Five great cities for history buffs

Guest blogger Anita Dykstra is a travel writer from New Zealand. You can read her great blog on her website.

If you’re an absolute lover of history then you’ll adore these five cities around the world. History is what makes a destination so interesting. Each place has its own fascinating past that’s great to learn about when coming to a new destination. These cities have been destroyed, built back up and experienced turmoil we could only imagine but to this day they stand strong and proud.

Berlin, Germany

Brandenburg Gate in BerlinBerlin started making history when it built its foundations in the 13th century. It grew at a rapid rate in the 18th and 19th centuries, becoming a city internationally recognized in music, education, government and military affairs, but unfortunately in World War II it was virtually destroyed by bombing and violence on the streets. From Imperial Berlin to the Weimer Republic, the Third Reich, WWII and the Cold War, Berlin has been at the heart of things in the last century or so. This is why it makes it a great place for history buffs who really want to dig deep.

You can find many places where you can learn hands-on about Berlin’s past; head to the DDR Museum to test-drive a Trabant and eat Soviet-era dishes, and then walk along the East Side Gallery where you can still see a part of the Berlin Wall decorated as a beautiful art canvas by over 100 artists. Near the Reichstag you’ll find Holocaust memorials as well as Brandenburg Gate, which was in a no-man’s-land during the Cold War. Fun fact: Napoleon once carted the 18th-century gate off to Paris before it was returned eight years later! Elsewhere in Berlin is Museum Island, with five art museums set in stunning opulent buildings still scarred from WWII bombings.

Istanbul, Turkey

Looking up at the ceiling of the Hagia SophiaIstanbul as a settlement dates way back to 6400BCE, before being founded as Byzantium around 660BCE; its position on the Silk Road which means this bustling city has been the centre of trade for a long, long, LONG time. No wonder it’s such a fascinating place to visit. The old part of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and there are hundreds of museums and tours you can do to really get a grip on the history here. It served as an elegant capital of the Roman and Ottoman empires, with many struggles for control of the Bosphorus, which is a natural and globally important waterway separating Europe from Asia.

Istanbul has plenty of monuments to visit, from churches to mosques, palaces and war monuments. It’s fascinating to learn how the constant flow of cultures has made its impact on the city, making it the perfect place for the enthusiastic history buff. You must visit the Aya Sofya when you get here. Typical of this changing city, the Aya Sofya was built as a church in 537CE then converted to a mosque in 1453 and then declared a museum in 1935!

Granada, Spain

Water fountain in the Alhambra, GranadaGranada is also known as the land of castles. You must explore the Alhambra and Generalife; it’s a part-palace, part-fort, part-garden and all World Heritage Site which was the residence of the Nasrid sultans between the 13th and 15th centuries. Wander through the old Moorish quarter of Albaycin and visit the Royal Chapel and cathedral. If you want a beautiful view of Alhambra, Sierra Nevada and Granada then head to the view point at the Mirador de San Nicholas. Come here to gain the best spot of the sunset!

This is an incredibly charming city full of flamenco, tapas and gorgeous winding lanes full of gorgeous murals. You’ll never want to leave.

London, England

Tower of LondonEvery building in London has a story to tell. There are many must-see places situated in this busy corner of the world. Some of the famous world heritage sites such as the Tower of London, Parliament (Westminster) and Westminster Abbey should definitely be on your list if you’re a history buff. London has experienced the plague, civil war, terrorist attacks and much more, but this place is considered one of the most significant cultural and financial capitals in the world.

East London has an interesting past, too, and there are a lot of tours you can do here to experience a glimpse of what it would have been like back in the day. One of the most famous tours is the Jack the Ripper walking tour which is always more spooky when you choose to do it in the dark. London also boasts the best museums in the country such as the Museum of London, British Museum and the Natural History Museum.

Madrid, Spain

Plaza de Cibeles in MadridSimilarly to Istanbul, Madrid has seen the passing of many cultures, rulers and wars, with Arabic, Roman and Celtic influences over the centuries. The architecture here is known worldwide to be absolutely stunning. With its well-preserved buildings, dozens of fantastic monuments and remarkable historic sites to be seen, you could never be bored here. Madrid fought off Franco until the very end of the Spanish Civil War, and the city also hosts Spain’s largest bullring. The Archaeology Museum houses a collection of artifacts found in the 19th century. Elsewhere, Chamberí metro station has been preserved with the original fittings, advertisements and tiling from 1919.

The Prado is the number-one place to visit if you are a lover of museums. Here you can find a collection of more than 5000 paintings dated all the way back from the 12th-19th centuries, including Goya’s Black Paintings and Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights—plus Picasso was museum director for a few years!

Which historic city would you love to go to and see? Tell us below!

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