Belfast Telegraph

Derry braced for tourist invasion as Lonely Planet dubs it one of the world's must-see spots next year

By Brendan McDaid

Never mind London, Paris and New York. Londonderry is the place to be — and that’s official.

The small city — population just 83,700 — has earned a place in the Lonely Planet travel bible as one of the top 10 cities in the world to visit next year.

The Maiden City trounced competition from destinations many times its size to take fourth place in the ‘Best in Travel 2013’ city recommendations.

Indeed, only one other European city, Amsterdam, made it in to the top 10.

The endorsement from Lonely Planet has been hailed as a massive boost as Derry gears up to host the first UK City of Culture year.

It saw off competition from far and wide, being placed above Beijing in China, Montreal in Canada and Christchurch in New Zealand in the top 10.

And it was beaten only by San Francisco in first place, Amsterdam in second and Hyderabad in India in third.

Coming a year after the National Geographic Traveller voted Belfast one of its top 10 destinations in the world for 2012, Derry’s selection was boosted by the packed calendar of cultural celebrations planned for next year.

The Lonely Planet’s Best In Travel 2013 — which went on sale on Tuesday — points to Derry celebrating the 400th anniversary of its famous City Walls and hosting of the prestigious Turner Prize next year as reasons to go. It also credits Derry’s impressive redevelopment and elegant Peace Bridge.

“Derry/Londonderry is the UK City of Culture 2013, which means this vibrant historic walled city is undergoing a renaissance,” it said.

Lonely Planet travel editor and Radio One regular Tom Hall was one of those who visited Derry incognito and contributed to the book.

He told the Belfast Telegraph the city was proving itself to be small but mighty.

“Even if you look at this in pure population terms, you have San Francisco, which has a population of 800,000, Amsterdam has 780,000 and Hyderabad has 7.7m and then Derry, which has 83,700. That’s an example of how the city is punching above its weight. Beijing, which comes after Derry on the list, has 19m.”

He said the city “has come a long way in a short space of time”.

“It is a pleasant surprise, with a great riverside setting, fascinating historical sites, and like a lot of places in Northern Ireland, the people you meet have a great enthusiasm for the place,” he said.

“I am part of this shadowy panel of experts and with Best in Travel, I was very much in favour of having Derry as high up the list as we could get it.

“There has been a lot of development, and with the opening of the Peace Bridge last year people will want to see that.

“Put all that together and it does really mean a year in the limelight.”

Shona McCarthy, chief executive of Derry’s Culture Company, on Monday night welcomed the boost to Derry’s international profile.

Ms McCarthy, who has just returned from an Irish festival in Chicago in which Derry’s cultural accolade was celebrated, said: “I couldn’t be happier with this sort of international endorsement. It is right, fitting and proper, and anybody who has got any sense of what is coming up would automatically say that Derry will be the place to be in 2013.”

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