5 Beautiful Old European Cities
For #ThrowbackThursday, we’ve picked this post by Calum Hill… he dons his Indiana Jones hat to explore 5 beautiful old European cities, each with a rich history and plenty of secrets to be told.
Split – Croatia
Centered on the Roman palace of the Emperor Diocletian and the second largest city in Croatia, Split is a mesmerising port town offering a balance of tradition and modernity. Architectural masterpieces are aplenty with Klis Fortress, St. Dominus Cathedral and Bell Tower and the Croatian National Theatre as the front runners. Marjan Hill soars majestically at Split peninsula’s far end, covered in dense Mediterranean pine forest and showcasing the National Park and Zoo. Picturesque pebble beaches huddle around three sides of the hill’s base, where the Adriatic Sea meets this ancient land.
Split is often noted for its fortress like complex, its sprawling remains contain more than 200 buildings, now featuring many modern day galleries, restaurants, bars and cafes. The magic of bygone days stands strong with dusty white walls topped with red tiles face the seafront. Palm trees sway in the sea breeze and the clear blue sea glistens beyond, where more adventures await.
Gdansk – Poland
Poland’s northern coastline is centred by a downward dome of land surrounding the Gulf of Danzig, on which the city of Gdansk proudly sits. Diversely coloured buildings line the river in a disorderly but striking fashion. Red roofs and gothic styled turrets sit atop tall, skinny buildings which were shaped mostly by merchants between Teutonic Prussia and Slavic Poland’s trade system in the 20th century. Gdansk is uniquely un-Polish!
Complimenting its rich history, Gdansk has a multitude of bars and restaurants with outdoor seating – perfect for soaking in this Polish city’s beauty whilst supping a cold beer, or two! If you’ve time, don’t miss Malbork Castle, a 47 minute train ride and a short walk away. The world’s largest castle (by surface area) was reduced to rubble during WW2, but has now risen spectacularly like a phoenix from the ashes, albeit with a lot of human assistance. Rich histories, ancient architecture and unforgettable memories await.
Palermo – Sicily, Italy
Palermo is tucked away on the northern coastline of Sicily. From 827 to 1061 AD Sicily was under Arab rule which is reflected in the city’s architecture by a cohabitation of Byzantine mosaics and Arabesque domes. Market stalls often stripe the cobbled streets with their colourful shaded canopies, showcasing an array of locally farmed fresh cuisine.
Don’t miss Palermo’s botanical gardens which are home to the slithering roots of Palermo’s gargantuan Ficus Macrophylla tree, the oldest in the world. As well as a great name, Mount Pellegrino (Pilgrim’s Mountain) offers an unforgettable panoramic of the old city and the surrounding Tyhrrhenian Sea. Home to the sanctuary of Saint Rosalia, the patron saint of Palermo, it’s long walk to the top but well worth the effort. They say Italy’s true spirit is found on its islands and once you’ve visited here, you’ll know why. Benvenuto!
Trier – Germany
Germany’s oldest city is a treasure trove of beautiful builds and in 1986 Trier was announced as a Unesco World Heritage Site. The ornate birthplace of Karl Marx and hotspot for historical monuments, Trier is situated in the South Western region of the Moselle wine region on the border of Luxembourg. Historical treasures put it firmly on the ‘beautiful old cities’ list. Why not visit the Roman Amphitheatre close to the Moselle river? Fresh green pastures kiss the waters’ bank and a stunning hillside bounds the city.
A lengthy hike north of the river leads to Eltz castle – a tall ‘fairytale like’ stronghold opens up as you emerge from the woodland terrain. The crown jewel of garden architecture opens the passage to the Kurfürstliches Palais; stroll through a collection of beautiful flowers, perfectly trimmed hedges and sparkling water fountains. In the backdrop lays Aula Palatina – the Basiclia of Constantine. When tired from city exploring, head to Trier’s quayside for some tasty German dishes washed down some Bitburger, a Pilsener style beer brewed nearby. At just slightly more than Euro a glass, it may fit well with a backpackers budget and offer a thirst quenching end to your historical day.
Chania – Crete, Greece
Chania lies directly opposite Athens, separated by the Aegean Sea, to the Western region of Crete and its history is colossal. Once held as a settlement by Minoan civilisation from 3650 to 1400 BCE, it followed on as a stronghold in the Byzantine and Arab era, the Venetian era and the Ottoman era. A Venetian quarter is joined by narrow lanes, culminating at the stunning harbour. A miscellany of Venetian and Turkish architecture assembles the capital, alongside a wonderful medley of atmospheric restaurants and enriched hotels.
Back streets itch to be explored, decorated by sweet scented oleanders in terracotta pots, brightly coloured hanging baskets and bistro aromas tempting you to stay longer. A selection of breathtaking beaches dot Crete’s coastline. Be sure to visit Elafonisi to the southwest – also known as the pink beach. During the summer months Chania’s shores are regularly visited by the endangered Loggerhead sea turtles, so you may be lucky enough to see one. Even the name Chania sounds ancient and mythical… and the beauty of Crete’s second largest city reflects its name well.