A trip for the ages: Explore the past on a getaway to these historical cities
From Jerusalem to Kyoto and Washington, D.C., there’s nothing like immersing yourself in the stories and cultural landmarks of the world’s historical cities. | By Paul Oswell | August 2, 2022
Whether it’s ancient civilizations, age-old historic sites or more recent living history, the best way to get to know a destination is through its stories. From temples and castles to world-famous monuments, time travel is possible...if you know where to look. Here are our recommendations for historical adventures in some of the world’s most interesting cities:
Crossing millennia: Thousands of years of history can be seen in and around Jerusalem
Tranquil temples: See Zen gardens and ancient castles in the former Japanese capital, Kyoto
State of the nation: America’s history surrounds you when sightseeing in Washington, D.C.
The Israeli capital has evolved around countless ancient ruins and sacred sites, with travelers coming here to pay their respects for more than 3,000 years. Just wandering around the Old City, you’re drawn into a maze of churches, synagogues, mosques and historical markets. Almost everywhere you turn, you’ll encounter living history.
You can learn about the ancient world by taking a private tour to see the millennia-old antiquities that are on view at the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum. Your expert guide can take a deep dive into the historical highlights, such as the 8th-century doors from the Al-Aqsa Mosque and gold Canaanite jewelry. Some of the oldest relics from the region, including coins and artifacts from early Jewish culture, are on display, a rare chance to see real-life objects from a bygone age.
Another private tour takes you underneath one of the city’s most famous landmarks. Follow your own personal archaeologist into the hidden tunnels beneath the Western Wall, going much deeper into the labyrinth than regular visitors. These evocative underground passages are remnants from the Second Temple, destroyed approximately 2,000 years ago. See elaborate arches and aqueducts as well as innovative virtual recreations of the temple’s heyday.
Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem is an ideal base for seeing nearby Jaffe Gate, the Western Wall and Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The expert concierges at the hotel can help arrange truly memorable experiences, from excursions to see the sun rise over the Dead Sea in the Judaean Desert to a behind-the-scenes glimpse at “The Shuk,” Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda Market. After a morning in the desert or an afternoon pursuing aromatic delicacies, a treatment at the decadent SPA Guerlain will restore your energy.
Japan’s former capital was established in the 8th century, framed by beautiful mountains and the scenic Kamo River. The city was home to an imperial court and important nobility, and today you can see the castles and spectacular temples that date back to these regal times.
Kyoto has many world-famous landmarks, and to fully understand their context and history, it’s best to hire a private tour guide through your hotel concierge. Let your guide show you the prime spots to admire the incredible Kinkakuji Temple, aptly known as the Golden Pavilion. You’ll also see the incredible Fushimi Inari Shrine, famous for its thousands of decorative red gates, and the Tenryu-ji Temple, which has one of the most impressive Zen gardens in the entire country.
Your personal concierge at ROKU KYOTO, LXR Hotels & Resorts can help arrange some of the most memorable private tours and exclusive tea ceremonies, as well as bespoke programs that illustrate some of the ancient arts associated with Kyoto. Guests can also explore the tradition of Japanese papermaking or sit in the workshop of a Kintsugi master, the art of reviving broken pottery with gold and lacquer, another truly wondrous experience.
Managing your time is going to be one of the biggest challenges in the U.S. capital, such is the sheer number of iconic landmarks and world-class museums. In terms of American history, the complete story can be found here, told in grand projects of marble and collected in striking artworks. Even just strolling along the National Mall, you’ll see the outstanding collection of museums and memorials that form the centerpiece of America’s capital.
The list of must-see sights can be overwhelming. One less-overwhelming way to see the city is by touring in a private limousine or town car, driven by your own expert tour guide. Cruise around and take in the city’s historical architectural highlights, from the neoclassical-style Supreme Court of the United States to the beaux-arts Union Station.
The National Museum of American History is possibly the most alluring museum for American history buffs. Here you can see everything from the John Bull locomotive to the original Star-Spangled Banner flag. Your personal concierge at Waldorf Astoria Washington DC will help you organize a private tour with a historian who can design a customized itinerary for you. Hot tip: head up to the clock tower for some of the most spectacular views of the city around.
The hotel itself is a historical picture of grandeur and staying here you’ll feel completely immersed in the history of the surrounding city. Waldorf Astoria Washington DC sits right on Pennsylvania Avenue, the city’s most prestigious address, with the White House, the U.S. Capitol, the National Mall museums, the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial all within easy walking distance. After a busy day of sightseeing, you can relax in one of the plush rooms at the hotel spa, where treatments include hot stone massage and halotherapy via the soothing environs of the Himalayan salt therapy room. Prefer your relaxation in liquid form? Head to Peacock Alley to sample one of the lounge’s delicious craft cocktails.
No matter where you choose to spend your next getaway, there’s nothing like the new perspective and inspiration that comes from digging into a city’s history. Standing in front of a 3,000-year-old temple is humbling, and there’s exciting insights and memories to be found all around.
Paul Oswell is an award-winning travel writer, and has been reporting from all seven continents for over twenty years. He is based in New Orleans and is the author of “The Bucket List North America: 1,000 Adventures Big and Small.”