Enjoy a trip to the Schengen Area but go by a list of its top 10 attractions that are not necessarily what your travel agency might make of your itinerary:
1. Belgium: forget Brussels or Antwerp, with Belgium, it’s got to be Bruges, a place teeming with interesting to see and do. Bruges is closed off to motor vehicles, the better to appreciate the incredible culture and stunning beauty that surrounds the city. Explore Bruges by boat on serene canals, by foot or by charming carriage ride on ancient cobblestone streets. Bruges is a showcase for fine lace boutiques, exotic restaurants, and quaint little chocolate shops.
2. Prague: the premier attraction in this city is the Museum of Communism. See how the Czechs lived through the harsh, often cruel regime of the former Soviet Union and admire the tenacity of these people. Original artifacts, photographs, military equipment, statues, reading materials, and a reconstructed classroom during the Communist era.
3. Copenhagen: it’s The Little Mermaid for Denmark, hands down, as the all-time top attraction. Last year, this granite and bronze sculpture by Carl Jacobsen turned 70 years old. Inspired by the fairy tale written by Hans Christian Andersen, The Little Mermaid continues to welcome visitors at Copenhagen Harbor.
4. Budapest: the most interesting attraction in Hungary is Gellért Hill Cave in the capital city. A network of several caves, this one has become legendary because of Bishop Gellért, thrown by pagans to his death in 1046. Gellért Hill has the best views of Budapest’s structure, its hilly side of Buda and its flat side of Pest and the great Danube River between them. From here, you can see the 1849 fortress Citadella and the Gellért Hill Cave Church which served as field hospital and chapel in World War II.
5. Riga: the oldest park in the capital of Latvia, Vermanes Garden is very much like Central Park in New York: located in the hearth of the city yet surrounded by trees and flora. The most fascinating activity in the Vermanes Garden is the never-ending play of chess. Yes, people flock around several chess boards and join in sometimes.
6. Oslo: there couldn’t be any attraction more fascinating than this Norwegian capital city’s Viking Ship Museum. Housed here are the oldest Viking ships from Oseberg, Tune, and Gokstad, and other discoveries from the Oslo Fjord’s Viking tombs. Be in awe at the display of two of the wooden 9th century Viking ships, intact and well-preserved, for all generations to appreciate the Viking way of life.
7. Lisbon: see the most expensive chapel of all time, the São Roque Church, built by the gold brought over from Brazil by Portuguese explorers led by Vasco de Gama. Mosaics which look like oil paintings designed in Rome and baroque art are all in this chapel which would probably make King Midas’ palace pale in comparison.
8. Stockholm: the Stadshuset is this Swedish capital’s most famous landmark, the home of the Nobel Prize. You can always look around at the organ with 10,000 pipes, the Golden Hall where important Swedish history scenes are depicted with gold leaves as mosaic pieces, the open roof-like countenance of the Council Chamber, and the Nobelmuseet, of course, with a display of Nobel Prize winners.
9. Berne: before Albert Einstein became a familiar face at Princeton University in New Jersey, he was a Berne native. The Einstein Museum is a less known attraction in Switzerland yet it houses many of Einstein’s paraphernalia including his school report cards, letters sent and received by Einstein (even one inviting him to be president of Israel), a gallery of his lovers, and his Nobel Prize certificate in 1921.
10. Berlin: you can’t leave the Schengen Area without visiting Berlin. Purchase your Schengen travel insurance before coming to see the famous Berlin Wall, the most famous icon in Germany after the Brandenburg Gate. Nicknamed “Checkpoint Charlie,” the Berlin Wall was featured in many films that depicted the era of the Cold War and the world of espionage. Get caught in the excitement of browsing through the Checkpoint Charlie museum but only after you have ensured that your Schengen travel insurance covers your stay.