A town and a lake, Luzern (Lucerne in French) is quintessential Switzerland: clean, quaint, and prosperous, with clear fresh air. Half-timbered houses and ancient bridges on the Reuss River are among the sights you’ll see as you stroll around the town. Visit the Picasso Museum, where most of the works on show date from the latter part of the artist’s life. Plenty of entertainment is laid on, too, with regular music events (the town has its own orchestra) and a thriving nightlife. On Tuesdays and Saturdays, market stalls line the arcaded streets of the Old Town.
Up near the Tibetan and Burmese borders, Lijiang isn’t the easiest place to get to, but China’s best-preserved ancient town repays the effort. Beneath its rippling roofs, life goes on as it has for hundreds of years. And the climate here is pleasant 365 days a year.
There are few cities where getting lost is such a pleasure. The narrow twisting streets of medieval Toledo hold delights and surprises around every corner. You are never lost for long, however, because the rocky escarpment at the city’s edge drops sheer away to a meander in the Tagus River, which acts as a natural moat. Just south of Madrid, Toledo was Spain’s first capital. Romans, Moors, Christians, and Jews have all left their mark on the city, which is as famous for forging the swords of Latin America’s conquistadors as it is for the paintings of El Greco.
QUEENSTOWN, NEW ZEALAND
Queenstown likes to see itself as the adventure capital of the world and, with some truly astounding scenery, it’s easy to see why: the city lies on deep-blue Lake Wakatipu, and has mountains all around. It’s popular for skiing in winter and has a real buzz in summer, when people flock here for skidiving and white-water rafting. Enjoy the local wines between adventures
Whether you’re having a drink in the Peristyle café or visiting a market stall in Diocletian’s Palace, on every side you are surrounded by Roman history. The emperor’s buildings are still the focus of Croatia’s second city. They lie beside the palm-tree-lined Riva, a pedestrianized promenade lapped by the Adriatic. On summer evenings, people gather here to stroll, to sit, and to chat.
GRONINGEN, THE NETHERLANDS
There’s always something going on in Groningen, which is maybe why it was voted the country’s best city center. Nighttimes are as good as the days – there are many romantic spots in the old town, with its cozy restaurants and cafés and medieval streets and squares. The museums here house everything from comics to cutting-edge art.
The center of Estonia’s second city is cobblestoned, pastelcolored, and peppered with museums and galleries. Tartu has been the country’s intellectual and cultural center since a university was founded here in the early 16th century. It’s a friendly student town of inexpensive bars and restaurants, and makes a convenient base for exploring the rest of the country.
SIDI IFNI, MOROCCO
This former Spanish colonial outpost brought Art Deco to Africa, and the characteristic tiles and ironwork are on display in many places around the city. Sidi Ifni is unexpectedly charming, with a big sandy beach where the Atlantic pounds (expert surfers head here when the waves really start to roll). The Sunday souk is authentically African and full of music.