History can be captivating — especially when it’s directly under your feet. Discover worlds of centuries past by exploring these ancient ruins, magnificent temples, and surreal palaces. So what are you waiting for? Let’s take a step back in time and enjoy the local culture of these cosmopolitan cities.
1. Athens, Greece
Wise and magnificent, the Acropolis is the center around which Athens still revolves. Equal parts gritty and graceful, Athens is first and foremost a city for locals. Discover Grecian relics alongside bars and bistros rife with tiny espressos, flavorful wine, and cold beer. Eager to accommodate the many travelers who come to visit ruins, Athenians are warm and generous. Expect familial neighborhoods and a bustling nightlife — with something for everyone, Athens is a hard city to leave.
2. Istanbul, Turkey
Home of Hagia Sophia, a former Christian basilica turned Ottoman Imperial mosque and now a museum, Istanbul is a dynamic city full of flux. Despite its ever-changing nature, the city’s roots run deep. A melting pot of East and West, Istanbul was the final stop on the legendary Silk Road linking Asia with Europe. The result? A region of cultural diversity that brings out the best of both worlds. Adorned with churches, palaces, and ambitious architectural projects, the skyline is a sight to behold. Down on the city streets, fill your days with galleries, museums, and a chance to see the Whirling Dervishes. And if it’s food you’re after, check out mouthwatering kebabs, flavorful mezes, and fresh fish.
3. Jerusalem, Israel
Considered a holy land for numerous faiths, Jerusalem is a treasury of diversity. A home to Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and Armenian quarters, the sacred city offers religious experiences alongside cultural delights. Ringing with Islamic calls to prayer, visit the walled Old City and hear the concurrent church bells, chiming to the hours past and creating a harmonious vestige of sights and sounds. Explore Jerusalem’s storied streets and feel the power of one of the most historically significant cities in the world.
4. Alexandria, Egypt
Alexandria has long been considered an epicenter of ancient knowledge and culture. Once considered one of the Seven Wonders of the world, the Pharos Lighthouse and Great Library garnered the city much appeal; however, the ruins of these ancient architectural wonders now lie submerged under the sea. But not to worry! There’s plenty to experience above sea level, including a visit to the Catacombs of Kom el Shaqafa and a Roman Amphitheatre. Once you’ve had your fill of sightseeing, take a dip in the water of Alexandria’s public or private beaches, where beautiful teal water meets the mystique of an ancient wonderland.
5. Varanasi, India
One of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world, Varanasi dates back to the 11th century BC. Located along the River Ganges, pilgrims and travelers visit the Ghats to wash away sins in the sacred waters or say a final farewell to loved ones being liberated from the cycle of rebirth. Wander through the city’s ancient, twisting passageways or experience the fascinating and colorful place from the vantage point of an early morning boat ride. Enjoy the water and witness the Aarti ceremony while on route to explore Sarnath’s temple — a magical experience in of one of Hinduism’s seven holy cities.
6. Beijing, China
Compelling and complex, Beijing has been captivating travelers with its ancient and increasingly modern beauty for over 3,000 years. Home to six UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Chinese capital is full of royal palaces, sublime temples, and gorgeous gardens to visit. Experience the walled mystery of the Forbidden City — a royal palace from the Ming dynasty that acted as the home to 24 emperors over the centuries. From there, head to the socialist realist monuments of the 1950s. Once you’ve soaked in Beijing’s history, enjoy a meal at one of the thousands of tiny restaurants. A voyage from past the present — Beijing has it all.
7. Cusco, Peru
Once the capital of the Inca Empire, Cusco is a unique and cosmopolitan city. Believed to be built in the image of a puma, Cusco is the archaeological capital of South and North America. Explore ancient history right outside the city center, as many of the ruins stand in contrast to their modern surroundings. The gateway to Machu Picchu, this historical place offers a glimpse of the rich heritage that once acted as a hub for advanced mathematics, ahead-of-its-time astronomy, and calendar systems. More than the cozy alpaca sweaters the city is known for, Cusco offers a glimpse of history directly at your feet.