Six cities in Europe are poised to emerge as the must-visit if you want to experience Europe in a unique way. Experience their culture, beauty and postcard-worth views before they become touristy. The timing is perfect since there are some amazing travel offers that one can avail using their Citi cards. By Sujitha Sundaram
Rotterdam is overtaking Amsterdam as the hottest destination in the Netherlands. The city was re-built with an emphasis on modern architecture after it was extensively bombed in World War II. In fact, over 400 markers on the road form a fire line that indicate the areas bombed. The only city in the country to have a skyline and a gorgeous one at that, the panoramic view is best enjoyed atop the Euromast Tower. At the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, take in the vast collection of paintings, sculptures and installations by world famous artists like Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Dali.
Shop at Blaak Markt, an open market known for its street food or Markthal whose ceiling bears the world’s largest artwork, spanning 13,000 square yards. Don’t miss Café Dudok’s scrumptious apple pie, a boat tour around the harbour or a visit to the Church of Saint Laurence, the only medieval structure to have survived the bombings. Sample Fenix Food Factory’s home-brewed coffee and beer with food made from the local produce or unwind with a drink at the end of the day at Witte de Withkwartier’s many pubs and bars.
Travel back in time to the medieval European town of Turku and soak in its history when you visit the Turku Cathedral, which when built was large enough to accommodate the town’s population. Turku Castle, situated on the banks of the River Aura is the largest castle in the country. Don’t miss the history and contemporary art museums, Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova where you can discover exhibitions and installations of modern art and artefacts. For the more adventurous, kayak to the archipelago and explore over 40,000 islands there as you cycle across them on the 250 kms long Archipelago trail. Dine on the riverbank with restaurants serving fresh seafood and local Scandinavian cuisine for every budget. Try snails at MAMI or savour delicious Italian fare at Sergio’s. Finish the meal with authentic Finnish sweets from Leaf Oy. Don’t forget to pick up souvenirs from the Turku Market Square and Hansa Kor.
Your Arctic adventure starts at Tromso, a city in the northernmost part of Norway, 350 kms north of the Arctic Circle. It is slowly becoming a must-visit for all tourists who come here to witness the midnight sun and the northern lights. Also known as Aurora Borealis, it is an unusual natural phenomenon that paints the sky bright with unusual colours. Go dog sledding or on a whale safari, golf at the world’s northernmost course, or visit the indigenous Samis and learn their culture as you sit in their tents and sip the warm stew ‘bithus’. Visit the Vulkana, a ship that has a drop-in spa or eat preserved reindeer, tapas style at Presis Tapas.
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Moravian Karst, Czech Republic
Karsts are regions of limestone which have eroded over the years and have formed beautiful ridges, sinkholes and other natural formations. Moravian Karst, one of the most important Karst regions in Europe, boasts of 1,100 caverns and caves, with only five accessible to the public. A visit to the Punkva Caves is accompanied by a local legend as you navigate the underground river and observe the bottom of the Machoca Abyss. This Abyss, created when a cave fell in, is one of the most visited tourist sites. Other places worth a visit are the Balcarka Caves, with colourful stalagmites in all shapes and sizes and the Výpustek Cave, that was once used as a top-military command centre with an underground nuclear shelter that was built at the height of the Cold War.
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If Bernard Shaw’s description of Bulgaria in Arms and The Man didn’t make you want to visit, then we don’t know what will. Though a bit of a damp squib at first glance with its run-down Soviet-era architecture, Sofia possesses real gems if you’re willing to look for them. The city boasts of Ottoman-era mosques and cathedrals, the most famous being the Aleksandar Nevsky Cathedral. Eat at Hadriganov’s Houses for authentic Bulgarian fare and take back some cured meats and cheese from Central market Hall. The accidental discovery of the 1,800-year Roman city of Serdica is now a must-visit for all tourists. Enjoy a Bulgarian rose massage in the ruins of a 3rd-century coliseum or taste the local liquor, rakia before heading out to its bustling nightlife.
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An eclectic mix of the medieval and modern, Valencia is home to the Spanish dish, paella made of rice and saffron whose most authentic version is served at El Palmar. Taste the most exquisite wine at Casa Montana the Valencia Cathedral, come face-to-face with what the church claims is the Holy Grail or the chalice Jesus used at the Last Supper. Don’t miss out on the gothic style architecture at Lo Lonja de la Seda. Visit the City of Arts and Science and its main attraction the aquarium before heading to Central Market for shopping. Sip on horchata, a drink made with ground almonds and flavoured with cinnamon and vanilla as you do so. The Malvarossa Beach will allows you to kick back and relax as you sun-bathe by the Mediterranean Sea.
The stars have aligned for your European vacation so don’t miss these bustling new cities.Time to experience Europe in a way you have never done before. Do not forget to avail the ongoing travel offers with Citi cards, to make the most out it.#WhatsNewThisVacation