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|Classic Meets Contemporary In Central Europe|
There’s a lot to absorb here in the very heart of Europe, and you don’t want to miss a thing. Here’s our guide to the best of yesterday and today in the multi-faceted lands of Europe’s interior.
In this picturesque country, you’ll find old-world grace, imperial grandeur, and a slow-paced appreciation for food, wine and art that colors daily life.
Vienna—The area outlined by the Ringstrasse, built to replace the medieval city walls, holds Vienna’s most iconic sights, from the formidable St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the Habsburg’s Hofburg to the elegant Vienna State Opera, as well as many of the locals’ favorite cafes.
Salzburg—Whether it’s the impressive architecture of Salzburg Cathedral or St. Peter’s Abbey, the delightful neighborhood squares, or simply the snow-capped peaks of the Alps above, Salzburg is nothing if not breathtaking. It’s easy to see how this city could inspire Mozart’s masterpieces and The Sound of Music.
Vienna—Vineyards aren’t only for country tours. In Vienna, they’re within the city limits. Heurigers, or wine gardens, abound in the city, providing perfect places to sample the local varietals after exploring the MuseumsQuartier, one of the world’s largest cultural complexes.
Graz—Named Europe’s Cultural Capital for 2003,
Graz is home to Diagonale, Austria’s most important film festival, as well as Schlossberg Mountain, providing sweeping views of the Renaissance skyline.
Innsbruck—Nestled in the Alps, this charming village is known for monuments like the stately Wilten Basilica and the Emperor Maximilian I’s Golden Roof, and some of Europe’s best snowboarding and ski slopes.
In the land of Bohemia, you’ll enjoy a storybook countryside dotted with medieval castles, ancient natural springs and epicurean delights.
Prague—Old Town has been the epicenter of this reborn city for nearly a thousand years, teeming with Baroque, Romanesque and Gothic facades, the iconic Orloj astronomical clock, and cobble-stoned streets that lead to the famous Charles Bridge.
Cesky Krumlov—This quaint Bohemian city is all pastel hues, a veritable real-life gingerbread village anchored by the Czech Republic’s second-largest castle, Cesky Krumlov Castle, listed as a World Heritage site.
Carlsbad—The Czech Republic’s resort getaway, Carlsbad has been offering traditional therapies for centuries at Bohemia’s oldest spa and natural springs. The jet set drop into this delightful town regularly to relax and recharge.
Prague—For a taste of modern Prague, visit
The Muller Villa, known as one of the best examples of Functionalist style, and The House at the Black Madonna, which is the pearl of Czech cubist architecture and also houses the Museum of Czech Cubism.
Plzen (Pilsen)—Plzen has been the nexus of the Czech Republic’s beer brewing for nearly eight hundred years, making it a perfect home for the famous Pilsner Urquell lager brewery, brewing here since the mid 1800s.
In Slovakia, or the Slovak Republic, you’ll find a rolling green countryside of slumbering medieval towns, well-preserved castles, intricate wooden churches, thrilling mountain peaks and a cosmopolitan capital.
Bratislava—In the city’s Main Square you’ll find Bratislava’s most astounding architecture, centered around a plaza dotted with statues. Old Town is home to the clean lines of Bratislava Castle, perched on a hilltop with sweeping views of the city.
Levoca—This well-preserved town still looks much as it did six centuries ago, and it is still encased by its medieval walls. In the main city square you can visit the Church of St. James, which houses a magnificent carved wood altar.
Kosice—Slovakia’s second-largest city is the site of the intricate and exquisite St. Elizabeth’s Cathedral, a centuries-old medieval bell tower, and the compact but ornate St. Michael’s Chapel.
Bratislava—Modern Bratislava is a city of fashionable cafes and sleek restaurants that wouldn’t look out of place on the streets of New York or Paris. And the ultra-modern Novy Most bridge, provides views all the way to Austria and the Alps on clear days.
Zilinia—Stylish Zilinia is home to modern boutique hotels, hip restaurants, and the intriguing Povazie Museum. Its central attraction, the Tinkers Exhibit, showcases intricate gold and silver wire folk-art masterpieces, all housed in a medieval castle.
Germany is a country of contrasts, made even more interesting by its mingling of new and old. Turn back time with a cuckoo clock, then fast-forward with Berlin’s bustling cosmopolitan restaurants and bars.
Berlin—In Berlin, you can take a literal walk through history. A strolling tour can encompass the iconic Brandenburg Gate, energetic Alexanderplatz, stately Charlottenburg Palace, and, of course, Checkpoint Charlie at the infamous Berlin Wall.
Munich—Munich’s quaint beer gardens are perhaps the perfect place to spend an afternoon, particularly at the Hofbr¨auhaus, with its legendary brown ale. And the nearby Neuschwanstein Castle looks like every fairytale’s palace, modeled after a 13th-century knight’s castle.
Dresden—Art, culture and romance are the name of the game in this city anchored by the idyllic Theaterplatz, one of Germany’s most exquisite city squares, outlined by the baroque beauty of Zwinger Palace, a stately cathedral and Semper Opera House.
Hamburg—This summer brings the opening of the BallinStadt Museum, which commemorates Hamburg’s role as the Port of Dreams, the starting point of some five million Europeans’ journeys to America in the early 20th-century.
Dessau—Here at the confluence of the Mulde and Elbe rivers is the home of the Bauhaus, the influential school that pioneered the modernist movement in art and design in the early part of the 20th-century and shaped the works of famous artists such as Kandinsky and Mondrian.
See old and new Hungary in Budapest, then treat your senses with a paprika-spiced goulash and warm thermal soak.
Budapest—The Danube view of the Chain Bridge and Castle District makes the list of World Heritage sites. Adding to this already impressive roster is the Royal Palace, which has been ransacked and rebuilt six times in its six hundred years of existence. Neoclassical and art nouveau concert halls, museums and theatres abound in Budapest and the city’s welcoming cafes are a perfect place for a rejuvenating break.
Sopron—One of Hungary’s richest historic cities, Sopron boasts a striking 200-foot Fire Tower, a fascinating Gothic synagogue, and a set of baroque houses and medieval churches.
Fertod—This small town is home to the spectacular Eszterhazy Palace. Taking 46 years to construct, beginning in 1720, the Palace was built in the style of Versailles. Joseph Haydn spent a decade here and composed his famous Farewell Symphony within its walls. The annual summer music festival in Fertod is dedicated to the great composer.
Budapest—While time stands still in its cobbled streets in the Buda Castle, Pest surges forward with the lively energy of a cultural hub.
The Palace of Arts is the city’s newest artistic center with an acoustically perfect concert hall, dance theatre and modern art museum.
Lake Balaton—Landlocked Hungary is home to one of Europe’s
largest lakes, a perfect location for sailing or windsurfing. Along the lakeside, award-winning wineries and relaxing spas welcome visitors.
On this rich tapestry, a crossroads of cultures produced a history equally as diverse and visually stunning. Today you’ll find a Poland that spans the ages, from its timeless natural beauty to the riches of its medieval heyday and its cutting-edge contemporary cities.
Warsaw—Warsaw’s Old Town has been beautifully restored, and its main square shines with all its bygone splendor. The Zarnek Krolweski castle and St. John’s Cathedral add further old-world glitter, while the massive art deco Palace of Culture and Science evokes the more modern tastes of the Stalin era.
Krakow—Poland’s cultural capital is an architectural treasure trove, where Wawel Palace gleams down from its hilltop over St. Mary’s Church and the bustling Market Square. The Kazimierz Jewish Quarter is a fascinating i6th-century enclave of historic synagogues and museums.
Warsaw—The homeland of virtuoso pianist Chopin is also the center of Europe’s oldest jazz festival, luring musicians from around the world to the city each October. The epicenter of the jazz scene is the hip Tygmont Club, which routinely draws impressive lineups of modern talent.
Lodz—Poland’s Hollywood is a veritable wonderland for any film buff. Home to a film school that produced legendary filmmaker Roman Polanski and the Muzeum Kinematografii, Lodz showcases a loaded schedule of contemporary, foreign and vintage movies.
Wroclaw—Over its thousand-year existence, Wroclaw has accumulated an eclectic mix of Czech, German and Polish history, and today is a modern mecca for artists offering an endless variety of cultural activities. The area around the city is dotted with fairytale castles, spas, and fantastic skiing and snowboarding.
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