Lonely Planet’s experts are always eager to inspire a travel adventure. In this extract from December’s Lonely Planet Magazine, our travel brains advise reader Sarah Clay on where to go for a sunny New Year city break.
Muscat, the capital of Oman, should tick many of your city-break boxes. In January, it averages a balmy 25°C. A typical day in the city might begin with a dawn visit to Muttrah’s fish market to check out local life. Follow it up with a visit to the Muttrah souq - this traditional Arabian market has antique shops and a modest amount of kitsch. Don’t forget to haggle! Recharge at Al-Ahli Coffeeshop. Here, Omani elders trade news over Arabic coffee.
On the outskirts of the capital, the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is a winning example of modern Islamic architecture, while the more traditional Nakhal Fort is an easy day trip away. Muscat is not a cheap place to stay, but the Beach Hotel is a good mid-range option and a rare residential-style hotel (from £80). Oman Air flies direct from Heathrow to Muscat (around £700 at New Year; omanair.com).
2. Santo Domingo, recommended by US travel editor, Robert Reid
A good choice would be Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Its historic Old Town - the Zona Colonial - is a Unesco World Heritage site. It was here that Christopher Columbus’s son laid the first stone of what’s now one of the oldest churches in the western hemisphere. It’s also a super place to set up on New Year’s Eve – the action centres on the Malecón, a road along the Caribbean. Cafés on Zona Colonial’s cobbled streets serve up sweet, orange-based drinks called morir soñando (‘to die dreaming’), old-timers slap down dominoes in alleyways, and visitors can enjoy museum and restaurant buildings dating back nearly 500 years.
El Beaterío Guest House is a great place to stay set in a 16th-century nunnery (around £70; elbeaterio.com). White-sand beaches surround the city, with Juan Dolio, 30 miles east, the best of the resorts. Many USA baseball pros play winter leagues here – tickets are about £1. Flights from the UK go via New York (around £900 at New Year; continental.com).
Lisbon is one of Europe’s most under-rated capitals, with a laid-back café culture and a superb nightlife that revolves around the exciting Bairro Alto district and waterfront nightclubs. There’s plenty to hold your attention here for a few days. Don’t miss the hilly Alfama district - a timeless maze of alleyways, steps and ancient, multi-tiered houses - and take a Sunday outing to Belém’s seaside monuments and magnificent 16th-century Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (mosteirojeronimos.pt). Rattling trams and elevators make exploring the city fun, and you’re never far away from a custard tart (try the amazing ones at the Antiga Confeitaria de Belém), strong coffee or a cheeky afternoon cervejo (small glass of beer).
If you’re lucky, temperatures will hit 15°C during the day, but you’ll need to put on a coat at night. Hotel VIP Executive Suites Eden offers good value accommodation in a beautifully restored Art Deco theatre (around £100; edenaparthotelvip.com). EasyJet flies from Luton and Gatwick (around £180 at New Year; easyJet.com).