Long a holiday destination for low to mid-range budgets across Europe, the Algarve does have some hidden gems. An easy drive south from Lisbon or west from Seville, and easily accessed from Faro airport, this is the place where you can get your beach on. In Lagos, explore paths that lead to hidden cove beaches, where your hike is rewarded with stunning views of the cliffs and rock formations. Skip Faro and spend time sightseeing in the little town of Tavira, for a more authentic taste of Algarve city life. Rent a boat and visit the preserved fishing village on the island of Culatra where you’ll feel transported back in time. And eat the freshest fish ever!
Ahh, Porto. Refreshingly smaller than Lisbon, it is still touristy but on a different scale. This city is lovely to gaze at with picturesque riversides, charming districts where hip locals outnumber visitors, and pretty good shopping. After you quickly learn your way around town, head inland to explore the Douro Valley. Stunning rolling hills covered in vineyard terraces, cut through by the river almost fjord-like. Spend a few days off the radar enjoying nature and wine at its best.
Vibrant, romantic, overwhelming, beautiful. Not particularly peaceful, but incredibly stimulating. After a few days of trekking Lisbon’s hills, navigating through the throngs of tourists, and eating and drinking your way through the city, you will be ready to rent a car and drive an hour to Comporta. Basically Lisbon’s answer to The Hamptons (but like 30 years ago). Long stretches of empty beaches, sand dunes, long grasses. Mainly residential and quiet, quiet, quiet.
How lucky the Londoners are to have this romantic, rural escape just under two hours from the city. Idyllic, bucolic landscapes showcase the best of English gardens and rustic limestone structures. Charming villages with cozy pubs, excellent antiques, and well-curated shops keep you busy while castles, gardens, and walking paths help you relax. With several towns spread over 6 counties, there’s plenty to explore.
While Kyoto may be the cultural capital of Japan, it also has a serious hipster scene. The sights are overwhelming, both in numbers, and in tourists. So pick your top 3-5 bucket list spots, and then enjoy discovering the more residential neighborhoods where a close-knit community of creatives are turning this into the capital of cool. Check out my insider’s Guide to Kyoto!
The Eternal City is just that. It has endured thousands of years, and still today is abuzz with always-tan Romans zipping around on scooters and beautiful people enjoying la Dolce Vita. Pick a few of the must-see sights in the center but then retreat into more local neighborhoods like Trastevere, Pigneto, Monti, and Testaccio. And avoid eating at restaurants near the touristy sights, they will always be overpriced and underwhelming. Find your inner Audrey and rent a motorino Roman Holiday style - as cliche as it sounds, this is the best way to view the city.
Get more tips on where to stay, eat, shop, and things to see (non-touristy options!) in my Guide to Rome.
My birthplace! Bogota is obviously a special place for me. It’s an exciting city with so much to offer: amazing food, excellent shopping, historic sights, and a beautiful countryside. The heart of Colombia, this a cosmopolitan city with chic hotels and fine dining, as well as colonial treasures in the old downtown. It’s much safer than in past decades; the only thing you really need to worry about is the altitude. At an elevation of ~9000 feet above sea level this is the third highest capital city in the world.
Seattle may not be at top of your list, thanks to its rainy reputation. But visit Seattle during the height of summer and you’ll think you never want to leave. Sunny skies, no humidity, water views juxtaposed with mountain skylines - this place is a heavenly break from most cities. It’s a hipster hotspot, with neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, Fremont, and Ballard oozing with cool little restaurants and cafes. Green is king in this urban haven. Not only can you hike to your heart’s content amongst lakes and peaks, but just about every shop here is filled with plants - serious jungalow inspo! And if you’re into oysters, the variety and quality here is unparalleled.
Brooklyn is home. I love this borough… it’s the apex of the creative culture with unique boutiques, cool street art, hip cafes and charming restaurants. There are great museums, amazing views of Manhattan, and miles of tree-lined streets with iconic brownstone townhouses. It’s a feast for the eyes and for the senses. The list of places to visit is extensive - after all if BK were an independent city, it would be the fourth largest in the country. I’ll be making it easy with my curated guides by neighborhood, from Greenpoint and Williamsburg to the best of the rest: Bushwick, Dumbo, Red Hook, Fort Greene, Brooklyn Heights, BoCoCa (Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens), Crown Heights, and Gowanus.
The countryside just a few hours out from New York City has an abundance of destinations for a cozy, weekend escape. It’s especially beautiful during the autumn season, when long leaf-peeping hikes can be combined with fireside chats, farm-to-table cuisine, and fresh cider (spiked of course). There are a few cultural centers as well, with world-class museums and architecture, plus shop after shop of antiques.
I’ve rounded up my favorite places for you, organizing options by the number of hours outside the city. Check out my Guide to Upstatenow!
At the far end of the African continent, Capetown is not the place easiest to reach. Often coupled with a stop in Johannesburg and Kruger Park (safari) this city is actually a destination in and of itself, so plan accordingly. It’s buzzing with trendy restaurants, sophisticated hotels both grande dame and boutique, and the surrounding nature is astonishing. The nearby wine country warrants exploration whether you're a wino or not, with gorgeous scenery and first-class resorts and lodges. If you’re into adventures, aside from hiking the cliffs near the southernmost edge of the world, you can cage dive with great white sharks near Seal Island or Gansbaai.
This Mexican city is a beautiful escape. Its well-preserved colonial town has earned the status of Unesco World Heritage Site. Baroque and Neo-Classical buildings in fifty shades of marigold and terracotta stand strong against the pops of color found in blue skies, fuchsia bouganvilla vines, green cacti, and geometric azulejo tiles. It’s a pretty organized tourist destination with clean streets, good lighting at night, fine shopping, a variety of accommodations, and excellent restaurants. But don’t limit your time to just San Miguel, the state of Guanajuato is rich in culture and history. Set your agenda to include the namesake capital of this region - a buzzing center of the local community and birthplace of the Mexican independence movement, as well as Dolores Hidalgo, the artisan hub for brightly painted Talavera ceramics. Getting here is about a two-hour drive from Leon, or four hours from Mexico City - and note its altitude excludes it from Zika risk, a great option for those looking to head south of the border but avoiding infected mosquitoes!