Oslo is blessed with some incredibly beautiful parks which manage, in typical Norwegian style, to straddle the line between a bucolic naturalness and well-kept grace. As soon as the sun is out this is where you'll find locals lolling, picnicking and often getting their gear off and catching some rays.
Along the Atlantic, the Beira Litoral lures surfers and sunseekers with scores of sandy beaches. Here, the sophisticated university city of Coimbra and the brash casino-party town of Figueira da Foz arm-wrestle for visitors’ attention. Move inland to the Beira Alta highlands and the mood shifts entirely. Stoic stone villages cling to the slopes of Portugal’s highest mountains – the Serra da Estrela – and cast their gaze down at the fertile wine country of the Dão valley.
While history reverberates all around, Seville is as much about the here and now as the past. It’s about eating tapas in a crowded bar or seeing out the end of the day over a drink on a buzzing plaza. The sevillanos have long since mastered the art of celebrating and the city’s great annual festivals, notably the Semana Santa and Feria de Abril, are among Spain’s most heartfelt.
Central Dalmatia is the most action-packed and diverse part of Croatia, with pretty islands, quiet ports, rugged mountains, numerous castles and an emerging culinary scene, as well as three Unesco World Heritage sites: Diocletian’s Palace in Split, the medieval walled town of Trogir and the ancient strip fields of the Stari Grad plain on the island of Hvar. Throughout it all, the rugged 1500m-high Dinaric Range provides a dramatic background.
Barcelona is an enchanting seaside city with boundless culture, fabled architecture and a world-class drinking and dining scene. Barcelona's architectural treasures span 2000-plus years. Towering temple columns, ancient city walls and subterranean stone corridors provide a window into Roman-era Barcino. Fast forward a thousand years or so to the Middle Ages by taking a stroll through the shadowy lanes of the Gothic quarter, past tranquil plazas and soaring 14th-century cathedrals.
Garden islands and lagoon aquaculture yield speciality produce and seafood you won’t find elsewhere – all highlighted in inventive Venetian cuisine, with tantalising traces of ancient spice routes. The city knows how to put on a royal spread, as France’s King Henry III once found out when faced with 1200 dishes and 200 bonbons.
While it might lack the world-class cultural institutions of Berlin, Belgrade, at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, offers its own distinctive appeal, with storybook historical districts and venerable fortresses and parks. Better still, this center of Slavic cool just got much easier to reach: Direct flights from North America, via New York City, started in June on Air Serbia. Throw in Belgrade’s cafe scene, low prices, talented young designers, emerging former industrial districts, sausage-filled cuisine and unbridled night life — from D.J. bars to party boats to all-hours nightclubs — and the comparison seems even more compelling.
This is a city that staged a revolution, was headquartered by Nazis, bombed to bits, divided in two and finally reunited – and that was just in the 20th century! Walk along remnants of the Berlin Wall, marvel at the splendour of a Prussian palace, visit Checkpoint Charlie or stand in the very room where the Holocaust was planned. Berlin is like an endlessly fascinating 3D textbook where the past is very much present wherever you go.