Jul 08, 2022
In case you haven’t heard, the world’s cities are on the verge of a tourism boom. We are all eager to get out and get back to soaking up the sights, sounds and bites of a city that’s not our own. American Express 2022 Global Travel Trends Report found that 62% of respondents are planning on taking two to four trips in 2022 and 81% of them are interested to travel to destinations where they can immerse themselves into the local culture.
As mask mandates are loosened and entry requirements relaxed, urban hotspots are seeing a surge of bookings and strong demand for unique hyper local experiences that have been sorely missed out on over the past two years. Here’s a lowdown on five hip cities and the best experiences on offer.
With jaw-dropping Neo-Gothic architecture, scrumptious tapas and over 300 days of sunny weather a year, there’s never a bad time to plan a trip to Barcelona. These days, neighbourhoods like hip, boho Poblenou and the village-like, artsy Northern Gracia and the nearby wine region Penedes give an alternative to the overly touristed Las Ramblas and Gothic Quarter, and if you’re there during the summer, bustling La Barceloneta offers a taste of the chilled, relaxed vibes of a Mediterranean beach.
Pro tip: Download Check Barcelona to sidestep the queues and crowds.
Visit: Brave the queues for the iconic Sagrada Familia cathedral which is still a work in progress until at least 2026, the centenary of Gaudi’s death. In 2021, the second-highest towerok let's go with the image that you selected.
Eat: Start the day right at Caprilicious. Here, Chef Alex Arriaza gives his signature huevos rotos (scrambled eggs with foie gras over potatoes) a twist with a touch of truffles. Make sure to save space for a visit to Mercat de la Boqueria, or the lesser-known Mercat de la Concepcio – near Gaudi’s La Pedrera – to sample the Jamón ibérico and Catalan olive oil. End the day at the El Raval area with some Asian inspired tapas at Dos Palillos and a martini at Boadas, Barcelona’s oldest cocktail bar.
Explore: Get inspired at the IDEAL Centre D’Arts Digitals, opened in late 2019, it’s a high-tech gallery with immersive 3-D, holographic and VR immersive exhibits on pivotal artists like Frida Kahlo and Gustav Klimt.
Stay: Soak up the vibes of the city from the comfort of Capri by Fraser, Barcelona. The hotel is located in the cool-edgy former industrial neighbourhood of Les Glories. Studio and one-bedroom apartments come with living and dining spaces with a kitchenette, on-site meeting rooms and a gym that’s open 24/7.
Find more places to discover in Barcelona here: Rediscovering Your City: When Barcelona Beckons
Berlin’s thriving art and nightlife scene make this cool city a top choice for hip travellers looking for a trendsetting destination that offers easy sightseeing by day, and epic clubbing fun by night. Berlin is a city that’s easily explored by foot, it has more parks than any other city in Europe.
Also, attractions like the Bode Museum, the Pergamon Museum, Gendarmenmarkt and the unmissable Checkpoint Charlie are all conveniently located close to one another. When the sun sets, there are countless clubs for partygoers to dance the night away. Check out institutions like Berghain, Anomalie Art Club and KitKat Club, all still reigning supreme in the city for a fix of Berlin’s inimitable club culture.
Visit: This city has no shortage of museums but the Humboldt Forum, opened in 2020, displays Berlin’s extensive collection of non-European art, the Ethnological Museum of Berlin and the Museum of Asian Art.
Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss / Photo: Alexander Schippel
Eat: Treat your palate to a meal at two-Michelin Star Tim Raue, where an Asian-fusion tasting menu features dishes like a pike-perch with soy and leeks and their signature wasabi langoustine. For a taste of contemporary German cuisine, newly opened LOVIS helmed by chef Sophia Rudolph (Marco Müller's sous-chef at Weinbar Rutz) in the bustling foodie-centric Kantstraße reinterprets classic German dishes using the best seasonal ingredients like the confit trout from 25 Teiche with whey and chives. Fun fact: Lovis is located inside a former women’s prison built in the late 19th century.
© Wilmina | Photo: Robert Rieger
Explore: Colourful Kreuzberg is among Berlin’s most multicultural neighbourhoods. Commonly referred to as Little Istanbul, it’s where you’ll find the best third-wave coffee shops, currywurst and weekend flea markets.
Stay: Bed down at Capri by Fraser’s Berlin situated on Museum Island with its own 850-year-old archaeological grounds – look for the glass enclosure at the lobby – on-site. Located between Potsdamer Platz and Alexanderplatz, the studio and one-bedroom apartments come with fully-equipped kitchenettes and floor-to-ceiling windows, while amenities like Spin & Play make doing laundry fun with its on-site interactive games.
Find free things to see and do in Berlin here: 7 Almost Free Things to See and Do in Berlin
Small in size but big on attractions, Singapore is a city in a garden. The skyline is dotted with iconic buildings and futuristic-looking Supertrees – a visit to Gardens by the Bay is a must. Singapore Botanic Gardens’ 8-htectare Gallop Extension and the reopening of MacRitchie Reservoir’s TreeTop Walk – 250 metre-long suspension bridge – were two highlights of 2021. The city is a perfect escape for travellers, and especially families, looking for an easy city jaunt marked by public waterparks, colourful, Instaworthy urban street art (navigate to Kampong Glam and Katong), and endless food and drink options.
Visit: Shop the best of Singapore’s design talent at Design Orchard where there are more than 100 local brands (fashion, lifestyle, beauty) to browse and buy including cult fashion labels like Ginlee Studio, Thomas Wee, and Rye.
Eat: The diverse food scene guarantees no one will have a bad meal with plenty of hawker options (save space for a feast at Maxwell Food Centre), trendy bites and a world-class dining and drinking scene. Make reservations at one-Michelin Star Burnt Ends in its spanking new home at Dempsey Hill and check out new Chinatown spots like Asia’s first plant-based butchery Love Handle and GOHO’s theatrical omakase experience.
Credit: Violet Oon Singapore
Drink: For a nightcap, stop in at one of the many trendy bars. The newly re-opened Sugarhall is perfect for distinct rum tipples and party-ready punchbowls. Head to The Elephant Room for cocktails served in handcrafted ceramic drinkware using spirits from India (try anything using Old Monk rum) and ingredients sourced from Little India’s Tekka Market.
Explore: If you’re short on time, make a beeline for Jewel Changi Airport to experience the best of Singapore under one roof. The multi-functional space boasts the world’s tallest indoor waterfall (HSBC Rain Vortex), and attractions like the Shiseido Forest Valley and Canopy Park. When you’re done, fuel up at the Five Spice Food Court specialising in local cuisine or retreat to Violet Oon Singapore for an upscale Singapore and Peranakan meal with a view of the Rain Vortex.
Stay: Singapore has two Capri by Fraser properties to choose from. One in the heart of Chinatown, an eco-friendly property with co-living facilities and in-room kitchenettes.
The other is located in Changi City where studio apartments come decorated with quirky murals and high-tech in-room smart controls. There’s also a pool with a Jacuzzi and bicycles for guests to loan.
Find more places to discover in Singapore here: Rediscovering Your City: Exploring Singapore’s hideaways
Credits : Oman Tourism Board
One of Lonely Planet’s top 10 destinations to visit in 2022, the capital of Oman is a photographer’s dream. It offers colourful souks to savour sweet cardamom tea (karak chai) while you soak in the city’s rich history and culture marked by the blue-domed Grand Mosque and the towering Hajar Mountains. Nearby, pristine waterfalls, clear water wadis, and white sand beaches provide an idyllic day trip away. The perfect blend of desert and coast, Oman is a destination for the adventurous soul-seeking escape.
Visit: Surrounded by beautifully manicured gardens, the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is both sumptuous and grandiose. A gift from the sultan to the people of Oman, it’s decorated with a large Swarovski chandelier and is impossible to miss with its 91m (300ft) minaret dominating the city skyline. For something completely different, the protected nature reserve of Daymaniyat Islands offers a chance to snorkel amongst green turtles and dive with whale sharks.
Credits : Oman Tourism Board
Eat: For a taste of modern Omani cuisine try Ubhar Restaurant. Situated close to the Royal Opera House Muscat, it offers an avant-garde take with camel meat taking a star spot on the menu. Try the signature camel biryani and shuwa qabuli, a typical Omani delicacy prepared only on very special occasions. Save space for their frankincense ice cream and halwa pastries. For a more private setting try The Beach Restaurant. Here they offer delicious market-fresh seafood in an alfresco picnic setting on a private 370-metre long beach.
Explore: There’s a host of wadis (bed or valley of a stream) framed by Oman’s characteristic red soil and folding rocks to explore. A quick 4x4 drive out of the city brings you Wadi Al Arbiyeen, a major spot for mountaineering adventures or a refreshing dip in its deep pools. While Wadi Al Shab is where the Cliff Diving World Championships have been held and close to the azure waters of the breathtaking Bimmah Sinkhole.
Stay: Marked by its proximity to Oman’s Mutrah Souq, Royal Opera House, and the Sultan’s Palace, Fraser Suites Muscat in the prestigious Landmark Complex offers 120 beautifully furnished apartments that are perfect for longer stays. Each smartly-furnished suite comes with a separate study area and a dedicated kitchen. Some suites are privy to a picturesque 360-degree view of the city and enjoy the added space of a terrace.
London may have the brighter, bigger headlining attractions but smaller towns like Bristol are not to be missed. Straddling the River Avon in the southwest of England, Bristol has evolved from a maritime town to a vibrant eco-friendly city characterised by trip-hop, the street art of Banksy (see his work on Gloucester Road), and a full-fledged craft beer scene. Named by AFAR magazine as one of their top travel picks for 2022, the summer months see Bristol at its best with festivals like UpFest (28 & 29 May 2022), Europe’s largest urban paint festival, and Bristol Sounds 2022 (22-27 June 2022) held at the Bristol Harbourside.
Visit: What Gaudi is to Barcelona, Isambard Kingdom Brunel is to Bristol. The engineer is famous for building Bristol’s most recognisable structure, the Clifton Suspension Bridge in 1864. Straddling a 250ft-deep gorge connecting the Avon Gorge and the River Avon, it’s a masterpiece of design and engineering.
Eat: The view from Goram & Vincent can’t be beaten. A modern smokehouse restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Avon Gorge and Clifton Suspension Bridge, the meat-first menu sees big hand-cut steaks and Barbary duck breast cooked using a smokehouse, smoker, bespoke clay over, and coal-fired grills.
Drink: Bristol is a beer lover's paradise and hosts a sell-out Bristol Craft Beer Festival (10-11 June 2022) every summer. With over 20 easy-to-reach breweries located in the city and countryside, make note of brewers like Left Handed Giant and Arbor Ales.
Explore: For a taste of modern-day Bristol, head to the waterfront to explore Cargo, Bristol's first-ever retail yard made of converted shipping containers, and browse the restaurants and independent stores housed in shipping containers. Do stop in at Woky Ko Cargo, John Kelly 1880+, and Box-E.
Credits : JonCraig_Photos
Stay: Arguably the best address to stay at when visiting Bristol, the Hotel du Vin Bristol Avon Gorge boasts panoramic views of the Clifton Suspension Bridge and the Avon Gorge, A short walking distance from the city centre, the 78-room boutique hotel housed in a Grade II-listed building from 1898 is decorated in plush, elegant furnishings with rooms looking out to views of the Gorge, or of Clifton Village's quaint Georgian streets and rooftop.