Life Travel Canberra named third-best travel destination in … the world
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Canberra named third-best travel destination in … the world

Lonely Planet is shining a fresh light on Australia's divisive capital.
Lonely Planet is shining a fresh light on Australia's divisive capital. AAP
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Lonely Planet has unveiled its top 10 global cities for 2018, and an unlikely Australian candidate has made the grade.

Canberra – once described by The Economist as “Pyongyang without the dystopia” – has been named the third-best city to visit in the entire world.

It’s the highest position any Australian city has ever reached on the travel guide giant’s annual top 10 cities list.

Describing the city as “criminally overlooked”, and stressing its increasingly “cool” credentials, Lonely Planet said Australia’s capital packed “a big punch for such a small city”.

The accolade will be a welcome boost for a city that has struggled to win the approval of visitors and residents over the years.

Walter Burley Griffin, the US architect who painstakingly planned the city over 100 years ago, may have described Canberra as “an ideal city, a city that meets my ideal of the city of the future”.

But travel writer Bill Bryson more aptly summed up many visitors’ impressions with his proposed advertising slogan: “Canberra: why wait for death?”

Lonely Planet paints Canberra as a city, not of pollies and bureaucrats, but of cultural 'gems' like the National Portrait Gallery.
Lonely Planet paints Canberra as a city, not of pollies and bureaucrats, but of cultural ‘gems’ like the National Portrait Gallery.

But Lonely Planet has attempted to cast Canberra in a new light, stressing its cultural sights and buzzing nightlife.

“Canberra is a bit of a hidden gem that has been hiding in plain sight. Rich with history, culture and entertainment, it offers something for every kind of traveller,” Lonely Planet author Chris Zeiher said.

“Recent revitalisation efforts have given Canberra a new lease of life, establishing a truly contemporary and unique sense of style, with boutique precincts emerging throughout the city, bursting with cool bars, cafes and restaurants.”

Citing the city’s “family-friendly and adventurous activities”, natural attractions, its range of “gastronomic delights”, and “smorgasbord of cultural, artistic and sporting events”, Mr Zeiher said Canberra “should be on everybody’s 2018 travel wish list”.

Controversial tendencies

Lonely Planet has consistently refused to go with the obvious choice when compiling its top 10 cities list, and this year was no exception.

Once booming centre of the US car industry, Detroit has struggled in recent years.
Once booming centre of the US car industry, Detroit has struggled in recent years.

The 2018 No.2 spot went to Detroit – a city that has been ravaged in recent years by unemployment, crime, and housing foreclosures following the rapid decline of the car manufacturing industry and the 2007/08 mortgage crisis.

Detroit’s problems have been so serious that the city actually filed for bankruptcy in 2013.

But in recent years the city has attempted to regenerate, prompting Lonely Planet to write: “Americans love a good comeback story, and Detroit is writing a mighty one as it transforms itself from a punchline to a cool-cat destination.”

Also on this year’s list were little-known destinations such as Kaohsiung in Taiwan, San Juan in Puerto Rico, and Guanajuato in Mexico.

Other choices in recent years – Salisbury in the UK, Merida in Mexico, Riga in Latvia, Trinidad in Cuba – display a tendency to look off the beaten track.

Having said that, in 2014 the top spot did go to Paris.

Here are Lonely Planet’s top 10 city destinations for 2018:

  1. Seville, Spain
  2. Detroit, USA
  3. Canberra, Australia
  4. Hamburg, Germany
  5. Kaohsiung, Taiwan
  6. Antwerp, Belgium
  7. Matera, Italy
  8. San Juan, Puerto Rico
  9. Guanajuato, Mexico
  10. Oslo, Norway

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