Each year, the European Union designates two of its cities as Capitals of Culture. Lesser-explored or smaller burgs get a turn in the spotlight; more venerable destinations have the opportunity to show off what’s new. And with so much media focus on the problems of Southern Europe, it’s perhaps fitting that the EU Commission decided this year to highlight two relatively tourist-free cities from the continent’s northern tier: Umea, Sweden, and Riga, Latvia.
Some years, given a world full of tempting travel choices, I have a tough time honing in on the top five or so destinations. Not this year. 2014 looks to be an exciting year of Jewish rebirth and rediscovery for places as far afield as Latvia, Jamaica and Poland. Meanwhile, as Jewish life continues to coalesce and flourish in the big New World cities, L.A. and Sao Paulo offer some clear advantages this year. These are the places I’m most excited to explore in 2014 – and here’s why: