First published on 18 Apr 2011. Updated on 20 Sep 2011.
Well known for its music scene, Berlin is a city to party in or discover, thanks to its underground clubs, cocktail bars and famous landmarks.
See & do: The Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin Zoo are all must-do activities when in Berlin. An open-top bus tour (there are a few in the city) is a great option for those with time restrictions.
Drink & dine: Classic German food on offer in Berlin - think pork knuckle, Wiener schnitzel and strudel – may be the best in the country with a couple of restaurants serving it well, including Nolle Restaurant which is loved by locals. Georgenstrasse 203, off Friederichstrasse (+49 30 208 2645). For the best cocktails in town, David Wiedemann’s (the city’s top mixologist who also owns a bartending academy in Berlin) speakeasy-style bar Reingold is the place to go. His tequila selection is one of the best outside Mexico and the classical cocktails on offer – made by bartenders in white shirts, bow ties and suspenders – are nothing short of sublime. Order a Manhattan or a Mint Julep first, then leave the second, third and fourth in the hands of David and company. Novalistrasse 11, Mitte, Berlin, Germany (+49 30 2838 7676).
Stay: At the Australian owned and operated Adina Apartment Hotel Berlin Checkpoint Charlie it’s not just about the handy location, but the large, spacious apartments that feature kitchenettes, laundry facilities and some, balconies. There’s also an impressive range of drinks on the list in the lobby restaurant, including several must-try German rieslings. Krausenstrasse 35-36 – Mitte (+49 30 200 76 70).
Get there: British Airways flies twice daily from Sydney to London via Singapore or Bangkok and onwards to Berlin. The two best-value cabins in the air right now are World Traveller Plus for increased legroom and great meals, and Club World for the most comfortable flatbed in business. Alternatively, Qantas flies to London via Singapore and Bangkok from Sydney.
It’s hard to believe it’s cheaper to drink in London than Sydney with our strong dollar – and on that analogy, you’ll find the UK capital is affordable all-round, including finally, hotels.
See & do: If you’re not up to much at the end of April, then head over to London and catch the Royal wedding, an event that’s shaping up to be one of the most exciting this decade. Or so we’re told. If it’s your first time, then do all the usual landmarks – Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, London Bridge and the London Eye. Given the strong dollar, shopping in London is also pretty attractive. Portobello Road markets in Notting Hill is always fun on the weekend, and a walk through Knightsbridge is always entertaining.
Drink & dine: We love London for its pubs, but one drinking house that has recaptured our imagination after its house was given a 200 million pound renovation is the American Bar at The Savoy. Strand (+44 20 7836 4343). Drinking here immediately feels like the days gone by, with bartenders in white coats serving up the city’s best classic libations – Hemmingway Daiquiris, White Ladies, Martinis and Mojitos are four of the bar’s main stars. The latest trend the boys behind the mahogany are indulging in is serving cocktails with booze made in the 1920s. What that means is you can have a cocktail exactly the same way it was made and served over 90 years ago. A restaurant capturing our attention is Hunan in Pimlico, which serves up seemingly never ending classical Chinese dishes and offers an extensive selection of fine wine. There’s no food menu, but set prices per person and staff keep bringing out the plates until you tell them to stop. 51 Pimlico Rd (+44 20 7730 5712).
Stay: With a great location opposite the Gloucester Road tube station, Rydges Kensington London offers not just some of the best value-for-room room rates in town, but recently renovated rooms that include new bathrooms, flat screen TVs and luxury beds. Located in the heart of Kensington, the hotel is located close to a number of landmarks and is only two stops from either Notting Hill or Sloane Square. 61 Gloucester Rd (+44 20 7584 8100).
Get there: British Airways flies twice daily from Sydney to London via Singapore or Bangkok. On the way up, consider a stopover and the two best-value cabins right now are World Traveller Plus for increased legroom and great meals, and Club World for the most comfortable flatbed in business. Singapore Airlines also offers great one-stop connections to London via Singapore, with some flights on the Airbus A380. BA’s Oneworld alliance partner Qantas also offers flights from Sydney to London via Bangkok or Singapore.
San Diego, California, USA
The most desired city in America to live in is San Diego. The weather is perfect (think 20 degrees year-round), there’s no traffic (hard to believe since LA is a 90-minute drive away) and everybody is super friendly (lack of Aussie accents perhaps). Not just to live in, it’s also a great city to visit – but after a week you may never want to return home.
See & do: It’s baseball season and that means no visit to San Diego is complete without catching a Padres game for $20 at Petco Park – a stadium that’s located in the centre of downtown. Afterwards, you’re only a four minute walk from about 15 bars and pubs that will be rockin’ if the Padres win. 100 Park Boulevard (+1 619 795 5000).
Drink & dine: Take a drive out to Pacific Beach (SD’s version of Bondi) and you’ll find not just seaside mansions, but good bars, restaurants and cafes. Leading the dining scene is JRDN at the uber-hip Tower23 hotel. Get there before 6pm, have a few local ales and watch the sun go down. Modern Californian cuisine is complemented by a top wine list and excellent service that’s worth the 22 per cent tip. 723 Felspar St (+1 858 270 2323). With some great wine being produced in California, it’s no wonder the state is going through a wine-bar craze at the moment. Right now the hot spot is Syrah Wine Parlor, which is best described as Ivy meets The Winery with more turf. At the bar, the massive jugs of sangria are definitely the call. 901 5th Avenue, (+1 619 234 4166).
Stay: Andaz San Diego is as hip as hotels get. With a nightclub underneath, a restaurant and wine bar on the ground floor and rooftop pool bar atop, this is where the city’s sexy set come to play and stay. The rooms are spacious and the location in the middle of downtown is ideal. The best part about staying is as a guest, you have access to every bar in the hotel with no cover charge. 600 F St (+1 619 849 1234). Tower23 in Pacific Beach is also a great place to rest the head, especially the uninterrupted views of the Pacific Ocean. 723 Felspar St (+1 858 270 2323).
Get there: Hawaiian Airlines flies from Sydney to San Diego via Honolulu. Clearing customs at Honolulu Airport can save hours in queues at Los Angeles and flights operate into San Diego Airport, which is in the heart of downtown. Daily flights will be operating on the route until early August and onboard, expect great Hawaiian fare, boutique beer, in-flight entertainment and a very friendly luggage allowance of 32kg to bring home a few extra bags of shopping.
Hot tip: The easiest way to get around San Diego is by hiring a car. Alamo offers a range of cars at affordable rates from convenient locations. A number of specials are currently on offer for Australians visiting San Diego.
With return flights for under a grand, there’s never been a better time to hop on a jet from Melbourne to Singapore, where the ultimate long-weekend awaits.
See & do: get up nice and early and plan a trip to the Jurong Bird Park and catch the Early Bird Breakfast show at 8.30am that includes fortune telling by Merlin, a yellow-naped Amazon parrot, then take a walk through around the complex that is home to the largest walk-in aviary in the world. Jurong Bird Park, 2 Jurong Hill (+65 6265 0022). On the theme of attractions, make the most of a day out and head from Jurong Hill down to Sentosa, where hours of fun awaits at Universal Studios Singapore. Here, there are 24 attractions across seven Hollywood-themed zones, including a roller-coaster ghost train ride that will leave many shaking in their boots. Universal Studios Singapore, 39 Artillery Ave, Sentosa (+65 6577 8888). If that doesn’t have you shaking in your boots, then make a bee-line for Underwater World and book in a shark dive. The dive takes 90 minutes (and includes 30 minutes of wet time) and while you’re there, make sure you don’t miss the pink humpback dolphins performing a few tricks. Underwater World, 80 Siloso Road, Sentosa (+65 6275 0030).
Drink & dine: Take a lift up to the roof of Marina Bay Sands and enjoy the cocktails with the city’s best view at Ku De Ta. Ku De Ta, SkyPark, Marina Bay Sands (+65 6688 7688). At the Singapore-outpost of Asia’s best bar (the original is on the beach at Seminyak in Bali), you can either laze in a deckchair by the pool with a cocktail in hand or hit the bar where the city’s hottest crowd rocks the dance floor every weekend. While many come up to the SkyPark for the drinks, Ku De Ta also features an array of mod-Asian cuisine including seared Hokkaido scallops, beef tataki and spicy bo ssam pork belly salad. For something more intimate or a little different, Marina Bay Sands also has a number of signature restaurants from globally-recognised chefs, including Santi from chef Santi Santamaria, which serves up Catalonian dishes with an Asian influence, and Waku Ghin, Tetsuya Wakuda’s first Asian outpost. You’ll need to book early to get into Waku Ghin (it only fits 45 covers), but if you can secure a seat, then don’t miss out. Santi and Waku Ghin, Casino Level 2, Marina Bay Sands, 10 Bayfront Ave (+65 6688 8501 for Santi and +65 6688 8507 for Waku Ghin).
Stay: If you’re drinking, eating and shopping at Marina Bay Sands, then definitely book a bed at the 2500-plus room mega-hotel. The rooms feature the latest technology, a great room service menu, views over the city or the sea, and very importantly, access to the infinity pool at the SkyPark atop. 10 Bayfront Ave (+65 8868 8888). Nestled in the heart of the city’s main shopping district, Pan Pacific Orchard is highlighted not just by its location but its rather unique mineral water swimming pool – the perfect place to escape the Singapore humidity. 10 Claymore Rd (+65 6737 0811).
Get there: Singapore Airlines fly several times daily from Sydney to Singapore. Time Out recommends Business Class for the flat-beds, gourmet cuisine from world-renowned chefs, outstanding service and hundreds of hours of entertainment on demand. British Airways and Qantas also fly from Sydney to Singapore.
Wellington, New Zealand
It’s hard to find a bad word to say about the New Zealand capital – this vibrant little city is packed with bars, restaurants, galleries and importantly, laid back locals.
See & do: Any trip to Wellington would not be complete without a visit to New Zealand’s national museum, Te Papa Tongarewa. Here you can dive into New Zealand’s rich history through audio, video and visually spectacular artworks that give you a great insight to Maori culture and western influences in the shaky isles.
Drink & dine: Let’s start with breakfast, because in Wellington there is one restaurant that does it exactly right – Floriditas. Here the eggs are made just right and the good service comes as an excellent side dish. Floriditas is also the spot for a mid-afternoon feast thanks to its kitchen that’s open from 7am to 10pm daily (don’t we wish more restaurants did this). 161 Cuba Street, Te Aro, Wellington (+64 4 381 2212). Around the corner is Duke Carvells Emporium, a tapas, wine and cocktail lounge that’s way too good to be kept secret. Charismatic hands-on owner Lorenzo doesn’t mind shaking a drink behind the mahogany, while his team in the kitchen ensure the shared plates are the city’s best. Top dishes include flaming ouzo Greek cheese, and Saffron fish balls with a Moroccan tomato sauce. 3 Swan Lane, Te Aro (+64 4 385 2240). Mention cocktails to any Wellingtonian in the know and they will immediately recommend Matterhorn. Time Out’s local den in the windy city for the last five years, the team behind the bar can make a tipple to suit any taste. The team is so good they have produced a large number of bartenders who’ve represented NZ at the 42 Below Cocktail World Cup. While the bar inside is intimate, we love their outdoor area on a fine night that comes complete with table service. 106 Cuba St (+64 4 384 8918). For something a little different, head across to Alice and order a few teapots of cocktail. After a few, you’ll definitely feel like Alice in Wonderland, that’s for sure. Forresters Ln (+64 4 385 2242).
Stay: Located in the heart of the city, Travelodge Wellington offers comfortable rooms at affordable prices (rates start around NZD$104). For a 3.5-star hotel that was only refurbished 18 months ago, affordability is the key at this intimate digs. 2-6 Glimmer Terrace, Wellington (+64 4 499 9911). A few streets away, Rydges Wellington – formerly Holiday Inn Wellington – also features a top location and rooms with stunning harbour views at great rates. 75 Featherston St (+64 4 499 8686).
Get there: Air New Zealand flies from Sydney to Wellington. Onboard the airline’s Airbus A320s, you’ll experience great Kiwi food and wine, along with comedy and rugby on the in-flight entertainment system. With a new pricing structure, there’s something for all tastes and budgets. Pacific Blue and Qantas also fly from Sydney to Wellington.