The Global Capitals of Culture
Celebrate local culture, with everything from food to architecture in these five historic cities. These capitals of culture are true gems that attract explorers in search of art, history and ancient culture all throughout the year. Whether you are visiting the sprawling ancient cities of Europe or uncovering the secrets of long ago religions in Asia, transport yourself back and immerse yourself into the old world. With the help of Booking.com, we have unearthed the best places to stay while you explore some of the unique cultural spots around the world. Embrace the old and unusual and get ready to embark on the ultimate cultural getaway.
Plovdiv, Bulgaria This ancient city in southern Bulgaria is one of the oldest cities in Europe and is considered a cultural gem. Whether you fancy tasting world class craft beer in the artisan area of Kapana, walking the cobbled streets or exploring the ruined fortress of Nebet Tepe, there are no shortages of ways to immerse yourself in Plovdiv’s culture and history. One of its most magnificent sights is the Roman theatre of Plovdiv. Ruins of the structure were rediscovered during an archaeological dig in the late 1960s and date from 90 AD. This incredible piece of history has been preserved to serve the contemporary culture of the city, with performances regularly taking place.
Where to Stay: Domus Apartments City Centre offers accommodation right in the centre of Plovdiv, with the Roman Stadium just a short walk from the apartment. Guests can also enjoy a free tour of the city and a beautiful terrace to view it from.
Matera, Italy Matera, a beautiful town in the remote region of Basilicata, southern Italy is considered a cultural marvel by all those who visit there. This ancient neighbourhood is a series of grottos and caves, with some homes carved straight out of the limestone rocks. Matera has undergone a recent revival. Having once been one of the poorest towns in Western Europe, an increasing number of artisans moving in and setting up workshops, galleries and restaurants has given it a new lease of life. It is best explored on foot with its winding streets and sweeping views over the countryside. By night the free patio and office spaces are known to turn into bars, with local pop up food stalls and live bands. Embrace both ancient and contemporary culture in this stunning historic city.
Where to Stay: Le Dimore Dell' Idris is in the Sassi area of Matera and offers travellers the chance to sleep within original cave houses of Mount Errone, most of which are carved out of the Matera rock. Placed in the perfect location to explore the city, finish your day on your private terrace watching the sun set over the landscape.
Kathmandu, Nepal Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, has long been an epicentre of art, history and culture. It is a buzzing city known for its friendly locals and is filled with rickshaws, art and hidden temples. Just a short walk from the tourist centre, Thamel, you will find yourself in Kathmandu’s old town. This bustling quarter is full of beautiful temples and stories of the old world. You can visit the popular Tibetan pilgrimage site, the Kathesimbhu Stupa and the recently restored Garden of the Six Seasons, also known as the Garden of Dreams. In addition to its timeless history, Kathmandu now boasts some popular contemporary art galleries.
Where to Stay: The Life Story Guest House provides everything you need for a relaxed, private space after a day exploring the city. This guesthouse is a short distance from the airport and provides everything you could need with a tour and ticket desk, along with an on-site restaurant.
Beijing, China Beijing is a city of many faces. Along with being the second most populous city in the world and China’s capital, it is also one of the six ancient cities of China making it a must visit on your culturally inspired vacation. Home to the Great Wall of China and a myriad of modern day architectural marvels such as the National Stadium, Beijing provides centuries worth of culture for any city explorer. While this city may be busy, travellers can escape the tourist crowds by visiting some hidden historical gems such as the Former Government Building of Duan Qirui and the wooden theatre of Zhengyici. This is a city of truly unparalleled beauty and a must visit on any around the world trip.
Where to Stay: The Opposite House gives guests a chance to fully experience the architectural excellence of Beijing. This contemporary hotel is inspired by traditional Chinese design and provides modern studios for its guests. After a day of exploring arranged by the hotel staff, guests can relax in the wellness centre before heading to dinner at the hotel’s traditional restaurant.
Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka Anuradhapura is one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka, famed for its amazingly preserved architectural wonders. Founded in 377 BC and later abandoned, the city was enveloped by jungle until being rediscovered by British explorers in the 19th-century. Travel to Anuradhapura and you are still able to see one of the oldest trees in the world, the Sri Maha Bodhi, grown from the tree under which it is said the Buddha attained enlightenment.
Where to Stay: Rajarata Lodge is perfectly located for any culturally inspired trip. After you day spent soaking up this fascinating city, spend your time having a tea in the private gardens and enjoy the view of the beautiful scenery, in this true oasis of calm and serenity.