When Lonely Planet speaks, we, as do countless others, listen! Ubiquitous amongst backpackers, this essential travelling companion recently published its top 10 listings for 2014. And as you might expect, there’s some interesting results. Looking in particular at its top 10 city hotspots for 2014, three European destinations make the shortlist in a medals table that includes cities as diverse as Cape Town and Chicago, Adelaide and Auckland, Shanghai, Vancouver and Cuba’s Trinidad. Here’s a more in-depth look at what they say about the European contingent:
Paris is being reborn. Following a push to reduce the cars clogging one of Europe’s most congested cities, particularly its UNESCO World Heritage–listed riverbanks, a one-mile stretch of former busy road on the Seine’s Right Bank now incorporates walkways and cycle ways. The pièce de résistance however is the Left Bank’s new car-free zone between the Pont de l’Alma and the Musée d’Orsay; floating gardens on 1800 square metres of artificial islands and pedestrian promenades breathe new life into the once traffic-choked thoroughfare.
And that’s not all: a gold ‘flying carpet’ roof crowns the interior courtyard of the Louvre’s new Islamic art galleries. Nine new bells replicating the original medieval chimes ring out from Notre Dame. After years of renovations, the Musée Picasso will again display works inside a 17th-century Marais mansion, the Hôtel Salé. If it’s even possible, the world’s most beautiful city is now even more beautiful.
Sitting at the crossroads of the great empires that wrote the pages of Europe’s elaborate history, Riga was, for centuries, a strategic linchpin in the annexation of important lands until it was smothered into obscurity when the Iron Curtain fell. Today, with two decades of freedom (and a renewed status as the Latvian capital) under its belt, the city is reclaiming its rightful title as the cosmopolitan cornerstone of the Baltic.
Over the past few years hipster-chic cafes have spread like wildfire throughout the city centre, sweaty pork-and-potato dinners have been swapped for savvy new-Nordic-inspired dishes, and hundreds of crumbling facades are being restored to their brilliant, Art Nouveau lustre – all in time for Riga to earn the long-deserved honour of being named the European Capital of Culture.
Can a city best known for men in suits and cheques with improbable numbers of zeros really deliver a thrilling city break? We say it can. With the liberalisation of the rules governing opening hours, locals are throwing themselves into nightlife with the same enthusiasm they show for moving decimal points during the day. In the trendy Züri-West district, industrial decay has given way to nocturnal hedonism, and the city by the lake has attracted revellers from across Switzerland, ensuring a Bacchanalian edge to proceedings.
In addition to famous-name fashion houses and boutiques by the bucket load, the city is awash with fine dining and bijou cafes. And if that’s not all, in August 2014, the city hosts the European Athletics Championships; can Team GB recreate their Olympic success once again on Swiss soil?
Paris, Riga and Zurich copy copyrighted to and adapted from the Lonely Planet’s travel tips & articles “Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2014 – Top 10 Cities”.