As with most European cities, some of the best things to do in Venice involve visiting iconic sites. Think the Bridge of Sighs. And the Rialto Bridge. St. Mark’s Square and the Basilica. Beyond those, however, this island city offers a lot more to do, especially if you stay overnight.
Venice has a reputation for being one of the most romantic cities in the world, and for good reason. The absence of motor vehicles creates an unusual quiet, even with the throngs of tourists. Water laps at buildings, and the meandering narrow streets become a delightful puzzle. The distinctive architecture creates a beauty that defines Venice. Taken all together, you can feel as though you’ve fallen back to another era.
Most Surprising: How every building is at water level
Most Iconic View: the Grand Canal, from the Rialto Bridge
On a recent trip to this Catalonian city, I tracked down where to eat tapas in Barcelona. Although we usually seek out some upscale restaurants in a given city, this time we opted for more casual dinners of tapas. Of course, we often added a bottle of cava or a carafe of sangria or a glass of Priorat or Rioja. Life was good in Barcelona!
The caramelized onion boule with cheese and meat at Cascade the Restaurant wowed both my husband and me on a recent visit. The presentation was phenomenal, and the flavors complemented one another. We especially loved the flavor of the mini-boule at the center of the board. I vowed to reproduce it at home, from the bread centerpiece to the aesthetics of the whole arrangement. Note: “boule” is the French word for a round loaf of bread.
The best things to do in Barcelona range from the ancient to the modern. The Barri Gòtic and its maze of narrow streets harken back to its Roman beginnings while the dramatic glass high-rises near the water scream contemporary architecture. And Gaudì? You cannot escape the city without visiting several of his iconic modernist buildings.
Most iconic sight: the almost-finished Sagrada Familia
Best Itinerary Theme: Visiting everything Gaudì
Best tapas: Ciutat Comtal
Wildest dining experience: El Nacionaltapas
Most worthwhile day tour: Mount Serrat
Most disappointing: Not everything is within walking distance
The Four Seasons Hotel Sydney has all the luxuries one would expect from the brand. The premises are open and modern, with clean lines. And the well-trained staff, particularly the concierges, offer cheerful greetings and lots of assistance. If you want to stay in, you can always head to the coffee shop for a snack or to the Mode Kitchen and Bar for a gourmet meal. Although I didn’t try it myself, Grain Bar looked fun.
Décor: Luxury modern
Location: The Rocks
Room Size: Comfortably large, but not huge
Best amenity: the offer of showers in the spa upon arrival
Advantages: Excellent location, steps from the Circular Quay
Disadvantages: The ground floor event space can spill out into the lobby
Tip: Rates vary with season and length of stay. Be on the lookout for deals.
During a recent trip to Australia, I narrowed down where to eat in Sydney. I’ve done all the research and the taste-testing for World Oyster readers so that you won’t be disappointed. (Hey, someone had to do it!) All you need to do is read, book, and go.
When trying to plan the best things to do in Sydney, I found that I had to re-vamp my expectations of visiting an international city. Yes, Sydney has culture and, yes, Sydney has history; however, unlike European cities, you won’t find yourself steeped in the past. Instead, you end up embracing the now.
Most surprising: how the climate allows for outdoor activities, year round.
When I visited the Netherlands earlier this year, I wanted to carefully plan where to eat in Amsterdam. Sometimes I chose by location. Other times, I wanted to satisfy my inner foodie. Not familiar with Dutch cuisine, I had no idea what to expect. On my visit I discovered that while Dutch cuisine, even at a Michelin-starred restaurant, embraces different ingredients and styles than I’m used to, the food can be delicious.
You can’t go wrong with any of the below. From Michelin-starred restaurant to casual bar, each offers quintessentially Dutch ingredients prepared in a style unique to the establishment.
The delightfully quirky Hotel Estheréa in Amsterdam earns a spot as one of my favorite hotels of the year. The lobby’s eclectic décor entices hotel guests to look and linger. Each day, the staff puts out a tier of Dutch cookies and chocolates that guests can accompany with complimentary espresso, cappuccino, or tea. Plus, the location can’t be beat. Our trip to Amsterdam was made that much more special by this hotel.
Décor: Eclectic Dutch
Location: on the Singel Canal
Room Size: Small, but large enough for two to move around
Most surprising: the riot of disparate objects in the public spaces creates an elegant, relaxing ambience.
During our last trip to Florence (Firenze), the staff at our hotel recommended that we try Rosso Crudo for dinner. The location suited us, being only a block from our hotel, the Domux Home Ricasoli, on a day when we hadn’t slept much the night before. We wanted something nearby but delicious as our culinary entry into the city.
Specialty: steak and pasta
Dress: Business casual
Price: antipasti 5-19 Euros; primi platti (pasta) 8-12 Euros; Steaks 17-24 Euros or, for premium cuts, 5-8 Euros per 100 grams.
What to order: steak, pappardelle cinghiale, proscuitto e melone