The Most Colorful Destinations In The World

There are many ways a place can delight the senses. The majestic height of a mountain. The power of a waterfall. The overpowering silence in the serenity of the wilderness. The raucous sounds of the jungle or an outdoor opera in a Roman amphitheater in Provence. But perhaps because it’s the most easily reproduced in the mind, the most indelible memories of all are the color of privileged moments in impossibly beautiful places. Waves crashing on shores sound the same everywhere. But the pristine blue and white of a beach on the Maldives shine forever. The fields of Lavender in Grasse do not need a photo to produce a fond recollection. Nor does the flaming orange sun melting into the Andaman Sea. It is not only natural phenomena that can take your breath away. The brilliant hues of the Sistine Chapel or the calliope of colors in the famous bazaars of Morocco never fade however old they become. No less a brand than the Smithsonian has diversified into a number of different revenue streams, including travel. Their stable of experts has designed tours on many different themes, one of which is The Most Colorful Destinations. None of the above are included, which, if nothing else, goes to show the Smithsonian experts don’t know everything. Doubtless, many of you will have other sites of color lodged in your hippocampus. No one is saying there are the only colorful places on Earth. But they make for a pretty good start.

10. Northern Lights, Thingvellir, Iceland

Friðþjófur M. / Getty Images

The ghostly glow of the elusive aurora borealis have fascinated people for millennia. The celestial light show is caused by the collision of gas particles in the atmosphere. Named for the Roman Goddess of the Dawn, they can be best seen in remote northern locales, the renowned travel writer Bill Bryson chose Hammerfest Norway to see them recounts being bored stiff for days before he did. The Smithsonian picks Thingvellir, with its UNESCO World Heritage site National Park and ION Hotel with its neo-Scandinavian cuisine and more importantly, floor to ceiling windows in case of a sudden outburst in the sky. Seekers are at the mercy of weather not even all the Smithsonian experts in the world can control but prime time is said to be March-September.

9. Keukhenhof Gardens, Amsterdam, Holland

Lya_Cattel / Getty Images

The lovely myth about the origin of tulips is that they sprang from the Turkish steppes watered by the tears of a jilted lover. They originated there, were imported by the Danish Ambassador to Constantinople, and were the subject of the world’s first speculation bubble. The Dutch have raised them to an art form and Keukenhoff’s seven million, multi-hued blooms are rightly called The Greatest Flower Show on Earth.” New strains are bred every year and there are orchids, roses, lilies, and other blooms on display in the idyllic 79-acre park complete with ponds, streams, and landscaped pathways. It dates from the 15th-century herb garden tended by a countess in a nearby castle. A truly intoxicating experience for memorable sights and scents. A feast for the eyes and nose sounded a little clunky, don’t you think?

8. Cinque Terre, Italy

Kino Alyse / Getty Images

Imagine a Friendly Italian Giant with a basket of gelato colored houses sprinkled the perch impossibly on the sheer cliffs of an ancient blue sea. That would be Cinque Terre (CHINK-way TERE-ah) or Five Lands, 5 fishing villages really dating from the 7th century until modern times linked only by the sea and a narrow footpath which makes a lovely hike for the many tourists who seek the place’s colorful charm and quiet. There is a train but no cars. High up the thigh of the Italian boot in the west coast region of Liguria which also gave the world pesto. Monterosso is the oldest and biggest, Vernazza the prettiest. The trail isn’t climbing Everest but it’s no walk in the park either with lots of ups and downs. A short boat ride south lies Portovenere with the same style of colorful building but a few stories higher than those of Cinque Terre.

7. Ngorongoro, Tanzania 

ugurhan / Getty Images

The size and diversity of the herds who make the Great migration to this conservation area are staggering. Millions of wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, and Cape buffalo with lions, leopards, and cheetahs on the heels move to summer feeding grounds in the Tanzanian grasslands. The Ngorongoro (Masaai “Gift of Life”) Crater is a sanctuary for a wide variety of animals, birds of all kinds of sport, stripes, and hues, set with the rich colorful flora of the savannah and forests 2000 feet below the plain. Watch for the rare black rhinoceros and witness the splash of pink of flamingos, the golden straw-colored bristles on crowned cranes, the ostrich feathers that were once the height of fashion for European women. Even the traditional clothing of the Maasi appear to be in full bloom. An entire ecosystem like no other.

6. Monteverde, Costa Rica

Ascent Xmedia / Getty Images

Another stunning, stellar ecotourism destination. Pound for pound acre for acre, few places offer more exotic biodiversity and natural beauty than Cost Rica. The Biological Reserve is a gorgeous cloud forest. A rich green canopy itself covered in mist sheltering a pristine paradise for birders and floraphiles. The Smithsonian itinerary says to expect to me “100 species of mammals, 400 species of birds (including 30 kinds of hummingbirds), and 2,500 species of plants (including 420 kinds of orchids), including the fascinating transparent Glasswing butterfly and the almost mythical brilliantly plumed resplendent quetzal. The quetzal was considered sacred in some Central American cultures. Though it sings and flies poorly, Mayan legend holds that the bird once sang with aching beauty but went silent at the brutal Spanish conquest of the 16th century. It prophesied the singing would resume when the land and people regain their complete freedom.

5. Forbidden City, Beijing

zhangshuang / Getty Images

Though it may seem overmatched by transparent butterflies and Dutch tulips, the Forbidden City’s distinctive yellow roof tiles and iconic architecture are a fac9nating study in the historical and cultural significance of color. It lives on in one of the most relentlessly urbanizing cities anywhere, the largest surviving enclave of ancient wooden structures in the world a miracle that it still stands. Forbidden because no one was allowed to come or go without the express permission of the Emperor. The Yellow is in fact the color reserved for the Emperors’ buildings and clothes dating back to the Tang Dynasty of the 7th century. Red is the symbol of good fortune and despite the unspeakable horrors leaders have inflicted on their people, no other colorful setting is so deeply entrenched in a peoples’ ethos.

4. Machu Picchu, Peru

Sergio Amiti / Getty Images

There may be no more compelling sight to be had in this lifetime than dawn over the long-abandoned, still mysterious Incan site of Machu Picchu in the Peruvian Andes with a foreboding grey sky and the Andean peaks as background. The United Nations Educational, Scientific Cultural Organization calls it “an absolute masterpiece of architecture and a unique testimony to the Inca civilization.” Built by 1450, abandoned a century later, and undiscovered by Europeans in 1911The green of the land with the color of ancient stone set in an altitude in which hotels offer complimentary oxygen is like a Sistine Chapel in the sky.

3. Jatiluwih, Indonesia

Pandu Adnyana / Getty Images

The color green is most often associated with Ireland. But that is with respect to a Eurocentric view. There may be no greener place on earth than the spectacular terraced rice fields of Bali. In Bali rice is not just another carb. It is a gift from the Gods and treated with great reverence. The Jatiluiwih fields are unforgettable, faultlessly manicured, bursting tropical green irrigated by the water by a lake so sacred, that even thinking, swimming or boating is sacrilegious.

2. Strasbourg, France

Rory McDonald / Getty Images

Actually this lovely old city, now the capital of the European Union is the culmination of a cruise along the Rhine and Mosel Rivers which includes Christmas markets in beautiful historic towns such as Koblenz and Bernkastel. Strasbourg’s city center is yet another UNESCO Heritage Site and home to “Christkindelsmärik”, France’s oldest and Europe’s largest holiday market, dating from 1570. The decorated late Renaissance-era buildings are unforgettable with the backdrop of Notre Dame Cathedral recalling centuries-old celebrations. Stalls offer locally crafted Christmas artifacts as well as delicious food and wine from one of the great culinary capitals of the world. A splendid colorful gourmet Christmas with legendary Alsatian wines without the December deepfreeze. Strasbourg’s average temperature at that time of year is 37 Fahrenheit. A feast for the eyes and palate of any faith.

1. The Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Dulyanut Swdp / Getty Images

A teeming self-contained ecosystem, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest in the world. Home to a kaleidoscope of the brilliantly colored underwater life of fish, turtles, and the coral of the Reef itself.  Especially worthy of the top spot here because it sadly ranks highly as one of the most threatened by climate change. An incredible 1600 miles of coral, it is a staggering thought that this is the largest structure in the world created and inhabited by living organisms. From the smallest tropically colored fish the whales and dolphins, it could very well be Mother Nature’s most sublimely rendered palette of color. It has been compared to a rainforest of the sea.

The 8 Best Airport Hotels in the World

For too long now airport hotels have been gouging travelers with the overpriced, small and amenity lacking rooms, but thankfully times are changing. Hotels located in the airports and close to the airports are listening to what guests want, such as soundproof windows, a variety of dining choices and more amenities. The best airport hotels in the world offer all of these things, plus more including free Wi-Fi, award-winning spas, luxury suites and day rooms that are perfect for those long layovers. From Canada to the United States to Germany and beyond, here are the eight best airport hotels around the world.

8. Aloft San Francisco Airport, San Francisco, CA, USA

Located just half a mile from the airport, this hotel makes it easy to reach with its free and frequent shuttle service that runs 24/7. Relatively new at just two years old this hotel is perfect for an overnight stay while connecting on an early flight. An open-air lobby invites guests to enjoy a billiards table and old-time board games.

The business center is also located in the lobby, which can make it a bit noisy if you are looking to grab a meeting there. An outdoor pool and backyard patio space features live music or a DJ spinning beats on the weekend. The bar is typically busy with other guests grabbing a much-needed drink or snack. As far as downsides go, we don’t really see any considering a stay here starts at just $169/night.

Via travelforsenses.com

7. Hilton Munich Airport, Munich, Germany

Located between terminals, travelers will quickly leave behind the hustle and bustle when they enter into the beautiful Hilton Hotel at Munich’s airport. Whether you want to book a room during the day to kill eight hours or spend the night here, there are enough amenities to keep any grumpy traveler happy. Enjoy the 24-hour fitness center that boasts an abundance of state of the art machines, or head to the heated indoor swimming pool for some laps.

The signature restaurant on-site along with two bars gives travelers the perfect excuse to enjoy a nice meal and a glass of wine. The rooms are elegantly furnished with luxury bathrooms, there is ample meeting space and the hotel atrium will simply amaze you. Make sure you don’t leave this hotel without checking out the Fit & Fly Spa, the perfect way to relax before a long day of travels.

Via Travelocity

6. Regal Airport Hotel, Hong Kong

It doesn’t get much better than this, a nice hotel directly connected to the passenger terminal of the Hong Kong International Airport, by an enclosed air-conditioned link bridge at that. Travelers who are staying here can expect to visit the OM Spa, one of the only spa facilities in Hong Kong to provide couples massages, and if you are just too relaxed to move this spa actually allows guests to spend the night in the spa. A 24/7 workout center is also available for guests along with steam rooms, saunas and an indoor and outdoor swimming pool.

Rooms are spacious, stylish and provide the perfect resting place for weary travelers. Dining here is easy with an array of distinctive dining experience from Cantonese to Japanese to Western to International cuisine. This hotel receives constant awards for its hotel spa, class of excellence and best in class in terms of airport hotels.

Via travel.rakuten.co.jp

5. Crowne Plaza Hotel Changi Airport

This beautiful airport hotel opened in May 2008 and became the first international upscale hotel to operate with direct access to Singapore’s Changi Airport’s Terminal 3. The hotel was designed with style and high tech in mind and features open corridors, rainforest-style gardens and natural light throughout from the strategically based skylights.

Some of the favorite amenities for travelers here include a beautiful swimming pool that is designed around landscaped “mini-islands” and Jacuzzi tubs, providing natural hideaways to soak your tired body. Other travelers choose to head directly to the spa treatment center for some jet-lag reflexology. Delicious restaurants and bars, contemporary rooms with added bonuses and direct access to the airport make this hotel one of the best in the world.

Via IHG

4. Sofitel London Heathrow, London, UK

This airport hotel combines convenience and elegance and offers a break away from one of the busiest airports in the world.  The hotel is actually connected to Heathrow Terminal 5 via a walkway and to the other terminals via free inter-terminal transfers. Three restaurants and two elegant bars await weary travelers who are looking to grab either a quick bite to eat or sit down for a nice meal.

Every room includes in-room Wi-Fi, a mini fridge and a plush bed that offers a great sleep. Many travelers here take advantage of the award-winning Heathrow spa located in this hotel, offering over 25 innovative treatments. A 24-hour fitness center is also on-site, along with a sauna and Jacuzzi. Additional added touches include soundproof windows and an extensive champagne list that will have anyone wanting more than just one glass.

Via Accor Hotels

3. Langham Place, Beijing Capital Airport, Beijing, China

This convenient airport hotel offers elegant flourishes, modern design, and sparkling service; making travelers forget they are still at an airport hotel. Guests of this hotel should expect timeless luxury and tailored hospitality, with added bonuses throughout. Guestrooms include several lofts, townhouses, and an ultra-luxurious penthouse.

Oversized bathrooms, an abundance of gadgets and a bed you will never want to leave await you in the rooms. There are a total of five restaurants to choose from, whether you are seeking classic or international cuisine. A state of the art cardio studio, an art gallery within and spectacular meeting rooms make this more than just your run of the mill airport hotel.

Via red-luxury.com

2. Fairmont Vancouver Airport, Vancouver, Canada

This soundproofed, luxury hotel and spa are located directly within the Vancouver International Airport. Guests here are treated with floor-to-ceiling views, diverse dining choices, health club, spa, indoor pool and many other amenities. Dining here is a breeze and many choose the signature restaurant that offers views of the runway. Others head to Jetside Bar for live music offered five nights a week.

Rooms here are beautiful with state-of-the-art technology, views of mountains, ocean and the runway and this airport hotel offer day rooms for guests with long layovers. The Absolute Spa offers over 130 different treatments while the health center offers saunas, a whirlpool, children’s wading pool and workout area. With check-in for major airline carriers at the hotel lobby, it couldn’t be easier to choose this as your airport hotel of choice.

Via Booking.com’s

1. Hilton Frankfurt Airport, Frankfurt, Germany

If there were one word that could sum up this hotel it would be ‘fantastic’. From the fantastic service to the fantastic rooms to the fantastic gym to the fantastic food; it is easy to see why this hotel is one of the best airport hotels in the world. All rooms in this awesome hotel include king size beds, Wi-Fi access, soundproof windows and a large desk for any work that you may need to get caught up on.

The Hilton offers two choices of dining, both being open late into the evenings to cater to guests. A fitness room, steam bath, and sauna are on-site for any fitness buffs. Getting here is a breeze; simply use the pedestrian walkway from Terminal 1. With offerings of rooms, suites, and dayrooms this hotel caters to anyone who doesn’t’ want to spend hours upon hours in those uncomfortable airline seats.

Via cvent.com

Eerie Abandoned Olympic Venues Around the World

The Olympics are an exciting time. We watch the games and cheer on our country’s representative athletes as they go for gold and strive to be the best in the world. To be awarded the title of host city for either the summer or winter Olympics is a great honor which requires years and years of preparations. What we see on the television is often bright, sparkly new state-of-the-art facilities which house the various sporting events during the games. What we don’t often see are the very same facilities, years later, which have become run down, abandoned and in serious states of disrepair. This dark side of hosting the Olympic games often goes unmentioned but many cities still sport the scars of games past. Here are some of the abandoned Olympic structures which are still standing around the world today:

1. Sarajevo, Yugoslavia -1984 Winter Olympics

In 1984, the city of Sarajevo in Yugoslavia (now Bosnia and Herzegovina) hosted the Winter Olympic Games. Many relics still stand around the country today, like this Olympic medal podium.

Fotokon / Shutterstock.com
Fotokon / Shutterstock.com

2. Sarajevo, Yugoslavia -1984 Winter Olympics

This concrete track in Sarajevo was used as the bobsled track for the 1984 Olympic games. It still remains today but these days it is covered in graffiti and overgrown with weeds.

Sarajevo Winter Olympics

3. Sarajevo, Yugoslavia -1984 Winter Olympics

This abandoned ski jump was the setting for many of the ski events during the 1984 Winter Olympics. Though the jumps are still intact today, they haven’t been used in decades.

Fotokon / Shutterstock.com
Fotokon / Shutterstock.com

4. Beijing, China -2008 Summer Olympics

Beijing, China was the site of the 2008 summer Olympic Games. The most notorious structure, the “birds nest” or Beijing National Stadium was to be used for sporting events after the games wrapped up but now sits unused, except for tourist tours.

Zhao jian kang / Shutterstock.com
Zhao jian kang / Shutterstock.com

5. Beijing, China -2008 Summer Olympics

During the 2008 summer games, this stadium was the site for the men’s and women’s volleyball championships. Today the stadium sits boarded up in a sad state of disrepair.

Photo by: Citylab
Photo by: Citylab

6. Beijing, China -2008 Summer Olympics

This concrete park in Beijing was the site of the Olympic kayak aquatic center. Today the site is abandoned but the words”One World, One Dream” still encircle the track.

Photo by: ABC News
Photo by: ABC News

7. Athens, Greece -2004 Summer Olympics

Athens, Greece played host to the 2004 summer Olympic games and the government spent a reported $15 billion in preparation for the games. In the end, the government went over budget, and today most of the expensive structures are no longer in use.

Mike Liu / Shutterstock.com
Mike Liu / Shutterstock.com

8. Athens, Greece -2004 Summer Olympics

The aquatics center in Athens, Greece was the site of many Olympic swimming and diving events during the 2004 summer games. Today the facility sits abandoned and run down.

Photo by: Fast Co Design
Photo by: Fast Co Design

9. Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy -1956 Winter Olympics

This dilapidated ski jump in Cortina d’Ampezzo is one of a few relics still standing from when the Italian city hosted the 1956 Olympic winter games.

Yuri Turkov / Shutterstock.com
Yuri Turkov / Shutterstock.com

10. Munich, Germany -1972 Summer Olympics

The city of Munich in Germany hosted the 1972 summer Olympic games. These games were overshadowed by the tragic Munich massacre in which 11 athletes and a German police officer were killed by a terrorist group. Today the abandoned Munich Olympic Train Station stands as a somber reminder of the 72′ Olympic games.

Munich Olympic Train Station

11. Berlin, Germany -1936 Summer Olympics

The 1936 summer Olympics were held in Berlin, Germany during Adolf Hitler’s reign of terror.  Also called the “Nazi Olympics” this was where Hitler used the games as an opportunity to promote his ideals of racial supremacy. Despite the games occurring 80 years ago, many old abandoned structures from the games can still be found around Berlin.

Photo by: i09
Photo by: i09

12. Helsinki, Finland -1952 Olympic Summer Games

The 1952 summer Olympic games took place in the city of Helsinki, Finland. Like many other host cities, Helsinki built several athletic facilities specifically for the games, which can still be seen today, although somewhat understandably, they aren’t looking so pretty these days.

Photo by: Confidentielles
Photo by: Confidentielles

China Vacation: 10 Things To Know Before You Take Off

You’ve booked your ticket, made your hotel reservations and you’re ready to enjoy the glorious combination of unspoiled natural beauty, lively cities, and cultural history that await the fortunate travelers to China. However, before packing your suitcase and jetting off to this exotic and mysterious country, there are a few things that you should know to ensure a smooth vacation. Here are the 10 things you should know before taking off for your China vacation:

10. Currency

In China, the currency used is the Yuan Renminbi which is symbolized as ¥ and more commonly called yuan. one yuan is equal to approximately $0.16 USD, or the inverse, $1 USD is equal to 6.36 yuan. You may also hear locals refer to a yuan as a ‘kuai’ which is a nickname but still refers to a dollar. While you may hear all these terms used when talking about money, rest assured because Renminbi, Yuan and Kuai all mean the same thing, referring to the Chinese dollar.

Chinese Yuan

9. Power Conversion

Throughout China, the standard outlet used is 220 volts, though some four and five-star hotel properties are wired with the 110-volt outlets common throughout North America. Either way, it is a good idea to purchase a power converter so that you can use your own electronics like chargers and personal appliances during your vacation.

220 Volt outlet

8. Tipping

A common question for travelers is “when should I tip?” and the answer depends on the establishment. If you receive good service in a westernized place like a hotel, it is common and much appreciated to tip waiters, room service staff, bellhops, maids and tour guides/drivers. You are not expected to tip local taxi drivers or staff at Chinese restaurants (those not geared for westerners) and it should be mentioned that Hong Kong and Macau because of their westernization generally follow the same tipping practices as in North America.

tipping

7. Visa Requirements

With a few specific exemptions, most travelers to China will need to obtain a visa prior to their scheduled vacation. It is recommended that travelers apply for the visa at least 1 month before their departure to ensure it is processed in time. The cost of the visa depends on a few factors including what country you are from and the processing time required for your application. It’s best to do your homework on visas for China well in advance of your trip.

Chinese Visa

6. Departure Tax

Like many countries, China charges a departure tax when leaving the country by air. Thankfully this fee of 90 yuan or approximately $16 USD, is included in your air fare at the time of booking so no need to worry about saving some cash for your departure, it’s already taken care of!

Beijing Airport

5. The Internet is Restricted

The Chinese government restricts the use of the internet in this country so you may find that some of your regularly visited websites are blocked. It’s a good idea to do some research before you go, especially if you’re planning on doing any work while traveling. There are ways around the restrictions however, and many Chinese people are very tech savvy and well educated on internet use, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.

google china

4. Don’t Learn ‘Chinese’

You won’t get very far. That’s because there is no unified language known as Chinese, instead Chinese people speak a number of different dialects depending on where they are from. If you do want to learn a few key phrases to help your communication, Mandarin and Cantonese are the 2 most popular dialects used in china.

Photo by: Youtube/Howcast
Photo by: Youtube/Howcast

3. Squat Toilets Are Real

There’s a good chance you’ll encounter a squat toilet at some point on your vacation, especially out in public places or attractions. Don’t worry, they’re much easier to use than they seem and they’re actually more sanitary than seated toilets since there’s no contact. Just remember to carry your own toilet paper while you’re out sightseeing.

Squat toilet China

2. Burping is Not Rude

It’s actually a sign of contentment after eating a meal, so if you feel the need to burp, there’s no need hold it in or act embarrassed if one happens to slip out. It’s also socially acceptable to stare as it means that you’re genuinely interested in the person and what they are doing. So if you’re being stared at, don’t assume it’s just because you’re a tourist!

covering mouth

1.  Chicken Balls?

If you go to China with dreams of chicken balls and sweet and sour pork, you’re going to be in for a surprise and whether it’s a good or bad one will all depend on your perspective. The deep-fried, covered in glowing sauce kind of Chinese food we know of in North America is not what they really eat in China. Instead you’ll find many healthier vegetable and meat dishes prepared simply but none the less delicious.

Yum Cha

UNESCO’S 15 Most Beautifully Designed Cities In The World

Designations from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization are much sought after by cities around the world. Its best known one is the World Heritage Site that calls on signatories to protect and preserve important monuments from a small church to a vast jungle. Less well known but still dandy for planning itineraries is the Creative Cities Network in which cities receive a special designation if it can prove its creative specialty is unique of important cultural and economic significance and is sustainable. One of the most intriguing is Design. UNESCO has identified 15 Cities of Design that “(place) creativity and cultural industries at the heart of their development plans.” It is about not just the urban space but the things that fill space that, to meet UNESCO criteria must enhance the quality of life for people and be environmentally sustainable. And of course make a whole bunch of seriously cool stuff. Here are, in UNESCO’s estimation the 15 most aesthetically pleasing and innovative Cities of Design.

15. Montréal, Canada

The genius of some of the world’s great architects dot the Montreal skyline despite the civic edict that no building exceeds the height of Mont Royal under whose slopes the city was founded in 1642. I.M Pei’s Place Ville Marie still dominates the downtown more than 50 years after its debut. Other stellar works include Mies van der Rohe’s Westmount Square, Buckminster Fuller’s stunning Geodesic Dome and Moshe Sadie’s Habitat, the latter two built for the 1967 World’s Fair has found new life. Old Montreal by the Old Port is a treasure of preserved 19th century buildings on cobblestone streets. It is the home of the Canadian Centre for Architecture as well as the UNESCO Chair in Landscape and Environmental Design at l’ Université de Montréal. UNESCO calls Montreal “The City of Designers” with 25,000 people in design development in one of the most stylish cities in North America.

Songquan Deng / Shutterstock.com
Songquan Deng / Shutterstock.com

14. Buenos Aires, Argentina

For architecture fans and design geeks, Buenos Aires is already heaven. One of its iconic historic buildings, Palacio Barolo is an homage to the Dante’s 15th century masterpiece, The Divine Comedy with the Hell, the ground floor with flame images on the walls, to the mid-level office space, called Purgatory and the upper floors with their fantastic views of the great city being ‘Paradise.” It has a stable of great works on its skyline built in a jumble of Old World Styles from Renaissance to Art Deco. The Planetarium and Women’s Bridge continue the creative tradition into the 21st century. UNESCO notes with praise the use of government incentives to grow the design industry which now accounts for almost a tenth of the giant city’s Gross Domestic Product and “contributes to turning Buenos Aires into a benchmark of design in Latin America: while fostering inclusive and sustainable development.

T photography / Shutterstock.com
T photography / Shutterstock.com

13. Curitiba, Brazil

This city of 3 million people in southern Brazil is at the forefront of sustainable urban development in the world. Already a cultural and design center, UNESCO singles out the city’s innovation for “Recognizing design as an agent for urban transformation.” In this context the term “design” goes beyond buildings in post-modern, futuristic shapes to the materials used to make them. The sustainable city mission was begun by architect and three-term, Curitiba Mayor Jaime Lerner and inspired similar initiatives across the country. Lerner combined an overhaul of mass transit and garbage collection with the promotion of alternative building materials to streamline costs and provide affordable housing. An, NGO (Nongovernmental Organization) Curadores da Terra or Keepers of the earth has developed a process that turns the environmental plague of plastic bottles into a popular, inexpensive building material.

Curitiba, Brazil

12. Bilbao, Spain

What leaps to mind at the Mention of Bilbao, is the beautiful jumble that is the Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Gehry, one of the most famous and renowned pieces of architecture since it opened in 1997. In fact the whole process of reclaiming former heavily industrial urban areas that are in decline or abandoned has come to be called “The Guggenheim Effect, the great Museum reclaimed a derelict section of the old port for a sustainable addition to the city’s tourism infrastructure. The policy continues with the Alhondiga, a beautiful wine warehouse from 1909 on the verge of demolition but rescued and turned into a multi use cultural facility in 2010. Bilbao’s approach using design and technology to transition from an old industrial economy to a modern service economy is the model UNESCO wants more cities to follow, the creation of “major cultural facilities contributing to the economy in terms of wealth creation, employment and social well-being.

Migel / Shutterstock.com
Migel / Shutterstock.com

11. Turin, Italy

Italy has been at the forefront of global design since they built the Roman Senate in 753 BCE. Turin has been called the Detroit of Italy, the home of great automotive brands like Fiat and Alfa Romeo. And like its American counterpart it experienced economic crisis and depopulation in the 1980’s. Still with about the same GDP as the country of Croatia, Turin has used its accumulated wealth  expertise and world class schools to move upstream into more sustainable, knowledge based industries, most notably aerospace. Several of the International Space Station modules were designed here. The greatest symbol of the city’s rejuvenation and transition is the fabulous Lingotto Fiere, which remains futurists despite being nearly a century old. Even Le Corbusier the great French architect raved about it. The old Fiat plant opened in 1922, but then became outmoded in the seventies and eventually closed in the 80’s. It reopened as a multi-use complex, including a hotels, concert halls art gallery shopping mall and a campus for the world renowned Polytechnic University of Turin.

Turin, Italy

10. Graz, Austria

Graz is already home to two UNESCO World Heritage sites. Eggenberg Castle is a grand historical work in the Baroque style. The Old Town is an impeccably preserved wealth of centuries of buildings in wide range of architectural styles. But the small city of 300,000 isn’t resting on those fortunate laurels of the distant past. UNESCO’s website is prone to thick bureaucratic gibberish, but the spirit of the initiative comes through in statements like noting a fashion festival “is committed to cultural exchange on the textile level.” It’s just an example of the injection of sustainability into everyday goods that is providing the basis of The Next Economy in First World places that can afford to lead the way. Consider it the next Industrial Revolution. The Creative Sector in Graz has almost 5,000 companies, mostly small and medium size that generate about $700,000,000 in additional revenue allowing the city to commission innovative, iconic works of architecture that goes beyond fancy buildings for the sake of being fancy to making intelligent design that “and values both the aesthetic component of design as well as its ability to make daily life more livable.”

Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com
Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com

9. Berlin, Germany

Berlin has been one of the creative centers of the world for centuries and is now becoming leader in Design with some 2,400 companies been over $400,000,000 in annual revenue. Its International Center for Design is focused on what it believes is the way of the future: “Environmentally-conscious design is thus the key to a sustainable society.” At its heart is the emerging consumer behaviour called LOHAS “Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability” as individuals seek out healthier lifestyle and environmentally sensitive choices. They have become a world leader in ‘eco-design…to optimize energy efficiency, to minimize pollution emission and waste production.” There are 5000 Design students in the city’s elite schools. Berlindesign.net acts as an independent, fair trade platform for hundreds of independent Berlin designers from fashion to furniture to food. It’s all based on a highly innovative business plan called the “Triple Bottom Line,” in which design marketing and pricing reflect not just profit margins but ecological, economic and social concerns as well.

Berline Germany, Spree River

8. Helsinki, Finland

Design is embedded in the Finnish soul. Or as the Guardian wrote “Design is to Helsinki as literature is to Dublin and samba is to Rio.” Scandinavia in general is known for its modernist, minimalist furniture but Finland itself with a population of 5.5 million has given the world two of its greatest architects, Eero Saarinen and Alvar Aalto. The Finnish capital is an architectural garden of delights. Volumes have been written about the Finns creativity but UNESCO pointed to two things in particular that propelled Helsinki to 2012’s World City of Design status. One, Design is a government priority. The Finnish Innovation Fund stimulates the sector to design solutions to a wide variety of public policy issues from sustainability to education. It especially notes the inclusion of passengers in the process of designing the seats on the transit system.

Helsinki, Finland

7. Dundee, Scotland

A charter member of the global Rust Belt of once vibrant juggernauts of heavy industry, Dundee was made the United Kingdom’s first Creative City of Design. It is a case study in urban reinvention in knowledge based economic sectors and an example of just how broad the discipline of design has become. The booming shipbuilding and textile industries have given way to biotechnology and digital media. Dundee is home to one of the largest teaching hospitals in the world as well as the company that produced the hugely popular video game called Grand Theft Auto. The city is spending 1.5 billion dollars on revitalizing its waterfront, including a striking  Museum Of Design with the goal of making the city an international design center, creatively financed by government and private sector funding.

Dundee, Scotland

6. Shenzhen, China

Shenzhen’s skyline shimmers with stunning, cutting edge architectural design as befits to an emerging innovative powerhouse of 11 million people. The Stock Exchange, the Asian Cairns and the Oct Museum push the design envelope. In southern China close to Hong Kong, design is a multi-billion dollar business employing 100,000 people. A generation of Chinese designers were trained here and excel in a wide spectrum of disciplines, women’s fashion being the most notable but that includes crafts, jewelry and toys. The city has moved upstream into creative, knowledge-based sectors, finance primarily among them as integration with the wealth creation machine that is Hong Kong.

Shenzhen, China

5. Shanghai, China

The Shanghai Design Show is Asia’s biggest and most important attracting the world designing elite, from Jaguar to Nike to Cognac giant Martell. A truly international city home to 25 million people faces enormous challenges in sustainable development. But it has a huge creative sector to meet those challenges and develop sectors that add about $40 billion to the city’s GDP. UNESCO notes that the city was the Chinese leader in creative sectors such as film and music. It takes one look at Shanghai’s dynamic skyline to grasp the tremendous creative power the city is harnessing under the aegis of the Municipal Commission of Economy and Technology. Shanghai’s Creative Cites page boasts 87 Creative Clusters, over 4,000 innovative design-related agencies and institutions, 283 art institutions, 239 art and cultural community centers, 100 museums, 25 libraries and 743 archive institutions. It is perhaps Exhibit A of a city growing its economy by investing in Design.

Top Cities 2013 - Shanghai

4. Kobe, Japan

There is a 21st century about the Kobe skyline partly because of its innovative nature and sadly, from a major rebuild after the catastrophic earthquake in 1995. But in one form or another the city has been adept at self-reinvention through history. As an open port it has absorbed the influence of many cultures and has long been regarded as a cosmopolitan city. There is an old saying that says, “If you can’t go to Paris go to Kobe.” Like the French city to which it’s compared, Kobe is a fashion design center. Kobe Biennale is a major annual art and design event that aims to use the twin disciplines “not only to promote the arts, but also to contribute to the enrichment and environment of Kobe.” In 2015 a number eclectic competitions were held for Art-in-a Box, using old containers as a kind of urban canvas; creative toys, ceramic art, comic illustration and ‘green’ art.

Kobe, Japan

3. Nagoya, Japan

One of the rare cities that has managed to retain its blue collar and artistic pedigrees. It is home to major Toyota and Mitsubishi auto plants as well as traditional Japanese theater, cuisine and craft work dating back to medieval times. All under the magnificent watch of the fabulous 17th century Nagoya Castle. Even the modern manufacturing systems are based on the old Japanese principle of Monozukuri which Toyota defines as “manufacturing which is in harmony with nature and that is value adding for the society… the older sister of sustainable manufacturing.” Also unlike many others on the list, Nagoya can claim a design specialty. An army of engineers advance robot technology as well as a sector that discovers and designs new materials. UNESCO lauds its combination of tradition and the philosophy of Humanism with advanced technology.

Nagoya, Japan

2. Seoul, South Korea

The economy of South Korea is an aggressively powerful export machine barging into giant-dominated sectors like cars and cellphones. Seoul, the dynamic capital, is home to three-quarters of the country’s designers. Seoul’s design sector is heavy on IT related products now honing fashion and digital home appliance design. City government policy acts as a facilitator linking design companies with its thriving industrial base. Dongdaemun Design Plaza is like a modern Silicon Valley of design and creative expertise that not only serves as an incubator for innovation, but transformed one of the city’s oldest, most historic districts.

Top Cities 2013 - Seoul

1. Beijing, China

Far and away the most controversial and debatable of UNESCO’s designations is Beijing, China. However, UNESCO notes the city’s 3000 years rich with history. The architecture and design of the venues for the 2008 Olympics were spectacular but remain underused and unable to be integrated into the city fabric. Meanwhile the brutally bulldozing of the city’s legendary hutongs or traditional neighborhoods of narrow alleys have been documented in books and documentaries. UNESCO cites the huge number of museums and creativity clusters “bearing in mind their relevance for sustainable development.”

Beijing, China

10 Most Expensive Cities To Move To In The World

There are so many ingenious ways to measure the cost of living in places around the world. So if you’re thinking of heading off to a treasured locale in some far off land, you absolutely want to check this list. Six of the top ten culprits on The Domestic Budget from Hell list are from either China or Switzerland. The cost of living can rise or fall on the arcane machinations of currency values, population growth or plain old corruption. Some cultures have never got the hang of retail and their screwed-up distribution systems lead to classic horror stories like the legendary $40 cantaloupe of Tokyo. Here’s where it gets really interesting. Most of the insanely expensive cities that have dominated these lists in recent years have fallen off, Tokyo among them along with New York, London and Moscow making way for a whole new batch of prohibitively expensive destinations. So hold on to your wallet and take the tour, free of charge.

10. N’Djamena, Chad

Simply put Chad is a basket case sitting atop an ocean of recently discovered oil and N’Djamena is the capital. Mercer sums up the problems this way: “The main driver behind this is the difficulty finding good, secure accommodation for expatriates. “So the limited supply of acceptable accommodation is very expensive. The cost of imported international goods is also high.” Plain English translation:Chad is one of the world’s most corrupt countries. At least half the estimated $10 USD billion in earnings has been skimmed off for military hardware and embezzlement. The country also borders on war-stricken Syria and Sudan and the U.S. State Department counsels Americans to avoid border zones where the dreaded Boko Haram are a real threat. The average annual wage is $750. Average life expectancy is 51. Chronic drought devastates crops and there’s no real infrastructure to cut through the corruption. So with a full plate like that, Chad hasn’t got around to building condos, heath clubs and sushi bars for the oil workers that have flocked there. Cheap it is not. But it dropped from the number two slot last year, so maybe there’s progress.

Photo by: afcone via Flickr
Photo by: afcone via Flickr

9. Bern, Switzerland

When thinking about expensive cities mammoth urban monster is the image that comes to mind. Bern is a lovely city, a bucolic town of maybe 150,000 people. It is the capital with an Old Town that’s a UNESCO World Heritage site. But, pricier than Tokyo and London? Well start with a tight housing market. Then add the Capitol Factor with civil servants making very decent money. The biggest culprit has nothing to do with Bern at all. In fact it has more to do with Greece and the panic its long running death spiral in the European Union has caused. When it looked like Greece might default on EU loans, nervous investors dumped their Euros and bought Swiss Francs as a safe haven for their money bags causing it to zoom in value. Suddenly expats had to spend way more of their own currency to buy the francs they needed. As a result everything in Switzerland got more expensive without prices in stores actually being marked up.

Bern Switzerland

8. Seoul, South Korea

Now this is more like it. A city of ten million at the head of the massive industrial juggernaut that is South Korea. Seoul begins the Asian onslaught. A nice apartment costs about two grand, not way out of line. But groceries and clothing are the silent killers, twice the level in the U.S. A decade ago Seoul was barely making the Top 50, now it’s Top 10 again largely because of international currency turbulence. The Korean Won has jumped 36% against the Japanese yen and 15% against the weakening Euro. Here’s how currency changes become price increases. That $2000 USD apartment to a Canadian with a weaker currency costs $2527 CAD. Ouch, eh?

Top Cities 2013 - Seoul

7. Beijing, China

The expense of living in Beijing is giving whole new meaning to the expression “Forbidden City.” A three-bedroom apartment downtown can be north of US$4000. Office space is pricier than Manhattan. Eating Western food even at home is prohibitive. Tuition for schools starts at $25000 USD. Coffee has broken the $6 barrier. The rise in value of the Chinese yuan is propelling several growing Chinese cities up the expensive charts with bullets. Shenyang, a city of 8 million, 700 km northeast of Beijing jumped 33 rungs to 21st. Qingdao, home of the famous beer, jumped 24 to 25th.On the other hand cigarettes are 3 bucks a pack, making it hard on would be quitters.

Beijing, China

6. Shanghai, China

Two hints this place will cost you. 1) There are more than 17 million people. 2) Even after the sell off the Shanghai stock market is up 89% over last year. So the place is sloshing around in people and money as incomes rise and a middle class emerges to compete with expats for scarcer and scarcer housing. Even now, a real estate website offers a tiny 2-bedroom apartment in what they “The Other Areas” for $2200 USD a month. Anything imported is hideously expensive. Levi 501’s are $116.50, a package of diapers is $32.00, and breakfast cereal is eight bucks a box. All this on top of the inflation from the rising value of the currency and it will be a pretty penny to live in the shadow of the iconic skyline. Except for Canadians who don’t have pennies anymore.

toiletroom / Shutterstock.com
toiletroom / Shutterstock.com

5. Geneva, Switzerland

The Swiss sticker shock continues in the Club Sandwich Index champ. Geneva is home to a number of United Nations organizations so there are a lot of professionals with commensurate salaries. There is an economic axiom that cities with high incomes tend to have higher prices. Hence the $7 toothpaste of Geneva. For some reason the cost of appliances in Genève is notorious. Expats scratch their heads at the basic microwaves costing $60 at Walmart while in Geneva they cost $300. The population is less than 200,000, but since the Swiss prefer to rent rather than own due to prohibitive ownership costs, there is a dire shortage of places to live. A three bedroom in the city is around $4000 USD. Chicken is $14 a pound, those Levis are $140, and the Big Mac is $15. It all adds up. At least it ranks lowest for wine with an average bottle costing $8.69. You’ll need it.

Geneva Switzerland

4. Singapore City, Singapore

In most western jurisdictions drinking and driving is criminal offense with serious consequences. Singapore follows the-time honored economic principal that if you want to discourage certain behaviors, tax the hell out of them. As for the drinking part a delightful website called Living in Sin says drinkable wine starts at $18 USD. A loaf of bread, a bottle of wine, a pack of cigarettes together costs $39.11 and that’s not even counting restaurant markups. Sometimes you can get cheaper at a 7/11. Another city with a strong currency and financial center. A 900 square foot apartment runs $4900 a month. The BBC rates it the most expensive place to buy clothes and basic groceries are 11% higher than New York. But the pain really kicks in when it comes to cars. More for traffic than environmental reasons, Singapore discourages the use of them by making their use crazy pricey. That BMW that cost $34,000 back home in Minneapolis needs a Certificate of Entitlement which after fees, taxes and plates costs an estimated $238,000. And honestly, how can you be a self-respecting financial mover and shaker without one?

Singapore city

3. Zurich, Switzerland

Being more expensive than Singapore is no easy task, but Zurich has done it. It’s become one of those places where price tags just bring tears to your eyes. Yet there are less than 400,000 people. The average movie ticket is priced at being over $21 while haircuts are $50. That ubiquitous pair of Levis a staggering $156. A two bedroom apartment is $4100 plus. Even the wine is almost triple the price in Geneva. Food in Switzerland is said to be 45% more expensive than the rest of Western Europe. Wait there’s more. As in Geneva a microwave sets you back $329. There are people in the Ozarks who can manage to source appliances and get them on retail shelves for less than $100. It would be classified as insane in any of Switzerland’s official languages if it weren’t for the fact it still has a ways to go to catch #2 on the list.

Zurich Switzerland

2. Hong Kong, China

The Mong Kok neighborhood on Hong Kong’s Kowloon Peninsula is by many measurements the most crowded place on earth with a population density of around 300,000 people per square mile. Manhattan’s corresponding figure is a mere 66,771. Though now repatriated to China it remains a huge global financial hub. Add a currency that’s pegged to the surging U.S. greenback. Put the three together and affordable housing becomes a distant memory while a cup of coffee has reached $11. An unfurnished two bedroom flat is about $6400 a month. As the Wall Street Journal headline said “In Hong Kong, the Apartments Are Fit for a Mosquito.” The Savills Live-Work Index puts the per employee cost to companies for home and office space to $123,000. That’s not counting paying them. Everything has to be imported pushing costs higher. The question is how do non-bankers get by?

Top Cities 2013 - Hong Kong

1. Luanda, Angola

The seemingly unlikely heavyweight wallet muncher is this African seaport and oil hub. Angola has become the second largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa so foreign workers are flocking in. Most of the city’s population of five million lives in destitution on about five dollars a day, but big oil attracts expats with lots of money and expensive tastes. After a lengthy civil war, decent housing is scarce and a decent place costs almost $7000 a month. Anything imported is ridiculous. Think those jeans were expensive in Zurich? They’re $250 here. Food is double the New York price. Transparency International ranks Angola as the 14th most corrupt country in the world. Seems officials have lost track of five billion in oil money over the last decade down their pants somewhere. But hey, Marlboro are a buck ninety a pack.

Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com
Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com

8 Destinations Putting a Cap on Tourist Numbers

It is quickly becoming a hot debate as more cities and places are talking about placing limits on the number of tourists that visit each year. While some critics argue that putting a cap on the number of tourists will hurt local economies, others argue that we are quickly destroying natural environments and overcrowding cities. The age old question remains then, what is this balance? For these eight places and cities, the solution is to begin implementing a cap on tourist numbers and from Australia to Spain, only time will tell if this is the way of future travel.

8. Bhutan, South Asia

The Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan prides itself on high value, low volume tourism and lets an average of 140,000 tourists in each year. In order to visit this unspoiled landscape and culture, foreign visitors need to get a visa and book their holiday through a licensed Bhutanese tour operator. The Royal Government of Bhutan sets a minimum daily package price each month that visitors have to transfer to the Tourism Council of Bhutan; normally it is between $200-250 a day. This sounds pricey but that money covers all accommodations, meals, guides and internal transport. Part of this money also goes towards a royalty that provides free education, healthcare and poverty alleviation. There are over 75 licensed tour operators to choose from in this country and you can be promised an absolute once-in-a-lifetime opportunity if you visit this awe-inspiring landscape and connect with the people here.

Photo by: EL ANDINO OUTDOOR
Photo by: EL ANDINO OUTDOOR

7. The Forbidden City, Beijing

The Palace Museum, also known as the Forbidden City announced plans in 2014 to limit the number of visitors to this incredible site to 80,000 a day. The reason for this tourist cap is overcrowding as this museum is the most visited museum in the world, topping over 15 million people in 2014. They are certainly making it easier for more visitors to visit in the winter, offering half price tickets as right now they see the majority of visitors in the summer. New seating, bilingual signage and a ban on tour guides using amplified microphones have all been put in place in recent years to make this experience even better for tourists. Tickets will be purchased online, letting guests know what time they can gain access to the Forbidden City, and this museum should be applauded for quickly figuring out how to reduce tourism in the best of way.

Forbidden City

6. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

These 19 islands that are located approximately 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador are home to roughly 9,000 species, both on land and in water. By the year 2007 both residents and tourists had put such a burden on the ecosystems that the UN listed the destination as an endangered heritage site. Thankfully in recent years they have developed a systematic program that regulates how many tourists are visiting each island daily. Regulations require that visitors must have a trained naturalist guide with them on each island, as the trails change in order to keep them from being overrun. New rules also came into effect that allows travelers to stay for a maximum of four nights and five days per ship. Tourists visiting the islands are only allowed to travel to specific visitor sites and must adhere to the rules and regulations that are set out by the National Parks.

Galapagos Islands

5. Machu Picchu, Peru

It wasn’t long ago that visitors were allowed to roam freely around this 15th-century site, exploring the breathtaking ruins and surrounding landscapes. New regulations are currently being implemented to limit tourists due to conservation efforts. UNESCO and Peru are working together to ensure that this site remains in its pristine condition. The daily limit was once set at 2,500 visitors but recently topped over 1.2 million visitors in 2014. New regulations will require visitors to hire an official guide to enter the Inca Citadel, follow one of three routes through the complex and will face time limits at specific points to keep the crowds moving. Although many fear this will discourage visitors from coming here, it seems unlikely that at least 2,500 won’t visit; the recommended amount.

Machu Picchu, Peru

4. Lord Howe Island, Australia

This seven-square mile island is located 370 miles off mainland Australia and offers rare flora, fauna and marine life. The surrounding crystal clear waters offer more than 400 species of fish and 90 species of coral. It also just happens to be one of the cleanest places on Earth, with 75 percent of the island’s original vegetation undisturbed. Only 350 residents call this island home and only 400 tourists are allowed to visit the island at any one time. This island is geared towards outdoor recreation so plan on snorkeling, hiking, kayaking and bird-watching if you are lucky enough to visit here. There are limited accommodations, no pubs or bars and formal restaurants don’t exist here. But if you are looking to get away from it all and experience a true authentic island, teeming with wildlife, this is the place for you.

Lord Howe Island, Australia

3. Antarctica

Tourism was growing steadily and dangerous up until 2009, when finally the 28 country members of the Antarctic Treaty decided to limit tourism in the region, to prevent it from environmental damage. Recent studies have shown that even short visits to the concentrated landing sites could have an adverse effect on the environment. The main tourism restriction here is the number of passengers and boats, any boat carrying over 500 passengers will not be allowed to dock in the region. Only one boat is allowed to dock in each dock and only 100 passengers are allowed on shore. Today visitors have to travel through operators and organizers who have been approved by their national authorities. Don’t expect to spend too much time in this pristine environment as your time both on-shore and in water will be closely monitored by officials.

Antarctica

2. The Seychelles, Africa

Yes, it is where Prince William and Kate spent their honeymoon and in recent years these islands have seen a tremendous growth of tourists, reaching more than six times the number of residents. Just recently in 2015 the minister of tourism and culture for the Seychelles told the world that they are planning a cap on annual visitors. A ban has already been put in place on the building of large hotel developments and now locally small run properties are the only one granted permission to start operations. Expect to see a cap on the number of visitors by next year, as this group of islands is determined to take the issue of sustainable travel more seriously. Although tourism is the Seychelles single biggest industry, they are determined not to demean the value of these gorgeous islands.

Seychelles

1. Barcelona

Barcelona is the most recent city to consider putting a limit on tourists as the incoming Mayor is determined to put a cap on the number of tourists by the end of 2015. Believing that the city is becoming out of hand and overrun by tourists, as in the last 13 years the numbers have doubled, there seems to be no other solution than to cap the numbers. Any visitor who has been here in the last few years has certainly noticed the throngs of people in their path as they try to make their way through the city. It has also become a sort of landing ground for young backpackers who don’t always have the best intentions. As well as introducing a cap on the number of people to visit, the new mayor also wants to put a six month freeze on new hotel developments and tourist rental apartments. Barcelona wants to assess the tourist situation and understand which areas can sustain further development and increase their intake of visitors, and which places are already overrun.

Top Cities 2013 - Barcelona

The 12 Best Places to Celebrate Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is an important traditional Chinese holiday; also known as the Spring Festival and is celebrated all over the world. The most unique attribute of this holiday is that no country celebrates it quite the same way. Cities with significant Chinese populations tend to celebrate the biggest and visitors from all over the world come to celebrate along with them. From places that offer over three weeks of celebrations to cities with extreme computer controlled fireworks displays; Chinese New Year should be celebrated in style. Elaborate parades line the streets offering a glimpse into the world of performers, musicians, marching bands and the infamous Golden Dragon. Some of the best places to celebrate the Chinese New Year are actually located outside China and you may be surprised at our top twelve list of the best places to ring in the New Year. Break out the red lanterns, delicious food and head to one of the best cities to ring in the Chinese New Year.

12. Singapore

The nation of Singapore is comprised primarily of Chinese, Indian, and Malaysian ethnic groups and when the Chinese New Year rolls around the entire country joins in the celebrations. The most fascinating part of the Chinese New Year in Singapore is the mixing of old and new traditions as well as the influence that comes from many different cultures. Since 1987 residents and visitors have been gathering at the River Hongbao for the liveliest of festivals. From giant lanterns to traditional song and dance to spreads of exotic delicacies to spectacular firework displays, this event celebrates everything Chinese.

Another major event in Singapore held to ring in the Chinese New Year is the Chingay Parade; a street and float parade held downtown. It remains the largest street and float parade in Asia and dancing dragons, stilt walkers and traditional lion walkers are just a small part of it. Magic shows, acrobats and samba parties fill the streets with animated joy and people gather from all over the world to experience this once in a lifetime opportunity. Head to Chinatown when you are not busy taking in parades and festivals to experience authentic cuisine and pay respect in one of the many temples.

Chinese New Year Singapore

11. Sydney, Australia

What started as a small community event to celebrate the Chinese New Year has now turned into one of the biggest celebrations of the Lunar Year in the world and is considered one of the biggest celebrated events in Australia. The celebrations primarily happen in Chinatown where performers, markets and street stalls all set up. The dragon boat races are a huge part of this city’s celebrations; they happen on Cockle Bay and visitors are invited to get up close and personal with these intricately carved boats that are an important part of the Chinese history.

The twilight parade is the signature event in Sydney with its sensational display of lights and color. Observers will watch as colorful floats, huge floating lanterns, projections and community performers make their way down the streets. Numerous events throughout the city include karaoke competitions, martial art demonstrations, dancing dragons and lions and many other cultural activities that take place during this month-long celebration. Sydney has truly embraced this celebration and made it its own and is one of our favorite places to ring in the Chinese New Year.

Photo By: Hamilton Lund; Destination NSW
Photo By: Hamilton Lund; Destination NSW

10. New York City

New York tends to celebrate everything in grand style so it is no surprise that this is one of the best cities to celebrate the Chinese New Year. For those wanting big flashy parades, extreme entertainment and great food New York is the place to be. For the more traditional approach the Museum of Chinese in America offers many events including walking tours of Chinatown and a family festival. Other events include the popular Chinese New Year Concert put on by the New York Philharmonic featuring amazing composers and musicians.

New York offers not one parade, not two but three separate parades and several days full of celebrations. The Firecracker Ceremony kicks off the start of the New Year in Manhattan where dancing lions and dragons, drummers and dance troupes take to the streets of Chinatown in the annual ceremony and parade. The Lunar New Year Parade takes place in Flushing, Queens; home to the largest Chinese population in the city and offers steel drummers, firecrackers and dancers. Finally the Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade and Festival is the grand parade which includes giant lanterns, elaborate floats, marching bands, acrobats and more. Whether you are looking for old or new traditions, New York is the perfect city to celebrate.

mandritoiu / Shutterstock.com
mandritoiu / Shutterstock.com

9. San Francisco, California

San Francisco boasts one the oldest and largest parades and festivals of the Chinese New Year outside Asia, and is the largest Asian cultural event in North America. In the 1860’s San Fran Chinatown was booming and residents were eager to share their love of celebration with those residents who had never experienced it. From that moment on, San Francisco has embraced this celebration and is truly a magical place to be during this time of the year.

The illuminated night parade remains one of the few nighttime parades in the United States and has been named one of the world’s top ten parades. Gorgeous floats, elaborate designs, specialty costumes, stilt walkers, exploding firecrackers, marching drumming bands, and acrobats will all move their way down the streets of the city. At the end comes the infamous 268 foot Golden Dragon which requires over 100 men and women to hold up.  This celebration has gained so much attention that the United States based airline, Southwest Airlines is now the official sponsor of the parade. How is that for celebrating in style?

Kobby Dagan / Shutterstock.com
Kobby Dagan / Shutterstock.com

8. Vancouver, British Columbia

For a multicultural city like Vancouver, celebrating the Chinese New Year spreads across the city. The Chinese population of Vancouver is not just centered in historic Chinatown but also in Richmond. Both areas of the city offer up their own unique twist on the celebrations. The annual parade features intricate floats, marching bands, police teams, dancing dragons and lions and many dance troupes. Vancouver loves to put a quirky twist on the celebrations with its annual Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner, a 10-course banquet saluting Chinese New Year and offering unusual cuisine.

You won’t find a historic Chinatown in Richmond; instead you will find massive shopping centers that look more like modern-day Beijing. These shopping centers feature flower markets and other cultural events. Richmond boasts the 2nd largest temple in North America and visitors are encouraged to receive a blessing from the Buddhist temple. With hundreds of Asian restaurants throughout Richmond and Vancouver there is no shortage of authentic food and many offer New Year specials and delicacies you won’t find any other time of the year. Vancouver is truly an authentic place to ring in the New Year with over 20% of its population speaking one of the Chinese dialects as their first language!

Chinese New Year Vancouver

7. Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles is home to some of the largest Chinese New Year celebrations across the country and this city just doesn’t stop at one annual parade. Of course there is an amazing annual parade with its outstanding floats, drummers, lion dancers and dance troupes that march down the streets in Chinatown. The midnight temple celebration kicks off the festivities where visitors can receive a blessing and light off hundreds of firecrackers. The shopping centers also take part with Chinese-themed décor, traditional dragon dancers and a towering New Year Wish Tree.

Universal Studios Hollywood celebrates the Chinese New Year in style with themed décor, characters dressed in traditional Chinese attire and a Mandarin version of the studio tour. Disneyland California has also jumped on board the celebrations and is decked out in lanterns and banners wishing visitors a Happy New Year, along with a variety of authentic Chinese musicians and dancers. Not to be outdone by Disney; Chinatown offers a scavenger hunt throughout the area along with free festivals throughout numerous parks.

Jose Gil / Shutterstock.com
Jose Gil / Shutterstock.com

6. Las Vegas, Nevada

Celebrate Chinese New Year in the desert when you head to Las Vegas; home to lively entertainment every moment of every day. The Chinese New Year beckons visitors to invite more luck into their lives and what better place to do that than Vegas. Every year the hotels and resorts transform themselves into displays of extravagant themed décor. Restaurants throughout the city offer traditional Chinese cuisine that may help you bring that extra bit of luck to your future.

Throughout the city there are numerous events and locations to celebrate. Chinatown Plaza offers the traditional lion and dragon dancers along with many vendors offering food and items for sale. Vegas puts its own unique spin on the celebrations with its Miss Asian American Pacific Islander USA pageant, complete with fashion show, talent competition and interviews. There is plenty of live music happening at the Fremont Street Experience, put on by the Chinese New Year in the Desert festival. This three-day festival also offers cultural performances, and an annual parade. Las Vegas is an incredible city to visit any time of the year but if you are here during the Chinese New Year prepare to be even more amazed.

Kobby Dagan / Shutterstock.com
Kobby Dagan / Shutterstock.com

5. Paris, France

Paris isn’t the first city you think of when thinking about celebrating the Chinese New Year but this magical romantic city turns into a city of celebration during the festivities. The large and thriving French-Chinese community turn the streets into a haven for parades and festivities. People from all backgrounds and tourists alike crowd the streets to watch this spectacular display of elaborate decorations, floats, dancers dressed as lions and dragons and firecracker displays.

Paris isn’t just about flashy parades and elaborate decorations though. Hidden away from the tourists and unsuspecting residents are two Buddhist temples located in the 13th district. Here families from Chinese, Vietnamese and Cambodia come to pay their respects and welcome in the New Year. Visitors throughout certain areas of Paris will be treated to demonstrations of Chinese arts and crafts, cooking and traditional dance and music. Paris is often referred to as the city of lights and when the paper lanterns are glowing red and the twinkling lights from the elaborate decorations are strung high in the air; you’ll see it really live up to that name!

VitaminCo / Shutterstock.com
VitaminCo / Shutterstock.com

4. London, England

London England takes pride in boasting that it holds the world’s largest celebration of the Chinese New Year outside of Asia. This city holds a one-day festival jammed packed with activities including an annual parade, performances and traditional crafts and food. There are three main areas in the city which hold these festivities; Trafalgar Square, Chinatown and Shaftesbury Avenue. Each unique in the specific activities and events they offer; visitors will have a hard time choosing which to do.

Chinatown offers the best of the best in terms of traditional food so visitors during the Chinese New Year should go ahead and book as early as possible to secure a table at one of the fabulous restaurants. Chinatown gets decked out in the most fabulous of decorations with lucky red lanterns and banners. Chinese dance groups and performers can be found set up on the many stages throughout. London may be a newcomer to the Chinese New Year scene but each year is becoming bigger and better and we cannot wait to see what happens next year.

Thomas Owen Jenkins / Shutterstock.com
Thomas Owen Jenkins / Shutterstock.com

3. Beijing, China

The mother of all Chinese New Year celebrations happens in Beijing China. Although the city is packed full of carnival like activities, festivals, firecrackers and parades here in Beijing they put a special emphasis on family and historical tradition. Families work hard at the end of the year to prepare their household for the celebration by decorating and cleaning, and use the first two days of the festival to visit with family. A lot of time is devoted to prayer and honoring their ancestors. Don’t worry if you are not with a family during the Chinese New Year in this city though; there are plenty of fun things to do and ways to celebrate.

Visitors will want to partake in a temple fair where cultural activities represent the traditional customs of Beijing. Chinese folk art, lion and dragon dancers and authentic food stalls will all be a part of the fairs. One of the most popular events to attend is the Reenactment of the Qing-Style Sacred Ceremony at the Ditan Temple Fair. Athletic competitions and demonstrations are held in numerous parks and invite visitors to take part and observe. The Longqing Ice and Snow Festival is a fairly new addition to the celebration of Chinese New Year and is home to incredible ice sculptures. Truly the mother of all celebrations; the time to visit Beijing is the time of the Chinese New Year.

testing / Shutterstock.com
testing / Shutterstock.com

2. Bangkok, Thailand

Thailand’s biggest celebration of the Chinese New Year takes place in Bangkok; home of the largest Chinatown in Thailand. There are normally three days of celebrations in this city with most of the excitement happening on the actual New Year day; and most Chinese taking the day off work to celebrate. Opening the festivities is the Thai Princess and she can be seen throughout the celebrations partaking in the fun. During the day temples are full of visitors and the parades start to fill the streets around noon. Expect plenty of dancers, floats, lanterns and drummers taking part in these parades.

Nighttime brings a different feeling to the city when the red lanterns get lit and light the sky up in a beautiful shade of red. The nighttime parade is a hit with its long dragon that is lit up with LED lights and brought to life. A main stage near the Chinatown Gate offers shows with acrobats spinning high in the air and musicians playing all night. The temples surrounding the area are usually decorated and lit up and provide a place of refuge from the busy streets; many are often full of beautiful flowers. make sure you remember your camera for this trip!

topten22photo / Shutterstock.com
topten22photo / Shutterstock.com

1. Hong Kong, China

One of the most popular destinations to celebrate Chinese New Year visitors should expect the city to be brimming with people, entertainment and fun. The territories biggest annual celebration mixes old traditions, practices and beliefs with new customs from the younger generations. This colorful festival promises amazing fireworks, parades and festive markets selling traditional food and blooms. The red lanterns light up the city making it even more magical than one can imagine. For the visitors hoping to gain some good fortune, the horse-racing track gets all done up in decorations and red lanterns and even offers a lion dance on the third day of celebrations.

There are two main events that cannot be missed; the first being the amazing computer controlled fireworks display that takes place over Victoria Harbor.  The second celebration is the infamous night parade that travels along the streets of Tsim Sha Tsuji. The parade is made up of illuminated floats, performance artists and dancers. Hong Kong Disney climbs aboard the celebration train every year offering Chinese New Year events and attractions at the park; you will even find Mickey Mouse dressed in traditional Chinese attire. What better place to spend a Chinese New Year than in Hong Kong surrounded by authenticity, color and traditional practices.

Chinese New Year Hong Kong

The World’s Busiest Passenger Airports

If you’ve ever been in or around an airport you’ll know that there’s a lot going on.  People everywhere, excitedly coming together, tearfully saying goodbye, or for the seasoned traveler simply drifting through another prosaic process.  In 2014 commercial aviation is celebrating its 100th year and it’s fairly safe to say business is booming; in 2013 alone over 6 billion travelers passed through almost 2000 airports in 160 countries across the globe.  Here’s a run-down of the 10 busiest passenger airports in the world for 2013:

10.  Jakarta, Indonesia (CGK)

Soekarno–Hatta International Airport, named after Indonesia’s first president and vice-president respectively, is the third busiest airport in Asia by passenger numbers.  Last year the number of travelers using the airport rose 4.1% to 60,137,347 and it’s only getting busier, with plans for a new third runway to be completed in 2015.  Even with this huge amount of travelers passing through, it has dropped down from its place as 9th busiest airport in 2012.

cesc_assawin / Shutterstock.com
cesc_assawin / Shutterstock.com

9.  Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, USA (DFW)

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is less an airport and more a city-state; at almost 70 km sq. it’s the second largest airport by area in the USA and the US Postal Service considers it a city in itself, giving it its own ZIP code.  It boasts its own fire, police and emergency medical services, and is the largest operating hub for American Airlines.  In terms of passenger numbers, in 2013 they were up 3.2% from 2012 to 60,470,507, making it the 4th busiest airport in the US.

Frontpage / Shutterstock.com
Frontpage / Shutterstock.com

8.  Paris, France (CDG)

Opened in 1974, and named after French President from 1959 to 1969 Charles de Gaulle, the airport is the busiest in France and the second busiest in Europe.  Last year 62,052,917 made a trip through its 3 terminals, marking for an increase of 0.7% on the previous year.  The 2004 Tom Hanks movie The Terminal took inspiration from the case of Mehran Karimi Nasseri, who lived in Terminal 1 of Charles de Gualle from 1988 until 2006 after losing his refugee immigration papers.

Paris airport

7.  Dubai, United Arab Emirates (DXB)

Out of the top 10 busiest passenger airports Dubai International is the most rapidly growing.  Over the past 10 years annual footfall has increased by over 48m, and between 2012 and 2013 it increased by 15.2% to record 66,431,533 passengers using the airport.  A huge local and international hub, the airport is massively important to the local economy, contributing over a quarter of Dubai’s GDP, and supporting almost a 5th of the work force.

 Dubai airport

6.  Los Angeles, California, USA (LAX)

Known simply by its short form, LAX is the third busiest airport by passenger numbers in the USA with 66,667,619 people moving through it in 2013, up 4.7% from 2012.  Due to its proximity to Hollywood, LAX is often used as a filming location and has been featured in a number motion pictures, from the opening credits of The Graduate, to the climax of Heat, via the music video for The Backstreet Boys’ ‘I Want It That Way’.

American Spirit / Shutterstock.com
American Spirit / Shutterstock.com

5.  Chicago, Illinois, USA (ORD)

More commonly known as O’Hare the airport was originally built as manufacturing location for military aircraft during the second World War.  It was renamed in 1949 after Edward O’Hare, the first US Navy recipient of the Medal of Honour in World War 2 and until 1998 it was the world’s busiest airport in terms of passenger numbers until government restrictions designed to reduce delays were imposed.  As of 2013 the airport handles 66,777,161 domestic and international passengers a year.

Tupungato / Shutterstock.com
Tupungato / Shutterstock.com

4.  Tokyo, Japan (HND)

Tokyo International Airport, or Haneda as it’s broadly known is the second busiest passenger airport in Asia, and fourth busiest in the world handling 68,906,509 travelers in 2013, a 3.2% increase on the previous year.  After growing in 2010 the airport has the capacity to deal with 90m passengers, and is known for its punctuality having been recognized by Forbes Traveller more than once.  The first flight to depart from the airport was in August 1931, and took a cache of insects to Dalian in northeastern China.

Hit1912 / Shutterstock.com
Hit1912 / Shutterstock.com

3.  London, UK (LHR)

London is home to the busiest airport system in the world in terms of passenger traffic.  Over 100m people pass through the city’s 6 airports annually, 72,368,061 of them through Heathrow in 2013.  With the newest Terminal 5 opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 2008 Heathrow is the not only the busiest airport in the UK but in the whole of Europe.  It’s also the main hub for the UK’s flagship carrier British Airways.

Milosz_M / Shutterstock.com
Milosz_M / Shutterstock.com

2.  Beijing, China (PEK)

Passenger numbers are growing faster in Asia-Pacific than anywhere else in the world, and in 2013 the region handled 2.06 billion passengers – more than any other area on the planet.  The regions busiest airport is Beijing Capital International which as of last year dealt with 83,712,355 passengers.  In 2008 the latest terminal, Terminal 3, was opened in time for the Olympic Games and became the 6th largest building on earth by floor space, covering 1,713,000 square metres.

Beijing Airport

1. Atlanta, Georgia, USA (ATL)

Hartsfield-Jackson International, named after two previous mayors who championed aviation and construction of the airport – William B. Hartsfield and Maynard Jackson – has been the busiest passenger airport in the world since 1998.  It maintained its spot atop the list in 2013 even though the number of travelers passing through dropped 1.1% from 2012 to 94,431,224.  Hartfield-Jackson is a major hub for flights in the US, with the most popular destinations in 2013 being to Orlando domestically, and Cancun, Mexico internationally.

Hartsfield-Jackson

10 Must-See Attractions in Beijing

A trip to Beijing calls to mind several places of historical significance—Tiananmen Square, the Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace. The urban, modern city is once still steeped in the rich tradition of its people, with influence remaining from the imperial state, Communist rule, and the new capitalist elite.

Just so you don’t miss a thing—here are the top 10 must-see attractions for visitors to Beijing…

1. The Forbidden City

Constructed in the early 15th century and highly elitist of the commoners, Beijing’s Forbidden City now welcomes travelers of all socio-economic groups. Today the Emperor’s palace stands virtually intact for you to explore—the gem in the middle of the city—stands as a reminder of the Ming and Qing Dynasties when it acted as the Chinese imperial palace.

Forbidden City

2. Summer Palace

Once an opulent haven for China’s most influential Emperors, a quick 15-kilometer drive will whisk you away from the hustle and bustle of the city to the (new) Summer Palace, Yiheyuan, which was rebuilt in all its glory in the 1880’s after the previous Summer Palace was raided and destroyed by the British and French during the opium wars.

Summer Palace

3. The Lama Temple

Vibrant in history and religion, the Lama Temple acted as a cloister for imperial court eunuchs. Today the temple sits amid a collection of golden-crowned buildings that are open to the historical explorer.

The Lama Temple

4. Tiananmen Square

Tiananmen Square, located in the heart of Beijing is one of the largest and most visited landmarks in China. Constructed in 1949 by Chairman Mao, the sweeping Tiananmen Square is circled by the Gate of Heaven Peace to the north, the Great Hall of the People to the west, the National Museum of China to the east, and Chairman Mao’s Mausoleum to the south. Plan to arrive 30-minutes before sunrise or pre-dusk to catch the choreographed raising or lowering flag ceremony, completed every day by young Chinese troops.

Tiananmen Square

5. Houhai

Beijing’s Back Lake is celebrated by residents as a recreational area for skating in winter and swimming in summer dip (however it is frowned on by Chinese police). Lined with touristy bars and often crowded when the weather is fine, it’s well worth a trip to enjoy the boisterous tourist strip.

Houhai

6. The Beijing Zoo

For over 100 years, the city zoo hosts 600 different species of animals—including a pair of two-year-old panda cubs, a panda enclosure, and more! Arrive early and get a jump on the day. The park opens each day at 7.30am and closes at 6pm.

The Beijing Zoo

7. Prince Gong’s Mansion

Built in 1777 and reputedly celebrate in China’s most prized literary work, A Dream of Red Mansions, this siheyuan-style construction and gardens mansion was once occupied by Emperor Qianlong, but was confiscated by Prince Gong (also known as Prince Kung). Today it sits as an ornate museum located just north of the Shichahai Lake.

Prince Gong's Mansion

8. Nanluoguxiang

If you want to shop until you drop, no other are but the trendy Nanluoguxiang in the Gulou, or Drum and Bell Tower, district, will do. Enjoy the chic brand shops that stretch over several kilometers, as well as good mix of galleries and hip cafés.

Nanluoguxiang

9. Temple of Heaven

Built in 1420 during the Ming Dynasty, and more recently enjoying a several-million-dollar facelift in preparation for the Beijing Summer Olympics, the Temple of Heaven is best viewed at dawn when local residents gather to practice tai chi or calligraphy in the stylish courtyard.

Temple of Heaven

10. Panjiayuan Flea Market

A Saturday or Sunday 15-minute trip to Panjiayuan, the giant flea market outside Beijing, is worth rising early on.  In this vast empty field lined with stalls you’ll find virtually everything you desire—from Tang dynasty knock-off brick-o-brack to fresh produce to antiques.  The Panjiayuan was once referred to as the “dirt market” due to peasants pulling heavy carts full of wares.

Panjiayuan Flea Market