Designed by Danish architect Theophil Hansen, Vienna's parliament building was constructed in the 1880s as a meeting spot for the two chambers of the Austrian parliament. Hansen's design reflects that of ancient Greece, the birthplace of many key political concepts. The parliament building has been adapted over time to create more space for the National and Federal Council offices.
Credit: Vienna, Austria (PhotoDisc)
Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics, which, at the time, were the largest Winter Games ever (in terms of athletes and media). The country lost its reputation as an excellent ski destination during the war-torn period between 1992 and 1995. Presently, the economy and tourism are on the way back up, and the area provides some of the best-value ski vacations in Europe.
Credit: Jahorina skiing, Bosnia (Carly Calhoun)
Classified as a World Heritage site, Grand-Place in Brussels began as a merchants' market in the 13th century and now serves as a town square. Many of its original gothic buildings were destroyed in a fire in the late 17th century and rebuilt soon after in an Italo-Flemish style. The facades of the buildings are decorated with statues, scrolled gables, and gilding.
Credit: Brussels, Belgium (PhotoDisc)
Finland's capital and most cosmopolitan city, Helsinki sits at the edge of the Gulf of Finland on a rocky peninsula. Waterside parks like Kaivopuisto Park, with its fastidiously smooth pavement, are perfect for rollerblading and biking. Before leaving town, make sure to visit the harbor-side kauppatori (fish market) and the underground Temppeliaukio Church, hewn from solid rock.
Credit: Helsinki, Finland (Corel)
Nicknamed 'Venice of the North' for its extensive waterfront and well-preserved 17th-century buildings, Stockholm has tremendous sights for visitors. Bicycle through Djurgården, a forested national park at the center of town; tour the Royal Palace and Storkyrkan, Sweden's Royal Cathedral; or take a boat tour of Skärgården, Stockholm's enormous archipelago exemplifying Sweden's tawny culture of boat life and seaside cottages.
Credit: Stockholm, Sweden (PhotoDisc)
It's easy to fall in love with Oslo for its cosmopolitan blend of big-city culture and calming outdoorsy vibe. Take a half-hour stroll to Vigeland Park, home to 192 sculptures by Norwegian artist Gustav Vigeland reflecting the artist's humanistic response to the great societal shifts at the turn of the 20th century. The leafy park makes for an ideal place to ponder 21st-century questions in peace, too.
Amsterdam could be called 'the Venice of the North.' One hundred and sixty-five canals traverse this 725-year-old city, radiating concentrically from its center on the IJsselmeer, a shallow lake that spreads to the northeast. Explore the city center on foot, by Canal Bus, or by bicycle, of which Amsterdam has over half a million.