Best places to go and things to do in 2020: The 52 coolest destinations

The Tokyo Olympics and World Expo in Dubai are set to dominate the headlines for travellers in 2020 but elsewhere a series of other thrilling events, architectural wonders, swish hotels and more will provide every bit as much holiday inspiration over these 366 leap-year days.

From China's unveiling of its latest grandiose attractions, ranging from architectural statements to entertainment meccas, to New York cementing its status as the most exciting city in the world with its latest plethora of essential things to do and see, 2020 is packed with interest.

As the world of travel embraces a new decade with renewed vigour and imagination coupled, importantly, with a growing, more urgent consideration for the health and fate of the planet, here are 52 – one for each week of 2020 - of Traveller's choicest picks for a brand, bold new year.

CITIES AND COUNTRIES

PARIS

Chateau de Versailles

Chateau de Versailles

In 2020, a flurry of glamorous new Parisian hotels throw open gleaming doors. The Bvlgari Hotel, JK Place, Kimpton Paris and Cheval Blanc are set to make their mark on the City of Light, and just down the road, the Airelles Chateau de Versailles, Le Grand Controle, on the grounds of Versailles. See enparisinfo.com

BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA

This once war-torn Balkan country is marking 25 years of peace in 2020. FlyBosnia, the country's new (though struggling) airline has launched flights from London Luton to Sarajevo – ending a 12-year dearth of direct air links with Britain. See bhtourism.ba

RWANDA

Tourism in this African nation may be in its infancy. But some great operators have shown their confidence in its future by building luxurious lodges affording access to remarkable wildlife, most notably, mountain gorillas. Put One&Only Gorilla's Nest on the 2020 travel vision board. See visitrwanda.com; oneandonlyresorts.com

PAPUA NEW GUINEA

The incipient tourism industry of PNG wants to let Australians know of the unique adventure that awaits them the north in the form of its oft-overlooked closest neighbour. And the likes of P&O and Carnival alongside smaller cruise operators are doing the same. See papuanewguinea.travel

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KANAZAWA, JAPAN

Where to go after (or before) the Tokyo Olympics? The Ishikawa prefecture's capital is nearly as full of history and culture as the more well-known Kyoto but with fewer tourists. Hyatt will open Hyatt Centric and Hyatt House Hotels in Kanazawa in the middle of 2020, adjacent to the train station. See visitkanazawa.jp; hyatt.com

HOTELS AND RESORTS

AMAN NEW YORK, US

Aman New York

Aman takes its "urban sanctuary" concept to Manhattan, the brand's second city property after Aman Tokyo. If location is everything, then this hotel has the lot: it inhabits the Crown Building on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street, overlooking Central Park. See aman.com

MANDARIN ORIENTAL SAIGON, VIETNAM

Mandarin Oriental Saigon occupies the upper floors of Union Square Saigon, adjacent to the Saigon Opera House and the People's Committee Building. Featuring 227 guestrooms and suites, six restaurants and bars, and an outdoor swimming pool, the property is single-handedly raising the level of Saigon luxury. See mandarinoriental.com

ROSEWOOD SAO PAULO, BRAZIL

Rosewood Sao Paulo

Rosewood's first property in South America lies in a former hospital at the centre of Cidade Matarazzo, a historic complex being developed by the French entrepreneur, Alexandre Allard, who helped to revitalise the House of Balmain. The project team includes the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel and the legendary designer Philippe Starck. See rosewoodhotels.com

VIRGIN HOTELS, LAS VEGAS, US

Goodbye Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas, hello Virgin Hotels. An eight-month shutdown will see this Paradise Road property emerge with a new playful identity. Light serenity characterises the 1500 rooms and 2 hectares of poolside space, while glam restaurants and bars join a nearly 6000-square-metre casino in bringing the bling. See virginhotels.com

VILLA COPENHAGEN, DENMARK

Housed in the Danish capital's 1912 Central Post and Telegraph Head Office, right next to Central Station and Tivoli, the green-credentialed Villa Copenhagen features a 25-metre rooftop lap pool warmed by the building's excess heat, a courtyard bar enclosed by an expansive glass roof and lashings of Scandi style. See nordicchoicehotels.com

BANYAN TREE KRABI, THAILAND

Banyan Tree Krabi opens on Tubkaek beach on the west coast of southern Thailand, with just 72 pool suites and villas, and outlooks across the Andaman Sea. A destination Banyan Tree Spa with a striking rainforest theme will attract the high-end wellness crowd. See banyantree.com

ZULAL WELLNESS RESORT, QATAR

ZULAL WELLNESS RESORT, QATAR

The Thai operation that pioneered luxury wellness, Chiva-Som, debuts Zulal Wellness Resort in the north of Qatar. With both adults-only and family facilities, it will have the world's first centre for Traditional Arabic Integrative Medicine and promises to "set new standards for health resorts the world over". See chivasom.com

MAUNA LANI, HAWAII, US

After a $US200 million renovation, this Big Island beachside classic is getting ready to re-open. The 13-hectare resort will feature locally-connected touches in its coastal cool do-over, such as a cultural centre and museum. See aubergeresorts.com

ONE&ONLY DESARU COAST, MALAYSIA

ONE&ONLY DESARU COAST, MALAYSIA

Kerry Hill Architects, the firm of the eponymous award-winning Australian who died last year, is the sure guiding hand here. The all-suite (and one mighty villa) property is styled around the principles of a kampung, and each of the 45 accommodations features its own plunge pool. See oneandonlyresorts.com

FOUR SEASONS HOTEL BANGKOK AT CHAO PHRAYA RIVER, THAILAND

FOUR SEASONS HOTEL BANGKOK AT CHAO PHRAYA RIVER, THAILAND

Already taking bookings for its February 1 opening, this "urban resort" is emblematic of the ongoing revitalisation of Bangkok's river. Architect Jean-Michel Gathy has conceived a property of 299 rooms and suites and which features two infinity pools along 200 metres of absolute waterfront. See fourseasons.com

EVENTS

2020 SUMMER OLYMPICS AND PARALYMPICS, TOKYO, JAPAN

If you're going to the Olympics and you haven't booked accommodation, you better get onto it. It's estimated Tokyo will be short 14,000 hotel rooms each day of the event, pushing visitors into other cities and onto cruise ships acting as temporary hotels. See tokyo2020.org

EXPO 2020 DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Expo 2020 Dubai Thematic Districts mobility pavillion aerial
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TRAVELLER 52 OF THE BEST FOR 2020
By Julietta Jameson
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Spanning 173 days, involving 192 countries, and hosting a huge number of events, the first World Expo in the Middle East is expecting 25 million visitors to the 438-hectare site. The cost? More than $US3 billion. But Dubai expects the reputational legacy to be priceless. See expo2020dubai.com

2020 CAPITAL OF MUSIC/SALZBURG FESTIVAL CENTENNIAL, AUSTRIA

Some may argue Vienna is the world's capital of music every year, but combine the official mantel with the 250th birthday of Beethoven, and the focus of the classical world will be on the Austrian capital. Three hundred kilometres away, Salzburg will be celebrating 100 years of its exquisite summer festival with more than 200 separate performances and events. See musik2020.wien.info; salzburgerfestspiele.at

MAYFLOWER 400, PLYMOUTH, UK

A year-long commemoration to mark the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower's pioneering New World voyage and its pilgrim passengers, Mayflower 400 will include performances, festivals, art installations, community happenings, and a grand closing ceremony in November. See mayflower400uk.org

CULTURE

THE GRAND EGYPTIAN MUSEUM, CAIRO, EGYPT

GEM, Egypt's new $US1-billion-plus home for its historical artefacts, is finally opening next year. Announced in 1992 and scheduled to originally welcome guests in 2022, pieces are moving in (a huge delivery occurred mid-December) and the facility is already running private tours for the lucky few. See gem.gov.eg

EUROPEAN CAPITAL OF CULTURE, GALWAY, IRELAND

Structured around the old Celtic calendar of Imbolc, Bealtaine, Lughnasa and Samhain, Galway 2020 begins in February and runs through until the end of January 2021. The February 8 opening in Galway City promises to be very good craic indeed. (Marrakech is the other 2020 Capital of Culture.) See galway2020.ie

CATHEDRAL SAINT-ETIENNE DE METZ, METZ, FRANCE, 800th ANNIVERSARY

One of Europe's highest Gothic edifices, Saint-Etienne is home to 6500 square metres of stained glass by important artists ranging from Hermann de Munster to Marc Chagall. In 2020, this French jewel, built between 1220 and 1552, celebrates its 800 years. See metz.fr

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSIC, TENNESSEE, US

Scheduled to open in Downtown Nashville in the northern summer, the highly anticipated National Museum of African American Music will explore the connections and influences that African American musical artists have had on all genres of music. See nmaam.org

THE NEW MUSEUM FOR WESTERN AUSTRALIA, PERTH

Western Australia's $400 million new landmark mixes heritage and contemporary architecture. Cutting-edge technology inside showcases the people, places, history and cultures of Western Australia with a strong focus on Aboriginal and multicultural stories. See museum.wa.gov.au/newmuseum

THE DEATH OF RAPHAEL, ITALY, 500TH ANNIVERSARY

The death of the High Renaissance artist and architect Raffaello Sanzio is marked with a huge exhibition of his work at Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome, the city in which he spent the last decade of his life. In his birthplace, Urbino an exhibition examining Raphael's local influence runs till January 19. See scuderiequirinale.it

ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN

AMBIENTE, A LANDSCAPE HOTEL, SEDONA, ARIZONA

A magnet for wellness and nature lovers, Arizona's Sedona will soon have this ASUL Architects-designed haven comprising 40 cube-shaped "Atriums": above-ground metal and glass cubes that will reflect, rather than interrupt the incredible natural environment surroundings. See ambientesedona.com

CENTRAL PARK TOWER, NEW YORK CITY, US

A $US3 billion, 472-metre-high edifice on NYC's so-called Billionaire's Row will be the highest residential tower in the world. Architects Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill are no strangers to dizzying heights. Their previous work includes Saudia Arabia's Jeddah Tower. See centralparktower.com

THE LONDONER HOTEL, LONDON, ENGLAND

Londoner

Photo: Woods Bagot

The revamp of Leicester Square continues with the opening of the £300 million Londoner, cleverly designed by Australia's Woods Bagot to work with the existing streetscape, having eight storeys above ground and six subterranean levels of bars, restaurants and cinemas. See edwardian.com

NEW NATIONAL STADIUM, TOKYO, JAPAN

Starchitect Kengo Kuma's stadium for the Tokyo Olympics is built on the same footprint as the stadium for Japan's landmark 1964 Games which coincided with technological advances such as the shinkansen or bullet train. The 60,000 seat stadium's design and construction is dominated by timber, a trademark of the architect. See tokyo2020.org; jnto.org.au

WORLD EXPO 2020 PAVILIONS, DUBAI, UAE

A who's who of the architecture world is on display for Dubai's Expo. Foster + Partners is just one of the firms involved in the host nation's facilities, while country exhibits are housed in structures as smart as they are striking, leaving a permanent architectural legacy. See expo2020.dubai.com

CRUISING

CELEBRITY APEX

Celebrity Apex

Celebrity Apex

Set to sail the Mediterranean and Caribbean after she launches in April, the 2900-passenger Celebrity Apex is the second of four Celebrity Edge Class ships. She'll have the moveable cantilever deck off her side, the bi-fold cabin balcony doors and other "first-at-sea" features of her popular sibling, Celebrity Edge. See celebritycruises.com

P&O IONA

The greenest ship in P&O history is also the biggest built for the UK market. The 5200-passenger ship will run entirely on liquid natural gas and will include and 30 eateries with seven specialty restaurants in that offering. See pocruises.com

ODYSSEY OF THE SEAS

In late 2020, Royal Caribbean's second Quantum Ultra-Class ship begins welcoming guests (up to 4200) for its ultra-fun offering, including water, sky and trampoline adrenaline-rush rides and a two-level pool deck with two big pools, She'll also offer an adults-only swimming area. See royalcaribbean.com

SCARLET LADY

An adults-only new concept ship featuring a vinyl record store and tattoo parlour? Sounds like something Richard Branson might have thought up. The 2770-passenger Scarlet Lady is the first ship from Virgin Voyages and includes sassy flourishes like "Rockstar Suites". Lest you think it's all about partying, there's a big focus on wellness here, too. See virginvoyages.com

VIKING SEINE CLASS SHIPS

Viking expands its France river cruise fleet with the launch of four new Viking Seine Ships. Replicating the award-winning Viking Longships, the four 135-metre, 168-guest ships are of a smaller size that can take guests deeper into Paris, docking in the heart of the city at Port de Grenelle. The suites with full verandas, are the largest on France's rivers. See vikingcruises.com.au

UNIWORLD'S QUARTET OF NEW SHIPS

As part of a five-year reinvention of its offering, in 2020 Uniworld launches four new ships. S.S. Sao Gabriel will hit the Douro River in Portugal. S.S. La Venezia, Venice is a redesign of the River Countess and will cruise Italy's Po river and Venetian islands. The Mekong Jewel, cruises Vietnam and Cambodia and the S.S. Sphinx, Egypt. See uniworld.com

AIRLINES AND AIRPORTS

BRANDENBURG AIRPORT, BERLIN, GERMANY

It's been dubbed the "ghost airport" due to the near completed yet fault-riddled facility lying dormant. But it seems, nine years after its original launch date, the €7 billion airport will finally be operational towards the end of 2020, putting an end to Berlin's reliance on two inadequate Cold War facilities. See berlin-airport.de

VIRGIN AUSTRALIA FLIGHTS TO JAPAN

In March, Virgin Australia will launch daily service between Brisbane and Tokyo-Haneda the Japanese capital's closest airport (compared to Narita). Virgin has also announced a codeshare arrangement with All Nippon Airways. See virginaustralia.com

QANTAS A380 REFIT

By the end of 2020, all 12 A380s in the Qantas fleet will have a new David Caon-designed refit featuring all new seating in business and premium economy cabins and a refresh of the aircraft's first and economy seating. The on-board lounge has also been redesigned. See qantas.com

ABU DHABI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT MIDFIELD TERMINAL, UAE

Costing $4.3 billion and much delayed, Abu Dhabi's new terminal project which spans 742,000 square metres will have a capacity to handle 45 million passengers annually with 2150 square metres of F&B, and 27,500 square metres of lounges. See abudhabiairport.au

FOOD AND DRINK

LEGAVROCHE AT SEA, CUNARD CRUISES

Cunard's first-ever Festival of Food & Wine on board Queen Mary 2 during a seven-night Atlantic Crossing (June 7 – 14) will include legendary chef Michel Roux Jr. He will do a series of hosted dinners in The Verandah restaurant as well as a three-course signature gala menu in the Britannia Grill. See cunard.com

DEATH & CO/GIRL & THE GOAT, ARTS DISTRICT, LOS ANGELES, US

DTLA.

DTLA. Photo: Matt Marriott

Two of the US's most innovative hospitality operations are setting up shop in LA's funky Arts District in 2020. Manhattan's Death & Co, regularly mentioned among the world's top ten bars will head to the west coast, and Chicago's star, Stephanie Izard brings her restaurant concept, Girl & the Goat as well. See discoverlosangeles.com

HOMAGE, SPICERS HIDDEN VALE, GRANDCHESTER, QUEENSLAND

In April 2018, the 100-year-old Homestead at Spicers Hidden Vale was destroyed by fire. The Chef Hatted restaurant was moved to the property's barn. In February, the Homestead rebuild is due completion and guests can dine either in it, the barn, or even under the stars. See spicersretreats.com

THE BULL & BEAR, MANCHESTER, UK

Tom Kerridge's new restaurant and bar at the Stock Exchange Hotel in Manchester's old Victorian stock exchange is wowing critics. The glamorous room may be brought down to earth by its tellies showing sport (with a thud according to some), but the Bull & Bear is the new star of the north. See thebullandbearmcr.com

THOMAS KELLER, LAS VEGAS, US

Culinary luminaries don't come much brighter than Thomas Keller of three Michelin-starred French Laundry-fame. Lucky Las Vegas already has his Bouchon Bistro and three Bouchon Bakery outlets. But 2020 sees him open an as yet unnamed restaurant at Wynn Las Vegas. See wynnlasvegas.com

ATTRACTIONS

EDGE SKYDECK, NEW YORK CITY, US

New York's Hudson Yards development gets a new attraction with Edge, a suspended viewing deck constructed from glass, jutting 25 metres out of the 100th storey of a skyscraper. A staircase leads up to a higher level champagne bar. See edgenyc.com

UNIVERSAL BEIJING RESORT, BEIJING, CHINA

Several new theme parks are opening across China in 2020, the biggest name, though is Universal. Further development will see a second theme park and water park adjacent. The company is opening parks in Moscow and South Korea as well. See universalbeijingresort.com

LEGOLAND NEW YORK RESORT, GOSHEN, NEW YORK, US

The biggest Legoland yet will have more than 50 rides plus other attractions, including 15,000 Lego models, currently being constructed around the world. A 250-room hotel will be busy; the 61-square-hectare resort lies 100 kilometres away from NYC. See legoland.com

SHANGHAI PLANETARIUM, SHANGHAI, CHINA

This 38,000-square-metre Ennead Architects-designed planetarium will be the world's biggest. The striking facility, a branch of the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum, comprises three "celestial bodies", the Oculus, the Inverted Dome, and the Sphere, telling the story of time, space and China's astro-ambitions. See en.sstm.org.cn

CHANGSHA MEIXIHU INTERNATIONAL CULTURE AND ART CENTRE, CHANGSHA, CHINA

Changsha Meixihu International Culture and Art Centre

Photo: Alamy

Another incredible Zaha Hadid design came to completion at the end of 2019, in the curving form of this Hunan Province masterpiece. Housing a contemporary art gallery, theatre and multi-purpose hall, it sits majestically on the shore of Meixi Lake. See en.changsha.gov.cn

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW IN 2020

CASHLESS IS KING

While carrying no cash won't work everywhere, the tap revolution is upon us. More than eight million people use Revolut, a smartphone-based debit card system that converts currency for free. See revolut.com

BLUE ECONOMY TRAVEL

The Seychelles is among destinations reframing their approach to oceans, regarding them as a resource that can generate wealth for future generations by sustainable management and improvement of eco-health. See seychelles.travel/en

BYO DEVICE

An increasing number of airlines – and even some planes on full service carriers – no longer offer inflight entertainment. In 2020, do your research before flying and be prepared to pack your own devices.

HONG KONG

The political and social unrest that characterised Hong Kong in 2019 is likely to continue in 2020, according to many pundits, leaving a question mark for travellers over this once immensely popular destinations.

THE AUSTRALIAN DOLLAR

The Australian dollar could rebound on the back of a positive trade outcome between China and the US. However, potential Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) moves to boost the Australian economy could lead to a decline in value.

FIVE MUST DOS FOR 2020

SEEK THE UNIQUE

Make a positive impact on the communities you visit by shopping locally-made souvenirs. From handmade chocolate in Paris, to a woven bracelet in an African village, avoid the plastic made in China.

EMBRACE THE SURPRISING

Seek out the unexpected, such as Make My Day, which in addition to curated tours, offers Mystery Days – surprise experiences carefully crafted to interest gleaned via a questionnaire. See makemyday.travel

OFFSET OFTEN

Not flying is not an option for most Australian international travellers – choose airlines committed to reducing their environmental impact (Qantas is one) and make your own carbon offset choices.

SLOW DOWN

When you do fly overseas, try the less is more approach. Explore the one country or city for longer. Take its trains. Live like a local. Immerse yourself. Do two or three European countries instead of seven.

LOUNGE ABOUT

More pay-per-visit lounges are opening in international airports. Major player Plaza Premium Group is spending $US55 million across 11 international airports, including Sydney and Singapore. See plazapremiumgroup.com

See also: Travel writers' dream destinations for 2020 revealed

See also: The 9 hottest destinations of the last decade

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