With each new year comes new possibilities for travel, giving you an opportunity to compile a wish list of places to go in 2019.
And while popular destinations like Paris or New York may rightfully be calling your name, it’s important to consider some less sought-out cities around the world.
Places like Ljubljana, Eastern Europe’s answer to Venice, or Chefchaouen, with its blue buildings and streets, are worthy of a trip. This coming year take a chance on somewhere unusual or unexpected.
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
A short train ride south from Amsterdam brings you to Rotterdam, a design-led city that has far less crowds that The Netherlands’ more popular tourist destination. Rotterdam is known for its architecture, which is best seen at the mind-bending Cube House and at the colourful Market Hall, which operates a daily food market and several restaurants.
Because it’s part of The Netherlands, Rotterdam also features many “coffee shops,” where visitors can partake in a perfectly rolled joint, before indulging in a late night order of kapsalon (fries covered in shawarma and cheese). But by the far the coolest experience in the city can be found on-board one of the water taxis, which you can pay to take you from port to port.
While Tokyo and Kyoto draw many of the travellers to Japan, the bustling city of Osaka is an untapped well of food, drink and culture.
Located northeast of Osaka Bay (and nearby to Kobe), the city is beloved for its street food, particularly in Dotonbori, where you’ll discover the tastes of grilled crab, takoyaki (aka, fried balls filled with octopus) and okonomiyaki (a sort of pancake). It’s also famous for yakitori (skewered chicken), which is best enjoyed in the most local dive you can find on a narrow side street.
Read more: Take a sensory journey to Japan
Wander around the shogun-era fortress of Osaka Castle or stroll through the gardens of the Osaka Expo Park. Because it’s a quick train ride to many of the surrounding destinations, Osaka is also the perfect base for a day trip to Kyoto or Nara, where you can interact with hundreds of free deer that roam the park – and who will bow to you for a treat.
Nestled up against the Baltic Sea, Tallinn is Estonia’s historic capital city, best known for its Old Town, some of which dates back to the 13th Century. History and art are plentiful, especially at Kadriorg Palace, Toompea Castle and Kumu, a museum dedicated to the art of Estonia.
During warmer times of the year, visitors can stroll the beaches or engage in watersports (Pirita Beach is the area’s most popular stretch of sand).
Experience Baltic cuisine in the local restaurants, which emphasise seasonal dishes, but the city also offers global eateries and cool bars. Be sure to pay a visit to Kalamaja, a hip, artsy neighbourhood with cafes, galleries and the uber-cool Telliskivi Creative City.
The colonial era city of Cartagena is located on what’s known as Colombia’s Caribbean coast, which means it’s colourful, warm and filled with many welcoming beaches. The area is slowly becoming more popular, especially as part of a longer excursion through the South American country, and travellers will find a slew of activities like snorkelling, boating and island hopping throughout the year.
Read more: Toast a brave new world in Colombia
Stroll through the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, a notable old fortress, or enjoy the exhibitions at the Palace of Inquisition, which is dedicated to showcasing historical artefacts. Test out local dishes like tostones and arepa de huevo before shopping one of the many markets, including Las Bóvedas and Mercado de Bazurto, where you can find everything from exotic spices to knock-off Nike trainers.
Canals stretch through Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital, which has led visitors to call it the Venice of Eastern Europe. Of course, Ljubljana is far less crowded and touristy than Venice, even during the warmer months of the year. The city is quaint and picturesque, with several solid museums and outdoor cafes that line the waterways.
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Visit the Ljubljana Castle, which towers over the city from a hill, or learn more about the area at the National Museum of Slovenia. The food is hearty (and usually in enormous portions), so you can’t go wrong walking into any of the local Slovenian restaurants. Rent a car to journey to the nearby Lake Bled, a scenic destination with boating, hiking and tons of winter sports.
The US has no lack of interesting cities, but one of the most interesting right now is Denver. Known as the Mile High City, Denver has seen extreme growth in the past few years, with lots of young, cool residents joining the neighbourhoods. It’s an especially good travel destination, offering hip new hotels, endless bars and restaurants, as well as easy access to the Rocky Mountains.
In the winter, skiers and snowboarders can hit the slopes within a few hours, while in the summer hiking, rafting and mountain biking await in the nearby hills. Head to the Denver Museum of Art for an infusion of culture or catch a concert at iconic outdoor venue Red Rocks. In the evenings, RiNo (the River North Art District) will provide bustling food halls, hidden cocktail joints and entertainment.
While Fez and Marrakech typically cater to tourists, the so-called blue city of Morocco is also worth a trek. Chefchaouen, situated in the northern region of the African country amid the Rif Mountains, is hilly and covered in narrow, cobbled streets. The houses and buildings are painted blue, which gives the area a striking impact – and gives you lots of opportunities for great photos.
Read more: Come bask in bucket-list Morocco
There’s lot of history to uncover, but the nearby hiking trails are also worth seeking out. Cascades d’Akchour, double waterfalls, are especially recommended (and located less than an hour outside the city). Most of the restaurants and cafes are traditional, which means you’ll get to experience Moroccan cuisine in all its delicious forms.
Journey south of Australia to the port capital of Hobart, one of Tasmania’s only cities. Visit the Museum of Old and New Art or venture through the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. Nature lovers can find hiking, rock climbing and mountain biking at the nearby Mount Wellington or seek out a kayaking tour on the water.
The city may be small, but the food scene is still strong, especially when it involves locally found products like oysters, sea urchin and beef. There are several award-winning eateries to discover, including Stillwater and The Source Restaurant, which offers insane views of the water. And, of course, don’t miss the famed Tasmanian Devil, which can be seen at the Tasmanian Devil Unzoo, a wildlife experience that brings you right up close to nature.
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