Paris, world capital of art and culture, gathers some of the most famous museums and monuments in the world. Like all the world's great capitals, Paris lives at a fast pace, by day, by night and especially at rush hours. Bear in mind that museums and monuments are often less crowded during the week. Sights that should not be missed include: The Louvre and the Musee d'Orsay. Visit any of the many others according to your tastes and interests: the Musee Picasso, Musee Rodin, Musee Carnavalet, Musee Marmottan and the Arab Institute are just a few. Essential Paris monuments are the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame cathedral, the Arc de Triomphe or the Grande Arche de la Defense.
London is undoubtedly one of the world's finest cities. In addition to numerous monuments from its more glorious past, London is equally well-known for its pageantry and tradition. London has something for everyone - wide boulevards buzzing with excitement far into the night, quiet squares and explorable alleyways. Visit this famous city's parks, museums, galleries, monuments, abbeys and churches, skyscrapers and ruins, Georgian squares. Take in such events as the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower, or the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, or even one of the many theatrical productions. Some of the most exclusive shops are found along Oxford, Bond and Regent Streets. An old favorite and one of the world's premier institutions is Harrods - offering everything from Chanel suits and sliced salmon to caviar and even pets.
The capital of Spain since 1562, Madrid is located on the geographic center of the Iberian Peninsula. Because of its central location and high altitude, the climate of Madrid is characterized by warm dry summers and cool winters. Madrid is a city of great monuments. Among its highlights are the medieval center dating back to the Habsburg Empire and the Prado Museum. Madrid is not just a cultural destination. It is also a lively metropolis with many pubs, cafes, discotheques and nightclubs open late into the night.
Barcelona, the self-confident and progressive capital of Spain, is a tremendous place to be. Though it boasts outstanding Gothic and Art Nouveau buildings, and some great museums – most notably those dedicated to Picasso and Catalan art – it is above all a place where there's enjoyment simply in walking the streets, stopping in at bars and cafés, drinking in the atmosphere. A thriving port and the most prosperous commercial centre in Spain, it has a sophistication and cultural dynamism way ahead of the rest of the country. In part this reflects the city's proximity to France, whose influence is apparent in the elegant boulevards and imaginative cooking. But Barcelona has also evolved an individual and eclectic cultural identity, most perfectly and eccentrically expressed in the architecture of Antoni Gaudí. Scattered as Barcelona's main sights may be, the greatest concentration of interest is around the old town (La Ciutat Vella). These cramped streets above the harbor are easily manageable, and far more enjoyable, on foot. Start, as everyone else does, with the Ramblas.
Surrounding Bordeaux are world-renowned vineyards and châteaux. Visitors from all over the globe come here to learn about the winemaking process - from growing grapes to harvesting, fermenting and bottling these top-quality wines. Here in the wine region the title of château can mean anything from a palatial residence to a basic winery. There are thousands of châteaux that rank from very modest family establishments to large famous properties where grapes are raised, fermented and then matured to produce the area’s famous wines. Visit Rue Ste. Cathérine - a half-mile-long pedestrian street leading through the Old Town’s major shopping area and marking the beginning of the elegant 18th-century city. - and Musée des Beaux Arts -- a museum with a large collection of 17th-century paintings by Flemish, Dutch and Italian masters as well as works by Delacroix.
Sprawled across seven legendary hills, romantic and beautiful Rome was one
of the great centers of the ancient world. Although its beginning is shrouded
in legend and its development is full of intrigue and struggle, Rome has always
been and remains the Eternal City.
Rome enjoyed its greatest splendor during the 1st and 2nd centuries when art
flourished, monumental works of architecture were erected, and the mighty Roman
legions swept outward, conquering all of Italy. These victorious armies then
swept across the Mediterranean and beyond to conquer most of the known world.
With Rome's establishment as capital of the western world, a new ascent to glory
Today's Rome, with its splendid churches, ancient monuments and palaces, spacious
parks, tree-lined boulevards, fountains, outdoor cafes and elegant shops, is
one of the world’s most attractive and exciting cities. Among the most famous
monuments is the Colosseum. As you walk its cool, dark passageways, imagine
the voices that once filled the arena as 50,000 spectators watched combats between
muscled gladiators and ferocious animals.
Stop to see the remains of the Forum, once the city's political and commercial
center. In later times, Rome's squares were enhanced with such imposing structures
as the Vittorio Emanuele Monument and grandiose fountains like the Fontana di
Trevi. Join the millions who stand in awe of Christendom’s most magnificent
church and admire the timeless masterpieces of Michelangelo's frescoes in the
Rome jars the senses and captures the soul. Grasp all you can during the short,
precious time you have available in the Eternal City. With so much to see and
do, a day or two will only allow you a sampling of the city's marvelous treasures.
Caution: As in many big cities and tourist destinations purse snatching
and pickpocketing is common. Valuable jewelry and excess cash are best left
in a safety deposit box in your hotel.
Shopping For most visitors shopping for beautiful Italian leather articles,
designer shoes, fashions for men and women, linens, knitwear, silk scarves and
ties is a favorite pastime. Except for tourist-oriented shops, the majority
of stores are closed on Sundays. Some of the department stores, such as Rinascente,
open in the late afternoon on Sundays.
Cuisine Rome's choice of restaurants is mindboggling as is the variety
of cuisine. Whether your meal is at a top-rated restaurant or a rustic trattoria,
you can be sure that you will enjoy your food, especially when accompanied by
wines from the hill towns surrounding Rome.
Other Sights Rome's attractions are endless, and depending on how much
time you have at your disposal a careful selection has to be made about what
to see. Be aware of horrendous traffic conditions and major construction work
all around the city in preparation of Jubilee 2000, the Holy Year. Some of the
sights not to be missed:
Piazza Venezia - This busy square is easily recognized by its imposing Vittorio
Emanuele II Monument. The white marble structure was inaugurated in 1911 as
a symbol of Italy’s unification.
The Forum - Once the civic heart of ancient Rome, today the remains include
a series of ruins, marble fragments, isolated columns and some worn arches.
Colosseum - No visit to Rome is complete without a stop at this awe-inspiring
theater, which is among the world’s most celebrated buildings. Here ancient
Rome flocked to see gladiatorial contests and numerous other spectacles.
Trevi Fountain - Take a stroll to Rome's famous fountain. A spectacular fantasy
of mythical sea creatures and cascades of splashing water, the fountain is one
of the city's foremost attractions. Legend has it that visitors must toss a
coin into the fountain to ensure their return to Rome.
St. Peter's Square - Part of Vatican City, this square created by Bernini
is considered one of the loveliest squares in the world. Twin Doric colonnades
topped with statues of various saints and martyrs flank either side of the square.
In the center stands an 84-foot obelisk, brought from Egypt in 37 A.D.
St. Peter's Basilica - At the head of the square stands Christendom's most
magnificent church, which was begun in 1452 on the site where St. Peter was
buried. Throughout the following 200 years, such Renaissance masters as Bramante,
Michelangelo, Raphael and Bernini worked on its design and created an unparalleled
masterpiece. Of special note are Michelangelo's Pieta and the bronze canopy
over the high altar by Bernini. The immense dome was designed by Michelangelo.
Vatican Museum - To see this museum's immense collection would take days.
As you enter, there are special posters that plot a choice of four color-coded
itineraries. They are repeated throughout the museum and are easy to follow.
It is a good idea to pickup a leaflet at the main entrance and concentrate on
exhibits of major interest. Of course, the Sistine Chapel is a must. Most likely
you may have to wait in line to enter.
The creative explosion of the Italian Renaissance happened right here, leaving petite Florence more art treasures than most national capitals. View the masterworks of local heroes like Michelangelo and Botticelli, visit countless unforgettable basilicas, then climb up into Brunelleschi's soaring dome to watch the sun set among cypress-clad Tuscan hillsides.
Nice is undoubtedly the place for the opening up of art and culture. The Côte d'Azur has inspired, from time immemorial, the greatest painters, writers and musicians. It has compelled recognition of its avant-garde across the Atlantic, its museums are holding prestigious collections in edifices of renowned architecture. Nice is full of an extraordinary artistic and cultural heritage. The gentle way of life sustains the imaginary world of artists and stimulates their creativeness. A cultural and aesthetic atmosphere prevails here; the cultural life is intense. It is punctuated by temporary exhibitions in the museums and the municipal galleries, by the programming of the theatres of which the most important is the Theatre of Nice - National Dramatic Centre - directed by Jacques Weber. The Opera House of Nice's Theatre proposes events of great quality.
Visitors to Avignon won't want to leave, and the town is too interesting to leave. Avignon is ancient, full of history, life, youth, art, music and activity. Just to "see" the town itself, a visitor could wander the narrow streets inside the fortified walls for days without tiring of them.
Tuscany is a charmed land, equally blessed by the genius of man and nature,
and often by the combined efforts of both. Think of the vineyards: rows of baby
green vines that manage somehow to march in arrow-straight formation up the
gently rolling hillsides, bounded by single files of darker green cypress trees,
snaking sandy roads leading to rust-colored farmhouses and moss-coated castles,
symmetrically rounded hilltops surmounted by towns so homogeneous as to seem
one single building. Every inch of land has been sculpted, first by the elements
and then by generations of inhabitants whose goals were always twofold: make
the land produce as much as possible, make the land as beautiful as possible.
Tuscany enchants us today because it holds together as a region, from the tiniest
hamlet to Florence the Magnificent. For the living proof, take a short walk
one day along the sides of the Belvedere in Florence: you will leave behind
the traffic and suddenly find yourself strolling down quiet lanes bounded by
tall stone walls, cypress trees and creamy-colored villas.