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Hot 2015

Hungary, Budapest, Budapest, Central Europe, View on the Parliament over Danube River.
Nanjing Night Net

Hungary, Budapest, Budapest, Central Europe, View on the Parliament over Danube River.

Hungary, Budapest, Budapest, Central Europe, View on the Parliament over Danube River.

Hungary, Budapest, Budapest, Central Europe, View on the Parliament over Danube River.

HOT 2015

PORTLAND, OREGON

Why here: With its craft distilleries, nano- and microbreweries, food trucks and skateboard- and bike-friendly streets, Portland has already hit every hipster’s travel radar. In 2015, two Hollywood films will shine a light on the liberal-minded city and the ruggedly beautiful state. Wild chronicles Portland author Cheryl Strayed’s trek along the West Coast’s Pacific Crest Trail. Instead of faking it, filmmakers rolled their cameras in locations throughout Oregon, including Bend, east of Eugene, and Portland’s Hotel deLuxe. Starring Reese Witherspoon, Wild opens in Australia in January. Fifty Shades of Grey opens here in time for Valentine’s Day. In the book, Ana and Christian’s first liaison unfolds at Portland’s Heathman Hotel. Naturally, there’s a Fifty Shades of Oregon package that rolls the Heathman, coastal and mountain stays, tub dining, beach bonfire, wine/aphrodisiac pairings, town-car transfers and more into a six-night $US7500 romp.

Don’t miss: Powell’s City of Books covers an entire downtown block. With more than a million new and used books, and intriguing staff reviews peppering the shelves, it’s possible to spend days in here.

Insider tips: Tourists flock to Voodoo Doughnut but Blue Star Donuts’ more sophisticated creations include blueberry, bourbon and basil, banana walnut fritter, real maple and bacon, and dulce de leche and hazelnut. Oregon is also home to the largest collection of covered bridges in the US West; most of the 50-plus bridges are in the Willamette Valley south of Portland.

Details traveloregon南京夜网, hoteldeluxeportland南京夜网, heathmanportland南京夜网, powells南京夜网, bluestardonuts南京夜网, covered-bridges.org.

The writer was a guest of Travel Oregon.

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA

Why here: Long seen as crowded, corporate and a bit dull, South Korea’s capital has thrown off its over-earnest stereotype to reveal a city with a sense of style and fun.

Its identity as a UNESCO City of Design was underlined in 2014 with the opening of the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, a spectacular building resembling a vast silver spaceship. Containing a museum, a design market and restaurants on the site of a former baseball park and historic fort, it’s a compelling destination for both locals and visitors.

Another recent cultural addition is the city campus of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, next to an ancient palace and showcasing the imaginative work of local artists. Though undeniably up-to-date in execution, its art incorporates many elements of Korea’s culture and history: here a hint of Buddhism, there an echo of the division between north and south.

Seoul’s food also reflects this creative tension between old and new. Though its classic dishes are plentifully available in places such as the busy Gwangjang Market, chefs are also experimenting with modern expressions of traditional cuisine. In the Insadong district, for example, the restaurant Si Wha Dam serves playfully arranged dishes that mimic the appearance of Western staples such as pasta, while retaining a distinctly Korean flavour.

This traditionally tea-drinking nation has also embraced the international passion for coffee. You’ll find home-grown cafes in every corner of the city, even the heritage neighbourhood of Bukchon with its traditional Korean homes and their distinctive peaked roofs.

For more of the modern, hit the Hongdae district next to Hongik University. A hotbed of shops, cafes, bars and nightclubs, it’s an energetic expression of young creative Seoul. It’s the place to hang out at a cat cafe by day, before taking in a live K-pop band by night.

Don’t miss: On May 16, Buddha’s birth will be marked by the annual Lotus Lantern Parade through Seoul.

Insider tip: Don’t miss out on a visit to a jjimjilbang, the traditional bathhouse. Found all over the city, they offer a distinctly Korean cultural experience that’s also supremely relaxing.

The details ddp.or.kr, mmca.go.kr, siwhadam南京夜网, bukchon.seoul.go.kr, llf.or.kr, visitseoul.net, visitkorea.or.kr

Tim Richards

The writer was as a guest of the Korea Tourism Organisation.

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA

Why here: No city suffered more than Kuala Lumpur after  this year’s two Malaysian airlines disasters and its population’s response demonstrated its character.  Buddhists, Muslims, Catholics, Malays, Indians, Chinese and Tamils all grieved together in this city of blurred ethnicity, where different communities have grown up and live together in relative harmony.

Like Istanbul on Europe’s fringes, Kuala Lumpur  straddles Islamic and Western  sensibilities, but in a way that is “truly Asian”, to coin Tourism Malaysia’s catchphrase. This not only makes Kuala Lumpur an absorbing place to visit, with its fusion of influences and architecture styles, but also an important example of how people from different creeds can happily co-exist. DJ Calvin Harris’s first ever Malaysian gig, shortly after MH370’s disappearance, showed the unity, with groups of mixed ethnicity strolling arm in arm, Muslim girls in headscarves and “party responsibly” T-shirts strutting their dance moves and little sign of drugs or drunkenness.

With Bangkok recently beset by political unrest, Kuala Lumpur’s diverse culture and food makes it an inspiring alternative destination, with endless shopping possibilities in the malls of its central Golden Triangle district.   Luxury hotel brands are backing KL’s potential. A St Regis opens next year, new Four Seasons and W properties are due in 2017 and Harrods is developing its first, seven-star, hotel in the city. 2015 is Tourism Malaysia’s “Year of Festivals” so the focus will be on the city’s multicultural celebrations, including post-Ramadan Hari Raya festivities (September) and the Hindu Deepavali light festival (November).

Don’t miss: Petronas Towers, illuminated at night, viewed from the Sky Bar on the 33rd floor of Traders Hotel. shangri-la南京夜网/kualalumpur/traders/dining/bars-lounges/sky-bar/

Insider tip: For authentic local food take the “Off the Eaten Track” tour with foodtourmalaysia南京夜网

The details tourismmalaysia南京夜网.au/destinations/kuala-lumpur

Daniel Scott

The writer was a guest  Tourism Malaysia

SYDNEY

Why here: The high-rise cranes and street-level hoardings radiating from Darling Harbour are a clue that something big is going on (and up). Connect the construction sites and you’ll find Sydney is busy building a multi-billion-dollar “cultural ribbon” that will curve from Broadway to Barangaroo. Among the first attractions to open will be the 250-metre-long Goods Line North, a pedestrian-friendly corridor with elevated spaces running from Ultimo to the Powerhouse Museum (a southern half will connect to Central Station’s Railway Square). The northern end is due for completion in early 2015, coinciding with the opening of “starchitect” Frank Gehry’s first building down under – the University of Technology Sydney’s Dr Chau Chak Wing Business School. The 11-storey brick creation, which resembles a crumpled brown-paper bag, is already dividing critics. In May, as part of Vivid Sydney, a 500-seat theatre built from shipping containers will pop up in Barangaroo to host Here Lies Love, a disco musical from former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne and DJ Fatboy Slim about the colourful life of former Philippines’ First Lady, Imelda Marcos. The theatre will sit just south of six-hectare Headland Park, which opens in July at the northern end of Barangaroo near the Walsh Bay theatre district.

The former wharf’s concrete edge has been ripped out and replaced with 6500 sandstone blocks that hark back to the natural shoreline of pre-colonial times. Overlooking the radical overhaul is The Langham Sydney, which had its own revamp this year. Thirty million dollars later, the luxury hotel in The Rocks will reopen on December 2.

Don’t miss: Boat tours on the second Friday of each month offer a duck’s-eye view of the transformation of Sydney CBD’s western edge. The 30-minute tours include commentary from Barangaroo Delivery Authority staff.

Insider tip: Sydney Architecture Walks also explores the CBD’s rapidly changing western edge through its Three Suburbs Central architect-led bike tour (the next tour is January 31).

Details uts.edu.au, barangaroo南京夜网, sydneyarchitecture.org, sydney.langhamhotels南京夜网.au.

Katrina Lobley

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA

Why here: Finally, LA has a centre. With pedestrian and cycle-friendly tree-lined streets, and hip residents moving into once-boarded-up warehouses, the revitalisation of Downtown Los Angeles is in full effect. At the Ace Downtown LA hotel, big name bands pull up to check in and check out the rooftop bar, complete with pool and DJs as well as the craft coffee roaster downstairs. Next door, the Theatre at Downtown Ace, once the United Artists silent movie house and a televangelist’s tabernacle hosts only the coolest events like An Evening with Patti Smith (Jan 29 – 30, 2015). Up the street, Jay-Z has brought his Made in America music festival to the once-seedy Grand Park.

The rejuvenated century-old Regent Theatre is another former movie palace cum concert venue in the Old Bank District that has just opened its doors with the attached Prufrock Pizzeria and a bar called The Love Song, a dual nod to T.S. Eliot. Nearby, the Tex Mex at Bar Ama and Italian fare at Bottega Louis has those in the know queuing for tables.

Admittedly, the new arrival of wellness store, The Springs, offering yoga, reiki and organic juices with an in-house horticulturalist who sings to the fig trees and palms might be a step too far but among the Banksy artworks and giant H&Ms and Zaras, remnants of the past gladly remain. The 97-year-old Grand Central Market opened 10 new food concepts in the past year and expanded to dinner hours Thursday to Saturday. Potion shop Farmacia y Botanica Million Dollar still sells charms, candles and oils to stave off jealousy, legal troubles and poverty. Now is the time to check out this quickly transitioning area before the big brand flagships well and truly take over.

Don’t miss: The Broad Museum, with an adjacent architecturally designed public green space plaza is set to open in Autumn 2015. Holding contemporary artwork from philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad’s private collection, the museum will feature more than 2,000 individual works by approximately 200 artists. Admission is free, with a charge for temporary special exhibitions.

Insider tip: Be sure to visit the Los Angeles Public Library in the Goodhue Building on Flower Street. You can walk in and take a one-hour tour of the magnificent building with its sphinxes, rooftop pyramid, and eight-storey chandeliered atrium. Renowned writer, Susan Orlean is currently writing a tome dedicated to it. Book and vinyl record lovers should also visit The Last Book Store, a spectacular room selling piles of books and records from a dollar each.

The details  acehotel南京夜网/losangeles, visitcalifornia南京夜网.au, www.thebroad.org.

Andrea Black

The writer travelled as a guest of Visit California.

SANTIAGO, CHILE

Why here: Ay, caramba! This South American gateway, for Australian travellers at least, is often overlooked in the gallop to Peru, Rio, the Andes or Buenos Aires, but if safe, lively, likeable and fantastic value feature in your holiday wish list, the Chilean capital is an essential stopover. As well as a distinguished heritage of Spanish colonial churches, neo-Renaissance banks and public buildings, Santiago brings an artsy vibrance to the traveller’s table, but you need to pick with care from the city’s 32 comunas. Tiny Bellavista is where Santiago wears its skinny ripped jeans, a colourful collage of hipster boutiques, cool cafes, sassy bars  and galleries of avant-garde artworks, and also the former residence of Nobel poet Pablo Neruda, whose home still commands homage. Don’t miss the barrio’s cite with its rows of painted houses arranged along narrow alleyways. Bellavista is also a promising nightlife zone, whatever your taste might be. Barrio Lastarria is an emergent coolzone, populated with students from the surrounding universities and home to cafes that spill across the pavements, and some of the city’s grandest public art galleries, with a sprinkling of fine boutique hotels in the blend. You’re mixing it with dog walkers in elegant Vitacura, and a leisurely class whose primary aim is to be thin and wear the right accessories, but its tree-shaded boulevards and gardens are prime territory for a Saturday stroll.

Don’t miss: The flea market held every weekend in Plaza Mulato Gil de Castro, off Merced Boulevard, Barrio Lastarria.

Insider tip: Emporio La Rosa, ice cream made by angels, in multiple locations. Vanilla with rose, spicy chocolate and mango with green tea are standouts.

The details southamericatourism南京夜网

Michael Gebicki

The writer was a guest of LAN Airlines and the South America Tourism Office.

BREAKOUTS

VALPARAISO, CHILE

Sprawled across a half-Colosseum of leaping hills that rise from Chile’s Pacific shore, frisked by a sea breeze, Valparaiso has become the country’s cultural cauldron, a hubble-bubble of creative energy, vitality, and itchy spirits out to bend the rules. It feels like a Latino Berlin, with sunshine. Temperamentally as well as topographically, there are two Valpos, as residents style their city. El Plano is the plank of the city surrounding the port, a rough-and-tumble neighbourhood better left to its own devices. Rising steeply from El Plano is Cerros, 45 hills that are accessed via ascensores, clanking, creaking, Victorian-era funiculars that hoist passengers from the grid of streets on the city’s ground floor. Where they leave the well-informed visitor is the writhing streets of Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepcion, furnished with a mad and chaotic tangle of Frenchified manor houses, Swiss-style cottages, turreted mansions and creaking iron shanties with Romeo-and-Juliet balconies. Built when Valparaiso was a key player in the maritime trade of the Americas, these were once the houses of merchants, entrepreneurs, shipwrights and mariners. Many constructed their houses from corrugated iron carried as ships’ ballast, tacked onto timber frames, with fanciful touches as their imagination dictated, and painted in Popsicle colours. Chromium yellow, turquoise, pink, lime – no colour was too outlandish. Hard times came Valpo’s way when an earthquake flattened the city in 1906, closely followed by the opening of the Panama Canal, effectively short-circuiting Valparaiso’s importance as a port. Anyone who could left town, but cheap housing, a sunny climate and the louche, anything-goes style of the portenos proved a magnet for writers, artists and musicians. Among them was Chile’s Nobel-winning poet, Pablo Neruda, who celebrated its mad, dishevelled spirit in his Ode to Valparaiso, and whose former hillside residence, La Sebastiana, is now one of the city’s prime attractions. However it is only over the past few years when rehabilitation funds have poured in and the city notched up a World Heritage listing that Valpo has undergone a rags-to-recherche renaissance. Signs of urban renewal are everywhere. The outrageously florid Palacio Baburizza, an art nouveau pile built by a Croatian immigrant made good, has now become the Fine Arts Museum.  Nearby, the French-colonial Palacio Astoreca, teaming a lipstick red facade with white-rimmed window frames, cuts a fashionable figure in the smart hotel lists. The city’s former prison has been repurposed as a cultural centre in an edgy design by marquee Santiago architects HLPS. Threaded through the cultural landmarks is a piquant, raffish assembly of galleries, restaurants, boutiques and bars with the international boho arts brigade a prominent feature. Some of these artists have taken their brushes to the streetscapes, decorating the houses with huge murals that celebrate, criticise, inflame and entertain. A distinctive South American voice emerges in the narrative works that spread wings as they abandon mundane reality – magic realism transported from print to walls, paint instead of pen.

Don’t miss: Evening cocktails on the terrace of the Palacio Astoreca Hotel.

Insider tip: Take a walking tour with Valpo Street Art Tours for an intimate, expert view, conducted by former street kids.

The details southamericatourism南京夜网,

valpostreetart南京夜网

MICHAEL GEBICKI

The writer was a guest of LAN Airlines and the South America Tourism Office

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY

When I first came here during the fading days of Communism, Budapest was weary, dirty and dilapidated. Over two decades of repeat visits, I’ve watched this sleeping beauty awaken as its soot-scarred buildings are cleaned, squares are planted with flowers and trees, and residents emerge in newfound energy and the latest fashions. With luxe hotels sprouting like mushrooms, river-cruise ships invading the quays, restaurants at every two paces and budget airlines flying in, visitors numbers have soared.

Budapest has turned itself into one of Europe’s most impressive capitals, confident and ever-changing. The city is abuzz with fashion shows and film festivals, always-evolving boutiques and a seeming over-supply of cafes and eateries; some have garnered Michelin stars for their contemporary reinventions of Hungarian cuisine. Hungarian wine is on the improve too, with city wine bars now providing chic tasting spaces. Lively ‘ruin pubs’ – the Budapest version of pop-up bars – are invigorating disused spaces and derelict buildings.

The improvements keep on coming: the city’s just-launched public bicycle system (bkk.hu) now allows locals and visitors alike to pedal around on green bikes for free, or for a minimal fee if it takes more than a half-hour to get from one bike station to another.

What I also like about Budapest is that the dividing Danube River gives you two cities in one. Hilly Buda has history and disgorges tour groups for sweeping views and looks at the cathedral and royal palace. The painted pastel facades of the old town are lovely. Across the river, flat Pest is the pulsating heart of the contemporary city. It’s also the flamboyant showcase of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Budapest is the epitome of a grand fin-de-siecle European city, topped by Hapsburg eagles and Greek muses, knitted together by iron bridges, graced with neo-Gothic spires like the set of a light opera. It seems a fitting setting for séances and anarchists, carriages and crinolines.

Pest’s buildings are a marvel of neo-classical and Art Nouveau glory, its public baths and cream-cake cafes a wonder of flamboyant Victoriana. Rattling yellow trams make me think of Freud. The curlicue, red-silk, gilt-gaudy opera house is magnificent. In October, the prestigious Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music (lfze.hu) reopened after a two-year overhaul that has seen its lovely Art Nouveau architecture and interior re-emerge, and a new concert hall added. Budapest has always been music mad.

Budapest is a multi-layered city and it isn’t all waltzes and hazelnut cakes. The haunting Jewish neighbourhood has never recovered from WWII, though reconstructed Dohany Synagogue (Europe’s largest) is wonderful, and lately Jewish cuisine has seen a revival in the trendy restaurants of the Seventh District. There isn’t much left from the Communist era except shuffling suburban babushkas, left behind by the new Hungary. But there are interesting exhibits on Communist times in the Hungarian National Museum (hnm.hu). Memento Park (mementopark.hu) is a photographer’s joy: a knacker’s yard of colossal Soviet-era busts and statues removed from around the city.

Don’t miss: Overlooked terrace gardens studded with ornate pavilions and arcades have always tumbled down the hillside from royal palace to river. Now Varkert Bazar has been sumptuously renovated; cultural spaces, shops and cafés are moving in. See varkertbazar.hu

Insider tip: Been before? Then venture away from the city centre into the Eighth District, a former no-go area whose scrubbed-up aristocratic buildings are being transformed with cafes, art galleries and great bars, well away from weekend stag-party crowds.

The details budapest南京夜网

BRIAN JOHNSTON

The writer travelled as a guest of Viking River Cruises.

POINTER

View all the cities – and the rest of the Hot List – from the November 22 edition on traveller南京夜网.au.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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