The 10 Coldest Places in the World

Winter is coming. Actually for many places, the season of chapped lips, cracked knuckles and putting on five layers before stepping foot outside is already here. Those living in the far north know what it’s like to have to ‘endure’ a long, bleak winter and for some living in the really remote areas, winter is a year-round way of life. To kick off the impending snow season, EscapeHere presents an ode to winter with the 10 coldest places on earth:

10. Denali/Mount McKinley, Alaska

Denali Alaska, (formerly known as Mount McKinley) has long been known as the coldest mountain on earth. Located in the Alaskan Range of Denali National Park, it’s summit is a staggering 20,310 feet about sea level. On December 1, 2013 the peaks weather station recorded a temperature of −75.5 °F (−59.7 °C) and even in the summer, this chilly mountain can register temperatures as low as −22.9 °F (−30.5 °C) or −59.2 °F (−50.7 °C) with the windchill.

Denali Mount McKinley, Alaska

9. Eureka, Canada

Few Canadians ever venture up to the remote Ellesmere Island region of the Nunavut territory, and unless you’re a research scientist or a First Nations person, you probably haven’t ever heard of Eureka. This active research settlement has an average temperature of around −1.8 °F (−18.8 °C) and has seen a record low of −67.5 °F (−55.3 °C).

"Eureka Research Station, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, 2005 -c" by ceedub13 - 2005 Eureka, NU. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Eureka Research Station, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, 2005 -c” by ceedub132005 Eureka, NU. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

8. Amundsen-Scott Station, South Pole

It’s not just the far north that sees some cold temperatures, the far south can be just as inhospitable. The Amundsen-Scott Station located at the South Pole is an American scientific research station and is known as the southernmost place on earth. Because of its unique location, the sun rises and sets only once a year creating a continuous six months of sun followed by six months of darkness. The lowest temperature recorded happened during the cold dark period was −101 °F (−74 °C) in 1957. This kind of temperature is only survivable with specialized equipment.

"Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station" by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Amundsen-Scott_South_Pole_Station.jpg. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.
Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station” by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Amundsen-Scott_South_Pole_Station.jpg. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

7. Verkhoyansk, Russia

Unlike the previous location on this list so far Verkhoyansk Russia has an actual year-round population. Approximately 1,300 hardy residents live in this town on the Yana River near the Arctic Circle. The town is notorious for extreme lows in winter and some of the highest temperature differences between winter and summer on earth. The lowest temperatures of the winter are around −49.7 °F (−45.4 °C) while summer can reach upwards of 61.7 °F (+16.5 °C).

"Werchojansk Kältepoldenkmal II" by Becker0804 - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.
Werchojansk Kältepoldenkmal II” by Becker0804Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

6. Prospect Creek, Alaska

This small Alaskan settlement was once home to several mining expeditions and camps for the 27,000 people involved in the building of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. It’s also home to the record for the lowest recorded temperature in the United States of America. On January 23, 1971 a record low of −80 °F (−62 °C) was reached. Despite the extremes, wildlife can still be found here including bears and bald eagles.

Photo by: UAF
Photo by: UAF

5. Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Ulaanbaatar, the largest and capital city of Mongolia makes the list as being the most populated city with extreme low temperatures. The total population of the city is over 1.3 million and residents experience very short but warm summers followed by bitterly cold and dry winters. The lowest recorded temperature here is −56 °F (−49 °C). Because the city lies in an area of permafrost, building can be difficult so many suburban residents live in traditional yurt houses which sit above ground.

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

4. Oymyakon, Russia

The Russian town of Oymyakon is officially recognized as one of the two coldest continuously inhabited places on the planet (along with the previously mentioned town of Verkhoyansk, Russia). The population of around 500 people must endure some of the coldest temperatures in which a person can live. On February 6, 1933, Oymyakon set a record for the lowest temperature recorded in a permanently inhabited place at −90 °F (−67.7 °C).

Oymyakon, Russia

3. North Ice, Greenland

It’s no surprise to see a location in Greenland on this list. After all, the country is 85% covered in ice and snow and the temperature only rises above freezing during the month of July. North Ice was a British research station in the country’s northern interior. On January 9, 1954, the station recorded the lowest temperature ever recorded in North America at −87.0 °F (−66.1 °C).

Photo by: Polar Field Services
Photo by: Polar Field Services

2. Snag, Yukon Territory

Canada has a reputation for being a cold place and the town of Snag certainly helps that reputation remain intact. Located in the Yukon Territory, the village was established during the Klondike gold rush and was home to about ten First Nation people plus 15-20 airport staff and meteorologists. On February 3, 1947, Snag set the record for the coldest temperature ever recorded in continental North America at −81.4 °F (−63.0 °C).

Photo by: Amazing Station
Photo by: Amazing Station

1. Vostok Station, Antarctica

Our number one pick for coldest place on the planet is actually the official current record holder for having the coldest temperature on earth. The Russian research station located at the Antarctica’s Pole of Cold measured a bone chilling temperature of -128 °F (-89.2 °C) on July 21, 1983.

"Russian station Vostok" by NSF/Josh Landis, employee 1999-2001 - Antarctic Photo Library, U.S. Antarctic Program. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Russian station Vostok” by NSF/Josh Landis, employee 1999-2001Antarctic Photo Library, U.S. Antarctic Program. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

An Introvert’s Guide to 8 Incredibly Secluded Places

Stare at the horizon for hours; ponder the world; dig your toes in the sand; climb a mountain; gaze across endless forest or ocean–change your perspective and you can change your life, your thoughts, your reality. Escape the masses and experience life without interruptions, deadlines, stress, haste, the media barrage—taste life in its purest form in seclusion where you can hear yourself think. There’s merit in vacationing among  company but there’s also incredible worth in examining some of the world’s most wonderfully secluded destinations to experience authenticity in its finest form.

8. Nauru

The Micronesian island of Nauru in the Central Pacific is just 20 square kilometers and home to less than 10,000 people. There’s no lack of anything natural, pristine, and beautiful–Naura is perfectly picturesque, with extensive white sand beaches and endless ocean views. If listening to the sound of water lapping at the shore is about the most activity you’re looking for, Nauru delivers. This is one of the least visited destinations in the world but still attracts anyone looking to (literally) get away from it all. The only way to arrive is via flights from Brisbane, Australia once per week on Nauru’s charming airline, simply called Our Airline. Despite the remoteness there are a few entertaining things to do: a sheltered dive or relaxing days along the alabaster sands of Anibare Bay is a great option. Buada Lagoon, Central Plateau, and the Parliament House round up the main attractions.

Photo by: SBS
Photo by: SBS

7. Tobago

Tobago is the small, quieter, and more secluded part of  Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, mostly removed from the tourist scene and spanning only 32 kilometers. It’s an entirely laid-back kind of place that’s so relaxing neighboring Trinidad locals enjoy it as a weekend getaway. Quiet and beautiful, Englishman’s Bay is directly out of a film, with a crescent beach, white sand, and nothing strenuous about it unless you get out for a rigorous swim. Snorkel with the fishes and trade the lush, jungle backdrop for underwater scenes or visit Pigeon Point Bay and revel in the simplicity of dining options–you can actually get a rack of ribs here if you want to interrupt your reverie. There are so many engaging ways to break spell of seclusion if desired: beachfront horseback riding, kite and windsurfing, rainforest tours, and the Speyside Hummingbird Gallery are reminders you’re not alone.

Tobago

6. Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Quirimbas Archipelago is a protected national park located near mainland Pemba and off the northern coast of Mozambique. Decades ago, Portuguese trading routes and Arab trading posts prevailed over the seas and today, most of the 34 adjacent islands remain vacant of residents. Natural and cultural heritage is exemplified in Ilhas Quirimbas, all partially connected by coral reefs, sand bars, and mangroves and surrounded by ocean water rich with marine life. Along the flourishing stretch are the islands of Quisiva, Ilbo, and Matemo showcasing pre-colonial Swahili sites and old Portuguese establishments. Sea kayaking and sailing are two tranquil ways to soak in the solitude. If you’re not a complete recluse, visit Vamizi island where the day’s theme is “relaxing,” snorkeling and diving is world class, and the best views include the billowing, white sails of the dhows moving without sound against cerulean Indian Ocean.

Photo by: Mozambique Travel
Photo by: Mozambique Travel

5. Sakhalin Island, Russia

Located on the eastern side of Russia’s mainland, Sakhalin Island has been home to indigenous tribes for centuries–currently the only indigenous population is the Nivkh whose language is unrelated to any other on earth. In 1990, tourists were permitted to start visiting the pristine beaches and sparkling rock cliffs but it’s still not common to find too many foreigners. Still, this gorgeous island is ideal for escaping the scramble of modern life, shack up in one of a dozen-plus hotels, and relish in a secluded and dramatic backdrop. Getting there isn’t exactly straightforward but it’s entirely doable: take a cross-continental trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway into Khabarovsk on Russia’s east side; ride a hydrofoil to Komsomolsk; hop another train to Vanino and then book an island ferry. Traveling this far-flung place isn’t effortless but worth it to vacate the rest of the world for awhile.

Sakhalin Island, Russia

4. Lofoten, Norway

Approaching Lofoten archipelago in Norway is an unforgettable experience: jagged islands extend rocky frames against the horizon like some strange, barbed, island lizard and you marvel at how anyone actually lives here at all in such raw, unfavorable conditions (a small population does and they seem to make it work quite well). Lofoten comprises the main islands of Flakstadov, Austvagoy, Moskenesoy, and Vestvagoy, all distanced by Vestfjorden from the mainland but joined by tunnels and bridges that create easy route to the entire area. Ech island is a sanctuary of scenic villages living under the Auroral Oval laden with protected bays and extensive pastures. Set along one of Norway’s picturesque National Tourist Routes, Lofoten showcases the stunning Aurora Borealis, incredible whale watching, myriad adventure sports including kayaking, cycling, and hiking and some remote cottages and cabins ideal for sheltering your inner solitarian.

Lofoten, Norway

3. Cape York Peninsula, Australia

Cape York Peninsula is a massive, unspoiled expanse of pristine wilderness that exemplifies Australia’s position as a sensationally scenic destination with very low population density. Situated on the country’s northern edge, Cape York Peninsula is just 128 kilometers south of Papua New Guinea, Australia’s closest neighbor. Palm-lined beaches and lush rainforests comprise are found along Cape York’s spine which is The Great Dividing Range on the eastern edge–on the west are coastal mangrove and eucalyptus forests and extensive savannah woods. Here, the population is less than 20,000, mostly comprised of aboriginal tribes, and is thought to be one of the biggest swaths of undeveloped land in the world. Cape York’s qualities have earned it a reputation among adventure enthusiasts but with many areas difficult to access, there isn’t any kind of influx of tourism here and the natural landscape has been very well preserved.

Photo by: Cooper Tires Aus
Photo by: Cooper Tires Aus

2. Masoala National Park, Madagascar

If living amongst chameleons, geckos, and butterflies sounds better than sharing space with humans, Masoala National Park in Madagascar could be the perfect spot to kick back. Three marine parks, balmy beaches, a pristine shoreline, and over 2,200 square kilometers of protected land are worthy reasons to ditch the daily grind and visit the park. Hiking excursions lead across tree-backed, beachfront paradise for days on end–another great way avoid everything but natural backdrop. Visit Antongil Bay during summer months and see scores of whale pods occupying the sheltered cove, explore sandy stretches and corals within marine reserves, and hike the coastal trail from Alhoatrozana to Antalavia that careens back and forth between rocky coves, golden beaches, and succulent forests–the most impressive stretch in the park. Several beachfront and hidden forest lodges, from basic to upscale, offer shelter from the elements–and whatever else you want to avoid.

Masoala National Park, Madagascar

1. Koh Tonsay, Cambodia

On Cambodia’s southwest side, 25 minutes from Kep Krong, is Koh Tonsay (Rabbit Island), a sleepy little island with some of the most scenic beachfront real estate in the Gulf of Thailand. Surprisingly,  few tourists visit though access is simple by boat; that surprise is quickly replaced by a daze over the gorgeous backdrop mostly void of residents, short on electricity, and lacking vehicles of any kind. Eight small establishments offer traditional, thatch-roof bungalows which, during the week, are gloriously empty. Though you’ll have to share the turf with incoming guests over the weekend, Tonsay is still magnificently quiet and a world away from other Southeast Asian islands in feel. Hammocks, coconut palms, and a few dozen bungalows share the almost-2000-foot beach with a smattering of fantastic seafood joints–this is a place to wile away blissful, effortless days and bask in the beauty of detachment.

Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock.com
Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock.com

A Global Soup Tour: 10 Fall Favorites From Around the World

There’s nothing more comforting than a steaming bowl of soup on a chilly day, so as the seasons change in the northern hemisphere and the air starts to exhibit that nip we know means that winter is coming, we start to search for warmth anyway we can. For many, soup isn’t just a seasonal favorite but rather a go to meal any time of year, and each country/region/cuisine has their own local specialties. Chowders are notorious to the American East coast while in India you’ll find spice-filled delights like Mulligatawny and Rasam, so take a global tour this Fall without having to leave the comfort of your own home with these international soups that are guaranteed to warm and delight.

10. Bouillabaisse -France

If you’re looking for an impressive soup to serve to company or you’re crazy about seafood, this French soup is sure to satisfy. Bouillabaisse originates from the city of Marseille, France where fishermen would make this seafood stew using the left over fish they were unable to sell to markets or restaurants. The dish blends several types of local fish and shellfish such as mussels and crabs with fish stock and a selection of Provençal herbs and spices.

Bouillabaisse

9. Caldo Verde -Portugal

This popular type of Portuguese soup combines potatoes, kale, olive oil and salt and will not only warm you but also fill you up on those cold Autumn evenings. Often, sausage or ham hock is added to the soup at the end of cooking to make it an even more filling meal. In Portugal, you’ll find this soup typically served during celebrations such as birthdays, weddings and festivals like the Festival of St. John of Porto.

Caldo Verde

8. Cullen Skink -Scotland

This thick Scottish soup is filled with smoked haddock, potatoes and onions along with milk or cream for a hearty satisfying soup that really ‘sticks to your ribs’. Cullen Skink originated in the town of Cullen in Moray Scotland but the dish is now a popular everyday dish throughout the northeast of the country. This soup is considered more assertive than an American fish chowder and heartier than a French bisque.

Cullen Skink (2)

7. Fasolada -Greece

Fasolada is a traditional Greek bean soup that’s often called the “national food of the Greeks”. While recipes vary widely, the original version of ancient Greece blended dried white beans, olive oil and grains with vegetables like carrot, celery and onions and was served as an offering to the Greek God Apollo during the Pyanopsia festival in Athens.

Fasolada

6. Harira -Morocco

Harira is a popular tomato based soup from Morocco and Algeria where the dish is commonly eaten as a starter before a meal or as a light snack. The main components of Harira are tomatoes, lentils, chickpeas, onions, rice, meat (usually lamb or beef) and flour for thickening. Herbs and spices are also added and vary depending on region but typically they include parsley, coriander, saffron, ginger, pepper, turmeric and cumin.

Harira

5. Mulligatawny -India

Mulligatawny may be an English spin on an Indian tradition but it’s still delicious none the less! The funny sounding name comes from the Tamil words mullaga and thanni which translate to ‘pepper-water’. Today’s version of this soup typically consists of chicken broth, curry powder, nutmeg and blended lentils and vegetables. The original Indian dish this soup was based on wasn’t actually a soup at all, but rather a sauce that was served over rice.

Mulligatawny

4. Tom Yum -Thailand

This traditional Thai hot and sour soup is a favorite not only in Thailand but also in Laos and throughout other neighboring countries. The soups distinct base is made from stock that’s simmered with fragrant herbs and spices like lemongrass, kaffir lime, galangal, fish sauce and fresh chilies. Vegetables and meats are added and very depending on region and recipe but commonly you’ll find chicken, beef, pork and shrimp.

Tom Yum

Laksa -Malaysia

Laksa is a spicy noddle soup popular in the Peranakan style of cuisine which is a blend of both Chinese and Malay cuisines. The popular curry Laksa combines a rich broth of curry spices and coconut milk with rice or laksa noodles, vegetables and meat such as chicken, fish, prawns or bean curd puff. This satisfying noodle soup is popular in Malaysia but variants are also found throughout Singapore, Indonesia and southern Thailand.

Laksa

2. Solyanka -Russia

Russia is known for hearty food and this popular spicy-sour soup is no exception. While there are 3 basic types of Solyanka, all of them contain pickled cucumbers with brine, cabbage and mushrooms. Meat Solyanka adds beef, ham, sausage or chicken along with tomatoes, onions, olives, capers, allspice, parsley and dill, while mushroom Solyanka sees layers of mushrooms and cabbage alternated and topped with grated lemon zest, breadcrumbs and butter before the soup is baked.

Solyanka

1. Clam Chowder -USA

Clam Chowder is an east coast favorite and one of the most popular soups in America. The New England clam chowder is a milk or cream based type that is usually a little thicker than other regional varieties and is usually topped or thickened with oyster crackers, a regional specialty. Diced potato, bacon, onion and celery are added to the clams and simmered until tender. In the New England region, adding tomatoes to chowder is frowned upon and in 1939, a bill was introduced to Maine legislature making tomatoes in clam chowder illegal.

Clam Chowder

7 Ways to Explore Saint Petersburg, Russia

Saint Petersburg, Russia is an incredible city filled with some of the world’s most fascinating tales. Historical sights and modern attractions are both readily available. The social scene is Vodka-fueled and gregarious with easy transportation, as a result boredom is absolutely impossible. St. Petersburg has been going through a mini-Revolution, finding its balance between Russia’s old days and the modern world. Throughout a comprehensive tour, be sure to see some of the city’s world renowned sights, but don’t miss out on some of the best hidden gems stumbled across by a few unplanned urban adventures.

7. Dvortsovaya Ploshchad (Palace Square Neighborhood)

The city’s royal heart and historical past preside in Dvortsovaya Ploshchad, known as Palace Square, a behemoth city center outlined by beautiful, neoclassical buildings constructed in different eras, but coming together seamlessly. The Winter Palace, a charming chartreuse beauty sitting on the Neva river ride, is the main spectacle and the mainstay for Russian Tsars like Catherine the Great from the mid 1700s and on. Today, the Winter Palace is known as The State Hermitage Museum, the largest in Russia and a world renowned art house. The square is an essential way to inaugurate a visit to the city: admire the central, 155-foot Alexander I statue, a gravitational wonder since 1834. You can ponder details of baffling historical events like Bloody Sunday which led into the 1905 Russian Revolution, snap away at monstrous Saint Isaac’s Cathedral and walk along the riverbanks to nearby attractions like Nevsky Prospect neighborhood.
Dvortsovaya Ploshchad

6. Art Hotel Rachmaninov

The Rachmaninov Art Hotel in St. Petersburg holds significant art pieces exemplifying post-Revolution in St. Petersburg. Once home to Sergei Rachmaninov, a renowned Russian pianist, composer, and artist who lived there as a child, many pieces within Rachmaninov represent his love of Romanticism in classical music–specifically from Russia. The Rachmaninov’s interior is graced with artwork throughout the public spaces and also within the boutique hotel’s rooms and suites. The perspective offered here is definitely quirky, providing an interesting perspective to the furniture throughout which is all 19th century based designs. Hotel Rachminov also dedicates two gallery spaces to varied works of St. Petersburg artists revolving exhibitions. Within the attraction-filled Nevsky Prospect area, the art hotel is also within walking distance to beautiful Kazan Cathedral, Kazan Square, Stroganov Palace, and the charming riverside area. The art hotel is definitely a rare find and perfect for a few hours’ of perusing.

Photo by: Saint Petersburg Convention Bureau
Photo by: Saint Petersburg Convention Bureau

5. Vasilyevsky Island

The series of historical attractions along the eastern side of Vasilyevsky Island was originally incorporated as the administrative center of St. Petersburg under rule of Peter the Great, but eventually lost its purpose and is now mostly residential in a network of grids housing dynamic shopping avenues. The island’s west side is home to state-of-the-art Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art—definitely the most interesting of all sights. Views are distinctly scenic. Vasilyevsky is enveloped by the Malaya Neva and Bolshaya Neva Rivers in the northeast and south, and along the west by the beautiful Gulf of Finland. Enjoy fantastic views of the stunning Winter Palace and the famous Blagoveshchensky and Palace Bridges, connecting the southern stretch to the mainland. Take a walking tour of literary haven Pushkin House, the old stock exchange, the Zoological Museum, and science-based Kunstkamera Museum. Historically significant Menshikov Palace is also on route.

Vasilyevsky Island, Russia

4. Nevsky Prospect Neighborhood

Anyone visiting St. Petersburg, Russia for the first time should not miss a chance to explore the Nevsky Prospect neighborhood, a three-mile expanse carving through dense woodland, cutout in 1718, and now one of the finest pedestrian areas to enjoy. Nevsky Prospect is arguably the social and cultural heart of St. Petersburg, ripe with restaurants, cafes, and bars featuring plenty of cultural hotspots and events. See the neoclassical, St-Petersburg-Basilica-inspired Kazansky Ploschad (Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan), and explore the vibrant, Gaudi-esque Church of Spilled Blood, a magically designed cathedral exhibiting similar curves and colours used by Barcelona’s most celebrated architect. Look up the fascinating history surrounding Nevsky Prospect and learn how Peter the Great planned the thoroughfare as the start of a route from the city of Novgorod through to Moscow. The area hotels are ideal for visitors craving a lively backdrop.

Photo by: Dennis Jarvis Halifax via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Dennis Jarvis Halifax via Wikimedia Commons

3. Summer Garden at the Russian Museum

It might sound unusual to explore a summer garden in the thick of winter, but Letny Sad is in a league of its own. Defying seasons, this south-bank situated conservatory spans more than a whopping million square feet and is known as St. Petersburg’s biggest park. The Summer Garden is another Peter the Great installation. It was a location selected for his summer home and is now a green space cherished by locals. Recently restored throughout, the tree-flanked alleys found before the main fountains and the 18th century marble effigies are its loveliest features. The neighboring Russian Museum can be paired with a garden walk-through for an interesting few hours in the city. Upon a complete tour, visitors will see the Engineering Gardens, Mikhailovsky Gardens, along with massive, gold-tinged Summer Palace headed by impressive fountains and the austere House of Peter the Great.

The Summer Garden, St Petersburg Russia

2. Erarta Contemporary Art Museum and Gallery

The modern art scene in St. Petersburg might not be an obvious facet of the city or its attractions, but with many incredible new art venues opening their doors, the art scene is definitely an up-and-coming cultural scene. Take local metro from the northern city edge to Vasilevsky Island (also called Basil Island) and explore the amazing Erarta Contemporary Art Museum and Gallery, housing the biggest collection of artwork that is funded privately and exhibits religious and politically defying works. Every three months there are eight new art shows featured throughout two large wings at Erarta, showcasing work by both famous and up-and-coming national and international artists. More than 2,20o works from 250-plus artists are part of the museum’s impressive, and growing, permanent collections and are brought in from across the country. Get there easily in fifteen minutes by bus from Nevsky Prospect neighborhood.

Photo by: Erarta Museum and Galleries of Contemporary Art via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Erarta Museum and Galleries of Contemporary Art via Wikimedia Commons

1. Grand Peterhof Palace and Grand Cascade

Ultra-luxurious and completely impressive, the Grand Peterhof Palace and Grand Cascade comprise one of the most breathtaking historical scenes in modern-day St. Petersburg. Set against Gulf of Finland, this is a sublime collection of parks and multiple castles, often called the “Russian Versailles.” Established by Peter the Great in the early 18th century, the main attraction of the Upper Garden and Lower Park is the astonishing Bolshoi Dvorets (Grand Palace) fronted by Bolshoi Kaskad (Grand Cascade). Restyled in Baroque design circa 1750 by Winter Palace architect Bartolmoe Rastrelli, the painstaking restoration is axiomatic. The Grand Cascade spills from the palace fountains (turned on in May through October) toward the Baltic Sea, creating a massive fountain chain while pavilions and more fountains dot the surrounding park. In summer months, reach the palace via an exciting hydrofoil ride from the Winter Palace in under an hour.

Viacheslav Lopatin / Shutterstock.com
Viacheslav Lopatin / Shutterstock.com

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

12 Amazing Galleries Every Art Lover Should Visit

So much more than décor, artistic works have long been used as modes of self-expression and cultural identity, as well as tangible historical tools that visually display the progression of society throughout the ages. Through changes and innovations in technique, mediums and subject matter, a piece of art has the ability to transport the viewer to different points in time, or alternatively (in the case of the modern movement) to different realms of consciousness, and provide some insight into a highly subjective human endeavor. For those of you that want to revel at works that are classical, weird and everything in between, here are the world’s top 10 must-see galleries.

12. Auckland Art Gallery – Auckland, New Zealand

Since opening in 1881, Auckland Art Gallery remains the largest gallery of fine and visual art in New Zealand, currently holding over 15,000 works dating from the 11th century to the present. What started out as a small collection of pieces by European masters, has now grown into the most comprehensive collection of New Zealand art, as well as distinguished pieces by Maori and Pacific Island artists. Art lovers will love how this smaller gallery contrasts with the (though beautiful) often overwhelming scale of the famous European galleries, and appreciate the chance to admire how such an architecturally split environment (the building is part renaissance and part modern) beautifully showcases such a diverse range of works.

ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com
ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com

11. Rijksmuseum – Amsterdam, Netherlands

Translated literally, Rijksmuseum means “state museum” and is just that, chronicling the development and progression of Dutch art and history through its vast collection of paintings, sketches, photography and applied arts. The newly updated gallery, which reopened in 2013 after a 10-year renovation, offers a unique art-viewing experience, displaying all types of pieces (i.e. paintings, sculptures, furnishings, etc) together in galleries organized by time period. Though holding a small amount of international art, including a dignified collection of Asian art, it is the works hanging in the Gallery of Honor that are the highlight of the museum. It in this corridor that you will find the masterpieces of the Dutch Golden Age of painting, including Vermeer’s The Milkmaid and Frans Hals’ Portrait of a Couple, all leading to the gallery’s most treasured piece: Rembrandt’s Night Watch.

Mediagram / Shutterstock.com
Mediagram / Shutterstock.com

10. Prado Museum – Madrid, Spain

Established in 1819, the Museo del Prado in Madrid contains the single largest Spanish art collection in the world, along with notable European fine art works of the 12th-19th centuries. In fact, in addition to displaying works by Francisco de Goya, Diego Velazquez and El Greco, the Prado now also houses the largest collection of art by the Italian masters outside of Italy. A stroll through this national art museum will reveal such well-known pieces as Fra Angelico’s The Annunciation, Rubens’ The Three Graces, and Goya’s The Third of May: The Execution on Principe Pio.

The Prado Museum Madrid

9. National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art – Seoul, South Korea

Composed of several branches in the Seoul area, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art was opened in 1969 as the country’s only gallery devoted solely to works  from 1910 and onwards. The main branch, located in Gwacheon, currently houses over 7,000 works featuring well known Korean artists such as Ko-Hui Dong, Ku Boh-Ung and Kim Whan-Ki, as well as a sizeable collection of international artists like Andy Warhol, Joseph Beuys and Marcus Lupertz. Art lovers will also appreciate the gallery’s commitment to discovering and showcasing the works of artists new to the contemporary art scene in its many temporary events and exhibitions.

Joymsk140 / Shutterstock.com
Joymsk140 / Shutterstock.com

8. Musee D’Orsay – Paris, France

Opened in 1986 in the former D’Orsay railway stations (originally built for the 1900 World Exhibition), the gallery contains a vast selection of fine art pieces created between 1848 and 1914. The collection is comprised mainly of works from the Louvre, the Musee du Jeu de Paume which became devoted exclusively to Impressionism in 1947 and the National Museum of Modern Art, which in 1976 trimmed its collection to only include pieces by artists born after 1870. Today, the gallery houses six unique collections in several artistic disciplines (paintings, sculpture, objets d’art, photographs, graphic arts and architecture) and is home to Renoir’s Bal du Moulin de la Galette, Manet’s Olympia and Cezanne’s The Cardplayers.

pio3 / Shutterstock.com
pio3 / Shutterstock.com

7. The National Gallery – London, England

The National Gallery in London’s Trafalgar Square holds the country’s national collection of art (it belongs to the people, so admission is free!) and consists of over 2,000 Western European paintings dating from the medieval period to the 19th century. The national collection was established in 1824 with the English government’s £57,000 purchase of John Julius Angerstein’s 38-piece personal collection. Originally displayed at Angerstein’s house, the Parliament agreed to construct a dedicated gallery building in 1831, doors opened at the current location in 1838. The collection greatly expanded in the early 1860s under director Charles Eastlake, and now contains several must-see works such as Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne and Monet’s Bathers at La Grenouillere.

The National Gallery, London

6. Tate Modern – London, England

Another London staple, the Tate Modern is one of four museums in the Tate family and, as its name suggests, houses the UK’s national contemporary and modern art collection (dating from 1900 and later). Housed in a converted former power station in the banks of the river Thames, the gallery offers a unique experience for art lovers, displaying pieces in thematic zones rather than in typical chronological order. The themes currently on exhibit are Energy and Processes, Structure and Clarity, Poetry and Dream and Making Traces, and feature works by Picasso, Rothko and Rothschild.

Tupungato / Shutterstock.com
Tupungato / Shutterstock.com

5. Uffizi Gallery – Florence, Italy

An unlikely home for fine art masterpieces, the Uffizi Gallery was originally commissioned by Cosimo de Medici in 1560 to hold the offices of the Florentine Magistrates and Judiciaries. Today, this original purpose is especially evident in the gallery’s cramped spaces which were built to accommodate just a few individuals, not the thousands that now flock through its doors each day. Nevertheless, the Uffizi is one of Italy’s best attractions, containing 45 halls that chronologically display works from the 13th to 18th centuries. Highlights of the collection are Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus and Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo, and also not to be missed are the gallery’s iconic Vasari Corridor and Octagonal Tribune designed by Bernardo Buontalenti.

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

4. Vatican Museum – Vatican City, Italy

Dating back to 1503, today’s Vatican Museum is comprised of a combination of pontifical museums and galleries, whose acquisitions began with Pope Julius II’s collection of sculptures. The complex now houses quite a large number of museums, exhibiting everything from Christian Antiquities to ancient tapestries and mosaics to religious and secular relics. The museum also contains a vast painting gallery (Pinacoteca) which opened in 1932 and consists of over 400 paintings displayed more or less chronologically from the 12th to 19th centuries. Undeniably, the largest draws of this museum are the incomparable pieces found within the Sistine Chapel, where visitors can admire the works of Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Rosellini and Signorelli, as well as the world famous ceiling masterpiece by Michelangelo.

Vatican Museums Rome

3. State Hermitage – St. Petersburg, Russia

As one of the world’s largest museums at over two million square feet, and housing over three million items, the State Hermitage Museum complex holds an astounding collection of fine art that is a must see for any art lover. Housed in 120 galleries in four of the Hermitage’s main buildings—the Winter Palace, Great Hermitage, Small hermitage and New Hermitage—visitors  will find the works of Matisse, Degas, Titian, and Rembrandt. The collection, which was established in 1764 by Catherine the Great, now consists of over 600,000 works of art and includes such famous paintings as Da Vinci Benois Madonna, Matisse’s Dance and Rembrandt’s Flora.

Popova Valeriya / Shutterstock.com
Popova Valeriya / Shutterstock.com

2. The Metropolitan Museum of Art – New York City, USA

The largest gallery in the United States, The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the biggest attractions in NYC, drawing over six million visitors each year. And once you’ve seen it, it’s easy to see why—the current collection includes over 2,500 European paintings, the largest Egyptian art collection (outside of Egypt) and the world’s largest collection of American artistic works. The museum also boasts extensive holdings in African, Asian and Islamic Art, as well as an impressive amount of antique weapons, armor and costumes. With over two million works housed in over two million square feet of space, the Met has something for everyone, making it a must-see for art lovers of all styles and periods.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
T photography / Shutterstock.com

1. The Louvre – Paris, France

As the largest and arguably most well-known art gallery in the world, the Louvre currently houses over 35,000 artistic works and draws over eight million visitors a year. With a history dating back to the 12th century as a city fortress, and later, royal residence, the galleries of the Louvre were not used for art exhibition until 1699 when the artist residents held their first “salon”. The Museum Central des Arts (located in the Salon Carre and Grande Galerie) was opened to the public in 1793 with a growing collection of paintings that eventually expanded into other parts of the building. The site became exclusively devoted to culture in 1882, and today consists of over 650,000 square feet of exhibition space holding some of the world’s most renowned masterpieces, including Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People and Durer’s Self Portrait.

cesc_assawin / Shutterstock.com
cesc_assawin / Shutterstock.com

15 Amazing Libraries for Literature Lovers

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

15. Royal Grammar School Chained Library, Guildford, England

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

Royal Grammar School
Photo by: The Despectacled Librarian

14. Austrian National Library, Vienna, Austria

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

Radiokafka / Shutterstock.com
Radiokafka / Shutterstock.com

13. Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library, Toronto, Canada

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

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

12. Trinity College Library, Dublin, Ireland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC, United States

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

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

7. Alexandria Library, Alexandria, Egypt

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

RiumaLab / Shutterstock.com
RiumaLab / Shutterstock.com

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

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

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

5. Russian State Library, Moscow, Russia

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

Russian State Library

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

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

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

3. Vatican Library, Vatican City

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

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

2. Library of Congress, Washington DC, United States

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

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

1. The British Library, London, England

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

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

The 12 Most Beautiful Metro Stations In The World

Metro stations are often thought of as being dingy, dark, and sometimes unsafe and generally not a place that you would want to hang out in. But those who think of metro stations this way must not have visited any of these unbelievably breathtaking ones. From the world’s largest art gallery to a station that has been shut off to the public for years, to a station with gold-plated walls; here are the 12 most beautiful metro stations in the world.

12. Saint Petersburg, Russia: Avtovo Station

With a name deriving from a Finnish word meaning “middle of nowhere”, Avtovo is an industrial region that is often overlooked by tourists. But the Avtovo station located underground looks more like a small museum on the outside and offers incredible beauty on the inside. The platform houses ornate glass pillars and a mosaic dedicated to the Leningrad Blockade, and more than one million people who died in the 87day siege of the city by Nazi forces during WWII. The walls are faced with white marble and the domed roof provides a feeling of being in an elegant ballroom, not a metro station. Chandeliers hang from the ceiling and provide soft lighting, a warm welcome to the usual harsh underground lighting. It is actually illegal to take a photo in a Russian subway station so remember just look with your eyes or you may be faced with a fine.

Avtovo Station Russia
Anton Kudelin / Shutterstock.com

11. Washington, D.C: Union Station

In contrast to most of America’s utilitarian subways, this gem sticks out like a sore thumb, a really pretty sore thumb. The history behind this station is interesting as Kennedy was president at the time of the planning and it’s believed that the station represented the dignity of the governments, not the cheapest possible solution. What we have now though is a beautiful crafted metro station that came from the likes of great subways around the world. The series of vaulted cathedral ceilings with coffered blocks and elegant up-lighting gives it a sense of calm and tranquility. Make sure to watch as the lights on the platform begin to throb every time a train approaches. This one of a kind station in America looks more like a church, rather than a train station. Remember, just like church there is no eating here.

Lewis Tse Pui Lung / Shutterstock.com
Lewis Tse Pui Lung / Shutterstock.com

10. Kaohsiung, Taiwan: Formosa Boulevard Station

This station is known as the dome of light, dubbed to be the largest glass work in the world and is overly impressive. It was designed by Italian artist Narcissus Quaglianta and took over four years to complete. The dome spans over 30 meters in diameters and features over 4,500 colored glass panels that were shipped all the way from Germany. The overall message of this piece of art is love and tolerance and has been designed to relate to the story of human life. The themes include water, earth, light and fire. This station is also home to an impressive 3-D art installation done by successful 3-D street artist Su Chia-hsien that has faded over the years but still worth a look. Try to avoid rush hour in order to gain the best pictures of this impressive metro station.

Lau Chun Kit / Shutterstock.com
Lau Chun Kit / Shutterstock.com

9. Moscow: Komsomolskaya Station

It looks more like a ballroom than a metro station and was actually inspired by a wartime speech of Stalin’s. It was constructed in 1952 and remains absolutely breathtaking with its marble pillars and mosaics. Artist Pavel Korin and architect Alexey Schusev were actually awarded the Stalin prize for their work here. Chandeliers are the lighting of choice and there are a total of eight ceiling mosaics throughout the sunny yellow paint job. This huge hall supported by columns has high ceilings, making it feel as though are in a museum rather than a metro station, even its banisters are intricately designed and pretty. Make sure to time your visit accordingly, on the weekdays in the summer tend to be the least crowded times, in order to fully appreciate the works of art throughout the station.

Leonid Andronov / Shutterstock.com
Leonid Andronov / Shutterstock.com

8. Bilbao, Spain: Moyua Square Station

The ambitious Bilbao metro system took two stages to actually complete, the first from 1988-1995 and the second from 1997-2004. The system itself is known as being incredibly fast, cheap, efficient and clean and it’s no wonder why love to ride it. Designers of the metro system used natural light and intuitive space to encourage commuters to walk in the right direction without needing to rely on signage, a design that not only works, but is also beautiful. The routes are meant to flow, like a trail through a cave, guiding you to the stations. The sheltered glass canopies that pay homage to the Paris Metro are light wells during the day and beacons at night, guiding the commuter home. The glass canopy that protrudes out of the Moyua Square Station is the most well-known of all.

Photo by: Wikipedia
Photo by: Wikipedia

7. Naples, Italy: University Station

It took New York designer Karim Rashid to transform this subway station into the colorful, fun station it is today. Sculptures and graphic patterns line the escalators, walls and ceilings here. The curved walls are painted in bright colors, of pink and yellow while floors are a kaleidoscope of rainbows. There is a diverse academic community that travels through this station and Rashid wanted to tap into those minds, creating a space for learning while waiting for the train. Rolling LED programming is situated behind frosted glass and displays universally recognized words and transformational digital artwork takes over the platform stairways. The seating here has even been taken into consideration and is designed to look more like a landscape than furniture. If you have ever wanted to lose yourself in a sea of colors and abstract art, head to this ultra modern avant-garde type subway station.

Baloncici / Shutterstock.com
Baloncici / Shutterstock.com

6. Paris, France: Arts et Metiers Station

The entrances to this station are icons of elegant public architecture but it is what lies beneath that truly amaze visitors. Walking down into this station is like walking into an old-time brass submarine. Riveted copper walls and huge gears hanging from the ceiling set the stage. Port holes along the walls are outfitted with picture boxes depicting 19th-century navigation. Sleep silver and copper chairs are fitted seamlessly against the walls and even the garbage cans fit into the scene. The station was created by Belgian comic’s artist Francois Schuiten and was based on the fiction works of Jules Verne. Don’t miss the museum that is situated above the metro station that is full of inventions and oddities from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Christian Mueller / Shutterstock.com
Christian Mueller / Shutterstock.com

5. Saudi Arabia: Riyadh Metro

It is set to be the most beautiful metro station in the world with its gold-plated walls, huge marble walkways and space-age designs. One of the biggest names in architecture, Zaha Hadid is in charge of the design of this station. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is funding the station and demands that the metro be ready to use by 2019. The stations will be powered by renewable energy and the façade will be designed to let light in while keeping out the harsh desert sun, there is no need to worry about sweating here, this metro will be fully air-conditioned. The overall shape is meant to look like the country’s sand dunes and will feature raised elevators along with other beautiful finishes. Ground was broken in August 2014 and construction started on what promises to be the most beautiful station in the world.

Photo by: Dubai Metro
Photo by: Dubai Metro

4. New York City: City Hall Station

The city hall station is normally closed to the public but visitors can get down here by taking a tour offered by the New York Transit Museum. This station was built largely as a ceremonial terminal for local government dignitaries and only operated for forty years, from 1904-1945 due to lack of space. Arched ceilings with Guastavino tiles, ornate skylights and the grandest subway architecture that this city offers awaits visitors here. If you don’t want to take a tour but still want to see this wonderful piece of history, stay on the 6 train after its final Brooklyn Bridge stop. As the train makes its turnaround to loop back, riders can catch a glimpse of this beautiful station, lost in history. You will wonder why every other station in New York doesn’t look as good as this one.

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

3. Dubai, U.A.E.: Khalid Bin Waleed Station

In a city where the average high temperature in August is over 100 degrees, you may want to escape the heat and head to the spotless and air-conditioned metro station. This just isn’t a normal metro station though, it can be described more of a museum of Dubai’s history. The theme of this station is water, depicting Dubai’s history of fishing and pearl diving. Fiber optic chandeliers hang from the ceilings which result in looking more like breathtaking jellyfish, tiled floors are done in brilliant blues and gold, and the blue mood lighting above makes this station absolutely magnificent. The station is spread over three floors and like everything else in the city; it oozes luxury and cleanliness.

Philip Lange / Shutterstock.com
Philip Lange / Shutterstock.com

2. Naples, Italy: Toledo Metro Station

It seems that nothing can top the dimpled tunnel walls of the metro station here in terms of impressiveness. This city has truly transformed its underground system into a visual spectacle with its art initiative that challenged world renowned architects and designers to overhaul the subway. The Toledo Station that opened in 2012 is amongst its most impressive, featuring mosaics by artist William Kentridge and a seascape made up of LED wall panels. The wall between the ground and lower level is made up of thousands of Bisazza tiles that move from light to dark blue as passengers travel down the escalators. This station was designed around the theme of water and light and passengers will hardly believe their eyes as they wander around, taking in the unusual effects. In a city that is known for its vandalism, it is impressive that this metro station remains unscathed.

luckyraccoon / Shutterstock.com
luckyraccoon / Shutterstock.com

1. Stockholm, Sweden: T-Centralen Station

The Stockholm underground is actually considered the world’s largest art gallery and nearly all of the stations resemble and art gallery or museum. In fact these are so awe-inspiring, many miss their trains as they admire the art work. There are more than 140 artists who are represented across 90 of the station including both permanent and temporary exhibits. The highlight of this underground system is the T-Centralen station where all three stations meet. The blue line section was painted back in 1970 and huge lines of blue and white adorn the walls and ceilings as well as rustic arches and columns decorated with mosaics. It doesn’t matter which station you head to here, they are all ultimately beautiful and fabulous. Spend all day riding the metro and discover a whole new world of underground art.

IvanKravtsov / Shutterstock.com
IvanKravtsov / Shutterstock.com

10 Must-See Churches Around the World

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

10. St. Augustine Church, Philippines

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

St. Augustine Church, Philippines

9. Salzburg Cathedral, Austria

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

Salzburg Cathedral, Austria

8. Bedkhem Church, Iran

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

Bethlehem Church, Iran

7. Kizhi Pogost, Russia

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

Ilona5555 / Shutterstock.com
Ilona5555 / Shutterstock.com

6. Grundtvig’s Church, Denmark

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

Grundtvig’s Church, Denmark

5. St. Stephen’s Basilica, Hungary

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

St. Stephen’s Basilica, Hungary

4. Sagrada Familia, Spain

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

Sagrada Familia, Spain
Byelikova Oksana / Shutterstock.com

3. Milan Cathedral, Italy

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

Milan Cathedral, Italy

2. Westminster Abbey, England

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

Westminster Abbey, England

1. Las Lajas Sanctuary, Colombia

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

Las Lajas Sanctuary, Colombia

10 Places to Experience Perpetual Daylight

Summer is associated with longer days and lots of sunshine, and in the northern hemisphere, the further north you go between May and July, the longer your days will be. While many countries notice the effects of the Earth tilting on its axis, nowhere is this more pronounced than in the Arctic Circle. The circumpolar area stretches through 8 countries—Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, the United States, Canada, Greenland and Iceland—and despite the harsh northern climates, there are many vibrant cities north of 66 degrees. Here are 10 places you can visit in “the land of the midnight sun.”

10. Umeå (Sweden)

Umeå is the 12th largest city in Sweden, and the largest in the province of Norrland, with almost 80,000 inhabitants. It was a European Capital of Culture in 2014 and has been an important university town in the country since 1965. Located along the 63rd parallel, it is situated about 400 kilometers south of the Arctic Circle and 600 kilometers north of Stockholm. Its position along the Gulf of Bothenia mediates its climate, with average summer temperatures hovering around 20 degrees. The city receives nearly 300 sunshine hours per month between May and July. It is known as the cultural center of northern Sweden, since it is the largest center north of the Stockholm-Uppsala region, and is home to many festivals and museums. It is also a center for media, with many bands hailing from Umeå.

Umea Sweden

9. Iqaluit (Canada)

Iqaluit, formerly known as Frobisher Bay, became a city in 2001. It is the capital city of the territory of Nunavut, in Canada. The population is almost 6,700 people, and many of the people who live there are Inuit. Average temperatures in June are just 7 degrees Celsius and 12 degrees in July; despite that, Iqaluit receives 200-plus sunshine hours per month in the summer. Iqaluit is accessible by air and boat, but not connected to a highway. The Nunavut Legislative Assembly Building is a distinctive feature of Iqaluit’s cityscape and its colorful interior is home to some of the very best Inuit art. The former Hudson’s Bay Company buildings are now an art gallery. During the summer solstice, on June 21, Iqaluit celebrates the midnight sun with a festival called Toonik Tyme, which combines traditional Inuit activities with the Alianait Music and Arts Festival, among other modern events.

Iqaluit

8. Rovaniemi (Finland)

The commercial center of Finland’s northernmost province, Lapland, Rovaniemi is inhabited by about 60,000 people. Located just 6 miles south of the Arctic Circle, Rovaniemi is famed for its unspoiled nature and plentiful recreation opportunities. The city hosts almost 500,000 visitors each year. The Northern Lights are a prominent attraction, since they’re visible for around 200 days per year (as opposed to a mere 20 days in southern Finland). In June and July, the city receives almost 300 hours of sunshine, and the temperature is between 16 and 20 degrees Celsius. Rovaniemi is also considered to be the hometown of Santa Claus. Santa Claus Village, an amusement park, is located just 8 kilometers northeast of the city, and the Arctic Circle cuts right through the village. The line demarcating 66 degrees north is a popular photograph spot for visitors.

Arctic Circle Rovaniemi Finland

7. Dawson (Canada)

Formally known as “Dawson City,” this settlement in Yukon, Canada, is legally a town, with almost 1,500 inhabitants. Dawson once served as Yukon’s capital city, until Whitehorse replaced it in 1952. Most famously, it was the epicenter of the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1800s. After the goldrush ended, Dawson’s population dwindled. Many of the buildings still retain 19th-century features, and new constructions have to comply with strict visual requirements to maintain the town’s aesthetic. Dawson’s temperatures typically reach the low 20s in the summer. Dawson has inspired generations of writers and has preserved the homes of Robert W. Service, the Bard of the Yukon; Pierre Berton; and American novelist Jack London. There are 8 National Historic Sites of Canada located in the town, including the downtown core. The Downtown Hotel is known for its “Sourtoe Cocktail,” featuring the strange ingredient of a severed human toe!

Josef Hanus / Shutterstock.com
Josef Hanus / Shutterstock.com

6. Inuvik (Canada)

Although Inuvik is technically a town, with about 3,500 inhabitants, it is the administrative center for the Inuvik Region of Canada’s Northwest Territories. It is home to many Aboriginal peoples, as well a small community of Muslims, and boasts one of the northernmost mosques in the world. It is also home to Our Lady of Victory Church—also known as the Igloo Church because of its shape. Inuvik is accessible by highway during the summer months, when the ice has melted to allow ferry transport across the Mackenzie River. Despite this, the average summer temperature in Inuvik is almost 20 degrees Celsius! That’s because the long days of May and June warm Inuvik up quickly. Twenty-four-hour sunlight is experienced for 50-plus days each summer, and Inuvik celebrates the midnight sun with the annual Great Northern Arts Festival in July and many races, including a half-marathon.

Igloo church Northwest Territories

5. Nuuk (Greenland)

Nuuk is the capital city of Greenland and, with just over 16,000 inhabitants, is one of the smallest capitals by population in the world. That means you can visit Nuuk without being overwhelmed by big crowds or urban sprawl. Nuuk’s skyline is dominated by the mountain Sermitsiaq, which can be seen from just about everywhere in the city. The fjord the city is situated on is home to many skerries. On the longest day of the year, the sun rises at 3 a.m. and does not set until midnight; the remaining few hours are marked by a dusky half-light, until the sun rises again at 3, meaning that Nuuk is never fully dark. Temperatures in the summer are around 10 degrees Celsius. Nuuk is Greenland’s cultural center, and home to the country’s only private art museum, as well a golf course.

Nuuk Greenland

4. Reykjavik (Iceland)

Situated on the 64th parallel, Reykjavik is one of the world’s northernmost capitals. Despite lying outside the Arctic Circle, you can still experience the phenomenon of perpetual daylight in the city, which means that Reykjavik is also one of the few capital cities where the midnight sun can be experienced. Although the days get longer around the solstice in June, May actually averages the most sunshine hours of any month of the year. As Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik functions as a cultural and economic center for the island nation, and is also Iceland’s largest city with a population of around 200,000 people. Tourism is important to Iceland’s economy, as Reykjavik has a well-developed tourist industry with plenty to see and do. Reykjavik is known for its nightlife, which tends to extend late into the night—making it a great way to enjoy the midnight sun.

Reykjavik Iceland

3. Tromso (Norway)

Tromsø is an interesting destination not only because it’s the second-largest city north of the Arctic Circle, but because the city is spread across 2 islands and a bridge. Most of the city is located on the island of Tromsøya, but some of the city’s western districts are on the island of Kvaløya and a few eastern districts are located on the mainland. All 3 are connected by bridges. With just over 70,000 people living in its boundaries, Tromsø functions as a cultural center for northern Norway, being home to several summer festivals as well as a planetarium and botanical garden. The city is also home to a large number of wooden houses, some dating to the 18th century, and the famed Arctic Church, built in 1965. The landscape boasts several tall mountains and many fjords and islands. Mean temperatures in June and July hover around 15 degrees Celsius.

Tromso Norway

2. Murmansk (Russia)

With a population of around 300,000 people, Murmansk, located in Russia, is the largest city north of the Arctic Circle. Situated on Kola Bay, near the borders with Finland and Norway, Murmansk is connected to the rest of Russia and Europe through highway and railway routes, and even boasts the northernmost trolleybus system on Earth. It was originally founded as a naval base during World War I, and soon outsized nearby towns like Kola and Alexandreev. Despite its northern clime, Murmansk boasts several museums, including an art museum, 3 professional theaters and an aquarium, in addition to libraries and sports venues. Even though it lies on the 68th parallel, the city’s port remains ice-free year round thanks to the warm North Atlantic current. In June and July, the city receives around 230 hours of sunshine and the average temperature is between 15 and 17 degrees Celsius.

Murmansk Russia

1. Anchorage (USA)

Anchorage, Alaska, is the most populous city in the northernmost American state, with over 300,000 inhabitants. It is situated further south than Murmansk, along the 61st parallel, but it is more northerly than Olso, Helsinki and St. Petersburg. The city is bordered by the majestic Chugach Mountains on the east, and Knik Arm and Turnagain Arm, 2 tidal inlets. Some of the world’s highest tides are found in Turnagain Arm. The summer months average a temperature of almost 20 degrees Celsius, and the city receives well over 200 sunshine hours for 5 months of the year, with almost 300 hours per month in May, June and July. Summer days in Anchorage are very long indeed. The city is home to numerous museums and festivals, and also boasts sports teams and performing arts troupes. There are numerous parks in the area, and outdoor activities are encouraged!

Anchorage Alaska