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Sofia, Bulgaria: 170.21 pounds round trip

Fly British Airways from London Heathrow to Sofia.

Kick off your tour of Sofia at the gold-domed Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. This Byzantine-Muscovite church has a lavishly decorated interior and is said to have the capacity to hold 7,000 people. The crypt houses the Icon Museum, which charts the history of iconography. The Sofia travel guide recommends the museum as a must-see.

Also on this square to the right of the cathedral burns the Eternal Flame of the Unknown Soldier, a memorial to those who lost their lives in war. Behind the monument is the fifth-century Saint Sofia Church, which has been mostly restored but still contains fragments from its past, including a partial Roman mosaic floor.

A short distance away is the Ethnographic Museum, with displays of folk arts and crafts and information on traditional rites and rituals. According to the Bulgaria In Your Pocket guide, 2007 highlights include a look at northwestern Bulgaria inhabitants called the Toriaks and their brightly colored textiles, pottery and costumes.

Across the street, visitors can explore the city garden with a leisurely stroll or watch locals meander from a seat at one of the park’s myriad open-air cafes.

From there, it is best to catch a taxi and head to the suburb of Boyana. At the Boyana church, English-speaking guides will provide commentary on the 13th-century frescos that leave many in awe. The church, along with its surrounding gardens full of Roman ruins, is a U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization site. Be aware that visitors are allowed only 10 minutes in the church at a time.

Also in this suburb is the National History Museum, which contains more than 650,000 exhibits including Thracian gold and silver, apocalyptic Bulgarian icon paintings and colorful frescoes taken from the country’s monasteries.

Three months — Oct. 25-28Münster, Germany: 76.77 pounds round trip

Fly Air Berlin from London Stansted to Münster.

Start your exploration of Münster on Prinzipalmarkt, the main street in the city center that also serves as the main shopping district. The Rathaus, or town hall, where the Peace Treaty of Westphalia was signed in 1648 ending the Thirty Years’ War, is on this main road and can be visited during the day.

Also on Prinzipalmarkt is St. Lamberti Church, where visitors can see one of the last remaining medieval sculptural decorations in its original place in a church — the “Tree of Jesse.” Be sure to pick up literature from the church for an explanation of the three iron cages located in the tower.

At midday, visit the 13th-century St. Paul’s Cathedral, which has been completely restored after World War II. The cathedral is adorned with an astronomical clock with hand-painted zodiac symbols, and each day at noon you can hear the clock play a tune.

Art enthusiasts should visit the Pablo Picasso Museum of Graphic Art devoted exclusively to Picasso’s graphic works. According to the museum’s Web site, it has a complete collection of his lithographs, with 800 in total.

On the edge of the city is the Westphalia Museum of Natural History, showcasing many archaeological and paleontologic exhibits on the local area. The museum also has a planetarium and a popular collection of dinosaur bones.

Airfare prices include estimated taxes and are courtesy of the Web site www.skyscanner.net. Prices were verified as of Monday afternoon when Stripes UK went to press. Deals are not guaranteed to be available; restrictions may apply.


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