Guides

Lisbon

Sahara-warmed winds make the Portugese capital the perfect city break all year round. Whilst most of Europe beds down for the colder months, Lisbon is one of those destinations that forever bustles. We love the coast in the biting winter as much as the sizzling summer.

Pastéis de nata, cobbled streets, indoor markets, and red roof vistas… what’s not to love? Hop on a tram, soak up that sea air and get exploring.

Where to stay

Memmo Alfama 
In this 42-room hotel, the showstopper is the red-tiled pool, which matches the red roofs of Lisbon. The best rooms look over the Alfama and Tagus River. For breakfast, pasteis de nata are aplenty and the hotel offers a free daily guided-walk around Alfama. Time to learn those facts and impress your friends. 

Vintage Hotel & Spa
We love the leafy rooftop restaurant and there’s a great outdoor cinema, too. The hotel is just 25 minutes from the waterfront and offers a fantastic collection of wine. Most importantly: all guests get a complimentary gin and tonic kit and locally brewed Lince craft beer. Need we say more? 

Vintage Hotel & Spa

Verride Palacio Santa Catarina
Found in the Bica neighborhood, this grand hotel has just 18 rooms. Of all the hotels in Lisbon, this one offers the most personalised service with butlers and amazing attention-to-detail. There’s no spa or gym but the royal interiors and Aesop amenities make up for it. 

Where to eat

Prado
Light pours into this farm-to-table favorite from huge glass windows. Apparently the cabbage is amazing (I know, who knew) and they do a Kombucha of the day.  

Beco
Combining fine dining and show business, don’t miss this unforgettable burlesque experience curated by celebrity Portuguese chef Jose Avillez. Reserve in advance. 

Taberna da Rua das Flores
Generous portions, the best mackerel in Lisbon, and a cozy vibe with just nine tables. Definitely one for date night. 

Taberna Sal Grosso
Here classic dishes are fun and inexpensive. The small restaurant only seats 25 but this means the atmosphere is super friendly. There’s no website, so it’s full of people in-the-know.

Restaurant A Gina
Consider this “hard to find, tough to beat.” Cute and down-to-earth, a real hidden gem.

Praia da Princesa
This bar and restaurant right off Costa da Caparica. The portions are generous and the fish is fantastic.

Atira-te ao Rio
Found by ferry or scooter ride across the bridge to Almada from Lisbon. They serve the best Aperol Spritzes – enough said.

O Germano
Tourists don’t know about this local favorite. Expect good food that’s traditional and reliable. Try the sardines and the duck rice.

Where to get coffee

Cafe Jardim de Estrela 
On the corner of this beautiful green space, sit back and watch the ducks (and chicks) pass by in the sunshine. 

Tease
Cupcake heaven in the heart of the city, only serious sweet tooths allowed. I mean, they have something called a ‘Nutella coffee,’ after all. 

Santini
Rumor has it the King of Italy said this was the best ice-cream he’d ever tasted, need we say more?

Pastéis de Belém
You can’t visit Lisbon without grabbing a bite at Pastéis de Belém, known as the best place in the city for Pastel del Natas since 1837. It doesn’t stop there: they also sell incredible breads, cakes, and tarts. 

Where to drink

Sky Bar
Since 1933, sunset seekers have been flocking to this glitzy hotel for the phenomenal views. Up on the ninth floor, it’s the perfect place for cocktails. 

Pensão Amor
Found in the old red light district, here you can sink down into armchairs and catch a show, whether that’s burlesque, jazz concerts, plays, or DJ sets. You can even get your tarot cards read over cocktails. 

Foxtrot
A classic Art Deco speakeasy with a pool table and extensive wine cellar. Go on Saturdays when the atmosphere is buzzing with travelers and locals alike.

Time Out Market
An absolute must with delicious food of all sorts, for lunch or dinner. Right next to the ‘pink street’ bar area so definitely check this out before heading out on the town.

Park
Great in the afternoon for a sangria and some tapas. Be warned: it’s closed on Mondays.

Where to party 

Of course, begin with Barrio Alto – the most popular area. Start late at around 11:30pm and just hop between bars. Beers are around 1€ and caipirinhas or mojitos are 6€ (dangerous!). If you last, head to Cais do Sodré or Rua Cor de Rosa around 1:30 or 2am.

Lux
A famous club with three floors: one for deep house, one for commercial music, and a rooftop which is a great place to chill. Problem is, locals call it the ‘Portuguese Berghain’ (after the club in Berlin), which means the entrance is completely random! Give it a shot though- and wear converse and Ts, not fancy stuff.

Where to workout 

Casa Vinyasa
A full schedule featuring Vinyasa, Nidra, and Ashtanga, the studio is beautiful and the views of the river help ease you into calm. 

Casa Vinyasa

Holmes Place
This state-of-the-art fitness club includes a pool, sauna, hot tub, gym, fitness classes, and more. Sleek design and super clean facilities makes working out all the more bearable. 

Where to shop 

Embaixada 
In the Príncipe Real neighbourhood, this concept store was built in a beautiful 19th-century neo-Moorish palace. Discover the best Portugese designers then check out the garden, restaurant and exhibition space. 

Embaixada 

A Vida Portugesa
A cute shop full of Portuguese houseware, as well as soaps, ceramics, food, paper goods and jewellery. Support quality workmanship and grab a few gifts to take home. 

Stivali
One of the classics of the Lisbon shopping scene on the luxury fashion street Avenida da Liberdade. Expect high-end brands like Fendi, Chloe and Dolce & Gabbana. 

What to do 

São Jorge Castle
For sea views and a refreshing breeze, head up to the castle for a wander around this historic part of Lisbon. 

National Azulejo Museum
For ceramic fanatics (we know you’re out there) this is a must-see. Dating from the 15th century to the present, you’ll adore the rows of decorative tiles. Buy a few for your bathroom, go on. 

Best beaches

Praia Portinho da Arrabida
One of the most stunning beaches in Portugal. Compact but promises crystal clear waters.

Praia do Portinho da Arrábida
A short walk from the village, you’ll find this beautiful beach. It tends to be quite windy though, so bring layers.

Madrid

Time to embrace the pace of the Spanish capital. Do as the locals do and take an afternoon siesta before a late dinner (9pm is considered early). During twilight hours, shared tapas are grabbed and pushed across tables whilst Spanish wine splashes between tiny glasses. Madrid is all about afterdark hustle.

From high brow (Picasso) to low brow (street art), Madrid’s culture seeps out of every corner. Hagglers and housewives alike run riot through the city and no one ever seems to stop talking. There’s only one thing for it: let yourself get swept up in the madness. 

Where to stay 

BLESS Hotel Madrid
Found in Salamanca, this stunning hotel is known more as a foodie hangout than a place to stay. Why? Martin Berasategui, Spain’s most celebrated chef, is at the helm. One thing’s for sure, if you head to the lobby, you’ll be mingling with some of Madrid’s coolest crowds. Oh, and don’t miss the gorgeous rooftop pool.


Hotel Urso
Near to the trendy neighborhoods Malasaña and Chueca, this hotel is a 20th Century dream with stained glass windows, a mahogany lift, and original tiles. Bikes are available to hire and the spa’s Diamond Rose massage (where diamond dust is mixed with a rose fragrance- yes) is sublime. The Media Ración by Cuenllas restaurant is always full (with good reason) and light bite ingredients are sourced from the city’s Barceló market. 

Gran Melia Palacio De Duques
A few minutes from Opera station, you can’t get more central than this. This grand hotel was once the home of Spanish Dukes and the royal welcoming remains with Velázquez art reproductions dotted throughout. If there’s one reason to pick this hotel, it’s the rooftop pool and hottub with panoramic views that reach the mountains. Curated with Catalan and Madrilenian influences, the Dos Cielos restaurant serves a mean pasta and room service is available 24 hours a day. 

Image via Graziadaily.co.uk

Totem Madrid
An epitome of urban chic in the upmarket corner of the city, every one of the 64 rooms is beautiful. Products are organic and all the spa treatments are vegan. A good option for any animal lovers passing through.

Where to drink 

Sala Equis
This converted sex cinema has become Madrid’s hippest new hangout. Red lights, vintage posters and swings all add to the allure. Sip a cocktail and grab a movie if you have time. 

Sala Equis

Círculo de Bellas Artes
Want a classic rooftop view? Head to Círculo de Bellas Artes but get ready to queue if you want to catch the sunset. It’ll be worth it. 

1862 Dry Bar
New cocktails appear every month at this old fashioned speakeasy. Go for drinks with friends before hitting the nearby party quarter. Our favorites were the classics – the Moscow Mule, Manhattan and Old Fashioned. 

Where to eat


Mercado San Anto
For street food style, you won’t find better than this food court in the LGBT-friendly district of Chueca. If you choose one thing, it should be the calamari. 

Skylar
This restaurant hasn’t changed their award-winning tortilla recipe since 1970, known as the best in the city. When it’s this good, we understand why. The best part? It’s around $3. 

Hortensio
A cosy spot in the Chamberí neighborhood, Hortensio is a favorite for an intimate dinner with good wine. The chef has worked in many Michelin starred establishments and you can definitely tell. 

For a fun night out, you can’t go wrong with a night at the eclectic Amazonica or Tenconten where dinner will quickly turn into dancing.

Where to get coffee 

Café Gijón
Since 1888, Café Gijón has been hosting writers, thinkers and artists as they simmer ideas over coffee. It’s opposite the National Library of Spain – useful for any bookworms. 

Anti Café 
Your visit may start with a coffee with a wander around an art exhibition. Before you know it, you’ll be finishing with a DJ set and cocktails. You have been warned. 

Cafelito  
Near the Mercado de San Fernando, Cafelito specialises in homemade iced coffee using cubes of frozen coffee. Go for the lemon rind variety. 

Where to workout 

Gymage 
Everything you could need in one building, Gymage has a fitness club, theatre, restaurant and rooftop terrace. Day passes are available for the pool too. 

Gymage

B3B 
A new gym in Madrid that combines three things into one sweaty 45-minute class: 15 minutes of biking, 15 minutes of boxing and 15 minutes of ballet. It’s female-only though, sorry guys. 

The Natural Yogi offers spring, summer and fall classes in the Parque del Buen Retiro or try Zentro for its sleek studio in the Salamanca district.

Where to shop 

Cocol
A newly opened boutique in La Latina supports Spanish artisans by naming the person who made the product. Expect heirloom ceramics, esparto baskets and wool blankets galore.

Cocol

Pez
This high-end womenswear boutique is your go-to for crisp whites, flowing dresses and minmalist jewellery.

Casa de Diego
Since 1800, Casa de Diego has been specialising in traditional Spanish accessories – think umbrellas, canes, combs, shawls, and fans. The team only use the finest silk and everything is embroidered by hand.

What to do 

Tobacco Factory
The old “Tabacalera” now serves as a subterranean maze of street art that hosts curated events, including modern art, photography, film nights, concerts, poetry readings and workshops. Just turn up and enjoy getting lost. 

Reina Sofia
The home of Picasso’s ‘La Guernica,’ you need to dedicate a good chunk of your day at Reina Sofia – it’s huge. Yes, there’s lots of Picasso, but keep an eye out for Miro and Dali too. 

El Retiro Park 
The ultimate sun spot, it wouldn’t be a trip to Spain without a siesta in the city’s most popular park. After your reset, simply sunbathe or hire a paddle boat and enjoy bobbing along the water. 

Montreal

Often referred to as Canada’s coolest city, Montreal is the perfect blend of North American charm and European ‘je ne sais quoi.’ From Little Italy to Mile Ex, the city is made up of neighborhoods with their own distinct personalities. 

Coffee culture is huge in Montreal, especially during the winter when locals cower from the cold, so you could spend days hunting for the best espresso in town. But don’t leave without trying poutine: french fries and cheese curds topped with a brown gravy (it tastes better than it sounds!).

The underground tunnels make navigating the city super easy, too – they’re air conditioned in summer and heated in winter. Here’s where to start: 

Where to stay 

Hotel William Gray
If you’re travelling to Montreal in the winter, you won’t be able to resist the spa at Hotel William Gray. Choose from the hot/cold thermal circuit with a Himalayan salt room, Finnish sauna, steam room or herbal sauna. The pool and terrace are open during the summer and there’s plenty of places to chill inside too – the hotel’s Living Room offers reading nooks and a pool table. 

Hotel Nelligan 
Found in the heart of Old Montreal, some of the rooms at Hotel Nelligan have fireplaces, so it has our vote. In the warmer months they open the rooftop terrace (it really is a hotel for all seasons). The on-site restaurant Verses Bistro offers a market-fresh menu so there’s no need to venture far for good food. 

Auberge du Vieux Port
Right on the Saint Lawrence River, Auberge du Vieux Port was a 19th Century warehouse and still retains some of the old charm with exposed brick walls. Out of the 45 rooms, try to choose one with views of the river. This is as central as you can get so the nearby restaurants are pricey – we’d recommend travelling out of the center for the steals. 

Where to get coffee

Cafe Olimpico 
Named one of the ‘Greatest Cafes on Earth’ by The Telegraph, you’ll have heard of Cafe Olimpico, which has been going since 1970. Found in Mile End, the atmosphere lives up to the hype, but you’ll have to wait for a space. 

Pikolo Espresso Bar
Near Downtown, Pikolo definitely has an Australian cafe vibe and the staff are super friendly. There’s no wifi and the food is limited but we love the strong coffee. Definitely one for someone who’s fussy about their beans. 

Moustache Café
As for this Little Italy favorite, go for two reasons: the big coffee portions and the resident Saint Bernard dog. The interior is fun and laid-back with palm trees and monochrome tiles.

Where to eat

Swartz’s Delicatessan
The best smoked meat sandwiches in town. Get the ‘medium’ and classic dill pickles. No Montreal trip is complete without this classic! Leonard Cohen himself was a customer.

Marche Jean Talon
This open-air market has been running in Little Italy since 1933. Snack kiosks serve crepes, cheese, coffee and everything in between. Look out for the many maple variants – from fudge to butter.

Image via MTL.org

Bouillon Bilk
Opt for the tasting menu deal here – just C$70 per person for five dishes. The fois gras and black cod are exquisite. Non-alcoholic drinks are great too – try the coriander lemonade. 

Agrikol 
We adore the Caribbean theme of this Haitian restaurant with its jungle foliage wallpaper and giant street art murals. As for the food, it’s meat heavy with oxtail and pork ribs. Wash it down in the summer with an ice-cold beer slushie. 

Olive + Gourmando
A boulangerie selling the best bread in the city. The Valrhona brioche is to die for.

Where to drink 

Loic 
This super cool wine bar is on the western strip of Notre-Dame St. in St-Henri. The knowledgeable staff suggest wine pairings to go with the nine dishes featured on the menu. Of course, you don’t have to go with all nine…

The Coldroom 
Blink and you’ll miss this basement cocktail bar, which is hidden in a former industrial cold room. We love the award-winning cocktails and the interior inspired by “industrial meets grandma’s basement.” 

Where to shop 

Dime
The best in the city for menswear. Expect super cool skate apparel and streetwear gold.

SSENSE
By far the biggest retail player in Montreal. Not to be missed. The shoe collection alone is spectacular.

Les Etoffes 
Found in Mile End, this upscale boutique sells clothes, accessories and beauty products. We love the Grown Alchemist cosmetics and Linda Farrow eyewear. 

m0851
A classic MTL born and bred brand that specialises in rich leather products and fabrics. 90% of items are crafted in their own workshops. Shop without the guilt knowing you’ve chosen local.

Frank and Oak 
You’ll find a few of these dotted around Montreal. The brand is a Canadian favorite for stylish outdoor essentials and has been featured by magazines like GQ and Esquire. The shop also offers a barber shop and cafe. 

Rooney
Since 2006, this local favorite has been championing quality manufacturing in Old Montreal. A great place to hunt for emerging designers.

Citizen Vintage 
Thrift shopping at its finest, the two owners Lara et Becky handpick clothes for your perusal. Promoting sustainable fashion is at the heart of Citizen, encouraging customers to think twice before they buy brand new. 

Where to workout 

Cadence Cycle 
If you’re travelling to Montreal during winter, there’s no better way to warm up than a quick spin session at Cadence. The instructors’ enthusiasm is contagious and a tough workout is always guaranteed. 

Studio Yoga Club 
This beautiful little yoga studio is found in a suburban spot in Rosemont. Classes are taught in French but English is mixed in if requested.  The hot yoga is perfect during the winter months. 

What to do 

Cirque du Soleil
The home of Cirque du Soleil, you can’t visit Montreal without checking out a show. Centre Bell is a good place to start – look online for tickets. 

MAC
From Leonard Cohen to photography and sculpture, if you only have time for one museum in Montreal, make sure it’s MAC. The permanent collection features 8,000 pieces from Quebec, Canadian and international artists with temporary exhibitions rolling throughout the year too. 

Mount Royal
If the weather allows, head up the extinct volcano Mount Royal for a 30 minute hike. Wander through the 470 acres for some fresh air and skyline views. Fun fact: Mount Royal was designed by the same landscape architect behind New York City’s Central Park.

Stockholm

Swedes live by the concept of ‘allemansrätten,’ which loosely translates to ‘the right to roam.’ And yet Stockholm is only second to San Francisco when it comes to unicorn startups per capita. What does this mean? The city is the perfect balance of work and wellness.

From parks to lakes to waterways, access to the wilderness here is a public right. Do as the Swedes do and take a moment to have a ‘Fika’ (the daily 3pm coffee and sweet treat ritual) outside to soak it all up. If you have more time, get out of the city to the Archipelago for a picnic and a walk (ferries from the city center take between 30 minutes to 1.5 hours).

Where to stay

Story Hotel

You can guess by the name, but this hotel is great for anyone interested in Stockholm’s history, just 15 minutes from the palace and next door to one of the city’s oldest cafés and bakeries, Sturekatten. The walls also have stories to tell; the rooms were converted from former apartments, the reception was a barber shop and the restaurant a garage. The former apartment doors now serve as headboards and we like the touch of organic Swedish soaps from L:A Bruket.  

Hotel Diplomat

Near the Ostermalms Saluhall Food Market, Hotel Diplomat is the perfect example of Jugend architecture. If you like old fashioned decor, you’ll love the marble staircase with gold touches, bookcases and a fireplace. Owned by the Malmström family, all the art you see has been collected personally by them. The spacious bedrooms seem more like apartments than hotel suites, fit with giant couches.

Nobis Hotel 

Thanks to its fantastic food, Nobis is a favorite of travellers and locals alike. After lunch, you’ll find several Swedish flagships stores, including Acne, Hope and Rodebjer. The best rooms offer views of square Norrmalmstorg, Berzelii park and the sea. Noi, the on-site restaurant specialises in ‘family’ portions to share – don’t miss the liquorice fragrant sweetbread and dry-aged beef on salt stone. Fun fact: the term “Stockholm syndrome” was birthed at this hotel after a hostage crisis.


Where to eat

Punk Royale

Södermalm is the main area for foodies and one of our favorites is this experimental restaurant. They offer small plates, including decadent dishes, such as foie gras, caviar, oysters and lobster. It’s as much about the experience as the food – guests are given Lego to play with in between courses and 90’s music blares from the speakers. If you can’t get a table here, don’t worry, try the nearby Bleck, Bananas or Café Nizza as plan B’s. 

Riche

Somewhere more central, Riche is a classic bistro with a Swedish/French menu. The quirky decor features bold artworks and chandeliers. Yes, there’s meatballs, but we’d recommend going with fish – the salmon and trout are always fantastic. 

Tako

Tako 

Great Japanese food with a modern twist, Tako is the best of the bunch when it comes to Asian fusion in Stockholm. Downstairs in the Östermalm basement, the decor is sleek, attracting cool crowds ready to splurge.

Where to get a coffee

Johan & Nyström

Swedes love their coffee. The brand and small chain Johan & Nyström is a favorite for locals. You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to cafes in Stockholm, but this is a good starting point. 

Mellqvist

If you’re more interested in the full Swedish ‘Fika’ experience, go to Mellqvist, where they care as much about the coffee as they do about baking. Don’t miss the fluffiest cinnamon and cardamom buns (‘kanelbulle’ and ‘kardemummabulle’).

Drop Coffee

Home to the official ‘Swedish Barista of the Year,’ Linnea Vannesjö is known as the best in town for coffee roasting. Drop offer a variety of flavored coffee to sample, as well as hosting brewing courses and selling coffee making gadgets. 

Where to shop

The Swedes are known for their minimalistic design, so you can count on the local stores (this isn’t a city to shop at Zara). Some key areas to try out: 

Norrmalmstorg – The town square that connects shopping streets Hamngatan and Biblioteksgatan. You might recognise Acne Studios but make sure you also check out Rodebjer (founded in New York in 1999 by native Swede Carin Rodebjer) and Filippa K (one of Sweden’s leading fashion brands). 

Biblioteksgatan – The street that continues towards Humlegården and the Royal Library. Try Eytys for edgy sneakers (think towering platforms) or Byredo for luxury fragrances and candles (founded in Stockholm in 2006). 

Strandvägen – There’s only one place for your list – Svenskt Tenn is a famous interior design store with plenty of small pieces that make great gifts.

Credit Afar

Where to get a hit of culture

Moderna Museet

This place is packed with amazing collections of contemporary and modern art. You’re also guaranteed a great lunch. 

The Vasa Museum

Perhaps not a local hangout but this sunken ship is a sight to behold. There’s a reason it’s one of the main highlights in Stockholm.

Where to work out

Barry’s Bootcamp

Yes, this well known brand is popular here too. For anyone that likes being yelled at in a dark room with treadmills and dumbbells, that is.

For a more calming experience to stretch out after a flight, BeCore hosts reformer pilates classes or try a yoga class at YogaYama
Soothe aching muscles at Sturebadet with a Swedish massage (of course) or Grand Hotel if you’re up for paying a little extra.

Sturebadet

Where to party

Trädgården

In the summer, this is where it’s at. This outdoor club is open from morning till late on the weekends, and there’s no place like it in the city. Make sure to check if there’s a daytime session happening while you’re in town, you wouldn’t want to miss that.

Trädgården turns into ‘Under Bron’ in the darker months of the year (an indoor version) and is definitely still worth a visit. Try Spybar or Mono as backups (or follow ons!) 

Go to Ugglan Bar before (or after) to play ping-pong and pool with the young hipster crowd.

Tyge & Sessil is a newly opened wine bar (next to Stureplan) located on the very quiet Brahegatan. A great place for a date.

Image via enliven.co

What to do

If the weather allows, take advantage of the nature around the city and fill those lungs with some fresh air. The best long walks are in Haga Parken where you can stop by Carl Eldh Studio Museum or Djurgården. The best route here is to start at KMK (Kungliga Motorbåtsklubben) and grab a coffee to go. Then, it’s time for lunch at Rosendals Trädgårdar.

The option is Ivar Los Park, at the top of Södermalm. This spot overlooks Stockholm and the city hall. 

Want more? Hop on one of the many boats that take you further out onto the Archipelago – don’t forget to take a picnic!

 

The Safara Guide to North East London

We may be biased (two of our Safara team members are based in North East London) but we believe this quarter of the capital is really where it’s at. The North versus South debate rages on between locals so it’s only natural we join in. How could you dare go “south of the river” with so many amazing places to tick off above The Thames? Read on for more.

Where to stay 

Hoxton Shoreditch
When you walk through the doors of the Hoxton Shoreditch, the first thing you see is a giant steel grid stuffed with paperbacks, which sums up the clientele: urban, hard-working, bookish types. The Hoxton Hotels are a solid choice for a meeting spot that will take you from an early morning coffee right the way through to an afterwork cocktail.  Just five minutes away from Silicon Valley Roundabout, the 220 rooms at Hoxton Shoreditch vary in size and price but you can expect sharp industrial design and contemporary monochrome bathrooms in each. Oh, did we mention Hoxton Hotels are dog-friendly?

The Hoxton Shoreditch. Image via Spaces Station.

The Ned
If you’re looking for lux with an historic touch, you’ll love The Ned for its gentlemanly charm. Once a bank, the 100 year-old building was left empty for eight years but now the grand hall is full of City workers on their lunch break or groups of friends celebrating a big birthday in style. Upstairs, the rooftop offers views of St. Paul’s Cathedral, whilst underground, the ‘piece de resistance’ has to be The Vault: a private venue that was once the bank’s safe. All bedrooms evoke 1920’s glamour with plush furniture – the best are the four poster bed ‘Heritage’ rooms in the Grade I listed fifth floor.

The Ned

Nobu Hotel Shoredtich
The first Nobu Hotel in London, this place screams Tokyo. The interior mixes Japanese minimalism with industrial London edge. The Japanese garden is full of whiskies and sake whilst the restaurant is set up like a sushi bar. The rooms are luxe and bathrooms fitted with walk-in showers.

Town Hall Hotel
Bethnal Green’s former town hall offers just under 100 rooms, which feels intimate. We love the Smeg fridge where guests can help themselves to milk in the lobby and the basement pool skylight. Check out the nearby V&A Museum of Childhood – one of London’s lesser known museums. The Corner Room restaurant menu is wonderfully decadent – it’s all about the sticky toffee pudding.

Where to grab coffee

Towpath Cafe
The best way to get around London is by bike. During the weekend, the canals are busy, but rolling along slowly means plenty of opportunities for pit stops. Towpath Cafe is a fantastic place for people watching right on the canalside.

Towpath Cafe. Image via Leonie Wise.

Cafe Z
Heading to Clissold Park? Cafe Z is family-friendly and right next to the organic farmer’s market on a Saturday. Their Turkish style breakfasts are great if you like eating with your hands – get dunking.

Where to eat 

Rochelle Canteen
If the weather allows, sit outside at Rochelle Canteen. The space is an old Victorian school sitting on Arnold Circus, now serving as a hub of creative studios. For lunch, expect meat and fish heavy mains (Brown Shrimp, White Cabbage & Chervil; Deep Fried Rabbit, Radishes & Aioli) and light, fruity desserts.

Rochelle Canteen. Image via Evening Standard.

Dusty Knuckle
So much more than a brunch spot, The Dusty Knuckle was founded by a group of friends wanting to help disadvantaged youths find work. Teaching baking classes in an old shipping container, the team offer work experience to young people. As for the food, it’s the best bread you’ll find this side of London. So eat up and know that your cash is going towards a good cause. 

Where to drink and dance 

The Haggerston
In the heart of Dalston, this pub is a safe choice for a pint and catch-up with friends. An Indie vibe with exposed brick walls and wine bottle candleholders, it’s as ‘East London’ as it gets. Don’t miss their jazz nights on Sundays.

The Bridge Coffee House
Full of antiques, lamps, old signs and trinkets, even the cash register and vending machines are vintage at The Bridge Coffee House. Found under the bridge (no less), take your friends and marvel at the bizarre interior over tea and cake. 

Crate Brewery / Swan Wharf
Further out, Hackney Wick is the home of London’s artist community. Full of converted peanut factories, illegal warehouse raves and paint splattered studios, it’s gritty and represents the underbelly of East London. Wander down the canal, check out Swan Wharf gallery and sip pints in the sun at Crate Brewery.

Crate Brewery. Image via Design My Night

Looking Glass Cocktail Club
Inspired by Alice in Wonderland, this ‘haven of debauchery’ serves creative concoctions in a speakeasy style bar. We love the cocktail names, such as ‘Pickle Millennial,’ ‘Identity Blossom’ or ‘Psychedelic Garden,’ and the cheese boards with cold cuts make the perfect accompaniment. 

Where to work out 

Frame Shoreditch
You’ll spot a Frame in every corner of London – from Shoreditch to Victoria – for its loud branding and pumping music. Their classes are fun and will make you sweat with Power Yoga, Reformer Pilates, Destiny’s Child dance workshops, Ass & Abs blasts, and more. Drop-in prices start from £15.

Frame. Image via The Dots.

Stretch  
A yoga and fitness brand that doesn’t take itself too seriously, Stretch offers classes, workshops, nutrition advice and retreats abroad. They have two studios: one just off Broadway Market on Ada Street and the other on Columbia Road. The spaces are minimalist and flooded with natural light. Drop-ins start from £10 for 30 minutes. 

London Fields Lido
This 50-metre Olympic sized outdoor swimming pool is open all year round – and it’s heated. Originally a project to get the local community moving, in the summer it’s brimming with all kinds of people wanting a quick dip. All ages and abilities are welcome. Passes cost £5.10.  

Where to shop 

Columbia Road Flower Market
If limited to just 24 hours in the city, it’s got to be a Sunday morning stroll through Columbia Road Flower Market. Full of cockney hagglers and cheeky stall holders, it’s an homage to horticulture and the pinnacle of Britain’s tenacity and humour. Get there as early as you can (from 8am) before the crowds hit. 

Traid Dalston
After Marylebone and Goodge Street, Dalston and Stoke Newington are up there for the best spots in London for secondhand shops. Start at Dalston Junction station and make your way up to Church Street boutiques. TRAID is a charity that turns clothes waste into funds to reduce the environmental and social impact of clothes.

Broadway Market
This Victorian London favorite certainly lives up to its ‘Quality, Speciality, Variety’ tagline. Just off Regent’s Canal by London Fields park, every Saturday the streets are filled with market stalls, from sustainable clothing to handmade soaps, brownies, bread, and everything in between. Make sure you grab a drink at the Catt & Mutton: a pub that’s been going since 1729. 

Camden Passage
This pedestrianised street is just minutes from Angel tube station. On Saturdays, booksellers and antique dealers spill out onto the street outside the permanent shops, which include fashion boutiques, cafes and restaurants. Our favourite is The Coffee Works Project. 

Where to Get Some Hits of Culture

Barbican
As you walk up to the Barbican, look out for the new Banksy, painted under the bridge by the man himself in celebration of the sell-out Basquiat 2017 exhibition. Specialising in a mix of quality art, film, dance, music and science, the Brutalist building hosts gigs, screenings and exhibitions. Generally speaking, there’s no need to book in advance, the Barbican always has something worth seeing so we’d recommend just turning up. 

Victoria Miro
The sister gallery to the main Mayfair location, this former furniture factory was converted into the new Victoria Miro in 2000. Exhibitions have included Grayson Perry, Doug Aitken and Yayoi Kusama as well as The Great Women Artists summer show. The gallery has its own garden and a beautiful landscaped area overlooking a restored stretch of Regent’s Canal. 

Yayoi Kusama at Victoria Miro

Estorick Collection
Specialising in Modern Italian Art, The Estorick Collection opened in 1998 in a hidden spot just off Angel’s Upper Street. From pencil drawings to vintage ads, it’s a great little gallery with compact exhibitions that won’t end in museum fatigue like the central, much bigger players. 

Where to Forest Bathe

Clissold Park

One for the whole family, Clissold Park has a small city farm, paddling pool, tennis courts, river and organic food allotments. The beating heart of Stoke Newington, several bakeries and pubs circle the greenery – start with The Clissold Park Tavern or Spence Bakery. 

Clissold Park. Image via Hackney Post


Mini Ibiza Guide: Our Hit List

It’s summer, we have to talk about Ibiza. Once a destination for all-night dancing and severe hangovers, the island has had quite the rebrand in recent years with an influx of wellness businesses and British expats looking for sun-trapped laptop spots. It’s not all about the nightlife – these days the chill does tend to outweigh the clubbing. 

We asked those in the know for a quick list of their favourites. It’s not too late to get booking – Ibiza in fall is divine. 

Image via @paradiso_ibiza

Where to stay

  • Paradiso Ibiza Art Hotel – this hotel was simply made for Instagram – check out that millennial pink. Each of the rooms at the PARADISO has Marshall speakers, a Smeg fridge and colorful furniture characteristic of the 70’s. The hotel also has its own gallery that hosts three exhibitions per peak season.

Cas Gasi
  • Cas Gasi Boutique Hotel – surrounded by orchards, 450 olive trees and fragrant fruit trees. The romantic 19th century farmhouse is whitewashed in classic Ibiza style and offers just 10 rooms. An excellent base for exploring the countryside and the pool is gigantic. The head chef is from Valencia so expect lots of paella. Did we mention they have two hotel dogs? 
  • Los Enamorados – the owners of this 9 room hotel were certainly not afraid of taking risks – just look at the outlandish decor. Based in North Ibiza, Los Enamorados is full of quirky antiques and one-off pieces. The Peruvian chef is masterful with fresh fish and massages are also available. 
  • Sir Joan Hotel – a retreat for the party animal or quiet introvert alike. The 38 rooms and suites tie into a nautical theme with stripped wood yacht floors. Also features a pool, bar and penthouse with views of Ibiza’s Old Town.
Los Enemorados

Where to eat

  • Restaurante Cala Bonita – here a Spanish chef produces simple yet sophisticated dishes showcasing local produce and seafood. It’s also adjacent to the beach. Try the ‘Arroz con Bogavante.’ 
Cas Gasi
  • The Boat House Ibiza – a tiny jungle in the heart of Ibiza. The relaxed atmosphere hits you as soon as you arrive with huge hammocks on the beachfront. Food is served in tapas form and coconut water makes the perfect accompaniment. 
The Boat House
  • Casa Colonial Ibiza – this restaurant and bar distill their own gin (LAW) on the premises. The Thai and Mediterranean-French fusion food will convince you to stay for dinner – served on the large colonial-style terrace. 

Best beaches

  • Cala Comte – pedalos to hire, sand dunes, 15 minute drive from San Antonio.
  • Cala Saladeta  – quiet, snorkelling available, accessed by walking. 
  • Agua Blancas – nudist-friendly, favourite among residents, 10 minute drive from San Carlos. 

Where to shop

  • Junco yi Mimbre is the best local emporium for anything raffia or woven. From beautiful bags of all shapes and sizes to furniture, hammocks, shoes, and more, it’s all here. Prices are up to 300% cheaper than hotels or fancy boutiques. A close walk from the new Sir Joan hotel.
  • Don’t miss the on-site concept store at Los Enamorados hotel for high fashion mixed with some more local, affordable items. One of the owners is a former magazine editor, so we trust his judgement.
Los Enamorados. Image via Style Junkies
  • The boutique at Experimental Beach Club is the most “Ibiza” of the bunch. Pricier than it should be, but a great curation of women’s and men’s clothes, bathing suits, and jewelry.

Where to dance at night

  • DC-10 – a former airplane hanger where the plans soar low over the outdoor terrace, giving the audience an adrenalin buzz! Circo Loco on Mondays is the best night. It may be pricey, but the 150 EUR VIP bracelet is 100% worth it for the extra bar (easy drinks), a cleaner washroom, and a special patio exclusive to your group. The average age is older at around 30-40 – a nice change from other clubs.
  • Hi Ibiza – the night to go is Black Coffee on Saturdays. South Africa’s DJ Nathi Maphumulo has collaborated with some of the biggest names, including Akon, Alicia Keys, Drake, David Guetta, Usher, Pharrell Williams, Diplo, Kelly Rowland, Beyonce and Jay Z. The Glitter Box night skews towards a younger crowd, bringing dancers, fierce performers, drag queens and music together.
  • Pacha – an old school favorite that’s been kicking about since 1973. Go for Flower Power on Monday nights: a retro hippy party where colorful and free-spirited characters come together to dance to hits from the 60’s and the 70’s.

Where to dance in the day

  • Experimental Beach Club – the original ‘day party to sunset’ spot. Reserve in advance to ensure a table, and graze over amazing light bites and white sangria for hours, while you watch the sunset over Es Vedra. Must order: the watermellon feta salad and the squid a la plancha.
Experimental Beach Club. Image via White Ibiza.
  • Beachhouse – pretty easy to get into if you have a large crew and can’t find reservations in the smaller options. On a soft sand beach (rare in Ibiza) and offers good food with huge portions for sharing. Great spot to swim. Close to the airport too – the perfect place to welcome friends who have just arrived.
Beach House

Guide to The Catskills by photographer Ernesto Roman


A quick getaway for busy New Yorkers, The Catskills is less than three hours from The Big Apple. The Catskills Mountains are swathed in forests, which teem with wildlife and offer incredible hikes for nature starved urbanites. We couldn’t think of anyone better to ask about the must-dos in the area than local photographer Ernesto Roman. Creative Director of Deer Mountain Inn, he lives and breathes the rustic Catskills lifestyle. Here are his top tips:

We know you live in upstate NY, but let’s say you were to take your dream staycation. Where would you stay?

  • Deer Mountain Inn:  Your Catskills getaway dreams come true. A classic, turn of the century construction, offering a rustic dining experience with wood-burning fireplaces, cozy entertainment lounge that is private for inn guests and hundreds of acres to explore the outdoors.
  • Camp Here Here: A fun glamping experience with a great restaurant, but they only run in the summer.
  • There are amazing, unique private properties around The Catskills that may only get through airbnb. One of them is Mystic Lodge, located in a dairy farm in Bovina, which offers you a secluded teepee experience perfect to disconnect and be one with nature.

Favorite places to eat on the daily? What do we order?

  • Circle W Market: in Palenville & Catskill. Get the Great Red Ruben (with Pastrami for the meat lovers), The Niobe Wrap (for the veggies) or the Avocado toast (for the sriracha lovers). But really look out for their daily specials!
  • Silvia in Woodstock. Offer daily specials like $1 oysters happy hour on Tuesdays. Usually, I go for the chicken or the bibimbap. 
  • Prospect at Scribners in Hunter. They are open daily for breakfast (not dinner) so get the pancakes!

    Extra tip: If you’re visiting during the weekdays, I will emphasize to check business hours before driving to restaurants. Most places are closed Mon-Wed

Where would you go to eat for a special occasion? What are they known for?

  • Gaskins (Germantown): Wood-fired oven dishes, locally sourced ingredients with a small-town vibe.
  • Deer Mountain Inn (Tannersville). Go for the seasonal (Michelin star) Chef’s Tasting Menu, small bites (get the fried chicken) and craft cocktails. You can sit next to a wood-burning fireplace or a table with mountain views.
  • Brushland Eating House (Bovina). A dining destination for most, it’s a great place to reward yourself with a nice dinner after a countryside drive. Love their iron cast dishes and pastas.

We’ve lost our luggage. Where would you suggest we get a new wardrobe?

  • Warren Street in Hudson. You will find anything from thrift stores to ateliers.
  • A favorite is Mutiny, an exquisite boutique with a hand-picked selection of brands including accessories, publications, writing goods and the best incense I’ve ever smelt.

What are your favorite bars around town? What should we be ordering?

  • The Tavern at Rivertown Lodge (Hudson): ask about their organic wines selection
  • The Maker Hotel (Hudson): A new addition to the list. You’ll find an elaborated cocktail list. The kind of place you could go for some absinthe or brandy.
  • Brunette Wine Bar (Kingston): I always feel the vibe is ‘sparkling rose’
  • West Kill Brewery (West Kill): Beers are seasonal and they rotate. There’s always something new to try. Really into the Kaaterskills IPA right now.

Best place for an AM pick me up? Either coffee, green juice, or tea?

We have an entire afternoon free, and are looking to do some damage to our credit card. Where should we go?

Where can we get our dose of culture where we won’t be swarmed with other tourists?

We’re looking to party….like a local. Where should we go?

We’d love to see some live music. Where to?

Favorite secret spot to get some alone time?

  • The Leanto at Deer Mountain Inn: One of the best views of the Catskill Mountains. It’s a 15min hike from the Inn and has been my favorite place to bring a book, get some fresh air, meditate, and catch sunsets.

Tips and tricks for getting around town?

  • You can get away with taking Amtrak from NYC to Hudson and relying on Uber/Lyft or just walking around. Other than that, you definitely need a car, no way around it! Add a good 20min to anywhere you go in the summer. Traffic doubles up everywhere, especially the queues at the gas stations!
  • Parking at Kaaterskills Falls gets super crowded during the weekends. There’s not a lot of options. If you park on the sides of the road, you’ll probably end up with a parking ticket, so go as early as possible.

Let’s just say we are single – where are the babes hanging out?

  • This is a tough one. Being single upstate ain’t no joke. As a rule of thumb, just hit the bars. If you are solely relying on dating apps, well…bless your soul.
  • In terms of people watching, follow the crowds, head out to the big festivals or gatherings such as Field and supply, Phoenicia Flea, the Basilica Soundscape or all the summer pool parties.

And if we are coupled up – what is the best date spot that will actually have a table?

Where should we go for some ‘forest bathing,’ or a nature walk (if not a full-on hike)?

  • Kaaterskills Falls: work your way up from the bottom. You can also explore the trails on top of the falls for an easier hike and check out the viewing platform. There are numerous trails to explore.
  • Theoutsideinstitute.org: follow their founder and naturist extraordinaire Laura Silverman on a nature walk, foraging class or forest bathing experience.

Where would you go with your sketch pad or journal?

  • Storm King: a 500 acres outdoor museum and sculpture park (in case you haven’t been yet). You’ll be inspired.
  • Overlook Mountain: the most impressive view of The Catskills.

You need to work, but the wifi is down at work/home. Where do you go?

  • The nearest hotel lobby, as they may also have a generator because you never know.

Where do we go to work out like a local? What are the trends that everyone’s into these days? 

  • The great outdoors! There are plenty of lakes, hiking and mountain bike trails to go around. You will also find a lot of yoga studios spread out through The Catskills. Winters are long in the mountains, so if you’re not a skier/snowboarder, you’ll be looking for your classic gym chain (YMCA, Planet Fitness, etc) just to jump on a treadmill. 

We’re jetlagged AF. Where do we go to treat ourselves, spa or massage-wise?

Anything else you want to add in terms of interesting activities or must-see/do’s?

  • Hiway Drive-In or Drive in 32 for an old school drive-in movie theater experience. Watch a film under the stars!
  • Lil Deb’s Oasis – A vibrant and colorful Caribbean-style restaurant. It’s a women-powered and community-oriented business with occasional art installations and performances. The fried fish dish and sweet plantains sides make me feel right at home.
  • Preserved Instincts – This an electronic music sanctuary. Probably my favorite, most unexpected Catskills find. A beautiful main street storefront in a tranquil town.
  • Town Tinker Tubing in Phoenicia. Feel like a kid again!
  • The Soiree on the railway: a curated train ride experience throughout the Ulster and Delaware railroad tracks. Passengers travel on a restored 1940’s train, sipping on champagne, wearing their finest summer attire while listening to a live Jazz band. This event happens once a year in the summer and is hosted by Andnorth.com
  • Don’t forget to come up in the Fall, the foliage is spectacular!

Brighton, England

If you ask any stressed out Londoner where they head for a beach break, it’ll be Brighton. The capital of kitsch is just 1.5 hours away and the ideal place to trade the smog for some sea air. 

Even the most cynical city dweller won’t be able to resist the fairground rides, cotton candy and ‘Stick of Rock’ (Google it). There’s also a proud green focus here – Brighton often wins award for its eco credentials thanks to its beach cleaning, burgeoning vegan scene and pioneering politicians. The LGBTQ+ community has played a huge part in putting the city on the map. Brighton’s Pride celebrations are considered the best in the UK and this year Britney is headlining, need we say more? 

Before you read on, don’t miss our best tip: for quieter beaches, take a 15 minute train ride from central Brighton to Hove. You can thank us later. 

Photo via Day Out With the Kids

Where to stay

Drakes Hotel

Located right on the seafront, this townhouse is as quintessentially English as they come and loved by Cate Blanchett, Kylie Minogue and Woody Allen. If you can, book the circular room with couple sized bath overlooking Brighton Pier. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped right into a postcard. Don’t miss the Drakes Viper cocktail before perusing the Modern British menu. 

Artist Residence

Above the green patch of Regency Square, this bohemian Artist Residence was the first of the boutique brand. The ping-pong in the basement tells us that the crowd is younger and perhaps more sociable than other hotels in the city. Decorated by artists, rooms are curated for creative eyes and filled with antiques. Don’t forget that breakfast is served until midday – these guys know what they’re doing. 

Harbour Hotel

The real pull for this hotel is the underground spa. Built within the exposed bricks of the old smugglers’ tunnel, you’ll find six treatment rooms, a heated indoor pool, sauna, steam room, Scandinavian hot tubs, a hydrotherapy pool, and gym. There are plenty of seaview rooms to choose from and Harby’s bar offers a relaxed setting for drinks and dinner. 

Photo via The Travel Magazine

Where to eat

Little Fish Market

Looking for sustainable seafood? This place should be your go-to. The tasting menu includes six courses and recent favourites include: Hand Dived Scallop, Mussel Curry With Apple and Gigha Halibut. Add the wine pairing – you won’t regret it.

Cafe Marmalade

The first thing you’ll notice about this cafe is the beautiful handwritten menus (you’ll understand once you see them). For breakfast, the coffee is spectacular with a bacon sandwich (a British staple) and lunch means healthy salads and veggie quiches. 

Isaac At

Practicing ‘farm-to-table’ perfection, every ingredient is sourced from a local supplier on a daily basis. Notably, Isaac At claim to be the only restaurant in the UK to offer an all English wine list. We’re particularly intrigued by their desserts: Barmley & Chervil Sorbet followed by Pear, Cobnut & Lemon Thyme then Almond Cake. 

Photo via Isaac At

Where to drink

Plateau

Wine minus the guilt – a no brainer. Plateau focus on ethical farming, sustainability and organic wines. Their friendly staff mean newbies aren’t intimidated by a tasting. Offering a choice of around 20 wines a day, the list is updated regularly too. 

The Gin Tub

This bar hit the headlines a few years back by banning phones. Whether you’re for or against the idea, the lack of technology means you can focus on present company and enjoy a fantastic cocktail or two. Their Happy Hour works out as extremely good value. 

The Mesmerist Pub

One for the beer drinkers in the heart of Brighton Lanes, this pub spans three floors so you’re guaranteed to find a spot. Saturdays draw in the crowds ready for a night of dancing whilst Sundays offer classic ‘Roast Dinners.’ 

Photo via The Independent

Where to dance 

Number 32 Duke Street

Here you have all three: a restaurant, bar and nightclub venue. From 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays, the tables are cleared and people hop out of armchairs to get ready for the DJs. Expect RnB, hip-hop and pop classics. 

The Haunt

Expect a lot of themed music nights at The Haunt, from ‘80s Party’ to ‘SH*T POP.’ Entry costs just £3 and in the past they have hosted fantastic British bands, such as Hot Chip, The XX and Wild Beasts. 

Casablanca Jazz Club

Locals love this spot for the atmosphere and warm welcome from the staff. A reliable option for those who want a no-fuss live music experience. Don’t expect anything ‘fancy’ – this place is founded upon grit, good stories and classic British charm. 

Where to shop

Workshop

Don’t leave the UK without trying seaweed beauty brand Haeckels. This shop stocks a whole bunch alongside Grown Alchemist, Tangent and plenty more. 

Wolf and Gypsy

Do as the Brits do and take yourself thrift shopping. You could spend hours in Wolf & Gypsy sifting through one-off treasures. Don’t rush it. 

Resident

Vinyls are slim and can slide nicely into your carry-on. There, we’ve given you permission to go crazy at Resident: the best record shop in Brighton. 

Dowse Design

Your friends will be seriously pissed if you don’t bring back a present. Don’t leave it till the airport lounge – Dowse Design have got you covered with jewellery, art prints and ceramics. 

Photo via Trouva

What to do

Time for a cliché: let’s talk about the British weather. We’ve saved you the hassle of coming up with rainy day alternatives by choosing a few ourselves. 

If it’s sunny, head to Pavilion Gardens, walk down the coast, hop between shops in North Laine and we’d highly recommend the street art tour. 

If rain persists, cheer yourself up with treats and arcade games at the Pier then take shelter in The British Airways i360, which presents the best panoramic views whatever the weather. 

Photo via Thousand Wonders

Quick hit of culture 

Everyone knows that the ocean is a huge inspiration for artists so it’s no surprise that the city has some great museums to check out. 

Start with Brighton Museum for photography or LGBTQ+ themed work whilst Two Kats and a Cow is a smaller option, launched by three painters (so it’s bound to be good). Finally, Fabrica is all about new work as Brighton’s hub for contemporary art, based in a former Regency church building. 

Photo via Brighton Museum

San Francisco

San Francisco has changed a lot over the last few years. We won’t bore you with our opinions on the tech boom or rising rents, but it’s important to acknowledge that the city has seen a poignant shift. 

Despite the cultural developments, many are still drawn to SF a few times a year for work and, yes, to take some time to play as well. We love the potent NorCal energy, mind-blowing hikes, and consistently impeccable food that makes SF one of our favorite places in California.

Where to Stay

Phoenix Hotel

Named one of America’s coolest hotels some years ago, Phoenix Hotel has managed to maintain its hip factor. The courtyard pool is naturally a plus. Sitting between the Tenderloin and Civic Center, the hotel plays on the city’s arty influences and definitely has a 1950’s rock ‘n’ roll vibe to it.

St Regis Hotel

If you are looking for a more upscale experience, check into the St. Regis. We love the shameless luxury and the fact it is next door to the mesmerising SFMOMA. The indoor lap pool is absolutely worth a dip and we would highly recommend visiting Remede Spa while you’re here too.

Proper Hotel

Inside the Tenderloin flatiron building you’ll find Proper Hotel. Most guests book to witness the great contemporary design and attention to detail. We love the rooms but (if we’re being honest) we really come here for the rooftop lounge with an in-built fireplace and great view of Market Street.

Photo via Proper

Where to eat

Flour + Water

In the Mission District, this is easily our favorite place for pasta in the city. The queues are long but the creamy carbs are entirely worth the wait. They have inventive dishes (mixing ingredients like chocolate and lobster) and we’re hard pressed to find another spot like this in SF.

Taqueria Cancun

San Franciscans will claim the city has the best Mexican food in California. They’re wrong (because LA and San Diego) but Taqueria Cancun’s burritos come close. Get the Burrito Mojado and prepare yourself for a nap afterwards.

Yank Sing

If you haven’t been to SF before, this should be your first stop. Go with a group and make room for some seriously good Dim Sum. If you’ve already been to SF, chances are you’ve already heard of this place, so what are you waiting for?

State Bird Provisions

First things first: book a table early. State of Bird Provisions is one of the city’s busiest restaurants. Thanks to the quality service, every dinner is transformed into a luxury affair. Some of the experimental plates may not sound appetizing but we dare you to try them. You won’t regret it.

Photo via State Bird Provisions 

Where to drink

The Alembic

A place for fantastic cocktails accompanied with old-school banquets and a wood bar. The music is as good as the food. One of our favorite spots to grab a drink with that person you haven’t seen in 5 years but still want to impress.

KAIYŌ

We love a Pisco Sour, which is why we are putting Kaiyo on our list. The menu boasts creative cocktails featuring Pisco as well as Sake, which encourages you to try something new.

Bon Voyage!

You may think you’re in Palm Springs when you walk into this place and that is exactly why we love it. For those foggy SF days, head to Bon Voyage for their bright interior and tropical cocktails.

Where to dance

Bissap Baobab

The crowd at Bissap Baobab may have changed since its inception but the buzzing atmosphere will always deliver. Come early to order Senegalese food and stay for the sweaty dancing. They’ll be blasting West African music, hip-hop, reggae, and everything in between.

The Make-Out Room

We love this Mission establishment because it has something for everyone. Latin music, 80s, pop… They do it all.

Monarch

In SoMa, this weekday bar turns into an underground dance fest come the weekend. You’ll find acrobats and sweaty dancing. We bet you’ll have the time of your life.

Where to work

Verve Coffee Roasters

You might have seen Verve on our LA list and their SF location is just as good. You’ll find large tables, WiFi and couches. Plus their coffee is some of the best around. They have outstanding pastries and some healthy California menu items to keep you going.

Photo via Verve Coffee

Axiom Hotel Lobby

We love this well lit lobby for some peace and quiet. The space is decked out in modern furnishings and you’ll always find a spot.

Saint Frank

This laid-back coffee shop in Russian Hill make their own almond milk (you’re in San Francisco, remember?) and has great WiFi. A good option for some caffeine fuelled motivation when you are in the neighborhood.

Where to get your hit of culture

de Young Museum

Nothing new here – everyone has heard of de Young. The fantastic exhibition schedule is second-to-none. Located in Golden Gate Park, team your art fix with a nature stroll.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

YBCA serves a mix of exhibits ranging from film to performance to fine art. Largely community based, this is the place to find out about what’s up-and coming in SF.

Coastal Trail Presidio Park

This route spans from Baker Beach to the Golden Gate as part of the California Coastal trail, which stretches across the state. In case you’re not a Cheryl Strayed fan, this 2-3 mile walk is a good alternative and you get a view of the bridge.

Where to shop

Mill Mercantile

If you love Unionmade and wish they sold women’s clothing, this is the answer. We always fit in a visit to this perfectly curated shop.

Woodshop

Make an appointment to visit this showroom in Outer Sunset. Owned by a few artists, you will find gorgeous, reclaimed furniture and high-design surfboards.

Le Point

With its minimal design and dream collection of womenswear, you will definitely find something irresistible at Le Point. Started by a stylist, she stocks labels like Staud, Mr. Larkin, and Tibi.

Where to work out

International Orange

Don’t miss a Vinyasa flow class at International Orange. Inspired by Japenese minimalism (it’s gorgeous), the space absolutely feels like an escape. The real reason we come here is to unwind given that International Orange is a spa first and foremost.

MNTStudio

Expect white walls, clean lines and great Reformer Pilates classes. This studio in SoMa may well be the classic California wellness space you crave. Their tough barre classes are also worth a try.

Hike

There are tones of hikes in and around SF. Of course, Point Reyes for a day or two is ideal, but if you don’t have time there are plenty of other trails close by. Head to Twin Peaks, Mount Davidson or Angel Island State Park for an outdoor sweat.

Where to break

Mercury Cafe

This coffee shop has somehow remained humble amongst the cavalier SF coffee scene. They make their scones every morning (they are amazing) and have homemade pie at the ready. It’s the perfect place to break if you are around Hayes Valley.

Trouble Coffee Company

We love this little coffee shop in Outer Sunset. If you want a small cup of fresh brew before heading to hike, stop here. If caffeine isn’t your thing, we’d go for the fresh coconut juice.

Sightglass Coffee

Are you a coffee snob? Do you know a coffee snob? Sightglass is the one true place for coffee aficionados. Even the fussiest of friends will leave impressed.

 

Cape Town by Ashley Ellis

We’ve caught wind of more and more friends heading to the Southern Hemisphere to visit South Africa’s most popular city. Apparently seasons don’t matter all too much in Cape Town, because just as many people are flocking there during South Africa’s winter.

Between the surfing, hiking, food scene, and countless activities just outside the city – it’s no wonder this is a popular destination year round. We tapped Ashley Ellis, local Cape Town resident and a writer, teacher, PhD candidate,  and filmmaker, for her expert tips on where to go in and around Cape Town.

We know you live or have lived in Cape Town, but let’s say you were to take your dream staycation. Where would you stay?

The Silo Hotel – The building is an architectural gem; the decor, ambience and views are unparalleled; and it’s adjacent to Zeitz MOCAA and The V&A Waterfront, so the location couldn’t be better.

The Belmond Mount Nelson – The epitome of luxury and relaxation on gorgeous, manicured grounds.  Belmond is one of my favorite brands, and this property of theirs doesn’t disappoint.

MannaBay – The perfect hideaway for a screenwriting retreat.

Photo via MannaBay

Favorite places to eat on the daily? What do we order?

Cape Town is such a diverse food city, so we’re spoiled with options. My routine is often something like:

Weekdays:  

Eastern Food Bazaar – Shawarma! (but do try Bunny Chow while visiting South Africa!)

Pahari – Beef Stew, Pap and Veggies

Obz Cafe – Prego Chicken Wings with chips or veggies  

Weekends:

Neighborgoods Market at The Old Biscuit Mill – Bunga Bunga with Kudu

Mojo Market – Take your pick from the internationally inspired food stalls!

Where would you go to eat for a special occasion? What are they known for?

Grand Africa Cafe & Beach – all things seafood are nice at this restaurant .

Want more? I’ve got more!

We’ve lost our luggage. Where would you suggest we get a new wardrobe?

This is one time when you won’t be sorry. Today, Cape Town is considered one of the design capitals of the world, and there are tons of local talents creating contemporary and African inspired fashion. I have two suggestions for shopping centers where you can buy local: The Watershed at the V&A Waterfront features all styles of clothing but also has tons of gift options.  Inside the mall, there are global brands if you need some staples. Then in Woodstock, a very short drive outside of the city centre, is The Old Biscuit Mill, which has a variety of clothing stores and some great art.  On Saturday mornings and afternoons, Biscuit Mill hosts a pop up market with live music, and just outside of the building, Albert Road is lined with factory shops from the leading local designers. If you like walking and shopping, there are many boutiques in town to check out. My favorites for African inspired wear are WAG Fashion and Merchants on Long. Otherwise, Shop. Collective on Kloof Street; If it isn’t your style, you’ll find anything you’re looking for within a few blocks on Kloof. Last but not least is a concept store for the fashion forward that I love, Maison Mara, but let me not forget the men… nearby, Bastille is a great shop specifically for menswear!

What are your favorite bars around town? What should we be ordering?

Yours Truly on Kloof Street is an intimate spot that’s perfect for a warm night.  There’s usually a diverse crowd and good music, and because it’s attached to an upmarket backpackers, the bar attracts both locals and international travelers.  Try some of their homegrown Truly White and make some new friends here.

The Gin Bar is a speakeasy behind a small chocolate cafe.  I love gin, and my absolute favorite in the world is the amber gin by Inverroche, made from fynbos botanicals, which are only found here in the Western Cape. For that reason alone, I highly suggest The Heart, one of the cocktails made with this particular liquor on The Gin Bar’s menu.

Beerhouse – If beer is your thing, you’ll get a huge selection of craft beers here in an unassuming atmosphere that overlooks all of the action on Long Street.  At night it’s pretty poppin, but I’ve been there plenty of times during a lazy afternoon just to chill with friends and a cold brew.

Kloof Street House – for gorgeous, delicious, high-end cocktails with prices that aren’t so ridiculous. Try to the Strawberry, Mint, and Rooibos Daiquiri.  Since it’s made with rooibos tea, you’ll likely only find this cocktail in South Africa.

Photo via Kloof Street House

Best place for an AM pick me up? Either coffee, green juice, or tea?

I’m a coffee addict who can easily find a good fix in Cape Town, but I think a much rarer find is a great tea house.  My friends at KA PA Tée have curated a selection of teas from all over the world, have state of the art equipment to make the perfect brew and have cultivated a cozy, intimate environment in which to enjoy a cup or two.  I wouldn’t seem to be “in the know” if I failed to mention Truth Coffee because this steampunk inspired locale for serious coffee lovers boasts the title of the “world’s best coffee shop”.  However, my personal favorite is Ou Meul Bakkery, because they’ve got Bootlegger Coffee, another great local brand and freshly baked everything.  You can also get fresh juices there if that’s your jam.

We have an entire afternoon free, and are looking to do some damage to our credit card. Where should we go?  

Definitely swipe for African housewares, art, and curios.  At these places, you’ll find beautiful, quality and authentic pieces that are actually made in Africa, which isn’t always the case at the big tourist markets:

Tribal Trends  

Africa Nova

Everard Read Gallery

Zeitz MOCAA Museum Shop

Where can we get our dose of culture where we won’t be swarmed with other tourists?

There are lots of museums in Cape Town, but District Six Museum is in an area of the city that is rich in culture and history but doesn’t get too much tourist traffic.  It’s a great place to turn inward and learn about how and why Cape Town came to be the way it is today. You’ll also be supporting those who are working against the erasure of certain people and places in post-apartheid South Africa. Similarly is the heritage neighborhood of the Bo Kaap, through which you can take a walking tour or explore on your own. And if you get hungry, stop at The Kombuis which claims to have the some of the best traditional Cape Malay food you can find.

Photo via District Six Museum 

We’re looking to party….like a local. Where should we go?

Check out the slew of bars and restaurants on and around Lower Main Road in the Observatory neighborhood. Here you’ll find a dedicated local crowd in unpretentious settings. Otherwise, you can travel a bit farther out of the city into Khayelitsha and head to Rands which has great food and dance music. Khayelitsha is one of the largest and fastest growing townships in South Africa and is vibrant and full of energy. Visiting will give you a fuller understanding of Cape Town than just hanging out in the CBD. With that said, townships are not tourist spectacles; Go because you want to have a good time, but be respectful and aware of this. Visit both of these neighborhoods with a local who’s familiar with the area if possible. It’ll be a better experience overall.

We’d love to see some live music. Where to?

You know how it is… different spots for different nights!

In no particular order:

The Waiting Room – DJ’s, hip hop, eclectic, acoustic… a multilevel bar with inside and outside hang out spots.

Aces n Spades – Where bands perform just before they become famous.

The Piano Bar – Jazz vibes (SA is known for jazz!)

Alexander Bar – An intimate performance venue for all kinds of shows, even for the literary types.

Dizzy’s Camp’s Bay – Beachside dive bar vibes with a karaoke night and live shows.

Favorite secret spot to get some alone time?

The Company’s Garden is just a one minute walk from my flat, so I go there often to clear my head or read a book.

Photo via Company’s Garden

Tips and tricks for getting around town? 

Most of the Cape Town CBD is walkable, which is one thing that I love about the city.  The MyCiTi Bus is cheap, convenient and safe. Otherwise Uber is easy, because most things aren’t very far in distance.

Let’s just say we are single – where are the babes hanging out?

I have no idea, but I’d suggest you put on your best beachwear and head to Camp’s Bay.

And if we are coupled up – what is the best date spot that will actually have a table?

Asoka 😉

Where should we go for some “forest bathing,” or a nature walk (if not a full-on hike)?

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens is one of the richest and most comprehensive in the world and has plenty of walking trails.

Where would you go with your sketch pad or journal?

I’d go to Rhodes Memorial, because it’s so quiet. It has a dazzling view of the city for the sketch artists and a tea garden for those who bring their journal.  

You need to work, but the wifi is down at work/home. Where do you go?

I take a long walk or a short drive (from “town” Cape Town’s CBD) to Woodstock and head to Superette in Woodstock Exchange. It’s a bright, comfortable environment to work with coffee, treats, and delicious light meals. The wifi is powerful enough, and I can stay and work for hours without being rushed. It’s bustling but not noisy nor packed, and there are so many creative offices and retailers in Woodstock Exchange, that I always feel surrounded by the good vibes of creative entrepreneurs hard at work.

Photo via Superette

Where do we go to work out like a local? What are the trends that everyone’s into these days?

The hike life is definitely a thing here, and it’s understandable, because the landscapes in Cape Town are treasures.  If you’re looking for a traditional gym experience, then I’d recommend Virgin Active which has plenty of locations.  For me personally, I really enjoy going to Spring Pilates Shmilates with other locals.  It’s intimate, and they take great care of my body there!

We’re jetlagged AF. Where do we go to treat ourselves, spa or massage-wise?

Definitely the spa at 12 Apostles Hotel.  The views alone will get you feeling right.

Anything else you want to add in terms of interesting activities or must-see/do’s?

Yes definitely. I have three very important suggestions!

1. Do pay your respects to the freedom fighters who were willing to serve time in abhorrent conditions to see South Africa become a more just society.  I think anyone who comes to Cape Town should visit Robben Island Today, the tours there are led by former inmates and guards, but these people will not be around forever to tell their stories first hand, so this is truly a once in a lifetime experience.   

2. If you have time on your trip, take a day trip to down the coast to Cape Point and experience the southern most tip of the continent, where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet.  It’s considered one of the most beautiful drives in the world, which I cosign. There are several ways to approach the trip, but do stop in Llandudno Beach, Muizenberg, Simon’s Town, and Hout Bay along the way and just give yourself time to explore.

3.  Most people who come to the Western Cape want to visit the wine country at some point.  I highly recommend visiting the French influenced town of Franschhoek and the Solms Delta Wine Farm specifically.  Solms Delta sits on land where artefacts from some of the Earth’s first humans were left.  In addition to this, it has a social business model which is completely unique to the region and empowers its farmworkers.  It has two small museums that pay homage to the history of the people who have worked the land for hundreds of years. Here, you can picnic, taste wine, and soak in the landscapes that will leave an imprint on your hear.  And the wine is superb. They have a Shiraz (a personal favorite) in the 1,001 wines you must try before dying. Oh, and there’s a hidden gem of an Ou Meul Bakkery on the road to Solms Delta that has a farmstall with the most delectable items for your pantry.

  • 1
  • 2
  • 4

Thank you for visiting Safara!

© Copyright 2018 Safara UK Limited. All rights reserved.