Top ten cities to visit in 2011, according to Lonely Planet

Another decade is about to bite the dust, but the savvy travelers at Lonely Planet have given us a jump start on the hot list for 2011. They’ve just announced their picks for the world’s best cities to visit next year, and while you’ll find some of the usual suspects (New York, which will debut the National September 11 Memorial on the 10th anniversary of the attacks), there are also some surprises. The great news? About half of these places are easy on the budget once you get there. Some list-makers, below:

Tangier, Morocco
Once derided as dirty and dangerous, this port city at the crossroads of Europe and Africa has undergone a major renovation and clean-up. A thriving arts, food, and shopping scene are drawing visitors.

, Peru
A major Amazonian trading port formerly known for its raucous nightlife, general mayhem, riverside shanties, and rubber-boom barons, Iquitos has gotten a major upgrade. Accessible only by air or boat, the city still has a rocking after-hours scene, but it’s also a “cultural hub” providing a “sultry slice of Amazon life.”

Delhi, India
The 2010 Commonwealth Games got the city into shape, there’s a “futuristic” Metro (who knew?) and 2011 marks the city’s 100th anniversary. Be prepared for lots of celebrations.

Not as wallet-friendly, but absolutely stunning:

Wellington, New Zealand
Nicknamed the “coolest little capital in the world,” this laidback, far southern North Island city has it all: a hopping food and wine scene, boutiques and galleries featuring NZ’s hottest designers and artists, a serious arts and culture scene that includes the world-famous Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, and accommodations ranging from high-end hotel and styley boutique sleeps, to funky hostels and guesthouses. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy miles of hiking trails, city parks, hilly streets, and golden beaches.

What cities are on your personal 2011 must-visit list?

[Photo credits:Tangier, Flickr user Lumumo; Wellington, Flickr user 111 Emergency]

Top 10 best international cities for shopping

It’s a familiar feeling… The sweaty palms, a racing heartbeat, shortness of breath. You’ve dreamt about this moment and it’s finally here – staring you in the face with a come hither look that says, “You know you want me” and the reality is, you do. You fumble for your wallet in the bottomless pit of a bag you carry around and rush toward the “sale” sign you spotted through the endless faces and stores on the street. Nothing will come between you and the latest must-have accessory of the season.

While there’s no better place for fashion stateside than New York or Los Angeles, the rest of the world is just waiting for you to try it on and take it home. If you enjoy a little retail therapy on your vacation, or just need a reason to get out of the country, we’ve compiled the best cities in the world for your next shopping excursion. Now is the time to balance the bank account, then hop a flight and head out to some of these best cities in the world for shopping. Just don’t forget to buy an extra suitcase so you can bring it all home.

1. Rome: From the Via Conditti to the Jewish Quarter, there is nothing a shopper can’t find in this Italian city. Rome is the birthplace of some of the world’s best fashion ideas-turned-labels, and there’s enough variation in budgets to appeal to any traveler. Stay near the Spanish Steps and you’ll only have to walk a few blocks to find the very best in designer brands or haggle over the price of a silk scarf with one of the street vendors. My suggestion: Head into the Ferragamo store on the Via Conditti and buy yourself a new pair of Italian leather gloves. They’re unlike any pair of gloves you’ve tried on in a department store back home, and every time you slip your hands in them you’ll be reminded of Rome.

2. Paris: Mention “Paris” and “shopping” in the same sentence and a girl will go weak in the knees. There are three streets you need to know: The Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Avenue Montaigne, and The Boulevard Saint-Germain. Take a stroll down any or all of these streets and you’re guaranteed to leave with something wrapped beautifully in a designer bag. Paris is the mecca for fashion-forward designers but holds a special place in its heart for the classics like Chanel, Chloe and Dior. If apparel and accessories aren’t your thing, head to Montmartre and visit the Artist’s Square. Shop for original artwork and jewelry, straight from the artists’ hands.

3. Marrakesh: You can rock the kasbah but can you shop the souk? First-timers to Marrakesh will be in shock when they first enter the souk; repeat visitors will be in heaven. It’s one of the most challenging shopping excursions you’ll ever come across, but also the most rewarding. The name of the game here is bargaining. From the silk stalls to the spice racks, negotiations rule the way. Remember: bargaining is a way of life for Moroccans, so don’t be afraid to test out your skills. You’ll likely walk away with a piece of pottery or one-of-a-kind hand-woven Moroccan rug for significantly less than you’d pay for in the states. Word of advice: Before you start shopping, take a moment to take it all in. The souk is one of the most exciting places in the world filled with some of the most exotic scents and spices. Close your eyes, take a deep breathe, inhale the atmosphere, then get shopping!4. Milan: If Rome is the home to some of the world’s best shopping, Milan is where you’ll find designers’ pending debuts. Milan is Rome’s secret weapon – a pleasure seekers paradise dressed in the best fabrics, prints and cuts possible. Catwalks come alive in Milan. Break out your best pair gladiator platforms and strut down the secret alleyways where you’ll find some of fashion’s best kept secrets. You’ll go home with something completely extraordinary and one-of-a-kind… and likely the envy of all your friends at next season’s fashion week.

5. Berlin: The German hot-spot is steadily climbing up the fashion ladder. Typically known for its industrial atmosphere, Berlin is fast becoming the see-and-be-seen art center and welcoming a few more fashion houses to the mix. The best part about shopping in Berlin? Because the designers are so new to the area, the discounts are beyond compare. Take time to walk through lofts and boutiques and you’ll find some of fashion’s hidden gems in the racks at a fraction of the cost.

6. Sydney: This Australian city is quite comparable to New York when it comes to shopping. You can get anything you want in Sydney, you just have to know where to go. Start at the Queen Victoria Building and peruse the 400 shops that range from hand-drawn world maps to designer boutiques and antique stores. If you’re feeling a bit more spendy, head to Castlereagh Street and shop the designer boutiques, or take a spin along Circular Quay for some kitschy items to take back home with you.

7. Hong Kong: Throw away the preconceived notions of Hong Kong as an electronics-only shopping mecca. The gadget-friendly Hong Kong has come a long way in shopping and today offers visitors everything from street markets to mega malls. Pick up anything and everything in Hong Kong, from jade to silk, to the latest electronics and far-out gadgets. The Jade Market in Yau Ma Tai is a must – walk through 400 stalls all laden with the green gem said to symbolize long life and good health.

8. London: No one does fashion quite like London. The UK’s most popular city also features some of the most unique designs. Just look around when you’re out for a stroll – Londeners dress in all sorts of varieties, from regal to conventional to funky and retro. Shop the trendy boutiques of Covent Garden and Marylebone High Street, or shop the stalls of Camden Market and Portobello Market, a haven for antiques and once-owned treasures. Of course, once can’t miss a stop inside the famous Harrods, if nothing else to buy a shopping tote of the same name to carry all your purchases.

9. Buenos Aires: Buenos Aires is home to some of the world’s most beautiful people so it’s only appropriate they wear the most beautiful clothes. So where to the beautiful go when they want to shop? They head downtown, where streets ooze chain stores and retailers waiting to take your pesos. Those with more money to spend head to the upscale neighborhood of Recoleta. Don’t leave Buenos Aires without some leather — the handbags, jackets, shoes and belts are the best leather goods in the world and offered at an excellent value. Remember, the beauty of Buenos Aires isn’t just in what you wear… it’s how you wear it.

10. St. Barths: When most people think of the Caribbean they lose their thoughts to white sand beaches, blue waters and boats. But the French-owned St. Barthélemy (a.k.a. St. Barths) has all these things and more: it’s known as the capital of the Caribbean shopping scene. Thanks to endless duty-free stores, shopping at Dior, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Cartier, and Hermes can be less expensive than if you shopped in the states and, many of items in stock in the Caribbean aren’t available stateside, which makes them unique to your collection.

Of top cities in the world, Pittsburgh is best US city at 29th, Vancouver the best

We didn’t realize that the US was such a terrible place to live until the Sydney Morning Herald reported it this morning. According to the Economist’s 2009 liveability survey, Pittsburgh is the most liveable city in the United States of America, ranked 29th in the world.

At the top of the list? Vancouver, Vienna, Melbourne,Toronto and Perth, giving Canada and Australia two of the top five cities in the world each. Dakar (Senegal,) Abidjan (Ivory Coast) and Kathmandu (Nepal) were at the bottom of the 131 polled cities.

“Liveability” was ranked using a number of factors including stability, health care, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure.

You can read the full report over at the Economist, although to read the entirety of the data you’ll need to pay the modest $250 fee.

[via the Sydney Morning Herald]

Gadling picks the world’s best “second cities”

We like winners. Whether it’s the winning army of a war or the world’s fastest 100 meter runner, we lavish attention and praise on the victors and relegate the losers to the dustbin of history. The same is true of travel – the most important travel cities like New York, London, Sydney and Tokyo are favored by visitors while lesser-known destinations are skipped, scratched from the itinerary or just plain ignored.

The destinations we visit win our attention for good reason. They’re typically the biggest cities – meaning they have the best restaurants, biggest museums and largest inventory of hotels. Yet when we travel to only the “most popular” or “biggest,” we ignore a fundamental truth of travel. What we know about a place has as much to do with what we’re told as it does with what we actually find once there.

With that in mind, Gadling is bringing you a compilation of our favorite “second cities” – large urban areas that are among the biggest in their country but frequently overshadowed by more famous capitals. The following picks boast many of the same amenities that make their bigger rivals so famous – top notch cultural institutions, unique local charm, great cuisine and nightlife. How many have you visited? Take a look below:

  • Second City #1 – Osaka, Japan – travelers love to talk about Tokyo, but focusing exclusively on Tokyo does serious injustice to the city of Osaka. What Osaka lacks in population, it more than makes up for in its citizens’ lust for life and sheer zaniness. Along the streets of Osaka’s Dotonbori district you’ll find a raucous party of eating and drinking that is virtually unmatched anywhere on earth. In addition to the city’s famous Takoyaki octopus balls and grilled snow crab, Osaka also boasts cultural attractions like Osaka Castle and the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum.

  • Second City #2 – Gothenburg, Sweden – Stockholm is unquestionably Sweden’s capital and its largest city. But not nearly as many have been to Gothenburg, the country’s second largest metropolis and home to Sweden’s largest university. The large population of students means Gothenburg has a surprisingly fertile arts and culture scene, frequently rivaling its larger sibling Stockholm for an unassuming, fun experience – all at a fraction of the price.
  • Second City #3 – Krakow, Poland Krakow has slowly become of one Poland’s greatest tourist attractions in recent years, steadily easing out of the shadow of much larger Warsaw. Unlike Warsaw, which was leveled by bombing during World War II, Krakow retains much of its historical architecture – a unique feature that will have first time visitors in awe.
  • Second City #4 – Melbourne, Australia – neighboring Sydney might boast the Opera House and stunning harbor views, but Australian visitors ignore Melbourne at their peril. The city is packed to the brim with top-notch shopping, hidden laneways and world class events like the Australian Open tennis tournament.
  • Second City #5 – Wellington, New Zealand – Auckland might appear to dominate New Zealand’s economic and cultural agenda, but in truth it’s modest-sized Wellington that’s really calling the shots. In addition to being New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington has a world-class museum at Te Papa, killer food and what might be the best cocktails this side of the Pacific.
  • Second City #6 – Montreal, Canada – any visitor that’s been to the capital of Canada’s Quebec province can tell you: Montreal will give Toronto a run for its money any day of the week. In addition to hosting two fantastic music festivals each summer and bohemian nightlife, Montreal is also full of plenty of French colonial architecture and charm.
  • Second City #7 – Chicago, USA – a list of “second cities” would not be complete without Chicago, arguably the birthplace of the term and perennial competitor to bigger American cities like New York and Los Angeles. Make no mistake about it though: Chicago might be called the second city, but it has first-city amenities, including amazing museums, some of the best food in the U.S. and plenty of friendly residents.
  • Second City #8 – Salvador, Brazil – picturesque Rio de Janeiro and glitzy Sao Paulo may get all the attention in Brazil, but it’s Salvador that’s really stealing the show. The city’s laid-back citizens, fantastic beaches and historic colonial architecture make it strong competitor for best place to visit in Brazil. Plus, if you want to go to Carnival, Salvador hosts some of the country’s most authentic celebrations.
  • Second City #9 – Galway, Ireland – true, rowdy Dublin has the Guinness Factory and Book of Kells. But don’t forget about Galway, a gem of a town along Ireland’s wild and windy West Coast. Galway’s position as home to many of the country’s university students, rugged natural beauty and frequent festivals make it strong contender for Ireland’s best-kept secret.
  • Second City #10 – Barcelona, Spain – if you’re among the many travelers already raving about Barcelona’s many charms, this pick comes as no surprise. Madrid might be the cultural and political head of Spain, but it is freewheeling Barcelona that is its heart. Between the picturesque city setting nestled between craggy foothills and the Mediterranean Sea, top-notch nightlife and shopping, warm climate or the burgeoning arts scene, there’s a lot to love in Barcelona.

Did we mention your favorite second city? Think we missed a hidden gem? Leave us a comment below and let us know what you think.

America’s Most Miserable Cities

Forbes just put out it’s ranking of America’s most miserable cities, including 150 of the U.S.’s largest metropolitan areas.

They’re ranked from 1 to 150 on the following categories: commute times, weather, violent crime rates, unemployment rates, income taxation rates, and the number of local Superfund sites. The best part is that it sums it all up with a “Misery Measure” score.

The top five?

  1. Detroit
  2. Stockton, CA
  3. Flint, MI
  4. NYC
  5. Philly

Come visit! Misery likes company.