Forbes has unveiled its coolest cities to visit this year, and they’re not kidding around, these cities really are awesome.
In fact, if we weren’t so concerned about our own coolness we’d be packing up and travelling to them immediately.
To help them with the list, Forbes asked some of the industry’s most influential people for their opinions and guidance.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
“Many travelers fly into Addis Ababa and then head straight out,” says Tom Marchant, the cofounder and owner of Black Tomato.
“They’re missing out on all the vibrancy of this stunning African city.”
Home to more than 80 nationalities, it’s a cultural epicenter and gateway to an ancient world.
“Skipping out on the capital is akin to skipping out on the very fabric of Ethiopia.”
Don George, GeoEx’s Japan expert, recommends this city for its “rich mix of history and culture.
In addition to having the poignant atomic bomb memorial, Nagasaki was one of two places where foreigners were allowed during Japan’s three-century isolationist period.
The city was the place where the West was introduced to Japan.”
Puebla, a gorgeous Spanish-colonial city located two hours southeast of Mexico City, is poised to become one of the country’s most vibrant destinations, says Indagarefounder Melissa Biggs Bradley.
The city is famous for its architecture—more than 365 churches in the city alone—superb food (this is the birthplace of mole) and exceptional pottery.
“Puebla’s history is also fascinating: It is the only city in Mexico that was founded specifically for the Spanish colonialists, in 1531.
“As a result, the city has a distinctly European feel, with grand boulevards, Parisian-style arcades, imposing monuments and street-side cafes, but all with Mexican flair.”
“Proof that Malaysia is more than the powder-soft beaches of Langkawi and the lush tropical forests of Borneo, Malacca is Malaysia’s cultural beating heart,” says Marchant.
“Centuries of colonial influence made for a city with remarkable character, and a decade on from its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s developing a real buzz.”
GeoEx’s senior director for Asia, Tina Liadis, recommends this city as a centre for Javanese culture, traditional gamelan orchestras, classical Javanese dance, shadow puppet theatre, batik textiles.
“It’s a special administrative region and still has a sultan,” she notes, and there are sights related to the monarchy that can be visited, such as the kraton (sultan’s palace).
“Boasting Andean vistas and colonial splendor, Arequipa is a gem of a city that’s played a fundamental role in Peru’s gastronomic renaissance,” says Marchant.
“Classic spicy dishes such as rocoto relleno (stuffed spicy red peppers), chupe de camarones (prawn chowder) and ocopa (boiled potato in a creamy, spicy sauce) all hail from here and are still best enjoyed in the city’s communal picantería restaurants.”
“Founded more than 4,000 years ago, Cairo is a fascinating city that offers a glimpse into the complexities of the modern Middle East, where a tug of war is being waged between modern and traditional Islam and the dichotomies of ancient and contemporary society play out,” says Biggs Bradley.
“And with tourist numbers low right now, travelers will have the important ancient sites to themselves.”
Dubbed “The Paris of Africa,” Brazzaville is one of the safest cities in Africa, contends Marchant.
“With the city centered around a peaceful riverside embankment and framed by a backdrop of striking architecture, it’s easy to see the resemblance.”
And with a raft of trendy new eateries, it’s become much more than a stopover.
The city is quickly becoming the tech capital of South America.
“Trendy cafés, shops, breweries, artisan cooperatives and co-working spaces are popping up, and millennials are drawn by its allure as the former narco headquarters,” says Jennine Cohen, GeoEx’s managing director for the Americas.
“It also happens to be Colombia’s cycling heart—this is, after all, where Nairo Quintana trained.”
“Only an hour from the Managua airport, the colonial city of Leon is a gorgeous vantage to soak up the natural assets of the country,” says Marchant.
“More off the tourist trail than Granada, it offers a more authentic city experience.”
The best way to discover Leon is by foot, as much of its charm lies in the narrow colonial streets, art galleries, museums, restaurants and architecture.