10 Memorable Places Best Visited By Cruise Ship

When planning your next vacation, there are a variety of trips you can go on. Will you fly to an all-inclusive resort and lay on the beach? Will you rent a car and go on a road trip down a beautiful coastline? How about a backpacking adventure? One of the options that is always present, is going on a cruise. Cruises are a great way to see a variety of locations in a short amount of time, while travelling in comfort and class. The best part about a cruise, is that you only have to unpack once!

 

1. Alaska

Visit this isolated and chilly part of the world from the comfort of a cozy cruise ship cabin. You are able to see Humpback Wales, Bears, Hawks and Moose, just to name a few of our animal friends that will be waiting for you in Alaska. Denali National Park is also one of the sites you can explore on some Alaskan cruises and it features the highest point in North America.

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2. Hawaii

With so many islands and a limited amount of holiday time, cruises are a great way to get a taste of each Hawaiian island in a short time span. Many Hawaiian cruises will feature a lot of the Hawaiian culture and traditions to help you feel like you’re on an island, even when you’re cruising through the ocean. When the boat makes stops, there are so many once in a lifetime opportunities to try out on each island such a helicopter tours, hiking, rafting and so much more. The scenery is to die for!

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3. Caribbean

If you are wanting to go on a trip to the Caribbean, it can be difficult to decide where to go and what island to see. On a cruise ship, you can see a wide variety of the Caribbean islands. Then, in a few years you can fly to the island that was your favorite on the cruise and make the most of that location. Another winning factor of going on a cruise here, is that it is very family oriented.

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4. Mediterranean

Are you looking for a visually stunning location with tons of history? Take a Mediterranean cruise, and I promise, you will not be disappointed! These cruises are ideal for mature, adult travellers who are looking for some enriching experiences and peacefulness.

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5. Norway

Throw on a thick sweater, a good book and some slippers and cruise around Norway. These cruises are special because of the amount of daylight that is present for a large portion of each day. It allows you to see the maximum amount of scenery in a good amount of time. You also get to experience entering the Arctic Circle where there is a noticeable change in the water, temperature and overall climate.

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6. The Cook Islands

When you see islands like this, you probably think it’s in the Caribbean. The actual fact is that this set of islands is halfway in between Hawaii and New Zealand. It has an untouched quality about it and the best part about it is that there is no bad time to visit! The lowest temperature in the winter is 18 degrees Celsius. See all of the Cook Islands on a breathtaking cruise to ensure you won’t miss a thing.

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7. The Nile

Have you ever considered cruising down the Nile River? The best time to go is between October and April for between 3-7 days. These cruises allow you to visit many historical sites such as the Valley Of The Kings and countless temples. You also have the opportunity to hire a private tour guide to show you all the sites along the way.

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8. Australia and New Zealand

Aside from the stunning views and peaceful locations, this cruise will lead you and your loved ones to the Great Barrier Reef to see incredible fish and other wildlife. Your experience of a lifetime will also be highlighted by cruising through the Tasmanian Wilderness where you will see more wildlife and breathtaking locations.

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9. The Baltic

Where does a Baltic cruise go you ask? It travels to Russia, Estonia, Poland and Germany, just to name a few locations. The incredible architecture and historic locations are enough to convince you to sign up for one of these tours. One advantage is that there is very short distances between ports because there is so much to explore. You will be transported to a fairy tale when you are walking through these magical old towns.

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10. England, Scotland and Ireland

When you think of a cruise, you probably don’t think of these countries first. As someone who has been on a ship in the Irish Sea, I can say it is completely worth it. See ruins of castles and heart stopping landscapes that make incredible photos. These cruises also feature culturally accurate cuisine so you won’t miss out on the perks of the mainland.

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15 Best Retirement Cities in Europe

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

 

1. Pau, France

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

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2. Barcelona, Spain

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

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3. Gozo, Malta

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

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4. Cascais, Portugal

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

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5. Canton of Valais, Switzerland

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

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6. Abruzzo, Italy

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

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7. Paris, France

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

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8. Halkidiki, Greece

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

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9. Algarve, Portugal

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

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10. Dusseldorf, Germany

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

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11. Gdansk, Poland

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

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12. Bruck an der Mur, Austria

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

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13. Munich, Germany

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

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14. Dorset, England

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

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15. Bergen, Norway

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

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Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Countries to Visit in 2016

As 2015 has started to wind down, no doubt many of us are already looking ahead and planning those vacations for the coming year. If you’ve been having trouble deciding just where you want to cross off your travel bucket list next, check out this list of the top countries to visit in 2016 as per Lonely Planet’s new guidebook; ‘Best in Travel 2016’. All countries and their rankings were determined by Lonely Planet’s staff and community members.

10. Fiji

It’s true that Fiji has had a rocky last decade or so after political unrest and government instability but it seems the country has sorted all that out and can now get back to being the model for island paradise. It’s geographic location has made it a bit harder to get to in the past but in 2016, the country’s international airport will get an upgrade making the travel process much smoother. Lonely Planet says that in 2016,”Fiji’s got its groove back” so prepare yourself for warm welcoming singers at every turn.

Fiji Jetty

9.  Greenland

While everyone else still seems to be hung up on Iceland, Lonely Planet insists that in 2016 it’s Greenland that arctic travelers should take note of. Part of this is due to the limited time factor, as a country that’s 80% covered in snow and ice will only last so long in a world that’s continually getting warmer. Come for the icebergs, midnight sun, dog-sledding and of course the Northern Lights, but also in March of 2016, come as Greenland hosts the Arctic Winter Games, the largest event of it’s kind ever held.

Greenland

8. Uruguay

For decades Uruguay has flown under the travel radar, often being overshadowed by its boisterous neighbors Brazil and Argentina. But they don’t call this country “the Switzerland of America” for nothing; while other South American countries deal with conflict after conflict, Uruguay revels in political stability, good governance, peacefulness and prosperity. Granted safety and security does not make a top travel destination, certainly not a Lonely Planet top 10 one anyway, but the architecture of Old Town Montevideo, two UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the opportunity to live out a traditional gaucho (cowboy) experience do.

Ksenia Ragozina / Shutterstock.com
Ksenia Ragozina / Shutterstock.com

7. Poland

According to Lonely Planet, the country of Poland has superpowers. That may seem ridiculous but for a country whose economy and visitor number continue to climb through a recession that brought to rest of Europe to its knees, it may not be such a stretch after all. Wrocław, the historical capital of Silesia will become a European Capital of Culture in 2016, a designation appointed by the EU that will surely see the city in the spotlight. And it’s not the only city to see some stardom in 2016 either; Kraków will be getting a visit by the Pope for World Youth Day when arrives to kick-off a calendar of celebrations and activism.

Wrocław Poland

6. Australia

Unless you’re from New Zealand, a trip to Australia may seem out of reach. It’s a notion that has many travelers saying “too far, too expensive” but Lonely Planet insists the 24 hours of flying time will be well spent one you experience the beauty and diversity of this land down under. The weakening Australian dollar is also another reason why 2016 is the right time for that trip you’ve always dreamed of. Several of Australia’s most renowned natural attractions are under threat, including the Great Barrier Reef and Tasmania’s astounding wilderness. With the threats of dredging and logging looming, the time to see these natural wonders is now, before they’re seemingly unrecognizable.

Australia Great Barrier Reef

5. Latvia

Latvia hasn’t always been a place you’d want to visit, mostly thanks to the shadow of Communism and oppression that blanketed the country during its Soviet occupation from 1944 to 1991. Now, on the country’s 25th anniversary of independence, the story is much different. Lonely Planet says that after over two decades of playing catch up to its neighboring European countries, it’s clearly earned the title of ‘most improved.’ This theme is evident in everything from the food to the buildings as everywhere you turn, old castles and manor houses are being lovingly restored and turned into beautiful inns and museums.

Latvia

4. Palau

This country is more accurately described as an archipelago of over 500 islands in the Western Pacific Ocean. From that info one may have pieced together that the scuba diving and snorkeling here is unsurpassed by many other places on earth. While Australia is struggling to protect its famous reef, Palau is blazing new trails by designating 100% of its marine territory as a protected sanctuary. A move which earned President Remengesau the title of ‘Champion of the Earth’ by the United Nations. Even if you prefer to keep your head above water, this ‘underwater Serengeti’ has offerings for you too, including kayaking, sailing and wildlife watching.

Palau

3. USA

You wouldn’t be alone if you’re thinking that the USA may be the odd man out on this years top countries list but Lonely Planet knows what they’re doing and there’s good reason for it. In 2016 the US National Park Service turns 100, celebrating a century of the governing body responsible for protecting the nation’s national parks and historic landmarks. It’s one of the reasons that names like Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Badlands, Zion, and Shenandoah are still accessible today. So in 2016, pack your hiking boots (and some good wool socks of course) and prepare for an outdoor adventure of natural splendor.

Grand Prismatic Spring Yellowstone National Park

2. Japan

While Japan lands at #2 on this years top travel list, Lonely Planet insists it still “ranks number one in the world for that quintessential not-in-Kansas-anymore travel experience.” Anyone who’s been to Japan and witnessed the brightly illuminated, highly automated streets of Tokyo, already knows this to be true. But in 2016 it’s Japan’s amazing juxtaposition of old and new, modern and historic that puts it firmly on the Best in Travel list. The city of Tokyo is already seeing activity in preparation for hosting the 2020 Olympic games, including the creation of a new shopping district, an Olympic Village and the movement of the famous Tsukiji fish market to a brand new facility.

Japan Torri Gates

1. Botswana

Lonely Planet describes the #1 country on this list as “Democratic, progressive, enlightened – but above all, invigoratingly wild.” The continent of Africa doesn’t exactly scream safety and political stability but Botswana is an exception to these stereotypes. In 2016 the country celebrates 50 years in independence and in those 50 years Botswana has become one of Africa’s most stable, thriving societies with a growing economy, minimal corruption (what country doesn’t have some) and a forward thinking tourism industry. Aside from economic factors, it’s Botswana’s vast, untamed and pristine wilderness (17% of the country is dedicated to national parks) that deserves your attention. Lonely Planet also says that the myths of this country being ‘too far, inaccessible, and not catering to families’ are simply not true. But as always, you’ll just have to plan a trip and see for yourself.

Okavango Delta Botswana

The 10 Coolest Log Buildings in the World

Small homes, going off-the-grid and the popularity of figures like lumberjacks show that Western culture is reaching back to its roots to reinvent itself, especially in terms of the way we live and the spaces we inhabit. The current popularity of the “log cabin” and its associated “rustic” appeal is evidence of that nostalgia. But log buildings don’t need to be a little log cabin in the woods. As these 10 examples show, log buildings have been around for a long time, they came in all shapes and sizes—and they continue to diversify.

10. Hans Liberg Recording Studio, Netherlands

Hans Liberg is a Dutch composer and like many artists, he finds the modern world distracts him from his art. In his case, the sounds of sirens and phones ringing play havoc with his ability to create. Enter a log cabin in the woods: an escape, a true retreat from the noisiness of modernity to the solitude of nature. But Liberg’s log cabin isn’t like any other. No, this construction is designed to look like a woodpile, the kind you’d find stocked for keeping the fire stoked during the long, cold winter. Not only that, but this log cabin is mobile; Liberg decided to set his studio up so he could move it around if, say, one place gets too noisy. Inside is a sound recording studio, where Liberg can create his art—albeit while making noise to disturb everyone else when the windows are open!

Photo by: Laura Casey Interiors
Photo by: Laura Casey Interiors

9. Victory Lodge – Sierra Nevada, United States

The American motto has long seemed to be “go big or go home,” and that’s certainly the motif behind Victory Lodge near June Lake, in the Sierra Nevada region of California. This enormous log cabin thoroughly stretches the definition of “cabin” with its magnitude. Nominally a single-family dwelling, the cabin features nine bedrooms and nine baths. The building, while privately owned, is rented out, occasionally as a wedding venue. It comes with all the amenities of modern life: 11 fireplaces, a six car garage, a sauna and even its own private casino. Coupled with sweeping views of the mountainous landscape surrounding it, Victory Lodge is truly an amazing example of what you can do with a few logs and a bit of cash—the property is valued at over $14 million and a weekly rental will run you nearly $5,000.

Photo by: Curbed Ski
Photo by: Curbed Ski

8. Biskupin – Lake Biskupin, Poland

Biskupin is an Iron Age settlement and fortress in Poland. When the site was discovered in the 1930s, it became famous and was used by Polish nationalists to show that prehistoric “Poles” had held their own against the Germans; the site was only 70 kilometers from the German border. A life-size model was constructed in the 1930s, but was destroyed by the retreating German army at the end of World War II. They also flooded the site, hoping to destroy it, but the water actually helped preserve the ancient timber—which was then used to date the site and to reconstruct a new, open-air museum. The Iron Age settlement was dated between 747 and 722 B.C., with over half of the wood being dated to 738–37 B.C. by dendrochronology. The ramparts and several houses have been reconstructed for visitors.

Photo by: Tomcio77 via Flickr
Photo by: Tomcio77 via Flickr

7. Chateau Montebello – Quebec, Canada

If you think log buildings are limited to log cabins, the Chateau Montebello in Quebec, Canada, invites you to think again. This hotel sits on a 65,000-acre, forested wildlife sanctuary on the shores of the Ottawa River. It has been a popular destination for Canadian leaders hosting international summits; many world leaders have visited the chateau for conferences and meetings. The plot, which had originally been granted to a bishop of New France in 1674 and subsequently sold and resold, ended up in the hands of Harold M. Saddleman in the late 1920s. Under the direction of a Finnish master builder, the Scandinavian-style log buildings were constructed in the early 1930s using red cedar shipped in via the Canadian Pacific Railway. The chateau remains a popular private retreat, in part because of its blend of luxury and rustic appeal.

Photo by: Gordon Bell via Flickr
Photo by: Gordon Bell via Flickr

6. Gakona Roadhouse – Gakona, Alaska

In 1904, the U.S. Army was in the midst of building the Trans-Alaska Military Highway between Valdez and Eagle. During construction, they put up a number of buildings to house workers, including what is now the Gakona Roadhouse. It sits at mile 205 of the Glenn Highway, which is located at a point where the new military highway diverged from the old trail that had been frequented by miners on their way to the Yukon River fields during the gold rush of the late 1890s. Today, travelers are welcomed into structures dating to the 1920s, while the 1904 building is used for storage. It has a 1-1/2 log structure and a gabled roof made of corrugated metal. The building was listed on the American National Register of Historic Places in 1977.

Photo by: Masterseek
Photo by: Masterseek

5. Shoso-in – Nara, Japan

Say “log building” and many people would think of a rustic construction made by pioneers somewhere in frontier America. Log cabins have been built around the world though, just in different styles. Take, for example, the Japanese azekura: joined-log structures typically made of cypress. The style was used for buildings like granaries and storehouses during the first millennium A.D. Perhaps the most famous azekura is Shoso-in, the treasure house at Todai-ji in Nara. It was built after 756 to house 600 items Empress Komyo had donated to the Great Buddha at Todai-ji in remembrance of her husband, Emperor Shomu. It is the oldest azekura building in Japan and the treasury holds some 9,000 items. The collection items are shown once a year at the Nara National Museum. Shoso-in is also home to a silk collection donated by the current Empress of Japan.

Photo by: STA3816 via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: STA3816 via Wikimedia Commons

4. Church of Transfiguration – Karelia, Russia

If you want to see several cool log buildings in a short amount of time, visit Kizhi Pogost in Russia’s Perm Krai. Kizhi Pogost is an open-air museum that was founded in 1969; it has been welcoming visitors since 1980. The museum is dedicated to wooden architecture of the Ural region and includes 23 unique monuments, all of them constructed between the 1600s and the early 20th century. All of the structures are native to Perm Krai, although they were moved to the museum. A traditional Russian izba is on display, as well as a windmill. Perhaps most impressive is the Church of the Transfiguration, originally built in 1707 in the Cherdynsk District, complete with all its spires. The museum is one of the most important attractions in Perm Krai and regularly hosts festivals and holidays.

Kizhi Pogost, Russia

3. Vlkolínec Village – Vlkolínec, Slovakia

Not just one or two log buildings, Vlkolínec in central Slovakia is an intact village with some of the best examples of folk architecture in the Northern Carpathians. The village is one of 10 Slovak villages to have been granted status as a folk architecture reservation and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1993. The village, a remarkable example of the traditions of central Europe, consists of more than 45 traditional log houses. Houses Number 16 and 17 function as a folk museum dedicated to showcasing lifeways, complete with tools and other artifacts. A wooden belfry and a baroque-style chapel are also intact, dating from at least the 18th century. Vlkolínec has been described as “picturesque” and offers us a peek into how the mountain-dwelling peoples of central Europe lived centuries ago—and a chance to see how their traditions have influenced Slovak culture today.

Vlkolinec Village

2. The Hess Homestead – Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

The Hess family immigrated from Germany in the early 18th century to Pennsylvania where they purchased a farm from the family of William Penn. The homestead functioned as a meeting place for Pennsylvania’s early Mennonites, until 1856 when the Mennonite church was built in Lancaster County. The early buildings on the land, including the 1740s log farm house, are fine examples of the German tradition of blockbau building, which the Hess family brought with them. In 1785, a log cabin was also built on the property. In 1985, a Hess descendant purchased the historic family property, and began relocation and conservation of several historic buildings that had been threatened with demolition. The former Reading Railroad line now forms a walking trail that adjoins the farmhouses. In 1999, the Warwick Township installed historic markers in the log farmhouse.

Photo by: FamilySearch
Photo by: FamilySearch

1. Heidal Church – Heidal, Norway

Heidal, Norway, is a valley and parish in the county of Oppland. Relatively unassuming and very rustic, the valley has a long history of carpentry and wood carving, and many historic buildings. Some, like the Bjostad farm are not open to the public, but are private property. Others, such as the Sore Harildstad farm allow guided tours. One of the places that visitors can tour are the Heidal Church, which was built between 1937 and 1941, as an exact replica of an 18th century log church that had burned down in 1933. Near to the church stands the Bjostad Chapel, another log building. It predates the church, being constructed in approximately 1531. Other log buildings are also scattered about the town, which makes visiting Heidal almost like stepping back in time. The church and chapel are excellent examples of local traditions merging with trends imported from elsewhere in Europe.

Photo by: Anders Einar Hilden via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Anders Einar Hilden via Wikimedia Commons

The 10 Fastest Growing Destination Cities in Europe for 2015

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

10. Barcelona, Spain

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

Barcelona

9. Düsseldorf, Germany

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

Düsseldorf, Germany

8. Warsaw, Poland

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

Warsaw Poland

7. Budapest, Hungary

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

Budapest, Hungary

6. Bucharest, Romania

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

Bucharest, Romania

5. Berlin, Germany

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

Berline Germany, Spree River

4. Lisbon, Portugal

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

Lisbon Skyline Portugal

3. Copenhagen, Denmark

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

Alt
Copenhagan, Denmark

2. Hamburg, Germany

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

Hamburg, Germany

1. Istanbul, Turkey

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

Top Cities 2013 - Istanbul

15 Must See World War II Sites in Europe

For those who are constantly glued to the World War II documentaries on the History Channel and have read countless books and articles about Allied tactics and strategic movements on the European fronts, a visit to Europe is the next step in your historical education. Personally seeing and physically standing on the many sites that were significant to that time will provide an unparalleled perspective and insight into the facts you already know about the war, as well as offer new information that is sometimes hard to come by from secondary sources. So for all the history buffs out there, here are 15 sites significant to the Second World War that, ranging from inspirational to overwhelming, are worth visiting in Europe:

15. Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, Germany

This work camp just outside of Berlin is found about three km from the location of the first ever Nazi concentration camp known as Oranienburg (now destroyed). The camp became the center of Nazi operations and is now a museum detailing the life of the inhabitants, both officers and detainees in a number of exhibits. Visitors can also see the special exhibition dedicated to the Oranienburg camp found in the museum’s permanent exhibit, and walk the ground of the camp for an incomparable lesson in the severity of the Nazi aggression.

Sachenhausen Concentration Camp, Germany

14. Arnhem Bridge, Netherlands

This bridge became well known after the strategic operation known as Operation Market Garden, whereby the Arnhem Bridge was the last in a string of strategic points targeted for takeover by the Allied forces. Successful up until that point, the Allies were unable to capture the bridge in the September 1944 Battle of Arnhem, an event that later became the subject of several books and the Hollywood film “A Bridge Too Far.” Surviving the September battle, the bridge was destroyed by Allied troops in October of the same year to help curb the transport of German supplies. In 1949 the bridge was rebuilt in the same style, and in 1977, renamed “The John Frostburg” in honor of the British commander that defended it in the September battle.

Arnhem Bridge, Netherlands

13. Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory, Krakow, Poland

As many who have read the Thomas Keneally’s novel “Schindler’s List” or seen the Spielberg movie of the same name know, Oskar Schindler was a Nazi Party member who saved hundreds of Jewish lives through political bribery and Jewish employment at his enamel and munitions factories. The administrative building of the enamel factory still stands today, and houses the Krakow Museum of Contemporary Art, as well as the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow, which is mainly devoted to the Party member and the lives of “his Jews.” This museum is must-see for anyone who wants to learn more about the life of a man now largely regarded as a hero.

Agnes Kantaruk / Shutterstock.com
Agnes Kantaruk / Shutterstock.com

12. Humboldthain Flak Tower, Germany

Originally constructed as a solution to air-strike vulnerability, German Flak Towers were domineering concrete complexes that sheltered anti-aircraft guns and protected ammunition from falling bombs. The towers operated in pairs, one a gun tower (Gefechsturm or G tower) and the other a command tower (Leitturn or L tower). Their heavily reinforced structure also served as bomb shelters for civilians as well as an extremely effective defensive center, with a radar dish that could detect bombers from over 50 miles away, eight 128-mm cannons with a firing capacity of 48 shells per minute and a number of other smaller cannons scattered around the tower. Many of the towers have since been destroyed or converted, but the one remaining in Berlin is open to visitors.

Photo by: itineri.de via Flickr

11. Vel D’Hiv Monument, France

Though the actual building of the Velodrome d’Hiver (indoor cycling track) was destroyed and replaced by government buildings, visitors can still stand on the spot, commemorated by a plaque, where in July of 1942, Jewish families in France were rounded up by the French police and forcibly herded into the Velodrome. It is there that over 13,000 citizens waited in deplorable conditions (without food, water or washroom facilities) for days before being dispersed among various concentration camps. A memorial to the victims was erected in the city in 1993, with the French Government issuing a public apology at a memorial service at the site in 1995.

Photo by: Leonieke Aalders via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Leonieke Aalders via Wikimedia Commons

10. Oradour-Sur-Glane, France

This small village in western France is memorialized as the site of one of the largest Nazi massacres on French soil. On June 10, 1944 SS officers stormed the village and killed the vast majority of residents, some 642 men, women and children, before largely destroying the area. Though officially rebuilt a few km north, the French government ordered the original site to be untouched and to stand testament to the horrors committed there. Visitors can walk through the ruins of the ghost town and pay their respects at the onsite memorial.

Oradour-Sur-Glane, France

9. Umschlagplatz, Warsaw, Poland

During German occupation, the German-named Umschlagplatz (“reloading point”) was the Square in Warsaw used to round up Polish Jews and organize their deportation from the Ghetto to the Treblinka concentration camp. People waited in hordes for hours until enough detainees were rounded up to fill the train cars, with any signs of resistance resulting in instant death. Today, the site of the former Square is home to a memorial constructed in the image of train cars, erected to pay tribute to the countless lives doomed (and lost) on these very premises.

Dariusz Leszczynski / Shutterstock.com
Dariusz Leszczynski / Shutterstock.com

8. Warsaw Ghetto, Poland

In the beautiful Polish city of Warsaw, there still stands a testament to the largest and deadliest Nazi-created Ghetto in Europe. By the deadline of October 15, 1940, the city’s large Jewish population was forcibly required to move into an 18 km area which enclosed 73 of the city’s 1800 streets, and was divided into the “small” and “large” ghettos linked by a wooden bridge. At highest capacity, the Ghetto housed about 380,000 people, translating to about eight residents per room. Today, the site is commemorated by “The Footbridge of Memory” which denotes the location of the original bridge between the two Ghettos, several monument and memorials. The area also still contains chunks of the original separating wall as well as decrepit residential buildings which have stood untouched for the past seven decades.

Anastasia Petrova / Shutterstock.com
Anastasia Petrova / Shutterstock.com

7. The Wolf’s Lair, Poland

This major complex hidden among a dense Masurian forest was Hitler’s first headquarters on the Eastern Front, and became his most frequently inhabited hideout (he spent about half the war here). Originally built for the impending invasion of the Soviet Union, the property became a sort of small town consisting of shelters, barracks, two airfields as well as a power and rail station. Despite being heavily reinforced and highly secure, this was also the site of the infamous July 1944 assassination attempt of Hitler by Claus Von Stauffenberg. The premises were vacated and destroyed by German officials in January of 1945 and remained untouched by the Polish Government until the fall of Communism. Today, the site is in ruins but has become a popular tourist attraction with a handful of hotels and restaurants now available in the remote area.

Wolf's Lair, Poland

6. Bletchley Park, England

Featured in the film “The Imitation Game,” Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire was Britain’s central site for code breaking during the Second World War. As the location of the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS), it became the largest and most successful institution in penetrating secret Axis communications, most famously of the German Enigma and Lorenz ciphers. Analysis now suggests that the efforts conducted on these premises shortened the war by about 2 years, and the school is now an educational and historic attraction commemorating the accomplishments of the institution.

Photo by: Magnus Manske via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Magnus Manske via Wikimedia Commons

5. Fuhrerbunker, Berlin

Now largely destroyed, this bunker was located under the former Reich Chancellery building in the heart of the city, and is the site where Hitler spent the last few weeks of the war, married Eva Braun and committed suicide in April of 1945. Located 11.5 feet below ground level, the bunker was a system of 30 small rooms protected by 13 foot thick concrete walls with an exit point in the Reich Chancellery gardens. Today, the site looks inconspicuous enough as a quiet residential neighborhood, and is largely unmarked save the small plaque and information board that denotes the location and provides a schematic diagram of the bunker.

Photo by: Cezary p at pl. via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Cezary p at pl. via Wikimedia Commons

4. Cabinet War Rooms, England

Partially restored and opened as a museum to the public in 1985, the Cabinet War Rooms were originally a secret complex under the basement of the Treasury. The bomb blitz of December 1940 forced the complex to be reinforced as a bomb bunker, becoming the main strategic headquarters for the War Cabinet (consisting of Prime Minister Churchill and several Conservative and Labor Party ministers). Today visitors can descend below the streets of Westminster and check out the various rooms of the complex as they would have existed during the war, and of especial significance, the Map Room, which remains exactly as it was when the premises were closed and vacated in August of 1945.

Cabinet War Rooms, England

3. Auschwitz- Birkenau, Poland

Originally built in 1940 as a detention center for political prisoners, Auschwitz-Birkenau became the Nazi’s most gruesome legacy—the largest death camp and the primary site for the “Final Solution.” Located on the site of a former military base just outside of Krakow, Poland, the complex was regarded as the ideal location to carry out Nazi atrocities because of its proximity to the rail lines used to transport prisoners. Liberated on January 27, 1945 by the Soviet Army, estimates suggest that upwards of 1.1 million deaths were carried out on the property. Today, Auschwitz is a harrowing museum complex not for the faint of heart. While undeniably an important site to see, visitors are urged to check out the museum website (http://visit.auschwitz.org/ ) to familiarize themselves with the rules, entry pass guidelines and capacity restrictions before their visit.

Auschwitz Birkenau, Berlin

2. Musee de la Reddition, France

This red brick schoolhouse just northwest of the Reims train station is the historic site where, in the early morning of May 7, 1945 high officers from the German army met with officers of the Allied forces and signed the declaration of unconditional surrender, ending the second world war in Europe. Now known as the Lycee Roosevelt, the property was being used as the headquarters of Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the room where the signature took place, the map room, remains perfectly preserved behind a glass panel and comprises the museum now called the Musee de la Reddition.

Photo by: Gerald Garitan via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Gerald Garitan via Wikimedia Commons

1. Normandy, France

It is on this stretch of beaches on the Normandy coast where the infamous D-Day Landings of June 6, 1944 took place, changing the course of the war to favor the Allies. The five beaches—Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah—were where the forces of the French, British, Canadian and American armies successfully landed and commenced an operation that changed the tide of WWII in Europe. Today, visitors can pay their respects to the sacrifices made by these troops at the various memorials found on the beaches, at the military cemeteries of each army and learn more about the operation and strategy at the various museums and information centers.

Normandy, France

Like this? Check out 10 Significant World War II Sites to Visit in Germany

9 Amazing Music Festivals to Check Out in Europe

With so much of the world’s most acclaimed music originating from these parts, it really is no wonder that the Europeans do music festivals slightly more intensely than anywhere else in the world. With annual events regularly attracting hundreds of thousands of people and tickets often selling out in a matter of minutes, it is no surprise that these festivals are among the most highly anticipated and economically impactful events (both music and otherwise) that happen around the world. So whether your tastes lie in metal, rock, pop or EDM, or some kind of mix of them all, check out the following 10 of Europe’s most epic annual music festivals:

9. Arenal Sound -Burriana, Spain

A newbie in the festival world with the inaugural event held in 2010, Spain’s Arenal Sound is poised to become one of the country’s biggest music events. Held annually on the beach of El Arenal de Burriana, in the Valencia region, this giant beach bash consists of sun, camping, water sports and a 24-hour stream of music during all 6 festival days. Ticket costs also remain relatively low (actually they’re practically free compared to Glastonbury and Tomorrowland) averaging around 50 euros for various packages. The event’s lineup has also greatly expanded from its inaugural year, with the 2015 event featuring over 100 local and international artist and big-name performers such as La Roux, Zedd, Mika and The Ting Tings.

Photo by: Arenal Sound
Photo by: Arenal Sound

8. Lucca Summer Festival -Lucca, Italy

As one of the largest music festivals in Italy, this month long extravaganza in July provides attendees with a hefty dose of history alongside their musical patronage—event performances are held at the historic Piazza Napoleone (Lucca’s main city square) surrounded by 16th century buildings. This unique setting provides a truly one of a kind experience for the thousands of attendees who crowd to hear headliners such as Elton John, Robbie Williams, Snoop Dogg, John Legend and Billy Idol. Currently in its 18th run, the Lucca Summer Festival continues to attract growing numbers to Italy’s Tuscany region, and is a must-attend for anyone visiting the area.

Photo by: Lucca Summer Festival/Trani
Photo by: Lucca Summer Festival/Trani

7. Download Festival –Leicestershire, England

Britain’s premier heavy metal, rock, punk and alternative music festival has graced Leicestershire’s Donington Park since 2003. The event, which happens yearly in early June, was originally conceived of as a follow up the renowned Monsters of Rock festival that was held at the same location for over 20 years. After a stellar, much publicized inaugural show, Download Festival soon grew into a must attend event in its own right, featuring the likes of Metallica, AC/DC, Aerosmith, Iron Maiden and Marilyn Manson. The site now includes 11 campgrounds, 4 stages, fairgrounds, as well as numerous activity centers and food and drink vendors.

Photo by: Download Festival/Danny North
Photo by: Download Festival/Danny North

6. Open’er Festival -Gdynia, Poland

Boasting one of the best festival energies in the world, the Heineken Open’er Festival held at Kosakowo Airport in Gdynia, Poland takes places yearly during the first week of July. Established in 2002, the event features acts representing a mix of musical genres, with past headliners ranging from the legendary sounds of Pearl Jam to the emerging influence of Haim and Banks. Though much smaller in size compared to other notable European music festivals, the Open’er has a history of attracting an incredibly enthusiastic (and sometimes famous) crowd—2013 saw not only Rihanna dancing the days away in the pit, but also Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme ditch his security and party with the fans. The festival also continued to live up to its trademark appeal as an event that combines music with art, hosting several cultural events such as exhibitions form the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, numerous theatrical performances and meet and greets with notable Polish authors.

Photo by: Open'er Festival
Photo by: Open’er Festival

5. Mysteryland Festival -Haarlemmermeer, Netherlands

Arguably the world’s best dance music festival, this event was established in 1993 making it the Netherlands’ oldest festival of its kind. Traditionally held on the last weekend in August, Mysteryland brings “an explosion of electronic styles” featuring only the best international artists showcasing everything from dubstep to house, techno and electro. In fact, the festival has garnered such high demand that organizers have been forced to create international versions in recent years; the first ever event outside of the Netherlands occurred in Chile in 2011 and the first US chapter was held at the historic Woodstock site during Memorial weekend in 2014. It should be noted that this giant international dance party is much more than just an 18+ music event, it is an organization that contributes to artistic and environmental development, holding awards for emerging talent and building the idea of sustainability into its very philosophy. The festival has been the recipient of several “green” awards, and remains committed to promoting volunteerism, local businesses and the reduction of its ecological footprint.

Photo by: Mysteryland
Photo by: Mysteryland

4. T in the Park -Perthshire, Scotland

Started in 1994 with a crowd of 17,000, it took just 11 short years for T in the Park to start rivaling some of the biggest musical events on the continent, with 2005 seeing the festival beat out Glastonbury for the UK’s Best Festival Award. It’s not hard to understand why, with past lineups consisting of a diverse range of global superstars such as Rihanna (2013), Sam Smith and Avicii (2015), drawing crowds upwards of 250,000. These days the festival continues to expand, now featuring over 150 acts performing across 10 venues, a larger and safer festival site at Strathallan Castle and a growing selection of festival and camping activities, attractions and entertainment.

Photo by: T in the Park
Photo by: T in the Park

3. Roskilde Festival -Roskilde, Denmark

One of the world’s biggest music events, Roskilde is a week-long celebration of music, people and community. 4 years in the making, the 2015 event (held June 27 – July 4) brought in over 100,000 people and featured 175 acts across 8 stages. The musical diversity displayed yearly is unparalleled, with lineups that represent everything from classical avant-garde  to African desert blues to rap-electronic fusion, and showcase both new and well-established acts (as a point of reference, this year’s event was headlined by both Kendrick Lamar and Paul McCartney). The festival also holds a vast variety of events alongside the main-stage lineups, including Street City (skateboarding, DMX and rollerblading competitions and shows), Art Zone (exhibitions by Danish and international artists created exclusively for the festival), and More Than Eating (a food program packed with everything from dinner in the mud to a historical cake buffet).

Photo by: Roskilde Festival
Photo by: Roskilde Festival

2. Tomorrowland -Boom, Belgium

Taking place in the town of Boom (how fitting) in Belgium, Tomorrowland celebrated its 11th successful run this year, once again reaffirming its current status as one of the biggest and best electronic music festivals in the world. Occurring annually on the last weekend of July, the festival has become one of the most notable and highly anticipated music events ever, winning numerous awards, selling out in days and drawing upwards of 300,000 music lovers (2014). In fact, the event has grown so enormous that Brussels Airlines adds over 100 additional flights from cities all over the world to accommodate the influx of festival goers every year on the last weekend of July. For those aching to participate but unable to make it to Belgium for next year’s event, organizers have created a spin-off event Stateside, known as TomorrowWorld and held at the Chattanhoochee Hills in Georgia.

Photo by: Tomorrowland
Photo by: Tomorrowland

1. Glastonbury Festival -Somerset, England

Established in 1970, the inaugural version of this epic event opened the day after Jimi Hendrix died, cost £1 (which included milk from the farm and was attended by 1500 people. Fast forward 44 years and Glastonbury Festival has become legendary, breaking records from fastest ticket sell out (past events have sold out in minutes) to largest national and international BBC viewership and radio tune-ins. The festival also has a knack for attracting the very best acts from around the world, including the Rolling Stones (2013), Dolly Parton (2015) and Yoko Ono (2014). Taking place on a 900-acre property in the Vale of Avalon, the 5 day festival resembles an enormous tented city, and features hundreds of acts across 13 stages (and numerous smaller venues) with past headliners including Van Morrison, Elvis Costello, Kings of Leon and Jay-Z.

Photo by: Glastonbury Festival
Photo by: Glastonbury Festival

World’s 15 Most Bizarre Buildings

There’s classic, colonial, modern, and even gothic…and then there’s the just plain bizarre. Yes, buildings take on many shapes and forms and those that design them sometimes strive to reach a level of uniqueness not seen anywhere else. Constantly pushing the limits of design, a building is only constrained by the imagination. A unique building can really put a town on the map, making it a hot spot for eager tourists and photographers alike -not to mention inspiring countless postcards and tourist trinkets. Once you see this list we think you’ll agree that the architects behind these buildings were definitely not short on imagination. Here are 15 of the most bizarre building in the world:

15. Lloyd’s Building -London, England

Maremagnum / Getty Images

Located in the heart of England in London’s financial district is Lloyd’s building which is the home and main office of the Lloyd’s of London insurance company. The building is sometimes referred to as the ‘inside-out building’ because of its unique design where the building services (ducts, elevators, etc) are located outside the building in order to maximize space on the inside.

The building was completed in 1986 after the original Lloyd’s building on the same site was demolished to make way for a newly designed mega-structure. The design was done by British architect Richard Rogers whose concept of space maximization led to the inside-out design and industrial look. This steel and glass structure looks like it could have been designed for the scene of a futuristic sci-fi movie.

14. Fuji Television Building -Tokyo, Japan

Siqui Sanchez / Getty Images

Quite possibly one of the most striking buildings in all of Japan (and that’s saying a lot) the Fuji TV building located in Tokyo is a sight to behold. The metallic grid-like building is ultra-futuristic and features a giant silver ball that looks ‘suspended’ in the structure.

The 25-floor building was opened in 1997 and has served as the television station’s home base ever since and often invite the public into their space for events and even behind the scenes tours. The man responsible for this forward-thinking design is Japanese architect Kenzo Tange who also carefully planned the building to be fully earthquake-proof; a task which took 3 years to complete. The highlight of the design is obviously the huge silver ball which measures 32 meters in diameter and weighs a reported 1200 tons. Visitors can take a trip up to the ball which serves as an observation deck with views across Tokyo Bay.

13. Ripley’s Believe It or Not Building -Niagara Falls, Canada

JHVEPhoto / Shutterstock

Located in the densely populated tourist area of Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls Canada is a most unusual building. The home of 1 of 3 Ripley’s museums in Canada, the Niagara building almost looks like it was built sideways.

Ripley’s Entertainment specializes in the most bizarre events and oddities from around the world and they are usually notorious for designing their museums to reflect the strange things you’ll find inside them. The Niagara Falls building is shaped like a miniature version of the famous New York City landmark Empire State Building with a scaled version of King Kong standing atop it. The eye-catching structure is the second oldest of all 32 Ripley’s Odditoriums around the world.

12. Kansas City Public Library -Missouri, USA

PhotoTrippingAmerica / Shutterstock

One of Downtown Kansas City’s most notable landmarks, the Kansas City Public Library Building has a facade worthy of an up-close investigation.

‘The Community Bookshelf’ as it’s called, runs the south wall of the Central Library parking garage on 10th Street between Wyandotte Street and Baltimore Avenue. This most intriguing mural was completed in 2004 and features 22 outward facing book spines measuring apx. 25 feet by 9 feet which represent titles from a wide variety of reading interests. Titles were suggested by library readers and the final 22 titles which made it into the design were selected by the library board of trustees. Among the titles featured on the building are classics such as ‘Catch 22’, ‘Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. The downtown Kansas City gem is routinely featured on many lists of the most unique buildings in the world.

11. Crazy House -Da Lat, Vietnam

Alexandr Medvedkov / Shutterstock

Formally known as Hang Nga guesthouse, but popularly nicknamed ‘Crazy House’ this Vietnamese oddity attracts much attention due to its unconventional design. The building which is located in the city of Da Lat was designed with inspiration from the natural environment surrounding the city.

The guesthouse was built as a special project by Vietnamese architect Dang Viet Nga and was opened to the public in 1990. The overall design resembles a giant tree and draws inspiration from the Catalan style of famed architect Antoni Gaudi and parallels have also been drawn between this structure and the works of Salvador Dali and even Walt Disney. Few right angles are found in this design which closely resembles nature and natural forms as Nga produced paintings rather than blueprints when conceptualizing this whimsical structure which local craftsmen then brought to life.

10. Wonderworks -Tennessee, USA

Walter Bibikow / Getty Images

The topsy-turvy building that houses one of the most popular attractions in Pigeon Forge and the Smokey Mountains will definitely make you look twice. One of 6 Wonderworks museum locations throughout the United States, this indoor amusement park and learning center certainly knows how to attract a crowd.

Children are often drawn in by the building’s exterior which was purposefully built upside-down to resemble a traditional museum that has been picked up and dropped by a tornado. The design was modeled after other successful locations in popular tourist spots like Orlando Florida and Myrtle Beach South Carolina where standing out from competitors is a must. Wonderworks does this well and it’s not just the exterior that’s upside-down; even the lobby is flipped and looks like it’s gone through a tornado!

9. Sanzhi UFO Houses -Taipei City, Taiwan

ETHAN_ON_I / Getty Images

Unfortunately, this next group of bizarre buildings no longer exists but its design still makes it worthy of a place on this list. The Sanzhi UFO Houses, also called Sanzhi Pod City were a group of pod-shaped buildings with an out of this world design.

Built-in 1978 in New Taipei City Taiwan, the houses were meant to be a vacation resort geared towards U.S. Military officers coming from East Asia postings but the project was abandoned in 1980 amidst unfortunate and controversial circumstances including several car accident deaths and suicides during construction. Some claimed these losses were as a result of the act of severing the existing Chinese Dragon sculpture near the resort gates in order to widen the road while others say it was a curse as the resort land is said to be a burial ground for Dutch soldiers. The abandoned buildings were finally demolished in 2010 but their lore lives on today.

8. Grand Lisboa -Macau, China

Andrea Pistolesi / Getty Images

If we had to use only one word to describe the Grand Lisboa Hotel building in Macau China it would probably be: flashy! This 47 floor, 865 feet tall building is the tallest in the whole city and definitely adds pizzazz to the Macau skyline.

The Casino and restaurants opened in 2007 while the hotel portion opened in 2008. Designed by Hong Kong architects Dennis Lau and Ng Chun Man, the exuberant exterior artfully reflects the interesting treasures within the building such as 3 Michelin star award-winning restaurant ‘Robuchon a Galera’ as well as ‘The Star of Stanley Ho’, a 218.08-carat diamond said to be the largest cushion-cut D colored diamond in the world. Clearing everything about the Grand Lisboa is fancy!

7. St Basil’s Cathedral -Moscow, Russia

Andrey Pozharskiy / Getty Images

The Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed, or more commonly known as St. Basil’s Cathedral is one of the most notable landmarks in Russia. This colorful place of worship lies in Moscow’s Red Square and looks as if it could have come straight out of a children’s storybook.

The building was consecrated in 1561 and received its heritage designation in 1990 and holds the distinction of being ‘like no other Russian building’ as nothing similar can be found through the entire millennium from the 5th to 15th century. The design stems from smaller side churches being built around the main church which was known then as Trinity Church, as Ivan the Terrible marked every victory of war by building a new church next to the original. There are now 9 churches surrounding the original church building in the center, each with its own brightly colored and patterned dome.

6. The Cleveland Clinic -Nevada, USA

Kobby Dagan / Shutterstock

Also known as the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, this medical building built in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2010 definitely catches the eye. The center was built as an outpatient center and research facility for Keep Memory Alive which is the centers fundraising body. The KMA Foundation was founded by Larry Ruvo who lost his father Lou to Alzheimer’s Disease and this important organization has become one of the biggest charity initiatives in Las Vegas.

Designed by famed Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry, the building exemplifies the architect’s signature style with a rippling shiny metal facade. The total cost of the project was a reported $70 million and the 65,000 sq ft complex features offices for practitioners and researchers as well as 13 exam rooms, a museum, and an auditorium.

5. Basket Building -Ohio, USA

CJM Grafx / Shutterstock

Some know this building as the Longaberger headquarters building, but most just know it as the Basket Building because well –it looks just like that. Located in Newark Ohio, this interesting piece of architecture definitely represents its use.

The Longaberger Company is an American manufacturer of handcrafted maple wood baskets so it’s only fitting that their headquarters is modeled after their best selling product; the ‘Medium Market Basket’. There was no need for an architect for this 180,000 sq ft building as The Longaberger Company designed it themselves. The most unusual structure opened in 1997 and the basket handles alone weigh a reported 150 tons and can be heated during the winter to prevent falling ice and snow.

4. Haines Shoe House -Pennsylvania, USA

A. L. Spangler / Shutterstock

Located on Shoe House Road in Hallam Pennsylvania lies the strangely unique Shoe House –and contrary to the nursery rhyme it doesn’t belong to an old woman. It was actually built by shoe salesman Mahlon Haines who used it as a visual advertisement for his company’s work boots.

Built in 1948, Haines reportedly handed a work boot to the building’s architect and said “Build me a house like this”. He then lived in the house himself for a short period of time before moving across the road and using the 25 ft tall, 5 story shoe house as rental units. Today the house is open to the public who can check out the living room in the toe, kitchen in the heel, upstairs bedrooms in the ankle, and ice cream parlor in the instep. Oh, and of course there’s also a shoe-shaped dog house outside on the lawn.

3. Crooked House -Sopot, Poland

Patryk Kosmider / Shutterstock

Krzywy Domek, which means ‘crooked little house’ in Polish is the name of what most people know as the Crooked House in Sopot Poland. The building that can only really be described as highly irregular, was built in 2004 and designed by Architects Szotyńscy & Zaleski who were reportedly inspired by the fairytale drawings of Per Dahlberg and Jan Marcin Szancer.

With a design that almost seems like a bad case of vertigo, this more than 43,000 sq ft commercial building is actually a part of the Rezydent Shopping Center and the popular tourist attraction is home to many shops, restaurants, and a radio station. This unique design is definitely worth checking out but be prepared, you may get dizzy looking at it!

2. The Waldspirale -Darmstadt, Germany

Walter Bibikow / Getty Images

The Waldspirale which translates in English to Forest Spiral is an unusual-looking apartment building located in Darmstadt Germany. Sometimes referred to as Hundertwasser House as it was designed by Austrian architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser and built in the late 1990s.

The U-shaped, colorful building’s construction was completed in 2000 and is home to 105 apartments, a café and bar, and a parking garage.  The bar and café are both located at the top of the building’s spiral. One unique feature of this building is the over 1000 individual windows, of which no two are alike. The apartment door handles are reportedly all different as well. We think it’s safe to say everything about this building goes against the grain.

1. Dali Museum -Figueres, Spain

Ross Durant Photography / Getty Images

Capping off our list of the most bizarre buildings is none other than the Dalí Theatre and Museum located in the artist’s hometown of Figueres Spain. Like the works of Salvador Dalí himself, the design of this theater and museum is anything but conventional.

Dalí was once quoted as saying “I want my museum to be a single block, a labyrinth, a great surrealist object. It will be totally theatrical museum. The people who come to see it will leave with the sensation of having had a theatrical dream”. With sculpted eggs lining the roof, a uniquely textured facade, and a glass geodesic dome roof, it seems safe to say that architects Joaquim de Ros i Ramis and Alexandre Bonaterra did justice to this most iconic artist. The museum is the second most visited in all of Spain and definitely an attraction no tourist should miss.

10 Awesome Ski and Snowboard Destinations

As the leaves fall off the trees, and northern cities begin to get the first taste of snow, the anticipation begins to build for skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts. Dreams of bbq’s and pool parties quickly shift to those of hot cocoa and knee deep untouched powder on the slopes. The ski and snowboard season is something that true snow bunnies dream of all year long, with great anticipation and hopes that mother nature will deliver with ideal conditions for as long as possible. The serene environment provided by these destinations makes them the must-visit places for those cold weather travelers looking to experience the best that winter has to offer.

10. Alta/Snowbird, USA

Utah is synonymous with skiing and snowboarding and the neighboring resorts of Alta and Snowbird are arguably 2 of the best in the state. The debate is long and passionate as to which resort boasts the better overall skiing experience, so if you ask a local prepare yourself for a story. Alta has the advantage on snowfall with a consistent annual average of 530 inches while Snowbird’s unrelenting vertical can’t be beat.  With consistently lower lift ticket rates and a location that’s only a short flight from many major US cities, Alta and Snowbird offer a great place for a quick weekend ski or snowboard escape.

Snowbird Utah

9. Verbier, Switzerland

This holiday and ski resort is situated in one of Europe’s hotbeds for the sport, the Swiss Alps. Some slopes are even covered with snow year-round, so it comes as no surprise that some of the top skiers in the world have settled in the Verbier area to take advantage of these top conditions. Not only is Verbier a fantastic destination in itself, but also it’s a part of the Four Valleys ski area, which includes nearby neighboring regions. Verbier is renowned for its off-piste, or unmarked areas, which has gained popularity in recent years.

Verbier, Switzerland

8. Las Lenas, Argentina

Though South America might not be the first place pictured when thinking of ski and snowboard destinations, Las Lenas in Argentina is famous for its excellent weather, powder snow and excellent opportunity for extreme skiing or snowboarding. Located in the Andes Mountains, Las Lenas offers a good selection for those who are just beginners, or those who are interested in the most difficult of challenges. Located in the Southern hemisphere, the season can last from the middle of June through to the middle of October, and offers mountain biking, climbing and horseback riding in the warmer months.

Las Leñas Argentina

7. Breckenridge, USA

Perennially one of the most visited ski resorts in the western hemisphere, Breckenridge is located in the state of Colorado. These ski slopes are nestled among the famous Colorado ‘fourteeners’, which is a group of 53 peaks that rise 14,000 ft or higher. The town’s location among these peaks greatly attributes to Breck’s optimal ski conditions. In 2008, Breckenridge hosted the Winter Dew Tour, the first action sports tour for winter sports, which continues to be hosted at Breckenridge annually. Many of the top stars visit Breckenridge for the tour, including legendary American snowboarder Shaun White. The site continues to be one of the foremost destinations for visitors with its regular updates and enhancements.

Breckenridge Colorado

6. Zakopane, Poland

Though Zakopane has yet to win the right to host the Winter Olympics, around 250,000 tourists visit the area annually. Sitting right near the border between Poland and Slovakia, Zakopane lies in a valley between the Tatra Mountains (which are the highest mountains in Poland) and Gubalowka Hill. With many runs suitable for all skill levels from beginner all the way to seasoned expert, anyone can enjoy Zakopane’s unspoiled nature and majestic landscapes. The most popular months for tourists are December and February, as visitors look to take in some of the finest alpine and cross-country skiing, not to mention snowboarding and ski-jumping.

Zakopane, Poland

5. Livigno, Italy

Skiers and snowboarders know Livigno, located in the Alps of northern Italy, as a relatively cheap destination to visit. Because of this, the area attracts a younger, more energetic crowd. Visitors should expect the area to be akin to a giant party during peak times of year when young travelers take vacations to let loose in this Alpine party town. Livigno boasts 110 km of ski runs ranging from beginner to expert as well as one of the best terrain parks in the Alps. With special laws that eliminate taxes for tourists, the budget friendly nature helps make Livigno such a popular winter fun destination.

Livigno, Italy

4. Vail, USA

Vail Ski Resort, located in Eagle County, Colorado is the second largest, single mountain resort in the United States. Its 5,000 skiable acres are surrounded by more than 350,000 acres of natural forest. The site is owned by Vail Resorts, who also own Breckenridge and a number of other locations, so visitors can expect to be treated to the highest of quality ski/snowboard resorts. The village of Vail which sits at the base of the mountain offers charming shops, review-worthy restaurants and a free bus system to make transportation seamless. Vail offers a wide array of features for both beginners and professionals skiers and snowboarders alike, which makes it such a popular destination among travelers.

Vail Colorado

3. St. Anton, Austria

Another resort located in the Alps, this time on the Austrian side (also known as the Tyrolean Apls), St. Anton is routinely listed as one of the finest resorts in the world for skiers and snowboarders. There are over 200 miles of perfectly groomed pistes, and 120 miles of deep-snow runs, all of which is covered with a single ski pass. St. Anton also caters to a wide variety of skill levels, with a large number of beginner and intermediate choices, plus some of the finest extreme courses in the world. Not only famous for the runs, St. Anton is also widely known as having some of the best après and nightlife of any Austrian ski resort.

St. Anton, Austria

2. Niseko, Japan

Located on the northern island of Hokkaido, Niseko is widely considered one of Japans top 5 ski resort destinations. A collective of 5 independently operated resorts are interconnected and surround the 4,291 ft Mount Niseko Annupuri. The main feature that draws so many to this far-away ski destination is the staggering amount of powder that falls here as a result of nearly-constant storms that come from neighboring Siberia. The average annual snow fall is 590 inches making for prime powder conditions more often than usual. The area is also a popular night skiing spot as the mountain features bright stadium style lighting.  While Japan might be a lengthy trip from North America, Australians can take advantage of the 10 hour flight to fantastic ski/snowboard conditions.

Niseko, Japan

1. Whistler Blackcomb, Canada

By many measures, Whistler Blackcomb is the largest ski resort in North America. The resort is 50% larger than the next closest, features the greatest uphill lifting capacity, and even holds a record for the highest and longest unsupported cable car span that joins the Whistler and Blackcomb mountains at the top. Over 2-million visitors a year travel to the site, and in 2010 it was home to a number of events for the Winter Olympics. The site is geared slightly more toward experienced skiers and snowboarders, but still provides 35 runs for beginners. The Whistler village is also an attraction in itself with shops, restaurants and some great bars for perfect ski-vacation nightlife.

SurangaSL / Shutterstock.com

10 Best Countries to Visit in the Fall

Traveling to various countries always offers the best memories. With a plethora of countries to choose from, narrowing the list down can be difficult. As you read this article, you’ll learn the top ten countries to visit this fall.

1. Poland

Poland offers a wide array of sightseeing, architecture, mountains, and shopping. Zakopane, one of the most popular winter vacation spots, offers a genuine Polish mountain experience from the rustic cabin restaurants to the slopes. Krakow, another popular city, dates back to the 1200’s and is renowned for its impressive, Renaissance Era architecture. Whether you shop, ski, or go sightseeing, you can be sure you’ll enjoy Poland.
Poland in the Fall

2. Peru

Another country worth visiting this fall is Peru. Peru is known for being home to the legendary Amazon rain forest and the Andes Mountains. The famous Machu Picchu pyramid is also located in Peru and represents the historic Inca Empire. Regardless of where you go in Peru, you can be certain you’ll leave feeling educated and culturally enlightened.
Peru in the Fall

3. Tanzania

One of the most exciting countries in Africa is Tanzania. Tanzania is most famous for being home to the incredible Mount Kilimanjaro, which offers an unbeatable hiking and sightseeing experience because its the highest mountain in the country. Tanzania also offers a world of exotic animals worth observing, providing a truly wild experience.
Tanzania in the Fall

4. Denmark

A fourth country that deserves a spot on your travel list is Denmark. Denmark is home to some of the best architecture in the world, showcasing many magnificent castles, towers, and cathedrals. Denmark is also home to the National Museum of Denmark, which features historic viking exhibitions, progressive paintings, and photographs. For art lovers and history buffs, Denmark is the place to go.
Denmark in the Fall

5. Italy

One of the most popular vacation destinations in the world is undoubtedly Italy. For art appreciators, foodies, and avid sightseers, Italy is the ideal location. Italy is known for offering some of the most savory cuisine in the world. Rome is the best spot to enjoy an abundance of culture, allowing you to visit the Vatican City, the Roman Forum, and more. Afterwards, stopping into La Porta del Principe to enjoy exquisite Italian dishes like pasta, meatballs, seafood, and more is essential.
Italy in the Fall

6. Russia

Russia, the largest country in the world, is definitely a one that should be visited. Russia provides amazing sightseeing, offering vibrant buildings to admire. Russia also boasts the largest forest reserves in the world, allowing you to see various animals and plant life.
Russia in the Fall

7. Hungary

The diverse country of Hungary is a seventh country that should be included on your travel wish list this fall. Hungary is home to immensely impressive architecture, including the Dohany Street Synagogue, the largest synagogue in all of Europe. Budapest, the capital, is noted for its beauty, particularly during the evenings when the city lights up and appears quite magical and bright.
Hungary in the Fall

8. Australia

It’s hard to create a list of your travel destinations for the fall without thinking of Australia. One of Australia’s greatest claims to fame is the Great Barrier Reef. This tremendous coral reef system is a diver’s dream, as it is home to nearly 3,000 reefs and almost 1,000 islands.
Australia Fall

9. China

China is another top country that should be added to your travel wish list. China offers some of the most impressive means of transportation in the world, nearly 35,000 different animals, and one of the deepest histories around. China will certainly leave you with memories unlike anywhere else.
China in the Fall

10. Malaysia

The tenth country that should make an appearance on your travel wish list is Malaysia. This region is known for its gorgeous natural scenery, extensive selection of plants, and varied wildlife. For birders, Malaysia is ideal because its home to over 600 species.
Malayis in the Fall