Travel

What to See (and Wear) across
Three Continents

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ATHENS

In Athens, ancient and modern mingle on every corner. Pedestrian walkways and the recently expanded metro make getting around easier, but this is not a city for a strict itinerary. Dropping into on one of the many Greek wine bars, old-school cafés, or teeny shops is as essential to getting the lay of the land as a visit to the Parthenon. Culturally, Athens hit its stride several millennia ago, but the incredible, relatively new Acropolis Museum should be second on everyone’s list (right after the citadel, of course).

What to See (and Wear) across Three Continents

Stay: Locals affectionately refer to the Hotel Grande Bretagne as “the royal box.” Apt, given the mansion takes up an entire city block, right opposite Syntagma Square and the Old Royal Palace. The GB leans into its opulence and over-the-top-ness, retaining the building’s original Beaux Arts details, neoclassical columns, and original frescoes. The guest rooms, with their plush tapestries, marble baths, and antique furnishings, go from modestly lavish to outrageously extravagant the higher you go in square footage. The only thing better than submerging yourself in the Aegean-blue pool in the spa below is a dip and a sundown drink at the one on the roof. Renovated by international arts patron Dakis Joannou, the New Hotel is the, well…new, more contemporary option in Athens. And it’s everything you’d expect: thoroughly modern décor inspired by Athenian culture, with evil eye amulets and postcards of old Athens in the rooms, plus a few surprises (most of the building is constructed from upcycled materials in a nod to sustainability). The art covering the walls comes mostly from the owner’s personal collection, and the rooftop restaurant has incredible city views and the best brunch in town, with especially good vegan options (a rarity in this meat-loving city).

Do/See: In the fifth century B.C.—when the ancient citadel was constructed and the Athenians were still on a high after defeating the Persians—ambitious building projects were the ultimate expression of victory and status. The resulting Acropolis covers a whole hilltop, (the word “acropolis” stems from the Greek “akron,” meaning highest point), and it is one of the rare sightseeing requisites that actually lives up to the hype. The ancient columns of the Parthenon are still intact, and the views over the city sprawl don’t hurt either. The accompanying museum, which opened only in 2009, after decades of stagnating work, was worth the wait. Its floor-to-ceiling windows soak the nearly 4,000 sculptures, artifacts, and artworks found around the Acropolis—some dating as far back as the Greek bronze age—all in natural light. The nearby Benaki Museum offers insight into Greek culture from the Byzantine era to the modern day. Current highlights are the archive of Dimitris Manikas (the Greek architect who designed much of Athens and Vienna) and photographer Frédéric Boissonnas’s images of his early twentieth-century treks through Egypt.

Don’t Miss: In a city of ancient everything, Vassilenas’s new look somehow makes traditional Greek food taste even better. Served within walls of volcanic pumice stone and complemented by a selection from the walk-in wine cellar stacked high with unusual Greek labels, the taramosalata—whipped fish roe spread thickly on crisp wedges of pita—is deliciously salty. For shoppers, jeweler Ileana Makri’s flagship is an excellent excuse to wander into the swish Kolonaki district. In contrast to the quiet of the neighborhood, the displays at Makri’s store—glass cases suspended from rods to mimic tree branches—hold the very same elaborate glittering pieces you see wrapped around the necks and wrists of the chicest Mediterranean women.

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BUENOS AIRES

Walking down the leafy avenues or, say, the widest street in the world (9 de Julio Avenue), it’s easy to see why Buenos Aires is considered Paris of South America. True to the city’s cinematic cliché, there’s no escaping the spontaneous tangos on the street corners, the revelry-loving residents, the vibrancy of a city that has suffered and bounced so beautifully back. Culturally, BA is a gem, where modern galleries, restaurants, and shops live alongside lore-rich landmarks in perfect harmony. When you commit completely to Buenos Aires, it’s pretty damn hard not to smile.

What to See (and Wear) across Three Continents

Stay: The 1912 Algodon Mansion is saturated in plush Belle Epoque grandeur, and its sister property is set amid the rolling fields of Argentine wine country. Meaning most of the food comes in fresh from Mendozan farms daily, and the malbec is, naturally, top-notch. The ten suites come with Egyptian-cotton-wrapped beds and marble bathrooms with freestanding tubs you will willingly cancel plans to sink into. On the flip side, Home Hotel is for those who appreciate sharp design, especially when it’s done sustainably. The swimming pool is heated with solar power, and leftover kitchen oils are repurposed into biofuels. Rooms are unapologetically retro, with antique wallpaper and mid-century furniture. Home is a fresh, thoroughly modern place to stay, with a beautiful tropical garden—best enjoyed with a pre-bed glass of malbec.

Do/See: For obvious reasons, we tend to think of cemeteries as morbid, but there is something celebratory about Recoleta. Many of the thousands of elaborate structures and grand mausoleums—some with the fresh shine of consistent maintenance, many crumbling—resemble miniature palaces, turrets included. A slow amble down any of the labyrinthine alleys reads like an Argentine history lesson: generals, presidents, Eva Perón herself are all buried here. A thirty-minute walk through the elegant Recoleta neighborhood brings you to Teatro Colón. The famed opera house has experienced its share of upheaval (an anarchist bombing in 1910, the murder of one of its architects, we could go on). The latest refurb was completed in 2010, and the overall style is irrefutably glamorous—ornately carved wood and heaps of velvet abound in the horseshoe-shaped hall. Take a tour, which includes the deep catacombs beneath the building, or dress up and attend a performance to hear the incredible acoustics for yourself.

Don’t Miss: The delightful floral scent catches your attention first, but it’s the sheer prettiness of this whitewashed mansion that lures you in. It turns out the scent—distinctly flowery, a little spicy—is mostly emanating from Fuegia 1833, a sustainable fragrance house. Inside, wandering from room to room and passing through the shady courtyard, you’ll realize that Casa Cavia is actually a hybrid retail-restaurant space. Aromas of eucalyptus and sweet rose come from the florist in the next room, and the courtyard restaurant is the prettiest lunch setting in the city. Argentina is synonymous with steak, and Fervor is the place to eat it. The restaurant is a nostalgic glimpse of old-world Argentina with its checkerboard floors, velvet drapes, red leather booths, and muted, moody lighting. The calling card here is the dry-aged meat—a slow process that breaks down the enzymes in the meat for a rich, concentrated flavor. For a more off-the-wall experience, go to Mishiguene. It is in the business of traditional Jewish food, accompanied by live klezmer music on Friday nights. On the very possible chance you’ve had enough beef, go for the salty potato latkes and roasted cauliflower.

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TOKYO

Tokyo’s narrow streets—lined with old ramen shops, new boutiques, and futuristic skyscrapers—are pounded by the feet of over 16 million inhabitants, so it’s only fitting that the pillow you choose to rest your head on at night and the activities you take on during the day offer a level of comfort and serenity. Tokyo’s calming green spaces and cultural landmarks that hark back to imperial Japan are best visited in the spring, when, if you’re lucky, you’ll catch the loveliest of the cherry blossoms.

What to See (and Wear) across Three Continents

Stay: For travelers who love a grand, classic, seeping-with-luxury hotel, the Mandarin Oriental has all of the above, plus some of the best views in the city. Starting on the thirty-seventh floor of the Nihonbashi tower (and going up, up, up from there), the hotel has a wood-and-water theme that is implemented subtly. Light streams in through the windows to mimic the effect of the sun peeking through the pines of Japan’s many forests. The spa is a transcendent experience (each treatment begins with a foot ritual to cleanse you of the strains of the material world). Book one of the rooms with a view of Mount Fuji and be sure to eat at the hotel’s excellent eight-seat sushi restaurant. The nearby Hoshinoya hotel cleverly applies an authentic luxury ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) experience to the urban environment. Each of the building’s seventeen floors is its own ryokan, with six rooms and an ochanoma (a traditional communal lounge area) accessible only to the guests on that floor. The tatami flooring is infused with the scent of sandalwood, a kimono waits for each guest on their bed, and best of all, the rooftop hot spring (yes, it’s a little mind-boggling, but it works) is fed with water from 1,500 meters below.

Do/See: Make the jet lag work in your favor and show up to the Tsukiji fish market early. Around 5 a.m. is prime time to take in the haggling between buyers and sellers, the chefs scoping out the best catch, and the auctions that see coveted bluefin tuna go for thousands of dollars. The seafood is unlike anything you’ve seen before: buckets of prehistoric-looking sea snails alongside tanks of crab and lobsters the size of well-fed house cats. Indulge in multiple sushi breakfasts at the bars nestled within the market (Sushi Dai is the best). A quick cab ride brings you to the top of the winding avenue leading up to the Meiji shrine gate, or torii (passing through the gate marks the transition from the ordinary to the sacred). Dedicated to the spirit of the first emperor of modern Japan, Meiji, and his empress consort Shoken, the shrine is set in an evergreen forest of 10,000 trees. Take part in the Shinto ritual of writing your wishes and prayers on an ema (wooden plaques hanging on the walls) where it is believed the kami (gods of the shrine) will receive them. The imperial palace is set on the site of an old Edo castle (the Edo government ruled Japan for 300 years), and the current emperor and his family actually live here, so you can’t physically enter the structure. You can, however, take tours around the lush gardens, moats, and bridges that surround it.

Don’t Miss: If you’re a serious shopper, Tokyo is your town. Tsutaya is one of the best bookstores in Japan, stacked high with art tomes, vintage magazines, antique periodicals, and music. Browsing happens—in typically high-tech Japanese fashion—on tablets. The lounge/café upstairs is outfitted with plush couches, lamps, and a bar made entirely out of stacked books. Japan is synonymous with both sushi and ramen, but what you really need to try is the tempura at Tenko. A miniature restaurant (and former geisha house) run by two generations of the same family, it’s the kind of place where the chef’s mother will pour your green tea as soon as you walk in. Sit cross-legged at the table while the chef individually fries each piece of fish in light, silky, pale tempura batter.

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