As an amateur traveler, my dream was to visit all the big cities I had heard of. I found the hype and larger-than-life image of cities very attractive. I enjoy walking around every city, savoring its feel, and assigning each one a unique personality trait. I am no longer as driven purely by city-tourism, but some of the ones that I have visited remain close to my heart.
I loved this city from my first walk in the city center. It is full of contradictions: huge, white, old buildings decorate the heart of Paris, imparting a rustic charm to the city. While the quaint Montmartre district, which saw the rise of many famous artists like Picasso and Renoir, attracts throngs of artists, bringing an old world to life. What stands out in this culturally rich city is the stubborn effort of its citizens to hold on every tradition. Be it language, art, simple green book shops, or food- if its Parisian, it will be cherished forever! And yet the city engulfs millions of tourists each year along with immigrants of various nationalities, making Paris a cosmopolitan hub.
One of my most memorable experiences in Paris was while idling around the river bank one evening with the Eiffel tower in view. The tower suddenly lit up at twilight, and we just stood there mesmerized, watching it shine in all its glory. It was a very special moment, followed by another unexpected surprise: rain! Not the drizzly, ruins-your-mood kinds, but the heavy, fantastic one that drenches you to the core. Loud music blared from patio of the restaurant where we sought shelter, and people started dancing – drenched but happy. I think that perfectly summarizes the spirit of Paris, equally charming in rain or shine.
Amsterdam is like a box of assorted chocolates. You could enjoy a canal boat ride, ogle at girls in the red light area, walk into a sex shop, or enjoy a ‘space cake’ in the same area! This mix of classic tourism and open culture makes this city so amazing and special. Like every big city, it’s crowded day and night, but somehow there is more than the usual sightseeing agenda. People are out enjoying on the street, energizing and breathing life into the city.
What I best liked in the city is also a diverse mix: admiring the variety of gable styles on pretty houses, visiting the Anne Frank house, exploring sex shops, spring markets and tulip gardens. Walking around the city center at night, experiencing it come alive with activity probably tops my list of favorite moments in Amsterdam.
Barcelona is a multi-faceted city that can satisfy almost any type of tourist: unique architectural wonders of Gaudi, historic churches, dancing fountains, beaches,… the list goes on! This city is vibrant with buzzing tourists, and yet it feels calm and relaxing with its small winding lanes, sharing-tapas culture, flamenco bars, and enthusiastic people.
My friend and I happened to visit a lively local market one afternoon. Lost amidst the huge variety of fresh food, we ended up hogging empanadas and gulping large amounts of Sangria half the afternoon, delayed and tipsy for our next destination. Another time, we ended up enjoying an afternoon siesta in a comfy hammock cafe! This unplanned and laid-back lifestyle makes life in Barcelona seem like a relaxing vacation.
A visit to Rome feels like time-travel! The city is full of historic monuments that have an impressive architecture and an interesting past. The Palatine hill where Romulus killed his brother to take over Rome (hence the name) or Pantheon that uses surprisingly advanced architectural technology give a glimpse into history of the Rome empire. I could vividly imagine the pompous lifestyle of Roman kings, who enjoyed watching gladiators fight to death for entertainment at the grand Colosseum. These ruins symbolizing downfall of the Roman empire are contrasted by grandeur of the Vatican city. The St Peter Basilica stands proud in tons of marble, some of it rumored to have been used from the Colosseum, complete with intricately carved statues on the roof and in the interior.
The cheerful evening atmosphere at Piazza Navona is a great place to snap out of history and enjoy present day Rome. Another popular (and my favorite) spot is the Trevi fountain, where you can throw a coin to wish for a pleasant future or simply relax and enjoy the present moment!
Prague is just so pretty! My list of amazing things in Prague includes a church with a hanging mummified hand, the oldest operating astronomical clock, the beautiful Prague castle, and fantastic food. But the best spot in Prague is, inarguably, the Charles bridge. You simply cannot not love this city when you walk on the Charles bridge! Street musicians, caricaturists, couples – young and old, tourists stretching for selfies – they all coexist and add to the charm of this bridge. The evening view of the famous Prague castle against a backdrop of the river and sunset is simply mesmerizing. It is simply a place that will make you happy!