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Top historical sites in Europe

The Arch of Constantine and the Colosseum behind it in Rome are some of the top historical sites in Europe!

Europe is a hive of cultural attractions, but if it’s history you’re particularly interested in, then there are some destinations that really stand out. Of course, in terms of individual attractions there are enough to write about to fill a library, so today we’re going to focus on the top attractions of three of the continent’s most exciting historical cities.

Before we get started, though, it’s worth pointing out that you don’t always need to take several holidays to see the highlights of several places. In fact, if you are particularly interested in Europe’s history and want to explore a number of destinations in a single trip, then you ought to book a cruise, since you can find itineraries that include great combinations for history lovers, like Messina, Rome and Athens.

Messina, Italy

The gateway to Sicily, Messina is a port city that has welcomed a diverse array of people to its shores over the years, with Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Byzantines being just a few of those who landed here and helped shape the local culture.

Like many of Europe’s most dazzling historical cities, Messina’s past can be discerned in amongst the modern constructions. One of the most important historical buildings, for instance, is the Duomo of Messina, which was built in the 12th century by Roger II of Sicily.

While this building is very historic, it’s only the lower part that’s been preserved as it once was – you see, the cathedral was actually destroyed by an earthquake in 1783, and then again by bombings in 1943, meaning it has been rebuilt several times.

While you’re here, look out for Fontana di Orione – a beautiful fountain in the square outside the cathedral. This was built in the 16th century by one of Michelangelo’s students, Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli.

Rome, Italy

As well as being one of Italy’s most beautiful urban destinations, Rome is among its most historical and important. Its crowning glory is the Colosseum – once a stage for gladiatorial battles and other blood-soaked contemporary entertainment, this Roman amphitheatre is one of the city’s top tourist attractions.

In its heyday, it could hold between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators. While it’s not in pristine condition, an incredible amount has survived given the fact that it’s around 2,000 years old – and exploring it today you can really get a feel for the impact it would have made back in Roman times.

Another must-visit is the Vatican – the tiny independent walled state that has acted as the home for Catholic popes for centuries. The historical highlight here is the Basilica of St Peter, which has a beautiful 17th-century facade and impressive dome, and is one of the largest churches in the world.

Athens, Greece

Athens is virtually synonymous with ancient history, and no visit here is complete without a trip to the mesmerising Acropolis. First, though, you might like to visit the Acropolis Museum, which was created back in 2009.

Here, you can peruse the remarkable finds at the Acropolis site, including sculptural decorations of the Parthenon (you can also watch a really interesting video on this subject on the third floor).

Of course, the real highlight is the Acropolis itself, which sits right in the heart of the modern city. Standing tall on Sacred Rock above the modern streets, the complex is home to world-famous buildings like the Parthenon and the Erechtheion.

Of course, these are just a few of the top historical sites in Europe, but you have to start somewhere.  Once you start exploring, it’s hard to stop … that’s the beauty of the travel bug!

The 5 Most Underrated European Cities

Europe might be the most popular continent for tourism with amazing beaches, cultures, cuisines, languages and of course cities. The most common cities visited by tourists, including: Rome, Athens, Paris, Barcelona, and other popular places, hold true beauty and a music in the air that no one can resist. But, behind these well-known wonders, there are cities that do not shine as brightly. It’s a shame, because these urban centers hold mysteries and a magic of their own that are dying to be revealed. The list below will enlighten individuals to the 5 most underrated European cities that truly need to have their voices heard!

aerial view of Dubrovnik

1. Edinburgh, Scotland

The capital of Scotland, Edinburgh, is dotted with astounding castles, with crumbling stones, that announce their age and endurance throughout time. Inside the walls, history replays the stories of the royals and their scandalous affairs. The air of this historical city rings with the clash of swords from the feuds between the clans. The stories of Edinburgh date back to the Celtic rituals and Christian fathers. The city is now bustling with thick-accented locals; yet, needs tourists who are interested in understanding one of the most mystical and romantic cultures known to man.

2. Bucharest, Romania

Who could resist visiting a city that the real life Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, called home? Capital of Romania, Bucharest came into existence in 1459 and since then has grown into a beautiful city with elegant architecture. The wide tree lined boulevards of this city earned its name as the “Little Paris” for its grandeur. You can’t visit this city without going to see the towering Arch of Triumph and the stunning Cantacuzino Palace that were both built in the early 1900s. Bucharest is definitely a fun place for a city break with its unique food, culture and awesome nightlife.

3. Oslo, Norway

Oslo was founded by King Harald Hardrade and became the capital of Norway in 1300 AD. Tourists can enjoy a tour through the Royal Palace or take stroll through the medieval castle, Akershus. The numerous parks and museums tell stories of Oslo’s interesting past. The devastating fire of 1624 left ruins for tourists to visit and lands that were turned into farms. Unfortunately, the fire ruined most of medieval Oslo; however, you can research the history and see it displayed in their museums and enjoy the beautiful modern city that emerged from the ashes.

4. Tallinn, Estonia

This beautiful capital of Estonia lies on the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland. The first fortress ever built was in 1050; however, it is believed that this city dates much farther back. The city has many wounded memories from World War 2 when the Soviets bombed it extensively in order to regain it from the Nazi Germans. Today, with its towering glassy buildings, its 400,000 residents have made it a charming and rustic town. Tallinn has some of the most beautiful cathedrals found in Europe. Visiting inside them will take you back to a simpler time that was uprooted by devastating war.

5. Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik is a prominent tourist town with its glistening clear blue beaches. The beauty of its essence has had it nicknamed as the “Pearl of the Adriatic.” When visitors come to this stunning place, they must visit the most beautiful church possibly ever built, the Church of St. Ignatius. The artwork can take anyone’s breath away, instantly. With its beaches and a multitude of synagogues, this tourist town is incredibly humble and the perfect place for a comforting vacation.

Top Reasons to Visit Spain

There are plenty of top reasons to visit Spain. And if you just consider how colorful and long-standing its history is, you’d be convinced of its worth as a tourist destination.  Tourism in Spain developed around the 1960’s and 1970’s. And back then, the country was herald as a great summer vacation spot. Today, it presents an array of alternative tourism significance, which attracts as many as 53 million visitors per year (allowing it to earn a whopping $53 billion tourism direct GDP. Spain is essentially a Mediterranean country that is run by a constitutional monarchy. And it was among the countries the nations that pioneered in world exploration, thereby making it a very influential force as far as culture and religion goes.

architecture in Madrid

Many of the tourist attractions in other countries, especially the Caribbean and Pacific involve remnants of Spanish architecture, which are often represented by town halls, forts, churches and old houses. The top reasons to visit Spain are no different. And here, folks can actually appreciate a more sophisticated depiction of its artistic side with landmarks like the Palacio de la Diputacion in Bilbao, Cathedral of Seville in Seville, Fort Sebastian and Santa Catalina in Cadiz, and the Old City of Cordoba. El Escorial is among the most interesting places to visit in the nation’s capital as it was once the center of the Spanish Empire. And in this vicinity, people will get to appreciate multiple facets of Spanish construction. Also known as the Monastery or Royal Seat of San Lorenzo de (El) Escorial, this massive building functioned as a religious sanctuary, royal palace, museum and school. It is a complex made up of a number of well-designed buildings, influenced by 16th and 17th century aesthetics. And it is surrounded by a vast woodland area, which served as the royal family’s hunting grounds. It was inaugurated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 and currently attracts as much as 500,000 guests. And the best part about it is that it’s only 45 kilometers away from other highlights located in Madrid.

If you are interested in more nature-centric destinations, you could schedule a trip to Almeria, where you could indulge in local picturesque natural beaches. As mentioned earlier, one of the top reasons to visit Spain has always been its summer getaways. And Almeria has the best lineup in the world. Las Salinas and La Almadrava de Monteleva are among the undisturbed coastlines it affords people. And as an alternative, Valencia also has a nice beach waiting for foreigners to try out. More commercialized strands are found in Coastal Blanca, Brava and del Sol. And if you are particularly fond of pairing water-sports with that of party facilities, Ibiza and Mallorca are definitely some of the places you should include in your itinerary. If you want to read some more about these places, check out reviews from On The Beach.

Sierra Nevada is another one of the top reasons to visit Spain that is serving ecotourism interests. But unlike the previous, this mountain range in Andalucia offers guests more rugged outdoor experiences, from hiking to climbing, canyoning, paragliding and skiing during the winter. Tenerife is an overseas territory of Spain that also serves tourists the same set of activities, but pairing it up with spectacular beaches and a lively nightlife, making it the ultimate holiday retreat.


Driving around Ireland’s history

If you think that a trip to Dublin Castle is where history begins and ends on a holiday to Ireland then think again. Those who decide to hire a car and explore a little further outside the city will find that there are a lot of historic sites of interest.

things to see in Ireland

Kilmainham Gaol

Take Kilmainham Gaol for example. It is just a short three-and-a-half kilometre drive from Dublin and has plenty of secrets waiting to be unearthed. It was used as a prison up until the 1920s, but today is one of the biggest unoccupied jails anywhere in Europe.

This notorious site has seen some heroic and tragic events in its history and tells the story of a side of Ireland and how it became the nation it is today. Visitors can learn about the political prisoners who were once housed there and how the immense building has now been restored.

Farmleigh House and Estate

Located eight kilometres from the city centre in Phoenix Park is a grand mansion built by Arthur Guinness’ great grandson Edward Cecil Guinness, the first Earl of Iveagh. This eclectic mix of architectural styles is Farmleigh House, accompanied by its charming estate.

It was purchased by the Office of Public Works in 1999 and has since been used to accommodate dignitaries visiting from overseas. Artwork, furnishings and books collected by Guinness for Farmleigh are still present in the house, on loan from the family.

The Victorians and Edwardians, who both had an influence on the estate, had a penchant for ornamental features and the gardens surrounding the house reflect this. Lakeside walks, walled and sunken gardens, as well as an immense variety of plants will greet the visitor.

It is not simply a case of driving up to the house and having a look around, as it is still in use, but guided tours can be arranged in advance or upon arrival.

Rathfarnham Castle

More like a fortified country house than a castle, but still complete with impressive flanker towers, Rathfarnham Castle is an interesting place to visit. It is an easy drive away from Dublin, not far from the village of Rathfarnham.

Originally built in the Elizabethan period for Archbishop Adam Loftus, who was involved in the establishment of Trinity College, it was extensively remodelled towards the end of the 18th century. This process was undertaken with input from world-renowned architects of the day including Sir William Chambers and James ‘Athenian’ Stuart.

Enjoy finding out more about social history with a visit to the castle, which is home to the Berkley Costume and Toy Collection. The toys, dolls and clothes date back to the 18th and 19th centuries and were originally amassed by Countess Ann Griffin Bernstorff, an artist and collector.

The War Memorial Gardens

For those more interested in modern history a visit to the War Memorial Gardens on South Circular Road is a must. The formal planting reflects the sombre duty to remember the 49,400 Irish soldiers who were killed between 1914 and 1918 in the First World War.

Designed by Sir Edward Lutyens there is a sunken rose garden, herbaceous borders and avenues of trees, making it a beautiful as well as interesting place to visit. Granite book rooms have also been built on the site to house manuscripts containing the names of all those Irishmen who died.

These have been intricately illustrated by Harry Clarke and provide a poignant focal point to any visit.