Here are 2017’s top urban destinations, as per a list by Travel+Leisure
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
There’s a lot to love about San Miguel, a colonial treasure anchored by El Jardín, a leafy plaza marked by open-air cafés and the pink Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel church. Art and textiles are big here: Mexicans and expats alike pop into independent boutiques, selling artisan-made goods, and no trip is complete without a visit to the Fábrica La Aurora, a former textile factory that’s been converted into a series of contemporary art galleries. Restaurants serving delicious Mexican dishes (rich moles, hot gorditas, stuffed chiles) are tucked along cobble-stoned streets lined with historic houses.
Charleston, south Carolina
South Carolina’s oldest city has charm to spare. Charleston is a gorgeous place to visit any time of the year for tourists looking for fun and solitude. It’s just minutes from the beach on Sullivan’s Island and has great shopping along King Street. Oak-lined streets, historic row houses, and creative Lowcountry cooking are the highlights. You will not run out of things to do here. From historical tours, to fun on the water, to taking in all the art and culture, Charleston and its surrounding area has a variety of adventure for everyone.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Thailand’s northern capital is an escape from the whirlwind pace of life of its southern rival. Despite the constant arrival of planes and trains full of sightseers, the former seat of the Lanna kingdom is still blissfully calm and laid-back. Chiang Mai is a study in vibrant contrasts—here, ancient temples, over 300, are as much of a draw as trendy bars, hotels and restaurants. You’ll also find adventure activities like white-water rafting tours and a wide range of spas. This is a place to relax after the chaos of Bangkok and recharge your batteries with fabulous food and leisurely wandering.
Regardless of season, it’s hard not to succumb to romance as you wander Kyoto’s atmospheric streets, gaze at the glimmering Kinkaku-ji Pavilion, enjoy the traditional dances of the geisha or feast at restaurants over the Kamo River. Kyoto, once the capital of Japan, is a city on the island of Honshu. The place is famous for its numerous classical Buddhist temples, as well as gardens, imperial palaces, Shinto shrines and traditional wooden houses.
Oaxaca is a state in southern Mexico known for its indigenous cultures. A Unesco World Heritage site, it is noted for colonial buildings often made of green volcanic stone. Easygoing and vibrant, Oaxaca offers the best of southern Mexican charm, pairing lively festivals and entertainment with fantastic cuisine and unique cultural attractions for everyone.
Florence, the capital of Italy’s Tuscany region, is home to many masterpieces of Renaissance art and architecture. Cradle of the Renaissance, romantic, enchanting and utterly irresistible, Florence (Firenze) is a place to feast on world-class art and gourmet Tuscan cuisine. One of its most iconic sights is the Duomo, a cathedral with a terracotta-tiled dome engineered by Brunelleschi and a bell tower by Giotto. The Galleria dell’Accademia displays Michelangelo’s David sculpture.
Hoi An, Vietnam
Hoi An is a city on Vietnam’s central coast known for its well-preserved Ancient Town, cut through with canals. Graceful, historic Hoi An is Vietnam’s most atmospheric and delightful town. The place is devoid of traffic and pollution. The former port city’s melting-pot history is reflected in its architecture. The place showcases a mix of eras and styles from wooden Chinese shop houses and temples to colourful French colonial buildings, ornate Vietnamese tube houses and the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge with its pagoda.
Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town is a port city on South Africa’s south-west coast on a peninsula beneath the imposing Table Mountain. It is the second-most populous urban area in South Africa after Johannesburg. Slowly rotating cable cars climb to the mountain’s flat top, from which there are sweeping views of the city. The panoramic view includes the busy harbour and boats heading for Robben Island, the notorious prison that once held leader Nelson Mandela, which is now a museum.
The town of Ubud, in the uplands of Bali, Indonesia, is known as a centre for traditional crafts and dance. The surrounding Ubud District’s rainforest and terraced rice paddies, dotted with Hindu temples and shrines, are among Bali’s most famous landscapes. Ancient holy sites include the intricately carved Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave) and Gunung Kawi, with its rock-cut shrines. Ubud is also home to good restaurants, cafes and streets of shops, many selling goods from the region’s artisans. Ubud’s popularity continues to grow, adding on the hoopla created by the bestselling book and film Eat, Pray, Love.
Luang Prabang, Laos
Luang Prabang means ‘city of the Golden Buddha Phra Bang’, a 83cm statue of which is believed to be the source of the city’s protection since the 14th century. Luang Prabang, the ancient capital of Luang Prabang Province in northern Laos, lies in a valley at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. Inhabited for thousands of years, it was the royal capital of the country until 1975. The place is known for its many Buddhist temples, including the gilded Wat Xieng Thong, dating to the 16th century, and Wat Mai, once the residence of the head of Laotian Buddhism. The town was the scene of many events during and in the aftermath of World War II and it was occupied by several foreign countries during the war.