20. Madrid, Spain
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The Spanish capital has a long-standing reputation for its artistic flair, thanks to greats like Picasso, Dalí and local legend Velázquez all gracing galleries across the city. Any art buff should certainly include the Museo del Prado and Centro de Arte Reina Sofía on their list of to-dos – they’re among the world’s best.
19. Shanghai, China
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As the first Chinese city to have its own dedicated Michelin guide, a visit to Shanghai means you’ll never be far from a good meal. Despite the plethora of Michelin-starred eateries, it’s not all pomp: Canton 8, a restaurant in the eastern district of Huangpu, is one of the cheapest dining destinations in the world to receive a star.
18. Phuket, Thailand
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Often overlooked for the nearby collection of Robinson Crusoe-esque islands, Phuket City has enough to keep visitors occupied without jumping on a boat. Known for its colourful Sino-Portuguese shopfronts, welcoming coffee houses and abundance of art galleries, Phuket is more than a transit town.
17. Prague, Czech Republic
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The medieval quarter of Prague dodged the destruction some European cities were historically subjected to during WWII, resulting in one of the most enchanting town centres on the continent. If wandering tends to help you work up a thirst, you’re in luck – the Czech Republic is renowned for its craft beer, with microbreweries and locally focused bars abundant throughout the city.
16. Istanbul, Turkey
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Straddling Asia and Europe, Istanbul has retained its unique East meets West allure for centuries. Set on either side of the mighty Bosphorus strait, exploration is seemingly endless with its labyrinth-like bazaars. The enduring highlight remains the Grand Bazaar, the oldest covered market in the world. Haggling is practically a sport here, where a staggering 4000 stalls compete for your tourist dollar.
15. Los Angeles, USA
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Sure, you might spot a celebrity while sipping a green juice in Beverly Hills but this West Coast city offers more than its filmmaking heritage. Hikers will find a number of nearby trails that snake through impressive canyons and there’s also a burgeoning underground art scene spreading across the city.
14. Beijing, China
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It’s the three millennia of fascinating history that makes Beijing such a distinctive destination. There are six World Heritage Sites to explore (one less than the entirety of Egypt), including the mystical Forbidden City, the mountainside resort of Chengde and the stately Temple of Heaven. It’s also within driving distance of the 2000-year-old Great Wall of China.
13. Las Vegas, USA
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As a city with a whole lot of glitz, this twinkling cluster of casinos and luxury hotels in the Nevada Desert hosts some of the wealthiest punters in the world. You don’t have to be hoping to win big to have a good time here, though – some of the world’s most famous performers have called Las Vegas home with resident shows including Celine Dion, Britney Spears, Mariah Carey and now, Lady Gaga.
12. Barcelona, Spain
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If you can bear to tear yourself away from your tapas, Barcelona rewards its visitors with a wealth of photo-worthy architecture. Antonio Gaudi’s La Sagrada Família, although unfinished, remains one of the city’s biggest drawcards, as does the colourful Casa Batlló. After all that sightseeing, you’ll need fuel – back to tapas it is.
11. Amsterdam, Netherlands
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Best explored on two wheels, Amsterdam is distractingly pretty. Gabled facades border calm canals, chic locals whiz past presumably on their way to laidback cafés and world-class museums are seemingly around every corner (the Netherlands has more museums per square mile than any other country in the world).
10. Venice, Italy
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Thanks to its charmingly complex network of canals imitating streets, a visit to Venice demands a different mode of travel. Firstly, forget trying to get anywhere in a hurry – you’re likely to be met with a series of unforeseeable aquatic obstacles. Secondly, don’t expect to be able to find your way around – getting lost in this watery wonderland is half the fun.
9. Hong Kong, China
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An exotic epicentre for anyone looking to bag a bargain, Hong Kong is packed with markets spruiking everything from bespoke suits to golden fortune cats. But the city is more than an enormous mall – there’s also a food scene bursting with dizzying variety, including everything from Michelin-adorned fine-dining destinations to street stalls (dai pai dong).
8. Bangkok, Thailand
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It’s the tangle of tuktuks, delicious dishes and unrivalled hospitality that makes Thailand’s bustling capital a frequent inclusion on bucket-lists. A visit could include a checklist of the city’s ornate and impressive temples and palaces or a stroll through Bangkok’s multiple marketplaces – the floating kind, like the vibrant one stationed at Amphawa, with towering piles of tropical fruit or brightly coloured souvenirs bobbing past.
7. Tokyo, Japan
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A city that blends tradition and modernity, Tokyo teems with unique cultural experiences. Bathe in the neon lights that decorate the famous intersection next to Shibuya Station, be inspired by otherworldly fashion on the streets of Harajuku or take a moment at the many Shinto and Buddhist temples that calm the rush of the city.
6. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
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This Middle Eastern metropolis doesn’t do anything by half measures. Home to expansive malls that include indoor ski fields and aquariums prepped for shark dives, the UAE’s biggest city also lays claim to Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building at a staggering 828 metres high. Excess thy name is Dubai.
5. Rome, Italy
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Italy’s energetic capital is a city of landmarks but it’s also a place of spontaneous discovery. An afternoon stroll could lead you to a cobbled piazza for people watching, before a quiet corner thrusts you towards an ancient fountain. All roads are said to lead to Rome but, more accurately, all Roman pursuits eventually lead to gelato.
4. Bali, Indonesia
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A stalwart destination for Australian travellers, this Indonesian isle is practically paradise for the culturally curious sunseeker. Between the tropical lushness of rice-paddy strewn Ubud to uber-luxe retreats of Seminyak and quietly cool food scene of Canggu, it’s little wonder Bali makes the cut for wanderlust dreaming at your desk.
3. Paris, France
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Arranged around the sweeping Seine River, Paris has romance woven into its streets. The distinctive Haussmann facades that line the city’s boulevards beg you to enjoy a croissant and café au lait on their wrought iron balconies and the city’s many lively bistros have made people watching a national pastime. Don’t forget to say bonjour to a few notable residents, too, namely the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo.
2. New York, United States
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The isle of Manhattan lures many a traveller for its hustle and bustle, iconic tenements, hurried yellow cabs and famed skyscrapers but there are other neighbourhoods now capturing the attention of visitors: the boroughs of Brooklyn, Williamsburg and Park Slope have become so hip it hurts.
1. London, United Kingdom
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Expansive history, a flourishing cultural scene and an unbreakable dedication to the classic pub, it’s unsurprising that London remains the darling destination for Australian travellers. Iconic landmarks such as Big Ben, Tower Bridge and Buckingham Palace always draw an enthusiastic crowd but a new focus on local spirit is driving visitors to the ‘burbs – boroughs like Hackney and Bermondsey are thriving.