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Top 5 literature and art cities in Asia


If you are a lover of art, then the city’s artistic and cultural heritage will play a crucial role in your decision of the destination. Museums, galleries, and touring shows are increasingly prevalent in Asia’s cities. Here are the top five art cities in Asia that we recommend. Whether your tastes run to stunning architecture or the latest immersive installation, you will find something that catches your eye.


Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai, an ancient town in Thailand, is known for its peaceful atmosphere and ability to preserve its historical charm while embracing modern urban sophistication. As the kingdom’s second city, it has a youthful population of approximately 400,000, and its people are famously easy-going. What sets Chiang Mai apart is its walled city, which adds to its uniqueness. Chiang Mai’s moated old quarter has retained many of its traditional wooden houses, quiet leafy gardens, and famous temples, including Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang, and Wat Chiang Man. New buildings are limited to four storeys in height. It is a city that detains many travellers longer than they expected. It offers interested handicraft shops, fascinating museums, good-value accommodation, rich cuisine, and riverside bars. Increasing numbers of travellers are also taking advantage of the city’s relaxed feel to indulge in a burst of self-improvement by enrolling in courses in cookery, massage, and the like.



U Chiang Mai

The U Chiang Mai benefits from its prime location in the heart of the old city, as well as its exceptionally friendly and efficient staff. While the facilities are basic and the rooms are small, the hotel’s proximity to the city’s historic attractions, coupled with complimentary bicycles for guests, make it a worthwhile option.



Veranda High Resort Chiang Mai

Veranda Chiang Mai Hi Resort is located in a densely forested valley, offering a luxurious haven from the bustle of town. The resort features comfortable apartment-style rooms with balconies, integrated into a beautifully landscaped garden with two pools and excellent family-friendly facilities.



Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An is a small city that is both traditional and full of sights. It is an essential stop on any tour of the country due to its intriguing atmosphere. The atmosphere is laid-back and almost dreamy. The city’s narrow streets are lined with wooden-fronted shophouses topped with moss-covered tiles and lanterns that dangle from their facades. As evening approaches, hundreds of lights shine from narrow alleys and the riverbank, reflecting in the waters of the Thu Bon River. Hoi An is also known for its affordable tailors who can create made-to-measure clothes quickly. The ancient core of Hoi An showcases a rich architectural fusion of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and European influences dating back to the sixteenth century. During its prime, the Thu Bon River was a bustling hub of merchant vessels from various trading nations. Today, the quaint streets of this charming town still exude a timeless atmosphere.  Visitors can enjoy the serene beauty of the river, watch the sunset, take a leisurely stroll through the old town, and indulge in affordable beer.



Almanity Hoi An Wellness Resort

The Almanity’s standard rooms may be small and the resort is located a bit of a distance from Hoi An’s historic centre. However, the lush lily ponds, chirruping frogs, and excellent spa make it a haven from the heat and rush of Hoi An.



Anantara Hoi An Resort

Anantara is located in a prime spot in Hoi An, surrounded by tropical gardens and exuding old-colonial charm. It is situated on the banks of the picturesque Thu Bon River, just a short stroll from the ancient streets and colourful architecture of what is arguably Vietnam’s most beguiling town.



Penang, Malaysia

Penang has historically served as a link between Asia’s great kingdoms and an important outlet to the markets of Europe and Western Asia. At its core lies George Town, a diverse and cosmopolitan city that embodies old-world Asia. Trishaws pedal past watermarked Chinese shophouses, while blue joss smoke perfumes the air. The city also boasts a vibrant art scene and free-spirited carnivals, all fueled by the locals’ infectious enthusiasm for Penang’s rich history and diverse cultures. The island’s architecture, old mansions, and temples are highly photogenic. Walking around the jetties with old traditional wooden houses allows you to uncover the island’s complicated history. From time to time, you can find world-famous street art in the alleys where new and modern blends with the old times. You can trek through rainforests in the morning, laze on a beach in the afternoon, and enjoy the bustling city of George Town at night.



PARKROYAL Penang Resort

Located on Batu Ferringhi beach, this hotel offers tasteful decor, excellent service, and a variety of children’s activities, making it an ideal destination for a family getaway. The hotel features two swimming pools, one of which has water slides, and ample space for water sports enthusiasts on the beach.



Seven Terraces

Furnished in antique splendour, this romantic luxury hotel celebrates Penang’s history while offering one of the best locations in the city centre. The period details, from tall wooden doors to traditional floor tiles and a winding staircase, create a charming atmosphere. Everywhere you look, you’ll find antique furniture and trinkets – even breakfast is served up on dainty chinaware.



Jakarta, Indonesia

For many Indonesians, Jakarta is a city of promise despite being the gargantuan capital of a huge nation. Although individual tourist attractions are scattered thinly, Jakarta boasts a rich cultural life with an abundance of performing and visual arts. What makes Jakarta truly special is its easy-going and welcoming atmosphere, as well as the ready humour that endures at street level, despite the surrounding mayhem. Heading south of the harbour on Jakarta Bay and Ancol recreation park, you will find Kota, the old Batavia area. Here, remnants of Dutch colonial rule can be found. Surrounding the bustling city on all sides are residential areas, ranging from upper and middle-class streets to the most basic shanties. Scattered throughout Kyoto are pockets that seem frozen in time. These include diminutive residential districts with market gardens and makeshift kampung village dwellings that impart a village atmosphere to many back alleys.



Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta

You’ll be delighted to know that the hotel is one of the best positioned in Jakarta, offering stunning views of the iconic Welcome Monument and the huge Bundaran roundabout. Days can be spent beside the fifth-floor outdoor pool, inside the chic spa, and dining at sophisticated restaurants.



Raffles Jakarta

This stylish addition to the upscale Jakarta hotel scene is an art-filled oasis in the bustling business and diplomatic district. You’ll also find a welcoming spa, a refreshing outdoor pool, and the signature Writer’s Bar, as well as a museum dedicated to the hotel’s muse, the renowned Indonesian artist Hendra Gunawan.



Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto boasts an overwhelming legacy of ancient Buddhist temples, majestic palaces, and gardens of every size and description. Additionally, it is home to some of the country’s most important works of art, its richest culture, and most refined cuisine. Kyoto is often associated with the traditional image of Japan, featuring streets lined with wooden houses, geisha in colourful silks, and temple pagodas surrounded by cherry blossom trees. The spirit of old Kyoto can be found in unexpected places. To fully appreciate this historic city, it is recommended to venture beyond the typical tourist destinations and instead explore the serene backstreets, discover traditional craft shops and unique machiya houses, or visit the tranquil gardens of lesser-known temples. Despite its reputation for temples and tradition, Kyoto also offers modern attractions such as the newly opened Kyoto International Museum of Manga, as well as a growing number of trendy designer shops and chic cafes.



The Reign Hotel Kyoto

This boutique hotel boasts 51 rooms and serves Danish-inspired cuisine. Its contemporary décor blends Japanese craftsmanship with a minimalist Scandinavian edge, featuring clean lines and natural textures.



Hotel Granvia Kyoto

The hotel’s convenient location connected to Kyoto Station allows for easy access to all trains and buses in the city. Additionally, there are numerous dining and shopping options available within the complex. There is no better base for visiting Kyoto’s main attractions.



By now, you surely have more ideas about the five destinations. Are you excited to experience them for yourself? Please chat with our Expats Holidays expert travel consultant.