The 20 best travel destinations for 2013
Istanbul is often cited as one of the world’s most beautiful and romantic cities. If that’s not reason enough for you to set your travel sights on Turkey this year, 2013 also marks the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish Republic. The anniversary will feature many cultural events and celebrations, including the reopening of the Ataturk Cultural Center, home of Istanbul’s state ballet, opera and orchestra, and this fall Istanbul will host its internationally famous Biennial, a citywide contemporary art exhibition that takes place every two years. Other special attractions in Istanbul include a lively café scene, Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk’s new Museum of Innocence, a museum based on his novel of the same name, and SALT, a word-renowned cultural institution. Getting to Istanbul also became easier this year, when Turkey became part of the Eurail system.
The Emerald Isle is hoping to attract a different kind of green this year when The Gathering, a yearlong family reunion for the 70 million people worldwide who claim Irish ancestry, is expected to bring millions of tourists to Ireland.
The Gathering will include clan rendezvous, festivals, cultural events, musical performances and a host of other celebrations nationwide from January through December. While touring their ancestral home, these far-flung sons and daughters of the Old Sod will have ample time to visit some of Ireland’s many attractions, from the enchanted Aran Islands to the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher.
The Republic of Singapore, a city-state of 63 islands that lie between Malaysia and Indonesia, is one of the world’s richest nations and a center of global finance. Even though concrete, glass and steel have all but obliterated Singapore’s native rainforests, the small nation is earning a reputation as an emerging destination for environmental tourism. A study released in 2011 by The Economist and Siemens named Singapore the greenest city in Asia, and in 2013 Singapore is opening two major new ecological attractions. The first is the Gardens by the Bay, a diverse nature park that covers 250 acres of reclaimed land and won the building-of-the-year prize at the World Architecture Festival in 2012. The second is the new Marine Life Park, the world’s largest oceanarium, which features an aquarium with 49 different habitats and more than 800 species of marine life as well as a huge water park with six water slides and the 2,000-foot-long Adventure River.
Amsterdam has always been a wonderful travel destination, but in 2013 the city is celebrating the 400-year anniversary of its famous canal ring as well as the 125th birthday of the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam’s iconic concert hall, which will celebrate with a series of world-class performances. This year will also see the reopening of three of Amsterdam’s most beloved museums: the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum (arts and history) and the Stedelijk (design and contemporary art). The Rijksmuseum and the Stedelijk have been closed since 2003 and 2004 respectively, and Amsterdam is greeting their return with great fanfare.
If you’re a fan of Spanish cuisine, add Burgos to your travel itinerary this year. The city was named Spain’s gastronomic capital for 2013, and a handful of innovative chefs have either opened new restaurants or refreshed classic establishments to showcase the region’s culinary delights. But food isn’t the only thing that Burgos has to offer. Burgos is the historic capital of Castile and the hometown of El Cid, Spain’s national hero. The Cathedral of Burgos is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the city also has some noteworthy museums and cultural centers, such as the Museum of Human Evolution.
Any time is a good time to visit Washington, D.C. The city has a full calendar of free events all year long, ranging from outdoor concerts to the Shakespeare Free for All, when tickets to world-class theater performances are handed out two hours before the curtain goes up. Many of the city’s best attractions are also free to the public, including the National Gallery, the National Zoo and Smithsonian Museums such as the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, which displays the best in contemporary art. Washington is also the center of U.S. politics and government, so plan to tour the U.S. Capitol while you’re in town. And take advantage of the new independent food movement in D.C., exemplified by the reopening of Union Market, which features local farmers and food stalls offering regional delicacies such as Chesapeake Bay seafood.
Paris is one of the most frequently visited cities in the world, but there’s even more reason to plan a trip to the City of Light in 2013. A 35-million-euro beautification project has reclaimed the beloved River Seine for pedestrians. A formerly busy road along the Right Bank has been transformed into wide walking and cycling paths shaded by alder trees, and wooden furniture has been placed along the banks, so visitors can relax while enjoying the views. Meanwhile, the Parisian government also has removed cars and added 11 acres of green space along a 1.5-mile section of the Left Bank, and floating gardens have been installed on five small islands constructed for that purpose and connected by footbridges. The final phases of the project were completed in Spring 2013.
One reason to visit Venice sooner rather than later is that the city is slowly sinking, at the rate of a millimeter or two each year, and tipping just as slowly toward the waters of the Adriatic. Before Venice becomes permanently submerged, something that isn’t expected to happen for a very long time, you can still see the romantic canals and bridges, the winding streets and historic palazzos of Italy’s famous waterborne city. Another reason to visit the city in 2013 is the Venice Biennale, the world-famous contemporary art exhibition that occurs every two years and makes Venice an international art center from June through November.
Designated a European Capital of Culture for 2013, the ancient Mediterranean port city of Marseille (and the surrounding region of Provence) this year is going all out to welcome visitors and to show off its re-emergence as one of Europe’s most cosmopolitan and exciting cities. Over the past few years, Marseille has transformed its once-seedy waterfront into a world-class destination and spruced up many of its historic landmarks. Marseille is also quickly becoming a center of art, theater and culture—the spectacular new Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations is a case in point—which is attracting young artists from around the world to its bustling streets and leaving its crime-ridden reputation behind.
One reason to plan a trip to Montenegro in 2013 is to get there before rising tourism changes the nature of the place and drives up prices. During the seven years since Montenegro separated from Serbia, travelers have started to rediscover the breathtaking beauty and peaceful atmosphere of this small Balkan country. The growth of tourism in Montenegro is outpacing nearly every country in Europe—visitors outnumbered residents 2-to-1 in 2011—yet the country is still affordable for now. You can rent a comfortable hotel room for $75 a night and enjoy a hearty meal of local delicacies, plus wine and dessert, for $12-$15. But don’t wait. These prices won’t last long.