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Global Treasures

International travel is back in a big way. 

Although densely populated urban centers were initially hit hardest by the pandemic, many took advantage of the drop in visitors to improve and expand their appeal. New policies — such as timed admission tickets and capacity limits on popular attractions — now make sightseeing less stressful, and pedestrian-friendly car-free areas foster leisurely, more meaningful explorations.

Cities have an undeniable allure, highlighting the best of a region’s unique offerings. And while off-the-beaten-path villages have their charm, cities act as magnets, drawing a diverse cast of chefs, artists and other creatives to create a delightful diversity for residents and tourists alike. 

Boasting everything from glorious historic architecture to cutting-edge modern art, the following cities are rolling out the welcome mat and ready to show off for visitors. So dust off your passports, pull out the suitcases, take advantage of the strongest U.S. dollar in almost 50 years and plan that dream trip today.

Cairo, Egypt

Set along the lush banks of the Nile River, Cairo (“The Victorious”) combines ancient glories and the energy of a modern metropolis. The largest Arab city in the world, bustling Cairo is the gateway to all of Egypt’s astounding antiquities, including the Great Pyramid of Giza. The pharaonic tomb was constructed more than 4,500 years ago, and of the Seven Wonders of the World, only it remains. Unsurprisingly, the city is home to the world’s largest collection of Egyptian antiquities, including the breathtaking gold funeral mask of the boy king, Tutankhamun. This and countless other treasures will soon be displayed in the newly completed Grand Egyptian Museum, opening later this year. 

But beyond the riches surviving from the ancient Three Kingdoms, Cairo also contains spectacular Roman remains such as the Babylon Fortress, the ornate mosques of Sultan Hassan and Muhammad Ali, and the Saint Sergius and Bacchus Church. An icon of Coptic Christianity, the church is said to be constructed at the resting spot of Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus, after their flight from Bethlehem. 

The city is also famed for its labyrinthine open-air shopping areas, known as souks. Browse a seemingly endless array of ornate lanterns, jewelry and souvenirs at Khan El-Khalili Souk, Cairo’s largest tourist market. As the day winds down, head to the green oasis of Al-Azhar Park, where 74 acres of gardens and fountains offer a cooling respite from the city’s frantic pace. After sunset, walk to Muizz Street, where stunning examples of Islamic architecture come alive with street food vendors offering every sort of traditional delicacy.

Québec City, Canada

For European flavor without long trans-Atlantic flights, it’s hard to beat the capital city of Montreal, a mostly French-speaking Canadian province. Located at the confluence of the St. Lawrence and Saint-Charles rivers, Québec City is the continent’s only walled city north of Mexico. Founded in 1608, the former military fortification and fur-trading outpost bursts with Old World architecture spanning more than 400 years, and the Old Quarter is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

At the Notre Dame Basilica-Cathedral, pilgrims of any faith will have a rare opportunity to step through the only Holy Door located outside Europe. Usually sealed, the contemplative spiritual passage will be open for two years beginning on December 8, 2023. Fans of military history won’t want to miss strolling the ramparts and exploring the Citadelle de Québec, where guards clad in scarlet tunics and tall bearskin hats stand watch over the largest British fort in North America.

For a fun journey and outstanding views, take a ride in the glass-enclosed cabins of the Funiculaire. The unique railway climbs 282 feet at a 45-degree angle to connect the Petit-Champlain district, where cobblestoned streets are lined with bistros and boutiques with Dufferin Terrace, near the majestic Fairmont Le Château Frontenac. If you’re lucky enough to be in the city between January and March, be sure to tour the spectacular Hôtel de Glace. Built each winter from 2,300 blocks of ice and 15,000 tons of snow, the hotel and surrounding grounds are truly a winter wonderland.

Seville, Spain

Colorful and cosmopolitan, vibrant Seville captivates everyone lucky enough to stroll her sun-soaked streets. Nestled in southwest Spain, it’s the capital of the Andalusia region, which borders the country’s scenic southern coast. This area was under Moorish control for centuries, and the Moors’ architectural influence is preserved in iconic landmarks like Granada’s Alhambra Palace, Córdoba’s Mezquita Mosque-Cathedral and Seville’s most famous structure: the Alcázar Castle. 

Built in the 10th century, the ornately tiled palace is a fairyland fortress of fountained courtyards and grand receptions areas. Originally constructed by Andalusia’s first Islamic caliphate, it remained a royal residence when Christians reconquered the region in 1248, and the modern Spanish monarchy still occupies part of the castle when they visit Seville.

The grandiosely Gothic Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See — the fourth-largest church in the world — is a must-see, especially the Capilla Mayor for its Gothic altar made of 45 panels representing the life of Christ. The cathedral is also the final resting place of explorer Christopher Columbus. In addition to glorious churches and monuments, Seville offers abundant nightlife and unparalleled cuisine. It’s particularly famous for flamenco, the folkloric dances and songs that are dramatically performed in bars and clubs throughout the city. 

Seville’s food scene is exceptional. The tasty bites known as tapas are synonymous with Spain, and in Seville they reach perfection. While amazing fare can be found throughout the city, the Mercado Lonja del Barranco has more than 20 kiosks that showcase the region’s best food. To experience a traditional market, head to the Mercado de Triana, which sits on the west bank of the Guadalquivir River, over the lovely Triana Bridge.

Athens, Greece

The oldest capital in Europe, Athens is a bucket list destination for lovers of classical antiquity and culture. Continuously inhabited since Neolithic times, Athens grew to become the center of Mycenaean civilization, its influence spreading from the commanding stronghold of the Acropolis (“high city”) across the Aegean and throughout the Hellenic world, the largest and most powerful of the Greek city-states. 

Groups can explore the city’s rich history at the splendid National Archaeological Museum, which houses artifacts from prehistory to late antiquity, including breathtaking marble sculptures, bronze works, and ceramics and jewelry of extraordinary craftsmanship. Visitors can marvel at the grandeur of the Parthenon and follow in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul at Mars Hill, where he delivered a historic sermon. 

Although the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy and philosophy, Athens also offers many modern attractions among its historic temples and ruins. The cosmopolitan metropolis is filled with charming and vibrant neighborhoods, each with its own unique appeal. 

Traditional dishes are as classic as the architecture, so feast on souvlaki, moussaka and delicious grilled seafood pulled fresh from the sparkling Aegean. Don’t forget the souvenirs — the shops and stalls along Adrianou Street (the oldest commercial street in the city) will provide a bounty of high-quality handmade gifts such as leather goods and incredibly tasty olive oils.

Cologne, Germany

Spanning the Rhine River in western Germany, Cologne is a veritable treasure trove of beauty. The 2,000-year-old city began as a Roman outpost and became a cultural and commercial powerhouse in the Middle Ages. 

The city’s crowning jewel is the medieval Catholic cathedral, a High Gothic landmark that is Germany’s most visited attraction. The tallest cathedral in the world and one of the most important Christian pilgrimage sites in Europe, the UNESCO World Heritage Site contains an outstanding collection of stained-glass windows as well as the Shrine of the Three Wise Men. 

In the historic city center, narrow cobbled lanes are lined with rows of colorful pastel houses, many now serving as boutiques and restaurants. After shopping, stroll through the expansive botanical gardens or one of the city’s beautiful parks. Art aficionados will appreciate the magnificent collection of Picassos and other 20th century masterworks on exhibit at the Museum Ludwig, while chocolate lovers will make a sweet stop at the Chocolate Museum, which celebrates the city’s famed cocoa confections.