Australia, for the moment at least, is the sleeping beauty of the Western world as we await word of precisely when our international borders will open. But what we do know for sure is that while we've cut ourselves off, the rest of the world has hardly been idle.
Many of our favourite overseas city destinations have opened bold new attractions and we are excited about all of them, whether it's the culture hit of a dazzling museum or the groundbreaking technology of a new train station.
In this special guide, Traveller presents many new delights that have emerged while we've been gone and that we can't wait to visit when the opportunity finally presents itself.
The refurbishment of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London. Photo: Philip Vile
SO WHAT'S NEW? The curtain has come up on the two-year, $113 million restoration of the 200-year-old Theatre Royal Drury Lane, bringing back the glamour to the West End. It's not just the auditorium that has benefited; new dining venues and bars include the opulent Rotunda champagne star and the soon-to-open Green Saloon where afternoon tea will be served under chandeliers.
TELL ME MORE London is a city for all seasons. Whether you go in the warmer months for the parks and the riverside activities, or in the winter to cosy up with pubs and curries, there is so much to enjoy, from world-class museums, theatre and galleries to buzzing nightlife.
NEW YORK, US
Little Island, New York. Photo: Michael Grimm
TELL ME MORE There is always plenty happening in the city that never sleeps, but 2022 promises to be a huge year. The new Museum of Broadway - located, where else, but Times Square - will celebrate some of history's most memorable musicals and take you inside the making of a Broadway show. There's also a new building for The New Museum specialising in contemporary art which will double its exhibition space, while the Dia Art Foundation will open another campus in Soho.
Visitors will be able to walk through the tunnels once used by gladiators. Photo: Alamy
SO WHAT'S NEW? It's one of Rome's biggest attractions and now there is a new reason to visit the Colosseum. For the first time, visitors can explore all 15,000 square metres of the monument's backstage area, walking through the tunnels once used by gladiators preparing for their fights.
TELL ME MORE Lovers of ancient Rome will find more antique treasures on show than ever before. Other sites now open to visitors include the Mausoleum of the emperor Augustus – the world's largest circular tomb; an underground mithraeum, or temple, at the Circus Maximus; and the tombs of one of ancient Rome's most revered dynasties, the Scipione.
ESSENTIALS The Colosseum's gladiator tunnels can only be visited on a tour. Book the Full Experience Ticket With Access To The Arena and Colosseum Underground, available for $35 from coopculture.it See il-colosseo.it; turismoroma.it
La Samaritaine, Paris.
SO WHAT'S NEW? It was once Paris' grandest department store. Now, 16 years after closing, La Samaritaine has been rebirthed by SANAA Architects. The glorious art deco and art nouveau elements have been joined by contemporary elements; inside, you will find a broad range of shops and restaurants, cafes and tea rooms, as well as the five-star Cheval Blanc Paris hotel.
TELL ME MORE Love strolling through Paris? There are now more places to promenade than ever before, thanks to Mayor Anne Hidalgo's ongoing climate-friendly initiatives, including new walkable areas along the Seine, regular car-free days and the upcoming greening of the Champs Elysees.
An archeologist at work in the Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza, Egypt. Photo: Getty Images
SO WHAT'S NEW? Stop us if you've heard this before, but this really will be the year that the much-delayed Grand Egyptian Museum finally opens. With much of the 100,000-item-strong collection already in place – including the entire contents of Tutankhamun's tomb on display for the first time - we can't wait to visit this spectacular museum, the largest in the world dedicated to one civilisation.
TELL ME MORE Visitors to Egypt typically spend most of their time in the Nile Valley, leaving just a day or two to explore Cairo. The government hopes to lure them into staying longer with plans for tourist-friendly developments in the Zamalek district, while foodie travellers are starting to discover the city's vibrant food scene, including Road 9 in Maadi, where you can get everything from street food to Egyptian comfort food.
SO WHAT'S NEW? Take it to the river with the luxurious Loy Pela cruises, which lets you charter a two- or four-cabin luxury vessel for a three or four-day cruise along the Chao Praya river. The return itineraries to the ancient capital of Ayutthaya include plenty of excursions as well as onboard experiences including cooking classes, massages and muay Thai (kickboxing) lessons. The sumptuous meals range from Royal Thai cuisine to meals courtesy of a Michelin-starred chef. Alternatively, you can book a cabin on a two-night cruise themed around wellness or food.
TELL ME MORE It's the buzz of Bangkok that we miss most, the energy of a metropolis that offers both Michelin-star dining and stellar street food, bustling night markets and luxury retail, as well as colourful temples and palaces.
Takanawa Gateway Station, Japan. Photo: JR-East
SO WHAT'S NEW? Why are we excited about the opening of a train station? It's not just the fact that Tokyo's train stations are destinations in their own right, complete with bars, restaurants and shops, nor that this particular station, Takanawa Gateway on the Yamanote Line, was designed by star architect Kengo Kuma, with an angular roof inspired by origami. What we are most excited about are the futuristic touches, including cleaning robots, a fully-automated convenience store and digital signage that can give information about train routes.
TELL ME MORE The Shibuya district, a favourite tourist destination, has seen some major changes, including the new Shibuya Scramble Square tower, filled with shops and an exhibition deck, and the redeveloped Shibuya Miyashita Park. Cruisers will also be pleased to learn that the brand-new Tokyo International Cruise Terminal is only 20 minutes from the city centre.
ESSENTIALS Takanawa Gateway Station is now open. See gotokyo.org
Johnnie Walker Princes Street in Edinburgh, Scotland features two rooftop bars and a range of experiences including barrel tastings of rare whiskies.
SO WHAT'S NEW? Locals have high hopes that the new Johnnie Walker Princes Street will match the success of Dublin's Guinness Storehouse, which was Ireland's biggest attraction in 2019. Spreading over eight stories in the West End, Johnnie Walker Princes Street features two rooftop bars and a range of experiences including barrel tastings of rare whiskies.
TELL ME MORE With its elegant New Town, its atmospheric Old Town and the vibrant port district of Leith, there is always a lot to discover in Edinburgh. Next year will also see a striking new W Hotel open in St James Quarter, with rooftop bar and terrace.
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO
SO WHAT'S NEW? Mexico's hippest hoteliers, Grupo Habita, are known not just for creating cool hotels, but for channelling the energy of the sites where they open. Their new hotel, Circulo Mexicano, is bringing a buzz to Mexico City's historic downtown area. Apart from the pared-back Shaker-style bedrooms, our favourite features include the seafood restaurant and rooftop pool.
TELL ME MORE There is plenty to explore in downtown, starting with the Templo Mayor and the Zocalo square, both relics of the former Mexica city of Tenochtitlan. Be sure to catch the mariachi bands at Plaza Garibaldi, and snack on delicious street food.
ESSENTIALS From $324. See circulomexicano.com cdmxtravel.com
LOS ANGELES, US
The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Photo: Josh White
SO WHAT'S NEW? It's the museum that LA had to have. Opening at the end of this month, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures celebrates the art, technology, history and social impact of the movies. The opening Stories of Cinema exhibition includes galleries developed with filmmakers like Pedro Almodovar and Spike Lee.
TELL ME MORE LA has one of the most exciting food scenes in the States, a stellar array of museums (The Broad, LACMA, Getty Centre), lively neighbourhoods like Downtown and Venice Beach – no wonder we can't wait to return.
The 250-metre Ain Dubai observation wheel.
SO WHAT'S NEW? Come October, Dubai will add a new item to its list of world's biggest things: this time it's the 250-metre Ain Dubai observation wheel. Twice as high as the London Eye, its cabins include Social Cabins, which have a bar in the centre of the pod, and Private Cabins, where you can settle in for a three-course dinner.
TELL ME MORE If you want to tick a bunch of Bigger and Better items off your list, Dubai is the place to go. You can also visit the world's tallest tower (the Burj Khalifa, also home to the highest restaurant in the world), the world's highest infinity pool (at the Address Beach Resort) and the world's largest fountain (Palm Fountain).
FIVE MORE NEW ATTRACTIONS WHILE WE'VE BEEN GONE
The spectacular displays at the Art Institute of Chicago have been joined by a new attraction: the stained-glass masterpiece, the Hartwell Memorial Window, has been relocated from the Rhode Island church that was its original home. See artic.edu choosechicago.com
Setting new standards in sustainability, the 1 Hotel Toronto has a no-single-use-plastic philosophy, offers a Tesla airport pick-up service, and operates a zero-waste restaurant. See 1hotels.com destinationtoronto.com
HONG KONG, CHINA
Opening in November, M+ is Asia's first global museum of contemporary visual culture, housed in an eye-catching Herzog & De Meuron building in the West Kowloon Cultural District. See mplus.org.hk discoverhongkong.com
More than just a gateway, Istanbul Airport is now an attraction in its own right, thanks to the new onsite museum. With more than 300 items sourced from 29 different museums on display, the exhibition on the Departures floor is a must-see. See istairport.com visit.istanbul
East meets west at the new Ace Hotel, designed by Kengo Kuma in conjunction with US company Commune Design. Inspired by traditional machiya houses, the design showcases the talents of traditional Kyoto artisans. See acehotel.com kyoto.travel
THE ONES THAT MAY HAVE GOT AWAY CLOSER TO HOME
GOLD COAST, QLD
HOTA on the Gold Coast. Photo: Brett Boardman Photography
As its colourful exterior suggests, the Gold Coast's new Home of the Arts, or HOTA, is not your average cultural centre. As well as the galleries spread over several levels, HOTA is also the place to come to catch concerts, movies and markets, or simply picnic by the lake. See hota.com.au
Darwin's residents now have a new way to cool off in the tropical heat thanks to Willing Distillery, one of only a handful of distillers in the Northern Territory. Their new onsite cocktail bar is a great place to sample their drops, either straight-up or in one of their cocktails. See willingdistillery.com.au
Geelong continues to follow Brooklyn's playbook in its transformation from industrial hub to hip hangout, with the opening of Anther Gin Distillery in an airy old wool mill. The award-winning gins feature Indigenous ingredients such as lemon-scented gum, finger lime and salt bush. See anther.com.au
The newest hotel in Launceston brings a slice of industrial luxe to the city, with its stylish timber, concrete and glass design. We also love Hotel Verge's location right next to the Harvest Markets – that's breakfast sorted then. See hotelverge.com.au
The city's newest entertainment district, Constitution Place is the perfect place to while away some time. You can check yourself into the A by Adina hotel, enjoy a drink at Cicada Bar and then head to one of the buzzy restaurants, such as Mu Omakase or The Meat & Wine Co. See constitutionplace.com.au