Experience la dolce vita in all of its forms in Rome, a capital with seemingly endless sights, sounds and tastes worthy of a return trip. After requisite visits to the Pantheon and Colosseum, perk up with an espresso at Caffe Sant’Eutachio or try your luck at Settimio al Pellegrino: When you ring their doorbell, you’ll be greeted and treated to whatever the owner’s wife has prepared for the day.
AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS
Windmills, cycling, cheese, storied facades, Van Gogh, and canals are all part of Amsterdam’s storied charm, but there’s more to the Dutch capital than its most apparent associations. For a taste of the “new” Amsterdam, grab a drink at Droog, a renovated 17th-century hotel with just one room, float in a weightless state in the saltwater pods at Koan Float, or sample innovative takes on seasonal fruits and vegetables at De Kas, a restaurant housed in the former Amsterdam City Greenery.
Beloved for its green hills and fascinating history, Edinburgh is a unique capital in Western Europe. Where else can you find a medieval Old Town, extinct volcano, and regal castle in one city? For the novel, shop a mix of Highland and hipster at Dick’s, a men’s clothing and housewares store, and dip your toe in Edinburgh’s growing independent brewing scene at Hanging Bat, a pub that pairs pints with ribs and hot dogs.
Venice is simply a marvel: A city built on water, its labyrinth of car-free cobblestone streets and hidden passageways are perfect for wandering—even getting lost here is magical. Head to Al Muro for authentic Venetian cuisine, or for a more adventurous itinerary, get out of the well-trod historic center and take a boat to nearby islands Sant’Erasmo or Giudecca.
Made famous by Mozart (and the Von Trapps), classic Salzburg sits divided by the Salzach River: Its pedestrian Old City lines its left bank, and the 19th-century comprises the right. To drink like a local, head to Bräustübl zu Mülln, Austria’s largest beer hall, where beer is drawn directly from wooden barrels and can be enjoyed alongside traditional and regional specialties from the Schmankerlgang, an Old World food court of sorts.
Though its double-decker buses, iconic red phone booths, and pub culture remain, London has seen many a change in recent years. After checking out the classics, explore burgeoning London by booking a table at chef Bruno Loubet’s Grain Store in the up-and-coming Kings Cross, or catching a show at Almeida, a performance venue housed in a former train station in Islington.
Characterized by cobblestone streets and canals, much of Bruges’s immaculately preserved old city was built between the 12th to 15th centuries: As a result, it’s not hard to feel like you’re in a medieval fairy-tale here. Visit the Church of Our Lady for a viewing of Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child, or sit at a café and take in the views of the Markt, a historic square in the city center.
Prague, Czech Republic
Picturesque Prague beats with a bohemian heart: Here, there are a bevy of museums and architectural marvels that are a testament to the city’s artistic and intellectual foundations. Get off the beaten bath at any number of historic pubs around the city (try U Zlatého Tygra or U Jelínků) or head up to Petřín Hill for incredible views of the city.
Paris almost needs no introduction. With iconic landmarks, world-class museums, cobblestone streets, charming cafes, historic buildings and its famed Left and Right Banks, the city is firmly established as one of the most beautiful in the world. Dine like the French near the Bastille at Chez Paul or stroll among the statues at the elegant Luxembourg Gardens. To stay, treat yourself to a room at the exquisite Hôtel Plaza Athénée.
After a devastating flood in the 1990s Wroclaw was painstakingly rebuilt – its mammoth Germanic churches, Flemish-style mansions and Baroque palaces have been restored to their former glory. Though Wroclaw has yet to attract the large crowds of other Polish hotpots, it’s all set to change with its title as European Capital of Culture and World Book Capital in 2016. Join the lively student population and scores of Nobel Prize winners who call Wroclaw home, as plenty of special events run throughout the year alongside the many arts festivals that earned the city its reputation as a cultural hub.