Istanbul

Istanbul straddles both Europe and Asia and for centuries has been a physical bridge between the Orient and West. The former capital of the Roman and Byzantine Empires, Istanbul was known throughout the ancient world as Constantinople. With its views of the Bosphorus Straight and Sea of Marmara, orange tiled rooftops, and Islamic minarets, it is a stunning city. Visit for the delicious Mediterranean food, shopping in the Grand Bazaar, and gorgeous architectural antiquities including the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace.

Istanbul is a delight to visit in warm weather. Go anytime spring through early summer or in the autumn. To see all the sights and fully enjoy the city, we recommend at least three days.

Be sure to check Visa requirements before visiting Turkey. Online visas can be applied for here.

From the airport, take the M1A Yenikapı - Atatürk Airport subway line to the city center. Alternatively, cabs are an option but heavy traffic can make the journey take twice as long. We would only recommend this if you arrive early morning or late in the evening.

EAT

Antiochia Hip, brick-walled restaurant in Beyoğlu with amazing food. Great spot for dinner.

Cemil Dulda'nın Yeri Mardin Meat and kebab hall next to the Grand Baazar. Try the Iskander kebab and eggplant kofte.

Hocapasa Pidecisi Humble little lunch spot in Hocapasa serving up excellent pide (Turkish pizza). It is very near the Gülhane Parkı Çeşmesi park.

Hünkar Turkish and Ottoman food in the Nisantasi neighborhood.

Meze by Lemon Tree Diner  Excellent Turkish food near Taksim Square. Go for dinner.

Restaunt Mürver Beautiful view overlooking the Bosphorus from the top of the Novotel in Karaköy.

Tarihi Karadeniz Döner Kebab sandwiches in the Besiktas neighborhood. Great option for lunch on the go.

DRINK

Be sure to try the local tea, called çay, and Turkish coffee.

Anadolu Nargile Çorlulu Ali Paşa Medresesi This 300 year old, former Islamic school is now a hidden shisha bar near the Grand Bazaar. This spot has an authentic, local vibe, though as with most shisha bars in Islamic countries, it does not serve alcohol.

Istiklal Caddesi There are lots of great places for drinks in the narrow streets that flow from Istiklal Caddesi, a main street near Beyoğlu and Taksim Square. Nevizade Sokak is a particularly good side street.

Mikla Trendy roof-top bar (and restaurant) in Beyoğlu. Go for cocktails and watch the sun set over the Bosphorus.

PLAY

For visits to the mosques and other monuments, we recommend buying tickets in advance. The lines are a cluster and often warrant long wait times.

Dolmabahce This is the former palace and place of death of Atatürk, the Turk hero who brought down the Ottoman Empire.

Galata Kulesi (Galata Tower) Medieval tower in Karaköy quarter of the city. Historically, this was the city watchtower and now welcomes visitors to see a 360 view over Istanbul at the top of the tower.

Hagia Sophia This must see Orthodox church was converted into a mosque by Muslims. After you have toured the interior, grab a Turkish coffee on the terrace of nearby restaurant Seven Hills for the best views.

Kapali Carsi Grand Bazaar. Some of our favorite shops include:

Koç In need of a leather Jacket? They have two shops, one in front of the other, but try the smaller shop. The seller speaks good English.

Recep Karaduman Beautiful Turkish Carpets, worth the visit even if you are not looking to buy.

Kiz Kulesi (Maiden's Tower) Go by ferry and enjoy the beautiful views of Istanbul and the Bosphorus from the top of the tower.

Sultanahmet Known as the Blue Mosque, this active place of worship is famous for its blue tiled interior and architecture. It is a 10 minute walk from the Hagia Sophia. Free entry.

Taksim Square The heart of the trendy Beyoğlu neighborhood, this is a hot spot for cafes, bars and people watching.

Topkapi Palace This old Ottoman palace overlooking the city which was the center of Istanbul.

Turkish Baths There are many. Don’t miss trying one!

STAY

Sultanahmet is a neighborhood close to most of the major sites but does not offer many restaurant options. We enjoyed Hotel Niles Istanbul, a tiny, boutique hotel with a lovely roof terrace that is a few blocks from the Grand Bazaar.

Otherwise, check out Beyoğlu, Beşiktaş or Nişantaşi neighborhoods. Beyoğlu is known for its proximity to bars, restaurants and shopping.

LOCATIONS NEARBY

Ho Chi Minh City

Saigon was the 19th and 20th century capital of French Indochina and a major outpost of the Vietnamese-American war. Today Vietnam’s southern metropolis, renamed Ho Chi Minh, reminds us of New York City with its grit and exhaust, blaring horns, bustling population and crumbling colonial infrastructure.

For visits up to 30 days, many nationalities can apply for an eVisa in advance of travel.

Walk or take taxis or Ubers to get around. A trip from the airport to the city centre should be around $10. Only use the green or white cabs from the Mai Linh and Vinasun companies. Make sure the driver is wearing a uniform, that his identification is clearly listed upfront and that the meter is on.

EAT

Make sure to try a bowl of beef pho, fresh and fried spring rolls, and a Vietnamese omelet.

Hoa Tuc Authentic, contemporary Vietnamese cuisine. The restaurant also offers cooking classes.

Quán Ngon 138 An airy, two-story restaurant with traditional fare.

DRINK

The Vietnamese do not mess around when it comes to coffee (and they make it strong!). Pop into one of the city’s many cafes for a sweet iced coffee.

Rex Hotel Garden Bar The Rex was made famous during the Vietnam War as the American military would hold a daily conference here. Today its rooftop bar has great views of the city and live music in the evenings.

PLAY

Cu Chi Tunnels A short trip outside the city, the tunnels were an underground network built and used by Viet Cong soliders. They played a critical role in the Viet Cong’s resistance against the Americans during the war. Book a half day trip through your hotel or a local tour shop.

Ben Thanh Market The city’s largest marketplace, stop by for local handicrafts, souvenirs and food. Make sure to haggle!

Independence Palace Also known as Reunification Palace, it was home to the President of South Vietnam during the war.

Mekong Delta if you have enough time, take a day trip to explore the delta and Vietnamese countryside. Book through your hotel or a local tour shop.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Saigon Central Post Office This colonial vestige is incredibly well-preserved.

STAY

District 1, also known as Bến Nghé, is the city centre and provides convenient access to most sites, restaurants and nightlife.

London

Founded by the Romans, the capital of the United Kingdom is over 2000 years old. Today’s city rests upon ancient layers of civilization, a network of rivers and the rubble of The Blitz. While there is much to love about London, its prevailing medieval structures, winding streets, village-esque neighborhoods and diverse population are especially charming. #LondonIsOpen

If arriving into Heathrow, there are a few options for getting to the city. The first is via the Heathrow Express, which is a 20 minute ride into Paddington Station. Purchase round trip tickets in advance to get the best price. If you are traveling in a twosome, the DuoSaver is a great deal at £55 for return tickets. Another option is to take the Piccadilly Tube line (purple), which will get you to central London in about an hour. You can also take an Uber or taxi, which may make sense if you are a group. However, unless you are staying in West London this may take the longest and be the most expensive.

If arriving into Gatwick, take the Gatwick Express train (30 minutes) into Victoria Station.

Traffic is notorious. London is far reaching and while it can take time to get across the city, the Tube is efficient, clean and extensive. Purchase a £5 blue Oyster card for easy tapping into London’s Tube and bus network.

CENTRAL

EAT

Dishoom Delicious Indian in trendy locales. Hot tip: the Kensington and Kingly Court locations are often less crowded.

Ergon Deli Greek deli and cafe in Mayfair. Get the sesame bagel with eggs.

Fabrique Bakery Scandinavian bakery with locations in Shoreditch, Notting Hill and Covent Garden. Try the cardamom buns.

The Good Egg Healthy Jewish and Middle Eastern food in Kingly Court.

Gymkhana Michelin-stared Indian in Mayfair. One for special celebrations.

Leong’s Legend Unassuming Taiwanese dim sum in Chinatown.

Mildred’s Tasty vegetarian restaurant in Soho.

The Palomar Modern Israeli fare from the same group behind Machneyuda in Jerusalem. Book two months in advance for dinner.

DRINK

68 Wine Bar Soho wine bar with an NYC vibe. Long list of bottles for £20 each.

The French House Small pub in Covent Garden that used to be a gathering place for the literary crowd.

Gordon’s Wine Bar London’t oldest wine bar. This Embankment spot is located within subterranean vaults, and has a lovely outdoor patio for sunny days.

Milk and Honey Fancy cocktails at a Soho speakeasy.

New Evaristo Club Tiny dive bar in Soho that was featured on Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover. Try to go before 11pm.

The Wolseley Old World European bistro near St. James. Go for tea and book ahead.

PLAY

Big Ben and Parliament

The British Museum. Free and open every day.

Buckingham Palace Changing of the guards is at 11am every day.

The Churchill War Rooms An excellent way for history buffs to spend a few hours.

Marylebone High Street A cute spot for shopping with trendy boutiques, quaint cafes and dreamy book stores.

The National Gallery A national treasure with works by Vermeer, Titian, Cézanne, Monet, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and many more.

St. Paul’s Cathedral This Anglican cathedral has been a worship site for over 1000 years.

Tower of London A medieval castle, founded in the 11th century, that sits in the center of the city. Visit the crown jewels and notorious Tower of Terror.

West End Catch one of London’s many Broadway shows in this part of town.

Westminster Abbey Get tickets online if you fancy viewing Poets Corner and the Tomb of the Tudor sisters inside.

STAY

If work is paying and proximity to the sites, restaurants and nightlife is important, we recommend choosing a hotel in Soho, Covent Garden or Westminster. The Courthouse Hotel in Soho is lovely and close to everything.

For a more authentic experience, consider an AirBnb in one of London’s many “village-esque” neighborhoods. See more below.

EAST + SOUTH

EAT

Borough Market A foodie haven near Tower Hill with fresh produce, craft drinks and gourmet food stalls. A market has operated on this site since the 12th century.

Cay Tre Authentic (and cheap!) Vietnamese in a BYOB setting in Shoreditch.

DRINK

10 Bells Traditional pub near Spitalfields that is rumored to be the lcoation of a Jack the Ripper murder.

The Bermondsey Beer Mile Craft beer breweries on a mile long strip.

Callooh Callay Speakeasy style cocktail bar in Shoreditch. Make a booking.

Martello Hall Industrial style pub in South Hackney that is open late on the weekends.

Netil360 Relaxed roof-top bar in South Hackney.

NT’s A hip loft bar with a deck in South Hackney.

PLAY

Brick Lane Historically home to a South Asian immigrant community, this neighborhood is sadly gentrifying. The immigrant community has left their mark behind in the mosque, Indian restaurants and sweet shops that dot Brick Lane. There is a street market every Sunday.

Columbia Road Flower Market East London flower market held every Sunday, rain or shine, before 2pm.

Greenwich Home to the Prime Meridian longitudinal line, this historical borough on the Thames River is known for its rich naval history, the 19th century Cutty Sark ship (now a museum), Royal Naval College and Royal Observatory. Catch a ferry from Westminster to Greenwich and enjoy the view.

STAY

East London is younger, hipper and a bit more of a party scene. Check out Shoreditch, Hoxton or Hackney.

On the south bank of the Thames, look in Bermondsey.

NORTH

EAT

Camden Market Food stalls and stuffs, this outdoor food market features Yorkshire pudding burritos, katsu chicken burgers, halloumi fries and many more nifty concoctions.

La Creperie de Hampstead Tiny crepe cart on the Hampstead high street. Try the mushroom, cheese and tarragon.

The Spaniard’s Inn This 16th century former inn is great place for a pub lunch.

DRINK

The Flask Historic and cozy Hampstead pub.

PLAY

Camden Town The old rock and roll neighborhood, Camden is still gritty and its Camden Market is great for eating and shopping.

Hampstead Heath Wilderness in the city. This large park has great views of the city, hiking trails and natural swimming pools.

Primrose Hill This hill in Regent’s Park has an excellent view of the city.

STAY

In the north, we love Islington, Angel and Kings Cross. There will be lots of Airbnb options in all of these neighborhoods.

WEST

EAT

Bluebelles Delicious and adorable brunch spot on north Portobello Road in Notting Hill.

Lisboa Patisserie Perhaps the best Portuguese bakery in all of London, this Notting Hill institution usually has a line outside on the weekend.

Pizza East Quality pizza. Locations in Shoreditch, Kentish Town and Portobello Road.

DRINK

Bluebird Posh cocktail bar in Chelsea.

Candella Tea Room This tiny, Alice in Wonderland-type tea shop is an adorable spot for tea in Kensington.

The Churchill Arms The most Instagram-able pub in London.

Electric Diner Hip bar open late on Portobello Road.

The Orangery Take tea at Kensington Palace!

Union Tavern Canal-side pub north of Notting Hill with outdoor seating.

PLAY

Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens

Chelsea Trendy part of town with cute shops, restaurants and beautiful, old Victorian pubs. Take a walk down King Street.

Little Venice Three canals meet in this lovely neighborhood just west of Paddington Station. From Little Venice take a 45 minute canal boat through Regent’s Park up to Camden Town.

Portobello Road Market A Notting Hill street market held every Friday and Saturday. Great for antiques, artisanal gifts, food stalls and eclectic bric a brac.

V&A Design Museum One of the world’s leading museums on decorative arts and design.

STAY

In the West, both Notting Hill and Kensington are close to the park and have easy access to the city. Check out AirBnbs in both neighborhoods.

Abu Dhabi

The Emirati capital is more refined than its busier and flashier cousin Dubai. Come to Abu Dhabi to visit the magnificent Grand Mosque.

Abu Dhabi has its own airport and is a 90 minute drive from Dubai. Most taxi drivers can take you to and from the cities for a metered rate.

Winter is a lovely here as the sun is out but the temperatures are a manageable 20 to 30 degrees Celsius.

Abu Dhabi is more conservative than Dubai and we would recommend that women pack scarves and more modest clothing for a visit.

EAT

Nolu’s Cafe California-Afghan fushion. Great for brunch or lunch.

Jones the Grocer This Australian restaurant is the only non-hotel restaurant in the city that serves alcohol and food. Recommended by a friend.

Zaatar w Zeit This Lebanese chain features delicious and healthy takeaway or casual eat-in options. Definitely try the manakeesh wraps with zaatar.

DRINK

Asia de Cuba Fun drinks and fusion on the Corniche. Recommended by a friend.

Tamba Indian restaurant with great drinks at the World Trade Center. Recommended by a friend.

PLAY

Corniche Beach A long, public beach for sun-worshiping, walking and relaxation.

Mangrove National Park Try kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding through the calm waterways of this national park.

Saadiyat Beach Club A luxurious, tranquil oasis just outside the city. Spend the day at this beach club and spa.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque This stunning mosque is the jewel of Abu Dhabi. Free, guided tours on site.

STAY

If you are only in town for a short period, we recommend staying near The Corniche to be close to the beach, shopping and restaurants.

LOCATIONS NEARBY

Mumbai

Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, is India’s most populous city with 10 million residents. Hundreds of years ago the city consisted of seven islands loosely strung together by swamps. Over time land was reclaimed from the sea to form the metropolis of Mumbai. The Portuguese were the first foreigners to land on the city’s shores and much of their influence can be felt throughout the culture and food today.

Uber is a cheap way to get around but be smart. Ask the driver to start and stop the ride in front of you. Women should take caution; after daylight, only take short trips. Do not use the old, black Fiat cabs as mosquitoes are common and can increase chances of catching of malaria.

While in Mumbai, consider taking time to see another side of the city, not often accessible to or of interest to foreigners. Reality Tours & Travel offers walking tours of Dharavi, one of the largest slums in Asia. Dharavi is home to over one million people living in just two square kilometers, and has a bustling informal economy with an annual turnover estimated at nearly $1 billion. While some may struggle with the ethics of a slum tour (we still do), Reality Tours is owned by non-profit Reality Gives, who employs local Dharavi guides to run the tours.

If it is your first time to India, we highly recommend adding to your reading list Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things and Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger.

EAT

Elco Delicious chaats and pani puri on Hill Road in Bandra. It’s busy but worth the wait. (Also known for its good hygiene.)

Pali Village Cafe Iconic and romantic restaurant in Pali Village near Bandra.

Smoke House Deli This cute, calm cafe in West Bandra is the perfect spot for lunch. Try the veggie burger.

DRINK

Colaba Social Hip, industrial-style bar near the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Colaba.

Tea Villa Cafe A few different locations and over 30 different types of tea. Food is good too.

PLAY

Bandstand Promenade Take a walk along the Arabian Sea at sunset.

The Gateway of India Considered Mumbai’s top tourist attraction.

Shopping Both Bandra and Colaba are excellent neighborhoods for shopping. Our favorites:

Anokhi Well-priced, well-made, block-print clothes and fabrics.

FabIndia Several locations throughout the city. Indo-Western clothes, beauty products, food, textiles and homewares. While it is a chain, most products are made from traditional techniques by rural craftsmen and women.

Global Desi Bright dresses with bold prints. A few locations through out the city.

Parvati Villa This is a friend of a friend’s shop. Handcrafted jewellery and beautiful tribal designs. A few locations around town.

The Shop A sweet spot in Bandra across from the Pali Village Cafe with Indo-western clothes, hand-crafted textiles and homewares.

Taj Mahal Palace Hotel A historic, 5-star hotel across from The Gateway with stunning interiors and exteriors. The hotel was the site of the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks.

STAY

Bandra is a hip part of town with street art, historic churches and a bit of Portuguese flavor. Great food, shopping and night life.

Grand Residency Bandra A good option for the budget conscious business traveler. Breakfast included and there is a gym.

Taj Land’s End 5-start, modern hotel at the end of Bandstand Promenade.