Immersing in the world through its culture is, perhaps, one of the most in-depth and genuine ways to truly experience it. Each city or country comprises infinite layers of traditions, customs and heritage that are beautifully blended to form their unique character.
This year, a host of destinations around the world will flaunt their cultural assets through new events, anniversaries and even by revamping themselves as places of anachronistic idyll. We hone in on five of the most exciting cultural destinations for 2016!
At first glance, Wrocław may appear like a pretty face: here old historical quarters carry the charm of a bygone era graciously, flaunting bright-coloured buildings that you just can’t seem to stop gazing at; even the grey, weather-beaten concrete Communist panel blocks have their own ways to attract inquisitive looks from travellers. To many, perhaps, the key of this city’s beauty may well be its many contrasts and eccentricities that sit at its very core.
Its location at the crossroads of Europe and on the serene Odra River undoubtedly has its perks, but it’s also the rich Austrian Hapsburg, Prussian, Bohemian and Germanic heritage that give Wrocław a unique allure. To its vivid history and beautiful architecture, add in edgy galleries, museums, quirky shops, a vibrant cafe culture and nightlife and locals’ passion for refreshing ideas and a compelling jump-cut of the grand dame emerges. No wonder it is the European Capital of Culture for 2016.
Located midway between Berlin and Prague, the capital of the eastern German state of Saxony is a city of many layers. Its tumultuous past includes a 40-year lifespan of Communism and a complete destruction by Allied bombers in World War II, but despite the series of misfortunes, the city found its glory back and became a source of inspiration for the whole world. Today, the Old Town is infused with a slew of Baroque masterpieces and classic buildings such as the Zwinger Palace, the Frauenkirche and the Semperoper, which are so meticulously restored that it’s impossible not to fall in love with and whose stories intrigue to no end!
But while the Old Town is still doing well unwinding its historical clock, the avant-garde atmosphere of the outer New City is ever-progressive, proving that Dresden is always moving forward. If a cultural rendezvous is what you’re looking for, this vibrant city pledges more than just exquisite riverside castles and imposing church spires; this year it will actually commemorate the 800th anniversary of the Dresdner Kreuzchor boys’ choir, which has been playing an essential role in establishing the city’s reputation as a European city of culture and music for centuries.
São Paulo, Brazil
As the beating heart of Brazil, São Paulo can somehow seem intimidating even to the seasoned traveller. Firstly, it has a reputation as a sport city, having hosted the World Cup over the years and again serving as a co-host for football for The 2016 Rio Olympic Games. But this incredibly-bustling metropolis, with its daunting concrete jungle and high-rises stretching to the horizon makes up for any other big-city flaws with plenty artistic vibrancy, culture and spirited locals exuding contagious energy at every step.
As opposed to its gritty past, the São Paulo today is experiencing a serious revamp in the cultural scene, with a spate of exclusive galleries and compelling museums waiting to be explored by art aficionados. A good place to kick off your cultural escapade is Museu de Arte de São Paulo, which pledges the largest collection of Western art in Latin America including works by Picasso, El Greco and Goya. Otherwise, this December you can also catch the São Paulo Art Biennial, the second-oldest in the world after the one in Venice, and get a hearty dose of artistic nourishment.
After decades of being literally a time capsule, Havana is finally having a moment. Still frozen in time yet bursting with the energy of a modern era, Cuba’s capital is slowly morphing into a city where the old and new go hand-in-hand. Not many cities in the world can claim such an intoxicating concoction of crumbling Spanish colonial buildings that hide quaint cocktail bars and fancy restaurants behind their weather-worn façades, blizzards of classic cars unhurriedly clattering along airy boulevards lined by palm trees and a vibrant brew of African, Caribbean and American flavours. The time is now to fully soak this magical city’s ever-vibrant pulsating energy — before the rest of the world catches on.
Verdant, enigmatic, raw and blessed with intimate beaches, beautiful mountain ranges and cliffs opening up to stunning vistas, the small country of Wales is positively one of the world’s most wonderful natural playgrounds. With 2016 being the “Year of Adventure”, sojourners can rest assured that outdoor activities in the country’s wild and rugged terrain will be aplenty.
But despite being renowned for its natural scenery, this small yet fascinating country is also packed with ancient customs, unique traditions and cultural events including a series of literary festivals such as the Dylan Thomas Festival in Swansea, which features talks, performances, exhibitions and readings with a Dylan Thomas theme, as well as the world-famous The Hay Festival, where you can enjoy a series of activities including cabaret and comedy shows, films and circus performances. And this year, for a different sort of step-back-in-time feeling, the city of Cardiff will be set for an even bigger adventure as in September it will celebrate the centenary of one of its most famous novelists, Roald Dahl, with a slew of exciting festivities.