posted by Colm Hanratty | 2 Comments
Each year cities and countries get more popular due to events taking place or just a simple surge of interest. 2012 will be no different. Here I take a look at what cities are really going to take off over the next 12 months.
1. London, England
Okay, okay…so London may have already taken off. In fact, it may have been airborne for quite a number of years now. But with the Olympic Games taking place there in July/August 2012, all eyes will be on the English capital for what isn’t only the biggest sporting event of the year, but the biggest sporting event of every four years. Stratford is where the games will be held, bringing more people to the East End – the part of the city where many argue you will see the ‘real’ London. Neighbourhoods like Bethnal Green and Hackney will become just as familiar worldwide as Kensington and Paddington. Of course, when not visiting the games the list of things to do is endless.
2. Chicago, USA
Having visited Chicago last year I wondered why more budget travellers who travel around USA don’t visit the ‘windy city’ (a knickname that has nothing to do with the weather, incidentally). The only explanation I could think of was that it’s a tiny bit more difficult to reach than other popular destinations on the east and west coasts. But this city can compete with big hitters such as New York City or San Francisco. It’s location on Lake Michigan means it’s got beaches aplenty, it’s got some of the coolest neighbourhoods in the country, it’s the home of blues and did I mention the pizza and hot dogs? Don’t miss this city if travelling to the US of A in 2012.
There are two reasons while I believe Tokyo will be the hottest Asian city in 2012. The first is that there’s nowhere on earth like it. I know that can be a bit of a cliché when it comes to cities around the world, but it really is an extremely unique place. It’s defined by neighbourhoods such as Shibuya where you’ll find the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing and Akihabara which is renowned for its electrical goods, while the city as a whole boasts an energy you won’t find in many other cities around the world. The second reason I believe Tokyo will be the hottest Asian city next year is because it is the gateway to Japan. What happened there on March 11th was a tragedy that shook the world. As a result people stopped travelling there. But Japan is definitely open for business, and over the next 12 months avid travellers will begin pencilling it into their itineraries once more.
4. Cairns, Australia
Traditionally, when young people travelling to Australia on a working holiday visa lay their hat to work for a number of months, it is Sydney, Melbourne or Perth. Other cities around the country are still visited, but only en route to attractions they are deemed the gateway to. Cairns is one of these cities, seen as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. But those who stop there to dive in the world’s largest reef system find it hard to leave. It’s full of hostels and people from all over the world. This is the year I envisage people not only stopping here for the diving and good times, but for longer periods.
5. Porto, Portugal
Porto will have one thing to thank for its popularity in 2012 – Lisbon. Month after month approximately half of the world’s top hostels, voted for by our customers, are from the Portuguese capital. But who goes to a country just to visit one city? Not many. Instead you need to make the most of it, visiting the rest of what the country has to offer. Thus, Porto will be the one who benefits from Lisbon’s growing popularity. Those that make the trip will encounter a beautiful old town which has been designated a World Heritage site, golden beaches, hilly streets and more.
6. Belfast, Northern Ireland
In November 2011 I visited the World Travel Market (WTM) in London. It’s a trade show where tourist boards, travel companies and more showcase their products and destinations. One of the more eye-catching stands was for a new attraction that will open in Belfast in March 2012 – ‘Titanic Belfast’. As you can see from this image, the building (like the stand) is rather unique. It will have nine galleries bringing together special effects, full-scale reconstructions and innovative interactive features meaning you’ll be able to explore the most famous ship ever built like never before. I for one can’t wait until it opens. What I also can’t wait to do is use it as an excuse to spend a weekend in Belfast, enjoying a pint in its most famous pub the ‘Crown Liquor Saloon’, having a bite to eat in one of the many restaurants in the Cathedral Quarter before making a show of myself in one of the nightclubs (I can’t dance very well if truth be told).
7. Amman, Jordan
Jordan’s tourist board are embracing a new form of media before many other tourist boards – blogs. To be more specific, they are working with high profile travel bloggers to ensure their country, one which doesn’t experience mass visitors like Rome or Spain every year, is being showcased to a wider audience. This is why I believe Amman, gateway to the rest of Jordan and home to approximately half of the country’s population, will most certainly be a hot spot in 2012. Like some Asian and African cities, this city can be a bit overwhelming at first. But after spending time to absorb all around you, one which isn’t forgotten.
8. Singapore, Singapore
There are many ‘stopover’ cities between Europe and Oceania. Bangkok is one; Kuala Lumpur is another, while Dubai is another which is increasingly popular and just missed inclusion in this list. Another is Singapore, most people I’ve spoken to have either felt it’s a bit ‘clinical’ without too much character or have heard the same. I’ve been there three times and I don’t know why it gets (a bit of) bad press. There’s lots to do, it’s clean, in Little India it’s got one of the most intriguing neighbourhoods I’ve ever been in and it’s safe. Two colleagues travelling to the other side of the world in recent months opted for Singapore as their stop-off city. In 2012 many more will too.
9. Maribor, Slovenia
Haven’t heard of Maribor before? Don’t worry – it’s forgivable. Not many have. But thanks to the moniker of ‘European Capital of Culture 2012’ it will be a city lots of people are talking about in the year ahead. Located in Slovenia in Eastern Europe, it’s the country’s second largest city with a population of just over 150,000 people. Built on the River Drava and surrounded by wine-growing hills, visitors will be able to explore Lent, the oldest part of the city, hike by lakes and waterfalls in the surrounding countryside and, of course, soak up culture at the different events that will be staged throughout the year.
10. Warsaw, Poland
Kicking off in Warsaw on Friday June 8th with a match between Poland and Greece, and climaxing in a final in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev over three weeks later on Sunday July 1st, the European Football Championship (which takes place this summer in Poland and the Ukraine) will bring both countries’ capitals into the limelight. While Krakow is Poland’s most visited city, thousands will now experience Warsaw’s old town, its different districts, a host of museums and great nightlife. Krakow – there could be a new sheriff in town.
11. Kiev, Ukraine
As per the above, Kiev will also be in the spotlight this year due to the aforementioned football tournament. Located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River, it has a population of approximately 2.6 million people. There you will encounter beautiful squares, even more beautiful churches and buildings, a celebrated arts scene, a cuisine that is rich in meats, breads and soups, enough bars to ensure you’ll never go to bed early and a street called Khreshchatyk Street that’s great for shopping.
12. Sao Paulo, Brazil
Mention Brazil to somebody and they’ll immediately conjure up images of Rio de Janeiro with its golden beaches, looming statues of religious figures and mountains in the city centre. But there’s another city in Brazil that more and more people visit every year. This isn’t the capital Brasilia, but its largest city Sao Paolo. Sure, Sao Paolo mightn’t have the picturesque attributes that its famous counterparts does, but explore it and you get the sense that you’re experiencing a ‘realer’ city. 2012 is the year people will want to savour that experience.
Where do you think will be big destinations in 2012?
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