As mentioned above, there are two European Capitals of Culture in 2020: Rijeka is one, and this is the other. Built around a harbour on the west coast of Ireland, Galway is a lively city based around the 18th century Eyre Square, a popular spot for evenings out surrounded by traditional Irish pubs offering live folk music and the like.
Roads leading away offer pretty stone buildings housing cafes, boutiques, galleries and more, while the lanes of the Latin Quarter still retain parts of the city’s medieval walls.
Throughout the year the city will be full of public art, exhibitions, more live music, theatre and much more. For a city already known for its great food, beautiful surrounding scenery and creative soul, this is just the icing on the cake.
Tokyo becomes the first Asian city to host the Summer Olympics twice when the competition arrives there in 2020. From the opening ceremony on 24 July to the final day on 9 August, over 11,000 athletes will compete in 50 disciplines in venues across what have been dubbed the Heritage Zone (which houses venues used for the 1964 games) and the Tokyo Bay Zone (a new development showcasing the future of the city).
On top of this, the football and baseball / softball tournaments are being held at stadia across the country, bringing the Games to a wider live audience.
The waterfront of the English city of Plymouth has, for over a thousand years, been a gathering point for sailors, traders, travelers, vagrants, and every type of jolly Jack Tar who dreamt of a life on the open waves, and 2020 sees the anniversary of a voyage that would become one of the defining moments of European culture and its expansion across the globe.
Plymouth was where the Mayflower set sail for the New World, and this year it will be one of the centers of the Mayflower 400 commemorations, a year-long celebration of cultural exhibitions, outdoor installations and live shows, community activities and sports programs.
Never heard of it? That’s not entirely surprising. Paraty is a small town on Brazil’s Costa Verde, by a beautiful bay surrounded by mountains, and virtually equidistant between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. In 2019 Paraty was recognized by Unesco and added to their World Heritage list, and with good reason.
The center of the town is a beautiful labyrinth of cobbled streets and buildings that have barely changed in the 250 years since Paraty became a center of the Brazilian gold rush, and all motor traffic is banned from the center, meaning that horses and carts are used all around the town. It’s a side of Brazil that’s rarely seen; maybe now is the perfect time to go and see it.
For the first time, Saudi Arabia will be offering visas to non-religious tourists as part of a plan to try and diversify its economy away from the oil industry. Citizens of 49 countries will have the chance to apply for one of the new visas — which official sources say can be delivered in seven minutes — and will exempt female tourists from having to wear all-covering robes (although it still advises women to “dress modestly”).
It certainly means that some of the Middle East’s most amazing historical sites will be accessible to tourists, including Mada’in Saleh, a Unesco-designated necropolis comprising over 130 tombs, and the 2,000-year-old Al-‘Ulā.