Need inspiration for your next trip? Here are our top vacation spots for 2016.

Singapore

Like something out of a computer-generated action film, the jaw-dropping silhouette of Marina Bay Sands is hard to take in. Three 55 storey towers are topped off with an overhanging top floor, jutting out, 200 metres up, into the Singapore sky. Here, on top of the world, you’ll find Sands SkyPark, a 1.2 hectare tropical oasis, longer than the Eiffel Tower is tall!

If you’re after a touch of real culture while you’re in Singapore, you’re in luck. The city is home to a wealth of excellent museums and galleries, displaying fine work from Asia and beyond, and from the 21st century to pre-history.

The Arts House, Parliament Lane, is home to a broad display of visual art, performance spaces and musical recitals. There’s usually something going on here, so it’s worth checking this grand old colonial building out.

8Q Sam, the Singapore Art Museum, 71 Bras Basah Road, is home to the world’s largest collection of southeast Asian art, in a stunning series of galleries.

Melbourne

Melbourne’s natural muster station, Federation Square is a strikingly modern, open space, bordered by galleries, stores, bars and – most importantly – the Melbourne Visitor Centre.  It’s as good a place as any to plan your city adventure. Southgate is a handsome promenade on the south bank of the Yarra, and the ideal vantage point to take in the Melbourne city skyline on the opposite bank. At the weekends it’s a lively spot, with art and craft fairs, and street performers.

The Parliament House was the first seat of Australian Federal Government, and offers free guided tours – giving a fascinating glimpse of Australia’s early years. St Kilda is Melbourne’s breezy and pleasant beachside suburb, Carlton is a historic neighbourhood, alive with museums, great Italian restaurants, leafy avenues and – at the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens – Melbourne’s UNESCO World Heritage Sight (Australia’s first), an ornate Victorian pile, home to flower shows, concerts and conventions. Fitzroy is the place to go to catch a local band (Melbourne’s music scene is the most interesting of all Australian cities).

The CBD district is home to scores of cool cocktail bars, half hidden down the city’s narrow laneways and streets.

Lisbon Riviera

Portugal’s ebullient, and value-for-money capital is fast becoming the smart choice for a break combining coast and city: for the coast bit, you’ve only got to travel 30 minutes to reach swanky Estoril (home to the Formula One track) and much nicer Cascais, with its sandy coves and art galleries.  The beach at Guincho, with its huge Atlantic rollers, is wild and wonderful. And the sunset at Cabo de Sao Vicente is the last on the European mainland.

Back in the city, Almalfa is the medieval warren that clings to one of Lisbon’s steepest hills; at its summit, the Castelo de Sao Jorge offers the most spectacular views in the city.

On the other side of the city’s main shopping area rises the equally hilly Bairro Alto quarter. This ancient bohemian quarter sleeps during the day but comes alive at night with music thumping from every doorway, and gangs of (generally) good natured revellers roaming from bar to bar.

At night, it’s all about the Fado – those uniquely Portuguese torch songs with a nautical twist. Experience them at A Severa – a Celebrated Bairro Alto fado house (Rua das Gaveas 51) dedicated to the memory of 19th century chanteuse Maria Severa.

Costa Rica

One of the world’s most fragile and varied eco-systems is, fortunately, one of the world’s most protected environments: delightful Costa Rica. Visit the colourful capital, San Jose. Rising from a lofty, 4,000 foot high plateau in the Central Valley of Costa Rica, it’s a cool, lively and cultural hub. Then head off into the lush wetlands of the Tortuguero National Park, a steamy hinterland of tropical lagoons and swamps home to lizards, monkeys and jaguars.

Onwards across the plains of San Carlos, you’ll reach the Arenal Volcano national park – here, next to the country’s most active volcano, you’ll see geysers, waterfalls, wide panoramas and cloud forests.

The internationally important Monteverde Cloud Forest reserve is an object lesson in responsible eco-tourism. The well-run reserve straddles the Jaggedly green Cordillera de Tilaran mountains that form a spiny ridge to the west of Costa Rica.  The reserve consists of over 10,500 hectares of  virgin tropical rainforest, six distinct ecological zones, over 2,500 plant species (including the most orchid species in a single place), over a hundred species of mammals,  bird, butterfly reptile and insect species.

Minneapolis

The Minneapolis/St Paul art scene has never felt more alive. From spruced up riverside warehouses to grand civic collections, the city takes great pride in the boom it’s been nurturing in its creative industries. It’s at Midway (527 SE 2nd Ave) where you’ll see this renaissance at its kaleidoscopic best.

The city’s comforting, homestyle cooking reaches its farm-to-table best at  Haute Dish (119 Washington Ave. N). Fun, provocative and reassuringly homespun, its Midwestern pot roasts, fried chicken and steaks – and great bourbon bar, hits the spot.

The re-energised neighbourhood of Lowertown is a great place to linger in. Head to the streets around Mears Park. Here, joints like Faces (373 N Sibley St) – with its easygoing blend of wine bar, bakery and restaurant – perfectly sums up this St Paul’s neighborhood’s come as you are vibe.  It’s all about blurring the boundaries here – your favourite bar might be someone else’s favourite dining room too.

Buzzing until the small hours, Barrio’s lip smacking cocktails take the heat off the fiery latin-inspired tapas (235 E 6th Street). For shopping thrills, head to the vibrant St Paul’s Farmers’ Market (fresh food, live music, local crafts (daily, apart from Mondays – 290 5th St E.).



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