Photo courtesy of The Hoxton, Williamsburg
Our Favorite Places to Weekend Like a Local
If you’re the kind of traveler who schedules each trip down to the minute, who traipses through every major museum and makes reservations months in advance, we get it. We like a good plan, too. But now, we’re going to suggest something radical: Ditch the tick-the-box itinerary. It may not be easy, but it will be worth it.
Instead, spend a weekend living like a local—whether it’s in a city you’ve never been to or one you’ve visited a dozen times. Sleep in. Have a late lunch and an even later dinner. Drink wine during the day. Dip into shops you would never have known about. Walk everywhere.
One of the many pleasures of travel is feeling that you’ve gotten to know a place. A new neighborhood suddenly feels familiar, you’ve spotted the couple that lives across the street in the local trattoria more than once, you’ve found the café that makes the frothiest froth.
Dublin and Florence are small, romantic cities; New York and Los Angeles are modern metropoles. But each has its own pockets to uncover, its own secrets to reveal. We cherry-picked our favorite restaurants, hotels, and routines to get you started. This is by no means meant to be an itinerary. It’s meant to be a call to action—one that says: Book a trip, put your phone away, and go get lost.
Dublin’s hotel scene is firmly established, and while there is a smattering of new kids on the block—the Dean, the Alex, the Devlin—this is a town where the oldies are, in fact, the goodies. Stay in the epicenter of the action and check into the Westbury Hotel. The capital’s glitzy Art Deco gem comes with barmen who mix a mean martini, the most sumptuous lobby to kick back in for afternoon tea or a tumbler of whiskey, and guest rooms that tick all the boxes.
THE MERRION HOTEL
For a weekend of laid-back, Georgian grandeur—not to mention an Irish art collection that rivals any gallery’s—you can’t beat the quiet elegance of Dublin’s grande dame, the Merrion Hotel. Located on a wide, historic boulevard across from the Palladian-style Houses of the Oireachtas (the Irish government), the Merrion is the dose of old-school, restrained glamour you didn’t know you needed.
If there’s one thing Dublin does really well, it’s breakfast. You could describe the Fumbally as the intentionally shabby center for the city’s creative, freelancing crowd. On any given day, the place is packed with bright young things tucking into plates of scrambled eggs drizzled in hot sauce, house-made kombucha, and probably too many coffees, while quietly admiring the sacks of artisanal flour, crates of Italian tomatoes, and sacks of spuds packed into all the corners.
The scene is not dissimilar at Bibi’s, located in the heart of picture-perfect Portobello. Dubliners crowd around tables heavy with bowls of spicy Turkish eggs, Irish bacon, and coffee in the bright dining room. Both Bibi’s and the Fumbally are neighborhood favorites run by close-knit gangs of friends who champion Irish producers and serve simple food done right.
Our resident Dublin editor would eat dinner at Etto every weekend…if only she could snag a reservation. Now we’re going to break our own spontaneity rule because it’s so worth it: Book a table at Etto in advance. It’s that worth it because Etto gets everything right. Lights are moodily low, the pages-long wine list is mega, and the rabbit cavatelli, charred hispi cabbage, and nettle risotto are insanely good. Those few diners who do manage to land a reservation linger late into the night, which is really when things get fun. Lean over and chat with the folks you’re butting elbows with—it’s that kind of restaurant.
The resolutely Irish food—pork belly, salmon served five ways, venison—served at Delahunt may be different to Italianish Etto, but the warmth pouring out of the tavern-like dining room, buzzing with warm chatter and the sound of clinking glasses, is the exactly the same. An aperitif by the fire in the Georgian-era drawing room upstairs is a must must must—ask for the window seat.
Dublin is not short on pubs and savoring a pint of Guinness at Grogan’s is nothing short of a cultural experience. If you know anyone, anyone, in Dublin, it’s likely you’ll run into them here, perched on stools outside, rain or shine.
Nearby Loose Cannon is an understated, teeny-tiny hole-in-the-wall serving only biodynamic wines—ideally paired with their excellent lardo on toast. An all-glass storefront means you can sip and munch while indulging in the emerald nation’s favorite activity—people-watching.
The Irish are a literary lot, and Dublin’s bookshops are the quiet backbone of the city’s bubbling creative scene. Hodges Figgis is the towering Goliath to the city’s many diminutive Davids—like Marrowbone, the Lilliput Press, and the Winding Stair bookshop. Four floors of perfectly organized shelves drastically limit the chances of not finding the title you came in looking for. But come to Hodges with no agenda and just browse, read, and browse some more. No one will stop you. The obscenely charming and meticulously curated Books Upstairs is small but mighty. Owner Maurice Earls champions homegrown talent, from long-celebrated writers, like John McGahern and Colm Tóibín, to brave new boundary-pushers, like Sue Rainsford and Eimear McBride.
Hotels are scarce on the Eastside of LA. This cluster of historic, established neighborhoods—Los Feliz, Silver Lake, and Echo Park—are dominated not by hotels but by people who actually live there—plus the Westsiders who crawl up the bottlenecked I-10 freeway to eat here every weekend. In lieu of a swanky hotel, why not spend a weekend living the dreamiest iteration of Silver Lake life and check into a onefinestay or Boutique Homes property in the hills around the reservoir. Few tourists ever see the shimmering body of still water and the palm-packed hillsides, cabin-style bungalows, and bougainvillea-strewn everything. Drop your bags, take in the view, and just go for a walk. Silver Lake is one of the few neighborhoods in Los Angeles where a car is not mandatory.
Failing plan A, Hotel Covell in adjacent and equally cool Los Feliz is so under-the-radar, so chic, and so perfect that, despite several goop staffers living in the area, we didn’t even know it was there.
L & E OYSTER BAR
We’re going to go ahead and say it: L & E Oyster Bar serves one of the three best breakfasts in LA (the other two being at Sqirl and Jon & Vinny’s). Sit outside and watch the flocks of cool locals who patrol West Silver Lake Boulevard on weekends. Kick off with a dozen oysters, a glass of fizz, and a breakfast of everything but eggs—smoked trout toast with pickled shallots, the cured salmon plate, a few servings of cornmeal pancakes, and the sugar-dusted beignets. And if brunch runs late, move upstairs to the raw bar balcony for stunning views of the surrounding hills.
NIGHT + MARKET SONG
For dinner, join the rest of the neighborhood to wait for a table at Night + Market Song. Through a curtain of retro pink beads, you’re greeted with (or stunned by) dazzling orange walls, greaseproof floral tablecloths, and legions of locals ordering magnums of biodynamic wine and tearing into stacks of buttery roti. Night after night, an eclectic crowd sits down to fried chicken drenched in fish sauce, short rib curry, and the most addictive crab fried rice. Yes, Night + Market serves Thai street food that tastes just as irresistible on Sunset Boulevard as it would on the streets of Saphan Leung in Bangkok. Chef Kris Yenbamroong is a genius, period.
SILVER LAKE RESERVOIR AND BOTANICA
Silver Lake is so beloved by residents that it’s nearly impossible to sign a lease—no one ever leaves. It’s the walkability thing. And no morning in this neighborhood is a morning without a loop around the reservoir. This is your chance to check out all the beautiful mid-century homes and enjoy the near-silence of this hidden utopia. Break up the stroll and duck into Botanica for one of the utterly perfect, velvety flat whites. Pick up The New York Times at the corner shop and spend an hour reading/relaxing in the wildflower-strewn park residents affectionately call “the meadow.”
Sunday afternoons are for Bar Stella. Show up by 2 p.m. to claim one of the great outdoor seats. This is no ordinary patio. It’s tiny, painted a deep terra-cotta, shaded by tumbling hot pink bougainvillea, lit by Moroccan lamps and…need we go on? Sure, you could order a glass of rosé, but any Eastsider will tell you, the off-menu smoky mezcal Apocalypto is the cocktail to end all cocktails.
As the afternoon fades, you would be remiss not to cross the street over to Mohawk and spend all your money on its sublime edit of Ulla Johnson dresses, Dries Van Noten shirts, and direct-from-Florence Santa Maria Novella rose water mists. And then, naturally, walk home.
Florence is considered a city, but really it’s more of a sprawling village. No matter which side of the Arno you decide to rest your head, you can walk everywhere in less than thirty minutes. The city’s Four Seasons, a converted fifteenth-century palace, is one of those impossibly grand, landmark hotels so lavish that seventeenth-century frescoes on the guest-room walls are the norm. The hotel is surrounded by the historic Gherardesca gardens and with its own, rare-in-Florence outdoor pool—the word “opulent” barely scratches the surface.
For something closer to the river and more low-key, SoprArno Suites has thirteen themed rooms (we love the viaggiatore, or traveler’s room, with its framed maps)—and personality in spades. Set at the top of a sixteenth-century pakazzo in the city’s bohemian Oltrarno neighborhood, the vibe is more charming guesthouse than hotel. Furnished with the owners’ vintage finds, every room has its own freestanding claw-foot tub and windows with enchanting views across the rooftops and spires of this Renaissance city.
ALLA VECCHIA BETTOLA
Sure, you could battle for a reservation at one of Florence’s more known restaurants—Enoteca Pinchiorri or Cibreo, for example—and have a sensational meal. But in its purest form, Tuscan food is simple and rustic. We love to dip into the traditional no-fuss trattorias and hole-in-the-wall spots to enjoy carafes of table wine, pasta, and a platter of steak Florentine among the chattering locals. It doesn’t get more authentic that Alla Vecchia Bettola with its floor-to-ceiling tiles and haunches of aging salami hanging from the ceiling. The dish that will knock your socks off is the penne alla Bettola. Don’t bother asking for the recipe; as in all the best places, it’s a closely guarded secret.
Closer to the Arno, Trattoria Camillo is one of those restaurants where, even if the food were average, you would go for the dining room alone. Sky-high ceilings, walls heavy with old paintings and sketches arranged in no particular order, crisp white tablecloths, and a fading checkerboard floor ooze an old-world Italian charm we go weak at the knees for. Camillo’s ribollita—a traditional “reboiled” soup of leftovers thickened with bread—is to die for, but start with the fritti misti. The artichokes and delicate squash blossoms fried to crisp perfection are as good as they sound.
DONDINO, SANTA CROCE, AND GELATERIA DELLA PASSERA
Florence is majestic at every glance. Around every corner is a Renaissance masterpiece, a Brunelleschi-designed church, or a café scene so charming you can’t help but stare. Sit outside the wine bar Dondino and savor your Campari soda in the shadow of Santa Croce. For authentic gelato, the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Gelateria della Passera delivers. At one euro a scoop, you would expect lines out the door, but as with all the best spots in Florence, only the locals know
For an extraordinary keepsake, meander across the Arno to the more residential and decidedly upscale San Niccolò neighborhood to find Il Torchio. One of the older artisanal establishments in the city, Il Torchio, set on a quiet street, specializes in carta marmorizzata–handmade marble-effect paper traditional to the town.
We get it. You want to stay right in the middle of all the action, and for that 11 Howard delivers. The design-forward hotel is smack in the middle of SoHo and its resident bar, the Blond, is an insider destination all on its own.
But we’d venture that Brooklyn is far more exciting right now, and the Hoxton is exactly the place to take it all in. Get a Manhattan-facing room and snooze with the drapes open. There’s nothing quite like waking up to the sunrise soaking the city in that hazy, golden light. Plan a morning rendezvous at the velvet armchairs by the fire to fuel up with a cup of the hotel’s excellent coffee. Swapping reservations across the bridge for a bowl of outrageously cheesy cacio e pepe at the bar—and maybe a nighttime tipple at rooftop spot Summerly before going bed—is an entirely reasonable proposition.
New York City is a temple of gastronomy. And with only two days to eat as much as possible, you have to be smart—unplanned, but smart. Start the morning with a slow amble through McCarren Park to Five Leaves. Sit outside with Brooklyn’s cool kids for brunch and Bloody Marys. Closer to the bridge, Sunday in Brooklyn has malted pancakes and great espresso down pat.
For dinner—and a serving of that addictive buzz that pulses through the Lower East Side—book a table at Cervo’s. The menu is a mashup of Portuguese and Basque flavors, and the biodynamic-heavy wine list is kryptonite to the curious oenophile. Cervo’s is one of those spots where you engage with the sommelier and ditch your usual glass of Pinot for something unusual, unpronounceable, and weird. Order the messy-but-worth-it Louisiana prawns and the Serrano ham with marinated artichokes. Typically, we never order chicken at restaurants, but Cervo’s bird is different—beautifully blistered from the grill, fork-tender, and exploding with spicy-sweet flavor that drips onto the fries beneath it. Skip dessert and try a thimbleful of sherry from a producer you’ve never heard of.
For a completely different but equally enthralling dinner, head to Red Farm in the West Village before it opens. (We’re not kidding: Landing a table here is a competitive sport.) The cuisine is Chinese, and the interior resembles what we imagine a cozy Scandinavian farmhouse might look like—white brick walls, wooden beams, minimal table settings, and crates neatly piled on shelving for storage. Order too many dishes, crack open a beer, and share everything—soup dumplings, black cod, and Chinese broccoli are the must-haves. If in doubt, spy on your fellow diners and have what they’re having.
Maybe it’s just us, but when we’re in New York, we walk everywhere, and the city rewards you for your steps. Glance down hidden alleys, stumble upon noodle joints you never knew existed or find those cult ones you did, observe the relentless hustle that keeps the place moving, and of course, watch the diamonds in the rough—the New Yorkers. If you do nothing else, brave the wind and walk the Williamsburg bridge into the city to feel as if you’re on top of the world.
The Lower East Side is a maze of many things, including exceptional wine bars. Stop into Wildair before dinner for wine and a few of culinary wunderkinds Jeremiah Stone and Fabián von Hauske Valtierra’s appetizers. Then amble a few blocks and maybe dip into the very under-the-radar Ten Bells for a few oysters and more weird and wonderful biodynamic wine.
For a culture fix, there’s nothing like the gilded glamour of the Klimt-filled Neue Galerie on the Upper East Side. A slice of real Viennese sachertorte at Cafe Sabarsky downstairs is a mandatory part of the experience—plus it’s an excuse to linger a few minutes longer inside the stunning townhouse and ponder committing to that heavy Egon Schiele tome at the bookstore.