The 23 best things to do in the world in 2023

Almost three years since the you-know-what put all our plans on hold, it’s set to be a pretty big year for getting out and doing things. 2023 has come through with an absolutely loaded cultural calendar – we’re talking the biggest summer for live music since 2019, a bunch of new museums, some pretty epic outdoor adventures, and much, much more. Plus, with all the new high-speed and overnight trains launching this year, you can get around and do the things you want to do much more sustainably than ever before.

So get your booking fingers at the ready. From music festivals and new museums to massive shops and the real-life Mushroom Kingdom, this is your definitive guide to the coolest new things to do in the world in 2023.

The best things to do in the world in 2023

Soak in Iceland’s newest hot springs

Photograph: Hvammsvik Hot Springs

1. Soak in Iceland’s newest hot springs

Hvalfjörður, Iceland

Forget the Blue Lagoon – this year, Iceland’s newest geothermal spa Hvammsvik Hot Springs is open to visitors after launching to locals in 2022, and it looks stunning. There are eight new hot springs to enjoy, dotted along a black-sand beach in the Hvalfjörður fjord, around a 45-minute drive from Reyjkavík. An immersive natural experience, the pools work in harmony with the Atlantic Ocean, which helps to cool the geothermal water for the perfect soaking temperature. Plus, there’s even the opportunity to swim with seals. Seriously, what are you waiting for?

Celebrate an artistic titan

Photograph: Encore Productions/Laurence Labat

2. Celebrate an artistic titan

Madrid, Spain

To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Picasso’s death, ‘Celebración Picasso: 1973-2023’ will see events, shows and exhibitions dedicated to the painter popping up all over the world – but, of course, Picasso’s motherland will be going bigger than them all. Spanish capital Madrid is hosting several exciting exhibitions, from those that put the painter in conversation with other masters, such as ‘Picasso-El Greco’, at Museo del Prado (June 13-August 31), to sprawling exhibitions at the Reina Sofia (November 14 2023-March 4 2024) and Thyssen-Bornemisza (4 October 2023-14 January 2024).

Zip from beach resorts to Mayan sites on a high-speed train

Photograph: Alstom

3. Zip from beach resorts to Mayan sites on a high-speed train

Yucatán, Mexico 

Mexico is a must-visit travel destination for many, but it’s far from easy (or cheap) to experience both its ancient sites and its lively beach resorts in one trip. This year, all that’s set to change, as Mexico’s long-awaited scenic train Tren Maya will finally make its first departure in December. Initially, trains will run from Palanque, known for its Mayan sites, all the way to Cancún, stopping along the way at the Yucatán capital of Mérida and Chichén Itzá, another important site for Mayan ruins. Seat yourself in the ‘Xiinbaal’ carriage to take in the beauty of Mexico from huge panoramic windows.

Snoop around a pop legend’s home

Photograph: Alexis Raimbault

4. Snoop around a pop legend’s home

Paris, France

We can (tentatively) tell you that the eagerly-awaited and seemingly eternally-postponed La Maison Gainsbourg will finally open at Number five bis Rue de Verneuil in Paris this year. The Parisian townhouse where the feted French singer Serge Gainsbourg spent the last 20 years of his life is already an unofficial shrine to his legacy, but in 2023 it will open as a museum dedicated to his life and work. You can snoop around Serge’s large living room, complete with piano, art deco bar and a huge collection of sculptures – and if you’re a diehard fan, you’ll appreciate the late singer’s detritus, from an ashtray of cigarette butts to half-finished bottles of red.

Hear tales from every continent at a new storytelling festival

Photograph: Marrakech International Storytelling Festival

5. Hear tales from every continent at a new storytelling festival

Marrakech, Morocco

Morocco has long been the home of hikayat, the ancient art of storytelling, and now a new festival – the Marrakech International Storytelling Festival – is breathing new life back into the tradition. After a successful launch last year, the festival will be returning to the red city for its second edition in February (12 to 19), this time under the theme of ‘Ancestral Voices’. Co-founded by Marrakech’s very own World Storytelling Cafe, the festival will see 80 speakers, poets and tellers from all over the world deliver spoken-word performances across the city in languages ranging from English to Arabic to Persian. Performances will take place in the city’s restaurants, museums, souks, squares and the intimate courtyards of riads.

Discover a whole new set of gorgeous Italian towns

Photograph: Shutterstock

6. Discover a whole new set of gorgeous Italian towns

Italy

Head off the beaten path and enjoy small-town charm in the ‘most beautiful villages of Italy’ (I Borghi Più Belli d’Italia) this year. For 2023, the association has added 14 new destinations to the list of 348 villages dotted up and down the boot. These pedestrianised towns, home to fewer than 2,000 inhabitants, represent a slice of authentic, rural life in Italy thanks to their local gastronomic traditions, well-preserved architecture, and cultural programming. New entries this year include the picturesque town of Malcesine on Lake Garda, and the medieval village of San Donato in Poggio in Chianti, Tuscany.

Take part in a 17-day Pride extravaganza

Photograph: Ken McKay. Reproduced courtesy of Darenote Ltd.

7. Take part in a 17-day Pride extravaganza

Sydney, Australia

The Sydney Mardi Gras has been a joyful LGBTQ+ celebration for more than four decades, and in 2023 the Emerald City is taking it up multiple notches as it combines forces with WorldPride for a 17-day city-wide extravaganza. There’s a program of more than 300 events, including big concerts and parties with iconic headliners like Kylie Minogue on one hand, and a Human Rights Conference and a newly established queer history museum on the other. Down Under’s biggest event since the 2000 Olympics, this also marks the first time that WorldPride won’t be held in June. (Mardi Gras is celebrated during the Sydney summer in February/March – prime booty-short season).

Try bear burgers and deer curry in an underrated foodie capital

Photograph: Trøndelag Food Festival/Leiv Aspen

8. Try bear burgers and deer curry in an underrated foodie capital

Trondheim, Norway

With Copenhagen’s famous fine-dining mecca Noma announcing its closure this year, you might be wondering where to get your Nordic food fix. Ever heard of Trondheim? A colourful, fjordside city, Trondheim is Norway’s underrated foodie capital. Try the most unusual burger of your life – the entire fest’s batch sustainably fashioned from just one Norwegian bear – plus cooking and fermentation workshops at the annual August Trøndelag Food and Beer Festival. Taking place in the tree-lined square next to the mammoth 1070-erected Lutheran cathedral each summer, the festival makes for a dream kick-off point for a fun weekend of scoff. While you’re there, check out Spontan, a natural Scandi wine bar, and try the legendarily delish Røros reindeer curry at Tandoori Trondheim.

Visit a new blockbuster art venue

Photograph: OMA 24

9. Visit a new blockbuster art venue

Manchester, UK

Manchester is making a storm right now, with the UK city being crowned one of the world’s very best places to visit by Lonely Planet in 2022. It’s not showing any signs of slowing down this year, with the long-awaiting opening of Factory International, a £186 million arts venue which will be the new, permanent home of the biennial Manchester International Festival. The 2023 festival (June 29-July 16) will be filled with all sorts of big shows and experiences to get stuck into – including the largest-ever immersive Yayoi Kusama exhibition and a stage adaptation of The Matrixdirected by Danny Boyle.

Soak up the talents of the world’s independent cinema

Photograph: Courtesy of BAFICI

10. Soak up the talents of the world’s independent cinema

Buenos Aires, Argentina

After Argentine film Argentina, 1985 won the 2023 Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film – and was nominated for Best International Feature Film at this year’s Oscars – there’s no better time to check out the country’s indie film scene. The Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema (the BAFICI) will take place in Argentina’s artistic capital in late April 2023. Hundreds of films are shown in various parts of the city as well as talks and activities related to the film screenings.

Lose a week to the world’s second-biggest carnival

Photograph: Ninafotoart/Shutterstock.com

11. Lose a week to the world’s second-biggest carnival

Tenerife, Canary Islands

Yes, Rio’s world-famous carnival is one for the bucket list – but if Brazil is a little out of reach this year, you’re guaranteed just as much unadulterated revelry at Tenerife’s version (second in size only to Rio). The week-long party has a ‘New York’ theme this year, so look out for inventive costumes and floats taking on the aesthetic. The carnival will take over the streets of the island’s capital Santa Cruz in the run-up to Lent, and will be a dazzling show of street parades, musical troupes and striking costumes. Make sure to catch the Murgas competition, where colourful satire artists compete for laughs, and go out with a bang at all-day and all-night parties during the festival’s closing ‘Piñata’ weekend.

Immerse yourself in an art installation in an abandoned ballroom

Photograph: Rone

12. Immerse yourself in an art installation in an abandoned ballroom

Melbourne, Australia

Prolific Melbourne street artist Rone – best known for his large-scale artworks, often staged in abandoned buildings – has taken over the enigmatic ballroom space of Flinders Street Station with his latest exhibition, ‘Time’. Running until April 23, the immersive installation is spread across 11 rooms and features ​​Rone’s distinctive female figures flanked by vintage-style objects by interior set decorator Carly Spooner, and a building team led by Callum Preston. Accompanied by a soul-stirring soundscape by composer Nick Batterham, the exhibition is a haunting reflection on a long-forgotten era when Melbourne’s most famed heritage building was more than just a train station.

Walk with bears at an Indigenous-run wilderness resort

Photograph: Shutterstock

13. Walk with bears at an Indigenous-run wilderness resort

Vancouver Island, Canada

Last spring, Vancouver Island’s tourism board announced they will be shifting from the traditional marketing model towards social enterprise – directing all revenue toward local communities. This year, a host of new Indigenous-led experiences have been added to the island’s roster of amazing stuff to do. Tofino Wilderness Resort, a 16-room floating lodge, is opening under Ahousaht First Nation ownership in 2023. Here, you can spot wolves or bears, go whale watching and learn the cultural practices of the Ahousaht people.

Take in the views from a crystal cabin

Photograph: Courtesy NP360

14. Take in the views from a crystal cabin

Hong Kong

Sky-high gondola ride Ngong Ping 360 has afforded jaw-dropping views over Hong Kong’s famous skyline and harbour for over a decade, and this year they’ve launched a new experience: the Crystal+ cabin. Big enough for ten people, the fully transparent carriage takes guests on an ascent from the Tung Chung area all the way up to the summit of Ngong Ping. Enjoy a thrilling view of Lantau Island’s mountainous terrain, Tung Chung Bay and the South China Sea – right underneath your feet.

Explore an enormous new bird park

Photograph: Mandai Wildlife Group

15. Explore an enormous new bird park

Singapore

Singapore’s iconic Jurong Bird Park has closed after 52 years, but it’s soon to be replaced by the larger and more immersive Bird Paradise in spring 2023. The new 17-hectare park houses over 3,000 birds from 400 avian species in eight massive aviaries, each recreating different biomes from around the world. Visitors can explore the misty African rainforests, tranquil Southeast Asian bamboo forests, and even feast with penguins in an underwater sustainable dining experience. This is all part of a larger masterplan to integrate five zoological parks and an eco-resort at Mandai Wildlife Reserve, so there’s plenty more to look forward to in the area.

Bask in a summer of live music

Photograph: Francisco Romão Pereira / Time Out

16. Bask in a summer of live music

Lisbon, Portugal

It’s due to be the biggest summer for live music since 2019 – and where better to enjoy it than Lisbon? We’re talking long, sunny days, alfresco street culture and an exciting music scene of its own, encompassing everything from traditional fado music to intimate jazz bars and underground clubs. Lisbon’s 2023 concert calendar includes big names like Madonna, Roger Waters and Harry Styles, but it’s really the summer music festivals that are getting us excited. This summer, enjoy an indie extravaganza at the likes of NOS Alive at the Passeio Marítimo de Algés, Kalorama at the Parque da Bela Vista, and Super Bock Super Rock in Sesimbra, just south of the city.

Visit the world’s largest anime store

Photograph: Animate

17. Visit the world’s largest anime store

Tokyo, Japan

Animate, a major Japanese retailer selling all things anime and manga, is opening an absolutely ginormous flagship store in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district this spring. The otaku oasis will have ten floors filled with shops, event spaces, character cafés and even a theatre. The building’s grand opening is scheduled for March 16, but the Animate Café on the first floor is already open, so you can stay warm this winter with artful anime lattes.

(Re)discover the magic of childhood

Photograph: BasPhoto/Shutterstock.com

18. (Re)discover the magic of childhood

London, UK

Remember the Museum of Childhood? In Bethnal Green? If you’re a Londoner, of course you do. It was one of the city’s most idiosyncratic spaces. A cavernous venue, full of toys and the ephemera of childhood, the gallery has been closed for what feels like ages, undergoing a £13 million refurb. The renovations will see the creation of three new galleries, including an open studio that will encourage young ’uns to develop their creative skills in a collaborative environment. Sounds brilliant. See you in the summer.

Hop on a sleeper train to the Croatian coast

Photograph: ÖBB/Harald Eisenberger

19. Hop on a sleeper train to the Croatian coast

Europe

With Croatia joining the Schengen zone at the start of the year, it’s never been easier to visit the Adriatic nation – and a new train service from Austrian train operator Nightjet makes it even smoother. One of the most exciting new European sleeper-train routes taking off this year (and there are many), the service whisks passengers from Stuttgart in Germany to Zagreb in Croatia – with additional summer services that will travel all the way to the coastal town of Rijeka. The train service also stops at cultural hotspots Venice, Vienna, Budapest and Ljubljana.

Venture into LA’s own Mushroom Kingdom

Photograph: Courtesy Universal Studios Hollywood

20. Venture into LA’s own Mushroom Kingdom

Los Angeles, USA

More than five years since it was first announced, Super Nintendo World is finally opening at Universal Studios Hollywood on February 17. Guests will enter the interactive Mushroom Kingdom through the iconic green pipe, passing through Peach’s Castle as they set out to explore the magical Mario-themed land. Modeled after Super Nintendo World in Japan, the US’s iteration brings an augmented-reality–enhanced ride dubbed Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge, the Toadstool Cafe (helmed by an adorable animated Chef Toad) and the 1-UP Factory filled with plush toys and memorabilia.

Get to know the legacy of an opera legend

Photograph: Stefano Chiacchiarini ’74/Shutterstock.com

21. Get to know the legacy of an opera legend

Athens, Greece

Fondly known as ‘La Divina’ for her musical talents – and ‘tiger’, thanks to her intense temperament – Maria Callas is one of the twentieth century’s most celebrated opera singers. In 2023, as Greece celebrates the hundredth anniversary since the diva’s birth, there’ll be a bonanza of opera-themed events across the country – but by far the most exciting is the opening of the new Maria Callas museum in Athens. Packed with personal artefacts and rare live recordings, the museum will open its doors this summer in an elegant neoclassical mansion on the city centre’s storied Mitropoleos Street.

Watch a heart-stopping street race in the Windy City

Photograph: Shutterstock

22. Watch a heart-stopping street race in the Windy City

Chicago, USA

No, it’s not the latest installment of The Fast and the Furious, but it does seem like it as NASCAR gears up to take over the streets of Chicago this summer for their first-ever street race. The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series is scheduled for the Fourth of July weekend with a street course spanning 2.2 miles – you’ll watch cars book it down Lakeshore Drive, Michigan Avenue, Columbus Drive, and other downtown thoroughfares. The televised street race will be a full-out sporting extravaganza with big-name music acts. Expect tickets to be as pricey as the careening cars will be fast – but you should get a good view from one of Chicago’s many fine rooftop bars.

Taste the best of Cape Town at Africa’s first Time Out Market

V&A Waterfront

23. Taste the best of Cape Town at Africa’s first Time Out Market

Cape Town, South Africa

If you’ve ever been to a Time Out Market – whether it’s the original in Lisbon, one of the five across North America, or the latest opening in Dubai – you’ll know the deal: our local experts take the best of the city’s food and culture and bring it all together under one stylish roof. And in 2023 we’re opening our doors in Africa for the first time, setting up shop at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront. With 14 kitchens, 750 seats and Table Mountain views, this one is set to be a must. And if you aren’t planning a Cape Town trip this year, we’re also set to open a Time Out Market in Porto, Portugal.

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