Cities which rank among the top tourist attractions in the world usually boast of a mix of scenic beauty, rich heritage and vibrant living culture. Such cities offer its visitors a wide range of delights and many things to do over the span of several days. Here are then five cities from across the world where even a week would be too short a time to enjoy all their attractions.
- Florence, Italy
A city steeped in Renaissance art and located in the backdrop of exquisite Tuscany countryside, Florence reigns as one of the most beautiful cities on earth. The most famous visual symbol of Florence is perhaps the Ponte Vecchio, Florence’s only surviving Medieval bridge. Here you will find one of the best views in the whole city, maybe all of Italy. However the structure which dominates the Florence skyline is the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. Almost anywhere you go in Florence, this massive gothic style cathedral is visible. On a pleasant day, you can plan a visit to Forte Belvedere, an old fortress from the 16th century, to see breathtaking views of Florence’s skyline as well as the hills of Tuscany. One of the best ways to experience Florence is simply to wander around the narrow alleys and enjoy the many piazzas, the most famous one being, the Piazza della Signoria. This square is decorated with statues by some of the most famous artists in Florentine history, and is the heart of the city. Alternately walk under shady arches and porticos through arcades that line the edges of another picturesque location, the Piazza Santissima Annunziata – little wonder then that this intimate square was the romantic setting for the costume drama A Room with A View.
As the birthplace of Italian Renaissance, Florence houses some of the best artistic treasures of the world. a must-see is Uffizi - the oldest museum in the Western World and is the home of all the great paintings of the Old Masters. Galleria dell’ Accademia is another place not to be missed as it houses one of the finest piece of art in the world, Michelangelo’s David. in the evening you can attend a concert, exhibit, or festival at the Stazione Leopolda, Florence’s first train station which has now become an outdoor event center. or head for the Libreria Café La Cite, where nightly events include everything from artist exhibitions to Tango nights. Intimate theatres in Florence provide the perfect setting for an evening out with your loved one. Catch enchanting chamber music at Teatro Goldini near Pitta Palace, or opera under the stuccoes and balconies at the 17th century Teatro della Pergola. In fact you can combine this into a dinner and a show too - visit any of Florence’s delicious restaurants by the city center or choose a trattoria and dine on rustic Tuscan dishes like Bistecca alla Fiorentina. Apart from unassuming trattorias, you and your companion can dine at colorful bottegas and cantinas, many of which can be found Around Piazza della Signoria, the Piazza della Sante Croce and the Piazza San Lorenzo. If however you wish to escape the crowds and have Florence to yourself, then cross the river by the Ponte Vecchio and wander through the charming Oltrarno for picturesque eateries and fine dining restaurants.
During your week in Florence, set aside some time to explore the picturesque outdoors. Located close to the Pizalle Michaelangelo, the garden named the Giardino dell’iris, specializes in Florence’s flower, the Iris. Alternately pass through manicured avenues past fountains and statues in the regal, hilltop Boboli Gardens of Pitti Palace, just south of the River Arno where you can stop for postcard panoramas of Florence’s terracotta rooftops . other great outdoor ideas in Florence include picnic at the Parco delle Cascine after visiting the local market which is open Sunday and Tuesday mornings. also you can truly indulge yourselves at the natural hot spas in the peaceful town of Montecatini between Florence and Pisa, about an hour’s drive away. Soak in the salty thermal swimming pool at the Tamerici or Torreta resort, or dip into a healing mud bath at Grocco spas. Finally nestled within the hillsides of the Italian region of Tuscany, Florence is famous for its vineyards and olive orchards. You can thus book a wine tour through this region or better still stay for a few days in a chateau or villa in a Tuscan village. At the end of your stay be sure to raise a toast to your travels with any of the signature Tuscan wines like the Chianti and Chianti Classico or the much sweeter Vin Santo as a way of creating happy memories.
- New York City, USA
The Big Apple figures on the list of top cities in the world to spend a week in because of the sheer number of activities it offers to its visitors. Central Park probably tops the list of attractions not only because of the beautiful environs at any time of the year which naturally induces a romantic mood but also for the large number of options that it offers by way of outdoor activities. You can simply walk through the avenues of the Park, admiring the colors of fall or pack along a picnic basket and settle down on a grassy slope. If you are the active kind, you can rent a bike and explore the entire Park while getting some exercise. Yet another great option is to rent a rowboat from the Central Park Boathouse and take a leisurely ride through the waters all the while admiring the beauty and tranquility of the park. Then again if you want to see more of the city, you can bike up Riverside Park, the Cloisters, over the Brooklyn Bridge or to City Island in the Bronx for dazzling views of the city. If you love hiking more than anything else, you can rent hiking gear or bring along your own and hike the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Center in Queens where you will see migrating birds, Canada geese, shoreline views and a glimpse of the city skyline in the distance.
If you are the cultural sort, catch a Broadway show that the city is famous for or go for a tour of several world renowned museums which are housed in NYC. The Carnegie Hall, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Historical Society are only a few of the museums internationally famous for their collection. Lovers of music and dance have a lot to explore in New York starting from the productions of the New York City Ballet and the Metropolitan Opera House to modern forms like jazz, hip-hop, punk and street dances. Then again there are over 500 art galleries in New York City alone with the most high-profile among them being Chelsea, DUMBO as well as Long Island City in Queens. You can settle on any one of these to explore and chill out at a café or bar later.For those with resources and elegant tastes, fine-dining in Michelin-starred restaurants is not to be missed when in New York City and among the destinations which are most famous for their culinary offerings are Nobu and Le Cirque. for the rest of the week take in the sights like Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building, or stroll though several quaint neighborhoods in the different boroughs for a true feel of a NYC vacation.
Singapore is mostly known as a shopping destination and for its family-friendly amusement parks. But despite its diminutive size, this tiny city-state has a plethora of recreational options which are sure to make your week-long vacation pass in a jiffy. Sentosa Island is a popular island resort at the southern part of Singapore which has so much to offer that even one whole day can seem too short to explore. You can start off by going to the Carlsberg Sky Tower where you can get some nice panoramic views of Singapore, Sentosa and the Southern Islands. You can then have lunch at Trapizza, situated at Shangri-La's Rasa Sentosa Resort. Another day, you can visit The Underwater World. Here, you can come across various forms of marine life, including dugongs – a large fish that inhabits the shallow waters of the Indo-Pacific and which is on the way to extinction. On the other hand if you like to be out in the open air, you can tee off at any of the island’s two premier golf courses. For the nature lover, there is a Butterfly Park and Insect Kingdom while history buffs can check out Fort Siloso which guarded western approaches to Singapore during World War II. The place has collection of artillery guns dating from the 17th century to World War II while the ammunition bunkers, barracks, tunnels and gun emplacements of the fort now function as a military-themed attraction.
Located at the southernmost tip of the Malay Peninsula, Singapore is open to the waters of the South China Sea. And despite its small size, the city state has some amazing beaches and you better set aside a full day to experience them all. These are the Palawan Beach, Siloso Beach, and Tanjong Beach. And even though they are artificial – reclaimed using sand bought from Indonesia and Malaysia – these beaches are the some of the most romantic spots in the island. Silovo Beach should be your destination If you and your spouse wish to partake of outdoor activities such as canoeing, skim boarding, mountain biking or rollerblading or check out fashionable dinging and shopping venues. On the other hand if you simply wish to find a quiet place to laze in the sun, head for the Tanjong Beach which is a more secluded part of the southern coast. However if you do not wish to stir from the mainland, you can still visit the Changi Beach and the Punggol Beach as well as the beaches lying along the East Coast Park, West Coast Park, the Sembawang Park and the Pasir Rir Park.
Nature lovers would do well to set aside a day to explore the the serene, tranquil setting of Singapore Botanic Gardens. You can start your day with a breakfast at the Halia Restaurant with its amazing views and then walk to the National Orchid Garden to work off the meal. Located on the mid-western side of the Garden, the hilly three-hectare site has a collection of more than a thousand species and over two thousand hybrids of orchids. Other attractions of the Botanic Gardens include the Rainforest which displays the natural habitat of this precious ecosystem, the Evolution Garden which tells the story of evolution of plant life on Earth, the Ginger Garden which has a waterfall and a spectacular drop-off point as well as a lovely walk along the Saraca Stream. If you are serious about nature, you can even check out the Botany Center in the Tanglin Core Area.
When in Singapore, be sure to take a River Cruise. There are two main providers, the Hippo Tours Group and Singapore River Cruises & Leisure. No matter which you opt for, you are sure to be bowled over by the experience of a leisurely cruise passing beautiful heritage buildings, the CBD skyline, the Marina Bay skyline, quaintly lit bridges, lively riverfront restaurants and bars as your guide explain how they have all come together. Finally don’t leave this amazing place without trying out its culinary offerings. At the Equinox, you can have dinner at the highest point in Singapore and in fact you can even have a meal in a cable car, set against the flaming colors of a gorgeous sunset. The Cliff at Sentosa Island, Desire famous as Singapore’s first luxury boutique hotel, Au Jardin at Botanic Gardens, Le Pont de Vie or Flutes at the Fort and The White Rabbit at Dempsey, made from a beautifully restored chapel are all well known fine dining destinations. At the same time Singapore is also known for its varied ethnic food and a great way to heighten your senses would be to explore the hawkers’ centers of Tiang Bahru Market or Old Airport Road for local delicacies like Popiah, Roajk, Lor Mee, Chwee-Kueh, Yusheng apart from favorites like Chicken Rice and Laksa.
- Cape Town, South Africa
One of the top tourist destinations in the African continent, Cape Town offers a virtual smorgasbord of natural, historical and recreational delights which visitors will be hard pressed to cover in a week. The city derives much of its natural beauty by being located in the Cape floristic kingdom with its Mediterranean climate and unique shrub lands. Start off your Cape Town tour by visiting one of the most important natural landmarks in Cape Town the Table Mountain which forms an expansive backdrop of the Table National Park.
On another day, head to the Cape Point which offers a striking view as the southernmost tip of the Cape Peninsula. Cape Town is also well known for its beaches which vary in atmosphere, water temperature and local color. Due to the city's unique geography, it is possible to visit several different beaches in the same day, each with a different setting and atmosphere. In fact the waters of the beaches on the False Bay are balmy like the Mediterranean seas while that of the beaches on the Atlantic side can be rather cold because of the influence of the Benguela current. You are looking to spend a quite romantic afternoon with your partner, a good bet would be the Noordohoek Beach which is relatively less crowded and where you can even go horseback riding. On the eastern side the waters of the Boulders Beach are warmer which is why it is a popular spot for swimmers and those seeking to work a tan. However a bonus is the sight of African Penguins which have a colony here. Then again the Strand Beach with miles of golden sand bordering turquoise-blue waters can be an ideal setting for romancing your beloved. The Atlantic coast beaches like the one at Camps Bay are particularly popular with their restaurants, bars and cafes.
Whether you enjoy drinking wine or not, the Cape Winelands are a must for anyone traveling to Cape Town. The Winelands are situated east of Cape Town among beautiful mountains creating some stunning vistas. So on your trip to this city, set aside a day to visit the larger wineries like Spier near Stellenbosch and Groot Constantia, close to Cape Town.
Finally head to one of the most hip and happening places in Cape Town to round off your South Africa in style - the Victoria and Albert Waterfront. Built on top of part of the docks of the Port of Cape Town, this is a great place if you want to indulge in the best of the dining and shopping options at Cape Town. Though crowded most of the times, you can soak in the lively cosmopolitan atmosphere of the waterfront while sipping a latte at a fashionable café or dining at one of the fancier restaurants. And once you have done your shopping, you can simply gaze at the ships and ferries, entering and leaving the port. If you want to experience a slice of the country’s political history, you can take a ferry from the Nelson Mandela Gateway for Robben Island where the legendary leader for imprisoned for several decades. On a happier note though you can treat yourself to one of the many cruises which operate from the V&A Waterfront to attractions such as the Hout Bay, Simon's Town and the Cape Fur Seal colonies on Seal and Duiker Islands.
- Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Nicknamed the Cidade Maravilhosa or "Marvelous City." Rio de Janeiro is the second largest city of Brazil, and the third largest metropolitan area and agglomeration in South America. Its reputation as a global city has been cemented by the fact that the 2016 Summer Olympics will take place in Rio de Janeiro, which will also mark the first time a South American city hosts the event. History lovers here should set aside a day to visit heritage buildings with European ancestry such as the Guanabra Palace and the Cathedral. Perhaps Rio's most recognizable landmark, the statue of Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) is located at the top of Corcovado Mountain. For an awesome sight of the cityscape, head to The Pão de Açúcar also known as Sugar Loaf complex is located in Rio de Janeiro and is composed of the Pão de Açúcar hill, Urca hill and BabilÃ´nia hill. The cable car connects the Vermelha Beach and the Urca hill to the Pão de Açúcar. The Copacabana Beach is of course as much famous for its party hot-spots as its boardwalk of Avendida Atlantica - a black-and-white, wave-shaped mosaic which is one of the most noticeable landscapes of Rio de Janeiro. while surfers on should head for the Arpoador Beach for its high-rolling waves, those interested in upscale recreation better make for Ipanema, one of Rio's poshest areas. Alternately you can head to the trendy Lapa district to visit two of the city’s most popular hangouts - the hip Rio Scenaruim as well as the upscale Cachaçaria Mangue Seco. The Tijuca National Park, a true oasis within the city of Rio de Janeiro, is a must-visit for nature lovers. If soccer, known as Football here, is religion in Brazil, then the Maracana Football Stadium in Rio is definitely the high temple. Even if you are not able to catch a game here, be sure to take trip to the museum inside the stadium which has photos, trophies and uniforms of Brazil’s football greats. Finally don’t return from this fantastic city without swinging to the samba which originally came from Bahia with Angolan influence. For this you can head to any of the lively samba dance clubs in Rio or make for the Cidade do Samba or Samba City which has come up as one of the newer attractions of Rio.