Hidden Gems in Some of the World's Premier Winter Travel Destinations
If you’re planning a vacation this winter, chances are London, Paris, Hong Kong or Sydney may be on your itinerary. Given that numerous surveys place these among the top travel spots for 2017, deciding where to go may be the easy part. Choosing what to see and do once you get there may not be as simple. These cities are packed with so many notable restaurants, museums and activities that it can be hard to narrow your choices to the relative handful that are truly worthy of your time. So we asked members of Capital Group’s global investment team, who either live in these locales or visit them frequently, to recommend some of their favorite spots.
Scores of high-end restaurants have sprouted in London in recent years, but River Café in Hammersmith remains one of the best. Chef Ruth Rogers co-founded the restaurant in 1987 as a small eatery for the staff of her husband’s architectural firm. Today it serves up rustic Italian fare in a light-filled dining room perched on the bank of the Thames. Other standouts include Scott’s, a Mayfair seafood restaurant featuring an oyster bar whose roots date to 1853; The Ledbury in Notting Hill, which has two Michelin stars; and The Palomar near Leicester Square, which offers the fare of modern-day Jerusalem.
For culture enthusiasts, the Royal Opera House and Royal Festival Hall are standouts. On a smaller scale, Wigmore Hall is wonderful for piano recitals and chamber music. Jazz aficionados will enjoy Ronnie Scott’s, which began in 1959 as a basement club in the West End before moving to the refurbished space in Soho where it sits today. For more-offbeat music, try Café Oto in Dalston.
London is well known as an epicenter of theater, topped by the resplendent National and West End theaters. For a more intimate setting, try the 180-seat Menier Chocolate Factory in Southwark, but book early because popular productions sell out quickly. For the visual arts, the National Portrait Gallery is wonderful for British history and culture. Also check out the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace, the Courtauld Institute of Art and the eclectic Sir John Soane’s Museum, which houses work by the 19th-century architect and others. Finally, Somerset House, a contemporary arts center, offers a winter ice-skating rink and after-hours DJs in its sizable outdoor courtyard.
Though easy to overlook amid its many culinary offerings, the City of Light boasts a number of top-notch seafood restaurants. An excellent choice is Helen, which offers a range of carefully prepared dishes in an elegant setting. Another option is Gaya Rive Gauche, run by renowned avant-garde chef Pierre Gagnaire. For history or literature buffs, there’s Brasserie Lipp. The 136-year-old restaurant has long been popular among artists and writers — Ernest Hemingway was a regular — and even gives out its own literary award each year.
The American writer’s influence extends to the newly renovated Bar Hemingway at the Ritz hotel, one of the city’s better-known watering holes. After closing for a major renovation, the bar reopened in 2016 with a new concoction — the “clean dirty martini.” The recipe is closely guarded for fear of imitators, but a signature element is an oversize ice cube made of olive juice.
Beyond food and drink, part of the appeal of Paris lies in its walkability. Travelers who venture slightly beyond the tourist-filled city center will find any number of charming and considerably less congested neighborhoods on the edges of Paris. For a pleasant stroll, head west from Place de l’Alma toward Bois de Boulogne, a lake-filled park more than double the size of New York’s Central Park. This hour-long jaunt provides a sampling of neighborhoods teeming with authentic bistros and patisseries.
Any culinary journey to Hong Kong should feature a big helping of dim sum. Some of the better possibilities include Luk Yu, one of the city’s oldest and most famous teahouses; Lung King Heen, a Michelin three-star restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel; and Tim’s Kitchen, which has additional outposts in Shanghai and Macau. For an alternative to Asian cuisine, 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana is a tasty Italian restaurant, while AnOther Place by David Myers offers French-Asian fusion and a speakeasy dining room. For a quick break, catch afternoon tea in the lobby of the Peninsula hotel.
As for the sights, the Maritime, History and Heritage museums are all worth a visit, as is the Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware in Hong Kong Park. There’s excellent hiking at Dragon’s Back trail, swimming at Big Wave Bay Beach and wakeboarding in Tai Tam Harbor. The Star Ferry, which carries passengers between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, offers stunning harbor views. Hong Kong has a variety of street markets and shopping districts, including Stanley Market, Ladies’ Market and Temple Street Night Market. And many visitors to Hong Kong wouldn’t leave without ordering a suit from Carlson Lum of New Century Tailor.
Though popular among tourists, the Peak — the highest point on Hong Kong Island — is worth the effort for its breathtaking views. Most visitors ride the tram, which affords great views. Here’s a tip to circumvent the heaviest crowds: Rather than wait in the long morning tram line, take a taxi to the top and ride the tram down before it gets crowded at day’s end.
Any trip to this city naturally begins with a plentiful helping of Sydney Harbor and its famous opera house. After that, go to Oxford Street in Paddington, which is filled with trendy fashion and home décor boutiques. The street bubbles with activity on Saturdays when dozens of street vendors set up stalls. For lunch, head west toward Bondi Beach where Bondi Icebergs Club offers a spectacular view of the water. (Though this is a members-only club for locals, visitors from outside Sydney are welcome.) Afterward, stroll southward along the walkway toward Coogee Beach.
Other lunch options include Beppi’s, an Italian restaurant. Or take a ferry from Circular Quay to Watsons Bay, an old fishing village overlooking Sydney Harbor. Doyles on the Beach offers a range of seafood — its fish and chips is especially good — and excellent people-watching.
Among the dinner possibilities is Pilu at Freshwater, which serves contemporary Italian cuisine with magnificent beach views. Sixpenny, which has only 35 seats, has a backyard vegetable garden and a fixed-price tasting menu. Meanwhile, Nomad serves Mediterranean-inspired fare and Australian seasonal produce in a warehouse setting.