Three Perfect Days: Oslo - United Hub
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Three Perfect Days: Oslo

By The Hub team , July 16, 2015

Story by Chris Wright | Photography by Ilja C. Hendel | Hemispheres, July 2015

When people talk about a city's golden age, they're generally referring to the past. Oslo, though, is hitting the heights right now. The Norwegian capital has always had its appeal—natural beauty, courteous citizens, cultural heritage—but it's never been considered a hotbed of excitement and innovation. Until now. Over the last few decades, Oslo has undergone a massively ambitious revitalization project, bankrolled by Norway's oil reserves and driven by a broad effort to forge a lasting national identity. The city today is bursting with groundbreaking architecture, art and cuisine, its citizens brimming with optimism and energy. People say this sort of thing all the time, but with Oslo it's true: There has never been a better time to be here.

Day 1 Graphic

In which Chris attempts two difficult tasks: paddleboarding and understanding the Norwegian government

So here I am, in Oslo.

Actually, that's not completely true. Strictly speaking, I'm a few feet offshore, up to my nostrils in fjord water. Nearby, a classical pianist named Aksel Kolstad is offering advice. “Grab the board!" he is hollering. He is also laughing, which doesn't seem right.

Kolstad, a keen paddleboarder, has taken me for a turn around Oslofjord, and I've gone in. “I'm going in," I'd announced earlier, a moment before I toppled into the clear, cold water. A small crowd has gathered to watch as I dig my fingernails into a boardwalk, unable to haul myself up, unwilling to let go.

Aksel Kolstad, Classical pianistAksel Kolstad, Classical pianist

How different it was a few hours ago. I woke up in a stylish hotel room nearby, amid puppy-soft pillows and dark wood finishes. Across from my bed was a sliding door and a balcony. After grappling for a while with the Minority Report coffee machine, I stood out there and gazed dreamily across the water that is now claiming both my body temperature and my dignity.

Historically, high-end hospitality in Oslo has tended toward the Baroque—giltwood mirrors and looming chandeliers. The Thief, with its retro-futuristic décor, is the city's first true boutique hotel, set in the city's first boutique neighborhood: Tjuvholmen (Thief Island), a tiny peninsula that was a shabby port a decade ago but now bristles with oil-money architecture, including Renzo Piano's sweeping wood-and-glass Astrup Fearnley Museum.

If the local infatuation with Oslofjord is tied to friluftsliv (the Norwegian love of nature), then the Tjuvholmen development is part of a more recent proclivity. “We have endured a cultural ice age, and now we are starting to blossom," Kolstad says, sitting at a grand piano in his performance space near the Thief. “Oslo is a glass globe—you shake it, and it snows art."

“There's a lot of great new architecture in Oslo, but I'm hoping we don't turn into Dubai. Sometimes I think, you know, 'Dude, how about planting a little bit of grass?'" —Aksel Kolstad

Kolstad is not your everyday classical musician. “I'll be playing Mozart, and I'll suddenly flex my chest like this," he says, making his pectoral muscles jiggle. But the element of slapstick in his concerts is also part of a local tradition. “Oslo is a city of eccentrics; it's filled with characters."

Still damp, I set out on an exploratory stroll. Earlier, I plotted my course on a map: my first stop, Akershus Fortress, looked to be about a half hour away on foot. But Oslo is smaller than the maps suggest. The fort stands across the fjord—you could throw a comedic classical pianist and hit it from here. If it weren't for all the stuff to gawp at along the way—the jostling artworks, the shipyard shops at Aker Brygge, the islands dotting the fjord—I could easily slosh there in 10 minutes or less.

I reach the mainland and City Hall, a redbrick, twin-towered monolith that could be a Bronx housing project but for the mytho-heroic reliefs dotting its facade (and the fact that Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies are held within). I stand for a bit on the bustling waterfront, watching an elderly woman in Romany dress bashing a tambourine, then head for Akershus.

Vigeland Sculpture ParkVigeland Sculpture Park

Inside, the fort is a tangle of undulant paths, soaring curtain walls and crumbling archways. Two spires stand above it all, part of a 17th-century reconstruction after old Oslo, razed by fire, was abandoned and the land around the fort settled. Over 700 years, various parts have been demolished, rebuilt and embellished, resulting in a helter-skelter of styles—today, it stands as a symbol of Norway's efforts to forge its own identity after centuries of subjugation.

I have more history in store a couple of blocks away at Engebret Café, whose regulars have included Edvard Grieg, Henrik Ibsen and Edvard Munch. I order the cured herring, which, owner Kay Johnsen says, should really be washed down with an aquavit aperitif. “Herring and strong liquor. Very traditional."

I ask if I can try the grilled whale. I've always imagined that whale was what sailors ate before they started on their crewmates—a second-to-last resort—but this (minke, culled for scientific purposes, I am told) is fantastic: gamy and tender, not a hint of blubber. As I exit, Johnsen shows me a framed letter from Munch, written after he'd been kicked out of the café for drunkenness. An apology? “No," Johnsen says, laughing. “It's blaming everybody but himself."

Luckily, my next stop is close by. Built in the 1690s, Oslo Cathedral isn't the grandest religious structure in the world, but it is impressive, its blocky clock tower looming over a busy flower market. There's an organ recital inside, so I take a pew and examine Hugo Lous Mohr's trippy ceiling art, which includes an image of a man battering a sad-looking dragon with an inverted crucifix.

Built in 1200, the Norwegian Folk Museum's Gol Stave Church is littered with eerie carvingsBuilt in 1200, the Norwegian Folk Museum's Gol Stave Church is littered with eerie carvings

Next, I waddle up pedestrianized Karl Johans Street, past H&M and Mango and out onto a broad promenade flanked by ornate 18th-century townhouses and a clutter of landmarks: the National Theater, the National Gallery, the Royal Palace. I stop to gaze at the stylistic mishmash of the Storting (parliament) building, then head inside to watch Norway's politicians debate the issues of the day. As I enter, a guard tells me that I need to empty my pockets into a tray.

Him: “The money we keep!"

Me: “No wonder Norway is so wealthy!"

Both: “Ha! Ha!"

Earlier, Kolstad told me there's a gloomy streak underlying a lot of Norwegian humor, but there's also what he described as “pillow comedy" (so called because “you want to put a pillow over your face"), an example of which would be a guy climbing a tree to retrieve his kid's kite and meeting the gaze of a woman, naked, sunbathing in the yard next door: “It's not what it seems!"

I don't understand what the politicians in the red-and-gold rotunda are saying, but their tone suggests it might be something pressing, like replacing the soap dispensers in the bathrooms. I sneak out and make my way back to Thief Island, heralded by City Hall's 49-bell carillon, which belts out a tune that drowns out the gulls and street performers.

After a quick nap, I sink into an armchair in the Thief's swish eatery Fru K, next to a Philippe Starck lamp shaped like an assault rifle, and receive a succession of dishes: salmon caviar with horseradish and lemon curd; turbot soup with Jerusalem artichoke; bleak roe with cabbage and popcorn crackling; steak tartare with oyster emulsion. It's a splendid meal, washed down with some splendid wine, all of which sets me up for my big night out: standing on my balcony, looking out at the Oslofjord, its surface burnished by the moon. Man, I think, taking a swig of beer, that water looks cold.

In which Chris sees Norway's finest artworks and eats its most artfully constructed food

Breakfast today is in the Grand Café, at the Grand Hotel. This may be the most famous room in Oslo, frequented by pretty much every notable person who ever set foot in the city (I pass Michael Moore on the way in). On one wall is a mural, circa 1928, depicting the café's former patrons, including Munch, who once made a scene here over an unpaid bill. I help myself to a healthy plate of salmon, salad and rustic bread, followed by a mountain of lardy bacon and sausage.

The Grand occupies the other end of the hipness scale from the Thief. Set in a stately building on Karl Johans Street, the hotel opened in 1874 and remains resolutely old school. I've checked into a suite that is a paragon of gentility, exemplified by the French windows overlooking the street. It's all I can do to resist waving regally at the rabble below.

Christian Ringnes, Businessman and founder, Ekeberg Sculpture ParkChristian Ringnes, Businessman and founder, Ekeberg Sculpture Park

My goal this morning is to get to the National Gallery early, in order to beat the crowds. It works: I spend 20 minutes entirely alone in a hall of Munch masterpieces, including “The Scream." Nearby are his reclining “Madonna" and the inexplicably creepy “Girls on the Pier." Magic.

From here, I stroll through the Royal Palace grounds to the city's tony West End, then cut left onto Hegdehaugsveien Street, home to upscale retailers like Tara, where you can pick up a pair of graffiti-covered jeans for $1,300. Soon, I enter Vigeland Sculpture Park, via a bridge bearing a procession of disconcertingly realistic bronze statues of naked people, wrestling, running or just standing arms akimbo. The most famous is a baby stamping his foot in petulant fury. Another depicts a man kicking a small child across the floor. Ah, um…

It took sculptor Gustav Vigeland 20 years to create the 200-plus works that make up this installation, which opened in the mid-1940s. The centerpiece is the 46-foot granite tower “Monolith," comprised of 121 squirming, heaped-up men, women and children, a work that is said to speak of divine inspiration but which to me seems fantastically sinister. Taxi!

“Oslo has always been a very safe city. You can leave a suitcase of money at the train station and come back an hour later and it will have been moved to the side, so nobody trips over it." —Christian Ringnes

My next stop is across town, at Ekeberg Sculpture Park, opened two years ago by billionaire Christian Ringnes. Set on a high hill (Munch got his inspiration for “The Scream" up here), the park is formed of 31 works scattered over 64 acres. I find Ringnes rummaging around in Salvador Dalí's “Venus de Milo with Drawers." “People put stuff in them," he says, pulling out a wooden crucifix: “A cross!"

Ekeberg has not been without its critics. It has been derided as a crass vanity project, a violation of the park's natural beauty; the overall theme is a celebration of women, which to some smacks of condescension. “We had a big fight to set this up," Ringnes says. “Now, people love it."

We set out on a tour of the sculptures, Ringnes striding effortlessly uphill as I wheeze pitifully behind. Even so, the place is a joy—there's something especially captivating about the union of natural splendor and artworks like “Peeing Woman," a bronze statue of a squatting figure, pants at half mast. “She should actually be peeing," says Ringnes, frowning. “We had a period where she was doing it too much. Right now, we're having a dry period."

Akershus Fortress, a 700-year-old architectural hodgepodgeAkershus Fortress, a 700-year-old architectural hodgepodge

As we make our way downhill, an elderly woman stops Ringnes to tell him she is “very happy with the park."

“Not the artworks?" he replies.

“Not the pornographic one," she says, referring to a video installation that includes a nude woman waving a flag. “Maybe you shouldn't have spent your money on that."

Ringnes doesn't seem to mind the criticism. “This park is part of something new," he says. “If you'd have come to Oslo 20 years ago, it was kind of boring. The city was clean and safe, but there wasn't much happening. We are living through some kind of heightened time."

Another example of Oslo's revival is Maaemo, the first two-Michelin-starred Nordic restaurant, located a short tram ride from Ekeberg, overlooking the Barcode Project, a strip of hypermodern commercial buildings. But people don't come here for the view.

After I've been seated at one of the eatery's eight tables, a waitress lays out the ground rules, which include a ban on any ingredients that cannot be found in Norway: “No pepper, no lemon or lime…" Then we're off. I count 23 items on the set menu, starting with a single sprig of pickled salsify, served on a large bed of juniper branches. Just as I'm about to start nibbling one of the twigs, another course appears: a foil-thin sliver of wild duck, cured for seven months and served on a square of crumpled paper.

Enjoying a pint on the riverside terrace at Bl\u00e5Enjoying a pint on the riverside terrace at Blå

So it goes, a procession of dishes that fall somewhere between molecular gastronomy and an episode of “Survivor": a smidgen of chicken liver and elderflower on a patch of lawn; nubs of frozen cheese and vendace roe on a rock; raw oyster emulsion atop a diorama of seashells. Of course, Michelin stars are not won on presentation alone—the tastes and textures here are inspired—but half the fun is anticipating what kind of madness will come next. The big showstopper is the langoustine, served on a pile of spruce above dry ice. The waiter introduces a pine infusion, and a pungent fog courses across the table, which is so delightful I yelp.

In terms of experiences, it'll be hard to top sour milk sprinkled with dried reindeer heart, so I decide to wind down on a cruise of the fjord. To get to the dock, in front of City Hall, I make my way west along the waterfront, pausing to stroll up the sloping roof of the Opera House, a huge white structure that looks like a Cubist ocean liner, then watch a free modern ballet performance in its bright lobby.

The cruise is a good reminder of why locals love their fjord. We meander among scores of islands, some dotted with tiny, colorful bathhouses, some with geese lazing among the trees, gray cliffs rising behind them. The sun is shining. Fishing boats sail by. This, I have decided, is the only way to experience these waters.

The odd relocated houses of Bygd\u00f8yThe odd relocated houses of Bygdøy

After a quick spritz at the Grand, I stroll into a nearby grid of streets, the hub of the city's 17th-century revival. There are some lovely old buildings here, not least the 1640 pile housing Statholderens Mat & Vinkjeller, set in a vaulted cellar below its Michelin-starred counterpart, Statholdergaarden. I have a tapas plate to start, which includes a rich oxtail empanada, quail eggs with noodles, and shrimp with guacamole and pomegranate seeds, followed by a main course of tender lamb with deliciously nutty couscous.

I round off the night with a cocktail at Fuglen, a hip coffee shop/bar with mismatched vintage furniture that's for sale. Co-owner Einar Holthe shares his thoughts on Oslo while insisting I try every drink on the menu. Having gained independence from Sweden in 1905, he says, Norway is finally reclaiming its identity. “There's a sense that we belong to our culture now," he adds. “The streets are coming alive."

Day 3 Graphic

In which Chris visits Oslo's hipster quarter and the city's famed cemetery

Istart the day with a nice long groan, followed by a few cups of strong coffee. I'm having brunch later at Mathallen, a food hall on the bank of the Akerselva River, so I roust myself from bed and head out into the glare.

On my way, I stop at Pentagon, an army surplus shop on Storgata, where I root around among the crossbows, knives and gladiator helmets for a bit before crossing the road to a ramshackle cluster of vintage shops, where I pick up a music poster from the 1950s, at 1970s prices.

Iram Hhaq, FilmmakerIram Hhaq, Filmmaker

Soon, I'm heading north along the river, which feels very rural but is also dotted with old industrial buildings transformed into studios and galleries. Mathallen, set in a renovated railroad factory, offers everything from fresh seafood to stinky cheese. I have a beef and tomato pie from Hello Good Pie before heading out to explore Grünerløkka.

People call Grünerløkka Oslo's answer to Brooklyn, and you can see why—it is thick with boho bars, retro restaurants and indie fashion outlets. There is also a wonderful sense of anarchic energy. Heading back to the river for a drink at Blå, a trendy music venue, I pass a man carrying a large Styrofoam ear past a couple of punk-rock chicks standing below a junk-glass chandelier, ignoring the spectacle, a few feet away, of a ferret crossing the road.

I sit on Blå's grafittied riverside terrace for a while, nursing a Nøgne Ø pale ale and listening to the water rush by, then head back to Mathallen, where I'm having coffee with the filmmaker Iram Haq.

Described by Variety as “one of Europe's top emerging directors," Haq grew up in East Oslo's “Little Pakistan" neighborhood. Her shopkeeper parents were not enamored of her decision to pursue a career in the arts. “It was hard for them to accept," she says. “They didn't really understand what I was doing." It wasn't only the Pakistani community that would have frowned on her career choice. Before the discovery of oil in the late 1960s, Norway was relatively poor, and its people made a virtue of austerity. Eating out was rare, foreign holidays were pretty much unheard of, and young women of Pakistani heritage did not go into the film business.

“It's difficult to talk about the local character, because we are two different people: In the winter, we are hunched up; in the summer, we smile." —Iram Hhaq

Things are different now, says Haq, but a few traditions remain, such as the age-old emphasis on consensus: “Everyone agrees, even when they don't."

Later, Haq offers to show me the nearby Vår Frelsers cemetery, which contains the graves of notables such as Ibsen and Munch. To get there, we walk up Telthusbakken, a steep, narrow street lined with the brightly colored wooden cottages that used to be everywhere here. At the top of the street is the austere 12th-century Old Aker Church, but Haq's attention is elsewhere. “Hello!" she says, pointing her cameraphone at a flat-faced, sunbathing cat.

The Vår Frelsers monuments seem oddly modest, given who's lying beneath them. But Norwegian society prizes humility, even among its more illustrious members. Haq recalls passing then–Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg in a park: “He said, 'I read about you in the paper!' so I said, 'I read about you, too!' We laughed. He was normal."

I say goodbye to Haq and head for Damstredet, another cobbled clutter of too-cute-to-be-true wooden houses. But I can't stand around annoying the residents for too long—Einar Holthe has offered to take me to a must-see attraction on Bygdøy peninsula.

We meet in Gamle, a blue-collar eastside neighborhood that's being colonized by creative types. Our first stop is at Haralds Vaffel (motto: “Everyone Loves Waffles"), a hole in the wall where Harald himself serves us bacon-and-blue-cheese waffles followed by a traditional jam. Fortified, we jump in Einar's car and drive west, to one of Oslo's weirdest exhibitions.

Bygdøy is sometimes called Museum Island, on account of it having a bunch of museums, including the Kon-Tiki Museum, the Viking Ship Museum and the Norwegian Folk Museum. This last one is actually a small town, made up of buildings that have been dismantled and rebuilt here. There are 160 in all, ranging from medieval peasant huts to 19th-century townhouses, the rooms of which have been furnished to reflect the lifestyle of, say, a Victorian-era family, or a swinging bachelor circa 1975.

The ups and downs of TelthusbakkenThe ups and downs of Telthusbakken

Most impressive is the Gol Stave Church, a pagoda-like wooden edifice built in 1200. Inside it is gloomy, with faded murals in the apse and tortured faces in the rafters. Restorations have revealed strange carvings on its walls, scripts and symbols that, according to the elderly woman keeping watch, have yet to be deciphered. I ask her if she ever finds herself alone in here, and she says yes. “Spooky," I say, and she huffs. “I am not easily spooked."

Einar drops me off downtown, outside the Hotel Continental, where I'll be dining at Eik Annen Etage. The restaurant is low-lit, with classical columns and modern art. I sit next to a window overlooking the National Theater, and a friendly Swedish waitress brings me a golden menu. What the heck, I'll have the full-course: raw marinated halibut with grilled romaine lettuce and horseradish emulsion; smoked salmon with creamed morels; deep fried lamb sweetbreads with wild garlic; slow cooked pork. It's all good—but that lettuce. From now on, I'm grilling all my salads.

I end the night at Etoile, the Grand's rooftop bar, where you get a real sense of how lovely this city is. As I gaze at the flickering Freia sign next door, a seagull big as a dog lands on a neighboring rooftop and stares me down. For some reason, I'm reminded of a story someone told me earlier, about a local soccer pitch where children play, a field that once “ran with Swedish blood." There was no malice in the telling of this story, but there was a kind of appreciation. So, yes, Oslo is an unusually lovely city, but it's a little more complicated than that.

Hemispheres executive editor Chris Wright strongly recommends that people who fall into the Oslofjord change their damp trousers before going sightseeing, to avoid unpleasant chafage.


This article was written by Chris Wright from Rhapsody Magazine and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Taking action to make a global impact

By The Hub team , January 17, 2020

Following the devastating wildfires in Australia and powerful earthquakes that shook Puerto Rico last week, we're taking action to make a global impact through our international partnerships as well as nonprofit organizations Afya Foundation and ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency).

Helping Puerto Rico recover from earthquakes

Last week, Puerto Rico was hit with a 5.2 magnitude earthquake, following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake it experienced just days before. The island has been experiencing hundreds of smaller quakes during the past few weeks.

These earthquakes destroyed crucial infrastructure and left 4,000 people sleeping outside or in shelters after losing their homes. We've donated $50,000 to our partner charity organization Airlink and through them, we've helped transport disaster relief experts and medical supplies for residents, as well as tents and blankets for those who have lost their homes. Funding will go towards organizations within Airlink's partner network, which includes Habitat for Humanity, Mercy Corps and Americares, to help with relief efforts and long-term recovery.

Australian wildfire relief efforts

Our efforts to help Australia have inspired others to make their own positive impact. In addition to teaming up with Ellen DeGeneres to donate $250,000 and launching a fundraising campaign with GlobalGiving to benefit those impacted by the devastating wildfires in the country known for its open spaces and wildlife, our cargo team is helping to send more than 600 pounds of medical supplies to treat injured animals in the region.

Helping us send these supplies is the Afya Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit that seeks to improve global health by collecting surplus medical supplies and delivering them to parts of the world where they are most needed. Through Airlink, the Afya Foundation will send more than $18,000 worth of materials that will be used to treat animals injured in the Australian fires.

These medical supplies will fly to MEL (Melbourne) and delivered to The Rescue Collective. This Australian organization is currently focused on treating the massive population of wildlife, such as koalas, kangaroos, and birds, that have had their habitats destroyed by the recent wildfires. The supplies being sent include wound dressings, gloves, catheters, syringes and other items that are unused but would otherwise be disposed of.

By working together, we can continue to make a global impact and help those affected by natural disasters to rebuild and restore their lives


Help us (and Ellen DeGeneres) support wildfire relief efforts in Australia

By The Hub team , January 08, 2020

Australia needs our help as wildfires continue to devastate the continent that's beloved by locals and travelers alike. In times like these, the world gets a little smaller and we all have a responsibility to do what we can.

On Monday, The Ellen DeGeneres Show announced a campaign to raise $5 million to aid in relief efforts. When we heard about Ellen's effort, we immediately reached out to see how we could help.

Today, we're committing $250,000 toward Ellen's campaign so we can offer support now and help with rebuilding. For more on The Ellen DeGeneres Show efforts and to donate yourself, you can visit www.gofundme.com/f/ellenaustraliafund

We're also matching donations made to the Australian Wildfire Relief Fund, created by GlobalGiving's Disaster Recovery Network. This fund will support immediate relief efforts for people impacted by the fires in the form of emergency supplies like food, water and medicine. Funds will also go toward long-term recovery assistance, helping residents recover and rebuild. United will match up to $50,000 USD in donations, and MileagePlus® members who donate $50 or more will receive up to 1,000 award miles from United. Donate to GlobalGiving.

Please note: Donations made toward GlobalGiving's fund are only eligible for the MileagePlus miles match.

In addition to helping with fundraising, we're staying in touch with our employees and customers in Australia. Together, we'll help keep Australia a beautiful place to live and visit in the years to come.

20 Reasons to Travel in 2020

By Hemispheres Magazine , January 01, 2020


20. Spot Giant Pandas in China

In 2016, giant pandas were removed from the endangered species list, and China would like to keep it that way. This year, the country plans to consolidate the creatures' known habitats into one unified national park system spanning nearly 10,500 square miles across Sichuan, Gansu, and Shaanxi provinces—about the size, in total, of Massachusetts. —Nicholas DeRenzo


19. Follow in James Bond's Footsteps in Jamaica

Photo: Design Pics/Carson Ganci/Getty Images

When No Time to Die hits theaters on April 8, it marks a number of returns for the James Bond franchise. The 25th chapter in the Bond saga is the first to come out since 2015's Spectre; it's Daniel Craig's fifth go-round as 007, after rumors the actor was set to move on; and it's the first time the series has filmed in Jamaica since 1973's Live and Let Die. The Caribbean island has always had a special place in Bond lore: It was the location of one of creator Ian Fleming's homes, GoldenEye (which is now a resort), and the setting for the first 007 movie, 1962's Dr. No. Looking to live like a super-spy? You don't need a license to kill—just a ride to Port Antonio, where you can check out filming locations such as San San Beach and colonial West Street. Remember to keep your tux pressed and your Aston Martin on the left side of the road. —Justin Goldman


18. See the Future of Architecture in Venice

Every other year, Venice hosts the art world's best and brightest during its celebrated Biennale. But the party doesn't stop during off years, when the Architecture Biennale takes place. This year, curator Hashim Sarkis, the dean of MIT's School of Architecture and Planning, has tasked participants with finding design solutions for political divides and economic inequality; the result, on display from May to November, is the intriguing show How Will We Live Together? —Nicholas DeRenzo

17. Celebrate Beethoven's 250th Birthday in Bonn

Photo: Universal History Archive/Getty Images
Catch a Beethoven concerto in Bonn, Germany, to celebrate the hometown hero's big 2-5-0.

16. Eat Your Way Through Slovenia

When Ana Roš of Hiša Franko was named the World's Best Female Chef in 2017, food lovers began to wonder: Do we need to pay attention to Slovenia? The answer, it turns out, is definitely yes. This March, the tiny Balkan nation about two hours east of Venice gets its own Michelin Guide. —Nicholas DeRenzo

15. Star- (and Sun-) Gaze in Patagonia

Photo: blickwinkel/Alamy

Come December 13 and 14, there will be no better spot for sky-watchers than northern Patagonia, which welcomes both the peak of the Geminid meteor shower and a total solar eclipse within 24 hours. —Nicholas DeRenzo

14. Explore Miami's Game-Changing New Park

About 70,000 commuters use Miami's Metrorail each day, and city planners aim to turn the unused space beneath its tracks into an exciting new public space, a 10-mile linear park aptly named The Underline. Luckily, the Magic City is in good hands: The project is being helmed by James Corner Field Operations, the geniuses behind New York's High Line. “Both projects share similarities in their overarching goals," says principal designer Isabel Castilla, “to convert a leftover infrastructural space into a public space that connects neighborhoods, generates community, and encourages urban regeneration." When finished, Miami's park will be about seven times as long as its Big Apple counterpart. The first half-mile leg, set to open this June, is the Brickell Backyard, which includes an outdoor gym, a butterfly garden, a dog park, and gaming tables that call to mind the dominoes matches you'll find nearby in Little Havana. “We envision the Underline dramatically changing the way people in Miami engage with public space," Castilla says. —Nicholas DeRenzo

Photo: philipus/Alamy

13. Kick Off the NFL in Las Vegas

Photo: Littleny/Alamy

Former Raiders owner Al Davis was famous for saying, “Just win, baby." His son, Mark Davis, the team's current owner, is more likely to be shouting “Vegas, baby!" Swingers-style, as his team becomes Sin City's first NFL franchise, the Las Vegas Raiders. After years of threats and lawsuits, the Raiders have finally left Oakland, and this summer they're landing just across the highway from the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in a 65,000-seat, $1.8 billion domed stadium that will also host the UNLV football team, the next two Pac-12 championship games, and the Las Vegas Bowl. Construction is slated to be finished July 31, just in time for the NFL preseason—and just in time to lure football fans from the sportsbooks to the grandstand. —Justin Goldman

12. Celebrate the Suffragettes in Washington D.C.

All eyes are on the ballot box this year, but the electorate would look quite different if not for the 19th Amendment, which was ratified 100 years ago this August. Many D.C. institutions, such as the National Archives Museum and the Library of Congress, are honoring the decades-long struggle for women's suffrage with exhibits. In particular, the National Museum of American History unveils Sarah J. Eddy's portrait of Susan B. Anthony this March, before putting on a 'zine-inspired show on girlhood and youth social movements this June. —Nicholas DeRenzo

11. Go for a Ride Through Mexico City

If you want to get somewhere quickly in Mexico City, try going by bicycle. During peak traffic, bikes average faster speeds than cars or public transportation—which might explain why ridership has gone up almost 50 percent since 2007. And riding on two wheels is getting safer and easier. In 2019, the city announced plans to invest $10 million (more than it had spent in the last six years combined) into the construction of about 50 miles of new paths and lanes. Now, you can cycle on a two-mile separated path along the Paseo de la Reforma, from Colonia Juárez and Roma to Chapultepec Park and Polanco. Future plans include a route along the National Canal between Coyoacán (where Frida Kahlo once lived) and Xochimilco (with its floating flower farms). “The goal is to finish the six-year [presidential] term with 600 kilometers of bike infrastructure," says Roberto Mendoza of the city's Secretariat of Mobility. Time to start pedaling. —Naomi Tomky

10. Consider the Mayflower's Legacy in Massachusetts and Abroad

Photo: Thianchai Sitthikongsak

Before they came to America in 1620, the religious separatists now known as the Pilgrims lived in England and the Netherlands. This year, the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower landing will be commemorated not only by those nations but also by a fourth: The Wampanoag, the confederation of tribes that live in New England and whose role in this world-changing event has been at best left out and at worst distorted.

“We're challenging the myths and stereotypes," says Aquinnah Wampanoag author Linda Coombs, a board member of Plymouth 400, Inc., which is planning cultural events such
as an Ancestors Walk to honor the native villages pushed aside by settlers, as well as
an indigenous history conference and powwow (plus an $11 million restoration of the replica Mayflower II).

Kerri Helme, a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag nation and cultural programs manager at Plimoth Plantation, says that “people want to hear the whole story." She notes that it's a commonly held belief that the Pilgrims were welcomed by the natives, when in fact their first encounter was violent, since the English had been stealing the Wampanoags' food.

“The Wampanoag are key players in all of this," says Charles Hackett, CEO of Mayflower 400 in the U.K. “It's a whole other aspect of this history." In England, a Mayflower trail will connect Pilgrim sites in towns such as Southampton and Plymouth, and in Leiden, the Dutch town where the Pilgrims took refuge before embarking for the New World, the ethnology museum will run an exhibit about the natives.

“The most important thing for us, as the Wampanoag people," says Paula Peters, a former Wampanoag council member, “is to be acknowledged as a vital tribe comprised of people that, in spite of everything that's happened, are still here." —Jon Marcus

9. Discover Lille's Design Scene

Photo: Mark Bassett/Alamy

Previous World Design Capitals have included major cultural hubs such as Helsinki and Seoul, so it came as a shock when Lille, France's 10th-largest city, beat Sydney for this year's title. Judges cited Lille's use of design to improve its citizens' lives; get a taste for yourself at spots like La Piscine Musée d'Art et d'Industrie, a gallery in a former Art Deco swim center. —Nicholas DeRenzo

8. See Stellar Space in Rio de Janeiro, the World Capital of Architecture

Rio de Janeiro is renowned for the beauty of its beaches and mountains, but the Cidade Maravilhosa's man-made structures are as eye-catching as its natural features. For that reason, UNESCO recently designated Rio its first World Capital of Architecture, honoring a city that boasts such landmarks as the stained glass–domed Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading, the fairy-tale Ilha Fiscal palace, and the uber-modern Niterói Contemporary Art Museum.

"Rio is an old city by New World standards, having been founded in the mid–16th century," says architectural photographer Andrew Prokos, who took this shot. "So the city has many layers of architectural styles, from Colonial and Rococo to Art Nouveau, Modernist, Brutalist, and contemporary." In the case of this museum, which was designed by perhaps Brazil's greatest architect, Pritzker Prize winner Oscar Niemeyer, Prokos was intrigued by how the 24-year-old building interacts with its surroundings. "The upward slope of the museum complements the slope of the Pão de Açúcar across the bay," he says, "so the two are speaking to each other from across the water." – Tom Smyth

7. Join the Avengers at Disneyland

This summer, Disney California Adventure unveils its Marvel-themed Avengers Campus, with a new Spider-Man attraction, followed later by an Ant-Man restaurant and a ride through Wakanda. If the hype surrounding last year's debut of Disney+ is any indication, Comic-Con types are going to lose their fanboy (and -girl) minds. —Nicholas DeRenzo

6. Listen to Jazz in Cape Town

Photo: Eric Nathan/Alamy

Cape Town's natural wonders draw visitors from all over the world, but there's a hidden gem beyond the mountains, beaches, and seas: music. Much as jazz was born from America's diverse peoples, Cape jazz combines the traditions and practices of the city's multiethnic population, creating genres such as goema (named after a type of hand drum) and marabi (a keyboard style that arose in the townships). Cape Town has hosted an International Jazz Festival for
20 years (the 21st edition is this March 27–28), and now UNESCO is giving the Mother City its musical due by naming it the Global Host City of International Jazz Day 2020. The theme of the event—which takes place on April 30, features an All Star Global Concert, and is the climax of Jazz Appreciation Month—is “Tracing the Roots and Routes of African Jazz." During the dark days of slavery and apartheid, music became an outlet through which repressed people could express their struggle for freedom. What better way to mark a quarter century of democracy here than with a celebration of that most free style of music? —Struan Douglas

5. Take a Walk Around England

Many hikers love walking around England—but how many can say that they've truly walked around England? When it's completed, the England Coast Path will be the longest managed seaside trail in the world, completely circumnavigating the coastline, from the fishing villages of Cornwall and the beaches of Nothumberland to the limestone arches of the Jurassic Coast and the sandy dunes of Norfolk. Much of the trail is already waymarked (the 630-mile South West Coast Path is particularly challenging and beautiful), with new legs set to open throughout the year. If you want to cross the whole thing off your bucket list, be warned that it's no walk in the park: At around 2,795 miles, the completed route is 605 miles longer than the Appalachian Trail and about the same as the distance between New York and Los Angeles. —Nicholas DeRenzo

4. Get Refreshed in the Israeli Desert

Six Senses resorts are known for restorative retreats in places like Fiji, Bali, and the Maldives. For its latest location, the wellness-minded brand is heading to a more unexpected locale: the Arava Valley, in the far south of Israel. Opening this spring, the Six Senses Shaharut will offer overnight camel camping, off-roading in the surrounding desert, and restaurants serving food grown in the resort's gardens or sourced from nearby kibbutzim. While the valley is said to be near King Solomon's copper mines, the Six Senses is sure to strike gold. —Nicholas DeRenzo

3. Say konnichiwa on July 24 at the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, which plays host for the first time since 1964.

The Japanese capital plays host for the first time since 1964. This year, softball and baseball will return after being absent since 2008, and four new sports—karate, sport climbing, surfing, and skateboarding—will be added to the competition for the first time. Say konnichiwa at the opening ceremonies on July 24, which will be held at renowned architect Kengo Kuma's New National Stadium. – Nicholas DeRenzo

2. Score Tickets to Euro 2020

Still feeling World Cup withdrawal? Get your “football" fix at the UEFA European Championship. From June 12 to July 12, 24 qualifying national teams will play games in stadiums from Bilbao to Baku, culminating in the semi-finals and final at London's hallowed Wembley Stadium. Will World Cup champion France bring home another trophy? Will Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal repeat its 2016 Euro win? Will the tortured English national team finally get its first title? Or will an upstart—like Greece in 2004—shock the world? —Justin Goldman

1. Soak Up Some Culture in Galway

Photo: Ian Dagnall/Alamy

Galway has long been called “the cultural heart of Ireland," so it's no surprise that this bohemian city on the country's wild west coast was named a 2020 European Capital of Culture (along with Rijeka, Croatia). The title puts a spotlight on the city (population 80,000) and County Galway, where more than 1,900 events will take place throughout the year. Things kick off in February with a seven-night opening ceremony featuring a fiery (literally) choreographed celebration starring a cast of 2,020 singing-and-drumming locals in Eyre Square. “This is a once-in-a-generation chance for Galway," says Paul Fahy, a county native and the artistic director of the Galway International Arts Festival (July 13–26). “It's a huge pressure. There's a heightened sense of expectation from audiences, not just from here but from all over the world." Art lovers will no doubt enjoy Kari Kola's illuminating work Savage Beauty, which will wash the Connemara mountains in green light to coincide with St. Patrick's Day, or the Druid Theatre Company's countywide tour of some of the best 20th-century one-act Irish plays. Visitors would also be wise to explore the rugged beauty of Connemara on a day trip with the charismatic Mairtin Óg Lally of Lally Tours, and to eat their way across town with Galway Food Tours. But beware, says Fahy: “Galway has a reputation as a place people came to 20 years ago for a weekend and never left." —Ellen Carpenter

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