Top 10 places to visit in Portugal

Portugal has it all: historic cities, world-renown cuisine, natural landscapes and some of the world’s most spectacular beaches – here are 10 of the best places to visit in Portugal.csm_Portugal-Slider-1-WEB_c8a5b51b24

Once the world’s maritime leader and the longest-lived of Europe’s modern empires, Portugal has a complex history to explore alongside dramatic geographic landscapes, turquoise beaches, a rich gastronomy scene, and all the Port and bacalhau (salted cod fish) you can ask for. Trace the various civilisations that have crossed Portugal in the castles, palaces, and narrow cobbled streets typical around the country. But Portugal has some suprises, too – whale watching, natural springs, a village built from boulders, and a chapel made of human skeletons, to name a few of Portugal’s top sites to see.

1. Surf the beaches of the Algarve

The Algarve, in the south of Portugal, is famous for its stunning beaches ­– there are 150 – and spectacular waves. Steer clear of the crowded south coast and head west to the less developed part of the Algarve where huge Atlantic rollers make for awesome surfing for experts and beginners alike. Praia do Amado, on the Costa Vicentina, is Portugal’s best-known surfing beach. While its big waves have attracted international body boarding and surfing competitions, it’s also family friendly with sand dunes, cliffs, rock pools at low tide and its own surf school. Nearby is the wide sweep of Praia de Bordeira, one of the most spectacular beaches in Portugal with limestone cliffs, swathes of sand dunes, great waves and 3km of golden sand. You can surf, windsurf or body board at Praia do Martinhal in the Bay of Baleeira, near Sagres and then enjoy oysters and garlic prawns at the wooden restaurant behind the sand dunes. At Praia do Amoreira, just outside the little town of Aljezur, the surf is good, there are loads of starfish-filled rock pools to keep youngsters happy but bring your own picnic. For more information, see Algarve tourist information portal.508203.jpg

2. Explore the castles, palaces and royal retreats of Sintra

Not far from Lisbon, on the central western Portuguese coast, are the forested hilltops and opulent castles and palaces of Sintra. The most fantastical of these is the gloriously decadent, colourful and eclectically styled Palácio da Pena. The palace was built in the 19th century for Ferdinand II as the summer residence of the Portuguese royal family and is still used for state occasions. One of the Seven Wonders of Portugal, its 19th-century Romantic architecture is a Gothic, Moorish and Renaissance mash-up. The Castelo dos Mouros is a Moorish castle built in the 8th and 9th centuries with amazingly well-preserved towers and ramparts. The Palácio Nacional de Sintra has iconic conical chimneys, courtyards, columns and hand-painted tiles. ThePalácio Nacional de Queluz is a Roccoco confection dating back to the 18th century, while the Palácio de Monserrate is from the 19th century – and the list goes on and on. Unsurprisingly, Sintra has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status.508202.jpg

3. Go hiking in the Parque Natural da Serra da Estrela 

Go hiking or climbing in the rugged mountainous landscape of the Parque Natural da Serra da Estrela in the centre of Portugal. It’s Portugal’s largest protected area of countryside – more than 1,000sqm of rock-strewn meadows, gushing rivers and waterfalls, forested slopes, terraced fields and icy lakes – and where you’ll find Portugal’s highest peak, Torre or ‘tower’ at 1,993m. There are lots of hikes and trails and some dramatic drives, especially from Manteigas or Covilhã up to Torres. On the way up to the rocky gorges, look out for casais, traditional one-room stone shepherds’ huts thatched with straw. Sheeps’ wool once made this one of Europe’s biggest wool-producing regions – there’s a museum that tells the story in Covilhã. The mountain town of Manteigas, with its cobbled streets and picturesque houses, makes a great base to explore the area.508904.jpg

4. Take a boat or a train along the Rio Douro valley

Famed for its production of the sweet dessert Port and other wines, the valley of the river Douro, especially the Alto (upper) Douro, has a spectacular landscape of unbelievably steep hillsides covered with vines and, here and there, wine-producing farms called quintas. Making the trip by car will allow you to visit the wineries, spend a night or two in one of the quintas or even join in the grape harvest en route but roads are winding and sometimes stomach-churningly precipitous. If you have the time, take the train: the Linha do Douro is one of Europe’s great railway journeys, connecting Portugal’s second city of Porto with Peso da Regua and other towns along the 200km route. Boats also make the trip up (and down) river between Porto and various points along the Alto Douro.508905.jpg

5. Stroll around atmospheric Lisbon

The capital of Portugal has it all: a stunning hilltop location on the river Tegus, magnificient plazas, icing-sugar cathedrals and the cobbled alleyways of the old Moorish Alfama quarter. Visit the vast waterfront mosaic square Praça do Comércio (commerce square) surrounded on three sides by 18th-century arcades and ornate facades. Don’t miss the Mosterio dos Jerónimos, a honey-coloured stone confection of arches, pillars, columns and turrets and where you’ll find the body of one of Portugal’s most famous sons, explorer Vasco de Gama. See if you can spot the rhinos on the 16th-century Torre de Belém. Absorb the city’s vibe and jump on one of the city’s yellow trams, enjoy a pastel da belém in a patissiere, or listen to mournful fado singers on a patio restaurant. Take the Elvador da Gloria up to the top of one of Lisbon’s fabled seven hills, Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara – the hilltop district of Bairro Alto is where you’ll find some of the city’s best nightlife.


6. Go back in time in Monsanto, the village built from granite boulders

The sun-baked plains, olive groves and granite outcrops in Beira Baixa in Eastern Portugal is the land that time forgot ­ – and where you’ll find a village that could have come straight out of The Lord of the RIngs. Perched 2,486ft above sea level and with breath-taking views, the village of Monsanto grew up and around gigantic, and seemingly precariously balanced, granite boulders on the side of the vertiginous Mons Sanctus. The boulders have been used as floors, walls and even (nerve-wrackingly) roofs in houses that date back 500 years; look out for the Casa de Uma Só Telha, the house with only one tile – a massive lump of granite. You might see villagers singing with square Moorish tambourines called adufe, donkeys as the main form of transport around the narrow cobbled streets, and rag dolls called marafonas used to ward off sorcery. A few kilometres to the north is the horseshoe-shaped mediaeval village of Sorthelha with its ruined castle – and more granite. This is a region best explored by car as public transport is infrequent and slow.508907.JPG

7. Party in Porto

On the mouth of the Rio Douro (river of gold) lies Porto: the city that gave its name to the country and its most famous export, Port. Today, Porto is Portugal’s second city and a colourful mix of medieval relics, extravagant churches, and Beaux Arts buildings and a lively music scene. The Cais da Ribeira riverfront is the heart of the city: tall old buildings made from granite and tile line the river front, narrow streets lie behind and Roman ruins lie underneath. There are loads of wine caves open for tastings. It’s not all port and historic buildings though – the city attracts the world’s best rock, electro and jazz musicians; don’t miss the cutting edge Musea de Arte Contemporânea and the concert space the Casa da Música.508207.jpg

8. Visit a chapel made from human skeletons in Évora

The old walled citadel of Évora lies at the foot of a mountain range of the same name in the wine region of Alentejo, and is one of Portugal’s best-preserved medieval towns. Start off in the Praça do Giraldo, which was (rather gruesomely) used as an execution ground during the Spanish Inquisition, then follow the city’s narrow streets into light-filled squares, and pass fountains and courtyards to discover the rose granite towers of Sé de Évora (the fortress-like medieval cathedral), the Corinthian columns of the Templo Romano (a Roman temple that became a medieval fortress then the town’s slaughterhouse) and the Igreja Real de Sao Francisco and the 16th-century Capella dos Ossos (chapel of bones) where human skulls and other bones – some 5,000 bodies is the estimate – are cemented into the walls. Outside of the city, you can see evidence of even older inhabitants: Neolithic stone circles.508908.jpg

9. Whale watching and thermal springs in the Azores

The Azores, some 1,500km (930 miles) to the west of Lisbon in the Atlantic Ocean, have one of the best marine habitats in the world for marine mammals – a quarter of the world’s known species have been identified off its coasts. Some say it’s because underwater cliffs on the Azores create the perfect feeding ground. Get out on boat at any time of year and you can expect to see pilot and sperm whales and many different types of dolphin. From April to June you might also see blue, humpback, orcas, fin, minke, and many other whales. Back on dry land, relax in a spa. The islands were created out of erupting lava millions of years ago (although the youngest island, Pico, is only 300,000 years old). There are huge extinct volcanoes, steaming fumeroles and geo-thermal springs – hot, cold, sulphurous, salty, sparkling, still water gushes from the rock face. You can bathe in it, drink it, and cook food in the ground.508209

10. Take a gondola ride around the canals of Aveiro, the Venice of Portugal

Hop aboard one of the brightly painted, flat-bottomed barcos moliceiros to explore the labyrinthine waterways of Aveiro, a town lying on the edge of a vast lagoon in the Baixo Vouga sub-region of Portugal. Dating back to the Romans, who called the place Aviarium (‘place of birds’), Alveiro prospered as a seaport in medieval times­. The Newfoundland cod-fishing grounds were discovered by Alverio’s João Afonso and salt from Alveiro’s salt pans was used to preserve the fish bacalhau, a feature ingredient in Portuguese cuisine. Later a storm blocked the mouth of the river Vouga making it inaccessible to sea-faring vessels and it wasn’t until the 19th century that Alveiro was reconnected to the sea via the Barra Canal, and its fortunes were reversed; the pastel-coloured Art Nouveau houses lining the canal are from this time. A ride on one of the traditional seaweed-gathering barcos moliceiros will give you the best views of the town and the São Jacinto Nature Reserve on the salt marshesThere’s a lively fish market and the 15th-century Convento de Jesus has a museum. For more information, see Alveiro municipal website.508210.jpg


Top places to visit in Belgium

There’s so many more top things to do in Belgium than just chocolate, beer and mussels – as you’ll discover in this list of the top things to do in Belgium.107961

When looking for the top places to visit in Belgium, you will find the country is divided into two: The top half is Dutch-speaking Flanders (Flemish) while the bottom half is French-speaking Wallonia, with the officially bilingual capital of Brussels straddling the two regions. There are also a few German-speaking regions in the east. While this may seem complicated lingually, the cultural mix has created many tasty top Belgian foods and, best of all, the best Belgian desserts.

Besides language changes, it is otherwise easy to visit the top places in Belgium. Because it is a small country with excellent transport links, the best of Belgium’s tourist attractions are never too far away from Brussels, although make sure you avoid the top scams in Belgium and make note of Belgium’s emergency numbers and public holidays while travelling. The close proximity of all the top Belgian cities, however, makes Belgium perfect for weekend getaways and short-trips.

Belgium you will find is diverse, multicultural, historical and cosmopolitan, with a quirky underside that you can see in top Belgian festivals, especially carnival in Belgium, and the many myths of Manneken Pis, a small peeing statue that is a top Belgian attraction.

There are also spectacular sceneries in Belgium nestled with rustic small towns to explore; visit the forested region of The Ardennes for outdoor activities, or any of the coastal towns on the world’s longest tram line Kusstram. When your muscles get tired you can head to hot springs in Spa, the town from where we get today’s word. There are too many top places in Belgium to list them all, but here is a starting list of the best Belgium cities and an array of top things to do in Belgium.

Top things to do in Brussels

Belgium’s capital Brussels is filled with wonderful architecture, top museums, shops and restaurants – more than a dozen Michelin starred within five miles of the city centre. Brussels is a city where you can savour a coffee in one of the many terrace cafés in the main square, La Grand Place, surrounded by ornate 17th-century baroque townhouses, guild houses and a gothic Town Hall dating back to the 13th century. You can stroll around the luxury shops in the glass-roofed arcade Galeries St Hubert, wander the Royal Palace or visit the futuristic Atomium, built in 1958 to represent a molecule’s nine atoms, with exhibitions and panoramic views from the top. Brussels was also the centre of the 19th-century art movement Art Nouveau; you can houses – indeed, whole neighbourhoods – designed by Victor Horta and Paul Hankar. Tintin fans won’t want to miss the new Hergé Museum just outside Brussels in Louvaine-la-Neuve or Brussels’ comic book mural tour.760816.jpg

Bruges: the ‘Venice of the North’

Bruges (Brugge in Dutch) is only about an hour from Brussels but transports visitors to medieval times. Surrounded by an extensive network of canals, it’s been called the ‘Venice of the North’. Its historic centre is the best-preserved example of medieval Flanders and a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Chocolate lovers will enjoy exploring more than 50 chocolate shops in Bruges and a chocolate museum, while beer lovers have the De Halve Maan brewery. Culture fans can find the Flemish masters (including Brueghel) in the Groeninge Museum, as well as the Belfry and the Béguinages. Foodies might enjoy the bistro De Refter, from three-star Michelin chef Geert Van Hecke. You will also find lots of shops selling souvenirs of handmade lace – Bruges is famous for it.760817.jpg

Religious beauty in Tournai

One of the main reasons to visit the Walloon city of Tournai is the Notre-Dame Cathedral, considered one of the most beautiful religious buildings in the world and designated as an UNESCO World Heritage site. The five-towered Romanesque and early Gothic masterpiece was built during the 12th and 13th centuries and today houses the Shrine of Our Lady and work by Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens. If you have the energy to climb the 257 steps to the top of the Belfry, a free-standing bell tower, you’ll be rewarded with fantastic views all around. Check out the Museum of Fine Art or enjoy a drink in one of the relaxed cafés in the Grand Place.760823.jpg

A theatre of tragedy and wars

Belgium has been location of war for both European and world wars. Visit Waterloo where, on 18 June 1815, Wellington defeated Napoleon. Today, you’ll find battlefield tours, Napoleon’s headquarters, a Wellington museum and a re-enactment every June. Flanders Fields was the setting for World War I, and there are many monuments, sites and cemeteries in the area centred around Ypres (Leper), where the Last Post continues to be played every day. One of the most famous battles of World War II, the ‘Battle of the Bulge‘, took place in the forested Ardennes region over the winter of 1944/5, near Bastogne. There are museums devoted to the Allied forces, a memorial to US soldiers who fell in battle and vast American military cemeteries.760828.jpg


The Flemish city of Ghent (Gent) is a laidback university town with numerous cafes, restaurants and a cool vibe, all set against a backdrop of 13th-century Gothic churches, 17th-century canal-side houses and the commanding Gravensteen – the Castle of the Counts – which is a medieval fortress complete with battlements and torture chamber. You can wander around Ghent on foot or explore the city by boat. Don’t miss one of Northern Europe’s treasures: The famous polyptych (panel painting) of The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb,painted in 1432 by Jan and Hubert van Eyck, hangs in St Bavo’s Cathedral.760835.jpg

Sparkling Antwerp

Antwerpen (in Dutch) in Flanders is Belgium’s creative city – and the diamond capital of the world. Back in the 16th and 17th centuries this is where Flemish artists Rubens and Van Dyke were working. You can visit Ruben’s house and studio at the Rubenhuis, and see his work and that of other Flemish artists in the city’s cathedral and the Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten. Fashionistas may be already familiar with the Antwerp Six fashion designers, and won’t want to miss the Antwerp Fashion Museum (MOMU). The new Red Star Line Museum tells the fascinating story of the European emigrants’ journey to a new life in America. Don’t forget to sample the city’s famous jenever (gin) or even buy a diamond: more than 85 percent of the world’s rough, and 50 percent of cut, diamonds are traded here.760837.jpg

Chateaux and castles of Namur

Namur, in the French Wallonia part of Belgium, is castles central. The Castle of Veves is a fairy-tale, turreted edifice dating back to 1410, which overlooks the village of Celles and is still lived in by the original family. The Castle of Annevoie is an elegant chateau designed in the late half of the 18th century, with formal gardens filled with fountains, waterfalls and arbours. The Castle of Lavaux-Ste-Anne is an eccentric, moat-encircled series of domes containing three separate museums and a collection of stuffed animals. The Castle and Gardens of Freÿr, near Dinant, is aptly named after the Scandinavian goddess of beauty, and the house, gardens, 300-year-old orange trees and maze are just that.760842.jpg

The cultural capital of Liège

Liège is the cultural capital of Wallonia and situated on the Meuse River not far from Maastricht in the Netherlands. Emperor Charlemagne was born here and so was writer Georges Simenon, creator of the fictional detective Jules Maigret. Must-see sights include the Palace of the Prince-Bishops, the medieval collegiate churches, La Batte Sunday market (the biggest and oldest in Belgium) and the courtyards, stairways and orchards of the Coteaux de la Citadelle. Close by is the Spa-Francorchamps Formula 1 racetrack.760843.jpg


Interested in photography? Then come to Charleroi. The biggest city in Wallonia is where you’ll find the largest Museum of Photography in Europe, situated in an old Carmelite monastery. It covers the history of photography from its inception up until today. Besides photography, there are many other must-see attractions in Charleroi, including the Glass Museum, the 17th-century Cartier Chateau and its estate, the Saint-Vierge-Marie Church, the Town Hall and its 300-year-old Sunday market.760853.jpg

Beer tourism in Belgium

You’ll find hearty and delicate beer brews all over Belgium. There are over more than 650 varieties, many brewed by Trappist monks. Kick off your beer tour in Brussels with a glass of non-malted wheat Lambic beer or Gueuze-Lambic (a blend of two or more Lambic beers with a champagne-like fizz). Then head south to Chimayand the Notre-Dame de Scourmont Abbey, where monks have been producing famous beer (and cheese) since 1862. You can walk off the beer in the nearby Hautes Fagnes (High Fens nature reserve). To the northwest is Dinant, on the banks of the river Meuse and the birthplace of the saxaphone, and the Maredsous Abbey, which produces blonde, brune and triple beers. Go southeast to Rochefort in the Val de Lesse, an area of forests, castles and caves and the Notre-Dame de Saint-Remy Abbey, where monks of the strict Cistercian order still brew their ‘6′, ‘8′ and ‘10′ high-fermentation beers.760854.jpg


Top 10 places to visit in Switzerland 

Whether you’re just visiting or moving to Switzerland, there are many top Swiss attractions. Visit these top 5 places in Switzerland to experience the best of Switzerland’s tourism.swissss

Switzerland may be a small country but Switzerland’s tourism is anything but miniscule. Soaring Alps and glaciers dominate the top Swiss places to visit –  there are more than 200 peaks higher than 3,000m – alongside Switzerland’s bucolic countryside, ancient castles, clear turquoise lakes and breathtaking mountain peaks in every direction. The top Swiss foods make travelling around Switzerland a regional surprise, and once you learn the top Swiss fact, it’s easy to see this tiny country has a lot to offer.

To dive into Swiss tourism, you don’t have to travel too far and an excellent Swiss transport system makes it affordable to see the best places in Switzerland. The Swiss countryside, lakes and mountains are beautiful anytime of year, from snow-capped mountain peaks and ice-skating on lakes to hiking through green fields or celebrating the top Swiss festivalsSwiss carnival or national Swiss holidays.

Those who want to experience this European gem will have no shortage of finding places to visit in Switzerland, and will feel safe travelling in this low-crime rate country, although a list of Swiss emergency numbers is always handy. Here are the top 10 places to visit in Switzerland you have to see to experience the best of Switzlerland’s tourism.

1. Matterhorn, Zermatt

This pyramid shaped giant is arguably the most photographed mountain in the world and therefore, also Switzerland’s most famous Alpine peak and a top place to visit in Switzerland. The Matterhorn in Zermatt stands at 4,478 metres high and draws mountaineers from all corners of the globe eager to conquer its ascent – some even daring to reach its summit. Cable cars frequently zip through the mountain station in Zermatt, the highest cable car station in the Alps, and take skiiers and snowboarders to surrounding mountains during the winter and hikers in the summer.766740.jpg

2. Chateau de Chillon, Montreux

Located in the heart of the Swiss Riviera on the banks of Lake Geneva is Chillon Castle – the four-century old water fortress that served as the seat of the wealthy Counts of Savoy. Stroll by the lakeside or parade through its ancient halls where 14th century paintings, towers, subterranean vaults, bedrooms, weaponry and furniture have been kept preserved in their original form. Chateau de Chillon consists of 25 building and three courtyards and is accessible by boat, bus or foot from the town of Montreux. This is one of the most visited historic buildings in Switzerland and certainly a top place to visit in Switzerland.778496.jpg

3. The Jungfrau Region

The Jungfraujoch is an Alpine wonderland that has much to offer adventurers and those seeking a quieter retreat. The ‘big three’ – glacial monoliths Jungfrau, Monch, and Eiger – tower over rolling green meadows and winding mountain paths, making for truly enchanting views that embody the best of Swiss tourism.

In its middle lies Interlaken, a rustic town that has become a popular starting point for travellers in the region. From there you can visit the Jungfrajoch’s highlights, such as the towns of Grindelwald, Murren, Wengen and Lauterbrunnen. Hike or take a scenic train trip to the peaks of Kleine Scheidegg, Grindelwald-First, Schynigge Platte or Schilthorn and treat yourself to panoramic views you won’t soon forget.766731

4. Swiss National Park, Zernez

Switzerland’s only national park is a spectacle not to be overlooked. A throwback to how the Alps was before it was touched by tourism, the Schweizerischer Nationalpark features 172 square kilometres of unspoilt scenery from snow-encrusted glaciers, verdant pastures, waterfalls and lush woodlands, making it a top place to see in Switzerland. A total of 21 hiking routes crawl through the park, giving visitors a chance to glimpse its magnificent flora and, if luck is on your side, perhaps even sight the rare golden eagles, chamois, ibexes and marmots that call it home. The park is easily accesible from Zernez, S-chanf and Scuol.766737.jpg

5. Lake Geneva and surrounding cities

Hugged by Geneva on the west and Lausanne on the east is Lake Geneva, a giant liquid basin that has been aptly called by the Celts ‘Lem an’ or ‘Large Water’. It’s now referred to as Lac Léman by the French-speaking Swiss who reside in the area, and the 582 square kilometre-lake is dotted with luxurious fairy-tale chateaus on its shores and stretches of hillside vineyards rise from the lake, giving a rare glimpse into the world of Swiss wines. Ferries, paddle streamers and boats paddle through its topaz waters daily.

The lake is a great starting point to explore Canton Vaud‘s wineries, Jura Mountains and Vaudoise Alps or the charming student city of Lausanne. Those seeking a more multicultural vibe can quickly hop to cosmopolitan Geneva, the centre of at least 200 international organisations and the United Nations. As the third biggest city in Switzerland, Geneva caters to a sophisticated crowd with elegant green spaces, enchanting museums and gourmet restaurants, yet maintains its grit with a lively alternative arts scene. One of the tallest fountains in the world, the Jet d’Eau, is Geneva’s postcard photo. Read about the prettiest Swiss towns within two hours of Geneva.766739.jpg

6. Lugano

Travelling to Lugano shows Switzerland in a different light. Bordering Italy in the south, the Italian influence is undeniable in the Ticino region, from the local language, romantic villas and rich cuisine up to the warm summers. Although a landlocked country, the weather in southern Switzerland is tinged by rushes of warm Mediterranean air. Lugano is flush with museums and a number of heritage sites housed in neoclassical palazzos (grand buildings)The city stands north of the gorgeous Lago di Lugano (Lake Lugano), an area frequented by celebrities which has been dubbed the ‘Monte Carlo of Switzerland.791523.jpg

7. Bern

Not many people know that the medieval city of Bern is Switzerland’s capital – but once you step on its narrow cobblestoned streets, all doubts are sure to vanish. History sings in every corner of this city, especially in its Old Town, which has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Archaic towers loom over Bern’s sandstone facades, numerous fountains and entrenchments while arcades are filled with boutiques, bars, cafes and cabaret stages that are sometimes hidden within vaulted cellars. As the current seat of the Swiss parliament (Bundeshaus), Bern is one of the most well-preserved historical centres in Switzerland. It boasts a stunning botanical garden, a colourful weekly market and access to the River Aare and the Bear Park, where a family of bears – the city’s symbol – reside.791524.jpg

8. Lucerne

In the heart of Switzerland lies the lakeside city of Lucerne, another postcard-perfect town nestled among a mountainous panorama. Fortified towers, wooden bridges and timeworn churches festooned with antique frescoes have allowed the city to keep its traditional townscape, adding to the charm of this top place in Switzerland. Take pleasure in the thrilling views of the city proper and Lake Lucerne by riding up to the peak of neighbouring Mt Pilatus, Mt Rigi or the Stanserhorn.791525.jpg

9. The Rhine Falls

The Rhine Falls, Europe’s largest waterfall, is a bewitching natural wonder of Swiss tourism. At the northernmost part of Switzerland near the town of Schaffhausen, the mighty falls roar from a breadth of more than 150 metres. Visitors can watch the spectacle from several viewing decks while those bold enough can rent their own canoes and travel to nearby castles Schloss Laufen and Schloss Wörth. On Swiss National Day, 1 August, the Rheinfall flaunts a senational firework display that attracts flocks of tourists.766745.jpg

10. Zurich

As the cultural hub of Switzerland, Zurich is not one to cross of your list of top Swiss places to see. Unbeknown to many, behind Zurich’s metropolis, financial facade exists a pulsating nightlife with a contemporary edge. After all, Zurich hosts the Street Parade, one of Europe’s biggest annual rave parties.

While the city has kept some of its historical roots – evident in the emblematic guild houses, Grossmünster church, Swiss National Museum and Lindenhof square – regeneration is supreme in wealthy Zurich. Old heritage sites and factories have been repurposed and now serve as cultural spaces, joining more than 50 museums and 100 art galleries to see in Zurich. Known as one of the world’s most livable cities, Zurich offers everything you’d want for an urban escape, yet also the chance to reach rural, idyllic towns just a stone’s throw away. Read about the prettiest Swiss towns within two hours of Zurich.791528.jpg

Penang, Malaysia

Known as the “Pearl of the Orient,” Penang is a place to relax, eat delicious food to the brink of misery, and appreciate Malaysia in a new way. Malaysians are quite proud of their large island — and they should be!

A legacy of immigration and colonization in Penang has produced what is arguably some of the best cuisine in all of Southeast Asia. Penang hawker food combines the best of Malay with influences from Chinese and Indian immigrants to produce mouthwatering creations.

Superb food is not the only indulgence on the island. You’ll find hip museums and art galleries along with plenty of other things to do in Penang. Georgetown may have some grubby edges, but it’s not only charming, it’s groovy.

Penang is easy to reach and is certainly among the top destinations in Malaysia.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Destinations in Asia

Many travelers prefer Thailand’s pleasant northern capital over the hectic pace of life in Bangkok. Most of the tourist action happens within Chiang Mai’s Old City, where orange-robed monks from the many temples smile as they pass.

From numerous cultural festivals and sprawling night markets to mountain trekking and scores of beautiful temples, Chiang Mai attracts over a million visitors a year who just can’t wait to come back. Chiang Mai is certainly most popular among the top 10 places to visit in Thailand.

Pai, a riverside village only four hours north of Chiang Mai, is a bonus; you can visit both of them together as a “package.”

Although inflation is on the rise due to popularity (Bangkok is consistently one of the most visited cities in the world), a vacation in Thailand is still relatively inexpensive.