Compiling your travel bucket list can be daunting, but global travel authority Lonely Planet is making it easier to chart a course. The company recently unveiled its top 10 cities to visit in 2020. Both domestic and international, these destinations have undergone somewhat of a renaissance and have a lot to offer tourists this year.
Each city chosen also places particular emphasis on the best sustainable travel experiences for 2020—ensuring travelers will have a positive impact wherever they choose to go. We spoke with the travel experts to help you plan your next trip.
10. Denver, Colorado, USA
Denver’s elevated position as one of the America’s most charming boomtowns has reached new heights as the Mile High City enters its latest phase of growth, creative energy and top-notch eats.
“Construction cranes dot the mountain-studded horizon and empty lots turn into hip new hotels seemingly overnight, while new food halls such as Milk Market satisfy appetites with an eclectic mix of farm-to-table and international fare,” said Lonely Planet lead homepage editor Alexander Howard.
Denver is more than skiing and hiking, though those are great activities to try while you’re in town. The mind-bending Santa Fe art experience Meow Wolf has installed a psychedelic ride called “Kaleidoscape” at Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park as a precursor to a permanent $50-million Meow Wolf installation to come in 2021. And the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art has moved into a magnetic Olson Kundig–designed building within the city’s Golden Triangle Creative District.
9. Dubai, UAE
The future is now in Dubai. The superlative-craving emirate is launching several boundary-pushing marquee projects in 2020. Top billing goes to the six-month-long World Expo 2020, where 190 nations go all out in showcasing the latest visions in sustainability and mobility (think: flying cars) in architecturally show stopping pavilions, according to Lonely Planet writer Andrea Schulte-Peevers.
Also expected to open is the Museum of the Future, a cabinet of next-gen wonders in an eye-shaped building festooned with calligraphy. Meanwhile, two miles off-shore, a Europe-themed fantasy resort on an artificial archipelago called The World is gearing up to welcome its first guests to such only-in-Dubai phenomena as underwater bedrooms and year-round snow.
8. Vancouver, Canada
Vancouver is a natural playground squeezed majestically between the blue waters of the Pacific and the forest-clad mountaintops of the North Shore.
“It was the birthplace of Greenpeace, so it seems fitting that Vancouver has been trying to lead the world in urban sustainability,” said Lonely Planet digital editor Matt Phillips. “And for you, the environmental benefits of its longstanding Greenest City 2020 Action Plan will only enrich your stay. Take to its vastly expanded cycling and walking network, including an unforgettable 28km section along beaches and shorefront, and comfortably hop between the city’s many sights on an upgraded public transport system. Or simply catch some shade under one of the 102,000 new trees that have been planted since 2010.”
7. Kochi, India
This nicely chilled city in southern India has seen the light. Grafted onto the tropical Malabar Coast in Kerala, Kochi has become a shining example in renewable energy in recent years, launching the world’s first fully solar-powered airport, which snagged it a UN Champions of the Earth award. But that’s just tip-of-the-iceberg stuff.
“With boho cafes, intimate homestays hidden away in lazy, colonial-era backstreets, and a raft of forward-thinking galleries, this city keeps a tight grip on its heritage while wholeheartedly embracing its newfound cool,” said Lonely Planet writer Kerry Walker.
In 2020, street art comes to the fore at Kochi-Muziris Biennale, putting India firmly on the contemporary arts festival map.
6. La Paz, Bolivia
Perhaps it’s the Jetsonian capsules gliding over La Paz along the world’s largest cable-car system that are the most obvious signs of its new-found ambition. There were just three lines in 2014, but there will be 11 in 2020. Down below, the once-drab city is racing towards a more radiant and inspired future.
“Everyone from a flamboyant self-taught architect to the budding chefs leaving new culinary schools is thriving here, not because of some borrowed ideas and global trends, but rather due to a renewed sense of pride in Bolivia’s indigenous roots,” said Lonely Planet writer Mark Johanson. “It’s not hard to see why an increasing number of tourists are now sticking around in La Paz before they venture further afield.”
5. Bonn, Germany
Once the capital of West Germany, Bonn slipped off the radar when Berlin reseized the reins in 1990. But it’s back in the spotlight with a cymbal roll in 2020, as the city gears up to mark Beethoven’s 250th birthday, according to Walker.
What’s the score? Well, you can expect a year-round line-up of concerts drawing world-famous orchestras, soloists and conductors (among them Sir Simon Rattle and Daniel Barenboim). Theater Bonn is staging Fidelio, the composer’s only opera. Beyond this, Walker recommends checking out the installations and competitions tuning into Beethoven’s musical genius, picnic performances and “home concerts” where local musicians fling open their doors to the public.
4. Galway, Ireland
Lonely Planet writer Belinda Dixon: Brilliantly bohemian Galway is arguably Ireland’s most engaging city. Here brightly painted pubs heave with live music and cafes offer front-row seats to watch buskers perform.
“This year, all that creative exuberance is being supercharged by events marking the Galway region’s role as a 2020 European Capital of Culture,” said Lonely Planet writer Belinda Dixon. “The city’s calendar is as packed with activity as the bars are with locals on a Saturday night.”
Expect street spectacle, live and digital art as well as world-class music, theater and dance. Sleep might have to wait, Dixon noted, because in Galway even the buskers play late into the night.
“Galway in 2020 is home to a year-long, city-wide, arty party,” she said.” And you’re invited too.”
3. Cairo, Egypt
Egypt waved Tutankhamun’s treasures off on a globetrotting tour in 2018, declaring it the last time the Pharaoh’s burial-booty would leave its shores. Want to gawk at ancient Egypt’s wealth in the future? You’ll need to visit Cairo’s Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM). The year 2020 is set to be the date this state-of-the-art museum in Giza throws open its doors.
“Head here to marvel at a mind-boggling collection in what will be the world’s largest museum entirely committed to one civilization,” recommended Lonely Planet writer Jessica Lee. “For Red Sea and Luxor holidaymakers, a Pyramids and GEM add-on will also become a doddle with Giza’s newly inaugurated Sphinx Airport set to operate domestic flights.”
2. Washington, DC, USA
“All eyes will be on Washington, D.C., this year, as the city celebrates the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment—the law that granted women the right to vote. Iconic museums like the National Portrait Gallery, the National Museum of American History and the National Museum of Women in the Arts will have special exhibitions related to this major milestone in human rights.
“Tie this in to the excitement for this year’s presidential election and D.C. will be one of America’s most dynamic cities in 2020,” said Lonely Planet writer Regis St Louis. “Politics aside, Washington’s renaissance is in full bloom, with a revitalized waterfront, celebrated new museums and an exploding food scene.”
1. Salzburg, Austria
Number-one city Salzburg, Austria, will be pulling out all the stops for the centenary of its world-famous festival of music. The Saltzburg Festival is turning 100, and this heart-stealer of an Alpine city is singing about it at the top of its voice. One of the world’s greatest classical music shindigs, the festival is always a riotous feast of opera, classical music and drama—and never more so than in 2020.
“Saltzburg will be pulling out all the stops for the centenary, with special exhibitions and events taking place all over the historic center: concerts, plays, readings, Mozart matinées, you name it,” Walker said.
Her top pick goes to Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s Jedermann, based on a medieval morality play and performed in all its glory in Domplatz. So dust off your dirndl or lederhosen, book your tickets months ahead and get ready to rock into the summer like Amadeus.”