Milwaukee (Yes, Milwaukee) and 5 Other Places to Explore in 2020

beautiful xian city wall and ancient tower at dusk , China
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In a surprise result, the US city of Milwaukee has topped Airbnb’s list of 2020’s most up-and-coming tourist spots, according to the company’s booking data. The list was compiled by comparing year-on-year growth in reservations and has turned up a noteworthy number of lesser-known cities and regions, reflecting a broader trend for off-the-beaten-track travel. Whether due to upcoming events, successful regenerations, or just being really on-trend, these delectable destinations are emerging as 2020’s places to be.


Milwaukee, Wisconsin


The host of next year’s Democratic National Convention, Milwaukee is a rust-belt-relic-turned-center-of-urban-cool. The supremely modern Milwaukee Art Museum was the intricate handiwork of renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and houses 25,000 works from across the world, while the Harley-Davidson Museum serves up curiosities of a very different variety. You’ll come to this historic waterfront town on the shores of Lake Michigan for the scenery and heritage, and stay for the endless opportunities to sample cheese of every type.

Milwaukee skyline
Photo: Courtesy of PA Images

Bilbao, Spain


It’s hard to believe that as recently as the mid-90s, Bilbao was a post-industrial heartland in decline because the city has since blossomed like a butterfly from a cocoon. The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao has been the main catalyst for change, opened in 1997 and designed by legendary architect Frank Gehry. And to this day, its shimmering, undulating curves are still the city’s best-known landmark. The centre of Basque cuisine and culture, Bilbao won European City of the Year in 2018 and is preparing for its role as one of the host cities during the 2020 Euros.

Street in Portugalete, Bilbao, Spain
Photo: Courtesy of PA Images

Buriram, Thailand


Load any more tourists onto Bangkok and it would probably start sinking into the ground, so it’s up to the rural province of Buriram to make sure there’s enough Thailand to go around. It’s home to some of the country’s most admired ancient sites – best in show is the phenomenal grandeur of Phanom Rung, a temple complex often compared favorably to Angkor Wat. Right at the other end of the scale, the Chang International Circuit has hosted the MotoGP Thailand Grand Prix since 2018, and it’s set to return to the region in March 2020.

Photo: Courtesy of PA Images

Sunbury, Australia


Though officially subsumed by the sprawling Melbourne suburbs, this breezy town still has its own distinct flavor and its own appeal for tourists – both foreign and domestic. A hotspot for wildlife watchers and Wisden readers, Sunbury’s greatest claim to fame comes via the Rupertswood Estate, where the famous Ashes urn was apparently presented for the first time to England cricket captain Ivo Bligh. Come 2020, cricket fans will converge on the town once more as Melbourne is set to be one of the main host cities for the ICC T20 World Cup.

Photo: Courtesy of PA Images



It’s hard to pinpoint one single reason why Romania is rocketing up the charts because its forested hillsides, misty mountain villages, and Gothic castles have long been resoundingly underappreciated by travelers. Many tourists come to this host of the real-life Transylvania in search of Dracula, and are rewarded with ghoulishly gruesome stories of the infamous (and very real) Vlad the Impaler. Extremely cheap and evidently up-and-coming, Romania is still off the beaten track – but only just.

Romania Majkl Velner
Photo: Courtesy of Majkl Velner

Xi’an, China


The sprawling metropolis of Xi’an – which literally translates to ‘Western Peace’ – is pretty much synonymous with the 2,200-year-old army of terracotta soldiers discovered by two farmers in 1974. Magnificent though they are, the city boasts a host of other ancient treasures, from the monstrously large city walls to the delightfully named Big Goose Pagoda.

Often called the birthplace of Chinese civilization and a longtime terminus for the silk road, today’s Xi’an is a cultural melting pot of a kind rarely seen in China. Swing by the Muslim quarter to see the splendor of the Great Mosque before heading out after dark to the city’s many night markets.

Xi'an China Aaron Greenwood
Photo: Courtesy of Aaron Greenwood
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