It is not down on any map, wrote Herman Melville in Moby-Dick, “true places never are.” While this sentiment may have held water back in 1851, it’s sadly not the case today – an era in which the most remote, saltwater-blasted outcrop on earth (“bijou, but breezy”) where the locals will start building huts made out of shells to rent out. Fear not, however, because amazing and stylish travel destinations do still exist. And for every thousand people heading off to Croatia, Cairo or Cancun, there’s a savvy holidaymaker with a plane ticket in his hand who has somewhere a little less obvious in mind. These are the ones to keep under your sun hat for your next vacation.
The eternally cool city will highlight its prowess with all things design, as the official UNESCO World Capital of Architecture in 2023. Venues across Copenhagen — contemporary parks, starchitect-designed skyscrapers, even typically humdrum infrastructure like playgrounds — will host events and visitors for a look at the future of the urban environment. One highlight will be the Copenhill Power Plant, the cleanest waste-to-energy plant in the world — that’s also the site of an artificial ski slope. “We’re going to do a lot of open-house events where 50 different venues are going to be open to the public that are usually closed to visitors,” said Copenhagen’s city architect Camilla van Deurs, who mentioned as examples churches; bridges; and the Danmarks Nationalbank, the central bank building planned in part by Danish design legend Arne Jacobsen. “Superkilen,” van Deurs said, “is a playground for kids and adults — and a cultural hub in the middle of Nørrebro, the most ethnically mixed neighborhood in Copenhagen.” New places to stay in the city also deliver a signature blend of modernism and hygge: Find it at the single-suite Kaj Hotel, which floats on a canal near Copenhagen Opera House, or the colorful new 25 Hours Hotel Copenhagen.
The 2020 opening of the Kinder Building, the latest addition to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, cemented the city’s spot among true international arts destinations. The recent reopening of the Rothko Chapel, after a $35-million renovation, has only reinforced that reputation. Today, a wealth of new ventures is poised to raise the profile of Texas’s largest city in other categories as well. Opening next year, the JMK5 Arena will transform a disused racetrack into a 12,500-seat concert stadium poised to rival the venues of Vegas. It arrives on the heels of the relatively more intimate 713 Music Hall, which has attracted artists ranging from Judas Priest to Lil Nas X. The Houston Zoo is undergoing a much-delayed expansion that will include a Galápagos Islands–themed exhibit, which will feature an underwater tunnel and a penguin habitat. And the Houston Botanic Gardens, which opened in 2020, features 132 acres of diverse ecosystems, from wetlands to prairie.
The Spanish capital may finally, thankfully, be shaking off its reputation as the country’s somewhat stuffy business hub. A flurry of tony hotel openings throughout the city has helped, by bringing plenty of personality to what had been a staid scene. It began in 2021 with the arrival of the Mandarin Oriental Ritz; Rosewood Villa Magna; and Santo Mauro, a Luxury Collection Hotel. Then came the Edition in April 2022. Breathing new life into the former Monte de Piedad de Madrid building, the hotel has 177 rooms, 21 suites, and two penthouses, plus two restaurants with food from chef Enrique Olvera and the culinary team behind Mexico City’s acclaimed Pujol. Elsewhere in Madrid, an already electric food scene has only gotten better — particularly in the glamorous Salamanca neighborhood and architecture-rich Chamberi district — with new offerings representing everything from Middle Eastern falafel and Argentinian asado to Spanish-Indian fusion and globally inflected vegan fare.
Travelers can finally get back to the South Korean capital after years of pandemic restrictions — and there’s plenty to catch up on. The city’s arts scene is buzzing, thanks to new venues such as Konig Gallery, not to mention the announcement from Seoul Museum of Art that three new wings will launch by 2024. (An added boost came from Seoul hosting its first edition of Frieze this past September, during which many commenters asked if K-art may well be the next K-pop.) Meanwhile the destination has seen a number of new hotels open, including the surprisingly trendy Fairmont Ambassador Seoul and Josun Palace, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Seoul Gangnam, with its sweeping views of the globally famous district and stunning public spaces, including 1914 Lounge & Bar.