European city highlights: Copenhagen, Istanbul, Milan, Monte Carlo, Palma de Mallorca and St. Petersburg
Europe is rich in culture, history and fun, so take time to travel. Get out of your comfort zone, go off-base and venture beyond your community. Get going to one of Europe’s incredible cities!
Denmark’s capital city is packed with things to do and see. Visit one of the city’s castles – Kronborg Castle, Rosenborg Castle, Frederiksborg Palace, the Queen’s residence of Amalienborg or Christiansborg Palace, seat of the Danish Parliament. Sip a sub-zero drink at the Absolut Ice Bar and wander Christiania, an alternative community in the midst of the city. For an overview of Copenhagen, take a boat tour along the canals and harbor, where you’ll see the Little Mermaid statue, which pays tribute to the tale by Hans Christian Andersen. Seek thrills at the two oldest amusement parks in the world, Bakken (1583) and Tivoli Gardens (1854).
Istanbul commands attention as one of the most historical cities of both eastern and western cultures. As the previous capital to both Roman and Ottoman empires, more than 3,000 years of human history is evident everywhere. In the heart of Sultanahmet you’ll find awe-inspiring architectural masterpieces: Hagia Sophia, a mosque-turned museum and Unesco World Heritage site; the elegant Blue Mosque, a place of reverence and spiritual atmosphere; and the opulent Topkapi Palace. Yes, take in as many historical sites as you can, but traverse the city markets and sit for tea with a rug dealer to bargain for a world-famous, hand-knotted carpet you will want to pass down to your children.
The second-largest city in Italy is known for fashion, furniture and football. Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Versace and other designers have stores in the Quadrilatero d’Oro. Shopaholics can also find great deals at outlet stores and local boutiques. Enjoy a social outing for pre-dinner drinks and appetizers, known by the locals as aperitivi. Visit the harbor to sample gelato or sip a fabulous espresso. See the stunning Milan Cathedral, complete with gothic spires, carvings and statues. If you have time, tour Milan’s Sforzesco Castle grounds and museums.
Monte Carlo, Monaco
Mention this city along the Mediterranean’s French Riviera and one thinks of movie stars, fast cars and m-o-n-e-y. Visit the regal Palais du Prince, residence of the Royal Grimaldi family and once home of Hollywood starlet-turned-princess Grace Kelly. Witness high stakes and extravagance at the world-class gaming center Monte Carlo Casino. Shop at the famously diverse La Condamine and find everything from high fashion to fruit and fish stands. Then, for the ultimate rush, plan your trip in May to see the Monaco Grand Prix. Held since 1918, it’s one of the only Formula One races still driven through downtown public streets.
Palma de Mallorca, Spain
Soak in sunshine and walk barefoot on the beach year-round. Bicycles are the best way to get around, with designated bike lanes and a route along the waterfront. You can’t miss La Seu, the city’s immense hilltop cathedral can be seen for miles. Save time for Cuevas de Drach, a spectacular network of underground caves. Your tour ends with a classical music concert played by musicians aboard candlelit boats floating on a placid underground lake. Save time to eat paella, sushi and fresh fish ocean-side. Plan an afternoon siesta and snack on tapas early evening because most restaurants don’t open for dinner until 9 p.m.
St. Petersburg, Russia
St. Petersburg is actually more than 100 islands connected by 500 bridges. Plan your trip for spring or summer and spend an afternoon strolling the city’s picturesque gardens and parks, including Alexander Garden, Catherine Garden and the oldest, the Summer Garden. There’s no shortage of castles, with more than a dozen to choose from, but make sure you tour the decadent Winter Palace. Plan ahead because a visa is required for travel to Russia. For additional information, contact your local passport office or visit Travel.state.gov.