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Acclaimed for their medical benefits since 1522, 200 spa houses had sprung up in this picturesque valley by the end of the 16th century. Its curative springs have won fame as the answer to a slew of metabolic and gastric difficulties. Today’s treatments range from aquatherapy to drinking the mineral-rich water.
On the banks of the lovely Elbe River, the German city of Dresden is lush and green, filled with forests and gardens and parks. The city is rich with cultural and artistic history; the great operatic composer Wilhelm Wagner debuted a number of works here in the 1800s and, today, an independent light opera company keeps the classical art form modern and fresh. Culture vultures will love the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister and Grünes Gewölbe museums, and architecture buffs will salivate over the mélange of styles reflected in the cityscape.
Surrounded by one of Germany's largest wine-growing regions, Stuttgart beckons cultural junkies with its acclaimed ballet, opera and philharmonic, while car fans get revved up over the Mercedes Benz Museum. There's more green space than urban sprawl in the festival-friendly city, home to Europe's largest combined zoo and botanic garden, the Wilhelma. The Württembergisches Landesmuseum, in one of the city's oldest structures, traces the area's history from the Stone Age. Buses or metro provide handy transport.
The political, scientific, historical, architectural and business centre of Russia, Moscow displays the country's contrasts at their most extreme. The ancient and modern exist side by side in this city of 10 million. Catch a metro from one of the ornate stations to see Red Square, the Kremlin, the nine domes of St Basil's Cathedral, Lenin's Mausoleum, the KGB Museum and other symbols of Moscow's great and terrible past, then lighten up and go shopping in Boulevard Ring, or people-watch in Pushkin Square.
Imerovigli looks exactly as a Santorini village should: iconic whitewashed buildings with sapphire domes, narrow crisscrossing walking paths, epic sunsets. Set sail on a guided boat tour of nearby volcanic features or spend the day exploring the remains of Skaros, a 13th-century Venetian palace. Cap it all off with a simple but decadent meal of local delicacies.
Segovia is a picturesque old city with twisting alleyways, the highest concentration of Romanesque churches in all of Europe and pedestrian-only streets, all bordered by a medieval wall and two rivers. In 1985, this sleepy Castillan town was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. One of the main tourist attractions is Alcázar, a royal palace built sometime around the 11th century where Queen Isabel agreed to fund Christopher Columbus’ exploration of the New World. The picturesque palace is said to be Walt Disney’s inspiration for Cinderella's Castle.
Today the walls of the Ming dynasty and the Tang palace walls hint at the Xi’an’s glorious past. Stare in awe at the Terracotta Army, 7,000 terracotta statues of Qin Bingmayong Bowuguan warriors and soldiers. Dating from 210 BCE, they were discovered in 1974 and are still being excavated. Don't miss the Shaanxi History Museum or a chance to heat up at former imperial bathing spot, Huaqing Hot Springs.