Tue, 02 January 2018
If you’re planning this year’s vacation, here are some of the ‘must visit’ destinations set to hit our radars this year.
We’ve taken some tips from the experts at Lonely Planet to bring you the low-down on the cities everyone will want to visit this year. Forget the old favourites, there’s only one European capital in the mix and it seems urban chic and culture are very much the order of the day.
Capital of the autonomous region of Andalusia where outstanding examples of Moorish and Gothic architecture abound, Seville is a city of bicycles and trams. Game of Thrones fans will want to visit the castle of Almodóvar del Río and will also spot various other familiar locations around the city, which featured strongly in season seven of the blockbuster TV series. The city is home to the world’s largest Gothic cathedral, built on the grounds of a former mosque, where highlights include the Giralda, the mighty bell tower which incorporates the mosque’s original minaret, the monumental tomb of Christopher Columbus, and the Capilla Mayor with an astonishing gold altarpiece.
Make sure you also pop into conTenedor, the slow-food restaurant in the boho Macarena district ,which prides itself on using local, organic produce. And visit the opinion-dividing Metropol Parasol, designed as a giant sunshade by German architect Jürgen Mayer and known locally as las setas (the mushrooms), which has become something of a city icon since its launch in 2011.
You could be forgiven for wondering what this urban sprawl, known for the Motown music label in the 1960s and ‘70s and more latterly as the home of rapper Eminem and America’s much-depleted car industry. But it seems that, in a classic Cinderella story, Detroit is making something of a stealthy comeback. According to Lonely Planet: “Murals, markets, greenways, bike shops, distilleries and inventive chefs are getting the city’s groove on, along with fresh public works like the new street car and sports arena downtown.” There is also plentiful discount outlet shopping, alongside the designer stores, numerous venues for live music, with many big names adding the city to their tour schedules, and the wildness of the Northern Peninsula is just a couple of hours’ drive away.
Canberra has long had a reputation as a bit of a stick in the mud, pretty much overlooked in the wake of its much showier sister, Sydney. But now the Aussie capital is stepping out of the shadows and staking its claim as the ‘coolest little capital’. As Australia’s first city, Canberra is home to Parliament as well as several of the country’s collections such as those in the National Gallery, the Museum of Australian Democracy, the National Museum and more. Lonely Planet’s Chris Zeiher writes: “National treasures are found round almost every corner and exciting new boutique precincts have emerged, bulging with gastronomic highlights and cultural must-dos.”
And, if you fancy getting away from it all, Canberra has virtually been built around Lake Burley Griffin, a pretty expanse of water used for leisure activities that include yachting, kayaking, paddle boating and windsurfing. There are several ways you can experience the sights of the lake, but one of the best is surely an early morning hot-air balloon ride over its surface!
One of Germany’s wealthiest cities thanks to a long history of international trading, Hamburg offers a whole range of things to do. Its nightlife is almost as famed as its commerce – it was here that The Beatles spent their German days – and there is an active club and bar scene along the river front catering to every taste. These days music still plays an equally important role with Lonely Planet praising the stunning USD939 million Elbphilharmonie concert hall. The city is also rich in culture and history with an abundance of museums and galleries. And foodies will find themselves right at home with numerous restaurants embracing the slow-food ethic and street vendors plying the city’s famed fish sandwiches and currywurst.
Since its establishment in the 17th century, Kaohsiung has grown from a small trading village into the political, economic, transportation, manufacturing, refining, shipbuilding, and industrial centre of southern Taiwan. The city shifts from ancient to contemporary culture with ease. Today’s Kaohsiung is a modern urban landscape of airy cafés, wide streets, waterside parks, public transport, bicycle lanes and cultural venues that have embraced and re-imagined the city’s manufacturing past. There are also two swimming beaches within the city area, and 1,000 hectares of almost-pristine forest right on its doorstep. If you visit, don’t miss the breathtaking Fo Guang Shan monastery and its hall of giant Buddhas; Dream Mall, the largest shopping mall in Taiwan, with a Ferris wheel on the roof and drive to Kenting National Park for beautiful landscapes.
Belgium’s second city was home to painter Pieter Paul Rubens and his works are widely displayed. A powerful magnet for everyone from fashion moguls and club queens to art lovers and diamond dealers, it has a vibrant fashion and entertainment scene as well as plenty of café-filled cobbled lanes, a riverside fortress and a truly impressive cathedral. Pay a trip to the De Koninck brewery, one of the few working breweries still left in the city, and don’t miss the Red Star Line Museum, a thoughtfully restored homage to the shipping line which took hundreds of thousands immigrants to America between 1873 and 1934.
Antwerp is also a city where gastronomy meets architecture, with many restaurants taking up residence in unlikely buildings that best complement the fine-dining experience. To see this is action, head to The Jane, located in the chapel of a former military hospital, where master chefs Nick Bril and Sergio Herman can be seen preparing food in the open kitchen built on the former altar!
Known as “la Città Sotterranea” – the Subterranean City or the City of Caves, Matera is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Its historical centre ‘Sassi’, along with the Park of the Rupestrian Churches, has been registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993. Matera has gained international fame for its ancient town, the ‘Sassi di Matera’. The Sassi originated in a prehistoric troglodyte settlement, and these dwellings are thought to be among the first ever human settlements in what is now Italy. The Sassi are habitations dug into the calcareous rock itself. Many of them are really little more than caverns, and in some parts of the Sassi a street lies on top of another group of dwellings. Before heading to the Sassi, spend half an hour at Casa Noha, where an excellent multimedia presentation gives details of the history of the town and its inhabitants – most of whom were forcibly relocated from their ‘cave’ dwellings to new modern properties.
Another ‘must see’ is the Palombaro Lungo, the giant cistern which lies under the city’s main square and once supplied the city’s water.
A World Heritage city, Guanajuato dates back to 1559 and boasts opulent colonial buildings and brightly coloured houses running up the side of a ravine. Known internationally for Festival Cervantino, the annual arts festival, there are also year-round activities including theatre and orchestral performances. There’s loads to see and do but, if you’ve ever painted your face for the Day of the Dead, make sure you join thousands of others in visiting Museo de las Momias, a museum in a cemetery where you can view more than 100 disinterred corpses!
Las Mercedes is known as the best eatery in town and it serves up traditional Mexican cuisine.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Hit hard by Hurricane Maria just a few months back, San Juan is well on the road to recovery and very definitely worth a visit. It’s one of the oldest European settlements in the Americas and its blend of traditional and modern is captivating. Its northern coast is lined with glorious sandy beaches and, in town, make sure to visit the district of Santurce, which has a raw vitality fuelled by street art, superb restaurants and a bar scene that takes over the streets at night. It would be impossible to miss the 140ft walls of El Morro, said to be the oldest Spanish fort in the New World, which rebuffed numerous invading armies. Art enthusiasts will love the Espacio Emergente, a modern museum where there are a number of artists in residence offering open studios and meet and greets twice a month.
And finally, the aforementioned European capital. Inimitable Scandi style, hygge – the much-hyped cosy, intimate warmth – and sky-high prices, you’ll find them all in the Norwegian capital, surrounded by mountains and sea. Named European Green Capital for 2019, Oslo has one of the lowest carbon footprints in the world and despite major building – it’s also Europe’s fastest-growing capital – it manages to remain visually green too. Oslofjord’s waterways and islands are just minutes away from the centre, as are the ski slopes and forests of Nordmarka.
For foodie travellers, Maaemo is the world’s most northerly three-Michelin-starred restaurant and the whole food scene has experienced an international explosion in recent years. There’s also a thriving and eclectic nightlife offering as well as several really good galleries and museums, including Ibsen Museet where you can tour the playwright’s last home and Rod Bianco, a white cube space which shows boundary-pushing work from both Norwegian and international contemporary artists.