathedral is adorned with about 3,400 statues, progressing in style from Gothic to Art Deco, and public access is available to the rooftop providing unparalleled views of the surrounding city.

Milan Cathedral, Italy

2. Westminster Abbey, England

While this is undoubtedly one of Europe’s most famous historical attractions, it is also one of the world’s best examples of Medieval Gothic architecture, albeit with an English twist. This is most evident in the intricacies of the northern façade (tourist entrance) and in the extremely expansive vaulted ceilings of the interior (the highest Gothic vault in England, at 102 ft) made to look even taller by narrow single aisles.  Today, the Abbey is neither a Cathedral nor a parish church (as it had been throughout history) but rather a “Royal Peculiar” subject only to the Sovereign, and is the site of every British coronation since 1066 as well as the final resting place of a number of notable historical figures.

Westminster Abbey, England

1. Las Lajas Sanctuary, Colombia

Rising 100 meters above the bottom of the Guaitara River Canyon, near Nariño, Ipiales in Colombia, the Gothic revival basilica—which is built in-to the rocky cliff on one side, and connects via bridge to the opposite side—looks more like the inspiration for a Disney castle than a Sanctuary. The present day structure was built from 1916-1949, with a history dating back to 1754 when, during a storm, Maria Muences’ deaf-mute daughter exclaimed that she saw a vision of the Virgin Mary over the “laja” (name for flat sedimentary rock similar to shale) after-which she was cured of her afflictions. The first shrine to the “Lady of Las Lajas” was built at this site in the 18th Century and has since been upgraded to what we see today. The sanctuary was authorized by the Roman Catholic Church in 1951 and declared a minor basilica 3 years later.

Las Lajas Sanctuary, Colombia

10 Gorgeous Pools You Won’t Believe Are Public

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

10. Bondi Icebergs Club -Bondi, Australia

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

PomInOz / Shutterstock.com
PomInOz / Shutterstock.com

9. Krapfenwaldbad Pools -Vienna, Austria

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

Photo by: Wien Info
Photo by: Wien Info

8. Venetian Pool -Coral Gables, Florida

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

Venetian Pool, Coral Gables

7. Thermae Bath Spa -Bath, England

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

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

6. Kastrup Sea Bath -Kastrup, Denmark

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

Photo by: Visit Copenhagen
Photo by: Visit Copenhagen

5. Yrjonkatu Swimming Hall -Helsinki, Finland

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

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

4. Badeschiff -Berlin, Germany

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

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

3. Barton Springs Pool -Austin, Texas

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

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

2. Gellert Baths -Budapest, Hungary

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

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

1. The Blue Lagoon -Reykjavik, Iceland

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

SurangaSL / Shutterstock.com
SurangaSL / Shutterstock.com

The 8 Best European Winter Getaways

Some people actually prefer snow (as hard as that is to believe), yet the majority of winter dwellers crave a warm weather adventure to restore their bounce for life. Out in the big world are opportunities for everyone to experience life according to their own wish list. It could be skiing in the awesome Alps of Switzerland, laying on a white sand beach in the Mediterranean, or sipping coffee on a terrace in Italy. Whether you are seeking warm or cold weather getaways to escape the work cubicle, we have it covered. Time to de-stress and bring out the inner child. Take advantage of inexpensive locations to hook up with your fantasy trip. Everybody has one. The low tourism season always means low rates, so no reason to deny yourself a holiday. With so many global places eligible as vacation destinations, we went in blind to come up with our favorites for a top ten list, and here they are:

8. Andalucia, Spain

Andalucia is the ‘mother’ of Spanish folklore. It is the place where you get to live the magic of the authentic bullfighting and of Flamenco. This Spanish destination offers golden sand beaches and high ethereal mountain ranges while whisking the imagination to the days of Don Juan and Carmen, who were both born here. Andalucia is crossed by the great Guadalquivir River with an engaging history. It’s the friendly locals, the variety of landscapes, and interesting fauna which keeps travelers returning again and again. Seville, the Andalucia Capital, is one of the most beloved places by visitors due to its overall ambience and incredible landmarks.  The sky touching cathedral, Torre Del Oro, and the old district Barrio Santa Cruz are only a few of many must see places in Seville. Costa De Sol beckons with its fine sand beaches made popular by tourists. The Mediterranean coast revels in smooth climates, great food and entertaining culture. For sport enthusiasts, Andalucia embraces everything from skiing in the Sierra Nevada to surfing in Tarifa and always in the most ideal conditions.

Andalucia, Spain

7. Tromsø, Norway

Tromsø as a vacation spot may not come to many people’s minds immediately, however, this unique little place deserves to be explored. The city enjoys a midnight sun from May to July. During this time, the sun will always be above the horizon. Cable cars are readily available to whisk you away for one stunning panoramic view of the world.Other popular areas to view the sizzling horizon are on the Tromsø Bridge and in front of the Arctic Cathedral, either way, taking in the midnight sun is just the beginning. Tromsø is one of the best places to experience the angelic wonders of the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). From the September through March, visitors can be enlightened by perfect atmospheric conditions in the Aurora Borealis belt called Tromsø.  For outdoor lovers, Tromsø offers plenty of sunshine, good weather, and continuous thrills into dark. There is an exciting husky safari, ice kick sledding, and ice fishing. Light and darkness have never worked together quite as well as they do in this special landscape. Tromsø’s most visited attractions include the Botanic Gardens, the Arctic Cathedral, and the Tromsø Museum. Be prepared to be inspired on this travel journey.

Tromsø, Norway

6. Vienna, Austria

“Let’s have a coffee” is a phrase you’re likely to hear a lot in Vienna. With a legendary coffee culture, many relationships and business decisions have been pondered over coffee. Vienna is a romantic’s dream with its baroque palaces and glittering shops. There is something almost ageless about this old historic city. The city bends time coupling old history with the dynamics of a youthful city. A city famous for its trappings of an imperial capital now also includes a rich electronic music scene and vibrant dance clubs.  Between multitudes of street performers, and glamorous balls, this is a city full of flavor. You should not miss the carnival season in Vienna, officially called ‘ball season’ the city hosts elegant and wonderful balls to attend. In the summer, take in one of the area’s many open-air film festivals for a change of pace. Vienna also boasts of over 21 markets, characteristically Viennese hut-like shops which are open daily. There is a large variety available from the dirt cheap to the upscale. Every market offers all the trimmings from coffee to butchers. Grab some kraut and stroll down to the Schloss Schonbrunn palace for a bite from history.

Jorg Hackemann / Shutterstock.com
Jorg Hackemann / Shutterstock.com

5. Dubrovnik, Croatia

Enamored by this beautiful city, George Bernard Shaw described Dubrovnik as “For those who seek paradise on earth”. Words do not give justice to this well-preserved city in Croatia. Often called “The Pearl of the Adriatic”, Dubrovnik overlooks ancient monasteries, baroque churches, and aristocratic palaces to make for a wonderful getaway. Old town is the first stop in Dubrovnik, a place famous for Stradun and the patron St. Blaise. Watch the world go by in a coffeehouse and escape the gloom of winter. Soak up the sun at a hidden beach unknown to tourists, or check out Dubrovnik’s spectacular and dramatic Dalmation Coast. For those who have never heard of Dubrovnik, it’s the filming location for the widely popular HBO show “Game of Thrones”. In the series, Dubrovnik is used to create ‘King’s Landing” and locations used include St. Dominic Street, Lokrum Island, Sponza palace and Knezev dvor. Hotel Belvedere hosts not only the filming location for this beloved show, but also has some interesting history. Outside of old town, high on a steep beach, this 1986-built hotel was forced to close within 6 years because it was the primary target of the Yugoslav army as the hotel had served as a refugee shelter.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

4. Kas, Turkey

On the southern side of Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, two hour’s drive southeast of Fethiye, is a historic fishing village called Kas. Now a major tourist attraction, Kas has charm and the activities are endless with some of the greatest diving in the entire Mediterranean. Beautiful harbors and tiny-pebbled beaches are only a fraction of Kas’ appeal. There is an unhurried ambiance to the village, letting time float unnoticed amongst daily routines. White-washed houses sit quietly at the wall of mountains before facing the blue waters of the Mediterranean. Bring out the explorer in you by visiting the ruins of the ancient town of Antiphellos or cross the water to the Greek island of Megisti; only a day trip away. Kas also offers boat trips to neighboring villages like Kalkan. If adventure isn’t your calling then spend time relaxing and drinking Turkish coffee in one of their many waterfront coffee-houses. Turkey itself is an enormously cultural rich and diverse country, with a wide variety of interaction for everyone. This is one destination which should be visited at least once in a lifetime.

Kas, Turkey

3. Sorrento, Italy

This southern city of Italy is a treat whatever the weather, with Capri and Naples easily accessible from here. This is the ideal place to taste authentic Italian cuisine and is also the place where gelato was born. The amazing scenery combined with authentic old-world delicacies promises a good time for everyone. The stunning Amalfi Coast is in Sorrento so many tourists flock to this coastal paradise. The intensity continues with Naples so close by. Naples is Italy in the extreme. This is the birthplace of Sophia Loren, modern pizza and also the Camorra, ‘family of organized crime’.  Still, this region of Italy is loaded with travel thrills including the Pompeii ancient Roman sites nearby and Paestum with its old Greek temples. With Sorrento as your sunny springboard you can jet around this part of Italy and never be bored. In fact, you will probably wish to bask lazily on one of the many fine sand beaches in the area, drinking fine wine and taking in a spectacular sunset. The Sorrento people have gone out of their way to make this quaint cliff-ledge town a relaxing and safe place for tourists from all over the world.

Amalfi Coast

2. Budapest, Hungary

Budapest is a city split down the middle by the beautiful Danube River. On one side is Buda characterized by curvy rolling hills, the famous Castle district, and historic Ottoman relics. The other side is Pest marked by spread out, tree-lined boulevards, trendy ruin-style bars and vanishing apartment blocks. Budapest is full of magic waters as they bubble constantly into the 118 springs and boreholes around the city. It’s known as the city of spas, and for fans of the pampered type, this winter getaway promises an impressive array of spa baths. Choose from the 1913 neo-baroque style Szechenvi Spa or the Rudas Spa, a 16th century Turkish pool draped by original Ottoman architecture. Afterwards, enjoy Budapest’s amazing city history, engaging culture, and natural beauty. Take in Roman ruins at the Aquincum Museum, or wander through Statue Park to see the 300 foot dome of St. Stephen’s Basilica. Escape to Margaret Island, which was used as a harem during the Turkish occupation. The island once called “Island of the Rabbits” is now a serene green park in the middle of the Danube, so get ready to stroll on its medieval ruins and romantic pathways.

Budapest, Hungary

1. Innsbruck, Austria

If you are looking to extend your winter recreation then rope in some friends and head off to the best of winter destinations in the Karwendal Alps. Ski like a professional down the peaks with crisp air and stunning Alpine landscapes, or try your energy with cross country skiing in these magnificent mountains. Bring lots of energy here, as this has been home of the winter Olympics. Rent a traditional chalet at one of the many resorts and prepare for a fun-filled Alpine vacation. Austria may seem intimidating at first, but no worries, the locales are happy to help you navigate the locale. This Austrian town is chalked full of medieval centers, cathedrals, castles, and fine museums with more attractions to visit and things to do other than just skiing. You certainly won’t go hungry in Innsbruck with an endless variety of restaurants and pubs to feed the most ravenous appetite. Innsbruck is officially an internationally world renowned winter sports center. It is also the halfway point between Verona, Italy and Munich, Germany; perfect for an extended travel journey. While you are in Innsbruck, take in the Alpine Zoo or University Botanical Gardens. Tourism is the number one industry here making Innsbruck desirable for visitors.

Innsbruck, Austria

 

10 Things to See and Do in Budapest

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

10. Drink Coffee

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

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

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

9. Go Underground

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

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

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

8. Explore Budapest’s Roman Roots

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

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

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

7. Dine Like a King

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

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

posztos / Shutterstock.com
posztos / Shutterstock.com

6. Look at Some Art

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

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

dsajo / Shutterstock.com
dsajo / Shutterstock.com

5. Take a Bath

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

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

Vacclav / Shutterstock.com
Vacclav / Shutterstock.com

4. Visit St. Stephen’s Basilica

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

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

St. Stephan's budapest

3. Attend the Sziget Festival

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

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

joyfull / Shutterstock.com
joyfull / Shutterstock.com

2. Drink Unicum in the Zwack Museum

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

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

cristi180884 / Shutterstock.com
cristi180884 / Shutterstock.com

1. Visit the Központi Vásárcsarnok

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

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

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