7 bucket-list holidays for 2019

Anna Hart

Travel editor and writer

From Tokyo to Porto, travel writer Anna Hart explores seven hotting-up city destinations to add to your travel to-do list next year

Daydreaming about a 2019 filled with thrilling travel adventures? Us too. So, here’s our edit of the up-and-coming cities that should be on your radar in 2019. Whether you’re looking to immerse yourself in a vibrant culinary scene, bathe in inspiration and culture, marvel at a natural wonder, or reset body, mind and soul, the world is waiting for you…

1. Tokyo, Japan

Japanese street food in Tokyo

Say hello to… Superlative street food and edgy vintage boutiques

Tokyo weaves a powerful spell over travellers with its rich intermingling of the past and the future, and now, ahead of the 2020 Olympics, is the time to get your fix of one of the world’s most fascinating cities. The city boasts more Michelin stars than any other, but many of Tokyo’s best eats are found on the street corner. Enjoying food is a gloriously democratic pleasure in this Japanese metropolis and so is shopping; vintage threads are a bargain in the hip districts of Shimokitazawa and Kōenji, where shops often operate out of living rooms and apartments. Finish your day at one of the city’s hottest noodle joints, Mensho, with ramen made from wheat stone-ground on site.

2. Seoul, South Korea

Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul Korea

Say hello to… Street art, serene spas and divine design

The South Korean capital is a cocktail of old and new, with fashion, design and technology trends advancing at breakneck speeds, yet comfortably co-existing with palaces, temples and winding mountain trails. In recent years the city has made a concerted effort with its public spaces, and today the beautifully landscaped parks, public artwork and cultural institutions make Seoul a joy for travellers. Mingle with the locals at the Zaha Hadid-designed Dongdaemun Design Plaza & Park (pictured) and City Hall, peruse the independent galleries of Samcheong-dong, cycle the parklands alongside the Cheonggyecheon stream and Han River, and round it all off by soaking and steaming in a sauna and spa. Seoul is Asia’s 24-hour city, and with so much to take in, you won’t want to stop.

3. Santiago, Chile

City buildings in front of mountainous landscape in Santiago chile

Say hello to… Parklands, wine bars and world-class museums

Santiago is home to 40% of Chileans, and this vibrant and increasingly self-confident city has plenty to offer the visitor as well as the locals. With the city on the cusp of a cultural and economic renaissance, now is the time to visit. Smart travellers are booking ahead to combine a cultural and culinary city break with eclipse-chasing next year. Every meal in Santiago is a highlight, and a growing number of wine bars give this important industry a place to shine, amidst the beer halls and cafés of Barrio Brasil, Lastarria and Bellavista. To lap up the city’s dramatic setting, ride the funicular railway from the end of Pío Nono in the Bellavista neighbourhood to the top of Cerro San Cristóbal, sit in the shadow of the Virgin Mary statue and take it all in. This is a green, leafy city, and Santiago’s parks – sitting in the shadows of the mighty Andes – are where to venture with a picnic when you’ve explored the museums, grandiose buildings and vast malls of the Centro.

4. Vancouver, Canada

View along the Stanley Park seawall in Coal Harbour

Say hello to… Wilderness parkland and extravagant eating

Consistently lingering near the top of “most liveable cities” indexes, Vancouver is deservedly famous for delivering an enviable lifestyle to locals and visitors alike. The best place to get a taste of this food-loving city is at Granville Island Market, which is open from 9am until 7pm every day of the week. Perhaps stock up on cult Siegel’s Bagels and fill a flask of coffee, before venturing to Stanley Park for a picnic. Rent a bike and cycle around the Stanley Park Seawall (pictured), a flat, paved 10km path encircling this vast wilderness park, with beautiful views of the North Shore Mountains and Lions Gate Bridge.

5. Istanbul, Turkey

Galata Tower visible in Istanbul landscape

Say hello to… Foodie adventuring and hipster culture

The intoxicating crossroads of East and West, the Turkish capital wears its chequered history on its sleeve. The Greeks, Romans and Venetians all ruled the city before the Ottomans took hold, giving the city a cultural diversity that’s hard to beat. Start in the hip, artsy district of Beyoğlu, home to most of the city’s hottest restaurants and bars, chic hotels, music venues and independent boutiques; head to bohemian Çukurcuma for antiques, and Asmalımescit for live music. Medieval Galata Tower (pictured) is a must-visit, ideally at sunset when the city shimmers beneath you. Round your day off dining on freshly caught bluefish and an array of meze on a city centre rooftop, or keep it real and grab a kebab or simit (a sesame-studded bread ring) from a street vendor.

6. Oslo, Norway

oslo opera house
Photograph: Erik Berg, The Norwegian National Opera & Ballet

Say hello to… Spectacular surroundings and a compact cultural and culinary scene

The compact nature of Europe’s fastest-growing capital makes it easy to tick off the classic sights. The architectural showstopper of the Oslo Opera House (pictured) successfully transformed downtown, and from there it’s an easy stroll around the picturesque old town and then the regenerated harbour area, spending a few hours at the sleek, modern Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art. Grünerløkka is the city’s hipster quarter, so wander the dive bars and vintage stores before making for the Mathallen, the relatively new food hall that has fast become a hit with the locals. Don’t leave, though, without hopping on Line 1 at Central Station and essentially riding the subway into the mountains, where ski slopes in winter and hiking trails in summer await.

7. Porto, Portugal

Beautiful Landscape of the Douro river region in Portugal - Vineyards

Say hello to… Wine, design and contemporary architecture

Lisbon is on every European traveller’s radar, but more intrepid souls are now looking to Porto, Portugal’s seductive second city, which has seriously upped its culinary and design credentials. This is a city famed for its sophistication and joie de vivre, and its prime position among the vineyards of the Douro (pictured) only adds to its charm. Start by wandering the alleyways of Miragaia, Ribeira and Massarelos, ducking into tiny wine bars as you go. But beyond the red-tiled roofs of Porto’s old town, the likes of Álvaro Siza Vieira’s minimalist Museu de Arte Contemporânea and Rem Koolhaas’ dramatic Casa da Música showcase the best contemporary architecture in the country.

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