European city highlights: Salzburg, Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, Oslo and Barcelona
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!
“The hills are alive ... ” Yes, of course you can see where The Sound of Music was filmed, but Salzburg has much more to offer. Mozart spent decades composing and performing music here, and Hitler held parties at his lofty retreat, the Eagle’s Nest, perched amid the nearby Bavarian Alps. Visit Hohensalzburg, one of the largest medieval castles in Europe, an ominous stronghold atop the Festungsberg. Savor some Weinerschnitzel but save room for Nockerl, Salzburg’s signature sweet soufflé of towering meringue wisps resembling mountain peaks.
While you certainly don’t want to miss the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe or the Mona Lisa, the less well-known gems of Paris also shine. Climb the hill of Montmartre, tour the travertine Sacré-Coeur Basilica and take great photos from one of the city’s highest points. The stained glass work encasing La Sainte-Chappelle is among the largest and most elaborate arrays in the world. Make time to sample quiches in a variety of flavors; decadent crème brûlée; duck so tender you don’t need a knife; and the most buttery, flaky, messy croissants that you will dream of long after returning home.
One of the most historical destinations in the world, the city of Rome is a unique experience, combining ruins of ancient civilization with the hustle and bustle of the 21st century. Make sure you see the Colosseum—this benign, impressive structure was once host to gruesome gladiator confrontations. The Forum’s building ruins provide a glimpse into trade, politics and worship in the ancient city. Don’t miss the Pantheon, an architectural marvel even today. You’ll need a full day for Vatican City’s St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
The beauty of Amsterdam lies in its tree- and home-lined canals, cobble-stoned streets and the Dutch architecture, and there is far more to do than blush at the scantily-clad women of the Red Light District. Lovers of the arts will appreciate the exceptional Van Gogh Museum and Rembrandt’s home. The Anne Frank House immerses you in the extraordinary, emotional story of a young girl in hiding during the Holocaust. Amsterdam’s flat terrain and bike lanes make bicycling the most convenient way to get around. If you visit in the spring, take a day trip to see millions of tulips at Keukenhof Gardens.
The laid-back city of Oslo is surrounded by the natural beauty of the Nordmarka forest and Oslofjord. Island-hop between the fjord islands to swim during the summer, or ski at the world-famous Holmenkollen National Ski area in winter. Inside the imposing ski jump tower, discover 4,000 years of ski history. Other must-sees include Munch’s eerie impressionist masterpiece, The Scream; the Fram, the farthest traveling polar research ship which withstood mother nature’s extremes in the Arctic Circle and Antarctica; and Viking ships from the 9th century. Plan your vacation between October and March and take a short flight to Tromso for a chance to marvel at the splendor of the northern lights.
Beautiful beaches. Incredible seafood. Tapas restaurants on every corner. Gaudi’s whimsical architecture. This is Barcelona. Plan on spending at least an hour in awe at the various façades of La Sagrada Familia cathedral, Gaudi’s most famous masterpiece and still unfinished 120 years later. Do not miss La Boqueria, the daily public market, which will overwhelm the senses with cheeses, meats, and super-sized fruits and vegetables. Stop at one of the kiosks for a quick bite amid the market’s bustle. Meander the narrow streets of the city’s Gothic Quarter where Roman and medieval buildings blend seamlessly. Nestled between apartment buildings, and off the beaten path, you’ll find three 30-foot columns from the Temple of Augustus, still standing after more than 2,000 years. Give yourself time to visit Gaudi’s buildings or one of the city’s renowned art museums.