7 Unconventional Places to Include in Your Traveller’s Bucket List Now

By Derrick Tan, 26 October 2016 1024


We often travel to destinations with tried-and-tested itineraries. But this also takes away some of the mystic of our travel adventures. So why not venture away from the usual suspects and discover a whole new world? It's time to give these cities some well-deserved appreciation.

1. Bordeaux, France


Many throng to the City of Lights for the famed Musée du Lourve and glamourous Rue Saint-Honoré. But France’s second favourite city, Bordeaux, with its countless neoclassical architecture, is fast becoming a beloved destination. Holding the record for being the largest urban UNESCO World Heritage site, this historic wine city was restored to its full glory for the 21st century.

Nicknamed La Belle Endormie (sleeping beauty), its drab mixture of dirt, traffic congestion, and bad planning has been fixed to reveal elegance to one of the world’s greatest facades. Bordeaux’s riverscape is one of the city’s prime attractions, alongside the quaint neighbourhood of Chartons and Port Jacques Chaban-Delmas (Europe’s largest lift bridge).

With an unmatched 18th century European vibe, there is never a bad time to visit as these attractions are not seasonal-based. Experience the city’s grandeur at the central Triangle’dOr and camp at Tour Pey-Berland to see the town’s panoramic view. You ought to pop some corks at Cité du Vin and taste the sublime and underrated Sauternes and Sauvignon Blancs.

2. Bilbao, Spain

A modern take on Spain


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Move over Madrid and Barcelona, Spain has spawned a niftier city up north in the Basque Country. Known for being an industrial port, Bilbao now exudes a modern aura with its mix of traditional Basque culture and progressive vision. The city's heavy-duty manufacturing and wasteland environment have long deterred visitors from appreciating its gorgeous riverfront landscapes and quirky architecture.

Rejuvenation came in the form of Guggenheim Bilbao (or affectionately known as Googen by local Bilbaínos). This design mecca is the brainchild of ‘Star Architect’, Frank Gehry. Viewed as one of the most important buildings in contemporary architecture history, the glistening titanium landmark stirred up major interest since opening in 1997.

Beyond the spotlight of Guggenheim Bilbao, discover the diligent sensibilities of the city and acknowledge its real character with a trip to Artxandra. This sentry provides the best view of Bilbao and Casco Viejo. You’ll then understand why Bilbaínos call their city, the ‘Botxo’ (hole).

3. Burano, Italy

Italy's cheeriest lagoon


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Dubbed as the cheeriest lagoon island in Italy, Burano is more of an archipelago of four islands linked by bridges. It is located at the same Venetian Lagoon as Venice in Northern Italy and its picturesque, brightly-coloured houses are quite a sight to behold.

Legend has it that the residents paint their homes with luminous colours so that the native fishermen is able to see them in thick fog and avoid crashing into the shore after a day out at sea. The houses follow a special colour pattern, based on a specific system that has been in place since the village’s founding.

Burano’s traditional industry is fishing and it is the home of Venetian lace. Women on the island begun making lace since the 16th century and the material is popular among the European elite. Most lace patterns on sale in souvenir shops are affordable, but may have the label ‘Made in China’. Instead, check out the following shops, La Perla and Scuola del Merietto. Real Venetian (Burano) lace costs a premium, as it is handmade.

4. Ishigaki, Japan


In contrast with the densely populated cities in Japan, Ishigaki provides the welcomed escape from the frenetic metropolis lifestyle. This southwestern island is part of the Okinawa Prefecture and the commercial hub of the Yaeyama Islands. A home to many city transplants who seek a slower pace of life, Ishigaki’s laid-back approach captivates many to visit this tropical isle on a frequent basis. The unspoiled beaches, coral reefs in luminous water, and palm tree forests, evoke a Hawaiian feel.

Snorkeling is the primary choice of activity and it can be enjoyed at nearly every beach on the island. Surround yourself with beautiful coral reefs and attempt to dive deeper for a chance to encounter the island’s famed manta rays near Kabira Bay. Surfing is also recommended at Yarabuzaki, on the island’s west coast. Don’t get sunburned from being engrossed in appreciating Ishigaki’s natural beauty.

5. Aarhus, Denmark

Aarhus Canal


Is Aarhus the ‘World’s Smallest Big City or Biggest Little Town’? Nevertheless, Denmark’s second-largest city isn’t going to be second fiddle to its cool capital, Copenhagen. There is a thriving native food, art, and culture scene in this picturesque city, centre of the Jutland Peninsula. Overlooked by many, Aarhus strikes the perfect balance between being an innovative college city while retaining its historic legacy. It’s a must to get an AarhusCard that offers discounts to the revolutionary art gallery, ARoS and the Den Gamle By (The Old Town) Museum, amongst other benefits.

Being a port city and its coastal location, a visit to the harbour a must to experience the authentic atmosphere of Aarhus. Do head into Marselisborg Forest for a peaceful nature stroll, and spot some fallow deer and wild boars in their habitats. Also make a detour to Marselisborg Palace and experience royalty life for a day. This Danish Royal Family’s summer residence is on the outskirts of the city and its beautiful grounds are open to the public to explore when the royals are not in residence.

6. Jungfrau, Switzerland

The "Top of Europe"


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Enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime breathtaking view from the Jungfrau summit in Switzerland. This is known as the Top of Europe, which makes Jungfraujoch the highest train station in Europe, at an altitude of 3,454 metres/11,333 feet.

The Alpine attraction and viewing point is located in between Mönch and Jungfrau mountains, in the heart of the UNESCO Natural World Heritage property. Start your hour-long journey to Jungfraujoch from Kleine Scheidegg, with two stops in between at Eismeer and Eigerwand stations. These pauses offer a sneak peek of Jungfrau’s view from its vantage points.

Upon arrival, enjoy a 360 degrees view of the area from the Sphinx observatory. There is also a post office, and letters or postcards sent from there will be given a special postmark, “Top of Europe”.

7. Durban, South Africa

Durban Beachfront


Being the third wheel to Cape Town and Johannesburg? Not quite! A natural paradise known for its gorgeous coastline and great subtropical climate, Durban (or Durbs) is a vibrant coastal city in eastern South Africa. This semitropical metropolis astounds visitors as various mosques, bazaars and temples are juxtaposed with the Victorian buildings in the colonial centre. The proximity to Golden Mile coastal edge with the city centre has given surfers a good reason to hit the waves daily.

South Africa is one of the world's multicultural cities and home to the highest concentration of Indians outside of India. With the reinvention and development of Rivertown precinct, the historical town centre is easy to navigate around. Try downtown for a diverse vibe and to sample various flavours of what the city has to offer. While you’re at it, do groove to the homegrown musical movement, gqom (pronounced as qwom) too!