Leave it to the experts at Lonely Planet to swoop in and take to your 2019 bucket list with a big red pen, replacing been-there-done-that travel destinations such as London and Paris with more unusual suspects – think: an imperial city in Morocco, a gateway to the Himalayas, and the birthplace of Starbucks. Intrigued? Read on to see which ten cities you should consider exploring in the months ahead, and why.
If you’re looking for Scandi cool in spades, think Copenhagen. The capital of Denmark, it’s known worldwide for its picturesque canals, hordes of cyclists, emphasis on sustainability, and high quality of living. It’s also a veritable haven for foodies, with 30 Michelin stars spread across 25 restaurants – including “best restaurant in the world” Noma – residing here. Design enthusiasts with also take to Copenhagen as the likes of Malene Birger, Bang and Olufsen, and Georg Jensen have flagship stores in the city. Meanwhile, Tivoli Gardens, an amusement park that was founded in 1843 and inspired both Hans Christian Andersen and Walt Disney, is a must-visit.
Bordering Hong Kong to the south, Shenzhen is a true reflection of China’s role in the global economy. Here, a vibrant nightlife, sprawling mega malls, contemporary architecture, luxury hotels, and a thriving arts scene compensate for a lack of ancient temples and historic monuments. This former fishing village has been nicknamed “the Silicon Valley of hardware” thanks to the presence of tech giants such as Huawei, ZTE, and Tencent, and its rapid growth and changing face is fascinating to witness. Bonus: Shenzhen borders Hong Kong to the south, so you could take a train to enjoy an iconic skyline and a killer culinary scene while you’re at it.
Novi Sad, Serbia
Bypass Belgrade entirely in 2019, and go straight to Novi Sad instead. The second largest city of Serbia, it sits on the banks of the Danube River and faces Fruška Gora mountain, making it a great destination for outdoorsy types. City dwellers will also find it appealing – the ambience is relaxed, the cultural diversity is impressive, the architecture has character to spare. In fact, Novi Sad will become the first non-EU city to be a ‘European Capital of Culture’ in 2021. As for unmissable highlights? A walking tour of the historic Petrovaradin Fortress and the countless monasteries that await just outside the perimeter. Clearly, it isn’t nicknamed the “Athens of Serbia” for nothing.
Kathmandu is often viewed as merely a gateway to the dramatic landscapes of the Himalayas, but it’s actually a destination that offers so much more than just cheap massages and even cheaper dhal bhat platters following a trek. Awaiting here are a UNESCO-listed city square, centuries-old architecture, bustling Hindu temples contrasted by tranquil Buddhist stupas, elaborate thangka art, and a perpetual showcase of human resilience – the Nepalese capital is still reeling from the effects of the 2015 earthquake, yet slowly recovering – one restored terracotta brick at a time.
Miami, Florida USA
If the lyrics of Will Smith’s song are any indication, Miami is where you go to let loose. But there’s so much more to it than beach clubs, swanky lounges, and celebrity spotting. The Art Deco architecture here is second to none, while Miami Design District houses countless designer boutiques, art galleries, and upscale eateries. The city is also rife with Cuban culture, so a culinary tour of Little Havana comes highly recommended – as does a dip in the stunning Venetian Pool that boasts waterfalls, tropical foliage, a cave, and stone bridges.
Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico City may be one of the largest and most densely populated cities in the world, but don’t let that deter you. This lively city has been given a facelift of sorts, resulting in increased economic activity, improved infrastructure, revamped public spaces, heaps of cultural institutions and UNESCO World Heritage sites, and a rapidly evolving culinary scene. And yet, its storied past can be felt everywhere from the nearby ruins of the ancient Aztec city of Tenochtitlan to the 446-year-old Catedral Metropolitana. The proverbial cherry on top? A stop at Museo Frida Kahlo to learn about the complex and tragic life of a Mexican icon.
Seattle, Washington USA
Seattle already has a place in your heart – you just don’t know it. For starters, it’s the home of Cinnabon, Starbucks, and Amazon. It’s also where Frasier, Grey’s Anatomy, and Sleepless in Seattle were set. From the instantly recognizable Space Needle and iconic Pike Place Market to the quirky and somewhat disgusting Gum Wall, the countless landmarks of this city are well worth a visit. Seattle is known as the “Emerald City”, a moniker that reflects the breathtaking nature that surrounds it – there are parks and green spaces scattered throughout the metropolis, while the snow-capped Mount Rainier is visible in the distance.
Beautiful locals in blindingly bright fabrics, dazzling coastline, buzzy nightlife, and a somewhat controversial monument marking Senegal’s 50th anniversary of independence – everything about Dakar feels unexpected, but in a good way. One thing the Senegalese capital doesn’t lack is sensory overload, but taking in the chaotic markets, blaring mbalax music, skewered street food, and overall riot of smells and sounds is its own joy. Respite from it all can be found in the nearby baobab-tree forest and offshore at Île de Gorée, a beautiful island with several historic buildings including the House of Slaves, a museum documenting the dark, disturbing history of slave trade.
What happens when tourists flock to Split and Dubrovnik? The ever-so-charming Zadar remains relatively undiscovered. This historic port on the Dalmatian coast plays host to laid-back cafes, epic seafood, Byzantine churches, Venetian architecture, plenty of Roman ruins, and even more natural beauty. Furthermore, there are some truly unique attractions to discover – think: Sea Organ, a waterfront installation that creates soothing sounds as waves push into its pipes. What’s legendary, however, are the sunsets – Alfred Hitchcock famously described them as “the most beautiful sunsets in the world”. The city is also a great jumping-off point to discover the vast national parks and serene islands in the vicinity.
Exploring major Moroccan cities like Fez and Marrakech can be daunting – enter: Meknes. Smaller and quieter than its imperial-city counterparts, it offers a journey back in time through narrow medina streets, remnants of fortifications, easy access to the Roman ruins of Volubilis, and the impressive Bab El Mansour that was built in 1732. While you’re there, soak up the lively atmosphere of Place El Hedim and visit the Merenid-style Medersa Bou Inania to view ornate mosaic tilework and beautifully carved cedarwood. Habs Qara, meanwhile, offers a glimpse into the city’s unseen side. This eerie underground prison where Sultan Moulay Ismail held prisoners may be unnerving in nature, but surprisingly, photographs beautifully.