Top Ten cities to visit in 2018
Posted On December 08, 2017
1. Seville, Spain
Legend has it that Hercules founded Seville himself upon six stone columns. However, the area was settled in the Bronze Age. Later, the Romans made Seville (which they called Hisplais) a principal city of Roman Andalusia. It flourished tremendously under their rule and several monuments erected during the time survive to this day, including the city’s aqueduct. When the Moors crossed the Strait of Gibraltar with a huge army in the early 8th century, the city fell under their control for the next few hundred years. It was re-branded Isbiliya, from where the name Seville stems, and filled with architectural masterpieces such as the breathtaking Alcázar palace.
Fernando III of Castile reclaimed Seville for in 1248 and the city prospered further in the 16th and 17th centuries after Christopher Columbus discovered the New World. Seville then became the most important port in Europe as ships departed for the Americas as part of the Spanish expansion. The legacy of sparkling churches, royal palaces and beautiful houses endures to this day.
In 1755, an earthquake severely damaged the city, but much of it was rebuilt in extraordinary fashion under Isabella II during a construction boom about a century later. It continued to grow in the 19th and 20th centuries. During the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), it fell quickly to the forces loyal to Franco. Thousands of civilians from the city died in the conflict.
Over the past 10 years, Seville has transformed itself. Once a traffic-congested metropolis resting on its historical laurels, Seville has bloomed into a city of bicycles and trams, keen to reinvigorate its artistic past. The metamorphosis hasn’t gone unnoticed. The capital of Andalucía will host the 31st European Film Awards in 2018, and showcases its good looks in the TV fantasy drama Game of Thrones. Adding colour to an ongoing artistic renaissance, Seville is in the midst of celebrating the 400th anniversary of homegrown Baroque painter Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, with half a dozen one-of-a-kind expositions continuing into 2018.
2. Detroit, USA
Detroit was founded in 1701 when Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac established a fort and settlement on the site. The name means “strait” in French, and is derived from the narrow river connecting Lake St. Clair with Lake Erie in Michigan. Detroit faced several war between The British and Americans over the control of the areabetween 1760 & 1812. Detroit was completely destroyed by fire in 1805, which gave the citizens the opportunity to re-platt the land in a better manner afterwards.
Detroit achieved the status of city in 1815 and was the state capital from the time of Michigan’s admission to the Union in 1837 until 1847, when the capital was moved to Lansing. Detroit remained largely a commercial center for surrounding agricultural land until the 1870s, when manufacturing began to dominate.
Detroit was well positioned to take advantage of the emergence of automobile manufacturing at the start of the 20th century. A number of visionary entrepreneurs designed automobiles that appealed to ordinary Americans, with the result that automobiles became a mass market. Detroit, along with its suburb Allen Park had a trained workforce due to its position in railroad manufacturing, and the city was well located to both receive raw materials and deliver finished automobiles to market.
As a result, the greatest concentration of automobile manufacturing in America has consistently been in Detroit. The headquarters of the largest manufacturers have also been in the city. The influx of black workers into Detroit’s defense plants during World War II created severe racial tensions. The racial tension persisted in Detroit since 1943 until 1967.
After decades of neglect, Detroit is rolling again. It’s like the whole place is caffeine-buzzed, freewheeling in ideas. Young creative types jump-started the scene when they began transforming the crazy-huge slew of abandoned buildings into distilleries, bike shops and galleries. This sparked fresh public works, such as the just-opened hockey and basketball arena downtown, and the Q Line streetcar that gives easy access to city hot spots. More are coming: three new parks will extend the riverfront trail (ideal for two-wheeling via the new 43-station bike-share scheme in the greater downtown area), plus groovy hotels will emerge from an old wig shop and a forlorn parking lot.
3. Canberra, Australia
Canberra, the Australian Capital Territory, is Australia’s capital city. After Federation in 1901, a site for the capital was sought, and Canberra was selected. The Australian Capital Territory was declared on 1 January 1911 and an international competition was held to design the new capital city of Australia. The competition was won by a submission from American architect Walter Burley Griffin with drawings drafted by Marion Mahony Griffin.
For 21,000 years the Canberra region has been home to the Ngunnawal people. Evidence of their long occupation exists in archeological evidence found at Birrigai Rock Shelter at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, in rock paintings in Namadgi National Park and in other places throughout the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). When Europeans settled the area in the early 1820s hundreds of Aboriginals lived in the area, meeting regularly for corroborees and feasts and then breaking off into smaller bands. The Aborigines moved about to take advantage of seasonal foods, such as bogong moths which arrived in their thousands during the summer months.
As elsewhere in Australia, European settlement disrupted Aboriginal patterns of land use and movement across the country, and many Aborigines died from European-brought diseases like influenza, smallpox and tuberculosis. Aborigines continued to live in the area, often working on sheep properties, their numbers diminished by illness and starvation, their culture and language in decline.
Today Canberra has become a hub for western New South Wales, as well as a major tourist destination for Australians and international visitors. People visit the national capital because it is the seat of federal government, and also because it boasts many major Australian cultural organisations and important cultural landmarks like the Australian War Memorial, the National Gallery of Australia, the High Court, Parliament House, the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, and the National Library of Australia.
As said, national treasures are found round almost every corner and exciting new boutique precincts have emerged, bulging with gastronomic highlights and cultural must-dos. This is the first year that Canberra will host a Test cricket match at the picturesque Manuka Oval, and later in 2018 the Australian War Memorial will take centre stage as it hosts the 100th anniversary of the WWI Armistice. Significantly, Canberra is establishing a permanent Reconciliation Day into the state’s holiday calendar from 2018 onwards, to symbolise commitment to tolerance between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
4. Hamburg, Germany
In the mid-19th century, one admiring Glaswegian treasurer described Hamburg as the world’s ‘most mercantile city’. That commercial character was forged early in the city’s history, in 1189, when local noble Count Adolf III persuaded Emperor Friedrich I (Barbarossa) to grant the city free trading rights and an exemption from customs duties. It was this step that turned the former missionary settlement and 9th-century moated fortress of Hammaburg into an important port and member of the Hanseatic League.
The city prospered for centuries on the banks of the Elbe before suffering a major setback in 1842, when the Great Fire destroyed one-third of its buildings. While it managed to recover in time to join the German Reich in 1871, this saw it involved in two world wars even less kind than the Great Fire. After WWI, most of Hamburg’s merchant shipping fleet (almost 1500 ships) was forfeited to the Allies as reparation. During WWII, more than half of Hamburg’s housing, 80% of its port and 40% of its industry were left as rubble, and tens of thousands of civilians were killed.
In the postwar years, Hamburg showed its usual resilience to participate in Germany’s economic miracle or Wirtschaftswunder. Its harbour and media industries are now the backbone of its wealth. More than 6200 companies in the fields of publishing, advertising, film, radio, TV and music are based in the city. The print media are especially prolific: 15 out of 20 of the largest German publications are produced here, including news magazines Stern and Der Spiegel and the newspaper Die Zeit.
The city is also a major Airbus base, manufacturing parts of the now much delayed A380 super-jumbo. About 15% to 20% of the population are immigrants, giving the city an exciting, international flavour.
Its completion seemed to take longer than sitting through the entire cycle of Wagner’s Ring operas, but the stunning new €790 million Elbphilharmonie concert hall was worth every extra year of delay. The glass top shimmers like crystalline sails while the base reflects the brick aesthetic of the surrounding historic and oh-so-walkable HafenCity port area. From here, alluringly accessible Hamburg radiates out along its vast harbour and the Elbe River. Surprises abound: three-season riverfront beach bars, nightlife that’s among Europe’s best, and low-rise charms that reward wanderers who use the city’s dozens of old steeples as compass points.
5. Kaohsiung, Taiwan
Kaohsiung has been inhabited by many different peoples over the years, had many different names, and been under the control of a number of different world powers. The first known inhabitants of the Kaohsiung area were Austronesians, the forefathers of the modern Aborigines. These people migrated to the island from the area of present day Malaysia. Archaeological digs have turned up evidence that the area was inhabited even earlier than 4000 B.C. These people were fishermen and small-scale farmers, for the most part. They lived in small villages along the coast and existed in peaceful harmony with their surroundings. Thus began the agriculture and fishing that have come to be such an important part of Kaohsiung’s economy.
The first traceable mark of Chinese culture in Taiwan appears in the 12th and 13th centuries A.D. In 1206 the island became a protectorate of the Chinese Empire under Genghis Khan, but there was not really a Chinese government on the island until much later. In the meantime, the Aboriginal people continued to dominate the Kaohsiung area.
In 1624 the first European settlers came to Kaohsiung with the arrival of the Dutch. They colonised the island, setting up their headquarters in Tainan with further forts established in modern Zuo Ying. While the north was contested by the Spanish, the Dutch held the southern part of the island firmly in their grasp until they were forcibly expelled in 1661 by the forces of the Chinese general Cheng Cheng-Kung, also known as Koxinga. Cheng established Wan Nien County in modern Zuo Ying and extended the agricultural activities around the Kaohsiung area. In May 1662 Cheng Yung-Hua became the first governor of the region. Kaohsiung became known as Wan Nien Chow in 1664. With the implementation of the imperial examination system in 1666, Chinese culture and civilisation branded its mark on both Kaohsiung and Taiwan.
In 1895 Taiwan was ceded to Japan as part of the Treaty of Shimonoseki which concluded the war between Japan and China over Korea. The Japanese did a great deal for the city of Kaohsiung in terms of urban development. Other development projects such as the massive construction undertaken on the harbour provided the city with the wonderful infrastructure it boasts today. The Japanese named the area Kaohsiung Town on 1 October 1920 and upgraded it to Kaohsiung City on 25 December 1924. At the end of World War II, Taiwan was returned to China. In 1979, on 1 June, Kaohsiung became a special municipality ruled directly by the Republic of China.
Kaohsiung, the second largest city in Taiwan and one of the largest ports in the world. A massive arts centre and 100,000 sq m cultural and music complex, complete with wave-lapped walkways and a night market, is emerging on Kaohsiung’s balmy harbourfront – Taiwan’s showcase for experimental architecture from around the world. Adding to this will be a spectacular cruise terminal, for those favouring an Odyssean approach to the port city. A sleek light-rail system links these monuments to the rest of Kaohsiung. Further north, in Xiaogang Shan Recreation Area, hikers can view the Taiwan Strait from the new 88m ‘Eye of the Mountain’ skywalk, a reminder that water is ever-present. Kaohsiung is surging with possibilities: visit before the world gets wind of it.
6. Antwerp, Belgium
Excavations have shown that Antwerp was inhabited as long ago as the Gallo-Roman period (2nd or 3rd century A.D.). The city appears to have grown up around two settlements: the ‘aanwerp’ (alluvial mound) from which it takes its name and Caloes, 500 metres further south.
The city first experienced an economic boom in the 12th century, when the rival port of Bruges started silting up. By the first half of the 14th century, Antwerp had become the most important trading and financial centre in Western Europe, its reputation based largely on its seaport and wool market.
In 1356, the city, which had been part of the Roman Empire, was annexed to the County of Flanders and lost lots of its privileges, partly to Bruges’ advantage. Fifty years later, the political and economic tide turned again and as the Golden Age unfolded, Antwerp became a world class metropolis, described as ‘the loveliest city in the world’.
By the second half of the 16th century, the city was the focus of politico-religious struggles between the Protestant North and Catholic South (Spain), which led to the River Scheldt being closed. From an economic point of view, this was a disaster. Yet the city continued to flourish culturally until the mid-seventeenth century. From 1650 till the 19th century, Antwerp went into serious decline, as the Scheldt remained closed and the city became little more than a provincial town. It was only after the fall of Napoleon at Waterloo (1815) that Antwerp entered a short period of prosperity, which ended with the Belgian Revolution (1830) and once again the closure of the Scheldt. The river was finally reopened for good in 1863, paving the way for Antwerp to return to its former glory. Apart from interruptions during the two world wars, Antwerp has experienced steady economic growth since the start of the 20th century and is now home to the second largest port in Europe, as well as the world hub for uncut diamonds.
Once northern Europe’s greatest city, today Antwerp is one of its best-kept secrets. Flanders’ unofficial capital is laden with historic riches and home to world-class arts and design, and this year it’s showing its cultural chops with a celebration of its Baroque heyday. Inspired by the city’s most famous resident, Rubens, Antwerp Baroque 2018 will feature Flemish Masters rubbing shoulders with modern talent in a calendar that spans parades, concerts, street art, multimedia shows and workshops. Not that Antwerp’s residents need an excuse to unleash their creativity: the city, especially its former docks, is flush with pop-up bars, farm-to-fork joints and architectural showstoppers.
7. Matera, Italy
Matera is said to be one of the world’s oldest towns. The simple natural grottoes that dotted the gorge were adapted to become homes. In time, an ingenious system of canals regulated the flow of water and sewage, and small hanging gardens lent splashes of colour. The prosperous town became the capital of Basilicata in 1663, a position it held until 1806 when the power moved to Potenza. In the decades that followed, an unsustainable increase in population led to the habitation of unsuitable grottoes – originally intended as animal stalls – even lacking running water.
By the 1950s over half of Matera’s population lived in the sassi, a typical cave sheltering an average of six children. The infant mortality rate was 50%. In his Christ Stopped at Eboli, Carlo Levi describes how children would beg passers-by for quinine to stave off the deadly malaria. Such publicity finally galvanised the authorities into action, and in the late 1950s about 15,000 inhabitants were forcibly relocated to new government housing schemes.
In 1993 the sassi were declared a Unesco World Heritage Site. Ironically, the town’s history of outrageous misery has transformed it into Basilicata’s leading tourist attraction.
A crown of honey-stoned houses perched above a ravine, Matera has knockout looks. But that’s only half the story: snaking beneath the surface is a labyrinth of cave dwellings, churches and monasteries that date back over 9000 years – making it one of the oldest living cities in the world. Largely restored from near ruin, Matera’s now capitalising on its cavernous appeal, with hotels, restaurants and bars carving out a scene as cool as their rock-hewn walls. There’s a flurry of events planned ahead of its stint as a European Capital of Culture for 2019, so visit now before this underground destination emerges into the limelight.
8. San Juan, Puerto Rico
The first settlement on the island of Puerto Rico was Caparra, founded in 1508 by Juan Ponce de León, a Spanish explorer and conquistador best remembered for his quixotic quest to find the Fountain of Youth in 16th-century Florida. Caparra was deemed unsuitable for a long-term settlement, however, and the residents soon moved to an island a short distance to the east, to the present site of Old San Juan.
The new city of San Juan Batista de Puerto Rico quickly became famous for its good location and port, and it rose to importance in the colonial administration. San Juan became the first ecclesiastical headquarters for the New World and served as the first base for the Inquisition as well. By 1530, barely 20 years after its founding, the city supported a university, a hospital, and a library.
San Juan declined somewhat after its initial importance during 17 & 18 Century, as wealthier cities such as Lima and Mexico City thrived under the colonial administration. It continued to serve as a strategic military location and port, however, and the island produced significant sugarcane and ginger crops. It also became known for breeding fine horses, prized by Spanish conquistadors campaigning on the mainland.
Puerto Rico, as a small and relatively conservative Spanish colony, did not participate in the independence movements of the early 19th century. But, in early 1898, Puerto Rico was ceded to the Americans under the terms of the Treaty of Paris, ending the Spanish-American War. The first few decades under American rule were mixed for the city. Although some industry developed, a series of hurricanes and the Great Depression had a profound effect on the economy of the city and the island in general. The grim economic situation led to a small but determined independence movement and a great deal of emigration from the island. Most emigrants from Puerto Rico in the 1940s and 1950s went to New York City in search of better jobs; it’s still home to a great many citizens of Puerto Rican descent. The U.S. Army moved out of El Morro Castle in 1961.
San Juan Now
San Juan takes its place among the Caribbean’s top tourism destinations. Old San Juan has been extensively renovated, and sights like the El Morro castle draw large crowds. In 1983 the old city defenses, including the castle, were declared a World Heritage Site. The old section of the city is home to many museums, reconstructed colonial-era buildings, churches, convents, and more. There are excellent beaches close to the city, and the El Condado neighborhood is home to top-notch resorts. Tourists can reach several areas of interest within a couple of hours from San Juan, including rainforests, a cave complex, and many more beaches. It is the official home port of many major cruise ships as well.
San Juan is also one of the most important ports in the Caribbean and has facilities for oil refining, sugar processing, brewing, pharmaceuticals, and more. Naturally, Puerto Rico is well-known for its rum, much of which is produced in San Juan.
San Juan is a place where old meets new, where the city’s colonial past meshes comfortably with an emerging modern urbanity. Old San Juan is a walled enclave with cobblestoned roads, leafy plazas, and historic churches and forts. Beyond the walls, modern San Juan is draped with murals, and its cadre of museums and galleries form a dynamic art scene. In recent years, many innovative restaurants have opened, with farm-to-table eateries beckoning foodies and casual diners alike. The exuberant nightlife – dance clubs, lounges, bars, casinos – has long been a highlight, as have San Juan’s dazzling beaches. In September 2017, Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, becoming the biggest storm to impact the island in 89 years. While San Juan did not escape the wrath of the hurricane, there’s no doubt that it will rebuild and remain the enchanting city it’s always been.
9. Guanajuato, Mexico
The first known human settlement in Guanajuato existed between 500 and 200 B.C. near Chupicuaro. Clay figurines from this culture, which are thought to be have evolved into the Teotihuacán society, have been found in the area. The city of Teotihuacán, located in what is now the San Juan Teotihuacán municipality, was established about 200 B.C. At its peak around 600 A.D. the city covered 20 square kilometers (12.5 square miles) and had between 100,000 and 200,000 inhabitants, making it one of the ancient world’s largest urban centers. After Teotihuacán was abandoned for unknown reasons between 700 and 900 A.D., other groups in the area came to power, including the Toltecs and Chichimecs, a hunter-gatherer race. Skilled warriors, the Chichimecs eventually vanquished the Toltecs from the region.
The Spanish arrived in the region in 1522 & in 1529, Spanish took over the control by wiping our countless indigenous natives and communities. In 1552, Spanish discovered mineral deposits in the Guanajuato region and subsequently established Real de Minas (The Royal Mines). The discovery of silver in the region led to rapid settlement by the Spanish throughout the 16th and 17th centuries. The present-day city of Guanajuato was established in 1679.
In 1810, the independence movement began in the city of Dolores, Guanajuato and the struggle for independence continued for the next decade. Because Guanajuato’s Spanish-owned mining operations had brought economic prosperity to the region, many Guanajuato citizens opposed the independence movement. In spite of the economic factors, Guanajuato signed the Plan of Iguala in 1821, which secured Mexico’s independence at last. For the next 20 years, the state, along with the remainder of the country, experienced political and social instability. In 1846, Mexico City was invaded by the United States during the Mexican-American War & Guanajuato army fiercely opposed the U.S. forces together with other Mexican troops. The war ended in 1848 & Mexico was forced to cede a wide swath of its northern territory to the United States. Today, that territory makes up the U.S. states of New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, California and portions of Utah and Wyoming. Mexico was also forced to recognize the independence of Texas.
The state’s economy has long benefited from its silver mines, which are among the richest in the world. Other minerals harvested from Guanajuato’s mountains are tin, gold, copper, lead, mercury and opals. The state also leads the nation in the manufacture of shoes and the production of various farm products, such as lettuce, potatoes and fruits. Among the state’s exports are motor vehicles and auto parts, leather goods, chemicals and electric machinery.
From silver mining to the silver screen, the small city of Guanajuato in the central highlands of Mexico punches above its weight when it comes to topical appeal. The wealth produced by the local seams of silver created a visually stunning cityscape of ornate churches, pretty squares and colourful houses, spread out over the verdant valley in which Guanajuato sits. This natural and man-made beauty caught the eye of Pixar producers who used the city as the real-life basis for their animated Land of the Dead in new movie Coco.
10. Oslo, Norway
The name Oslo is derived from the words Ás, the Old Norse name for the Norse Godhead, and lo, meaning ‘pasture’, yielding roughly ‘the fields of the gods’. The city was originally founded in 1049 by King Harald Hardråda (Harald Hard-Ruler), whose son Olav Kyrre (Olav the Peaceful) set up a cathedral and a corresponding bishopric here. In the late 13th century, King Håkon V created a military presence by building the Akershus Festning (Akershus Fortress) in the hope of deterring the Swedish threat from the east. After the mid-14th-century bubonic plague wiped out half of the country’s population, Norway united with Denmark and, from 1397 to 1624, Norwegian politics and defence were handled from Copenhagen. Oslo slipped into obscurity and, in 1624, it burned to the ground. It was resurrected by King Christian IV, who rebuilt it on a more easily defended site and renamed it Christiania, after his humble self. For three centuries, the city held on as a seat of defence. In 1814 the framers of Norway’s first constitution designated it the official capital of the new realm, but their efforts were effectively nullified by Sweden, which had other ideas about Norway’s future and unified the two countries under Swedish rule. In 1905, when that union was dissolved and Norway became a separate kingdom, the stage was set for Christiania to flourish as the capital of modern Norway. It reverted to its original name, Oslo, in 1925 and the city has never looked back.
For many years, Norway’s capital has been eclipsed by its stylish Scandi neighbours. But Oslo, along with the rest of the nation, is set to toast a landmark event: in 2018, Norway’s beloved king and queen celebrate the 50th year of their marriage. Expect fanfare and pageantry aplenty, along with a packed calendar of events – civic, culinary and cultural. As a bonus, Oslo’s landmark Opera House is marking its 10th birthday in 2018 with a celebratory season of concerts and performances, so you really couldn’t pick a better year to visit.
(Prepared using various internet sources & lonely planet’s list of ten cities to visit in the year 2018)