Last month TripAdvisor, the worlds largest travel site with more than 260 million unique monthly visitors, and over 150 million reviews and opinions from around the world, released its 2014 Travelers’ Choice Awards for destinations worldwide. Based on TripAdvisor user reviews and ratings over the last 12 months, the list contains 25 Top Travel Destinations: most highly recommended and highly rated cities around the world.
25. San Francisco, California, U.S.A.
Dropping from 7th spot on the 2013 Travelers’ Choice Awards list, San Francisco remains one of the most popular destinations in the US. With so much to do, from admiring the views and taking in historic landmarks at the Golden Gate bridge, to wondering the beautiful Fisherman’s Wharf waterfront neighbourhood, to sampling delicious food in largest Chinatown outside of Asia, to some of the best clubs in the West Coast, there is enough to entertain travelers for days!
I have not been to San Fran myself, but would definitely jump on the opportunity to visit this city!
24. Chiang Mai, Thailand
Occupying the same position in the list as it did in 2013, Chiang Mai is known to be the cultural capital of Thailand. With a vast variety of activities ranging from ancient temples for those interested in culture, to hiking and trekking in the countryside for travelers looking for something more active, to day and night markets for the foodies out there and plenty of great bars and restaurants to keep everyone entertained at night.
My favourite experiences in Chiang Mai were an escape to the nearby farm for a day long Thai Cooking Class, a full day of getting close and personal with the elephants at Woody’s Elephant Farm and a night of indulging in shopping and street food at Chiang Mai’s Night Market.
23. Lisbon, Portugal
A new addition to the TripAdvisor’s Top Destinations list, Lisbon is an up and coming destinations with travelers in Europe as well as other parts of the world. Lisbon’s warm Mediterranean climate, beautiful architecture, traditional European cobblestone streets, great night life and delicious food, makes it a great place for a 3-4 day visit. Cheap airfare from London makes it a perfect location for a long weekend getaway for those living in the UK!
I loved escaping to warm Lisbon in January of 2012, when London’s weather was cold and rainy. We spent the weekend taking advantage of the sun and surf on beautiful beaches just outside the city, indulging in delicious Portuguese cuisine and exploring the architecture and views along the waterfront of the Tagus River (Rio Tejo)
22. Sydney, Australia
Sydney has dropped in the ranking from last years’ 10th place, but is still by far the most popular city with those visiting Australia. Its world famous waterfront with stunning views of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, the great vibe on Bondi Beach, a plethora of great shopping and fantastic restaurants and night time entertainment, attract 7 million domestic visitors and 2.7 million international visitors a year. And it’s New Years Celebration is definitely an experience to add to your bucket list.
Having been to Sydney a few times, I see and appreciate its appeal and I would suggest that anyone traveling to Australia add it to their list. But for me, the Melbourne vibe wins over Sydney any day.
21. Budapest, Hungary
Another new addition to the TripAdvisor’s Top Destinations List, Budapest is a European gem worth your visit. With the rise in travel to Eastern Europe, Budapest is a city that’s definitely benefiting from the buzz…or perhaps it’s one of the cities that’s creating the buzz. Nicknamed, the Paris of the East, for its scenic setting and stunning architecture, Budapest is famous for its natural thermal baths, rich nightlife and an overall youthful and lively atmosphere.
My 2 day visit to Budapest in the spring of 2013 wasn’t enough to see all the sights and really appreciate everything that this city has to offer. So if you are planning to add Budapest as a stop on your European trip or planning to visit it as a weekend getaway, I recommend that you allow yourself at least 3-4 days there to properly enjoy Budapest.
20. Bangkok, Thailand
Down from 13th spot in 2013, Thailand’s capital city, continues to develop into a true cosmopolitan centre, attracting millions of tourists from all over the world. Its large cultural scene with dozens of temples, palaces and museums, along with rich night life and fantastic markets make it highly ranked destination on many travelers lists.
Despite contrary belief, Bangkok is fairly safe and is a great place for solo travel, or travel with a group of friends or as a family. Khao San Road remains my favourite place in Bangkok, and possibly one of my favourite places in Thailand. It’s a true backpackers hub and despite having been there 5 times, I don’t think I will ever get sick of it!
19. Cape Town, South Africa
This second largest city in South Africa, was occupying 16th spot last year, but despite a small drop in the ranking it’s a destination that travelers rave about. Cape Town offers so much to do and see, from colourful architecture to hikes up a the Table Mountain, to beautiful beaches, fantastic surfing, and diving, to wine tasting. It is one of the top destinations on my travel bucket list!
18. Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A
Down from #13 in 2013, Chicago is a heaven for history and food lovers. Although those with a love for shopping, theatre or entertainment will also find plenty of things to do in the 3rd largest city in the United States.
Chicago is another “not been” for me on this list. But lots of fantastic stories from life in Chicago from one of my close friends, I have put Chicago on my bucket list a few years ago.
17. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
This modern and progressive city is another addition to the Travelers’ Top Destinations this year. A relatively new tourist destination, Dubai is gaining popularity for its incredible infrastructure, excellent tourist amenities and a 5 star rating on shopping, nightlife, restaurants sporting events, sunbathing and of course, a chance to ride camels in the middle of the desert.
Dubai’s luxurious lifestyle has never sparked my interest before, but now with a few friends living in Dubai, I can’t help but think of adding a stop in Dubai to one of my upcoming long haul flights.
16. St. Petersburg, Russia
Russia’s second largest city has climbed up in the rankings from #20 in 2013. St. Petersburg is supposed to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world, being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with baroque bridges, beautiful canals, and countless buildings of large historical significance. It’s also the hub of Russian art and entertainment.
Despite the fact that I grew up only an hour flight away from St. Petersburg, I have never had a chance to see it for myself. Here’s hoping that the political situation between Ukraine and Russia stabilizes over the next year, so I can visit St. Petersburg in the near future.
15. Barcelona, Spain
Ranked 5th in 2013, Barcelona is a mix of old and new, of modern and traditional. From old winding streets and hidden squares, to Las Ramblas, the most popular street in the old part of town, Barcelona is a paradise for travelers that love to explore on foot. You’ll also find beautiful beaches, perfect for enjoying the Spanish sun all year long, beautiful architecture, museums, outdoor markets, restaurants and lively night life. A great city for a 3-4 day escape from other parts of Europe, and a fantastic destination for a week or 2 week getaway for those living further away.
The highlight of my trip to Barcelona, was seeing FC Barcelona in action at the Camp Nou football stadium! The energy and passion of the crowd at the game were like nothing I have ever experienced before!
14. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Climbing up from 18th place in 2013, Buenos Aires, is a bustling cultural metropolis with rich European heritage and a Latin American passion for football, tango, nightlife and gourmet cuisine. I’m dying to go. Enough said.
13. Florence, Italy
Down 5 spots from 2013, Florence is the capital of the Tuscany region and is a cultural and architectural gem of Italy. Museums, monuments, cathedrals, churches, shops and a whole lot of gelato is a recipe for a great trip! Most people awe at the beauty of Florence, but for me it just didn’t quite do it. It wound’t the first place I’d choose go back to in Italy. But don’t take my word for it, go and check it out for yourself.
12. New York City, New York, U.S.A
New York dropped down from #2 in 2013, but that doesn’t stop the whooping 47 million people that visit New York on a yearly basis. New York is a center of culture, art, media, food, fashion, finance and an iconic destination for travelers from all over the world, that’s loved by many, but disliked by me. While I do enjoy the Greenwich Village, the lush greenery in Central Park, and pizzas in Brooklyn, the hustle and bustle of the city exhausts me and makes want to retreat to a peaceful island somewhere far away.
11. Berlin, Germany
Staying in 11th place for the 2nd year in a row, Berlin remains a popular destination, known for its rich history, unique street art, fantastic cafes and restaurants, and amazing nightlife that continues into the early hours in the morning.
I loved visiting Berlin around Christmas, the markets in the city are bustling with delicious food, entertainment and great shopping. On New Year’s Eve, the streets of Berlin fill with Germans and foreigners alike, celebrating the New Year with explosive fireworks by the Bradenburg Gate.
10. Shanghai, China
Climbing up 12 spots, from last years #22, Shanghai is becoming a must visit spot for many travelers. The unique juxtaposition of the old and the new, of the modern and emerging is what’s giving Shanghai its buzz. During the day, a place to admire ancient architecture in the old town and the hustle and bustle of the locals, and at night, a city full of fantastic restaurants, great clubs and bars, where the party goes on all night long!
If it wasn’t the horrible smog that covers the city for 200 days a year, Shanghai would be one of my favourite cities in the world. And the best thing about Shanghai is that it never stays still. The constant change is what keeps the city alive day in and day out!
9. Siem Reap, Cambodia
Another rising start of the East, climbing from #23 in 2013 to #9 this year, Sieam Reap is a fast growing destination for travelers, best known for the ancient temples of Angkor Wat and friendly locals.
My advice, if you are visiting Siem Reap, plan to stay for a while. 3 days of exploring the ancient temples wasn’t enough and there is so much more to see and do just outside the city. Read about my experience getting off the beaten track in Siem Reap.
8. Hanoi, Vietnam
A new addition to the 2014 List of TripAdvisor’s Destinations, Hanoi is a fascinating blend of the East and the West, combining Vietnamese culture with a French flair. The city remained fairly untouched by the war and is vibrant and rapidly developing.
Hanoi and the rest of Vietnam are at the top of my travel list. From what I heard on the road while traveling through S.E.A, it is a place of adventure, amazing food and unforgettable memories.
7. Paris, France
Paris has fallen down from #1 in 2013, but it will never become a lesser of an attraction for travelers all over the world. A city of romance, a center of fashion, culture, art, and excellent food. A place to wander the streets admiring the beautiful architecture, eat pain au chocolate at a tiny cafe or explore culture and history of its numerous sights and attractions.
My favourite thing to do in Paris is roam the culture filled streets of Montmartre and take in the views of the city from Sacré Coeur.
6. Marrakech, Morocco
Marrakech was ranked #19 in 2013 and it seems that its popularity has risen since last year. A city where local culture meets European modernity, it is known for its souks, sprawling open air markets that attract millions of visitors on a yearly basis.
I have not made it to Morocco yet, but heard that its a city you either love or hate. I’ve got a feeling I’m going to love it!
Alright.. we are down to the top 5!
5. Prague, Czech Republic
Ranked #9 in 2013, Prague continues to be an Eastern Europe gem with historic architecture, cultural sights, some of the best nightlife in Europe and an eerie Gothic vibe. A great city for a weekend getaway from anywhere in Europe and a must stop on any European adventure itinerary.
To me, Prague is one of those cities where you can be perfectly happy doing nothing sitting in a little cafe in the Old Town square, sipping on mulled wine, people watching and being completely lost in the moment.
4. Beijing, China
Up from #21 in 2013, Beijing has improved significantly in the eyes of travelers. From the Great Wall of China, to the Forbidden City, Beijing is a cultural capital of China and is one of the oldest settlements in the world. Despite Tripadvisors’ raving reviews, I associate Beijing with freezing cold, horrible smog and much less welcoming population than the rest of China. If it wasn’t for it’s main attractions, I doubt it would ever make it on this list.
3. London, England
Continues to occupy #3 spot on the TripAdvisor’s Destinations list for the 2nd year in a row. London has an incredible amount of things to see and do. Every nook and cranny of the city is filled with history, tradition, culture, art, entertainment. London boasts a fantastic restaurant scene and is one of the top destinations in Europe for nightlife. Yes, I love London. No, it doesn’t always rain there and yes, you do need more than 2 days to see it.
2. Rome, Italy
Climbing from #4 to #2 this year, Rome proudly carries its title of the Eternal City. A centre of culture, history and religion Rome’s sights and attractions fascinate the young and the old. From churches to monuments, to statues and fountains, to the world renowned ruins of the Coliseum, to great nightlife and terrific food, it’s no surprise that Rome is in the top 5 destinations in the world. And I doubt it will drop off this list any time soon.
1. Istanbul, Turkey
From #12 in 2013, to being named the Top Destination in the World, Istanbul has certainly earned the title. A place where East meets West (literally), where each mosque is better than the other, where the food is delicious and the drinks flow all night, where getting lost in the Grand Bazaar is a common occurrence and where the highlight of your day can be a simple cup of Turkish tea! A destination that probably isn’t high on many people’s travel lists, but one that is sure to impress you and exceed all your expectations.
For me it was the people that really made my trip to Istanbul that much more special: kind, caring and nothing like the stereotypes that the media has painted for us. Oh yeah.. and then there was the Bazaar, where my love for aladdin pants was born… but that’s another story.
So there you have it… An great list of fantastic travel destinations to inspire your next trip. And if you are anything like me, your travel list has just grown by at least one… or two …or five destinations that have not really been a priority before. And that’s the beauty of the travel bug…
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