Baths, Forts, Gardens, and Palaces: Five Must-See Destinations - Leon Logothetis

May 12, 2015

Baths, Forts, Gardens, and Palaces: Five Must-See Destinations

Ideal vacation spots vary from person to person, but some sites just can’t be missed. The best destinations combine history, beauty, and luxury, providing visitors with an experience as enjoyable as it is educational. The following cities do just that:

Chaves, Portugal

In its two thousand year history, Chaves has experienced Roman, Visigoth, North African, and Napoleonic rule. The city’s ruins and monuments thus provide insight into life under the many civilizations that have inhabited Portugal. The city’s attractions include its thermal spas, the São Francisco and São Neutel forts, the Roman bridge spanning the Tâmega river (which remains in use today), and the many churches and religious museums. Chaves also offers some of the finest dining in Portugal, with quality wines and soft, buttery pastries.

Suzhou, China

Suzhou contains some of the highest achievements of ancient, medieval, and modern China. The city’s nine Classical Gardens began in the 6th century BCE and were updated throughout China’s history. Today they are a World Heritage Site, representing both the beauty of China’s natural environment and the ingenuity of its artists and gardeners. Besides the gardens, tourists enjoy traveling on Shantang Street, a canal that passes some of the city’s most beautiful sites. Other attractions include the high-tech Suzhou Industrial Park, the Hanshan and Xiyuan Buddhist temples, and the Xuanmiao Daoist temple.

Bath, England

Originally known as “Aquae Sulis,” the Romans founded Bath in the year 60 CE on the site of a series of hot springs. The town has remained densely populated ever since, making it a unique window into 2,000 years of English history. Archeologists and architects have reconstructed the original baths as accurately as possible. Visitors can tour the baths, learn about daily life in Roman Britain, and if they’re brave, taste the spring water. Across the street lies Bath Abbey, a 7th-century church that continues to hold services to this day. The city is also home to the Holburne Museum of Art, the Museum of East Asian Art, the Jane Austen Center, the Bath Postal Museum, and numerous restaurants, parks, and high-end shops. The town provides the best of what ancient, medieval, and modern Britain have to offer.

Petropolis, Brazil

Tourists often think of Brazil as a land of beaches but one of the country’s most beautiful cities is in the mountains. Traditionally known as the “Imperial City,” Petropolis was founded in 1843, back when Brazil was still an Empire, to house Emperor Pedro II’s summer palace. That palace still exists, having become the Imperial Museum of Brazil. It houses important relics of Brazilian history including the Imperial Crown, the Imperial Carriage, portraits of the Brazilian Emperors and their family members, and the “Lei Áurea” document, which abolished slavery in 1888. Besides the museum, Petropolis also contains the Crystal Palace, the São Pedro de Alcântara Cathedral, numerous houses built by Brazilian monarchs and nobles, and the second-largest beer brewery in the country. Local horse-drawn carriages provide tourists with a quick, enjoyable way to see the city.

Amritsar, India

Founded in 1573 by the Sikh Guru Ram Das, Amritsar is home to the Hamandir Sahib or Golden Temple, one of the most widely admired holy sites in Sikhism. The temple still holds services and invites visitors of all religions to enjoy free meals and take part in worship rituals. Besides the temple, the city is also home to the Jallian Wala Memorial, which honors Indian martyrs whom the British massacred during a pro-Independence protest, the Durgiana Hindu Temple, and the Ram Bagh Gardens, built by the Sikh emperor Ranjit Singh.

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