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Editor’s Find: The Secrets of St. James’s, London

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Sandwiched between Piccadilly and The Mall in London’s West End, St. James’s may be the most-traveled-through but least-known neighborhood in London. At least, that’s my take-away after spending a recent Tuesday morning walking through its historic streets, courtyards, and mews in the company of Frank Laino, executive concierge of the Stafford London in the heart of St. James’s. After 16 years of catering to the wishes of clients at the discreet, upscale Stafford hotel, Laino knows St. James’s like few others, and recently began squiring hotel guests on foot tours. Here are some of the most intriguing stops on his itinerary.

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Renovation Plans Moving Ahead for Venice's Jewish Ghetto

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German-Jewish designer Diane von Furstenberg recently announced she will help launch a $12 million project to restore Venice's Jewish Ghetto.

She joins real estate investor Joseph Sitt and the Venetian Heritage Council, the philanthropist group funding the restoration. Once completed in 2016, the area will also become a UNESCO World Heritage site, which coincides with the ghetto’s 500th anniversary. 

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London Will Make One Lucky Winner the Ultimate VIP

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If time, money, and insider access were yours for the asking, how would you spend your next visit to London? Let me make it easy for you with a menu of choices: Being served afternoon tea at the Lord's Cricket Ground by Mr. Carson, the butler from Downton Abbey. Joining the cast of a West End smash show, onstage, as an extra. Blasting a shot from the big guns of the HMS Belfast, a warship that fired one of the first salvoes on D-Day. Raising the roadbed of Tower Bridge to accommodate a passing ship on the mighty Thames. Prowling the hidden corners and most regal of public spaces in the Houses of Parliament, accompanied by no less than the Speaker of the House of Commons. Or how about all these things, and many more iconic London experiences, during a two-week luxury stay in the English capital? Would you like that? Neither would I. No, wait, just kidding! Yes, I would. I want to do them all, and maybe I will--unless you beat me to it.

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Eiffel Tower Debuts Daring New Attraction

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Paris's Iron Lady is celebrating her 125th birthday with a modern, $38.4 million facelift. She’s come a long way since her debut as a temporary attraction in 1889.

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Ellis Island Hospital Opens Today for Tours

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History buffs and fans of American Horror Story will love the chipped paint and cracked porcelain sinks, the stained tiles and rusting hospital beds in the halls of the Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital—open to visitors today for the first time in 60 years. 

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Pingyao: A Look Into China's Past

Pingyao

You expect Marco Polo to round the corner at any moment. Pingyao is the very rare Chinese city, perhaps the last of the country’s great walled towns, to have escaped the successive waves of modernization that have swept China over the past 100 years—the 1911 Chinese Revolution, the 1949 Communist Revolution, the 1966–76 Cultural Revolution, and the rampant industrialization and globalization of the last generation. Its 72 watchtowers look out over a turbulent sea of tiled roofs, with curving eaves tipped with ceramic dragons. Red paper lanterns float over the pedestrian streets like so many autumn moons. The city is a time machine into the Chinese past and traditional Han culture. It’s all here, Pompeii before Vesuvius, a fine-grained, highly detailed, movie-set-perfect microcosm of traditional China, built during a seminal and flourishing period. The nearly one-square-mile town includes the ornate, tiered, three-story City Tower and numerous large Confucian and Taoist temple complexes, all part of one of the world’s best-preserved ancient cities.

Pingyao is 400 miles southwest of Beijing and accessible via train. The closest airport is Taiyuan.

Photo: Tony Law

Mediterranean Lighthouses To Get a Makeover

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Over the next 18 months, lighthouses around the Mediterranean are going to get a makeover. The multi-country Mediterranean Lighthouse Project, known as MED-PHARES, intends to restore nine historic lighthouses, lanterns and watchtowers in Italy, Tunisia, Lebanon and France, with the hope of reaching out to more throughout the Mediterranean.

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Daily Transporter: Shrinking Boston

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An exhibit at the Boston Public Library compares the modern city with the Boston of a century ago. One surprising revelation: even with a steady influx of immigrants in the past ten years, the city still has not regained its 1910 record-high population of more than 670,000.

See Boston in Best Chinese Restaurants in the U.S.

Editor’s Picks: Boston
America’s Coolest Distilleries
America’s Best Comedy Clubs
America’s Top Free Attractions

Ann Shields is a senior digital editor at Travel + Leisure. You can find her on Twitter at @aegisnyc. Get the Daily Transporter newsletter in your in-box.

Photo courtesy of T+L Photo Contest

Daily Transporter: Sleep in a Castle Tower

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In 1951, the government of Portugal fashioned a hotel within the stone towers and turrets of the 13th-century castle at Obldos, creating the first in a network of 35 pousada-hotels. The buildings aren’t all castles—some were convents, monasteries, forts, granaries, or royal estates—nor are many as traditionally outfitted as the Castelo de Obidos.

See Obidos in Europe’s Best Affordable Castle Hotels

Editor’s Picks: Portugal
25 Secret European Villages
New Wonders of the World
Best Secret Beaches on Earth

Ann Shields is a senior digital editor at Travel + Leisure. You can find her on Twitter at @aegisnyc. Get the Daily Transporter newsletter in your in-box.

Photo courtesy of T+L Photo Contest

Daily Transporter: Secret Prohibition Tunnels

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When Germans settled in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, they—being Germans—began brewing beer. Tunnels dug beneath OTR were intended as lagering cellars but came in handy during Prohibition. (Cincinnati also sits above seven miles of subway tunnels from an never-completed system.)

See Cincinnati in America’s Best Road Trips

Editor’s Picks: Cincinnati
America’s Best Beer Gardens
Best French Restaurants in the U.S.
America’s Best Outdoor Bars

Ann Shields is a senior digital editor at Travel + Leisure. You can find her on Twitter at @aegisnyc. Get the Daily Transporter newsletter in your in-box.

Photo courtesy of T+L Photo Contest

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