- County Dublin,
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See + Do
Madrid is a wonderful walking city. You'll doubtless find yourself, sooner or later, along the Paseo del Prado, in Plaza Mayor, and in Puerta del Sol. Stop for a quick look, but don't sit at any of the overpriced cafés in these areas, where you'll be serenaded by patronizing Spanish guitarists, condescended to by uppity waiters with tuxedos and A.D.D., and generally made to feel like a fanny-packed loser.
The key to seeing Madrid is, instead, to escape from these places and explore the neighborhoods, where the changing nature of the city is more palpable. First and foremost, this means Chueca, long known as the city's gay neighborhood but now also housing the hippest restaurants, nightspots, and boutiques—most among streets and buildings that only a few years ago were ready to be condemned. Las Letras, the rapidly gentrifying old literary district, is also fascinating, and by night on weekends, Malasaña is a scene of throbbing street culture that has to be seen to be believed.
Another way to walk the city is by art gallery–hopping. Chueca and the Lavapiés neighborhood are where the new galleries and foundations are clustering. Check out the Galería Travesía Cuatro (4 Travesía de San Mateo; 34-91-310-0098; www.travesiacuatro.com), the Fundación Juan March (77 Calle Castelló; 34-91-435-4240; www.march.es), and the Círculo de Bellas Artes (42 Calle de Alcalá; 34-91-360-5400; www.circulodebellasartes.es).
Casa de América, Spain
Tel: 34 91 595 4800
This luxuriously sprawling outdoor bar, set on a series of terraces in the garden of the Casa de América cultural center, is on the more sedate end of the Madrid cocktail scene. It's a lovely, tree-shaded, candlelit setup, frequented by an older selection of moneyed Madrileños. Order something appropriately pompous to match the setting, like a negroni, and contemplate the good life. The wine list and top-shelf liquor list are respectable, but it's all about the atmosphere. The place shuts down early by Madrid standards, around midnight, leaving plenty of time to hit the real bar scene afterward.
Tel: 34 91 345 9047
Pintxos are Basque-style tapas, bites atop slices of French bread, and they represent one of the most fun little traditional corners of Spanish cuisine. Depintxos is a Madrid hot spot at the moment, not just for its pintxos but also for its luxe modern atmosphere, especially on the pleasant outdoor terrace, which is well situated for people-watching (though you'll probably be watching the beautiful people around you rather than scanning the sidewalk). Prices are surprisingly low, which is part of why you might endure a wait before sitting down. The food won't blow you away, but the codfish-stuffed roasted red pepper is nicely balanced, its cod slightly granular but creamy, and the pepper is delicately fried in a thin batter. Cubes of pork loin in mustard sauce atop french fries is a well-executed comfort food. Less convincing, though, are the blood sausage stuffed with too much rice and ill-paired with brie, and jamón ibérico.
Tel: 34 91 547 1005
The groundbreaking drinks at this artistically lit "bar gastronómico" extend the Spanish flair for culinary experimentation to the cocktail shaker. The selva negra is vodka infused with vanilla and strawberry and mixed with strawberry juice, white-chocolate liqueur, and chocolate dust, for a dessert-like approach to mixological perfection. Vodka is only one among many infused liquors: Tequila is flavored with orange and mandarin peel; whiskey, with apple and pear; and pacharán (sloe gin from Navarra) is seasoned with myriad spices. The crowd is international and a bit studenty.
Konnopke's Imbiss, Germany
Berlin 10405, Germany
Tel: 49 30 442 7765
Imbiss is German for snack bar, and they're a vital part of the Berlin cityscape. Though these days many of them serve doner kebabs and gyros, a reflection of Berlin's large Turkish population, a clutch of old-fashioned imbissen still offer up the wurst and wieners so beloved by Berliners. Konnopke's, in a gritty but arty part of town that was once part of East Berlin, is one of the city's most famous tube-steak merchants. Run by the same family since it opened in 1930, it's particularly famous for its Currywurst, which is a flaccid hot-dog-like sausage squirted with spicy ketchup and garnished with a generous sprinkling of rather harsh curry powder. Okay, this may not sound like a grandiose gastro moment, but few things are more essentially Berlin than gobbling up one of these with a big side order of pommes frites with a dollop of mayonnaise and a beer in the shadows of the U-Bahn on a cool, cloudy day.
White Trash Fast Food, Germany
Tel: 49 30 5034 8668
The newest incarnation of this ultrapopular restaurant/bar/club/live-music venue (it also operates the tattoo salon next door) is by far the biggest and best: In a former Irish pub, a cowboy-hatted American expat known only as "Wally" serves up delicious burgers and other downmarket Yank fare starting early in the night. Later, live, predominantly rock music by emerging musical acts (or local DJ sets) are on offer in the grottolike basement, and the always-packed main space fills to the gills with Berlin's art, fashion, and celebrity crowds. Despite the Irish touches and the odd Chinese trinkets dragged along as decoration from a previous location, the place has a strangely gunslinging, saloon-type feel as well as a low-key dress code. Ladies beware: In the wee hours, White Trash can live up to its name by becoming a bit of a meat market.
See + Do
Boxed in on two sides on the West German side of the Wall in the years following the war, Kreuzberg was somewhat isolated from the rest of West Berlin and became a world unto itself. Packed with slightly crumbling tenements, it was affordable, if not downright cheap, and therefore popular with newly arrived Turkish immigrants as well as punks and anarchists from around the world. Always an alternative enclave, it lost some of its luster in the years after the Wall fell and eastern neighborhoods such as Prenzlauer Berg drew the crowds. But with the latter in the final phases of gentrification, local magazines are heralding the return of Kreuzberg's cool factor. Bergmannstrasse and Oranienstrasse, both lined with cafés, bars, and restaurants, are popular with students and hipsters. Meanwhile, the neighborhood has remained multicultural. The open-air Türkischer Markt (Turkish Market) stretches along the Maybachufer every Tuesday and Friday. Closer to Mitte, Daniel Libeskind's Jewish Museum is one of Berlin's most architecturally significant new buildings (9-14 Lindenstrasse; 49-30-2599-3300; www.juedisches-museum-berlin.de).
See + Do
Government Quarter/Tiergarten, Germany
Tiergarten, Berlin's version of Central Park, is also the name of the neighborhood that includes the Regierungsquartier (Government Quarter). Per square mile, Tiergarten has more powerhouse architecture than anywhere else in Berlin, and that's really saying something. The highlight is Sir Norman Foster's revamped Reichstag, reunified Germany's parliament building, which was completed in 1999. Its distinctive glass dome has become one of Berlin's most iconic structures and is worth a visit for both the close-up view of history (you can still spot Soviet-era graffiti on the roof) and the panoramic views of Berlin. Entrance lines are long, but you can skip them by making a reservation for breakfast, lunch, or dinner at the rooftop restaurant, Käfer (49-30-2262-990).
From the Reichstag, walk south along Ebertstrasse—look for the line of cobblestones indicating where the Berlin Wall once stood—past the Brandenburg Gate, where Ronald Reagan gave his famous "Tear down this wall" speech in 1987. One block further, on the southern side of the U.S. Embassy, is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, designed by architect Peter Eisenman and opened in 2005. The 4.7-acre, open-air site consists of large concrete slabs of varying heights arranged in a grid. Walking between the pillars, with the ground sloping up and down, evokes a chilling—and unforgettable—sense of disorientation and isolation. Eisenman's memorial has been criticized by some for referring only to Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Across the street is a smaller memorial to gays and lesbians murdered by the Nazis, which opened in 2008.
South of the Tiergarten, Potsdamer Platz, for a time Europe's largest construction site, has risen up in a barren wasteland once traversed by the Wall. Despite (or because of) buildings designed by Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers, Helmut Jahn, and Hans Kollhoff, the completed development has received mixed reviews. Potsdamer Platz is marked on its western side by the State Library, whose airy, multileveled interior featured prominently in Wim Wenders's Wings of Desire, as well as Hans Scharoun's Berlin Philharmonic Concert Hall, an early-1960s extravaganza designed around the acoustic requirements of the orchestra, resulting in a tentlike structure clad in a studded golden skin. On the other hand, it doesn't get any more minimal than Mies van der Rohe's Neue Nationalgalerie, a slab of black steel atop slender black columns, framing a glassed-in, light-flooded display space that features rotating art exhibitions.
See + Do
Architecture Walks, Germany
Berlin boasts more new buildings designed by top international architects than perhaps any other European city. At the turn of the last century, it was, after all, presented with the unique opportunity to rebuild a modern cosmopolitan capital almost from the ground up. You can prepare for an architectural tour by reading Michael Wise's fantastic book Capital Dilemma: Germany's Search for a New Architecture of Democracy (Princeton Architectural Press), an in-depth account of the politics involved in building new symbols of national identity and historical consciousness. Many companies, among them Original Berlin Walks (49-30-301-9194; www.berlinwalks.com), offer guided tours of the city's architectural highlights, including Peter Eisenman's Holocaust Memorial, completed in 2005, Norman Foster's Reichstag, Renzo Piano's Potsdamer Platz, and Frank Gehry's DG Bank. A self-guided amble is a good leisurely alternative. Berlin Tourismus Marketing GmbH (11 Am Karlsbad, 49-30-250-025; www.berlin-tourism.de) publishes an inexpensive 36-page bilingual guide titled "Architecture in Berlin," which is available at BTM tourist information centers throughout the city or can be ordered by mail.
Westerpark and Westergasfabriek, Netherlands
A late-19th-century Westergasfabriek (city gasworks) is enjoying a new lease on life as a "culture park" after extensive renovations in 2005. Its once-contaminated grounds now house the undulating Westerparknotice how the landscape gradually changes from urban to wilderness as you walk west out of townand a fountain pool where kids can frolic and moms and dads look on. Among the Fabriek's buildings are Pacific Parc, a grand restaurant with nighttime DJs and guest performers (Polonceaukade 23; 31-20-488-7778; www.pacificparc.nl), a branch of de Bakkerswinkel, Amsterdam's favorite bakery, (Regulateurshuis 1; 31-20-688-0632; www.debakkerswinkel.nl), the art-house cinema Het Ketelhuis (Haamlemmerwag 8-10; 31-20-684-0090; www.ketelhuis.nl), and postindustrial Westergasterras party venue (Klonneplein 3). Café-Restaurant Amsterdam is across busy Haarlemmerweg, in the 1900 municipal waterworks (Watertorenplein 6; 31-20-682-2666; www.cradam.nl).
Amsterdam 1017 AW, Netherlands
Tel: 31 20 521 8555
The former brewery dating from 1662 has seen a lot of history: President John Adams visited it, the Concertgebouw got its start here, and in the 20th century, the likes of David Bowie, Elton John, and John Paul Gaultier shook their stuff here. Yet this storied venue fell on hard times until a 2005 redo courtesy of the owners of Hotel Arena. Once again, it's fit for dignitaries of politics, society, and the arts. In the front bar/restaurant beneath the original vaults and wooden ceilings, glam, oversized murals of models mean you'll probably ignore the otherwise riveting views of the Singel canal. Upstairs a neoclassical concert hall turns into a nightclub studded with tiny pedestal tables for cocktails on Friday and Saturday nights.
Open Thursdays through Saturdays 11 pm to 5 am.
See + Do
Eastern Docklands, Netherlands
Amsterdam contains one of Europe's highest concentrations of exciting modern architecture, and the hottest hotbed is in the eastern harbor, where more than 8,000 homes were built in the 1980s and 1990s by innovative architects like Hans Kollhoff of the DaimlerChrysler headquarters on Berlin's Potsdamer Platz. The area is now home to families and professionals, and is a favorite haunt of packs of curious, bespectacled architects. Design highlights include residential "super blocks": Look for the dark facade and irregular shape (determined by the shipping warehouse that previously occupied the site) of austere Piraeus on KNSM island (by Kollhoff/Christian Rapp) and the sloping roofline of zinc-clad De Walvis—appropriately named "the Whale"—on Sporenburg (by Frits van Dongen/Architecten Cie). Equally one-of-a-kind are the single-family houses along Scheepstimmermansstraat—individually designed by the owners, they make up a fascinating architectural collage that's best seen from Borneo Island. The Stedelijk Museum's temporary location in the former TPG post office tower a few minutes' walk east of Centraal Station makes for a good gateway to the area. Check with the Amsterdam Centre for Architecture for information on other landmarks and to purchase self-guided tours (600 Prins Hendrikkade; 31-20-620-4878; www.arcam.nl).
See + Do
First things first: Marijuana is not fully legal in the Netherlands, although possession and consumption of small amounts are tolerated—a prime example of the Dutch personality trait called gedoogbeleid, or turning a blind eye. Amsterdammers are also realists, who recognize that—as with prostitution, euthanasia, and same-sex marriage—people are going to smoke pot anyway, so they might as well do it safely. Coffeeshops (as marijuana cafés are called) are permitted to sell up to five grams of the stuff to each customer. There are also "smart drugs" shops, which dispense magic mushrooms and the like. There are as many types of coffeeshops as there are visitors to Amsterdam, from fancy and literate to down and dirty. One classic is Dampkring—you saw it in Ocean's Twelve—near the University of Amsterdam. The painted and sculpted central column, like a giant toadstool, is hallucinatory even if you don’t smoke (29 Handboogstraat; 31-20-638-0705; www.dedampkring.nl). Don't want to toke up with the college kids? Siberië looks out on a handsome canal in central Amsterdam and could pass for an East Village café were it not for its mind-altering wares. Show up on the right night and you might find DJs spinning or get your horoscope read (11 Brouwersgracht; 31-20-623-5909; www.siberie.net). If it's all about the pot, go to tiny, straightforward Grey Area, a frequent winner of the Cannabis Cup (Oude Leliestraat; 31-20-420-4301; www.greyarea.nl). When buying any variety of marijuana, make sure that you ask its properties and be prepared for the effect—if the menu doesn't give you a solid description, the staff will be happy to. And remember, a coffeeshop is emphatically not a coffee house (koffiehuis in Dutch). The latter serves a concoction called coffee; don't even think about lighting up in one.
See + Do
Anne Frank House, Netherlands
Amsterdam 1016 GV, Netherlands
Tel: 31 20 556 7105
Even if you've heard the story of Anne Frank time and again, a visit to the house is a must. You'll be surprised at how emotional a walk through the secret annex can be, imagining how the Franks and their friends lived their lives and catching a glimpse of the diary. The Anne Frank House is the city's most popular attraction, with more than 950,000 visitors annually. To avoid crowds, visit first thing in the morning or inquire about advance tickets purchased off-site. To learn more about the 400-year-long story of the Jews in Amsterdam, head across Amsterdam Centrum to the Jewish Historical Museum. The building is an act of reclamation in itself; its glass-and-steel structure combines four restored synagogues in the heart of Amsterdam's original Jewish quarter (1 Nieuwe Amstelstraat; 31-20-531-0310; www.jhm.nl).
Open daily 9 am to 7 pm.
Kumharas, Ibiza, Spain
Cala de Bou, Ibiza 07839, Spain
Tel: 34 971 80 57 40
The softer side of clubbing, this is a beachside trance venue, which means it's a cross between a souk in Marrakech, a bedouin tent, a beach in Goa, and a cafin the Haightwith a chill-out soundtrack. The ruins of a stone windmill serve as the bar and centerpiece, while all around, hippie transactions take place in the informal marketplace, impromptu art gets made, and Southeast Asianinfluenced food is served in an array of set menus: langoustine tempura, hummus, grilled tuna with Thai vegetables, chicken satay. You'll feel better if young and underdressed.
Closed October through May.
Danzatoria Restaurant & Club
La Rosa, Spain
Valencia 46011, Spain
Tel: 34 96 371 2076
Many locals swear that La Rosa's rice dishes are even better than those of its neighbor, the more famous La Pepica. They're certainly cheaper, and the restaurant's long dining room and beachfront summer patio aren't swarming with tourists. Instead, Valenciano families come for unusual paella variations like arroz meloso con ortigas de mar—a creamy paella made with an underwater plant known as sea nettle—and plates of fideos negros, inky black spaghetti served with squid. Service is fast and professional (a bit of a rarity in this slow-paced neighborhood), and the wine list is surprisingly extensive.
Can Majó, Spain
Barcelona 08003, Spain
Tel: 34 93 221 54 55
When asked where to get good paella in Barcelona, many locals answer simply: Valencia. But this Barceloneta beachfront classic with a nautical-inspired interior and picket-fenced terrace is the exceptionpaellas here come with proper socorrat (caramelized bottom crust). There are also boat-fresh fish and seafood dishes such as whole sea bream baked in a crust of salt; tender, purple-rimmed clams, and sweet, grilled navajas (razor clams). And it's one of the few places where more unusual local delicacies such as delicate espardenyes (sea cucumbers) and pink-tinged percebes (goose barnacles) can be sampled.
Closed for dinner Sundays and Mondays.
See + Do
Its fortunes as London's nightlife neighborhood have waxed and waned repeatedly over recent years, but you always seem to end up in Soho for one reason or another, mainly due to the great and plentiful restaurants, bars, clubs, and shops (Carnaby Street remains popular, despite the tourist hordes). Bordered by Oxford Street, Shaftesbury Avenue, Regent Street, and Charing Cross Road, Soho is home to London's Chinatown, a much-reduced red-light district (it peaked during the 1970s), and thriving gay bars and businesses centered around Old Compton Street. It's also home to the British film industry—production facilities are concentrated here—and the twin anchors of literary-media–luvvies life: the Groucho Club (45 Dean St., W1; 44-207-439-4685 ; www.thegrouchoclub.com) and Soho House (45 Greek St, W1; 44-207-734-5188; www.sohohouse.com). Both are strictly members-only—but wangle an invite if you can.
See + Do
Museum of London, England
London EC2Y 5HN, England
Tel: 44 870 444 3851
If you want to learn about the capital, the Museum of London is the place to go (it's free, too). The museum tells the story of the city over the past two millennia, and after a $33-million revamp completed in 2010, five wonderful new interactive galleries (called the Modern Galleries of London) have brought this institution bang up-to-date. Highlights include a Victorian shopping street replete with original storefronts and a pub, and the Lord Mayor's gaudy gold State Coach. The Great Plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of 1666 are also commemorated, with models, videos, objects, and paintings. Sections of London's actual Roman city walls are incorporated into the building. After a visit, take a wander in the neighboring East London neighborhoods of Smithfield, Farringdon, and Clerkenwell, where restaurants and trendy bars abound.—Giovanna Dunmall.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 10 am to 5:30 pm, Sundays noon to 5:30 pm.
See + Do
Hoxton and Shoreditch, England
The neighborhood of Hoxton, in the city's northeast, has had more influence on cutting-edge art, music, and fashion than its small size and homely appearance might suggest. In the early 1990s, it was home to the likes of fashion designer Alexander McQueen and pop musician Jarvis Cocker, and generally a stronghold of the YBAs (Young British Artists), who lived in the warehouses. The pub-and-club scene along Curtain Road was the haunt of everyone who was anyone. News spread, property prices soared, and the artists moved. While no longer part of the vanguard, it's still a good place to hang. Try Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, a concrete and glass place typical of the area's urban style with a clientele of grown-up hipsters (2-4 Hoxton Square, Shoreditch, N1, 44-207-613-0709). There's a small terrace from which you can watch the goings-on in Hoxton Square, once the epicenter of the scene and still a bustling area with a patch of much-needed greenery in the middle. It's where you'll find Jay Jopling's contemporary gallery White Cube, which represents Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin, among others (48 Hoxton Square, Shoreditch, N1, 44-207-930-5373, www.whitecube.com). These days, locals tend to lump Hoxton under the general heading of Shoreditch, a larger neighborhood that's retained its edge…for now.
See + Do
Camden and Islington, England
Head straight for Camden Town if you're in your early twenties and on the lookout for leather—take that how you will, it's all here. The weekend markets by the tube station and further up the high street in Camden Lock are seething with humanity and lined with bars and music venues. To the east, in high contrast, is largely Georgian Islington, with its neighborhood restaurants and independent boutiques for the well-to-do. And its Saturday market, Camden Passage, to the east of Islington Green, is all about antiques. The Almeida Theater here is consistently great (Almeida Street, Islington, N1; 44-207-359-4404; www.almeida.co.uk).
Borough Market, England
London SE1 1TL, England
Tel: 44 207 7407 1002
A favorite of many a celebrity chef, the award-winning Borough Market is the ultimate foodie destination. Specialist traders come from throughout the United Kingdom and further afield to set up shop in buildings that date back to 1851 (the Art Deco entrance was added in 1932). You're invited to move from stall to stall and sample what's on offer, but for the best experience, visit on Thursdays, when the market's less crowded and you can chat with booth owners (the market is closed Sunday through Wednesday). Highlights include the traditional savory pies from Bristol bakery Pieminister, the luscious seafood curry at Furness Fish, the Ogleshield cheese sandwich at Bill Oglethorpe's cart (Gourmet's Ruth Reichl called it the "Platonic ideal" of cheese sandwiches—definitely no argument here after tasting one), sausages and meats from Sillfield Farm in Cumbria, and local artisanal cheeses at Neal's Yard Dairy. Sampling can quickly add up to a meal here, but if it merely whets your appetite, there are plenty of restaurants and bars in and around the market, including Roast, an upscale option housed in the former Floral Market (Stoney St.; 44-207-940-1300), and Fish!, a glass-and-steel pavilion that perfectly complements the surrounding market's wrought-iron work (Cathedral St.; 44-207-407-3803).
Open Thursdays 11 am to 5 pm, Fridays noon to 6 pm, and Saturdays 8 am to 5 pm.
See + Do
Meeting House Square, Ireland
Tel: 353 1 677 2255
There's almost always something happening in this Temple Bar square: live theater during lunchtime on weekdays, outdoor movies, and Irish music. Most events are free but require a ticket (limit of four). The website provides the current schedule and instructions on how to apply for tickets beforehand. Alternatively, arrive early and stand in the non-ticket-holder's line, to pick up any leftover spots after ticket-holders are seated. The square also has a great food market on Saturdays, with organic foods from small Irish growers and ready-to-eat treats including Atlantic oysters, burritos, and sushi.
The Market Bar, Ireland
Dublin 2, Ireland
Tel: 353 1 613 9094
This former sausage factory adjoining the George's Street Arcade is a huge space, with a sky-lit interior, wooden floors, and lots of greenery. There's a mezzanine level with sofas and a second bar, as well as a heated beer garden (one of the best smokers' spots in Dublin) and an open kitchen that does tapas dishes like salted almonds and smoked trout salad in small and large sizes. It's a great spot for drinks and an inexpensive nibble, but it gets seriously busy after 6:30 pm, courtesy of the after-work crowd (that goes double on Fridays). The Market Bar boasts an unsurpassed ability to absorb crowds, but the results can be noisy; thankfully, there's no music to compete with conversation.
Doheny & Nesbitt, Ireland
Dublin 4, Ireland
Tel: 353 1 676 2945
Long-time regulars just call it Nesbitt's, and so should you. Dublin is full of pubs, but there's nothing like the character of this landmark watering hole, serving up drinks since 1867. It's the real deal, with carved timber, old wooden floors, and an ornate papier-mâché ceiling, plus snugs (tiny, semiprivate rooms just off the bar) and partitioned areas favored by politicians and economists. Nesbitt's is around the corner from the Dáil (Ireland's Parliament), and they say that decisions about the economy are made here on a daily basis. So, people-watch with wild expectations—Gorbachev, Bono, and Nobel Prize–winning poet Seamus Heaney have all tipped a pint here (although not together—yet). There's pretty good pub food on weekdays, including shepherd's pie, hearty soups, and tasty grilled-cheese sandwiches. Patrons have even coined their own noun: "Nesbittspeak."
Dublin 2, Ireland
Tel: 353 1 478 0766
Whelan's dates from 1772, so when the current owner bought the place in 1999, you could see why he vowed not to develop it into a tacky "superpub." For a time, too, the vow was kept. Whelan's boasts a magically intimate live venue (Nick Cave, the Fleet Foxes, and local heroes the Redneck Manifesto have all electrified audiences here), and an infamous lock-in was presided over by local musicians like Paddy Casey and recent Oscar-winner Glen Hansard. Then came the expansion, which opened up several extra rooms to drinkers. The pub retains its original 18th-century portal (replete with open fire, wooden bar, and, yes, wallpapered ceiling), and the venue is rockin' as ever, but let's be blunt. It's a superpub. An indie superpub, maybe, but a superpub nonetheless.