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Top Destinations 2016

Now the New Year has been ushered in, travel plans are beginning to hatch. Minds will be dreaming of iconic landmarks, untouched paradises and the coolest city for a weekend break.

For travellers, the options are endless, so we’ve pulled together the most exciting destinations to visit in 2016.

Boston night skyline

Boston

Once dubbed the ‘Athens of America’ for its impressive literary culture, Boston – one of the oldest cities in America  - boasts a rich history and legacy of arts, sports and education.

Home to the world-renowned Harvard University, world champion teams Red Sox and Patriots, the iconic Beacon Hill and its very own Symphony Hall, Boston has something for everyone.

Whilst the city is easy to explore on foot, a bike ride along the Charles River makes for a memorable trip (make sure to make a stop at Longfellow Bridge for an impressive view of the Boston skyline), and following the ‘Freedom Trail’ is a must-do: take the path from Boston Common to observe the 16 sites which earned revolutionary Boston its status as the birthplace of America.

In the evening, sample the city’s famous seafood at the Seaport District, where diners enjoy the local speciality of ‘sacred cod’ whilst overlooking stunning harbour views.

 

Beijing

As intriguing as it is spectacular, Beijing draws more than 4.4 million international visitors every year – and for good reason.

With six Unesco world heritage sites in this city alone, China’s capital is full of awe-inspiring sights, smells and sounds – not to mention steeped in centuries of fascinating history.

Start at Tiananmen Square – the geographical centre of the city – and witness the raising of the national flag, before heading to the Forbidden City. This spectacular collection of ancient buildings was once home to 24 emperors between 1420 and 1911 – but wear comfortable shoes, as the palace is 960 metres long and 750 metres wide!

When it comes to dining, you’ll be spoilt for choice in Beijing. Feast on crispy Peking duck, bowls of dim sum and delicious dumplings – or if you’re feeling adventurous, why not try scorpion on a stick from a street vendor?

Of course, a trip to Beijing would not be complete without visiting the spectacular Great Wall, which snakes more than 6700km across the northern lands: as the saying goes: ‘He who has not climbed the Great Wall is not a true man’.

 

Beijing city lights
Milan evening shopping

Milan

Long hailed as Italy’s capital of fashion, Milan is much more than high fashion boutiques and luxury stores (although those seeking a little retail therapy will not be disappointed).

This stylish city also offers visitors a chance to take in some of the world’s oldest churches, iconic art, and the spectacular La Scala opera house.

You’ll find Da Vinci’s iconic The Last Supper painting hidden away at the Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie, whilst the basilica of Saint Ambrogi also draws in art lovers from around the world. Spend a few hours exploring Sforza castle, and make sure you head to the main piazza to see the Duomo – the magnificent pearly white cathedral which took more than 500 years to build. Take a trip up to the roof for an awe-inspiring view of its spires and the rest of the city – it makes for an unforgettable experience.

 

Sicily

Beneath the scent of lemon trees, the serene island of Sicily offers visitors a slice of Italian paradise just off the beaten track.

With a backdrop of dramatic mountains and volcanos juxtaposed against the endless expanse of Mediterranean sea, take your pick from swimming, hiking or cycling - or just relaxing in the sun on the miles of sandy beaches. Thanks to its proximity to the North African coast, Sicily usually boasts a warm climate up until November.

Sicily’s rich culture offers spectacular architecture to soak up: mosaics, palaces, cathedral walls and, perhaps best of all, Greek temples and Roman sites.

The enthralling Valley of the Temples – on the ruined ancient city of Akragas - is a must see, as is the glittering chapel of Cappella Palatina. Meanwhile, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to mouth-watering Sicilian cuisine – visit one of the many bustling food markets for an authentic Italian dining experience (not to mention a real feast for the senses!).

 

Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta
Porto Coast

Porto

Portugal’s second biggest city (sometimes referred to as the food and drink capital of the country) is a winding maze of cobbled streets and home to a jumble of historic churches, towering bell towers and colourful houses.

Watch the sun set on the Rio Douro Rive with a glass or two of wine – it would be criminal not to in the birthplace of port – or visit one of the many increasingly popular riverside wine caves. Meanwhile, food lovers won’t be disappointed by Porto’s dining options. Cross the Duoro River to the village of Afurada for fresh fish or visit Ribeira (a town which feels pleasingly undiscovered) for tapas.

Charming Porto may be quickly becoming a popular destination for those looking for a romantic mini break – but don’t be surprised if you also find you fall in love with the city itself.

 

Reykjavik

Small but cosmopolitan, Iceland’s capital is a truly unique city that shouldn’t be underestimated.

Reykjavik is a city of two personalities: whilst the main town is full of quirky bars, café’s and museums, you’re also only ever a short distance from incredible natural wonders that you won’t forget in a hurry.

Set against a backdrop of mountains and crystal clear fresh air, visitors can take in the iconic Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavik’s enormous white church, set at the top of the hill.

Even better, make a trip up the 74.5m-high tower for a breath-taking view of the whole city. Later, take your pick of tours: visit the hot springs at Geysir or the magnificent Blue Lagoon; take a whale watching boat trip or set off in search for a glimpse of the elusive Northern Lights. The only problem you’ll have is fitting it all in!

 

Reykavik Sea

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