Senegal’s capital at the tip of Cap Vert, Africa’s westernmost peninsula, defies easy definition—both stylish and chaotic, proudly West African but with French as the official political language. Luxury SUVs share roads with horse-drawn carts. Lively beaches draw surfers, sun-worshipers, professional wrestlers, and Senegalese sheep. “Driving along the seaside Corniche, you have sweeping views of the ocean on one side and the excitement of a bustling market on the other,” says academic researcher Abhit Bhandari, who splits his time between Dakar and New York City. “This is how I think of Dakar, as a city of contrasts.” Nightlife moves to hypnotic mbalax dance beats and Senegalese hip-hop. Join the glam crowd at June’s Dakar Fashion Week, designer Adama Amanda Ndiaye’s annual showcase of African collections.
HOW TO GO Kensington Tours’ eight-day “Senegal City and Beach” private tour explores the historic Médina quarter of Dakar and ferries over to former Atlantic slave trade hub Gorée Island. kensingtontours.com
The capital of the northeastern state of Bahia is Brazil’s musical heart and soul. Multiple music genres, such as bossa nova, samba, and Tropicália, were born in the city, which was founded by the Portuguese in 1549 and designated a UNESCO City of Music in 2016. Axé (pronounced ah-SHAY)—Salvador’s homegrown Afro-Caribbean-Brazilian pop music genre—provides the soundtrack for “the world’s largest street party,” the Salvador Carnival (February 27 to March 5). Warm up at the new House of Carnival museum, opened in 2018 and filled with costumes, instruments, and interactive dance and music exhibits.
HOW TO GO Guests on Craft Travel’s “Brazil Like a Native” tour work up a sweat at a capoeira (Afro-Brazilian martial art) workshop and relish a high-energy performance of Balé Folclórico da Bahia, Brazil’s only professional folk dance company. crafttravelgroup.com
Most visitors to this Midwest outpost come for the barbecue and all that jazz but soon find themselves caught up
in an urban renaissance. Recent additions include the art-filled 21c Museum Hotel Kansas City, a $50 million reinvention of the 1888-built Savoy Hotel and Grill, and the free RideKC streetcar. The three-kilometre route stops near the National World War I Museum, where Great War Centennial Commemoration events continue in 2019.
In the historic 18th and Vine jazz district, visit the side-by-side American Jazz Museum and Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. West of downtown, empty industrial buildings in the West Bottoms now house retro-cool retailers and clubs, such as The Ship, a restored 1930s speakeasy with live music.
“To me, West Bottoms speaks to the history of Kansas City: the stockyards and trains and commerce moving through the middle of the country,” says KC native Chris Goode, CEO and founder of Ruby Jean’s Juicery. “But no matter where you go in Kansas City, it will feel like home. The city just has soul.”
HOW TO GO Walk and roll through downtown, learn about recent revitalisation efforts, and hear stories of Kansas City’s colourful past on the Original KC Streetcar Tour. kcwalkingtours.com
Western Australia, or WA, is the wild side of Oz. Covering the western third of the continent, WA is better known for its otherworldly red rock formations and stunning coastal cliffs. Perth, home to two million people and the state capital, stands alone in WA as the only city topping 1,00,000 residents. Closest big-city neighbour Adelaide is a 2,691-kilometre drive east. Perth’s remote location has kept the Left Coast surf-and-sun spot a bit of a best-kept secret. But new nonstop flights from Southeast Asia make it easier to discover Perth’s world-class beaches, nearby Swan Valley wineries, $2.6 billion Elizabeth Quay waterfront development, and urban-chic hotels such as the QT Perth, opened in August last year.
HOW TO GO City volunteers lead free, daily walking tours covering various topics, such as public art works, icons of influence, and convict and colonial history. visitperth.com.au
Nearly half of Toronto’s residents are immigrants and more than 200 languages are spoken in Canada’s largest city. A multicultural energy infuses everything from the old-school stylings of Drake to the new HXOUSE emerging artists’ incubator co-founded by singer The Weeknd and his creative director, La Mar Taylor. This creative mix also influences new restaurants such as Kojin at Momofuku, with its Colombian-inspired, Ontario-sourced dishes sizzling on an Argentine-style grill, and the Toronto Biennial of Art, debuting in 2019. Take a deep dive into the city’s diversity by exploring some of its 140 neighbourhoods.
HOW TO GO Eat, shop, and Instagram your way through Kensington Market and Chinatown on an entertaining Toronto Urban Adventures tour led by a local comedian, artist, actor, or writer guide. torontourbanadventures.com
Matera’s storied rocks are on a roll. The Sassi (“the stones”) di Matera, a honeycomb of more than 1,000 cave dwellings condemned and cleared in the 1950s due to squalid living conditions, buzzes with new activity. Boutique hotels, clubs, and restaurants now breathe life into abandoned houses and monasteries built into natural limestone caves. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993, the Sassi reveals ancient hidden treasures, such as rock-hewn churches with frescoed interiors. The town’s remarkable rebirth helped Matera win its 2019 European Capital of Culture bid. Says local resident Elisabetta Caruso, owner of La Piccola Scuola Italian-language school, “Matera is living through an important moment of growth, yet is not leaving behind the typical features of a little city in South Italy.”
HOW TO GO Scout out more of the Sassi on the 2.5-hour Essential Walking Tour led by local resident and licensed guide Amy Weideman. materatours.net
It’s not difficult to find a hot, fresh tortilla in Mexico City. But chances are these tortillas are made from processed corn flour. However, a growing movement in the Mexican capital of 22 million is focusing on reviving landrace, or indigenous, strains of corn, and preparing it in traditional ways. Try Molino “El Pujol,” celebrity chef Enrique Olvera’s slip of a tortillería, which also serves tamales, long-simmered beans, and dressed-up versions of elote (grilled corn on the cob). Or organic tortillería Cintli, with its turmeric tortillas and Mayan milkshakes made with corn and chocolate. These chefs and tortilla radicals are in step with a cadre of musicians and artists in the city who are expressing themselves with a renewed sense of pride in all that is Mexican.
HOW TO GO Get a taste of the city’s new food activism at Masala y Maiz. It’s a restaurant/chef residency, corn research project, and community gathering spot that combines culinary traditions from the founders’ family roots—Mexican and South Asian—with dishes such as tamales stuffed with masala-scented chickpeas. masalaymaiz.com