Los Angeles Hollywood Sign
13 of the best film locations you can visit in Los Angeles
Immerse yourself in the glitz and glamour of Hollywood by visiting the bars, hotels, restaurants and precincts featured in 2019's most talked about films and television shows. Los Angeles is the undisputed entertainment capital of the world. It has served as the backdrop to countless award-winning films and television shows since Hollywood first became the central hub of the emerging U.S film industry in the early 1900s. This makes L.A. the perfect destination for film and television buffs looking to experience the locations featured in the most talked about films and shows of 2019. [caption id="attachment_46929" align="alignnone" width="600"] The Virgil features in A Star Is Born, starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper.[/caption] A Star Is Born Could there be a more perfect location for a film about a love story between a rock star and aspiring singer than the city where dreams are made? Locals and visitors to Los Angeles can find the locations of some of their favourite scenes in the movie. [caption id="attachment_46930" align="alignnone" width="600"] The Virgil is the set for first time Jackson watches Alley sing.[/caption] The Virgil – The popular East Hollywood bar is the location where Jackson first watches Ally perform La Vie en Rose at the drag show.   Address: 4519 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles [caption id="attachment_46931" align="alignnone" width="600"] Ally perform La Vie en Rose at the drag show at Los Angeles' Virgil bar.[/caption] Greek Theatre – Jack attempts to convince Ally to come with her to his next concert at none other than the Greek Theatre in Griffith Park. Ally decides to take a risk, quits her job and flies to the Greek where Jack convinces her to sing Shallow on stage.   Address: 2700 North Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles [caption id="attachment_46932" align="alignnone" width="600"] A cosier side to The Virgil that we didn't see as much of in the film.[/caption] Chateau Marmont – Ally and Jackson share a moment in their hotel room, filmed at the Chateau Marmont, just before the launch of her album while looking out at her billboard on Sunset Boulevard.   Address: 8221 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles [caption id="attachment_46933" align="alignnone" width="600"] The Chateau Marmont is the setting for the scent in A Star Is Born when Ally and Jackson look out over her billboard just before her album launch.[/caption] This Is Us The award-winning television show may be set in Pittsburgh and the New York tri-state area but it is filmed in the City of Angels. You can find the locations of the show's most heartwarming and tear-jerking scenes throughout Los Angeles. [caption id="attachment_46935" align="alignnone" width="600"] Nickel Diner in Downtown Los Angeles serves up some mouthwatering sweets.[/caption] Godmother's Saloon – 'Froggy's' may be the name of Rebecca and Jack's local Pittsburgh hangout in the show, but Godmother's Saloon, located in San Pedro, is the actual filming location.   Address: 302 West 7th, San Pedro [caption id="attachment_46936" align="alignnone" width="600"] Nickel Diner also happens to be the very diner that Kevin and Sophie share their first kiss in This Is Us.[/caption] Nickel Diner –Downtown Los Angeles's Nickel Diner is the place where Sophie and Kevin had their first kiss and where Kevin attempts to win Sophie back in season one of the show. Customers will be transported back to the 1940s in this vintage-style restaurant.   Address: 524S Main Street, Los Angeles  [caption id="attachment_46937" align="alignnone" width="600"] Nickel Diner is also the same diner Kevin tries to win Sophie back in season one of This Is Us.[/caption] Hotel Café –It is the location of Rebecca's Valentine's Day show in season one and the venue is a Los Angeles musical landmark in Hollywood. Some of the Hotel Café's most notable performers include Coldplay's Chris Martin, Katy Perry, Ed Sheeran and John Mayer.   Address: 1623 ½ North Cahuenga Boulevard, Los Angeles  [caption id="attachment_46938" align="alignnone" width="600"] The Hotel Café is the location of Rebecca's Valentine's Day show.[/caption] Insecure [caption id="attachment_46941" align="alignnone" width="600"] Openaire is located on the LINE Hotel's rooftop in Koreatown.[/caption] The HBO hit series has received countless accolades for depicting a more positive side to life in South Los Angeles than what viewers generally see in mainstream television shows or films. The majority of scenes are filmed in the South L.A. neighbourhood but there are a few hangouts for Issa and friends sprinkled throughout the city. [caption id="attachment_46940" align="alignnone" width="600"] The restaurant was the location of Molly and Issa's brunch in season two of Insecure.[/caption] Mavericks Flat –The location of where Issa runs into Daniel in the very first episode of Insecure. Artists such as the Temptations and Marvin Gaye performed at this Leimert Park landmark, and it was once known as the 'Apollo of the West' during the '60s and '70s when it was one of the foremost jazz, soul and R&B venues in the city.   Address: 4225 Crenshaw Boulevard, Los Angeles  [caption id="attachment_46942" align="alignnone" width="600"] Openaire is Josiah Citrin's new restaurant (formerly known as The Commissary).[/caption] Merkato Ethiopian Restaurant – The city's oldest Ethiopian restaurant plays host to Issa's birthday party in another episode, starring in a scene between Molly and Issa. Located in Los Angeles's Little Ethiopia district, this intimate establishment is the perfect place to enjoy a delicious meal.   Address: 1036 ½ Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles   Openaire – Josiah Citrin's new restaurant (formerly known as The Commissary) is located on the LINE Hotel's rooftop in Koreatown. The restaurant's distinctive greenhouse decor makes it instantly recognisable as the location of Molly and Issa's brunch in season two.   Address: 3515 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles   GLOW Netflix's original comedy pays homage to the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling variety show of the 1980s that was originally set in Las Vegas. Netflix decided to move the show's location to Los Angeles and as a result it gives us a look into the city's colourful history.   The Pink Motel – To prepare for the show the ladies of GLOW are sent to live at the Dusty Spur, which is actually the Pink Motel in Sun Valley. The retro hotel has also appeared on shows such as Dexter and Drive, and while it is closed for business you can still get an outside look at the location before popping in next door to Cadillac Jack’s Cafe, another popular filming location for GLOW.   Address: 9457 San Fernando Road, Sun Valley [caption id="attachment_46947" align="alignnone" width="600"] Ruth and Sam stopped in at the Mayan in Downtown L.A. in GLOW, but you'll also recognise it from scenes in The Bodyguard and A Night at the Roxbury.[/caption] The Mayan – When scouting for locations to shoot GLOW, Ruth and Sam stopped in at the Mayan in Downtown L.A. The historic theatre is intricately designed with Aztec features and has also appeared in The Bodyguard and A Night at the Roxbury. It now operates as a nightclub.   Address: 1038 South Hill Street, Los Angeles [caption id="attachment_46948" align="alignnone" width="600"] The Hollywood Palladium's interior is used as the fictional Hayworth Hotel in GLOW.[/caption] Hollywood Palladium – The women of GLOW decide to film the first episode at the fictional Hayworth Hotel, which uses the interior of the Hollywood Palladium. The exterior of the Palladium was also used in a different episode of the show as a movie theatre screening Back to the Future.   Address: 6215 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood [caption id="attachment_46949" align="alignnone" width="600"] The exterior of the Palladium was also used in a different episode of the show as a movie theatre screening Back to the Future.[/caption] Bird Box Sandra Bullock stars in the chilling Netflix movie Bird Box. The 2019 film has taken over Australia’s screens (and memes!) and travellers will be pleased to learn they can visit the Monrovia home from the film, which is located in Los Angeles County. Monrovia House – Monrovia is located 32 kilometres north of Los Angeles, and this seven-bedroom property is the home of Sandra Bullock and her children in Bird Box. The suburb is also the location of numerous other iconic films, including Legally Blonde, American Pie and Never Been Kissed.   Address: 304 North Canyon Boulevard, Monrovia Travelling to Los Angeles? Here is how you can spend a perfect 48 hours solo in the City of Angels.
Norway landscape
4 travel hotspots you need to explore this year
Norway, Antarctica, Greece and the UK – four of the hottest destinations on the planet right now. Bentours and Tempo Holidays are ready to help you tick them off your bucket list. Norway Experience everything the diverse land of Norway has to offer, from majestic mountains to deep fjords, the wild Norwegian Sea and more. Discover the country’s prettiest towns and most dramatic landscapes on an unforgettable scenic rail journey, then be welcomed aboard a Hurtigruten cruise liner for an 11-day coastal cruise through the intricate archipelago of the Lofoten Islands. It’s all part of the Complete Norway tour – and it’s all done in effortless style thanks to Bentours, the Scandinavian and Polar specialists. United kingdom [caption id="attachment_46912" align="alignnone" width="600"] Make your way out of the cities and into the picturesque UK countryside[/caption] To truly experience the UK’s rich history, you must travel beyond the cities. Ancient sites such as Hadrian’s Wall – a Roman fortification stretching 117 kilometres from the River Tyne to the Solway Firth – lie waiting for you in the Yorkshire Dales. And while you’re venturing north through the Lake District, why not cast your eye towards Scotland and Wales, the land of Celtic culture and castles? Some lie in ruins, others have been home to the same family for generations, and some have been transformed into magnificent hotels for you to explore. Antarctica [caption id="attachment_46911" align="alignnone" width="600"] A once in a lifetime expedition[/caption] Antarctica’s abundance of wildlife and stunning landscapes are simply awe-inspiring. As you cross the Antarctic Circle and approach the shores of the great white continent, the air temperature dips dramatically – but the breathtaking scenery and unique fauna of this frozen wilderness make it all worthwhile. Marvel at some of the highest and most spectacular glacier walls, or be inspired by the Lemaire Channel that is so beautiful it has been dubbed ‘Kodak crack’ by photographers. Greece [caption id="attachment_46914" align="alignnone" width="600"] Visit the iconic ancient site of Olympia which hosted the inaugural Olympic Games[/caption] If you love history, sunshine, amazing food and classic postcard images of crumbling temple ruins or whitewashed houses with blue shutters, Greece cannot be equalled. Imagine having the chance to explore 4000 years of history at iconic sites such as the Acropolis and the Parthenon. Then imagine what it must have been like for athletes from a different time, striving for glory at the ancient Olympic Games site at Olympia. Then just lie back and relax by the sea on one of Greece’s stunning islands, contemplating which Mediterranean culinary delight to sample for dinner.   For tailor-made holidays, package tours, expedition cruising and more, visit bentours.com.au and tempoholidays.com or see your selected travel agent.
Forest with autumn leaves and river
4 reasons we’re falling for Aomori in autumn
The pretty little Japanese prefecture of Aomori still remains somewhat off the tourist trail, making its natural beauty and fascinating history even more captivating to those who discover it, and ultimately fall in love with it. Even for a country bestowed with as many natural assets as Japan, Aomori is a rare beauty. Set on the northernmost tip of Honshu, the prefecture is one of the country’s most bewitching. Embracing the sea like a crown, embellished with emerald forests that transform to rubies and amber come autumn, and with beautifully preserved traditions dating back to the Edo period, it’s astonishing Aomori remains relatively unknown.   While tourists flock to Japan’s larger cities and flood her snow-frosted mountains, Aomori sits quietly, tending to her apple orchards, admiring her changing foliage, and enjoying the bounty of the sea at her feet. But those who know her (of which you may now consider yourself one), come year round to revel in her summer festivals, admire her soft blossoms in spring, put ski to powder in winter, and hike her autumn woodlands. [caption id="attachment_46904" align="alignnone" width="600"] Enchanting Autumn leaves[/caption] In fact, autumn in Aomori is particularly enchanting, no matter what your interests. If you’re planning a visit to Japan this season, make sure you find your way to this partially hidden gem to unearth a little more of her persuasive charms. 1. For the love of nature The Japanese are known for their deep appreciation of nature. The meditative, re-energising influence of our terrestrial environment can be experienced by all of us, if we take the time to acknowledge the shudder of leaves in a breeze and the ceaseless rhythm of flowing water. This sentiment is easily understood with a visit to Towada Lake, the largest caldera lake on Honshu, and the calming Oirase Mountain Stream, both of which are part of the Towada-Hachimantai National Park. Stop by Towada Art Centre to see how the lake has shaped the community and inspired many, while the cascading stream will restore peace to anyone who hikes alongside. [caption id="attachment_46905" align="alignnone" width="600"] Take a relaxing stroll around Towada lake[/caption] If Towada has ignited your enthusiasm for nature, make the Shirakami Mountains your next stop. At this UNESCO World Heritage Site you’ll find the largest virgin beech forest in the world. Or take in the magnificent autumn leaves with a stroll around the Hakkoda Mountains and explore the ethereal beauty of the lake system, Lake Juniko, which is surrounded by a blaze of red and orange come autumn. 2. For history and art of the ages Aomori prefecture is bestowed with incredible art galleries, museums, and historical sites. Not to be missed is the Aomori Museum of Art. The sleek, minimal building designed by Japanese architect Jun Aoki proudly houses collections from local Aomori artists, as well as a permanent collection that includes the works of celebrated pop artist Nara Yoshitomo. Nara’s 8.5 metre Aomori-Ken dog statue is an adorable highlight.   Another must-see location for art and history lovers alike is Hirosaki Castle. Built during the Edo period in 1611 by Nobuhira, lord of the Tsugaru clan, the castle, complete with moats, yagura towers, and 2600 cherry trees, is widely touted as one of Japan’s most elegant. [caption id="attachment_46907" align="alignnone" width="600"] See the Hirosaki Castle grounds transform during the Autumn Foliage Festival[/caption] 3. For unwinding your mind and body If you’re looking to completely disconnect from your digital life and surrender to simplicity, make your way to Aoni Onsen. As the crisp autumn air takes firm hold in Japan, there are few things more relaxing than enjoying a traditional onsen. Lit only by oil lamps, Aoni Onsen is known as the Lamp-no-yado or the ‘Lamp Inn’. This authentic and remote ryokan is the only place to stay here, so be sure to book ahead. Surrender to the art of idleness, because there’s no internet, TV, or electrical outlets, just four different baths, wholesome home-cooked food, and nature. Bliss! [caption id="attachment_46906" align="alignnone" width="600"] A must-do when in Japan![/caption] 4. For affairs of the stomach Thanks to its position curled around the sea, Aomori benefits from incredibly fresh seafood. You’ll sample the bounty of sea-dwelling delights wherever you dine, but a visit to the lively Auga Market, a fish market in the centre of town, is unmissable for food-lovers. Be sure to try the ichigo-ni, a simple but restorative dashi-broth fish soup featuring abalone and sea urchin.   Aomori Prefecture also grows most of Japan’s apples. An Aomori apple is likely to be the juiciest and crunchiest you’ve ever tried with the balance of sweet and tart at near-perfection. You can try the apples in an array of treats, but don’t leave without biting straight into the whole fruit just as nature intended.   Getting there: Take the 80-minute flight from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Aomori or you can arrive by train from Tokyo in about 3.5 hours.   For more information about Aomori and to plan your trip, visit en-aomori.com; facebook.com/hakkodajapan; facebook.com/aomori.jp.
Wendy Wu Machu Pichu
Five reasons South America needs to be on your 2019 hit list
A continent of captivating beauty, layered history and plenty of rhythm,  South America is a must-visit destination.  Wendy Wu Tours gives you five reasons to join the party this year in South America. Machu Picchu This 15th-century Peruvian marvel is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World and is pretty much on everyone’s bucket list. Don’t let that deter you; there’s a reason so many flock to this UNESCO World Heritage site. Set in the Andes Mountains, its location would be spectacular on its own – however, the ruins of this Incan citadel will leave you awestruck. Cartagena Colombian, Caribbean and colonial, the 16th-century port city of Cartagena is a delightfully intoxicating mixture of heat, heritage and hedonism. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Cartagena is a city to get lost in. Plans are futile, so give in to the rhythm of this charming port and discover why it has captivated so many travellers. [caption id="attachment_47212" align="alignnone" width="600"] The picturesque city of Cartagena.[/caption] Patagonia Glaciers don’t generally come to mind when you think of South America, but they should. Patagonia, a geographical area at the southernmost tip of the continent, spans both Argentina and Chile and is a seemingly limitless wilderness of ice and rock. On the Argentinian side is El Calafate, the ‘National Capital of the Glaciers’, home to the spectacular Perito Moreno Glacier. [caption id="attachment_47213" align="alignnone" width="600"] Baby blues, the Perito Moreno Glacier.[/caption] Iguacu Falls The waterfalls of the Iguacu River, which lie on the border of Argentina and Brazil, are nothing short of spectacular. Dramatic and captivating, the 275 cascading falls span a three-kilometre stretch within the lush Iguacu National Park. Watch this thundering display of Mother Nature’s might and feel very, very small. [caption id="attachment_47214" align="alignnone" width="600"] The many faces of Northern Argentina[/caption] Rio De Janeiro It’s virtually impossible to travel to South America and not swing into Rio. This Brazilian metropolis is a high-definition riot of colour and carnivale, from the beaches to that lush mountainous backdrop and the frenetic energy coursing through the streets. Samba is the beat this city dances to and everyone’s invited to the party. [caption id="attachment_47215" align="alignnone" width="600"] Bathed in sunlight.[/caption] Let Wendy Wu Tours take you to South America. For more information on tours and destinations in South America visit wendywutours.com/south-america or call 1300 177 506
Where to find the best dessert in Rome
Italy is home to the some of the world’s most decadent foods – and dessert is no exception. Creamy Italian gelato and classic cannoli are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Italian desserts available for your consumption… [caption id="attachment_46792" align="alignleft" width="600"] Rome is a plethora of sweet[/caption] The below list sifts through the best nooks, hole-in-the-wall dessert bars and fine dining restaurants to experience the sweet side of Roma. Gelato An Italian ice-cream, made of whole milk, sugar and egg yolks, paired with a wide range of flavours (think traditional, more than a few seasonal and even some experimental). Gelateria Del Teatro Gelateria Del Teatro is one of three gelaterias owned by Stefano and Silvia Marcotulli in Rome, and is home to (arguably) the best gelato in the city. [caption id="attachment_46782" align="alignleft" width="600"] A heavenly hole in the wall[/caption] Featuring a delightful frontage of hanging pot plants and crates of produce visible through a glass window, and situated on a cobblestone street in true Roman fashion, this establishment is true to its heritage. This also extends to the flavours represented on the menu: including traditional cottage cheese gelato, with either sour cherries and butter crumble or almond and fig.   The ‘laboratory’ out the back of their main gelateria also offers a few inventive flavours. Try the ‘white chocolate and basil’ for a surprisingly delicious combo, the ‘Amalfi lemon’ made with organic lemons from the Amalfi coast or the ‘Grandma Cream’ boasting Italian caramel pine nuts.   Address: Via dei Coronari, 65/66 Giolitti A stone’s throw from the Pantheon, and not too far from the Trevi Fountain, this gelateria is a convenient excuse to stop and reenergise before getting back into tourist mode.   Italian accents adorn the interiors, with marble floors, wooden panelling and chandeliers aplenty. [caption id="attachment_46784" align="alignleft" width="600"] Italian architecture at its best[/caption] The main feature, however, is the gelato.   Creamy, cold and creative are the best words to describe it. And with flavours like yoghurt, whisky cream, walnut and coconut there is every reason to get yourself to Giolitti (maybe on the way to the Pantheon and on the way back?).   Address: Via degli Uffici del Vicario, 40, Rome   Other honourable mentions include Fatamorgana, Gelateria Fassi and the local favourite La Neviera. Tiramisu A classic dessert made from savoiardi, or ladyfingers – biscuits doused in coffee (and sometimes also rum) – layered with mascarpone and fresh egg custard dusted with chocolate powder. Da Enzo A classic Italian trattoria, Da Enzo serves a range of Italian delicacies. Try the fried artichoke and the fettuccini with pecorino cheese and pepper, but, whatever you do, save room for a tiramisu dessert. [caption id="attachment_46785" align="alignleft" width="600"] One of Rome's most charming dessert stops[/caption] Served, simply, in a curved glass, this tiramisu is void of the superfluous flair that often attracts tourists – but boy is it delicious. Creamy and sweet, with a hit of coffee and mascarpone that begs you to take another bite.   You have the option to share, but I wouldn’t suggest it.   Address: Via dei Vascellari, 29, Rome Zum Dedicated to the Italian delicacy, this is the best place in Rome for both traditional, and quirky, tiramisu desserts. [caption id="attachment_46786" align="alignleft" width="600"] Zum is dedicated to the Italian delicacy[/caption] You cannot go past the original (with only a layer of hazelnuts deviating from the traditional recipe), but if you are feeling a little experimental try the pistachio-, strawberry- or rum-flavoured tiramisu.   Like us, these guys are obsessed with the dessert, to the point of a new creation – the tiramisu cookie.   You can eat in, at the stylish, bar-like establishment, or grab-and-go, savouring the flavour as you meander the old streets of Rome.   Address: Piazza del Teatro di Pompeo 20, 00186, Rome. Cornetto A crescent-shaped pastry, similar to the French croissant (but the Italians argue it’s better!). Antico Forno Roscioli This is your one-stop-shop for the humble cornetto. With a crisp pastry exterior, and the slightly sweet, slightly chewy middle, this is the best in Rome. You can have your cornetti plain, or filled with jam, cream or Nutella – best enjoyed between sips of a cappuccino before the morning rush.   Address: Via dei Chiavari, 34, Rome   Also try out the cornetti at Pasticceria Barberini, for an equally delicious breakfast. Cannoli A sweet, tube-shaped, pastry filled with sweet, creamy ricotta filling. I Dolci Di Nonna Vincenza Nonna is the namesake of this restaurant and it shows.   Hailing from Sicily – home of the cannoli – the owners of I Dolci Di Nonna Vincenza know how to make an authentic cannoli. Try the traditional ricotta cream filling, dipped in pistachio dust, sprinkled with icing sugar – yum!   Address: Via dell'Arco del Monte, 98/A/B, Rome Ciuri Ciuri Hailed as the best cannoli joint in Rome (by the locals no less!), Ciuri Ciuri is the destination for value, flavour and fresh pastry. [caption id="attachment_46793" align="alignleft" width="600"] Locals know this place as the best cannoli joint in Rome[/caption] The house favourite is the pistachio cream cannoli, best served with one end dipped in crushed pistachios and the other in chocolate chips (although you do get a choice of several toppings). Chocolate chip cream, mascarpone cream and chocolate hazelnut filling are other honourable mentions for an unforgettable cannoli experience in the city’s Monti district.   Address: Via Leonina, 18/20, Rome
Reflection of road in car side mirror
Three of the best USA road trips: canyons, national parks and the blues
Tour the United States the way you’ve always wanted to, with DriveAway. When it comes to enjoying the open road, it’s hard to go past the USA. Go off-route, find your own way, and explore this vast country and its fascinatingly diverse states with DriveAway, the self-drive specialists.   With limitless stretches of highway, breathtaking landscapes, classic routes, and of course the Mustangs… the United States just might be the best country for a self-drive road trip. Vast and varied, you’ll encounter everything from snowfields to deserts, and beaches to forests.   The best thing about travelling through the US on four wheels is you’ll have the freedom to make detours and discover unexplored roads. Hire a car or motorhome with DriveAway and see where the road takes you. There are countless must-see stops along the way, but your journey is only limited to your imagination. [caption id="attachment_46774" align="alignnone" width="600"] Feel the wind in your hair.[/caption] Head to DriveAway to find a number of inspiring drives that are sure to ignite your wanderlust, here’s a few to get you started. Grand Canyon National Park This year the Grand Canyon National Park is celebrating its centenary, making it an excellent time to visit. The park may be your destination, but when you self-drive you have the freedom to take the long way around. Make it a desert experience, and stop by Palm Springs, taking in Joshua Tree National Park, before heading to Las Vegas for a little fun. Yellowstone National Park The world’s first National Park, Yellowstone is incredible no matter the season. Go hiking, camping, fishing, or choose to take a leisurely horse ride in the warmer months. Visiting in winter means skiing and snowmobile tours. Pick up one of DriveAway’s comfortable motorhomes and make your way to the park, allowing the attractions of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota to lead you astray in the most enjoyable way. Follow the blues Let the unmistakable rhythm of the blues direct a relaxed itinerary from Nashville, Tennessee to New Orleans, Louisiana and discover one of the USA’s most celebrated treasures. During your visit, stay and linger in towns with incredible live music scenes, or pass through Tunica, Mississippi dubbed ‘The Gateway to the Blues’. Pay a visit to Elvis’ Graceland, and indulge in the rich Creole culture of vibrant New Orleans.   For more USA driving routes and to book the perfect car or motorhome, see your local travel agent or visit driveaway.com.au/top-drives and begin planning the road trip of a lifetime.
7 cities you should be visiting in 2019
Exploring a new city is a perennial travel pursuit, introducing the potential to discover bustling neighbourhoods, stunning sights and local tastes. Here, we present you with a few cities on the rise that should definitely be on your itinerary in the coming year. 7. Belfast The Northern Ireland capital of Belfast has come a long way in the last few decades, with a new cosmopolitan outlook, attention-grabbing attractions such as the resolutely modern Titanic Belfast arriving on the scene, and a Games of Thrones-generated buzz that shows no sign of abating, especially given the arrival of the immersive Game of Thrones: The Touring Exhibition at the TEC Belfast in April, which will showcase everything from the costumes and props to the mythical lands of Westeros and Essos. [caption id="attachment_46768" align="alignleft" width="600"] Titanic Belfast is the World's largest Titanic visitor experience[/caption] 6. Palermo With a population of less than 700,000, what the locals of the Sicilian city of Palermo lack in numbers they more than make up for in passion. [caption id="attachment_46764" align="alignleft" width="600"] A taxi for tourists parked near the Cathedral of Palermo[/caption] The residents of the Italian island see themselves as Sicilian first, Italian second (the former Kingdom of Sicily only became part of Italy in 1861, and was named an autonomous island region in 1946), and the capital city is their crowning glory, where the influences of invaders such as the Byzantines, Romans and Moors have melded over the centuries to stunning effect.   As the Italian Capital of Culture in 2018 the city got to show off its time-worn wonders, from its Sicilian Baroque architecture (visit Piazza Vigliena, known locally as Quattro Canti), its soaring cathedrals and churches, as well as its laid-back approach to life. 5. Tbilisi Georgia and its capital Tbilisi are definitely making up for lost time; the Caucasian country, which spent most of the 20th century under Soviet rule, has established itself as something of a hotspot of late with new designer hotels sprouting up and a society dedicated to progress; the Constitutional Court of Georgia recently legalised marijuana consumption. [caption id="attachment_46766" align="alignleft" width="600"] The leaning clock tower is located next to the Gabriadze theater[/caption] Just saying. 4. Cuenca While Ecuador’s capital of Quito had a moment a few years back, the southern city of Cuenca (officially known as Santa Ana de los Ríos de Cuenca) is emerging as the next place to discover in the South American country. [caption id="attachment_46762" align="alignleft" width="600"] Colonial architecture in Cuenca, with the Cathedral Of The Immaculate Conception's blue tiled dome in the background[/caption] Located in the Andean Mountains, the historic centre of the colonial city is a UNESCO World Heritage site, its stunning collection of squares, parks and churches, as well as its hulking blue-domed cathedral, begun in 1885, making it the perfect place to lose yourself in for a few hours, or a few days. 3. San Juan The city of San Juan, capital of Puerto Rico (the ‘unincorporated territory of the United States’), bore the brunt of the natural and political disaster that resulted when Hurricane Maria made landfall in September 2017. [caption id="attachment_46765" align="alignleft" width="600"] Strolling the streets of San Juan[/caption] But the island is now well and truly open for business again and keen for visitors to discover its unique personality, which combines Caribbean and Latin influences, its cobblestone streets lined with pretty pastel-hued houses (pictured) and its palm tree-fringed beaches. 2. Helsinki Any city that has an annual Sauna Day (9 March if you are wondering) goes to the top of our list of places to visit. But this most Finnish of experiences is just one of the many attractions Helsinki possesses to recommend it. [caption id="attachment_46763" align="alignleft" width="600"] Dramatic sunsets at the Tower Of Helsinki Cathedral[/caption] The Nordic capital is a compact and easily navigated city with surprising architectural wonders (some areas of the city resemble St Petersburg thanks to the country’s time as part of the Russian Empire from 1809 to 1917, while others celebrate the modern style of Finnish design superstars like Alvar Aalto), a picturesque harbour, thriving Nordic food scene and a positive, healthy lifestyle that is the envy of others around the world. 1. Tel Aviv One word: Eurovision. After Israeli singer Netta emerged victorious from the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest held in Lisbon, Tel Aviv was confirmed as the venue for the 2019 competition, to be held on 18 May. [caption id="attachment_46767" align="alignleft" width="600"] Surfers in action in a Jaffa sunset[/caption] For those who aren’t interested in the kitsch singing contest, Israel’s economic capital also has a raft of new hotels in the city centre and the historic port city of Jaffa (pictured), a buzzing restaurant scene and an estimated 4000 buildings showcasing Bauhaus design (it’s known as the ‘White City’ as a result).
5 secret bars in London and how to find them
Hidden in London’s rabbit warren of streets – between the old pubs and office buildings, trendy cafes and quirky shops – are some stellar secret cocktail bars to get acquainted with. The Blind Pig Hidden above Michelin-star restaurant Social Eating House in Soho is the American underworld-themed bar The Blind Pig. Named after American slang for a drinking den during the Prohibition, this has strong whiskey and cigar vibes reminiscent of 1920s New York.   All dim lighting and mahogany trim, this establishment is decked out with vintage fittings, an antique mirrored ceiling, reclaimed wooden chairs and a copper-topped bar. Boasting cosy leather bar stools and booths, and a drinks menu of strong spirits, quality cocktails and craft beer, this is the perfect London hideout.   Cocktails are also named after your favourite childhood tales: think The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s 5 a Day (Patron Silver tequila, lime cordial, apple, pears, plums, strawberries and oranges); Harry Potter’s Best Bottle Butter Bitter (Scotch whisky, beer, butterscotch, bitters, thyme and citrus); and Jemima Puddle-Duck’s Fowl Play (Aylesbury Duck Vodka, blood orange, honey, herbs and spices). The menu is an artwork in itself, with each cocktail description paired with a gorgeous illustration to feast your eyes on.   Finding this gem of a bar, from street level, is a challenge. Look for the vintage, neon red and white ‘Optician’ sign, and below you will find a brass, blindfolded pig doorknocker. Once you find this, you’re in. Just don’t tell anyone.   Address: 58 Poland Street, London W1F 7NR Discount Suit Company Named after the tailor’s shop that was based at this spot, and whose sign is still (mostly) mounted on the brick corner of the old building, the Discount Suit Company is an underground bar with the best of everything: in the heart of London, very intimate and home to the best exotic and classic cocktails. [caption id="attachment_46741" align="alignleft" width="600"] With the original sign (somewhat) in tact, the Discount Suit Company holds plenty of history[/caption] With exposed brick interior walls, wood furnishings and ambient lighting, this bar blends romance with a touch of grunge. The dressmaker’s mannequin in the corner of the bar is a true tribute to the bar’s former life, but I am very sure the space is happy with this new breath of life.   Nibble on artisanal cheeses from London’s own Neal’s Yard Dairy as you sip your Wooly Back (pisco, white Port, coconut, jasmine, citrus and vitamin C) or your classic Piña Fumada (mezcal, Velvet Falernum, pineapple, lemon, honey and club soda).   Locating the entrance is tricky, and once you do, watch your head on the steep descent into the basement (and be even more careful on your way out, half intoxicated).   Address: 29a Wentworth Street, London E1 7TB Experimental Cocktail Club Found in the depths of bustling Chinatown behind an old door with peeling paint, the ECC is an easy one to walk past on first go, but a hard to resist once you’ve found it.   Spread over three storeys, the establishment’s industrial bones – pressed-metal ceilings and exposed bricks – are offset by minimalist interior design, mirrored walls and blackout curtains to atmospheric effect. It’s the perfect combination of lively and intimate, but make sure you book in advance – this is a popular spot. [caption id="attachment_46742" align="alignleft" width="600"] Brooding interiors at The Experimental Cocktail Club[/caption] Experimental cocktails include the Stockholm Syndrome (Ketel 1 vodka infused with cumin and dill, Linie Aquavit, lemon juice, syrup, pink Himalayan rock salt and bitters) and the Grandaddy (Buffalo Trace bourbon, Cynar, lemon and grapefruit juice and rosemary-infused honey). Classics are also on the menu, with a choice of 50s, 60s or 70s gin in your vintage martini.   Address: 13a Gerrard Street, London W1D 5PS Milk & Honey A member’s bar with a yearly fee, this is an upper-class club with a lot of sass. Serving a bunch of house rules with their amazing cocktails, you are expected to dress a certain way and act a certain way as a condition of entry.   As a non-member, you can still frequent the bar if you book a table in advance, preferably earlier in the week. There are non-member specific spots in the three-storey establishment, housing chesterfield couches, low lighting (aided by candles scattered through the bar), and pressed-metal ceilings. Just stepping in this exclusive bar makes you feel like a politician, a movie star or a someone who plays golf on a weekday.   The Bumblebee cocktail is divine, with dark rum, honey, lemon and angostura, and Satin Sheets tastes like it sounds, with a combination of tequila, falernum and lime. Of course, this bar also serves a range of fancy Champagne and wines, and a grazing menu worthy of kings. Try the homemade tuna samosas, the buttermilk-fried chicken bun or the cured meat board.   With no signs, the big metal door is the only signifier that Milk & Honey really exists. Check left and right, make sure no one is looking, and then enter. Voilà, you’re in!   Address: 61 Poland Street, London W1F 7NR King’s Head Members Club Positioned in the hip East End suburb of Hoxton, this bar is hidden behind the facade of a rundown British pub – but don’t be fooled: inside is another story. Its opulent and eclectic interiors are characterised by a startling collection of exotic taxidermied animals, including a cheetah standing atop an antique cabinet.   Thousands of butterflies line the dining room and peacocks are scattered around the bar; an assortment of antique furniture, much of it lined with red velvet, create a luxurious ambience. [caption id="attachment_46743" align="alignleft" width="600"] Unexpected interiors at The Kings Head[/caption] The King’s Head is another private member club and non-members need to score a spot on the guest list to gain entry – whether that’s to the bar or one of the club’s many events, from life drawing to burlesque shows. Emailing in advance to scope out what’s on is your best bet for getting in.   The club is home to some knock-out cocktails including the Goose Lemonade (Grey Goose Vodka, Chambord black raspberry liqueur, fresh raspberries topped with lemonade) and Aviation (Bombay Sapphire Gin, Maraschino liqueur, crème de violette and lemon juice).   Great drinks, an eccentric theme and unique events make for a marvellous time at this exclusive and secret London bar.   Address: 257 Kingsland Road, London E2 8AS
6 incredible places to stay in Europe
The Eiffel Tower, the ancient ruins of the Acropolis, and Rome’s Colosseum are undeniably monumental landmarks on a European holiday hit list. But once you’ve checked off these historical and architectural wonders, there are plenty of lesser-known but equally remarkable destinations so we've compiled a list of 6 incredible places to stay in Europe. [caption id="attachment_46676" align="alignnone" width="600"] The perfect place to rest your head.[/caption] 1. Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany [caption id="attachment_46683" align="alignnone" width="600"] Get your culture vulture on at Neuschwanstein Castle.[/caption] Germany’s past holds a powerful fascination for history buffs. You might be surprised to learn that one of Germany’s most popular attractions is an enchanting castle in Bavaria. Neuschwanstein Castle is famous for inspiring Walt Disney’s fairytale kingdom and it’s easy to see why.   Hotels.com recommends staying at the AMERON Neuschwanstein Alpsee Resort & Spa in the idyllic Bavarian village of Schwangau. This remarkable hotel fuses modern, stylish accommodation with a spectacularly picturesque setting. [caption id="attachment_46699" align="alignnone" width="600"] You're guaranteed to get an amazing night sleep.[/caption] For an authentic Bavarian experience stay at the Hotel Schwansee, loved by hotels.com travellers. Just three kilometres from the town centre and less than two kilometres to the castle, the 2.5 star Hotel Schwansee is comfortable, quaint and full of Bavarian charm. [caption id="attachment_46679" align="alignnone" width="600"] A magical Bavarian escape.[/caption] 2. Prague Castle, Hradčany, Czech Republic [caption id="attachment_46680" align="alignnone" width="600"] Set your eyes to stun at Saint Vitus Cathedral.[/caption] Always ranked highly in the ‘best of European destinations’ lists, Prague is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Hradčany, known as the Castle District, is home to some of the biggest castles and historical palaces in the world, dating back to the 9th century. Prague Castle comprises several palaces, churches, forts, and stunning gardens spanning an area of approximately 45 hectares.   Showcasing all the old world beauty of this World Heritage listed city centre, the 4-star Hotel Golden Star is just two kilometres from Prague Castle making it the perfect place to stay. 3. La Sagrada Família, Barcelona and Alhambra, Granada, Spain [caption id="attachment_46681" align="alignnone" width="600"] 135 years in the making.[/caption] Spain’s balmy Mediterranean climate draws many tourists annually. With vibrant cities such as Barcelona, it’s little wonder the country is so popular. But draw yourself away from the beach long enough to visit the spectacular Basilica De La Sagrada Família and you won’t regret it. The unique temple is the work of famed architect Antoni Gaudí and has been under construction for more than 135 years, with an anticipated completion date of 2026. [caption id="attachment_46698" align="alignnone" width="600"] You'll almost never want to leave.[/caption] Where to stay nearby? Check out the Sensation Sagrada Familia. Comprising 32 stylish apartments and a rooftop terrace overlooking the La Sagrada Família construction site, this 4-star hotel is given a 9.4 out of 10 by reviewers.   For a taste of Spain’s incredible Moorish history, travel south down the coast from Barcelona to gorgeous Granada and visit the historical site of Alhambra. Originally constructed as a fortress in AD 889, Alhambra was converted into a royal palace in the mid-13th century. A selection of hotels less than one kilometre from Alhambra are easy to find on hotels.com. [caption id="attachment_46682" align="alignnone" width="600"] Ola![/caption] 4. Aurora Borealis, Reykjavik, Iceland [caption id="attachment_46689" align="alignnone" width="600"] Bucket list material.[/caption] Iceland has become a favourite with travellers in recent years, and what better reason to go than to see one of nature’s most incredible sights, the Northern Lights. Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, is where you need to be, on the southern shores of Faxa Bay. The best time of year to see the Northern Lights is in the winter months, between September and March.   Where to stay while star-gazing? Skuggi Hotel by Keahotels is located near Reykjavik’s popular tourist haunts, making it easy to find a vantage point from which to absorb the spectacular Aurora Borealis. 5. The Széchenyi Chain Bridge, Budapest, Hungary [caption id="attachment_46691" align="alignnone" width="600"] Hungary at its finest.[/caption] Rated one of Europe’s most idyllic places to live, romantic Budapest is home to countless magnificent monuments. Of significant historical and architectural interest is the 375-metre-long Széchenyi Chain Bridge, built in 1849.   For a luxury 5-star stay in Budapest near the Chain Bridge, check into the Four Seasons Gresham Palace, which scores exceptionally well with hotels.com reviewers. For a more budget-friendly option consider the Starlight Suiten Hotel, a 3.5-star hotel near the Chain Bridge. [caption id="attachment_46692" align="alignnone" width="600"] Afternoon delight.[/caption] 6. The Wadden Islands, Holland [caption id="attachment_46695" align="alignnone" width="600"] Other worldly.[/caption] Spanning the shores of the Netherlands, Germany, and all the way north to Denmark, the Wadden Sea is home to approximately 50 remarkable islands, only five of which are inhabited. This World Heritage Site is a natural spectacle, switching from ocean to tidal flats, where the daily tidal ebb and flow allows you to walk on the seabed.   Accessing each of the islands by ferry is easy; visit hotels.com for several accommodation options. The typically Dutch architecture of the top-rated Hotel Texel makes it an incredibly charming place to bed down, as does its proximity to the beach, its indoor pool and sauna, and full spa service.
A guide to Hong Kong’s best neighbourhoods
Hong Kong is one of the most hyper-lit and compelling cities in the world, a landscape of jutting skyscrapers rendered in metal and glass. But at ground level, the spaces between these futuristic obelisks are populated by bustling communities living life on a much more human scale.   Setting out on foot is the perfect way to see the metropolis in all its colourful, quirky and aromatic glory. Central and Sheng Wan Hong Kong Island is the beating commercial heart of Hong Kong, but it also possesses a sense of soul that is often missing fr om business districts.   One of the reasons for this is its rich colonial history. It was in Old Town Central that the British first planted their flag in 1841; the spot known as Possession Street was once situated on the waterfront but thanks to land reclamation it’s now surrounded by buildings. [caption id="attachment_46686" align="alignleft" width="600"] Old meets new in Tai Kwun[/caption] Any exploration of Hong Kong Island requires a good deal of time spent wandering the streets and alleyways of Central and Sheung Wan, where an eclectic mix of historical sites, restaurants, shops and markets are crammed together in a wondrous harmonious jumble. Hollywood Road The first thing you need to do is arm yourself with an Old Town Central self-guided walks booklet from the Hong Kong Tourism Board and set off along Hollywood Road, the busy main thoroughfare from which you can dart off in different directions depending on your whim. Tai Kwun Heritage and Arts Centre Your first stop should be the newly revitalised Tai Kwun heritage and arts centre.   Made up of the former Central Police Station, Central Magistracy and Victoria Prison, the historic buildings now house dedicated museum space detailing the chequered history of the complex; you can wander the old cells and find out things like what the prisoners were fed through interactive exhibits, as well as lofty exhibition spaces and a collection of shops (check out the Taschen store with its shelves stacked with beautiful art tomes), restaurants and bars, including the aptly named Behind Bars, where drinks are served in the old cell blocks.   If it is too early to stop for lunch, make a mental note to return later in the day or in the evening to sample Madame Fu’s imaginative dim sum menu.   In the old prison exercise yard a resolutely modern building clad in an intricate web of woven metal is an arresting contrast to the historic buildings it sits next to. I find out that it actually houses the infrastructure for the air-conditioning units required to cool the complex to cater to modern tastes; keeping the prisoners comfortable in the past obviously wasn’t a priority. [caption id="attachment_46684" align="alignleft" width="600"] A local temple[/caption] Where to find: 10 Hollywood Rd, Central PMQ Another historic building given a new lease on life is the PMQ, the former Police Married Quarters on Aberdeen Street. [caption id="attachment_46685" align="alignleft" width="600"] Artwork in PMQ[/caption] Built in 1951 on the former site of the first government school in Hong Kong, the mid-century architecture is all clean lines stacked on top of one another and grouped around a central courtyard. The former married quarters that would have housed serving police officers and their families have now been given over to young artists and designers to develop and sell their creations, and well as a number of restaurants, bars and shops. Where to find: 35, Aberdeen St, Central PoHo and SoHo Two of the most interesting neighbourhoods to get lost in are the catchily named PoHo and SoHo. [caption id="attachment_46688" align="alignleft" width="600"] Wandering women in PoHo[/caption] Short for South of Hollywood Road, SoHo comes alive at night with ex-pats and locals heading out to the bars and international restaurants that serve up cuisines as diverse as Lebanese, pub grub, Vietnamese and Italian. During the day the whole scene is quieter, with boutiques and antiques shops to browse.   The charmingly boho PoHo is concentrated around a collection of streets lined with funky little shops, galleries and cafes and teahouses. Where to stay Located on Pottinger Street, known as ‘stone slab street’, The Pottinger is a gracious 68-room luxury boutique hotel with generous rooms and the prettiest lobby I have even seen, filled with chinoiserie vases of flowers and foliage. Afternoon tea in the restaurant if a must even if you aren’t a guest. [caption id="attachment_46687" align="alignleft" width="600"] The graceful Pottinger hotel[/caption] Mong Kok and Prince Edward Arriving into Mong Kok at night is possibly the best introduction you can have to this Kowloon neighbourhood, famed for its bustling streets lit with countless flashing neon signs for every imaginable service and establishment, as well as its density of people.   This is where the workers who flock to Hong Kong Island on a daily basis return to at the end of the day, so the vibe is a lot more local than across the harbour, although the sheer number of people on the streets can be confronting at times. Exploring here and in neighbouring Prince Edward offers up sights, sounds and tastes that are sure to intrigue and delight. The Bird Market One of my favourite places to visit when I am in Hong Kong is the Bird Market, located on Yuen Po Street. [caption id="attachment_46696" align="alignleft" width="600"] Songbirds hanging out (literally!) at Mong Kok's bird market[/caption] Here myriad traditional bird cages containing tiny, colourful songbirds hang in rows, and a weird and wonderful array of bird food can be purchased including live crickets and grubs. Older gentlemen gather here to socialise and show off their prized pets, which trill away in the sunshine while they chat.   The cages on sale at the various stalls are fabulous souvenirs, although they can make for ungainly carry-on luggage on the flight home.   Where to find: 37 Flower Market Rd, Mong Kok The Flower Market Another market worth taking a wander through is the flower market that stretches along Flower Market Road in Prince Edward. The footpaths here are festooned with fresh flowers and plants, creating a heady scent in the air.   Make sure to take a closer look in the stores that specialise in phalaenopsis orchids if for no other reason than they are absolutely beautiful to see.   Where to find: Flower Market Rd, Prince Edward The Goldfish Market Rounding out the trio of fascinating markets in the area is the Goldfish Market along Tung Choi Street North. Each of the shopfronts is covered in bulging plastic bags filled with water and all manner of fish, while inside tropical breeds of every colour and size attract top dollar from collectors. [caption id="attachment_46693" align="alignleft" width="600"] Fish on sale at the goldfish market[/caption] Where to find: 43-49 Bute Street, Bute St, Prince Edward Tung Choi Street One of the best places to see Mong Kok’s characteristic neon lights, which are strung up over the busy streets below in the hope that they will grab the attention of passersby, is Tung Choi Street.   hile the lights alone are enough to mesmerise, illuminating the streets below with their glow, the array of services they advertise is also diverting, from beauty products and cameras to restaurants and hotels. Sham Shui Po One of the latest neighbourhoods to start generating a buzz (and get its own handy self-guided walks book) is Sham Shui Po, a working-class area of Kowloon where you can see locals go about their everyday business, shopping for tofu made fresh on Fuk Wing Street or stocking up on dinner provisions at the local wet markets.   The whole place has a wonderfully worn aesthetic, but at the same time is packed with personality. Where to shop Shopping in Sham Shui Po is one of the major attractions of the neighbourhood, and it’s easy to find exactly what you want given that many of the streets are named for the goods that are found there – Leather Street (Tai Nan Street), Bead Street (Yu Chau Street), Button Street (Ki Lung Street); you get the idea.   One of the most colourful of these shopping streets is Ribbon Street (Nam Cheong Street), where narrow shops display spools of brightly coloured ribbons, rope and cord, as well as all kinds of craft supplies. [caption id="attachment_46702" align="alignleft" width="450"] Toy shops to keep the little ones happy[/caption] The area is also a mecca for budding fashion designers who come here to rummage through the bolts of fabric for sale at the slightly ramshackle Yen Chow Street Hawker Bazaar, or shop for fashion pieces at wholesale prices along Cheung Sha Wan Fashion Street. [caption id="attachment_46700" align="alignleft" width="450"] A wet market in Sham Shui Po[/caption] Another fun street to promenade along, especially if you have little people you are trying to entertain, is Toy Street (Fuk Wing Street), where some 30 stores overflow with dolls, balls, board games and all manner of Disney characters. The Man Fung Building One of the neighbourhood’s most Instagrammed sights is the Man Fung Building, a skinny block sandwiched between nondescript concrete constructions that got a statement-making makeover during HKwalls’ 2016 festival.   Madrid-based street artist Okuda covered the building in colourful geometric shapes, crowned with an animal face (some people think it’s a dog, some think it’s a wolf) that looks out over the streets from a lofty height.   Depending on where you view it from (up high is said to be best) the muzzle of the animal seems to be almost 3D, an optical illusion that has resulted in a wave of Instagrammers risking life and limb climbing over security fences on neighbouring buildings to get a better selfie.   The practice made the newspapers during my visit. [caption id="attachment_46701" align="alignleft" width="450"] Instagram users risk life and limb to get a photo with Okuda's street art animal[/caption] Where to find: 180 Tai Nan Street, Sham Shui Po  Bo Wah Effigies One of the most interesting places to duck into while walking is Bo Wah Effigies, a cramped studio where nimble-fingered artisans fashion paper effigies to be burnt to honour the dead.   The intricate creations are miniature works of art, depicting everything from cars to sushi to vintage coffee flasks.   Where to find: 2C Fuk Wing Street, Sham Shui Po
Where to eat and drink in Hong Kong
When it comes to food, there are not many places on Earth where the locals take more delight in the act of eating, or where they have so much choice of where to go, than Hong Kong; the pursuit of food is almost a national sport here. From one-star Michelin restaurants where a bowl of noodles costs just $3 to fine dining to rival anything in Europe to funky eateries where the locals indulge their love of flavour and design, it’s all on the table here. To eat:  More for less It is ridiculous how many Michelin-starred restaurants Hong Kong has, but the awarding of this culinary accolade need not imply that a meal is going to cost you through the nose. Hong Kong has a raft of local, no-frills restaurants in possession of one Michelin star or a Michelin recommendation (one star adjacent), where the food is wonderfully flavoursome and shockingly inexpensive. Tim Ho Wan You might have heard of this humble chain, who have a number of outlets in Hong Kong serving up some of the best dim sum you are likely to taste. The wait can be long, but it’s worth it for the pork buns alone. [caption id="attachment_46642" align="alignleft" width="600"] The Michelin Star Yum Cha at Tim Ho Wan[/caption] Tsim Chai Kee Expect steaming bowls of noodles and wontons: the broth is delicious, the noodles wonderfully chewy and the wontons plump and plentiful.   Where: Wellington Street, Central Cheung Hing Kee Shanghai Pan Fried Buns A standing-only bolthole serving up pan-fried soup dumplings that are crispy on the bottom and filled with pork swimming in aromatic soup.   Where: Lyndhurst Terrace, Central Hidden gems Mrs Pound  There are restaurants and bars to be found down every alley in Hong Kong, but a true hidden gem is Mrs Pound in the Sheung Wan neighbourhood, a speakeasy hidden behind a lock shop. Inside there’s a street food inspired menu.   Where: 6 Pound Ln, Sheung Wan [caption id="attachment_46643" align="alignleft" width="600"] Laksa prawn dumplings at Mrs Pound (Photo: Leigh-Ann Pow)[/caption] Yat Lok A lowkey, unassuming joint that fits in among the many food haunts in Hong Kong Central. Line up for the roast goose – which garnered its reputation for its shatter crisp skin and delicious flavour.   [caption id="attachment_46644" align="alignleft" width="600"] Award winning goose at Yat Lok in central (Photo: Leigh-Ann Pow)[/caption] Where: 34-38 Stanley Street, Central Djibouti Remember that “open a restaurant in an alley trend”? Well, Hong Kong invented that. And one of the first was Djibouti. Even now, the restaurant/bar attracts a cool crowd attempting to get their hands on the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. Come for the baba ganoush, stay for the lavender-based cocktails.   Where: Shop 1, G/F, 2 Landale Street, Wan Chai High end RyuGin It has long been a boasting opportunity for Hong Kong travellers to say they have enjoyed a meal at RyuGin. Located on the 101st floor of the ICC, Hong Kong’s tallest building, the modern Japanese restaurant offers lucky diners panoramic views of West Kowloon’s harbor and Hong Kong’s skylines. As for the food, Michelin star chef Seiji Yamamoto flies ingredients from Japan on the daily, with the ten-course Kaiseki meal earning the restaurant two Michelin stars.     Where: West Kowloon, Hong Kong L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon If it's French fare in small portions you're after, you'll feel right at home at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon.   Located within The Landmark (HK's luxury shopping center), the restaurant is owned by legendary chef Joël Robuchon, who holds the most Michelin stars in the world.   Where: Shop 401, 15 Queen's Road Central, Central To drink: No matter what you choose to drink, there’s guaranteed to be an outlet close by dedicated to serving it up in style. Cupping Room Coffee culture is thriving in Hong Kong, where the locals like their brews served strong. Cupping Room has four cafes serving up its own beans roasted in Hong Kong. Filters Lane At Filters Lane in Central the young staff busy themselves creating the perfect cup of brewed coffee from the beans they have roasted in the New Territories or imported blends. Even the decaf is thick, dark and robust.   Where: 111 Caine Rd, Mid-level, Hong Kong Craftissimo If your taste runs more to beer, you are going to want to visit Craftissimo in Sheung Wan, a dedicated craft brews bottleshop, or search out Craft Brew & Co. that has craft beers on tap. [caption id="attachment_46645" align="alignleft" width="600"] Craftissimo for dedicated craft brews (Photo: Leigh-Ann Pow)[/caption] Where: Tai Ping Building, Shop D, G/F, Sheung Wan, 22-24A Tai Ping Shan St, Sheung Wan
The best street art and graffiti in Hong Kong
It's no secret that Hong Kong's street art scene is starting to take off. The city is home to some of the most exciting and innovating street art and graffiti installations the world over – if you know where to find them of course... Graham Street It is early in the morning and I’m standing on the corner of Graham Street in the Central neighbourhood of Hong Kong Island looking at one of the most Instagrammed sights in the city.   It’s a street artwork by artist Alex Croft, commissioned by the celebrated Hong Kong design brand Goods of Desire (G.O.D), whose Hollywood Road store it adorns the side of, depicting the now demolished Kowloon Walled City. [caption id="attachment_46632" align="alignleft" width="600"] Local artist Alex Croft’s colourful mural of old townhouses has probably popped up on your feed once or twice[/caption] Where to find: Opposite The Globe, 45-53 Graham St, Central. The history The depiction of the hotchpotch house fronts of the former unsanctioned housing development is not the biggest, the brightest or the most detailed of the street art daubed across walls and buildings in this part of the city, but something about it has captured the collective imagination of locals and visitors alike.   Or so I am told, because at this time of the morning I am the only one looking at it as I stand with my tour guide Alexandra Unrein of Hong Kong Street Art Tours. A former Lufthansa flight attendant, the Berlin-born ex-pat has married her passion for Hong Kong with her love of art, and is a wealth of knowledge about the thriving street art scene here. [caption id="attachment_46631" align="alignleft" width="600"] A shop front utilises its own version of street art to sell sugar cane juice[/caption] As we start to walk she tells me the story of how the whole street art movement was jump-started with the staging of the first HKwalls event in 2014 in the Sheung Wan area of the island.   Founded by Stan Wu and Jason Dembski as a reaction to the lack of representation and respect for street and graffiti artists during the gallery-focused, ticketed events of HK Art Week (now Hong Kong Arts Month), HKwalls was established with the aim of transforming nondescript city walls throughout the city into vibrant original art, with visiting artists from around the world invited to create large-scale works in public spaces that would be accessible for everyone. [caption id="attachment_46636" align="alignleft" width="600"] Hong Kong street art is a fabric in its own right[/caption] The democratisation of art proved a winner with locals and visitors alike, and this year’s festival, the sixth, will be the held in the frenetic Wan Chai area from 23 to 31 March. Shing Wong Street As Alexandra leads me along Hollywood Road she stops routinely to point out works from the 2018 festival: a pair of floating carp on Shing Wong Street by Danish artist Christian Storm, whose distinctive signature covers a metal roller door next to his finished piece: a hazy, rainy night scene of taxis and neon down a narrow side street by British artist and muralist Dan Kitchener, aka Dank. [caption id="attachment_46634" align="alignleft" width="600"] Storm's arresting work for HKWalls 2018[/caption] Where to view: Shing Wong Street at the junction with 82 Hollywood Road.   Elsa Jean De Dieu There’s the work of Elsa Jean De Dieu, a French muralist who studied fine arts and interior design before becoming a street artist, a vocation that seemed inevitable when you find out her grandparents were street artists as well.   Where to view: 11D, Man Lok Building, 89-93 Bonham Strand, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong Szabotage Alexandra points out a bright orange and blue koi by British artist and interior designer Szabotage; the fish forms a theme of his work, with most irreverently flipping the bird with one of their fins. New York-based artist Jerkface paints abstract interpretations of beloved cartoon figures influenced by a childhood spent watching Saturday morning cartoons. Cinta Vidal On the side of a building (complete with a window) we come across a dreamscape of twisted, interlocking architecture floating in space by Catalonian artist Cinta Vidal. Instead of using spray paint she painted it by hand in the traditional mode of a muralist. [caption id="attachment_46633" align="alignleft" width="600"] Artist Cinta Vidal painted this with traditional paint instead of spray paint[/caption] Where to view: 52-56 Staunton Street, UG/F, Central, Hong Kong The London Police We find a work by The London Police, two guys from Essex named Bob and Chaz, framed by recyclable rubbish from a neighbouring restaurant waiting to be collected.   The group of comical smiling people they call LADS make the slightly dishevelled street scene almost endearing. Zoie Lam One of my favourite works is a bright abstract of primary and day-glo colours painted on a wall behind a narrow inner-city garden bed. It is by Zoie Lam, a fashion designer turned artist whose signature inclusion on all her works is a cast of blobby figures who inhabit the planet she creates called Zlism. Vhils One of the last pieces we come across is truly impressive: an entire two-storey house that has been chipped away at to create destruction graffiti. The artist responsible for this almost 3D effect, Lisbon native Vhils, has etched out faces on the concrete shell of the building.   Viewed from a distance the effect has a slightly sepia, nostalgic feel; up close you can see the hand-drawn sketch lines that mapped out the work, hinting at the intensity of labour it took to realise his vision.   Where to find: Pak Tin Par Street (Tsuen Wan District), Hong Kong   -   While many of the street artworks have become tourist attractions in their own right, to be searched out and appreciated for their artistic merit, to the locals they are just part of the fabric of life in the vivid, constantly changing cityscape, passed by on the way to somewhere else they need to be.   Reverence can’t be paid to each and every creation on a daily basis when you’ve got other things to do.

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