Month: December 2018

Downtown Manhattan

There is nowhere in the world quite like New York City. Whether you have only seen the iconic buildings on the big screen, are an NYC ride-or-die, or have decided that the “buzz” of the streets is just anxiety cloaked in the smell of trash…no one can deny it is one of the most iconic places in the world. At Safara, we love New York- and some of us even call it home.

Even though December inevitably means NYC is averaging around 35 degrees, there is something magical about Manhattan during the holidays. Whether it’s the Christmas lights decorating West Village brownstones, or strolling through Central Park with gloves and a hot cup of coffee – you’d be lying if you said it wasn’t all just a little romantic.

Because there is far too much to do, see, and eat, we have kindly split up our NY guide so that we don’t overwhelm you with subway rides. To kick it off, we are focusing on downtown Manhattan. No matter how many iterations the various neighborhoods that make up downtown go through, there is always something new to get excited about.

Where to stay

The PUBLIC Hotel

The PUBLIC hotel is Ian Schrager’s newest project. Repping the tagline “Luxury for all,” PUBLIC boasts gorgeous rooms for affordable prices. Located on Chrystie Street, you are perfectly positioned to enjoy the bars in Alphabet City or the Lower East Side, and still skip over to Nolita for breakfast. Definitely visit their bar Diego, and if you happen to visit during the warmer months, head to the roof for great views and better dancing. Oh, and check out our interview with their VP of Brand Marketing, Sebastian Puga.

Beekman Hotel

We would honestly pay to just walk into the Beekman. The building and lobby are half the reason to stay here. If you don’t end up getting a room, definitely come for a drink. The location might not be ideal if you are planning on meeting friends in SoHo on the regular, but if you have a few meetings in FiDi and don’t mind being a quick train ride away from most of our favorite haunts, stay here.

The Greenwich Hotel

We come to the Greenwich because it feels a little bit like our rustic dream home- if we were able to decorate with beautiful leather furniture, beamed ceilings, and cozy fireplaces. And have Robert De Niro (part owner) as our partner. We also come to the Greenwich Hotel because the Japanese-designed spa is incredible (complete with an underground pool), and the general proximity to Locanda Verde – an incredible Italian restaurant located on the ground floor. Definitely try the house-made ricotta.

The Bowery Hotel

The Bowery is a downtown staple, and you’ve most likely had a drink in their courtyard, come here for an event, or found yourself at Gemma for decent Italian if you’re a New Yorker. IE it’s a local haunt. We know we aren’t breaking the mould by suggesting you stay here, but we are suggesting that you do because climbing into bed with one of their iconic teddy bears is pretty hard to beat.

The Arlo

With two locations in Manhattan, one in SoHo and one in NoMad, The Arlo is a great option when you don’t want to splurge on The Bowery, and want something a little more straightforward. The Arlo hosts events weekly that span from movie nights to wine tastings. If you are in need of a meeting, they have a few different spaces in both locations that you can book. One note, though: do not get the room service. It’s overly priced and really terrible. Go to the bodega on the corner for a 3$ egg sandwich instead – a NYC tradition. 

The Marlton

If location is what you’re after, it’s hard to beat the Marlton. This gorgeous space is located just north of Washington Square Park, and if you need to warm up, we challenge you to find a better fireplace with cosier couches than the ones in their lobby. It’s fun to work here, too- and they allow laptop squatters to do so. The rooms are small, but eclectic. Margaux, their restaurant, has a covered patio that is the perfect setting for any weekend lunch. Great for meetings, too.

Where to Eat

Il Buco

Choosing a favorite Italian restaurant in downtown Manhattan is nearly impossible. So here is one that we like very, very much. Il Buco is a classic NoHo establishment. You can order anything on the menu, and count on incredibly solid food. The wine list is approachable but can also impress, and you will adore the classic rustic decor. If you happen to have a special occasion, they have a back room that you can rent out.


This isn’t the place to come for a romantic dinner for two when you want to nuzzle in a corner. You’ll most likely sit at a shared table- and you should over-order. Food is small plates style, and the wine list is obscure and incredible. There will be a wait… but know that it’s worth it.


Frenchette was named one of the best restaurants to open in 2018. People have called it the new Balthazar – but we are sensitive about that, because we don’t believe there can be a new Balthazar. That said, it is very good and serves exceptional food. The price tag will be hefty, but you aren’t getting cheated out of quality or experience.

Charlie Bird

From the owner of Pasquale Jones and Legacy Records (which you should also go to), Charlie Bird is the first project- and still remains a favorite of ours. You’ll find this Italian spot at the intersection of SoHo and the West Village, and you can count on incredible pastas and great tunes. This is also the team behind Parcelle Wine, so you can guarantee the selection is top notch.

Prince Street Pizza

If you’re in SoHo and need a quick lunch, a hangover cure, an after drinks pick-me-up, or just want amazing New York pizza by the slice, come here. It isn’t the only place we come for pizza, not even close, but it is on our rotation, and we think it’s some of the best.


If you’re in need of an all-day cafe with healthy food, good coffee, and potentially a glass of wine for when the sun starts to descend, head to west~bourne. The space is adorable, and almost everything on the menu is worth an order.

Spicy Village

This is great Chinese food. Bring cash, and your own bottle (BYOB)- and get ready to roll out of here. This is a no frills establishment, with plastic cups and pictures notating menu items hanging on the walls, but that makes us love it all the more.

Momofuku Ssam Bar

One of our favorite East Village restaurants, David Chang’s Ssam Bar is in a league of it’s own. Even though the Momofuku craze isn’t at the top of everyone’s radar anymore, the food is still unbelievable. We love coming here with a bigger group and ordering family style. 

Joseph Leonard

We love this West Village staple, brought to you by the team behind Jeffrey’s Grocery and Fedora (and more). We usually come here for brunch, but the bartender that works after the 8pm rush is amazing and in all reality, we could come to this adorable little restaurant any time of day.


The original Caracas is right in the East Village. If you want something that won’t hurt your wallet but that will leave you full, opt for these classic arepas. We’ve tried almost all of them and stand by each one. Make sure to get a side of plantains, too.

Where to Drink

The Garret West

Above a Five Guys on a corner in the West Village is a small bar called The Garret. It was the first establishment in a series of “Garret’s” opened up by Gavin Moseley’s Den Hospitality (also, read his Insider article, here!). We love all the locations, but the West Village one holds a special place in our hearts. We love that it’s hidden and that if things get a little wild, we can get french fries downstairs.

Image via @thegarretbar

The Wayland

We loved the Wayland when it opened years ago. We would crowd in here to see friends play guitar for an audience of 15, while sipping extremely good cocktails. Now, the Wayland has expanded into the space next-door and is an Alphabet City staple. We love that, because we love the Wayland. It also serves (very good) food.


This tiny Alphabet City wine bar is a favorite of ours. Their small bites are exactly what we are in the mood for everyday, and the minimalist design has us swooning every time we walk in. When the Wayland is too busy, and you want to actually sit down and have a conversation, come here.

Lovers of Today

This tiny bar is a great place to meet a Tinder date…or any date. On the corner of 7th, you will walk down a few steps into a little room with dim lighting. It’s romantic- and surprisingly you will usually find a seat. Which is less awkward. We don’t recommend going on a Friday or a Saturday, but in NYC why would you wait until the weekend?

The Back Room

This speakeasy is located in the Lower East Side. We call it a speakeasy because…it was actually a speakeasy. It’s one of two bars in NYC that was operating during Prohibition that is still working today. There is no sign on the door to walk in, and when you order a cocktail it will come in a teacup. 

Little Branch

Between TriBeCa and the West Village is this experimental cocktail bar. It’s on an otherwise lonely corner, and the door takes you downstairs to a basement lounge. Come here early to get a seat, and let the bartenders do their thing. Also good for date nights.


We love Clandestino. There isn’t anything exceptional about the drinks, the space, or anything else really…but that is why we love it. It’s a solid bar and perfect for pretty much anything.


Are the $15 NYC cocktails making you itch for a dive bar with a pool table and cheap shots? We got you. Well, Sophie’s has got you.

The Spotted Pig

This West Village corner spot has been on everyones radar for years. The thing is, it’s still our favorite burger on the west side (we love you too, Corner Bistro) – and there is nowhere else we would rather cozy up on a cold winter day.

Where to Break


This adorable little cafe is where we romanticize getting lost in a book for hours while sipping coffee and eating homemade baked goods. That is, if we weren’t in NYC where there was so much to do. It’s a perfect stop if you are perusing the Lower East Side and need a break. 

Café Integral

Near the Bowery is this design-forward coffee shop. They have really good Nicaraguan coffee for the coffee snobs you’re traveling with, but they also have turmeric lattes for anyone wanting something trendy they can Instagram.


THE ELK is somewhere we can work, eat, drink coffee, and then eat again. This cute West Village space has healthy eats that can keep you going all day long.

The Coffee Peddler

If you don’t need a chair, table, or an outlet, head to the Coffee Peddler on Lafayette and Houston. This is a coffee cart (a very NYC “thing”!) unlike any you’ve seen before. The coffee is delicious, and we can guarantee that you’ll end up snapping a few pics of their set up. They also do Australian toasts and have a few baked goods for sale to nibble on.

McNally Jackson

This is one of our favorite downtown bookstores that also happens to be a coffee shop (of course, because we are in New York). Feel free to buy a book and come here to sip on a latte and read, or stop by for a soup and a salad while shopping in Nolita. Fun/weird fact: we used to see Moby in here all the time.

Laughing Man

Hugh Jackman owns this TriBeCa shop. It’s not somewhere you can come with your laptop and it doesn’t really have seating….but did we mention that Hugh Jackman is the owner? It also helps that the coffee is excellent, and you can rest easy knowing your money is getting put to good use by supporting the Laughing Man Foundation.

Where to get your hit of culture

The Whitney

The new Whitney isn’t so new…but it’s equally as exciting. They have rotating exhibits that are usually a must-see, but the house collection and the architecture are reason enough for trekking to the far west side. If you get hungry, head downstairs to Untitled and absolute order their cookie for dessert. Walk the Highline before/after.

IFC Center

Usually featuring premiers of independent or foreign films, IFC is one of our favorite theaters in New York. You can catch cult classics, or programming with LGBTQ curators. Occasionally you’ll find directors or actors speaking before their films and doing Q&As.

Hear live Jazz 

Go to Blue Note, Smalls, or the Village Vanguard to catch a live jazz show. Order a glass of red and make sure to book in advance for the bigger acts.


We understand that this should technically be in our “Where to eat” section, but we truly believe that pastrami this good is a cultural experience. Go here late when the lines are shorter, and you have more of an appetite for a gigantic meat sandwich. Get the pickle.

Russian & Turkish Baths

On East 10th St, you will find a “spa” of sorts. This isn’t the luxurious experience you might find at, say AIRE Ancient Baths or Great Jones Spa (go there if you want to truly pamper yourself- book ahead!), but it is as authentic a Russian bath house as you might discover outside of Russia (or Brighton Beach). There will be large Russian men in hats, there will be people drinking, and there will be various languages spoken.


Head to Chinatown for a number of different reasons. Great dumplings, Chinese bodywork, or getting your aura photographed at Magic Jewelry – the options of what to do in this classic neighborhood are endless.

What to do

The Highline

Enter the Highline on Gansevoort Street, and walk the entire way up to 34th. You will definitely see some entertainment along the way, and you should stop to get a La Newyorkina popsicle. Also feel free to pop down around 18th street to see some of the famous Chelsea art galleries. They have free public openings often (including free wine!) on Thursdays, too.

Union Square Greenmarket

It’s always fun walking through the big farmers market that happens Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays in Union Square. Tons of local vendors from around the city and upstate come in to sell their goods – which range from produce to breads to cheese to wine and cider.

Lower East Side Galleries

When we think about New York galleries, people usually jump to Chelsea. We understand that because we adore David Zwirner and the Gagosian, but we also think that the LES gallery scene deserves mentioning. While you’re shopping around, head to Bodega, Lucien Terras, and CANADA. You will see many more along the way, and can explore the other small art spaces that have made this a destination for gallery hopping.


Specializing in vintage and niche films, this Lower East Side movie theater is part theater, part bar, and part restaurant. All the food is modeled after Hollywood studio cafeterias, and you can usually score tickets to cool events too.

Where to shop

Frankie Shop

This Lower East Side boutique is one of our favorites. It carries boutique brands like CMEO Collective and adorable accessories. Unfortunately for our men, it’s just for women for now.


This is a men’s store on Bond Street that works with cool designers, plus has their own in-house brand. We love their sweatshirts and graphic tees for a casual NY streetwear look.


With a location in Nolita and the West Village, we are regular Otte browsers. They carry a range of brands – large and small – that we usually find a place for in our closets. Their in-house brand is perfect for that simple silk dress we all need as we run around the city.

Maryam Nassir Zadeh

When you picture the New York “cool girl,” she is wearing MNZ. From the perfect mule to a great high-waisted skirt, you can find it here. You will most likely do some damage on your credit card – but just forgive yourself in advance.

Coming Soon

If clothing isn’t your thing and you actually just want to buy beautiful home goods, this is your place. Coming Soon is a mix of colorful home decor gifts and vintage furniture. We love all of it. 

Where to dance

Paul’s Casablanca

This place is kind of annoying and you will most likely see a few 18 year old models here…but it’s still really fun. It isn’t the easiest place to get into but once you do, stay a while and be ready to spend a few dollars on drinks. 

Home Sweet Home

This place has been around for ages, and it isn’t going to be the swanky club experience – which is what we love about it. It’s not quite a dive bar, but it could pass if it tried. Located in a small basement, Home Sweet Home has a different DJ every night- and we promise you that you’ll get your 90s R&B fix.


Apotheke has live music or DJs most nights. Usually the music has a global flavor that we love, and we will attest to the fact that we have been here for a salsa night or two. Not sure if that is still a thing, but if it is…make it your thing. It has a speakeasy vibe, but you still have enough room to dance with your friends or that cute girl/guy you just spotted at the bar.

et al.

On Thursday’s, et al has disco parties that are definitely worth going to. You won’t find college kids here (which is a struggle for a Lower East Side bar), and it has surprisingly good drinks for a “dance bar.”


Gavin Moseley, Co-Founder of Den Hospitality

When you’re walking around New York and see those uber-trendy bars, restaurants, and hangouts that you wish you could pop into but for some reason you made a reservation uptown….you are most likely walking by one of Gavin Moseley’s projects. 

Co-Founder of Den Hospitality, Gavin is responsible for the good times that take place at The Garrett (West, East, and Nolita), The Lately, Borrachito, and Chillhouse. A Boston native, Gavin moved to NYC after completing his degree in hospitality at Cornell, and has taken the city by storm ever since.

Opening up pop-ups in Montauk and jetting off to Europe for weddings are only a few of Gav’s past times, but it definitely makes him someone that knows how to pack a bag. Check out this New Yorker’s interview and learn the tricks of the trade.

Follow Gavin on Instagram @mgavinm

What are 3 of your favorite hotels?

1. One Hotel, Miami, FL – The aesthetic is so dope. It feels like you’re in a cloud! Truly an escape. Eco-friendly/ sustainable hotel so it feels good to stay there too.

2. Finca Cortesin, Malaga, Spain – Everything about this hotel is first class! Landscape is breathtaking with the mountains in the background and I love the architecture.

3. Deer Mountain Inn, Tannersville, NY – Adorable. Feels like Thanksgiving every day there. So warm and welcoming.

Photo via Deer Mountain Inn

What do you love most about working in hospitality?

You have the ability to make someone feel good every day. A guest may not remember a specific dish or drink – but they’ll remember how they felt.

What are your favorite “offices” while traveling?

I find the neighborhood coffee shop and post up. The Elk in the West Village is one of my local favorites.

Where would you go for a digital detox or just generally to get off the grid?

Senegal. My friend has a non profit there that I volunteer for. It’s in Africa so it sounds far but it’s only a 6hr direct flight.

What 3 songs are on your OOO playlist?

Sports – Whatever You Want

Donald Byrd – Places and Spaces

Romare – All Night

What do you always bring with you in your carry-on?

A pen and noteboook for ideas, napkins because I’m messy, and my latest book.

Have you or would you travel alone? If Y/N, why?

I love traveling alone. That’s where you learn about yourself. Placing yourself in uncomfortable situations is where you grow!

Best travel advice you’ve ever received, and from whom?

Speak to a local elderly person, you’ll learn everything. Advice from my good friend Bryant Toth!

Travel can be about the little luxuries…like a super amazing cup of coffee. Where was the best one you’ve had?

Toro coffee in Nicaragua (only coffee I drink black).

What’s your go-to outfit for getting through security quickly, and still looking good?

Super comfy outfit ( joggers and oversized sweater) but fresh kicks, a nice watch, and a beanie. Feet, wrist, and head is where you make the statements.

Beach, city, or mountains?


Alone or with someone else?


Lost luggage or lost phone?


Favorite travel app?

Velocity Black

Window or aisle?

Window – I need to see what is out there.

Manon Lagreve, Founder of Manon’s Little Kitchen

Raised in a small village in Brittany (France), Manon grew up on a farm where food is celebrated as the core of family life. Manon’s culinary love was second nature, keenly watching her mother and grandmother cook every meal from scratch; from breads to biscuits, and of course, desserts.

At 20, Manon traded rural France for the lure of the big city and moved to London to work as an au pair and became fluent in English. Six years later and Manon hasn’t left, falling in love with multi-cultural London and focusing her love of cooking firmly on baking. The wonderful array of bakeries, colourful cakes and cupcakes London has to offer inspired Manon to start baking for friends and colleagues and for charity bake-offs. She started to share her recipes, travels and life in London on her blog Manon’s Little Kitchen which led her to finish as a quarter finalist of The Great British Bake Off season 9.

Follow Manon Lagrave on Instagram @manonlagreve

Name 3 favorite hotels, anywhere, off the top of your head.

1. Stayed in the Japanese Alpes in one of the Ryokan to enjoy the Japanese spa (Onsen) in Hirayuand it was one of the best things I have done. Total immersion into the Japanese culture and soooo worth it.

2. Camping in a yurt the middle of the desert in North Tunisia – it was a very much improvise stay with my family, we got to spend the night there and woke up to watch the sunrise, and had bread cooked in sand for breakfast … which was an amazing experience!

3. Manon Les Suites in Copenhagen – I think it will take a long time for me to find a better hotel for a while! There is this amazing pool in the middle of the place, some amazing plants, amazing breakfast and yeah just so so so nice!

Photo via Guldsmeden Hotels

What hotel room design element can you not live without?

Fridge – Just love buying food 

Where would you go to digital detox or just generally to get off the grid?

Home – in the country side of Brittany

What 3 songs are on your OOO playlist?

Florence and the machine – Howl

Izzy Bizu + Honne – Someone that loves you

Xxanaxx – Story

What do you always bring with you in your carry-on?

A eye mask and some water (I probably drink 3 litres a day – and probably pee 20 ) 

If you could swap suitcases with anyone in the world at baggage claim, who would you swap with?

Julie Sarinana – from Sincerely Jules

Have you or would you travel alone? If Y/N, why?

No – I love sharing my experience with someone and just find myself bored very easily. I need to communicate and relate to someone. 

If you’re going to a new place, and your friends have not been there, what do you consult for advice?

I love looking at travel blogs, I think it is always the best pieces of travel advises I had (only if I don’t know anyone that has been there). If you like the blogger in question and already related to things they do and enjoy, their travel recommendations should match in a way what you like.

If you could quit your job and follow the “Mamma Mia” dream (ie open a small hotel in a foreign land or on a remote island), where would you do it?


Beach or City or Mountain?


Alone or with someone else?

Someone else 

Window or Aisle?

Window: Best part of flying is looking through the window.

Just for you, we’ve included a perfect holiday Recipe from Manon’s blog. Just in case you got overly excited and committed to baking something for a little fête without really thinking it through. 

Ultimate Christmas Ginger Biscuits 


  • 400g of dark muscovado sugar
  • 200g of granulated sugar
  • 250g of salted butter at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp of golden syrup
  • 2 tbsp of black Treacle
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tbsp of ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp of cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp of nutmeg
  • 600g of plain flour

Royal Icing

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 tsp of cream of tartar
  • 500g of icing sugar


1* Make the biscuit dough: In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the sugars and the butter and beat for 4 min. Then add the eggs one by one. When everything is combined, add the golden syrup and treacle and mix well. Finish by adding the flour and the ground ginger and cinnamon and nutmeg. The dough will be super stiff, but that is good!

2* Bake : Take a quarter of the dough, and roll on a floured surface and start to cut the shaped desired. Keep the pieces in the fridge for 30 min before baking at 180 degrees for 18 min.

3* Make the royal icing: In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the eggs and the cream of tartar and mix until soft picks form. Stiff in the icing sugar and mix for 5 min. Add some icing sugar to make it thicker, and add some water to make it thiner, easy!

Merry Christmas Baking!

San Miguel de Allende

By Lily Wan of Casa Dragones

San Miguel de Allende is the sort of town that makes you believe in magic. The cobblestone streets are colorful and the Spanish architecture makes the town look almost fake in its perfection. We should also mention that it’s home to one of the best tequila companies out there: Casa Dragones. So the agave induced buzz we highly encourage might have us feeling like we are in a dream state for other reasons.

We tapped Lily Wan, Director of Content at Casa Dragones, to give us the intel on the best things to see, do, and sip in this charming Mexican town. Being 150 miles north of Mexico City makes San Miguel de Allende (or SMA) totally accessible, and with a gastronomy scene that is one of the best in the country, you will have plenty to do (and eat).

Photo by Lily Wan

We know you travel to San Miguel often, but let’s say you were to go there for your dream vacation. Where would you stay?

Hotel Matilda

Behind the colonial facade, is a modern & exquisite 32-room boutique hotel in the heart of San Miguel Allende. Named Best Hotel in Mexico by Travel and Leisure, you can trust that Matilda is a unique experience. The art in this hotel rotates periodically, and the mainstay works are incredible (ie: a Diego Rivera portrait of the hotel owner’s mother). In the hotel is Moxi, an Enrique Olivera restaurant that is sure to keep you coming back. If the award winning food doesn’t get you, we think the late night DJs and tequila tastings might be fairly convincing. 

Dos Casas

Appropriately named, this hotel was created out of two colonial style homes. Now a mix of modern design elements and traditional structures, this is definitely one of the boutique hotels to book. The rooms are large and get gorgeous light, which is important because you will definitely want to photograph the artwork and mid-century furniture. Dos Casas also has a spa (which we encourage you to take advantage of) and a restaurant, Aperi, that is as beautiful as it is delicious.

Favorite places to eat on the daily? What do we order?

Taco Lab at Dôce 18 Concept House is great for casual and “please-everyone” tacos. Jacinto also serves up an incredible lunch—order the esquites and the oyster mushroom tacos. There is also a rib taco with mole and egg yolk that is supposed to be out of this world, so maybe go with that.

Where would you go to eat for a special occasion? What are they known for?

I’d try to snag a seat at Áperi’s chef’s table, which is located in a gorgeous private space that’s essentially inside the kitchen. The restaurant’s known for its inventive and beautifully plated courses made from locally and sustainably sourced ingredients. They’re well-known for their cocktail offerings, too.

What are your favorite bars around town? What should we be ordering?

Aside from the impeccable cocktail list at Áperi, my other favorite spots are Jacinto (also great food, and the beverage program was created by the same guy who did Áperi’s), The Monocle Cocktail Club, Hotel Casa Blanca 7, and of course, the Casa Dragones Tasting Room, which is a must-visit for a tasting of the world’s best sipping tequila.

Photo by Lily Wan

Best place for an AM pick me up? Either coffee, green juice, or tea?

PANIO, for the CONCHAS. They have coffee, too, if a face-sized puff of bread doesn’t pick you up enough.

We have an entire afternoon free, and are looking to do some damage to our credit card. Where should we go?

Mixta is a must-visit. Also great are Kingsley Market, Mercado Sano, the shops in Dôce 18 Concept House, and Mercado de Artesanías (though you’ll want to have cash on you for this one).

Photo by Lily Wan

Where can we get our dose of culture where we won’t be swarmed with other tourists?

Book a private tour of La Casa Dragones for a little history lesson and tequila tasting, and then stroll around the Guadalupe neighborhood for art murals and low-traffic, high-color streets.

Favorite secret spot to get some alone time?

Parque Juárez in the early morning. Even just walking around the city center in the early morning (pre-7:30 am) is really peaceful. You’ll probably spot some hot air balloons, too, which are almost comically too picturesque against the cotton-candy sunrise.

Tips and tricks for getting around town?

Walking will be your best bet, but the streets are mostly all cobblestone and the sidewalks are irregular widths, so be sure to bring flat shoes.

Photo by Lily Wan

And if we are coupled up – what is the best date spot that will actually have a table?

Jacinto, but be advised to book early. Try Aperi or Moxi for a little bit more atmosphere, if you want something more buzzy.

Where should we go for some “forest bathing,” or a nature walk (if not a full-on hike)?

I hear the Mayan baths just outside of town are great.

Where would you go with your sketch pad or journal?

Honestly, anywhere. Parque Juárez is a great spot to sit back, relax, and journal. Or, if you’re looking for a good angle on the iconic Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel church in the city center, QUINCE Rooftop has a nice view of it—post up there with a drink, and sketch away!

Photo by Lily Wan

You need to work, but the WiFi is down at work/home. Where do you go?

Dôce 18 Concept House. Consistent wifi, spacious, tons of great food and drink options.

Where do we go to work out like a local? What are the trends that everyone’s into these days?

I’m not sure how the locals work out, but I personally enjoy heading out on early morning runs around 7:00 am once the sun is up – usually snaking a few streets and ending up at Parque Juárez for some laps there.

We’re jetlagged AF. Where do we go to treat ourselves, spa or massage-wise?

The spa at Dos Casas hotel. Making a pit stop at the traditional Mexican apothecary Botica de Santa Teresita for some special tinctures, herbal gels, etc wouldn’t be a bad idea, either.

Photo by Lily Wan

Anything else you want to add in terms of interesting activities or must-see/do’s?

Visit during Dia de Muertos for an entirely next-level experience of San Miguel. Everyone paints their faces and shops dress their doors with marigold flowers. The town really feels like one big backyard of celebration and merriment! (And on that note, if you’re looking for the utmost chill time here, do NOT go during Día de Muertos).


About Safara

We believe in travel and its power to break down barriers and build connections. So we are doing everything we can to help people travel more.

Starting with the sexiest travel content since Marilyn Monroe on a train, we are also launching a hotel booking site and membership in early 2020, with hotels handpicked for the storytellers, the dreamers, the visionaries, and the imperfectionists.


Co-founder and CEO

Joey Kotkins is Co-founder and CEO of Safara. He was born and raised in Seattle, graduated from Duke with degrees in Economics and Psychology, lived in New York, back in Seattle, and now calls London home. His family worked in the luggage business for 100 years, so you could say he was born with a suitcase in his hand and he has been chasing travel dreams ever since. He’s spent the last 8 years as a startup founder, advisor, mentor, and consultant.


Co-founder and CMO

Maya is Co-Founder and CMO of Safara, and a life-long nomad- she’s living in her 7th country now. After graduating from McGill with a B.Com, she lived and worked in Shanghai and Hong Kong. She moved to NYC in 2009 and stayed for 8 years, working at startups like, where she partnered with over 500 hotels. She later ran International Marketing for Mr & Mrs Smith Hotels, and consulted for e-comm and direct to consumer brands in the UK and USA. She averages 30 flights a year, and is always packing or unpacking.



Tomas Rodriguez Ceretti is CTO of Safara. He started writing code when he was 7 and developed his first App at the age of 15. Years later he graduated with a Master’s degree in Software Engineering. Tomas is originally from Buenos Aires and traveling has always been in his DNA. This has pushed him to visit 35 countries and brought him to London, his home. He has worked for 8 years in Mercadolibre (the Amazon of Latin America) and for the last 5 years in various companies as a startup Partner incubator, Head of Delivery, CTO and Advisor.


Senior Full-stack Developer

Federico Dionisi is a software engineer and Safara’s first employee. Coming from a small village in the north of Italy, he now lives between the Netherlands, UK and Italy. He studied Computer Science in Trento, but before finishing, he started working for small startups in the territory followed by several stints around Europe. He loves traveling and experiencing new cultures, and is currently planning a long stay in Asia.


Brand Director

Safara’s Brand Director, Alice, has been working for media brands and with clients bringing their stories to life through creative ideas that convert for 6+ years. She helped launch and run SUITCASE Creative Studio (the creative agency of SUITCASE travel magazine) and Raconteur Agency (part of Raconteur Media). From hospitality to transport, to finch and fashion, she has produced campaigns and partnerships across channels and mediums for brands like citizenM, JaguarLandrover, Hunter Boots, Belmond Group and MasterCard. 

Marketing Manager

Chloe was born in Paris to a French father and English mother. Raised between London and Paris, her life was multicultural from the get-go. After obtaining her Masters degree in International Business & Marketing in Barcelona, she spent many years travelling between London, Paris, Cannes and Barcelona and learning all things Digital Marketing. She herself honed her skills at Google, learning from industry experts, and has helped startups grow in the UK, Europe, U.S. and even China. Chloe has travelled to Greece, Italy, Slovenia, the United States and Australia. Next up, she aspires to go travelling in South East Asia.

Software Engineer

Hailing from Djerba, the island of dreams in North Africa, Manel early on combined her passion for problem-solving and advancing the UN Sustainable Development Goals by diving deep into Software Engineering. Living in Tunisia and working between different continents, Manel had the opportunity to experience what it means to collaborate across borders with teams based in Montreal, New York, London and Tunis, nurturing her global mindset and determination to apply her skills for the good of all people.

Lily Wan, Director of Content at Casa Dragones

Lily Wan is the Director of Content at premium tequila brand Casa Dragones and one of the coolest ladies we know. Prior to working at Casa Dragones, Lily was the Managing Editor at Surface Magazine. This is a women that knows design, and knows it well. We are constantly coveting her style, and whether she is jetting off to Japan or hard at work in NYC, she keeps it trés chic.

She goes to San Miguel de Allende frequently for her job with Casa Dragones, but is an avid traveler for both work and play. With a serious interest in design (Lily started her career at HWKN), she is definitely a woman we look to for her great taste. Lucky for you, Lily has decided to write the San Miguel de Allende guide on behalf of Casa Dragones – so you can follow her footsteps through the picturesque Mexican town.

Find out her travel tips below, and make sure to follow her on Instagram at @lilywankenobi.

What are 3 of your favorite hotels?

Aman, Tokyo

Aman perfectly articulates Japan design sense – an ideal balance of modern and traditional. The spa is fantastic and each room has a deep soak bath tub.

Le Sirenuse, Positano

Hillside hotel overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea. The pool area is surrounded by lemon trees and the colorful buildings that make up the town. Everything about this place is a 10. 

Hoshinoya, Kyoto

You access this hotel via private boat – and that is just step one. The design is flawless, and it feel like you can sit and meditate in any given room. 

What is the most unique hotel amenity you’ve ever encountered?

A private wooden boat that takes you down the river and directly to the hotel at Hoshinoya in Kyoto.

Where would you go for a digital detox or just generally to get off the grid?

Norway or one of the Greek islands.

What are your thoughts on solo travel? Have you done it?

Yes, I’ve traveled solo quite a bit. Buenos Aires, Paris, French Alps, Sydney, New Zealand, Greece…It’s liberating and relaxing, and I always would eat too much. Haven’t done a solo trip since falling in love a couple years ago, but sometimes I get an itch and imagine I would still enjoy it. Vacation days are precious though and my partner and I have the exact same taste and curiosities, so it’s especially fun to escape together now.

What was your favorite room service experience ever?

Another point for Hoshinoya Kyoto. They have this full spread Japanese breakfast they bring to your room and set up for you (hot pot and everything). You sit on the floor, open up your wall-spanning window that overlooks the river, and begin your day in the most peaceful, savory way.

Anxiety and burn out are big topics these days. How do you combat them, and how do you use travel to do so?

These are both things I’ve been struggling with lately. In general, and in terms of vacation travel, when I’m off, I am o-f-f. Technology has helped made working and communication much more efficient, which is great, but if you don’t set your own boundaries, you’ll never get proper time to recharge.

 Do you have any tips or tricks for beating the dreaded jet lag?

Just gotta power through it as if you’ve been in your current time zone the entire time.

What’s your go-to outfit for getting through security quickly, and still looking good?

You’ll never catch me at the airport in sweats. There’s something to be said for how much of an event air travel was in the 50s and 60s. You’re flying through the air in a giant tube of metal—I still think that’s amazing and try to pay a little respect with my attire. Dropcrotch slacks and Martiniano glove shoes are the way to go. The shoes are especially key—these will be your best travel (and everyday) friend.

If you could quit your job and follow the “Mamma Mia” dream (ie open a small hotel in a foreign land or on a remote island), where would you do it?

Somewhere along the Italian coast (then maybe I will finally achieve my dream of becoming an nonna when I grow up! That’s how it works, right?).

Beach or City or Mountain?

Beach or mountains.

Fantasy mini bar/fridge item?

Easy-mix Negroni (The Ned in London aced this).

Window or Aisle?

Window (thank you, bladder of steel!).


From the Birdcage to Miami Vice to Will Smith’s (iconic) music video, we’ve been hit with various Magic City clichés via the big screen since we were kids. Though some of the stereotypes ring true (and we love the city for all of them), Miami has also come alive in recent years with it’s incredible art scene, new restaurants, and, of course, all those hot and heavy beach parties. We’ve hooked you up with the intel on how to take advantage of the best clichés Miami has to offer.

Photo by Lily Wan

Where to stay

The Edition

This. Is. Miami. Part hotel, part fiesta, The EDITION is situated in the heart of South Beach. Almost everyone that walks into the lobby is immediately trying to plan their next stay and/or a way to move full time into this hotel. Overall, it is exactly how you picture your vacation, work-cation, or staycation in Miami. With a Jean-Georges restaurant, two ocean facing pools, and a bowling alley, we can’t really think of anything the EDITION doesn’t have. Their tag line is “stay and play,” and their 24/7 party mentality creates a truly unique Miami experience.

The Freehand 

We love the Freehand. It’s a beautifully designed, super hip hotel on Miami Beach. Our favorite part about this place is that it’s totally accessible (price wise) with quads, kings, suites, and bungalows available. There is truly something for everybody. Our actual favorite thing about this hotel is the Broken Shaker – their poolside bar that is a welcomed oasis away from the spring-breakers in South Beach.

Soho Beach House

If you’ve been to Soho Beach House, you know it’s gorgeous and that the pool area is pretty hard to beat. Located in a restored art deco building, this hotel is right on the beach. If you don’t feel like risking the wrinkles, head to Cowshed Spa and book a facial. 

The Plymouth South Beach

The Plymouth is more of a boutique experience. Recently awarded Conde Nast’s “Best Urban Hotel,” The Plymouth rings old world charm in all the best ways. Rooms are gorgeous (some with claw foot tubs in the bedroom), and Blue Ribbon Sushi is right in the building. Need we say more? 

Where to eat

La Sirenuse

An outpost of the famed restaurant in Positano – La Sirenuse is not for those on a budget. It’s not where you’re going to get authentic Cubans or share small plates with our bffs, but it is excellent Italian food and the setting is absolutely gorgeous. If you’re in Miami for a 30th birthday, or maybe on your client’s bill, it’s definitely the place to go.


You’re not coming to Miami for southern food. That said, if you are in Miami, there is very good Southern food and you will find it at Yardbird. It’s located right in South Beach and if you go, make sure to get the fried green tomatoes.


Head over to Little Havana to get a taste of some of the best Cuban sandwiches outside of Cuba. This is a no frills restaurant and you are here for one thing: The Famous Cuban. Sit outside and take a stroll down Calle Ocho to experience the influence Cuban culture has had on the city.

Mandolin Aegean Bistro

When you’re exploring the Design District, stop in at Mandolin Aegean Bistro. It has our favorite patio in Miami, and Greek dishes that are made with ingredients straight from the restaurant’s garden. Make sure to order the sangria so you can continue your day the right way.

Joe’s Stone Crab

We’d be remiss not to include the iconic Joe’s Stone Crab on our guide. Anyone who has ever been to Miami has heard of this spot. Complete with a century-long family history and generations of devotees, this is the home of crab and key lime pie and we are game.

Where to stop for coffee

Panther Coffee

On your search for Miami’s best brew, look no further than Panther Coffee, known for high-quality, small batch coffee.  Their original Wynwood location is housed in an industrial space and you’ll find artists and locals ordering cold brew and making themselves at home.


If you’re in Park West, this is the coffee shop to hit up. ALL DAY has a great cup of coffee, but it also offers locally sourced bites in case you need more than a pick-me-up. If you’ve had one too many glasses of rose the night before, definitely order the Baked Double Yoke. You won’t regret it.

Where to grab a drink

Melinda’s Mezcal & Nacho Bar

This Wyndwood Mezcal bar feels straight out of the 1930s. It’s cool enough to feel like you’ve found yourself a secret watering hole in Miami, but also serves Mezcal slushies. 

Sweet Liberty Drinks & Supply Co

This cocktail bar manages to offer up chic Miami Beach cocktails and serve the best nachos we’ve had in a while. It’s the kind of place you could spend the entire night without getting too overwhelmed by the crowds – and that’s totally okay because the kitchen stays open until 4am.

Ball & Chain

Located in Little Havana, Ball & Chain is somewhat of an establishment. Having hosted musicians such as Count Basie and Chet Baker, this is big on music and daiquiris. You would be doing yourself a disservice by not checking out this spot when you’re in town. The space has been restored and they have even added a pineapple shaped bandshell out back. 

The Broken Shaker

As we said before, this is one of our favorite places to drink in Miami Beach. Attached to the Freehand Hotel, it’s a poolside bar that feels a little bit more refined than your standard…poolside bar. The cocktails are great and the music is too. 

What to get your hit of culture

Pérez Art Museum

Perez Art Museum used to be The Center for Fine Arts, until it was renamed and re-designed in 2013 by Herzog & de Meuron. PAMM now encompasses so much of what we love about Miami art – a unique, eye catching aesthetic that can keep you roaming for hours. The gift shop is wonderful too – just in case you need to pick up any gifts along the way. 

The Bass 

The Bass is a contemporary art museum in Miami Beach. Located in a historic art deco space, come here to see their sculpture garden or catch a film. Their rotating exhibits are excellent.

What to do

Gallery hopping in Wynwood

Miami’s Design District is loaded with things to see, but it’s good to check out the galleries while you’re there. Walk down NW 2nd Ave to get a sense of the art scene.  We recommend stopping at Pan American Projects and David Castillo Gallery. From there, head over to check out the street art murals at the Wynwood Walls

Crandon Park

If South Beach is getting a bit too claustrophobic and you want a moment away from the crowds, head to Crandon Park for a laid back beach day. You’ll definitely get the tropical island feel and be reminded that Miami is about more than just the party. 

Standard Spa

If you happen to have hit the dance floor too hard, head to the Standard Spa for a treatment. Located right off Venetian Way, you can lounge by the pool after your massage and soak up all the Vitamin D your heart desires.

Where to dance

Electric Pickle

This Wynwood club is not for the faint of heart. This can only be described as a dance institution, and if you’re looking to catch DJs like Nicolas Jaar and Maceo Plex, this is where you come. There is a rumor this indoor/outdoor club is closing come June 2019, so be sure to hit the dance floor before next summer.


We can’t really call this place a club. It’s more like a 20,000 square foot entertainment center that is focused around a dance floor. It’s truly a spectacle and is open 24 hours a day. It even has a daytime buffet to boot. Only a few blocks from Wynwood, you might want to skip out on the food for one of the breakfast places nearby, because you will stay here until the sun comes up. 

Blackbird Ordinary

This Brickell bar is the kind of place that plays 90s music that you’ll want to sing along to – but it’s Miami so you can also dance your heart out. Order a good cocktail and get ready to stay a while.

Where to shop

MRKT Avenue Deux 

This is a high end men’s and women’s concept shop in the Design District. Some of the clothing is a bit out there – but it’s meant to feel more like wearable art than anything else. Just go with it.

Boho Hunter

Also in the Design District, this is a store run by a few friends from Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela. You can only imagine the gorgeous pops of color you’ll find in the store, and they sell everything from bags to jackets to jewelry. 


Frangipani offers everything from kids toys to homewares, but it’s a place that you can actually find something special that is still affordable. This is a great place for gifts – for someone else or (most likely) yourself. 

Sebastian Puga, VP of Brand Marketing at PUBLIC Hotels

Sebastian Puga is the VP of Brand Marketing at Ian Schrager’s PUBLIC Hotels in NYC. Though you can now find him on the rooftop of the PUBLIC or at his home in the East Village, Sebastian is a Miami native. No stranger to hospitality, he was previously at Sixty Hotels and the Standard in New York and Miami. As someone with a career in the hotel business, Sebastian is constantly on the go and knows a thing or two about travel.

Follow Sebastian on Instagram @sebastianpuga

What are 3 of your favorite hotels?

La Granja, Ibiza, Spain

This is a beautifully designed farmhouse situated on the north side of Ibiza. Theres no sign for the hotel, just a dirt road from the main street – which is perfectly fitting for the feeling you experience once you arrive on property. The hotel is small, 6 rooms in the main house with an amazing restaurant and pool. The design is perfectly executed –  simple yet elegant. The restaurant produces its menu from the land it sits on.

Deer Mountain Inn, Tannersville, New York

This charming winter home was my destination for my birthday last year. Deer Mountain is an old turn of the century home transformed into a 6 room cottage sitting on 100 acres with 3 guest houses. The design is rustic, and exudes a warm feeling when you explore the grounds. There is an incredible restaurant and has a perfect deck to enjoy long lunches during the summer months. In the winter, get a cozy meal by the fireplace. You can hike around the property without needing to leave. I love coming here anytime of the year, and and it’s a great excuse to get out of the city.

PUBLIC, New York, NY

This is the hotel I opened alongside the godfather of the boutique hotels, Ian Schrager. This hotel is a new idea, breaking the mold from what the big hotel groups were doing in the market at the time, PUBLIC offers “Luxury for All.” This is a new  brand that offers access to a luxury designed hotel at an affordable rate. Design of the rooms and public spaces are exactly what was missing in downtown Manhattan. A true playground with 5 bars to go to, all of which serve a different purpose, design, and experience. A one stop shop when you are traveling to NYC.

What do you love most about working in hospitality?

A passion for service is embedded into my life, and there is nothing I can do to get away from that. Everything else just falls into place.

What hotel room design element can you not live without?

A comfortable mattress or I’m not coming back.

What are your favorite “offices” while traveling?

I prefer working in my hotel room. It’s quiet and I get distracted far too easily when I’m in a public setting. 

Where would you go for a digital detox or just generally to get off the grid?

I travel to upstate New York as often as possible. And cell service is terrible up there, so it’s easy to forget about my phone.

What do you always bring with you in your carry-on?

Running shoes. It’s a great way to get to see the city and work up a sweat.

If you could swap suitcases with anyone in the world at baggage claim, who would it be?

Johnny Depp.

If you’re going to a new place, and your friends have not been there, what do you consult for advice?

My friends website, A HOTEL LIFE for the best hotels.

Who is your dream “co-pilot” (travel partner- dead or alive), and why?

Hunter S Thompson. Would love to have been in Puerto Rico while he was writing The Rum Diary. That was probably a lot of fun. Sunshine and rum!

What is your go-to read while traveling?

The New Yorker.

If you could quit your job and follow the “Mamma Mia” dream (ie open a small hotel in a foreign land or on a remote island), where would you do it?

Working on this dream… in Tulum or Ibiza. Or any beach, actually.

Travel solo or with someone else?

With someone.

Lost luggage, or lost phone?

Lost luggage.

Fantasy mini bar/fridge item?

Bottle of Margeux.

Early check-in/ late check-out?

Late check out.

Marine Tanguy, CEO & Founder MTArt Agency

When she isn’t jetting off to Frieze Art Fair or speaking at international conferences, Marine Tanguy is hard at work on her company MTArt Agency  Having lived in three countries (USA, England, and France), it is only fitting that Marine is a woman about town (if “town” was actually our entire globe). Her love of art has her constantly on the move; this past October she went to four countries in one week. After opening a gallery at 23, she has developed her own agency and focuses on doing what she loves most: showcasing and managing artists. Having recently been awarded Forbes 2018 30 under 30 Europe: Art & Culture, she is on the top of her game and only at the beginning of her career. Feel free to also obsess over her two TEDx Talks (you can find them here and here) on how to transform cities with art, and how social media visually affects the mind.

Follow Marine Tanguy on Instagram @marinetanguyart

Name 3 favorite hotels, anywhere, off the top of your head.

The Bloomsbury Hotel in London because this is where Virginia Woolf, Duncan Grant, and others of the Bloomsbury Group used to create new works and come up with inspiring ideas.

The Standard Hotel in New York as you can make love with a full view of the Hudson.

Cafe de Flore in Paris- not a hotel, but a great place to have a coffee while discussing philosophical matters.

What is the most unique hotel amenity you’ve ever encountered?

I was offered a face mask with Tweety on it at the Mama Shelter Hotel in Bordeaux- I love Tweety, so I loved it.

What hotel room design element can you not live without?

I love when I’m offered a good book on the bedside table.

What are your favourite “douchey offices” while traveling?

I change them all the time, so this is hard to answer. I love discovering new things, so I am not into routines while travelling, and am always switching it up.

Where would you go to digital detox or just generally to get off the grid?

Back home, on Ile de Re.

You travel a lot for work…was this something you were seeking in a career? If so, how did you go about designing your career life to include so much travel, and how do you make it as relaxing and fun as possible?

I love it! I love meeting new people, learning about new cultures, and discovering. I couldn’t have dreamt this would be my reality when I was younger, and it’s more than I could have hope for. I am incredibly grateful.

What 3 songs are on your OOO playlist?

Incredibly cliché – Flashdance – what a feeling (since I was 7 years old), Yann Tiersen (the Amelie soundtrack), and Fleetwood Mac

What is your most used travel emoji?

The ‘boom’ one! Because I love landing in a new place, and go straight to seeing how my artists have transformed a space.

Do you have any favorite travel hacks?

Lovely service and people. Be nice – it’s simple to say, but will take you a long way to receiving better service, as well.

What do you always bring with you in your carry-on?

A book and my headphones.

If you could swap suitcases with anyone in the world at baggage claim, who would you swap with?

An artist 

Have you or would you travel alone? If Y/N, why?

I love traveling alone as I find that I have more time to process and reflect on what I see. Equally, I find that traveling with the people you love is where you develop the most special bonds. I love traveling with my artists and next month I am off to Ethiopia with my boyfriend.

If you’re going to a new place, and your friends have not been there, what do you consult for advice?

I am terrible at this – I tend not to ask, and wish to discover and wander myself.  (EDITOR’s note: we actually like this advice- sometimes what you happen upon by accident is exactly what you’re meant to find!).

What’s your favourite room service experience ever?

Flowers in the room – not food, but they make everything better.

Best Travel advise you’ve ever received, and from whom?

My granny bought me a notebook when I was super little and she used to say: open your ears and eyes and take notes.

Who is your dream “co-pilot” (travel partner- dead or alive), and why?

I can’t respond to this – all my loved ones are. Otherwise, Simone de Beauvoir is an icon and someone I would have loved to have met.

Anxiety and burn out are big topics these days. How do you combat them, and how do you use travel to do so?

I am lucky to do a job that I love, and this specific job inspires me daily. I feel that my passion and my loved ones are the best medicine against anxiety and burn out.

Do you have any tips or tricks for beating the dreaded jet lag?

Ignore it!

Travel can be about the little luxuries…like a super amazing cup of coffee. Where was the best one you’ve had?

I love tasting haribos from each country. They are different everywhere you go, and walking around the world with a bag of haribos is my special treat.

What is your favourite travel book – for at home, or abroad- and why?

It changes – I tend to go for very lengthy books when I travel. Currently it’s: War and Peace by Tolstoy.

What’s your go-to outfit for getting through security quickly, and still looking good?

Ballerina flats and a little French dress. I also never check a bag. I always have my carry on.

Rank the following, from most to least important to you, re: what you seek in a hotel experience: unique, comfortable, architecturally intriguing, close to things, dope minibar, has a pool, doesn’t break the bank, locals hang out there.

  1. Architecturally intriguing
  2. Pool
  3. Little Pedestrian lanes nearby

If you could quit your job and follow the “Mamma Mia” dream (ie open a small hotel in a foreign land or on a remote island), where would you do it?

I don’t want to quit my job!!!

Beach or City or Mountain?


Alone or with someone else?


In flight wifi- good idea: yes or no?

Yes! Sorry

Lost luggage, or lost phone?

Lost luggage

Airplane food- Y/N?

Hmmm still not convinced

Fantasy mini bar/fridge item?


Early check-in/ late check-out?

Early check in 

In flight cocktail – Y/N? What kind?

Gin & Tonic

Favourite travel app?

Cool Cousin

Window or Aisle?

Window to see the view 


Sydney feels far from reality. It’s far from, well, pretty much everywhere, so we would recommend planning at least two weeks for the journey to Australia. That said, you could easily spend over a month here and not run out of things to do.

Rather than the Central Business District (CBD as the locals call it), your time is better spent in neighboring areas such Surry Hills, Paddington, and Woollahra. These three boroughs are all walking distance from the CBD (we’re locals now) but give you a better feel of authentic Sydney away from the tourist traps.

The suburbs of Sydney is where the real magic happens. Bondi Beach, Watsons Bay, Manly, and Coogee are dotted with stunning beaches, beautiful trails, and adorable cafes. This is where to start.

Where to stay

We know what you’re thinking, but this is the only five-star luxury hotel outside Sydney’s CBD. Our favorite part about this place is the amazing rooftop area with an infinity pool looking over the Double Bay (which is typically crowded with yachts, so you‘ll have plenty to look at). Another upside to this hotel is their restaurant, Saké, which boasts some of the best Japanese food in Sydney.

If you’re looking for the not-so-obvious lux option, that’s a bit more eccentric but maintains personal service, we would recommend the Medusa. This place has a perfect location in the Darlington district and is one of the best boutique hotels in the city. Another one we like is the Paramount House Hotel, which has a bit more of an industrial feel to it.

We wouldn’t hesitate for a second to stay outside the city in Bondi Beach. Our go-to place is Hotel Ravesis. This pastel colored hotel feels retro yet modern and has the exact type of personal touch we love. All products, even in the mini bar, are locally produced and you can find silk eye masks in tropical prints or hand-drawn playing cards right there in your room. I know, that last bit sold us too.

Hotel Ravesis

Where to eat & drink

Head over to Five Ways crossing for breakfast. You’ll find a lot of cafés to choose from – Sonder Café is our favorite. Sonder serves a great (and necessary after a long flight) cup of coffee but more importantly has an insanely good coconut smoothie. They are also famous for their avocado toast.

For dinner, Chiswick Woollahra is a must. As one of our favorite restaurants in Sydney, they have really elevated the garden-to-plate experience and is the type of place we can walk in for lunch and hours later find ourselves there for dinner.

In Pott’s Point you have a restaurant called The Butler. This place has great food and an even more amazing view. Sit in the outdoor terrace and soak it all in.

If you’re in the city, look no further than Restaurant Hubert. A staple French bistro and known to be one of the best restaurants in Sydney.

After dinner, you skip the dessert and go to your closest Gelato Messina. It’s extremely hyped and that hype is entirely justified. This beats Italian gelato any day of the week. If you’re lactose intolerant or generally not a fan of frozen treats, head over to Palmer & Co for an equally great cocktail.

If you are in the Bondi area, have dinner at Ode. This newly opened restaurant is pretty magical with a romantic interior and a fantastic natural wine selection.

Sonder Cafe

Where to get a coffee

Aussies love their coffee and the standard is high. This means two things: 1. you won’t ever know as much about coffee as your new Aussie friends, and 2. you won’t have to look hard to find a great cup.

The place that stands out of the bunch for the beans is Frankie’s Beans Specialty Coffee Roaster. Go here for the perfect brew, and maybe add some ice to melt in with the locals. In general, espresso is not the preference here – and if you happen to be the type to order an espresso martini, it’s prepared with cold brew. Just a warning.

Where to shop

Head to Oxford Street by Bondi Junction. You will not be disappointed with the great selection of boutique premium brands, almost all of which are local.

Where to get your dose of culture

We don’t need to be the ones to tell you this – but the number one destination to head to in Sydney is the Opera House. We’re not fans of tourists attractions either, but the Opera House is a UNESCO heritage site and there are only about 1,000 of those in the world. Walk around it, take some pictures, catch a boat from the circular quay and watch it from the waterside. Maybe even go see a show and up your culture game entirely.

Where to work out

To keep it short, people are obsessed with health and wellness in Sydney. As you can imagine, there is a gym around every corner. Since Sydney also boasts fantastic weather, we personally prefer to trade in our gym time for an outdoor workout (preferably on the beach). The best thing to do is take a run along the coastal walks like Bondi Beach to Congee or Watsons Bay. If you’re in Manly, you can run/jog/walk-and-selfie to Spit.

As we all know, surfing is synonymous with Australian lifestyle. If you’re not an expert yourself, take a course at Bondi Beach. If strapping on a board seems too intimidating, head to the Bondi Icebergs Club right next to Bondi Beach to swim some laps.

Where to party

Because of the lockout laws (see above), our advice is to go out early, get drunk early, and go home early. Or get invited to one of those house parties from your new Aussie buds.

If you’re unsuccessful with landing an invite, go to one of the few spots in town that are open late. In CDB you have The Sheaf and Pelicano which are both open until 2 am. In Newtown (which is luckily not affected by the lockout laws) you’ll find The Bank which is open until 4 am.

The Sheaf

Where to work

We wouldn’t mind sitting in the French provincial courtyard at Intercontinental Hotel, sipping on a flat white, and sending a few emails. Wouldn’t mind it at all.

What to do

Go on as many day trips as you can handle. We can’t get enough of Bondi Beach. Come here, have lunch at Bennet St Dairy, buy a book at Gertrude and Alice Café, and go shopping at Tuchuzy. If the morning activities have you feeling tired, go lay on the beach. Bondi Beach can be quite hectic especially during warmer months and weekend. If that’s the case, we head Tamarama beach instead. After a few hours of bronzing on the sand, walk to Coogee and have an afternoon bite at Coogee Pavillion.

Watsons Bay is another great day trip option. We would even suggest that you stay one night here at the Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel. Take a boat to the city when the sun is about to set or do a day trip over to Manly. In Manly, go to Shelly beach and have lunch at The Boathouse. On your way back have dinner at Manly Wine.

Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel

If you’re into the whole boat thing, why not rent one and go around Sydney Opera House and set sail to one of the nearby beaches for the full day.

If you’re for something a little different and want to stay dry, go to Palm Beach, Blue Mountains, or try one surrounding vineyards.

Best bar for a secret rendezvous

Barber Shop. You enter this bar through a barber shop (hence the name) where guys can get groomed while having a drink. It’s the perfect setting for a secret rendezvous, with great drinks and ample seating.

Best place to buy gifts

Go to Oxford Street on a Saturday and explore the Paddington Markets. It’s filled with up and coming designers and artists selling everything from jewelry to candles to sunglasses and sun hats to scarves and anything you can remotely classify as a “giftable.”

Paddington Markets

In Bed
Former fashion director Pip Vasset has selected throws, pyjamas, bath towels, kitchen kit and hand-made ceramics for her beautiful store. A Sydney must-see.

You may recognise this womenswear brand (there are stores all over the world) but this neighborhood is where Zimmerman started. Expect floral prints, feminine dresses and soothing fabrics.

All these cosmetic products are prescribed by leading dermatologists. If you want to try one of their sought-after facials, book in advance as there’s a super long waitlist.

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