9. Stockholm, Sweden
Taking a cue from Stieg Larsson and his astonishingly successful Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, we submit Stockholm as a top city to visit in 2011. This “Venice of the North” is visually arresting with canal-connected islands and the architecture in Old Town, which was untouched by World War II bombs. Plus, if you travel over the Midsummer Festival in late June, you’ll experience an almost eerie 24 hours of daylight.
8. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Sometimes oldies are goodies, and this is the case with this coastal Brazilian city. Rio de Janeiro is once again in the limelight as the 2014 host of the World Cup and the 2016 host of the Summer Olympics. You should definitely visit in 2011 to avoid the rush, and while here, enjoy the Amazonian cuisine, the Tijuca Rainforest, the Sugarloaf Mountain, the absolutely exhilarating downtown area and, oh yeah, the Ipanema Beach.
7. New York City, U.S.
The only U.S. destination to make our list, New York makes for a fabulous vacation every season and year after year. But 2011 is especially remarkable because it marks the decade anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attack. The National September 11 Memorial is scheduled to open in time for the anniversary. CNN also notes the expansion of the High Line park, which has brought some spunk back to the Chelsea riverfront.
6. Wellington, New Zealand
Lonely Planet, which lists Wellington as one of its top 10 cities to visit in 2011, describes this coastal metropolis as “Cool-with-a-capital-C.” The reason behind this gracious exaltation is its profusion of bars, cafés, restaurants — and just culture in general. In fact, in recent years, the city has earned the nickname “Wellywood” because of its flourishing film industry. You’re sure to recognize Wellington’s stunning scenery in the upcoming movie, The Hobbit, which is currently being filmed here. Visit Wellington for its cultural moxie, but you should also come for its brilliant landscape of hills and harbor.
5. Valencia, Spain
The greatest thing about this oft overlooked city in Spain is its affordability — but that could be changing as its popularity is on the rise, giving you more of an impetus to travel here soon. Newly named the European Capital of Sport for 2011, you should visit Valencia for pastimes like soccer and Formula 1 but also for the savory paella, provincial beaches and interesting attractions like the City of the Arts and Sciences.
4. Sri Lanka
The New York Times lists Sri Lanka as one of its top places to visit in 2010, but if you didn’t get to go, we recommend a trip here in 2011. With miles of clean white shoreline accompanied by clear waters and roaming monkeys and elephants, Sri Lanka makes for a wildlife-infused beach getaway. Plus, you can also enjoy the anonymity and relaxation of the area’s spa retreats.
3. Salta, Argentina
When many think of Argentina, they think Buenos Aires, but we recommend heading north to exotic Salta. You will be delighted to find plenty of cozy local cafés and restaurants, live música folklórica (folk music), intriguing museums, dozens of wineries and red canyons and cliffs. One of the best ways to experience Salta’s breathtaking scenery is to hop on the tren a las nubes (train to the clouds).
2. Melbourne, Australia
Located along Australia’s southern coast in the Victoria province, Melbourne mixes urban sophistication with a mellow beachy vibe. According to Frommer’s, who ranks Melbourne as one of its top 10 destinations of 2010, “Melbourne’s sublime appeal lies in its laid-back attitude, its distinctive cosmopolitan flavor and a rich calendar of events.” This was enough for us to carry this relaxed city down-under over into 2011. Visit Melbourne for its easygoing coffeehouses, fine food and wine, turquoise waters and eclectic neighborhoods.
1. Istanbul, Turkey
One of the EU’s 2010 choices for European Capitals of Culture, Istanbul is a study in contradictions. Straddling the divide between Europe and Asia, Istanbul is a mesh of the Far East and Europe. You should visit for the wonderful incongruity of the ancient and the new — the Hagia Sophia and the Grand Bazaar, the Blue Mosque and the Beyoglu nightclubs, and much, much more.