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Top 23 cities to visit in 2017

From the pop-up store revolution and the gin-bar renaissance to the High Line bandwagon, the dust never settles on the world’s greatest cities. Here’s what’s in store for your favourite metropolis

Top 23 cities to visit in 2017
Maboneng, Johannesburg. Image: Alamy

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01 Memphis link-up

Conquering the mighty Mississippi usually means pootling along it in a paddle steamer. But, as of October 2016, there’s another option: traversing it on the Big River Crossing in Memphis, the longest public pedestrian/bike bridge across the river.

02 Arty Paris

France’s capital is going heavy on its ‘city of art’ reputation this year with major exhibitions including Vermeer at the Louvre, Pissarro at the Monet Museum, Cy Twombly at the Centre Pompidou and a centennial Rodin exhibition at the Grand Palais — all running in spring.

03 Junkyard golf

A mini-golf revival is long overdue, and Junkyard Golf Club has managed to make the activity cool in London and Manchester. Courses are put together using junk salvaged from antiques shops and warehouses, burgers and cocktails are served up on the side and DJs do their best to put off the putters with their furious beats.

04 Havana hoteliers

Havana’s hotel boom shows no sign of abating. Starwood, which last year became the first US hotel brand to enter Cuba, plans to reopen the historic Hotel Inglaterra as a Luxury Collection property in March. Kempinski is poised to take over the Manzana de Gomez — another grande dame having new life breathed into her. Elsewhere, a Sofitel So and an MGallery are being built, while Iberostar has just taken the reins of the Hotel Riviera.

05 Booming Accra

It’s emerged as a creative hub in recent years, and the Ghanaian capital is adding to its modern art galleries and swish restaurants this year with Carbon, a new club from London impresario Nick House; one of the biggest spas in West Africa at the Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City Accra; and Gallery 1957, opened by Marwan Zakhem.

06 Food truck Madrid

The Foodie Week Madrid, a covered market for six days every month, attracts scores of food trucks, like La Pulponeta serving octopus burgers and La Trastienda Tapas. MadrEat Market, meanwhile, held in a park in the AZCA business district, brings together trucks from standalone ventures and restaurants every third weekend of the month.

07 Market time in Porto

Time Out Market Lisbon — stalls showcasing hot chefs, restaurants and food producers from around the city — has been a hit. So now the concept is getting a baby brother in Porto. The space for 500 seats, 15 restaurants, four bars, four shops, one cafe and one art gallery in the São Bento train station is scheduled to open in the second half of this year.

08 Food fun in Bologna

Some of Italy’s theme parks are rather less ride-heavy than others. Eataly World, which will open later in the year on the outskirts of Bologna, is all about the nation’s favourite pastime — food. That means interactive displays and workshops delving into the entire food chain, 25 restaurants to choose from and tasting-centric markets.

09 New ancient Rome

2017 is Rome’s renaissance year: the Colosseum is free of scaffolding (and cleaner than it’s been in the past two millennia), the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps have reopened after restoration work, and the Circus Maximus is now partially open for the first time in seven years (you can peruse pubs and betting shops dating back 2,800 years). 

10 Downtown Miami

The latest addition to Miami’s ever-changing Downtown is Brickell City Centre, in the Financial District. It’s essentially a new neighbourhood, with shops, a cinema and a hotel from cult brand Swire Hotels. EAST, Miami boasts a rooftop bar overlooking Biscayne Bay; and a Uruguayan restaurant.

11 Culinary Pittsburgh

Borrowing from the tech world’s start-up incubators, the Smallman Galley is a restaurant incubator. Would-be restaurateurs apply for one of four spots, which the winners get rent-free to test out their concept. Then, 18 months later, another four take over.

12 Portland Spirit

The self-styled brewing capital of America has moved on to the hard stuff, with a number of distilleries putting together small-batch vodkas, gins and whiskeys. United under the Distillery Row label, they now issue ‘passports’ granting visitors tastings at each.

13 Dubai’s new worlds

Dubai has a tendency towards excess — the city opened four theme parks under one roof in late 2016. IMG Worlds of Adventure’s rides, cinemas, live shows and 5D simulators are themed on Cartoon Network characters, Marvel comic heroes and dinosaurs. While it’s hardly highbrow, it’s an indisputable kid magnet.

14 Kayaking Auckland

Until recently, visiting Waiheke Island tended to involve a short ferry hop from Auckland city centre, then wine tasting. But sea kayaking tours around the harbour island are turning it into an adventure destination as well as a food and wine escape. Auckland Sea Kayaks leads novice paddlers around the craggy cliffs.

15 Car-free Los Angeles

The opening of the Metro Expo Line last year swept away the received wisdom that you need a car to visit LA. Running from trendy Downtown to Santa Monica, it connects the beach, city and Valley. Ride-sharing apps like Lyft and Uber have slashed transport prices. Even better, the most popular areas (NoHo, Silverlake, Downtown, the beach towns) are easily walkable — the LA tourist board has even produced car-free itineraries. discoverlosangeles.com/carfreela

16 Hipster Johannesburg

There’s a growing buzz about Joburg’s hipster scene, centred round Maboneng, a once gritty part of downtown that’s now packed with local designers, galleries, Africa’s first design museum and even a hotel. Meanwhile, Braamfontein, 10 minutes away, is the place to go for nightlife.

17 Riverside Chicago

The Chicago River has long suffered from a lack of public access, but the Chicago Riverwalk has changed that — completed last year, the riverside path stretches through the heart of the city, flanked by a fresh crop of wine bars, kayak rental outlets and tiki huts.

18 Marrakech by bike

Marrakech’s Medina Bike became Africa’s first bike-share scheme when it debuted in November. The 300 bikes, stationed at 10 solar-powered points outside key sites like the Majorelle Garden and Koutoubia Mosque, cost £4 a day to hire.

19 Contemporary Lisbon

The Lisbon waterfront revival continues apace with the big, bold Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology. A cultural powerhouse in a very literal sense — it’s housed in a former power station — its modern art exhibits are displayed alongside the historic machinery that once provided energy for the whole of Lisbon.

20 Groovy San Francisco

To mark the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love — when up to 100,000 people descended on Haight-Ashbury — San Francisco is hosting a year of events. They include an exhibition of Jim Marshall’s photos of the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin at City Hall, and a display of hippy art at the de Young Museum.

21 Fresh taste of Venice

Venice’s bacari taverns and cicchetti snacks have been getting a shake-up. Naranzaria, at the foot of the Rialto, serves up Asian tapas; there’s slow-food cicchetti at bar El Refolo, while La Cusina, at The Westin Europa & Regina, Venice reinterprets cicchetti in its gourmet tasting menu.

22 Southside Hong Kong

Say hello to the southern side of Hong Kong Island — the brand new South Island Mass Transit Railway (MTR) has at last opened it up to visitors (the final district of Hong Kong reached by the MTR), making it easy and affordable to visit areas such as Aberdeen, famous for its floating seafood restaurants. Elsewhere, the recent Kwun Tong Line extension has opened up the southeast side of Kowloon.

23 Tap wine in Melbourne

Bottles and corks, begone — Melbourne is going in for some serious middleman-cutting. The barrels come in from the wineries, taps are stuck in, and the good stuff is poured out, straight from source. Several bars are leaping on the bandwagon, including Harry & Frankie, in hip Fitzroy, and Arbory Bar & Eatery, at Flinders Street Station.


Read the complete cover story in the March 2017 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)