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6. León, Nicaragua
Beleaguered by earthquakes and blitzed during the Nicaraguan Revolution, it is a wonder León has emerged from the ashes of its all-too-recent past with anything left worth seeing, let alone oozing colonial charm. When it became the Revolution's first city to fall to the Sandinista National Liberation Front, then-president Somoza famously responded: "Bomb everything that moves until it stops moving." Plenty of signs from the conflict remain; bullet holes from street fighting still riddle buildings. Visit Museo de Tradiciones y Leyendas (Museum of Traditions and Legends) for an overview of the Sandinista rise to power.

What to do: Volunteer adventure group Quetzaltrekkers (www.quetzaltrekkers.com) runs volcano treks in the León region. Profits go to help local street children.

7. Rotterdam, The Netherlands
What is it about badly bombed cities and vibrant underground music scenes? Of course, Rotterdam has more than its tradition of top electronica and hip hop to tempt travellers: its resurgence following the WWII annihilation of its historic heart has been remarkable. The area once blitzed has reinvented itself through cutting-edge design projects, recently including a series of colourful lights demarcating the limits of Luftwaffe bombardment. Blight took a while to become bite, but cultural renaissance now pulsates through the 2007 City of Architecture, along with a feast of festivals celebrating everything from film to Caribbean carnival.

Where to eat: Dine out almost 100m up in Rotterdam's highest building, Euromast (www.euromast.nl).

8. Volgograd, Russia
Sequestered in a portion of Russia rarely visited by foreign travellers, Volgograd and tourism have rarely gone hand in hand. Having seen Volgograd reduced to rubble after the Battle of Stalingrad (as it was formerly known), the then-US ambassador would lament this is a "dead city". But Volgograd is proving there is life after death. The battlefield is now renowned as an immense park of monuments to the Soviets that defended the city, crowned by the formidable 85-metere-tall Motherland Statue. Volgograd is a smart city, but will never be a looker like St Petersburg. Come instead for a moving crash course in WWII history at the many memorials and museums.

How to get there: Aeroflot (www.aeroflot.ru) flies to Volgograd via Moscow; also consider S7 Airlines (www.s7.ru).

9. Yellowknife, Canada
Yellowknife rose to riches when gold was discovered nearby and slumped right back when gold-mining waned during the 1990s. Now the metropolis of Canada's Northwest Territories (population almost 20,000) has again put its dark days behind it. Thanks to a diamond boom, the economy is as buoyant as a Hudson Bay seal pup and the town is reaping the benefits. Now a state-of-the-art heritage centre looks back fondly on the gold rush. Meanwhile, in quirky Old Town (known as "The Rock"), designer architecture is replacing the ramshackle huts of old; the wonderful Wildcat Cafe serves as a reminder of the town's tough gold-prospecting times gone by.

What to do: Fish, kayak or go aurora-viewing on the lakes north of Yellowknife at the cosy Yellow Dog Lodge (www.yellowdoglodge.ca).

10. Belgrade, Serbia
Ask anyone across the former Yugoslav nations: Belgrade is where the big night out is. When bombing during the Kosovo War and one of the world's worst-ever hyperinflations brought this city to its knees, the music scene survived, making this one of Eastern Europe's party capitals. Being the cradle of the 1980s Yugoslav New Wave got the ball rolling and Belgrade is now, from rock to rave, a magnet for music-lovers. Being repeatedly razed to the ground also fashioned a riveting cityscape for Belgrade - it is a potpourri of ancient forts, neoclassic and modernist masterpieces.

What to do: Tune in to Belgrade's classical music extravaganza, Bemus Festival (www.bemus.org), or go wild up the road at Novi Sad's Exit Festival (www.exitfest.org).

 

 

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