Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, sits off the mainland on an island in the Persian (Arabian) Gulf. Its focus on oil exports and commerce is reflected by the skyline’s modern towers and shopping megacenters such as Abu Dhabi and Marina malls. Beneath white-marble domes, the vast Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque features an immense Persian carpet, crystal chandeliers and capacity for 41,000 worshipers.
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Sau Paulo, Brazil’s bustling financial center, is one of the most populous cities in the world; presents numerous cultural institutions and has a particularly rich architectural tradition. Among the symbols of St. Paul we must mention the neo-Gothic cathedral, the Edifício Martinelli (a skyscraper of 1929), and the curved Copan building of the contemporary architect Oscar Niemeyer. The church of the Pátio do Colégio, built in colonial style, stands at the point where the Jesuits founded the city in 1554.
Austin is the state capital of Texas, an inland city bordering the Hill Country region. Home to the University of Texas flagship campus, Austin is known for its eclectic live-music scene centered around country, blues and rock. Its many parks and lakes are popular for hiking, biking, swimming and boating. South of the city, Formula One’s Circuit of the Americas raceway has hosted the United States Grand Prix.
Mexico City is the densely populated, high-altitude capital of Mexico. It’s known for its Templo Mayor (a 13th-century Aztec temple), the baroque Catedral Metropolitana de México of the Spanish conquistadors and the Palacio Nacional, which houses historic murals by Diego Rivera. All of these are situated in and around the Plaza de la Constitución, the massive main square also known as the Zócalo.
Nagoya, capital of Japan’s Aichi Prefecture, is a manufacturing and shipping hub in central Honshu. The city’s Naka ward is home to museums and pachinko (gambling machine) parlors. Naka also includes the Sakae entertainment district, with attractions like the Sky-Boat Ferris wheel, which is attached to a mall. In northern Naka is Nagoya Castle, a partly reconstructed 1612 royal home displaying Edo-era artifacts.
Singapore, an island city-state off southern Malaysia, is a global financial center with a tropical climate and multicultural population. Its colonial core centers on the Padang, a cricket field since the 1830s and now flanked by grand buildings such as City Hall, with its 18 Corinthian columns. In Singapore’s circa-1820 Chinatown stands the red-and-gold Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, said to house one of Buddha’s teeth.
Milan, the world capital of fashion and design, is a metropolis of Northern Italy and is the capital of Lombardy. Headquarters of the Italian Stock Exchange, it is a financial hub that is also famous for exclusive restaurants and shops. The Gothic-style Cathedral and the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, which houses the fresco “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci, bear witness to the city’s artistic and cultural heritage.
Liège, a city along the Meuse River in Belgium’s French-speaking Wallonia region, has long been a commercial and cultural hub. Its old town is filled with landmarks dating to the medieval era, including the Romanesque Church of St. Bartholomew. The Grand Curtius museum houses archaeological treasures and art within a 17th-century mansion, while Opéra Royal de Wallonie has staged operas since 1820.
Budapest, Hungary’s capital, is bisected by the River Danube. Its 19th-century Chain Bridge connects the hilly Buda district with flat Pest. A funicular runs up Castle Hill to Buda’s Old Town, where the Budapest History Museum traces city life from Roman times onward. Trinity Square is home to 13th-century Matthias Church and the turrets of the Fishermen’s Bastion, which offer sweeping views
Frankfurt, a central German city on the river Main, is a major financial hub that’s home to the European Central Bank. It’s the birthplace of famed writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, whose former home is now the Goethe House Museum. Like much of the city, it was damaged during World War II and later rebuilt. The reconstructed Altstadt (Old Town) is the site of Römerberg, a square that hosts an annual Christmas market.