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European cities offer so much to the traveller - culture, history and a wonderful variety of foods to try. Just about all of them have a character all their own. There's lots of them within easy reach, spread across a relatively small area. A few places have got what it takes to be singled out as destinations that must be experienced this summer.

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Date: 29/08/2016

Culture, History and Food - Europe's top spots to visit

Aarhus, Denmark

There is more to Denmark than Copenhagen. Aarhus has got great architecture, wonderful cuisine and cool areas for exploring. In 2017, it will be the European Capital of Culture, and the European Region of Gastronomy, so get over there now and beat the crowds and the price hikes. Its harbour was always charming, but now it is cutting-edge, with major museums and the much-photographed Iceberg, a housing development whose jagged edge resembles one of those chunks of frozen water that finished off the Titanic.The Danes are entertaining too, and very sociable.

Berlin, Germany

The Germans are an outdoor people living in a country with a mainly indoor climate, but in summer they make the most of being outdoors. In Berlin, there is a wonderful combination of outdoor spaces, culture, cool bars and history. With origins in the 13th century, today Berlin is famed for its arts, modern architecture and nightlife. See the Berlin Wall's graffiti-covered remains, the Holocaust Memorial and the Reichstag, which was closed for decades, but has now re-opened after a major refurbishment by Norman Foster. Go to a hairdresser that is also a cocktail bar, eat frühstück (breakfast) at cafes all day long and wander through the Tiergarten, Berlin's favourite inner-city park, and see the locals happily communing with nature.

Marseille, France

Millions have been invested in France's venerable Mediterranean city, to encourage more people to visit. After a successful term in 2013 as European Capital of Culture, Marseille has been spruced up. Historical attractions at the waterfront include the spectacular Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations, which offers exhibitions, cafes and great views just walking around it. Marseille is a great city for walking, being compact and offering charming areas such as Le Panier, with its winding streets and lovely places to stop for a coffee. The Old Port is very atmospheric and has been the focal point of Marseille life for two and a half thousand years. You don't need to be there long to absorb the vibe - French but with a distinctively multicultural North African influence. The Provençal food is a treat, and there are plenty of other cuisines to be consumed too.

Venice, Italy

With canals and the sea, there is a lot of water in and around Venice. Cold and grey in winter, it is transformed in summer into a sparkling backdrop for one of the most remarkable cities in the world. Wander about, appreciating the canals, the gondolas, the impressive public spaces like St Mark’s Square, and the tiny side alleys. Visit the Ducal Palace and marvel at a city that is like a living museum. Venice is actually comprised of 124 islands. Get on a boat and visit Murano, where glass is blown into beautiful chandeliers and goblets. This year is the 500th anniversary of the Venetian ghetto, an island at the centre of the city, where Jewish culture and ideas bloomed in its cramped confines, and many sites of significance have been renovated here.