We select some of the hottest cities to visit this year
Barcelona Eat, drink and hear
Fàbrica Moritz (Ronda de Sant Antoni 39; +34 934 23 54 34) is one of the most exciting new venues built in the city in the past decade. It comprises a brewery with an amazing bar, a restaurant controlled by Jordi Vilà (a young talent of Catalan cuisine), a bakery, a grape shop and a multi-use hall where you can enjoy the best gig of the week or the latest creations of Barcelona designers.
Primero Primera (Calle Doctor Carulla 25-29, Tres Torres; +34 934 175 600), a new hotel in the ultra-bourgeois Tres Torres neighbourhood, is like an English club re-imagined (by designers Núria Pérez-Sala and Ana Galofré). The bedrooms are discreetly decorated in a pared-down classical style, and there’s a romantic terrace for drinks or dining.
Flight time: 10 hours. Qatar Airways flies from Dubai to Barcelona via Doha from Dhs3,000 return.
Berlin See and hear
Amid a wide range of ‘Nights of…’ dedicated to everything from science and books to theatre and music, Berlin’s standout nocturnal event is the Long Night of the Museums, held twice-yearly in more than 100 of the city’s cultural institutions. The venues stay open until 2am, laying on a range of live events – concerts, readings, theatre and performance – to make this one of the most eclectic cultural nights in Europe. The next is scheduled for autumn 2012.
Hidden within the shell of a landmark art deco dance hall, the Ellington Hotel (Nürnberger Strasse 50-55, Charlottenberg; +49 30 683150) in smart Charlottenberg is one of the classiest hotels in Berlin. Simple white and wood rooms are filled with light from double windows, and Sunday jazz brunches in the central courtyard evoke a bygone era of sophistication.
Flight time: nine and a half hours. Air Berlin flies direct from Dubai to Berlin from Dhs2,600 return. www.airberlin.com.
Punkish hipsters and tattooed retro types hang out at Delilah’s (4771 North Lincoln Avenue), but it’s surprisingly friendly and unpretentious. More importantly, this bar boasts an awe-inspiring wall of more than 400 distilled beverages, including limited supplies of owner Mike Miller’s house blends, sourced from some of the world’s finest distilleries. Advice: take it slowly and drink hop chasers.
Hotelier Ian Schrager did a 180-degree turn and went for inclusivity with Public Chicago (1301 North State Parkway; +1 312 787 3700), the first in his planned boutique chain. Public took over the Ambassador East Hotel building – a famed Rat Pack hangout – and enlivened the ’20s wood features with a simple coat of white paint and upcycled floorboards. But at weekends the lights dim, the lobby bars fill to capacity and you’ll be lucky to land a reservation at the hotel’s Pump Room restaurant less than three weeks in advance.
Flight time: 15 hours. Etihad Airways flies to Chicago direct from Abu Dhabi (airport bus transfer available from Dubai) from Dhs5,600 return. www.etihadairways.com.
Florentines leave the city in droves for the summer, which might explain why the Estate Fiorentina festival has so many great cultural events in English – or maybe it’s because there are more Americans in the city than in most small US towns. Three stunning locations – the recently restored Amphitheatre at Le Cascine, the city’s contemporary space at Le Strozziare and the Biblioteca delle Oblate – are the city’s main sites of recreation, with concerts, plays, film, bilingual theatre and the like. Yet there’s also room for such charmingly eccentric diversions as, say, sandcastle competitions on Lungarno Beach.
At the Torre Guelfa (Borgo SS Apostoli 8; +39 55 2396338), the city’s tallest privately owned tower, you can admire the renaissance skyline from the rooftop bar and appreciate the 14th-century architecture around you in pretty pastel-coloured rooms that are as comfortable as they are aesthetically pleasing. Number 15 is a romantic den with a private garden; the rooms on the first floor are less ostentatious and priced accordingly.
Flight time: 13 hours. Alitalia flies from Dubai to Florence via Rome from Dhs5,010 return. www.alitalia.com.
Kuala Lumpur Shop
Never Follow Suit (28-2 Jalan Telawi 2, Bangsar; +60 3 2284 7316) is unlike any of the other shops in the party/shopping suburb of Bangsar. Run by local stylists and designers, it is known for its jersey basics, reworked vintage (some dating back to the ’20s) and original designs. Three separate areas stock a mix of vintage, little black dresses and tailored menswear, and super-trendy colour-blocking pieces. We hear rumours that the owners are planning to incorporate a dining space in the store; let’s hope it’s true.
Finding a quiet place to stay in business-minded, high-altitude Kuala Lumpur can be tricky, so the Anggun Boutique Hotel (7 & 9 Tengkat Tong Shin, off Jalan Bukit Bintang; +60 3 2145 8003) comes as a pleasant surprise. Although comfortable rather than luxurious, it’s a lot closer to a traditional KL experience than can be found in most of the city’s chain hotels, and it has a roof garden with views of the city.
Flight time: seven and a half hours. Etihad Airways flies to Kuala Lumpur direct from Abu Dhabi (airport bus transfer available from Dubai) from Dhs2,500 return. www.etihadairways.com. .
The corporate rock of ‘Rock in Rio’ is getting the headlines, but there are a number of cheaper, cooler and better festivals springing up along the coast, chief of which is Optimus Alive (June 13-15). This year it features Florence and the Machine, Radiohead and the recently resurrected Stone Roses. It’s staged on the shoreline just to the west of the city, and camping is available in picturesque Monsanto; you could bed down in Lisbon and do the short commute by bus.
Forget traditional ‘hostel’ connotations. The brand new Independente (Rua de São Pedro de Alcântara, 81; +351 21 346 1381), on the border of the Príncipe Real and Bairro Alto districts, is a striking blend of sumptuous detail and ultra-modern fixtures and fittings, with 111 beds spread over 13 dorm rooms, as well as four suites with private balconies overlooking the Tagus. As well as using it as your base for exploring Lisbon, make time to see the beer garden and try the restaurant – the Sunday brunch is near-perfect.
Flight time: 11 hours. British Airways flies from Dubai to Lisbon via London from Dhs3,400 return. www.britishairways.com.
Los Angeles Hear
Unassuming, smallish, cash-only dive bar and music venue The Fold (2906 West Sunset Boulevard; +1 323 663 9636) plays host to an array of astonishing bands, thanks to the foresight and enthusiasm of proprietor Scott Sterling, who since the late ’90s has been turning Silver Lake into LA’s finest destination for music. Past performers include Vampire Weekend, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and The Kills, all playing to a mixed crowd made up of old-timer locals, young Silver Lake bohos, hardcore fashion fans and middle-aged Latino bartenders. At weekends, dolled-up male performers take over for a mind-boggling floor show for a mainly Latin crowd.
The Grafton on Sunset (8462 West Sunset Boulevard; +1 323 654 4600) is situated in West Hollywood, right in the heart of tourist LA, but rather than shy away from its location like a lot of hotels in the area, it has embraced it. Formerly a speakeasy, its suites are all themed with Hollywood history in mind. There’s also a rather cool saltwater pool out back.
Flight time: 16 hours. Emirates flies direct from Dubai to Los Angeles from Dhs4,300 return. www.emirates.com.
Paris Drink and hear
Café la Cigale (124 Boulevard de Rochechouart, 18th (+33 1 55 79 10 10), little brother of the legendary concert hall next door, is an arty restaurant and bar created by Philippe Starck and Thierry Costes. It’s part of a new wave of venues – including the nearby Café du Trianon – that are giving the Pigalle quartier a much-needed touch of class. The style is post-industrial: a high-ceilinged space with grey concrete walls brightened up by grinning, multicoloured totem pole heads painted by US artist Phil Frost. A small stage is used for occasional live sets, and the rest of the time the DJ spins a good mix of garage, punk, alternative and lo-fi. Fruity mixed beverages are served in individual shakers so you can enjoy them to the last drop.
Launched just a few months ago in Paris’s exclusive Triangle d’Or area, La Maison Champs Elysées (8 Rue Jean Goujon, 8th; +33 1 40 74 64 65) has raised eyebrows with its Martin Margiela design. For a real treat, book the Curiosity Case Suite, which feels like a modernist take on a 19th-century shop, with dark wooden cabinets filled with giant rocks and gems, bottles turned into lamps and outsized mushroom sculptures. Downstairs, the all-white bar is a top spot for a julep or two.
Flight time: seven hours. Air France flies direct to Paris from Dhs4,000 return. www.airfrance.ae.
The original Primavera Sound, in Barcelona, is probably Europe’s
best-value festival – which means
the new one, in Porto (June 7-10), might be even better. For Dhs360
you get to see more than 100 acts, with headliners including Björk,
Yo La Tengo, Wilco and Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum.
The Casa do Conto (Rua da Boavista 703, Cedofeita, near Downtown and Boavista; +351 22 20 60340) is like an architecture and design museum, with beds. From outside it looks like a 19th-century townhouse, but inside is a clever balance of modernism and minimalism, from rough concrete staircases to neo-industrial inner walls, with ceilings that feature award-winning typography by R2 Design. The hotel also hosts a variety of cultural events.
Flight time: 11 hours. British Airways flies from Dubai to Porto via London from Dhs3,470 return. www.britishairways.com.