Sofia is the capital of the Balkan nation of Bulgaria. It’s in the west of the country, below Vitosha Mountain. The city’s landmarks reflect more than 2,000 years of history, including Greek, Roman, Ottoman and Soviet occupation. Medieval Boyana Church has 13th-century frescoes. Built by the Romans in the 4th century, St. George Rotunda Church has medieval and Ottoman decoration dating to the 10th century.
Zhuhai is a modern city in China’s southern Guangdong province, on the border with Macau. Transformed into one of China’s first Special Economic Zones in 1980, today the city is known for golf resorts, theme parks and islands off the Pearl River Delta. Pedestrianized Lianhua Road and the malls of Jingshan Road are popular shopping areas selling duty-free goods.
The city of Zurich, a global center for banking and finance, lies at the north end of Lake Zurich in northern Switzerland. The picturesque lanes of the central Altstadt (Old Town), on either side of the Limmat River, reflect its pre-medieval history. Waterfront promenades like the Limmatquai follow the river toward the 17th-century Rathaus (town hall).
Orléans is a city on the banks of the Loire River in north-central France, and it’s the capital of the Centre-Val de Loire region. Joan of Arc famously saved the city from English siege in 1429, an event celebrated with an annual festival. A re-creation of the house where she stayed during the battle, the Maison de Jeanne d’Arc, features multimedia exhibits on her life.
Innsbruck, capital of Austria’s western state of Tyrol, is a city in the Alps that’s long been a destination for winter sports. Innsbruck is also known for its Imperial and modern architecture. The Nordkette funicular, with futuristic stations designed by architect Zaha Hadid, climbs up to 2,256m from the city center for skiing in winter and hiking or mountaineering in warmer months.
Belfast is Northern Ireland’s capital. It was the birthplace of the RMS Titanic, which famously struck an iceberg and sunk in 1912. This legacy is recalled in the renovated dockyards’ Titanic Quarter, which includes the Titanic Belfast, an aluminium-clad museum reminiscent of a ship’s hull, as well as shipbuilder Harland & Wolff’s Drawing Offices and the Titanic Slipways, which now host open-air concerts.
Granada is a city in southern Spain’s Andalusia region, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s known for grand examples of medieval architecture dating to the Moorish occupation, especially the Alhambra. This sprawling hilltop fortress complex encompasses royal palaces, serene patios, and reflecting pools from the Nasrid dynasty, as well as the fountains and orchards of the Generalife gardens.
Bruges, the capital of West Flanders in northwest Belgium, is distinguished by its canals, cobbled streets and medieval buildings. Its port, Zeebrugge, is an important center for fishing and European trade. In the city center’s Burg square, the 14th-century Stadhuis (City Hall) has an ornate carved ceiling. Nearby, Markt square features a 13th-century belfry with a 47-bell carillon and 83m tower with panoramic views.
Toruń is a historical city on the Vistula River in north-central Poland and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its population was 201,447 as of December 2019. Previously, it was the capital of the Toruń Voivodeship and the Pomeranian Voivodeship.
Strasbourg is the capital city of the Grand Est region, formerly Alsace, in northeastern France. It’s also the formal seat of the European Parliament and sits near the German border, with culture and architecture blending German and French influences. Its Gothic Cathédrale Notre-Dame features daily shows from its astronomical clock and sweeping views of the Rhine River from partway up its 142m spire.