This summer all eyes are on Europe from London and the Olympics to the host cities and teams of the Euro Cup Soccer (futbol) and the roadways of the Tour de France.
As we celebrate our nation’s inception some 236 years ago, for many Americans, it’s hard to fathom living in a town with buildings and traditions that are thousands of years old. A visit to many European cities is a well-blended mix of historical treasures with modern day necessity. I find Europe so refreshing as the people there seem to know exactly who they are and hold tight to the traditions and cultures that makes them unique.
Take a look at a couple of this summer’s shining stars:
Reasons to Visit Spain
Home to the Euro Cup Champions, Spain dominated the last two soccer cups in 2008 and 2012. The team’s fans are as passionate about their country as they are with their team. Here are a few reasons why:
Spain is known for art, architecture, beautiful beaches, Flamenco dancing, Seafood (Paella), Gazpacho, Manchego cheese, and “Jamon Serrano/Iberico” (cured ham), to name a few. From Madrid (capital) to Barcelona, Valencia, and Seville, Spain’s cities are a colorful blend of tradition and creativity and getting around the country is simple. Thanks to a newly expanded high-speed rail service you can now get from Seville to Valencia in less than four hours.
This month, thousands will flock to the streets of Pamplona for the famous Running of the Bulls.
On my list of must-see spots in Spain
Torrequebrada Hotel in Benalmadena has one of the best Flamenco shows in the country that features the world famous Carmen Mota Spanish Ballet group.
Barcelona is the spot for architecture, where visitors can marvel at masterpieces from Antoni Gaudi such as La Sagrada Familia, the most famous site in the city. His Art Noveau style is something everyone can appreciate.
Where to Stay in Spain
There are wonderful hotels and bed & breakfasts throughout Spain. Thanks to hotels.com, I found a couple of stellar deals for this summer.
The other standouts of the Euro Cup were the host cities. They shone as brilliantly as the cup itself. In Poland, events were held in Warsaw, Gdańsk, Wrocław, and Poznań. In the Ukrainian, Kiev, Lviv, Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk also hosted games.
Reasons to Visit Poland
Poland’s European roots are long, with more than a thousand years of tales and castles to explore. WWII history buffs are also well served here. Most known for its music (folk, classical/Chopin), Pierogies, Kielbasa, art and cinema; Poland’s main tourist offerings are thought to be based around city-sightseeing and extra-urban historical monuments, agrotourism, and mountain hiking.
Gdańsk is a chic medieval port city, while Warsaw is the vibrant, culturally-rich capital city. Warsaw was flattened in WWII and the country has been in a constant state of reconstruction ever since. The city’s calendar is full of street fests, art openings, and Chopin-inspired music festivals.
Where to Stay in Poland
Travel throughout Poland is surprisingly affordable with four and five-star hotels easily booked for under $100/night. Consider a stay in Warsaw at the Radisson Blu Centrum Hotel or the Residence St. Andrew’s Palace. In Poznań, spend an evening at the Sheraton Poznan Hotel.
Reasons to Visit the Ukraine
Did you know that with an area of 603,628 km², the Ukraine is the second largest contiguous country in Europe? If that’s not enough, let beauty be reason enough to venture to this central European country.
Along with cities: Kiev (capital), Kharkiv, and Odessa, the Ukraine is best known for folk music, art (woven textiles), decorative Easter eggs (“pysanky”), and architecture. The Carpathian Mountains are suitable for skiing, hiking, fishing and hunting during winter getaways and the coastline of the Black Sea is a popular summer destination for summer vacationers. The Seven Wonders of Ukraine are the seven historical and cultural monuments including Sofiyivsky Park in Uman and Kiev Pechersk Lavra (Monastery of the Caves).
Where to Stay in the Ukraine
Let the athletic events debuting on the world stage this summer motivate you to see these destinations for yourselves. Have you seen a city televised so far that you would like to visit?