Lonely Planet's Best in Europe 2014
Are you packing your bags for Europe this summer, or still just fantasizing about it? Either way, you’ll be spoiled for choice when you cast your eyes over our irresistible expert picks...
Paris is being reborn. Following a push to reduce traffic, 1.5km of former expressway on the Seine’s Right Bank now incorporates walkways and cycleways. The pièce de résistance is the Left Bank’s new car-free zone; floating gardens on artificial islands and pedestrian promenades breathe new life into Paris. And that’s not all: nine new bells replicate Notre Dame’s original medieval chimes and the Musée Picasso will again display works inside a 17th-century Marais mansion. The world’s most beautiful city is now even more beautiful.
Tiny Trinidad is a sherbet-tinged, time-trapped Unesco World Heritage Site, bulging with architectural and decorative wealth. Trinidad is the extraordinarily beautiful result of a 19th-century sugar boom. 2014 marks the 500th anniversary of the city’s foundation by Spanish conquistadors with a series of fiestas and cultural events. Experience Trinidad’s curious thrill in Afro-Cuban dance performances, African brotherhood societies and their rituals, and the hypnotic sound of the percussive clave beat – the rhythmic foundation of salsa – erupting in dance halls every night.
Cape Town is destined to get even prettier as it takes on the title of World Design Capital this year. Expect sculpture-lined green spaces, sustainable projects, and further regeneration of former industrial districts. The main goal of the design team, though, is to bridge the gap between Cape Town’s disparate population, so venture on a tour out of town to see how innovation is turning things around in the disadvantaged townships, then explore suburban sights on the swanky new bus system.
Rīga was – for centuries – a strategic linchpin in the annexation of important lands, until it was smothered into obscurity when the Iron Curtain fell. Today, the city is reclaiming its rightful title as the cosmopolitan cornerstone of the Baltic. Over the past few years chic cafes have spread like wildfire throughout the city centre and hundreds of crumbling facades are being restored to their brilliant, art nouveau lustre – all in time for Rīga to earn the honour of being named European Capital of Culture.
What’s hot in Zürich in 2014? In August the city hosts the European Athletics Championships. But can a city best known for men in suits deliver a thrilling city break? With the liberalisation of the rules governing opening hours, locals are throwing themselves into nightlife with the same enthusiasm they show for moving decimal points during the day. In the trendy Züri-West district industrial decay has given way to nocturnal hedonism, and the city by the lake has attracted revellers from across Switzerland.
If China is the world’s industrial motor, Shanghai is China’s high-performance V8. The metro system will open the 59km-long, high-speed line 16 by 2014; it’s now the third-longest network in the world. Upon completion, the twisting 121-storey Shanghai Tower will be the tallest building in China. To cap it all, Shanghai recently expanded its visa-free transit quota to 72 hours for citizens of 45 nations, so if you’re heading on somewhere else and don’t have a Chinese visa, you can still get a three-day look in.
Vancouver delivers on nature’s eye-candy – visit, and you’ll never be too far from spectacular mountain vistas, rambling evergreen parks and protected sandy beaches. You’ll appreciate the big-city-look/small-town-vibe the moment you arrive at the airport. People live here because they love to run, bike, swim, ski and play. If you simply can’t take any more of how good it gets, head for the hills: Cypress, Seymour and Grouse Mountains and the world-famous Whistler (ski) and Blackcomb (snowboard) areas are within easy reach.
The Windy City’s cloud-scraping architecture and world-class museums take centre stage, but the real fun begins after you check off the masterpieces. Head to Wrigley Field, America’s favourite baseball park; the ivy-walled venue celebrates its 100th birthday in 2014 with season-long festivities. Or yuck it up at The Second City, which blows out 55 candles on its cake this year. The club launched the improv comedy genre, along with the careers of Bill Murray, Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey and many more.
Adelaide has transformed itself into the perfect host city. It has accumulated some of Australia’s most popular sporting and arts events, including the Adelaide Festival, the Adelaide Fringe Festival and WOMADelaide. The year 2014 beckons big changes for the city’s heart, with the completion of the multimillion-dollar refurbishment of the Adelaide Oval. A gateway to some of Australia’s most accessible wine country, Adelaide is effortlessly chic – and like a perfectly cellared red, it’s ready to be uncorked and sampled.
Auckland is often overlooked by travellers eager to head for the stellar alpine and lake landscapes further south, but food, arts and exploring the coastal hinterland are all excellent reasons to extend your stay in New Zealand’s biggest and most cosmopolitan city. New restaurant areas continue to emerge, often repurposing heritage buildings and precincts, while the funky City Works Depot adds a hip edge to Auckland’s culinary scene with craft beer and food-truck dining. The extensive refurbishment of the Auckland Art Gallery now includes a stunning glass-and-timber atrium.
As if endless strands of sun-toasted coast, mountains splashed with Crayola-green rainforest and some of the planet’s most beautiful colonial villages didn’t already add up to an unfair share of heaven, Brazil goes and snags two of the most coveted sporting events in the world, beginning with the 2014 FIFA World Cup and followed two years later by the 2016 Summer Olympics. Tack on a recession-dodging economy, and boom! Brazil is the belle of the ball.
Tune into your average wildlife television program and you can’t fail to be dazzled by Antarctica’s majestic icebergs, calving glaciers and unexplored mountain ranges. This year marks the centenary of the start of Ernest Shackleton’s infamous attempted Antarctic crossing. Visiting this pristine continent (which doesn’t have an indigenous population and is not actually a country) in 2014 is a chance to take life on and follow in the path of other intrepid explorers – but with cushier amenities.
To coincide with Glasgow hosting the XX Commonwealth Games in the summer of 2014, the city has had a multi-million-pound facelift: new sports venues, improved transport links and a regeneration of Glasgow Harbour. It is also the Year of Homecoming, a government initiative to welcome the Scottish diaspora back to the mother country by celebrating Scotland’s heritage, food and drink. Despite all this, politics will take centre stage: to be or not to be independent, that is the question. Hold onto your hats, Scotland.
Thanks to the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson, most people have a sense of what Sweden’s like, even in the far north – cold, beautiful and a bit scary. Sweden is emerging with a new pop-culture persona. Perhaps not coincidentally, northern Sweden’s largest city, Umeå, is European Capital of Culture for 2014. Then there’s the food. Stockholm has long been a stylish, top-notch destination for serious gourmands but lately the reputation and influence of Swedish cooking have spread beyond the country’s borders.
Picture this: mere hours after touching down in Malawi’s second-largest city, Blantyre, you check into superluxe digs (or pitch your tent) at the Majete Wildlife Reserve, which only 10 years ago lay decimated by poaching, but last year gained Big Five status thanks to a wildlife relocation project. You get up close to the aforementioned elephant, rhino, lion, leopard and buffalo without the pesky 4WD scrum so common in Africa’s best-known parks. Then perhaps it’s off to Lake Malawi for a spot of high-visibility snorkelling.
Sun-baking on a Caribbean beach after partying all night in Cancún; shopping for brightly coloured handicrafts or gorging on seven types of mole (chilli sauce) in Oaxaca – it’s easy to feel optimistic when you’re kicking back in Mexico. And it’s not just the holidaymakers – many Mexicans are happier about living in Mexico now than most can ever remember. Exciting developments on the travel scene have continued, from major new Maya museums in Cancún and Mérida to Latin America’s longest ziplines on the rim of the Copper Canyon.
These 115 divine islands strewn across the peacock-blue Indian Ocean have all the key ingredients for a once-in-a-lifetime holiday, but their reputation as a millionaire’s playground may have kept you away. Good news: on top of exclusive island hideaways and elegant eco-villas, you can benefit from the wallet-friendlier B&Bs, picturesque Creole guesthouses and self-catering apartments that have sprung up over the past decade. And if expensive air tickets deterred you from visiting, rejoice! Increased competition has dramatically changed the situation.
Belgium has picturesque cities – Bruges, Antwerp, Ghent – and in Brussels a walkable capital with great museums. The food and drink is a gustatory blast (think the world’s best beer, chocolate and chips), the seaside surprisingly chic, while cultural treasures range from medieval masters to Tintin. From 2014, a huge influx of visitors is expected due to the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of WWI. Belgo-newbies will find medieval towns where culture and gastronomy meet, with Gothic buildings, canals and cool shops.
The year 2014 marks the completion of the government’s makeover of the capital, Skopje. The Macedonian capital is becoming more visitor-friendly, with new hostels, upscale wine bars and bistros, and one of southeastern Europe’s best club scenes. Beyond the more established tourist sites, quiet Berovo is an up-and-coming contender on the spa-hotel scene. Sturdy old Kratovo – with Ottoman-era stone bridges and cobblestone lanes – is revitalising previously derelict Turkish mansions. And in arid Tikveš, new quality wineries are catering to thirsty visitors.
Malaysia is rolling out an array of new attractions. The headline-grabbers are the largest bird park in Southeast Asia in Melaka, and Legoland Malaysia and Hello Kitty Land in Nusajaya, which are packing in both locals and Singaporeans flocking across the causeway. The new second terminal at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA2), catering mainly to budget airlines, is another factor in attracting visitors. Amazing experiences await in Malaysian Borneo, from exploring off-the-beaten- track Kudat to indulging at the luxurious Gaya Island Resort on Pulau Gaya.
Picking up national accolades in 2012 for being India’s cleanest state with the most innovative tourism project, Sikkim has set new benchmarks for responsible travel in the country. Food-wise, there’s news too. Organic farming is the new mantra, and the government proposes to convert Sikkim into a fully organic state very soon. And with a new airport scheduled to open near Gangtok in 2014, you can now shave off several hours of transit time and fly in directly from major Indian metros.
The Kimberley is one of the most sparsely populated regions on the planet and one of the most starkly beautiful, carved by giant gorges, dimpled with deep, cool pools, and home to a coastline that could make Australian east-coasters weep. It’s also a region where Aboriginal culture rubs shoulders with exotic Asian influences, the rich come to spend their millions on world-class pearls, and celebrities fly in for a luxurious sojourn in the vast open spaces. Explore the area now, before big business encroaches further.
It’s only a matter of time before this gentleman of the north gets the traveller attention it deserves. Last year a poll revealed the North Yorkshire spa town of Harrogate was the happiest place in Britain. Bradford has become the world’s first Unesco City of Film and Yorkshire now has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other county outside London. In 2014, this welcoming region will be able to hold its head even higher when the Tour de France begins its grand départ from Leeds.
Hokuriku, on Honshū’s west coast, bordered by the Sea of Japan and the magnificent Japan Alps, is saturated with culture, history and striking natural beauty. The city of Kanazawa is second only to Kyoto for its population of authentic working geisha. Photogenic districts radiate from the site of the former Kanazawa Castle and Kenroku-en, one of Japan’s finest gardens. Rent a car and explore the dramatic scenery of the Noto Peninsula, or dissolve yourself in the sumptuous waters of the Kaga Onsen area.
The two extremes of the Texas image – yahooing cowboy country and oil-rich business districts – aren’t the only things cooking up on the multifaceted menu of Lone Star State diversions. For starters, the long-absent scent of greenery is galvanising Texas’ big cities, with Houston’s Buffalo Bayou Park getting a 9.3-hectare enhancement, and Fort Worth’s historic heart is being shaken up with a major new plaza (bye, bustling traffic). But oh, the food… Celebrity chefs have breathed new life into Texan tucker and fast food has gone gourmet.
Not only will the raw power of the Victoria Falls blow you away visually, but the sound of its steady violent rumble and the spray that you’ll breathe in and taste is an all-round sensory encounter with mother nature. Victoria Falls is shared by the tourist towns of Vic Falls (Zimbabwe side) and Livingstone (Zambia side). Leading into 2014, both were on top of their game after multibillion-dollar makeovers for their role as co-hosts of the 2013 General Assembly of the UN World Tourism Organization.
Breathtakingly beautiful, amazingly diverse and highly cultured Mallorca has been busy reinventing itself. The energetic capital, Palma de Mallorca, is filled with art galleries and fabulous restaurants. The south and east coasts are the home of crystal white-sand beaches and shimmering blue waters that’ll leave you gasping. But it’s the northwest that most defies the clichés of Mallorca. Here the Serra de Tramuntana range, matted with olive groves, pine forests and ochre villages, tumbles almost sheer into a sapphire-coloured Mediterranean.
Those who think they’ve seen it all should prepare for some enlivening surprises. In 2014, the Department of Conservation will open two major cycling and hiking trails in co-operation with local partners, as part of the newly established New Zealand Cycle Trail network. The Cape Foulwind seal colony can be visited on a revitalised walkway, as can the mirror lake of Matheson and Hokitika Gorge, a hidden jewel. New paths through ancient forest link the villages of Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers to their glacier trailheads.
Until recent decades, the northwestern mountains were known only to the minority groups that called them home. Now, turning the birthplace of Mao Zedong into a destination is a Party priority and the province is flush with cash. A gleaming new network of high-speed trains, superhighways and regular direct flights have put Hunan’s cities in easy reach of every major city, domestic and abroad. This comfortable mix of old and new isn’t what you’d expect in China, which is exactly why you should go.
It takes an adventurous sort just to get to Tonga, but to venture to its central island group of Ha’apai, well… What we’re talking about here is lush, reef-fringed islands, swaying palm trees, tropical sunshine, breaching humpback whales, technicolour tropical fish, sea kayaking, and even a smoking volcano – all amid a sleepy, seductive Tongan outlook on life. When you get there, pat yourself on the back, be like the locals and put a big grin on your face…and don’t worry, be Ha’apai!
Lonely Planet’s travel experts have trekked the globe to hand-pick the best trends, destinations, journeys and experiences for the upcoming year. After fierce debate and hundreds of suggestions from our extended family of travel experts, authors, editors, bloggers and tweeters, these are the top 10 countries, cities and regions poised for greatness in 2014.Hide
Are you packing your bags for Europe this summer, or still just fantasizing about it? Either way, you’ll be spoiled for choice when you cast your eyes over our irresistible expert picks...
After feverish debate, the results are finally in. Discover our travel experts' final cut of the most essential travel experiences and destinations on our Best in Travel page. And our top 10 cities - from reinvented classics to destinations on the rise - are sure to inspire your travels in 2014... 1...
These 10 countries are destined for an epic year, whether they’re hosting festivals, cutting the ribbon on new attractions or simply raising their game for travellers. Feast your eyes on 2014's most unmissable destinations. 1. Brazil All eyes on the pitch for 2014’s World Cup A game of beach football in Rio...
Need inspiration for your travels in 2014? These 10 regions have captivated our travel experts with their natural beauty and cultural riches. 1. Sikkim, India Green is the colour A bird's-eye view over Yumthang Valley in Sikkim, India. Image by Image Source / Getty Images...
2014 is the International Year of Small Island Developing States: tiny, remote and environmentally vulnerable spots. Here are 10 that need you – and are glorious too! Palau Snorkelling in Jellyfish Lake, Palau. Image by Reinhard Dirscherl / Waterframe / Getty Images...
Savour these deliciously off-beat traditional specialties and get a true taste of the local culture to boot. Hotdog, Chicago, USA Classic Chicago hotdog with fries. Image by Lauri Patterson / E+ / Getty Images...
For those who like their trips to thrill, here’s our pick of the best places to feel pumped in 2014. Mountain biking, Avoriaz, France Avoriaz is one of 12 interconnected resorts in the Portes du Soleil region of the French Alps, where man-made bike trails and alpine tracks create a spectacular playground for mountain bikers...
Think you’re special? Think again. These sights – towering mountains, vast deserts, endless skies – will put you back in your place...
This is the time to shoot for the moon: travel further, stay longer, eat more and bring home a lifetime’s worth of romantic memories. Hot air balloons take off in the early morning light over Göreme town in Cappadocia. Image by Christopher Pillitz / The Image Bank / Getty Images...
When times are tight we suggest you travel more, not less – but pick carefully. This is where your wallet will smile at the memories for years to come. Greek Islands View of Navagio Beach, also known as Shipwreck Cove, on Zakynthos Island. Image by Dave Porter Peterborough Uk / Photolibrary / Getty Images...
The warmth of locals and children’s sheer joy in things make travel with kids a blast, especially if you choose child-friendly destinations such as these. Tivoli Gardens fair ride in Copenhagen, Denmark. Image by Frank Fell / Robert Harding World Imagery / Getty Images...
It’s 50 years since the Beatles landed in New York in 1964, changing pop music forever. Here’s a Magical Mystery Tour with the Fab Four. Bright lights of Reeperbahn in Hamburg at night. Image by Konrad Wothe / LOOK / Getty Images...
Next year marks the centenary of the start of the Great War (28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918). Here are some poignant reminders of this devastating conflict. A field of wild Flanders poppies. Image by Tom Brakefield / Stockbyte / Getty Images...
The best places to go and things to do all around the world right now! Drawing on the knowledge, passion and miles travelled by Lonely Planet’s staff, authors and online community, we present a year’s worth of travel inspiration to take you out of the ordinary and into some unforgettable experiences.