Features

Postcards from the World

5 Jun 2020 by Business Traveller India

This is a time to reflect on our travels over the years. Here’s a virtual journey of global cities and what they shine for, in our opinion.

Each city has its own signature appeal that has left a mark on us over the years of frequent travel. We take you on a journey through different cities and present our perspective on what makes them unique in their own distinctive way. From business to food, retail to bars, read on to find out what makes us return to these multi-faceted metropolises of the world.

ABU DHABI: HUB OF CULTURE

Louvre Abu Dhabi

Home to the National Theatre, historic forts, cultural institutions, and majestic mosques, Abu Dhabi is one of middle east’s most impressive cultural centres. Its grand heritage with rich history and majestic monuments has always drawn us to this emirate.

Here’s a lowdown on the capital of the UAE from an edifying lens:

An epitome of Abu Dhabi’s illustrious heritage, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is an instantly recognisable global icon that blends different Islamic architectural schools. During Ramadan 2019, the mosque welcomed more than 1.4 million worshippers according to the Gulf News. The mosque features 82 domes, more than 1,000 columns, 24k-gold gilded chandeliers, and the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet. Some of its other notable elements include domes clad in white marble, onion-shaped crowns and crescent-shaped finials decorated with gold-glass mosaic.

Another celebrated gem in our opinion is Al Ain Oasis, just two hours from the main city. Spreading across 3,000 acres, Al Ain is host to a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It houses Qasr Al Muwaiji, a century-old fortress; Al Jahili Fort showcasing permanent exhibitions of photographs taken by British adventurer Sir Wilfred Thesiger during his 1940s crossings of the ‘Empty Quarter’ desert; ‘falaj’ – UAE’s traditional irrigation system and Ali Ain’s Eco Centre that offers curated storytelling through interactive installations.

Another place to venture deep into the history of Abu Dhabi is at Qasr Al Hosn, which reopened in December 2018, following extensive renovations by the Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT) Abu Dhabi. It is deemed to be an important inclusion to Abu Dhabi’s tourism landscape. The site comprises four interrelated components — the historic Qasr Al Hosn Fort; the Cultural Foundation that hosts a diverse visual and performing arts programme; the National Consultative Council Building; and the House of Artisans, promoting and preserving UAE’s intangible lineage. By a way of these, DCT Abu Dhabi aims to encourage visitors to explore authentic landmarks of the city.

Albeit the emirate plays a huge emphasis on the bygone days – a visit to the Paris landmark’s first international outpost, the Louvre Abu Dhabi will make you see its modern contemporary side. You can either check out an exhibition or watch a live performance at this marvel.

Moreover, we recommend exploring the region’s culture and heritage via a plethora of local experiences – from cruising in a traditional boat to riding a horse and camel racing.

EMIRATI ETIQUETTE

Sign up for the Emirati House experience which begins with a discussion on Emirati hospitality, followed by a delectable multi-course dinner. During the course, you will be guided through the basic etiquette and practices of the culture.
For instance, refusing coffee can be considered offensive in an Emirati household, and once done, you signal it by shaking the cup from side to side. Visit visitabudhabi.ae to know more.

BTI Tip: Arabic coffee or ghahwa is best enjoyed with local dates.

SOJOURN DURING RAMADAN
To profoundly understand the culture of Abu Dhabi, a visit during the holy season of ramadan is ideal. Enjoy delicacies like shorbat harees (wheat and meat soup), machboos laham (meat cooked with yellow rice simmered in the meat stock with Arabic spices and dry lemon) while observing local families coming together to celebrate this momentous occasion.

WHERE TO STAY

Located in the heart of the Corniche, The St. Regis Abu Dhabi is a 30-minute drive from Abu Dhabi International Airport. The interiors and architecture of the hotel tastefully blend the brand’s century-old legacy with rich Emirati culture. Its accommodation highlight is the Abu Dhabi suite considered to be the world’s highest suspended suite at 220m above ground level. Another striking feature is the Al Mudhaif Ballroom for large-scale events for over 700 guests (banquet-style). stregisabudhabi.com

For a grand wedding celebration, choose Jumeirah at Etihad Towers that offers two stunning venues — Mezzoon Ballroom and Under the Oculus. The hotel has 382 rooms and suites along with a host of business and leisure facilities. Guests looking to unwind can spend some time at the Observation Deck at 300, which gives you a 360-degree view of the UAE capital. We recommend enjoying this view with an afternoon coffee session. jumeirah.com

Choose from one of the 280 rooms and suites at Sofitel Abu Dhabi Corniche. The hotel’s extensive F&B includes all-day dining restaurant Corniche; Grills @ Chill’O restaurant by the pool serving the best of Arabic and Mediterranean cuisines; Le Café Lounge serving detectable French and middle eastern pastries and Parmigiana restaurant for Italian delights. sofitelabudhabicorniche.com

If you want more versatile dining options during your stay, pick Grand Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel & Residences, Emirates Pearl. Options include Verso, an Italian deli-style cafe; a stylish sports bar Lexx serving cellar wines, vintage cigars and classic cocktails complemented by fine cheese and charcuterie and the Pearl Lounge, a mix of a lounge, a café, a shop, a creperie, and a bar, is perfect for a casual meet up. hyatt.com

Set against the backdrop of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal is one of the finest luxury hotels in Abu Dhabi. Apart from its opulent offerings, guests staying at the hotel must avail of wellness facilities, especially at their spa offering express treatments, and a traditional hammam. ritzcarlton.com

Speaking of wellness, Emirates Palace, now managed by Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, also offers a plethora of spa and wellness therapies available for all types of travellers. Emirates Palace’s Moroccan-inspired spa is one of the key features. The property is replete with luxury elements like 24k gold leaf finishing, Swarovski chandeliers, arabesque mosaic tiles and marble in shades of the desert sand. mandarinoriental.com

DOHA: SPORTING CAPITAL

Experts from the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) say that sports events in Doha are becoming an increasingly important factor in attracting travellers from all over the world. QTA has already branded their sports tourism with a strategic plan (for 2017-2023) with the powerful tagline ‘Qatar Welcomes the World’.

Qatar, particularly Doha, packs its annual calendar with major global sports events that hail tourists from all over the world. A prominent example is the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar, which is set to run from November to December. For this, Doha is gearing up to play a major role as one of the three host cities. Not surprisingly, some of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar venues are in Doha. These include Al Rayyan Stadium, Al Thumama Stadium, Education City Stadium, Khalifa International Stadium, Lusail Stadium and Ras Abu Aboud Stadium.

While the Khalifa International Stadium with an illustrious history (Gulf Cup, Asian Games and the AFC Asian Cup) has played host to several prestigious games in the past, Education City Stadium is the latest venue of 2020 that draws on the rich history of Islamic architecture, blending it with striking modernity.

Doha has also hosted major championships such as the 15th Asian Games Doha 2006 and the 2011 Plan Arab Games. Moreover, in its latest effort to establish Doha as a major sports capital, Qatar is considering a bid for the 2030 Asian Games. Evidently, its contribution to the world of sports is unquestioned — and an important factor that’s driving us to Qatari shores this year too.

MUST-VISIT: ASPIRE ZONE
A 20-minute drive from central Doha, Aspire Zone is a sports destination featuring state-of-the-art training facilities and sporting venues including the historic Khalifa International Stadium. There is ‘The Hamad Aquatic Centre’ that houses facilities for swimming, water polo, diving and other aquatic sports. Additionally, there is ‘The Ladies Sports Hall’ that focuses on amenities for women’s sports.

WHERE TO STAY

Taking references from the emirate’s history, culture and modern architecture, Mandarin Oriental, Doha is one of the newest additions to the city’s luxury hotel scene. Located in the centre of Msheireb Downtown Doha – the hotel offers plush rooms, suites, and serviced apartments. We recommend the two-bedroom Royal Suite on the top floor that has a stunning view of  Doha, a private entrance, with an open-countryard and a private plunge pool. mandarinoriental.com

Another new property on our radar is the Dusit Doha Hotel in West Bay’s Diplomatic Area that offers 357 guestrooms, suites, and apartments. The hotel is deemed to be an ideal venue for all kinds of events with its versatile MICE facility. Few include the 574 sqm-Pearl Ballroom for large celebrations that can accommodate up to 500 people and the Emerald and Amber rooms for small gatherings accommodating 60 and 80 people respectively. dusit.com

Speaking of MICE, Sheraton Grand Doha Resort & Convention Hotel also plays a key role in the business circuit of Doha. The property has 371 guestrooms and suites in different categories – from deluxe to the Presidential suite. In terms of F&B, Al Hubara is best known for serving local dishes; La Veranda for authentic Italian fare; Em Sherif Restaurant for Oriental cuisine, among others. marriott.com

Taking the culinary experience a notch higher in the capital city is The Ritz-Carlton, Doha. The hotel’s B-Lounge Doha gives guests a unique dining experience combining gastronomy, mixology, and music; The Lagoon highlights Arabic and international cuisines; STK Doha provides an interesting spin to the American steakhouse concept; and Sel & Miel, a French Brasserie reminiscent of Parisian lifestyle. ritzcarlton.com

DUBAI: RETAIL HAVEN

Dubai

Dubai’s grandeur in all its aspects is its inherent characteristic. This also reflects quite effortlessly in its varied retail choices for the shopping enthusiast.

It can only happen in Dubai that the largest mall in the world — The Dubai Mall — beats its own record by adding further extensions. From uber-luxe premium labels to high-street brands, there’s something for every kind of shopper at this colossal mall. It is also not surprising that the mall offers an indoor car for shoppers to get around easily. Did we mention it also has an Olympic-size ice rink, a cinema and an aquarium within its premises?

With over 630 brands on offer, another address for premium shopping in Dubai is the Mall of the Emirates. The mall offers an exclusive hands-free service that helps you relax post all that shopping, where you can drop all your bags and stress and head towards the indoor ski slope and an amusement centre. Your shopping can then be delivered to you, anywhere in the mall or even at your home’s doorstep.

While the emirate boasts of ultra-modern shopping destinations, there’s much more on offer.

This includes speciality souqs and quaint bazaars that hail travellers from the world over. Head to the bedazzling Dubai Gold Souk situated on the banks of the Dubai Creek to explore the city’s ultimate gold hues. The world’s largest gold market prides itself with a magnificent display of the world’s largest and heaviest gold ring that weighs around 64 kg, which we deem would definitely make it to your Insta-stories.

Popular among expats and the younger gen of Dubai is the Dubai Flea Market, located in Zabeel Park. Its 300 stalls retail almost everything from furniture, clothes, antiques, ceramics and pottery items. Another speciality bazaar that should be on your list during your trip to Dubai is the Perfume Souk that literally brings the aromas of Arabia to life. Dating back four decades, this souk is lined with vendors selling the eclectic scent of the UAE — oudh — in various concoctions and colours. For some indulgence, head to to stalls that create personalised scents that are blended as per your skin and preferences.

Dubai is buzzing with the new and at Arte — The Maker’s Market, artisans from the world over are given a platform to showcase their creations. Hosted on every Friday across different locations in the emirate, this market puts on display works of arts ranging from artisanal coffees, handicrafts, paintings and baked goods. There are also themed markets that are hosted quite frequently.

An interesting hotspot that’s caught our attention in the emirate is City Walk. A vast space, it features over 240 concept stores
that specialise in beauty, fashion, wellness, home and jewellery. City Walk also houses an array of leisure activities and sophisticated restaurants. In Dubai, you can never run out of options for some indulgent retail therapy.

WHERE TO STAY

One of the tallest buildings in the world, the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai on Sheikh Zayed Road offers sweeping views of Dubai’s cityscapes from its accommodation. With ten restaurants and lounges serving an array of cuisines including Indian, Thai and Japanese, the hotel is quite the destination for F&B in this emirate. Its meeting spaces sprawl around 7,432 sqm — making it ideal for MICE in the city. marriott.com

Also located on Sheikh Zayed Road Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai soars over Dubai’s picturesque horizon and offers rooms, suites and apartments that designed keeping in mind classic Shangri-La sensibilities. The hotel offers eclectic dining options that serve fare from Asia, Europe, India and South America while its CHI, The Spa invites you to rejuvenate after a long day of meetings. shangri-la.com

A subsidiary of Indian Hotels Company Limited, Taj Hotels operates two hotels in Dubai — Taj Dubai and Taj Jumeirah Lakes Towers. Featuring rich Indian influences, warm hospitality and Emirati charm, Taj Dubai offers elaborate accommodation options, a few of which offer views of the Burj Khalifa. The hotel’s Opera Ballroom can host up to 350 people. Opened this year, Taj Jumeirah Lakes Towers is the latest entrant on Dubai’s hospitality circuit. Housing an array of F&B offerings, the hotel’s restaurants serve a range of cuisines; in fact, Taj Mahal Hotel Mumbai’s signature Shamiana restaurant has an outpost here too. With dramatic vistas, Paros, a Mediterranean inspired rooftop pool bar and restaurant is an ideal spot for post-work unwinding. tajhotels.com

Situated on Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard, Address Downtown is a part of Address Hotels + Resorts — another one of our recommended choices for accommodation in Dubai. The flagship property of the hotel group, it features a lavish five-tiered infinity pool. With nine treatment rooms, a hammam, steam rooms and relaxation areas, The Spa at Address Downtown is where you should head to after a long day of meetings. addresshotels.com

Frankfurt: Eco-Business centre

Frankfurt offers a balanced ecosystem for MICE groups who prefer a cosmopolitan, modern venue; but at the same time look for ways to cut down on large carbon footprints generated during conclaves of such high magnitude. Guiding corporates and business tourists in this effort to execute a green meeting is Frankfurt Convention Bureau, an effective local body that helps in identifying meeting sites and event planners in the German city with sustainability as their principle focus.

One such conference centre in Frankfurt is Kap Europa which has won several accolades for highlighting the green concept in both its design as well as operations. The space has the capacity to host up to 2,400 guests — there are two halls for 1,000 and 600 people respectively and 12 conference rooms.

If you wish to hire a larger space, there is Congress Center Messe Frankfurt (CMF) capable of accommodating up to 3,400 people. The centre offers easy access to hotels, public transport and parking spaces, and is a ten-minute walk from Central Station. The adjacent Maritim Hotel Frankfurt can be utilised for guest stays, saving you the transport cost and fuel consumption.

For groups having easy accessibility and connectivity as the top priority, Sheraton Frankfurt Airport Hotel and Conference Center, located directly at Terminal 1 of Frankfurt Airport, serves well. The hotel has a total of 1,008 rooms and suites and 60 meeting rooms. Their largest event space is the Congress Center which can host up to 1,200 people.

A more invigorating business ambience can be fostered at Festhalle Frankfurt. Although widely used for big music and entertainment concerts, this multi-purpose arena can well fit the brief of a “MICE event outside the ballroom”. Festhalle Frankfurt provides 5,646 sqm, with space for up to 8,500 people (together with the two tiers) seated, and 13,500 people unseated.

Along with great connectivity and avant-garde meeting venues, Frankfurt boasts a favourable environment for hosting several incentive and team building activities for MICE groups. Thematic city tours, cruise trips, culinary and brewing experiences, book fairs, interactive games and workshops are few of the many recreational programmes to undertake in Frankfurt.

Why MICE in Frankfurt?

  • Being the smallest metropolis in Europe, Frankfurt is touted as a compact city, making it easy to handle for event organisers.
  • Frankfurt Airport is a key aviation hub in Europe, with a network covering around 300 destinations spread across 100 countries.
  • In total, Frankfurt offers around 56,900 keys.
  • Maintaining an ecological harmony, 50 per cent of the city is made up of parks, gardens and other verdant natural landscape.

WHERE TO STAY

 Steigenberger Frankfurter Hof is where antiquity meets glorious architecture. Located in the heart of the financial district and the historical city centre, the hotel is close to Maintower, Römer and Paulskirche. The guestrooms and suites are elegantly designed and cater to the needs of all kinds of travellers. From their culinary section, the Autorenbar is an interesting choice for having intimate business meets over smoky whisky and classic cocktails. steigenberger.com

With a convenient location, lavish accommodation, an expansive F&B and high-end recreational provision, Jumeirah Frankfurt makes for a top-notch MICE and holiday abode in Germany. A unique aspect of the property is that it houses beehives on the roof at a height of about 100 metres. Guests can taste the honey from these honeycombs at the breakfast buffet or can buy a honey jar as a souvenir. For business events, hire their regal ballroom, bejewelled with Swarovski crystals. jumeirah.com

Splendid views of the River Main can be enjoyed from Intercontinental Frankfurt lodged in the heart of the city. Their extensive conference facilities involve 19 modern spaces, including a large ballroom and the 21st-floor Salon Silhouette offering breathtaking city scene. Stop by the DAXx Mainhattan’s Bar for sundowners and post-work tipples. Their menu boasts having over 60 specialist whiskies. ihg.com

Head over to Sofitel Frankfurt Opera Hotel if you are in a mood to experience French luxury in Frankfurt’s Mainhattan district. Flatter your tastebuds with the likes of kingfish ceviche with celery and grapefruit; spring vegetable consommé with filled ravioli and old sherry; and cabbage and turnips with pickled quail egg at Restaurant Schönemann.
all.accor.com

Straight out of a fantasy film is Villa Kennedy, presiding over Frankfurt’s south bank. The city’s famed museum quarter and St. Bartholomew Cathedral are some tourists attractions that you can explore while staying at this hotel. Satiate your Italian food cravings in an alfresco setting at Gusto restaurant serving the best of spaghetti al pomodoro, ravioli and fish cooked in Himalayan salt stone. roccofortehotels.com

Fleming’s Selection Hotel Frankfurt-City, located at Eschenheimer Turm, is at a walkable distance from Zeil shopping street, the stock exchange, banking district and Römer. Meetings and receptions can be organised at Ambassador Club on the seventh floor. Make a pit stop at their skyline bar for innovative cocktails and signature spirits that are relished along with gleaming skyline sights. flemings-hotels.com

ISTANBUL: ARCHITECTURAL ARDOUR

Architectural ecstasy can be best explained using Istanbul’s dazzling landscape as an exemplar. Located in the Marmara region of Turkey, the city is bedecked with picturesque mosques topped with mystical minarets, churches, synagogues, palaces, castles, medieval towers and vibrant bazaars, reflecting influences of the Roman, Byzantine, Genoese, Ottoman, and contemporary establishments who have left an indelible mark on the region and its people.

When we think of Istanbul, the first image that springs to our minds is that of Hagia Sophia Museum and Sultan Ahmed Mosque majestically facing each other with Bosphorus as the backdrop. Once a Greek Orthodox Christian cathedral, then an Ottoman imperial mosque and now a museum, Hagia Sophia is characterised by its floral, geometrical and figurative mosaic decorations. Intricacies of Ottoman calligraphy can be seen at this UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.

Sultan Ahmed Mosque (widely known as the Blue Mosque) has remained prominent in the spiritual circuit of Turkey for centuries now. Its premises feature the tomb of Ahmed I (Sultan of Ottoman Empire from 1603 to 1617), a hospice and a madrasah (educational organisation). The iconic structure is dubbed as the Blue Mosque due to the hand-painted blue tiles adorning its interiors. History and architecture enthusiasts would be interested to know that this is first of the two mosques in Turkey to have six minarets — the other one is Sabancı Merkez Mosque in Adana.

Another architectural marvel is Dolmabahçe Palace, considered to be the Ottoman Empire’s last official home. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey, also breathed his last moments here. Grand chandeliers, soft silk carpets and gold leaf ceiling are few design elements of this 19th-century building, the construction of which was much talked about because of its whopping cost of US$1.5 million in today’s worth.

Imagine yourself with a cup of hot Turkish coffee amidst the scenic turquoise waters of the Bosphorus that connects Asia to Europe. Well, this is what Maiden’s Tower, situated on the sea at the entrance of the waterway offers.

It has assumed numerous roles including that of a watchtower and a lighthouse that eventually became a restaurant. Although, it isn’t as elaborate as the ones mentioned before; its unique location is what makes it a case study for budding architects worldwide.

Istanbul’s brilliancy in modern design and architecture can be explored through Kanyon.

This is a metal and glass construction, serving as a mixed-use development with an office, residential and shopping complex. It comprises intricate curves and arches that aesthetically make inroads through the gigantic outline of the property.

WHERE TO STAY

Arrive royally in a limousine, yacht or helicopter at the only Ottoman imperial palace and hotel situated on the Bosphorus —Çırağan Palace Kempinski Istanbul, a part of the prestigious The Leading Hotels of the World portfolio. Choose from their 310 rooms including 20 suites in the hotel and 11 suites in the historic palace. For an unparalleled sensory experience, indulge in the hotel’s bespoke dining concept called Sultans’ Dinner, reminiscent of the Ottoman era. kempinski.com

About five minutes from the Kempinski property lies the enchanting retreat of Shangri-La Bosphorus, Istanbul. Located between the Dolmabahçe Palace and the Maritime Museum, the luxe establishment offers 186 rooms and suites; and four restaurants and bars including the signature Shang Palace. This is where Europe’s first CHI, The Spa is based — pamper yourself with hammam rituals and Asian healing therapies post-meeting. shangri-la.com

For those looking for a more contemporary accommodation option, W Istanbul can be your ideal pick. Highlights include the top-floor Extreme Wow suite fitted with a private terrace where you can enjoy a spectacular sunset. In-room entertainment features a Bose Wave radio, a DJ deck, and a premium sound system to name a few. Sipping on some handcrafted cocktails at the Art-Deco-inspired W Lounge is a must when visiting this property. marriott.com

A prominent name in the city’s extensive list of high-profile event spots is Grand Hyatt Istanbul, housing beautiful indoor and outdoor spaces. This is complemented by their 360 guestrooms and suites that open to breathtaking views of the city, the garden, or the Bosphorus; and an expansive F&B including 34 serving Turkish and Mediterranean delights, Mezzanine Lounge and Bar for light bites and Grasidi Meyhane presenting flavours of Aegean sea. hyatt.com

LONDON: TASTE TRENDS

Dining in London is an exhilarating experience, to say the least. While the city boasts veritable experiences like traditional afternoon teas and British classic fare, it has expanded its horizon to progressive cuisines like Indian fusion, Ethiopian and modern middle eastern. But if that’s too experimental for your palate, London houses 67 Michelin-starred restaurants on its grid, ranging from one-star to two- and three-star outlets like the glorious Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, which has held three stars since 2001.

While Michelin-starred restaurants are rightly considered to be a hit on the pocket, there are all sorts of Michelin eateries here that range from pubs, classic British hotspots to elusive sushi bars. With two Michelin-stars each, try Dinner by Heston Blumenthal for classic British recipes with a modern twist at Hyde Park; Umu for its ‘kaiseki tasting menu’ with eight courses at Mayfair; and Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs at Goodge Street that serves ‘dogs and champers’ or well, hotdogs and champagne.

The new wave of Indian restaurants in London is another trend to watch out for. This home of chicken tikka masala has forayed far and wide; perhaps even overtaking the origin country for its version of Indian food. Going beyond rice and curry are these restaurants — Kahani at Sloane Square for innovative cocktails and British-Indian dishes; Flora Indica at Old Brompton road that takes diners on a culinary journey across India; and Bombay Bustle at Maddox Street that evokes the story of the Indian railway network through its endearing menu.

If your taste in Asian food strays more towards the east, further from India, London’s quirky restaurants will set you off on a gastronomical adventure. Flesh & Buns, a Japanese izakaya restaurant and bar with outposts at Covent Garden and Oxford Circus serves up the likes of rabbit katsu and pulled beef cheek for meat enthusiasts. MẮM (pronounced like mum) on All Saints Road showcases a whole new side of Vietnamese cuisine. Their signature papaya cocktail is one to try.

However, London’s latest pan-Asian import from the USA is PF Chang that offers gourmet Asian fare such as black truffle sushi rolls and lobster spring rolls. For Korean food, one of the most trending cuisines in the English capital currently, head to On The Bad. The Korean tradition of chimaek – fried chicken wings with ice-cold beer – is brought to life here. While the dim sum at A Wong in Pimplico is nothing less than artwork, we recommend its ten-course ‘Taste of China’ that showcases China’s undiscovered regional cuisine.

Although it is clear that the English capital prides itself on exclusive fine-dining experiences, an exploration of its street food is worth your time as well. Brockley, Broadway, Borough and Camden Markets are some of the hotspots of London’s delectable street food vendors. On your list should be the chipotle beef burrito at Luardos (Brockley Market); candied bacon burger at Tongue ’n Cheek (Camden Market); slow-roasted pork belly with cucumber, spring onions and hoisin sauce at Yum Bun (Kitchen Spitalfields Market); and soy noodle salad with vegan fish sauce at Day Chay (Borough Market).

WHERE TO STAY

If you’re looking to stay in Mayfair, Intercontinental London Park Lane is a suitable option. The flagship property of Intercontinental Hotels & Resorts, it is designed with a mix of modern and traditional aesthetics. A Bose sound system and a Nespresso machine, along with Agraria bath amenities are a few of the in-room amenities. Do try the Mexican flavours at Ella Canta that is headed by Chef Martha Ortiz. parklane.intercontinental.com

However, if your meetings are around Kensington, reserve your stay at Copthorne Tara Hotel London Kensington. With Hyde Park or city views, its rooms feature a safety deposit, a flatscreen TV and a tea/coffee maker. For Singaporean, Malaysian and Chinese Flavours, spend an evening at Bugis Street. Housing 12 spacious meeting rooms including two large scale suites, this is an ideal hotel for MICE. millenniumhotels.com

For a classic, Art-Deco-style experience in Mayfair, pick The Beaumont. A luxurious boutique with a charming old-world décor inspired by the great hotels of the 1920s, the hotel is privately-owned and independently-run. Its Colony Grill Room has established itself as a definitive favourite on the London dining scene while the Magritte Bar is the property’s ‘American bar’. thebeaumont.com

London Marriott Hotel Maida Vale is another conveniently located hotel in London’s Westminster, a short walk from Kilburn Park station. Its accommodation is minimal with elegant elements and modern touches. A dip in its Bannatyne’s swimming pool and an Italian meal at Carluccio’s should be on your agenda. With four versatile event spaces that can accommodate up to 180 people, it’s a good choice for events too. marriott.com

For a tryst with authentic British charm, we recommend a stay at Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill that pays an ode to Sir Winston Churchill. Featuring subtle cues from his life and legacy, the hotel is conveniently located near Hyde Park. Dine at The Montagu Kitchen to indulge in fresh, British cuisine that takes its inspiration from the erstwhile residence of Winston Churchill. hyatt.com

Offering stunning views of the London Eye, Big Ben and Westminster Bridge, occupying London’s former City Hall is London Marriott Hotel County Hall. With art as the recurring theme at this hotel that embodies a quintessentially British spirit. Unwind at its indoor pool or pick from over 100 gins at Gillray’s Steakhouse & Bar alongside locally-sourced steaks from O’Shea’s Butchers. marriott.com

Hard Rock Hotel London is the obvious choice for music lovers. Once the abode of Jimi Hendrix, Diana Ross and Bob Dylan, the hotel draws on the legacy of such illustrious artists. This is brought to life with a fascinating memorabilia collection and original artwork in every bedroom. Located on the corner of Oxford Street and Park Lane, head here if you wish to feel like a rockstar on your trip to London. hardrockhotels.com

A fan of London’s Nobu Restaurant? A stay at Nobu Hotel London Shoreditch should take care of that. The hotel blends the understated luxury of Nobu with East London’s creative energy. Nobu brings out ‘Asian-inspired and London-infused sights, sounds, scents and experiences’ to offer its guests an indulgent experience. Pick ‘Spa Escape’ package at Nobu’s luxurious that includes two treatments and a light lunch at Nobu Café. london-shoreditch.nobuhotels.com

REYKJAVIK: NATURE’S DOORWAY

 

The dramatic landscape of Iceland has made its way onto our travel radar this year. With mountains that are volcanically active, icebergs, geothermal spas, ancient ruins of airplane wreckages, surreal ‘bubble’ hotels that reduce the barriers between you and nature to practically none, this Nordic country has much to offer.

An ideal way to start your Icelandic sojourn is at Reykjavík — the country’s capital. With a vibrant culture, eclectic festivals, endearing architecture and inspiring museums, there’s much to do in Reykjavík before you start your nature-filled adventures around the country. What’s also interesting is that the country is small enough for you to drive across its landscape — making Reykjavík your ideal hub.

So while you are in the city, a good way to immerse yourself in Nordic culture would be to explore some of Reykjavík’s museums. These include National Museum that features artefacts from the country’s settlement to its modern age; Settlement Exhibition, a permanent fascinating archaeological ruin-museum; and National Gallery of Iceland that showcases ever-changing exhibits at galleries overlooking Tjörnin lake.

Perhaps the city’s most iconic landmark, however, is Hallgrímskirkja — a striking white-concrete church that stands out because of its massive 5275-pipe organ that was installed in 1992. Another aspect that can be keenly on your trip to Reykjavík is Nordic cuisine. Utilising the region’s fish, game, and produce ranging from the Arctic tundra to the Norwegian fjords, Nordic gastronomy focuses on more contemporary approaches in its dishes. While in Reykjavík, make a reservation at Dill Restaurant where you can indulge in traditional Nordic cuisine served with a contemporary perspective. Not a bad way to begin your Icelandic sojourn, we reckon!

WHERE TO STAY

If you wish to experience premium luxury in the heart of the Icelandic capital, then Tower Suites Reykjavík is the unparalleled choice. Offering only eight signature suites on the 20th floor that offer surreal sweeping vistas of the city’s natural beauty. Your stay at this hotel begins with a glass of bubbly, inviting you to begin your affair with luxury at this hotel amid a modern design and stylish amenities. slh.com

If you would like to stay in the city centre, at the heart of all the action, then another great option is Canopy by Hilton Reykjavik City Centre. Architecturally simple yet functional, its rooms and spaces are artistic and reflect the city’s connect with nature. A bunch of extensive dining options include Geiri Smart Restaurant serving Nordic cuisine and Canopy Central Bistro & Bar that serves contemporary dishes. hilton.com

For a boutique-style stay experience in downtown Reykjavík, book yourself at Sand Hotel by Keahotels. Located at the hotel’s ground floor are Sandholt Bakery and Gudsteinn Eyjólfsson haberdashery, both of which have been operational since 100 years. Its accommodation reflects the building’s rich history and features attractive amenities such as a Marshall speaker and bath amenities from Sóley Organics. keahotels.is

SINGAPORE: ENTERTAINMENT EXTRAVAGANZA

Gardens by the Bay

What makes Singapore a preferred family destination in Asia is its wealth of adrenaline-boosting theme parks and entertainment venues.

From hair-raising roller coaster rides to exhilarating water sports and pretty spots like Gardens by the Bay, this island country packs a punch with fun experiences for the young and young at heart — and the Universal Studios Singapore (USS) located within Resorts World Sentosa on Sentosa Island is an ideal place to experience it. Touted as the first Hollywood movie-themed park in southeast Asia, USS houses seven unique zones inspired by movies such as Madagascar, Far Far Away (Shrek), The Lost World and Ancient Egypt (The Mummy) among others. Test your true spirit of adventure here by getting on to the world’s tallest duelling roller coasters, Battlestar Galactica: Human vs Cylon.

For high-speed water slides, the water tornado ride and a refreshing dip in a pool, check out Adventure Cove Waterpark situated in the same integrated resort as the USS. Special experiences include encounters with hammerhead sharks, silver-tip and sandbar sharks; playing with dolphins; feeding manta rays and snorkelling with more than 20,000 tropical fish over a colourful reef.

Canoeing at Singapore Sports Hub, wake-boarding at Singapore Wake Park, windsurfing at Changi Coast and jet blading at Ola Beach
Club are some of the other options for the thrill-seeking travellers.
Singapore is also an interesting pick for those looking for less rip-roaring and more exquisite experiences, running until the dawn. For instance, there is The Projector that screens indie and arthouse films.

Catch gigs and open-mics at one of the many cafés and alfresco bars adorning the narrow strip of Haji Lane in Kampong Glam area. Take your kids for a light and water show at Marina Bay. This 15-minute outdoor display called Spectra combines dancing streams, laser beams and visual art projections alongside a dramatic soundtrack.

WHERE TO STAY

In a city full of glitzy skyscrapers, we place our bets on the iconic property of Raffles Singapore for a one-of-a-kind stay in the region. Reopened in 2019 after a massive refurbishment, the hotel has managed to successfully revive its old-world charm. Business travellers from India, longing to have a good north Indian meal can visit Tiffin Room and savour dishes like paneer butter masala, kadhai chicken and Goan fish curry. raffles.com

Another historic address is The Fullerton Hotel Singapore which was once home to Singapore’s General Post Office, the Exchange Room and Exchange Reference Library, and the prestigious Singapore Club. Nestled by the Singapore River, this swanking inn is where several new-age weddings happening these days. Event venues include East Garden, The Straits Room and The Ballroom among others. fullertonhotels.com

Should you be interested in staying amidst a bustling cityscape, then we recommend the Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel. Its strategic location on the famed Orchard Road makes it easily accessible from other districts and locales. The hotel’s F&B is widely praised and includes outlets such as Crossroads for an east-meets-west fare; Marriott Cafe for seafood and premium meats and Wan Hao Chinese Restaurant is known for signature Peking duck and dim sums. marriott.com

Eco-conscious travellers should bookmark Grand Hyatt Singapore for their next visit to the island country. Sustainability lies at the core of their overall functioning with the hotel’s culinary team playing a major part. Some of their initiatives are using organic vegetables and herbs from their in-house gardens, adopting a nose-to-tail beef programme to avoid wastage and serving sustainable wines. hyatt.com

TOKYO: HIDDEN TIPPLES

Tokyo’s bar scene is considered to be one of the most sought after experiences in travel. Every crevice in the Japanese capital is filled with speakeasies and drinking holes. Prominent neighbourhoods such as Shinjuku, Roppongi, Ginza and Shibuya are packed with a wide selection of premium bars, exclusive restaurants and buzzing nightclubs.

Nearly 300 bars and restaurants are squeezed into ‘Golden Gai’, a traditional bar neighbourhood in Shinjuku. We recommend you check out Bar Albatross here, one of the hippest bars in the city that was established in the late 1990s. This kitschy décor space comprises of three storeys, making it easy to accommodate big groups. The menu offers an impressive mix of cocktails made with house-infused spirits, warm sake and an expansive wine collection.

If you are looking for some local whisky, head to Bar Zoetrope, a quaint little whisky bar in Shinjuku. Notice the classic films that play silently in the background while the bartender guides you through the mind-boggling drinks menu. From the rare Yamazaki editions to Nikka Single Malt — this dimly lit bar boasts over 300 varieties of whiskies. Moreover, the bar displays malts from some notable Japanese distilleries, including Mars, Chichibu, White Oak, Karuizawa, and Hanyu.

For a local bar-hopping experience, reserve one evening to walk across Shibuya whilst sipping ‘highballs’ or whisky-sodas at the various pubs here. Though you will come across many izakayas (dine-in sake shops), visit Hachigatsu No Kujira, a bar that offers a cinema-inspired ambiance. The walls are adorned with numerous clippings of movie posters. Drinks are quirky and are named after various popular films. We loved a cocktail called ‘small iceberg floating on a sea of brandy’ that instantly reminded us of an iconic movie tragedy (hint: Rose and Jack).

Nestled in the upscale Ginza neighbourhood, Bar High Five is a classic, low-lit Tokyo bar known for sublime drinks and traditional Japanese bartending. There is no drink menu and the bartenders engage with customers to create bespoke cocktails according to their taste preferences. One of their signature cocktails includes ‘ceremony’ featuring all Japanese ingredients such as Hakusha whiskey, Hermes Green Tea and Suntory Matcha.

Another bar in Ginza to put on your list is Bar Lupin that opened back in 1928. The bar was a once home to the Japanese literati, (supported by writers as Kyoka Izumi and Kan Kikuchi). On the menu, you will find an impressive selection of cocktails, bourbons, and whiskies. We recommend you try The Golden Fizz, a gin drink made with egg yolk.

JAPANESE DRINKING ETIQUETTE

  • For the first round of drinks, it is necessary for everyone to order the same drink.
  • Hold glass with both hands when the drink is being poured.
  • Say kanpai or ‘cheers’ in Japanese before drinking.

WHERE TO STAY

Know for its royal hospitality, Imperial Hotel is one of the oldest hotels in Tokyo. Tucked away in a verdant part of the city in Chiyoda, the hotel boasts beautiful bedrooms, and diverse F&B options like Les Saisons, an authentic French restaurant; Peking for Chinese cuisine and Old Imperial Bar serving premium spirits from around the world, among others. imperialhotel.co.jp

Located on the Namiki Dori street, Hyatt Centric Ginza Tokyo is Hyatt’s luxury outpost in Japan. Stay in one of the upscale rooms of the hotel that are equipped with luxurious bath amenities, a flat-screen TV and a Nespresso machine. The property’s aesthetics are centred around themes of cinema, and this is quite evident in its unique yet quirky décor. hyatt.com

Another enviable address, Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo is situated in the Shinjuku district. Ideal for both business and leisure travellers, the hotel boasts versatile accommodation options, a variety of MICE spaces and impressive F&B outlets. We recommend you to opt for one of their traditional experiences like the Japanese tea ceremony celebrated in its traditional tea ceremony room. keioplaza.com

If you enjoy the old-world charm and classic hospitality, then book your stay at The Tokyo Station Hotel that aesthetically blends over 100-year-old legacy with Tokyo’s modern outlook. This gorgeous heritage property offer rooms and suites that are complemented with modern amenities. The hotel’s Spa Tokione covers a plethora of wellness facilities for anyone who is looking to relax and rejuvenate. thetokyostationhotel.jp

Situated at the heart of downtown Tokyo in the Chiyoda neighbourhood, The Prince Gallery Tokyo Kioicho, a Luxury Collection Hotel is perfect for your post-work tipples. The hotel’s bar Sky Gallery Lounge Levita is becoming a hotspot for international travellers, thanks to its impressive drinks menu and added stunning city views. marriott.com

If you are longing for a zen-like experience amidst city life then Hotel New Otani Tokyo is the place to be. The property boasts having quality accommodation and facilities for all occasions and also features a 400-year old Japanese garden, a famous tourist attraction in Japan. The hotel offers Executive House ZEN, which comprises of well-equipped rooms that are perfectly designed to offer serenity in the middle of the city life.
newotani.co.jp

ZURICH: BURGEONING BUSINESS

Zurich

Home to ten of the world’s largest financial firms, with tech giants and a colossal data centre industry along with a powerful local startup scene, Zurich’s stance in business and economy is unprecedented. With an unemployment rate at 3 per cent, which is less than half of that of the European average unemployment rate at 6.8 per cent, Zurich shines with its prosperity, orderliness and low taxes, hailing us business travellers like us, time and again.

Zurich’s finance sector generates around a third of the wealth and a quarter of the jobs in the city.

Biotechnology and life sciences are currently empowering its burgeoning medical tech sector. While niche markets such as the automotive and the aerospace industries are accelerating, Zurich’s life sciences sector is also seeing consistent success. Complementing its service sector, Zurich is also being positioned as an international congress and tourism venue for global business travellers.

The economic powerhouse of Switzerland, 80 of the country’s 100 largest companies are headquartered within an hour’s drive from its centre. Medium- and large-scale firms find skilled and qualified employees in addition to specialists with international experience within the Zürich economic area.

The Swiss-city is frequently ranked as the second-most competitive financial centre in Europe, after London. However, experts have stated that the advent of Brexit may alter this situation in Zurich’s favour.
While only time can prove this theory right, it’s undeniable that Zurich has a favourable business climate, attracting a workforce of 330,000 from international shores (with 90 per cent of them in the service sector) and almost 60,000 students who study at schools like ETH Zurich and University of Zurich.

Forward working conditions such as just salaries and advantageous social benefits, equal opportunities for both genders and an expansive range of training possibilities are enough to urge these students to participate in the burgeoning business scene of Zurich.

WHERE TO STAY

Nestled downtown along the banks of the Limmat River, Zurich Marriott Hotel is decorated in a minimal but stylish fashion. Its accommodation offers views of the beautiful river while the cobblestone streets of Old Town that come alive with medieval architecture are only walking distance. Its M Club Lounge offers select privileges for guests staying in suites and its 12 event venues make it ideal for MICE.
marriott.com

In between the shores of Lake Zurich and the city’s financial district lies the luxurious Park Hyatt Zurich. The accommodation here features amenities such as marble baths, spacious work desks and stunning city views from floor-to-ceiling windows. You shouldn’t miss an evening at its expansive 3,000-bottle wine library that offers exceptional selections from around the world. hyatt.com

A stylish stay option that brings you close to nature is Atlantis by Giardino, Zurich, a Member of Design Hotels. Situated at the foot of Zurich’s Uetliberg mountain, the hotel is uniquely positioned by the surrounding forest while also being close to the city centre. The highlight of the hotel is Ecco Zürich restaurant, where two-Michelin-starred chef Rolf Fliegauf has brought over his exceptional food concept from Ascona. designhotels.com

Conveniently located opposite Oerlikon train station, Swissotel Zurich is close to Zurich’s business, culture, shopping and entertainment districts. Take a dip in its spectacular rooftop infinity pool and head to the hotel’s spa for an invigorating therapy. Sip on a tipple with colleagues at Le muh Bar or enjoy casual dinner at Restaurant Le muh — there’s much to do at this city hotel. swissotel.com

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Business Traveller March 2024 edition
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