If you’re a history buff, there’s nothing better than visiting a destination that takes you back in time. While many ancient cities like Rome or Paris may elicit a feeling of time travel, there are a few special destinations that truly transport you. Whether you want to travel back to medieval times or more recent eras, these eight destinations will allow you to walk in the footsteps of history.
Hội An, Vietnam
Cars are banned in the historic heart of Hội An and the only traffic you’ll encounter are bicycles and the ubiquitous motorbikes. That said, it’s a treat to wander on foot. Head down to the waterfront where wooden Chinese shophouses line the soporific quayside of the Thu Bồn River, once the center of a bustling trading port. Don’t miss the main attraction, the centuries-old Japanese Bridge.
Bordered by the majestic Caucasus Mountains and the lonely Black Sea, Georgia is caught between the border of East and West. A walk through Tbilisi, the capital city, feels familiar yet foreign at the same time. Characteristic European touches blend with West Asian influence – Turkish baths sit next to posh shops, and artsy cafes line the street leading to Orthodox churches. It’s a melting pot of history, with each street revealing another layer to the city’s vibrant past.
Suchitoto, El Salvador
El Salvador receives far fewer visitors than neighboring Guatemala, but Suchitoto itself is worth the trip. Back in the day, the town made its money on indigo and there’s still a thriving trade in textiles featuring the deep blue dye. Wander its cobbled streets on foot to explore the many colonial-era buildings that remain. Santa Lucia church, finished in 1853, is centrally located on the main plaza.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
Germany has no shortage of impossibly quaint medieval towns but Rothenburg ob der Tauber is one of the cutest, located along the Bavarian stretch of the Romantic Road. In summer every building in its old town is festooned with colorful flowers; in autumn, a walk along its well-preserved walls presents view after view of trees in their seasonal gold, umber and russet livery. Christmas lasts all year long thanks to the Käthe Wohlfahrt shop, but the town’s Christmas market makes a December visit extra special.
This Caribbean gem is one of the most famous trapped-in-time destinations. With colorful 1950-Chevys bumping past colonial-era buildings along the Malecon, Havana has barely aged since it closed its borders in 1961. Many of the elegant buildings are slowly decaying, and restoration is slow, so a visit will yield plenty of historic treasures.
By all means, dip a toe into the bustling souk of Fez, but keep an ear open for the sound of clattering hooves. Since medieval times, donkeys and mules have been used to bring goods in and out of this labyrinth. Ditch the map – you’ll get lost anyway – and seek out leather tanners, metalworkers and shoemakers in this most atmospheric place.
Napier, New Zealand
You won’t go quite as far back in time during a visit to Napier, but once you’ve seen its distinctive architecture, you’ll be in no doubt which era’s the most significant. A devastating earthquake leveled the city in 1931. What the aftershocks didn’t finish off was burnt to a cinder in the ensuing fires. Within two years, the city was rebuilt in the style of the time: Art Deco. Visit in February for the annual festival themed around the most eventful decade in the town’s history.
Dracula’s alive and well – the legend at least – in this delightful Transylvanian town. Cobbled streets wind past pastel-colored merchants’ houses. Fortified walls and turrets create a compact Old Town that features on UNESCO’s heritage list. But what sets it apart from other Eastern European towns is the history of Vlad Ţepeş, better known as Vlad the Impaler or Dracula. In addition to visiting Vlad Dracul’s house, don’t miss the citadel, 14th-century clock tower and covered staircase leading to the Church on the Hill.