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Where to Go—and What to Wear—for an Urban Escape

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MARRAKECH

Labyrinthine streets, arching courtyards, tiered gardens, and complex mosaics (plus winter temperatures in the seventies) are just part of what makes Marrakech so attractive. It’s a city steeped in history and architecture, but it doesn’t turn its back on the new, either (head to the recently unveiled Yves Saint Laurent museum for proof). The palace-like hotels allow you to pretend—even if just for a few days—that you’re living in another era, while the restaurants (including a couple of our favorites, listed here) and markets show off North Africa at its finest. It’s also surprisingly close: From New York, it’s a six-and-a-half-hour flight to Casablanca, and then an hour-long hop to Marrakech. There are few places that are so accessible yet feel so far from our day-to-day.

MARRAKECH
  • Stay

  • LA MAMOUNIA
  • LA MAMOUNIA

    Famed French decorator Jacques Garcia designed the interior of La Mamounia, which is splendid to say the least, while the hotel’s huge gardens feel like something out of a fairy tale. The four restaurants supply guests with cuisine from around the world—L’Italien, Le Francais, Le Marocain, and Le Pavillon de la Piscine. And there are five bars to choose from, including the legendary Le Bar Churchill, for live jazz and fascinating people-watching. Definitely find the time for a hammam treatment at the spa: fifteen minutes in a steam room, a full-body lather in black soap (a North African soap made from locally sourced botanicals), an exfoliating rubdown, a ghassoul (Moroccan clay) body masque, and then a warm shower. It’ll leave you relaxed for a month afterward.

  • ROYAL MANSOUR
  • ROYAL MANSOUR

    The Royal Mansour is the crown jewel of hospitality in Marrakech and is home to fifty-three separate riads, each with their own courtyard and fountain. Every room and common space is dripping in elegant Moroccan décor, including intricate tiles, colorful silks, and traditional chandeliers and lanterns. What’s more, the property has more than 500 staff members, who offer service that’s literally fit for royalty (the hotel was a passion project of the king of Morocco, who signed off on every detail).

  • ROYAL MANSOUR
  • The entire medina is a labyrinth of soothing water sounds (from the aforementioned fountains) and lovely scents that waft up from the well-tended gardens, which spread out over every inch of unclaimed space. It’s especially magical at night, when the winding paths are lit up with candles.

  • Eat

  • NOMAD
  • NOMAD

    The multilevel restaurant Nomad is highly regarded in the city for many things, not least of which are the modern interpretations of traditional Moroccan cuisine and a rotating roster of guest chefs who come from as far away as New York and Austin. There’s also a rooftop terrace, where the warm evenings and views of the medina below make it easy to spend an hours-long dinner. Feast on couscous with braised preserved lemon and vegetables and pastilla (thin Moroccan pastry filled with sautéed market vegetables, goat cheese, and caramelized tomato confit).

  • PEPE NERO
  • PEPE NERO

    If there were an award for the most beautiful restaurant in Marrakech, it would have to go to Pepe Nero. It’s a romantic option in a historic riad if you’re traveling as a couple—citrus trees perfume the night air on the Moroccan-tiled patio, and the gentle splashing of water in the marble fountains makes a very pretty backdrop to dinner.

  • PEPE NERO
  • As for the food, it’s a mix of Moroccan and Italian (celery root ravioli with chive sauce, house-made tagliatelle Bolognese, chicken tagine with saffron), and the best move is to order a bit of both.

  • Do/See

  • YVES SAINT LAURENT MUSEUM
  • YVES SAINT LAURENT MUSEUM

    The long-awaited Yves Saint Laurent Museum opened last year in a strikingly modern, ochre-and-rose-colored building designed by the Paris- and Marrakech-based architecture firm Studio KO.

  • YVES SAINT LAURENT MUSEUM
  • On display are 1,000 pieces of YSL-designed couture (including his famous Le Smoking tuxedo suit), a research library with over 6,000 volumes (with a focus on books about the Berber people), a cutting-edge auditorium for events, and a bookstore/café hybrid.

  • MAJORELLE GARDEN
  • MAJORELLE GARDEN

    Adjacent to the YSL Museum, Majorelle Garden is the work of famed painter Jacques Majorelle; it was rescued from a potentially disastrous hotel project by Yves Saint Laurent and his business partner, Pierre Bergé, in the 1980s. It’s a welcome breather from the hustle and bustle of the city.

  • MAJORELLE GARDEN
  • The grounds are also home to the Berber Museum (formerly Jacques Majorelle’s studio), where the immaculately curated rooms tell the story of the indigenous North African people.

Hong Kong

The British left Hong Kong over twenty years ago but their influence is still felt in much of the architecture and customs (afternoon tea is still popular—especially at the city’s legendary Peninsula Hotel). Combined with China’s relentlessly modern energy and the towering bands of skyscrapers—not to mention the exquisite dim sum and surprisingly gorgeous outdoor spaces—it’s a place that’s unlike anywhere else in Asia. And packing is painless, given the average temperatures are in the high sixties this time of year.

Hong Kong
  • Stay

  • THE PENINSULA
  • THE PENINSULA
  • THE PENINSULA
  • THE PENINSULA

    Perched on the harbor in Kowloon near the famed Star Ferry Terminal, the Peninsula is an Art Deco icon in Hong Kong (its afternoon tea is famous across Asia), founded in 1928. Ask for a harbor suite for prime views of the neon-lit city, and don’t miss the rooftop restaurant, Felix. The food here is not only beautiful but really good—standout dishes from chef Yoshiharu Kaji include caviar and sea urchin with red tuna tartare, Japanese beef tenderloin with pickled red onions, and green tea mousse.

  • THE UPPER HOUSE
  • THE UPPER HOUSE
  • THE UPPER HOUSE
  • THE UPPER HOUSE

    The Upper House inspires the kind of loyalty that’s usually reserved for family members. It’s the kind of place that can be hard to book because it’s already full of repeat guests who’ve tried it once and put thoughts of any other hotel aside. Maybe it’s the views of the harbor and the city skyline, maybe it’s the huge guest rooms (designed by local interiors star Andre Fu) that feel like the super comfy yet tasteful apartment of your most sophisticated friend, or maybe it’s the service, as staff members are famous for going out of their way to make life just a little bit easier in this incredibly frenetic city.

  • Eat

  • LITTLE BAO
  • LITTLE BAO
  • LITTLE BAO

    As the name suggests, the focus at Little Bao is on steamed buns (“bao” in Chinese) filled with pork or fish, though the sides are equally compelling: There are Brussels sprouts (topped with fish sauce and fried shallots) and sambal-inflected fries, along with sweet slabs of green tea ice cream sandwiched between deep-fried buns.

  • LUK YU TEA HOUSE
  • LUK YU TEA HOUSE

    In a city as modern and forward-thinking as Hong Kong, we’re grateful that Luk Yu Tea House still exists. A gorgeous relic from the 1930s, it’s a solid option for dim sum in the Central neighborhood, amid the forest of skyscrapers. But what we really love about it is the old-school atmosphere—antique wood furniture, stained-glass windows, ceiling fans turning lazily overhead while you finish cups of rare, Yunnan-grown Pu’er tea. It’s Hong Kong nostalgia at its best.

  • Do/See

  • THE PEAK
  • THE PEAK

    Hong Kong has been a bustling harbor for centuries, and the center of the island is dominated by a giant mountain, the Peak, which you can ascend by funicular tram for unparalleled views. It’s absolutely worth it on a clear day—and actually doesn’t take much time. From here, you can appreciate the full scale of the city, the harbor, and why it’s traditionally been such an important crossroads in Asia.

  • DRAGON’S BACK
  • DRAGON’S BACK

    A big aspect of Hong Kong that many visitors don’t realize (even after multiple trips) is that it’s a great city for outdoor pursuits. Beaches and hiking trails are plentiful once you leave the confines of the skyscraper-filled core. One of our favorite activities is the Dragon’s Back hike, which is a five-mile trail on the ridge of a mountain. You’ll want to bring your camera, as the views from up here are spectacular. Plus, at the end of the trail, you’re rewarded with Big Wave Bay, a swimming and surfing beach where you can cool off before making your way back.

Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is a buzzing South American metropolis with hints of Paris and New York, but mainly Paris. Over the last two centuries, waves of immigrants have shaped the city’s cultural landscape into a modern melting pot: You’ll find people passionate about everything they do, whether it’s gathering at a family asado, attending a polo match, or drinking coffee at one of the countless European-style cafés spilling out onto every sidewalk. Walking down the dozens of leafy avenues, it’s easy to see why Buenos Aires has been referred to as the continent’s most beautiful city—the neoclassical architecture, the monuments, and the public spaces are all about charm and grandeur. It’s a vibrant, electric, buzzing city, and however long you stay, you’ll want to stay longer. Plus, this is the southern hemisphere, which means temperatures right now are warm enough for dresses and short sleeves.

Buenos Aires
  • Stay

  • ALVEAR PALACE
  • ALVEAR PALACE

    The Alvear Palace was, in its past life, an apartment block that was home to wealthy ranching families. Today, the 197 rooms exude the charm of its past, but with a modern twist: The accommodations were renovated two years ago and smartly furnished with a mix of fine art, antiques, and contemporary custom furnishings (and the marble bathrooms are stocked with Hermès toiletries).

  • ALVEAR PALACE
  • ALVEAR PALACE
  • Even if you aren’t staying here, stop by the hotel’s L’Orangerie Bar, with its incredibly ornate interior (silk drapes, marble columns, white tablecloths), for afternoon tea. Or head to the rooftop for a glass of Argentinian malbec and sweeping views of the city.

  • PALACIO DUHAU PARK HYATT
  • PALACIO DUHAU PARK HYATT

    Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt is a neoclassical 1930s mansion in the leafy, upscale Recoleta neighborhood. The area is an ideal base from which to explore some of Buenos Aires’ most architecturally significant blocks, as well as cafés, boutiques, and restaurants that evoke the Belle Epoque. The hotel is similarly opulent—you’ll walk along marble halls studded with crystal chandeliers and colorful floral bouquets.

  • PALACIO DUHAU PARK HYATT
  • PALACIO DUHAU PARK HYATT
  • Surprisingly, though, the guest rooms are pared back and minimalist, sparsely but beautifully furnished in creams and natural wood. Don’t miss the glorious (yes, glorious) breakfast buffet, where the endless amounts of pastries, fruit, cheeses, and cured salmon and meat are a sight to behold.

  • Eat

  • CASA CAVIA
  • CASA CAVIA

    Casa Cavia is a restaurant-slash-retail concept in a renovated Belle Epoque mansion—and known as one of the toughest reservations to snag in the city. In keeping with the house’s creative vibe (it’s also home to a publisher and bookstore), the menu is inventive and unusual (roasted bone marrow with cassava, rice with stewed flowers, and for dessert, a marshmallow, barley, and peanut fudge) and is accompanied by an equally impressive cocktail menu (try the Fitzgerald, which marries juniper essence with Patagonian pear cider).

  • CASA CAVIA
  • CASA CAVIA
  • Food aside, the interior is reason alone to make a reservation—inspired by the cafés of the 1920s, the space is all marble, brass, chevron floors, and antique mirrors. It feels airy and fresh yet refined.

  • DON JULIO
  • DON JULIO
  • DON JULIO

    Even in a city—and country for that matter—famed for its steak, the family-owned Don Julio stands out from the pack. It’s a classic parilla (traditional grill house) in an old Palermo building whose brick walls are lined, top-to-bottom, with bottles of malbec. The beef here is grass-fed (as it largely is throughout the country) and cooked to perfection by the expert grillers. Non-meat-eaters can choose from plenty of salads, appetizers, and desserts.

  • Do/See

  • MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART
  • MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART

    The city’s Museum of Contemporary Art is still relatively new, having opened in 2012 in the lively San Telmo neighborhood, adjacent to Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. It’s primarily dedicated to displaying the art collection of financier Aldo Rubino, which has a heavy focus on geometric abstraction. Other artists exhibited include international names like Le Parc and Vasarely, and Argentinian artists like Fabián Burgos and Verónica di Toro.

  • MUSEO NACIONAL DE BELLAS ARTES
  • MUSEO NACIONAL DE BELLAS ARTES

    Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes not only houses Argentina’s largest collection of fine art; it’s the largest public collection in all of Latin America—over 12,000 pieces of nineteenth-century European art sit alongside a substantial Argentinian offering. The permanent collection is incredibly varied and includes works by Rembrandt and El Greco. Don’t miss the Goya room, filled with the sketches and paintings by the artist, many depicting topics like death and war in the Napoleonic period.

  • MUSEO NACIONEL DE BELLAS ARTES
  • MUSEO NACIONEL DE BELLAS ARTES
  • Impressionism lovers will find an expansive selection of works by Manet, Monet, Renoir, and Degas, alongside sculptures by Rodin and some modernist pieces, including a Jackson Pollock.

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