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Top Places to Go in 2016 - Part 1
When Pope Francis visits Mexico City next month, he will draw the faithful from around the country. The Mexican capital, though, is attracting pilgrims of another kind: travelers seeking some of the world’s best cuisine, museums and forward-thinking design. With young people from around Latin America and Spain streaming into the city, and the Mexican peso hitting record lows against the dollar, the city — daunting and endless as it is — radiates energy.
Certainly, there is no more exciting place to eat. Enrique Olvera, who reinvented Mexican cuisine at Pujol, has inspired a generation of restaurants in his wake; recent openings include Fonda Fina in La Roma and Fonda Mayora in nearby Condesa.
Design fans can work up an appetite shopping for products by studios like David Pompa and Lagos del Mundo or for designs by Carla Fernández. Photography lovers have two new destinations: the FotoMuseo Cuatro Caminos and the newly renovated Centro de la Imagen.
But getting to know the city means diving into its colonias. In the shadow of Paseo de la Reforma, the city’s grand boulevard, the Colonia Cuauhtémoc, beckons business travelers and tourists alike, with the new design-consciousCarlota hotel and an increasing number of restaurants. Many other areas demand a more intimate exploration. You can stroll by the French-style 19th-century mansions of La Roma or take a turn around Parque México in Condesa.
Mexico City Cathedral
Of course, there are places you should not wander but the city is far safer than it was in the 1990s, and taxi services like Uber and Yaxi make getting around a lot more comfortable. It’s also easier to get to: in the summer, AeroMéxico, JetBlue and American Airlines have boosted flights.
And if you’re overwhelmed, you can visit Futura CDMX, a scale model of the Federal District due to open soon — the latest flourish of pride in a city that’s ever coming back.
Next year will see the opening of La Cité du Vin, an ambitious institution along the coast of the river Garonne dedicated to the history of French viticulture. The undulating wooden structure, designed by XTU architects, is part of a huge greening and revitalization effort along Bordeaux’s waterways, which also includes the 2013 opening of the Pont Jacques Chaban-Delmas, Europe’s largest lift bridge, and the transformation of over 7,500,000 square feet of former docklands into more than 5,000 new apartments and public waterside attractions. In 2007, half of the restored neoclassical city wasUnesco-listed, making it the largest urban World Heritage site. And all the effort has been paying off: A 2013 survey ranked Bordeaux France’s second-favorite city, after Paris. More recently, a restaurant boom has welcomed enticing openings by the likes of Joël Robuchon, whose namesake restaurant opened at the end of 2014 within the city’s palatial Grande Maison hotel.
Gordon Ramsay recently took the helm at Le Pressoir d’Argent, the restaurant within the InterContinental Bordeaux — Le Grand Hotel, while the French celebrity chef Philippe Etchebest, has taken over the Café Opera in Bordeaux’s Grand Théâtre. Other appetizing new entries include Franco-Chinese restaurant Dan, high-end minimalist Garopapilles and locavoreBelle Campagne, in a rustic-chic townhouse in Bordeaux’s picturesque Old Town.
3. Malta - The Mediterranean on a dime.
Malta is an affordable Mediterranean playground with a superb climate, sublime beaches, megalithic temples and a distinctive crossroads culture. English is one of two official languages, but few Americans have discovered Malta’s charms. There are three inhabited islands to explore — Malta, home to buzzing Valletta, a Unesco World Heritage city of stunning limestone buildings; Gozo, more tranquil and with a dramatic coastline filled with great spots for diving; and idyllic, car-free Comino, which has one hotel and few residents. As Valletta celebrates its 450th anniversary this year, the old city has gotten some fresh touches, including a new city gate, a restored open-air opera house and a new parliament building, all designed by the renowned architect Renzo Piano.
And in Malta, you can follow in the footsteps of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, who spent their honeymoon shooting their latest film, “By the Sea,” in Gozo, which served as a more economical, but equally romantic, stand-in for the South of France. (You may also recognize the island from “The Whale” or “The Da Vinci Code.”)
The beaches are less crowded, the emphasis is on local over commercial, and the people share a friendly sense of neighborhood pride. Among the town’s attractions: monthly full-moon parties at Miss Lucy’s, and a Thanksgiving “Thankspigging” pot luck pig roast hosted by the community at Skinny Legs, where the eating often swells into a singalong. But this quiet community may soon change.
Coral Bay, St. John in US Virgin Island
Visit before a proposed outlet mall and megamarina, expected to engulf the bay, transforms the laid-back atmosphere of this little corner of the United States Virgin Islands.
The National Park Service turns 100 years old in August thanks to President Woodrow Wilson, who signed the Organic Act of 1916, but few presidents have done as much for conservation as Teddy Roosevelt. Fly into Dickinson in western North Dakota to visit the park named after him, where rolling grasslands dotted with bison collapse into the spectacular red, white and gold badlands of tumbling mud coulees.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park landscape
Lonely dirt roads bring you to one of the park’s less-visited attractions, Elkhorn Ranch, about 35 miles north of Medora, where Roosevelt arrived in 1884 as a young New Yorker ready to raise cattle and heal from the deaths of his wife and mother. Transformed and inspired, the 26th president eventually set aside more than 230 million acres of federal land to help preserve the wonder of places like Crater Lake,Mesa Verde and the Grand Canyon.
Mozambique is a forward-thinking African leader that offers a terrific mix of safari and beach. In July, it became one of the few African nations to decriminalize homosexuality (and abortion), a major step toward creating a more open-minded African destination for L.G.B.T. travelers. The bustling capital, Maputo, is experiencing a budding tolerance, while advocacy groups like Lambda Moz continue to help destigmatize homosexuality countrywide. Mozambique’s tranquil coast continues to draw travelers of all kinds in search of post-safari snorkel and surfing options.
In 2016, Intrepid Travelstarts a four-day Mozambique Beach Break to Barra Beach and the historic Inhambane settlement. In 2015, Cox & Kings began a new tour to Benguerra Island, where andBeyond, a company known for its conservation and luxury camps, reopened its stylish island lodge in June 2015, after a $5.5 million refurbishment.
7. Toronto, Canada - Canada’s largest city is ready for its close-up.
Toronto is remaking itself as Canada’s premier city, quietly slipping out of the shadow of Montreal and Vancouver. Last year, the Queens Quay on Lake Ontario reopened, part of the largest continuing urban revitalization project in North America. It now has bike and pedestrian paths and new streetcars that link green spaces and promenades that will be full of public art. The Junction, a former industrial area, has emerged as Toronto’s most stylish neighborhood for its bars, live music and coffee shops.
Toronto at Dusk
And the city is becoming easier to visit: a train now whisks travelers downtown from the airport in 25 minutes, and Air Canada offers extended stopovers for connecting passengers. Toronto has long been known for its cultural diversity and continues to draw major artistic and sporting events, including the Toronto International Film Festival each September, and the 2016 N.B.A. All-Star game, held outside the United States for the first time.
Enlightenment takes time. Ten years in the case of Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi’s starchitect-saturated natural island whose name means “place of enlightenment.” After much controversy and multiple delays, Jean Nouvel’sLouvre Abu Dhabi, known for a lacework dome that lets in what the architect calls a “rain of light,” is expected to open in mid- to late 2016. Forthcoming projects include a Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Zaha Hadid’s Performing Arts Center and Foster & Partner’s Zayed National Museum. This year also sees a batch of upmarket hotel openings elsewhere in the city, including the 200-room Four Seasons in the new Central Business District and the 244-room Edition Hotel on the Abu Dhabi Marina. Most surprising and important is the Emirati capital’s earnest step toward nature conservation.
Abu Dhabi landscape
In January 2015, Abu Dhabi’s Environment Agency completed phase one of the Al Wathba Wetland eco-reserve project, one of the Middle East’s first wildlife reserves and home to 232 species. It also introduced strict fishing quotas and serving regulations at restaurants, and expanded Plan Abu Dhabi 2030, a master urban scheme that includes the Mangrove National Park, the first of five national parks and home to Anantara’s Eastern Mangroves Hotel and a biodiversity hot spot occupying 75 percent of the United Arab Emirates’ mangrove forest. Even Saadiyat’s beach dunes, home to nesting hawksbill turtles, have been protected, promising visitors an enlightened experience that goes far beyond art and architecture.
Some of the Nordic region’s most interesting food is being cooked not in Copenhagen but across the Oresund Bridge, in the Swedish region of Skane. The capital, Malmo, is home to a handful of terrific casual places, likeBastard and Bord 13. But the real action is outside the city. Almost mythologically Swedish — all unadulterated coastline, mushroom-filled forests and red wooden houses — rural Skane has been attracting lots of creative types who come to farm (organically, of course), cook and even grow tobacco to make their own snus. In summer, Horte Brygga serves fresh, simply prepared seafood right on the shore, while Talldungen, a lovely country hotel and restaurant overseen by two young chefs who fled Stockholm, makes beautiful use of its on-site garden and bakery.
But the real stunner is the 25-seat Daniel Berlin Krog. The namesake young chef hunts most of the game he serves and grows many of the vegetables; but his sophisticated, deeply layered cooking is more world-class than rustic. Though winter weather conditions have been rough, with flooding and icy roads, it’s definitely a place to watch in 2016.
10. Viñales, Cuba - Looking for the real Cuba? You’ve found it.
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