MOST BEAUTIFUL COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD
Every country has its marvels and breathtaking landscapes, but these ten are blessed with a rare package of outstanding natural beauty and man-made wonders that enhance their territories with everything from beautiful cities to timeless villages, magnificent parks and pristine scenery. They are countries that offer a variety of sights and an abundance of inspiration from man and nature.
1 | ITALY
The world's most beautiful city, the most inspiring cultural treasures, and magnificent scenery: Nowhere else in the world will you find a bigger concentration of beauty. There'sVenice, Florence and Rome with their varied architecture, the natural masterpiece that is Tuscany with its rolling hills, vineyards and snow-peaked mountains. Then there's the perfect naturalist painting that is the Amalfi Coast or Lake Maggiore and the Alps and you get the sense that no country on Earth offers as much beauty anywhere you turn as Italy.
2 | SPAIN
The most common image of Spain is of the dreadful overdevelopment of the Costa del Sol or of the coastline of some of the Balearic Islands, but Spain is so much more than that. It's perhaps the most diverse country in the world, with everything from white Mediterranean villages to sophisticated urban centers. You won't find a city with a greater sense of individuality than Barcelona, and from the Pyrenees to Andalusia, Spain could serve as the backdrop for any kind of film, book or painting. It's also the world's most seductive country, passionate about living the good life reflected on grand plazas in even the smaller cities, in well-preserved historic centers, and in the smallest of villages perched on hilltops. To top it all off, there are some of the world's grandest, most powerful and incomparable architectural treasures, from the Alhambra to the Great Mosque of Cordoba.
3 | FRANCE
Paris exudes the most perfect atmosphere of cultural grandeur but although the capital gets all the attention, France offers so much more. Villages with abundant Old World charm are all over the country, from around the magnificent Loire Valley to verdant Provence. Then there's the glamorous Riviera and if you want to see the world's greatest palace (Versailles) and museum (the Louvre), here they are. But France is also a country of world-class living in outdoor cafes, in perfectly-preserved towns and in wine-producing regions such as Bordeaux and Champagne. If that's not enough, see the majesty of Mont St. Michel, the numerous chateaux all over the country and the spectacular panorama of the Chamonix valley.
4 | AUSTRALIA
Australia is more than a country, it's a continent and still more than that. It's its own world, from the Outback and the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park with its world-renowned stone monolith to the Kakadu National Park. It's in fact wild parks and a wide range of landscapes that make Australia so extraordinary, from the Mornington Peninsula National Park facing the open sea to the Great Barrier Reef that's one of the natural wonders of the world, to the unspoiled tropical Whitsunday Islands, but then there's Sydney and its harbor, one of the most beautiful and iconic urban areas. Australia has it all, to be admired before or after a ride down the Great Ocean Road.
5 | GREECE
The Greek Islands on the blue waters of the Aegean Sea are home to some of the world's most beautiful beaches. They're the first images of the country but then there's the majestic Mt. Olympus, extraordinary Meteora, and ancient ruins around the country. While Athens disappoints those looking for aesthetic inspiration, Greece is a country that truly satisfies all the senses and it's understandable how the idea of so many gods originated here.
6 | PORTUGAL
For the pristine natural wonders of the volcanic Azores alone, Portugal would be on this list. Then there's the "floating garden" that is Madeira, the dramatic coastline and mystical capes of the mainland, the serene plains of the Alentejo with the stunningly-sited white medieval vilages of Marvão and Monsaraz, the Peneda-Gerês National Park, or the perfect collaboration of man and nature in the magic fantasy of Sintra and verdant Douro Valley. And while the old centers of Lisbon and Porto are inexplicably rundown and stubbornly neglected, it's hard to match their scenic beauty with their grand riverside settings. Everything is in a small scale but when all combined it's impressive how so much diverse beauty somehow fits in such a tiny country that seems to be a favorite of the sun.
7 | USA
It has the ugliest cities in the developed world linked by shopping mall roads of fast food joints, car lots, billboards, cheap hotels and soulless suburbs (with deluded populations obliviously living the American nightmare), but when it comes to nature, America really is the beautiful. There are the Hawaiian islands, the epic scale of the Grand Canyon, the extraordinarily clear waters of Lake Tahoe, California's Big Sur, the wildlife in Alaska, the breathtaking scenery of Monument Valley or of Yellowstone, Yosemite and the other great national parks, the forestland of the Great Smoky Mountains... The list of natural wonders seems to go on forever and then there's San Francisco to save the country on the offer of beauty in an urban setting.
8 | BRAZIL
It has one of the world's most beautiful cities (Rio de Janeiro) and one of the ugliest (São Paulo) but Brazil really is blessed by nature. The Amazon is incomparable, impossible to begin to imagine its magnitude, and the horseshoe-shaped falls of Iguaçu regularly watched by a rainbow is one of the world's most breathtaking sights. The colonial baroque architecture of the northeast with their golden interiors mixed with singular traditions give it one of the world's most soulful atmospheres, and if the country's other major cities weren't so bland (Brasilia, Belo Horizonte, Curitiba, Fortaleza, Manaus, etc.), Brazil would actually rank higher on this list.
9 | SOUTH AFRICA
Cape Town is one of the world's most beautiful cities (let's just say it's number 11 on our top 10 list), and the Kruger National Park is one of the most memorable experiences on the planet for anyone who visits. South Africa offers epic diversity of landscapes, from the Blyde River Canyon to the Drakensberg Mountains. With all of that it's almost easy to forget that it's also a country full of problems with a capital city that is best avoided, but escape to the Cape and grab your camera to photograph all in between and you'll be savoring one of the most awe-inspiring territories on the planet.
10 | GERMANY
Yes, Germany. Perhaps the world's most underrated country, Germany is a place of fairytales and architectural jewels. They're not necessarily found in the largest cities (Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg, or Cologne which are more vibrant than beautiful) but Munich has its charms and smaller cities such as Dresden, Leipzig and Potsdam have been preserved or restored to fairytale eye candy. But the real storybook Germany is found all along Bavaria's Romantic Road with its wealth of unbelievable castles, in the Alps' gorgeous lakes and mountains, in the magical land of the Rhine with its vineyards or in the enchanting Black Forest. Begin to tour the country and you'll discover a land of constant surprises, from the university city of Heidelberg, to old Bremen or Bamberg, to the wonderfully preserved medieval towns of Regensburg and Rothenburg.
THE LOUVRE, PARIS
THE MET, NEW YORK
NATIONAL ARCHAEOLOGY MUSEUM, ATHENS
MUST-SEE MUSEUMS OF THE WORLD
1 | THE LOUVRE
There are always long lines at the door but it's worth the wait to see the world's greatest and most famous museum. Leonardo DaVinci's Mona Lisa is the star, but there are literally thousands of other treasures of human civilization, from Egypt, Asia, ancient Greece and Rome.
2 | THE HERMITAGE
This gigantic museum has the world's largest collection of paintings. It's a stunning place, covering the history of the world from the Stone Age to present times, and especially impressive are the Golden Rooms with their golden gems.
3 | THE BRITISH MUSEUM
This museum has millions of works of art from all over the world. Its galleries are devoted to Egypt, Greece, Roman civilization, Asia, Africa, and medieval Europe, tracing human history and culture. The highlight is the Elgin Marbles that once decorated the Parthenon in Athens.
4 | THE EGYPTIAN MUSEUM
As you'd expect, here you'll find the most complete collection of Egyptian art in the world. Among the thousands of treasures (which includes the popular Mummy Room) are the famous artifacts from Tutankhamun's tomb.
5 | UFFIZI
This 16th century palace holds hundreds of masterpieces, including marvelous Renaissance sculptures and Botticelli's famous Birth of Venus, among other much-recognized masterworks of the Renaissance.
6 | THE MET - METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART
A truly outstanding museum with everything from Islamic, Egyptian, Greek, and Indian art to European paintings. It holds more than 2 million works from around the world, from pre-history to the 21st century.
7 | MOMA
This is the most important modern art museum in the world. It covers the late 19th century to the present day, with highlights including Picasso's Demoiselles d'Avignon or Van Gogh's Starry night.
8 | THE VATICAN MUSEUMS
It's a series of exhibition spaces filled with priceless treasures that blow visitors away by their grandeur and beauty. The highlight is Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel.
9 | THE PRADO
This treasure trove includes sculptures and drawing but the strongest collection is, naturally, of Spanish masterpieces by Goya, El Greco and Velazquez (whose Las Meninas is the best-known work of the museum).
10 | NATIONAL ARCHAEOLOGY MUSEUM
This is the place to admire the masterpieces of ancient Greece. Its unrivaled collection includes a bronze Artemision Podeidon from the 5th century B.C.
MOST EXCITING CITIES IN THE WORLD
There are beautiful cities, there are ugly cities, and then there are exciting cities. They're those urban destinations that generate such a buzz and cause such enthusiasm that you enjoy just thinking about them as you pack your bags. They're major cities successful in selling themselves as centers of intense experiences for all the senses and that never fail to meet expectations.
Want to go somewhere really exciting? Go here:
Want to go somewhere really exciting? Go here:
1 | NEW YORK
No one can deny that this is the capital of the world. Millions dream to live in it, many more want to visit at least once in their lifetime. The lights of Broadway and Times Square hypnotize you into believing that this is the center of the world, inviting you to experience all that the city has to offer -- from addictive shopping to non-stop eating.
2 | LONDON
The unofficial capital of Europe treasures it historic legacy but also constantly reinvents itself. It's one of the world's most irreverent cities, and despite offering some of the greatest art collections in the world, the main attraction is its street life and market shopping. What other metropolis could make any visitor overlook the constant rain and wish to return over and over again?
3 | LAS VEGAS
When you go to Vegas you're really going to a theme park. It brings out the naughty kid in everyone, a place for fun with little or no restrictions. Everyone wants to believe that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas but the truth is that everyone now knows that this is a city for decadence and that's what makes it so appealing.
4 | MIAMI
The world's biggest party city is a place you go to for the fun of it. There are no major cultural attractions or great architectural icons (give or take a few Art Deco buildings), but there is a lot going on at the beaches and hotel bars and pools. It's the city of bling and to see and be seen, where exhibitionism is the main attraction.
5 | LOS ANGELES
The allure of Hollywood is enough to make L.A. a dream city. Sure it's not a pretty place, but it's where you go to confirm what celebrity life is said to be, a place to indulge in a little pampering, from the bar to the beach to Beverly Hills shopping.
6 | BARCELONA
Who could have imagined what it would become when looking at it as recently as the 1980's? From interesting-but-overlooked port city to major world city in just about a decade, Barcelona is now a dynamic mix of urban and resort area, offering the opportunity to experience culture, singular architecture and some of the world's best food -- more than enough to have made it one of the world's must-go cities.
7 | DUBAI
It has several new competitors but this is the original and still-unbeatable over-the-top megacity. It's a place you gotta see to believe, a destination that attracts curiosity to witness architectural history in the making. From fishing village by the desert to one of the world's greatest hubs, Dubai has become the talk of the urban travel world.
8 | PARIS
A city that evokes feelings of romance and urban perfection as you walk down grand boulevards, shopping at the world's greatest boutiques and stopping at legendary cafes is the world's most-visited for a reason. Everyone wants to experience Paris and best of all is leaving with the feeling that it really is what you imagined it to be and more.
9 | RIO DE JANEIRO
The girls from Ipanema, the sand of Copacabana, the images of the Sugar Loaf and Corcovado are enough to raise your body temperature even before you arrive. You then join the local "cariocas" (as Rio natives call themselves) in wearing very little and showing quite a lot, making Rio the marvelous city of natural and gym-sculpted beauty. Here life's a beach and there's no place like it.
10 | BANGKOK
It has a rather sleazy reputation but that's part of what makes it so fascinating. It's a city of contrasts, hanging on to never-ending traditions while at the same time being arguably the most Westernized capital in Asia. It's a place that invites exploration, and word of mouth says no one leaves indifferent or disappointed in the profusion of sights and smells. That's why if you visit only one Asian city, Bangkok is usually the choice.
SHOPPING STREETS OF THE WORLD
1 | FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK
While it may have been recently invaded by suburban mall favorites likes the Disney Store, Abercrombie & Fitch and H&M, Fifth Avenue remains New York's (and one of the world's) best shopping street. It's still home to landmark department stores, designer boutiques, and spectacular window displays, especially around Christmas times.
2 | BOND STREET, LONDON
Extending from Picadilly to Oxford Street, this is probably Europe's busiest boulevard. It's home to the most expensive shops in the continent, but even if you can't afford any of them, you can always dream as you window shop. About a mile away, is the equally posh Sloane Street.
3 | AVENUE MONTAIGNE, PARIS
Home to the most luxurious boutiques in Paris, this avenue lined with elegant buildings is where those who can afford it splurge on high fashion and jewelry. It's also where you confirm that the French capital really is the epicenter of sophistication and style.
4 | BAHNHOFSTRASSE, ZURICH
This is one of the most exclusive addresses of the world, a tree-lined avenue with top fashion designer boutiques and, of course, the famous Swiss watches. Very pedestrian-friendly, it ends with a world-famous luxury confectionary, the Confiserie Sprungli.
5 | VIA MONTENAPOLEONE, MILAN
This fashionista paradise is the main street of a fabulous shopping neighborhood in one of the world's greatest style cities. All of the top Italian (and non-Italian) designers are here, together with less-exclusive ready-to-wear and jewelry shops. Many of the world's top fashion brands also have their headquarters and offices on this street.
6 | RODEO DRIVE,BEVERLY HILLS (L.A.)
Perhaps the world's glitziest and most glamurous shopping area, this is where the rich and the famous get their haute couture fashions to show off on Hollywood's red carpets.
7 | GINZA, TOKYO
Not exactly a street, but an entire district comprised of eight blocks, this is where Tokyo's fashion victims model their latest acquisitions. It's known for its big upscale department stores, luxury retailers, and elaborate window displays.
8 | P.C.HOOFTSTRAAT,AMSTERDAM
Being such a pedestrian-friendly city, Amsterdam offers some of the most pleasant shopping experiences in the world. Its best shops are found on this small street, not far from the city's top museums. It's also home to some of the most expensive apartments in the country, and the international luxury brands target those well-heeled locals.
9 | STROGET, COPENHAGEN
This is one of the urban wonders of the world, Europe's longest pedestrian shopping area. While there are many famous luxury shops, you'll also find the popular chain stores everyone can afford. What further makes this one of the most enjoyable places to shop in the world is the fact that it's closed to traffic and you can always take a break for a drink at a café outside.
10 | CALLE SERRANO, MADRID
This is arguably the least famous of the world's great shopping streets. Found in Madrid's wealthiest neighborhood, it is (together with Calle Preciados also in the capital), one of Spain's (and Europe's) most expensive streets. Naturally, most of the great international brands and designers are found here, attracting the poshest madrileños to see and be seen.