FOR OLD EUROPE
The place: Dubrovnik, Croatia
Why go now: Once upon a time, Dubrovnik, with its fairy-tale fortresses and pristine Adriatic beaches, was a prime summer vacation spot for Europeans. Then the shelling started in 1991. Now, after several years of stability and an influx of international aid, this medieval city is reestablishing itself as the “Jewel of the Adriatic.”
Don’t miss: Placa Stradun, the main promenade, runs the length of the town from Pile Gate to the Old Town. Along the way, stop at the Sephardic synagogue (385-20-321-028), the second-oldest in Europe. Dubrovnik nightlife is generally tame, but you’ll find a few bars and pubs interspersed with cafés along Bana Josipa Jelacica, a lively street just outside the city walls—more than a mile of them dating back to the eighth century. Hike up Srd mountain for a bird’s-eye view of everything.
Where to eat: For a crash course in authentic Croatian fare (homemade breads, smoked cheese, veal, lamb), head to Konavoski Dvori (385-20-79-10-39).
Where to stay: The Villa Dubrovnik (38-520-422-933; villa-dubrovnik.hr; from $230), once Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s favorite haunt, is perched on the edge of a cliff. Each room has a balcony with views of the Adriatic and Old Town.
FOR ART LOVERS
The place: Dallas–Fort Worth
Why go now: Stop rolling your eyes. Renzo Piano’s Nasher Sculpture Center (214-242-5100) just opened in Dallas, displaying one of the world’s foremost sculpture collections, from Rodin to Picasso to Richard Serra. Last year, Fort Worth got the Modern Art Museum (817-738-9215), designed by celebrated Japanese minimalist Tadao Ando, and housing one of the country’s most prestigious collections of postwar art. These institutions joined the already well-regarded Amon Carter (817-738-1933) and Kimbell Art museums in Forth Worth (817-332-8451). Add in the pending Dallas Arts District makeover, which will include a new opera house as well as an outdoor performance space designed by Rem Koolhaas, and suddenly Dallas–Fort Worth as art mecca doesn’t sound so silly.
Where to eat: The just-opened Aurora (214-528-9400) in Dallas is the hottest reservation in town.
Where to stay: The poshest digs in the Big D are at Rosewood’s Mansion on Turtle Creek (214-559-2100; from $475).
The place: Buenos Aires
Why go now: Cities recovering from political corruption or economic meltdown have a tendency to turn into creative hothouses—think of the arts explosion in seventies Madrid or New York’s downtown scene in the eighties. Now it’s Buenos Aires’s turn. The fashion scene in particular is booming. The city’s signature Europe–meets–South America style—lots of leather, woven fabrics, and delicate lace with a gaucho influence—is turning up on runways in Paris, Milan, and New York. And unlike those other fashion capitals, the dollar is still strong here. Bring an empty suitcase.
Where to eat: At Cabaña Las Lilas (54-11-4313-1336), the city’s best Argentine beef sizzles on wood-burning grills.
Where to stay: For accommodations fit for a king, or queen, try the Alvear Palace Hotel (54-11-4808-2100; from $410), where the Spanish royal family stays.
The place: San Sebastián, Spain
Why go now: The northern coastal town of San Sebastián must have more Michelin stars per square meter than any city, including Paris. Building on the increasingly popular “author cuisine” (creating unexpected dishes by mixing together traditional ingredients in seemingly outrageous combinations), local chefs are spritzing poached eggs with squid ink, mixing licorice and ginger with seafood, and even lacing codfish with Pop Rocks. No wonder the world’s best chefs—Thomas Keller, Charlie Trotter, Michael Lomonaco—are visiting in search of inspiration.
Don’t miss: Michelin three-star chef Martín Berasategui (34-943-36-64-71) limits himself to just 45 meals per seating at his eponymous country restaurant; try the mille-feuille with green apple, smoked eel, and foie gras. At the cozy 25-table Michelin three-star Arzak (34-943-27-84-65), Juan Mari Arzak and his daughter-protégée Elena serve up lamb medallions sprinkled with ginger and painted with a paste of brandy, almond sauce, and olive oil. The view from Pedro Subijana’s two-star Akelare (34-943-31-12-09), a chalet-style mountaintop restaurant, is almost as delightful as the oysters in bacon broth with sunflower shoots.
Where to stay: Opened in 1870, the beachfront Hotel de Londres (34-943-44-07-70; from $110) is San Sebastián’s most popular place to snooze off a five-course meal.
FOR ROCK AND ROLL
The place: Stockholm
Why go now: Forget Ikea and H&M; right now, Stockholm is all about the music. A host of alt-rock acts like the Hives, the Soundtrack of Our Lives, the Sahara Hotnights, the Sounds, and Citizen Bird have recently landed the Nordic capital on the rock-and-roll map. And wherever bands emerge, a hot nightlife is sure to follow. Top D.J.’s from New York, London, and Paris—including François Kevorkian of Body & Soul fame, drum-’n’-bass D.J. Danny C, and D.J. collectives Positive Sounds and Trans Europe Express—have all added Stockholm to their itineraries.
Don’t miss: Café Opera (46-8-676-58-07), a cavernous club-restaurant in the old opera house, is packed with upscale revelers getting down to house and pop. Williamsburg hipsters will feel right at home at Debaser in Slussen (Karl Johans Torg 1), a rock venue on the edge of the Old Town. Tranan (46-8-527-28-100) in Vasastan serves up traditional Swedish fare (herring, beef rydberg) on the ground floor, and hip-hop and soul in the basement nightclub.
Where to eat: French-influenced Fredsgatan 12 (46-8-24-80-52) is a favorite of Aquavit chef Marcus Samuelsson’s.
Where to stay: The Berns (46-8-566-322-00; from $270), a boutique hotel with a nineteenth-century baroque exterior, is where music bigwigs like Oasis, Alicia Keys, and Prince bunk; Lydmar (46-8-566-113-72) has a permanent D.J. spinning in the bar-lobby, where everyone from the Roots to Isaac Hayes and Mike D have played.
The place: Shanghai
Why go now: Shanghai is new China and old China rolled into one. It’s a town where Jean-Georges’s latest restaurant is just streets away from a ceremonial tea house; where avant-garde art galleries sit next door to communist bookstores; where sparkling glass towers share the skyline with pagodas; and where hyper-trendy nightclubs are often hidden behind ancient stone gates.
Don’t miss: Wake at dawn and join the locals at Fuxing Park for morning t’ai chi. Cross the Bridge of Nine Turnings for a traditional tea ceremony in Shanghai’s oldest teahouse, the Huxinting (86-21-6373-6950). Stroll the Xintiandi district in the former French Concession, where you’ll find plazas and stone alleyways lined with chic shops, bars, and cafés.
Where to eat: Über-hot-spot Shintori (86-21-5404-5252) features Japanese food. For a mind-blowing traditional Chinese meal, reserve a table at 1221 (86-21-6213-6585).
Where to stay: 88 Xintiandi (86-21-5383-8833; 88xintiandi.com; from $180) epitomizes the city’s dual personality. Half the rooms look out over the bars and restaurants of the trendy Xintiandi neighborhood; the rest have balcony views of a peaceful lake.