Travel + Leisure Magazine recently published their picks for the Hottest Travel Destinations of 2012—and three destinations on that list are in our favorite part of the world! Forget about Paris or Rome; these are the European travel destinations to keep an eye on in the coming year:
One of the oldest cities in Portugal, Guimarães is actually called the “birthplace of Portuguese nationality.” It has long been known for its rich heritage; however, until recently, the city was often left off the hip traveler’s itinerary. Today, Guimarães is experiencing somewhat of a cultural renaissance—in fact, it was named (jointly with Maribor) the European Capital of Culture for 2012. A younger population is bringing a livelier atmosphere, transforming the ancient urban landscape into one that is sure to become trendier in the upcoming year.
Guimarães has a number of interesting museums and cultural centres, including the Vila Flor Cultural Center and the Center for Arts & Architecture Affairs. The Primitive Modern Arts Museum, the Art Laboratory and the Martins Sarmento Society are also worth visiting for their contributions to the music, theater, film and art scenes of Guimarães. As far as cuisine, the city has something for everyone—if you like seafood, then you must try the city’s favorite dish (bacalhau or salt cod.) Other things to do in Guimarães include the six-mile Citânia de Briteiros hike, which cuts through the fascinating ruins of an old Iron Age settlement, and a visit to the city’s oldest (and still most popular) square, the Largo da Oliveira.
Greece has proven that no matter the state of its economy, the country’s tourist industry will continue to thrive. This is because in terms of natural beauty and rich history, there are few places in the world that can compare. A far cry from the major city of Athens or the tourist-ridden beaches of Santorini, the sleepy region of Messenia is now becoming the up-and-coming travel destination. The westernmost portion of the Peloponnese peninsula, Messenia is filled with beautiful valleys, majestic sand dunes and intriguing Byzantine churches. Incredible beaches line the Ionian Sea—beaches that, until recently, have been unknown to most of the world’s travelers.
Costa Navarino, a new resort complex on 2,500 picturesque acres, is single-handedly putting Messenia on the global map. The once-hidden stretch of Grecian coastline is now poised to become Europe’s newest Riviera. World-class hotel chains, including Starwood and Banyan Tree, have chosen Costa Navarino as their newest home—and their hotels are waiting to introduce you to the distinct style and hospitality of Messenia. Consider the Pharae Palace Hotel, the Elite City Resort, or another of the great hotels in Kalamata (the capital of Messenia) for your next getaway.
A vibrant hub of commerce and culture, the big German city of Hamburg is not exactly hidden. However, while it has always attracted its share of visitors, those numbers are about to drastically increase for one reason: HafenCity. The brand-new development is currently being constructed on the docklands of Hamburg. With its completion—which is not scheduled to be until 2025, unfortunately—the city’s skyline will be forever altered.
The 388-acre project-in-progress is already drawing spectators, especially for the obvious modernity it brings to the historic city. So far, the crown jewel of the innovative, eye-catching architectural complex is Herzog & de Meuron’s Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall (where performances are set to start in 2014.) The concert hall resembles a large ship passing through fog; the visual effect is created with the help of treated glass—and perhaps a touch of magic. Surrounding this is the up-and-coming quarter of Am Sandtorkai/Dalmannkai, comprised of 19th-century brick warehouses and newer buildings.
Although HafenCity is still in its earlier stages, it is already changing the way people view Hamburg. See it for yourself—Hamburg hotels like the Radisson Blu Hotel, Hamburg and the Side are available right now at Eurobookings.com.