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Pocket guide to Melbourne

Before you go

What to read about Melbourne: Written by Frank Hardy, and later adapted into a mini-series by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Power Without Glory (1950) is a thinly disguised attack on Melbourne businessman and politician John Wren. The novel’s portrayal of bribery, illegal gambling and infidelity landed in Hardy in court on a criminal libel trial — he won, but the case went down in history.

Melbourne City Australia

What to watch in Melbourne: Directed by Stanley Kramer, and boasting the stellar cast of Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire and Anthony Perkins, 1959’s “On The Beach” is set in Melbourne — as one of the world’s last remaining habitable areas after nuclear war breaks out in the northern hemisphere.

What to listen to in Melbourne : The Avalanches formed in Melbourne in 1997, and released their debut album “Since I Left You” in 2000. The album, masterfully pieced together using a staggering 3,500 samples, was critically acclaimed, and took on an almost mythical status as the band struggled to follow it up. “Wildflower”, which the group started in 2005, was finally finished and released this year.

When you’re there

What to eat in Melbourne: There are some truly excellent Japanese restaurants in Melbourne, but Kappo, hidden away on Flinders Lane, is perhaps the pick of the bunch. It’s an omakase — meaning the chef selects the dishes. You can express preferences, however, and choose from five, seven or nine delectable courses.

What to drink in Melbourne: Cookie sells itself as a “beer hall, eating house and disco” – a one-stop shop for an authentic Melbourne experience. It’s open seven days a week from midday to 3am, which should give you a little time to work through its massive drinks list (featuring 80 pages of wine and 200 beers).

Centre Place Arcade, Melbourne

Where to stay in Melbourne: Found on Canterbury Road, a stone’s throw from Port Phillip Bay, Middle Park Hotel is not only one of the best value hotels in the city, but one of the best. The elegant, simple rooms start from around £80 per night, and there’s an excellent French restaurant and bar downstairs. What more could you want?

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Pocket guide to Madrid

Before you go

What to read in Madrid: The great American writer Ernest Hemingway had a long-running love affair with Spain. His novel The Sun Also Rises is about a group of friends travelling from Paris to Pamplona to see the fiesta and watch the bull fighting. It ends in Madrid, where the author describes a restaurant – Botin – as one of the best in the world. He wasn’t wrong, either. Officially the oldest restaurant in the world, its suckling pig is legendary.

Madrid 2006

What to watch about Madrid: Pedro Almodóvar, the celebrated Spanish filmmaker, honed his craft in Madrid, where many of his films are set. Renowned for perverse relationships and murderous plots, many of them have gained cult status both within Spain and internationally. “Julieta”, which came out in August, is also set in the Spanish capital.

What to listen to in Madrid: Formed in 2011, Hinds are part of Madrid’s burgeoning indie-rock scene. Their debut album, “Leave Me Alone”, came out this year to rave reviews and led to a slew a festival bookings and a worldwide tour. They’ll be in the UK later this year.

When you’re there

Night in Madrid, Plaza Mayor

What to eat in Madrid: Ask a Madrileños where to eat in their city and you’ll be given a hundred different answers. One of our favourites is the bocadillo de calamares (calamari sandwich) that are served at numerous cafés throughout the city – many near the palatial Plaza Mayor. Another great place to go is La Pescadería, which – in keeping with late-night eating habits – stays open until 2am.

Where to drink in Madrid: Café Central, in Plaza del Angel, is a great place to go for a drink and watch a bit of jazz until the small hours, while Corazon is a brilliant traditional pub to sit in and chat with friends until 3am. In the stifling summer heat, Madrileños head upwards – to the city’s numerous rooftop bars. We recommend the Tartan Roof Circulo de Bellas Artes, which offers spectacular 360-degree views of the city skyline.

Where to stay in Madrid: Vincci Vía 66 is a smart hotel that doesn’t hit your pocket too hard. It’s got a brilliant roof terrace, too, and boasts an excellent city-centre location. If you are looking for something a little more luxurious, Hotel Orfila and Hotel URSO both cater for well-heeled visitors.


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Pocket guide to Vienna

Before you go

What to read about Vienna : The novella The Third Man by Graham Greene was published after the famous film of the same name, and was actually written by Greene as he prepared to draft the screenplay. Set in post-war Vienna and starring Orson Welles, the film-noir classic is considered one of the greatest British films ever made. There’s even a Third Man Museum in Vienna.

What to watch about Vienna : Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunrise”, a romantic film featuring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy that sees the couple roaming around the Austrian capital and shows off many of its greatest landmarks, from the Danube to Kleines, a beautiful Viennese café.

What to listen to in Vienna : Vienna isn’t a city renowned for its modern music. That’s probably because behemoths like Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert have all lived here. Want to hear the sounds of Vienna? Then it’s definitely worth sticking on Classic FM.

When you’re there

Merry Christmas from Vienna.

Where to eat in Vienna : You won’t eat at a cheaper place than Bitzinger Wurstelstand, a permanent sausage stand outside the city’s Albertina museum. At the other end of the spectrum, Steirereck is a 2-Michelin-star restaurant that has an incredible terrace overlooking the Wien river.

What to drink in Vienna: Café Hawelka looks like it hasn’t changed in the 70 years since it opened. It’s incredibly atmospheric, has newspapers from around the world and does a good cup of coffee – served Vienna-style, alongside a glass of water.

Where to sleep in Vienna: The DO & CO Hotel is a very sophisticated, and ultra-modern, hotel that offers incredible views of the medieval St Stephen’s Cathedral. The positively palatial Grand Hotel Wien, which opened in 1870, was the city’s first luxury hotel and still attracts well-heeled visitors to Vienna today.

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Pocket Guide New Orleans

Before you go

Corner of Rue St. Anne and Rue de Chartres

Read: Published after John Kennedy Toole’s suicide, A Confederacy of Dunces follows its slovenly protagonist Ignatius J. Reilly as he delves deeper into New Orleans’s French Quarter.

Watch: From the writer of “The Wire”, TV series “Treme” chronicles a group of New Orleanians in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Listen: New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz and anyone wanting to get a taste of what’s to come would certainly benefit from some Louis Armstrong and King Oliver.

When you’re there

Eat: Café du Monde is New Orleans’s most famous eatery. It has been serving its sugar-stacked beignets and chicory coffee since 1862.

Drink: The Carousel Bar, in the Hotel Monteleone, is made to look like a fairground ride (and was a regular haunt of Ernest Hemingway).

Sleep: The Old No. 77 is one of the trendiest hotels in the city. All bare bricks and exposed floorboards. It’s just moments away from the French Quarter, too.

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Pocket Guide to Copenhagen

Before you go

Read: Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow by Peter Høeg is a detective thriller set in the Danish capital that also takes a look at the country’s post-colonial history.

Watch: Nordic noir has produced some fine TV in recent years. “The Bridge” and “The Killing” both shine a light on the darker side of Copenhagen.

Listen: Danish songwriter Agnes Obel has one of the most beautiful voices around. Her soft-spoken pop songs are quintessentially Copenhagen

When you’re there

Skuespilhuset, Copenhagen

Eat: Mother, a pizza restaurant in the very cool Meatpacking district, is always worth a visit. As is Manfreds, from the chefs behind the world’s best restaurant, Noma, which is also in the city.

Drink: Lidkoeb and Mikkeller & Friends are just two examples of Copenhagen’s burgeoning bar and pub scene. Light and airy, they also show off something else Scandinavians do well: great interior design.

Sleep: Located minutes away from the city’s incredible food market, Ibsens Hotel is a great place to rest up. A small hotel with big rooms, in a central location. What’s not to like?

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Pocket Guide to Bristol

Bristol and Clifton Suspension Bridge

Before you go

Read: Three of Angela Carter’s early novels from her Bristol Trilogy, highlighting a side of the city many will not know.

Watch: Not set in Bristol, but Banksy’s documentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop” is a great introduction to one of the city’s most famous sons.

Listen: Massive Attack and Portishead, two examples of trip-hop, a genre that was born in Bristol.

When you’re there

Eat: Head to St Nicholas Market to sample food from around the world in tiny cafés.

Drink: The Old Duke, where live jazz draws a packed crowd every evening.

Sleep: Number Thirty Eight in upmarket Clifton boasts a brilliant roof terrace that offers views across the city, all set within a beautiful Georgian house. Also recommended, SACO Bristol – Broad Quay, which overlooks the city’s historic harbour, and theRadisson Blu Hotel Bristol