Best Destinations 2019
When there's an entire world to explore, where does one even begin when booking a trip?
To help answer that intimidating question, we've turned to expert opinion and the latest research to compile a list of 15 destinations that deserve special attention in 2019.
From an iconic Middle Eastern metropolis welcoming tourists again after years of political strife, to a pair of European cities hosting amazing cultural events in the new year, to major U.S. cities boasting brand-new attractions, these destinations won't leave you disappointed. Start your planning now.
Lonely Planet experts have singled out Copenhagen as the city to visit in 2019. Why?
For one thing, the city's exemplary culinary scene is better than ever. Noma, a restaurant serving inventive Nordic cuisine that's been named the best in the world by “Restaurant” magazine multiple times, reopened in 2018 after a year-long closure. The new iteration is massive, comprised of 11 buildings, three greenhouses and a wine storage facility converted from a mine depository. A 2,100-square-foot onsite garden is slated to open soon.
Gourmands are also flocking to the uber-hip Reffen, featuring street-food markets and workshop spaces housed in former shipping containers.
Plus, in summer 2019, the city will open its 17-station City Ring Metro line, making public transit easier than ever. The project has been touted as the most extensive in Copenhagen in four centuries.
Relatively stable after years of political unrest, and home to exciting new attractions, Cairo is the fastest-growing tourism city in the world.
In 2019, Europe's historic capital will partially open its eagerly anticipated Grand Egyptian Museum, the largest archaeological museum in the world. First up on display: the full tomb collection of King Tut.
Also opening in 2019 is the posh St. Regis Cairo, featuring six restaurants and bars, as well as personalized butler service for guests.
Of course, these and other fresh attractions are in addition to some of the most iconic sights on Earth, including the Giza pyramids and “Old Cairo” city.
Macau's tourism scene is also growing at a rapid pace, and it doesn’t show signs of slowing down soon.
Much of this growth is attributable to a booming casino-resort scene that only Vegas can rival. In 2018, the region welcomed, among many others, the massive MGM Cotai, boasting an impressive art collection; The 13, a property modeled after the Palace of Versailles; and Morpheus, touting two restaurants helmed by acclaimed chef Alain Ducasse.
The region has also become one of the best spots for foodies to visit, thanks to its mix of traditional Chinese restaurants and globally inspired standouts. As of 2018, Macau is home to 65 Michelin-starred establishments.
You also don’t have to worry (too much) about travel headaches. To accommodate its throngs of visitors, Macau’s airport will be undergoing a significant expansion in early 2019.
Seattle, United States
It’s safe to say there’s never been a better time than now to visit this long-time tourism favorite.
A couple years ago, the city’s iconic Pike Place Market welcomed MarketFront, featuring a collection of food and art stalls, art installations and an expansive public plaza, all backed by the Puget Sound.
This year, the city followed that up with an upgrade to its other world-famous attraction, the Space Needle. The skyscraper touts a new observation deck, replete with a revolving glass floor and a swanky wine bar.
No wonder “The Wall Street Journal” called this one of the most intriguing destinations to visit in 2019.
For the last few years, Lisbon has been experiencing a tourism surge that looks poised to continue in the new year.
Many travelers are heading to the bustling city to enjoy historic charm without encountering the increasingly steep prices of nearby Italy and Spain. Budget travelers can enjoy the city on a mere $58 per day.
Like the other cities on this list, Lisbon also promises an enticing mix of the new and the old, with medieval towers, monasteries and castles sharing space with hip new hotels, restaurants and cultural attractions. The city’s ever-growing collection of rooftop bars is particularly alluring.
There have been rumblings that Lisbon is becoming so popular that it may soon lose its off-the-beaten-path appeal. Go now while it’s still (relatively) accessible and affordable.
Next year, after decades of flying under the radar, this ancient city will be thrust into the spotlight when it’s featured as 2019’s European Capital of Culture. As a result of this designation, the European Union will be hosting a variety of cultural events in the city, including parades, concerts and art exhibitions.
Visitors who come to enjoy the festivities will also love exploring the city’s historic treasures – like the 600-year-old Dzhumaya Mosque – and natural wonders, including the neighboring Rhodope Mountains.
The old and the new meet in Matera in Southern Italy, Europe’s other 2019 Capital of Culture.
The old comes courtesy of historic attractions like stassi, remarkable stone houses carved out of caves and cliffs that date back 7,000 years. The new has been ushered in by a recent entrepreneurial boom, spurring the development of exciting restaurants and hotels.
As with Plovnik, Matera will be hosting several cultural events in 2019, making it an ideal time to visit.
True, Tokyo has been a top spot for travel for a long time. But 2019 is an especially good time to head to Japan’s bustling capital.
As it prepares to host the 2020 Olympics, the city has been unveiling several new venues. Musahino Forest Sports Plaza, which will host badminton, fencing and wheelchair basketball during the Olympics, opened this year as a space for concerts and exhibitions. In late 2019, the city will debut the massive New National Stadium, a must-see for architecture buffs.
The city’s also welcomed a slew of new hotels as it readies for the Olympics – and in typical Tokyo fashion, they're anything but cookie-cutter. Hotel 1899 showcases rooms modeled after traditional Japanese tea rooms, while Henn Na Hotel is run by robots.
Oh, and the city can't be beat when it comes to fine cuisine. It currently has, by far, the most Michelin stars in the world.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
When Hurricane Maria struck San Juan in 2017, it took a massive toll on the city’s thriving tourism industry. Fortunately, following an impressive rehabilitation effort, the city is now back in business.
In the wake of the disaster, several hotels and restaurants have been revamped, and the city is home to popular new developments like Lote 23, a sprawling food-truck park.
Not only is San Juan a desirable location to visit in 2019, but by going here, you’ll be contributing to the economy during a crucial time of ongoing recovery. You can even help in the revitalization process by participating in a voluntourism project.
It may come as a surprise to learn that Georgia is Europe’s second-fastest-growing country for tourism. (The fastest growing is tiny San Marino, better for a day trip than a full vacation.)
Perhaps best known globally for its geopolitical struggles with Russia, Georgia has increasingly established itself as an exciting democratic nation with a lot to offer visitors.
This year, its historic capital city of Tbilisi welcomed Stamba Hotel, a stylish property located in a former publishing house. Features includes an onsite chocolaterie and roastery, and an outdoor amphitheater that hosts local concerts and events. The city is also upping its public transit game, with a plan to introduce 200 electric buses by 2020.
These new amenities complement several historic attractions, including a pair of ancient cathedrals (Holy Trinity and Svetitskhoveli) and Narikala, a fortress dating back to the 4th century.
Outlets including “The New York Times” and “Refinery29” have singled out this African town as an up-and-comer well worth visiting in the new year.
Like Cairo and Tbilisi, Kigali has a history marked by political upheaval and tragedy: 23 years ago, genocide claimed the lives of 800,000 of its ethnic Tutsi citizens. Over the years, the city has worked hard to move forward from this horrifying incident, and today it is a progressive bastion of creativity, home to a thriving start-up culture and tech scene.
Wildlife enthusiasts will enjoy looking for the “Big Five” animals – lions, rhinos, elephants, buffaloes and leopards – Africa is known for. And there is much for foodies to love, too: The city is home to a growing number of restaurants, serving everything from traditional favorites to exciting fusion cuisine, as well as historic markets selling all things fresh and local. For caffeine-hounds, cafes serve some of the finest local coffee on the continent.
All this, plus Kigali is known for being one of Africa’s safest cities to visit.
Greece’s second-largest city is one of the country’s best for exploring history – and that’s saying something.
The city’s Roman Forum, dating back as far as the 2nd century AD, features Roman baths, temples and a small theater once used for gladiatorial games. The beautiful Old City (Ano Polis) is filled with striking examples of Ottoman and Macedonian architecture. And the city’s most famous landmark – the waterfront White Tower – was used as a prison and a site of mass executions during the Ottoman Empire.
But this city is also very of the now, with one of the hottest party scenes around – a beguiling mix of tradition (some clubs still play classic Grecian “bouzoukia” music) and the latest in European club culture.
According to the Association of British Travel Agents, this is one of the most popular locales being booked for 2019, and TripSavvy says it "is set to become the newest destination with bragging rights for independent travelers."
Chicago, United States
When “Time Out” surveyed 15,000 city-dwellers this year to uncover the best metropolis to live in and explore, The Windy City came out on top. And little wonder. Chicago offers the cultural attractions travelers love set against the stunning backdrop of Lake Michigan.
An assortment of new hotels, including three brand-new Hilton properties near the convention center, have made the city more appealing than ever. On tap for 2019: the long-awaited Hoxton hotel, an outpost of the acclaimed London brand.
When Mayor Rahm Emanuel entered office, he set a goal of 55 million visitors by 2020. By 2017, the city had already exceeded that goal, and 2018 is poised to break that record.
Go in 2019 to experience this long-beloved city at a particularly exciting time for tourism.
According to “The Wall Street Journal,” this Argentinian city is the “most intriguing” destination to visit in 2019.
Salta has much to offer nature-lovers in particular. An incredible 65 percent of Argentina’s bird species call the city home, and its regional and national parks contain jaguars, ocelots and other bucket-list finds.
Want to sip vino while scouting out wildlife? A growing number of first-rate wineries serve the area's signature varietals, Torrentos and Malbec.
Also on tap here: a wonderful collection of preserved colonial architecture, and an exciting live-music scene at local folk-music clubs called peñas.
Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel
Tel Aviv, with its bustling nightlife and historic attractions, has been and very much remains a must-visit destination. But it’s Tel Aviv’s conjoined city of Jaffa, aka Yafo, that really demands attention in the new year.
The ancient port city is home to exciting new hotels – including The Setai Tel Aviv, a luxurious getaway converted from a 12th century fortress, and The Jaffa, offering modern accommodations in a former hospital. These and other properties have, according to “Travel + Leisure,” “breathed new life” into the city.
Notably, Jaffa is also known for its inclusivity and diversity, which together have cultivated a rich cultural scene that's not to be missed.