There's a buzz about Lisbon that you can't fail to notice these days – a thrill of optimism, a feeling that the bad old days of financial crises and high unemployment are a thing of the past. Part of that rosy outlook is related to tourism, because the visitors have begun pouring in to Lisbon, attracted by the friendly atmosphere and the inexpensive attractions, by the traditional tiled buildings of the Alfama district and the heaving bars of Bairro Alto, by the wide boulevards of Belem and the boutique shopping of Chiado. Lisbon is smart, friendly and affordable – what more could you want?
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA
Bongeunsa temple in Seoul, South Korea. Photo: Shutterstock
There is, of course, one major drawback to Seoul: its proximity to the itchy trigger finger of one Kim Jong-un. When tensions there ease, however, what you'll be left with in Seoul is a buzzing, cosmopolitan city just waiting to be discovered. There's so much to love about Seoul, so much to appeal to a broad audience. For history buffs, there are temples and shrines. For shoppers, there are malls and boutiques pedalling "Gangnam style". For party-goers, there are the bars of Itaewon and Hongdae. And for those who love to eat, this is a city obsessed with food, from fried chicken and beer joints to Korean barbecues, street food stalls to traditional fine-dining.
There's no shortage of interest in travel to Scandinavia right now, with destinations such as Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Reykjavik experiencing a boom recently. What's next? How about Gothenburg, the Melbourne to Stockholm's Sydney, the creative hub, the occasionally gritty but always friendly town that's a perfect alternative to the buzz of the Swedish capital. Jump on a rattling old tram – instant Melbourne nostalgia – to explore this historic maritime city, from the fresh produce markets to the museums, from the cafes and restaurants to the bars and live music venues.
Though Lima has a rich history both indigenous and colonial, as well as numerous world-class museums, unique architecture, and a stunning location on the clifftops above the Pacific, the Peruvian capital has its restaurateurs to thank for finally launching it into mainstream tourism consciousness. Lima's now world-famous fine-dining establishments – the likes of Central, helmed by Virgilio Martinez, ranked No.5 by the World's 50 Best, as well as Maido (No.8), and Astrid y Gaston – have drawn attention to the thriving gastronomic culture here, a love for food that goes from the most basic street-food stall to the most avant-garde eatery.
The famous Ramen Yokocho Alley in Sapporo. Photo: Shutterstock
There are several reasons why Sapporo's tourism scene is set to boom in the next few years, not least of which is the popularity of Japan's ski resorts, and Sapporo's proximity to world-renowned Niseko. This city, however, should be seen as more than a mere transit point. Hokkaido's capital is one of Japan's gastronomic hubs, and in a country that's obsessed with food, that's saying something. You'll find some of the country's best ramen in Sapporo, as well as plenty of seafood that's unique to Hokkaido, plus amazing dairy products, and world-class beer. The city also hosts some of Japan's best summer festivals.
The twin cities of Buda and Pest, split by the Danube, have long been poised to become Eastern Europe's next big thing, with their myriad attractions for travellers of all ages and interests. Budapest has a little bit of everything that's great about Europe, from classic food halls with amazing fresh produce, to Roman-style baths in which to soak away an afternoon, Communist-era historical sites, architectural wonders like the riverside parliament building and the Chain Bridge, and a buzzing modern pub and club scene. This is one of those "get there now" cities, before everyone else catches on.
The Madrasas at the Registan mosque in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK
Adventure travellers looking for the next frontier, go no further. The ancient city of Samarkand, as one of the main trading hubs on the Silk Road, has been attracting visitors for centuries, and is set to boom once again as interest in travel to Central Asia grows. Samarkand's long history – the city was settled in the 5th century BC, and has been ruled by Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, and many others – is writ large on its streets, with mosques, bazaars, mausoleums and ancient ruins seemingly everywhere you turn. There's a mystical beauty to Samarkand that will leave you pining for more.
The historic Quadrilatero market district, Bologna. Photo: Alamy
There's far more to Bologna than food. There's a large student population and a creative, liberal atmosphere. There are wide piazzas and extensive covered colonnades. There are art galleries, museums, and classical music venues. There's also the easy access provided by direct flights from Dubai and many European capitals. Yes, there's far more to Bologna than food. However, there's also food. We're talking tagliatelle al ragu, the meaty sauce known to many as "Bolognese"; we're talking tortellini en brodo; we're talking all the delights of the Emilia-Romagna region: prosciutto, parmigiano-reggiano, mortadella, balsamic vinegar, and so much more. Pack loose-fitting clothing.
Barton Springs, Austin. Photo: Alamy
The US already has plenty of great cities for travellers, from New York to Los Angeles, Chicago to New Orleans. One of the hotspots that's only just beginning to get its time in the sun, however, is Austin, Texas, the self-proclaimed "live music capital of the world", a city with an anything-goes mentality that fires creativity and acceptance. Austin is best known for its music and its food – Texas barbecue is a thing of beauty – but the city also has great natural attractions, with more than 300 parks, including the buzzing Lady Bird Lake. And with direct flights from Australia into Dallas and Houston, it's never been easier to access.
It's not so much what's in Adelaide, although there is plenty there to love. The South Australian capital has some top-quality restaurants, a fledgling small bar scene, some of Australia's best festivals, and beachy vibes in Glenelg. However, the asset that's sure to boost Adelaide into the big-time is its proximity to so many of Australia's best wine regions. Drive west just half an hour and you're in the Basket Range, or Adelaide Hills. Drive south 45 minutes and you're touring McLaren Vale. Drive north an hour, meanwhile, and you're in the Barossa; continue another hour and you're in the Clare Valley. Amazing.
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