Incredible picturesque, Sveti Stefan is a unique place along the Budva Riviera. It stands on a rocky island crammed full of terracotta-roofed houses. A narrow isthmus connects it with the mainland. From the 15th century Sveti Stefan housed a simply fishing community. In the 1950s someone had the idea to nationalize the tiny village. The residents were evicted and Sveti Stefan was transformed into a luxury town-hotel. Among its guests were Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren and Kirk Douglas. It fell into decline during the breakup of the former Yugoslav federation. In 2010, Sveti Stefan Hotel reopened its doors once again as a member of the Aman Resorts. As beautiful and unique as Stevi Stefan is, there’s one major drawback: You can’t actually go into the village unless you stay there as a hotel guest. Luckily visitors and guest alike can enjoy the two pebble beaches on either side of the isthmus.
The birthplace of Christopher Columbus, Genoa has always played a big role in Italian maritime trade and is still one of the largest ports in Italy. Though Genoa is often overlooked as a tourist destination, it is a wonderful Italian city, and definitely worth visiting. The aquarium in Genoa is the largest in Europe, and it is perhaps the most popular tourist attraction in the city. If you gravitate more towards art and architecture, then the art galleries found at the Prince’s Palace and in the Raccolte Frugone are well worth a visit. Foodies love Genoa, and it is easy to see why. Pesto originated from Genoa, and the affordable flat-bread called focaccia is also delicious and readily available throughout the city.
Nestled in the foothills of the Sintra Mountains on the Lisbon Coast, just a day trip away from Portugal’s capital city, Sintra presents a spectacular setting of verdant hills, sprinkled with pretty villas, royal retreats, castles and palaces such as the famous Pena’s Palace, a fantastical castle reminiscent of Germany’s Neuschwanstein. Built in the mid-1800s and serving as a summer retreat for the Portuguese royal family, Pena’s Palace is surrounded by forested parklands containing exotic trees, plants and flowers. Also not to be missed are the ancient ruins of the Castle of the Moors crowning the city’s highest hill, and the romantic Monserrate Palace with its subtropical gardens.
The colourful shops and restaurants of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull are famous for being featured on children’s television programme Balamory, amongst other things. You can see why: they look incredibly picturesque against the green trees, glassy black water and (often) grey sky. There’s lots to do in town, with the Tobermory Museum, an aquarium, and the Tobermory single malt whisky distillery to visit. Otherwise it’s perfect as a base to explore this island of the Inner Hebrides.
Just 5 km (3 miles) away from Kotor, you’ll come across the charming town of Prčanj. Accessible only via a one-way road, Prčanj is far off the beaten track, making it a treasure worth exploring. Many other notable figures throughout history have thought the same, including dozens of successful ship captains of the past who opted to retire there. Famously, Austrian Emperor Franz Josef visited Prčanj, where he was greeted and welcomed by the wealthy naval captains who called the town home.
In Prčanj, you can tour numerous religious structures, including the Orthodox St. Peter’s Church and the whopping Birth of Our Lady church that appears to be a bit outsized for such a small town. Construction of this massive church started in 1789 but was not completed until 1908. If you’re fascinated by the small town’s naval history, you can also take a look at the impressive collection at the Nautical Museum.
Keep in mind that while Prčanj doesn’t have a lot in the way of major tourism attractions, that is all part of its appeal. Visiting Prčanj means having the chance to stroll through one-way streets with locals, pick up inexpensive souvenirs at the local post office and dine or drink with residents at the handful of tiny restaurants in the area.
Elsinore, also known as Helsingør, is home to one of the famous castles in the world: Kronborg, the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The play has been performed here annually for 80 years. The former medieval fishing village was founded in the 15th century, though a fortress and a church surrounded by convents were established a century earlier. It’s now a bustling port city. A 2012 statue, Han, in the harbor is considered the counterpart of Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid. Top attractions include the castle, the maritime museum, and the statue to Holger Danske, a legendary character who warred with Charlemagne.
Right on the border with Belgium, you’ll find the charming and historic town of Monschau. The town looks very similar to how it did 300 years ago, and its half-timbered buildings and cobblestone streets are a big part of the area’s appeal. Most visitors come to stroll through the Old Town and spot landmarks like the 18th century Red House or the famed 19th century Mustard Mill. Monschau is also a gateway to the nearby Eifel National Park, which is an amazing spot for hiking as well as mountain biking.
One of the oldest castles in Switzerland, Castle Spiez was built in 933 when much of the western area of modern-day Switzerland was ruled by Italy. Construction on the original keep continued for the next six centuries, offering you a unique opportunity to view a variety of architectural styles. The ancient Castle Church, for example, exemplifies the Early Romanesque style. The court rooms were built in the height of the Renaissance Era. The southern addition was finished in 18th century in the elaborate Baroque style.
Enjoy some authentic Italian food in this northern Croatian town. Groznjan is the only city with an Italian majority in Croatia. This town houses ancient Roman artifacts, has been ruled by the Venetians, Austrians, Italians and Yugolslavians, and has seen many wars and struggles. The whole town is a small fortified fortress that wears the scars of war and neglect. But in the 1960’s, sculptor Aleksandar Rukavina brought revitalization. Artists began to move here and the prestigious Jeunesses Musicales International soon opened up. Today, you’ll find artists and musicians colonizing this once forgotten stone town.
As the capital of the province of Hainaut, Mons is best known for the magical and surprising ringing of the town’s glorious Belfry bells, which hail from the 80 meter (270 foot) tower. Winding streets allow visitors to easily traverse the city sites that are a rich mixture of architectural styles. The Gothic-style Mons Town Hall is eye-catching, and the Collegiate Church of Sainte-Waudru boasts a highly impressive collection of 16th century Jacques Du Broeucq alabaster statues. Naturally, a stop by the Van Gogh House is a must to see amazing reproductions of this master’s works.