European Port Cities: Insider Guides

European Port Cities: Insider Guides

Paula Ospina/Courtesy of El Mordisco
Paula Ospina/Courtesy of El Mordisco
When locals are the guide, T+L learns that there’s more than meets the eye in these European port cities.

Pisa, Italy

Designer Cecilia Iacobelli and chocolatier Paul de Bondt, husband-and-wife team behind Pisa’s De Bondt Chocolate: “This place is so much more than the Leaning Tower. There’s also a buzzing food and art scene.”

8 a.m.: The couple start their day with cappuccinos and cornetti at Keith Art Shop Café (breakfast for two $6), which recently opened opposite a colorful Keith Haring street mural.

10 a.m.: De Bondt concocts award-winning chocolates with everything from rose oil to fennel at the De Bondt Chocolate Workshop, which offers tasting tours. Meanwhile, Iacobelli checks in at the De Bondt Cioccolato e Affini, their shop downtown. In stock: artisanal teas, jams, and (yes) chocolates.

Noon: Lunch at Il Montino (lunch for two $35), a tiny restaurant with a delicious cecina (chickpea pancake) and thin-crust pizzas, is always first-rate.

2 p.m.: They visit the nearby Parco di San Rossore—a conservation zone with a racetrack—to source pine nuts and honeys.

4 p.m.: For an ice cream break, they are wild about Gelateria De’ Coltelli. Best flavors: ginger, pumpkin, and saffron.

5 p.m.: A cool new gallery to see works by emerging contemporary artists? Palazzo Blu.

8 p.m.: On weekends, Pisans love Ristorante Artilafo (dinner for two $100), which serves traditional dishes such as wild-boar tagliatelle.

10 p.m.: A postprandial stroll across the Piazza dei Miracoli reveals an illuminated Leaning Tower. “It looks like a surreal dreamscape,” Iacobelli says. —Valerie Waterhouse

Cannes, France

Fabrizio Bozzolan, head concierge at the Hôtel Martinez, in Cannes: “I live in the best part of the Côte d’Azur. It’s rare to find so much within such a small town.”

8 a.m.: The Forville Market (Tuesday–Sunday, 7 a.m.–1 p.m.) and surrounding cafés offer colorful people-watching and the day’s first espresso.

10 a.m.: Over the past 20 years, Bozzolan has given advice to film legends and royalty alike at the stylish Hôtel Martinez (doubles from $307), on the city’s Croisette.

Noon: Where to go for the freshest seafood? Fred l’Écailler (lunch for two $41).

1:30 p.m.: After lunch, Bozzolan suggests a walk up to the Old Town. “From the highest point, near l’Église Notre-Dame de l’Espérance, there’s a beautiful view.”

2 p.m.: The way back to the Croisette is via the pedestrianized Rue Hoche, with its cafés, tearooms, and Confiserie Bruno, which makes “the world’s best marrons glacés.”

2:30 p.m.: Take a 15-minute ferry ride to the Îles de Lérins. Try wine made by monks at L’Abbaye de Lérins, on the walkable Île St.-Honorat.

8 p.m.: There’s no place like La Table du Chef (dinner for two $110) for haute comfort food. Reserve ahead.

10 p.m.: The English-style lounge Le Black Pearl (drinks for two $33) is perfect for a nightcap. —Alexandra Marshall

Helsinki, Finland

Ville Kokkonen, director of Artek, the Finnish furniture company cofounded by Alvar Aalto in 1935: “With its Modernist designs and small islands just off the coast, Helsinki tends to inspire creative minds.”

8 a.m.: Kokkonen’s preferred breakfast spot? Café Ekberg (breakfast for two $25). “It’s got an old-school atmosphere and the best puuro [porridge].”

10 a.m.: From Market Square, take a ferry to Suomenlinna (, an 18th-century island fortress and unesco World Heritage site. Explore the huge granite ramparts before heading to the cliffs for “an unforgettable Baltic vista.”

Noon: For Finnish specialties like pike cake with a pickled-cucumber sauce, Kokkonen visits Ravintola Juuri (lunch for two $40), in Kantakaupunki. While in the area, he drops by the national Design Museum.

2 p.m.: Aalto House (admission $23) is a “unique shrine to the Modernist era.” A minimalist white box, it contains many of Aalto’s iconic, sculptural pieces.

4 p.m.: When it comes to vintage shopping, the Kruununhaka district is unbeatable. Vanhaa Ja Kaunista, Finnish for “old and beautiful,” sells tumblers by Aino Aalto (Alvar’s first wife).

8 p.m.: Ateljé Finne (dinner for two $100), a former sculptor’s studio in the Töölö area, has contemporary local dishes (elk sausage; stuffed Baltic herring) and “lots of character.”

10 p.m.: Sip champagne in Maxill (drinks for two $22), a cozy Helsinki bar and restaurant. —Stephen Whitlock

Barcelona, Spain

Rosa Maria Malet, director of Barcelona’s Joan Miró Foundation: “Architecturally and culturally, the city has many layers—and a human scale.”

9 a.m.: Dunking light-as-air melindros pastries into super-thick hot chocolate at Granja-Xocolateria La Pallaresa (breakfast for two $12) is Malet’s morning indulgence.

10 a.m.: Now showing at the Joan Miró Foundation (admission $11), besides works by the famous Catalan: British art, from 1945 to 1968—that is, postwar to Pop.

Noon: Malet can’t resist the fideuá (like paella, made with pasta instead of rice) at Merendero de la Mari (lunch for two $112).

2 p.m.: The Gothic cloister at the Pedralbes Monastery is “one of the city’s most tranquil spots.”

4 p.m.: Barcelona’s best contemporary art galleries—including Galeria Senda—are clustered within the trendy L’Eixample district.

6 p.m.: Don’t miss Joyería Moska, a vintage jewelry boutique that “looks like a museum.”

9 p.m.: With its urban-chic décor and classic Catalan dishes such as a salad of tuna belly with Montserrat tomatoes, Mordisco (dinner for two $50) is Malet’s favorite new dinner spot. —Andrew Ferren

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