City Getaways: Ultimate Bucket List
Quick, what’s your perfect day in New York City? Does it entail a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and a romantic dinner at a three-Michelin-star restaurant? Or a shopping spree among SoHo’s boutiques followed by orchestra seats for the latest Broadway hit? Maybe a Yankees game—hot dogs and cold beer included—is what tops your list of must-dos.
Hotelier, entrepreneur, and born-and-bred New Yorker Ivanka Trump has her own version, which crisscrosses Manhattan. Because let’s face it—you’ll never find a consensus on what constitutes the perfect NYC day. That’s the beauty of the world’s great cities: while they have their strong suits, they also are everything to everyone. Whether it’s inspiring art, cool shopping, historical close encounters, or just a fun night out that you’re after, you’ll find a memorable experience on T+L’s bucket list of the best city getaways.
Think you already have London checked off? Bet you haven’t hung out with cabbies over bacon-and-egg sandwiches (or sarnies, in the local lingo), as recommended by our insider, designer Anya Hindmarch. Been to New Orleans for Mardi Gras? Next time, spend an evening at Preservation Hall, where the house band plays old-time jazz—a tip from author and native New Orleanian Walter Isaacson.
Art aficionados, don’t expect the usual suspects. Sure, Velázquez’s masterpieces make a big first impression in person, but Goya’s turbulent Black Paintings, also housed in Madrid’s Prado, are equally unforgettable. Great modern art can be found outside of the usual zip codes. Exhibit A: the meditative Rothko Chapel in Houston. And don’t miss our tip on how to find your way into the secret passage in Florence’s Uffizi Gallery.
For some travelers, slipping into rhythms of the everyday is the best thing about a jaunt to another city. It’s a chance to act out life’s what ifs. So take up tango in Buenos Aires, learn to salsa in Miami, or go clubbing in Berlin. Read on to discover which urban destinations deserve a place on your own life list. — Jennifer Chen
The fifth-century-B.C. temple devoted to Athena remains the ne plus ultra of man’s monuments to the divine. The best view? From the rooftop bar of the Grande Bretagne Hotel.
Filled with mosques, palaces, souks, and artisan workshops, the ancient walled medina has barely changed since the ninth century.
Salvador de Bahia, Brazil
Every Tuesday feels like carnival in the Pelourinho district (Old Town), which comes alive with frenzied revelers, shirtless samba dancers, and drummers juggling flaming sticks.
New York City
How to condense New York City into a single perfect day? Here’s one take, from hotelier, entrepreneur, designer, and lifelong Manhattanite Ivanka Trump.
10:30 a.m.: “The exhibits at the Museum of Modern Art are so inspiring. I like to pick up stylish housewares at the museum store.”
1 p.m.: “Head to Casa Lever ($$) for antipasti; the dining room is very Mad Men.”
2:30 p.m.: “Stroll through Central Park to see the Carousel—my daughter, Arabella, adores it.”
3:30 p.m.: “You’ve got to make time to shop, so hop a cab to SoHo. Two musts: Odin for men’s wear and Warby Parker for great sunglasses.”
8 p.m.: “My husband and I love Supper ($$$), in the East Village. The mint pasta is insanely good.”
The best day in London is layered with one-off experiences. Accessories designer Anya Hindmarch shows you how to fit it all in.
8 a.m. Go for breakfast at the historic cabmen’s shelter on Pont Street ($); it’s for cabbies only, but you can sweet-talk them into making you a bacon-and-egg sandwich.
10 a.m. Gallery-hop in Mayfair: Haunch of Venison and Timothy Taylor are standouts.
Noon: Take a turn through Old Spitalfields Market before exploring East London’s heritage architecture.
1 p.m. Stroll to the Rochelle Canteen ($$) for lunch, then cab it to the Museum of Brands, a window into 20th-century consumer culture.
5:30 p.m. Grab a delicious sausage toast at the Dock Kitchen ($$$).
7:45 p.m. The Royal Court Theatre gets it right with every production. Case in point: Jez Butterworth’s The River is now playing.
Vasa Museum, Stockholm
A meticulously reconstructed wooden warship that sank in 1628 and remained mired in mud for centuries, which kept its masts, cannons, and intricately carved ornamentation—even a chamber pot—fully intact. vasamuseet.se
“My trip to Jerusalem with my daughter was so special. The Holocaust museum at Yad Vashem during a downpour was melancholy and unforgettable. The boats of the heroic Danes and the deeds of others on the Wall of Remembrance are the exceptions that prove the rule of selfless heroism.” —Amy Fine Collins, writer
“I could’ve spent years at the Grand Bazaar, in Istanbul, sifting through rugs and kilims, the amazing baubles at Sehrazat, and the all-natural bath products at Abdulla. The trip informed my entire Resort 2013 collection. Everything I saw—the jewel-like colors; the architecture of the Old City; the handcrafted decorative details—added up to a dazzling inspiration board.” —Michael Kors, fashion designer
Nightlife here still carries the frisson of the underground. There’s no sign at Tausend; just look for the light above the door under the railroad bridge and knock. Inside you’ll find a loungy vibe and inventive cocktails. Dance until the wee hours at nearby Cookies, tucked into an alley behind the Westin Grand.
There’s no better city for architecture buffs than the birthplace of the skyscraper. See the standouts with an expert from the Chicago Architecture Foundation.
- Carson Pirie Scott: proto-Modernism by Louis Sullivan.
- Seminal Prairie style by Frank Lloyd Wright at Robie House.
Mies van der Rohe’s 860-880 Lake Shore Drive.
The Palio is a medieval-era race held twice each summer, complete with horses and riders decked out in colorful costumes. Stay at the nearby Castel Monastero ($$$$), which will set you up in a private apartment to view the action.
Go behind the gates of the city’s private gardens—splashing fountains; boxwood topiaries; ancient live oaks—with Charleston Tea Party Private Tours (843/577-5896).
Spend an evening admiring the glowing canal houses from a saloon boat.
“One of the world’s greatest concert halls is the Musikverein, in Vienna, the home of the Vienna Philharmonic, known for the quality of its acoustics.” —Riccardo Muti, conductor
The city reveals its charms once you step off the tourist-clogged path. Thomas Jonglez co-authored the Secret Venice guidebook and recommends shopping at L’Angolo del Passato, where Venetians buy contemporary and vintage glassware, and ditching the (pictured) crowds at St. Mark’s Basilica by going to vespers services (5:30 p.m. in winter; 6 p.m. in summer) or the 6:45 p.m. mass. Entry is through a door on the north side.
Cape Town, South Africa
“Cape Town is the only place I know where I can indulge almost all of my interests simultaneously. It has beaches on both the Atlantic and Indian oceans, several indigenous cuisines, and a major wine region inside the city limits: Constantia.” —Jay McInerney, writer
Rothko Chapel, Houston
A gorgeously meditative space is surrounded by the artist’s somber canvases of black and purple. rothkochapel.org
Museo del Prado, Madrid
Visit the room of haunting Black Paintings, completed by Francisco Goya in the years before his death in 1828.
Palacio Nacional, Mexico City
Diego Rivera painted a series of stirring, politically tinged murals depicting Mexican history inside the national palace. palacionacionalmexico.com
Freer Gallery, Washington, D.C.
The Peacock Room is James McNeill Whistler’s masterpiece of decoration in gold, blue, and green. asia.si.edu
An unmarked doorway in the Uffizi Gallery leads to the hidden Vasari Corridor, the Medicis’ secret passage, lined with 17th- and 18th-century paintings and a collection of self-portraits by such artists as Titian, Bernini, Rubens, and Delacroix. A private guide is required; book through Context Travel.
Nothing captures the moody, magical soul of the city like a stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake, when mist shrouds the surface and fabled giant turtles patrol the depths. The adjacent Old Quarter is a joyful chaos of street-food vendors and honking motorbikes swerving past crumbling façades. After all that, savor the calm of the poolside bar at the Sofitel Legend Metropole.
“I grew up watching vintage Italian movies, but it wasn’t until my forties that I finally got to Rome. It was worth the wait. The people-watching is off the charts—even the nuns and priests at the Vatican are stylish. Buy a sloppy gelato at San Crispino and fantasize about jumping into the Trevi Fountain like Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita.” —Simon Doonan, creative ambassador at large, Barneys New York
The Kremlin, Moscow
Hidden inside the red walls of the fortress, you’ll find the Diamond Vaults, which house the Russian crown jewels. For a closer look, book a guide with Exeter International so you can ogle the 19th-century Empress Maria Fyodorovna’s shimmering blue-diamond stickpin.
New Orleans, LA
“Chartres Street is my favorite in New Orleans and has wonderful bookstores and music. But when it comes to jazz, nobody plays it better than the house band at the landmark Preservation Hall.” —Walter Isaacson, author and president of the Aspen Institute