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10 Best Places to Travel in May

food festival

If you’re ready to get a jump start on summer travel, here are our picks for the ultimate May trip, whether you want to lounge beachside, experience natural beauty, chow down during a food festival, or meander through medieval city centers.

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Looking for a Memorial Day trip or inspiration for a late spring break? May is the best time to take advantage of shoulder season in historic cities such as Stockholm, or if you prefer, to avoid rainy season and enjoy sunny days in Cuzco. Here are the 10 best places to travel.

Spend time in such places as the Moderna Museet (the Museum of Modern Art), one of the myriad museums scattered throughout Stockholm.


May is good for: history buffs

The Swedish capital is made up of 14 islands linked by more than 50 bridges, and it is full of charms for people of all ages. May is one of the best months to go—temperatures are mild and days are long, but the high-season prices haven’t hit yet. If you arrive as early as May 1, you’ll experience May Day, when festivals and parades abound.

Get a sense of Stockholm’s medieval history by wandering the cobbled alleyways of the Old Town (Gamla Stan) and its many historical buildings and sites. Here, you’ll find the Storkyrkan, the city’s main cathedral, and the Museum of Medieval Stockholm, which tells the city’s tale during the age of nobility and knights. Catch the pomp of the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace (12:15 p.m. on weekdays and 1:15 p.m. on Sundays).

A favorite city retreat is Hagaparken, a large royal park just north of the city center. It has lawns, lakes, and woodland, not to mention three regal residences and the Butterfly House with its 700 butterflies flitting about. A great end-point from a long walk is Koppartälten (the Copper Tents), three copper structures painted bright blue and gold that resemble something straight out of a Narnia novel. Constructed in 1787 and once used as royal stables, they were designed by King Gustav III’s theater architect. Today, one of the faux tents houses a café.

Another popular city center oasis is Djurgården, where you can experience rolling Swedish countryside a short bus ride away. Besides being a lovely place for locals to picnic and take summertime walks, the island is home to many historical sites and museums like the Abba Museum, the Spirits Museum (liquor, not ghosts), the maritime Vasa Museum, and more. —AFAR Editors

While different whales migrate through Monterey Bay year-round, May is an especially great time to spot humpback, killer, and blue whales.

Monterey, California

May is good for: sea lovers, whale watchers

Located on California’s central coast about a two-hour drive from San Francisco, Monterey Bay spans 40 miles from Santa Cruz in the north to Pacific Grove; it is teeming with sea creatures, thanks in part to Monterey Canyon, a submarine canyon descending 6,000 feet below sea level. Visitors can witness the migration of different whales year-round, but in May there are opportunities to spot killer, humpback, and blue whales, which migrate through December. Music lovers can also appreciate the increasingly popular music festival, California Roots Music & Arts Festival, held over Memorial Day weekend.

Ranked among the world’s greatest marine museums, Monterey Bay Aquarium is the area’s main tourist draw and welcomes 2 million guests a year. Floor-to-ceiling glass viewing walls allow visitors full views of underwater ecosystems, like the Kelp Forest (where leopard sharks roam) and Open Sea (home to sea turtles and huge schools of sardines). Morning feedings of the African penguin colony and the always-playful sea otters are crowd-pleasing delights.

Active travelers of all levels will find a suitable land or sea adventure in Monterey. To truly immerse yourself in the local lifestyle, grab a kayak, get out on the ocean, and watch the clouds and coastline drift by. Gliding across the waters of Monterey Bay in near silence can be a humbling and serene experience, or it can turn into a bucket-list encounter with playful schools of dolphins or breaching whales. —AFAR Editors

Churchill Downs opened in 1875 and has been home to the Kentucky Derby ever since.

Louisville, Kentucky

May is good for: booze hounds, equestrians of all levels

The Kentucky Derby captures international headlines on the first Saturday in May, with mint juleps, elaborate hats, and edge-of-your-seat horse racing, but it’s the Kentucky Derby Festival that puts on the real show. Although there are events as early as November, the festival ramps up during the two weeks prior to the Derby, and pretty much anything goes: a steamboat race, hot air balloon chase, marathon, and concerts with big-name acts.

The horse race isn’t the only reason to visit Kentucky in May. Cocktail connoisseurs will appreciate the city’s reputation as the center of the bourbon-making universe, with most of the world’s supply coming from the city and its surroundings. In downtown, the elixir bubbles forth from gleaming copper stills at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience. Family friendly exhibits take you back to 1783, when bourbon making began, while production tours show how it’s done today. A few blocks away, elegant Angel’s Envy offers tours and tastings of its slightly sweet, port-cask-finished whiskey.

To visit the distilleries like Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark, you’ll have to road-trip into the surrounding countryside. Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail provides itineraries for 19 small craft distilleries or 18 big-name ones, and visitors can get a passport stamp to show that they’ve visited (and opportunities for prizes). If you decide to take the double trail tour, plan on at least a week to visit all 37 distilleries. —AFAR Editors

Machu Picchu, a UNESCO World Heritage site, sits in the Andes Mountains, only a day-trip away from the city of Cuzco.


May is good for: adventurous spirits, hikers

The Andean city of Cuzco was once the heart of the Inca Empire. Situated 11,000 feet above sea level, this UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the most visited cities in Peru. Although May is winter in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s also the beginning of the dry season and hasn’t quite hit high season for crowds yet. The area is the gateway to the Sacred Valley and stunning swaths of the Amazon Basin, as well as Machu Picchu.

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Set in a remote, achingly beautiful corner of the Andes—all emerald peaks, snaking mists, endemic orchids, and meandering llamas—the most famous Inca citadel has the rare power to induce one of life’s pinch-me moments. To work around the crowds, consider a hiking adventure that puts you at the ruins before daybreak. The classic Inca Trail takes you from the outskirts of Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu’s Sun Gate over the course of three nights and four days. Though the trek isn’t easy—the Inca era was clearly the golden age of comically steep mountain staircases—there’s an embarrassment of riches along the way: the ever-shifting terrain, microclimates, flora, fauna, and plenty of Instagram-worthy views (hello, snowcapped Vilcanota Range), to say nothing of the Inca ruins sprinkled throughout. Another way to work around the crowds? Opt for a conservation trip with AFAR Travelers’ Choice Award–winner REI Adventures to help preserve Machu Picchu’s archaeological heritage.

Other amazing ruins to see include the terraced circles at Moray, believed to be an agricultural complex (but no one knows for sure); the stronghold at Ollantaytambo, which served as the base for the Incas’ Spanish resistance; and the underrated house complexes at Winay Wayna along the Inca Trail. All are near Machu Picchu, although some are harder to get to than others. —AFAR Editors

Orcas swim off the coast of Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island, British Columbia

May is good for: active travelers, road-trippers

Melting snow and blooming trees mark the beginning of spring in British Columbia. Bears come out of hibernation, orcas and humpbacks start their migration north, and restaurants brim with spring seafood (salmon, halibut, spot prawns) and foraged treats (spruce tips, fiddlehead ferns). May 1 marks the start of hiking season on the renowned West Coast Trail.

Vancouver Island—which has the capital city, Victoria, and the wood-shingled surf town Tofino—packs a lot into its 12,000 square miles. Come 2020, there are even more ways to explore. In Tofino, where travelers can surf and kayak, there are new additions to the town’s flourishing culinary scene, such as the Tofino Distillery and the vegan restaurant Bravocados, and new suites at the Pacific Sands Resort. The reigning queen of Tofino hospitality is still the Wickaninnish Inn, however. Its renovated Pointe Restaurant and On the Rocks bar—all wood and ocean-view windows, with a bar fashioned from local marble—will open a new wine cellar and event space in time for World Oceans Day (June 8). A new, nearly 15-mile multiuse trail that stretches from Tofino to its coastal neighbor, Ucluelet, is in the works. Travelers can book cycling tours with Pacific Rim Eco Tours in Ucluelet. The island is also home to 50 First Nations communities, with many offering immersive ways for travelers to connect with Native traditions. Homalco Wildlife & Cultural Tours is slated to run three trips along the island’s northern coast that highlight various aspects of the Homalco culture.

By the way, Vancouver Island is about 70 miles west of Vancouver. A road trip is one of the best ways to connect with the land and sea: Travelers can rent a car in Vancouver and take the 95-minute ferry to Victoria, or they can take a roughly 30-minute flight from Vancouver and rent a car from Victoria’s International Airport. It takes 5.5 hours to drive the island from end to end. A more enjoyable experience? Opting for the Oceanside Route, which parallels the water as it leads through quaint towns on the island’s east coast. —Serena Renner, as seen in the January/February 2020 issue

Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

May is good for: stargazers

The world’s largest salt desert, located in Bolivia’s high-altitude plateau, is becoming a luxury outpost. And May—the tail end of the wet season and the beginning of the dry season—is an ideal month to visit: The flats, located in southwest Bolivia, are more accessible, and thanks to the mix of sunny and rainy days, travelers may be able to see the salt flats both dry and when they are flooded, which creates the surreal mirror effect captured in countless photos.

In May 2019, the Swiss outfitter Amazing Escapes partnered with Bolivia’s indigenous Jirira community to open Kachi Lodge, the region’s first permanent luxury lodge. The highly sustainable camp, located at the foot of the Tunupa volcano, comprises six solar-powered geodesic domes with wood-pellet stoves, bay windows, and incinerating toilets. Reclaimed wood furniture, traditional bayeta textiles, and artwork from Gastón Ugalde (considered the Andean Andy Warhol) decorate the lodge. Claus Meyer, the Michelin-starred chef behind the destination restaurant Gustu in La Paz, oversees the menu, and dishes are made from native Bolivian ingredients. Guests can stargaze through the onsite telescope, take culinary classes, get an art lesson from Ugalde, or explore with a private guide part of the otherworldly terrain that spans over 4,000 square miles.

—Nora Walsh, as seen in the January/February 2020 issue

Sailing is a popular way to explore the British Virgin Islands.

British Virgin Islands

May is good for: snorkelers

Skip hurricane season (June through November) and visit this Travelers’ Choice Award–winner in spring, when the weather is balmy and underwater visibility is high, revealing colorful reefs and historic shipwrecks.

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Besides, with the reopening of several major resorts in 2020, this is the year the British Virgin Islands fully rebound from the devastating 2017 hurricane season. Richard Branson’s Necker Island reopened after multimillion-dollar renovations in late 2018, unveiling additional accommodations and wind turbines that produce almost all of the resort’s energy. Over on Virgin Gorda, Rosewood Little Dix Bay reopened in January 2020 with midcentury modern interiors that hark back to when the resort first opened in 1964. As for the Willy T, the beloved floating bar and restaurant destroyed in Hurricane Irma? A newer, larger replacement serves up rum-soaked fun just off Norman Island, believed to be the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

There are no direct flights to the islands from the U.S. mainland, but several airlines connect to Tortola via San Juan, Puerto Rico, and other Caribbean hubs. Travelers who fly to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands can ride the ferry to Tortola—part of the local ferry network that makes island-hopping easy and scenic. Those who prefer to plot their own course between turquoise coves and pirate caves will find crewed yachts and catamarans ready to charter. —Kristina Malsberger and Lyndsey Matthews, as seen in the January/February 2020 issue

Coqui frogs are endemic to Puerto Rico—and travelers can spot them in El Yunque National Forest.

Puerto Rico

May is good for: nature nuts

Many consider mid-April to late May in Puerto Rico the sweet spot: Winter crowds clear, prices drop, and official hurricane season (June through November) has yet to begin. Travelers who want to experience the bioluminescent glow of Mosquito Bay (off the island of Vieques) should plan a trip over Memorial Day weekend to coincide with a new moon.

In the wake of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico has rebuilt itself better and stronger. With renewed pride and increased self-sufficiency, the island offers a flurry of new enticements. They include new and refreshed hotels: in the Condado district, La Concha, dating back to 1958, has unveiled a $15 million renovation; and El Conquistador in Fajardo, on the eastern end of the island, will fully reopen this year. On the culinary front, Puerto Rico’s most famous restaurant, José Enrique, which features locally sourced ingredients, recently reopened closer to the beach in San Juan. There’s Spoon Food Tours’ modern chinchorreo, a party bus that makes culinary stops throughout the countryside, and the new Ron de Barrillito Visitor Center in Bayamón, where guests can enjoy tours and tastings and fill their own bottles with Puerto Rico’s oldest rum. In the capital, the recently opened entertainment complex El Distrito San Juan lures visitors with a concert arena, restaurants, bars, a dance club, and Puerto Rico’s first urban zip line. And while there’s no zip line in El Yunque, the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. national forest system, visitors will find fascinating species—including the Puerto Rican screech owl and the indigenous coquí frog—that have weathered the storms. —K.M.

Hundreds of restaurateurs and thousands of eaters will gather for the fifth annual Food Zurich festival in May.


May is good for: chocolate fans, food lovers

Though Zurich might evoke images of a city full of financiers in business suits, the historic lakeside city in northeastern Switzerland is also a lovely summer stop for travelers. And May is the perfect time to visit: Peak season has yet to strike, the weather is mild, and some noteworthy flavors are on display. First up is Food Zurich, an 11-day culinary fete that offers more than 100 food-centric events: Attendees get to taste both traditional Swiss fare and experimental dishes, take part in cooking workshops, watch talks and demonstrations by lauded chefs (kitchen battles, anyone?), and more. Then, from May 8 to June 7, the seventh annual Street Food Festival will take place. Sushi! Cupcakes! Dumplings! Tacos! And musical entertainment is on tap for eaters, too.

But perhaps the most thrilling event in May isn’t a food festival at all, but a building opening—the Lindt Home of Chocolate in Kilchberg, about 25 minutes outside Zurich by public transit. This May, the 65,000-square-foot complex will open, containing the world’s largest Lindt shop, as well as interactive exhibits on cacao and Switzerland’s chocolate pioneers, a “Chocolateria” where up to 60 participants can learn the art of chocolate making, plus a nearly 30-foot-high chocolate fountain. —Sara Button 

The Infiorata flower fest is one of a number of events taking place across Sicily in May.


May is good for: all types of travelers

“One doesn’t come to Italy for niceness,” British novelist E.M. Forster once wrote. “One comes for life.” Indeed, May is a great time of year for a trip to Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean, just west of Calabria, the tip of the Italian boot. May still counts as shoulder season; warm days mean the water is comfortable enough to take a dip but the weather is not as toasty as it gets in summer. Starting May 20, 2020, a new seasonal United flight from Newark Liberty International Airport to Palermo Airport is opening up the beautiful isle to American flyers with the only daily nonstop option.

Even better? The gem of an island has something for every type of traveler. Love food? Snack on the freshest of seafood (think super fresh prawns and stuffed sardines) or arancini (bites of breaded, deep-fried risotto) or sweet ricotta-filled cannoli. Hiking more your style? Join a guided hiking tour to summit Mount Etna, a UNESCO World Heritage site and Europe’s highest volcano (budding volcanologists, take note: it’s active). Is “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” your theme song? Every May, San Vito Lo Capo, a seaside town with white sand beaches and turquoise waters, hosts an international kite festival. Have an ardent love of arias? Teatro Massimo, Palermo’s opera house, is Italy’s largest and reportedly has perfect acoustics; in May, catch The Merry Wives of Windsor. Consider yourself a flower child? During the Infiorata di Noto on the third Sunday of May, master florists cover a main street in the baroque town of Noto with designs composed entirely of flowers.

We could go on, but you should just book the ticket and let us know what your favorite part was. —Sara Button

This story originally appeared on February 20, 2019. It was updated on February 11, 2020, to include current information.

>>Next: 5 Places Where It’s Glorious Summer Right Now


9 Best Places to Visit in Europe this Year (2020 Edition)

Adriatic Sea

Dream travel lists have become a natural accompaniment to a new year filled with possibilities.  While I’ve booked a flight based on little more than a sunny weather forecast, I have come to realize the most memorable trips are those with intention at their core. And intention can help you turn a big dream—say, a general desire to explore some of the best cities in Europe—into an actual travel plan.

That purpose need not be too serious. You might follow your taste buds in pursuit of sampling Sicily’s distinctive wines or the Baltic’s best brews. Or find inspiration exploring Glasgow’s street art or immersing yourself in Beethoven’s Viennese life. Exploring European cities—or anywhere else in the world—with intention can take you beyond the guidebook and beneath the surface of a place.

And while there’s no one-size-fits-all best city in Europe, there are nearly endless opportunities for immersion and purpose-filled pursuits in European cities, especially if you’re willing to slow down, stay in one place longer, and savor the journey.

Ready to find your inspiration? Here are nine of the best places to visit in Europe this year, and some of the many reasons you should go.

Rijeka, Croatia

rijeka croatia delta trsatxbrchx/Shutterstock

Strategically positioned where the Rječina river meets the Adriatic Sea, Rijeka (which means river in Croatian) overflows with multi-cultural richness that reflects the port city’s shipping and trading heritage.

Food and art offer portals to immersion beginning with Croatia’s biggest carnival and continuing throughout 2020 as Rijeka celebrates being crowned as European Capital of Culture (along with fellow recipient Galway, Ireland).

Experience classic influences with Violins Above Borders / Stradivari, an exhibit spotlighting violin craftsmen, paired with city-wide string of recitals and orchestral performances. Or, dive feet first into Rijeka’s famous rock and punk club scene in venues ranging from gritty to glamourous. Feast on Unknown Klimt: Love Death Ecstasy, a rare exhibit of Gustav Klimt’s early works created for Rijeka National Theatre; or, lean toward the cutting-edge with the third annual Industrial Art Biennial, poetically themed “Ride into the Sun.” For foodies, a series of Gastro Weeks spotlight seasonal cuisine ranging from sardines and squid to cherries and figs.

Plus, Rijeka serves as gateway to the Adriatic islands Krk and Cres, making it a snap to cap cultural-hunting with a beach vacay.

Pro Tip: Hilton‘s Costabella Beach Resort & Spa opens nearby this summer as the brand’s first luxury resort in Croatia.

Paris, France

paris france cafe tables.Catarina Belova/Shutterstock

2020 finds the City of Light radiating irresistible energy. While sadness and hope mingle with the ongoing restoration of Notre Dame, optimism builds for the 2024 Olympic Games. This heady mix promises to feed the traveler’s mind, heart and belly, in ways only Paris is capable of.

A 60-year-quest comes to fruition as the vision of artistic team Christo and Jeanne-Claude to transform a Parisian icon is unveiled. For 16 days beginning in mid-September, L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped, will shimmer with light reflected from over 250,000-square-feet of silver fabric covering the structure.

Centre Georges Pompidou traces the artists’ years in Paris (running March 18 to June 15); while celebrating the 150th birthday of another visionary with the largest exhibition of Henri Matisse’s work in nearly 50 years (running May 13 to August 31). June brings the highly anticipated opening of a stock exchange reimagined as a contemporary art palace: The Bourse de Commerce promises a grand showcase for the collection of French billionaire François Pinault.

Adding to Paris’ significant wow-factor, this year is the opening of luxury Art Deco resort Cheval Blanc Paris, featuring a restaurant helmed by three-star Michelin chef Arnaud Donckele.

“Save to splurge” is my Parisian motto. Paris Passlib’ ensures discounts on entry to attractions and transportation, along with queue-skipping. Another 2020 bonus: budget carrier Norwegian Airlines will debut a nonstop route from Austin to Paris in May.

Galway, Ireland

galway ireland sunset colorful houses.Luca Fabbian/Shutterstock

Watching the sun set over Galway Bay or drinking Guinness in a cozy pub—those pursuits can be all the purpose one needs. However, 2020 offers even more reasons to experience the west coast of Ireland’s beauty and hospitality. As a 2020 European Capital of Culture, Galway presents over 1,900 events inspired by the fusion of Celtic traditions and natural landscape.

Highlights include high-tech illumination of the Connemara Mountains in a groundbreaking work from Finnish light artist Kari Kola. “This work will underline the beautiful nature of Ireland using light art on an unseen scale,” says Kola. “The lighted surface will be around five- to 6,000,000 meters square (approximately two square miles), so in terms of a lighted area, this is probably the largest installation ever created.”

Other ambitious projects include Borderline, a project from American artist David Best, the visionary behind the temples of Burning Man; and Mirror Pavilion created by Irish artist John Gerrard who uses LED technology to reflect and expand a 4000-year-old bog.

Fittingly, two of the most buzz-worthy events are literature-centric. The event Wild Atlantic Women welcomes Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale, as part of International Women’s Day celebrations. And Arts Over Borders will stage readings of Homer’s Odyssey on regional beaches near where many believe parts of the journey took place.

The 43rd annual Galway International Arts Festival showcases blockbuster performances (including Sinead O’Conner, The Pixies, and The Flaming Lips) in July; while the International Oyster and Seafood Festival features oyster shucking and eating competitions, along with cooking demonstrations in September.

Pro Tip: Galway is a relatively small city, so book accommodations well in advance and plan to use public transportation to avoid adding to traffic congestion.

Berlin, Germany

berline germany panoramic view sunset.Subodh Agnihotri/Shutterstock

Continually redefining what it means to be 21st century Europe’s cultural catalyst, Berlin ensures new experiences with every visit. “Berlin is constantly changing, constantly becoming,” says Kirsten Schmidt of VisitBerlin.  Schmidt says Berlin is welcoming “new neighborhood and scenes, and openings of major sights like the James Simon Galerie at Museum Island in 2019 and the Humboldt Forum (housed in the reconstructed Berlin Palace) in 2020.”

Powerhouse events such as the 70th edition of the prestigious Berlin Film Festival and the 11th Berlin Biennale anchor the calendar and promises that the city’s affinity for technical and artistic experimentation will shine in 2020.

The whole city becomes a stage when Berlin Leuchtet (Berlin Illuminated) introduces its first digital-mapping Spring Light Festival from Feb 27  to March 8; as well as with the return of beloved Berlin Festival of Lights for 10 days in October. The fall celebration illuminates the city’s most famous landmarks including Brandenburg Gate and the Berlin Cathedral.

Experiment with high-tech time travel and journey to the divided Berlin with Time Ride Berlin, or enjoy new paths for old-school exploration with 20 urban hiking trails covering over 350 miles.

Use public transport and get free or discounted entry into over 200 attractions with a Berlin Welcome Card, starting at $25 for 48 hours. Autumn travelers may fly into Berlin’s long-awaited new airport.

Vienna, Austria

vienna austria aerial view.Calin Stan/Shutterfly

New energy flows through the old-world’s most prestigious coffeehouses and concert halls in Vienna.  This year, Europe’s capital of classical music celebrates the 250th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven, the visionary who called the city home for over 35 years.

Immerse in the artist’s life with a special exhibit titled Beethoven Moves from Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna from March 25 to July 5; and visit the Beethoven Museum, where the artist composed many marquee works.

Move from history to history-in-the-making with a performance by Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, led by artistic director and conductor Marin Alsop, the first woman ever at the helm. Don’t miss The Cindy Sherman Effect: Identity and Transformation in Contemporary Art, a new exhibition at Kunstforum Wien.

Pro Tip: Starting in late March, Austrian Airlines offers a nonstop flight from Boston to Vienna.

Riga, Latvia

riga latvia sunset panoramic view.Olesya Kuznetsova/Shutterstock

Beer, beaches and an art biennial—and that’s only the beginning. With the Daugava River running through it and Baltic Sea on the horizon, Riga makes a beautiful and strategic base for exploring this fascinating former-Soviet nation.

Intrepid Travel’s European specialist Stefan Hellmuth says the city’s layers of Art Nouveau architecture, thought to be the largest collection in the world, combined with medieval guildhalls, cobbled streets of Old Town, plus lush green spaces, make Riga one of Europe’s most pleasing destinations.

For deeper immersion, Hellmuth recommends spending time in the eclectic central market set within former zeppelin hangars. “Also, make sure you try Riga’s specialty, the famous Black Balsam, a liquor made from over 20 natural ingredients, among them raspberries, birch buds, peppermint, ginger, oak bark, nutmeg and black pepper,” adds Hellmuth.

As for those beautiful three Bs: From May to October, visitors can experience the return of one of Europe’s most anticipated art fairs, Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art, also known as RIBOCA2, led by daring French curator Rebecca Lamarche-Vadel. This year’s exhibits showcase artists from the three Baltic nations in tandem with an international roster of boundary-pushing art-makers.

The Baltic’s largest beer festival returns for nine days in May with the 10th annual Latviabeerfest. Project manager Anna Vairoga says to expect over 50 breweries set up in the heart of Riga, serving over 500 brews to taste.

In July, drum beats lead to the sands of nearby beaches for Summer Sound Festival and further along the coast for buzzy Positivus Festival, this summer concert anchored by Of Monsters and Men and A$AP Rocky.

Glasgow, Scotland

glasgow university scotland sunset.MichaelBarr/Shutterstock

While much about the UK’s post-Brexit future remains uncertain, what we know for sure is Scotland is one of the planet’s most beautiful and welcoming places. For now, the dollar remains strong, making 2020 an exceptional year to chase those Outlander dreams.

Scotland’s cultural capital Glasgow offers an intoxicating blend of contemporary art, pedestrian-friendly streets, and whiskey. All purposes are achieved through one of the city’s walking tours. Layers of the Glasgow’s soul are revealed on a walking tour along the City Mural Trail, while UNESCO’s “City of Music” recognition rings truly during a Glasgow music tour. And, you can embrace the country-wide passion for its signature spirit with a Once Upon a Whiskey Tour.

Yearn to earn your whiskey? Embark on West Highland Way, one of Scotland’s epic long-distance walking trails, spanning 96 miles from just outside Glasgow to Fort William in the Scottish Highlands.

Football fans will cheer as Glasgow hosts UEFA’s EURO 2020 championship matches in Scotland’s National Stadium Hampden Park.

Catania, Sicily

catania italy sicily piazza duomo.Yury Dmitrienko/Shutterstock

Deep blue sea, golden sand beaches, and rugged coastline resting beneath terraced vineyards and ancient hilltop villages. If these images fill your European vacation dreams, consider the Mediterranean’s largest island: Sicily.

Andrea Traina of My European Vacay says that for wine lovers, the terroirs of snow-capped Mount Etna, one of the world’s most active volcanos, produce distinct wines and unforgettable tastes. To experience the full spectrum of varietals and styles of Vini dell’Etna, it’s smart to hire a guide/driver.

Traina recommends the island’s second largest city, the seaside gem Catania, as a base. Not only are wineries within easy reach, the ancient Greek and Roman ruins of Syracuse and baroque towns of Noto, Modica, and Ragusa are near.

While in Catania, be sure to visit the excellent WWII Landing Museum (Museo dello Sbarco) to discover stories of Italy’s liberation from Nazi occupation and Fascist rule.

And, for cycling fans, follow the route of Italy’s most famous cycling event when Giro d’Italia 2020 finishes a mighty stage on the top of Etna, in May.

Cordoba, Spain

cordoba spain roman bridge.cge2010/Shutterstock

A bright orange sun reflects the River Guadalquivir onto the arched bridges and tiled roofs of Cordoba. It’s the epitome of Andalusian magic. The city boasts four UNESCO World Heritage designations, including for the mosque-turned-cathedral Mezquita-Catedral de Cordoba, its red and white striped columns and arches famously showcasing the region’s rich Moorish heritage.

Local guide José Fabra-Garrido says off-season is a sweet spot, particularly from November through March, when temperatures are mild, prices are lower, and the vibe is more relaxed.

Cordoba is the perfect place in 2020 to indulge your foodie fantasies. The city’s most acclaimed restaurant Noor, led by celebrity chef Paco Morales, recently received a second Michelin star. While coveted reservations are for the few, the restaurant has become a catalyst for a city-wide celebration of regional tastes, from traditional taberna cordobesa to hip new tapas bars.

Discover the pleasure that comes in small bites with Tapas Tours from Fabra-Garrido’s Foodie & Experiences Cordoba. Visitors can enjoy every bite accompanied by the sweet sounds of flamenco and jazz during Cordoba’s renowned International Guitar Festival, celebrating its 40th anniversary in July.

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Armed with backpack, yoga mat, and laptop, writer Jess Simpson has been traveling nomadically for nearly five years. Along the way, she’s discovered that laughter is a universal language and home is a state of mind. Her work is featured by Intrepid Travel, Architectural Digest, Mental Floss and Fodor’s. Follow her travels on Instagram @lighttraveling and LightTraveling.org.

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