The world is smaller than ever, and people are exploring its farthest reaches more than ever.
Travelers no longer hesitate to discover the delights of global cities, whether a megalopolis in China or a Spanish colonial city frozen in Communist time, a French bastion in North America or the Catholic Church’s headquarters in Italy. Some cities have been embracing eager guests for centuries, but others are just beginning to open up to the world travelers waiting at their doorsteps.
Some of the great cities of the world are included in international itineraries offered by Travel Alliance Partners. Your group members can immerse themselves in culture and history in any of these five amazing cities.
Maybe it’s the red-tiled rooftops that roll over Prague’s hillsides. Maybe it’s the spires that earned it the moniker “City of 100 Towers.” Or maybe it’s the bridges that span the Vlatava River. Maybe it’s all of the above and more that have given the Czech Republic’s capital its reputation as one of Europe’s most beautiful cities.
Prague has something visitors can’t see anywhere else in the world: the oldest still-operating astronomical clock. The clock was installed in the side of the Old Town Hall Tower in 1410, and every hour on the hour, crowds gather to watch the procession of the 12 Apostles: A small door opens, figures of Christ leading his disciples march, and a skeleton that represents death tolls the bell. Below the clock, 12 medallions with the zodiac signs were added in 1865. The Old Town Square, the city’s oldest historic square, is also home to the National Gallery in Prague and the Gallery of Art Prague, as well as a classic Czech restaurant and beer garden that offers seasonal outdoor dining.
No visit to the city is complete without exploring Prague Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that spans more than 17 acres, making it the world’s largest castle complex, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. The castle dates to 880 and features wide-ranging architecture that includes 10th-century Romanesque buildings, 14th-century Gothic modifications and renovations from the first half of the 1900s. On the grounds, groups may want to visit St. George’s Basilica, the castle’s oldest church, and Daliborka Tower, the castle’s famous prison.
Nearby, St. Vitus Cathedral is also the national treasury and houses some of the Czech Republic’s most important statehood symbols, including the St. Wenceslas Crown and the Coronation Cross.
“When in Rome …” can end a million different ways or be used to justify a million different frivolities; but in Rome, there are many must-see sites as well as lesser-known attractions that groups should experience.
As the most-visited attraction in all of Italy, the Colosseum hardly needs an introduction. Tickets include admission to the giant amphitheater’s neighbors, the Roman Forum, which was the city’s marketplace and business district, and Palatine Hill, where the remains of noble houses and imperial palaces scatter the slopes.
The city is also a Catholic bastion covered in churches and cathedrals, and it can be difficult to whittle down which ones to visit. Locals often recommend the 17th-century Sant’Agnese in Agone that faces Piazza Navona. Construction began in 1652, and the Baroque-style cathedral is open during the day and free to visit. Lined with boutiques, restaurants and cafes, the oval-shaped piazza is itself an attraction where baroque art and architecture is on display, including the dramatic Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, or Fountain of the Four Rivers. Piazza Navona is also home to the Museum of Rome, an art and history museum located inside Palazzo Braschi, a Neoclassical palace.
Rome surrounds Vatican City, the city-state headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. The 110-acre walled enclave is a veritable trove of art, artifacts and architecture. In addition to the famous St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square, the Vatican Museums are an absolute must-see. On display in their 54 galleries are priceless works of art that popes have collected throughout the centuries, and the museums are also where guests can see the famed Michelangelo-painted ceiling in the Sistine Chapel. Just south, a climb to the top of Castel Sant’Angelo rewards visitors with views of Vatican City and the Tiber River.