1. Cape Town, South Africa
Following in the footsteps of Helsinki and Seoul, Cape Town has been elected World Design Capital 2014, giving it the opportunity to showcase about 450 innovation projects. That it was selected more as a “one to watch” rather than a fully polished design leader makes it even more exciting to keep an eye on. To see a social/design experiment in action, go to Woodstock, a run-down suburb given a new lease of life through the Neighbourgoods Market), which sells artisan goods in a former biscuit factory: The Old Biscuit Mill. This is also home to Luke Dale-Roberts’ restaurants the Test Kitchen and the Pot Luck Club & Gallery. The city has got what is being billed as the world’s coolest cafe – Truth, drawing on a Victorian steam-punk theme,. For a township “jazz safari”, or a tour specifically linked to World Design Capital 2014, see coffeebeansroutes.com.
2. Uzès, France
Our enduring love affair with France, and with Provence in particular, has been seized upon by Eurostar, which is extending the direct six-hour summer service from Ashford to Avignon by two weeks (28 June-13 September), with a view to a year-round service from 2015. One place sure to please Francophiles is Uzès, a short hop west of Avignon in rural Languedoc-Roussillon. The town has Renaissance architecture, mazy streets and nuns selling jam in Place aux Herbes. But a sure sign that Uzès is becoming a style outpost is the number of restored houses being run as maisons d’hôtes. L’Albiousse (from €155 a night) is a tasteful four-room luxury B&B in a 16th-century house off Place aux Herbes, owned by two former Paris restaurateurs. It is near the Musée du Bonbon, aka the Haribo Museum, as Uzès is the production site for Gummi Bears.
3. Austin, Texas, US
4. Carmarthenshire, UK
The man himself would no doubt have approved. In the seaside town of Laugharne this year, the centenary of Dylan Thomas’s birth, visitors who can prove it is their birthday can claim a free pint in Brown’s Hotel, the very pub where Thomas liked to sit “mouldering” and giving his liver a punishing work-out (dylanthomasbirthdaywalk.co.uk). There will be festivals and events to mark the centenary all year, including a Dylan Thomas Poetry, Biography and Film Weekend in Laugharne, from 2-5 May, with poets including Simon Armitage and John Cooper Clarke performing in venues around town. (For a list of all centenary events see dylanthomas100.org). Brown’s (browns-hotel.co.uk, doubles from £95) has been refurbished in a 1950s retro style that Thomas would probably find familiar, but it is now a boutique hotel, with iPod docks and lovely organic linens in its 14 rooms. And the Dylan Thomas boathouse has fabulous views of the Taf estuary and the Gower beyond.
5. Kolkata, India
6. São Tomé and Príncipe
Together the neighbouring islands of São Tomé and Príncipe form Africa’s second-smallest nation. But it is shaping up to be one of its premier surf spots. With uncrowded waters surrounded by palm trees and white sands, Radiation Point (Praia de Algés) is often said to offer some of the best breaks on the continent and, in December, the International Surfing Association (ISA) gave the country its official seal of approval by inviting it to become its 78th member. Base yourself at Hotel Praia Inhame (chalets for two from $60), and you can also enjoy turtle watching, diving and fishing trips.
7. Alaçatı, Turkey
8. George Town, Malaysia
Once George Town was named a Unesco world heritage site in 2008, the capital of the Malaysian state of Penang began changing into one of south-east Asia‘s hottest destinations. Penangites are renovating everything from Chinese mansions to old factories, which means there’s something for all budgets – delicious street food or fine dining; funky hostels or boutique hotels. The latest spot is the Three Sixty Degree Sky Bar. Follow drinks there with either a plate of spicy duck soup from one of the stalls on Kimberley Street or gourmet Penang Nyonya cuisine at Seven Terraces, the restaurant everyone wants to be seen at. In addition to the month-long George Town festival (1-31 August), this year the city will host the first south-east Asian edition of Tropfest (20-25 January, free), the world’s biggest short film festival.
9. Alberta, Canada
10. Bordeaux, France
Like a classic wine, Bordeaux took a bit of time to come into its own. A renewal programme instigated by mayor Alain Juppé in the 1990s has transformed Bordeaux from a congested and claustrophobic place into a bright, modern city. Neo-classical facades have had a steam clean, sleek trams snake through the boulevards and the once-desolate riverfront has been redeveloped. The latest splash of colour comes in the form of a fleet of Philippe Starck-designed scooter-bikes, being tested for a cycle share scheme. Starck is also behind the new Mama Shelter, (doubles from €59) a budget hotel that opened in the former HQ of France’s national gas company last October.
In the northern docklands, old warehouses are being recast. Les Tontons (from €10 for two courses) in the cavernous former dock offices serves up to 500 people a chic take on canteen-style food. Just over the Bacalan Bridge is Le Garage Modern, car repair shop by day and performance venue by night.
But everything leads back to wine. The CAPC Musée D’Art Contemporain de Bordeaux is in an old wine warehouse on the harbour, and just five minutes from Wine & Soul (23 rue du Couvent), a cosy cave-like wine bar.
In the first journey of its kind, the Danube Express train will travel across Iran for 15 days in October (from £8,695pp). Despite the high price, demand is such that new dates for 2015 have already been added. Iran’s highlights include Persepolis, Esfahan, Tehran and Shiraz, the Zagros mountains and the Bavanat valley.
The world’s eyes will be on Belgium this year for the centenary of the outbreak of the first world war. The first soldier to be killed in the fighting died in Liège at dawn on 4 August 1914; the first and the last British soldiers to die were both killed in Mons, near the French border. Brussels is staging a major exhibition, 1914-18: It’s our History!, which opens on 7 February at the city’s Royal Army Museum. There are also scores of other commemorative events all over Flanders, the northern part of Belgium: see visitflanders.co.uk for details. Tour operators are running guided trips, too: such as Ramblers Worldwide, which has a Walking the Ypres Salient tour (from £999, including half-board accommodation and Eurostar travel, which includes the Tyne Cot cemetery, near Ypres.
In the relatively unexplored north-eastern state of Alagoas, a succession of rustic-chic laid-back beach pousadas offer fabulous cuisine: try Pousada da Amendoeira (bungalows from £110) on Praia do Toque, or Pousada Casa Zulu (doubles from £46) in Icaraizinho de Amontada. Beaches aside, anyone heading to Manaus for England’s opening match against Italy should make time to explore the world’s greatest tropical rainforest: Pousada Uacari (three nights full-board from $550pp) is a floating lodge in the heart of the jungle.
Despite a history of winemaking that goes back to Roman times and romantic Mediterranean villages with Byzantine churches and terracotta roofs, Macedonia continues to be overlooked in favour of better-developed attractions in nearby Italy and Greece. But with the number of visitors steadily increasing year on year, it’s only a matter of time before the obvious appeals of this small, picturesque nation begin to be recognised. Next year marks the completion of the Skopje 2014 project, a multimillion euro scheme to transform the capital city – including the building of new bridges and museums and replacing the facades of buildings in a neo-classical style. However, the real treat for visitors is spectacular Lake Ohrid, a vast lake by whose edge perches a town of the same name the perfect place for a dreamy, and affordable, escape (see ohrid.com.mk).
15. Paso Robles, California, US
“You can feel the energy,” says Steve Heimof of Wine Enthusiast Magazine, which recently named Paso Robles wine region of the year. “Over the past two years these winemakers have been making crazy, wild blends of red. It would be hard to do that in Napa: it’s so traditional there.”
Since 2000, the number of wineries has quadrupled to 200 (sample top zinfandels and red blends at Dusi Vineyard or Epoch Wines , and while it seems a new chef moves in from LA or San Francisco every few months, an “old” favourite restaurant (circa 2006) is Artisan, famous for decadent lamb-leg dip and Cuban sandwiches.
“It’s been exploding – for good and ill,” says Jon Bonné, wine editor for the San Francisco Chronicle. “There’s more tourist infrastructure – restaurants, small bakeries, places aimed at visitors who might not have appreciated Big Bubba’s Bad to the Bone BBQ.”
16. Rabat, Morocco
Ask people to name a Moroccan city and most will say Marrakech or Fes, or even Casablanca. Poor Rabat – the country’s capital – will probably be way down the list. Which is a shame, because it certainly has its draws, including a historic medina plenty of souks, and a French-colonial “new town”, one of the most ambitious 20th-century urban projects in Africa. Many visitors say they find it less chaotic than Marrakech. Rabat was given Unesco world heritage status in 2012 and the city could be on the brink of experiencing the Ryanair effect, as new flights link it to Stansted from February. (See rabat-tourisme.org.)
17. Yunnan, China
18. Budapest, Hungary
Wes Anderson’s latest flick, The Grand Budapest Hotel, was mostly filmed in Gorlitz, in eastern Germany. But its fantasy pastel hues and sepia-toned aesthetic do whet the appetite for a central Europe escapade. And Budapest is still the best-value European city for a mini break according to a recent report by the Post Office. Renaissance and art-nouveau architecture provides a romantic backdrop to an increasingly hip destination; the newly opened Baltazar Hotel, with rooms by cutting-edge designers, is just one example, while the eighth district – previously a no-go zone – continues to flourish, with galleries and laid-back cafes.
“Go now before it changes” is the common refrain but Cuba is already changing. Legislation governing private enterprise is altering the visitor experience. Tourists have long been able to stay in a room in a private home – a casa particular – but now entire historic houses can be let. Suite Havana is a fantastic two-bedroom apartment with a roof terrace in Old Havana. Ydalgo’s Penthouse, is a three-bedroom apartment owned by a designer, in the city’s Vedado district – which also features chic Cafe Madrigal. Both accommodations are available through new operator Miraviva, from about $250 a night. Casa particulares are changing too: kitsch homestays being superseded by stylish homes, such as beautiful Finca Kenia in Trinidad – a great spot to enjoy this year’s 500th anniversary celebrations. “Now is a brilliant time to visit,” says Charles Tyler of Miraviva. “You have the trappings of communism, with no advertising, and no McDonalds, no Starbucks and so on, but a better standard accommodation, really good food and new experiences.”
22. Abu Dhabi, UAE
An island off Abu Dhabi is the antithesis of the glitz around it. Sir Bani Yas was founded as a wildlife reserve in the 1970s and, following a conservation programme, is home to Arabian oryx, cheetahs and flamingoes. The Anantara group’s accommodation is “luxury” but its two new hotels feel unflashy: the 30 villas of Al Yamm overlook the beach and the turtle nesting grounds; the 30 villas of Al Sahel are in the savannah grasslands, where gazelle and giraffes graze in front of your balcony. Trailfinders has a seven-night two-hotel break from £1,389pp.
23. Catskills, US
Some burn everything off by hiking the 5.6-mile Mount Tremper trail; others prefer browsing vintage dresses and vinyl at The Mystery Spot in Phoenicia. On the drive back to the city, you’ll soon be able to stop at the Marina Abramovic Institute, where the revered performance artist is creating a cultural spa.
24. Blackwater estuary, Essex, UK
Island hopping in Essex? The idea may never have crossed your mind but there are great little spots out in the Blackwater estuary. Osea, the private island a few miles from Maldon where the rich and famous party, is hosting several special events this year: kids’ camps, boutique festivals, pop-up restaurants. Although a restaurant for daytrippers has been rumoured, only overnight guests are currently allowed to cross Osea’s exclusive causeway (cottages for two from £295 for two nights).
Less pricey and open to all is Mersea Island, famous for its seafood. Don’t miss the delicious platters at The Company Shed . Leeward House, a B&B by the beach, has doubles from £70, or splash out – almost literally – on The Raft, a floating cabin sleeping four near Maldon from £195 a night.
25. Lagos, Nigeria
“Nollywood has become a worldwide phenomenon,” says Lagos- based artist Emeka Ogboh. “People are curious to see the space it depicts.” People are coming to feel the city’s vibes and energy.”
26. Dyess, Arkansas, US
Arkansas isn’t the type of place that figures too often on travel bucket lists. And Dyess, Arkansas (population 500) probably never has. But that is set to change this year with the opening of Johnny Cash’s boyhood home as a museum (http://dyesscash.astate.edu). The single-storey wooden farmstead is being returned to its original state as part of a $10m tourist project designed to get the town back on its feet – echoing the fresh start Cash’s parents got when they were given the farm in the 1930s as part of President Franklin D Roosevelt’s New Deal.
The house is the centrepiece of a restoration project that aims to tell the history of the purpose-built Depression-era town. It is scheduled to open on 26 April, and the hope is that some of the 600,000 people who visit Graceland, home of Cash’s contemporary Elvis Presley, will drive a further 50 miles north from Memphis to the Man in Black’s museum. Cash’s surviving brother and sister have ensured that all the furnishings – upright piano, pot-bellied stove, Silvertone tabletop radio – are authentic and accurate.
With the government pouring money into infrastructure – construction has started on a new airport near capital Ulan Bator – tourism is set to play an even greater role in the country’s economy. That’s not to say the place is about to get crowded – this is still one of the last untamed destinations in the world.
28. Yorkshire, UK
Hosting the Grand Départ of the 2014 Tour de France puts a place on the map but there’s a lot more to Yorkshire than two days of carbon bikes and Lycra. In fact, the Tour route misses a lot of what’s best in the region: the North York Moors, the North Sea coast, and the Wolds in East Yorkshire. Whitby has been an attraction since Victorian days: Lewis Carroll was a regular at what is now the La Rosa Hotel, but Scarborough and Filey further south are great, too. Even Bridlington, powered by resident David Hockney, is on the up, perhaps helped by the award-winning Wold Top Brewery.
Beer is excellent throughout Yorkshire and there’s a new brewery, Stod Fold, in Halifax, to add to an impressive list. Good food is found in simple cafes: the Little Organic Bakery on Wellington Road in Bridlington is a new gem; and for great fish and chips, try the Harbour View Cafe on Scarborough’s West Pier. There are Michelin stars, too – more than in any other county. One newcomer, The Star in the City in York, is run by Andrew Pern, who built The Star at Harome into a top restaurant with rooms. With Hull set to be City of Culture 2017, Leeds’ modern events arena, and Sheffield boasting more artists than London, Yorkshire is definitely buzzing.
29. La Maremma, Italy
But the super-rich don’t have it all to themselves. New to boutique accommodation website i-escape this year is Locanda Rossa (doubles from €120 B&B) in Capalbi, close to the beach at Chiarone. It has 13 rooms, four apartments sleeping six, a restaurant and a pool.
30. Panama City
When hipster hotel chain Ace started looking for its first forays outside the US, it picked London first, then Panama City. Central America wasn’t an obvious second move, but those who have spent time in the city’s Casco Viejo neighbourhood can see the appeal. Sometimes compared to the French Quarter of New Orleans, the area mixes faded glory (dilapidated townhouses and 17th-century city walls) with newfound style (boutiques, cafes and fancy ice-cream parlours such as Granclément on Central Avenue.
The Ace project – a collaboration with Commune Design of Los Angeles and local property developer Conservatorio – has just opened as the American Trade Hotel (doubles from $259 +tax). At the other end of the scale, hostel Luna’s Castle (dorm beds from £8 a night) is a down-to-earth party favourite.
31. Gdansk, Poland
32. Glasgow, UK
If your image of Glasgow is all rusting shipyards and deep-fried confectionery, 2014 would be a good time to rediscover Scotland’s largest city as it welcomes the world during perhaps the biggest year in its history. That Glasgow is a fast-growing city-break destination is impressive: it did not even have a tourist office until the 1980s. In 1990, European City of Culture status kickstarted the regeneration. In 1999, the UK City of Architecture and Design award had a similar effect. Glasgow is indeed a city transformed.
In Finnieston, in between the centre and the West End, Zaha Hadid’s Riverside Museum, named European Museum of the Year 2013, was joined last September by the sleek SSE Hydro concert and sports venue. The Hydro will be one of the stars of this summer’s 2014 Commonwealth Games.
The cultural scene will be further boosted by Homecoming Scotland 2014, with dozens of cultural, historic and gastronomic events. Then there are the MTV Music Awards, being held in this Unesco City of Music for the first time, partly in recognition of the successful recent staging of a trio of Mobo Awards.
33. Tasmania, Australia
34. Somerset, UK
Somerset is no longer a West Country backwater. First came the celebrities. Then independent shops, restaurants and elegant places to stay such as At The Chapel helped put pretty-but-otherwise-unremarkable spots such as Bruton on the map. Now, the whole world looks set to take notice of this tiny village, as global art powerhouse Hauser & Wirth sets up shop on nearby Durslade Farm. The project is driven by visionaries Iwan and Manuela Wirth, who live nearby, and will include contemporary art spaces, a guesthouse and gardens by Piet Oudolf. Across the county in Bath, the Gainsborough (doubles from £289) is the first hotel to tap the town’s thermal waters (the famous Bath Spa does not have accommodation). It will open this spring with 99 rooms and an enormous spa/bathing area inside a listed Georgian building.
From oyster omelettes in Taipei’s night markets to tea in a Maokong plantation, Taiwan is a fascinating place to eat and drink your way around. For year-round food tours, see taiwanfoodadventure.com, or learn to make the dishes yourself with a cookery lesson at Jodie’s Kitchen.
“Visit before the tourists come”: it’s telling that the Bangladesh tourist board’s slogan, introduced in 2006, still applies. While Burma and India, which it borders, are high on many travel wishlists, Bangladesh remains largely overlooked, despite having assets that include the world’s longest beach (Cox’s Bazar’s 77 miles of sand, pictured) and the tiger’s share of the world’s largest mangrove forest (the Sundarbans, home to Bengal tigers). Travelling here isn’t necessarily easy (and protests ahead of January elections mean visitors should check before booking), but they will be warmly welcomed. British-Bangladeshi Yasmin Choudhury has started Lovedesh.com, a website that focuses on the positives of otherwise stigmatised “third world” destinations, and to ensure her parents’ homeland is not written off as a pitiful place, known only for floods. The website has a travel element and she will lead its first trip to Bangladesh at Easter (10 nights from £1,400, excluding flights), utilising her local contacts to showcase the country’s little-known highlights, including boat trips through rural Sylhet and plenty of wood-fired curries. Exodus has also just launched a 15-day tour (from £2,099, including flights).
37. Moscow, Russia
Interested Brits should be aware that Moscow is not your typical budget airline city break: it’s a four-hour flight, and you need to brave the Kafkaesque business of applying for a Russian visa. But easyJet’s new routes to Moscow from Manchester and Gatwick, and Ryanair’s Dublin-Moscow route, which will launch this spring (with flights from the UK sure to follow if it’s successful), mean the travelling classes will be arriving soon.
38. Folkestone, UK
Beyond the town’s shabby (but improving) seafront, a grassroots arts scene has bubbled into a fully-fledged movement. Buoyed by the renaissance of nearby Hastings and Margate, the work of its artisans is now celebrated in the Folkestone Triennial. The event, curated by Lewis Biggs, formerly of Tate Liverpool, returns for a third time from 30 August-2 November. Works will be shown in public spaces such as the Creative Quarter, a colourful area of shops, studios and cafes, and a picturesque symbol of the town’s changing mood.
39. Canberra, Australia
40. Umeå, Sweden
As enthusiasm for all things Scandi continues, lesser-known corners are muscling in. The small town of Umeå in northern Sweden is on the periphery of Europe culturally as well as geographically, so its status this year as a European Capital of Culture is perhaps surprising, especially given that one of its attractions is the weird Umedalen sculpture park, with Gormleys and Kapoors in the grounds of a former mental asylum. It also has two Eurovision-themed clubs and is about to get a snazzy new cultural centre. Renovation of the historic Stora hotel in the centre will be completed by March.