From a foodie escape in France's culinary capital to an urban oasis on the Spanish coast, these are the cities to explore this spring.
Stay:As Audrey Hepburn once said, ‘Paris is always a good idea’, as is Le Bristol, one of the City of Lights’ most palatial hotels. If you find iconic hotels thrilling, then this storied institution is the place to check in. The guest book reads like a Who’s Who of Hollywood and fashion royalty and has hosted George Clooney, Mick Jagger and Sophia Loren at many a glittering party. Situated in the city’s fashion and art district on the famous Rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré, Paris’ best luxury boutique shopping is just along the street from your opulent Parisian suite.
Eat: At the hotel’s celebrated three Michelin star restaurant, Epicure, where head chef Eric Frechon is celebrating his 20th anniversary at the helm. Expect an unrivalled French gastronomic experience with a tasting menu that includes langoustines with lemon-thyme and Bresse farm hen poached with crayfish and black truffle.
Do:Head to the Louvre and adjacent Tuileries gardens for a romantic stroll around the city’s cultural highlights. If you’re looking for a beautiful view, climb north to the hilltop Montmartre district where the vibrant cobbled streets still retain the bohemian feel of the area’s artistic past.
Image: courtesy of Perowne International
Stay: At the shabby-chic but beautifully contemporary AdAstra hotel overlooking the magical sixteenth-century gardens of Giardino Torrigiani – the largest private garden in Europe. The hotel combines old-world glamour with modern touches and its elegant and vibrant rooms open onto balconies suspended above the stunning wraparound terrace. Vast chandeliers, mid-century furniture and original artworks decorate this enchanting hotel, giving it the feel of a grand but intimate home-away-from-home.
Eat: After an Aperol Spritz amidst the floral scent of the garden on the hotel’s terrace, head out into a dusky Florentine night in search of Alla Vecchia Bettola. A favourite with locals and foodies alike, it’s a casual affair where you pull up a bar stool and dive into a daily-changing menu of traditional Tuscan dishes. The fashionable people can often be found near the Arno at Capocaccia, an elegant café serving up light bites, cocktails and bunches.
Do: After taking in the romance of the city’s iconic Ponte Vecchio and the pink-hued magnificence of the Dumo, head to the Gucci Museo and immerse yourself in the Italian fashion powerhouse’s history. Go for the stylish exhibition and creative restaurant, stay for the fashion.
Image: Sarah Shaffer via Unsplash / courtesy of AdAdastra
Stay: There is a reason Barcelona tops many a city-break guide: it has it all. Architecture, art, food, beach and a rich cultural heritage combined with the laid-back but vibrant spirit of Spain. Indulge in a luxurious siesta at the new Barcelona Edition located in the heart of the city. The stylish and modern rooms are the perfect place to recover after one too many bespoke cocktails at the rooftop bar.
Eat: Petit Comitè takes an haute approach to traditional Catalan cuisine. The five-course seasonal menu contains warming, earthy classics such as pickled quail and monkfish with squid. Of course, tapas is on offer in all its convivial, sharing glory with rich dishes typical of the region and an unrivalled charcuterie selection for you to linger over with friends and loved ones. Alternatively, rock up at the bar of an unfussy (if legendary) joint such as Bar Cañete around Spanish dinnertime (10pm) and eat like a well-heeled local.
Do: Off-season is the best time to visit the city’s frankly astonishing architectural landmarks. No-matter how many times you visit, Gaudi’s great as-yet-unfinished masterpiece, the Sagrada Família, will always have the power to wow you.
Image: Marco Da Silva via Unsplash / via Barcelona Edition
Stay: An alternative destination to the tried-and-tested Parisian escape, Lyon embodies the spirit of French art de vivre and is the ultimate foodie destination. The Medieval city is situated on the picturesque banks of the rivers Rhône and Saône in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, as famous for its Beaujolais vineyards as it is Alpine skiing. Bed down at the five-star Cour des Loges on a quiet cobbled street in the heart of the old town. The enchanting building dates back to the Renaissance, with secret passageways leading to hidden rooms and romantic suites for two.
Eat: France’s gastronomic capital is home to over 4,000 restaurants, sure to satisfy even the most discerning foodie. From fine dining at Le Petite Loge, a cooking atelier in the cellars of Cour des Loges, to the traditional pavement-side ‘bouchons’ serving up classic Lyonnais fare, the city is a living menu.
Do: Aside from eating your way around Lyon, explore the nearby famous Beaujolais wine region and quaff your way through rolling vineyards, charming villages and the grand châteaus of this rural idyll.
Image: Mitchell Henderson via Unsplash