Italy oh Italy! It’s a marvelous country with something for everyone. Usually, Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan are the places that come to mind when one speaks of Italy, but for a taste of the genuine, day-to-day living, Sicily is the place to be. So let’s focus on the largest Sicilian city, Palermo.
A lot of the buildings in the center of the city date from as far back as the 9th century, so history buffs won’t go unrewarded. Being a city on the very edge of Europe, the style of the place is a mix of Byzantine, North African and European, with chaotic street markets spilling out around stately Baroque churches.
It feels like a film set; all crumbling walls and noisy street life, but there’s nowhere better to sit outside, eating, drinking and watching the frenzied dance of Sicilian life.
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
To some, Sarajevo brings up images of reporters standing amid bullet-riddled buildings. But that’s all far and away from what is now a cosmopolitan city. It’s an interesting mélange of Ottoman, Slavic and Austro-Hungarian styles in cafes and museums.
Speaking of museums, seeing as the city was central to many of the events that shaped the 20th century, you’d expect there to be a lot to investigate, and you’d be right. The Tunnel Museum is a moving way to learn about the siege of the city by Serbian forces between 1992 and 1996.
There is also another museum to another momentous act: the assassination of Franz Ferdinand by Gavrilo Princip. And if you’re into sports, head out into the hills to discover the rotting, overgrown remains of the bobsleigh track, built for the 1984 Winter Olympics and then abandoned.
If you fancy a weekend in a Polish city that isn’t Krakow, why not try Wroclaw? The Market Square can rival any in the country, as it is lined with rich, patrician townhouses as well as the Gothic Old Town Hall, home to an astronomical clock.
True, there’s almost one thousand years of history, but don’t let that fool you. This is a city building to the future. With a student population of around 130,000, it’s the youngest city in Poland and, as such, one of the liveliest.
In 2015, 2016 and 2017 it was included in the Mercer Top 100 Most Liveable Cities list and its reputation continues to rise. It can compete well in high culture, as well as throw a good party.
Don’t miss a visit to the basement of the Old City Hall which contains one of Europe’s oldest restaurants (Piwnica Świdnicka has been operating continuously since 1275), while the basement of the New Town Hall is home to Spiż, one of the city’s newest brewpubs.
It has been nicknamed the New Berlin and for good reason. Leipzig is experiencing a boom as young entrepreneurs, artists and general creative types who’ve been priced out of the capital have moved here.
A city of massive contrasts, it’s known by classical music lovers through its connections to Bach, Wagner and Mendelssohn, as well as having areas like Connewitz, which is anarchic.
For an educational fix and to really get to grips with the city, the Zeitgeschichtliches Forum is a superb museum with over 3,200 artefacts of everyday life under the Communist regime, including communications equipment, books, magazines, football shirts, artworks and much more.
Despite the fact that you can do all there is in only a weekend, Leipzig has a certain charm that makes you want to stay.