A tour of Europe’s three most beautiful cities is a travel adventure that will yield a lifetime of happy memories

They are, quite simply, places anyone with a sense of travel and wonderment must visit at least once in a lifetime. Do them together in one trip and pinch yourself; you’ve just been blessed. Prague, Vienna and Venice: Three of the most fascinating cities in the world.
In the heart of central Europe lies the city of Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. Prague’s charm is world renowned.

It’s historic district, at the center of which lies the brilliantly preserved Jewish quarter, is one of the finest examples of baroque architecture anywhere. A walk across the Charles Bridge, with its famous statues, buskers and people selling various wares, is an experience simply not to be missed.

Once across you’ll meander your way up the hill to enjoy a stunning view of the city prior to entering the famous Prague Castle that overlooks the city. Here, you will absolutely want to spend time in the Cathedral, one of the finest examples of gothic architecture in all of Europe. From there you’ll continue on through the grounds of the castle to Golden Lane, featuring Lilliputian style homes where none other than native son, Franz Kafka, had a home.

Finally, you’ll make your way back down the hill; across the Charles Bridge once again, and perhaps kiss that special someone traveling with you. Once back you’ll make your way to any of the myriad cafés or restaurants in the historic district where, over a coffee or famous Czech beer (Pilsner of course), you’ll talk about the fairytale that is Prague and how happy you are to be living it.
If Prague is a poem, a quaint fairy tale, then the city a few hours drive south in Austria is a novel of epic proportion. Close your eyes for a moment and just let these names sink in to your subconscious: Hapsburg, Mozart, Schnitzler, Freud, Strauss, Beethoven, and Schubert.

Now open your eyes, you’re in Vienna, the place all those famous names called home. It is a capital of capitals, a mecca of cultural meccas, a city of unrivaled master planning. Unlike Prague, you can stay in Vienna quite a while and still not see and do all there is to see and do. So let’s assume you’re a first timer and you’ve only got a few days, knowing you’ll need to come back. What do you take in?

First and foremost, you need to set yourself up in a hotel near the Ring. That’s the Ringstrasse, the majestic, simply awe-inspiring boulevard that encircles the historic part of the city. Constructed in the late 19th century, it is on this boulevard, or just off it, where you’ll find many of the finest attractions in Vienna: The Stats Opera, the Kunsthistoriche Museum, The Natural History Museum, the Hapsburg Palace, the pedestrian mall known as the Graben, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, The University of Vienna, The Stadt Park, The Belvedere Palace, the Nash Mark (open air flee market), the Imperial Hotel,

The Sachar Hotel (yes, home to the world famous torte) and of course, don’t EVER forget the world famous Viennese cafés (Mozart, Schwarzenberg, Landtmann, et al.). In two or three days you can visit all of these sites. There’s of course the Schonbrun Palace, the Wiener Vald (The Vienna Woods, with its wine gardens) and of course the famous Prater (the ferris wheel you’ll recall from Orson Welle’s brilliant film, The Third Man). However, save those for another trip, or if you’re staying long enough, they’ll make your Vienna experience that much more fulfilling. But if you come away from Vienna having seen an opera, walked along the Ring and sipped a coffee over Sachar torte with a loved one, you can at least say you’ve been to Vienna.

Don’t fly home yet. Hop on a train, or take your car across the Austrian countryside, and let your mouth drop as you cross the Alps into Italy. Pinch yourself again when you cross the lagoon off the Italian mainland into arguably the most unique city in the world, Venice. Again, a city probably best visited outside the summer season, if only to avoid the crowds and the stench of the lagoon. Venice is definitely for lovers, for art aficionados, and definitely for admirers of architecture.

But if you’re none of the above and flying solo, Venice will knock your socks off. Take it all in. Walk as much as your feet will let you. Drink a ton of espresso – go for it! Stop at every nook and cranny where water and building meet. Marvel at how the city functions.

Not to be missed? Obviously a boat ride down the Grand Canal. Of course, you’ll probably want to do it in a gondola if you’re there for romance. But it’s expensive. You’ll either want to get off at the famous Rialto Bridge and walk to the Piazza San Marco or you can get off right there. Either way, the Piazza is one of those places you’ve seen a zillion times in movies and pictures. But to be there in person is truly special. It’s everything you imagine it to be. The view of the lagoon is spectacular, the architecture is breathtaking. The palace of the Doge is a tour you simply must spend time doing (the dungeons!).

Should you feed the pigeons in the square and let them sit on you like you’re a scarecrow? Your call. I preferred taking a picture of someone else doing it while sipping coffee at one of the outdoor cafés in the square.

Venice is truly one of those cities that you just want to soak up as much as you can because you simply never, ever want to forget it. One thing to know about Venice is that some of the surrounding islands in the lagoon are interesting to spend a day or two visiting if you have the time. Murano is home to the famous glass blowers. The art and craft of blowing glass here is world famous and a real treat to behold. Burano is the home of the world famous lace. I personally didn’t go but I hear it’s something special.

And of course Lido is the narrow strip of land where the world famous Venice Film Festival takes place annually and the beaches are a great place to spend an afternoon during a hot Italian summer day. What’s also nifty about Lido is that you can actually drive a car on the island. After spending so much time on boats it is a little disorienting to get off at Lido and avoid getting hit by a car.

Visiting each one of these awesome cities should be a highlight of anyone’s travel life. To visit the triumvirate over the course of two weeks or so is a gift that you’ll remember forever. Scale of one to ten? Eleven.

Editor’s Note: Ben Gonshor is the Director of Marketing for the Leanor and Alvin Segal Theatre, and a frequent (and popular) travel contributor to The Montrealer.

Related Posts