Reset Password

Submit Property

Destinations

Advanced Search

Destinations

ANDORRA

andorra-729795_1920

Tana, as the capital is universally known, is all about eating, shopping, history and day trips. Bypassing the city would be a mistake: Tana has been the home of Malagasy power for three centuries and there’s a huge amount of history and culture to discover, as well as some unexpected wildlife options.

In the city itself, the Haute-Ville, with its beautiful colonial buildings, steep streets and cool climate (average altitude in Tana is 1400m), is a great place to wander about. There are also some excellent markets and shops that stock products and crafts from across the country at very competitive prices. Finally, Tana is the place in Madagascar to treat yourself to a fine meal: some establishments rival Europe’s Michelin-starred restaurants, but without the price tag.

ANTANANARIVO

antanana

Tana, as the capital is universally known, is all about eating, shopping, history and day trips. Bypassing the city would be a mistake: Tana has been the home of Malagasy power for three centuries and there’s a huge amount of history and culture to discover, as well as some unexpected wildlife options.

In the city itself, the Haute-Ville, with its beautiful colonial buildings, steep streets and cool climate (average altitude in Tana is 1400m), is a great place to wander about. There are also some excellent markets and shops that stock products and crafts from across the country at very competitive prices. Finally, Tana is the place in Madagascar to treat yourself to a fine meal: some establishments rival Europe’s Michelin-starred restaurants, but without the price tag.

ATHENS

athens

With equal measures of grunge and grace, Athens is a heady mix of ancient history and contemporary cool.

The magnificent Acropolis, visible from almost every part of the city, is the hub around which Athens still revolves. This temple city, built in the 5th century BC, serves as a daily reminder to Greeks of their heritage and the city’s many transformations. All over the urban basin, rooftops and balconies angle toward the landmark, a block of milky marble atop a steep-sided hill. Pull up your own chair, settle in and allow time to appreciate the Acropolis’ many moods, as the light shifts and the clouds cast their shifting shadows.

The cultural and social life of Athens plays out amid, around and in landmarks that are centuries old, if not millennia. The remnants of Ancient Greece get the most attention, of course, thanks to a little thing called democracy. Oh, and mythology, and drama, and philosophy. But don’t overlook the ‘later’ years: thousand-year-old Byzantine churches, for instance, which squat, unruffled in the middle of streets and attached to hillsides.

READ MORE

Although Athenians have endured difficult circumstances since the start of the economic crisis in 2009, the city as a whole crackles with energy in art shows, political debates and even on the walls of derelict buildings, as Athens has become one of Europe’s most noted spots for street art. Creative surprises lie around nearly every corner, so be sure to leave room in your schedule for spontaneous discovery: buy a ticket to that dance show that’s just starting as you walk by, or sit down at the restaurant where the musicians are setting up. You’ll be rewarded.

Ottoman traces can be seen in architecture and in food. And the neoclassical style of the 19th century adds elegance all over the centre.

Beyond Athens, down the Attica peninsula, are more spectacular antiquities, such as the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion and the site of Ancient Eleusis, as well as very good beaches, such as those near historical Marathon. Sure, you could zip across, west to east, in less than an hour, but it’s far more fun to take a leisurely road trip to a thermally heated lake, say, or a monastery with dazzling Byzantine mosaics. If you’d rather not drive, most of these surprise sights (including great beaches) can be reached on public transport.

BARCELONA

barcelona-2371946_1920

Barcelona is an enchanting seaside city with boundless culture, fabled architecture and a world-class drinking and dining scene.

Barcelona’s architectural treasures span 2000-plus years. Towering temple columns, ancient city walls and subterranean stone corridors provide a window into Roman-era Barcino. Fast forward a thousand years or so to the Middle Ages by taking a stroll through the shadowy lanes of the Gothic quarter, past tranquil plazas and soaring 14th-century cathedrals. In other parts of town bloom the sculptural masterpieces of Modernisme, a mix of ingenious and whimsical creations by Gaudí and his Catalan architectural contemporaries. Barcelona has also long inspired artists, including Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró, both of whom have major Barcelona museums devoted to their works.

The deep blue Mediterranean beckons. Sun-drenched beaches make a fine backdrop to a jog, bike ride or long leisurely stroll along the seaside – followed by a refreshing dip.

READ MORE

You can also enjoy the view from out on the water while kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding or taking it easy on a sunset cruise.

Looming behind the city, the rolling forest-covered Collserola hills provide a scenic setting for hiking, mountain biking or just admiring the view. Closer to the city centre, hilltop Montjuïc offers endless exploring amid botanic and sculpture gardens, an old castle and first-rate museums with panoramic views at every turn.

The night holds limitless possibilities in Barcelona. Start with sunset drinks on a panoramic terrace or dig your heels in the sand at a rustic beachside chiringuito (temporary snack bar). As darkness falls, live music transforms the city: the rapid-fire rhythms of flamenco, brassy jazz spilling out of basements, and hands-in-the-air indie-rock at vintage concert halls. Towards midnight the bars fill. Take your pick from old-school taverns adorned with 19th-century murals, plush lounges in lamp-lit medieval chambers or boisterous cava bars. If you’re still standing at 3am, hit the clubs and explore Barcelona’s unabashed wild side.

BANGKOK

bangkok

Same same, but different. This Thailish T-shirt philosophy sums up Bangkok, a city where the familiar and the exotic collide like the flavours on a plate of pàt tai.

Until you’ve eaten on a Bangkok street, noodles mingling with your sweat amid a cloud of exhaust fumes, you haven’t actually eaten Thai food. It can be an intense mix: the base flavours – spicy, sour, sweet and salty – aren’t exactly meat and potatoes. But for adventurous foodies who don’t need white tablecloths, there’s probably no better dining destination in the world. And with immigration bringing every regional Thai and international cuisine to the capital, it’s also a truly diverse experience. And perhaps best of all, Bangkok has got to be one of the best-value dining destinations in the world.

With so much of its daily life conducted on the street, there are few cities in the world that reward exploration as handsomely as Bangkok does. Cap off an extended boat trip with a visit to a hidden market. A stroll off Banglamphu’s beaten track can lead to a conversation with a monk.

READ MORE

Get lost in the tiny lanes of Chinatown and stumble upon a Chinese opera performance. Or after dark, let the BTS (Skytrain) escort you to Sukhumvit, where the local nightlife scene reveals a cosmopolitan and dynamic city.

It’s the contradictions that provide the City of Angels with its complex, multifaceted personality. Here, climate-controlled megamalls sit side by side with 200-year-old village homes; gold-spired temples share space with neon-lit strips of sleaze; slow-moving traffic is bypassed by long-tail boats plying the canals and riverways; Buddhist monks dressed in robes shop for the latest smartphones; and streets lined with food carts are overlooked by restaurants perched on top of skyscrapers. As Bangkok races towards the future, these contrasts are only poised to increase and intensify, even while supplying the city with its unique and ever-evolving notion of Thai cosmopolitanism.

BEIJING

beijing-2044138_1920

rom ancient walled capital to showpiece megacity in barely a century, Beijing (Běijīng, 北京), spins a breathless yarn of triumph, tragedy, endurance and innovation.

Capital of China since Kublai Khan came a-knocking (with a hundred thousand Mongol horsemen behind him), Beijing has hosted the last three imperial dynasties: the Yuan (Mongols), the Ming (Han Chinese) and the Qing (Manchu). Hutong, the city’s residential alleyways, are a Mongolian legacy. The Forbidden City? Hat-tip to the Ming. Summer Palace? The Qing. Nor does it stop there. Chairman Mao slumbers in Tian’anmen Square, hallowed turf for the Communist Party of China. And over it all loom giants like the 528m CITIC Tower, which topped out in 2018. What next for this restive superpower? You’re about to find out…

In Beijing, chī le ma? (have you eaten?) is literally how locals greet their neighbours. Food is the glue that binds all Beijingren, no matter their beliefs or bank balance. Whether you’re slurping noodles, queuing for jiānbing, or guiltily rolling just one more Peking duck pancake, you’re in good company.

READ MORE

A mouth-watering melting pot, Beijing hosts exotic regional cuisines from across China, which equates to unbridled adventure for foodies. And all that icky stuff: dogs, snakes, bugs? That’s all down south. Beijingren don’t go in for any of that tripe. Although they do love actual tripe, dipped in sesame sauce!

From Peking opera troupes to world-class contemporary art, Beijing draws on a profound well of creativity, and that’s despite the vagaries of censorship. To give the government its due, museums are more numerous than ever, curation is less prescriptive and innovation is at an all-time high. China’s finest universities feed Zhongguancun, the ‘Silicon Valley’ of Beijing, which is making seismic waves with its breakthroughs in AI and Big Data. At the humbler end, post-punk bands drone away in divey livehouses, local DJs get the hands in the air, while old folks still warble the revolutionary songs in the city parks.

BOGOTA

bogota

Bogotá is Colombia’s beating heart, an engaging and vibrant capital cradled by chilly Andean peaks and steeped in sophisticated urban cool. The city’s cultural epicenter is La Candelaria, the cobbled historic downtown to which most travelers gravitate. Here, a potpourri of carefully preserved colonial buildings is home to museums, restaurants, hotels and bars, peppered amid 300-year-old houses, churches and convents. Nearly all of Bogotá’s traditional attractions are here, radiating from Plaza de Bolívar, and gorgeous Cerro de Monserrate is just east.

The city’s grittier sides sit south and southwest, where working-class barrios continue to battle their (sadly, deserved) reputations for drugs and crime. In the ritzier north you’ll find boutique hotels, and well-heeled locals piling into chic entertainment districts such as the Zona Rosa and Zona G. Here, rust-tinted sunsets dramatically bounce off the bricks of upper-class Bogotá’s Andes-hugging residential buildings – a cinematic ceremony that begins the city’s uproarious evenings.

BERN

bern

Wandering through the picture-postcard, Unesco World Heritage–listed Old Town, with its provincial, laid-back air, it’s hard to believe that Bern (Berne in French) is the capital of Switzerland.

Bern’s flag-festooned, cobbled centre, rebuilt in distinctive grey-green sandstone after a devastating 1405 fire, is an aesthetic delight, with 6km of covered arcades, cellar shops and bars, and fantastical folk figures frolicking on 16th-century fountains. From the surrounding hills, you’re presented with an equally captivating picture of red roofs arrayed on a spit of land within a bend of the Aare River.

In a nutshell, Bern seduces and surprises at every turn. Its museums are excellent, its drinking scene dynamic and its locals happy to switch from their famously lilting dialect to textbook French, High German or English – which all goes to show that there’s more to Bern than bureaucracy.

BELGRADE

belgrade-5010494_1920

Outspoken, adventurous, proud and audacious: Belgrade (‘White City’) is by no means a ‘pretty’ capital, but its gritty exuberance makes it one of Europe’s most happening cities. While it hurtles towards a brighter future, its chaotic past unfolds before your eyes: socialist blocks are squeezed between art nouveau masterpieces, and remnants of the Habsburg legacy contrast with Ottoman relics and socialist modernist monoliths. This is where the Sava and Danube Rivers kiss, an old-world culture that at once evokes time-capsuled communist-era Yugoslavia and new-world, EU-contending cradle of cool.

Grandiose coffee houses and smoky dives pepper Knez Mihailova, a lively pedestrian boulevard flanked by historical buildings all the way to the ancient Belgrade Fortress. The riverside Savamala quarter has gone from ruin to resurrection, and is the city’s creative headquarters (for now). Deeper in Belgrade’s bowels are museums guarding the cultural, religious and military heritage of the country.

BERLIN

berlin

Berlin’s combo of glamour and grit is bound to mesmerise all those keen to explore its vibrant culture, cutting-edge architecture, fabulous food, intense parties and tangible history.

Bismarck and Marx, Einstein and Hitler, JFK and Bowie, they’ve all shaped – and been shaped by – Berlin, whose richly textured history confronts you at every turn. This is a city that staged a revolution, was headquartered by Nazis, bombed to bits, divided in two and finally reunited – and that was just in the 20th century! Walk along remnants of the Berlin Wall, marvel at the splendour of a Prussian palace, visit Checkpoint Charlie or stand in the very room where the Holocaust was planned. Berlin is like an endlessly fascinating 3D textbook where the past is very much present wherever you go.

When it comes to creativity, the sky’s the limit in Berlin, which is one of Europe’s big start-up capitals. In the last 20 years, the city has become a giant lab of cultural experimentation thanks to a spirit that nurtures and encourages new ideas as well as to once abundant space and cheap rent. Although the last two of these are definitely a thing of the past.

READ MORE

Top international performers still grace Berlin’s theatre, concert and opera stages; international art-world stars like Olafur Eliasson and Jonathan Meese make their home here; and Clooney and Hanks shoot blockbusters in the German capital. Highbrow, lowbrow and everything in between – there’s plenty of room for the full gamut of cultural expression.

Berlin is a big multicultural metropolis but deep down it maintains the unpretentious charm of an international village. Locals and expats follow the credo ‘live and let live’ and put greater emphasis on personal freedom and a creative lifestyle than on material wealth and status symbols. Cafes are jammed at all hours, drinking is a religious rite and clubs keep going through the weekend into Monday. Size-wise, Berlin is pretty big but its key areas are wonderfully compact and easily navigated on foot, by bike or with public transport.

BEIRUT

beirut

If you’re looking for the real East-meets-West so talked about in the Middle East, you need look no further than Beirut. Fast-paced, fashion-conscious and overwhelmingly friendly, it’s not a relaxing city to spend time in – it’s too crowded, polluted and chaotic for that – but its energy, soul, diversity and intoxicating atmosphere make it a vital, addictive city. A couple of excellent museums are the key sights, but exploring the character of the different districts, strolling the waterfront and diving into the city’s wonderful restaurant and nightlife scene are major attractions. As Lebanon is so small, and day trips easy, some travellers base themselves here for their entire visit.

BUENOS AIRES

buenos aires

Buenos Aires combines faded European grandeur with Latin passion. Sexy and alive, this beautiful city gets under your skin.

BA’s food scene is increasingly dynamic, but for many travelers it’s the city’s carnivorous pleasures that shine. Satisfying a craving for juicy steaks isn’t hard to do in the land that has perfected grilling wonderfully flavorful sides of beef, washed down with a generous glass of malbec or bonarda. Parrillas (steakhouses) sit on practically every corner and will offer up myriad cuts, from bife de chorizo (sirloin) to vacio (flank steak) to ojo de bife (rib eye). But leave room for ice cream, if you can – a late-night cone of dulce de leche (caramel) helado can’t be topped.

Look closely: this city is beautiful. Sure, it might look like a concrete jungle from certain angles, but stroll through the streets, paying attention to the magnificent architecture around you, and you’ll soon be won over. Grand French- and Italian-style palaces grab the limelight, but you’ll see interesting architectural details in the buildings of even low-key, local barrios. These days the beauty of these traditional neighborhoods is further enhanced by colorful murals painted by artists involved in the city’s vibrant street-art scene. For these talented individuals, the city is their canvas.

READ MORE

BA’s famous dance is possibly the city’s greatest contribution to the outside world, a steamy strut that’s been described as ‘making love in the vertical position’. Folklore says it began in the bordellos of long-ago Buenos Aires, when men waiting for their ‘ladies’ passed time by dancing among themselves. Today, glamorized tango shows are supremely entertaining with their grand feats of athleticism. You’ll also find endless venues for perfecting your moves, from milongas (dance salons) to dance schools. Be aware that some people become addicted – and can spend a lifetime perfecting this sensual dance.

BRUSSELS

bruxelles

Historic yet hip, bureaucratic yet bizarre, self-confident yet unshowy, Brussels is multicultural to its roots.

The cityscape swings from majestic to quirky to rundown and back again. Art deco facades face off against 1960s concrete developments, and regal 19th-century mansions contrast with the shimmering glass of the EU’s Gotham City. This whole maelstrom swirls out from Brussels’ medieval core, where the Grand Place is surely one of the world’s most beautiful squares. But Brussels’ greatest architectural expression came at the turn of the 19th century with art nouveau, and its master builder is Horta. While restraint characterises his exteriors, the interiors are sensual symphonies of form and colour.

Sometimes it seems as if every building in the city is being converted into a contemporary art gallery, from townhouses to skating rinks to the vast canal-side Citroën garage being remodelled to showcase conceptual art. With property prices lower than Paris, many commercial galleries are choosing to shift to the city. And students and young artists are opening their doors to show work at open studio weekends and event nights. Whether you prefer iconoclastic or outsider art, Magritte or the Flemish Primitives, there really is something for every art lover in Brussels.

READ MORE

As with many other aspects of life, the people of Brussels like to eat and drink a little differently, and there are some deeply ingrained habits: delicious frites have to be double fried, and the classic waffle comes with a snowfall of icing sugar. They even have their own biscuit: the shortcrust cinnamon speculoos. In addition to the fabled beer, which many visitors focus their trip around, Brussels boasts the half-en-half, a heady mix of white wine and champagne. In recent times there has been an increasing focus on local organic cuisine, and this heavy eating city is definitely getting healthier.

Brussels’ once resolutely working-class Marolles quarter has partly shed its proletarian image with a clutch of intimate restaurants and funky interior-design shops along the main streets, Rue Haute and Rue Blaes. Nonetheless, pockets of original Bruxellois character can still be found, notably around the Place du Jeu-de-Balle. At a few of the enjoyable downmarket cafés here you might overhear people speaking in the earthy Bruxellois dialect, and at least one stall still sells the traditional street food: snails. Note that, despite the name, Jeu-de-Balle (aka balle-pelotte) is no longer played here.

CAIRO

cairo-1980350_1920

Cairo is magnificent, beautiful and, at time, infuriating. From above, the distorted roar of the muezzins’ call to prayer echoes out from duelling minarets. Below, car horns bellow tuneless symphonies amid avenues of faded 19th-century grandeur while donkey carts rattle down dusty lanes lined with colossal Fatimid and Mamluk monuments.

This mega-city’s constant buzz and noise is a product of its 22-or-so million inhabitants simultaneously crushing Cairo’s infrastructure under their collective weight and lifting its spirits up with their exceptional humour. A visit can jangle your nerves, but it’s a small price to pay to tap into the energy of the place Egyptians call Umm Ad Dunya – the Mother of the World.

CHICAGO

chicago-1791002_1920

Cairo is magnificent, beautiful and, at time, infuriating. From above, the distorted roar of the muezzins’ call to prayer echoes out from duelling minarets. Below, car horns bellow tuneless symphonies amid avenues of faded 19th-century grandeur while donkey carts rattle down dusty lanes lined with colossal Fatimid and Mamluk monuments.

This mega-city’s constant buzz and noise is a product of its 22-or-so million inhabitants simultaneously crushing Cairo’s infrastructure under their collective weight and lifting its spirits up with their exceptional humour. A visit can jangle your nerves, but it’s a small price to pay to tap into the energy of the place Egyptians call Umm Ad Dunya – the Mother of the World.

DUBAI

dubai-256585_1920

Dubai is a stirring alchemy of profound traditions and ambitious futuristic vision wrapped into starkly evocative desert splendour.

It’s hard not to admire Dubai for its indefatigable verve, ambition and ability to dream up and realise projects that elsewhere would never get off the drawing board. This is a superlative-craving society that has birthed audaciously high buildings and palm-shaped islands. Sci-fi concepts such as flying taxis, a lightning-fast Hyperloop train and an army of robocops are all reflections of a mindset that fearlessly embraces the future. With many more grand projects in the pipeline for World Expo 2020, it’s clear that Dubai is a city firmly in charge of writing its own narrative.

After dark, Dubai sometimes seems like a city filled with lotus eaters, forever on the lookout for a good time. Its shape-shifting party spectrum caters for just about every taste, budget and age group.

READ MORE

From flashy dance temples, sleek rooftop terraces and sizzling beach clubs to fancy cocktail caverns, shisha lounges and concerts under the stars, Dubai delivers hot-stepping odysseys. Most of the nightlife centres on the fancy hotels, but there’s no shortage of more wholesome diversions either, including community theatre, live-music venues and the world-class Dubai Opera.

The first Middle Eastern city to make the Unesco list of creative cities of design, Dubai is a bustling microcosm peacefully shared by cultures from all corners of the world. This diversity expresses itself in the culinary landscape, fashion, music and performance. Although rooted in Islamic tradition, this is an open society where it’s easy for newcomers and visitors to connect with myriad experiences, be it eating like a Bedouin, dancing on the beach, shopping for local art or riding a camel in the desert. Dubai is a fertile environment conducive to breaking down cultural barriers and preconceptions.

HANOI

Hanoi

Vietnam’s capital races to make up for time lost to the ravages of war and a government that as recently as the 1990s kept the outside world at bay. Its streets surge with scooters vying for right of way amid the din of constantly blaring horns, and all around layers of history reveal periods of French and Chinese occupation – offering a glimpse into the resilience of ambitious, proud Hanoians.

Negotiate a passage past the ubiquitous knock-off merchants and you’ll find the original streets of the Old Quarter. Defiant real-deal farmers hawk their wares, while city folk breakfast on noodles, practise t’ai chi at dawn or play chess with goateed grandfathers.

Dine on the wild and wonderful at every corner, sample market wares, uncover an evolving arts scene, then sleep soundly in luxury for very little cost. Meet the people, delve into the past and witness the awakening of a Hanoi on the move.

ISTANBUL

istanbul

This magical meeting place of East and West has more top-drawer attractions than it has minarets (and that’s a lot).

İstanbul’s strategic location has attracted many marauding armies over the centuries. The Greeks, Romans and Venetians took turns ruling before the Ottomans stormed into town and decided to stay – physical reminders of their various tenures are found across the city. The fact that the city straddles two continents wasn’t its only drawcard – it was the final stage on the legendary Silk Road linking Asia with Europe, and many merchants who came here liked it so much that they, too, decided to stay. In so doing, they gave the city a cultural diversity that it retains to this day.

The conquering armies of ancient times tended to ransack the city rather than endow it with artistic treasures, but all that changed with the Byzantines, who adorned their churches and palaces with mosaics and frescoes. Miraculously, many of these remain. Their successors, the Ottomans, were quick to launch an ambitious building program and the magnificently decorated imperial mosques that resulted are architectural triumphs that together form one of the world’s great skylines.

READ MORE

In recent years, local banks and business dynasties have reprised the Ottomans’ grand ambitions and endowed an impressive array of galleries, museums and festivals for all to enjoy.

‘But what about the food?’ we hear you say. We’re happy to report that the city’s cuisine is as diverse as its heritage, and delicious to boot. Locals take their eating and drinking seriously – the restaurants here are the best in the country. You can eat aromatic Asian dishes or Italian classics if you so choose, but most visitors prefer to sample the succulent kebaps, flavoursome mezes and freshly caught fish that are the city’s signature dishes, washing them down with the national drink, rakı (aniseed brandy), or a glass or two of locally produced wine.

JERUSALEM

jerusalem

Destroyed and rebuilt over thousands of years, Jerusalem’s spiritual magnetism endures. With interlacing histories, clashing cultures and constant reinvention, the city is an intense, multisensory experience.

Jerusalem’s Old City is a spiritual lightning rod, sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians. Wide-eyed with awe, pilgrims flood into the walled city to worship at locations linked to the very foundation of their faith. Church bells, Islamic calls to prayer and the shofar (Jewish ram’s horn) electrify the air with a beguiling, if not harmonious, melody, and fragrances of incense, coffee and candle smoke drift through the thrumming souqs (markets). Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Armenian quarters each add their own spice, but this diversity grew from millennia of bloody sieges and transfers of power, leaving still visible deep wounds.

Thousands of years of political, territorial, ethnic and religious conflict have scarred Jerusalem. One result of this historic, and ongoing, turbulence is Jerusalem’s demographic smorgasbord of immigrants from around the world. Dozens of nationalities are represented, each adding their own spirituality, culture and cuisine to Jerusalem’s rich mix, while secular and religious battle lines continue to be drawn and redrawn.

READ MORE

The uncertain status of East Jerusalem creates the most painful divisions. Though clashes (sometimes violent) continue, many Palestinians still hope for a future in which East Jerusalem is the capital of a Palestinian state.

Even as Jerusalem hurtles towards the future, the past informs its present. Downtown’s modern buildings are encased in rosy Jerusalem stone, the same colour palette as the Old City. Experimental performing arts centres are housed in 19th-century buildings. Ever-growing ultra-Orthodox neighbourhoods can be found moments away from million-dollar condominiums, while old-school fruit and vegetable sellers sit next to craft beer and coffee stalls in Mahane Yehuda Market. Meanwhile in East Jerusalem, the future is debated in bookshops, cafes and confronting art galleries.

KIEV

kiev

In the beginning there was Kyiv. Long before Ukraine and Russia existed, the city’s inhabitants were already striding up and down the green hills, idling hot afternoons away on the Dnipro River and promenading along Khreshchatyk – then a stream, now the main avenue. From here, East Slavic civilisation spread all the way to Alaska.

Today, history continues to unfold. As revolution has come and gone, and as war in the east smoulders, Ukraine’s capital has rebelled yet again, only this time culturally. A creative wave has swept over the city, embodied by urban art, vintage cafes and 24-hour parties. Seemingly overnight, Kyiv has become hip.

It’s also cheap. You can eat at superb restaurants and drink at hidden cocktail bars for a fraction of what they would cost in the West. Kyiv’s time is clearly now – or until the next revolution rolls around.

LA HABANA

havana

On first impressions, Havana can seem like a confusing puzzle, but work out how to put the pieces together and a beautiful picture emerges.

No one could have invented Havana. It’s too audacious, too contradictory and – despite 60 years of withering neglect – too damned beautiful. How it does it is anyone’s guess. Maybe it’s the long history of piracy, colonialism and mobster rule. Perhaps it’s the survivalist spirit of a populace scarred by two independence wars, a revolution and a US trade embargo. Or possibly it’s something to do with the indefatigable salsa energy that ricochets off walls and emanates most emphatically from the people. Don’t come here with a list of questions; just bring an open mind and prepare for a long, slow seduction.

In Havana, history is piled up like hoarded treasure in a dusty attic – except these days, thanks to proactive City Historian Eusebio Leal Spengler, the colonial thoroughfares look a little less dusty.

READ MORE

Leal Spengler has been nailing Havana’s exhausted infrastructure back together piece by piece for more than 30 years. The results are startling. Walk the streets of Habana Vieja today and you’ll quickly feel a genuine connection with the past in imposing coastal fortifications and intimate, traffic-free plazas stuffed with museums. Equally engrossing are the scattered leftovers from Cuba’s more recent marriages with the USA and the USSR.

LONDON

london1

One of the world’s most visited cities, London has something for everyone: from history and culture to fine food and good times.

Immersed in history, London’s rich seams of eye-opening antiquity are everywhere. The city’s buildings are striking milestones in a unique and beguiling biography, and a great many of them – the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben – are instantly recognisable landmarks. There’s more than enough innovation (the Shard, the Tate Modern extension, the Sky Garden) to put a crackle in the air, but it never drowns out London’s seasoned, centuries-old narrative. Architectural grandeur rises up all around you in the West End, ancient remains dot the City and charming pubs punctuate the historic quarters, leafy suburbs and river banks. Take your pick.

A tireless innovator of art and culture, London is a city of ideas and the imagination. Londoners have always been fiercely independent thinkers (and critics), but until not so long ago people were suspicious of anything they considered avant-garde. That’s in the past now, and the city’s creative milieu is streaked with left-field attitude, whether it’s theatrical innovation, contemporary art, pioneering music, writing, poetry, architecture or design.

READ MORE

Food is another creative arena that has become a tireless obsession in certain circles.

This city is deeply multicultural, with one in three Londoners foreign-born, representing 270 nationalities and 300 tongues. The UK may have voted for Brexit (although the majority of Londoners didn’t), but for now London remains one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities, and diversity infuses daily life, food, music and fashion. It even penetrates intrinsically British institutions; the British Museum and Victoria & Albert Museum have collections as varied as they are magnificent, while the flavours at centuries-old Borough Market run the full global gourmet spectrum.

LISBON

lisbona-3659762_1920

One of the world’s most visited cities, London has something for everyone: from history and culture to fine food and good times.

Immersed in history, London’s rich seams of eye-opening antiquity are everywhere. The city’s buildings are striking milestones in a unique and beguiling biography, and a great many of them – the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben – are instantly recognisable landmarks. There’s more than enough innovation (the Shard, the Tate Modern extension, the Sky Garden) to put a crackle in the air, but it never drowns out London’s seasoned, centuries-old narrative. Architectural grandeur rises up all around you in the West End, ancient remains dot the City and charming pubs punctuate the historic quarters, leafy suburbs and river banks. Take your pick.

A tireless innovator of art and culture, London is a city of ideas and the imagination. Londoners have always been fiercely independent thinkers (and critics), but until not so long ago people were suspicious of anything they considered avant-garde. That’s in the past now, and the city’s creative milieu is streaked with left-field attitude, whether it’s theatrical innovation, contemporary art, pioneering music, writing, poetry, architecture or design.

READ MORE

Food is another creative arena that has become a tireless obsession in certain circles.

This city is deeply multicultural, with one in three Londoners foreign-born, representing 270 nationalities and 300 tongues. The UK may have voted for Brexit (although the majority of Londoners didn’t), but for now London remains one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities, and diversity infuses daily life, food, music and fashion. It even penetrates intrinsically British institutions; the British Museum and Victoria & Albert Museum have collections as varied as they are magnificent, while the flavours at centuries-old Borough Market run the full global gourmet spectrum.

LAS VEGAS

las-vegas-680953_1920

An oasis of indulgence in the desert, Vegas’ seduction is hypnotic. The Strip shimmers with promise; like all mirages, though, reality doesn’t reflect the veneer.

There are few places outside London, Tokyo and New York where you’re this spoiled for choice when it comes to A-list entertainers and big-budget stage shows. Seasonal casino residencies by the megastars of the music world range from next-gen pop divas Lady Gaga, Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stefani and Cardi B, to dad rockers Journey and Aerosmith, to the superstar DJs of the dance music universe, Calvin Harris, Steve Aoki and Tiësto. Top that with seven enthralling Cirque du Soleil shows, the mesmerizing Blue Man Group and magicians Penn & Teller, and you’ve got a pretty full schedule.

In this 24/7 city where it’s possible to spend your entire visit in labyrinthine indoor worlds where artificial lighting mimics day passing into night, many visitors won’t wander far from their expensive accommodations, lavish pool bar, mesmerizing casino floor, or even pulsing dance floor. The wise and well-informed, however, (that’s you!) will venture off the Strip to experience the spectacular scenic beauty surrounding Las Vegas (after all, vega is ‘meadow’ in Spanish).

READ MORE

Forged by tectonics, carved by the wind and baked by the desert sun, vast canyons and plains, epic mountains and alpine forests beckon you to trade humanity’s distractions for nature’s warm embrace.

Those who enjoy life’s finer details flock to Vegas to lap up the luxuries of the world’s biggest and boldest high-end hotels. With price tags hovering around $300 per night for a sumptuous standard room at Encore, Cosmopolitan or Delano and starting at $1000 per night for a decadent SkyLoft at MGM Grand, $3500 for a Sky Villa at Aria then skyrocketing to a reputed $35,000 for the privilege of occupying Nobu Hotel’s exclusive Nobu Villa, Vegas’ 150,000+ hotel rooms offer something for every possible taste, ranging in quality and style from the sublime to the ridiculous.

MIAMI

miami

Beautiful beaches and art deco delights are just some of Miami’s many charms – there’s also the blazing nightlife, tropical gardens, lively arts scene and sizzling cuisine.

Even if there was no beach, Miami would still have undeniable allure. The gorgeous 1930s hotels lining Ocean Dr are part of the world’s greatest collection of art deco buildings. Tropical motifs, whimsical nautical elements and those iconic pastel shades create a cinematic backdrop for exploring the streets of Miami Beach. Of course, you don’t have to see these architectural beauties at arm’s length. Lavishly restored, Miami’s art deco and mid-century modern hotels are also the playground for locals and out-of-towners alike, with sunny poolside terraces, artfully designed dining rooms and plush nightclubs.

Chalk it up to Miami’s diverse population, or perhaps its love of always being on the cutting edge. Whatever the reason, creativity is one of the great hallmarks of this city.

READ MORE

From art and design to global cuisine, Miami remains ever on the search for bold new ideas, which manifest themselves in surprising ways. You’ll find brilliantly inventive chefs blending Eastern and Western cooking styles, sustainably designed buildings inspired by South Florida ecosystems and open-air galleries where museum-quality artwork covers once-derelict warehouses. The one constant in Miami is its uncanny ability to astonish.

When the sun sets and the brilliant colors of a South Florida sunset fill the sky, that’s when the best part of the day begins for Miami’s party people. By moonlight, all the magic of the city unfolds, in its salsa-filled dance halls, swanky candlelit lounges, and rooftop bars with sweeping views over Biscayne Bay and the glittering city skyline. While there’s plenty of bling on display, Miami has something for all, from backyard bars full of indie rockers to hidden dens of debauchery concealed behind neon-lit taco stands.

MOSCOW

moscow-4960700_1920

During any season, at any hour of the day, Moscow thrills visitors with its artistry, history and majesty.

The very founding site of the city (and arguably, the country), the Kremlin and Red Square are still at the heart of Moscow – historically, geographically and spiritually. Feel the weight of this significance as you wander within the walls of the ancient fortress, marvel at the mind-boggling magnificence of St Basil’s Cathedral and pay your respects to the revered leader of a now-defunct state. Moscow will move you. It will tantalise your senses, soothe your spirit and boggle your mind – and it all starts right here at the Kremlin and Red Square.

The remains of the Soviet state are scattered all around the city. Monuments remember fallen heroes and victorious battles, while museums attempt to analyse and synthesise the past. See Lenin and Stalin – off their pedestals – at the whimsical Art Muzeon. Step into the socialist-realist fantasy at VDNKh. Descend into the depths of the Soviet system at Bunker-42 Cold War Museum. Ride the museum-like metro and remember the millions who suffered at the Gulag History Museum. Nowadays, retro clubs and cafes give their guests a taste of the Soviet experience. You can even try your hand at Soviet-era arcade games.

READ MORE

What is more thrilling than watching a ballerina defy gravity, leaping across the stage at the glittering Bolshoi Theatre? Or feeling the force of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, just a few blocks away from where it premiered more than a century ago? Or oohing and aahing as circus performers soar under the big tent? The classical performing arts in Moscow are still among the best in the world. Nowadays, even the most traditional theatres are experimenting with innovative arrangements, reviving lost favourites and hosting world premieres. Whether you appreciate the classics or prefer the contemporary, the capital’s performing arts will impress.

At nearly every turn in Moscow, you’ll see golden domes peeking out over the rooftops and hear church bells peeling through the streets, which are dotted with some 600 churches – many of which are glittering after recent renovations. There are colourful hidden gems, historic fortresses and gargantuan cathedrals. The exteriors are adorned with stone carvings and glittering domes; interiors are packed with ancient icons, swirling incense and faithful worshippers. For more than a millennium, Orthodoxy has helped to define the Russian nation, a significance that is palpable in these atmospheric spiritual places

MEDELLIN

medellin-182337_1920

Situated in a narrow valley, Medellín packs the punch of a city twice its size. Its skyline reaches for the heavens, setting high-rise apartments and office buildings against a backdrop of jagged peaks in every direction. Its pleasant climate gives it its nickname – the City of Eternal Spring – and the moderate temperatures put a spring in the locals’ steps, at work and at play. It’s a bustling place of industry and commerce, especially in textile manufacturing and exported cut flowers. On weekends Medellín lets its hair down, its many discos attracting the beautiful people.

The city sprawls north and south along the valley floor; slums hug the upper reaches of the hills. True to its paisa (people of Antioquia) roots, Medellín affects an indifference to the rest of Colombia, putting on metropolitan airs and looking overseas for inspiration for its next great public-works projects.

MARRAKECH

marrakech

Prepare for your senses to be slapped. Marrakesh’s heady sights and sounds will dazzle, frazzle and enchant. Put on your babouches (leather slippers) and dive right in.

Bahia Palace and the Dar Si Said are a riot of tilework and intricate floral painted-wood ceilings, the Saadian Tombs are enriched by an opulent bounty of marble, while the Musée de Mouassine and Musée de Marrakech are a showcase of swirling stucco and carved-wood design. And if you choose to bed down for a night in a riad, you’ll be able to sleep amid some of this splendour too. Marrakesh is a city steeped in ancient artistry that continues to thrive, kept alive by the modern craftspeople of the souqs and the contemporary art and design scene of the Ville Nouvelle.

You’ll understand how religion permeates the rhythms of daily life when you hear the sonorous call to prayer echo out from the mosques. As an old imperial capital, Marrakesh is home to some beautiful examples of Islamic architecture, most impressively the Ali Ben Youssef Medersa and the Koutoubia minaret.

READ MORE

The city also holds on to a heritage of the other religious communities that once helped it become a vibrant caravan town. Head to the old Jewish district of the mellah to visit the Lazama Synagogue and the Miaara Jewish cemetery to gain a greater understanding of Marrakesh’s cosmopolitan past.

The main market streets are Souq Semmarine and Souq El Kebir. If you see something you really like there, fine – but understand prices will be higher. Smaller souqs and souqs dedicated to artisan workshops such as Souq Haddadine (Blacksmith’s Souq), where you can buy direct from the producer, generally have the best deals.

Got your map ready? Well, it’s probably of little use to you here. Wrapped within the 19 kilometres of powder-pink rammed-earth ramparts, the medina is Marrakesh’s show-stopping sight of crowded souqs, where sheep carcasses swing from hooks next door to twinkling lamps, and narrow, doodling ochre-dusted lanes lead to nowhere. The main artery into this mazy muddle is the vast square of Djemaa El Fna, where it’s carnival night every night. Stroll between snail vendors, soothsayers, acrobats and conjurers, musicians and slapstick acting troupes to discover the old city’s frenetic pulse. The party doesn’t end until the lights go out.

MONACO

monaco-572428_1920

Squeezed into just 200 hectares, Monaco might be the world’s second-smallest country (only the Vatican is smaller), but what it lacks in size it makes up for in attitude. A magnet for high-rollers and hedonists since the early 20th century, it’s also renowned as one of the world’s most notorious tax havens and home to the annual Formula One Grand Prix.

Despite its prodigious wealth, Monaco is far from being the French Riviera’s prettiest town. World-famous Monte Carlo is basically an ode to concrete and glass, dominated by high-rise hotels, super yachts and apartment blocks that rise into the hills like ranks of dominoes, plonked into an utterly bewildering street layout seemingly designed to confound lowly pedestrians.

In dramatic contrast, the rocky outcrop known as Le Rocher, jutting out on the south side of the port, is crowned by a rather charming old town, home to the principality’s royal palace.

MUMBAI

mumbai-4825544_1920

Mumbai, formerly Bombay, is big. It’s full of dreamers and hard-labourers, starlets and gangsters, stray dogs and exotic birds, artists and servants, fisherfolk and crorepatis (millionaires), and lots and lots of people. It has India’s most prolific film industry, some of Asia’s biggest slums (as well as the world’s most expensive home) and the largest tropical forest in an urban zone. Mumbai is India’s financial powerhouse, fashion epicentre and a pulse point of religious tension.

If Mumbai is your introduction to India, prepare yourself. The city isn’t a threatening place but its furious energy, limited (but improving) public transport and punishing pollution make it challenging for visitors. The heart of the city contains some of the grandest colonial-era architecture on the planet, but explore a little more and you’ll uncover unique bazaars, hidden temples, hipster enclaves and India’s premier restaurants and nightlife.

MARBELLA

marbella-1823543_1920

The Costa del Sol’s bastion of bling is, like most towns along this stretch of coast, a two-sided coin. Standing centre stage in the tourist showroom is the ‘Golden Mile’, a conspicuously extravagant collection of star-studded clubs, shiny restaurants and expensive hotels stretching as far as Puerto Banús, the flashiest marina on the coast, where black-tinted Mercs slide along a quay populated by luxury yachts.

But Marbella has other, less ostentatious attractions. Its natural setting is magnificent, sheltered by the beautiful Sierra Blanca mountains, while its surprisingly attractive casco antiguo (old town) is replete with narrow lanes and well-tended flower boxes.

Long before Marbella starting luring golfers, zillionaires and retired Latin American dictators, it was home to Phoenicians, Visigoths, Romans and Moors. One of the joys of a visit to the modern city is trying to root out their legacy.

MILANO

milan

Milan is Italy’s city of the future, a fast-paced metropolis where money talks, creativity is big business and looking good is an art form.

Ruled by the Caesars, Napoléon, the Austro-Hungarians and Mussolini, Milan has an ancient and fascinating history. After the unification of Italy in 1861, it also became an important industrial and cultural centre – a title it still holds today. While it may not have the historic attractions of other Italian cities, it holds its own with art collections old and new, which mark the genius of old masters and provoke new conversations about where the world is headed. Prestigious nights at La Scala, an illustrious literary heritage and a vibrant music scene also do much to debunk the city’s workaholic image.

Since Leonardo da Vinci broke all the rules in his stunning Last Supper, the indefatigably inventive Milanese seem to have skipped straight from the Renaissance to the 1900s.

READ MORE

Not only is Milan a treasure trove of 20th-century art, but art deco and rationalist architecture abound. Today the city leads the way with the largest post-war re-development in Italy, impressive, sustainable architecture and a futuristic skyline modelled by Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind and César Pelli. The city is also burgeoning into a hi-tech hub, home to start-ups galore and the likes of Google, Microsoft, Alibaba and Apple.

Cucina povera (poor man’s cuisine) may be the cry of the south, but Milanese cooking is the product of a rich urban culture. Just note the golden hue of its quintessential dishes: cotoletta (burnished, buttery veal) and saffron risotto. It was in powerful commercial cities such as Milan that some of Italy’s great cuisines were born, marrying Mediterranean fruits, spices and herbs with cooking methods, pastry techniques and eating styles from France and central Europe. Even today Milan continues to push Italy’s culinary boundaries, making sushi and dim sum its own, and holding the highest number of Michelin stars in the country.

MADRID

madrid-3952068_1920

Madrid is a beguiling place with an energy that carries one simple message: this city really knows how to live.

Few cities boast an artistic pedigree quite as pure as Madrid’s: many art lovers return here again and again. For centuries, Spanish royals showered praise and riches upon the finest artists of the day, from home-grown talents such as Goya and Velázquez to Flemish and Italian greats. Masterpieces by these and other Spanish painters such as Picasso, Dalí and Miró now adorn the walls of the city’s world-class galleries. Three in particular are giants – the Museo del Prado, Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza – but in Madrid these are merely good places to start.

Madrid nights are the stuff of legend, and the perfect complement to the more sedate charms of fine arts and fine dining. The city may have more bars than any other city on earth – a collection of storied cocktail bars and nightclubs that combine a hint of glamour with non-stop marcha (action).

READ MORE

But that only goes some way to explaining the appeal of after-dark Madrid. Step out into the night-time streets of many barrios and you’ll find yourself swept along on a tide of people, accompanied by a happy crowd intent on dancing until dawn.

Madrid may lack the cachet of Paris, the monumental history of Rome, or Barcelona’s reputation for Modernista masterpieces. And no, there is no equivalent of the Eiffel Tower, Colosseum or La Sagrada Família that you can point to and say ‘this is Madrid’. But Madrid has nothing to be envious of. Spain’s broad sweep of architectural history provides a glorious backdrop to city life, from medieval mansions and royal palaces to the unimagined angles of Spanish contemporary architecture, from the sober brickwork and slate spires of Madrid baroque to the extravagant confections of the belle époque. Put simply, this is one beautiful city.

MEXICO

mexico

Mexico City is, and has always been, the sun in the Mexican solar system. Though much-maligned in the past, these days the city is cleaning up its act. Revamped public spaces are springing back to life, the culinary scene is exploding and a cultural renaissance is flourishing. On top of all that, by largely managing to distance itself from the drug war, the nation’s capital remains a safe haven of sorts. Far from shaking off visitors, the earthquakes of 2017 revealed a young society who attracted admiration through their solidarity.

A stroll through the buzzing downtown area reveals the capital’s storied history, from pre-Hispanic and colonial-era splendor to its contemporary edge. This high-octane megalopolis contains plenty of escape valves in the way of old-school cantinas, intriguing museums, inspired dining and boating excursions along ancient canals. With so much going on, you might consider scrapping those beach plans.

NEW YORK

new york

Epicenter of the arts. Architectural darling. Dining and shopping capital. Trendsetter. New York City wears many crowns, and spreads an irresistible feast for all.

The Met, MoMA and the Guggenheim are just the beginning of a dizzying list of art-world icons. You’ll find museums devoted to everything from fin de siècle Vienna to medieval European treasures, and sprawling galleries filled with Japanese sculpture, postmodern American painting, Himalayan textiles and New York City lore. For a glimpse of current and future greats, delve into the cutting-edge galleries of Chelsea and the Lower East Side, with their festive opening-night parties (usually Thursday night if you want to join in), or head to new frontiers in Brooklyn and Queens.

With its compact size and streets packed with eye candy of all sorts – architectural glories, Old World cafes, atmospheric booksellers – NYC is a wanderer’s delight. Crossing continents is as easy as walking a few avenues in this jumbled city of 200-plus nationalities.

READ MORE

You can lose yourself in the crowds of Chinatown amid bright Buddhist temples and steaming noodle shops, then stroll up to Nolita for enticing boutiques and coffee tasting. Every neighborhood offers a dramatically different version of the city, from the 100-year-old Jewish delis of the Upper West Side to the meandering cobblestone lanes of Greenwich Village. And the best way to experience it is to walk its streets.

There’s never been a better time to dine in New York. It’s a hotbed of seasonal and locally sourced cuisine – with restaurants growing vegetables on roof gardens or upstate farms, sourcing meats and seafood from nearby sustainable outfits, and embracing artisanal everything, from coffee roasting and whiskey distilling to chocolate and cheese making. Bars have also taken creativity to new heights, with pre-Prohibition-era cocktails served alongside delectable small plates – indeed, gastropubs are some of the most creative places to eat these days. Of course, you can also hit a gourmet food truck or dine at one of the city’s 75 Michelin-starred restaurants.

ORLANDO

orlando

It’s so easy to get caught up in Greater Orlando – in the isolated, fabricated worlds of Disney or Universal Orlando (for which, let’s face it, you’re probably here) – that you forget all about the downtown city of Orlando itself. It has a lot to offer: lovely tree-lined neighborhoods; a rich performing arts and museum scene; several fantastic gardens and nature preserves; fabulous cuisine; great craft cocktails; and a delightfully slower pace devoid of manic crowds. So, sure, enjoy the theme parks and the sparkles, nostalgia and adrenaline-pumped fantasy there, but also take time to ‘Find Orlando.’ Come down off the coasters for one day to explore the quieter, gentler side of the city. You may be surprised to find that you enjoy the theme parks all that much more as a result.

OSLO

oslo-963590_1920

Surrounded by mountains and sea, this compact, cultured and fun city has a palpable sense of reinvention.

Come to Oslo to pay homage to Edvard Munch and Henrik Ibsen, the city’s two most famous sons, by all means. But don’t leave without discovering something of its contemporary cultural life too. Explore one of its many museums, get to know its booming contemporary-art scene at one of its commercial galleries or just marvel at the work of its starchitects. You can also walk the neighbourhoods that may already be familiar via the works of Karl Ove Knausgård, whose autobiographical novel series Min Kamp are set here, along with the mean streets of Norwegian-noir crime writers Jo Nesbø and Anne Holt.

Oslo’s skyline might be crowded by cranes but this rapidly growing urban metropolis is also one of the world’s most overwhelmingly green cities.

READ MORE

It has earned the honour of being named European Green Capital for 2019, via one of the lowest carbon footprints in the world, excellent and well-patronised public transport, and a real commitment to sustainable food production and green space. The city is blessed with a large number of bucolic parks, and the Oslofjord’s waterways and islands are just minutes away from the centre, as are the ski slopes and forests of Nordmarka.

Has Oslo become Scandinavia’s late-night party hot spot? Wander Møllegata on a Wednesday and you might be convinced it is. Whether it’s working your way through a list of the latest natural wine from Burgenland or Sicily, getting your hands in the air with local DJ acts or an international indie band, drinking a local beer or sipping cocktails made from foraged spruce or Arctic seaweed, you’ll notice that, with a grungier, wilder, realer edge than Copenhagen or Stockholm, this is certainly a city that knows how to have fun.

PARIS

paris

Paris’ monument-lined boulevards, museums, classical bistros and boutiques are enhanced by a new wave of multimedia galleries, creative wine bars, design shops and tech start-ups.

The cloud-piercing, wrought-iron Eiffel Tower, broad Arc de Triomphe guarding the glamorous avenue des Champs-Élysées, flying buttressed Notre Dame cathedral, lamplit bridges spanning the Seine and art nouveau cafes’ wicker-chair-lined terraces are enduring Parisian emblems. Despite initial appearances, however, Paris’ cityscape isn’t static: there are some stunning modern and contemporary icons, too, from the inside-out, industrial-style Centre Pompidou to the mur végétal (vertical garden) gracing the Musée du Quai Branly, the glass sails of the Fondation Louis Vuitton contemporary-art centre, and the gleaming steel egg-shaped concert venue La Seine Musicale.

France’s reputation for its cuisine (the French word for ‘kitchen’) precedes it, and whether you seek a cosy neighbourhood bistro or a triple-Michelin-starred temple to gastronomy, you’ll find that every establishment prides itself on exquisite preparation and presentation of quality produce, invariably served with wine.

READ MORE

Enticing patisseries, boulangeries (bakeries), fromageries (cheese shops) and crowded, colourful street markets are perfect for putting together a picnic to take to the city’s beautiful parks and gardens. A host of culinary courses – held anywhere from home kitchens to the world’s most prestigious cookery schools – offers instruction for all schedules, abilities and budgets.

With an illustrious artistic pedigree – Renoir, Rodin, Picasso, Monet, Manet, Dalí and Van Gogh are but a few of the masters who have lived and worked here over the years – Paris is one of the world’s great art repositories, harbouring treasures from antiquity onwards. In addition to big hitters like the incomparable Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay’s exceptional impressionist collection, and the Centre Pompidou’s cache of modern and contemporary art, scores of smaller museums showcase every imaginable genre, a diverse range of venues mount major exhibitions through to offbeat installations, and there’s also the city’s vibrant street art.

PRAGA

prague-1845560_1920

Prague is the equal of Paris in terms of beauty. Its history goes back a millennium. And the beer? The best in Europe.

The 1989 Velvet Revolution that freed the Czechs from communism bequeathed to Europe a gem of a city to stand beside stalwarts such as Rome, Paris and London. Not surprisingly, visitors from around the world have come in droves, and on a hot summer’s day it can feel like you’re sharing Charles Bridge with half of humanity. But even the crowds can’t take away from the spectacle of a 14th-century stone bridge, a hilltop castle and a lovely, lazy river – the Vltava – that inspired one of the most hauntingly beautiful pieces of 19th-century classical music, Smetana’s Moldau symphony.

Prague’s art galleries may not have the allure of the Louvre, but Bohemian art offers much to admire, from the glowing Gothic altarpieces in the Convent of St Agnes, to the luscious art nouveau of Alfons Mucha, and the magnificent collection of 20th-century surrealists, cubists and constructivists in the Veletržní Palác.

READ MORE

The weird and witty sculpture of David Černý punctuates Prague’s public spaces, and the city itself offers a smorgasbord of stunning architecture, from the soaring verticals of Gothic and the exuberance of baroque to the sensual elegance of art nouveau and the chiselled cheekbones of cubist facades.

Prague’s maze of cobbled lanes and hidden courtyards is a paradise for the aimless wanderer, always beckoning you to explore a little further. Just a few blocks away from the Old Town Square you can stumble across ancient chapels, unexpected gardens, cute cafes and old-fashioned bars with hardly a tourist in sight. One of the great joys of the city is its potential for exploration – neighbourhoods such as Vinohrady and Bubeneč can reward the urban adventurer with countless memorable cameos, from the setting sun glinting off church domes, to the strains of Dvořák wafting from an open window.

QUEBEC CITY

quebec

With a cliff-top position above the St Lawrence River and captivatingly picturesque old streets, North America’s oldest French-speaking city is a gorgeous, seductive place.

Québec City’s dramatic setting does enhance its appeal, with picture-postcard views of the St Lawrence River (and even the Laurentians on a clear day) unfolding from the Terrasse Dufferin boardwalk high above. But its beauty is not all God-given; humankind has played a role in shaping this pretty face too. Just walking down the street here is an aesthetic treat. The city’s historic core is unlike anyplace else in North America, with hundreds of gorgeous mansard-roofed old stone buildings clustered inside a perfect frame of crenelated town walls.

Québec City is one of North America’s oldest and most magnificent settlements. Its picturesque Old Town is a Unesco World Heritage site, a living museum of narrow cobblestone streets, 17th- and 18th-century houses and soaring church spires, with the splendid Château Frontenac hotel and city icon towering above it all.

READ MORE

Even with a T-shirt shop on half the corners, there’s more than a glimmer of Old Europe in its classic bistros, sidewalk cafes and manicured squares. History buffs will especially love Québec’s 19th-century hilltop Citadelle and two museums offering graphic representations of the battles between France and Britain for control of the city.

Québec City has something else: the heart and soul of the province, the fiercest of grips on French-Canadian identity and the French language. It is something people here have fought and died for and something they treasure deep. Québécois grow up studying English, but because the anglophone minority here is so tiny – just 1.5% of the population speak English as their mother tongue – they rarely use it outside the major tourist areas. Most city residents are fully bilingual, but if you stray into the surrounding countryside, you’ll quickly find that French is the province’s official language.

ROMA

rome-4087275_1920

A heady mix of haunting ruins, awe-inspiring art and vibrant street life, Italy’s hot-blooded capital is one of the world’s most romantic and charismatic cities.

The result of 3000 years of ad hoc urban development, Rome’s cityscape is an exhilarating sight. Ancient icons such as the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Pantheon recall the city’s golden age as caput mundi (capital of the world), while monumental basilicas tell of its history as seat of the Catholic Church. Lording it over the skyline, St Peter’s Basilica towers over the Vatican, testifying to the ambition of Rome’s Renaissance popes and the genius of its game-changing architects. Elsewhere, ornate piazzas and showy fountains add a baroque flourish to the city’s captivating streets.

Few cities can rival Rome’s astonishing artistic heritage. Throughout history, the city has starred in the great upheavals of Western art, drawing top artists and inspiring them to push the boundaries of creative achievement.

READ MORE

The result is a city awash with priceless treasures. Ancient statues adorn world-class museums; Byzantine mosaics and Renaissance frescoes dazzle in art-rich churches; baroque facades flank medieval piazzas. Stroll through the centre and without even trying you’ll come across masterpieces by the titans of European art – sculptures by Michelangelo, paintings by Caravaggio, frescoes by Raphael and fountains by Bernini.

Eating out is one of Rome’s great pleasures and the combination of romantic alfresco settings and superlative food is a guarantee of good times. For contemporary fine dining and five-star wine there are any number of refined restaurants, but for a truly Roman meal head to a boisterous pizzeria or convivial neighbourhood trattoria. That’s where the locals go to indulge their passion for thin, crispy pizzas, humble pasta dishes, and cool white wines from the nearby Castelli Romani hills. To finish off, what can beat a gelato followed by a shot of world-beating coffee?

RIO DE JAINERO

rio

Golden beaches and lush mountains, samba-fueled nightlife and spectacular football matches: welcome to the Cidade Maravilhosa

Looking out from the 710m peak of Corcovado, you will see why Rio is called the Cidade Maravilhosa. Lushly forested mountains fringe the city, shimmering beaches trace the shoreline and a string of tiny islands lie scattered along the seafront. Far from being mere cinematic backdrop, this seaside beauty hosts outstanding outdoor adventures: hiking in the Tijuca rainforest, cycling alongside the lake and beaches, sailing across Baía de Guanabara (Guanabara Bay), and surfing, rock climbing and hang gliding amid one of the world’s most stunning urban landscapes.

Rio’s beaches have long seduced visitors. Copacabana Beach became a symbol of Rio during the 1940s, when international starlets would jet in for the weekend. Hogging the spotlight these days is Ipanema Beach, its fame and beauty unabated since bossa nova stars Tom Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes introduced the world to its allure in the 1960s.

READ MORE

For cariocas (residents of Rio), the beach is Rio’s backyard – a playground that’s free and open to all, offering endless enjoyment in the form of football, volleyball, surfing, snacking, drinking or simply relaxing amid the passing parade of people.

Music is Rio’s lifeblood, and the city’s soundtrack comprises rock, old-school bossa nova, hip-hop, funk and Brazil’s many regional styles. Above all there’s samba, a rapid-fire style of music with African influences and an infectious beat that is synonymous with Rio. You can hear it all over town, but the soul of samba resides in Lapa, an edgy red-light district that’s home to dozens of live-music halls and an enormous weekend street party that draws revelers from all walks of life. Samba is also the integral sound during Carnaval, and the danceable backing music to street parties and all-night parades.

SAO PAULO

sao paulo

São Paulo is home to 20 million fiercely proud paulistanos , all of whom will happily tell you at length to you how they’d never live elsewhere. Spend time with them and the reasons will soon unfold. Maybe they will introduce you to the city’s innumerable art-house cinemas and experimental theaters. If they’re gourmands, they’ll focus on the smart bistros and gourmet restaurants that make the city a world-renowned foodie haven. If they’re scenesters, follow them on a raucous tour of underground bars and the 24/7 clubbing scene. Whatever pleasures you might covet, Sampa (the city’s affectionate nickname) probably has them in spades.

Of course, it’s also enormous, intimidating and, at first glance at least, no great beauty (to say nothing of the smog, the traffic, the crumbling sidewalks and the gaping divide between poor and rich).

A beautiful mess, if you will? And Brazil’s city of dreams.

SINGAPORE

singapore

Here, There, Everywhere

Whizzing around Singapore can take a matter of minutes, thanks to one of the world’s most efficient and widespread public transport systems. Hankering for breakfast in Little India, but want to visit the temples in Chinatown before lunch? No problem, you’ll be there in a jiffy using the sparkling MRT system – and why not stop at Marina Bay for a spot of shopping on your way? Plus, with new metro lines opening practically every two years, this tiny island just keeps on becoming easier to explore.

Food in Singapore is taken very seriously. From cheap hawker fare to Michelin-starred fine dining, food-enamoured Singaporeans will line up for it, Instagram the hell out of it and passionately debate whether it is ‘die, die, must try’ – Singlish slang for ‘to die for’. Don’t fret about finding a place to chow down, as each neighbourhood is home to local hawker centres and coffeeshops dishing up some of the island’s best meals for just a couple of bucks. Simply follow your nose or join the longest queue – whatever morsels lie at the end, they are almost guaranteed to be scrumptious.

READ MORE

The concrete jungles that once dominated Singapore’s skyline are slowly giving way to green skyscrapers, which look more like living ecosystems than business hubs. Fervently working towards its ‘City in a Garden’ dream, the nation is ploughing money into becoming more sustainable and, well, green. Head out of town a little and you’ll find plenty of walking trails, treetop jungle bridges, wildlife galore and the city’s green jewel, the Unesco World Heritage–listed Singapore Botanic Gardens: these are the lungs of Singapore.

SIDNEY

sydney-1232090_1920

Sydney, spectacularly draped around its glorious harbour and beaches, has visual wow factor like few other cities. Scratch the surface and it only gets better.

National parks ring the city and penetrate right into its heart. Large chunks of harbour are still bush-fringed, while parks cut their way through skyscrapers and suburbs. Consequently, native critters turn up in the most surprising places. Clouds of flying foxes pass overhead at twilight and spend the night rustling around in suburban fig trees; oversized spiders stake out corners of lounge-room walls; possums rattle over roofs of terrace houses; and sulphur-crested cockatoos screech from the railings of urban balconies. At times Sydney’s concrete jungle seems more like an actual one – and doesn’t that just make it all the more exciting?

After a lazy Saturday at the beach, urbane Sydneysiders have a disco nap, hit the showers and head out again. There’s always a new restaurant to try, undercover bar to hunt down, hip band to check out, sports team to shout at, show to see or crazy party to attend. The city’s pretensions to glamour are well balanced by a casualness that means a cool T-shirt and a tidy pair of jeans will get you in most places. But if you want to dress up and show off, there’s plenty of opportunity for that among the sparkling harbour lights.

READ MORE

The concrete jungles that once dominated Singapore’s skyline are slowly giving way to green skyscrapers, which look more like living ecosystems than business hubs. Fervently working towards its ‘City in a Garden’ dream, the nation is ploughing money into becoming more sustainable and, well, green. Head out of town a little and you’ll find plenty of walking trails, treetop jungle bridges, wildlife galore and the city’s green jewel, the Unesco World Heritage–listed Singapore Botanic Gardens: these are the lungs of Singapore.

SAN FRANCISCO

san-francisco-4674350_1920

Grab your coat and a handful of glitter, and enter a wonderland of fog and fabulousness. So long, inhibitions; hello, San Francisco!

Consider permission permanently granted to be outlandish: other towns may surprise you, but in San Francisco you will surprise yourself. Good times and social revolutions tend to start here, from manic gold rushes to blissful hippie ‘be-ins’. If there’s a skateboard move yet to be busted, a technology still unimagined, a poem left unspoken or a green scheme untested, chances are it’s about to happen here. Yes, right now. This town has lost almost everything in earthquakes and dot-com gambles, but never its nerve.

Every available Bay Area–invented technology is needed to make dinner decisions in this city, with the most restaurants and farmers markets per capita in North America – all supplied by pioneering local organic farms. San Francisco set the gold standard for Wild West saloons, until drinking was driven underground in the 1920s with Prohibition.

READ MORE

Today San Francisco celebrates its historic saloons and speakeasies – and with Wine Country and local distillers providing a steady supply of America’s finest hooch, the West still gets wild nightly.

Heads are perpetually in the clouds atop San Francisco’s 48 hills. Cable cars provide easy access to Russian and Nob Hills, and splendid panoramas reward the slog up to Coit Tower. Earn exhilarating highs on Telegraph Hill’s garden-lined stairway walks, and windswept hikes around Lands End. If there’s another kind of high you’re seeking in San Francisco, that can also be arranged: marijuana is legal here for adults 18 and over with ID, and dispensaries and delivery are at your service.

Microclimates add magic realism to San Francisco days: when it’s drizzling in the outer reaches of Golden Gate Park, it might be sunny in the Mission. A difference of a few degrees between neighborhoods grants permission for salted-caramel ice cream in Dolores Park, or a hasty retreat to tropical heat inside the California Academy of Sciences’ rainforest dome. This town will give you goose bumps one minute, and warm you to the core the next.

SOFIA

sofia-4289735_1920

Bulgaria’s pleasingly laid-back capital is often overlooked by visitors heading to the coast or the ski resorts, but they’re missing something special. Sofia is no grand metropolis, but it’s a modern, youthful city, with a scattering of onion-domed churches, Ottoman mosques and stubborn Red Army monuments that lend an eclectic, exotic feel. Excavation work carried out during construction of the metro unveiled a treasure trove of Roman ruins from nearly 2000 years ago, when the city was called ‘Serdica’. Away from the buildings and boulevards, vast parks and manicured gardens offer a welcome respite, and the ski slopes and hiking trails of mighty Mt Vitosha are just a short bus ride from the centre. Home to many of Bulgaria’s finest museums, galleries, restaurants and clubs, Sofia may persuade you to stick around and explore further.

SANTO DOMINGO

santo domingo

Santo Domingo, or ‘La Capital’ as it’s typically called, is a collage of cultures and neighborhoods. It’s where the sounds of life – domino pieces slapped on tables, backfiring mufflers and horns from chaotic traffic, merengue blasting from corner stores – are most intense. At the heart of the city is the Zona Colonial, where you’ll find one of the oldest churches and the oldest surviving European fortress, among other New World firsts. Amid the cobblestone streets it would be easy to forget Santo Domingo is in the Caribbean. But this is an intensely urban city, home not only to colonial-era architecture, but also to hot clubs, vibrant cultural institutions and elegant restaurants. Santo Domingo somehow manages to embody the contradictions central to the Dominican experience: a living museum, a metropolis crossed with a seaside resort, and a business, political and media center with a laid-back, affable spirit.

TOKYO

tokyo

Yoking past and future, Tokyo dazzles with its traditional culture and passion for everything new.

More than any one sight, it’s the city itself that enchants visitors. It’s a sprawling, organic thing, stretching as far as the eye can see. Always changing, and with a diverse collection of neighbourhoods, no two experiences of the city are ever the same. Some neighbourhoods feel like a vision from the future, with ever taller, sleeker structures popping up each year; others evoke the past with low-slung wooden buildings and glowing lanterns radiating surprising warmth; elsewhere, drab concrete blocks hide art galleries and cocktail bars and every lane hints at possible discoveries.

In Tokyo you can experience the whole breadth of Japanese arts and culture. Centuries-old forms of performing arts still play on stages and sumo tournaments draw crowds; every spring, Tokyoites head outside to appreciate the cherry blossoms – a tradition older than the city itself.

READ MORE

There are museums covering every era of Japanese art history and also ones that focus on the contemporary – challenging the old distinctions between art with a capital A, pop culture and technology. But there’s a playful side to all of this, too: Tokyo is, after all, a city whose public artworks include a scale model of an anime robot.

Tokyo can seem daunting at first: the subway map – a tangle of intersecting lines – is often compared to a bowl of noodles. But once you get out there, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to navigate. That subway can take you everywhere you want to go; trains are frequent (though sometimes uncomfortably crowded) and almost always on time, and stations are well-signposted in English. That’s not to say you won’t occasionally find yourself frustratingly disorientated, but locals are generally eager to help you get back on track.

TIRANA

tirana-2798900_1920

Lively, colourful Tirana is where this tiny nation’s hopes and dreams coalesce into a vibrant whirl of traffic, brash consumerism and unfettered fun. Having undergone a transformation of extraordinary proportions since awaking from its communist slumber in the early 1990s, Tirana’s centre is now unrecognisable from those grey days, with buildings painted in primary colours, and public squares and pedestrianised streets that are a pleasure to wander.

Trendy Blloku buzzes with the well-heeled and flush hanging out in bars and cafes, while the city’s grand boulevards are lined with fascinating relics of its Ottoman, Italian and communist past – from delicate minarets to loud socialist murals. Add to this some excellent museums and you have a compelling list of reasons to visit. With the traffic doing daily battle with both itself and pedestrians, the city is loud, crazy, colourful and dusty, but Tirana is never dull.

VARSOVIA

varsovia

A phoenix arisen from the ashes, Poland’s capital impresses with its resilience, respect for history, contemporary style and sheer joie de vivre.

Rather than being centred on an old market square, modern-day Warsaw is spread across a broad area and includes an eye-catching range of architecture: restored baroque, Gothic, neoclassical and Renaissance in the Old and New Towns; gems of the post-WWII socialist realist period, such as the Palace of Culture & Science and the Marszałkowska Residential District (MDM); and contemporary beauties like the Copernicus Science Centre and the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. This jumble reflects the city’s tumultuous past and makes for a fascinating collection of neighbourhoods and landmarks.

As the royal capital for several centuries, Warsaw is blessed with the beautiful palace and parklands at Wilanów, aptly described as Poland’s Versailles, and the park and serene Palace on the Isle of Łazienki. Greenery also abounds at the central Saxon Garden, Krasiński Garden and the rooftop garden of the University Library.

READ MORE

Not to be missed is a stroll beside the Vistula River: on the west bank runs the Vistulan Boulevard, a contemporary promenade dotted with waterside bars and cafes, while on the eastern Praga side nature holds sway with meandering, wooded pathways leading to sandy beaches.

Warsaw has endured the worst history could throw at it, including near destruction at the end of WWII. Much has been rebuilt and the fragments that survived are now preserved in a superb selection of museums and cultural storehouses. The exhibitions at the Warsaw Rising Museum and POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews leave practically no stone unturned on their respective subjects, while the National Museum will astound you with its art and design collection. Then there is Chopin, Warsaw’s favourite son, who has his own museum and whose romantic and dramatic music is played at nightly recitals.

VALLETA

valletta

Valletta is Malta’s lilliputian capital, built by the Knights of St John on a peninsula that’s only 1km by 600m. Its founder decreed that it should be ‘a city built by gentlemen for gentlemen’, and it retains its 16th-century elegance. It may be small, but it’s packed full of sights; when Unesco named Valletta a World Heritage site, it described it as ‘one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world’.

The Renzo Piano–designed City Gate, Parliament Building and Opera House have changed the cityscape and galvanised it into life. These sights, along with Valletta’s status as European Capital of Culture for 2018, have seen the city reborn, with new museums, restored golden-stone fortresses, and new hotels, bars and restaurants in 16th-century mansions. Valletta’s outskirts are also worth a visit. Take the beautiful ferry trip to the Three Cities or visit the astounding prehistoric Hal Saflieni Hypogeum.

VIENNE

vienne

France’s Gallo-Roman heritage is alive and well in this laid-back riverfront city, whose compact old quarter hides spectacular Roman ruins, including a temple and a theatre. The theatre relives its glory days as a performance venue each summer during Vienne’s two-week jazz festival – a must for music lovers.

WHASINGTON

whasington

The USA’s capital teems with iconic monuments, vast museums and the corridors of power where politicos roam.

Alongside the museums, Washington’s monuments bear tribute to both the beauty and the horror of years past. They’re potent symbols of the American narrative, from the awe-inspiring Lincoln Memorial to the powerful Vietnam Veterans Memorial to the stirring Martin Luther King Jr Memorial.

Washington is the showcase of American arts, home to such prestigious venues as the National Theatre, the Kennedy Center and the Folger Theatre. Jazz music has a storied history here. In the early 20th century, locals such as Duke Ellington climbed on stages along U St NW, where atmospheric clubs still operate. Go-go (an infectiously rhythmic dance music) and punk also have deep roots in DC.

The city hosts several adventurous small theaters, like Arena Stage and Studio Theatre, that put on works by nontraditional writers. Busboys & Poets’ open-mike nights provide another outlet for progressive new voices.

READ MORE

The president, Congress and the Supreme Court are here, the three pillars of US government. In their orbit float the Pentagon, the State Department, the World Bank and embassies from most corners of the globe. If you hadn’t got the idea, power is why Washington emits such a palpable buzz.

As a visitor, there’s a thrill in seeing the action up close – to walk inside the White House, to sit in the Capitol chamber while senators argue about climate change, and to drink in a bar alongside congresspeople likely determining your newest tax hike over their single malt scotch.

A lot of history is concentrated within DC’s relatively small confines. In a single day, you could gawk at the Declaration of Independence, the real, live parchment with John Hancock’s signature scrawled across it at the National Archives; stand where Martin Luther King Jr gave his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech on the Lincoln Memorial’s steps; prowl around the Watergate building that got Nixon into trouble; see the flag that inspired the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ at the National Museum of American History; and be an arm’s length from where Lincoln was assassinated in Ford’s Theatre.