Listed City Guide - B
Alavi Travel > Listed City Guide – B



Nassau Travel Guide

Known for its warm breezes, sunny skies and sugary, white beaches, Nassau’s turbulent past is quite different from the serenity its imagery brings to mind. The capital of the Bahamas, and the largest city, part Nassau’s allure comes from its notorious inhabitants of old. Once a lair and refuge for pirates, Nassau was home to famous plunderers such as Blackbeard. However, by 1720 most of the pirates were ultimately killed or driven out by the British. In the following years Nassau would burn to the ground three times at the hands of the Spanish.

Today, the island’s close proximity to the US gives Nassau a distinctly American flavour. This bustling hub of a city is a delightful and colourful blend of old world and colonial architecture juxtaposed with a busy, modern port. Nassau draws attracts visitors with its beautifully preserved Victorian buildings, 18th-century fortresses and the Queen’s Staircase, the 66 steps of which lead to the most breathtaking view over the whole of Nassau – a must for any visitor! Plant enthusiasts should visit the Royal Victorian Garden, which has more than 300 species of tropical plants and exotic creatures. Enthusiastic shoppers, on the other hand, would be well-advised to look out for great bargains at the Straw Market on Bay Street. Alternatively visitors can relax by spending an idle afternoon watching a cricket game at one of the many local sports grounds. After dark, Nassau comes alive with a rowdy bar and club scene, and the scent of fresh seafood permeates the air in the Fish Fry district.

This stunning city can also add at least four famous supporting roles in the movies to its resume, as the setting in three James Bond pictures, as well as the Beatles film ‘Help!’. With the bright lights of casinos, posh resort hotels and cruise liners, Nassau is overflowing with variety, colour, and entertainment. A favourite holiday destination for active adventurers and beach bums alike, Nassau has something to offer everyone.

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Manama Travel Guide

First mentioned in Islamic chronicles in the year 1345, historical Manama is now the capital and largest city of Bahrain, at the north-eastern tip of the Persian Gulf island state. There is a strong colonial influence in the area, with Portuguese occupation in 1521 followed by Persian dominance in 1602. This lovely city is a great base from which to enjoy the stunning beaches, buildings and sites in the area.

The economy of Manama was traditionally based on pearling, fishing, boat building and trade, displays of which can now be seen in local museums. In 1932 the discovery of petroleum boosted the city’s economy, which has recently diversified into tourism and retail.

Open-minded and tolerant of other cultures, Manama is visited by a large number of foreigners each year. These visitors can enjoy a vast array of attractions, from souks (markets) and shopping malls to forts and pearl museums, as well as the friendly nature of the locals. There is also an active nightlife with many popular restaurants, bars and clubs to choose from, making this a splendid vacation destination.

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Bridgetown Travel Guide

Bridgetown, originally called ‘Indian Bridge’, is the capital and commercial centre of Barbados, with about 80,000 inhabitants. It is a busy port with a natural harbour inlet, known as the Careenage, and is well utilised by pleasure craft and fishing boats.

Bridgetown has a long and colourful history as a British settlement from the 17th century. A bustling city with many attractions for travellers, its mix of modern and historic buildings are interspersed with markets, monuments, and a number of lush gardens.

The main street, Broad Street, is where one finds banks, department stores and duty-free shops. At the top of Broad Street is the Parliament Building (the Barbados Parliament is the third oldest in the Commonwealth, dating from 1639), facing National Heroes Square. Bridgetown is home to a number of historical buildings that will interest visitors, including the Garrison Historic Area, which is a must-visit for military history buffs.

Another attraction in Bridgetown is a massive Baobab tree (said to have been brought to the island from Guinea, Africa around 1738). It takes 15 adults with outstretched arms to encircle the trunk. Also, just north of Bridgetown is the historic settlement of Holetown. Every year around mid-February, this little town comes alive when the creative and colourful Holetown Festival takes place, featuring historical lectures, fashion shows, beauty contests, street parades, tattoo shows, exhibitions, concerts, theatrical presentations, sporting events and an antique car parade.

Tourists in Bridgetown will find much to see and do: cricket games at Kensington Oval, which hosted the 2007 Cricket World Cup; the Barbados Derby at the racetrack in the Garrison area; and many other events and activities. A range of duty-free shops near the harbour sell staples like Mount Gay Rum, while more colourful shopping options include the Cheapside Market and the Swan Street pedestrian mall. Local restaurants in the Careenage serve up fresh lobster and fish with Caribbean flair.

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Minsk Travel Guide

Dating back to the 10th century, Minsk, capital of Belarus, is one of Europe’s oldest cities, but it presents a surprisingly modern aspect today, with most of its historic buildings having been flattened during World War II. After the war, during the 1950s, Minsk was rebuilt as a showpiece Soviet city, and little has changed since then. Scrupulously neat wide boulevards and squares lined with grandiose block-style buildings, interspersed with war memorials and Soviet symbols, set the backdrop for this city which is home to about two million people, on the banks of the Svisloch River.

Visitors to Minsk will find it hard not to be struck by the simple pride and joy the local citizens take in their city, which is outwardly quite austere but features interiors which are a somewhat ‘over-the-top’ attempt at modern sophistication. There are nightclubs and casinos full of mirrors and lights; restaurants with steel and glass levels; theatres oozing baroque both on and off-stage; and a variety of incredibly themed health spas (called ‘saunas’) where waterfalls cascade into indoor pools. It all adds up to a fascinating experience, which visitors either love or hate, but cannot fail to appreciate.

The present of Minsk is interesting, but so is the past. Because of its central eastern location between Poland and Ukraine, this city has been a European battleground over the centuries, suffering at the hands off the Russian Tsar’s troops in the 1600s, Peter the Great and Sweden in the 1700s, Napoleon, and then Hitler. Perhaps it is not surprising that the city is seemingly content under communism-inspired rule after all it endured from imperialism.

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Brussels Travel Guide

Brussels has become a bustling centre for bureaucrats and businessmen and is a thriving cosmopolitan metropolis; one very much enjoyed by those who visit it. The buildings in the city are a charming mix of architectural styles, and there are several museums of interest throughout. When in Brussels, travellers can experience the beauty of the art and architecture, admire the beautiful Grand Place, marvel at the bizarre sight of the Manneken-Pis statue, and spend time shopping for traditional souvenirs such as Belgian chocolate and lace.

When within the 14th-century walls of the city centre, visitors are seldom left without something to see, do or admire. The National Opera House is certainly a favourite and many other theatres host a variety of events and concerts for those wanting to experience some high culture. There are also an array of restaurants offering memorable cuisines, and there is also always the opportunity to have a drink or two in any one of the lively bars located near the Grand Place.

An effervescent city, Brussels is a metropolis of museums, history, and architecture among Europe’s finest. Offering something for everyone to enjoy, Brussels is certainly worth the trip.

Best time to visit Brussels

Brussels’ climate is fairly temperate, which means that the city is amiable for tourists all year round, but the best time to visit is probably between March and May, and between September and October. During these months the weather is pleasant and room rates are cheaper. Crowds also tend not to dominate top attractions at this time of year, making it ideal. Be sure to keep an umbrella with you, no matter the time of year, because Brussels can experience all four seasons in a day, and rain is a possibility throughout the year. Read more about Brussels’ Climate and Weather.

What to see in Brussels

-The beauty that is the Grand Place, its cobbled streets and its magnificent Neo-Gothic buildings and museums are all a must-see for visitors of Brussels.

-The Manneken-Pis, thought to be the Eiffel Tower of Brussels, is a wonderful sight and one not to be missed when in the city.

-See the beautiful pieces in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts; a must for any lover of fine art.

-Appreciate the early architecture of the ancient Hotel de Ville, a historic site with its foundations laid in 1402.

What to do in Brussels

-Take a tour of the Palais Royal during the summer months when it is open to the public and see its fantastic State Rooms, the Throne Room and much more, all of which are impressive sights.

-Check out The Museum of Cacao and Chocolate and indulge in some of Belgium’s finest and most adored chocolate treats!

-Take a trip to one of Brussels’ water parks, such as Walibi Belgium, where dozens of slides and rides can be enjoyed in those warm summer months.

-Spend an afternoon at the Galeries Royales Saint Hubert which is said to be the very first shopping arcade in Europe and opened in 1847. Here visitors can shop galore and even catch some theatre or a film.

Beyond Brussels

Belgium is a small and densely-populated country, which makes getting around it fairly simple. With an efficient and accessible transport system too, travelling and exploring Belgium is generally a hassle-free endeavour. From Brussels, travellers can take a trip to nearby Antwerp, which is certainly a must-see for those in search of in-depth culture in the form of Gothic and Baroque architecture, churches, museums and galleries. Bruges, Belgium’s most popular tourist destination, is also a short trip from Brussels and is considered Europe’s best-preserved medieval city.

Getting there

International flights to the city will generally land in Brussels International Airport, located eight miles (13km) northeast of the city centre. While there is another airport further out of the city, the Brussels Charleroi Airport, majority of flights will land at Brussels International. From the airport visitors can either take a taxi, shuttle service, or express train to the heart of the city and beyond. Brussels’ accessible and efficient public transport means visitors should not experience much difficulty navigating and reaching their destination. Read more about airports in and around Brussels here.

Did you know?

-Brussels occupies an area measuring 161.4 square kilometres (62.2 sq.mi) and a majority of its residents speak Flemish Dutch or French.

-About 27 percent of the residents of Brussels are not Belgium citizens.

-Brussels is a major trader of beer, waffles and chocolate. There are over 800 brands of beer on sale in Brussels alone.

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Hamilton Travel Guide

Bermuda’s pretty pastel-shaded capital, Hamilton, named after a former Governor, hustles and bustles with local shoppers and keen sightseers every day of the week. Although it is officially a city, boasting a massive 19th century neo-Gothic cathedral, it is the size of a town and is inhabited by approximately 15,000 people. The population swells appreciably with the frequent arrival of cruise ships that berth next to Hamilton’s main thoroughfare, Front Street, stretching along the harbour. Front Street also boasts a ferry terminal, a parade area and countless shops, restaurants and taverns. Most visitors linger at any one of the restaurants along the stretch and enjoy the harbour views or watch the passersby from the decorative balconies.

The mood is relaxed and amiable. Throughout the town British influences have blended comfortably with the casual island style. Visitors can explore elegant buildings like the Royal Yacht Club and Historical Museum, or take a ride in a quaint horse-drawn carriage. Hamilton’s pride is the Georgian-style Sessions House, on Church Street. It dates back to 1815 and serves as Bermuda’s House of Assembly and Supreme Court. It is also worth visiting Fort Hamilton, particularly for the splendid views it offers of the city, harbour and Gibb’s Hill Lighthouse. At midday every Monday shows are staged with bagpipers and traditional dancers.

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La Paz Travel Guide

The air is indeed rare in La Paz, the world’s highest capital city, which stands at two and a half miles (4km) above sea level. La Paz is built in a kind of natural bowl: around the rim one might find small industry and workshops, while the inside slopes are scattered with houses, and the bottom is the dense city centre. Inside this hyperbolic mountain city, travellers will be met by all manner of contradictions from soaring, efficient airlifts to choking diesels engines in congested traffic, and shimmering hotel façades opposed dark alleys and ramshackle brickwork.

Rising up in the background is the most well-known of Bolivia’s lofty peaks, Illimani, which rises to 21,188 feet (6,500m) and dominates the view from inside the city. However, one of the best views to be had from above the city on the new cable car commuter network (Mi Teleférico), which is the highest and longest network of its kind in the world and connects El Alto to La Paz.

More than a million people live in La Paz, adding colour, culture and vibrancy to the city. As a result, one of the most rewarding (and least exhausting) activities is people-watching. Andean women dress in brightly coloured, multi-layered skirts and thick, knee-length stockings with bowler hats perched jauntily on their heads; smartly dressed businessmen and scruffy street urchins wrapped in woven blankets, shoe shiners and fruit sellers, trinket vendors and alpaca wool weavers all mingle together to stitch together La Paz’s social fabric. For the more active, there are plenty of walking tours on offer both in and outside of the city. The truly adventurous might try the ‘Death Road’ mountain biking tour, which involves a two hour trip from Bolivia’s capital.

The city also offers interesting museums, modern and comfortable hotels, and is an excellent place to purchase authentic local souvenirs. Beautiful hand-spun alpaca wool products, paintings, and handcrafted silver jewellery are just some of the many things on offer.

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Potosi Travel Guide

UNESCO declared Potosi a World Heritage Site because of its rich history and colonial-era Spanish architecture. Potosi is known as the Imperial City and is situated at the foot of Cerro Rico (Rich Mountain), famed for its wealth of silver deposits. It was because of these rich deposits that the city was founded by the Spanish in 1545. Potosi went on to become the largest city in the Americas, but fell into sharp decline once much of the silver had been plundered.

The architecture is undoubtedly Potosi’s main attraction, with a distinct Spanish influence evident in the houses and beautiful churches. There are an astounding 80 colonial churches in the city, filled with art and artefacts from the city’s long history. Arguably the most notable of these are the Convent of San Francisco and the Convent of Santa Teresa.

A visit to the city is nicely complemented by a tour of one of the cooperative mines of Cerro Rico, where miners, often working in appalling conditions, chip away at the rock walls in the hope of riches to come. Though very interesting, the mines are emotionally harrowing and there are physical risks involved, but exploring them remains a very popular activity for adventurous visitors.

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Gaborone Travel Guide

Gaborone, the capital city of Botswana, may not be big on tourist attractions but it is a vibrant, if small, modern city which is home to several international hotels (two with casinos) and all the souvenir shops, restaurants and services that visitors, who are drawn to the country for the abundant wildlife, will need. There are also a few sights to see and excursions to enjoy for those who only have a day or two in which to experience the country.

Pride and joy of Gaborone is its University and National Museum, which features some outstanding exhibits. One of the most striking buildings is Orapa House, where Botswana’s diamonds are sorted and dispatched to markets around the world.

The old part of the city, known as the ‘Village’, is where one finds remnants of Botswana’s colonial history, such as the remains of the old Government Rest House, where the infamous Jameson Raid was believed to have been planned and where Cecil John Rhodes sometimes stayed.

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Rio De Janeiro Travel Guide

Bikinis on the beach, samba in the streets, a stunning mountainous backdrop, and a rainforest within city limits… how many more reasons can there be to book a holiday in Rio de Janeiro, the vibrant heart of Brazil?

Best known for its feisty annual Carnival, thought to be the biggest party in the world, Rio is a fun, sexy city irresistible to party-people. All year round, the Rio nightlife is lively, and those missing Carnival needn’t worry that they won’t experience the legendary energy of the locals. Of course, a holiday in Rio de Janeiro is also perfect for sultry sun-lovers, with 62 miles (100km) of beaches flanking the city. Travellers will find a booming restaurant scene and a rich and varied culture in Rio de Janeiro, with museums and galleries enough to please any committed sightseer, not to mention iconic urban landmarks.

Best time to visit Rio de Janeiro

Rio rocks all year round, with holiday beach weather the order of the day almost every day of the year. It is therefore always a good time to travel to Rio de Janeiro, but party people are particularly attracted to travel to Rio for Carnival, held annually in January or February, when the samba schools parade through the streets in their brilliant costumes. Travellers should note that the peak summer months (December to February) can be very hot and humid in Rio. Read more on Rio de Janeiro’s Climate and Weather.

What to see in Rio de Janeiro

-Stand with the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue and take in beautiful Rio.

-Catch a soccer game at the celebrated Estadio do Maracana.

-Enjoy Ipanema’s glorious beaches and feisty nightlife.

-Explore Santa Teresa, a charming, maze-like old district.

What to do in Rio de Janeiro

-Shop and sunbathe in the famous coastal neighbourhood of Copacabana.

-Tour one of the colourful favelas, like Rocinha, for a taste of how the locals live.

-Ride the cable car up Sugar Loaf for the best views of the city.

-Make an excursion to the many islands of Angra dos Reis.

Beyond Rio de Janeiro

As the city is blessed with rainforests and gorgeous beaches, as well as diverse urban attractions, it is easy to spend a whole holiday in Rio de Janeiro, but those wanting to explore farther afield will find that the nearby Buzios Peninsula boasts some very popular beach resorts. Though farther away, the Iguacu Falls of southern Brazil are also a popular excursion from Rio.

Getting there

Galeao Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport, commonly known as Galeao International Airport, is one of the busiest airports in Brazil and underwent significant improvements for the 2014 World Cup. The airport is located 13 miles (20km) from downtown Rio de Janeiro. Get more information on Airports in Rio de Janeiro.

Did you know?

-Christ the Redeemer has been named one of the seven wonders of the modern world.

-At least 20 percent of Rio de Janeiro’s population live in the poverty-stricken favelas.

-Rio has more than 46 miles (74km) of bicycle trails, mostly along the beaches.

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Salvador Da Bahia Travel Guide

Salvador de Bahia is Bahia state’s capital city (locals generally abbreviate its name to Salvador or simply Bahia). Salvador was founded in 1549, quickly becoming the premier city in Brazil and the second most important city in the Portuguese Empire after Lisbon. Salvador prospered in the 17th and 18th centuries; it was the country’s major port and a significant portion of the sugar from the northeast and gold and diamonds from the mines in the southeast passed through the city.

Today, the wealth of impressive colonial architecture is evidence of the city’s rich history. Between the modern tower blocks, well-restored enclaves of the old city remain with cobblestone streets, colourful mansions and dozens of ornate Baroque churches. The São Francisco Church and Convent, a high-baroque cathedral located in downtown Salvador, has to be seen to be believed. Funded by the sugar barons of the area, and built between 1708 and 1723, the cathedral’s interior is literally plastered with gold, while precious stones and Sistine Chapel-like paintings adorn the ceiling. Most churches are open to the public and many have been turned into museums.

The spicy atmosphere of this delightfully decadent city is best soaked up on foot, within the narrow streets and in the markets, the best of which is the Mercado Modelo arts and crafts market. One of the city’s more unusual experiences is to ride the Elevador Lacerda, an Art Deco structure housing old electric elevators that carry passengers between the port and the old historic part of the town, on the hill.

Visitors are spoilt for choice when deciding which of Salvador’s excellent beaches to visit. The range extends from calm coves ideal for swimming, sailing and underwater fishing, such as Porto da Barra beach, to wild beaches facing the Atlantic Ocean, such as Aleluia beach, which attracts many surfers. Some beaches are surrounded by coral reefs, forming natural swimming pools that are ideal for children. The beautiful beaches are the location for many of Salvador’s great festivals, including the performances and fireworks of the New Year festivities.

Salvador is Brazil’s most Africanised state, a result of the thousands of slaves that were brought here 400 years ago to work in the sugarcane plantations, and the Museu Afro-Brasileira is dedicated to this history and culture. The fusion of African and Latin cultures has given Salvador a unique brand of magic that is particularly evident at the city’s many festivals, most notably the massive Carnival in mid-November, which attracts two million revellers from all over the world and is said to rival the famous Rio Carnival.

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Sao Paulo Travel Guide

Originally a mission station set up in 1554 by Jesuit priests on the banks of the Rio Tiete, the city of Sao Paulo is today an awesome megalopolis, the industrial and commercial powerhouse of Brazil. The city grew wealthy on coffee cultivation in the mid-19th century, thanks to the rich soil of the region, and the plantation owners took up residence in the bustling regional centre. Gradually the coffee barons diversified their interests and invested some of their wealth in local industry, resulting in a demand for labour and a resultant surge in immigrant population. Today, 16 million proud Paulistanos live in the congested, chaotic and cosmopolitan city centre and its sprawling surrounds.

Lacking in natural attractions, the city’s leisure pursuits are mainly cultural and artistic, and there are some impressive public buildings to delight sightseers, as well as some top-notch museums, theatres, bars, and some of the best shopping in Brazil. Neighbourhoods like Bela Vista and Bixiga are very photogenic, with both ornate mansions and impressive skyscrapers. Sao Paulo is a fast-paced urban jungle, which dwarfs New York City in size several times over, so a holiday in Sao Paulo is not for those who come to South America for laid-back beaches and sunshine. However, it is a paradise for shopping, eating, nightlife, and generally living it up among Brazil’s wealthiest inhabitants.

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Sofia Travel Guide

Located in the Sofia Valley, the capital city of Bulgaria lies at the foot of the imposing Mount Vitosha, and is the centre of the country’s political, economic and cultural life.

Founded over 7,000 years ago around numerous hot and cold mineral springs, which are still operating today, the fortunes of Sofia have flourished and declined along with the variety of civilisations who have made it home. It is one of the oldest settlements in Europe and numerous archaeological, cultural and historical monuments from its rich Thracian, Byzantine, Roman, Slav and Turkish history have been preserved among the modern edifices. The blend of the new and the old lends a charming quality to the capital, which is known to be a very attractive city.

Despite its modern, cosmopolitan nature, Sofia has a laid back atmosphere and the proximity of Mount Vitosha, offering myriad recreational opportunities on the city’s doorstep, adds to the relaxed feel of the city. Like any distinguished European capital, Sofia also has a wealth of museums and galleries, and boasts plenty of cultural entertainment.

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