Leave it to the experts at Lonely Planet to swoop in and take to your 2018 bucket list with a bright-red pen, replacing been-there-done-that travel destinations such as London and Paris with more unusual suspects – think: Karl Lagerfeld’s birthplace, a modern metropolis in southern Taiwan, and an American city associated with Motown and a relentless water crisis. Intrigued? Read on to see which ten cities you should consider exploring in the year ahead, and why.
For a hardcore Game of Thrones fan, a trip to the city of Seville is a must because of the many locations used in the filming of the TV show. For others, the reasons include its rich Moorish heritage, cultural festivals such as Semana Santa and Feria de Abril, countless tapas bars and flamenco clubs, UNESCO-recognized nature reserves, lively street life, and more. It also offers plenty of offbeat attractions, such as the world’s largest wooden structure and a former charity hospital that houses some of the city’s most treasured paintings.
Forget what you think you know about Detroit, Michigan. Yes, the city has often been associated with crime, a water crisis, and the fall of the American automobile industry, but its comeback makes it a great reason to visit in 2018. New life has been breathed into Detroit thanks to creative types flocking here, transforming former factory buildings and abandoned shops into bustling cafés, boutique hotels, art galleries, and bookstores. The Motown Historical Museum may be housed in a modest brick home, but it speaks volumes of the city’s impressive musical legacy, making it a must-visit.
The Australian capital is frequently overlooked in favor of Sydney and Melbourne, but 2018 is the year that will change that. And what Canberra lacks in size, it makes up for in a burgeoning gastronomy scene, natural wonders aplenty, and some of the country’s most scenic vistas. It’s also a great choice for the outdoorsy type – hiking, kayaking, windsurfing, and hot air balloon experiences are all on offer. A stay at Jamala Wildlife Lodge will be a real highlight for any nature-lover. The hotel is located within Canberra’s National Zoo and Aquarium, and boasts bungalows with glass walls that look onto animal enclosures.
Hamburg has been on our radars because of Chanel’s recent Métiers d’Art show at the stunning new Elbphilharmonie concert hall, but that’s hardly its only claim to fame. Germany’s second largest city boasts an interesting architectural style; there are very few skyscrapers, a handful of very significant churches with tall spires, and more bridges than any other city in the world. It’s also a dynamic port city, so a boat tour of the harbour is a great way to see its maritime culture up close. A stroll through HafenCity – Europe’s most ambitious urban-development project – is also highly recommended.
“Visit before the world gets wind of it,” advises Lonely Planet in terms of Kaohsiung – and for good reason. Between the never-ending night markets, experimental art centers, recently developed theme parks, a historic walled city dating back to the early 17th century, and naturally occurring attractions such as mountains and forests, this massive port city has a lot going for it – there’s even a temple that is entered through a dragon’s mouth. For the ultimate in fresh seafood fare, hop on a ferry and head to Cijin Island, making a pit stop at colorful art installation “Rainbow Church”.
The cultural capital of Flanders may be small, but it packs a punch through unique museums, medieval architecture, and a long-standing history of diamond trading. Antwerp also happens to be Belgium’s style capital – Dries van Noten, Martin Margiela, and Haider Ackermann all graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, so a trip to fashion museum MoMu is a must for fans of fashion. Next year will see the city play host to an array of exhibitions, performances, and workshops as part of Antwerp Baroque 2018, a celebration of highly influential Flemish artist and Antwerp resident Peter Paul Rubens.
Once the “shame of Italy” because of its level of poverty, Matera is now prepping to be a European Capital of Culture in 2019. Situated in the small region of Basilicata, it is first and foremost known as the third-oldest continually inhabited settlement in the world – experts estimate that people have been living on this Italian hillside since the Neolithic era. Today, this hauntingly beautiful ancient city is starting to attract tourists as it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site where many of the haphazardly constructed caves are being transformed into chic hotels and eateries. Matera isn’t the easiest vicinity to reach, so it’s still a bit of a hidden gem and you’ll love the feeling of exclusivity that it exudes.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Just two days after Hurricane Maria struck, chocolate-based restaurant Casa Cortés started serving food from a window, while Panama-hat shop Ole Curiosidades worked off the sidewalk. Salsa music still plays while locals dine in the cafés that occupy the narrow alleys of Old San Juan, the historic colonial section of San Juan. Kites are still being bought from street vendors and flown over the expansive grounds of 16th-century citadel El Morro. Hotel El Convento and Villa Herencia alongside more than 100 others are up and running, as is Puerto Rico’s airport and cruise terminal.
Many of the beaches, despite boasting fewer palm trees, are still gorgeous and have been mostly cleaned up, with food trucks returning to serve pizza and coconut water to beachgoers – all a testament to the resilience of Puerto Ricans. But be warned: the island is still in the process of repair. Despite the grim reality, Lonely Planet chose to keep San Juan on this list, confident that the city will be back to its spectacular pre-storm state by 2018. Official tourism board Puerto Rico Travel Company is now hoping to attract people who prefer to travel with a purpose, so if the idea of philanthropic travel is appealing, start here.
Brightly colored and beautifully clashing houses, ornate Baroque-style churches, food tours centered around Mexico’s beloved street grub, vibrant street markets, live-music venues at every turn, and a remarkable mummy museum not suited to the faint-hearted – there’s truly something to suit every type of traveler in Guanajuato. This compact yet picturesque city was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988, and draws repeat tourists because of its warm atmosphere and youthful energy. The world-renowned Festival Internacional Cervantino is an unmissable event for anyone who takes an interest in the arts as it features performers from theater, dance, and music from around the world over a span of two weeks.
Oslo has developed a reputation as an obscenely expensive city, but don’t let that deter you, especially if you’re one to appreciate the great outdoors. Here, the hiking possibilities are endless as the city is surrounded by lush forests, a 60-meter ski jump allows for adrenaline-packed views of Oslo and the fjord below, and cross-country skiers are catered to with over 2,600km of free trails. Norway’s capital is also a haven for art and design buffs – in fact, Oslo Opera House will celebrate its tenth anniversary in 2018 with a calendar packed with performances and special events. Looking to take in the city’s culture on a budget? Vigeland Sculpture Park alone grants free access to 212 bronze and granite sculptures dedicated to the human form.