Five European Villages You’ll Fall in Love With

When travelers first think of a trip to Europe, it’s the large cities such as Rome, Paris, and London that are usually at the top of their wish list to see.  But for many who have been to the Old World, it’s the time spent in the smaller villages that they remember most fondly.  Villages are intimate places … easy to explore and ripe with opportunities to mingle with the locals.

Here are five European villages you are sure to fall in love with:

1. Innsbruck, Austria

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

The Alps dominate the landscape in this winter sports village.  The mountains are so close it seems as if you can reach out and touch them.  Hiking is naturally a popular activity in Innsbruck and it’s just a short stroll across the Inn River to the foot of the Alps.  The Winter Olympics were held here in 1964 and 1976 and a ride to the top of the Ski Jump Tower offers a breathtaking panorama.

Innsbruck was the seat of royalty beginning in the late 1400s and that is reflected in the architecture of its many beautiful landmarks.  The most notable is the “Golden Roof” balcony in the village’s quaint historic section, built by the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I for viewing festivals and other events in the square below.   The roof of the balcony consists of over 2000 golden tiles.  Whether it’s for natural wonders or man-made beauty, Innsbruck is always a traveler favorite.

 

2. Verona, Italy

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

Made famous as the backdrop for Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’, this medieval village sits in northern Italy to the west of Venice.  Although the lead characters in the tragedy are fictional, there is a 14th century residence that claims to be the home of Juliet, complete with a stone balcony where eternal love was declared.  A bronze statue of Juliet rests in the court yard and touching it is said to bring you luck in finding your true love.

The most impressive landmark in Verona is its first-century Roman arena.  The architecture is similar to the Colosseum in Rome and originally this outdoor venue held 30,000 people.  The arena is still used today for opera performances and in recent years for rock and pop concerts.   Much of the seating inside has been modernized, but some of the ancient stone seating is still used for events.

 

3. Riva del Garda

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

To visit Riva is to experience a slice of Italian heaven.  Riva is an historic resort village that sits on the northern end of Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake.  The panoramic views as you approach the lake are some of the most stunning in all of Europe.  Garda is a long and narrow lake formed by glaciers and the sight of the mountains rising out of its turquoise-colored water creates a dramatic sense of awe.

The pedestrian areas along the harbored waterfront are lovely to stroll and gelato (ice cream) shops beckon when you need a rest.  There is also a beach and park for relaxing.  The “Torre Apponale” bell tower, old city gates, and narrow meandering streets attest to Riva’s medieval history.  You may also detect some Austrian influence in the architecture as the village belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1918 at the end of World War I.   Other resorts in Italy may get more buzz, but it would be difficult to find a more picturesque setting than Riva del Garda.

 

4. Volendam, The Netherlands

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

Volendam is a small fishing village offering a large sampling of Dutch culture.  Here, you can still see locals dressed in traditional clothing from head (lace for the ladies and fisherman caps for the men) to toe (wooden shoes).  Walking along the tiny harbor, you can see an amusing variety of boats on the water.  If you continue along the harbor street, you may find yourself walking between two rows of small homes where neighbors compete for the tidiest entrance and window displays.

Along the water, there are shops that sell the pretty blue and white Delft pottery as well as many other souvenirs. There is also a cheese shop where you can watch a video on how the cheese is made.  Friendly cafés invite you in for coffee and Dutch apple pie, while street vendors offer delicacies from the sea such as smoked paling (eel) and raw herring.   Also be sure to try Dutch pancakes or poffertjes (mini pancakes).

 

5. Rothenburg, Germany

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

Walking into this Bavarian village is like stepping into a fairy tale.  With its timbered houses, narrow alleys, and wall surrounding the town, Rothenburg’s medieval atmosphere will make you feel as if you’ve travelled back in time.  This charming village of just over 11,000 people is situated on the Romantic Road in the south central part of Germany.

There’s so much to explore here.  Climb to the top of the town hall bell tower for a bird’s eye view of the village or stroll the path atop the wall surrounding the town.  For a refreshment, stop by a bakery to sample some strudel or sip apple cider from a street vendor in the town square.  As you might imagine, there are many interesting shops to check out such as Käthe Wohlfahrt’s Weihnachtsdorf, a sprawling, year-round Christmas shop.  There are also several unusual museums including a Medieval Crime Museum, History Museum with Town Dungeon, and Doll and Toy Museum.  You’re certain to find the village of Rothenburg a magical place with a little something for everyone!

 

If this is the year you want to start looking at a trip to Europe, request a FREE 76-page Europe brochure today.

 

2017 Is the Year to Experience These 14 Must-See Gems of Spain and Portugal

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Centuries ago, Spain and Portugal ignited the Age of Discovery, which led to the exploration of the Americas, along with many other important trade routes and islands. Had these explorers not left their homes, civilization would never have expanded to the world we know today.

Make 2017 your year of discovery, and where better to start than in the countries that began it all. Here are 14 gems in Spain and Portugal where you can begin your personal Age of Discovery.

 

1. Wander through Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal.

Lisbon is the oldest city in Western Europe, predating Paris, London, and Rome. Many believe the Phoenicians founded the city as a port, but many other cultural groups took charge of Lisbon before the Portuguese, including the Romans and Muslims of North Africa (Moors).

Moorish architecture can still be seen today throughout the city dotted between the styles of the Portuguese homes and buildings. Although it is a waterfront city, Lisbon is also situated upon rolling hills. Trolleys transport people up and down the streets to make traveling through the capital a bit easier. Whether you prefer to walk or ride, see all that Lisbon has to offer.

 

2. Climb Belem Tower, built in the early 16th Century.

2017 Is the Year to Experience These 14 Must-See Gems of Spain and Portugal

Lisbon sits on the Tagus River, the longest river in the Iberian Peninsula that runs from Spain across the border into Portugal, and empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Between 1514 and 1520, the Torre de Belem, or Belem Tower, was constructed to protect Lisbon from river assailants.

The tower was used primarily for military purposes; the main bulwark has two levels for firing cannons at different lengths. However, the tower also contains different rooms, including the Governor’s Hall, where the first governor’s office was located, as well as a chapel on the fourth floor.

 

3. Visit the Monument to the Discoveries.

2017 Is the Year to Experience These 14 Must-See Gems of Spain and Portugal

Lasting from the 15th Century to the 19th Century, the Age of Discovery brought about many revelations such as the trade route to India by sea and the exploration of the Americas.

Prince Henry of Portugal became known as Henry the Navigator after leading many voyages in the 15th Century, which began the Age of Discovery. In 1960, 500 years after Henry’s death, the Monument to the Discoveries was completed in Lisbon to honor his accomplishments.

 

4. Explore Portugal’s ancient Alfama District.

2017 Is the Year to Experience These 14 Must-See Gems of Spain and Portugal

The Alfama District is the oldest district in Lisbon. Walk through the narrow streets between ancient buildings or take in all of the sights from your seat on the tram.

Looking for a great Portuguese souvenir? Shops carry items such as hand-painted ceramic tiles, silver jewelry, embroidered linens, and more that make for wonderful keepsakes or gifts. Walk the streets and you may be lured into the Alfama cafes by the beautiful strumming of guitars playing fado melodies. You won’t want to miss this passionate music when you visit the charming Alfama District.

 

5. Enjoy a day seeing the sights of Seville.

Explore the many historical and cultural sights that Seville offers. Start your day by paying your respects to Christopher Columbus for discovering the Americas at his tomb in the Cathedral of Seville. Afterwards, stroll through Maria Luisa Park and admire its beauty, full of ceramic-tiled benches, fountains, monuments, and more. There you will also find the massive Plaza de España, built in the late 1920s for the Ibero-American World Exhibition. Magnificent towers flank the semi-circle shaped complex and showcase the beautiful architecture of designer Aníbal González. Don’t miss the ornate ceramic tiles dotted along the structure or the Vicente Traver fountain found at the center of the plaza.

 

6. Spend an evening relaxing in Seville.

2017 Is the Year to Experience These 14 Must-See Gems of Spain and Portugal

While visiting Seville, Andalucia’s largest city, enjoy nightlife as the Spaniards do (this is especially great if you’re an empty-nester and can stay up past bedtime!). Dinner is served late, usually not until around 9 or 10 o’clock. It is also a smaller meal, unlike the siesta-inducing lunch.

Enjoy dinner tapas-style, that is with a couple of small appetizer-like plates that can be shared with friends. Converse, eat up, and enjoy supper in Seville.

 

7. Be mesmerized by the romantic Flamenco dance.

2017 Is the Year to Experience These 14 Must-See Gems of Spain and Portugal

The Flamenco is a traditional Spanish dance style that many describe as emotionally intense. Danced to Spanish guitar, it is a deeply moving dance where the women are known to have their back in an arched back position, a stiff torso, and ballerina-esque arms.

Dancers often make use of props during their dance, including fans or castanets, which add to the drama. The precision dance movements match the strumming of the guitars for what is sure to be a memorable, musical evening.

 

8. Discover Jerez, where love for wine and horses meet.

2017 Is the Year to Experience These 14 Must-See Gems of Spain and Portugal

While still in the south of Spain, stop in Jerez and enjoy its most famous exports: sherry and the noble Andalusian horse.

Sherry is produced from white grapes grown right outside of Jerez. Sherry tastings can be found at bodegas, or wine cellars, around the city.

After sampling the white wine, head over to the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art to see Andalusians. Bred as war horses, the breed became increasingly popular throughout the world, but in the 19th century the population was threatened as many wars (and the opposition) diminished their numbers. Thankfully, these magnificent horses have made a comeback so the world can enjoy them.

 

9. Stand less than 9 miles from the coast of Africa – while still in Europe.

2017 Is the Year to Experience These 14 Must-See Gems of Spain and Portugal

The Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea meet at the Strait of Gibraltar, a narrow waterway that separates the coasts of Spain and Morocco. At its narrowest, the strait is only 8.9 miles in width, which means that Europe and Africa are only separated by less than 9 miles!

The name of the strait comes from the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar, a peninsula that shares its northern border with Spain and juts out into the Mediterranean Sea. Located on Gibraltar is the Rock of Gibraltar, which the Romans referred to as one of the Pillars of Hercules.

 

10. Shop, swim, and sip at Costa del Sol!

When visiting Costa del Sol, or the Sun Coast, it’s important to follow the three “S’s” – shop, swim, and sip!

Shop along the beachside avenidas, where you will find Mallorca pearls, gold jewelry and Lladro figurines. Swim in the Mediterranean Sea, an ancient body of water that touches Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

And finally, sip sangria on the beach to cool off or in the evenings when socializing with your friends and travel mates. Whether you’re into history, the sights, or the nightlife, the Sun Coast has something for you!

 

11. Enter the pages of Don Quixote by traveling through La Mancha.

If you’ve read Don Quixote by Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes, you may remember that our protagonist encounters giants he must slay …which in reality are only windmills. While the story of Don Quixote may not be real, the windmills and terrain that inspired the story are! Travel through La Mancha on your way to Madrid. Be sure to see the impressive Monument to Cervantes, with figures of Don Quixote and his squire Sancho Panza, which stands on the Plaza de Espana in Madrid.

 

12. Transform yourself into a Spanish Royal while walking the halls at the Madrid Royal Palace.

2017 Is the Year to Experience These 14 Must-See Gems of Spain and Portugal

Madrid, the capital city of Spain, is full of many museums, captivating sites, stores with world-class shopping. Make sure you allot enough time to see it all, including the Royal Palace of Madrid.

The palace is the residence of the Spanish Royal Family. It is known for its baroque and Moorish architecture. Here you can see many pieces of art and other relics, including the world’s only complete Stradivarius quintet. You’ll feel like royalty when visiting this palace of splendor.

 

13. Appreciate Spanish art, such as the Guernica by Pablo Picasso.

You’ll definitely want to take in all of the culture when you visit Spain—and Spanish art is a huge part of it. No place is better to see Spanish masterpieces than the Reina Sofia Museum.

Here you can see many works of art, including Guernica by Pablo Picasso. One of the founders of the Cubist movement, Picasso painted Guernica to show his anti-war sentiments after the bombing of Guernica in 1937. You’ll also see striking sculptures and other art forms when visiting the museum.

 

14. Travel back in time while visiting Toledo, the Imperial City.

2017 Is the Year to Experience These 14 Must-See Gems of Spain and Portugal

Toledo differs from many other cities in the world in that three very different cultures coexist – Christian, Jewish, and Muslim. Together, these different worldviews have created a diverse and beautiful city full of museums, churches, synagogues, and mosques. Walk the cobblestone streets and see the medieval architecture, traveling back in time to another world.

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Final thoughts…

Discovering Spain and Portugal can be much more than just a sight-seeing excursion. Experiencing in person how people of the past combined different cultures to create beautiful art and architecture can teach us many things about our current times.

If you’re interested in your own Age of Discovery in Spain and Portugal this year, why not get in touch today?

Oktoberfest, Germany

Our popular HEART OF EUROPE® Circle Tour features Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, France, Belgium and Holland.   Now offering September 19 & 26 Oktoberfest departures with AIR from New York JFK for $3640 per person based on double occupancy.  This price reflects a special $500 p.p. discount … that’s a savings of $1000 per couple!   If you aren’t near New York, we can arrange departure from a city near you (price/discount may vary).  22 meals, 13 nights hotels, air taxes, transportation and escort in Europe are also included.  Book by 5/17/17.    oktoberfest

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

visit-british-isles

It would be hard to miss America’s fascination with the British Isles after we fell in love with the Crawley’s on Downton Abbey or watched the rise of Queen Elizabeth II in Netflix’s critically acclaimed hit, The Crown.

While those shows painted beautiful portraits of the English countryside and all the glamour of London, there are so many picturesque spots and fascinating experiences to be found across the pond in the British Isles. Take a look at 15 of our favorites.

 

1. Tour Oxford, the renowned and ancient University.

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

Oxford University is the oldest university in Great Britain. While the exact date of foundation is not conclusive, the school was truly established by Henry II in 1167. Famous graduates include former President Bill Clinton, author C.S. Lewis, Dr. Stephen Hawking, and many more.

 

2. Explore Warwickshire, the birthplace and home of William Shakespeare.

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

William Shakespeare was born at Stratford-upon-Avon, nestled within Warwickshire and northwest of London. He spent most of his life there, meeting his love and muse, Anne Hathaway and writing many of his acclaimed plays.

Many Shakespearian landmarks still exist, including Anne Hathaway’s enchanting cottage and New Place, where William Shakespeare spent the remaining years of his life.

 

3. Walk through “The Shambles” and be transported through time to 14th century England.

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

One of the best preserved streets of the United Kingdom, and indeed, perhaps in all of Europe, can be found in York.

Known as “The Shambles,” this street is lined with antiquated timber-framed buildings, some dating back to the 14th century. Most of the buildings were meat houses and butcher shops, which is where the term “Shambles” comes from – the medieval word “shamel” means slaughterhouse.

Time travel may only be possible in the movies or on television, but one comes pretty close to it when visiting “The Shambles.”

 

4. Enjoy a traditional English tea – with cakes and finger sandwiches to boot!

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

You can’t visit the British Isles without partaking in the longstanding tradition of Afternoon Tea.

Since the 1840s, Brits have relaxed and socialized with tea between the lunch and dinner hours. Often served with cakes, scones, and small finger-sized sandwiches, afternoon tea is a must when visiting the British Isles.

 

5. See all that the capital city of Scotland, Edinburgh, has to offer.

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

London may be the capital city on the southern end of the British Isles, but Edinburgh (pronounced Ed-in-bruh) is the capital city of the north.

While there, walk the Royal Mile and see many famous Scottish landmarks, including the mighty Edinburgh Castle, Parliament, and Holyrood, home of Mary, Queen of Scots. After seeing the many famous structures of the capital city, take time to stroll through Edinburgh’s idyllic gardens, Princes Street Gardens and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

 

6. Enchant yourself with the beauty of Grasmere, or as poet William Wordsworth described it, “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found.”

british-isles-visit

After visiting the rolling hills, tranquil meadows, and glassy ponds of Grasmere, William Wordsworth composed his poem, “A Farewell,” noting that the land was “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found,” (read his poem here).

With that recognition, how could you not at least take a peek?

 

7. Walk the same halls that the Royals have walked over many centuries.

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

Castles dot the British Isles from Great Britain to Ireland, dating back many centuries.

Dublin Castle was built in the 13th century and is still a major governmental center and open for viewing.

Edinburgh Castle suffered many battles—rebuilt so many times that it contains many different architectural styles. Here are 10 facts that might surprise you about Edinburgh Castle.

 

8. Visit and learn to pronounce Europe’s longest-named city: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

This Welsh town’s name contains 58 letters and is shortened to Llanfairpwll, or Llanfair PG. The name means “Saint Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio of the red cave”.

Want to get some practice saying it before you go? Watch a weatherman flawlessly pronounce the city’s name it its entirety.

 

9. Sip Ireland’s famous dark beer at the Guinness Brewery.

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

Based in Ireland’s capital city of Dublin, the Guinness Storehouse is located in the same place as the original brewery that opened in 1876.

Learn about the company’s history as well as the process used to brew the black ale. And, of course, enjoy sampling the product right where it is made – much better than from a can or bottle!

 

10. Admire the artistry and reverence of the Book of Kells.

The Book of Kells consists of the four Gospels written in Latin and accompanied by elaborate illustrations. The book dates back to around 800 AD and is famous for its beautiful and ornate design.

You can find it by visiting Trinity College in Dublin, which followed in the footsteps of Oxford and Cambridge and has been an educational institution since 1592.

 

11. Gaze the gorgeous great coast of Ireland at the Ring of Kerry.

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

Ireland’s famous green coast can best be seen at the Ring of Kerry, located at the Iveragh Peninsula. The “Ring” is a scenic, circular drive around the peninsula.

Be sure to bring your camera (or at least a smartphone!) as you’ll want to capture the incredible landscape.

 

12. Kiss the Blarney Stone and get the gift of eloquence.

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

Legend has it that if you kiss the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle you will receive the gift of elegant speech. Although the origin of the stone had been debated until recently, the power of the stone has never been questioned.

Wives, you may want to make sure your husband gets a good long kiss!

 

13. Survey the mysterious Stonehenge in person.

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

Stonehenge, located on the southern end of Great Britain, is one of man’s greatest mysteries. Who built it? What purpose did it serve? And most mysterious of all – just how was it constructed? One thing’s for certain, Stonehenge is an unmissable landmark of the British Isles.

 

14. Behold the splendor of Buckingham Palace, where Queen Elizabeth II resides.

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

Queen Elizabeth II, the longest reigning monarch in British history (she celebrated a Sapphire Jubilee this year), has been living at Buckingham Palace since 1952.

When you visit, you might even witness the Changing the Guard ceremony when one regiment takes over for another.

 

15. Journey through London, one of the world’s most fascinating cities.

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

London is a fantastic mix of age-old sites and modern innovations. Take, for instance, the London Eye, a monstrous state-of-the-art ferris wheel providing roughly 40 minutes of city views – juxtaposed to view historical Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament.

See the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London or go shopping for your own jewels at Harrods, the luxurious department store. Whatever your fancy, London is sure to please.

 

Final thoughts…

The British Isles aren’t just a group of islands that make up the United Kingdom. They are culture, history, one-of-a-kind views – a land that transcends time. For such a geographically small part of the world, the British Isles make their mark as a place you really must visit at least once in your lifetime.

See something that speaks to your inner Anglophile? An experience you don’t want to miss? Get in touch today and see how easy it is to picture yourself in the British Isles this year.

Why 2017 Is the Perfect Time to Visit These 5 European Cities

2017-european-cities

Americans love to travel abroad. Last year, 73 million Americans traveled outside the country and Europe was the top destination (over 12 million, a 7% increase over 2015). If you’ve got a case of wanderlust this year, here are five European cities that should make your travel list.

Some are perennial favorites and some are unexpected gems, but all are ideal destinations for 2017. See a new city you’d love to visit?

 

Get a feel for “gemutlichkeit” in Munich.

Why 2017 Is the Perfect Time to Visit These 5 European Cities

To those in the know, Munich is Germany’s “secret capital,” and once you visit, you’ll understand why. It’s the source of gemutlichkeit, that untranslatable word that describes a feeling of cozy contentedness, comfort, and bonhomie.

The capital of Bavaria, Munich is a city that knows how to have a good time. Stroll through the Altstadt and you’ll see throngs of happy people eating, drinking, and simply enjoying life. Sure, there’s plenty of beer and oompah-pah music, but there’s plenty of cultural sophistication in the form of museums, shopping, and fine dining, too.
Things to do and see

Biergartens—There are over 400 in Munich that carry on the Oktoberfest atmosphere all year long. Hofbrauhaus is the most famous, seating 4,000 in its dining hall and biergarten. Expect traditional German music—Hofbrauhaus inspired the famous Bavarian drinking song “Oans, Zwoa, G’suffa,” which translates to “one, two, down the hatch.” Don’t miss the famous Lion Fountain in the courtyard.

Old World architecture blended with the new—The Marienplatz, Munich’s central square, is the city’s focal point and a place to see some of the city’s most dramatic architecture. The Frauenkirche, or Cathedral Church of Our Lady, with its onion domes is an unmistakable symbol of Munich.

The classical architecture of the Residenz and Ludwig-Maximilian University are a fascinating backdrop as you enter the city.

The Rathaus, or New Town Hall, anchors Marienplatz. The iconic glockenspiel tells the story of the marriage of Duke Wilhelm V to Renata of Lorraine.

The Olympic Village—Built to host the 1972 summer games, the Olympiapark is still an important cultural and social venue in Munich.

Nymphenburg Park Palace—This elegant park and palace complex was built by Ferdinand Maria and his wife Henriette of Savoy and became the summer residence of their son and heir, Max Emanuel. Its stately courtyards, pools, and fountain are perfect for your vacation photos.

Munchner Stadtmuseum—Located near the Marienplatz, this Gothic museum houses relics of Munich and Bavarian history, including an exhibit dedicated to National Socialism in Germany.

Day Trips in BavariaLinderhof Palace, one of the palaces of King Ludwig II, in Ettal, Oberammergau in the Bavarian Alps, famous for its Passion Play dating back to the 17th century, Berchtesgaden National Park, and Innsbruck in the Tyrolean Alps are all wonderful day trips from Munich.

 

Shop for diamonds, chocolates, and lace in Antwerp.

Why 2017 Is the Perfect Time to Visit These 5 European Cities

More charming than Brussels, Antwerp combines medieval Old Town appeal with a very modern and welcoming flair. Over 80% of the world’s diamonds are traded here and the art, culture, and dining scenes rival any international capital.
Things to do and see

Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen—This is Antwerp’s Royal Museum and if you’re a fan of Rubens and other Flemish masters such as Van Eyck, Bouts, and Memling, you’ll fall in love with the Koninklijk.

The Rubens House—This is where the master lived and worked. Tour the period rooms and Renaissance garden and see examples of his finest work, including a self portrait.

Cathedral of Our Lady—This is a majestic example of Flemish Gothic architecture and the largest church in the Benelux countries.

Shopping—There’s nothing like the retail scene in Antwerp. Lace, pralines, and of course diamonds are prime gets for serious shoppers in this city.

Belgian food culture—Many think of Paris, Rome, or Barcelona as the gastronomic jewels of Europe, but Antwerp holds its own with its diverse, multicultural food scene. Of course, the waffles are to-die-for, but you have your choice of avant garde Michelin-starred restaurants and charming outdoor cafes to sample the local cuisine.

Belgian beer culture—Beer is to Belgium as wine is to France and in fact, UNESCO calls Belgian beer a national treasure. There are several beer museums and 150 active breweries in Belgium and you’ll find many fabulous specimens of the genre in Antwerp.

 

Get your romance on in Verona.

Why 2017 Is the Perfect Time to Visit These 5 European Cities

Verona is known as the “City of Love” for its most famous couple, the tragic Romeo and Juliet. This northern Italian gem is famous for its glittering palazzos and charming squares. The Teatro Romano is a prime example of the exquisite Roman architectural remnants that dot this picturesque city. Don’t miss a stroll around Castelvecchio overlooking the River Adige.
Things to do and see

The Arena of Verona—This first century opera house still hosts open air opera productions during the summer. It’s one of the relics, including the Castelvecchio Bridge, the Roman Amphitheatre, the City Gate, and the Arch of Gavi, that contributes to Verona’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Juliet’s Balcony—Pay homage to Shakespeare and his most famous heroine by climbing the steps to Juliet’s balcony.

Upscale shopping—You don’t have to go to Paris or Milan for haute couture. Verona’s most famous shopping streets, the Via Mazzini and Via Cappello, are home to some of Italy’s top design houses. If antiques are your thing, don’t miss the Corso Sant’Anastasia where rows of high-end antique stores line the way.

Veronese food culture—Juliet’s kisses, sweet vanilla meringues, and Romeo’s sighs, a decadent chocolate hazelnut cookie, are among the delights of Verona. Of course, Valpolicella wine, fragrant olive oils, and peppery salamis are all part of the Veronese food scene.

 

Go people-watching in Paris.

Why 2017 Is the Perfect Time to Visit These 5 European Cities

Ten million people call Paris home, yet the city manages to feel intimate, despite its glitzy cosmopolitan vibe. There’s no doubt the City of Light is the capital of art, fashion, and people-watching—you’ll see chic, designer-clad mademoiselles walking their dogs along the wide boulevards and dignified gentlemen taking their afternoon strolls.

You’ll fall in love with Paris at your first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. It’s truly a magical destination, especially in the spring.
Things to do and see

Walking tours—This is really the best way to see the art, architecture, and charm of the city up close. Jardin des Tuileries, Place de la Concorde, the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre, the Marais, the Latin Quarter, just strolling the Grands Boulevards or walking across the Pont Neuf—all give you a unique feel for this magnificent city. A Seine River cruise is a lovely alternative when your feet need a rest.

The major museums—There are over 130 world-class museums in Paris, more than you can possibly visit in one trip. Three of the most popular include: The Louvre, the Musee D’Orsay, and the Musee du Quai Branly.

The Louvre is one of the largest museums in the world with over 35,000 works of art housed in over 600,000 square feet. There’s no way to see it all, but don’t miss the Denon wing where the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, and Winged Victory make their home. The Musee D’Orsay is an exquisite example of Belle Epoque architecture. The Musee du Quai Branly, near the Eiffel Tower, displays an eclectic assortment of art from Africa, the Pacific Islands, and Asia.

Notre Dame and the Opera House—These are two of the most architecturally and culturally significant sights in Paris. Notre Dame has survived nearly a millennium of history and the Opera Garnier is a splendid example of the excessive style of Second Empire. The ceiling was painted by Marc Chagall in 1964.

Window shopping—The Faubourg St. Honore district is where the grand style houses of Paris maintain their flagship boutiques. Hermes, Dior, Yves St. Laurent, and Givenchy call the Faubourg home. Don’t miss the ultra exclusive Avenue Montaigne.

The Paris food scene—Paris prides itself as the apex of fine food culture and there are certain foods so quintessentially French that you really cannot miss them when visiting Paris. Crepes, baguettes (with a fabulous brie, camembert, or Reblochon cheese), truffles, coq au vin, and airy chocolate mousse are delectable Paris treats.

It goes without saying that French wine culture is also in full bloom in Paris. There is nothing more romantic than enjoying a glass of Champagne or a lovely Burgundy at one of the city’s ubiquitous sidewalk cafes.

 

Explore the storybook city of Lucerne.

Why 2017 Is the Perfect Time to Visit These 5 European Cities

When you picture the perfect Swiss town, you’re likely imagining everything that makes Lucerne so enticing. Narrow cobblestone streets, covered bridges, gorgeous frescoes, and elegant fountains dot this fairytale Swiss city.

The Baroque churches with their slender spires, medieval era wooden bridges, and a stunning mountain backdrop make Lucerne one of the most visually rewarding cities in Europe.
Things to do and see

Cable car rides—To see the most amazing panoramic views of Lucerne and the surrounding Swiss countryside, try a cable car ride. Or you could climb one of the three watchtowers of the Museggturme, the medieval fortifications erected around the north side of the city.

Iconic Lucerne sights—The Chapel Bridge and Water Tower are emblems of this city; the bridge is probably the oldest wooden bridge in all of Switzerland and dates back to the 14th century. The Lion Monument, carved in stone relief, commemorates the Swiss guards killed in the French Revolution. The Lakeside Promenade is one of the most picturesque walks in the country; there is nothing like an afternoon boat ride on Lake Lucerne.

Shopping—Few cities in Switzerland have such a thriving retail presence as Lucerne and if you love shopping, you’ll find more than enough shops and boutiques to satisfy your soul. A Swiss wristwatch is a thing of beauty, as are the music boxes at Hofstetter & Berney.

Swiss food culture—The Swiss take their chocolates and dairy products seriously. You’ll love the Max Chocolatier—look for flavors of your favorite Swiss chocolates you won’t find at home. The Wochenmarkt is filled with delectable Swiss cheeses, pickles, and vegetables. Try rosti, a potato pancake, and luzerner chogelipastete, veal in puff pastry with mushrooms. The Rathaus Brewery makes pilsners and wheat beers you can enjoy in their charming beer garden.

 

Final thoughts…

Can you see yourself in Europe this year—enjoying the beer culture in Munich or immersed in Shakespeare in Verona? You can see all of these beautiful sights and experience the culture and delectable food and drink on our Heart of Europe Circle Tour.

Why not contact us today to make your vision a reality and get the ball rolling for your European vacation in 2017?

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