France, Switzerland and Austria. Out of the delectable European buffet spread on the atlas, I picked these three. Whether it’s food or landscape nothing came close to it and these were the only points on my agenda, along with just drifting along at a ‘ …merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream’ pace. Here are the highlights of this highly recommended vacay.
Did you know that France receives 82 million foreign tourists annually? Must say these 82 million certainly know a good destination! France is a magnet for romantics, for food lovers, for art and culture aficionados, wine connoisseurs and for those who simply love the good life. Places that are a must-visit in France? Here goes.
Going to France and not visiting Paris is like…well, nothing I can think of…it’s unthinkable! Paris is, was and will remain the Mecca of glamour, fashion, art and culture. The best place to see it all are on the streets of Paris. Amble along, dropping in at the roadside cafes and drink in the delicious ambience and marvel at the jaw dropping architecture you will find at every turn. Walk around Montmarte for that sweet and simple small town ambience and move on to the happy buzz of the Grand Boulevards and Opera Garnier. Walk in and out of Paris’ beautiful, famous parks, indulge in people watching, glide along the Seine River. Marvel at the Louvre, Pantheon and Arc de Triomphe and see the star the Eiffel Tower by day and night. It’ll be a much cherished memory.
Marseille is one of the oldest cities of Europe, it is also France’s second largest city. Located off the southeast coast of France, it is a big seaport. What does it have for you? Roman ruins, medieval architecture and is a hub of French culture. The heart of Marseille is its old port which is largely about its two forts, along this harbor are cafes, shops, and bars, all along the water front. Its biggest draw however, is the Calanques, a succession of small inlets which prides itself on its sapphire blue water and spectacular limestone cliffs.
The third largest city in France, Lyon is known for its wonderful food, ticking culture scene and marvelous architecture. Eat and walk are the two best things to do here.
Strasbourg is the seat of the European Parliament and other significant buildings like the European Court of Human Rights and the Council of Europe. Gothic architecture, museums, beautiful cafes and a 300-year-old, still working clock are just some of the things you should catch during your stay here.
If you have wining and dining on your mind, without a moment’s hesitation head to Loire valley. The picturesque vineyards in addition to its other beautiful attractions will get you high. Make sure you don’t trip on the wine tasting sessions!
If you’ve grown up on a steady diet of romance movies By Yash Chopra, then you must be pretty familiar with the beauty of Switzerland. He has been credited with the increase of Indian tourists in this beautiful Alpine nation. If you are a fan, please visit Interlaken and pay your respects to his statue which was installed there by the Swiss government. Best part about this Alpine nation is that its small and you don’t have to spend most of your time getting to your destination, its excellent public transport system only makes it better. Here’s what you should do there:
Unarguably the most photographed mountain in the world, Matterhorn in Zermatt is the single reason why most people get here. Standing at a majestic 4,478 metres it calls mountaineers from all over, there are some who’ve scaled its peak too. The highest cable car station in the Alps makes for a wonderful cable car trip and it transports the skier in you to surrounding mountains. Summer hikes is another must-do.
Chateau de Chillon in Montreux is where most tourists throng, let that not keep you away, for you will deprive yourself of seeing a 400 year old water fortress that was the centre for the counts of Savoy. Its halls are filled with 14th century art, exquisite period furniture and other relics of history in an impeccable state. There are 25 buildings in all and three courtyards, all accessible by boat, bus or by foot. Make this a must-do.
A beautiful fairy land, for those seeking adventures and quiet. The verdant meadows and curving mountain paths make for ideal posters for this beautiful country. The 3 monoliths only adds to the picturesque charm. Jungfrau, Monch and Eiger. Interlaken is in the heart of Jungfrau and is a popular first stop for tourists touring this region. You can take off to all the popular spots from here.
Zernez has the honour of having the only national park of Switzerland. The unique highlight of this national park is that it’ll show you how the Alps were before tourism. Schweizerscher National Park has a whopping 172 sq kms of virgin green, waterfalls, thick woods…make sure you do this spot. There are 21 hiking routes within the park, giving you ample opportunities to see its flora and fauna.
Lugano is to put it simply – Awesome. Heavy with Italian influence, it is dotted with charming and romantic villas and fantastic cuisine. Museums and heritage sites abound here and once there you will know why its dubbed the Monte Carlo of Switzerland.
Austria is steeped in scenic beauty and culture. Austria is a paradise for hikers and skiers and the pilgrimage for music lovers. It is the birthplace of classical composer Mozart and the residence of the Von Trapp family (The Sound of Music). So here’s what you do in Austria:
One of the most popular holiday spots of Austria, Worthersee is Carinthia’s biggest lake. You can either canoe across the lake, check out the beautiful caves or just visit cathedrals. The Cathedral of Gurk of 12th century is certainly worth a visit. Culinary pleasures, museums, old towns and priceless farmer’s markets, there’s something for everyone.
- When you are in Bad Gastein, just breathe deep! Breathe in the pure, mountain air, have a good soak in the hot springs and indulge yourself in the best of spas. If this doesn’t rejuvenate you, nothing will!
The leading ski resort of Austria, St Anton is located in Tyrol, a beautiful little village. Perfect for winter holidays its perfect for trekking in summers too.