13 Editors and Travel Experts Name Their Favorite Place on Earth
From hip Danish neighborhoods to islands in Lake Superior
They say always leave a reason to visit a place again: A hike. A pasta joint. A museum.
But then there’s that one place that doesn’t need a reason — the one you start missing as soon as your return flight touches down, whether it’s close to home or a million miles away.
Our friends and family are tired of listening to us rave about ours.
… so now you get to, with this list of the 13 most return-worthy destinations we know, curated by our editors and some friends who work in the travel industry.
From a revamped meatpacking neighborhood in Copenhagen to an island with cliff-jumping in Lake Superior, here are our picks.
A place I’ve loved before and find myself always returning to is Cagliari, located along the southern coast of Sardinia. I lived there for several years, recently returned for the first time in a decade, and wondered why I ever left. The city’s signature landmark, the Bastione di San Remy, just reopened after a multi-year restoration and a sleek new waterfront promenade faces the azure-colored Gulf of Cagliari.
Where to stay: Stay high atop the city in its medieval Castello quarter.
Can’t-miss eats: Try some freshly caught seafood with a strong glass of local Vermentino wine in the lively Marina district.
How to spend an afternoon: Come face to face with the mysterious “bronzetti” relics of a lost Sardinian civilization at the world-class archaeology museum, and splash at Poetto, one of Europe’s greatest city beaches.
BREAKING: Copenhagen is cool. You can experience it by way of cocktail bar and cobblestone lane, slowly baptizing yourself throughout the city, or just say screw it and dive right into my old stomping grounds — Vesterbro, ye olde Meatpacking District turned 24/7 haven of burger bars and art galleries. Head here by day to take a peak at “future living labs” like SPACE10, or by night for an impromptu parking-lot boombox party with some middle-aged Danes. True story.
Where to stay: This city isn’t very big, and half the fun is spending the day traversing it, so we’d recommend staying near the postcard harbor at the deservedly famous Hotel D’Angleterre, if you’ve got coin to spare. If you want to be closer to the action, stay in an Airbnb in Vesterbro. (A tad seedier, but with way more chutzpah.)
Can’t-miss eats: Mother for a three-hour dinner. It’s knock-your-socks-off Italian with a healthy wine list. I’ve eaten here a dozen times and it always delivers. I’d also highlight War Pigs for BBQ (owned by local brewdogs Mikkeller) and Tommi’s Burger Joint for a patty and fries.
How to spend an afternoon: By preparing for a late night out. By day, Vesterbro is an unassuming, convenient area to get comfortable with the Danish biking scene (which is admittedly intimidating in the middle of the city) or to take an aimless stroll … perhaps to nearby Tivoli Gardens. But later, drink a lot of water, take our advice on chow above and hit the bars. Start at Mikkeller’s Bar around the corner then head to Bakken or Jolene to rub shoulders with actual Danes. FYI: morning’s going to be less than ideal, but it helps that the people are irrationally kind and a local bus/train/ferry hasn’t missed a stop in 30 years.
— Tanner Garrity, Associate Editor at InsideHook
Cabo San Lucas
Growing up, Cabo was a place where I was able to enjoy a sense of community and the concept of family. The people are second to none and welcome individuals into their community regardless of income status, religion or ethnicity.
Where to stay: I was fortunate enough to grow up with a family vacation home located outside of Cabo where we held our family vacation throughout the years. [Editor’s note: For those without a local abode, try The Resort at Pedregal on for size.]
Can’t-miss eats: Las Guacamayas is in my opinion one of the best restaurants EVER. You’ll have to travel a bit outside Cabo San Lucas but it’s worth it.
How to spend an afternoon: That is a tough question. It is very hard to narrow it down to one thing in Cabo as it provides so much beauty. I would recommend the beaches with great surf, the food, culture and all the activities it provides.
I believe I’m actually judicially required to return to Granada, since I once hopped a curb in a Fiat to exit a metered parking lot on my way out of town. And when I do, I will repay my debt to society by patronizing the city’s various and sundry establishments: teahouses, hookah bars, art galleries, ice cream shops, bookstores. Granada is kind of like Boulder (it’s surrounded by mountains, it’s the home of Spain’s fourth-largest university), only if Boulder were built upon the ruins of a 7,000-year-old city that was once a stronghold of the Roman and Moorish empires.
Where to Stay: If you’re with your significant other (and you should be, Granada is for lovers), you won’t beat Hotel Casa Morisca, a quaint guesthouse set in a preserved 15th-century home. Be sure to ask for the Mirador room, which boasts bathtub views of the Alhambra, the hulking Moorish palace that stands guard over the city.
Can’t-miss Eats: The single greatest thing about Granada is that it’s one of the few remaining Spanish cities that observes the traditional tapas culture: at the city’s tavernas, you get a free plate of grub with every beer. This gives you a chance to dabble with a few different dishes at every bar you pass; we recommend Los Diamantes and Bodegas Castañedas for some traditional Spanish fare. And as for your beer? It’s gotta be the Alhambra Reserva 1925, a dark lager that puts every other Spanish beer to shame.
How to Spend an Afternoon: In the morning, wander the mazy streets of the Albaicín, the city’s Arab quarter. Sign up for an Alhambra tour about four hours before the sun goes down — timing is key, since you’ll want plenty of time to get to the Mirador de San Nicolas by sunset. Pick up a bottle of red or a couple beers en route, then sit in awe as locals and tourists alike gather to watch the big red sun tuck away behind the snowcapped mountains in the distance, the breadth of the Alhambra sitting pretty in the foreground. There is little doubt in my mind that it is the greatest vista on earth.
— Walker Loetscher, Editor in Chief at InsideHook
Buenos Aires, Argentina
I have only been to Buenos Aires one time, but I immediately fell in love. Before my two months in the city ended I was already telling people I was planning to come again the following year. With around 300 theaters and numerous museums, it’s one of the best cities in the world to visit for the performing arts and cultural activities, but I would return again and again just to eat some of the best steak you can find anywhere.
Where to stay: Palermo Hollywood or Palermo Soho are both great neighborhoods for trendy bars, boutique shopping and any kind of cuisine you would like. The neighborhoods feel less touristy, yet are only a short metro or taxi ride away from all the major sights.
Can’t miss eats: Hands down, steak is the way to go. Don Julio is well-known, but it is well-known for a reason. Another great steakhouse that offers good quality steaks in massive portions is La Cabrera.
How to spend an afternoon: A Boca Juniors football game at La Bombonera stadium.
— Elizabeth Aslakson, Travel writer at The Fearless Foreigner
Madeline Island, Wisconsin
I ferried to this 14-by-3-mile island for the first time the summer after my freshman year of college, thanks to a high school friend whose parents have a cabin. The eccentricities of “island life” are present, but because it’s on Lake Superior and not some tropical patch of ocean, the mix of isolation, rejuvenating cold water, long shallow beaches and rougher landscape make it a much better retreat. Chances are I’ll buy a place there someday.
Where to stay: Either go beachfront or go big … or rent my friend’s parents’ actual cabin.
Can’t miss eats: This is the kind of place where you’re better off stockpiling the car with groceries before you drive onto the ferry in Bayfield. But when you’re sick of drinking at your cabin head to Tom’s Burned Down Cafe (it’s literally the remnants of a bar that burned down). It also has my favorite TripAdvisor review of all time, titled “Worst bar on this earth”: “Toms is a tarp stretched over a bunch of locals smoking pot (seriously) and being rude.” Yes it is, and if you can’t handle it, go to Florida.
How to spend an afternoon: Go during the summer so you can swim, kayak, cliff jump, fish and tromp around Big Bay State Park.
— Alex Lauer, Senior Editor at InsideHook
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By far my favorite place in the world is Iceland. It holds so much opportunity for adventure and surf. Every time I shoot there it’s like walking on another planet. The geography along with the people of Iceland keep you coming back. Brea and I joke about living in Iceland when our boys get a little older. I’ve been 32 times and have no intention of stopping.
Where to stay: Whenever I go, I usually stay with friends. In the summertime, I would recommend renting a car and camping all around the island. [Editor’s note: Get yourself a Mink camper and you’re in business.] In the winter, it’s all about chasing the northern lights and the best thing would be to stay in Reykjavik and drive north or south at night depending on where it’s most clear.
Can’t-miss eats: Gló restaurant in Reykjavik has the best food in Iceland.
How to spend an afternoon: The Westfjords. They are so raw and wild that nowhere else on earth compares to the vastness of the landscape.
— Chris Burkard, Photographer, Explorer, Creative director, Speaker and Author
Melbourne wins most livable city year after year for good reason — the vibe is laid back, the food/drink scene is amazing and the people are, well, a Hemsworth-y level of approachable and attractive. Also: best graffiti in the world (just look for Hosier Lane, AC/DC Lane or pretty much anywhere in Fitzroy) and their cafe culture is unparalleled (outside of Europe).
Where to stay: The Notel Melbourne is a converted parking garage with luxed-out Airstreams on the roof (one with an open-air spa).
Can’t-miss eats: It’s a cosmopolitan city — you’ll find great Japanese, Italian, Thai, Chinese and Greek everywhere, and they even do barbecue well (Mexican … not so much). For something with local flavor, try Rockport for steak, Cutler & Co. for seafood and craft brews and pizza at Mountain Goat.
How to spend an afternoon: Get a rooftop pint at Naked for Satan, located in hipster Fitzroy (it’s Melbourne’s Brooklyn). Hint: They have a lot of great cocktails and infused vodkas, but local liquor laws are gonna prevent you from having anything strong (no free pours here) — stick with beer or wine. Then have an urban walkabout; stop at any number of vinyl stores — they’re everywhere. Or, this time of year (it’s their summer), just laze out in Edinburgh Gardens.
— Kirk Miller, Managing Editor at InsideHook
A New England architectural history mixed with a distinctly rugged western coastline makes this one of the most unique and picturesque places to enjoy the outdoors while also maintaining a sense of comfort. Every trip to Mendocino, or the Northern California coast for that matter, brings with it different weather, different food, different people — somehow the overall sense of place feels the same, yet the elements change each time.
Where to stay: A relatively recent discovery, Mendocino Grove has become my go-to place to rest my head. What I love about this place is that you don’t have to compromise on the outdoors for a moment, and yet you still have access to a heated bed and running water. The Northern California coast feels like somewhere you should be fully in nature, so it’s nice to not have to give that up when it’s time to go to bed.
Can’t-miss eats: Café Beaujolais. Maybe it’s because I stumbled upon it the first time and it’s never disappointed since, this restaurant has been a perennial favorite and a must-visit for anyone who happens to find themselves in the vicinity.
How to spend an afternoon: Get outside! Take a hike up in the hills, walk along the bluff at the edge of town and watch the surfers down below, or even just meander through the charming streets and try not to be tempted to stop at every coffee shop and bakery that catches your eye.
— Liana Corwin, Consumer Travel Expert at Hopper
Previously, I’ve been all about checklist travel, collecting new cities and never wanting to return to a place I’d already been. That all changed after I went to Mexico City. There is an unrivaled, gritty energy there that makes you desperately want to not be a tourist — it’s not only easy to imagine a life there, it’s easy to imagine a cool, creative life that renders your current life (wherever that may be) utterly dull. What I’m trying to say is, Mexico City is incredibly inspiring, thanks to its food, art, nightlife, LGBTQ and music scenes. It’s worth going back again and again because it’s a city that’s very much alive and constantly changing. I love being able to chronicle my adventures in Here Magazine to inspire our community to travel more, and this was one of my favorite pieces to write about. You will literally never run out of things to do in Mexico City. It has the most museums of any city in the world. The amount of good restaurants (and taco joints and food carts … ) is staggering. Plus, it is 573 square miles, so you could literally wander for weeks and never hit it all.
Where to stay: Airbnb is the name of the game. Options are affordable, well-designed, and perfectly located. Plus, staying at an Airbnb adds to the whole “I live here” affect. I stayed here in January and pretended like I was on the set of “Roma” the whole time.
Can’t-miss eats: Masala y Maiz. Though at first difficult to wrap my head around the concept, Mexican-Indian fusion is my new favorite cuisine. Go for brunch, and order chole masala, esquites makai pakka and uttapam ranchero. Plus, a bottle from their excellent natural wine list.
How to spend an afternoon: The Frida Kahlo Museum is a tourist site that’s well worth the visit, but it’s the public parks in Mexico City that really have my heart. Bosque de Chapultepec puts New York’s Central Park to shame (and is well worth planning a run through), and Parque Mexico might be the most magical park in the world. Go with a book or a journal or a bottle of wine (or all three), for a perfect afternoon.
— Ally Betker, Editorial Director, Here Magazine
Bywater, New Orleans
No American city — not Chicago, not Los Angeles, not even New York — offers the all-encompassing, soul-affirming cultural experience of NOLA. You feel it deep down in your plums as soon as you step through the sliding glass doors at Louis Armstrong International Airport. The old-world influences are undeniable, and the people want nothing more than to share their hometown with you, provided you aren’t being a drunk tourist asshole, which brings us to the Bywater, a neighborhood adjacent to the French Quarter that has all of the things that make the French Quarter great (bars, restaurants, live music, etc.) with not nearly as many of what makes it bad (aforementioned drunk tourist assholes). It’s essentially the French Quarter for locals.
Where to stay: You’re 100% going to want to stay in an AirBnb; it’s going to be less expensive and will almost certainly include the help and advice of the local owner, who will be sure to have their own favorite places for you to check out.
Can’t-miss eats: Bacchanal is a local hang featuring a huge back yard with live music and amazing menu. The most unique part however, is that the front is a wine-and-cheese shop where you can purchase bottles and charcuterie that are then brought out to your table once you’re seated. For breakfast, hit Elizabeth’s for southern-style biscuits and gravy. And if you’re really craving some New Orleans seafood, Drago’s, a bit of a walk (or short cab) out of the Bywater and past the French Quarter, is well worth the journey for their char-broiled oysters.
How to spend an afternoon: There is so much incredible music in New Orleans, you should spend just about every possible second listening to it. Sure, there are great musicians playing at the tourist spots on Bourbon Street, but you’re going to want to go see a local band playing for actual locals. Saturn Bar ain’t the prettiest or swankiest watering hole in the world, but it’s utterly unpretentious, has cheap drinks, plenty of friendly people and multiple rooms including a balcony.
— Eli London, Director of Partnerships
The one place that I go back to at least once a year, if not more, is Paris. It’s an incredible combination of old and new … somehow both edgy and romantic. When you walk around the City of Light, its beautiful and rich history is on full display; from the classic sidewalk cafés and narrow cobblestone streets to the gorgeous gardens and unbelievable museums. At the same time though, you have innovative new restaurants, hyper-cool stores, and diverse neighborhoods, each with their own unique identity, personality and style.
Where to stay: I used to stay in the Marais (4th arrondissement) a lot, which is super lively and fun (note: if you stay in the 4th, go with Airbnb), but in the last few years I’ve been staying in St. Germain des Prés (6th arrondissement) which is a more traditional. It’s well-known for its café culture, and home to the French intelligentsia. For friends visiting and looking to stay in a cool hotel, I would recommend the Hoxton. For luxury, there’s always the George V.
Can’t-miss eats: For me, it’s Frenchie, a small modern French restaurant that has none of the heavy creams and sauces that classical French cuisine is known for. This is the first dinner we have every time we land in Paris. The second restaurant that we go to on every trip is Ellsworth. Two words: fried chicken. No joke. They also have incredible foie.
How to spend an afternoon: There isn’t much that I wouldn’t recommend … Honestly, the one thing I would urge everyone visiting to do is spend a whole day walking around the city. Map out a few things you want to see, book a lunch in a neighborhood that you want to explore and break out Google maps. Get an apple tart from Poilâne. Drop by the Rodin museum. Walk through the Palais Royal. Play some basketball at the famous Pigalle court (or at least take a picture). Stop at Pierre Hermé for some macarons. The list is endless.
— Linling Tao, Art consultant
Hershey Park Instagram
No, Hershey is not exactly a far-off, exotic locale you’ll want to brag about to all your friends, but if you live anywhere in the Northeast and you’re looking for a family-friendly weekend trip that’ll keep you and the kids entertained, you could do far worse. The main attraction is, of course, Hershey Park, which on any day of the week I will happily get drunk and argue is a better amusement park than any you’ll find down in Orlando.
Where to Stay: The Hotel Hershey is by all accounts very nice. It’s located directly across the street from the entrance to the park, and there’s a spa and all sorts of other amenities. But honestly, there’s not a damn thing wrong with the many low-cost chains in the area. For years, my oldest daughter was under the impression the one we usually stay at was the only place in the entire universe where they had Fruit Loops.
Can’t-miss eats: More so than can’t-miss eats, what Hershey really has to offer is can’t-miss drinks, all of which can be found at Troegs Independent Brewing, just down the street from the park. They make a number of absolutely world-class beers, from the cult-favorite Nugget Nectar Imperial Amber Ale to the outstanding Sunshine Pils to the hearty Java Head Stout. But really, any of their many rotating and one-off beers are worth a try. The nice thing about their selection is that it’s wide-ranging enough to be enjoyed by adventurous and non-adventurous drinkers alike. There’s also a “snack bar” that serves up seasonal elevated bar food like bone-in pork shank with root vegetable puree, duck goulash and a smoked pulled-chicken sandwich. And yes, they’ve got some top-notch chicken fingers for the kiddos.
How to Spend an Afternoon: Sorry, dude, but there’s no way around it: you’re gonna have to go to the park. Your kids will cry a whole bunch and probably fight a whole bunch, which will most likely cause you and your wife to wind up fighting a whole bunch as well, or at least go through a few periods of brief snippiness throughout the day. But in the end it will all be worth it — because then you get to go back to Troegs.
— Mike Conklin, Executive Editor at InsideHook
Main image via Unsplash
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