7 Things To See And Do In Hokkaido, Japan

Blue skies, pristine wilderness, powder-fine snow, rolling hills and beautiful blue skies define Hokkaido and the outdoor treasures if offers. Hokkaido is enchanting, with beautiful backdrops and plenty of things to do throughout the year. Traditional onsen dot the island, which is Japan’s most northerly island. Parks abound here, home to geothermal springs, volcanic mountains, caldera lakes, and a wealth of flora and fauna. Fish, cycle, and hike through the park, hit the world-class ski hills in the winter, and enjoy traditional Japanese onsen to ease away the day’s adventures.

Noboribetsu

Noboribetsu is Hokkaido’s hot spring resort, situated on the island’s southwest edge and hailed as one of the best Japanese onsens in the country. The resort comprises part of Shikotsu‑Toya National Park and close to Sapporo, a popular tourist stop close enough to the park tourism trickles over significantly. There are eleven different types of medicinal thermal water available at Noboribetsu, which Japanese people believe are the most healing and soothing in the country. Set a little more than five kilometers from Noboribetsu City proper, Noboribetsu Onsen is considered a smaller town that offers easy access to Japanese ryokan, smaller Japanese inns or hotels providing traditional services and amenities. The onsen is at the mouth of the Noboribetsu River and surrounded by marshes, forests, and lakes presenting sublime vistas fringed by a pristine forest, perfect for hiking and sitting 656 feet above the sea.

Shiretoko National Park

Shiretoko is on Hokkaido’s easternmost edge, a peninsula fringing the Sea of Okhotsk, named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and home to a wide variety of wildlife including white-tailed eagles, sea birds, earless seals, and brown bears with a healthy salmon run in the rivers ideal for fishing. Shiretoko National Park is beautifully secluded, a wonderful place to escape the bustle of Japan’s fascinating but chaotic cities and experience a very natural, sometimes surprising, side of the country. If you’re hoping for a look around the park, note accessibility is tough, happening mostly by foot, boat, and then several days of hiking, but is entirely worth the time and effort. If going it alone isn’t in the cards, there are several tour companies offering excursions through the park to see the hidden points like natural waterfalls, rock formations, and wildlife viewing including whales, dolphins, and more.

Rebun and Rishiri Islands

Along the northern tip of Hokkaido, a series of tranquil fishing villages are part of another magnificent national park named Rishiri‑Rebun‑Sarobetsu. Slow down, peruse a natural landscape of aromatic wild flowers, and hike through thickly forested areas along fairly easy trails. Sitting about nine kilometers north of Rishiri, Rebun is best visited in June through August when the backdrop is brilliantly coloured with flowers. Mount Rishiri is the dramatic but dormant volcano in this park, giving way to the rolling hills and alpine flora of Rebun Island. Shiretoko Five Lakes can be explored along a series of boardwalk trails, edged by the lakes, and located in an ancient forest at Mount Rausu’s base (but can only be done with a registered guide). Another point of interest is Utoro, on the western peninsula point and known for its thriving fishing industry, professional trekking guides, and hot spring spa.

Cape Kamui

Cape Kamui on Hokkaido’s Shakotan Peninsula is a place for nature lovers. From the car park, become pleasantly entranced by a labyrinth of beautiful trails weaving the way to a network of viewing points offering spectacular vistas of the Sea of Japan. Here, you’ll find old signs once restricting the area to men only (a now forgotten cultural belief). The very tip of Cape Kamui is an otherworldly place, with frequently foggy skies adding appeal to the landscape and unusual rock formations, the biggest attractions. The area is also renowned among surfers as a fantastic spot to ride the waves and revel in intensely blue water. The lighthouse at the peninsula’s tip is a remarkable viewpoint, a great place to watch traditional fishermen heading out to sea, agile surfers, and a panoramic view of the coastline, reached along a seafront path bound by disjointed old fencing.

Niseko

Next to bustling Shiribetsu River and tucked into the Mount Yokei foothills, Niseko is an outdoor resort with year-round activities. The resort really comes live in winter months, winter months, with thousands of visitors fired up and ready to ski or snowboard at one of Niseko’s six distinct ski areas, which from smallest to largest include Weiss, Moiwa, Hanazono, Annupuri, Higashiyama, and Hirafu. The back country areas of these six gems is astounding, blanketed with fine snow, and giving way to huge, broad runs. If adrenaline rushes aren’t your thing, try back country horseback riding or snowshoeing or jump on a heart-racing snow tubing session or jarring snowmobile ride. Whether Shiribetsu River mountain biking, hiking Shinsen‑numa trails, or climbing Mount Yotei, summer activities are plentiful and fun during warm, Japanese summers at Niseko. Hit the onsen following a day of adventure to soak in an ancient onsen.

Akan National Park

Akan National Park is one of the earliest designated national parks in Hokkaido famous for three scenic lakes. Mashu-ko, or Mashu Lake, is one of Akan’s best attractions, and though swimming isn’t permitted, several observation decks provide views of the beautiful caldera lake. Take the trail to the first observation deck, walk along the caldera’s rim, and onward to Mount Mashudake Summit, along about seven kilometers through grassland and forest to the volcanic peak on the lake’s west side. A small community of Ainu people still resides in the park–visit for a taste of tradition in the small, community and find handmade items and traditional dishes to try. Within Akan National Park, take the trail to Kaminoko Pond in the park’s center to see the sapphire water, swim at Lake Kussharo, a geothermal lake on the southern shore, visit traditional onsen, and canoe Kushiro River.

Asahidake Hokkaido

Powder hounds unite at Mount Asahidake on Mount Asahi, a Daisetsuzan National Park back country area ripe with ski and snowboard trails all serviced by a swift cable car for easier ascents. Asahidake is one of the best ski areas in Japan and a Hokkaido hotspot often boasting waist-deep snow. The average snow depths are a whopping 45-feet per season atop japan’s highest mountain where temperatures are cold enough to maintain conditions all season, and with a really dry season, the snow stays dry rather than the heavy, wet snow found throughout mountains closer to the ocean. Don’t expect a modern ski resort filled with shops and such: Asahidake has limited shops offering basic outdoor equipment like gloves and hats, a small food area, and a barely-there cafeteria so arrive prepared. A handful of cross country trails, several onsens (Japanese baths), and a few hotels.

The World’s Strangest Laws

The world is full of strange and unusual laws that sometimes don’t make any sort of sense. Some are just so farfetched it’s hard to believe they are real while others are just confusing and sometimes ignorant. From the illegality of having donkeys sleep in your bathtubs to the ban on building sandcastles to a law that prevents chewing gum into a country; these 15 laws are some of the world’s strangest laws.

15. Donkeys and Bathtubs

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It is one of the most ridiculous laws we have ever heard of and it’s unsure why it even exists, perhaps to make people scratch their head and wonder what they were thinking. In Oklahoma, it is illegal to have a sleeping donkey in your bathtub after 7 pm. Does this mean you can have an awake donkey in your bathtub? Or even a sleeping donkey in your house? Apparently, the law is based on a case that happened in 1924 when a donkey fell asleep in a bathtub and headed down the river into a valley.

Locals had to haul the donkey back to its home and signed a petition to pass a law, in case this sort of thing ever happened again. We doubt anyone still has donkeys in their bathtubs, but hey, you never know.

14. Keep smiling in Milan

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They certainly are happy in Milan but perhaps they are smiling because it is actually the law to do so. The law in the province of Milan actually requires every citizen to smile when they are out in public. Exemptions are made if you are headed to a funeral or visiting someone in the hospital. Breaking this law can lead to being arrested and fined up to $100. It’s a good thing it takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown or a whole lot of people would be facing daily fines.

13. No Sandcastles in Eraclea, Italy

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There are a lot of strange laws in Italy and although some make sense, this one baffles us completely. If you are heading to Eraclea, make sure you know that it is absolutely illegal to build sandcastles here. Lawmakers say that sandcastles “obstruct the passage” but try telling your five-year-old that it is actually illegal to do so. It is not known what the punishment is for breaking this law but you should probably leave your buckets and shovels at home when you head to this beach.

12. Check for Children, Denmark

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The road laws in Denmark actually say that you have to check under your car for children before going, but only sleeping children according to officials. We have absolutely no idea why this law came into effect but we have to wonder how the people of Denmark are raising their children if there is a chance someone might find them sleeping under their car. Regardless you can face fines and punishment if you accidentally forget to look under the car for those sleeping children before pulling out.

11. No Public Eating During Ramadan, United Arab Emirates

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If you plan on traveling to the United Arab Emirates during Ramadan, the holy month, you should definitely know the laws during the fasting hours. First up the fasting hours are during daylight and if you think you are going to eat or drink in public without getting a fine, you would be wrong.

The price of the fine can range but just recently two tourists were charged $275 each for taking a drink of juice in public. Make sure you stick to your hotel room if you want to eat lunch, take a drink, or have any sort of public displays of affection with your partner. Because as most of you know, public displays of affection are also banned in this country.

10. Make sure you flush the Toilet in Singapore

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It is actually illegal not to flush the toilet in Singapore and if you thought officials didn’t enforce this law, you would be wrong. According to the law, you can face a fine of up to 5,000 Singapore dollars for not flushing a public toilet after using it. Officials have actually been known to do random spot checks and will certainly find any offender. While this law is strange we must admit we wish every country would put this law into place and crackdown on it. No one likes going to a washroom with a floater in it.

9. No noisy footwear, Capri, Italy

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Don’t plan on wearing your flip flops here, unless you have somehow managed to make them silent as wearing noisy footwear in Capri Italy is actually illegal. These peace-loving locals are serious about their peace and quiet and people have been both fined and arrested for wearing wooden clogs, noisy flip flops, and other shoes that don’t fit the quiet bill. Make sure you are also fully clothed when walking around this island as wearing just a bikini or without a shirt will also lead to a fine.

8. No Camouflage Clothing, Trinidad and Tobago

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Don’t plan on wearing anything that remotely resembles camouflage on your next trip to Trinidad and Tobago or you will be faced with a possible fine of up to $1000 and 18 months in prison. The law was put in effect as camouflage too closely resembles the uniform of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force. It is even illegal for children to wear this kind of clothing. You will be in more trouble if you do break this law and someone mistakes you as part of the force. They take their military seriously around here.

7. Don’t Feed the Pigeons, Italy and San Francisco

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In both Italy and San Francisco along with a handle of other cities, it is illegal to feed those pesky pigeons. Yes, it may be tempting as they are one of the only birds brave enough to walk right up to your hand and eat out of it but pigeon feeders can be arrested and fined serious cash. So why is it illegal? It causes over breeding, health hazards, and a few more reasons that lawmakers cite every time someone gets arrested for the act. Some hypothesis the cities just don’t want to pay someone to clean up all the pigeon crap that constantly wreaks havoc on the sidewalks. Both ways, it’s a law and it is highly enforced.

6. Watch where you step, Thailand

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There are a number of strange laws in Thailand, such as it is illegal to leave your house without wearing underwear (we wonder who checks for this one) and you have to wear a shirt while driving a car. One of the strangest laws here though can easily be broken simply but not looking where you are going. It is actually illegal here to step on any Baht, the local currency. For example, if you drop a bill and it starts to fly away, don’t even think about stepping on it to stop it. You can get arrested and fined for stepping on any Baht currency here, as well as if you decide to throw it at a person in anger or deface it in any way.

5. No Overweight People, Japan

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It is the slimmest industrialized nation and it’s no surprise considering it is actually illegal to be overweight here. In 2008 lawmakers in Japan passed the Metabo Law, hoping that it would stop the dreaded metabolic syndrome from affecting aging populations.  Citizens here now have to comply with a government-imposed waistline standard, the maximum waistline size for anyone age 40 and older is 85 centimeters (33.5 inches) for men and 90 centimeters (35.4 inches) for women.

Metabolic syndrome is a combination of health risks, including stomach flab, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol that can lead to cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The penalty for breaking this law is far from harsh though and individuals are required to attend a combination of counseling sessions, monitoring through phone and email correspondence, and motivational support.

4. Don’t Stop on the Autobahn, Germany

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The Autobahn in Germany is one of the last places on earth that you can drive as fast as you want and although many places have speed limits, there is still a fair number of long stretches where you can put the pedal to the medal. There are certain laws though that go with this privilege of driving however fast you want.

First off make sure you don’t run out of gas on this highway as it’s highly illegal. So is stopping on the side of the road. So is walking on the Autobahn. That’s three strikes against you if you happen to pull over because your gas needle is on empty and you have to walk to get gas. Don’t get caught as you can face $100 per fine, and you will be whacked with more than just one in this case.

3. Don’t Cheat in Hong Kong

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If you are a male, we highly suggest not cheating on your wife if you happen to reside in Hong Kong. This is because it is actually legal for a female to kill her cheating husband, as long as she uses her bare hands. Not just the husband but the women who have been with him is also allowed to be killed by the wide, but by any manner she chooses.

There are numerous forms of punishment for wives who have been cheated on, in case they don’t feel like committing murder. Wives can send their cheating husbands away to a work camp for up to two years, the wife can claim half the possessions given to the secret lover and they can even demand compensation from their husbands.

2. No Chewing Gum, Singapore

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A ban on the sale, import, and manufacture of chewing gum in Singapore took effect on 3 January 1992 and the law still exists today. In 2004 therapeutic chewing gum was allowed into the country and dental and nicotine gum are exceptions, but only from a prescription from your doctor.

This law was created in large part because the local railway system was being vandalized but it can be dated back to 1983 when the former prime minister was fed up with the amount of chewing gum that was being left on sidewalks, in mailboxes, and in elevators. Then the MRT started running in 1987 and vandals began sticking chewing gum to the doors, causing the sensors to malfunction. In 1992 Goh Chok Tong took over as president and immediately banned chewing gum.

1. Leave your bible at home, Maldives

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This Muslim nation is serious about their religion and owning a bible here is illegal and can get you thrown right out of the country. The Islamic government here prevents its citizens from converting to any other religion other than Muslim and non-obeyers can face serious consequences. The few that did convert are forced to meet underground. If you plan on moving here and want to be accepted as a citizen, you best leave that bible at home and prepare to convert to the Muslim faith.

8 Unusual Organized Tours for an Outstanding Vacation

Are your usual travel plans seeming a little flat? Do you want a travel experience that is truly conversation-worthy when you return home? Do you crave something out-of-the-box, but can’t quite put your finger on it? Read on below for some suggestions of amazing tours that are out of the ordinary- to varying degrees. Some will put a different perspective on familiar sites or cities. Others may have you saying- they have a tour for that?

1. Disney’s Keys to the Kingdom, Orlando

One of the first rules of being a magician is to never reveal the secrets behind your tricks. Well, the Magic Kingdom in Orlando turns that whole concept on its ear by providing a tour to its underground tunnel system (Utilidor) – which is where much of their magic happens. If you’ve been to the Magic Kingdom- think about it; have you ever seen anything the least bit utilitarian (i.e. supplies traveling) or un-magic? The complex Utilidor system is an intricate, minutely detailed system that is the conduit for Disney Cast Members (staff) to whisk from one location to another, supplies to be delivered and for garbage to be transported. It’s a whole other world underground at Disney World- complete with cafeterias, a hairdresser as well as a myriad of offices. The traveler who has a keen appreciation for well-executed logistics will enjoy this 7 hour tour, which includes lunch. It’s Disney from a whole new perspective.

Katherine Welles / Shutterstock.com
Katherine Welles / Shutterstock.com

2. Chernobyl, Ukraine

While touring the site of a nuclear disaster may not top everyone’s travel wish list, those wishing to gain insight into the historic 1986 Chernobyl disaster will be pleased to know that there are a number of organized tours open to the public. There are one day and two day tours offered (some include transportation to and from Kiev). Depending on your tour company, expect to see the village of Chernobyl and to travel through various checkpoints. You’ll see the abandoned town of Pripyat. Groups are taken through the Exclusion Zone (which is closed to the general public, but open to tour groups) and then brought into the Chernobyl Power Plant itself to witness the site of the disaster.

Chernobyl

3. Helter Skelter Tour, Los Angeles

In Los Angeles you can go on a guided tour that takes you through the sites of some of the grisly Tate/LaBianca murders committed by the Manson family. The tour delves into the minds of the killers and victims themselves in the hours prior to the murders. These cases continue to fascinate the public to this day, and this tour explores some of the reasons why.

crime scene

4. Funky Chicken Coop Tour, Texas

This organized tour is a little different than other tours for a number of reasons. For one thing- it is a once-a-year event. For another, it was developed as a promotional tool of sorts. The annual tour was launched by not-for-profit Urban Poultry Association of Texas, Inc. in order to raise public awareness around urban farming. The tour has a home base with family-friendly activities, and proceeds to tour around several urban chicken coops in the Austin area, where the public can view urban poultry (and other) farming first hand.

Photo by: Austin Funky Chicken Coop Tour
Photo by: Austin Funky Chicken Coop Tour

5. Train with a Sumo Wrestler, Japan

Ever wonder what it would be like to be a Sumo Wrestler? In Japan, there are a number of tours intended to acquaint you with a morning in a typical day in the life of a Sumo Wrestler by immersing you in the experience. The art of Sumo Wrestling is steeped in centuries of tradition, deep history and regard for ritual. The tour begins in a traditional Sumo stable, where wrestlers live and train together. On this tour, your day starts with the traditional early morning Sumo Wrestling practice, where you’ll watch wrestlers have at it, and then have a go in the ring yourself. After your wrestling, you’ll eat the traditional Chanko meal (which is a mix of protein and veggies) which Sumo Wrestlers eat every day (these wrestlers reportedly eat about 10,000 calories in a single meal) to maintain their training regime. You’ll share the meal with the Oyakata (master) who will field any questions about what it is really like to be a Sumo Wrestler.

Sumo Training

6. Tragic History Tour, Los Angeles

Unfortunately, often with fame comes a lot of tragedy and promising young lives are cut all too short. So it is no surprise that star-studded Hollywood has been the scene for a number of star-related deaths and scandals. There are a few organized tours that let you be celebrity voyeurs, and get your fix of celebrity gossip, complete with guided commentary. The Dearly Departed, Tragic History Tour brings you to 75 different sites over the course of an afternoon. See where Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and River Pheonix died. See the sites of the scandals that surrounded Hugh Grant, Rhianna and Chris Brown. With a nod of decidedly dark humor, this tour is delivered from a “tomb buggy” (a bus). It’s the perfect tour for the celeb-obsessed.

The Viper Room

7. Red Light District Tour, Amsterdam

There is nowhere quite like Amsterdam, the ultimate melting pot of all vices. Why not benefit from a little local commentary from an expert guide while taking in the “sights”. One tour company (named, plainly Amsterdam Red Light District Tours) has a tagline of ‘History, Hookers and Hashish: we have an awesome tour for you’. Delivered in English by local Dutch guides, guests of this tour will see the first condom shop in the world, peep shows, the infamous Amsterdam pot-smoking coffee shops, prostitutes (including the Museum of Prostitution) and appropriately, the Hangover Information Centre.

Red Light District Tour, Amsterdam

8. Crop Circle Tours, UK

Paranormal believers unite! You have likely heard of crop circles, but did you know that they have a high season? (which interestingly peaks in the middle of high traffic summer vacation season). There are a number of tours that take you out to tour recently formed circles. If you’d like to extend your extra-terrestrial tour time, then combine the crop circles with a “Magical Mystery tour” which hits all the local crop circles, but also takes you to see Stonehenge and Avebury, which borders the Warminster Triangle, where there has reportedly been strange sights, sounds, ghostly/unexplained apparitions- not to mention a very strong electro-magnetic field, which is requisite it would seem for UFO encounters.

Crop Circle

7 Legendary Toy Stores That Even Adults Will Love

It is no secret that kids go crazy for toy stores and planning a vacation with a trip to one always brings smiles. But what about the adults, can they have fun too? There are your run of the mill toy stores and then there are legendary, knock your socks off toy stores that appeal to both kids and adults. Think of towering dinosaurs, interactive play areas; classic toys that take you back to your childhood and more Lego than you have ever imagined. These seven awesome toy stores, located around the world will have both kids and adults leaving with a smile on their face.

7. Hamleys -London, England

Established in 1760, Hamleys is the oldest toy shop in the world and one of the most loved. The flagship store in London is located on Regent Street and features over seven floors that house more than 50,000 toys. It is one of the city’s most visited attractions welcoming more than five million visitors each year. The toy store is divided into separate toy categories; each having their own floor and generally the ground floor is devoted to anything soft from teddy bears to life size giraffes and elephants. It’s not just toys here at this toy store though; throughout the year various events take place including appearances by Father Christmas and his elves and incredible birthday party opportunities. Even Snoopy and Charlie Brown are known to make an appearance every now and then. You will have no trouble finding the perfect toy here, if anything you will come out with much more than you expected!

Photo by: Sharonsree
Photo by: Sharonsree

6. Kiddyland -Tokyo, Japan

This toy store appeals to kids and adults that are looking for anything Japanese, as you won’t find many of these toys anywhere else in the world. A constantly changing inventory makes this shopping experience unique every time you visit. Spread over five floors the atmosphere in the store is playful and relaxed, letting shoppers unwind and find their inner-child. Explore the entire Hello Kitty floor, the Snoopy floor and others that include Pokémon, Star Wars and Lego. Kids will love the variety of toys and figurines while adults will appreciate unique souvenirs such as Star Wars chopsticks. To get shoppers even more in the spirit, Kiddyland has decorated their stairs and elevators with characters. Overwhelming at times, this toy store is a must visit.

Photo by: tokyo.parallellt
Photo by: tokyo.parallellt

5. Playthings Etc. -Pennsylvania, USA

It proclaims to be the “world’s coolest toy store” and looking at the outside we may just have to agree, considering the store is actually shaped like a spaceship. Inside shoppers will find toys and hobbies for all ages, over 3,000 toys to discover. What makes this toy store so awesome is the fact the staff let you try out just about anything, inside or out. There are toy stations set up all over the store, where you can try out classic toys and new futuristic ones you have never seen before. Whether you are looking for old classics, futuristic toys or science experiment toys, you will find it all here. The employees who do demonstrations on unicycles, rockets, pogo sticks, magic and more will also entertain visitors to the store.

Photo by: Playthings Etc. The World's Coolest Toy Store!
Photo by: Playthings Etc. The World’s Coolest Toy Store!

4. Nintendo World -New York, USA

Hop into your very own warp pipe into the Mushroom Kingdom and beyond when you visit this incredible store located in Manhattan’s historic Rockefeller Center. There is over 10,000 square feet of gaming goodness here, spread over two floors, awaiting both news fans and old. This store is definitely not “hands off” as there are gaming stations throughout, with both new and old systems to explore. This is also the place you will find more memorabilia and games than anywhere else in the world when it comes to Nintendo. Don’t miss checking out the awesome Nintendo Museum, which is a part of the store and was recently upgraded and renovated. Events are constantly happening here with new releases of games and systems and it doesn’t seem to matter when you visit, we promise you will leave with a new found appreciation for Nintendo.

Photo by: NintendoNYC
Photo by: NintendoNYC

3. The Lego Store -New York City, USA

Lego has been entertaining kids since 1932, when the brand was developed and clicked with children all over the world. Lego has an impressive amount of stores and it can be hard to narrow down which is the best but the award has to go to New York City. Its two-story Rockefeller Center location boasts over 3,000 square feet of iconic plastic bricks, and all the accessories to go with them. The Pick-A-Brick wall is perhaps the most impressive feature of this store. A structure dressed with 116 bubbles filled with individual Lego pieces, ranging from rare colored bricks to flowers to wheels, fences and more. The Master’s Builder Bar is where you can design your own Lego kit and even play Lego inspired video games. If that wasn’t enough to win you over, how about searching the store for the 50 Lego scenes of the Big Apple that are situated throughout. We aren’t sure who will enjoy this store more, the kids or the adults.

Photo by: TimeOut
Photo by: TimeOut

2. Disney Store -London, England

It wouldn’t be a list of epic toy stores if it didn’t have at least one Disney Store on it and the largest one in Europe gets special mention here. From the outside, the store is impressive in itself featuring a 28 foot high Princess Castle with an animated clock. The Princess makes appearances in the windows while Tinkerbell flies across the walls. Guarding the store are Mickey and Donald Sentries. Inside is where the real magic happens though, featuring 8,200 square feet of toys, games and clothes, all featuring Disney’s iconic characters. Free interactive events constantly happen throughout the year including animation classes, storytelling, trivia quizzes and even full fledged parades. Adults will enjoy the interesting map that shows Disney’s connection to London by pinpointing movie locations such as Big Ben and St. Paul’s Cathedral from movies such as Mary Poppins, Peter Pan, 101 Dalmatians and more.

Disney Store london

1. American Girl Place -Chicago, USA

American Girl Place is the ultimate toy store to visit for any doll fan, whether you are an adult or child. Located at Chicago’s Water Tower Place it is the largest American Girl store in the United States. This shop is home to all of the beloved doll characters including the Girl of the Year and more. It is here where shoppers will find an extensive range of doll accessories, clothing, posters and books. Doll lovers will absolutely love designing their own matching doll and girl t-shirts, appearing on the cover of a souvenir issue of American Girl and watching their doll get their hair done in the Doll Hair Salon. There is even an elegant American Girl Café that is open for brunch, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, reservations are highly recommended. Special events happen throughout the year here and include private shopping nights, meet and greet with Santa and holiday parties.

Photo by: Flickr/popaitaly
Photo by: Flickr/popaitaly

15 Amazing Hotels Around The World For Under $100

While it is very easy to spend a lot of money when staying at a nice hotel there are some places around the world that have world class service and rooms that easily fit into any budget. With a little searching you can find hotels that offer luxury accommodations, great facilities and locations. Next time you are looking to get away for a weekend getaway, head out on a business trip or even once in a lifetime family trip, you don’t have to settle for a small room in a substandard hotel because you are afraid it might break your budget. Take some of these suggestions for amazing hotels that you can book for under $100 a night.

15. Chatrium Hotel Riverside -Bangkok, Thailand

The Chatrium Hotel Riverside is a multiple award winning hotel located adjacent to the Chao Phraya River, just 30 km from the International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand. A Grand Room with a city view is under $80 and comes with a private balcony. At 60 sq. meters the room comes complete with a kitchenette and dining area, coffee and tea making facilities, bathrobe and slippers. The hotel offers a business center that includes everything necessary if you just can’t leave work behind. A 35 meter infinity pool overlooking the river with an outdoor Jacuzzi awaits along with a fully equipped fitness center. Head to the Nemita spa on the ground floor and get a relaxing massage or do pick up some items in the shops. Also on the premises is a Starbucks Coffee Shop and the Saizen Japanese Restaurant. The hotel also has facilities for meetings and weddings.

Photo by: Chatrium Hotel
Photo by: Chatrium Hotel

14. Sri Bungalows -Ubud, Bali

For under $100 you can book a suite at the Sri Bungalows. The bungalows located in Ubud Bali comes with handsomely appointed suites with a private balcony overlooking the rice terraces. The rooms are stylishly appointed and other facilities include two swimming pools, restaurant and full service spa so you can enjoy a Balinese massage. The bungalows cover two floors and are surrounded by gardens and terraces. The hotel is only a short walk to the Ubud Market and the Monkey Forest. For a relaxing stay in a tropical paradise the price is hard to beat.

Photo by: Sri Bungalows
Photo by: Sri Bungalows

13. Radisson Blu Hotel -Cebu, Philippines

Located in the second largest city in the Philippines, Cebu is a popular destination because of the proximity to beautiful beaches and laid back lifestyle. The number one rated hotel in Cebu can also be had for under $100. The Radisson Blu, located 11 kilometers from the International Airport is conveniently located near all the popular tourist sights. With rooms offering goose feather pillows and duvets the Radisson will surely please. The hotel’s restaurant, Feria, offers both à la carte options and a buffet and with five master chefs the food runs the gamut of Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, Mediterranean and International cuisines. The hotel has a large tropical pool outside along with a fully equipped state of the art fitness center and spa. For those staying in a business class room or suite the business class lounge is open daily. The hotel also has a 180 seat lobby bar a pool bar and a tea bar serving 21 different teas from Sri Lanka, China, Japan and South Africa.

Photo by: Radisson Blu
Photo by: Radisson Blu

12. Riad Viva -Marrakech, Morocco

Located in the city center, 15 minutes from the airport, the Riad Viva Hotel offers visitors a relaxing stay in beautifully appointed rooms. The hotel offers guests a wide range of amenities including free WiFi, 24 hr. room service and airport transfers. With a combination of Moroccan style and luxurious amenities guests can be assured of a royal stay. The hotel has a pool along with a steam room and restaurant. The friendly staff can also help in arranging tours to the Ourika Valley, a Berber village, the magical city of Essaouira or point you to the best shopping in town. You can also check out the cooking classes offered by the hotel so you can learn how to use all those aromatic spices and flavors to impress your friends when you return home.

Photo by: Venere
Photo by: Venere

11. Hilton Anatole -Dallas, Texas

You don’t have to travel half way around the world to get a good hotel deal. The Hilton Anatole in Dallas offers the business traveler or visitor to the city comfortable rooms with all the amenities. A room with a King Size bed can be had for under $90 and has just about everything you need as a traveler. The hotel has a full business center and conference facilities and also offers an ATM, currency exchange, clothing store, onsite convenience store and concierge serve. Feel like getting a little exercise? Head to the Verandah Club with fully equipped fitness center, 25 meter lap pool, cross training and boxing gym or enjoy racquet ball the jogging track or basketball courts. The V Spa is the perfect place to get a relaxing massage or spa treatment. In addition to room service there are 5 dining establishments at the hotel including SĒR Steak + Spirits serving up tender steaks and fresh seafood on the 27th floor.

Photo by: Hilton Hotels
Photo by: Hilton Hotels

10. Hotel Paseo Del Arte -Madrid, Spain

Located just a 100 meters from the Atoche Train Station, the Hotel Paseo Del Arte is a 4 star hotel in the heart of Madrid. Comfortably appointed rooms are tastefully furnished and offer a panoramic view of the interior garden or the city. Complete with desk, free WiFi, flat screen TV with international channels, and marble bathroom guests are in the perfect spot to explore the city. The hotel has a fitness facility, shops, coffee shop and bar. The restaurant serves a breakfast buffet and along with regional and international cuisine. With 260 rooms the hotel is less than 15 km to the airport making it easily accessible. The hotel is located in the area known as the Arts Triangle and within walking distance to several museums, parks, shopping, restaurants and the famous Madrid nightlife.

Photo by: Hotel Paseo Del Arte
Photo by: Hotel Paseo Del Arte

9. Century Plaza Hotel and Spa -Vancouver, B.C.

The Century Plaza Hotel and Spa is a family owned and operated located in the center of downtown Vancouver. The hotel prides itself on providing the best service possible. With a business center, conference facilities and indoor pool, the Century Plaza is the perfect place for business travelers and families visiting the city. Since opening the Absolute Spa at Century Plaza Hotel 12 years ago, the Spa has received over 50 awards and is the favorite of celebrities like Zac Effron, Elle McPherson and Gwyneth Paltrow when in town. With an ozonated swimming pool, eucalyptus steam room and relaxation lounge the Spa is the perfect place to get pampered. The hotel also features the C Prime Italian Steak and Wine Restaurant. Using locally sourced meats, vegetables and seafood Chef Bruce Woods has made the restaurant one of the hottest destinations in Vancouver. A coffee shop, salon and Vancouver’s iconic comedy club The Comedy Mix are also available to guests.

Photo by: Century Plaza Hotel
Photo by: Century Plaza Hotel

8. Sana Hotel -Berlin, Germany

The Sana Hotel is a 4 star Superior Class hotel located on the west side of Berlin. With 203 rooms including suites and apartments the Sana offers a wide choice of accommodations. A double room can be booked for less than $100 and prices go up from there. Facilities include a breakfast room, restaurant serving Portuguese cuisine, two bars, terrace garden, fitness center and massage services. The F8/eight Bar & Lounge seats 50 and guests can relax with fine wines and spirits while listening to live jazz. A smoking bar also exists for those that enjoy a fine cigar. In addition to massage services the wellness area on the 7th floor offers an indoor swimming pool, sauna and Turkish bath. The Sana Hotel is also centrally located for sightseeing with the Brandenburg Gate less than 5 km. away, as well as the zoo, museums and cultural facilities being nearby.

Photo by: Sana Hotel
Photo by: Sana Hotel

7. The Signature at MGM Grand -Las Vegas, Nevada

Located just off the famed Las Vegas Strip, The Signature at MGM Grand offers an elevated level of personalized service. Luxuriously appointed suites start at just under $100 and have all the amenities you might expect in luxury hotels costing much more. With a private pool complete with personal cabana and in suite spa services to the spacious suites with granite and marble bathrooms and kitchenettes the hotel does everything possible to pamper the guests. The hotel concierge will ensure you get tickets to the best shows and hard to get restaurant reservations and has a gourmet delicatessen on the premises. Whether you are hitting the Las Vegas Strip, spending the day golfing or seeing the sights you can relax and unwind in your private suite at night and get the rock star treatment from a dedicated staff that does everything the ensure you have the ultimate Las Vegas experience.

Photo by: Signature at MGM Grand
Photo by: Signature at MGM Grand

6. Golden Tulip Amsterdam West -Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam is known for offering cheap backpacker accommodations with over 180 hostels in the city. For those not wanting budget sleeping arrangements with noisy neighbors there is an alternative. Conveniently located to Schiphol Airport and the city center the Golden Tulip Amsterdam West makes exploring the city easy. With rates under $100 you can have the comfort of a spacious room with heated floors, a rain shower and free internet access. Comfortably appointed rooms have been designed to be soundproof so guests can get a good night’s sleep uninterrupted by the wild Amsterdam nightlife. The buffet restaurant seats 300 and is open for breakfast and dinner and the modern bar is a great place to relax and have a cocktail, cup of coffee or a slice of homemade pie. The tram stop is a mere 50 meters from the hotel for easy commute to the famous sights such as the Anne Frank House and Van Gogh Museum.

Photo by: Golden Tulip Hotels
Photo by: Golden Tulip Hotels

5. Relais Spa Chessy Residence -Paris, France

Visitors to Paris know hotels and pretty much everything else can be pricey. With a little searching you can find gems such as the Relais Spa Chessy Residence near Disneyland Paris. A premium room with free WiFi, unlimited spa access and shuttle to Disney Land can be scooped up for under $100. The rooms have a small office area and a discreet kitchen with hot plate. Hotel amenities include pool, steam room, sauna, gym and spa treatments. The Franklin Bar makes for a cozy place to relax with friends for a drink while the Brasserie Flo restaurant serves up sophisticated French cuisine. The hotel staff strives to ensure each guest gets the VIP treatment.

Photo by: Realis Spa
Photo by: Realis Spa

4. Chateau Victoria -Victoria, B.C.

Sitting on the location of a former mansion the Chateau Victoria is a boutique hotel offering a touch of opulence to guests. The hotel has a colorful past due to a parrot that inherited the old mansion that previously stood there and some swear they have seen the well-dressed ghost of Victoria Jane, the previous mansion owner, roaming the halls. Whether you see a ghost or not one thing you can be assured of. The hotel goes out of the way to make to feel comfortable and the rooms complete with free WiFi and big comfortable beds await the tired traveler. The hotel’s Vista 18 restaurant offers regional cuisine and has an extensive wine list. The hotel bar, Clive’s Classic Lounge, has been listed as one of the top hotel bars by several publications. The hotel offers in room spa treatments and massages and the hotel has a lap pool, hot tub and fitness center.

Photo by: Trip Advisor
Photo by: Trip Advisor

3. Grand Nikko Tokyo Daiba -Tokyo, Japan

While Tokyo has its share of pod hotels, where you get to sleep in what resembles a submarine torpedo tube, there are other options. One such option is the Grand Nikko Tokyo Diaba Hotel, a 5 star resort located just 20 minutes from Haneda International airport on 15 minutes from downtown Tokyo. A superior Double room can be booked for under $100 during the week and the hotel comes with such amenities as an outdoor terraced swimming pool with fantastic views of Tokyo, a wellness salon, acupuncture center and has a medical clinic on the premises. The hotel fitness center is fully equipped and has trainers on staff and the hotel has several shops on site. There are eight restaurants at the resort including sushi, Chinese and Italian and the Ruy Lopez Bar stocks liquor from around the world along with fine cigars.

Photo by: Jalan
Photo by: Jalan

2. Lancaster House -Bogota, Colombia

Lancaster House in Bogota Colombia is a boutique hotel designed in the art deco style. The 4 star hotel has two bars, restaurant, gym and sauna. Gatsby Restaurant serves traditional Colombian and International food while the more relaxed Bistro 106 is a great place to relax and get a lighter meal or dessert. Relax in the piano bar with a game of billiards or a cocktail before heading up to your luxurious room. The Junior Suite comes equipped with a living and dining area, work space and kitchen. The hotel also offers a mobile spa service so guests can book a massage or just relax in the sauna. Located in an upscale neighborhood close to embassies and near the major shopping areas the Lancaster is centrally located for easy access to all the city has to offer.

Photo by: Lancaster House
Photo by: Lancaster House

1. Kaani Village and Spa -Maldives

The Kaani Village and Spa located in the beautiful Maldives offers guests a pampered option to staying at a discounted beach hotel. With a Double Deluxe room overlooking the pool that comes with a breakfast included the hotel makes a perfect base to enjoy the island. The Sampa Spa at the hotel offers tradition Thai massage as well as aroma massages performed by two masseuses at once. The hotel has a pool and restaurant and the hotel staff can arrange activities such as fishing, dolphin watching, scuba diving, snorkeling or an island tour complete with picnic. Rated number 3 out of 40 small boutique hotels by TripAdvisor the Kaani Village and Spa does everything possible to pamper guests and make your stay memorable.

Photo by: Kaani Village & Spa
Photo by: Kaani Village & Spa

10 of the World’s Most Unusual Accommodations

There are traditional hotels the world over, from inexpensive motels to five-star luxury resorts offering a spread of classic services. For some, a clean room, comfortable bed, and a few valuable services are ideal but for those with a wild side and a definitive sense of adventure, something more unexampled is in the cards. Thankfully innovative hoteliers have come out of the woodwork to share their unusual–and sometimes even bizarre–hotel concepts. From Brazilian treetop rooms to a hotel made entirely of salt, here are ten of the world’s most interesting and unusual accommodations.

10. Propeller Island City Lodge, Germany

Berlin’s Propeller Island City Lodge is a visual masterpiece and a hotel unlike any other. Lars Stroschen, a renowned German artist, has designed a hotel-meets-museum backdrop with 30 one-of-a-kind rooms spanning from tame to incredibly dramatic. From a room with beds crafted from lion’s cages to one with a padded cell and another with a sloping floor called Mineshaft, these rooms are anything but conventional. The living work of art is nothing short of incredibly creativity–an inspiring feat for any visitor. The hotel is situated in fairly incognito postwar area block mostly comprising flats and accessible to exploring Berlin’s most significant destinations. A truly standout hotel, Propeller Island City Lodge is imagination coming to life from the head of an extremely innovative mind. If possible, ask for a multi-room stay to get real a feel for the breadth of the rooms.

Photo by: Mercury Press / Caters News
Photo by: Mercury Press / Caters News

9. The Dog Bark Park Inn, Idaho

About as unconventional as it gets when it comes to hotels, The Dog Bark Park Inns in Idaho is an immediate attraction for dog-lovers, even those just driving by. Chainsaw artists own the Beagle-shaped hotel, which stands at 12 feet and sleeps four. The second-story deck is the entryway and portal to the interior body, reached via a large sliding door and near (surprise) a giant fire hydrant. The Dog Bark Park Inns is on the grounds of Dog Bark Park where visitors can browse folk-art chainsaw sculptures including dogs, moose, bear, and fish throughout the grounds and explore the husband and wife’s art studio. The artists in residence, Dennis and Frances Sullivan, are each self-taught in chainsaw art methods and have created more than 60 different breeds of dogs. The property of pet-friendly of course!

Photo by: Frances Conklin via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Frances Conklin via Wikimedia Commons

8. V8 Hotel, Germany

In Stuttgart, Germany, in the area’s Motorworld Region (an international hub for car traders), the four-star V8 hotel has been attracting auto lovers from all around the world. Classic modernism is the style used throughout the hotel, where racing paraphernalia,  and even a drive-thru cinema, are key players. Ten car-theme suites are offered here, with beds designed in the shape of various cars, from modern to sporty and vintage to classic. Book early and choose from suite themes like a car wash or automotive garage. Sleep in a classic Mercedes, VW Bug, or Morris Minor. Each room is designed with dedicated car enthusiasts in mind and features a host of unique props like car-shaped soaps and faux gas pumps. The historic airport terminal was once a docking station for the 1920s Graf Zeppelin flights and home to the ME-109 squadron fighter during WWII.

Photo by: V8 Hotel
Photo by: V8 Hotel

7. Hotel Marqués De Riscal, Spain

In Elciego, Spain southwest of Pamplona is one of Canadian architect Frank Gehry’s most unusual endeavors, Hotel Marqués De Riscal. Situated in one of the country’s prominent Rioja wine regions, the avant-garde hotel is similar in style to Gehry’s other revered projects including the Bilbao Guggenheim: a mammoth structure with colossal metal ribbons implemented on the exterior creating dramatic contrast between nature and modern design. The ornate structure overlooks the surrounding vineyard, appearing as a whimsical creation from afar. Belonging to world-famous Starwood Hotels group, Hotel Marqués De Riscal is available for those with thicker wallets but worth the cost for the onsite Michelin-starred chef, luxurious Spa Caudalie Marqués de Riscal, and exquisite wine selection. Certainly one of the most unique looking hotels, it’s the exterior that shines while rooms really only stand out for their massive, slanted picture windows fringing sweeping terraces.

Photo by: Hotel Marques de Riscal
Photo by: Hotel Marques de Riscal

6. El Cosmico, Texas

Anyone with nomadic tendencies–or simply a love for unique experiences–will admire 21-acre El Cosmico in Marfa, Texas. Rather than one building, El Cosmico features a variety of shelters for guests including Aboriginal-style tepees, tent campsites, scout and vintage trailers, Mongolian yurts, and safari tents. Though it all sounds rather slapstick, design is an integral part of the shelters which are based in the high plains Texan desert. Communal spaces include an outdoor kitchen, outdoor stage, a hammock grove, and a community lounge. The owner, Liz Lambert, encourages guests to liberate themselves from modern world constructs and build on the unique theme: El Cosmico offers several ways to become truly involved in the concept of creativity with cooking and art classes, onsite building projects, song-writing classes, and more. Bikes for exploring the desert area and wood-fire hot tubs are also available at El Cosmico.

Photo by: El Cosmico via Facebook
Photo by: El Cosmico via Facebook

5. Quinta Real Zacatecas, Mexico

Get in the ring without the bull at Quinta Real Zacatecas, the 17th century San Pedro bullring painstakingly transformed into a luxury hotel. In 1975, the bullring hosted its final run and stood stagnant for years. Snapped up by Quinta Real hotel group, it was extensively renovated while maintaining the original colonial architecture. One of the details of the hotel design is the bullpens: the bullpen wall was integrated into the hotel’s restaurant as part of the main bar. But the most impressive parts are the grounds. The entire bullring floor, now called the plaza, is still intact, and the hotel faces an ancient viaduct–both are near the Mexican capital of Zacatecas, sitting on the edge of a rocky cliff side alongside the hills of the Cerro de la Bufa and lying almost 9,000 feet above sea level just five minutes outside of the city.

Photo by: Quinta Real
Photo by: Quinta Real

4. Inntel Amsterdam Zaandamn, Netherlands

Stacking houses to create one seamless building is an unconventional but creative way to build a hotel. The fairytale-esque Inntel Amsterdam Zaandamn is made from 70 individual houses put together like puzzle from both townhouses and cottages typical to the local Zaan area. The hotel, just 12 minutes by train to Amsterdam, is a sight to behold–each of the house are brightly painted in various colors which makes each individual house stand out accentuates the puzzle-like construction. The house colors, each a shade of vibrant green, are traditional colors of region. The inspiration for each of the rooms comes from local history and each is modern with clean lines and interesting features such as giant wall murals.  Guests have access to onsite amenities including a Finnish sauna, Turkish steam bath and a pool with adjacent spa. This is modern-day comfort meeting tradition head on.

Photo by: Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Zaandam via Facebook
Photo by: Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Zaandam via Facebook

3. Capsulevalue Kanda, Japan

In Japan, capsule hotels are a popular concept and one that works quite well with the country’s high population and very limited space. Stacked on top of each other and side by side to maximize on space, the capsules are exactly as they sound, tiny spaces perfect for one person and a few items. The capsule hotel concept has become so popular in fact that sleeping pods will also be introduced in Helsinki airports. Basic and cheap, the Capsule value Kana in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi area is a popular stopover for both tourists and businessmen looking for inexpensive accommodations who don’t require a host of services traditionally offered by hotels. The entrance to each capsule opens to enter and can be closed up to create private quarters. Communal washroom and baggage storage is also available. Capsulevalue Kanda also offers TVs, alarms, and free WiFi along with a business lounge.

Photo by: Agoda
Photo by: Agoda

2. Ariau Amazon Towers, Brazil

Far west of Fortaleza along the Rio Negro riverbanks in Manaus, Brazil is Ariau Amazon Towers, an eco-retreat high in the treetops where guests wake to the sounds of songbirds and the calls of primates. Visitors can stay in a dense jungle paradise and enjoy animal sights and encounters of all kinds. Tucked into the lush canopy, several circular buildings are incorporated into the tree-top level high above the river. Within this high-reaching resort, there are bars, restaurants, a swimming pool, and almost ten kilometers of wooden walkways skimming along the tree canopies through thick forest canopies. Each and every room includes a balcony affording incredible jungle panoramas and the perfect place to hear the call of the wild. This treetop wonder is one-of-a-kind, built by Dr. Francisco Ritta Bernardino in 1987–his inspiration was Jacques Cousteau, the famous oceanographer, a staunch Amazon River preservationist.

Photo by: Ariau Amazon Towers via Travel + Leisure
Photo by: Ariau Amazon Towers via Travel + Leisure

1. Palacio de Sal, Bolivia

At more than 10,000 square kilometers, Bolivia’s Uyuni salt flats are the largest in the world so where better to build a hotel made entirely of salt?  The entire hotel and most of its furnishings are constructed from salt. The magical, natural space is on the majestic banks of the Salar de Uyuni, less than 30 kilometers from its namesake town, and in complete harmony with the surrounding landscape. Some might think a hotel built of salt would be more of a rustic experience but that couldn’t be farther from the truth: Palacio de Sal’s single and double rooms include central heating, hot and cold running water, and private baths. Each exhibits an igloo-shaped ceiling and simple, modern furniture and several spectacular common areas with fantastic outdoor views. A broad lobby, bar, central heat, and a complete electrical system throughout 30 rooms are offered.

Photo by: Palacio de Sal
Photo by: Palacio de Sal

9 Landscapes That Inspired Great Works of Art

The world we live in is gorgeous and often awe-inspiring. Given that fact, it’s little wonder that many artists throughout the years, in many different places and cultures, have tried to capture just a little bit of that beauty on their canvases. From the natural to the man-made, there is no shortage of vantage points that have inspired—and continued to inspire—us to create memorable works of art. Here are 9 masterpieces that are almost as breathtaking as the real thing.

9. San Giorgio Maggiore (Monet)

San Giorgio Maggiore is one of Venice’s islands, so it should come as little surprise that it’s been the subject of a painting or two. Venice is regularly cited as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, thanks to a combination of architecture and natural endowments. The island’s most recognizable feature is the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, a 16th-century church. The building’s silhouette certainly dominates Claude Monet’s San Giorgio Maggiore by Twilight, an Impressionist work completed between 1908 and 1912. The painting was started during Monet’s only trip to Venice. Even more than a century later, you can visit Venice and experience this precise view for yourself, with the sun setting over the water and the buildings of San Giorgio Maggiore silhouetted against the darkening sky.

monet

8. Lander’s Peak (Bierstadt)

Albert Bierstadt was born in Dusseldorf, Germany, but immigrated to the United States at an early age. Soon determining to become a painter, Bierstadt returned to Europe to study art. In 1859, he joined an expedition led by Frederick W. Lander, a land surveyor. They traveled west from Fort Laramie, Wyoming, to the Pacific Ocean. Along the way, Bierstadt sketched and painted many majestic scenes of the American west. His 1863 piece The Rocky Mountains, Lander’s Peak is based on one of the sketches he made during this expedition. The painting depicts Lander Peak, a summit of more than 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) located in the Wyoming Range; the peak is one of the highest in the area. Although Bierstadt’s painting isn’t true to nature, Rocky Mountain landscapes like Lander’s Peak are breathtakingly beautiful and popular with photographers and tourists alike.

Photo by: Albert Bierstadt via Wikimedia Commons

7. Lake McArthur (MacDonald)

J.E.H. MacDonald was part of the Group of Seven, a famed group of Canadian artists working in the early part of the 20th century. The Group of Seven tended to have a nationalistic bent and painted many iconic scenes of the Canadian wilderness; at least 2 members were also war artists capturing Canadian soldiers during the First World War. Beginning in 1924, MacDonald traveled west annually and produced many works featuring the Rocky Mountains, which dominated his later works. Lake McArthur, Yoho Park was painted in 1924, the year of MacDonald’s inaugural trek west. Yoho National Park was the second national park in Canada and forms part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site with several other parks. The Lake McArthur Trail, an 8-kilometer circuit, will take you to the north shore of the lake—which looks much the same today as it did in 1924.

group of seven Lake McArthur

6. Cotopaxi (Church)

Frederic Edwin Church, like Albert Bierstadt, was a member of the Hudson River School of landscape painting in the 19th century. Like Bierstadt, Church painted grandiose landscapes. Whereas Bierstadt painted the American West, Church was lured in by South America; many of his works feature Andean landscapes, inspired by 2 trips to Quito, Ecuador. While his most famous work is The Heart of the Andes, his 1855 painting Cotopaxi is perhaps a truer depiction of a South American landscape. The work shows the volcano Cotopaxi, one of the world’s highest volcanoes and the second-highest summit in Ecuador. As of 2015, Church’s 1862 painting depicting Cotopaxi smoldering away might be more accurate—the volcano, one of the most active in Ecuador with 87 recorded eruptions since 1534, has entered a new phase of activity and is under constant monitoring since an eruption of ash on August 14 and 15, 2015.

Cotopaxi church

5. Autumn Mountain Shadow (Guan Tong)

Guan Tong lived more than 1,000 years ago, during China’s Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. A painter of the Northern Landscape style, he lived in Chang’an (Xi’an) and was no doubt inspired by the mountainous terrain that surrounded him. Autumn Mountain Shadow is perhaps the most famous painting attributed to Guan Tong and while it’s difficult to discern the precise place that he was painting, there are hundreds of similar views of the rugged northern mountains in and around Xi’an. A barely visible path in the painting is reminiscent of many of the winding trails near Xi’an, especially those about 75 miles (120 kilometers) east of the city, near Mount Hua. Mount Hua itself is similar to the landscape Guan Tong depicts in Autumn Mountain Shadow, and many tourists today visit Mount Hua for its ancient, sacred sites and temples, as well as its breathtaking views.

Mount Hua

4. Staubbach Falls (Bierstadt)

Albert Bierstadt painted much of the American West, but he also painted plenty of European landscapes as well; one of his first exhibits featured a large canvas of a Swiss landscape. Bierstadt studied in Europe and later traveled widely there, making many sketches and paintings in his signature grandiose style. Among his Swiss landscapes is this 1865 piece, entitled Staubbach Falls, Near Lauterbrunnen. The waterfall is one of Europe’s highest unbroken falls, descending about 1,000 feet into the valley below. Located in the Bernese Oberland, the Falls are a popular site in Switzerland, along with the iconic peaks of Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau in the east. The Falls are about 1 kilometer from the village of Lauterbrunnen, which lies at the bottom of one of the deepest valleys in the Alps.

Staubbach Falls

3. Grand Canal, Venice (Canaletto)

Giovanni Antonio Canal, better known as Canaletto, was born in Venice in 1697. He spent most of his life there and took up his father’s line of work: painting. Much of his early artwork was painted “from nature,” rather than in the studio, a technique he returned to in his later years. In his later works, he painted grand scenes of Venice’s iconic canals, including the Doge’s Palace. His 1738 painting The Grand Canal in Venice from Palazzo Flangini to Campo San Marcuola depicts the Grand Canal as it was—and, perhaps surprisingly, this is a scene that remains remarkably similar even today. The buildings still bear a likeness to those depicted in Canaletto’s work, a testament to Venice’s enduring local flavor. And, of course, gondoliers are still a common sight on the waterways of this iconic city.

Grand Canal, Venice

2. Futamigaura at Dawn (Kunisada)

During the 19th century, Utagawa Kunisada was one of the most prolific masters of ukiyo-e woodblock prints. His works were incredibly popular, although they have been overshadowed since by artists such as Hokusai and Hiroshige. Today, Kunisada’s work is becoming more recognized. Although he was more known for prints of popular actors and pretty girls, he also produced landscapes and seascapes like Futamigaura at Dawn. Completed around 1830, the print depicts Sakurai Futamigaura, a scenic place north of Itoshima. Known as the “Married Couple Rock,” the feature is two large rocks about 150 meters from the beach. The rocks have been joined together by a shimenawa, a sacred Shinto rope used to ward off evil. The shimenawa at Sakurai Futamigaura is 30 meters long and weighs approximately one ton. Although Kunisada painted the area at dawn, Sakurai Futamigaura has become renowned for its sunsets.

Futamigaura at Dawn (Kunisada)

1. Roman Campagna

The Roman Campagna is a low-lying area that surrounds Rome. In ancient times, it was important in agriculture, but was abandoned during the Middle Ages. Many Roman ruins dotted the landscape. The Campagna became one of the most painted landscapes during the 18th and 19th centuries, when a trip to the Roman countryside to paint was considered part of the European Grand Tour. Today, however, much of the Campagna has been built over; the spaces that remain are clustered along the Appian Way. Today you might see the Mausoleum of Caecilia Metella or the Circus of Maxentius as part of your own Grand Tour. Another popular subject is the Ponte Nomentano, which is now in a pedestrian-only park within the city. The bridge’s medieval tower was popular for painters and a visit to this scenic spot may want to make you paint—or at least take a photo.

Appian Way

Best Snowshoe Destinations for Families

When you are looking for the perfect destination for a winter family getaway (that includes plenty of snowshoeing) there are so many options to consider. We have looked at hundreds of destinations and compiled a list of what we believe to be the best 10 snowshoe destinations for families. We examined factors such as location, ease of access to superior snowshoe trails, amenities for kids and parents and opportunity for guided and non-guided snowshoe treks. From luxury hotels to themed resorts there is a destination here to suit every families needs.

10. Ski Portillo, Chile

The first of two all-inclusive options on this list–Chile’s Ski Portillo resort; this once-in-a-lifetime vacation destination is the perfect spot for families to relax, bond and snowshoe. Overlooking a pristine lake and situated in the Aconcagua Valley in the heart of the Andes, the scenery is enough to make you want to hop on a plane right now. But this destination offers so much more than just magnificent views and a ski hill. Portillo offers two excellent lodging choices for families. They offer two access trails to the mountain, along with numerous opportunities to trek around the base of Mt. Aconcagua. This all-inclusive resort includes meals, lift tickets for your entire stay (we suggest trying your hand at some skiing), accommodations, airport transfers and all amenities on site. From the dedicated tubing hills and outdoor heated pool for the kids to the outdoor hot tub and nightly live music for the adults, this gem should not go undiscovered.

Photo by: Ski Portillo Chile via Facebook
Photo by: Ski Portillo Chile via Facebook

9. Adventure Suites – New Hampshire, USA

Our next destination is truly a kid’s paradise. If you are looking for a relaxing, unwinding vacation, this may not be the one for you. But if you are looking for something totally unique that will have your kids begging to come back, Adventure Suites is the place. Named one of the top 10 theme hotels in the world, this hotel offers more than just really awesome rooms. We first need to talk about the suites they offer. From a prehistoric cave suite that features a five-person hot tub in the suite to a jungle themed suite that offers an upstairs for the kids complete with a flat screen TV and PlayStation…it may be hard to want to leave your room. Adventure Suites offer guided snowshoe treks as an add-on to any stay and offers free trail passes if you stay two or more nights. If you are looking to get on your own, Glen Trails Outdoor Center and Purity Spring Resort offer extensive trails to explore.

Snowshoes

8. Hoshino Resort Tomamu, Japan

A huge resort featuring more than 800 rooms in two magnificent towers, an indoor wave pool, an ice village in the center of the resort (January-March) and unparalleled views of the mountain from your room makes Hoshino Resort Tomamu number eight on our list. Tunnels connect the towers to the restaurants and food court, which allow for warm ease of access during a cold night. Snowshoeing has become quite a popular sport in Japan and visiting the Polar Village Activity Center is where you will find all your snowshoe needs. Equipment rentals as well as maps of the area are provided. Members of the resort’s staff are happy to help and if you tell them what kind of difficulty or length of trek you are looking for they will point you in the right direction. With fresh powder, breathtaking scenery and an experience you won’t get in North America, Hoshino Resort is a fantastic choice for a family getaway.

Photo by: Hoshino Resorts Tomamu via Facebook
Photo by: Hoshino Resorts Tomamu via Facebook

7. Douglas Fir Resort and Chalets – Alberta, Canada

If you are looking for the finest family accommodation in Banff, look no further as Douglas Fir Resort and Chalet is where you want to be. Located a four-minute drive from downtown Banff in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, the views from your patio will take your breath away. All rooms include complimentary WiFi, flat screen TVs, plug-and-play panels for personal gaming systems and a fireplace. What makes this resort even more family friendly is the indoor two-story playground, the indoor water park featuring two giant water slides and a “quiet time” for adults only, and an outdoor hot tub with views of the awe-inspiring mountains. There are unlimited snowshoe opportunities in Banff ranging from beginner to experienced. We highly recommend trekking around Marble Canyon in Kootenay National Park and the Sundance Trail to Sundance Canyon. Parks Canada offers up suggestions here or check out a tour company for a guided experience.

Photo by: Douglas Fir Resort & Chalet via Facebook
Photo by: Douglas Fir Resort & Chalet via Facebook

6. Firelight Lodge – British Columbia, Canada

The Firelight Lodge, located in the Silver Star Mountain Village, is one of the newest properties to the village; Firelight is located right next to the skating pond and tube park. With access to 16 km of snowshoe exclusive forested trails, Silver Star Mountain is your perfect destinations. Firelight Lodge offers up your choice of rooms that can include anything from a personal outdoor hot tub to a gas fireplace and patio BBQ. An in-resort shuttle runs through the Firelight and Village areas of the resort making it easy to access all amenities and restaurants. Snowshoe rentals and trail passes/maps are available at Ski Dazzle Rentals or the Village Ski shop. The kids will go nuts for the tube park and mini snowmobiles, or perhaps they will try their hand at the indoor climbing wall or ski-in ski-out bowling alley. Parents can relax in the outdoor hot tub, visit one of the pubs or unwind at the Yoga classes offered next door to the lodge.

shutterstock_123342973

5. Crystal Mountain – Michigan, USA

Crystal Mountain Resort in Michigan is a compact resort that offers older kids a chance for independence as condos, restaurants and amenities are within a five-minute walk. For the wee ones with the tired legs, there is a complimentary shuttle to take you where you want to go. With more than 250 rooms ranging from the standard hotel room to bungalows to full houses, the accommodations at Crystal Mountain are superior. Snowshoeing is permitted on the entire Crystal Mountain property, except for the downhill runs and the cross-country ski trails. Equipment rental and trail maps are provided on-site as well as guided tours. For something a little different take a trek Michigan Legacy Art Park where ice sculptures line the way. Moonlight snowshoe tours are a popular activity at Crystal Mountain and a fun way to explore nature in the dark.

Photo by: Crystal Mountain
Photo by: Crystal Mountain

4. The Lodge at Sugar Bowl – California, USA

The Lodge at Sugar Bowl is not your typical family resort. Here you won’t find huge flat screen TVs, gaming systems or world-class children’s programs. Here you will find the country’s only snowbound lodging experience, where you park your car in a garage and whisk up to the lodge in a gondola with your luggage. There are many different room options ranging from standard Mountain View rooms to family suites and adjoining rooms. The lodge also boasts a dining room, bar and new athletic center. But what you are really coming here for is the miles upon miles on snowshoe trails at Royal Gorge. Located right outside your front door you have access to North America’s largest cross-country resort that features an array of exclusive snowshoe trails. Rentals and trail passes are available at the Summit Station Lodge where you can also rent a sled to pull the little ones along the trails with you.

Photo by: Sugar Bowl Resort via Facebook
Photo by: Sugar Bowl Resort via Facebook

3. Waldorf Astoria Park City – Utah, USA

If you are looking for a luxury family getaway, Waldorf Astoria Park City in Utah is where you will want to head. With more than 4,000 acres of varied terrain in the backyard, this resort was meant to be explored. Dedicated shuttles will take you to local dining, skiing, shopping and entertainment. We do recommend this destination for kids 10 and up. Ranging from standard guest rooms to three bedroom suites with full kitchens, this resort offers such pleasures as upscale bathrooms with hot tubs and TVs, a free gondola up to Canyons Resort and free kids s’mores at night. Guided snowshoe tours are provided at Canyons Resort (a free shuttle ride away) where equipment can be rented. You can also go off on your own around the Canyons Resort and follow the marked trails. If you are looking to explore other areas, we recommend checking out Snowshoe Utah where you will find a variety of trail maps.

Photo by: Waldorf Astoria Park City via Facebook
Photo by: Waldorf Astoria Park City via Facebook

2. C Lazy U Ranch – Colorado, USA

If you are looking for a vacation that combines the love of the outdoors, breathtaking scenery and a chance for the kids and you to learn something new, C Lazy U Ranch in Colorado is the perfect destination. From horseback riding to sledding to ice skating to snowshoeing, this dude ranch is the perfect all-inclusive winter wonderland. Choose from cabins that include refrigerators, stone fireplaces or separate bedrooms for the older kids. Enjoy the personal touches such as daily housekeeping service, bed turn down, coffee and tea, plush robes and a fruit basket that is replenished each day. Now let’s talk about the snowshoeing. A popular winter activity at this resort, all equipment is offered for no extra charge and a trail map is provided on request. From beginner to expert, there are trails to suit any level of experience. Other activities include skating, sleigh rides, sledding, snowmobiling, skiing and so much more.

Photo by: C Lazy U Ranch via Facebook
Photo by: C Lazy U Ranch via Facebook

1. Smugglers’ Notch Resort, Vermont, USA

Rated as the granddaddy of all family resorts, it is no surprise that Smugglers’ Notch Resort ranks No. 1 on our top 10 list. From the huge fun zone offering an arcade, slides and after-dark teen programs to the heated indoor pool to the massages for mom and dad, Smugglers’ has gone above and beyond what one expects from a resort. Upon booking your vacation you will have the choice of condominium style lodgings. Each are either within walking distance or an on-demand resort shuttle is available to take you to all the village amenities. The Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Adventure Center is where you want to head for all your snowshoe needs. Here you will find 24 km of dedicated snowshoe trails to explore off the beaten path. If lessons are what you are looking for, they offer both group and private lessons with equipment rental on-site. For a memorable snowshoe experience try the snowshoe adventure dinner; a dining experience atop Sterling Mountain with a 40-minute snowshoe after dinner back to the base lodge.

Photo by: Smugglers' Notch Vermont
Photo by: Smugglers’ Notch Vermont

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 8 Oldest Hotels in the World

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

8. Rambagh Palace, India

Brian A. Vikander / Getty Images

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

7. Hotel Balzac, France

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

 

6. Claridge’s, UK

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

5. Villa Orso Grigio, Italy

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

 

4. Blaue Gans, Austria

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

3. Zum Roten Bären, Germany

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

 

2. The Old Bell Hotel, UK

Loretta Damska / Shutterstock

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

1. Hoshi Ryokan, Japan

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