From Amsterdam to Tokyo, Bulgaria to Atlanta, these are the places topping our ‘must visit’ list for the year ahead.
It’s not like we need an excuse to travel (obviously) but with so much awesome stuff happening in 2019, it’s tricky figuring out which places to prioritise.
So what’s on the horizon? Here you’ll find our list of recommended destinations – one for every single month of the year – which cover chilled, challenging, and pretty much everything in between. Warning: the following information may result in you booking an awesome trip(sorry, not sorry).
Where: Plovdiv, Bulgaria
Why go now?: You might struggle to find it on a map but 2019 is going to be Plovdiv’s year. Crowned European City of Culture for 2019, this rather charming, ancient city will be hosting more than 300 events throughout the year, spanning music, theatre and dance. Check out some original street art from the Berlin Wall to mark 30 years of the wall coming down or experience Homer’s Odyssey in a new production by the National Theatre of Greece. We also want to try “Paneurhythmics”, which aims to create harmony between body, mind and spirit through music, movement and meditation. Intriguing… Prefer romance to culture? Come back in February and swap Paris with Plovdiv for a Valentine’s Day break with a difference.
Where: Atlanta, USA
Why go now?: As American cities go, Atlanta is feeling pretty smug right now. And fair enough – it’s the chosen host city for one of the biggest sporting events of the year, the Super Bowl. Not a fan of American football? Don’t write it off. Atlanta’s got a ton going for it. Check out The Varsity – the world’s largest drive in restaurant which has been a family-run city institution since the 1920s. We recommend ordering a Heavy Weight, Ring One and an F.O. (that’s a hot dog with extra chili, onion rings and a frozen orange drink). Then head to the city’s most unusual bar, Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium. Admire the kitsch decor, grab a $2 beer and dust off your ping pong skills or stop by on Wednesday nights for Church Organ Karaoke. Oh, and Atlanta is also home to the world’s busiest airport, making it a pretty handy base for exploring the rest of the South, with laidback Savannah and boisterous, boozy Nashville both just an hour away.
Where: Tokyo, Japan
Why go now?: There are plenty of cities that love to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. Dublin (obviously). Boston (the most Irish city in America according to the US Census Bureau) or Chicago (where they dye the River Chicago green). But if you want St Paddy’s with a twist, head to Tokyo. For the last 25 years they’ve hosted their own St Patrick’s Day parade alongside the “I Love Ireland Festival”. Organised by the Irish Network Japan, more than 100,000 visitors are celebrating. Then keep the party going at An SÓLÁS, the best Irish bar in the city. Loved by locals and expats, you’ll find traditional Irish music, fish and chips and the best poured pint of Guinness this side of Ireland. One for Team Ireland to check out after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Who knew?
Why go now?: If you get bored easily, try Lebanon. Start in Beirut. It’s a city of contrasts; old and new, a mix of Europe and the Middle East, a bustling city right on the water. The best way to see the city is by walking – not only will you discover the different neighbourhoods, you’ll also find all the best food, like baklava and manakish (a kind of pizza eaten on the go for the breakfast). For falafel, try Falafel Sahyoun. But choose carefully – there are two of them, run by feuding brothers, both claiming to be the original. Ready for another juxtaposition? Ninety minutes drive from Beirut is Faraya Mzaar, a particularly good ski resort (with a season that lasts into April) making Lebanon one of the rare places you can swim in the morning and ski in the afternoon. Bliss.
Where: Hội An, Vietnam
Why go now?: Our top trending destination for 2019, we don’t need much more encouragement to visit Vietnam but May is probably the perfect time as it usually sees the lowest rainfall of the year. Visit Hội An, an old trading port with a rich history. You’ll see the influence of other cultures in the architecture, such as the French colonial buildings and the famous Japanese covered bridge. Aim to be there on the 18th for the monthly lantern festival where hundreds of lanterns float downstream under the full moon. Aside from the impressive architecture and culture, Hội An is also famous for its food, with street food stalls and hole in the wall restaurants offering not just a real bargain but also an authentic experience. Try the local favourite cao lầu, a pork and noodle dish made with water from a nearby ancient well. Not as wrong as it sounds!
Where: New York City, USA
Why go now?: Pride is always a special time in New York but this year the party goes global as the city hosts WorldPride all month long. Held on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising and the birth of the modern gay rights movement, it’s the perfect time to reflect and celebrate. From the Human Rights Conference to Pride Island, an epic music festival on Pier 97 by Hell’s Kitchen, there’s pretty much something for everyone, including rooftop parties, film screenings and the legendary Pride march itself. Then try one of New York’s latest restaurants, Manhatta. Part of the empire of prolific restauranteer Danny Meyer, it offers some of the best views in the city – 60 stories up, with floor-to-ceiling windows. Plus the prices are surprisingly down-to-earth with three courses for $78 USD.
Where: Boryeong, South Korea
Why go now?: Since last year’s Winter Olympics, South Korea has been speedily rising to the top of our travel bucketlist. There’s the incredible buzz of Seoul. The majestic temples. And, our personal favourite, a mud festival. As the organizers put it, “If Brazil has Rio Carnival and La Tomatina in Spain, then Korea has Boryeong Mud Festival.” Running from the 19 – 28 July, it’s a kind of mud playground with a giant mud bath, a mud super slide, a mud swimming pool, mud massages and something called the “mud mime character performance” (we’re not sure either). Splash mud over strangers, push them into mud or just cover yourself from head-to-toe, and revel in dirty delight with a clear conscience. In a country where beauty treatments are taken seriously, the special minerals found in the mud are a cause of celebration.
Why go now?: Unsurprisingly, National Day in Singapore is always a big event. Held on 9 August, there’s the usual parade and fireworks, but this year there’s extra cause for celebration.After the blockbuster success of Crazy Rich Asians, Singapore is seeing an influx of tourists ready to enjoy the decadent beauty they saw on screen. You can visit locations like Gardens by the Bay (the incredible waterfront nature park where Collin and Araminta had their wedding reception) and Marina Bay Sands (where the rooftop bar scene from the end of the movie was filmed). Not on a crazy rich budget? Not a problem – you can still experience the best of Singapore. The country is home to the world’s cheapest Michelin star restaurant (well, more of a stall) Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle.
Where: Málaga, Spain
Why go now?: Let’s face it, the Costa del Sol hasn’t always had a reputation as a culture hub and is better known as a top fave among British holidaymakers looking for an easy sunny escape. But now the city of Málaga holds just as much appeal for art lovers. There’s always been a strong link (Picasso was born here) but new museums have really made this a cultural destination. On 27 September – to mark World Tourism Day – you can even visit them for free. You literally can’t miss the Pompidou Centre – a huge, multi-coloured cube right on the waterfront. The Modern Utopias exhibition runs all year and features work by Kandinsky, Chagall and Miró, along with a giant flock of sheep. After that there’s at least another 20 museums to explore. For another artistic experience, try the Taberna Uvodoble where chef Willie Orellan takes classic tapas dishes and gives them a contemporary spin, all in sleek surroundings.
Where: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Why go now?: You might think Amsterdam is a party town but just wait until ADE kicks off. Starting on 16 October, the Amsterdam Dance Event is described as “five days of total electronic music emersion”. It’s a mix of conference and festival; by day you can watch masterclasses and panels with DJs and producers (perfect for anyone trying to break into the industry) while at night it’s one big party with 2,500 artists performing in 140 venues. Last year’s event featured everything from “Raving for Revolution” (tackling sustainability and social issues in the music industry) to a series of sold out shows from Martin Garrix. Need to slow things down? Swap EDM for jazz at Bar Oldenhof, a hidden cocktail and whiskey bar that’s cosy, sophisticated and proudly stuck in the 20th century.
Where: Perth, Australia
Why go now?: National Geographic calls Perth “the world’s most remote major city” but don’t let that stop you taking a trip – it’s well worth the effort. It’s got the kind of laid-back atmosphere you’d expect from somewhere that gets 265 days of sun a year and has more than a dozen beaches. And this year there are going to be some epic beach barbecues happening. It’s all part of Gourmet Escape food festival which is bigger than ever this year, with 10 days of events in Perth, Margaret River and Swan Valley from 9 November. Boasting an unrivalled reputation amongst foodies (Nigella calls it magical), its relaxed atmosphere and unrivalled produce, wine and seafood provides a draw for everyone from local suppliers to celebrity chefs.
Where: Val d’Isère, France
Why go now?: See out the end of 2019 on the slopes. If you get excited about ski lifts, get to Val d’Isère where the old four-person télécabines that debuted in 1966 are getting replaced by beautiful new gondolas (their Italian designer works for Ferrari and Maserati). The first of their kind in France, they have heated seats, hold 10 people and will halve the journey time from La Daille up to the Folie Douce. Prefer fancy hotels to luxury ski lifts? Just wait for Le Refuge de Solaise, opening in December. At 2551m, it’s France’s highest hotel.The rooms have an elevated rustic charm, there’ll be a restaurant, a screening room and spa, but the real attraction is being the first on the slopes every morning.