While American cities like Boston, Philadelphia and Charleston are chock full of history, it’s strange to imagine that so many European cities were settled and thriving 1,500 years before North America was ever visited by Europeans. Europe’s extensive history is still noticeably visible in its cities and towns, and some of the continent’s most memorable excursions are to places where history, culture and natural beauty intersect to create a stunning environment. Here are 5 truly beautiful places in Europe that will take your breath away!
London deservedly dominates most discussions of destinations in England, but for something off-the-beaten-path and unlike anything else, venture less than 100 miles west to the town of Bath. If you want history, this town has it. The oldest known structure in Bath, a temple, was built by Romans between the years 60 and 70 A.D. In other words, this gorgeous town is literally almost 2,000 years old! Today, Bath is most famous for its namesake spas, as the town sits atop natural hot springs that bubble up through limestone aquifers. While there are still several baths and museums dedicated to the town’s incredible history, the highlight has to be the Roman Baths, a series of ornate baths celebrating Roman culture and Georgian architecture and offering plenty of relaxation!
Isle of Skye, Scotland
Despite being among Western Europe’s oldest continuously inhabited regions, Scotland retains a natural beauty and raw isolation that belie the millennia humans have lived here. Nowhere is this juxtaposition more noticeable than Skye, the largest island in the Inner Hebrides archipelago. Geographically, Skye is known for its billowing clouds, unique topography provided by the Cuillin mountain range, and the shimmering combination of rivers, lochs and ocean that surround the Isle. This natural beauty is so stunning that Skye is one of the world’s most popular filming destinations: The James Bond film Skyfall and Snow White and the Huntsman were both shot here. For an overnight stay, check out Portree, the Isle’s largest town. If you have some free time between hiking, boating and taking stunning photos, make sure you afford the town some time, as its pastel-colored homes and cute shops are absolutely charming!
As the de facto capital of the French Riviera, Nice is a town whose natural beauty has attracted people for more than a thousand years. Originally settled in the 8th century, Nice was variously claimed by the Italian, French and Holy Roman Empire before permanently establishing itself as French shortly after the Middle Ages. Spend just a few minutes here and it will become pretty obvious why everyone wanted this coastal city. Perched along the French Riviera, Nice evokes all the stunning imagery the Mediterranean provides, including red-tiled roofs, leafy palm trees, white beaches and turquoise sea. Don’t leave town without checking out the especially beautiful areas of Port Lympia, the Promenade des Anglais, and if you can manage a quick 8-mile trip—the nearby Principality of Monaco!
For a town of barely 150,000 people, Salzburg carries a historical triple-threat possessed by few (if any) other cities its size. Salzburg is not only a UNESCO World Heritage site, but this west Austrian town is also the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the filming site for the legendary Robert Wise film The Sound of Music. Walking the streets of Salzburg today still evokes the atmosphere of its rich past, especially with the city’s cobblestone streets, charming antique shops and array of independent cafés and restaurants. For a stunning bird’s-eye view of this Alpine town, tour the 942-year-old Hohensalzburg Fortress, a castle once belonging to the Holy Roman Empire and offering sweeping views of the city framed by snow-capped Alps in the background!
Český Krumlov, Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is one of the world’s most popular filming sites. Movies including Amadeus, The Illusionist, and the James Bond film Casino Royale were all filmed here. Many of these films were actually shot in Český Krumlov, a small village lying roughly 2 hours south of Prague, the Czech capital. Český Krumlov evokes a different era with a seemingly endless array of pedestrian-only streets, restaurants, stately theaters and red-tiled roofs that are evocative of the town’s Bohemian heritage. The indisputable highlight of Český Krumlov is its castle, which, despite the town’s small size, is actually the Czech Republic’s second largest. Having undergone construction from the 14th to 17th centuries, this sprawling castle (which offers tours) features elements of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture. If you have time, check out the castle theater, a 17th-century court theater that still uses the original stage machinery and props in its productions!
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