European city highlights: Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy & Scotland
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!
Prague, Czech Republic
Truly one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Prague has been called “the land of a thousand spires.” Many of those spires are found within the walls of the Prague Castle, identified as the largest castle complex in the world. Many palaces, buildings and gardens give Prague Castle its splendor, but none so much as the imposing St. Vitus Cathedral. Take a stroll along Charles Bridge, bustling with local musicians, artists and merchants during the day and offering incredible city views at night. Prague is a great place for porcelain, marionettes and Bohemian crystal, so save time for shopping.
The city’s tumultuous history is part of what makes Berlin so incredible. The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church was largely destroyed during World War II and only partly reconstructed, creating a dramatic monument. The Reichstag Parliament building maintains part of the original structure and an impressive, modern glass dome which you can ascend for panoramic views of the city. See the remaining section of the Berlin Wall painted with murals by local artists. Stop into a bakery for a Berliner, a jelly-filled donut.
The hilly landscape, unforgettable buildings and hospitable people of Budapest will make you feel like you’re in a different kind of European city. The Buda Castle sits on a huge hill above the Danube River, providing an impressive view of the city, the Hungarian State Opera and Parliament. Parliament’s Gothic Revival-style is stunning, especially at night. To rejuvenate, visit a Turkish bath to soak in mineral water sourced from Budapest’s thermal springs. Stroll Market Hall to sample paprika and purchase Tokaj, the local sweet wine.
The Cathedral of St. Maria del Fiore, referred to simply as “the Duomo,” is an iconic feature of the city with its intricately carved façade of pink, white and green marble. The view of Florence’s red-tiled rooftops is worth the 463-step climb to the top of the massive dome. To see another of Florence’s icons requires a trip to The Accademia Gallery where you can gaze at Michelangelo’s masterpiece, “David.” The Ponte Vecchio spans the Arno River and is lined with shops that maintain their medieval architecture, complete with wooden doors and metal hinges that look like treasure chests when closed. Give yourself time to shop for leather purses, jackets, shoes and wallets of excellent quality and design.
Edinburgh is a UNESCO World Heritage site with its preserved medieval city planning, buildings dating to the 16th century and fortress atop an extinct volcano. The city’s splendor was the inspiration for J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, penned while sipping coffee at the Elephant House café. Visit Edinburgh Castle and hike to the top of Calton Hill to find out why Edinburgh is known as the “Athens of the north.” Go on a ghost tour or day trip to the highlands for scenery, hairy Highland cattle and more castles. Stop by a pub and have a wee dram of Scotch whisky. If you’re feeling brave, order haggis or black pudding (not a dessert!), but it’s better not to ask what’s in it.