Why Go Now: Unpeel history 100 years from the Bolshevik Revolution
Like a matryoshka nesting doll, Russia’s splendid capital city reveals itself in layers. At Moscow’s core, Red Square, the imposing Kremlin complex (with previously offlimits areas set to open to the public in 2017), and the candystriped domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral remain popular attractions. To explore the city’s less touristed outer rings, ride the Metro (famous for lavish architectural details such as stained-glass panels and intricate mosaics). Browse galleries at Winzavod, a former wine-bottling factory turned contemporary art centre. Meander around the newly redeveloped VDNKh, a nearly 600-acre Stalinist exhibition centre once dubbed the “Soviet Versailles.” In Gorky Park, view the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art’s first triennial (March 10-May 14), featuring works from Russia’s vast and diverse artistic landscape. And even though life back in the U.S.S.R. isn’t something modern Muscovites are likely to celebrate, the Communist propaganda poster collection is reason enough to visit the Russian Contemporary History Museum. —Maryellen Kennedy Duckett
Why Go Now: Celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Alaska Purchase
With Cook Inlet as a front porch, the Chugach Mountains out back, and five national parks nearby, Anchorage offers access to Alaska-size adventures. Add nearly round-the-clock daylight in summer, and it’s possible to pack a week’s worth of activities into a weekend. Try angling in the world’s largest urban fishery. Then hike to a glacier, surf the bore tide along Turnagain Arm, spot grizzlies from a floatplane, and land back at Bear Tooth Grill for a Polar Pale Ale. At the time of the Alaska Purchase (mocked then as Secretary of State William Seward’s “Folly”), the region was considered a frozen wasteland. “Today, Alaska is at the centre of a number of issues of global importance,” says Thomas Gokey, PR manager at the Anchorage Museum. In fall 2017, the museum opens an expanded wing and a redesigned Alaska exhibit, with multimedia elements that give visitors a taste of life in the largest U.S. state. —MKD
Why Go Now: Get an eyeful of urban art
Spain’s cosmopolitan capital city—which hosts World Pride Madrid 2017 (June 23 to July 2)—lays claim to three of the world’s greatest art museums (the Prado, Reina Sofía, and Thyssen-Bornemisza), nightlife that runs into day, and manicured parks and gardens. Contemporary Madrileño street artists make their mark in neighbourhoods such as bohemian Malasaña and multicultural Lavapiés.
“The local urban art scene is emerging as a new landmark where both national and international artists, many from Latin America, have seized a real opportunity to express themselves,” says Chris Cung, founder of Madrid Urban Art Tours (madridurbanarttours.com; walking tours free). Hit the streets with Cung to see walls, alleys, and other hardscape canvases of creativity. —MKD
Why Go Now: Give peace a chance in Colombia
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos recently earned the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end 52 years of war in the country. Untouched by the conflict, Cartagena, on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, has long inspired visitors and writers—in particular, novelist Gabriel García Márquez, who set his luminous Love in the Time of Cholera here. See what stirred him on a stroll through the walled Old City, with its brightly painted colonial mansions, bougainvillea-draped balconies, and open-air courtyard cafés filled with the infectious rhythms of cumbia. Márquez told the Paris Review in 1981 that while he garners credit for his fiction, his work is entirely drawn from real life: “The problem is that Caribbean reality resembles the wildest imagination.” —MKD
Why Go Now: Dip into a waterfront world of reinvigorated architecture
Berlin may rock, but Hamburg floats. Water, water is everywhere in this former Hanseatic League city, Germany’s “gateway to the world” for centuries. Located on the Elbe River near the North Sea, Hamburg is Europe’s second busiest containerport (after Rotterdam) and is laced with canals. When the tide cooperates, you can cruise the canals crisscrossing Speicherstadt, one of the world’s largest historic port warehouse districts. This revitalized area is part of 388-acre HafenCity, Europe’s biggest inner-city development project, rising on the banks of the Elbe. HafenCity preserves elements of Hamburg’s maritime past while reinventing its once grungy Old Port with stunners such as the newly opened Elbphilharmonie. The concert hall complex was built atop a brick warehouse and now features state-of-the-art acoustics and sweeping views of the city from an 11th-story plaza. —MKD
Why Go Now: A new look at Yves Saint Laurent
French fashion icon Yves Saint Laurent plucked some of his most audacious colour combinations—think saffron orange with violet purple—from the gardens, skies, and maze-like souks of Marrakech. As Saint Laurent’s partner, Pierre Bergé, told the BBC in April, “He [Saint Laurent] said, before Marrakech he saw only in black and white.” The first bought a home here in 1966, and the city’s kaleidoscope of colours permeated Saint Laurent’s collections for much of his 40-year career.
Following the designer’s death in 2008, his ashes were scattered in Jardin Majorelle, the Marrakech garden compound cultivated by landscape painter Jacques Majorelle in the 1920s and given to the public by Bergé and Saint Laurent in 1980. Next door is the couple’s most recent Marrakech home, the cobalt blue Villa Oasis. Nearby, the newly built Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech is one of two YSL museums (the other is in Paris) set to debut in fall 2017 with a trove of garments, sketches, and photos. —MKD
Go with Nat Geo
National Geographic Expeditions offers several itineraries that visit Marrakech, including the 14-day “Morocco Camel Trek and Hiking Adventure.” (natgeoexpeditions.com/explore; $6,095/₹4,16,685 per person, double occupancy.)
Appeared in the January 2017 issue as “Where to go in 2017: Cities”.