The best cities to visit in 2022

The Independent’s travel team shares its destination inspiration for the year ahead

Wednesday 29 December 2021 15:43
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<p>Naples, Italy</p>

Naples, Italy

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After a year that left us all with travel whiplash thanks to ever-moving goalposts, restrictions and wholesale bans, it’s hard to remember there was ever a time when last-minute, laid-back city breaks were possible and actually enjoyable.

It may be some time before we return to those carefree days, but as booster jab programmes step up and we learn to live with the seemingly ceaseless parade of coronavirus variants, one can only hope that a swift minibreak to a buzzing metropolis, whether in the UK or further afield, might be on the cards in 2022.

The Independent’s travel team has put pins in the most intriguing cities they’re aiming to visit in the year ahead. Here’s hoping we can cross some of them off our bucket lists…

Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria

There’s a time to be experimental in one’s travelling plans, and there’s a time for playing it safe and going after the big hitters. After the last 20 months or so, I can happily admit to scaling back my ambitions when it comes to international trips in 2022. This has its upsides though – I can finally admit that I’ve never been to some of Europe’s most feted cities, including the Austrian capital. I’m not quite sure how I’ve risen to the level of travel editor without ever having visited one of the continent’s most refined destinations, but here we are. Aside from the obvious charms – Imperial palaces, rich musical heritage and banging coffee-house culture – Vienna is particularly attractive thanks to a new night train option (I’ve pledged to go flight-free once again in 2022). Austrian operator ÖBB is launching a sleeper service from Paris, departing Gare de l’Est in the early evening and arriving into the Austrian capital at the very civilised hour of just after 10am. Helen Coffey

Odessa, Ukraine

Odessa, Ukraine

On 27 March arguably the most beautiful city in the entire former Soviet Union gets connected with the UK. Wizz Air will link the Ukrainian city of Odessa, perched overlooking the Black Sea, with Luton. Dazzling 19th-century architecture and a rich heritage are on offer (in Odessa, not Luton), plus a beautiful waterside location and a great beach in the southern suburb of Arcadia. Stay at a well-appointed hotel such as the early 20th-century Morskoy, or Black Sea, where rates are a very reasonable £60 or so for a double including breakfast. To get into town from the airport, you take trolleybus number 14 and pay a fare of just 2 hryvnias, or about six pence – the cheapest airport link in Europe. Visas used to be complex and cumbersome, but since Ukraine hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in 2005, you need only a valid passport. Simon Calder

Chania, Crete

A street in Chania

Few Greek cities are famous, outside of Athens – and that’s a shame, because Greek cities do great food, raucous hospitality and unbeatable history, with a touch of grit you don’t find everywhere. They also tend to be brilliant value, with tons of flights making them easy and affordable to reach from the UK. Top of my list for 2022 is Chania, the foodie, entrepreneurial port on the north coast of Crete. Spoilt with great restaurants – sharp, cocktail-shaking modern designs and olde-worlde tavernas – it attracts designers and hoteliers from the capital who set up shop here alongside savvy locals. The result is the likes of SanSal design hotel rubbing up against chic boutiques Parthenis and Carmela Iatropolou and restaurants like minimalist Mon.Es, with a backdrop of honeyed Venetian fortifications and tranquil waterfront. Best of all, it’s within 45 minutes drive of some truly beautiful Cretan beaches, making it a great jumping-off point for a longer trip. Lucy Thackray

Naples, Italy

Pizza in Naples

Another top-tier European player that, inexplicably, I have yet to grace with my presence. Although I sometimes feel like I have thanks to Elena Ferrante’s immersive, evocative descriptions of this bad, bold city in southern Italy in her Neopolitan Quartet of books (devouring them is the closest I’ve ever come to visiting). I want to eat all of the pizza (and sfogliatella, shell-shaped pastries with paper-thin folds invented by Neopolitan monks hundreds of years ago); I want to scamper around its baroque architecture; and, of course, I want to take some time out to explore Pompeii down the coast, that vast, disquieting archaeological site in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius where all is preserved as it was when an eruption stopped time in the 1st century. Transport links are another enticing factor for this flight-free traveller: private operator NTV Italo has started a new daily high-speed train from Genoa in the north of the country to Naples, taking 6hr 40m. HC

Paris, France

The Bourse de Commerce

There’s a lot of time and trips to be made up – with particular attention on openings that took place during the dismal days of 2021. Paris has gained the most hotly anticipated private museum in Europe. The French billionaire Francois Pinault, whose company owns the brands Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, has taken over the old stock exchange, the Bourse de Commerce. He has spent about €150m (£126m) in creating a new space for his Pinault Collection in the heart of the French capital. The Japanese architect Tadao Ando has come up with a dramatic design, with a giant cylinder nesting in the atrium. And celebrity chef Michel Bras runs the restaurant at the museum. SC

Seoul, South Korea

Seoul city skyline

Seoul was once an offbeat choice for an Asian city stop, but the rise and rise of South Korean pop-culture – from K-pop to K-beauty, via Squid Game and modern Korean BBQ joints cropping up all over the UK – has really put the country’s capital on the map. Now I’m dying to explore this neon-signed metropolis, with its five ornate palaces and raucous, kimchi-scented food markets. As in Tokyo, I know I’ll love its smooth public transport system and baffling menus; unlike Tokyo, I’ve barely scratched the surface of Korean cuisine and culture. And though a few breakout K-beauty brands are already available in the UK, what could beat perusing Seoul’s mega-cosmetics stores, some with techy spa services or interiors as whimsical as a contemporary art installation? It might take a minute for Asia to open up in 2022, but I’m hanging on for authentic kimbap, hotteok and galbi right on the streets of east Asia’s most zeitgeisty capital. LT

Kaunas, Lithuania

The town hall square in Kaunas

Further afield – and certainly more of a challenge to reach without flying, it has to be said – Lithuania’s second city is riding high on my list due to its place as one of the two European Capitals of Culture for 2022. This scheme always gives an extra reason to hit up a usually under-the-radar city, providing a jampacked schedule of diverse cultural offerings, from music recitals to contemporary dance performances and art exhibitions to new signature venues designed to be destinations’ legacy features for decades to come. I went to Rijeka, Croatia, in 2020 purely on the basis of its Capital of Culture status – and found a vibrant, gritty port city with fascinating architecture, cheap, abundant seafood, and nearby beaches with glass-clear water. I’m hoping Kaunas can also pleasantly surprise me; it’s described by the tourist board as “the Baltic gem of modernist interwar architecture”, and what’s not to love about that? HC

Oslo, Norway

Oslo, Norway

My diary has Oslo pencilled in for Saturday 11 June 2022 – for the opening, at last, of the Nordic region’s largest art museum. “Art, architecture and design all under one roof and in completely new ways” has been the promise of the National Museum of Norway, with a spectacular harbourside site in Oslo. Edvard Munch’s celebrated painting of a tortured soul is the leading exhibit at the remarkable new venue. SC

Split, Croatia

Split, Croatia

I fell for Croatia a few years ago on a multi-stop, foodie tour where I ticked off the lovely – and hugely underrated – capital Zagreb, the gleaming emerald Plitvice Lakes and the northern province of Istria (my tips: get out into the rural hill towns, base yourself in Rovinj, and don’t spend much time on Pula). But I didn’t make it to Split, gateway to many of the most glamorous islands and home to a ravishing Roman Palace and picture-perfect old town. I loved the mixture of history, pretty architecture and holiday relaxation in coastal Croatia, so I know I’d be happy whiling away a few days in a boutique hotel with a swimming pool, perhaps in late spring, dining out on seafood and fresh pasta, and pottering the historic streets with a camera in hand. Before jumping on the next boat out to the islands, of course... LT

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