Every year, we here at AD bring you a list of the top travel destinations that should be on your radar for the year ahead. It’s not enough for a destination to be a nice place to visit—it’s got to be appealing to architecture and design lovers, perhaps because of an exciting new museum, a major design-themed event, an important anniversary, or just because it’s at the forefront of a burgeoning design trend. As always, we consulted trusted travel advisers, award-winning tour operators, and other industry experts to weigh in on the places that are most worth your hard-earned money and vacation time in 2020. From under-the-radar European cities and remote islands to classic destinations with new reasons to visit, these 20 places top our must-visit list for 2020.
Thanks to its designation as the 2020 World Design Capital, this city of some 200,000 people near the Belgian border will get its moment in the spotlight. Over the course of 2020, Lille will host around 50 cultural events, including six major exhibitions. A good time to go would be in the fall, when the region will host the first-ever Lille Metropole Design Week. Stay at the new Mama Shelter Lille, which opened this summer just steps from the city’s two main train stations and the Euralille business district with a colorful, quirky design by the late Jalil Amor, a protégé of Philippe Starck.
With Tokyo hosting the 2020 Olympic Games, all eyes are on Japan and its capital. If you’re planning a trip there, consider staying at the ANA InterContinental Tokyo, which has a loyal local following for its restaurants (especially the Michelin-starred establishment by French chef Pierre Gagnaire), sipping a martini at the New York Bar in the Park Hyatt Tokyo, and taking an architecture-themed tour of the city with InsideJapan Tours. If you’re traveling all the way to Japan, it’s worth exploring more of the country, including Kyoto and Osaka, and the resort town of Beppu—famous for its hot springs—which just got its first five-star international resort, the InterContinental Beppu Resort & Spa. Jack Ezon, founder and managing partner of Embark, agrees: “What’s different in 2020 is that more than ever, people are venturing outside of the ‘usuals.’”
This year was a big one for Berlin, which celebrated the centenary of the Bauhaus and the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Now, though, the Bauhaus Museum Dessau—about 90 minutes south of Berlin—has finally opened. Though the school originally opened in Weimar (which also debuted a Bauhaus museum this year), it moved to Dessau from 1925 until 1932, before relocating once again to Berlin before closing down in 1933. Barcelona-based studio Addenda Architects built the Bauhaus Museum Dessau on the site of the former school designed by Walter Gropius. If you decide to go on a Bauhaus-themed pilgrimage, be sure to visit the Meisterhäuser, a group of white cubist homes where Gropius, Kandinsky, and other Bauhaus luminaries lived.
When the Grand Egyptian Museum opens next year in Giza, it will be the second-largest museum on the planet and the largest dedicated to a single civilization. To call the $1.1 billion, 5.2-million-square-foot museum highly anticipated would be a massive understatement. Plan to start there and use it as a jumping off point to explore the wonders of ancient Egypt with a tour operator like Extraordinary Journeys. The agency can arrange visits to the tombs in the Valley of Kings, the temples of Luxor, a cruise on the Nile, and much more. “We live in a very transient world where trends, even in architecture, come and go very quickly,” Marcia Gordon, founder of Extraordinary Journeys, told AD. “It is interesting to see that there are fundamentals of art and architecture developed in ancient Egypt, Greek, and Roman architecture that are still basics in the best of our architecture today.”
This year, the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo Da Vinci was celebrated in Paris, the Loire Valley, Florence, and Milan. Next year, the death of fellow Renaissance master Raphael will be commemorated in Italy. The largest exhibition will be held in Rome, where he spent the last decade of his life working on a series of frescoes at the Vatican and other palazzos, at the Scuderie del Quirinale. Luxury tour operator Imago Artis can arrange a Raphael-themed tour of Rome and beyond, with visits to Villa Farnesina, the Church of Sant’Agostino, and Villa Madama, which is normally off-limits to the public. Check into one of the city’s luxurious new hotels, like Hotel de la Ville by Rocco Forte or the recently renovated St. Regis Rome.
The first of its kind in Australia, the Museum of Underwater Art will launch its first artwork in April 2020 in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Installations will be spread across four sites and will be created by the world’s leading underwater sculptor, Jason deCaires Taylor, in collaboration with local and indigenous artists. The works will draw attention to ocean conservation. Heart Island and the iconic coral formation at Heart Reef will also be accessible for the first time following a $2 million investment and a decade of development. Plan to stay at the new InterContinental Hayman Island, which launched last summer on a private island in the heart of the Whitsundays.
The first world expo ever held in the Middle East, Expo 2020 Dubai is expected to host 25 million visitors for a six-month celebration of creativity, innovation, and culture. The Museum of the Future is sure to be a huge draw for anyone who wants to discover prototype ideas and inventions via interactive displays, workshops, and talks. Visitors can take in the sights from Ain Dubai—the world’s highest observation wheel—and from the observation deck at Meydan One Mall, which is set to surpass Dubai Mall as the world’s largest shopping center.
It’s no surprise that Marrakech has been named the first-ever African Capital of Culture—the Moroccan metropolis is a haven of art, culture, architecture, and design. Home to two UNESCO World Heritage sites—the ancient medina and the bustling Djemaa El Fna—Marrakech has seen some exciting developments over the past few years, including the 2017 opening of the Yves Saint Laurent Museum designed by Studio KO. There’s no better place to stay than the Royal Mansour, which was built by King Mohammed VI and recently refreshed.
Ranked the number one emerging destination in Virtuoso’s 2020 Luxe Report, Croatia is ready for prime time. If it’s your first visit to the country, there’s no better place to start than Dubrovnik. Though the city was heavily bombed during the Croatian War of Independence, you wouldn’t know it wandering around the historic city center now. Summer brings the most crowds, but it’s also the best time to explore the gorgeous Elaphiti Islands and the nearby town of Mali Ston, where you can visit an oyster farm. Check into the just-renovated Hotel Bellevue, the iconic Hotel Excelsior, or the intimate Villa Orsula—all of which are members of Adriatic Luxury Hotels.
Virtuoso also included witnessing the Great Migration in Kenya on its Wanderlist of must-have travel experiences for 2020. Luckily, new direct flights from New York to Nairobi are making East Africa’s classic safari destination easier to reach than ever. Kenya Airways launched direct service to JFK Airport and inked a partnership agreement with Delta to increase connections to 11 U.S. and four Canadian cities. Once there, design lovers should shop for Kenyan crafts in Nairobi and embark on a safari in the Maasai Mara at the stunning Angama Mara, which was designed by Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens on the site where Out of Africa was filmed.
Luang Prabang, Laos
Compared to other Asian cities, Luang Prabang has remained relatively under the radar, but in 2020 it will celebrate 25 years as a UNESCO World Heritage site. A compelling blend of French colonial and traditional Buddhist architecture makes the town worth visiting, especially for anyone interested in learning about Buddhist culture and traditional Laotian crafts like weaving. The new Avani+ Luang Prabang, which opened last year in former French officer quarters, is the perfect base from which to explore. It’s located in the heart of town, just steps from the night market and in easy walking distance to Mount Phousi, beautiful Buddhist temples, charming restaurants, and the Mekong River.
If it seems like every time you scroll through Instagram, you see photos of overwater bungalows floating above the turquoise lagoon, you’re not alone. The Maldives—made up of 1,900 atoll islands—is having a major design moment and jet-setters around the world are taking note. As the lowest-lying country on the planet, the Maldives has been at the forefront of sustainability initiatives since the 1980s and aims to become carbon neutral by 2020. New resorts, like Kudadoo Maldives, the Muraka at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort, the Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi, the InterContinental Maamunagau Resort, and Anantara Kihavah, are the stuff vacation dreams are made of.
In November 2016, Urban Adventures (a day-tour company run by Intrepid Travel) saw a whopping 1,350% increase in views on its District of Columbia tours page, and they’re expecting a similar spike this year. But aside from the election, there are plenty of other reasons to visit the nation’s capital: a revitalized waterfront, excellent museums, new and renovated hotels, and a restaurant scene that’s hotter than ever. The Wharf features offices, retail, recreational space, the Anthem concert venue, the InterContinental D.C. – the Wharf, and must-try restaurants, like Officina by Michelin-starred chef Nicholas Stefanelli. It’s just one of the latest places proving that D.C. isn’t just a meat-and-potatoes town. You’d better reserve a table in advance if you want to get into Maydan—hailed by Bon Appetit, GQ, and Food & Wine as one of America’s best new restaurants in 2018—and the Pembroke, the swanky new French restaurant inside the recently renovated Dupont Circle Hotel designed by Martin Brudnizki. Next year, Riggs Washington DC, by Lore Group, the hospitality team behind the Pulitzer Amsterdam, will launch with the first U.S. venture by award-winning London bartender Ryan Chetiyawardana.
Greenland came onto the radar when Donald Trump suggested buying it from Denmark, but it remained in the spotlight as the next frontier of climate change. Several leading tour operators have responded to a spike in interest with new expeditions to this massive island—the world’s largest—in the Arctic Circle. Abercrombie & Kent has added a new 15-day Ultimate Iceland & Greenland Cruise that will depart in August 2020. French cruise company Ponant is taking bookings for a 15-day sailing down the unexplored eastern coast of Greenland. Intrepid Travel is launching its first dedicated tour of Greenland: an eight-day land-based expedition that starts with a visit to the Icefjord in Illulisat, leads travelers on a hike through archeological sites, and ends in the modern capital of Nuuk.
Fully recovered after hurricanes Irma and Maria, Anguilla is the Caribbean island that should be on design lovers’ radar in 2020. This year saw the reopening of two of the island’s most luxurious resorts: Belmond Cap Juluca and CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa, a member of Leading Hotels of the World. Malliouhana, a member of the Auberge Resorts Collection, has also just unveiled a series of improvements, including new rooms, a casual beachfront restaurant, and an improved spa with a pool overlooking Meads Bay. Anguilla is close enough to St. Bart’s (which we featured as one of the top destinations of 2019) that you could plan an island-hopping trip this winter and visit both.
The first Bangkok Art Biennale brought contemporary art by Thai and international artists to public squares, Buddhist temples, abandoned buildings, and shopping malls in 2018, and the second edition promises to be even bigger. If you missed it the first time around, 2020 is the year to go. Once again, Bangkok was ranked the world’s most visited city with 22.78 million overnight visitors, according to Mastercard’s Global Destination Cities Index 2019. The city’s hotel scene is also hotter than ever thanks to a slew of new and renovated properties, including the Park Hyatt Bangkok, the Waldorf Astoria Bangkok, the Rosewood Bangkok, and the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok. The Avani+ Riverside Bangkok also unveiled its sleek new rooftop bar and restaurant, SEEN.
The great state of Maine will celebrate its bicentennial in 2020 with a series of parades, festivals, exhibitions, and other events throughout the year. Some highlights include Statehood Weekend (March 14 and 15) in Augusta and statewide, the Bicentennial Parade on May 16 in Auburn/Lewiston, the Summer Coast Festival (July 3–10) in Portland and up the coast, and the Grand Finale Weekend (October 9–12) in Augusta, Bangor, and statewide. The Portland Museum of Art will exhibit “20 x 20: 200 Years of Maine History” from March through October, and it’s just one of the museums on the Maine Art Museum Trail worth visiting. Consider starting in Portland and working your way up the coast to Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island.
Aesthetes looking for the next great beach destination are flocking to Bodrum, on Turkey’s Aegean coast, for an under-the-radar alternative to the Greek Islands and the Amalfi Coast. Known as the Turquoise Coast, the area has seen a massive amount of development over the past few years, with luxe new resorts including the Bodrum Edition, designed by Ian Schrager, the Mandarin Oriental Bodrum, Amanruya, and Six Senses that are already open, plus a new property by Four Seasons coming down the pipeline. With 600 miles of coastline, the region has plenty of beautiful beaches, some with snow-white sand rumored to be made of crushed marble.
Itching to get truly off the beaten path? Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni—the world’s largest salt flat—is one of the planet’s most remote and surreal landscapes, and it just became a lot more accessible. Kachi Lodge—which debuted this summer—is the first permanent property to open in this region. According to Jack Ezon of Embark, “This new seven-dome luxury camp is the first to tame the wilds of Bolivia, giving luxury explorers an incredible opportunity to explore the spectacular salt flats like never before.” Guests don’t have to sacrifice comfort, as the geodesic domes are outfitted with comfortable beds, local textiles, and art by Gastón Ugalde, who has been likened to an Andean Andy Warhol.
Costa Rica has long drawn surfers and beach bums, but design lovers will have a new reason to go in 2020: Nayara Tented Camp—a collaboration between Leo Ghitis and Luxury Frontiers—will be one of the first of its kind in Central America. Comprising 29 luxury tents inspired by African safari camps, the property has a low-impact design that aims to protect the surrounding rainforest. “Nayara Tented Camp is part of the ever-growing experiential travel movement, and it elevates Costa Rica’s adventure and nature-based hospitality products,” Luca Franco, CEO and founder of Luxury Frontiers, said. It fits in with the country’s ambitious sustainability plan, which aims to reach 100% renewable energy by 2030 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest