It’s not as if you’re going to die tomorrow, but everybody needs a bucket list and we need to tick off as many items as possible on that list; travelling is one of the most popular “must do” on a majority of these lists. And while we all want to see Hong Kong Disneyland, there’s really much more a life well lived than a big mouse and his canine best friend; here are Europe’s top five capital cities which anybody, with or just starting a bucket list, should visit as a last hurrah:
1. Paris: see why the French have mastered “the art of life,” from the unparalleled museum that is the Louvre to iconic Eiffel Tower, Paris is world’s cultural capital because of its joie de vivre. Visit elegant boutiques, architectural wonders, charming bistros, the romantic Seine, bustling markets with the freshest produce, and museums of art both sophisticated and revolutionary. “Must” attractions:
• Cathedral of Notre Dame.
• Eiffel Tower.
• Louvre museum.
• Sacré Coeur (Sacred Heart) Basilica.
• Centre Pompidou.
• Rue Du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.
• Orsay museum.
• Champs Elysees.
• St. Germain Des Prés.
• Church of Saint-Chapelle.
2. Rome: vibrant and pulsating today with charming piazzas with quaint little cafés and restaurants as it was 3,000 years ago with gladiators and chariot races, Rome has always been a major site not only for delicious espresso and mouthwatering gnocchi and the extensive shopping of Armani and Versace but for premium sculpture by Bellini and art by Michaelangelo as well. Attractions to enjoy and be in awe of include:
• The Colosseum.
• St. Peter’s Square.
• The Pantheon.
• Basilica di San Clemente.
• Via Deicondotti.
• The Roman Forum.
• The Sistine Chapel.
• Galleria Borghese.
• Musei Capitolini.
• Piaza di Spagnia.
3. Amsterdam: the canals here rival those of Venice but the extensive range and array of colorful flora at their flower markets is second to none. The city has lived down the notoriety of its “red light” district with its classic canalside architecture, quaint cafes, and thriving communities of young and hip artists, musicians, and writers. Absorb the city’s welcoming and “live and let live” spirit and go off to these attractions:
• Canal tours: marvel at the grandeur with which the Grachtengordel Canals were designed in all their 17th century elegance.
• Rijksmuseum: view the artwork treasures of the Dutch Renaissance including Rembrandt’s famous “Night Watch.”
• Van Gogh Museum: he may not have been remembered in his lifetime but Vincent Van Gogh has his own museum now including a self-portrait.
• Anne Frank: be moved by a young girl’s courage as you visit the Anne Frank House Museum, her hiding place circa 1942.
• Dam Square: a stage for various events and performances, it faces the grand royal palace from which the Dutch Royal Family sometimes appears at the balcony.
4. London: If the European continent requires a capital, it has to be London, its largest and perhaps richest. London is understated class where every man is a gentleman, be he a chimney sweeper or an earl. Cosmopolitan London isn’t as exotic as Amsterdam tends to be or as heavily into culture as Paris, but this ancient Anglo-Saxon city which Roman legionnaires called “Londinium” is alternately steeped in history and the contemporary:
• Big Ben.
• The Houses of Parliament.
• Knightsbridge for shopping at Harrods.
• The Tower of London (home of the Crown Jewels).
• British Museum.
• Westminister Abbey.
• Buckingham Palace.
• St. Paul’s Cathedral.
• The London Eye.
• Tate Modern.
5. Madrid: a destination that should not be missed is the capital of the once great Spanish empire that financed renowned explorers such as Ferdinand Magellan. Hernando Cortes, Francisco Pizzarro, and Christopher Columbus to discover new worlds. Have your travel insurance for Non-EU residents ready because Madrid is like Paris, only more daring, and it’s also like London, only less reserved. Madrid is well-known for its exuberant nightlife as much as its reverence for its art. If you intend to stay longer, ensure that you have travel insurance for Non-EU residents to enjoy more of these sites:
• Prado Museum.
• Museo de Reina Sofia where Picasso’s Guernica is housed.
• Plaza de Cibeles.
• The Almudena Cathedral.
• Palacio de la Zarzuela, the de facto residence of the Spanish Royal Family.
• Parque del Retiro.
• Mercado de Rastro.
• Las Ventas de Plaza de Torros.
• Temple of Debod (a unique Egyptian temple moved to Spain, stone by stone, in appreciation and gratitude for Spain’s help extended to Egypt in the Aswan Dam’s construction).
• Auditorio Nacional de Música.