14. Antwerp, Belgium
A new breed of boutiques have made it a fashionista’s paradise.
There hasn’t been so much fashion buzz in Antwerp since the dawn of the Antwerp Six, a group of designers including Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester who rose to prominence in the mid 1980s. And while the city’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts is still churning out avant-garde talents, it’s Antwerp’s latest crop of shops that is causing the current buzz.
“The fashionistas I know have suddenly fallen in love with Antwerp,” said Lulu Townsend, the managing director of the London travel company Chic Retreats. “It’s a shopper’s paradise.”
In the last year alone four destination-worthy concept stores have opened, among them the fashion shop-cum-gallery Ra, which sells local and international labels and also hosts art and fashion events. Next door is Your, which offers everything from “a 2-euro pack of bubble gum to 14 brands of jeans and a 350,000-euro Alfa Romeo 8C,” said Jorrit Baars, who conceived the space.
Then there are the posh new boutiques Graanmarkt 13 and Renaissance, which features designers like Alexander Wang along with a chic Italian restaurant simply called Ristaurante. While you are in the building, check out the latest exhibition at Antwerp’s fashion museum, MoMu.
— GISELA WILLIAMS
15. Melbourne, Australia
New hotels plus big-name chefs put Sydney on notice.
With a bunch of new hotels and restaurants led by notable chefs cropping up, Melbourne has been stealing the spotlight from its sister city, Sydney.
The most notable addition comes from the luxury brand Crown, which is investing 1 billion Australian dollars (about the same in U.S. dollars) to expand its sprawling Crown Entertainment Complex on the southern bank of the Yarra River. In April it opened Australia’s largest hotel, the 300-million-dollar 658-room Crown Metropol, which has an infinity pool on the 27th floor with 180-degree views of the city, and is home to the Maze and Maze Grill, the celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s first endeavors Down Under. The complex also includes the Crown Towers hotel, which has four private penthouse gaming salons with 360-degree views of Melbourne’s skyline.
The city’s thriving arts scene now has stylish boutique hotels to match, too. Three Art Series Hotels, inspired by (and featuring the works of) famous artists, opened in the last year. The Olsen, named for the landscape painter John Olsen, is the flagship of the group, with 229 rooms (from 215 dollars a night) and a heated, glass-bottomed swimming pool.
Visiting foodies will be able to choose from a number of new restaurants. In October, the Australian chef Neil Perry, of Rockpool in Sydney, opened Spice Temple, a 200-seat contemporary Szechuan restaurant next door to his Rockpool Bar & Grill in the Crown complex, as well as a new bar, the Waiting Room, in the lobby of the Crown Towers hotel. Also within the Crown complex, a new seafood restaurant, the Atlantic, will debut in February with Donovan Cooke as executive chef.
— MICHELLE HIGGINS