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Best Destinations in the World - Travelers' Choice Awards
The crown jewels, Buckingham Palace, Camden Market…in London, history collides with art, fashion, food, and good British ale. A perfect day is different for everyone: culture aficionados shouldn't miss the Tate Modern and the Royal Opera House. If you love fashion, Oxford Street has shopping galore. For foodies, cream tea at Harrod’s or crispy fish from a proper chippy offers classic London flavor. Music and book buffs will love seeing Abbey Road and the Sherlock Holmes Museum (at 221B Baker Street, of course).
The mosques, bazaars, and Turkish baths of Istanbul could keep you happily occupied for your entire trip: an eyeful of breathtaking architecture here, a good-natured haggle over a carpet there. Kick your trip off at the awe-inspiring Sultan Ahmet Camii (Blue Mosque), which is visible from many points of the city. Stroll the Galata Bridge and stop by the Miniaturk Park to see its tiny artifacts. The Grand Bazaar has thousands of shops to browse, while the Egyptian Bazaar is a fragrant trove of spices and fruits.
The “Red City” of Marrakesh is a magical place, brimming with markets, gardens, palaces, and mosques. Exploring the intimate courtyards and snaking alleyways of the historic Medina can easily eat up a day. Find inner peace at the serene Jardin Majorelle or take in the beauty of one of the city’s historic mosques (taking note that, unless you are Muslim, you are not allowed to enter).
Lingering over pain au chocolat in a sidewalk café, relaxing after a day of strolling along the Seine and marveling at icons like the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe… the perfect Paris experience combines leisure and liveliness with enough time to savor both an exquisite meal and exhibits at the Louvre. Awaken your spirit at Notre Dame, bargain hunt at the Marché aux Puces de Montreuil or for goodies at the Marché Biologique Raspail, then cap it all off with a risqué show at the Moulin Rouge.
When the morning light washes over the overgrown temples and ruins of Angkor Wat, a simple Siem Reap sunrise becomes a profound event. The ancient structures are contained within one of the largest religious complexes in the world. The complex and the 12th century Angkor Thom royal city are considered the main reasons to visit Siem Reap. Get a lesson in national history at the Cambodian Cultural Village, and a lesson in bargaining at the Angkor Night Market, a bonanza of shopping stalls, food vendors, and bars.
The bohemian allure and fairytale features of Prague make it a perfect destination for beach-weary vacationers who want to immerse themselves in culture. You could devote an entire day to exploring Prazsky hrad (Prague Castle), then refueling over a hearty dinner at a classic Czech tavern. Spend some time wandering the Old Town Square before heading over to gape at The Old Town Hall and Astronomical Clock. Prague’s best bars are found in cellars, where historic pubs set the scene for a night of traditional tippling.
Rome wasn't built in a day--and you'll need much more than a day to take in this timeless city. The city is a real-life collage of piazzas, open-air markets, and astonishing historic sites. Toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain, contemplate the Colosseum and the Pantheon, and sample a perfect espresso or gelato before spending an afternoon shopping at the Campo de’Fiori or Via Veneto. Enjoy some of the most memorable meals of your life here, too, from fresh pasta to succulent fried artichokes or a tender oxtail stew.
The charming Vietnamese capital has aged well, preserving the Old Quarter, monuments and colonial architecture, while making room for modern developments alongside. Hanoi may have shrugged off several former names, including Thang Long, or "ascending dragon," but it hasn't forgotten its past, as sites such as Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum and Hoa Lo Prison attest. Lakes, parks, shady boulevards and more than 600 temples and pagodas add to the appeal of this city, which is easily explored by taxi.
Conquering New York in one visit is impossible. Instead, hit the must-sees – the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art – and then explore off the beaten path with visits to The Cloisters or one of the city’s libraries. Indulge in the bohemian shops of the West Village or the fine dining of the Upper West Side. The bustling marketplace inside of Grand Central Station gives you a literal taste of the best the city has to offer.
The village cluster of Ubud is the ideal place to try a famed Balinese massage and soak up the ambiance of one of Asia’s top spa destinations. Acupressure, reflexology, stretching and aromatherapy star in the island's distinctively firm massage treatments. Ubud is also the vivacious center of Bali’s arts scene, home to a small treasure trove of museums and galleries. Monkey around at nearby nature reserve Monkey Forest Park, home to hundreds of mischievous long-tailed macaques. Don’t miss the valley of tomb cloisters at Gunung Kawi.
Barcelona feels a bit surreal – appropriate, since Salvador Dali spent time here and Spanish Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí designed several of the city’s buildings. Stepping into Gaudí’s Church of the Sacred Family is a bit like falling through the looking glass - a journey that you can continue with a visit to Park Güell. Sip sangria at a sidewalk café in Las Ramblas while watching flamboyant street performers, then create your own moveable feast by floating from tapas bar to tapas bar.
The museums of Lisbon celebrate the rich history and culture of this Portuguese capital city. The Maritime Museum is perfect for kids (and grown-ups!) who adore all things nautical, while the Casa-Museu Dr. Anastácio Gonçalves is a hidden gem of colorful artwork. To fully appreciate the city’s dramatic stone architecture you can take a guided walking tour, or customize your own tour, making sure to visit the Padrao dos Descobrimentos, the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, and the UNESCO World Heritage site the Torre de Belem.
Dubai is a cosmopolitan oasis, a futuristic cityscape that towers over the Arabian Desert. This is a city of superlatives, home to the world’s largest dancing fountain; tallest building (Burj Khalifa); only 7-star hotel (the Burj al-Arab); largest artificial islands (the Palm Islands); and largest natural flower garden (the Miracle Garden). Rent a dune buggy for a desert adventure, bargain at the open-air market, or cheer on your favorite humped hoofer at the Camel Race Track.
The second largest city in Russia, St. Petersburg is the country’s cultural heart. View splendid architectural gems like the Winter Palace and the Kazan Cathedral, and give yourself plenty of time to browse the world-renowned art collection of the Hermitage. Sprawling across the Neva River delta, St. Petersburg offers enough art, nightlife, fine dining and cultural destinations for many repeat visits.
Golden palaces, floating markets, majestic porcelain-laid spires…you've never seen a capital city quite like Bangkok. Visit Pratunam or Siam Square for premium shopping, then unwind in the European-style gardens of Dusit. Thon Buri is home to the awesome Wat Arun temple, and over in Phra Nakhon, you’ll find the Wat Pho temple of the Reclining Buddha. Savor mango sticky rice at a food stall before taking in the gilded splendor of the Grand Palace.
This city, full of colorful homes, canals and bridges, is one of Europe's most picturesque capitals. Must-sees on any visitor's itinerary include the Anne Frank House, the Van Gogh Museum and the world's only floating flower market. Rent a bike and join thousands of locals navigating Amsterdam's labyrinthine streets, or just take in the sights on foot. For an unusual and memorable alternative to hotels, consider staying in a houseboat.
The birthplace of the tango is, like the dance itself, captivating, seductive and bustling with excited energy. Atmospheric old neighborhoods are rife with romantic restaurants and thumping nightlife, and Buenos Aires' European heritage is evident in its architecture, boulevards and parks. Cafe Tortoni, the city's oldest bar, will transport you back to 1858, and the spectacular Teatro Colon impresses just as it did in 1908. Latin America's shopping capital offers the promise of premium retail therapy along its grand, wide boulevards.
Delectable dim sum, floating islands, and a one-of-a-kind skyline are just some of Hong Kong’s unique features. Get an eyeful of traditional Chinese architecture in Ngong Ping village, then take the tram to the tippity-top of Victoria Peak for unparalleled views. The rocks and gentle hills of Nan Lian Garden will bring you inner peace, as will a calming cup of tea in a Stanley café. Become one with everything at the Chi Lin Nunnery, a serene Buddhist complex.
Playa del Carmen is one of the top diving destinations in the world, thanks to vibrant sea life and dazzling underwater caverns. On dry land, Playa is a hipper and more modern version of the fishing village it once was. Spend some quality time on the golf course or wave hello to the playful spider monkeys at The Jungle Place sanctuary. Explore the ancient ruins of the Coba Mayan Village, or get in some quality people-watching as you shop and stroll along 5th Avenue.
Cape Town glistens at the southern toe of the African continent. Tourist brochure-views at Blaauwberg Beach and Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens are within easy driving distance of "The Mother City." The Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve provides sweeping sea vistas, hiking trails and wildlife encounters. On a more somber note, travelers can visit Robben Island, the prison where Nelson Mandela was held for 27 years.
Tradition collides with pop culture in Tokyo, where you can reverently wander ancient temples before rocking out at a karaoke bar. Wake up before the sun to catch the lively fish auction at the Tsukiji Market, then refresh with a walk beneath the cherry blossom trees that line the Sumida River. Spend some time in the beautiful East Gardens of the Imperial Palace, then brush up on your Japanese history at the Edo-Tokyo Museum. Don’t forget to eat as much sushi, udon noodles, and wagashi (Japanese sweets) as your belly can handle.
Incan majesty and Andean baroque exist side-by-side in Cusco's stone streets, epitomized by the Qoriacancha palace and the church of Santo Domingo flanking the Plaza de Armas. In this high-altitude melting pot of Amerindian and mestizo culture, you'll find extraordinary textiles, lively summer festivals and archeological wonders.
Nepal’s capital is surrounded by a valley full of historic sites, ancient temples, shrines, and fascinating villages. Mingle with locals and animals amid Durbar Square’s monuments, or join mountain trekkers in the bustling Thamel District. Explore shops for exquisite work by local artisans—carpets and paper prints are specialties.
Sydney offers plenty of historical and contemporary Australian flavor. The marvelous Sydney Opera House looks like a great origami sailboat, floating peacefully in a harbor. Wander the narrow cobblestone streets of The Rocks and then take in a street performance on the Circular Quay before heading into the Museum of Contemporary Art. The views from the Sydney Tower Eye observatory are epic – use this chance to get to know the layout of the city from high above.
Over 15 million gallons of water bubble daily into Budapest's 118 springs and boreholes. The city of spas offers an astounding array of baths, from the sparkling Gellert Baths to the vast 1913 neo-baroque Szechenyi Spa to Rudas Spa, a dramatic 16th-century Turkish pool with original Ottoman architecture. This Travelers' Choice Destination, called the "Queen of the Danube," is also steeped in history, culture and natural beauty. Get your camera ready for the Roman ruins of the Aquincum Museum, Heroes' Square and Statue Park, and the 300-foot dome of St. Stephen's Basilica.
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