Unexpected urban treasures
Sacramento, California, USA
Alberta’s capital Edmonton is known as the festival city for good reason. It has a jam-packed events calendar including the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival (the world’s second largest fringe theater festival) every August, and film and comedy festivals in fall. The cultural city also has some of Canada’s top museums and galleries, the fascinating Royal Alberta Museum and Art Gallery of Alberta among them. Outdoorsy types will be raring to explore the River Valley, Canada’s largest urban park and a year-round hive of activity.
Skip capital Sofia and head to Bulgaria’s second city instead to seek out its pretty historic center, thriving art scene and Roman ruins. As a joint European Capital of Culture for 2019, Plovdiv is starting to get the attention it deserves and with an action-packed calendar of events, this is the year to go. Lose yourself in the hilly old town – all winding cobbled streets and beautifully preserved Ottoman-era townhouses – and catch a performance in the restored Roman amphitheater. Set on a hill above the city, it has incredible views across to the Rhodope Mountains. Try your best to fit in a hike around this ravishing wilderness too. Find our guide to Plovdiv here.
Athens, Georgia, USA
Athens in northeast Georgia is laid-back, friendly and filled with antebellum architecture, vintage stores and craft breweries. The University of Georgia has some of the oldest buildings in the city – the North Campus in downtown is on the US National Register of Historic Places. Elsewhere in the city, there’s a rich music scene (R.E.M. is among Athens’ alumni) and plenty of excellent restaurants and bars. The Blue Ridge Mountains are close by too. Discover more about the city with our guide.
Sheffield, England, UK
Been to Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool? What about Sheffield? This northern city is all too often overlooked but its down to earth charms are well worth seeking out. It’s got fantastic local music venues (it’s the hometown of British bands Arctic Monkeys and Pulp, after all) and cool creative spaces. The former industrial powerhouse has wonderful public spaces too such as the Peace Gardens (pictured) and Winter Garden, plus there’s a friendly and independent atmosphere about the place. It’s also a mere hop to the stunning Peak District National Park.
The sun-drenched Mediterranean archipelago might be best known for its beaches but its ancient capital is equally alluring and perfectly sized for a weekend break. Fall is prime visiting time here, when it’s neither too hot nor too busy. Valletta has lavish palazzos and centuries-old churches such as the awe-inspiring St John’s Co-Cathedral (which contains original paintings by Caravaggio). The formidable Grand Harbour is a highlight – head to the Upper Barrakka Gardens for panoramic views and take a boat trip to admire its bastion walls and sea forts from the water. Take inspiration for your trip from our three-day itinerary.
San Antonio, Texas, USA
San Antonio is a treasure trove of historic buildings with the largest concentration of Spanish colonial architecture in North America. Its most famous site is the Alamo, one of five missions that are now UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Another big draw is the River Walk, a network of waterside pathways packed with lively bars and restaurants just perfect for a meander. The new San Pedro Creek Culture Park (a drainage ditch that’s been transformed into a waterfront promenade with public art and performance spaces) is set to boost the city’s appeal even more. Find our top five reasons to visit here.
Augusta, Maine, USA
Despite being the state capital of Maine, Augusta is a sleepy city with a slow pace of life. There are no skyscrapers and traffic build-ups here. Students at the University of Maine at Augusta campus have fully embraced this lifestyle – spot them boating on the Kennebec River or enjoying a book in Viles Arboretum. If you’re interested in history, take a stroll past some of the city’s architectural sites of interest: the domed 19th-century Maine State House, Old Fort Western (a formidable 18th-century fort) and Blaine House, the governor’s state residence.
Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA
Breaking Bad may have catapulted Albuquerque onto the tourist trail but there’s more to New Mexico’s largest city than the TV show. Bordered by the Sandia Mountains with the Rio Grande running through it, Albuquerque is surrounded by striking scenery. A new 50-mile activity loop, connecting more than 400 miles of existing bike paths around the city, offers extraordinary views of it all. As well as quirky museums (one is devoted to rattlesnakes), understated Albuquerque has cool credentials too. Swing by the Sawmill District, just north of the historic Old Town, a hive of hip restaurants, galleries and stores.
While Melbourne considers itself Australia’s cultural capital, another southern gem is snapping at its heels. Hobart, capital of island state Tasmania across the Tasman Sea, is a charming and historic city with a captivating setting in the foothills of Mount Wellington and at the entrance to the Derwent River. But it’s also celebrated for its exciting festival, food and art scenes – along with slurping Bruny Island oysters in the Salamanca district, the brilliant MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) is one of Hobart’s absolute must-visits.
Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
Capital of Okinawa, part of an archipelago of islands stretching south from mainland Japan towards Taiwan, laid-back Naha has a distinctly tropical feel about it. Famously the birthplace of karate, the city center has many dojos you can visit. Its main attraction is Shurijo Castle and gardens (pictured) but there’s plenty more to this destination. A walk around the pottery district to pick up some Okinawan ceramics and a cookery class at the Makishi Public Market are musts. After all that, hop on a ferry to chill out on the beautiful southern isles.
Durban, South Africa
Durban is the hipsters’ city of choice in South Africa. It has an extensive beachfront known as the Golden Mile and is blessed with far warmer waters than Cape Town, so surfing is a delight. What’s less known is that Durban has the largest concentration of Indians outside of India so make a beeline to the Indian quarter for incredible food. And, as it’s flanked by the Indian Ocean, the city is an excellent place to spot marine wildlife – go stand-up paddleboarding or kayak with dolphins just off the Golden Mile.
With its pretty riverside location, relaxed university town feel and grand historic buildings, it’s hard to fathom why Wrocław in southwest Poland isn’t a more popular city jaunt. The sprawling Market Square is a great place to start your explorations of the compact and easily walkable city. It was heavily hit by the Second World War but its ancient buildings and squares have been painstakingly restored. Keep watch for gnomes as you stroll – more than 400 little statues are dotted around the quirky city. There’s even a tourist board trail.
Right at the top of the Top End, tropical Darwin is Australia’s most exotic and laid-back capital. You can easily fill a few days exploring this steamy waterfront city. Don’t miss a browse around the Mindil Beach sunset markets during the dry season and a walk along the Nightcliff Foreshore for street food or a dip in the pool as you gaze at the harbor. The city has a strong Aboriginal culture too and is in striking distance of some of the Northern Territory’s most important sites including the Tiwi Islands and UNESCO World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park.
Dundee, Scotland, UK
Since the opening of its spectacular waterfront V&A museum in 2018, this Scottish charmer has become a more than worthy city break destination. Aside from its impressive waterfront redevelopment, Dundee, a UNESCO City of Design, has a handful of hip hotels, a burgeoning food scene and ravishing location on the Firth of Tay. To the east of the center lies Broughty Ferry, a delightful and historic fishing town (now city suburb) that’s wonderful for beach walks, cozy pubs and castle gazing. Find more things to do in Dundee with our guide.
In the historic center of Évora stand the magnificent Roman ruins of the Temple of Diana, backed by the 17th-century church Igreja de São João Evangelista. The pretty Portuguese city’s old center, with its medieval walls, cathedral, narrow streets and whitewashed houses, is all part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Set in the Alentejo district, its restaurants serve comforting rustic fare, typical of the rural region, while artisanal stores are crammed with tempting produce. Discover more places to visit in Portugal by region, here.
This historic city – the largest in the eastern state of Saxony – has been touted as the new Berlin. While it’s true that the arts and alternative scene is flourishing (head to the Spinnerei, an old cotton mill that now houses shops, a restaurant, art galleries and an art-house cinema), it is classical music that put Leipzig on the map. Bach, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Wagner all lived here and you can watch world-class performances at the Opera House and Gewandhaus. Find our guide to Leipzig here.
Valparaíso sees fewer visitors than Santiago but for a true Chilean experience, a visit to this cheerful city shouldn’t be missed. The bohemian seaside city was the inspiration for famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (don’t miss the museum dedicated to him) who loved its scruffiness and colorful hillside houses. Much of Valparaíso is being rejuvenated with restored houses opening as restaurants, cafés and galleries. Take a funicular up the steepest slopes to gaze across at the kaleidoscope of bright clapboard houses. Its vibrant street art scene is another highlight.
Lap up the Mediterranean sunshine, grand esplanades and shady squares of the south of France without the Riviera crowds. Montpellier, an enchanting university city and the capital of the Languedoc-Roussillon region, oozes sophistication. At its heart is the Place de la Comédie, a sprawling pedestrianized square and the place to start wandering around the city’s medieval streets. Make time for the excellent art gallery Musée Fabre and the Botanic Garden, and take a pit stop at the covered market Halles Castellane. For a glass of local wine, head to picturesque old square, Place de la Canourgue.
Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay
If you haven’t discovered Matera then it’s about time you did. The southern Italian city is thought to be the third-oldest continually-inhabited settlement in the world (after Aleppo and Jericho). It’s famous for its sassi, a complex of cave dwellings carved into the mountainside that are crowned by a 13th-century cathedral. Once run-down and impoverished, the caves now house restaurants, bars, hotels and stores. One, Vitantonio Lombardo, even has a Michelin star. In 2019, it has taken center stage as one of two European Capitals of Culture.
Too many people skip Huế in their haste to get to Hội An but you shouldn’t overlook Vietnam’s one-time capital. Must-dos include visits to the Imperial Enclosure, a walled fortress and palace, and the majestic Thế Miếu temple complex. Catch a boat ride along the evocatively named Perfume River which meanders past tombs and pagodas built by leaders of ancient dynasties. Huế has a distinct and delicious cuisine with cơm hến (mussel or clam rice) one dish to look out for.
Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo dominate the Scandinavian city break destinations but Gothenburg on Sweden’s west coast is an unsung hero. The stylish and cosmopolitan city is bursting with cozy little cafés, edgy boutiques, live music venues, exciting restaurants and buzzy bars. It has a thriving arts scene, more craft beer than you could ever hope to try and the famous Feskekôrka fish market. Best of all, it has the dazzling Gothenburg archipelago waiting to be explored just offshore.
Enchanting as can be, hilltop Segovia in the central Castile and León region is the stuff of fairy tales. Once one of the most important cities in Spain, it is stuffed with historic treasures. You could gaze upon the turreted Alcázar for hours (it’s said to be the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle) but be sure to go in for sensational views of the city. Then there’s a gothic cathedral, imposing Roman aqueduct and shops stacked with all manner of local produce to explore. Meat lovers are in the right place – roast suckling pig is a regional specialty.
Nelson, New Zealand
The sun-blessed city of Nelson has a small-town feel and is the kind of place that reveals its secrets slowly. It has the Maitai River (fabulous for cycling beside) and the awesome Tahunanui Beach (the city’s playground and brilliant brunch spot). It’s got craft and farmers’ markets, small breweries and cool coffee shops galore. Take a trip to nearby Abel Tasman National Park and Golden Bay – two places with some of the most breathtaking roads to drive in New Zealand. Discover more reasons to visit New Zealand here.
Sprawling, chaotic, overcrowded and steamy it may be but Kolkata’s charms abound. India’s third largest metropolis is a creative, colorful and cultural treasure trove. A great way to dig beneath its surface is on a walking tour. You’ll likely go to the Marble Palace, Victoria Memorial and Mallick Ghat flower market. Once known as Calcutta, it was the second city of the British empire and has lots of colonial-era architecture. It’s also renowned for its street food – the best place to sample incredible Bengali cuisine.
Combining ancient charms with contemporary cool, Zadar on the north Dalmatian Coast is a sure-fire winner for a seaside city break. With far fewer crowds than Split and Dubrovnik, you can take a leisurely meander around its medieval walled center, sip local cherry liqueur and savor local seafood without battling the hordes. Stroll along the waterfront to see (and listen) to its extraordinary sea-powered organ while the giant solar-powered installation Greeting to the Sun is a top spot to watch Zadar’s show-stopping sunsets. Find our guide to the city here.
Source: Read Full Article