Do you ever daydream about just buying a one-way ticket to somewhere totally new? Is your passport your most prized possession? Do you catch yourself planning trips to far-off destinations every time your mind wanders during class? You probably have a strong case of wanderlust and the only cure is to pack your suitcase and get on a plane! Sure, it’s easier said than done, after all, plane tickets aren’t cheap but if you start planning and saving now, you never know where you could end up. If you don’t have a destination in mind, you have some brainstorming to do. Visiting popular, touristy cities like London and Paris is guaranteed to be a good time, but what if you really want something a little different? Traveling is all about getting way out of your comfort zone, so why not take the leap and go somewhere out of the ordinary? Here are 15 unique cities that should be on your bucket list:
If you’ve always dreamed of going to Venice, the best time is now this floating city is supposed to sink over the next few decades. If you needed an excuse to book a plane ticket, there you go! Venice is definitely a popular tourist destination, but it’s easy to get away from the crowds. There are a million little side streets and alleyways to get lost in. You could spend days just wandering the city and looking around in awe. Plus, you’re never far from a delicious gelato shop or pizzeria! Venice is breathtakingly beautiful, even in the more crowded summer months. And if you think you’ve run out of things to do, you can always hop on the ferry and explore other nearby islands like Murano and Burano! Make no mistake, Venice is a must-see if you’re traveling through Italy or backpacking around Europe. There’s truly nowhere else like it.
You might think that Amsterdam is like a European Las Vegas, but that’s not entirely true. Amsterdam definitely has a wild side, but it’s also got a ton of history. The city itself is adorable there are canals where people live on houseboats, tall, colorful houses lining the streets, and lots of funky shops and street art! You might think that any trip to Amsterdam has to end up like The Hangover, but there is so much more to Amsterdam than the Red Light District. You can pay your respects at the Anne Frank House, eat delicious stroopwafels and fancy Dutch cheese, and get scared at The Amsterdam Dungeons. Anything goes in Amsterdam, so a trip to this fun city can be anything you want it to be. It’s laidback and welcoming with a creative vibe. Amsterdam is perfect for anyone who wants to see a classic European city with a twist.
Japan is known for its unique culture. You could probably spend years exploring this island nation and barely scratch the surface. But if you’ve only got a little time, a visit to Tokyo is a must. It’s probably impossible to be bored in Tokyo there's something here for everyone! If you’re a foodie with a sushi craving, you’ll be in heaven. And if you’re feeling nostalgic for your favorite childhood TV shows, you can swing by the Pokemon Center. Tokyo has tons of quirky attractions you can hang out at a cat café, watch sumo wrestling practice, eat at themed restaurants, go to the fish markets, and even take part in traditional tea ceremonies! Tokyo is a city like no other, and what you can find in Tokyo, you just won’t find anywhere else. If you’ve ever considered visiting Asia, Tokyo deserves a stop on your trip. This city will give you an experience you could never forget.
Walking through Copenhagen can feel like you’re time traveling with every corner that you turn. Some parts of this Scandinavian city have a quaint, classically European feel, and you can explore lots of historical sites. But walk a few blocks in another direction, and futuristic designs take over the landscape. Copenhagen is one of the most expensive cities in Europe, but a trip here is well worth the money. Danish people are extraordinarily friendly, and you just can’t find Copenhagen’s charm anywhere else in Europe. Plus, Copenhagen sometimes feels like a giant playground there are trampolines in the sidewalk, pools along the harbor, and Tivoli Gardens, a big amusement park, is right in the city. In the middle of Copenhagen, you can also find Christiania, a hippie commune that declared itself as a free state you could easily spend hours checking out this artsy community! A trip up north to Copenhagen is a must.
Set aside all of your expectations about the Middle East and give Dubai a chance. The construction of Dubai has been heavily criticized, but despite this, it’s a unique destination that’s truly unlike anywhere else in the region. Dubai is known for luxury shopping, glamorous accommodations, and crazy futuristic architecture. For example, Dubai is home to the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building on Earth! Dubai is an interesting place to learn about different Middle Eastern cultures, but it also has a huge expat community. People come to live in Dubai from all over the world, so no matter where you’re from, you’re bound to meet someone else who you can connect with. Dubai is also known for delicious Middle Eastern cuisine and crazy nightlife, so if you like to explore local bar and restaurant scenes when you travel, you’ll have a field day in Dubai. If you’ve got expensive taste, Dubai is the city for you.
10 New Orleans
Sometimes, we don’t think of American cities as unique or exotic, but New Orleans has a flavor all on its own. This isn’t just any southern city-it’s got a distinctly French flair, and it’s a must-see destination. Although New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the city has been slowly coming back over the past decade, and many areas have rebuilt since the storm. If you’ve got an ear for music, you’ll need to check out the local jazz scene. And if you’ve got a big appetite, you’ll never go hungry in New Orleans. Feel free to pig out on delicious Cajun food-no need to feel guilty, you’ll crave the real deal when you’re gone! New Orleans also has lots of cool cultural events throughout the year, with the most famous being Mardi Gras. If you’re thinking of heading down to Louisiana next year, there’s still time to make plans for Mardi Gras!
You may have never heard of Petra, but you should definitely check out this historical Middle Eastern city. It’s located in Jordan’s southwestern desert, and it’s a well-known archaeological site. But Petra isn’t just for history buffs it's a great spot for anyone who wants to explore off the beaten path! Although it is Jordan’s most popular tourist attraction, many people outside the country have never heard of it. Petra is famous for its architecture, which was cut right into the desert rocks. The city is essentially part of the natural landscape. It’s nothing like the towns and suburbs that you might see where you live it's a totally different approach to “urban living.” Petra is also known as the Rose City. It earned this nickname because of the rosy hue of the carved stone. Vacations at the beach or in the mountains are a ton of fun, but why not give the desert a shot some time?
8 Coober Pedy
Having trouble figuring out where this city actually is in the picture? Well, you’re just looking in the wrong place. That’s because Coober Pedy is actually underground! It might sound like something out of a post-apocalyptic, dystopian novel, but Coober Pedy is actually a popular tourist destination. However, it’s more than that over a thousand people actually do live in Coober Pedy year round! Living underground might sound crazy, but in this part of Australia, it’s actually a smart move. Temperatures can be scorching during the daytime, and going underground provides relief from the heat. This underground city is also a mining community, in fact, it’s the largest opal mining area in the entire world. Coober Pedy relies on both tourism and mining for its economy. If you go to visit, you can also check out the underground churches. This city is a unique spot for anyone interested in an alternative way of life.
Barcelona is a popular stop for backpackers, and once you pay a visit, you’ll understand why. Simply put, Barcelona has it all. The food is delicious, the sangria is always flowing, there are miles of beaches, and everything is pretty cheap these days. You’ll meet people from all over the world in this lively city, and whether you want to pack your itinerary full of cultural attractions or spend all day relaxing, Barcelona has something for you. What makes Barcelona so unique? For starters, it’s actually in a region of Spain called Catalonia, where many citizens speak Catalan in addition to Spanish. Furthermore, this city boasts architectural wonders that are famous all over the world. Antoni Gaudi designed many famous landmarks in this city, and his trademark modernist style will make you feel like you just wandered into a colorful alternate universe. Barcelona has a vibe that you won’t find anywhere else in Spain!
What makes Montreal so unique? Just like Rio de Janeiro, it’s a place where two cultures come together. Montreal is located in the Canadian province of Quebec, and the official language here is French. In fact, Montreal has the second highest number of French speakers in the world! So you can expect to find a fusion of French and Canadian culture on a trip to Montreal. Montreal has a great nightlife scene and is home to many universities, so if you’re traveling with friends, you’re sure to find locals to hang out with and show you around! Montreal has also been referred to as “Canada’s cultural capital,” so there’s clearly no shortage of attractions here! The city hosts many festivals, from comedy to jazz to film, so if you’re artsy or musically inclined, you’ll fall in love with Montreal. Montreal is a great place whether you want to relax and enjoy yourself or get out and learn.
5 Vatican City
Vatican City is the only city on this list that’s technically a country, too! It is the smallest nation in the world in terms of both physical size and population. Vatican City is an extremely important historical, cultural, and religious site. Vatican City is home to countless artistic and architectural wonders. Even if you’re not religious, this city will leave you in awe. There’s something here for everyone to appreciate, and learning about history in this living museum is infinitely more interesting than learning it in a classroom! If you take a trip to Vatican City, you’ll have the incredible opportunity to see Michaelangelo’s work up close in the Sistine Chapel it's a jaw-dropping sight! You can also visit St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum. Vatican City should definitely be included on any trip to Italy. There’s just no place like it to learn about Italian history and culture.
4 Rio de Janeiro
You probably saw a lot of Rio over the summer during the Olympics, but there’s so much more to this city that you may not have seen on screen! Rio de Janeiro is a bustling, lively place, and although tourists should definitely be extra careful in some areas, it’s not a city that you’d want to skip if you’re ever planning a trip to South America. Rio is a seaside city with famous beaches like the Copacabana and Ipanema. You’ve also probably seen pictures of the enormous Christ the Redeemer statue, which stands atop Mount Corcovado and watches over the city. Rio has a unique mix of Portuguese and Latin American culture. Visitors can also take a cable car all the way to the top of Rio’s Sugarloaf Mountain. The city also hosts the world’s largest Carnaval festival! So if you like to party, Carnaval is the perfect time to visit Rio.
You probably learned a lot about the ancient Greeks in history class, but there’s no substitute for experiencing Athens in person! Many people overlook Athens in favor of famous Greek islands like Santorini, but if your itinerary for your Greek vacation doesn’t include this city, you’re missing out. Athens may not be as pristine or luxurious as the islands, but it has an energy like no other city. Plus, it’s overflowing with history there are museums and cultural sites around every corner, and you can walk around most of the ruins and explore them for yourself! The best thing about Athens? The food is to die for. There are plenty of fancy sit down restaurants, but some of the most delicious meals are the gyros you can pick up from street vendors. Greece has been going through tough times economically, so traveling there is very cheap right now there's no better time to go!
Burlington may not seem as exotic as some of the other destinations on this list, but this charming city just might surprise you, you may not want to leave! Burlington is known for being a sustainable, environmentally friendly city, so if you’re looking for a “green” lifestyle, Burlington is the place to be. There’s a huge waterfront area where you can cruise around Lake Champlain or just relax by the shore. The community is very outdoorsy, and it’s a great spot to go hiking in the summer or skiing in the winter. If you’re a bit of a hippie, you’ll absolutely love it here there are lots of vintage clothing stores, thrift shops, vegetarian restaurants, used bookstores, record shops, you name it! Burlington is the perfect spot for a relaxing week away. People are extremely friendly, and you’ll feel welcomed and accepted as soon as you arrive. If you’re driving through New England, make sure to stop in Burlington!
If you live in the US, the thought of visiting Havana may have seemed impossible but the tide is turning, and soon you may be able to hop on a flight to Cuba for a vacation! Tourists from outside of America have known about Cuba’s charm for years, and although this country has struggled, don’t write off Havana just yet. Havana is Cuba’s capital city, and it is known for its Spanish colonial architecture. A section of the city known as Old Havana, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Old Havana is very well preserved, and buildings that have been damaged are being restored. Walking through Old Havana is like stepping back through the centuries. In fact, there are lots of things about Cuba that take you back in time. Havana is also known for cars from the 1950s that look like they’re brand new! Let Havana take you way back to a different time it's the ultimate escape.
Sources: Venice Is a Gondola Ride Back in Time, Visit Amsterdam, Tokyo-City Guide, Visit Copenhagen, Visit Dubai, New Orleans Official Guide, Petra-UNESCO World Heritage Center, Coober Pedy-Opal Capital of the World, Visit Barcelona, Tourism Montreal, Vatican City State, Rio de Janeiro-Travel Information and Guide, Athens is the World's Ancient Capital, City of Burlington, Vermont, Havana is Grand Avenues