The archipelago of Lofoten, situated in North Norway within the Arctic Circle, is renowned for its natural beauty and biodiversity, both on land and in the sea. Lofoten boasts the world’s largest deep water coral reef, Røst Reef, and is home to millions of birds, including the world's largest population of sea eagles. Moose are resident on the archipelago's largest islands, and otters are commonly seen swimming along the shoreline. Tour operators are on hand to help vistors get the most out of their time spent in Lofoten, with one of the more popular options being a trip by boat to view the sea eagles.
Glassmaking as an art form was perfected in the early-13th century on the islands of Murano in the Venetian Republic of Italy. The process was a carefully guarded secret for centuries as the glassmakers of Murano expanded their expertise to include enameled glass known as smalto, multicolored patterned glass called millefiori, milky glassed referred to as lattimo, crystalline glass, and even glass resembling gemstones so convincingly only an expert would know the difference. While time has passed and modern mass-production has replaced many traditionally made items, the glassmakers of Murano continue to use age-old techniques to expertly craft a wide variety of items, some contemporary and others in the style of a bygone, but treasured, era.
Located on the northern and eastern slopes of the Acropolis in Athens, between Monastirake square and Syntagma square, Plaka is the historical neighborhood of the city. Featuring winding streets and alleyways, lined with neoclassical architecture, draped with multi-colored bougainvillea, dotted with potted plants and bathed in old-world charm, Plaka is visited by thousands of tourists every year and is always a hive of activity. Visitors who want to learn more about the history and culture of this ancient city can visit the museums located in Plaka, including the Museum of Greek Folk Art, the Frissiras Museum, and the Museum of Popular Music Instruments.
The German city of Stralsund, located on the mainland opposite Rügen Island in the Baltic Sea, has a number of fascinating attractions and landmarks for visitors to explore. The city's medieval 'Old Town' is listed, along with nearby Wismar, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its 'outstanding universal value', and visitors will appreciate its beautifully preserved architecture, some of which dates back to the 13th century and is characteristic of Hanseatic League towns of that era. The Old Town of Stralsund was established on an oval-shaped island, and the distinguishing characteristic of its historically significant buildings is the use of fired clay brick for both practical and decorative purposes.
In 2012 France was officially listed as the most popular tourist destination in the world, with up to 83 million foreign tourists visiting its many historical, cultural and natural attractions. In addition to its many cultural treasures, such as the magnificent Palace of Versailles, Mont Saint-Michel, the Château de Chambord and the iconic Eiffel Tower, France boasts an impressive selection of reserves and conservation areas, where both local and international visitors can take time out to enjoy nature at its best in this fascinating part of Europe.
Promoted as 'The Loveliest Castle in the World', Leeds Castle in Kent was built by Robert de Crevecoeur in 1119 as a Norman stronghold. The castle was passed on to members of the de Crevecoeur family until it became the property of King Edward I in 1278. It is generally agreed that it was King Edward who created the vast lake surrounding the castle, as well as enhancing its defenses. Leeds Castle went through a number of changes through the centuries, with the last private owner being Lady Baillie, who left the castle in her will to the Leeds Castle Foundation for the benefit of the public. Lady Baillie passed away in 1974 and the castle was opened to the public in 1976.
Located on the Jutland peninsula of Denmark, Aarhus is the country's largest port and its second largest city. With a history believed to date back to the mid-first century, Aarhus has a host of fascinating historical and cultural attractions to enjoy. However, as a university city, the average age of the citizens of Aarhus makes it one of the youngest cities in Denmark and there are loads of vibrant entertainment and outdoor activities to keep both locals and visitors happy. In fact, Aarhus was named as one of the happiest destinations on the planet in the 2013 World Happiness Report by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
Established in July 1843, Antwerp Zoo is the oldest animal park in Belgium and considered to be one of the oldest zoos in the world. It was originally created as a center for the study of botanical and zoological sciences, and has actively promoted wildlife preservation with the public through special events, activities and exhibitions. The zoo continues to participate in endangered species breeding programs for a number of endangered species around the world, including the Przewalski horse, the okapi, the Congo peafowl, the bonobo, the European otter and the Knysna seahorse.