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Almeria, Spain Almeria is steeped in history. Once the major port of the Islamic Cordoba Caliphate, it is dominated by the ancient Arab fortress of Alcazaba. From here there are wonderful views over the port and the heart of the city, and especially the oddly-fortified cathedral. The corner towers once housed cannons which were used to protect the cathedral’s priceless possessions from raids by the pirates who roamed the Mediterranean in the Middle Ages. The city has several museums on subjects ranging

from the pre-history of Andalucia to modern art. In the 1960s the deserts surrounding the city were used to film westerns, notably those by the Italian director Sergio Leone. These days the Tabernas Natural Area and its old film sets, complete with saloons and ranches, are a tourist attraction.

Alta, Altafjord, Norway

Although most of the buildings in Alta are quite new – it was rebuilt after the Second World War – the area has been inhabited by the indigenous Sami people since prehistoric times. At Hjemmeluft, just outside the town, is the largest collection of rock carvings in Scandinavia, dating from 2,000 to 5,000 years ago. They are part of the Alta Museum and show scenes of hunting, with one large carving showing a boat carrying 32 hunters. The Altafjord, and the Altaelva river that runs through

Cultures of the Adriatic

the town, are said to have the best salmon fishing in the world. It’s still possible to see the fish leaping up the river, despite the construction – in the face of protests – of the 100m Altadammen in the 1970s.

Amsterdam, Netherlands Amsterdam grew up following the construction of a dam across the River Amstel. In the 17th century wealthy local merchants built elegant homes alongside the city’s many canals. Several of these houses have since been converted to apartments and hotels, with antiquarian bookshops, bars, chic boutiques and cafés at street level. There are almost 40 museums in Amsterdam and the Museum Quarter has three of the most famous: the Rijksmuseum, with important paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer and Frans Hals; the Van Gogh Museum, with over 200 paintings and 500 drawings; and the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art, with work by major European artists from Manet to Picasso. The Anne Frankhuis is where Anne Frank and her family hid from the German occupiers during the Second World War: it offers a haunting and memorable experience.

Antwerp, Belgium Antwerp is the world’s leading centre for cut diamonds, but there is more to this vibrant city than precious gems. The Royal Museum of Fine Arts is dedicated, in part at least, to Peter Paul Rubens, who lived and worked here. The museum houses his finest works, along with those of other Flemish masters. There are more than 20 other museums in the city, as well as fine buildings from throughout its historic past, excellent shops and delightful parks and gardens. The Cathedral of Our Lady, the biggest church in Benelux, was started in 1352 on the site of a 10th century chapel, but like many medieval religious buildings, took several centuries to complete. The 123m high tower can be seen from everywhere in the city – and from miles outside. The interior has four altarpieces by Rubens, as well as a marble Madonna and Child by an anonymous sculptor.

Aqaba, Jordan For more than 5,000 years the Red Sea port of Aqaba has had an important strategic and trading role. The Crusaders built a fortress here, which was rebuilt by the Mamlukes in the 16th century, and it remains one of the town’s most important landmarks. Next door to the castle is the Aqaba Archaeological Museum. Among its Rashidun, Umayyad, Abbasid and Fatimid


artefacts are findings from the ancient city of Aila, which was discovered in the 1990s. Aila was made into a major port by the Romans and later became an important Islamic centre. Within the ruins are the remains of the oldest Christian Church yet found – a mud-brick structure dating from around 300AD. Aqaba’s sandy beach has become the main

attraction for those wishing to snorkel the clear blue waters, or simply relax under a palm tree.

Århus, Denmark Sitting on Jutland’s eastern coast amid beaches and woodland, Århus is Denmark’s second-largest city, and is packed with places of interest for the visitor. Den Gamle By (The Old Town) is a wonderful open-air museum with about 80 buildings from all over Denmark, dating from the 17th- and 18th-centuries, while a trip to the Arhus Kunstmuseum is also recommended. The unique Århus Radhus (town hall) was controversial when finished by Arne Jacobsen in 1942, but some of the best views in the city are found at the top of its 60m clock-tower. The Forhistorisk Museum Moesgard houses a unique collection of prehistoric artefacts, including the town’s most famous inhabitant – 2,000-year-old Graubelle Man, found preserved in a nearby bog in 1952. It’s also well worth exploring the narrow streets of the town, enjoying a drink at one of the many bars and cafés, and finding interesting shops selling hand-made local products.

Arica, Chile A major port – it handles most of Bolivia’s exports, as well as those of northern Chile – and an increasingly popular tourist centre, Arica is dominated by El Morro. This is a massive reddish hill which is visible from everywhere in the town. While the walk to the top is strenuous the views are worth it, especially at night. There’s an interesting Morro Museum, which explains how Chile took the hill, its fort and Arica from Peru in the 1880 War of the Pacific. The small Archaeological Museum is well worth

seeing for its remarkable displays on the Chinchorro people, who lived in the area from around 6000BC. They mummified their dead – long before the Egyptians did so – and the museum has mummies discovered at the foot of El Morro in the early 1980s. On Plaza Colón is San Marcos Cathedral. This small neo-Gothic church is made of iron: it was prefabricated in France by Gustave Eiffel (of the Tower) in 1876 and carried by sea to Arica.

Arrecife, Lanzarote Arrecife is a bustling port, with the biggest fishing fleet in the Canaries. Back in the 16th and 17th centuries the city was regularly attacked by pirates: to defend against these raiders, the court of Spain built two splendid castles overlooking the harbour. Castillo San Gabriel is the older of the two, built in 1590. It now houses the island’s Ethnographic Museum, which tells the fascinating story of the original inhabitants of the island, the Gaunche. The Castillo San Jose was built to provide employment and alleviate poverty on the island following volcanic eruptions in the 1730s: as a result it became known as the Fortress of Hunger. Today it is home to the Museum of International and Contemporary Art, with a small but impressive collection of modern paintings and sculpture. Appropriately, given the name, it also has an excellent restaurant in the basement where diners enjoy panoramic views over the harbour area.

Auckland, New Zealand Auckland is the “City of Sails”, built on 50 islands, but small enough to explore on foot. This is just as well, because there is much to see in this friendly and cosmopolitan city. A good place to start is the Auckland Museum, which has excellent displays of Maori artefacts and culture, including a 20-minute

cultural performance three times a day. Kelly Tarlton’s Underworld & Antarctic Encounter is a unique aquarium in which it is possible to walk underwater in a clear plastic tunnel through shoals of fish swimming in reclaimed storm tanks. The National Maritime Museum explores a thousand years of New Zealand’s seafaring history, while for a different perspective the Stardome Observatory is a planetarium that looks at the starlit southern skies. And it’s possible to get closer with the Sky Tower – at 328 metres, the tallest structure in the country. There’s a revolving restaurant and, at 192 metres, a 1,200mm platform that the more adventurous can walk round – wearing a harness and safety line – for stunning views over the city.

Bangor, Northern Ireland Bangor has been inhabited since pre-Celtic times, and it’s one of only four places in Ireland to feature on the “Mappa Mundi” – the world map dating from 1300 which is now in Hereford Cathedral. The town has long been a popular holiday resort and there are many imposing Victorian and Edwardian buildings which were built by affluent residents who benefited from visitors coming from all over Ireland. The name of Bangor was spread throughout


western Europe by the monks from Bangor Abbey. Founded by Saint Comgall in 558AD, the Abbey has been destroyed and rebuilt many times over the years: the oldest remaining part is St Malachy’s Wall, adjacent to the old Gate Lodge. Malachy dominated church life in Ireland during the 12th century and he introduced the Augustinian Order to Bangor, as well as the use of stone for church building. The North Down Heritage Centre in nearby Castle Park has fascinating information about the Abbey and its history.

Barcelona, Spain

The Catalan capital has some of the most diverse architecture of any city in Europe. Barcelona’s buildings have Roman, Frankish and Castilian influences and every style from gothic and Renaissance to the sometimes disturbing confections of the city’s favourite son, Antoni Gaudi. His most famous building is the unfinished Sagrada Família church, a strange, almost melting building that was started in 1884, but is likely to take many more years to complete. More traditional is Barcelona Cathedral, dating from the 13th century, which dominates the tightly packed medieval streets of the Old Quarter. Previously there was a Roman temple and a mosque on this site. For many visitors, La Rambla, a pedestrianised

avenue heading down to the port, is the essence of Barcelona. There’s everything here from flower stalls to street performers, art galleries to grand buildings: watch for the Academy of Science, with its 150-year- old clock in the form of a giant watch and the Palacio de Moya with its lavish wall-paintings. There are enough museums to occupy the visitor for a week or more. Among the best are the Fundació Joan Miró, which has wonderful views of the city from the roof terrace; the Contemporary Arts Museum; and the Picasso Museum, with superb works from the early 20th century.

Basseterre, St Kitts Established by France during the early 17th century, Basseterre became part of the British Empire following the Napoleonic War, while keeping its French name. Today, it retains much of its Georgian architecture, including the domed Treasury Building on the waterfront, through which every commodity (especially sugar) used to leave St. Kitts. In the middle of town is the Circus, a roundabout built in the 19th century. In the centre is the green and bronze Berkeley Memorial Clock, a cast-iron tower with four clock faces. St. George’s Anglican Church was originally built by the French – who

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