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Most travellers know that changing your surroundings is one of the swiftest ways to change your mood and mindset. Travel writer Anna Hart examines how a new backdrop can bring out the best in us…

Psychologists are now confirming what many travel aficionados know to be true: you are what you see. University of Michigan psychologists Rachel and Stephen Kaplan have extensively researched the vital psychological role that our environment plays in our lives, and how various natural settings affect our emotional state. They found that natural views can increase positive sensations like love and friendliness, and that the right environment can boost our concentration and creativity, or even speed up recovery time after injury or illness.

It hardly comes as a surprise, then, that a change of scenery has the power to inspire us creatively, restore our sense of zen, move us emotionally, restore optimism and ultimately leave us in much better shape than when we stepped off the plane. Whatever experience you’re seeking, these four cities offer views that promise to be a very, very good influence on you.

Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro American Express Travel

Hit the reset button with ravishing sea views

Fringed by lushly forested mountains and laced with shimmering beaches and tiny islands dotting the seafront, Rio de Janeiro’s cinematic backdrop makes you feel like the star in your own movie, where any plotline is possible.

Of course, Rio’s beaches have always left visitors awestruck. Copacabana has attracted the glitterati since the 1940s with its dramatic island vistas and bang-in-the-middle-of-things vibe (pictured above), whereas more laidback Ipanema offers picture-perfect lake and mountain views as well as that iconic stretch of sun-drenched sand. New research out of the University of Exeter in the UK suggests that ‘blue space’, such as sea, lake and river views, have a positive affect on our sense of wellbeing, and gazing at Rio’s scenery is a powerful way to reconnect with nature.

Visitors to Rio will find themselves lured outdoors by the views out of the window, inspired to hike the Tijuca rainforest, bike along the beaches or sail Guanabara Bay (lead photo). To Cariocas (Rio residents) the beach is their playground, a place to play sports, eat, drink, celebrate – or simply relax and watch the constant parade of people living the good life. By night, let the sound of a samba drum lure you to the vibrant district of Lapa, which draws an eclectic crowd of hedonists, culture lovers and laidback locals alike. If you ever feel stuck in a rut, treating your eyes to all that Rio has to offer will shake you right out of it.

Rome

Rome

Find creative inspiration amidst Rome’s cultural and historical riches

Booking a room with a view in Rome means putting yourself directly into a living museum, surrounded by soul-stirring historical sights and iconic artwork. A vibrant, cultural hub for over 3,000 years, it’s hard to think of a more inspiring location than Rome’s historical centre, where dramatic landmarks like the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Pantheon (pictured above) serve as robust reminders of Rome’s status as the epicentre of the Roman Empire. Renaissance churches and catacombs cosy up to baroque facades and fountains; everywhere you look, your eye falls on an architectural flourish or artistic triumph.

Travellers and visiting artists have long drawn creative inspiration from these impressive Roman sights. You, too, can spark your own creativity with a gaze down the first-ever paved road, Via Appia Antica, or take in Michelangelo sculptures, frescoes by Raphael and Caravaggio canvases.

But Rome’s best views aren’t confined to the classic sights. Rome rewards those who wander the streets, eyes open. The atmospheric view of a cosy neighbourhood trattoria, streets lined with quirky boutiques and independent galleries, and carefree locals enjoying the vibrant aperitivo scene shows, innovation and creativity are present in all corners of the city. Visit Via Veneto, arguably Rome’s most elegant street or explore the enoteca-crammed, perennially hip Monti neighbourhood, which proves that Rome’s contemporary creative scene is just as vibrant as it was in the past.

Miami

Miami USA American Express Travel

Reignite your lust for life in this super-chic party city

From the moment you set your eyes on Miami’s pastel-hued hotels and pristine beaches, you know you’re in for a good time. The people-watching opportunities on South Beach are legendary (pictured above); there’s no better place to sip a cocktail, stare out to the sea and feel like you’re rolling with the in-crowd. While the city’s party spirit is an ever-present part of the scenery, there’s more to see as you shop the vintage boutiques of Española Way. Or why not stare at the intensely Instagrammable pools of the hotels in refined, relaxed Coral Gables and take in the smoky, colourful restaurants serving up authentic Cuban food in Little Havana. You can’t help but feel uplifted and liberated by what you see anywhere you wander in Miami.

Although the party scene and pretty beach life reigns over Miami, in the last few years Miami has upped its artistic and cultural credentials, making it the ultimate life-affirming destination for travellers who want to combine cheery beach views with a side of culture. The most inspiring visual feasts are perhaps found at the Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach, and the beautiful, century-old Villa Vizcaya in Coconut Grove, whose extensive Italian Renaissance-style gardens offer some of the loveliest, lushest views in the city.

Elsewhere, the murals and street art of Wynwood are as cheerful as they are creative, with streetscapes of independent breweries, cool independent cafes and edgy galleries conspiring to rekindle your creativity and get you buzzing.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong American Express Travel

Reboot your energy and drive in Asia’s most thrilling city

With an iconic skyline, a diverse food scene and a lush natural setting, Hong Kong is a sensory feast, delivering a much-needed shot of adrenaline to world-weary travellers. A city of contrasts, in Hong Kong you can find yourself haggling in a colourful market by morning, and spending your afternoon hiking on a deserted island, kayaking sea arches or exploring a Song-dynasty village. Set out to explore charming neighbourhoods like Shek Tong Tsui to absorb its youthful vibe, or cure your jetlag with a show of lights from the skyscrapers across Victoria Harbour in Kowloon (pictured above). Superb, all encompassing views come as standard in any Hong Kong skyscraper hotel, too.

Despite the urban buzz, Hong Kong never feels stifling. This is likely because 70 % of Hong Kong consists of mountains and protected country parks. One of the most extraordinary views to take in both city and nature panoramas is from the Peak Tram. The seven-minute ascent sets visitors’ and locals’ pulses racing, as skyscrapers slide past at what appear to be impossible angles.

Once the city sights have jump-started your energy levels, head northwest for Tai Lam Country Park to secure some serenity. Psychologists recognise blue as a soothing colour; strong blue hues stimulate clear thought and lighter, soft blues calm the mind and aid concentration. Find your Hong Kong zen in this park surrounded by blues and greens, where waterfalls cascade, office workers do tai chi and families celebrate, all set against a mountain backdrop.

Don’t delay your daydream. Search for your next holiday and find the view that’s best for you. Click ‘book your trip’ now. 

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