Cities and Towns in Europe
Florence is one of Italy's cultural and architectural centers, and although the town is very touristy, you can still sense a special historical atmosphere of the old town. Famous Florentines include artists such as Raphael, Donatello, Leonardo da Vinci and not least Michelangelo, whose famous David statue stands in several places in town. Besides beautiful statues in the city's piazzas, the great Gothic cathedral, Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, is also worth a visit. Here you can climb up into the dome and look out across the city. You should also see one of the city's famous landmarks - namely the bridge Ponte Vecchio, that was previously filled with slaughterhouses, which meat waste was thrown directly into the River. Today the street is filled with more tourist-friendly jewelry stores.
The picturesque Lake Como, covering 146 m2 with surrounding mountains, is Italy's third largest lake. Along the lake, there are many cosy villages and lots of cool large villas. Small ferries sail from one end of the y-shaped lake to the other, so it is easy to visit towns across the lake. Especially the western side of the lake with Cernobbio, Menaggio, Tremezzo and Moltrasio and the southern cities Bellagio and Como town are worth a visit. The atmosphere at Lake Como is far more exclusive and less touristy than for example the larger Lake Garda - but it is also slightly more expensive. If you are a movie buff, you will furthermore, also recognize locations from "James Bond's Casino Royale", "Oceans 12" and "A Month by the Lake".
Perugia is Umbria's "Capital", and is situated on a 500 m high hill with a splendid view over the landscape. The city is relatively large, with approx. 150,000 inhabitants and 2 universities with 40,000 students, so there are many young people around. Perugia consists of a wide pedestrian main street, which natural assembly point is Piazza IV Novembre, where there is a large fountain from the 1200s and the gothic cathedral of San Lorenzo. The cathedral has beautiful paintings on its ceiling, but is otherwise very bleak. There are nice outdoor restaurants in the main streeet, but they are quite touristy. However, if you look in the small winding streets, you will find many more local restaurants. On Piazza Italia there is, furthermore, a large outdoor flea market in weekends.
It seems everywhere you go in Italy there's a UNESCO site within spitting distance. The island of Sicily is no different. Of the 4 sites on the island, the town of Syracuse is the crown jewel. Dating back some 2,700 years, Syracuse has managed to maintain the ancient while living in the present. When more magnificent fountains, beautiful churches and expansive squares, it is no wonder the whole town is UNESCO listed. While it certainly draws in the tourist crowds, it is a fraction of that on the Italian mainland. This means you get a wonderful historical Italian site with a few hundred others, not a few thousand.
The capital of Jersey isn't a big town, but big enough for some pubs, banks, investment companies and lots of pizzerias. It's doesn't have the cuteness of its little sister Saint Peter Port on Guernsey and locals easily outnumbers the tourists. But the marina, along with the old town, is nice to explore on foot. If it's not so important with beach view, Saint Helier makes a great base for exploring Jersey. The bus system is extended and all the buses leaves from the central bus station.
Peja is a town close to the border of Montenegro. It was heavily damaged during the Kosovo conflict in 1999, but has since been rebuilt. Due to the proximity to Montenegro, it has a bustling border-town-feel with a central market selling local products and Kosovo souvenirs for the few visitors. The most famous product from Peja is without a doubt the beer, birra Peja, which can be enjoyed all over Kosovo.
Pristina's appeal is not so much in its sights (for there hardly are any) than it is its very existence. Kosovo was fighting for independence from Serbia for a long time, but it only gained it as recently as 2008. Serbia still does not recognize Kosovo, which makes border-crossing between those two a bit awkward. The city of Pristina has been serving as a base for peacekeeping forces for a long time, giving the worn down city a boost of after-war prosperity. This means the cafe and bar scene is superb and nightlife even better, while the rest is a bit behind.
Kosovo has most certainly seen better days. Seemingly endless years of war have reduced some really beautiful cities to nothing more than rubble. But the spirit to live on is strong, and many of these towns are emerging from the ashes, perhaps none more so than Prizren. Prizren is alive again as domestic tourism looks for a place to relax. A combination of a remodelled old-town, iconic stone bridge and hilltop fort (with expansive views) make this old town a natural winner. With plenty of churches, mosques and temples as well as bars, cafes and restaurants, there's plenty to do day or night. Prizren is arguably the highlight of the country.
What Riga doesn't have in prettiness, it gains with edge and character. The Old Town certainly has its graceful moments and the Art Nouveau District is wonderful histrionic, but nothing is done up to make tourists happy - they're all genuine parts of Riga which the Latvians use as much as any other neighbourhood. The Russian neighbourhood around the wonderful Central Market and bus station has its fair share of Stalinist architecture and ruthless attitude, you would think died out with the Soviet-era. But it's such things which make Riga such a fascinating city.
The castle for the Prince of Liechtenstein is perched on a mountainside overlooking the Swiss alps. Very symbolic, it's raised above the valley where Vaduz stretch out. The capital is just a few hundred meters wide, but several kilometers long. There are just a few fine and traditional buildings, the rest is a bland mess of squary boxes and concrete houses which finest quality is that they can withstand lots of snow. There is a fine walk up to the castle, which offer splendid views over Vaduz and across the River Rhine to Switzerland. However, Vaduz is the not reason to come to Liechtenstein, the mountains are.