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Pennsylvania

Philadelphia Travel Guide

With impressive food, music and art scenes, diverse neighbourhoods, and oodles of fascinating history, Philadelphia is one of the best loved cities in the US:

Endearingly known as the ‘City of Brotherly Love’ and the ‘Cradle of Liberty’, Philadelphia is a fun and interesting destination, associated with lofty and inspiring moments in the history of the US. The many famous historic attractions are the main lure for travellers, but Philadelphia really does boast something for everybody.

A holiday in Philadelphia is a delightful exercise in exploring the city’s many diverse districts: the Old City, where the Liberty Bell takes pride of place; the city centre, filled with shopping malls and museums; the Italian-flavoured South Philly; and the trendy, arty district of the North Liberties. Rich history and a lively student population combine to ensure a lively Philadelphia holiday. Regarded as one of the nation’s most dynamic destinations, a holiday in Philadelphia offers enough to please any age group.

Best time to visit Philadelphia

No matter what time of year you travel to Philadelphia there will always be a plethora of attractions to visit. In spring the city is bedecked with spectacular cherry blossoms, and summer, especially around 4th July, is especially festive with many celebrations centred in the historic district. In autumn the cultural calendar is in full swing with numerous concerts and theatrical productions. In winter it can be very cold, but this is a good time to travel to Philadelphia to take advantage of the city’s excellent shopping. Read more on Philadelphia’s Climate and Weather.

What to see in Philadelphia

-Visit Franklin Court, the former site of Benjamin Franklin’s home.

-Enjoy perusing the celebrated collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

-See the iconic Liberty Bell, displayed in the historic Independence Hall.

-Wander around the Christ Church Burial Ground, where many US leaders are buried.

What to do in Philadelphia

-Explore Philadelphia’s most visited museum, the Franklin Institute Science Museum.

-Treat the kids to a fun day at Philadelphia Zoo, the oldest zoo in the US.

-Take an excursion to Hershey’s Chocolate World, heaven for chocoholics.

-Spend a day wandering the Historic District of nearby Doylestown.

Beyond Philadelphia

Many attractions await visitors just beyond the city limits: the Brandywine Valley is full of scenic beauty as well as many cultural attractions; Dutch Country is one of the most rewarding summer road trip destinations in the US; and the famous Gettysburg National Military Park lures military history buffs.

Getting there

Philadelphia International Airport, located seven miles (11km) from downtown, is the main air traffic hub in the region, and one of the busiest airports in the US. Get more information on Airports in Philadelphia.

Did you know?

-The first American flag was designed in Philadelphia, by Betsy Ross.

-Philadelphia is considered to be one of the most haunted cities in the US.

-The first American stock exchange and the first American newspaper originated in Philadelphia.

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Pittsburgh Travel Guide

Built by hard-bitten immigrants who were drawn to her steel mills, the city of Pittsburgh is now sitting back on its laurels and offering a more leisurely and aesthetically pleasing lifestyle to residents and visitors alike. Once dubbed ‘the Smoky City’, Pittsburgh’s mills have closed down and the emphasis now is on making the most of the city’s natural beauty. Students have replaced factory workers and the smoking chimneys have been supplanted by lively restaurants, bars and museums.

Pittsburgh is finally doing justice to its situation, lying between the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers with the Allegheny Mountains in the background. No wonder the city and environs now boast the largest concentration of pleasure boats in America, while its thriving ethnic neighbourhoods surround a clean, friendly metropolitan centre filled with trees, shops, restaurants, museums, galleries and theatres. Attractions abound in this scenic city, from one of the world’s fastest continuous track roller-coasters to one of the largest single-artist museums in the United States; and from an eerie Gothic mansion to free summer concerts in a beautiful park. Pittsburgh has retained its gritty industrial charm, but has supplemented this hard-working heritage with boundless recreational possibilities and unexpected scenic nooks.

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PORTUGAL

Lisbon Travel Guide

The capital of Portugal has experienced a renaissance in recent years and has reclaimed its rightful place as the ‘golden city’ of southern Europe:

After slumbering for decades, the city’s modern, vibrant and cosmopolitan identity is today much similar to that which it enjoyed in the 15th and 16th centuries during the age of the great discoverers, when Lisbon was the centre of trade with the East and the starting point for maritime exploration of the globe.

While much is new, there is plenty of the old left to charm visitors, giving the metropolis a slightly provincial air. The medieval section of Alfama skirts the city’s São Jorge castle, and historic wooden trams ply noisily up and down steep hills past art deco cafes and mosaic-decorated pavements. Many of the relics of the city’s golden age were destroyed in an earthquake in 1755, but some survived and are popular tourist attractions, complemented now by modern sights like the futuristic Oceanarium.

Within easy reach of the city are the sandy beaches of several coastal resorts, such as Estoril and Cascais, as well as the forested areas of Sintra and attractions like the extraordinary Mafra monastery. The mood of Lisbon is light and bright, fresh and avante garde, ready to welcome the world to the doorstep as one of the great capitals of Europe.

Best time to visit Lisbon

High season for a holiday in Lisbon is a long one, the weather being inviting and clement from spring right through summer to the autumn months, with warm days often continuing right through to November. Even if you travel to Lisbon in winter you will find it mild, rather than cold, but there is often rain in winter. Read more on Lisbon’s Climate and Weather.

What to see in Lisbon

-Roam the oldest part of Lisbon, the Alfama quarter.

-Spoil the kids at the amazing Oceanario de Lisboa.

-Have a peek at one of Lisbon’s most photographed sites, the famous Tower of Belem.

-Stroll through the winding, romantic streets of the Bairro Alto district.

What to do in Lisbon

-Ride in style on the famous Tram 28.

-Take a tour of the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum.

-Listen to some live music at Lisbon’s famous Fado Bars.

-Picnic in the peaceful castle grounds of Castelo de Sao Jorge.

Beyond Lisbon

Lisbon’s city centre can keep you very busy, but be sure to save a few days for exploring its surroundings. In just an hour or two, you can discover completely different worlds, from palaces to fishing huts, beaches to vineyards, these day trips show off the many faces of Portugal. One favourite excursion, only 15 miles (25km) from Lisbon, is the one of Portugal’s oldest cities, Setúbal, as well as the gorgeous old town of Evora, which is full of fascinating historical sights. As the transport hub of the country, it is easy to reach other Portuguese cities such as Porto and Madeira from Lisbon.

Getting there

Flights to Lisbon land in Lisbon Portela Airport (LIS), situated in the municipality of Loures. Get more information on Airports in Lisbon.

DID YOU KNOW?

-Beneath the streets of Lisbon’s downtown shopping area lies a hidden Roman Underworld with chambers, rooms, bridges and corridors. However, it is only open to the public two days a year due to the dangerous conditions lurking below.

-At one of Lisbon’s classic cafés, Martinho da Arcada, there are two tables that are kept empty and are permanently ‘reserved’. One is for Fernando Pessoa (possibly Portugal’s most popular writer) and another for the Nobel laureate José Saramago (possibly Portugal’s least popular writer).

-Lisbon was practically destroyed on 1st November 1755 by a massive earthquake which hit 8.9 on the Richer scale. It took the lives of 40,000 people and could be felt as far away as Scotland and Norway.

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Porto Travel Guide

Bridges and port wine are what characterises Porto, Portugal’s gracious northern capital and second largest city after Lisbon. Porto sits astride a great gorge at the point where the River Douro enters the Atlantic. Although it is mainly industrial, the city centre has plenty of charm with art treasures, medieval cathedrals and museums. The narrow streets sport wrought-iron balconies decorated with splashes of potted geraniums.

The main reason tourists visit Porto is to sample its legendary port wine, processed, blended and aged in the various lodges of the Vila Nova da Gaia district across the river from the city, via the spectacular two-tiered Dom Luis bridge. Visitors can tour the lodges and finish up with a tasting session. The city also has an historic riverside district called Ribeira, which is undergoing restoration and has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Within easy reach of Porto are numerous coastal resorts and fishing villages along the Atlantic coastline, well known for their seafood restaurants. It is the perfect end to a day spent cruising down the River Douro, perfect for taking in the scenic splendour of the area.

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PERU

Lima Travel Guide

Notoriously foggy, noisy, and overcrowded, Lima is nevertheless an exciting and historic city, a place where many cultures and influences collide and the best of Peruvian culture, ancient and modern, can be enjoyed.

A holiday in Lima may not sound a desirable prospect if one considers it is a city of about 10 million, most of them living in poverty and pollution. The metropolis was, however, once the pride of the Spanish colonialists and retains enough history and character to tantalise and charm tourists: there are some fascinating archaeological sites and museums to investigate in and around the city, and anybody interested in the history of Andean civilisations will relish exploring Lima. The vibrant nightlife is another good reason to travel to Lima. The jazzy neighbourhood of Miraflores and its numerous clubs and bars a big drawcard for night owls. Lima has decent shopping opportunities and a fabulous restaurant scene, showcasing the increasingly sought after Peruvian cuisine. The noisy, crowded city has some lovely open spaces, and the bohemian neighbourhood of Barranco, along with the historic old town, is fun to explore on foot.

Best time to visit Lima

Lima tends to be hot and humid for most of the year, with little or no rain. The ideal months to travel to Lima are the least humid months, between March and April. From April through to December fog is common and blocks the sun.

Read more on Lima’s Climate and Weather.

What to see in Lima

– Trace the history of Peru’s ancient civilisations in the Museo de la Nacion.

– Marvel at the golden treasures of the Museo de Oro del Peru.

– Stroll around the Plaza Mayor and Plaza San Martin, the heart of Lima’s historic old town.

– See the Candelabra at Paracas National Reserve in Pisco.

What to do in Lima

– Tour the catacombs and library of the Church of San Francisco, Lima’s most spectacular church.

– Explore the Museo Rafael Larco Herrera, which contains the most impressive ancient ceramic collection in South America.

– Hike up Marcahuasi, a mountain outside Lima famous for its mysterious rock formations.

– Fly over the famous Nazca Lines, one of the most thrilling and mysterious sights in South America.

Beyond Lima

There are many fun and worthwhile excursions from Lima, and the city is the main transport hub of Peru, with regular flights and buses to the tourist centre of Cusco, and the southern attractions of Arequipa and Lake Titicaca.

Getting there

Jorge Chavez International Airport, situated 10 miles (16km) northwest of Lima, is Peru’s main airport, with direct flights to several European and American cities.

Get more information on Airports in Lima.

Did you know?

– Lima is the second largest desert capital in the world, after Cairo.

– It almost never rains in Lima; a half-hearted drizzle is all the city ever gets.

– Lima is plagued by traffic jams and rush hour can be an experience.

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PHILIPPINES

Manila Travel Guide

Manila is chaotic, polluted and thrilling; an old city but one overflowing with life, which is steadily increasing in popularity with adventurous travellers and making every effort to attract tourists:

Many who travel to Manila find that the cosmopolitan capital of the Philippines is the most exciting city in Asia, offering a blend of cultures, a good supply of historic sights and places to see, and famously friendly locals. It is an old city with a rich colonial and military history and some fantastic traditional sightseeing. Another plus for a holiday in Manila is that the city is as lively at night as it is during the day. A vacation in Manila is recommended for young, energetic travellers who enjoy sightseeing, shopping malls and plenty of after-dark activity in the city’s infamous go-go clubs and wild nightspots. Manila may be smoggy, polluted and overcrowded but it is also lots of fun!

Best time to visit Manila

Peak season for a holiday in Manila is between November and February, when the generally high tropical temperatures drop to reasonable levels. This period also falls in the dry season, which is a big consideration because during the wet season the city can be subject to typhoons and tropical storms. Read more on Manila’s Climate and Weather.

What to see in Manila

-Explore the medieval walled enclave of Intramuros, which is full of historic attractions.

-Take a guided tour of the lavish Malacanang Palace.

-Visit Manila’s oldest stone church, San Agustin.

-See the famous Taal Volcano at nearby Tagaytay City.

What to do in Manila

-Stroll around the beautifully landscaped and moving American Cemetery and Memorial.

-Eat and shop your way through Binondo, the oldest Chinatown in the world.

-Picnic in the lovely Rizal Park, the heart of Manila.

-Go scuba diving and game viewing in Subic Bay.

Beyond Manila

Manila is perfectly situated for daytrips and popular excursions from the city include visits to the fascinating Banaue region and the 16th-century Spanish town of Vigan, both on Luzon Island. The best islands to visit from Manila include historic Corregidor, stunningly beautiful Palawan, and the resort hub of Mindoro.

Getting there

The largest airport and primary gateway to the Philippines, Ninoy Aquino International Airport is situated just over four miles (7km) south of Manila. There are connecting flights to Manila from the UK and the US. Get more information on Airports in Manila.

Did you know?

-Manila was originally called Ginto, meaning Land of Gold.

-The University of Santo Tomas is 25 years older than Harvard.

-Manila is one of the most polluted cities in the world.

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POLAND

Gdansk Travel Guide

Gdansk is an important port, situated at the mouth of the Vistula River on the Baltic Sea, and throughout its history has been a major trading centre. It is the best known of the Tri-City complex that it forms with the modern seaport of Gdynia and the fashionable beach resort town of Sopot. Its turbulent history includes the rule of the Teutonic Knights in the 14th century, who then lost it to Prussia, and after the first shots of World War II were fired on the nearby peninsula of Westerplatte, it was occupied by Nazi Germany in 1939.

Like many Polish towns, Gdansk lay in ruins after the war, but it was meticulously rebuilt over a 20-year period, returning it to its former glory. The interesting architecture and beautiful painted buildings are part of the town’s historic charm, and for those interested in World War II it is a fascinating destination.

The richest architecture is visible in the historic quarter of the Main Town. Its primary thoroughfare, known as the Royal Way, is spectacular. Lined with magnificent buildings featuring beautifully painted facades and entered through grand stone gateways at either end, this was the route along which the Polish Kings paraded during their visits. The most splendid façade in town belongs to the Golden House, one of Gdansk’s most impressive buildings, along with the Town Hall and Artus Court. In front of the Court, the gathering place of the old merchants, stands the Renaissance-style Neptune’s Fountain.

Along the waterfront, with its fashionable restaurants and cafes, the huge Gdansk Crane dominates the promenade, the largest crane in medieval Europe which today houses the Maritime Museum.

Parallel to the Royal Way is Gdañsk’s most picturesque street, Mariacka Lane, lined with quaint 17th-century burgher houses with decorative steps and iron railings. The gigantic St Mary’s Church towers over the city and offers splendid panoramic views.

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Krakow Travel Guide

The only major city to escape the destruction of World War II, Krakow has one of the best-preserved medieval city centres in all of Europe. The Old Town is a significant UNESCO World Heritage Site and retains a wealth of architectural gems from different periods, with magnificent churches and aristocratic palaces lining the old streets, reminding travellers that in its glory days this city was the abode of kings and royalty.

At the heart of Krakow lies one of the grandest squares in Europe, the Old Market Square. The charming Old Town is a compact area encircled by leafy parkland that forms a green belt around the historic centre. The main entrance to the old city was through the Florian Gate, set within the original city walls, now the haunt of artists and full of galleries containing their work. With a thriving cultural life, Krakow has been home to many of the nation’s greatest writers, artists and intellectuals, and is one of the main cultural centres in the country, a spirited city with personality and charisma.

Overlooking the city is Wawel Hill, topped by the striking Royal Castle and Cathedral, the seat of Polish kings for seven centuries and the symbols of Polish national history. Also important is the city’s Jewish roots, and the history of one of the great Jewish centres in Europe can clearly be seen in the old ghetto area of Kazimierz, and starkly remembered in the memorial death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau, west of Krakow.

Situated on the banks of the Vistula River, Krakow is also a modern city, the second largest in Poland, and an important university centre boasting the oldest university in Europe. The large student population creates a lively atmosphere and a vibrant nightlife. Countless cafes and outdoor restaurants surround the cobbled main square. The unique atmosphere of this medieval city has made it one of Poland’s most popular tourist destinations.

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Warsaw Travel Guide

As the capital of Poland, Warsaw was one of the most beautiful and sophisticated cities in central Europe until it was almost totally destroyed during the Nazi occupation of World War II. The end of the war saw most of the city reduced to rubble and ruins, and large swathes of the population killed or interred in Nazi concentration camps. The city underwent a major rejuvenation project following this havoc, and the buildings in the heart of the old city were meticulously restored.

Warsaw is divided into two distinct halves by the Vistula River, with the Old Town, the modern city centre and most of the tourist attractions on the western side. The eastern side of the river is comprised mostly of uninteresting residential suburbs and business districts. Today Warsaw presents a modern urban landscape of high-rise buildings, and the years of communist rule have left an uninspiring architectural legacy of drab concrete structures and uniform prefab-style housing.

Although many people give scant regard to Warsaw as an appealing tourist destination, it is still Poland’s largest city and the political, economic, scientific and cultural hub of the country. It has many museums and historical monuments, galleries and historic attractions, a variety of restaurants and open-air cafes, and an energetic nightlife. With green open spaces and classical music concerts, this modern, bustling city is a far cry from the severe communist-era images of post-war Warsaw, which still dominate the global imagination. Visitors to Warsaw will find a resilient and captivating city with lots to offer.

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PUERTO RICO

San Juan Travel Guide

The capital city of Puerto Rico, San Juan is one of the busiest ports in the Caribbean and a third of all Puerto Ricans live here. Nearly every visitor to the island arrives at San Juan, many on cruise liners. The port is the largest home-based cruise port in the world, hosting 28 vessels and with more being added to the list each year.

San Juan is divided into three distinct districts: Old San Juan, the historic walled city; the beach and resort area; and the outlying suburbs. Tourists are concerned mainly with Old San Juan, the site of most restaurants, shops, entertainment venues and the beaches. The old city is linked to the new by the largely residential Puerta de Tierra area, and a series of modern highways leading to the Condado beach front, which is reminiscent of Florida’s Miami Beach with its high-rise hotels and apartment blocks.

It is not only tourism that keeps the financial mills grinding in San Juan. The city is an important centre for petroleum and sugar refining, brewing and distilling, and the manufacturing of cement, pharmaceuticals, metal products and tobacco products. In the midst of all the hustle and bustle there are numerous attractions in San Juan to amuse, entertain and interest the many tourists, and the city is a perfect base for exploring the rest of what this small Caribbean island has to offer.

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