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From a fairy-tale town of hilltop castles set against a backdrop of snow-capped peaks to a city complete with an underground network of tunnels covered in ancient charcoal murals, these are the destinations to visit in 2020.
Plan your 2020 city break now
1. Yerevan, Armenia
Inhabited since the eighth century BCE, Armenia’s capital is brimming with rich history and vibrant culture. Stroll through the city and you’ll encounter a mish-mash of architectural styles. Enter traditional pandoks (taverns) where locals play backgammon or pass through dalan archways that lead to courtyards lined by whimsical wooden balconies and quaint churches – between these historic relics lie Soviet-era buildings and modern structures. Spend days learning about Yerevan’s history at the Armenian Genocide Museum, where you can read about the massacre of Armenians under Ottoman rule, or get a culture-fix at the Cafesjian Center for the Arts. Later, saunter along tree-filled boulevards to find local fruit and vegetable markets or sip soorch (Armenian-style coffee) by the musical fountains in Republic Square.
2. Galway, Ireland
Crowned as the European Capital of Culture for 2020, this quirky city in the West of Ireland is having a moment. With artistic traditions and a bohemian vibe, it has much more to offer than the Galway girl crooned over by Ed Sheeran. Thanks to its student population, the city comes alive in the evening as buzzy bars and Irish pubs blare live music and the streets resound with excited chatter. In the day, wander through the old town to see the medieval city walls – the Spanish Arch on the banks of River Corrib is a sight worth seeing – and stumble upon artisanal shops selling antiques and handcrafted Claddagh rings. Worked up an appetite? Stop by Galway Market for fresh produce from local farms.
Visitors to Salzburg would be forgiven for thinking that they’d stumbled into a fairy tale. Snow-covered peaks backdrop ancient castles; the babbling Salzach river streams past the Old Town in which domes and spires top medieval and baroque buildings. Spend days exploring the city that inspired the likes of Mozart, or make like the Von Trapps and delve into the city’s hinterlands to yodel to your heart’s content – Villa Trapp is now a hotel. Immerse yourself in Salzburg’s cultural heritage in museums and galleries (the Schloss Hellbrunn and Festung Hohensalzburg are must-sees) before feasting on schnitzel, strudel and sachertorte.
With the intriguing adage “keep Portland weird” plastered across the city, Portland’s unconventional approach has it marked as one to watch. A progressive city with an eco-friendly outlook and liberal views, the Oregon capital has come a long way from its former reputation as the US city with the highest number of strip clubs per capita. Come for local markets, some of the country’s best cocktail bars and vegan restaurants galore, or venture outside of the city to explore the surrounding nature – kayak through the Columbia River Gorge or hike up hills for epic views of Mount Hood (a potentially active volcano). Oenophiles should head to Willamette Valley, where pinot vineyards make for a classy excursion filled with wine tasting.
This charming city in the south of France is often overlooked in favour of other Provençal cities – yet thanks to its colourful houses, picturesque views and vibrant creative scene, Arles has made its way onto our radar. Start your days with café au lait in squares shaded by fruit-laden trees before immersing yourself in Camargue culture. Explore the Théâtre Antique, built for Roman emperor Augustus in the first century BCE – book yourself a seat for a magical evening concert here. Art lovers should while away the hours at the Fondation Vincent Van Gogh Arles, a 15th-century manor house housing Van Gogh masterpieces (the artist painted around 200 works in the city) as well as themed exhibitions and an exquisite bookshop.
Tangier’s location on the northwestern coast of Morocco has earned it the moniker “The Gateway to Africa”. Combining European culture with Moroccan tradition, the city exudes a vibe quite unlike other African metropoles. Delve beyond the crumbling walls of a 15th-century Portuguese fortress to find the labyrinthine streets of the medina, where traditional markets will consume hours of your day. Continue your cultural immersion in the Kasbah Museum of Mediterranean Cultures or simply take a stroll through the Mendoubia Gardens before lazing on one of the city’s beaches.
7. Maastricht, Netherlands
Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague… when you think of the Netherlands, Maastricht isn’t the first city that springs to mind. With an ancient Roman history, a strong culinary scene and diverse architecture, the city’s place in this list is well deserved. Descend into the network of centuries-old quarry tunnels lying underneath the city – keep an eye out for charcoal murals decorating the subterranean walls – or keep your head above the ground to ogle at churches, basilicas and fortresses such as St Servaasbasiliek or the early 18th-century Fort St Pieter.
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