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Adventure: Within City Limits

People often seem to think that to do something truly “different” you have to get away from the city. It’s true that there are numerous adventurous and cultural experiences to be found far from the city and that getting “off the beaten path” is one way to achieve this. That doesn’t mean, though, that you can’t find one-of-a-kind (or close to it) opportunities within the city limits. Check out these experiences within some of our most well-loved cities around the world.

1. Catacombs in Rome: Rome’s wonders seem to never cease, and all of the “popular” attractions are absolutely worth a visit. The catacombs, or underground burial tunnels, have a mysterious lure that draws visitors interested in seeing a slightly darker side of the city and its history. Visit the catacombs with a guide. If you’re not a group tour type of person, hire a reputable private guide. These tunnels are dark, winding and easy to get lost in.

2. Robben Island, Cape Town: Behind the beauty of the V&A Waterfront and Table Mountain, the city of Cape Town holds a sordid past. Visitors can now be educated about this history with tours to the prison where Nelson Mandela and countless other political prisoners were held on Robben Island. Not only do you get to tour the jail and see Mandela’s cell, the tours are led by former inmates who were wrongfully imprisoned on the island. These guides give first hand accounts of their experiences as well as historical information about the prison and its inmates that no “outsider” would be able to provide. (Note: the only prisoners giving tours are those who were political prisoners, wrongfully jailed for their efforts to end apartheid.)

3. Haunted Edinburgh/Edinburgh underground tours: Edinburgh is just one of a long list of haunted cities, so the idea of a ghost tour isn’t overly unique in and of itself. What distinguishes these tours is two-fold: first, they are given only later at night – many start around 10 PM (in the summer, it’s light in Edinburgh until at least 9:30 PM so this is a necessity for the ambiance). Secondly, they are conducted primarily underground, in the tunnels where body snatchers used to run stolen bodies. Once in the tunnels, the guides extinguish all forms of light, letting you stand underground in the pitch black for the best chance of hearing or seeing a ghost. It’s beyond spooky, even for those who are avid ghost tour enthusiasts.

4. Dubrovnik’s city walls: Is it touristy? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutley. In recent years, the city of Dubrovnik has become a hot spot. The city itself is interesting enough – it certainly has plenty of history and its location on the water adds to its appeal. But without a doubt, the “must do” here is to walk along top the old walls of the city. It can be done individually or as part of a tour – I imagine a tour might be a bit of a tight squeeze but you may also learn more than you do by walking the walls on your own. The experience is certainly distinct and the views of the town, countryside and the waters below are incredible. (Yes, there are other cities where you may walk the walls, the Beijing’s Great Wall being the obvious other. So this isn’t “one of a kind” but it’s certainly not an experience you can have everywhere, and one that has excited people about travel to this part of Europe.)

5. In-home cooking classes, Florence. While this isn’t, strictly speaking, unique solely to Florence, this is quite arguably the best place to do so. Take a walk to the market; choose your fresh fruits, vegetables and cheeses. Go back to the home of your guide for a private cooking class, and then enjoy the final products with a glass of local Tuscan wine. These classes can include creating everything from homemade pastas to authentic Italian desserts, delicately flavored meat dishes and vegetables harvested fresh that morning. It’s difficult to get more culturally immersed in Italy than this.

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