destinations

Global Hotspot – Beirut, Berlin’s Brother From Another Mother

It’s our first day in Beirut. We stroll down the beach while well-trained youths play volleyball in waterfront beach clubs. Somewhere close a Ferrari’s engine roars to life. With a Pina Colada in hand and a dazzling blue sky above our heads, the eerie ruins in the distance almost seem to disappear. Almost. They’re a remnant of the civil war from 1975-1990, tearing country and people apart. The traces show all over the city, but that doesn’t seem to bother the tanned sun-

seekers on the lively beach.

Beirut get easily overseen, thanks to prejudice and the general feeling that the Middle East is not a safe place to go. On the upside that keeps boring mainstream tourists at bay and lures brave travellers into the country. Where they quickly realise Beirut isn’t the Middle East.  It’s a fashion-conscious metropolis, open-minded and strongly tied to the Western world. Just imagine our endless joy when we discovered it’s one of the few Arab countries that lets you buy champagne! Consequently, their pumping nightlife is every bit as hedonistic as Berlin’s. The city’s hustle and bustle can be a little overwhelming at first, but once seduced, you’ll be craving for more. From warm-hearted hospitality to outstanding nightlife, Beirut is a city sure to enthrall your senses.

HIGHLIGHTS

National Museum - Beirut’s main cultural institution. Features an impressive collection of bronze figurines, human-faced sarcophagi and byzantine mosaics.

Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque - An imposing structure and architectural landmark with towering 65m minarets. Designed in historical Ottoman-style, the mosque is the Sunnis’ place of worship.

Art Center - The Art Center explores what’s new in contemporary Middle Eastern art and is recognized as a leading voice in the Lebanese culture scene. On 1,500 square meters art lovers find exhibitions from local and international artists with a focus on photography and video.

Pigeons’ Rock – A stunning natural two-rock formation standing like gigantic sentinels to the city. It’s located right off the cliffs of busy Raouché district and fascinates locals and tourists alike.

Beirut Souks - Beirut’s major commercial district boasts over 200 shops, 25 restaurants, cafes, street markets, a children’s science museum and a 14 cinema complex. It’s every shopping-queen’s come true.

Archaeological Museum - The third oldest museum in the Middle East after Cairo and Constantinople is a haven for archaeology fans. Located on the American University of Beirut’s campus, they boast well-preserved artifacts. The entrance is free.

Zaitunay Bay - Built on 20.000 m2 prime ground, this urban beach extends along the waterfront of Beirut’s high-end streets. It’s essentially a concentrated version of all the lifestyle and luxury Beirut has to offer.

Sursock Museum - Known as thriving center of cultural life, Sursock was devastated by the civil war. A €10m makeover have once again turned the Italian-style mansion into a hotspot for art lovers, poets and playwrights.

American University - Initially set up for medical training by the US, the American University of Beirut now ranks among the top universities in Lebanon. It’s picturesque campus spans across 25 hectars, boasts a private beach, a bird sanctuary and a botanical garden.

Station Beirut - A hybrid cultural space dedicated to presenting bold, contemporary and progressive content. Launched in September 2013, the venue seeks to contribute to the regional creative scene by offering a platform for artists and curators in the visual, performing and digital arts.

Development and Architecture

For the past 5,000 years, Beirut’s center was the city’s pulsing heart. From colorful grocers to street vendors, small cafes and shouting fishmongers, it was bustling with life. Then came the civil war. After it left the city devastated, a half private, half public company called „Solidere“ was founded by billionaire and then-prime minister Rafik Hariri to restore the center.

Solidere is equipped with both compulsory and regulatory powers, allowing it to manage the city centre like a mini-barony. Vendors and grocers have been replaced by Gucci and Luis Vitton stores. With Solidere’s „restorations“ halfway done, the center now feels strangely deserted. Who’s to afford these luxury goods? Certainly not Beirut’s residents.

What the city’s developers are creating is a largely deserted area disconnected from the city’s soul. That’s not to say the architecture isn’t impressive. From 23-storey 3 Beirut and its 3 green-roofed towers to the cliff-like Beirut Terrace and the whopping 195m Sama Beirut, the architecture looks amazing. If you want to feel Beirut’s soul, go to Badaro or Mar Mikhaël.

Cool Neighborhoods

Badaro
Badaro’s picturesque streets are lined with grocers, small eateries, pubs and upscale eateries. The residents are a wild mix of impoverished Christian bourgeoisie, bohemian mid 30’s and urban professionals. Lovely. While the up-and-coming district is a bustling business hub at daytime, it turns into a pulsing hotspot at night. At its center is Badaro Street, where you’ll find cozy eateries and fancy bars including well-known chains like Dany’s, Lina’s and Bodo.

Hamra
Hamra Street is one of the main economic hubs. Formerly known as Beirut’s Champs Elysées, it emits a cosmopolitan vibe and houses historical cafes and theaters. Hamra district is crowded with young people, because it’s also home to the famous American University of Beirut. Don’t mind the spontaneous street events, they happen regularly. Swing by at „78 Street“ (known as „the alleyway“) and enjoy Hamra’s main pubbing and clubbing hub.

Downtown
Modeled after 20th century European cities, Downtown is the the district of posh hotels, stylish shops and upscale restaurants. On Nejmeh Square you’ll find the world famous Ottoman-style clock tower. Nearby Martyr’s Square has a history of public demonstrations and is home to the bullet-holed martyr’s statue. It’s rounded up by Solidere district – the French mandate city center turned high-end shopping area.

Hotel District 
The all-new hotel district expands the prewar city center towards the Mediterranean sea. It’s a high density area with a mix of residential, office, hotel and leisure developments. While it’s not the raw Beirut experience, it’s slowly coming to life with new hotels such as Monroe Hotel, 4 Seasons and Beirut Tower.

Bourj Hammoud 
Also known as Beirut’s Armenian soul, Bourj Hammond is a distinctive muncipality with an unique flair. It’s an intriguing mix of industrial, commercial and artisanal areas with narrow alleys and plenty of Armenian flags. Wait, Armenian flags? Fleeing a genocide, Armenian refugees were rescued by french boats and relocated to Beirut in 1915. They turned a swampy area into a lively neighborhood. While you’re there, grab a “lahme bajeen” – a very thin pizza with mince meat doused in lemon juice. Delicious.

Corniche
Corniche Beirut is a seaside promenade in Central District. Lined with palm trees, the waterfront esplanade offers visitors a magnificent view of the Mediterranean and the summits of Mount Lebanon to the east. Corniche is also home to many of Beirut’s architectural landmarks, such as Platinum Tower, University Tower and the lighthouse.

Rue Gouraud
Named after a French General, Rue Gouraud competes with trendy Badaro’s flair. It’s a mixed residential and commercial street in Gemmazey district. It’s lined with trendy bars, restaurants and historic buildings from the French era. Travel + Leisure magazine labelled it „SoHo by the sea“ due to its colorful and chic cafés amidst 1950 apartment buildings.

Mar Mikhaël
Long considered Beirut’s trendy district, Mar Mikhaël’s glory has faded a little with the re-emergence of Badaro. While Badaro and Rue Gouraud undeniably share the nightlife’s throne, Mar Mikhaël has stepped up to conquer artists & fashionista’s hearts. With many trendy boutiques, antique furniture stores and art galleries in the area, it’s the place-to-be for everything artsy and creative.

Restaurants & Cafés

Villa Badaro (Top pick) 
As the name suggests, this restaurant-pub is located in a renovated vintage villa in Badaro. From luscious greenery to mouth-watering food, colorful decor and a chill atmosphere – everything at Villa Badaro spells love. The menu shows Japanese and American influences and boasts a selection of salads, tuna dishes, burgers and steaks. Drop by on Monday night to enjoy amazing cheese fondue and beef pierrade!

Liza Beirut
After earning critical praise for her Lebanese eatery in Paris, Liza Asseily opened a second dependance in the city that inspired her in the first place. Liza Beirut occupies a 500sqm space of a 19th-century palace in the stylish Achrafieh neighborhood. The venue is divided into the Building Room, Money Room and Banana room. The kitchen serves classic Lebanese cuisine. Our tip: Grilled halloumi with sweet tomato jam.

Gavi
Here comes the best Italian food in Beirut, maybe Lebanon! Gavi is an upscale restaurant in the gardens of the Kampai building. If you hadn’t noticed it’s upscale, the 24k gold leaf on your risotto might remind you. The food is so disgustingly good that while you’re eating, you start missing the little Italian town you’re not even from. Tears were shed after the last gnocchi was devoured, but hey. You can always come back.

Gilt
Gilt combines food, design and music to turn a normal dining experience into an immersive cultural evening. The menu fuses Mediterranean influences with Asian and Peruvian dishes. The interior: Subdued grey and white tones are mixed with blue, accompanied by wood elements and dimmed light. The decor is at the same time a bit funky and strangely pleasant.

Petit cafe
Let’s be honest – Petit Cafe isn’t exactly a culinary highlight. But the view is nothing short of spectacular. Sitting atop a cliff, it allows perfect views over Pigeon’s rock and the surrounding azure-blue sea. We whole-heartedly recommend it for a shisha and a few drinks. Don’t expect too much from the food.

Manara palace cafe – Great selection of appetizers and nice view over the sea

Casablanca restaurant Combination of Asian and Lebanese organic cooking

Boulevard Beirut – Combines the epicurean richness of home-cooked and traditional Lebanese cuisine

Al Mandaloun Sur Mer – Grilled sea bass, oysters and lobsters combined with an amazing view over the ocean.

Meat the Fish – Delivers a signature line of smoked fish, shellfish sea food and premium meat free of charge

Basterma Bedo – Specialist in Soujouk, Makanek, Basterma and Roast Beef

Mayrig Beirut – Armenian restaurant adapting popular classics of Armenian cuisine, while generously borrowing from Lebanese influences 

Chez Claude – Amazing french restaurant with a choice selection of wines 

Mounirs – In the heart of an old pine forrest Mounirs serves excellent Lebanese cuisine

Babel Restaurant – famous for serving progressive Lebanese mezza and platters 

Sud Resto - Italian restaurant with rooftop and great cocktails

Cafe Em Nazih – Hearty Lebanese food well-loved by locals and tourists alike

Appetito Trattoria – Italian restaurant ideal for romantic dates

Seza Bistro - Armenian food in a cozy atmopshere

Party Destination

Beirut is a haven for hedonistic night owls. It shares the same liberal attitude towards partying and alcohol as Tel-Aviv to the South. LGTB will be surprised how open minded people are and what Beirut has to offer. A rarity in Arabic countries! Enjoy the freedom and the diversity of people but always take caution. The same goes for enthusiastic drink lovers, who want to enjoy a beer or two, or maybe twenty. No-one bats an eye! While most eyes are on nightlife havens like Berlin, New York, London and Miami anyway, Beirut is easily overlooked. But once you’re inside BO18, a bunker turned legendary club, or inside Uberhaus with its unique lighting rig, your jaw drops to the (dance)floor. This is GOLD! Coming form a Berliner, that counts for something. Learn more in this amazing video:

Bars

Cherry on the rooftop (top pick) 
Rooftop bar Cherry attracts a young and stylish crowd. Its name stems from a catchy cherry painting hanging at the entrance. Relax on a cozy red couch and enjoy amazing views over Beirut, the Lebanese mountains and the blue Mediterranean sea. The highlights are the fruity and punchy cocktails suited for sharing with friends.

Iris Beirut
Iris is vintage, rustic and ranks among the best rooftop locations in Lebanon. The lounge bar has broken out from the mainstream’s blaring beats and mundane pub culture and created a unique rooftop experience. A minor setback is the amount of tables – when it gets crowded, it gets noisy and you crave more space.

Demo Bar
Located in the backstreets of Gemmayzeh district, this cozy and dimly lit bar attracts young and old alike. Demo is an unpretentious affair and the perfect place for a casual night out. During weekdays it offers great cocktails and pleasant background music. On the weekends loud hip hop and dance music swells into a full-blown party mix. The place gets so wild that part of the party gets carried onto the street regularly.

Torino Bar
Set in the vault of a 1930 Beirut house, Torino is a pretty puristic bar experience. The interior is sparse, the drinks are strong and the crowd is just right. It ranges from hip kids to medium-cool and regular, but always friendly. When night draws closer, bottles are popped and things quickly get out of hand. We approve.

Kissproof
One of the busiest spots in trendy Badaro, Kissproof attracts an energetic and international crowd. It’s the in-place for French students, so expect to hear more French than Lebanese or English. They also serve great pub food for your after-drink meat cravings, and it’s very affordable. Booze-fueled weekends are followed by lazy hangovers, so Kissproof decided to remain closed on Mondays.

Capitole – Restaurant & roof bar 

The Roof by Four Seasons – Hotel rooftop bar with special blend cocktails 

Anise – Cozy bar offering the best Bloody Mary in town 

Internazionale – 1950s American chic with dark wood furnishing 

Molo – At Molo, you share good food, great music and even better drinks 

Troika – A mix of café, bar and restaurant with simple and pleasant design

Salon Beirut – Great venue for live bands and snug dates 

Dany’s pub – A local’s favourite cafe-bar-lounge with local DJs 7 days a week 

Bardo Bar (Gay friendly) – An open-minded crowd, chill atmosphere and lots of pretty waiters 

Clubs 

AHM (top pick!)
AHM is a huge brand-new music temple on the waterfront. It was kept under a cloak of secrecy before the opening. It turned out to be a real blast. It boasts mast-like lightning structures on the main floor and a spacious rooftop. AHM drives crowds wild with soul music on Wednesdays, disco & house on Thursdays, pop & classics on Fridays and special club nights on Saturdays, featuring techno heroes like Victor Ruiz, M.A.N.D.Y. and Max Cooper.

BO18
A spectacular venue that’s literally underground. Located in a bomb-shelter lookalike, it’s been voted among the best clubs in the world several times. It was one on the first clubs that underlined Beiruts ambitions to become a worldwide nightlife destination. Its metal facade features an hydraulic apparatus that moves the retractable roof. What this means? The club’s roof just disappears into the walls and ravers gaze at the stars above when the beat drops.

SKYBAR
After a fire burned it down in 2015, SKYBAR returns with a bang! It fits up to 2500 party-goers per night and focuses on techno, rave & house music. The rooftop club sits right behind the waterfront and offers spectacular views over the sea. The downside: Skybar is a club all about seeing and being seen. On some nights, people stare more than they party. Amateurs.

The Gärten by Überhaus
In a unique setting below a glass dome, The Gärten features international and local DJs hitting the decks every weekend. The sound system is absolutely massive, the lights and visuals are smashing. If you want to relax for a bit, you can grab a bean bag and enjoy the spectacle from a distance.

O1ne
While Skybar is the place-to-be on hot, steamy days (and nights), O1NE is the banging indoor location for cold winter nights. Its walls are completely white, brought to life at night with a mind-blowing 360° video mapping. The changing visuals are an amazing way to create different atmospheres during the night. This place adjusts to its artists like a chameleon!

The Grand Factory – Stylish underground venue for concerts, multi-social gatherings, cultural events and happening of all sorts and flavors

Yukunkun – An alternative club and music venue located in Gemmayzeh focusing on eclectic groovy sounds from all genres

Seven Sisters - A green island in skyscraper-packed center where you can enjoy sunset drinks, listen to lounge music and live-bands and of course – party on the weekends

Beach Clubs

Sporting Club
Sporting Club occupies a loving spot in many Beirutis’ hearts since the 1950s. To many it feels like a second home. It attracts a colorful crowd from bronze-tanned Lebanese beauties to old men playing chess and youngsters drinking beers on the beach. If you can’t be bothered to jump into salt water, there are two pools to cool you down. While you can enjoy hearty Lebanese snacks at the poolside restaurant, there’s 5-star seafood just up the alley.

Madame Bleut - An urban beach resort in the midst of Beirut’s hustle & bustle somewhere between simple & luxurious

Bain Militaire - Swimming club in the heart of Beirut with great food and reasonable prices

Riviera Hotel - Boasts a stylish main pool, a family pool area and a floating island

Mövenpick Hotel Beirut - Vast outdoor pools with access to a private beach

Hotels

Le Gray (top pick)
Sleek, stylish and cosmopolitan. Located on Martyrs’ Square, Le Gray is capturing the image of the „new Beirut“ perfectly. Its exceptional design and service steal the show among Beirut’s upscale hotels. It’s just moments away from the city’s museums, shopping areas and thriving nightlife scene. 100% recommended.

Staybridge Suites Hotel
Just the rooftop and its pool are worth the visit! You can casually splash around the water while enjoying a view over Beirut’s infamous skyline. The suites aren’t lacking either. Well-equipped kitchens, a spacious salon and an inviting balcony made us feel at home in split seconds.

Phoenicia Beirut
What Adlon Hotel is to Berlin, Phoenicia is to Beirut. It’s considered a true Beirut landmark and is located just a stone’s throw from sophisticated art, dining, shopping and entertainment spaces. It boasts a beautiful view over Zaitunay Bay and Beirut’s famous Corniche.

Lancaster Plaza – 5 star hotel featuring a night club, sun deck and an indoor pool

Hotel Albergo - Luxury boutique hotel with deluxe suits, private apartments and 2 gourmet restaurants

O Monot - A quiet, luxurious oasis amidst Beirut’s hustle and bustle

Le Patio - An exclusive Boutique Hotel superbly located within Beirut’s most upscale residential area.

The Key – A sleek and contemporary aparthotel in Beirut’s museum district

Excursions

1. Byblos (top pick) - Arguably believed to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world

2. Cave adventure - Explore extraordinary stone forms of curtains, columns, draperies and mushrooms

3. Bonita Bay Beach – if you are looking for a cluster of cool Beach clubs and Beach bars side by side along the crystal blue sea you should head to Batroun. The best choice is Loco Beach Resort with its panoramic pool. Their neighbours are also great beach spots to visit for lunch or dinner – White Beach Lebanon, Pierre Friends and Oasis Beach Restaurant. The nearby Le Six Hotel is a good choice if you want to stay across the street to all beach bars!

4. Harissa – A Sanctuary of Virgin Mary, located on one of Beirut’s most beautiful hills 

5. Chateau Ksara – Visit Beirut’s famous winery, followed by a tour of the historic two-kilometer Roman caves, where their rarest and finest vintages are stored  https://libanonweine.de/libanon/ksara/

6. Baalbek – A beautiful town with historic sites dating back to 8.000 before Christ (travel warning, only with guide!)

7. Tyre - referred  to as “Queen of the Seas” 

8. Baatara waterfalls 

Cool city walking tour
Jana
Alternative Tour Beirut
+961 71 273 712

Private driver & in-the-know guide
Rami
+96171645488
Ramyouzbachi82@outlook.com

Useful links

Beirut’s official webpageSecret’s of Beirut, Timeout’s extensive city guideThe Culture Trip’s insider guideBeach resorts & clubs in Lebanon, AirBNB’s Beirut Guide

Global Destination – Warsaw

Warsaw is the Phoenix among Europe’s capitals. It was conquered by Prussia, France and Russia. It regained independence in 1918 just to be almost completely destroyed by the Nazis during WWII. The following Soviet regime rebuilt the city with hammer and sickle, creating a similar contrast between communist and classical influences that you’ll also find in Berlin.

Since the fall of the iron curtain Warsaw’s reputation as a gloomy concrete jungle in social fashion has been shifting. The unique blend of Baroque palaces, concrete blocks, museums, modern architecture and green parks undermine its aspirations to become Eastern Europe’s culture capital. We discovered a diverse mix of neighbourhoods from post-industrial, edgy Praga to the restored Old Town with its rich cultural heritage.

Warsaw isn’t just about history however. You’ll find a pleasing amount of concept stores, galleries, cocktail bars and edgy clubs as you stroll through the streets. In the hotspots of Warsaw’s culture there’s a rich art scene with exhibitions, plays, performances and of course a certain amount of sophisticated snobbery. In short: These days, Warsaw is a whole lot of fun. 

Highlights

POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews – Created by the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute, work on this museum commenced in 1995 and continued until 2005, when it was officially instituted by the Polish president 

Museum of the Warsaw Uprising – Dedicated to the military uprising of the Polish army against Nazi Germany on 1st of August, 1944. 

Palace of Science and Culture – An eye-catching high-rise building built during the Soviet reign in 1955.

Old Town (Stare Miasto) – Warsaw’s historical center was beautifully restored after its destruction during WWII

Weekend Breakfast Market – Dozens of local food producers, farms and restaurants invite you to shop fresh food and spend time with your friends

Zlota 44 – Designed by internationally renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, Zlota 44 is the tallest residential tower in its class in the European Union

Keret House – An art installation in the form of an insert between two existing buildings, representing different historical periods in Warsaw’s history

Royal Lazienki Park – Warsaw’s biggest park boasts a royal palace, a theatre, a water tower and numerous landmarks

Copernicus Science Center – In the city center, neighbouring the Vistula River and the new Warsaw University Library, you’ll find one of Europe’s best science centres.

Neighbourhoods

Vistula River Boulevard 
Vistula is Warsaw’s biggest river and splits the city in two. It’s always been a life-giving vein for the city. Over the last couple of summers, it has also become an fun-giving vein for party hunters. With more than 20 clubs, it’s one of the most frequented areas during summer. Drop by at one of the food trucks, hang out at the beach or chill with the locals to store-bought beers at a camp fire. If there’s any place in Warsaw that spells cutting-edge, it’s here.

Poznanska Street
If you’re looking for great restaurants, this is the place. The lively Poznańska Street is popular with both locals and tourists. Outstanding venues like Beirut, Tel Aviv, Bez Tyulu and Nolita put it on any well-informed gourmet’s map.

Francuska (Praga)
The neighbourhood that makes you fall in love in Warsaw. While the whole city is intriguing, it’s here that the magic happens. Praga is an formerly neglected part of town that was revived by artists who moved there for the cheap rents. Now you’ll find bars, cafes and vintage shops next to towering concrete buildings. It’s a little rough and was even considered dangerous some 10 years ago. While it’s perfectly safe now, you still don’t see too many tourists. Perfect!

SoHo Factory
Located in Praga, SoHo Factory is a post-industrial zone that formerly housed weapon and motorbike factories. Following its re-development, the business complex and cultural hub is now home to artists, architects, restaurants, cafes, fashion boutiques and design stores. It boasts an unique Neon Museum and even a theatre and tattoo studio. The location where daring plans meet actual possibilities.

Plac Grzybowski / Prozna
Plac Grzybowski and Prozna Street (Empty street) were part of the Warsaw Ghetto. Prozna Street still features four tenement houses and is one of the few left-overs of “Jewish Warsaw”. During the annual Festival of Jewish Culture, the neighbourhood catches the pre-war climate and reminds of the Jewish quarter it used to be.

Art in Warsaw

As a city on the cultural rise, Warsaw boasts a flourishing scene for modern art. Here’s our Top 5 galleries and museums!

Galeria v9 – urban art and in-depth looks at the graffiti and street art scene http://v9gallery.com/

Raster Gallery – Contemporary art gallery established in 2001, exhibiting and representing emerging artists from Poland and abroad 

Museum of Modern Art – Contemporary art from around the world and especially young Polish artists working across media, video, installation, performance, and sculpture.

Neon Museum – Dedicated to the documentation and the preservation of Cold War era neon signs 

David Bowie Mural – A tribute to David Bowie’s time in Warsaw, which inspired him write his 1977 song Warszawa 

Restaurants

Warsaw is packed with culinary delights, but just like in Berlin, it took a while until the culinary scene really had found its flavour. The trend of small food trucks is complimented by the first Michelin stars rising over the city’s horizon, promising more to come over the next years. Warsaw is an exciting place to be for foodies. If it’s international flavors you’re after or traditional pierogi and bigos, you’ll definitely not go home hungry. Here are our favourites:

L’enfant Terrible  (top pick)
Chef Brys is among the most innovative chefs in Warsaw, having worked in outstanding restaurants in London, Zwolle and Copenhagen. In a venue boasting dark, sober colors and minimalistic design he serves mouth-watering gourmet cuisine.

Senses
Italian-French chef Andreas Camastra, whose restaurant Senses (sensesrestaurant.pl) recently snagged Warsaw’s second Michelin-star, brings a global sensibility to bear on Poland’s classic cuisines and generous natural larder

Atelier Amano
Atelier Amaro only uses seasonal Polish products and is considered one of Poland’s most modern venues. Their slogan is “where nature meets science” and obviously, they’re doing their laboratory work. It’s the first restaurant in Poland to land a Michelin-star.

Chef’s Table
This four-seat, one-table restaurant is a hidden gem and undoubtedly the most exclusive restaurant in Warsaw. As the name suggests, those lucky enough to indulge do so at the exclusive invitation of the Chef. Legend has it, that Vladimir Putin and Steven Segal are among the select few to have enjoyed this honor. True to its exclusivity, the exact cuisine of the restaurant remains a mystery.

Warszawski Sznyt – Steak & Art Kitchen

Restauracja Warszawa Wschodnia by Mateusz Gessler – Mix of Polish and French cuisine

Boat House - Boasts a glass wall through which you can see the Vistula

Tel Aviv - Vegetarian restaurant with Middle Eastern kitchen

Koszyki – Delicacies from around the world under one roof

Strefa - composition of food from many corners of the world with many Polish accents

Cafes

Milk bars, or bar mleczny in Polish, are remnants of days past, when fresh food was rare and state-run venues served affordable food – mostly vegetables and dairy. They now serve a wider variety of dishes, but the concept is unchanged: inexpensive comfort foods like soups, pirogi, meat and potatoes.

Milk Bar Prasowy – Instead of the usual basic seating and tables of most milk bars, Prasowy offers modern, sleek design and traditional dishes sure to please eyes and tongues alike.

Milk Bar Maslanka – The communist era exterior is complimented by coca cola umbrellas. The interior’s light blue colours remind more of a frozen yogurt bar.

Bistro Charlotte – Rough and rustical charm with great breakfast. A hipster’s favourite. 

Pozegnanie z Afryka – The first coffee-specialised shop in the country with grains from South America, Africa and even Asia. 

Telimena – One of the oldest cafes in Warsaw, boasting an art gallery and a small concert hall

Party

In Warsaw there’s plenty of ways to roast your liver. During the summer you’re best off with the beach clubs on the banks of Vistula river. Can’t find them? Just follow the river until you hear basslines. Warsaw’s bars range from rough and shabby to sophisticated, but all of them will close around 02:00am, clubs at about 06:00am. Many clubs take residency in empty warehouses, so be prepared for big stages, massive sound systems and anything from techno to Balearic house.

Bars

Na Lato (top pick!) – Na Lato serves superb Mediterranean cuisine at night and turns into Warsaw’s hottest bar at night. With a picturesque setting in an urban park’s pathways, innovative cocktails and DJs on the weekend, Na Lato is Warsaw definite number one.

Warszawa Powisle – A formet ticket hall that’s now home to clubbers and night owls

Plan B - The true heart of Hipster’s Zbawiciela square

Panorama Sky Bar – Amazing views over the city

Charlie Bar – Cocktails with attitude

Pies Czy Suka - High-end design boutique with cocktail bar and part time club

Dom Wodi – Modern looking bar specialized in Vodka

Clubs

Luzztro (top pick!)
Dark, intimate atmosphere, pumping tunes, cheap but good drinks and a chilled-out crowd. Luzztros an unlisted underground electronic club that attracts both locals and tourists looking to party until daylight.

The View - Hyperposh rooftop nightspot. The #1 place to see and be seen in Warsaw.

Level27 - An amazing rooftop space with breathtaking vies over Warsaw. Top notch cocktails and A-List DJs guaranteed!

Smolna 38 - Rough, shadowy and simplistic design, three dance floors, two outdoor areas, a chill-out room, an indoor air-conditioned smoking room and three bars

Pomost 511 - One of Vistula’s best beach clubs

Hotels

H15 Boutique Apartments (top pick!)
Located in the heart of Warsaw, H15 is a renovated 19th-century building combining history with contemporary luxury.

Autor Rooms - A small four-bedroom boutique hotel. Very private and personal atmosphere for guests who want to experience a unique hotel

Marriott Hotel - Major hotel with 523 rooms and a bar on the 40th floor offering spectacular views over the city

Bristol Warsaw - Founded by the famous pianist Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Bristol is one of Warsaw’s most remarkable landmarks blending history and contemporary luxury

Hotel Bellotto - Located in the heart of Warsaw’s Old Town, within the walls of a sixteenth-century Primate’s Palace, Bellotto offers classic luxury

For more information about Warsaw, check WarsawTour and inyourpocket guide!

Lisbon – Europe’s New Creative Hub

Our never ending hunt for the trendiest places in the world is a tough duty, but we’re happy to oblige! We scouted the streets of Western Europe’s oldest city, predating even cultural hotspots like Paris and Rome by centuries. Lisbon was at the heart of the Portuguese empire, once stretching from Asia to South Africa. The hilly metropolis was hit bad by the 2010 financial crises, leading to fiscal woes and massive unemployment.

With things looking up today, the city is undergoing a dramatic make over. Neglected districts are being reborn, neighbourhood markets spruce up and investors rediscover Lisbon’s many beauties. The city is so popular these days that Asian-style tuk-tuks roam the streets, offering guided tours with almost the same obtrusiveness as their Asian counterparts.

Perfect weather, easy-going inhabitants, great food and reasonable prices for real estate is a recipe for a thriving metropolis. Lisbon was included in the WIRED’s list of hottest start up destinations in 2016, creating buzz in the tech- and co-working scene. With major enterprises committing permanently and digital nomads coming from all over the world, it is now considered the California of Europe.

Start Ups

Until now Lisbon’s start up scene has been flying under the radar. With hubs like Berlin, London and Barcelona, competition is fierce. But Lisbon has unique conditions: 75% cheaper rents than London, 25% cheaper groceries than Berlin, relatively low wages and beach weather year-round. Its strong infrastructure and affordable IT talent create a hype amongst investors all over Europe, leading to the relocation of legendary Web Summit from Dublin to Lisbon in 2016. With start ups like Uniplaces, Codacy and TalkDesk rocking international markets, Lisbon’s start up scene is set to help empower the economical situation of the whole nation. 

→ Learn more about Lisbon’s incubatorsWeb Summit and Lis Summit.
→ 5 cool co-working hubs – Villa Underground, Second Home,  Cowork Lisboa, Todos and Now.

Highlights

Lisbon is a city that begs to be explored. Locals tell us even they still discover new things, so don’t be fooled into thinking these highlights are all there is to see. In Lisbon you find highlights as you go. Our handpicked favourites:

Castelo de São Jorge 
6th century castle with an amazing view over Lisbon. Bring bread crumbs – it comes with free roaming peacocks!

Praça do Comércio
A lively U-shaped square on the banks of river Tagus, boasting a triumph arc and a selection of galleries, cafés and stylish shops

Assembleia da República (parliament)
Seat of the Portuguese government since 1833. A monk order was evicted from the building to make place for politics.

Mosteiro dos Jerónimos
A Manueline masterpiece. With it’s finely sculpted maritime motifs and dramatic cloisters, it’s considered Portugal’s greatest national monument

Belém Tower
Some consider it the most beautiful tower on Earth. Completely surrounded by water, it was the starting point for the vessels that discovered the world in the name of the Portuguese empire

Parque das Nações
A futuristic glass and steel district designed for the Expo 98 – an unexpected contrast to Lisbon’s historical charm

Convento da Madre de Deus
The Tile Museum presents history and evolution of the art of the ceramic tile which originated in ancient Egypt and eventually spread of Europe

MUDE
Libon’s design museum with a focus on international fashion and a mix of temporary exhibitions.

Águas Livres Aqueduct
An ingenius piece of hydraulic engineering. It could only be financed through a tax on olive oil, wine and meat in the 18th century.

Parque Eduardo VII
Named after England’s King Edward VII, this is where you’ll find spectacular views of Lisbon, inspiring gardens and a surprisingly big Portuguese flag.

5 coolest hoods

Chiado (our top pick!)
Enjoying the breathtaking view from Bairro Alto Hotel’s terrace bar, it’s easy to see why Chiado is considered Lisbon’s trendiest and most elegant neighbourhood. From the 14th centuries remnants of Convento do Carmo to the Old Elevator connecting Baixa district with the ruins of Igreja do Carmo, Chiado’s cultural heritage ranks among the most beautiful in the world.

When you’re done exploring the national museum of contemporary art and archeological museum, be sure to recharge your batteries with a Bica (SUPER strong espresso) at Cafe Brasileira and the world’s best natas at Manteigaria. While the caffeine and sugar do their magic, check out the amazing A Vida Portuguesa for unique souvenirs before letting the day come to an end at Europe’s largest opera house – Teatro Nacionale de Sao Carlos.

Alfama
Alfama is a quaint medieval district and the true soul of Lisbon. You can overlook one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Europe from Portas Do Sol, a rooftop terrace with dazzling views over the colourful fishermen’s houses below and Tagus river.

If that’s not enough to stop your breath, head to Casa dos Bicos, the famous house of spikes. It’s one of the few buildings that survived the devastating 1755 earthquake. Thanks to the reconstruction following the earthquake, the neighbourhood boasts a beautiful Roman-inspired cobblestone pavement of fado singer Amalia Rodrigues. Fado is Lisbon’s traditional music and you’ll find the fado museum in Alfama. Just around the corner, Memmo Alfama brings a modern influence. It’s the first boutique hotel in the narrow streets crowded by traditional shops and famous fado restaurants. Speaking of which – be sure to check out Chapitô, a circus school better known for its amazing terrace and tasty food.

Principe Real
Lisbon’s Principe Real is Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg – just cooler. Gentrification is slowly turning it into a sought after residential area, with trendy Rua dom Pedro street as main drag. Independent boutiques spruce up everywhere, led by the 560m2 Nuno Gama flagship store. A young crowd is reviving the area and amazing venues like Indian-style restaurant Lost In or tasty bakeries  like Paradia Italian and Padaria Portuguesa follow on their footsteps. A highlight for tea lovers: Charcutaria Moy, the best gourmet tea shop in Lisbon.

Bairro Alto
At daytime bohemian Bairro Alta’s romantic Miradouro de São Pedro terrace offers a spectacular view over the downtown area. Below the view point resides the most expensive chapel in the world, mixing ivory, agate, lapis lazuli and gold. Eye candy at its best. If you’re craving real candy, head to candy-pharmacy Dream Pills. They sell sweets that help with “involuntary sexual abstinence” and “social media addiction”. You prefer it healthy? No problem. The small juice bar YAO Pressed Juicery has an amazing menu, as well as the hipster café The Mill next door, serving fresh and contemporary food paired with wine (yay!).

It’s at night when Bairro Alto’s true spirit shows.The sleepy neighbourhood turns into bar hopping mecca for artsy hipsters and old ladies alike. A perfect way to start the night is at Solar do Vinho do Porto where you can sample a tasty array of wines, before heading on to Park restaurant’s terrace offering eclectic music line ups and a perfect 180° view over Lisbon at night. Once you survived a night of crowded bars and inhibited street parties, take a ride on the famous funiculars to the historic and picturesque neighbourhood of Bica

Campo de Ourique
A mix of beautiful 19th-century buildings and Art Noveau determine the face of Campo de Ourique. It’s best known for its newly renovated market hall Mercado de Campo de Ourique, housing traditonal market stands as well at 17 distinctive food shops. The neighbourhoods biggest treats are pastry shop Casa dos Moles and O Melhor Bolo De Chocolate, who offer the undisputed best chocholate cake in the world! If you’re looking for more hearty pleasures, try Pimenta Rosa or Tasca da Esquina, avant-garde cuisines with traditional roots and an impressive range of flavours.

5 Best View Points

A city built on seven hills right by the waterfront, Lisbon is a haven for panorama hunters. There is a sheer endless array of amazing rooftops, garden terraces and hilltop views, allowing you to overlook the city from almost every angle. If you plan to seduce someone, simply take her (or him) to one of the panoramas at night and Lisbon and you’ll never need Tinder again. The best thing: wherever you may roam, the next viewpoint is around the corner.

Torel – Take the Lavra lift up the hill and enjoy dreamy ponds in a public garden as you look over the Western part of Lisbon

Miradouro  de Santa Catarina – Sitting between the district of Bairro Alto and Santa Catarina, this view point offers an unrivalled dawn view over Tagus river

Miradouro Portas do Sol – “The gateway of the sun” boasts postcard-perfect views over Alfama, Lisbon’s heart and soul

Miradouro Senhora do Monte – Rediscovered by tour guide and young couples only recently, Senhora do Monte (“Our Lady of the Mount”) is one of the highest view points in the city. It’s especially wort the visit at sunset.

Miradouro Cristo Rei - Built as a symbol of thankfulness for being spared the torments of WW II, a 28m statue of Christ towers on a 75m pedestal. You can take the elevator to stand at Christ’s feet and enjoy an unique view over entire Lisbon and its distinct “Golden Gate Bridge”.

Restaurants 

Portugal’s cuisine has always been rooted in simple cooking techniques with high quality ingredients. Lisbon’s new high-end gourmet restaurants fuse the beloved simple comforts with more exotic flavours. It’s not just the reinvention and modernisation of Portugal’s classic cuisine that makes Lisbon’s culinary scene stand out. There’s also a number of highly-acclaimed new Japanese restaurants that use local ingredients and regional fish to roll sushi, Lisbon’s new trendy food. 

No one has accomplished more for Lisbon’s culinary scene than genius chef José Avillez, who runs no less than 7 restaurants in Lisbon, one of them being the only 2-michelin star restaurant in town. We whole heartedly recommend visiting any of his restaurants, they create unforgettable culinary experiences in a city that’s hard to forget anyway.

Bairro de Avillez (our top pick!)
A very tasty chapter in José Avillez’ culinary story, this multi-space venue features a small gourmet grocery store, a traditional taverna, and a lush patio. José describes it as an entire universe dedicated to creativity, with the best of Portugal’s flavours under one roof.

Timeout Market
A place that previously housed the city’s best vendors now houses some of its best restaurants. While the wares on offer may differ, the principle is the same: bringing the best of the city together.

Palacio Chiado – 6 extravagant gastronomic concepts by renowned brands under one roof

Bica do Sapato – Portuguese kitchen meets avant-garde in a stylish environment by the waterfront

Sea Me Peixaria moderna – Trendy vibe, stylish decor, excellent fish and tasty sushi with original flavors

The Cevicheria – A giant octopus hanging from the ceiling reveals what’s served here – delicious ceviche

100 Maneiras – Bosnic Ljubomir Stanisic has been chef since 2009. His specialty: The nine course-tasting menu.

1300 Tavern – Industrial style with outstanding decor, serving traditional Portuguese cuisine with an international touch

Aura Lounge – Cafe-lounge-restaurant serving contemporary Portuguese dishes as well as cocktails on their terrace

Can The Can – Rooftop terrace with fado music as well as a unique interior with a huge chandelier and gourmet level tapas

Find more restaurants.

Party

Lisbon’s undisputed nightlife center is Bairro Alto. Hundreds of small bars are squished together in the narrow cobblestone streets, parties moving onto the streets as soon as the bars get crowded. On a typical night you’ll socialise to the sound of fado music with locals and travellers alike, but the clubbing scene has been catching up lately. Especially in Intendente, an area north of the city center, many faded facades now house edgy clubs. More venues are popping up monthly, their beautifully decayed locations reminding of the charm Berlin’s clubbing scene is well-loved for. The best way to explore the nightlife is to just walk from location to location, although we admit after the 5th venue “walking” wasn’t the easiest task anymore.

Bars

Pensão Amor (our top pick!)
Located in a former brothel,  “Love House” reminds us of the 19th-century burlesque scene. The decadent mood is complimented by velvet furnishing, framed mirrors and a pub-style piano in different rooms. We came for the great selection of drinks. We stayed for the live band acts and jumped up to rock the dancing pole.

Cinco Lounge – A smart nightspot with over a 100 original drinks to choose from (and also a 235€ cocktail)

The Good The Bad And The Ugly Bar – An ambitious multi-faced project featuring a bar, restaurant, film club and dancefloor

Casa Independente – “Tiger Room” is a major concert venue, the associated bar sells a quality range of cocktails

Mini Bar – Gourmet bar by José Avillez serving special cocktails, wines and craft beers

Clubs

Lux Club (our top pick!)
Portugal’s most prestigious night club is a former warehouse by the waterside. A labyrinth of connected rooms, the theatrical space is always packed with party-hungry night owls. The two funky floors are complimented by an amazing upstairs bar and a terrace on the roof with oversized wing chairs. Absolute must-visit for club lovers! PS: Prince and Cameron Diaz were here!

Europa Club (top afterhour pick!)
Just like Pigalle restaurant in Berlin, Europa club is located in a former brothel. And it gets wild, too. It’s the hottest afterhour club in Lisbon and the parties go on till after noon. As Berliners, we thought we found heaven. Lisbon knows how to party.

Kremlin – Lisbon’s top club in the 90s, ranking in “DJ” magazine. Reopened in 2016. Pumping beats and new decor have keep the partying going on Fridays and Saturdays

Ministerium – cool techno-electronica music in a building formerly used by the Ministry of Finance

Silk – One of the trendiest clubs around, you’ll often need to be on the guest list to get in

For dinner and party venues we recommend you any of Group K’s venues.

Hotels

The Late Birds (our top pick – gay only)
An Urban luxury resort for the gay male community Lisbon, located in the heart of Lisbon’s historical center. From here you can easily access the nearby shops and many bars that open up at night. The best: all the gay bars are no further than few minutes walk. Watch our for their future expansion plans, Porto is up next.

Memmo Principe Real
Tucked away in a narrow street, this five-start boutique hotel was home to ancient royalty. It mixes contemporary and classic styles in a cosmopolitan ambience of tranquility and impeccable service that provides the visitor with a Lisbon experience that feels both timeless and authentically local.

Four Seasons Hotel – To prove Lisbon could do luxury too, dictator Salazar built this hotel in 1959. A huge marble lobby and grand decor put in under the bar setting hotels. 

Palacio Belmonto – Built on the surrounding walls of Lisbon’s Castle São Jorge, breathtaking views over the city and Tagus River

Martinhal Chiado – Hidden in yet another narrow street with direct access to the flourishing party scene

If you’re looking for the best boutique hotels in Lisbon, check out this top10 list.

Excursions

For a grand tour experience in Lisbon we recommend to book a day tour with the charming good looking guide Joel Moedas-Miguel. He offers private city tours and excursions to Lisbon’s beautiful surrounding. 

There’s plenty to be discovered on your own, too. For a fantastic view, check out the national palace of Pena. Also located in the Sintra hills, its 19th-century romanticism is only rivaled by the thousand year history of its neighbour, the national palace of Sintra. While you’re there, don’t miss visiting Cabo da Roca, Europe’s westernmost point. 

From central Lisbon it’s only a 30min ride by car to get to Costa Caparica, worth the visit for its stunning coastline and vast sandy beaches. More cool visits include Cascais, one of the most cosmopolitan and riviera-like places in Portugal ever since King Luís I chose the bay for his summer residence. Best places to stay in Cascais: Palacio Estoril and Farol Hotel.

For more info, check out these helpful sites: → Visit Lisboa, → Lisboa Cool and → Portugal Confidential

Life is a beach – 10 best beaches in the world

There are millions of beaches in the world, one more beautiful than the next. They come in all kinds of shapes and forms, from palm-fringed to scraggy, from volcanic black-sand on Iceland to white-sand on Hawaii, from touristic to secluded, from popular to hidden secrets. Beaches are the ultimate escape for every traveller. Most tourists dream of well known beaches in Rio de Janeiro, Bora Cay, Miami, Phuket or Algarve, but we want to present you beaches so beautiful they could be from a fairytale and are spared the burden of mass tourism yet.

Praia de Cassagne / Peninsula de Marau, Brazil
Praia de Cassagne was voted the most beautiful beach of Brazil. This ecological paradise offers miles of white sandy beaches, dense Atlantic forest, centenarians coconut trees and nature trails. The beach is free of rocks and reefs making it ideal for water sports. If you’re lucky you can watch hummingbirds slurp nectar from colourful flowers and monkeys dangling from the trees in the morning.

Top Hotel: Peninsula Beach Club Hotel

Es Trenc / Mallorca
As one of the last large natural beaches in Mallorca that hasn’t been spoiled by big hotels and a whopping amount of seaside restaurants yet, Es Trenc is considered to be one of Europe’s most dazzling beaches. Despite it’s only 2 hours on a plane from Berlin, Es Trenc’s balmy waters and white sand create a pristine beach experience with Carribean flair. Even though Mallorca isn’t as gay friendly as Ibiza yet, a pink bungalow on Es Trenc heralds the forthcoming of more opened minded times.

Top Hotel: Bennoc Petit-Hotel

Diana Beach / Barbuda
This exclusive beach named after Princess Diana is a true Carribean diamond. The secluded 165-acre peninsula with its pristine pink and white sand beaches is wonderfully uncrowded and far off the hustle and bustle of other Carribean islands. Barbuda is less westernised than its neighbouring islands and maintains an authentic Carribean charm. It wasn’t only Princess Diana’s destination of choice, celebs like Robert DeNiro and Eric Clapton are known to enjoy their holidays under coconut trees in this tropical hideaway.

Top Hotel: Coco Point

Grace Bay Beach  / Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos
Grace Bay in Turks and Caicos is the world’s #1 beach, according to TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice awards. Provo has been ranked “Best Beach” by Conde’ Nast magazine and by the World Travel Awards for several years running. The sand is perfectly white without a single rock, there is literally no pollution and instead of seaweed you’ll find vibrant aquatic life with spectacular coral reefs that protect the bay from the ocean swells of the Atlantic. It’s easy to see why Grace Bay was voted #1 in the world. The water is so turquoise, it blinds you!

Top Hotel: The Sands

Beach No. 7 / Havelock, Andaman Islands
Picture the white beaches of Ko Pha Ngan before backpackers, full moon parties and cheesy tourist bars arrived, and you have a good idea of what the Andaman Islands look like. Though a little pricier, an eco-village is the only hotel on Radhanagar beach – ‘the best beach in Asia’ according to TIME magazine. Beach No. 7 is also home to Rajan, the last of the famous ocean-swimming elephants.

Top Hotel: Silver Sand Havelock

beach-no-7

Tulum Beach / Mexico
Tulum is one of the last cities built and inhabited by the Mayas and boasts an unrivalled historical past among the Carribean top destinations. It’s considered a Bohemian beach paradise where you can still experience Mexico’s untouched beauty, even though the little town is home to comfortable accomodations and restaurants catering to all budgets. People are scarce on Tulum’s beaches which make them ideal for travellers who enjoy a low-key escape with pearly-white sand beaches off the beaten track.

Top Hotel: Encantanda Tulum

tulum

Tip of Borneo / Malaysia
After finding your way through remote villages and coconut plantations, you’ll find Pantai Kalampunian, a long stretch of beach on the most northern tip of Borneo, the third largest island in the world. There are hardly any structures along the beach, which just adds to the unearthly beauty complemented by azure-blue water and perfectly white sand. The coastline can be treacherous, though. The Kalampunian light house towering above is a reminder of the many shipwrecks that lie before the coast.

Top Hotel: Hibiscus Villa Borneo + Hibiscus Beach Retreat

Zapatilla Keys / Bocas del Toro, Panama
Over 18 countries have filmed their respective versions of the successful reality show “Survivor” in the exotic Archipelago Bocas del Toro off Panama’s Carribean coast. The Archipelago is famous for its many beautiful beaches, but the most breathtaking beaches are to be found on Las Isla Zapatillas, two small islands consisting of just 34 and 14 hectares. Nature remains almost completely untouched on these 2 gems, there are no big hotels or upscale restaurants, but you will find ruins of an old house that is said to have been built by pirates.

Top Hotel: Casa Cayuco

La playa de Las Conchas / Isla Graciosa, Spain
Las Conchas is a dreamy beach on the Canary Islands, though not without its pitfalls. Due to its northern location on the island, the strong currents can turn your diving fun into an open sea excursion if you don’t watch out. If you stay close to shore though, your biggest concern will be rubbing yourself with sun cream regularly and enjoying the views over Montana Island just off the coast.

Top Hotel: Evita Beach Club

la-concha

Kondoi Beach / Taketomi Island, Japan
Taketomi is largely unspoilt and is home to a village in the traditional Kawara style with red tiled roofs and lion dog figures to ward off evil spirits. Visitors must either walk or rent a bicycle as there are no rentals cars on the island. Taketomi is home to one of the most pristine beaches of Japan, featuring a beautiful crescent-shaped bay and shallow turquoise water.

Top Hotel: Hoshinoya
kondoi-beach

Global Hotspot – L.A. Downtown

Has there ever been a city name more befitting than Los Angeles (“The Angels”)? Legend has it the city’s high-rises tickled the skies so the stars fell down from heaven and landed in Hollywood. In a big car. In front of their villas. Ready to party. As far as we are concerned, the trend-setting metropolis could very well be the flashiest places in the milky way.

L.A. is mainly known for its sand beaches, tanned movie stars, nonstop nightlife and more celebrities than anyone cares to count. But when you look beyond all the eye-candy, you’ll find vibrant multicultural neighbourhoods with very distinctive personalities. A mixture of the most fascinating areas can be found in Downtown L.A., where each neighbourhood has a unique style and the district’s soul is determined by a mix of cutting-edge and classic influences.

Known as one of Downtown’s most energetic districts, the Historic Core is what brought L.A. on the world’s map in the first place. From the Broadway Theatres to galleries and contemporary food destinations, the Historic Core offers an exciting insight into the city’s turbulent past.

Highlights

Downtown wasn’t on an insider’s coolness radar for a long time. It has undergone a revivification over the last two decades, growing well beyond the borders of the business center. It’s still a little rough around the edges, but the ongoing cultural renaissance is slowly turning it into a stronghold for culture, architecture, amazing sights and of course – parties. We’ve compiled a list of attractions that you wouldn’t want to miss.

1. Walt Disney Concert Hall – 274$ jewel with an open platform stage, gallery and roof garden

2. Music Center – Consists of the Ahmanson Theatre, Mark Taper forum, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and Walt Disney Concert Hall

3. Bradbury Building – Downtown’s oldest commercial building (Blade Runner’s final scene was shot here)

4. Grand Central Market – European-style food hall with great eateries

5. The Broad – LA’s newest contemporary art museum

6. Grand Park – 50k sqm park – great for people-watching

7. LA City Hall – A huge conrete tower ideal for enjoying the view over Downtown

8. Union Station - Beautiful rail station with marble tiles, wood beamed ceilings and Art Deco influences

 9. El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument – The oldest section of LA, where it was first established in 1781

10. Broadway Theaters – Movie screenings, musical performances and live theaters

Restaurants

While L.A. in general offers some of the best restaurants in the USA, it’s Downtown’s culinary scene that has seen a real boom over the last years. Finding more than a few great restaurants was quite a mission not too long ago, but now you’ll have a hard time ignoring the tasty odors filling the air on almost every corner. Acclaimed chefs have conquered Downtown to leave their mark in the history of one of America’s hippest culinary bastions. With so many great restaurants around, it can be hard to keep track. Read on for our personally compiled list of amazing treats.

Otium (top pick!) – contemporary restaurant that draws from the rich culinary heritage of Chef Timothy Hollingsworth. Otium boasts a vertical garden, wood-burning oves and the best food in Downtown!

Spring – French cuisine with stunning open kitchen and relaxed&sophisticated atmosphere

Cicada – Extraordinary fusion of Art Deco and contemporary design

71 above – Breathtaking oceans views and elevated American cuisine at 290m

Shibumid – Kappo-style service and cuisine like in Tokyo

eatwinsome – Great neighbourhood restaurant with typical LA cuisine and warm interior

Baldoria – Hybrid bar-restaurant with easily sharable plates and hearty cocktails

Baco Mercat – Low-key eatery where every snack is a revelation

Redbird – Modern American cuisine in a vast open space

The Palm – Renowned for prime beef, lobsters and its authentic Italian cuisine

Coffee shops

Some like to call the Art’s District “Coffee District”, and rightfully so. The surge of ambitious coffee-nerds-turned-business-men has caused a real boom for trendy&tasty coffee roasteries over the last years and rumour has it that without the coffee, Downtown’s renaissance would be a long time coming. Here are the 8 best coffee stops in town.

Verve coffee roasters (top pick) – Lovely espresso bar with automated pourover brewers, cold presses juices, seasonal specials and slick furniture

Coffee Colab – Serving Suits & Knifes roasted coffee

Urth Caffé – pioneers in health conscious coffee making

Poppy + Rose – classic American diner fare prepared with honest ingredients

Mendocino Farms – Passionate eatery with great comfort & friendly staff

Demitasse - Coffee geeks shop where every barista has his speciality

G&B Coffee - Award-winning, warm, unfussy location in Grand Central Market

Cliftons – The biggest public cafeteria in the world

Bars

All the roasteries and restaurants in the world are no use if you want to have a REALLY good time. Where life pulses, drinks aren’t far behind – and in Downtown, the life beat is constantly speeding up. In a town full of plastic surgery and sunshine, Downtown’s bars offer a refreshing mix of gourmet and edgy. From a beer with friends to cocktails with the stars – a Downtown night has lots to offer.

Perch (top pick) – Art Deco roof top bar with upscale casual vibe and French-inspired menu

Ace hotel roof top – Sophisticated decor, strong cocktails and great DJs

The Standard roof top – Waterbeds, Bikinis, beers and an amazing view over Downtown

The Varnish – Located in an old storage room with drinks that are spot on

Seven Grand – Premiere destination for whiskey enthusiasts

La Cita - Theme-based bar nights in an old-school Mexican bar

Barrel Down – American craft beers from over 40 taps

Far Bar – Dynamic setting and amazing bartenders – more than 400 whiskeys

Villain’s Tavern – Unpretentious and off the beaten path

Redwood Bar & Grill – The pirate decor will make you feel like you’re in Pirates of the Carribbean

Clubs

The Downtown clubbing scene has come a long way. Its variety and uniqueness easily puts it at eye level with the legendary Hollywood parties, creating even more hype for the up and coming Downtown scene. From hipsters to hip hoppers, from subtle to all-out, from easy-going to full-blown sound systems, you can find it all in Downtown. Dance your feet off!

The Edison (top pick!) – Multidimensional club in a former power plant with old brick walls & generators

Exchange LA – Art Deco building turned into a modern club experience with House, Techno and Trance DJs

Club Mayan - Two-level main room with the look of a Mayan temple

The Crocker Club – Part of the club is inside a former safe deposit box in an old bank building

Elevate Lounge – Upscale nightclub located 21 floors above ground level

Hotels

Downtown’s hotel scene is spoiling travellers from around the world. Luxury and glamour are just around the corner, but you can also find more affordable hotels for budget-conscious travellers. The current generation of hotels boasts anything from intimate one-of-a-kind boutique hotels to timeless classics and luxurious digs with panoramic views over the city. Whatever kind of accommodation you’re looking for, Downtown won’t let you down.

Ace Hotel (top pick!) – Upscale boutique hotel with amazing roof top and unique personality

The Standard - Stellar 24-hour restaurant that boasts a rooftop beer garden serving traditional German food and beer

Millennium Biltmore - The choice of celebrities, presidents, and dignitaries. Absolute luxury! 

Ritz Carlton - Luxury hotel with world-class service, exceptional dining and dramatic views over the city

Omni Los Angeles Hotel At California Plaza – Low fuss, high-class hotel experience with an amazing staff

The Line Hotel - Modern interiors, lounge styled by Koreatown natives and a lifestyle boutique shop

SoHo Warehouse - Coming soon to Art’s District!

Hotspot – The Art’s District

While Downtown enjoys a lot of attention, the Art’s district is the area’s real jewel. For everyone creative, cool and aspiring this is the place to be. Creators from all over the world have found a home in the ultra cool hood consisting of warehouse wasteland and stylish galleries, trendy coffee shops and some of the best bars & restaurants in town. Don’t miss these hotspots and enjoy your trip to LA:

Bestia (top pick!) – A multi-regional rustic Italian restaurant focusing on a “from scratch” approach, offering house-made charcuterie, handmade pasta and pizza

Zinc Cafe – open kitchen and peaceful courtyard dining area provide a nice respite from the hustle and bustle of Downtown

The Spring – Health space with fresh food, yoga, wellness & workshops

Stump Town Coffee – 99 problems, but a cup of coffee ain’t one

Little Bear – A cafe pouring Belgian and domestic beer on draught with a kitchen showcasing Belgian food favorites

Blue Bottle Coffee – U-shaped bar, where you can see both the mess and the magic of coffee-making unfold

Bread Lounge – Contemporary artisanal bakery and café

American Tea Room – Retail shop, tea lounge, restaurant, cafe, and bar with 7.5m living wallscape and fire pits

Art’s District Brewing – Craft brewpub with onside brewhouse, 9 original beers and space for 300 guests

Eighty-Two – Innovative bar with more than 50 classic arcade & pinball machines, DJs, food trucks and game tournaments

The Wheel House – Community-centered bicycle and coffee shop

The Factory Kitchen – Traditional Italian fare in a comfortable yet interactive environment

Useful web pages

The Downtown LA web page

Historic core web page

Explore artsy Downtown

Downtown Muse

Global Hotspot – Sopot, Pearl of the Baltic Sea

The formerly run-down soviet seaside town Sopot might not exactly have been number one on jetsetters’ top-travel lists for a long time, but in recent years Sopot has become an increasingly fashionable seaside destination. Today it easily competes with the famous rivieras in Spain, Italy and France – at about 1/10 the price of its Mediterranean rivals. Poland’s summer capital is rich in tradition and history and was considered “Monte Carlo of the Baltic” ever since its rise as a fashionable resort in the 19th century. Sopot became Europe’s ruling class’ beach destination and was in full bloom as the most popular resort of the Baltic sea for the best part of a century.

However, after the mayhem of World War II the Soviets did not care much for reconstruction and the Polish lacked the funds to do so – until recently. In the last 10 years the smallest member of the Tri-City (consisting of Gdansk, Gdynia and Sopot) has once again become a hip and happening town. Its sandy beaches, top class spas&resorts, elegant villas and vibrating nightlife scene make it a one-of-a-kind experience. 

Highlights

The picturesque sea side resort offers a whole range of fascinating views. Apart from the longest Pier in the Baltic region you’ll also find stunning architecture, historical places and some of the best party options in Poland. Here’s a quick overview of the places that we consider a must-visit!

The Pier – with 511m it’s the longest pier in the Baltic region. Stunning views of the sea!

Lighthouse – located right next to the pier entrance. A spiral staircase takes you to the 25m viewing platform, where you can see Gdansk and Gdynia in the distance

Crooked House – crooked, crazy and absolutely amazing. Design that melts brains

Esplanade – 10km path right past sandy beaches and a maze of trees – leads all the way to Gdansk

Monte Cassino strip - your place for the wild nights out

Two Men and a Wardrobe – a wooden wardrobe located on Sopot’s sea shore

Forest Opera – an amphitheatre in the forest built in 1909

State Art Gallery – exhibition space for contemporary Polish artists

The Grand Hotel Sopot (Sofitel) – originally called the “Grand” or “Kasino”. Around since 1927, one of Sopot’s most defining features

Restaurants

Before its return to glory and glamour, Sopot was mainly frequented by party-hungry Poles. The restaurants weren’t exactly sophisticated at that point, but with the development in the city in recent years Sopot now has a fair share of high class restaurants to dine in style. From Polish cuisine to international, from fusion to Italian or Chinese – quality food has conquered Sopot!

White Marlin (TOP PICK)
Excellent location right at the pier. Elegant Scandinavian interior meets great service and marvellous food. Easily the best restaurant in Sopot.

Caly Gawel
Stylish cantina coffee shop serving food from local and regional sources: lovely breakfast, few mains and creative burgers. The place has been around since December 2015 and is already frequented by urbanites, hipsters and young families.

Avocado
In this fusion restaurant you’ll find Asian food combined with European influences. Fresh lobster as a specialty. It’s located on the main street of Sopot and boasts a wonderful outdoors terrace, great atmosphere and definitely the best sushi in Tri-City!

Image
Very cozy, small restaurant. International kitchen with some inspirations from Polish Cuisine. Beware: the paintings on the sealing are only for adults.

Bocian Morski
Author kitchen specializing in local products and fish. Cozy place with a warm brick interior.  They offer a big variety of wines only one turn from the main street.

Galeria 63
International cuisine, everything from traditional Polish dishes to pasta, fish and steaks. The deco is modern, on some evenings a DJ plays discreet chill out music.

Rucola
Inspired by the world’s diversity, Rucola offers Polish specialties and innovative combinations, exotic meals, an extraordinary wine list, only local, fresh products and fresh fish from the local fishermen. Located in the famous Mont Cassino Crooked House.

Toscana
Authentic Italian cuisine. 10 min walk from the hotel – delicious sea food and pasta.

Zatoka Sztuki
Multi-level cultural centre with art exhibits, resort, beach restaurant & club.

Party Destination Sopot

Ask anyone in Sopot where the parties get the wildest and you’ll only hear one answer: Monte Cassino. A lively mix of people from all over the Tri-City rush into Sopot’s main drag at night, where the concentration of clubs, bars and more sophisticated drinking establishments is so high that even Chuck Norris would get drunk. The strip’s intense charisma is crowned by the fairytaile flair in the air, radiated by the Crooked House – basically a house that looks like it’s been taken straight from Alice in (Sopot) Wonderland. Just.. this Alice goes full-blown party mode. With a nightlife as unique and pulsing as Sopot’s, make sure to hit up at least one or two of the famous night clubs as well. But beware of lightly dressed ladies, they’ll dance the money out of your pocket in no time. 

Bars

Wtedy (TOP PICK!)  - new happing place with industrial charm 

Dwie Zmiany – attracting an arty crowd 

3 Siostry - cool bar with vintage furniture

Café Ferber – the classic bar on the party strip

Mewa Towarzyska – popular club/pub

Bar Max - a great place to kick off the night 

Beach Clubs

Zatoka Sztuki Beach Club (TOP PICK!) – “THE” beach club on the Riviera of Polen. Party animals keen to soak up that hedonistic Sopot summer vibe won’t want to pass up on the Beach Club culture – This is undoubtedly one of the places to be in the Tricity! Situated on a prime spot of Sopot’s beach, it’s easy to believe you are on Ibiza as you sip a cocktail, watch the sunset and enjoy the open air parties.

Sofitel The Grand Hotel - There is a big private beach out front making the Grand Hotel a top-class beach hang-out during the summer.

Tropikalna Wyspa – People are raving about their food but come here to drink outside with the sea lapping less than a stone’s throw away

Scena Klub -  Restaurant, bar and beach lounge with cabañas overlooking the bay.

White Marlin Beach Bar – Enjoy the laidback vibe in Marlin´s own beach bar, a true summer location!

Clubs

Libation (TOP PICK!) -  The fashionable location is owned by the Polish metal band Behemoth’s lead singer. Their motto: “decadent atmosphere of pre-war Paris and Berlin, strongly inspired by the theatre”. With a more select crowd, leather sofas and somewhat pricier drinks they’re definitely not far from it. Well done!

Unique Club – Sopot´s most elegant vip nightclub

Spatif – One of the enduring wicked legends of Sopot´s nightlife. Heavy selection at the door. Theoretically a private club, so don’t get upset if they don’t let you in without a membership 

Sixty9 – Sopot´s gay friendly club in a villa 

Sfinks  – Advanced clubbing with an international DJ line-up

Hotels 

Obviously Poland’s #1 seaside resort doesn’t have to hide when it comes to housing. You’ll find something appealing near the center in all price ranges – from hostels and pensions to luxurious hotels, Sopot has it all covered. Better book in advance as the demand for rooms goes through the roof in the main season! 

Sofitel The Grand Hotel (TOP PICK!)  - Formerly known as the “Grand” and “Kasino”, The Grand Hotel has a long history in Sopot. Its marvellous location and the lush surroundings are nothing short of spectacular and unmatched in the whole of Sopot. Get comfortable in one of the 127 charming, elegant rooms and you’ll soon feel the hotel’s class and luxury. When you’re done being pampered at the Grand Spa, do take a visit to its in-house Art Deco restaurant and taste creative French cuisine with a Polish twist!

Mera Spa Hotel – highlight: infinity pool on the roof with stunning view of the sea

Fisher House – highlight: Scandinavian styled resident hotel set next to the beach of Sopot

Sheraton – highlight: private beach area overlooking the bay

Also worth noting: Bayjonn HotelSedanMolo Hotel and Hotel Sopot

Excursions

With two beautiful cities like Gdansk and Gdynia just a stone’s throw away, they’re the perfect choices for your next day trip. You can hop on the train in Sopot and 20 minutes later you’ll already enjoy a cold drink in the shade of one of Gdansk’s many attractions. Optionally you can always choose the easy way and order a cab, which will cost you about 50-60 Zloty (about 13€) to either Gdanks or Gdynia.

Alors on Gdansk

The Hanseatic Pearl looks back on more than 1000 years of tumultuous history. Gdansk is a marvellous medieval city permeated with the currents of different cultures, nations and believes. Both beautified and scarred by history, Gdansk looks like no other Polish city. Cobbled streets with imposing buildings, distinctive cafés and a selection of amber shops create a crossroad of old and new and make it the perfect destination for dwelling in Europe’s architectural history.

Gdynia mate!

Gdynia used to be a little fishing village near Gdansk and Sopot. With the end of World War I, the Polish state was reformed and in desperate need of a port, since Gdansk was still controlled by the Germans. So – within just 5 years – a new city and major port had been built, going by name of Gdynia. Today the city has a population of over 250.000 and one of the most flourishing economies in the country, while still managing to look like a relic of the Soviet era. Start your day trip at the harbour area with its museums and theatres and then work your way towards town, where you’ll find restaurants and cafés to suit your culinary needs.

Premium Yachting – Rent a yacht, catamaran or a sailing boat

Walk Out  - The game of escaping a room has never been so popular, even in Polen!

Castle Malbork - The Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork – UNESCO World Heritage

More information about Sopot 

Gdansk, Sopot and Gdynia

About Sopot

Inyourpocket Sopot

Global Hotspot – Terrific Taipei

Taipei is World Design Capital 2016! The city hasn’t turned up on many Western tourists’ radars…yet. As world wide trend hunters we packed our bags and hopped on a jet to the up and coming Asian metropolis to see what the buzz is all about.

Taipei sits in a mountainous basin at the Northern tip of Taiwan and is surrounded by a wonderfully green scenery, boasting several nationals parks and untouched nature. An economic boom in the 80s led to heavy urbanization and the constant extension of the city’s borders. In densely populated areas like Taipei, intelligent design is becoming key for an attractive, efficient and liveable environment. The Taiwanese, Chinese, Japanese and more recently Western influences combined with futuristic design-thinking and respect for the ancient Chinese roots create one of the most interesting travel destinations in Asia and have earned Taipei the title of World Design Capital.

The skyline is dominated by the mighty Taipei 101 skyscraper (508m) – wagging tongues suggest it looks like a huge stack of noodle boxes – but it’s not the only thing that makes the urban attractions stand out. Taipei is well known for its unique nightlife, boasting trendy bars and clubs, but also edgy night markets such as the famous Shilin Night Market where you’ll find anything from super delicious food to clothing and consumer goods. The blend of classic street eats and new restaurants is creating a buzz right now, and insiders already know that Taipei will be the next big foodie travel destination.

Districts

Fujin Street

With a population of 7 million, Taipei boasts lots of distinctive districts. Our top pick #1 is Fujin Street, an 800m long road home to vintage stores, designer studios, trendy cafes, hip retail spots and multi-concept stores. Its beautiful gardens, artistic boutiques and lush atmosphere make it a laid back getaway area that’s easy to fall in love with.

Spotted locations:

3,co - Design & Cafe

Bison – Cafe & Coffee Shop

Stay & Go Coffee Co.

Lunar Bistro

Sonnentor Cafe

Where to start - Take a cab to Fuyuan St corner Fujin Street in Songshan District and start walking west along the tree-laned Fujin street.

Click here for more info about the area

Dihua Street

Your dreams of time-travelling become reality on the quiet Dihua Street. No skyscrapers, no flashy advertisement displays. The colors, the buildings, the smell, the pace – everything takes you back to the beginning of the 20th century. Young enterpreneurs are creating a beautiful combination of past and modern influences. The cafes, restaurants and boutique shops blend in perfectly with charming antique attractions.

Spotted locations:

Yeh Tea House – French restaurant

OrigInn Space – Cafe, Art & Interior Shop

Fleisch – Cafe & Dining

Salt Peanuts Cafe – Trendy Cafe

Peacock Bistro – Fine Dining

Le Zinclo – Boho-Artsy Cafe & Restaurant

Where to start - Starting location: Daqiaotou (大橋頭) Metro Station, Exit 1 — or Shuanglian (雙連) Metro Station, Exit 2. Dadaocheng is located by the Danshui (Tamsui) river in the North-West part of Taipei.

Da’an 

Another must-visit is the hustling and bustling Da’an District. Da’an boasts upscale shopping centers, vibrant night markets and is one of the liveliest hoods in Taipei. With several sought-after universities in the district, you will find a young and hip crowd populating the numerous quirky cafes, clothing shops and of course the popular Tonghua Night Market and Yongkang Street where you’ll find some of the best street eats in Taipei. When it gets too busy for your taste, you can retreat to the evergreen Da’an Forest Park – Taipei’s version of Central Park. Learn more about Da’an here.

Wanhua

We also visited the beautiful Bopiliao Old Street in Taipei’s oldest district – Wanhua (more info about Wanhua). The street still retains the look it had 200 years ago and has been richly decorated by national and international artists. You’ll find a broad selection of stores here: a clock store, a knife shop, a taoist shrine, a tea room and a rice company to name just a few.

Where to start - go to the Longshan temple station. From there you can discover the area around Mengxia Park, along Guangzhou St and the narrow streets between Mengxia Park and Kunming Street.

Ximenting

The home of subculture and counterculture undisputedly is Wanhua’s Ximenting (read more) . It’s the perfect spot if you’re looking for alternative lifestyle. Street artists, magicians and dancers give a lively touch to the area that’s visited by several million people per month. There’s also a great selection of shops for alternative music, costumes, books, toys and anything else that’s off the mainstream. The district’s highlight is the magnificent Red House Theater built in 1908, where you’ll find an artists’ market on ground floor and live perfomances on the second floor.

Xinyi

Also known as the “Manhattan of Taipei”, the Xinyi District boasts important landmarks such as the City Hall, Taipei 101 and several flagship shopping malls. It’s definitely the place for all shopping crazy tourists and fashionistas. You can shop for days and it never gets boring!

Cafes and Restaurants 

FiFi Tea House and Lounge (our top pick)

A multi-functional place in a three-story building with a fashion market on the ground floor, and a cool restaurant on the top floor. The restaurant features Sichuan and Shanghai modern Chinese cuisine. It is like an old Shanghai supper club dolled up for modern-day Taipei. There is also a cosy caféand a trendy east/west fusion lounge bar on the second floor, complete with antique furniture.

RAW - Most talked about gourmet restaurant in Asia

Sanhoyan – Funky Design Restaurant

Lidio Restaurant – Trendy Fine Dining:

Mountain Fusion – Creative Dining

Khaki – Stylish Cafe & Restaurant

 Salt Peanunts Vinyl Cafe – Edgy cafe

Merlot - Wine Bistro

Yellow Lemon – Dessert Bar

 Xiang Se – Shabby Chic Restaurant

Joel Robuchon – International Gourmet restaurant

The Thousandth Girl – Interior Design Store & Cafe ”Good-Institute-Store”

EIEIO - Gastro Pub

Bars

Woobar (our top pick)

In the Xinyi District, home to W Taipei, there pulses a neon current, creating a sanctuary where serenity meets energy. An endless stream of people, ideas and atmosphere. Woo Bar is one of the most happening bars in town. It’s the place to be see and be seen.

FiFi Bar & Lounge

Ounce Bar – Hidden & Discrete Bar

Wa-Shu – Modern Bar with a Japanese touch

Alchemy – Stylish Underground Bar

R&D Cocktail Lab – Cocktail-culture at its best!

Clubs

Elektro (our top pick!)

The successor of the famous Spark club is living up to its name. The atmosphere is electrifying and attracts a classy and refined crowd. What’s pleasant about that is you don’t have to party with drunk 18 year olds who just turned old enough to visit a club. Instead, expect to pop a lot of champagne bottles!

Club Myst – spacious dance floor and huge balcony

M2 Club - amazing visuals and cool crowd

Chess - exclusive and intimate

Roxy 99 - Rock’n’Roll instead of EDM

Shopping

When you talk Shopping in Taipei it’s always the night markets that come to mind first. But in busy Da’an and Xinyi fashionistas will be delighted to find elegant shopping malls and high-end designer labels just waiting to clothe you for the night. The huge number and variety of shopping streets in Taipei has gained it a reputation as shopping mecca for tourists. Department stores, underground malls, night markets, shopping districts…you name it, it’s there.

Xinyi Downtown (our top pick!)

This is a paradise for those looking for huge flagship stores, chic shopping malls and luxury department stores like Taipei 101 Mall, Breeze Centre, Shin Kong Mitsukoshi, Eslite and Bella Vista.

Wufengpu - affordable shopping paradise

Ximending - tourist trap but popular

Isabelle Ven – local top designer

For more shopping tips, click here

Night markets

Taipeis traditional night markets are where the soul of the city shows. The odors of soy, sesame and spices fill the air as you take a deep breath and open your eyes to a colourful world of food, people and twice as many promotional signs. The night markets open at 4 in the afternoon and often go well beyond midnight. It feels like a little carnival that’s taking place every night. The night markets aren’t only a great shopping destination for lower-priced clothing and food, they’re part of the cultural experience in Taipei.

Shilin Night Market (our top pick!)

Shilin is the biggest night market of them all. It may not be the most exclusive or cheapest one, but at least once you have to experience the waves of people shifting through the vidid streets while all of your senses are busy taking in the impressions. Shilin gives you the classic experience of a Taipei night market and should not be missed on your trip!

Nanjchang Night Market – less crowded and amazing food

Raohe Night Market – Taipei’s oldest night market, perfect for people watching

Shida Night Market – on of the coziest night markets

Ningxia Night Market – many local visitors, affordable food

Hotels

Humble House Taipei (our top pick!)

Located in shopping and commerce hub Xinyi, Humble House is the pearl of the art and hospitality scene. Its interior designed by Hirsch Bedner Associates shows matt and mute tones to create a mix of hotel and art gallery with pieces such as Italian artist Paola Pivi’s Crazy Ball, installed in the hotel’s Italian restaurant. Guests can also lean back on the lush roof terrace and enjoy a mind blowing view on the Taipei 101 skyscraper. The rooms are simple, stylish and elegant and start at a cozy 26sqm, reaching up to 73sqm for the biggest suite.

W Taipei

W Taipei boasts cutting edge design and is the obvious choice for everyone who enjoys a creative and highly stylish environment. The dining options in the hotel are unbeaten – Woobar, Yen Chinese Restaurant and The Kitchen Table offer a combination of treats what will never make you leave the house again.

Hotel Quote

Quote is the perfect blend of design and boutique. With only 64 rooms it’s also a lot smaller than Humble House and W Taipei and creates a more intimate setting. Guests can enjoy food and drinks in luxurious opulence in the 333 Restaurant & Bar and the H.Q. Lounge.

Éclat

French elegange meets Taipei’s Da’an district. Expect boutique service, luxurious design and modern amenities. With pieces by Dali, Warhol, Yin Sun and Gai Xiao Wu the hotel puts even art galleries to shame.

Les Suits

Spacious trendy lodgings in this nine story hotel in Taipei offer an exclusive experience just blocks away from the busiest shopping and dining districts in Taipei.

Top 7 attractions

Taipei 101 Observartory (our top pick)!

Museum of Contemporary Arts, Taipei

Beitou hot springs

Presidential Palace

Sanxia Old Street

Mengjia Longshan Temple

Fu Guang Shang Monastery

Gay mecca of Asia

What Berlin is to the gay community in Europe, Taipei is to the gay community in Asia! Taipei is tolerant, open, progressive, same sex activity is legal and the city and has banned workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. Each year it hosts a massive gay pride parade, attracting more than 50.000 people to dive into Taipei’s welcome culture.

The most vibrant gay scene is centered in the Red House district. You’ll find more than 25 gay bars, shops and restaurants in close proximity, most of which have outdoor terraces and invite you to watch heavily muscled Taiwanese guys walk by.

Kenting – the Riviera of Taiwan

Not many people have heard about this paradise in Taiwan’s South, especially not in the Western world, but it has drawn some attention in international media during the shooting of Life of Pi. 75% of the movie was shot in Taiwan – for example the movie’s main scenes of the Pacific Ocean were shot from a former airport, the floating island was at Pingtung Banyan Park and the Mexican Beach was at Kenting Baisha Bay.

Kenting is the perfect getaway location if you’re looking for some tropical flair. With its evergreen forests, seaside cliffs and great beaches it’s Taiwan’s Capitol for leisure and quality time for locals and tourists alike. Kenting Baisha Bay is a private scenic spot and is less frequented as not all the tourists know how to find it. A shame, seeing that the white sand beach is embraced by spectacular coral reefs. Must-visit!

Hotels in Kenting

Kenting Resort – Our top pick!

The one and only beach resort with direct access from hotel to the private beach (3 km long!). A bit old fashion with a very big capacity, but a beautiful setting with sunsets guaranteed to make you fall in love. The best about it? They even offer beach barbecue and a beach bar.

Gloria Manor

Gloria Manor is a mountain resort with stunning view of the Kenting bay and offers pleasant privacy in a lush surrounding. The design is very sleek and the hotel is not missing any facilities if you are getting bored. Fine dining restaurant, bistro & cafe, bar, library, spa and a huge pool are at your service.

For more information about cool Taipei, check the following links!

Fabsearch – Taipei

Buzzfeed – reasons to love Taipei

Taipei – coolest photos Taipei

Design Spone – Taipei City Guide

Global Destination – Miami, The Magic City


Here in Europe, only few people know Miami is often considered the “Magic City”. And rightfully so, considering that a hundred years ago, the city which is home to millions today was nothing more than insect-infested swampland. To be precise Miami’s population as of 1900 was 1.681 living souls. Today Greater Miami has a population of around 5.5 million people. That’s a growth of 327000% in a hundred years!

Miami’s idyllic location has gained it the reputation as the “American Riviera” or “Gateway to the Americas”, boasting blue skies, art deco buildings, designer districts, international art events, hip hotels, gallery-filled neighbourhoods and top-ranked beaches. Due to its close proximity to the Bahamas and Cuba, many of Miami’s inhabitants are hispanic, infusing the city with the magic of a multicultural metropolis. Admittedly, 250 days with sun a year probably helps that magic unfold!

It was about time for us to pack our things, hop on a plane and visit the pearl of the USA, where jetset fantasies become reality and we can finally put our favourite speedos on again. Watch out, Miami, here comes Berlinagenten!

Hoods

South Beach 

The action in South Beach (or rather “SoBe”) centres on world famous Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue. Search your brain for an episode of “Miami Vice” – or any movie shot in Miami – and you’ll instantly remember the amazing setting. In the daytime South Beach can be a family friendly getaway location, inviting you to work on your tan as you watch your kids swim next to water-friendly hipsters (…or get eaten by sharks – they like Miami, too). You can wave to bronze-tanned rollerbladers, celebs behind their sunglasses and lots, lots of tourists as they make their way down Ocean Drive. Here it’s snowing glamour flakes.

However SoBe’s gloriest days are numbered. The scene has started extending north and with the major facelift of Fontainebleau, Mid Beach is undergoing a renaissance that could soon close the coolness gap between South and Mid Beach. The really cool kids now move to upper South Beach, enjoying the best of the two worlds and creating a new jetset hubs.

Design District 

Coolhunters have long found this once-forbidden neighbourhood to be the next star on Miami’s art radar. With the artsy Wynwood neighbourhood to the South, the historic 1920s Buena Vista to the north and the wealthy Upper East Side to the east, the Design District brings a lot of different currents together. The once worn-dorn district is now home to more than 130 art galleries, showrooms, creative spaces, luxury fashion stores, chique eateries and trendy bars. Don’t miss out on this!

Wynwood

Much like the Design District, Wynwood has a troublesome past. However it has developed to become a trendy arts hub, now containing over 70 galleries. Some call Wynwood an outdoor street art museum, and it’s easy to see why. The gentrified renaissance has led to an upspring of cafés, pop up parties and galleries – often leading to unlikely collaborations between muscians, artists and all kind of creative types. Wynwood offers a whole selection of international joys. There’s new craft beer bars similiar to the ones in Brooklyn, hip restaurants reminding you of the Shoreditch dining scene and creative coffee roasteries as known from Sao Paolo. It’s safe to say that right now, Wnywood is the center of cool in Miami.

Downtown

Downtown used to be an area closely linked to Miami’s image as a trading city. Business, business, business. Now the city’s hipness is on the up. With the finishing of numerous new condos in the last years, Downtowns population has more than doubled since 2000. The cosmopolitan flair has lured a wealthy social class into the the city’s core, creating a whole industry branch responsible for the entertainment of said class. Listing all the museums, parks, cultural spots, shops, restaurants and bars Downtown now has to offer would probably take longer than visiting them.

Coloral Gables

Coloral Gables translates to “city beautiful”. The once tiny suburb has become as truly vibrant arts community. The trademark of the habitat are terracotta roofs, flashy colours and lush vegetation. The Mediterranen flair is reflected by landmarks as the Biltmore Hotel, which boasts a 300-foot bell tower and one of the largest pools in the whole U.S. 

Coconut Grove

Just down the road from Coloral Gables you’ll find the palm-lined Coconut Grove. The name sounds promising, and the Grove lives up to the expectations. It’s a picturesque bayside oasis and considered the oldest continuously inhabited neighbourhood in Miami. The bohemian village boasts the world famous CocoWalk, where festivals, open air dinners and concerts keep you busy day and night. The laid-back ambience attracts a crowd of shoppers, bar-hoppers, students and tourists alike.

Restaurants

Life is too short for bad meals. 

Katsuya (top pick!)

THE best sushi restaurant in town. Master Sushi Chef Katsuya Uechi has long been on our top notch list for sushi chefs, but our visit to Katsuya this year blew off our hats. With extraordinairy sushi rolls, Uechi fuses Japanese tradition and American cravings to a truly unique outcome. Do try the Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeno and Black Cod – it’s your dreams come true.

Michael’s Genuine

Hands down to Michael for bringing the trend of using local ingredients to Miami. His cuisine is fresh, simple and stands for one thing: quality. Do book your table early, Michael’s restaurant is popular with both locals and tourists. We were especially impressed with the wood-roasted farm egg with aged gruyere. Simple, but delightful! 

La Mar by Gastón Acurio

Enjoy the view on Miami’s bay and skyline as you delightfully eat your way through Gastón Acurio‘s masterpieces. Gastón is considered to be Peru’s Jamie Oliver and has opened restaurants in Madrid, London and Buenos Aires and San Francisco. His approach of creating a mix between international gourmet cuisine and typical Peruvian ingredients as reviewers world wide go crazy! Make sure to rob a bank before visiting!

Florida Cookery

Chef Kris Wessel considers his cuisine a “love letter to Florida”.

STK Miami

With signature starters like Japanese Wagyu beef, grilled octopus or mango escabeche, the steaks aren’t the only good eats to be found on the menu. Must-visit for all meat lovers!

SuViche – Las Olas

The full range of the latin cuisine for a reasonable price.

Bars

Choose your poison.

Bardot (our top pick!) (Wnywood)

This place is inspired by the early 1920’s in Berlin and definitely is one of the coolest places to go out in Miami. Live acts such as Nicolas Jaar, Moby, Will Smith and Florence Welch show just how  popular the Bardot has become – yet they’re also home to celebrated underground artists and DJs, offering a wide spectrum of musical perfomances.

The Broken Shaker (South Beach)

The pop-up bar that turned permanent. They serve some of the best cocktails in town, all handcrafted with fresh ingredients and self picked spices&herbs. 

Area 31 (Downtown)

Dress up, ladies and gentlemen. Miami’s professionals like to take the elevator to the 16th floor to Area 31, an epic outdoor terrace amidst skyscrapers. The seasonal cocktails here are real mind-blowers.

Crown Room (Miami Beach)

The Art Deco bar that belongs to the newly opened Thompson Hotel. White marble bar, long-stemmed cocktail glasses and exquisite taste.

Rec Room (South Beach)

A stylish place featuring palm-tree walls cozy leather couches. Comes with live music, DJs and a punchy sound system.

Ball & Chain

The vivid recreation of a 1930 Jazz hotspot. The Cuban influence shows on the cocktail list: try the Mojito Criollo with mint leaves and extra sugar or the Canita with white rum, lime, house-made honey sryup, guarapo juice and sugarcane stick!

Clubs

Some of the best things to do in Miami are done after the sun goes down. The jetset girls put their fancy make up on the and Ferrari’s are fueled for the night. Miami offers everything from Spanish-flavoured Latin clubs to sweat-breaking EDM clubs, where international top DJs like AVICII, Tiesto and Calvin Harris are regulars. Some of the party guests look more like Barbie and Ken than anything real persons, but that’s just something you have to get used, too. This is Miami afterall.

Here are our top night clubs!

Club Space (top pick)

Visiting Club Space at Sunday 5-6am in the morning almost feels like hitting a club in Berlin. Energetic crowds dance to loud and blaring electronic dance music, even long after sunrise. International top DJs like Dubfire, Carl Cox, Boris, Loco Dice and Jamie Jones are residents in Club Space. Most clubs can’t even afford one of them! On top of that, the upstairs loft and the rooftop patio make party goers scream with delight time and time again. Definitely Miami’s best nightclub!

E11even Club 

Therapy 305

Heart Nightclub 

Nikki Beach (classic for sunday parties)

Nr 5 Twist (gay club)


Shopping

When you’re on the hunt for trendy clothing, unique jewelry or designer accessoires, Miami is the place for you. They feature some of the country’s coolest shopping malls and their downtown shopping areas are very distinctive. Whereas Berlin’s Kudamm is stacked with design and luxury stores only, Miami has a different approach. Don’t be surprised if you find a 5$ “I’m in Miami, b****” shirt store next to an uber-chiq boutique. With the sun up and the mood high, you’ll even find numerous sex shops, thrift stores and vintage clothing stores in the streets of South Beach. No wish needs to go unfilled here. Check out our selection of great shopping malls!

Aventura Mall

The mother of malls. More than 300 retailers from high-end couture to inexpensive clothing shops call Aventura their home. The mall draws more than… wait for it… 28 million visitors a year. That’s more than the whole city of Washington D.C. 

Bal Harbour Shops 

Stella McCartney, Saint Laurent, Etro and Chanel. Do we need to say more? Bal Harbour is all about black credit cards and massive sales.

Lincoln Road

A great shopping destination with unique boutiques, trendy newcomers and the promise of full shopping bags, even if you’re not Richie Rich. Also, there’s a church on the strip. Just saying.

Dadeland Mail

We love comparisons. Miami’s oldest shopping mall still looks like sweet 16 and draws 17 million visitors each year. That’s more than Buckingham Palace.

Bird and Ludlam Strip Mall

Eclectic shops for your off-the-beaten-path shopping experience. No fancy super mall, but Bird and Ludlam pays hommage to Miami’s vintage style from the 70s. There’s retro-styled clothings shops, vinyl, vintage newspapers. Everything you don’t need but absolutely want. 

Hotels

Miami isn’t cheap. Even value for money hotels start at 250$ at night in high season. The great thing is you have a wide range of different hotel types, from intimate boutique hideaway to full blown luxury resorts, all your needs are covered. Also South Beach is no longer the only cool place to say in, Downtown and Mid Beach have taken the hotel world by storm and now offer some of the most advanced properties in town.

Soho Beach House (top pick!)

Just north of South Beach, the Soho House sets new standards in the hospitality industry. It boasts two pools (one for adults only), a cowshed spa (the BEST massages on the whole beach), a snug screening room and a laid back club bar. There’s also no less than three restaurants. The member club floor with al fresco & drinking and the new Mandolin Beach deli in a tropical garden are reserved for members only. Just like the London-based private club Soho likes it, their audience is a little more sophisticated than your regular Miami visitor. The only restaurant open to public is the celeb hotspot #1 Cecconi’s Miami, which requires a reservation well before your vis

The Edition

Chiq boutique hotel that boasts interlinked structures, spaces and offers a whole world of luxury. The wow experience!

The One

A new mission-driven luxury hotel in South Beach. Organic foods and nature-inspired design for a sustainable and refreshing experience in Miami.

The Setai

Mixes Art-déco with the laid back beauty of the far east. 

Delano

First-class lodging in one of the hotels that made the Miami hotel scene big. Pricey, but with wow-factor!

SLS Beach

A touch of Latin America, a touch of Asia, and a touch of the Mediterranean. SLS Beach is a feast for the senses.

Art Scene & Walks

Every year thousands of artists gather for the Art Basel in Miami. The fair has become a central meeting point for galleries, sellers and art collectors to buy rare masterpieces. Even Picassos are on sale here. There worth of the art displayed exceeds 3 billion dollars! Miami’s love for art doesn’t only show in the art fair, the whole city is full of rare designs and unique neighbourhoods. 

Wynwood, a district once avoided by locals and tourists alike is now a magnet for galleries and studios. Art and design have given the district a unique personality. 

The so called Art Walks in Wynwood and the Design District take place every 2 weeks and lure thousands of visitors into the districts, where they can wander up and down the streets and enjoy Miami’s vivid art scene.

Beaches

The sun loves Miami. As Florida’s most southern point, hardly a day goes by without sunshine. Miami’s beaches are great for sun bathing, swimming, surfing or just soaking up the atmosphere. They’re also well-suited for watching the amazing outcomes of pricey plastic surgery! We approve.

Here are our 5 top beaches.

Miami Beach Central (top pick!)

A popular beach for strolling, jogging and skating. It’s close proximity to sidewalk cafés, bars and the Soho Beach House make it the ideal spot for jetsetters.

Haulover Beach

The dense vegetation on the dunes blocks the views from curious onlookers. Perfect if you want to get away from crowdy beaches or spend some time on the nude section of the beach.

Hobie Beach

If you’re looking for fun, Hobie beach is the place for you. You’ll find windsurf, jet-ski and boat rentals onsite.

South Pointe Park

A 70 000 sqm park boasts a white sand beach with picnic areas, a playground, a fishing pier and great views of impressive cruise ships passing by.

Fort Lauderdale Beach

A picturesque beach complete with bronzed lifeguards, coconut palms and a slightly fancier crowd that the Miami Beach area.

Other Highlights

Star Island

As the name implies, Miami’s stars take residency on the Island. Expect the biggest, most pompous villas in the city, with billionaires picking up the daily mail from their mailboxes.

Key West

Relaxed, free-spirited, artsy and scenic – Key West is a refuge from the normal life and boasts some of America’s most cultural heritage.

Coconut Grove Cemetery

We’ve all see the legendary music video of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. This Bahamian graveyard is were the movie was shot in 1983! Spooky: the coffins aren’t located under the ground, but at ground level…

Everglades

The national park is right in Miami’s backyard and boasts a spectacular wildlife. Make sure not to get too close to the crocodiles!

Little Havanna

In little Havanna you’ll find what makes the Cubans’ spirit rise. The ultra-strong coffee cubano. It’s made from equal parts espresso and sugar and is guaranteed to blow life into you faster than Berghain’s sound system.

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

With its beautiful paths, vistas and outstanding horticultural displays it’s easy to see why Fairchild Botanic Garden ranks amongst the world’s best tropical gardens.

Global Destination – Gotland

It’s really hard to say “no” to Swedish girls (or boys). It’s just as hard to say “no” to our new favourite island – Gotland – which attracts droves of beautiful people in the summer time. Known for its vast cultural treasures and calming landscapes, it’s especially Swedish townsmen from Stockholm that come to Gotland to recover from their hasty lives. But the island’s undisputable beauty hasn’t gone unnoticed by Stockholm’s hip and cool crowd, who have created a different scene in the island’s South. A scene best described with one word: excess.

Sweden’s coolest kids gather at Kallis Beach Club in Visby. Hot chicks. Hot guys. And an atmosphere that only a dancefloor located right at the beach creates. Needless to say, we felt at home immediately. Have a look at the crazy videos below to get an idea of the incredible energy of a Kallis party (but first, finish reading!). Kallis was recently voted to be Europe’s best beach club, beating rivals from both Croatia and Ibiza.

It doesn’t stop here. After getting over your hangover from the night before, Gotland invites you to discover a truly remarkable island. White sand beaches off the beaten path, Visby – a medieval city that is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and countless campsites will make your heart scream with delight. Even though Gotland is the size of Luxembourg, it only has around 60.000 inhabitants, giving you a wonderful feeling of space as you explore the island. We don’t want to bore you with too many details, but this is gold:

If you’re a fan of the original Pippi Longstocking movies from that 60s, you’ll find the original film location (“Ville Villekulla”) just a 20 minutes drive from Visby. Greet Mr. Nilsson and Lilla Gubben from us!

On our Gotland adventure, we’ve compiled this list of things you should definitely visit. Enjoy!

Visby – The “Dubrovnik of Scandinavia“

In summertime, stylish visitors invade this beautiful town to park themselves at one of the many cafes and trendy eateries and soak in the medieval surroundings with a contemporary cup of coffee and Gotland speciality saffranspannkaka, a saffron pancake with red berries and cream. But it is not only the medieval town tourists and international visitors who decide to pay a visit to Visby. It feels like you have arrived at an exotic destination somewhere around the Mediterranean Sea. There is a unique summer vibe, smell and atmosphere – with other words – there’s magic in the air as soon as you touch ground in Visby. Must do’s in Visby include strolling around town to see its medieval marvels and a walking tour along the 2 km-long medieval wall of the city. Don’t be surprised if you suddenly think about you mendering around in Dubrovnik for a second because of the wall and the charm of this hip town.

Sightseeing highlights:

  • Klinten. Walk up the staircases of Domkyrkan and go over Klint Square and along the North Wall Street. Watch the incredible sea views.
  • Botanical Garden, Almedalen and the harbour.
  • The ruins. Everywhere around the inner city and the towering walls are ruins you can go into.
  • Fiskargränd/Norra Murgatan/ Tranhusgatan. The alleys where it is teeming with roses along the facades.
  • The seaside promenade. Walk on the boardwalk from the Harbour to Tott Hotel and sit at the restaurant at sea in front of Tott Hotel

Restaurants, Bars & Cafes

Lindgarden (Our top pick!) picturesque garden with wide menu

Bolaget (the perfect bar & kitchen for people watching)

g:a masters (Swedish traditional fine dining)

Surfers (ultra popular cosy eatery)

Amarillo (creative kitchen)

Donners Brun (classic gourmet restaurant)

Creperie & Logi (for the quick bite)

Isola Bella  (italian restaurant with cosy courtyard)

Gotlands Bryggeri (Gotlands Brewery)

Wisby Strand (summertime: the terrace bar & club)

Cafe Gula Huset (cosy cafe)

Ett Rum för Resande Cafe

Cafe Krönet (best  cafe and lunch place for a view over the city)

 

Clubs

Visby turns a few weeks every year to a pumping party town which is comparable to other stylish party destinations like Ibiza, Marbella and Hvar. Week 29 is one of the peak week – a week popularly known as the “Stockholm Week” which mostly draws young party people from Stockholm who want to get wasted in high heels and spend all their money on Champagne. If you don´t like a huge drunken crowd invading the city for one week you should consider visiting another week.

Kallis Beach Club – voted best beach club in Europe! (Our top pick!)

Scandinavia’s largest beach club is in Visby. Kallbadhuset (called “Kallis”) is a hugely popular beach club. This is where the jetsetters, sexy party freaks and the show-off crowd hang out in the afternoon. Few places in the world have things move on as “Kallis” on an ordinary afternoon during the summer months of June to August. Here you can order a lunch, drink and rent a sunbed next to the palm trees. Kallbadhuset is a fantastic location by the sea. Welcome to THE open air club experience of Europe!

Burmeister

Gutekallaren

Munkkallaren

Hamnplan 5 

Hotels

Tott Hotel Visby (our top pick!) Ibiza style hotel with pool

Hands down, the best hotel in town. Tott hotel is located by Gotland’s popular Norderstand beach and boasts 100% stylistic confidence. The rooms are spacious and tastefully decorated, complete with modern décor and designer furniture. Each room has its own balcony/terrace, allowing you to enjoy picturesque sunsets right from your room. The high society swoons about the Ibiza style pool and the exquisite dishes served in the gourmet restaurant with sea view.

Hotel Slottsbacken

Clarion Hotel Visby

Clemens Hotel

Stelor (outside of Visby)

 

North Gotland

Don´t miss:

Bungenäs – Gotland´s newest hotspot! (our top pick!)

Bungenäs Matsal (breakfast, lunch, dinner), Kalkladan in a huge barn (cafe, bar and restaurant) and Nyströms Kafé in a former shop (cafe/bakery). Top secret: they let room in the same building as Matsal if you desire to stay overnight here and enjoy the place.

There is a private pier for people arriving with yates and sailboats, there is a stone beach with millitary sun beds and bikes to use for free in order to discover the entire area.

Furillen (our top pick!) A former limestone quarry transformed into Sweden’s farthest-flung design hotel. Inside the hotel, you’ll experience a welcoming interior that utilizes modern Scandinavian design and incorporates myriad shades of gray and white. Visitors are invited to explore tha nearby fishing hamlet, traverse the hidden reaches of the peninsula on a bycicle and afterwards enjoy a meal with local ingredients.

Studio Furillen, nearby the design hotel Furillen you will find an architectual masterpiece in the forest. Sleek simplicity meets the beautiful island of Gotland. Andreas Forsberg, AQ Architects, has used a glass and aluminum system in order to realize their ideas and combined function and design with modern technologies.

Rute Stenugnsbageri is a hipster´s cafe in the middle of nowhere, you think you will be the only one finding it but once you drive up the tiny road in the forest you will discover an old barn and a stylish gigant green house packed with trendy tourists. No wonder, as the founder is running a popular cafe in Stockholm. You come here to eat and buy homemade sandwiches, fresh bread and Swedish pastries. They bake their bread in a wood-fired stone oven. A dreamy place with style!

Blue Lagoon

Blå Lagun (or Blue Lagoon) is a stunningly picturesque old quarry site that has been reclaimed and reimagined as a public bathing and barbeque area. The water is turquoise blue and warm(ish) as it’s an inland lake with no rivers coming in or out. These quarries are deep and the water is very clear and turqoise, just like one might find in the Caribbean. The most famous quarry is called The Blue Lagoon. In the summer it is crowded with people swimming and sunbathing. 

Kappelhamn

Björnes diner Welcome to the new dine cafe in Kappelshamn’s old grocery shop designed in reminiscence of the 50s in the USA. They serve burgers, bookmaker toast with Gotland beef, BBQ-glazed spareribs, beer, milkshakes, coffee, muffins, and more.

Maven Accommodation by the sea (same owner as above)

 

Fårö

Fårö is a small but absolutely gorgeous island just off north of Gotland. Swedish film making legend Ingmar Bergman used to live and love on Fårö and probably was the Island’s most popular inhabitant.

Don´t miss:

Kutens Bensin

Ahead in skill and care! Known as the best gas station and rock´n´roll club in the world to some, the last resting place of the genuine Bonnie&Clyde T1 model … (read more here) Kutens Bensin is a tribute to the USA’s 50s. It looks like a bizarre mix of a graveyard for cars and a deserted gas station. Its nostalgic charm is unmatched. If Elvis was alive today – this is where he would live. The unique concept features a whole variety of unforgettable locations in close proximity:

Elsie’s café (Breakfast room and cafe in the main building)

Bistro Albatross (Gourmetrestaurant in a reconstructed shed)

Slow Train bed and breakfast. (Out top pick!) Imagine the house on the hill of Norman Bates in the horror movie „Psycho“ and you get very close to the charm of this edgy place: We had the suite (the over floor of the villa, the only room alternative offering an own shower in the bath room! Sea view!)

Crêperie Tati (french crêpes and cool apple wine – fuel for your soul)

Video interview about Kutens Bensin

The Bergman Centre

Ingmar Bergman´s grave

Sea stack fields The giant Rauks of Langhammars, Gamle hamn and Digerhuvud are some of Fårö’s expansive sea stack fields. Sea stacks are large vertical rock formations that have been shaped by the sea, leaving a core of limestone

Video interview about Kutens Bensin

Beaches

Norsta Auren & Skärsudden – probably one of the most beautiful and remote beaches in northern Europe. This naturalsandy beachwithout anyfacilities is on the north side of Fårö. The beachbegins a fewhundred meterswest of Fårö lighthouse andis 4 km long. Norsta Aura is verydesolate and more wild with big dunes in the middle. At both ends there are roads near the beach where most of the people hang out.

Sudersand – the most famous beach on Fårö is also the name of the Sudersands Semesterby (camping village). The beach is perfect for those who search for all facilities you need like a beach bar serving food, massage, shops and parking space.

Skalasand – a hidden pristine white beach, where the chances are good to be completely alone

Hotels

Slow Train (our top pick!)

Sudersand (Cottages, Houses and Camping)

Restaurants, bars & cafes

Sylvis Döttrar. One of the most famous and popular bakery shops on Gotland. People are queueing from morning to evening to buy home made cookies, Swedish cakes and the yummy fresh baked Cinnamon Rolls.

Vinor Krog

Carlssons

Useful weblinks 

Destination Gotland

Official Gotland Website

Visit Sweden – Gotland

Gotland Guide to download

 

Global Hotspot – Sri Lanka

I wish you a long and happy life” is the traditional greeting of Sri Lanka’s friendly citizens. However, the country has long been a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s that beautiful tropical island that boasts a spectacular combination of white sand beaches, stunning landscapes, exotic wildlife and an unique cultural heritage. On the other hand, the country was war-torn for a quarter century and its east coast was badly devastated by the 2004 tsunami. Add a little (read: a lot) corruption on top and voila, you’ve got all the ingredients needed for a questionable international reputation.

Buckle up, here’s the news: Those times are over! The war is long over and the new government is trying hard to fight the rotten roots of corruption. Sri Lanka now finds itself in the spotlight of countless international travel guides as it emerges as one of the world’s best tourist destinations, boasting eight (!) Unesco World Heritage Sites, epic surf locations, tropical rainforests and pristine beaches. We’ll tell you this much already: all the buzz is justified.

The country’s picturesque beauty is still clouded by the remnants of war: left overs of military checkpoints, sniper hideaways and ruins of internment camps are a constant reminder of the country’s bloody recent past. However the repairs and infrastructure are coming along nicely: a 100 mile ride from the airport to the southern coast, where international buyers who have smelt the bait take up residency these days, now only takes 2 hours rather than 6. 

The newly won ease of access to the island is a big plus for any tourist looking for some adventurous days with visits to Sri Lanka’s famous beaches, bamboo grooves or wild grounds where exotic animals such as elephants or leopards still reign supreme. The improved infrastructure also caused a boom in the hotel scene on the island. Upscale hotels add a touch of luxury to the exotic island and make it even more attractive for international travellers. Now, while Sri Lanka is still pleasantly uncrowded, is the best time to hop on a plane and discover the island’s mesmerising beauty by yourself!

Berlinagenten’s exclusive 14 day trip

Since we’re always aiming to supply you with the best tips and secrets wherever the wind takes us, Berlinagenten has spared no effort and compiled the perfect route for two weeks of culture, discovery and adventure. First tip: It’s not a must, but the easiest way to go will be to hire a private driver for the trip. Prices are around 100€ per day including car and fuel.

1. Kandy

Welcome to the Kandy Krush Saga! Located in the center of Sri Lanka, Kandy was the residency of Sri Lanka’s last King until he was forced to step down in 1815. The city of 120.000 can easily be reached by train from Colombo – passing through a spectacular jungle scene it’s definitely a very pleasant way to do so.

Biggest highlight is the Sacred Buddhist Temple of the Tooth, which is considered to be one of the holiest places for buddhists from all over the world! It’s located within the walls of the royal palace, which features other vast cultural treasures such as the four hindu Devales (hindu temples) or the holy Bodhi-Tree, guarded by a chained elephant.

Since the days in the heritage city Kandy can become a little hasty, you’re well advised to have a little break every now and then to refill your spirits. Our absolute favourite spot was the British Colonial style Queen’s Hotel, the perfect spot to sip on a cocktail (or tea if you’re driving) while overlooking the splendid surroundings of the picturesque Kandy lake.

2. The Nature Route. Kandy -> Nuwara Eliya -> Ella -> Tissamaharama (Yala Nationalpark)

Sri Lanka’s real flavour lies in the journey to the heart of Sri Lanka’s famous tea-growing area, which is located almost 2000m above Kandy. Sri Lanka is world famous for their teas and the world’s 4th largest tea supplier. Cutting up through countless hairpins at a sweaty 35˚C, the view gets better and better as you get higher until you reach the top where you’re greeted by a contrastive 16˚C.  While passing gaps in the woods, your heart stops for a beat to contemplate the sheer beauty of the panoramic views and you’ll often find yourself gazing in wonder for minutes and minutes. Passing idyllic waterfalls we felt like we were stuck in a scene from Jurassic Park, expecting dinosaurs to come rumbling through the forest anytime now…

Whatever you do, stopping at one of the many secluded tea factories is an absolute must-do! We recommend Mackwood’s Tea, who provide a full range of unblended black and flavoured teas with colourful tastes and delicious aromas. Drink a tea here and you’ll never look at tea the same way again!

2.1 Nuwara Eliya

Congratulations, you’ve made it to the top! Nuwara Eliya is also called the “city of light” and with and average 16˚C is one of the coolest areas in Sri Lanka, so don’t forget to bring a cozy jacket. Blessed with a much less humid climate, breath-taking valleys and plenty of greenery Nuwara Eliya ranks among the top destinations for tourists in the whole country. 

The cooler climate was also a reason why many of the English colonialists were drawn to the village – they felt reminded of England. As a left over from those times there’s even a golf course and a horse race track built by wealthy British settlers… got to leave it to the English, they know how to make themselves feel at home! Swing by at the private Hill Club Sri Lanka and feel like a gentleman of the old days – overseas visitors are admitted as temporary members in this exclusive gentelmen’s club.

2.2 Ella

Have you ever put your eyes on a valley that stretches for 15km and is located a staggering 1000m below you? No? Welcome to Ella. This little town on the southeast side of the hill country offers some of the most stunning views in Sri Lanka. The world famous Ella Gap is just one of them, accompanied by the Ravana Ella Falls and the tremendous Adam’s Peak. Tip: Book a hotel with a view on the Ella Gap to wake up each morning to have your mind blown before breakfast.

There’s a charming idyllic train station in the center of Ella that infuses the place with a sympathetic charm – the tourism boom hasn’t quite reached Ella yet. The local taverns offer tasty Curry and traditional meat dishes, no fine dining here. Just authentic, real, delicious food. Our personal highlight was a visit to Asha Suwamedura – a fully equipped Ayurveda Health Resort. Let your body, mind and soul relax while receiving an amazing tingling water massage and watching the vivid nature through the windowfront. Aahh, we want to go back! 

Ella also is a great starting point for you next trekking tour and should definitely be on your itinerary!

2.3 Yala Nationalpark

No Sri Lanka vacation without visiting Yala Nationalpark! Of course a Safari in Sri Lanka can’t be compared to visiting Africa, but it’s still considered to be one of the best wildlife parks in Asia with a wide range of animals such as monkeys, peacocks, sloth bears, wild hogs, bunnies, elephants, water buffalos, crocodiles and countless colorful birds. And of course there’s the undisputed king of the jungle: the mighty leopard. Leopards lead a secretive life and the gods were on our side that day: we saw two of them. Bingo! We managed to get out uneaten and well. Double Bingo! Even the leopards pay their respect to Berlinagenten, no other way to put it.

Another tourist highlight in the area is the brand new luxury hotel Jetwing Yala, who call themselves the “beacon of light in the deep South”. Well, a beacon they are, seeing that 40% of the hotel’s energy requirement is generated by a Solar PV system, making the hotel number one when it comes to sustainability. The hotels boasts a beautifully illuminated 100m pool,  direct beach access complete with mini-bar, lounge area and a gang of good looking lifeguards.

3. Rekawa Beach

Welcome to paradise. Rekawa is a very secluded beach where you can hear every single wave crashing on the shore, feel the unspoilt sand beneath your toes as you take a deep breath and let your mind wander. Nothing comes close to the experience of feeling untroubled and peacefully facing the sea – be mindful not to step on any baby turtles, though. This beach is known to attract different species of turtles in nesting season and with a little luck, you can witness a baby turtle seeing the world for the first time. As not to disturb the little cuties, the Turtle Watch Rewaka is organising the Turtle Watches, so they’re not harmed in their natural habitat. Must see! You can learn more here.

4. Mirissa

Now turtles are fun and all, but what if small animals don’t really impress you that much? No problem. Mirissa is another secluded beach that isn’t really much of a backpacker’s secret anymore, and there’s one unusual activity that makes this place so special apart from its beauty: whale watching. If you’re visiting between December and April chances are pretty good you’ll be able to lay eyes on one of the rarest views in nature – blue whales, baby. The boats leave pretty early in the morning (around 6am) and if you’re lucky you’ll even meet a gang of dolphins, who are known to chance boats for the sport of it! If you can’t wait already, here’s your chance to book a tour.

5. Galle

We love it when different cultural influences blend together and create something unique. While most bigger cities in Sri Lanka don’t exactly look beautiful and tend to be a bit of an insult to your sense of smell, Galle boasts a charming blend of Dutch colonial architecture and south asian vitality. The city is set in a tropical Asian surrounding and still feels a little European – complete with cosy eateries, trendy shops, art galleries and a boom of boutique hotels that offer uncompromising luxury. Galle is the new destination for jetsetters and high end travellers looking for a laid back holiday with colonial flair! We recommend you to visit the Historical Mansion – a bizarre mixture of museum, junk shop, jewellery and craftwork collection found in the ship wrecks off the coast.

6. Bentota Beach

Bentota is home to an uprising hotel scene and boasts 8km of continuous beach with accomodations for every wallet size. Thanks to Sri Lanka’s laws, hotels may not be bigger than the surrounding palms, so don’t worry about concrete block-like hotels messing up the beautiful scenery! Despite the hotels, you won’t meet many people as you take a refreshing stroll along the beach – not even in peak season, which gives the beach a wonderful touch of intimacy.

Just 10km from the town you’ll also find a real gem for every Sri Lanka vacation: Bevis Bawa didn’t lead the usual Sri Lankan life – his father was extremely wealthy, his brother Geoffrey an important architect and Bevis himself a homosexual eclectic known to be a heavy drinker and to throw sex orgies in his Jungle Book like riot of a garden – the Brief Garden. The garden’s countless statues and sculptures are a real eye-catcher and have largely been built by Bevis himself – and here’s the best part: the garden can be visited. There’s a caretaker who offers guided tours for around 1000 Rupees – don’t miss out on this, but don’t touch any statues!

7. Colombo

Our last station is Colombo – Sri Lanka’s booming Capitol. With more than 3 million residents, the urban image is characterized by an ever-going hustle and bustle and many tourists quickly pass through this diverse city on their way to more southern domains. However Colombo’s cosmopolitan site has developed into a wide array of new hotel complexes, galleries, art shops, museums and cosy eateries and is no longer just a frantic stopover for ambitious travellers! Right next to modern skyscrapers you’ll find small shops and joints or even buddhist shrines and colonial churches. The colourful blend of attractions creates the unique urban image and does take some getting used to – but once you find the city’s beauty, it’s hard to ever let go again.

The latest addition to Colombo’s luxury and fine dining scene is the sparkling Arcade Independence Square, which represents the immense efforts put into to beautification of the Sri Lankan Capitol. It’s facing the prestigious Independence Square and has all your needs covered under one roof. There’s a trendy shopping mall with exclusive boutiques and stores, but also a huge selection of upper class restaurants just waiting for your famishing tastebuds to arrive! The Arcade sets new standards for luxury in Sri Lanka and shouldn’t be missed on your to-do-list for Colombo.

Hotels

Sri Lanka offers a wide range of different hotels, however the trend is leaning towards new upscale accommodations. The war created a niche for luxury in the tourism scene that is being filled now, so you’ll find anything from a simple backpacker’s lodge to newly built top notch hotels – no matter the size of your pursue, Sri Lanka is the right place for you. We compiled a list of the most noteworthy hotels on the island:

Amaya Hills (Kandy)

The Kandy House (Kandy)

Heritance Hotel (Nuwara Eliya)

Resort 98 Acres (Ella)

Jetwing Yala (our top pick!)

Jetwing Yala is in close proximity to the Yala Nationalpark and you can literally hear the sounds of wild animals in the distance as you dwell on the hotel’s grounds. It’s a little scary knowing that just a few kilometres away from you, wild leopards might be taking a midnight snack. However the hotel itself is our absolute favourite: luxurious, a huge infinity pool, direct beach access (with a bar!) and a spa that let us forget all about the leopards. Definitely one of Sri Lanka’s upcoming super stars!

Good Karma Hotel (Rekawa Beach) (our top pick!)

Get comfy in your two-store bungalow surrounded by the ocean on one side and the jungle on the other. Almost every night turtles crawl up the shore to lay their eggs in the sand of Rekawa Beach, so be prepared for a tasty turtle soupin the morning! Joking. Good Karma Hotel is your best choice when you’re looking for a quiet, relaxing holiday – deserted beaches, white sand, tropical gardens and monkeys, peacocks and lizards as your direct neighbours. The perfect getaway.

Amanwella (Tangalle) (our top pick!)

Amanwella offers 27 suites that each come with a private pool and terrace, all connected by pathways along a landscaped rise with beach and ocean view. The golden beach is located in a crescent-shaped cove fringed with palm trees, while the resort finds itself surrounded by a coconut grove. Feel jealous yet? There’s also nature walks that wind through the jungle and often end up in the close by village of Tangalle, where you’re free to stroll around and explore Sri Lanka’s village life. Do check your calender every now and then – the risk of forgetting time completely is high with this one.

Jetwing Landesi (Galle) (our top pick!)

Hotels aren’t quite your thing but you still want to spend your vacation with style? Check out the three-roomed Landesi villa near Galle, the undisputed cultural Capital of Sri Lanka’s south. Spacious and luxurious, the dutch villa actually feels like the colonial time wasn’t quite over yet – in fact, if it wasn’t for the showers, air conditioning and electricity you’d be lured into thinking you just took a trip to Sri Lanka’s colonial era. From here the adventures of the South are just a jump and a hop form your doorstep: surfing in Ahamanga, whale-watching in Mirissa or just watching the stilt fisherman – the South pleases all your desires.

Galle Fort Hotel (Galle)

Deco On 44 (Galle)

The Fort Printers (Galle)

Vivanta By Tay (Bentota) (our top pick!)

Remember all these great looking postcards you get from your colleagues while they’re on holiday? This is probably where the stayed while taking them. Vivanta By Tay offers a relaxing stay with gourmet meals, luxurious health and wellness experiences and absolutely breath taking views of the Indian ocean’s blue water. Book one of the 160 rooms and enjoy lush gardens, colonial architecture with red tiled roofs and the terraced infinity pool to cool you down after a long day in the jungle. Absolute stunner!

Restaurants, bars & cafes

Slightly Chilled (Kandy) – Perfect place to get away from Kandy’s hustle and bustle and enjoy a great view over the city.

Cafe Chill (Ella) – A colourful, cozy little café that will make you feel at home in seconds.

Amangalla (Galle) – Eat in the “The Zaal” (The Great Hall) and enjoy a wonderful colonial feel with high ceilings, overhead fans and chandeliers.

Fortaleza (Galle) – Kitchen chef Arun serves some of the finest food in Galle, using only the best seasonal fruits, vegetables and freshly caught fish.

Pedlar’s Inn (Galle) – The first coffeeshop to be established as UNESCO Heritage site.

Raux Brothers (Galle) – Flagship store for handcrafted furniture.

The Three Hotel (Galle) – where Asian design, Scandinavian thinking and western standard melt together.

The Living Room (Galle) – Great atmosphere, screaming colours, glitter, feathers and leopard prints. On of the country’s best bars!

Lucky Fort Restaurant (Galle) – Best dish: Rice with 10 different curries (feeds two). The place boasts a nice living room atmosphere and some great homecooked food, a real insider tip!

Best weblinks 

The Official Sri Lanka Travel Page

Sri Lanka on Rough Guides

Best beaches and hotels

A selection of great beaches

The Tea Experience