An Insiders' Tour of Fishtown, Philadelphia - United Hub
Her Art HereThe winners are in! See who won the Her Art Here contest.

An insiders’ tour of Fishtown, Philadelphia

By The Hub team

Story by Lauren Itzkowitz | Illustrations by Francesco Zorzi | Hemispheres, May 2019

Named for the shad fisheries that once lined the Delaware River, this working-class Irish, German, and Polish neighborhood has drawn creative types for years. New restaurants and lodging options may be raising Fishtown's profile, but it's still a tight-knit community—as evinced by these six locals, who showed us the area's hot spots.

Cheu Fishtown chef and co-owner Ben Puchowitz recommends…

Suraya has great healthy lunch options that don't drag you down the rest of the day. It's a beautiful space, and the food is ambitious."

Suraya executive chef and co-owner Nick Kennedy recommends…

Riverwards Produce is a go-to when my family is planning dinner. I love their produce and cheese—they have what I find myself needing."

Riverwards Produce owner Vincent Finazzo recommends…

“I send people to Vestige to experience a boutique that feels like it's from the desert in California. With jewelry, candles, and a curated body-care section, Vestige transports you to a better place."

Vestige owner Ashley Gleason recommends…

“I like La Colombe [the coffee brand's flagship café] for people-watching and spending a few hours staring into my laptop. They also have the best bread in the city."

La Colombe president and cofounder JP Iberti recommends…

Wm. Mulherin's Sons is a great place to grab a drink, mostly because a drink always turns into dinner, and Mulherin's offers one of the best meals in Philly. Their hotel is always booked, much like the restaurant."

Wm. Mulherin's Sons co-owner Randall Cook recommends…

Cheu is great when I'm in the mood for a midday treat. A counter seat at the bar lets you see all the action, the ramen is killer, and the draft beer is ice cold."

Love flies with us: Upcoming Pride month events

By The Hub team , May 20, 2019

To help celebrate Pride Month, we're offering customers the opportunity to use their MileagePlus® award miles to bid on exclusive Pride packages. All proceeds will benefit our charity partner, The Trevor Project, a nonprofit that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for LGBTQ youth.

Bid on one of our exclusive Pride packages including:

  • Attend a Drag Queen Brunch in Chicago
  • Pride getaway package + walk in the parade with United in Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston or San Francisco
  • WorldPride New York City getaway package + walk in the parade with United
  • VIP Family movie night in the park in NYC
  • Attend a Drag Queen Brunch at Newark Airport

"As Pride Month approaches, we invite MileagePlus members to show their pride, embrace the LGBTQ+ community and join United in saying 'all routes lead to love'," said Luc Bondar, United's president of MileagePlus and vice president of Loyalty. "United is thrilled to offer these unique Pride experiences and help The Trevor Project in their mission to support LGBTQ youth."

Additionally, on June 28, in partnership with iHeartMedia's Z100, we will celebrate PRIDE LIVE's Stonewall Day, the 50th anniversary of Stonewall. The Stonewall Foundation will be inducting key community members including United into PRIDE LIVE's STONEWALL ambassador program at Stonewall Day.

"Supporting LGBTQ youth in crisis from every state across the country takes significant travel resources, and we're grateful to United Airlines for contributing to our mission in such a valuable way," said Muneer Panjwani, Head of Corporate Development for The Trevor Project. "Their commitment to our mission of ending suicide among LGBTQ youth makes them a valued partner throughout the year, helping us save young LGBTQ lives every day."

Be sure to look out for United throughout the month of June as we'll be participating in Pride events across the globe including Pride parades in Washington, D.C. on 6/8, LA on 6/9, Denver on 6/16, Houston on 6/22, San Jose (Costa Rica) on 6/23, Mexico City on 6/29, Bogota on 6/30, San Francisco on 6/30, Chicago on 6/30, World Pride in New York City on 6/30 and then on 7/6 in London and 10/19 in Honolulu.

We team up with Audubon International to save owls in San Francisco

By The Hub team , May 17, 2019

Today, we strengthened our emerging reputation as the world's most environmentally conscious airline by announcing that we are expanding our successful Raptor Relocation Network to our premier West Coast hub, San Francisco International Airport. We are teaming up with Audubon International to trap raptors — primarily barn owls — residing near the airport and resettle these birds of prey at suitable golf course habitats where the species are more likely to thrive.

We initially partnered with Audubon International to launch the Raptor Relocation Network in 2017 at Newark Liberty International Airport, where it has successfully resettled more than 80 birds — including several American kestrels, a species of concern in New Jersey. We will now work in tandem with Audubon International and San Francisco airport officials to resettle the barn owls and other at-risk species at Bay Area golf courses certified within the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program. As an official sponsor of the PGA Tour, we are uniquely positioned to help connect wildlife professionals at airports with the suitable golf course habitats identified by Audubon International for relocation purposes and to help inform the public on the importance of environmental sustainability.

Our expansion of the Raptor Relocation Network follows our recent announcement in San Francisco that we have committed to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050. Our pledge to reduce emissions by 50% relative to 2005 represents the equivalent of removing 4.5 million vehicles from the road, or the total number of cars in New York City and Los Angeles combined.

"Being environmentally conscious means more than just reducing our footprint; it means convening different groups to develop new and innovative ways to actively protect vulnerable species," said Janet Lamkin, United's president of California. "As we continue our commitment to protect raptors in the New York area, we are excited to expand our efforts to San Francisco and further underscore our industry-leading efforts to operate sustainably and responsibly."

"Audubon International is excited to be working with United Airlines' Eco-Skies program to expand the Raptor Relocation Network to the West Coast," said Christine Kane, Audubon International's chief executive officer. "Thousands of golf courses across the world have adopted environmentally sustainable property management practices that support wildlife habitat through our Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program. Bringing this all together to provide safe, high-quality habitat for raptors is a great success."

For more information on our commitment to environmental sustainability, visit united.com/ecoskies.

Escape to Cape Town: Waves, wines and lions at the "bottom of the world"

By Bob Cooper

The reasons world travelers give when calling Cape Town their favorite African city are as abundant as the African Penguins (about 3,000) that waddle the beaches of Table Mountain National Park. Besides that park, which stretches from the city to the southwestern tip of Africa, these reasons include a wow-worthy waterfront, great restaurants and easy access to wonderful wineries.

Search flights

Cape Town becomes more accessible beginning in December 2019, when United is due to become the first U.S. airline to offer nonstop flights to Cape Town, subject to government approval. The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner flights will depart New York/Newark on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and return from Cape Town on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. They will reduce travel time by at least four hours and allow one-stop service to Cape Town from more than 80 U.S. cities.

Settling in

Colourful Beach Houses in South Africa

Every accommodation type can be found, from quiet B&Bs; to chic urban hotels. Central Cape Town and waterfront hotels are ideal if you want the convenience of being close to restaurants and shopping. Simon's Town district guesthouses bring you within waddling distance of penguins and False Bay beaches. Table Mountain views are relished at Gardens district hotels. Then there are coastal hideaways like Monkey Valley Resort, wedged between a milkwood forest and a beach, and The Twelve Apostles, a seaside hotel named for the mountains that tower above it.

Under the Table

Penguin at Boulders Beach Penguin Colony

Table Mountain National Park is as diverse as the flora and fauna that populate its 85 square miles. The piece of the park within city limits is a stunning swath of evergreens that soar up to the flat-topped, 3,500-foot namesake peak. The day hike or cable car ride to the summit is an exhilarating use of a few hours to shake off your jet lag. The two other main sections of the national park are Tokai Park, filled with birds and baboons, and Cape Peninsula, which extends along the Atlantic Ocean (including the Boulders Beach Penguin Colony) all the way to the Cape of Good Hope at the "bottom of the world."

On the waterfront

Table Mount Cable Car in Cape Town South Africa

It's hard to beat simple pleasures like hiking up Table Mountain or Lion's Head, lazing on Cape Town's beaches or visiting the world-class Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. But, visitors should also spend time on Cape Town's Table Bay waterfront, home to a dizzying array of restaurants, shops, museums, galleries and attractions. Zeitz MOCAA houses the world's largest collection of contemporary African art in a 10-story former grain silo that was repurposed in 2017. Also on the waterfront are the Two Oceans Aquarium and ferries that whisk you to Robben Island, where the museum tells the inspiring story of Nelson Mandela's journey from prisoner to president.

Wining and dining

Vineyard in Cape Town Constantia grape wineland countryside landscape background of hills with mountain backdrop in Cape Town South Africa

The Cape Winelands, among the world's leading wine regions, is within 40 miles of Cape Town, centered around the 17th-century towns of Stellenbosch and Paarl. Excellent restaurants are found at many Winelands wineries (as well as in Cape Town), but perhaps the best spot to wine and dine is even closer to the city — Groot Constantia, where wines have been produced since 1685. Visitors can enjoy tastings or food pairings of the award-winning wines; tour the Manor House, wine museum and history museum; and dine at one of two restaurants.

Lions, leopards and rhinos

Zebras in Cape Town

Several game reserves within a three-hour drive of Cape Town allow visitors to see African wildlife in their native habitat. The 25,000-acre Inverdoorn and Aquila reserves each offer half-day safaris on which you may spot all of the "big five" — lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffalo — as well as cheetahs, giraffes and wildebeests, from open-air vehicles. The Sanbona Reserve is even larger (but a bit farther out), while the Grootbros Reserve specializes in boating safaris that deliver sightings of southern right whales, great white sharks, bottlenose dolphins, African penguins and Cape fur seals.

When to go and how to get around

Chapman's Peak Drive near Cape Town

The first United nonstop flights and South Africa's summer both begin in December. Rain is rare from December to March, when high temperatures are typically in the high seventies, so Cape Town is a perfect warm-weather escape. Once you arrive, Uber, taxis, rental cars (driven on the left side), sightseeing buses and trains and are all convenient transportation options. And oh yeah, South Africans speak English.

If you go

You can purchase tickets now at united.com or on the United app for three weekly nonstop flights from New York/Newark to Cape Town beginning December 15, subject to government approval. Redeem MileagePlus® Rewards points to cover your hotel and car.

Search flights

Chicago's 10 best outdoor bars and restaurants

By Matt Chernov

Don't let its Windy City nickname fool you. During the spring and summer months, Chicago is the perfect destination to enjoy some outdoor fun. And there's no better way to do that than by catching a few rays on one of the city's rooftop bars or restaurant patios. As the weather brightens, here's a guide to Chicago's most exciting outdoor drinking and dining spots.

Search flights

Cabra

Located on the roof of the Hoxton hotel, Cabra is one of Chicago's newest rooftop bars and restaurants that is sure to be a busy summer hangout spot. This Peruvian restaurant is colorful and vibrant with a menu filled with reinvented and traditional Peruvian dishes. The open designed dining room is filled with plush seating, bright colors and plants hanging over the bar, giving the restaurant a lively yet relaxing atmosphere.

Raised

Offering an elevated view of the Chicago River, this stylish rooftop bar more than lives up to its name. Located on the third floor of the Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel, Raised combines a modern industrial aesthetic with all the comforts of a sophisticated hotel bar. The beverage menu includes a wide variety of local microbrews, plus seasonal cocktails served by the glass or decanter for larger groups.

Cerise Rooftop

Fun is on tap at Cerise, the playful rooftop bar on the 26th floor of Chicago's Virgin Hotel. Inspired by Japan's popular izakaya gastropubs, this hip lounge features a colorful cocktail menu filled with sparkling spritzers and fruity fizzes. Famed designer Paola Navone helped craft the whimsical decor, making Cerise one of the most Instagrammable bars in the city.

The J. Parker

It's difficult to decide what's most impressive about The J. Parker. From the signature mixed drinks inspired by the flavors of Mexico, Cuba and Spain, to the sharing menu created by award-winning chef Paul Vivant, every aspect of this rooftop bar is worth experiencing. Above all, the bird's eye view of Lake Michigan and Lincoln Park make it truly spectacular.

Cindy's

Located on the 13th floor of the historic Chicago Athletic Association building, Cindy's is one of the most popular spots in the city, and for very good reason. Sporting incredible views of Lake Michigan and Millennium Park, this gorgeous rooftop bar and restaurant welcomes patrons with a constantly evolving food and drink menu, including summery treats like boozy popsicles and amaretto ice cream pops.

Parlor

Can't decide whether to try a rooftop beer garden or a street-level patio? Parlor has you covered either way. With two locations in Chicago, this comfortable pizza bar offers multiple outdoor dining options. On the menu, Parlor has some of the most creative pizzas you'll ever try, like Eggs Benedict (Canadian ham, three eggs, and lemon Hollandaise sauce) and Pork-Q Pie (cherry peppers, BBQ pork, pineapple and smoked mozzarella).

El Cid

Combining traditional and modern Mexican food with killer margaritas that you can order by the pitcher, El Cid has been a mainstay of Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood for more than 15 years. Their outdoor front patio is great for people-watching, while their discrete back patio provides an intimate atmosphere that's perfect for a romantic dinner.

Gather

Open on three sides at the back of the restaurant, the private terrace at Gather is a relaxing alternative to the elegant inner dining room. Seating on the terrace is first come, first served, so you might run into an occasional wait. But rest assured, it's well worth it. To help distinguish the space, Executive Chef Ken Carter has crafted a separate menu designed to be shared outdoors.

Chop Shop

Chicago carnivores, rejoice! You're in for a treat at this restaurant, bar and butcher shop in the city's Wicker Park neighborhood. The menu is loaded with steaks, chops, burgers and charcuterie, all of which are available to order on the upstairs patio. For a full night's entertainment, check out a live concert in Chop Shop's popular event space after your meal.

The Dawson

With its lush outdoor patio and upscale menu, The Dawson is a place you'll want to return to repeatedly. Tucked away in the River West neighborhood, it's an ideal spot for large groups of friends looking to unwind after a day of exploring the city. The patio includes a full outdoor bar and a fireplace for cooler nights.

If you go

Get the most from your next trip to Chicago by booking your tickets at united.com or by using the convenient United app.

Search flights

The 2019 Hemispheres hotel top 20

By The Hub team

Story by Nicolas DeRenzo | Hemispheres May 2019

Our annual compendium of the best new hotels in the world takes us from from Rio to ryokan, Savannah to surf club. No matter where you're going, in these pages, you'll find a place where you'll want to stay.

Hotel Amparo San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

For Social Media Influencers

Just in time for its designation as the 2019 American Capital of Culture, San Miguel de Allende—which is practically an artists' colony unto itself—welcomed this five-room hideaway in the 300-year-old former mayor's residence. Thanks to co-owner Mariana Barran Goodall, who grew up in Monterrey, Mexico, and runs Houston-based Hibiscus Linens, every tiny detail here is ready for its close-up. It won't take long for you to fill up your Instagram grid with shots of gold room keys, hand-stitched napkins, custom bathroom tiles made by local artisans, and even the coasters.

WE LOVE the flower-filled courtyard, a great place to take a selfie or sit with an espresso from the on-site café, which sources Mexican beans from Buna roasters. From $250, hotelamparo.com

Eastwind Hotel & Bar Windham, New York

For Hip Hikers

The Eastwind Hotel in New York

For many vacationers, the Catskills conjure images of 1950s summer camp resorts and Dirty Dancing. The Eastwind provides a sleek, Scandinavian-style counterpoint to those Borscht Belt spots of old. Opened last June on the site of a 1920s bunkhouse about 150 miles north of New York City, the 19-room retreat is a perfect jumping-off point for hiking, fly-fishing, and snowshoeing excursions. If you're feeling creative, write a few jokes—these are the stomping grounds of Joan Rivers and Henny Youngman, after all—on a vintage typewriter in one of the writer's studio suites. Or take a load off under a Faribault Woolen Mills plaid throw in one of the spartan-chic A-frame Lushna cabins.

WE LOVE the barrel sauna, which is even more amazing when you have to run through the snow to get there. From $219, eastwindny.com

Six Senses Maxwell Singapore

For Environmentalists

Six Senses Maxwell in Singapore

The second of two Six Senses urban resorts to open in the Lion City last year doesn't immediately scream “eco-friendly." The posh 138-room property across from the Maxwell Food Centre occupies a 1929 Art Deco heritage building and exudes Old World opulence with fixtures such as brocade headboards, silk lampshades, and damask velvet chairs. However, befitting its home in Asia's greenest city, the hotel is also home to a series of sustainable touches: reusable glass water bottles, biodegradable cornstarch toothbrushes, locally sourced minibar items, and a restaurant that serves responsibly caught fish.

WE LOVE the traditional ice cream tricycle, from which guests can order free organic ice cream sandwiches (in flavors like durian, red bean, and sweet corn) on soft, colorful bread, kept cold by a solar-powered refrigerator. From $240, sixsenses.com

The Middle House Shanghai

For Fashionistas

The Middle House in Shanghai

Set just off Shanghai's main shopping street, West Nanjing Road, the newest member of Swire Hotels' House Collective is a polished den of understated glamour, courtesy of Milan-based interior designer Piero Lissoni. The entryway is as heart-stoppingly dramatic as any couture runway show: A 3,760-piece Venetian glass chandelier hangs surrounded by emerald-green, bamboo-patterned tiles. The 111-room hotel, which opened last spring, boasts a nearly 700-work art collection—over half of which is Chinese—loosely inspired by the curatorial theme “I Dream of China."

WE LOVE Caroline Cheng's lobby installation, Prosperity, a black robe covered with 12,000 tiny butterfly figurines crafted in China's porcelain-making capital, Jingdezhen. From $268, themiddlehousehotel.com

Palihotel Seattle Seattle

For Stylish Seafarers

Palihotel in Seattle

Guests arriving at the check-in desk at the first Palisociety hotel outside of Los Angeles are greeted by a portrait of a raincoat-clad, pipe-smoking sailor—a perfect introduction to the subtly nautical vibe that permeates Seattle's newest hotel, which opened in November one block from the bustling Pike Place Market. The prime location means the seafood (sweet-and-spicy salmon jerky, littleneck clams, local oysters) at the on-site restaurant, The Hart and the Hunter, is always as fresh and invigorating as the Puget Sound views from the landmark 1895 building's upper floors.

WE LOVE The Hart and the Hunter's briny Elliott Bay Gibson, which includes oyster-shell-infused gin, Maldon sea salt, bay leaf olive oil, and a pickled onion. From $175, palisociety.com

Perry Lane Hotel Savannah, Georgia

For Aspiring Southern Belles

Perry Lane Hotel in Savannah, Georgia

Few American cities are better preserved than Savannah, with its centuries-old squares and statues and hanging Spanish moss. Last June, the city's Historic District got a rare new addition, the 167-room Perry Lane Hotel. The Luxury Collection property pays such deep homage to the Hostess City of the South that— aside from a loaner jazz guitar from local luthier Benedetto and an art collection that includes works by 81 artists with ties to the Savannah College of Art and Design—it invented a fictional grande dame named Adelaide Harcourt to help define its aesthetic. (Look for her portrait above the lobby fireplace.)

WE LOVE the polka-dotted Gargoyle Artillery statues at the rooftop bar, Peregrin; you'll keep turning away from the views of the Historic District to consider their Gothic-psychedelic visages. From $187, perrylanehotel.com

Hôtel de Berri Paris

For Art Connoisseurs

Hotel de Berri in Paris

The City of Light isn't short on artful luxury accommodations, but how many Parisian palaces look like they were born in a Rodin fever dream? The lobby at this Luxury Collection property, which opened last May just steps from the Champs-Élysées, is scattered with sculpted figures and busts, many of them reproductions from the Louvre's molding workshop. Designer Philippe Renaud gave each of the 40 rooms and 35 suites a unique color scheme and art theme; one might have red-and-yellow-striped walls hung with simple figurative line drawings, while another's matte olive-green walls boast Cubist paintings. No matter the decor, reserve a room with a view of the lush garden.

WE LOVE the Bemelmans Bar–meets–Ralph Steadman mural of Parisian street scenes that wraps around the Michelin-recommended Italian restaurant Le Schiap (named for couturier Elsa Schiaparelli, who once lived at this address). From $445, marriott.com

The Ramble Hotel Denver

For Barflies

The Ramble Hotel in Denver

Most travelers are happy if their hotel has one great bar; at this new 50-room boutique property, there are four, all of them run by the team behind New York's award-winning cocktail den Death & Co. By night, the grand lobby's sunny café transforms into a swanky lounge with velvet curtains and spangly chandeliers. Hidden upstairs is Suite 6A, an intimate 21-seat bar. A ballroom/venue/theater, Vauxhall, is aimed directly at the surrounding River North Art District's culturati. Finally, outside, under the glow of artist Scott Young's neon Wish You Were Her(e) sign, The Garden serves up patio classics such as Aperol spritzes and mojitos.

WE LOVE that the bartenders are so willing to chat about their favorite unsung ingredients, like a French fortified wine called Pineau des Charentes that's featured in the Black Poodle alongside Irish whiskey, amaro, aloe, and sparkling mineral water. From $209, theramblehotel.com

Skylark Negril Beach Resort Negril, Jamaica

For Boho Beach Bums

Skylark Negril Beach Resort in Negril, Jamaica

In Jamaican slang, to skylark is to goof off, mess around, or make mischief. Ironically, that's an activity that the designers at the impeccable Skylark Negril Beach Resort seem not to have pursued. The sister property to the nearby Rockhouse Hotel opened in June on Seven Mile Beach and pairs modernist touches—geometric breeze-block, whitewashed concrete—with pops of color from retro travel posters and throw pillows emblazoned with a print of the island's favorite fruit, bright-red ackee.

WE LOVE the outpost of NYC restaurant Miss Lily's, which serves up Caribbean rums and jerk favorites smoked over pimento wood to a soundtrack of reggae and dancehall hits. From $95, skylarknegril.com


The Hoxton, Williamsburg Brooklyn

For Digital Nomads

The Hoxton in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

The London-based Hoxton chain brought its trademark combination of high design and low rates to the States last fall, with the debut of this 175-room outpost—a perfect spot for freelancers and creative types who aren't chained to a cubicle (i.e., Brooklynites). You and your laptop will feel at home in your cheerily appointed room, which features a smart wall-mounted desk and a retro Roberts Radio. If you're more productive surrounded by others, head down to the beehive-busy sunken lobby, which is done up in eclectic, sherbet-hued furniture.

WE LOVE procrastinating by perusing the Best of Brooklyn line of locally made products—such as Pintrill pizza slice pins, Brins strawberry vanilla jam, and Sesame Letterpress notecards—for sale in the lobby. From $159, thehoxton.com

Woodlark Hotel Portland, Oregon

For Plant Lovers

Woodlark Hotel in Portland, Oregon

It's fitting that the latest hip lodging in a town known as the Rose City would be aimed at green thumbs. Opened in December in side-by-side landmark buildings downtown, the 150-room Woodlark Hotel is decorated with moody black-and-white botanical photos by Imogen Cunningham, while the conservatory-like foyer teems with a greenhouse's worth of potted trees. In this pattern-obsessed city—remember the famous PDX airport carpet?—the guest rooms' custom wallpaper, featuring the sort of native Pacific Northwest flora you'd find in nearby Forest Park, is sure to become iconic.

WE LOVE the artfully composed bouquets for sale at the lobby outpost of Colibri, an elegant flower shop co-owned by James Beard Award–winning chef Naomi Pomeroy. From $125, woodlarkhotel.com

Janeiro Rio de Janeiro

For Sun Seekers

Janeiro Hotel in Rio de Janeiro

This 53-room hotel in beachside Leblon was opened last fall by fashion designer and Osklen founder Oskar Metsavaht, but its stark, sun-bleached, minimalist aesthetic owes a great deal to another Brazilian Oscar: architect Oscar Niemeyer, the Rio-born genius best known for New York City's UN headquarters and Brasília's space-age government buildings. In a city beloved for the ostentatious vibrancy of Carnaval, the Janeiro's sandy earth tones, blond freijo wood, travertine limestone, and sculptural rattan pieces offer an oasis of calm.

WE LOVE the 18th-floor infinity pool, which overlooks the white cliffs of the Cagarras Islands and the Morro Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers Hill). From $288, janeirohotel.rio

United Places Botanic Gardens Melbourne, Australia

For Homebodies

United Places Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, Australia

Many new hotels tout their live-like-a-local bona fides, but few feel as much like a posh apartment block as this 12-suite bolthole, which opened last June in Melbourne's gallery-filled South Yarra neighborhood. If location is everything, you can't do much better than a property overlooking the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, while suites include all the trappings of a dream flat: rain showers with Le Labo products, oak parquet floors, sleek furnishings from Patricia Urquiola and Grant Featherston, and a bar cart stocked with Tasmania's award-winning Sullivans Cove whiskey. Best of all, each suite comes with personalized concierge service.

WE LOVE the in-room breakfasts from the team downstairs at Matilda 159, an open-fire restaurant serving such creative dishes as sea bream tartare and spanner crab with prawn butter. From $461, unitedplaces.com.au

Shinola Hotel Detroit

For American Artisans

Shinola Hotel in Detroit

A lot is riding on the shoulders of Shinola, the Detroit-based watchmaker that has become synonymous with the Rust Belt's renaissance. In January, the company got into the hotel game with a 129-room space that sprawls across three new buildings and two downtown landmarks—the former Singer Sewing Machine shop and the T.B. Rayl Co. hardware store. Throughout the property, you'll find products made exclusively for the hotel, such as scented candles with notes of cherry blossom, leather, and smoke, and Shinola-branded cola in the Michigan-centric minibar.

WE LOVE the in-room Runwell desk clocks, scaled-up versions of the first watch the company ever produced. From $255, shinolahotel.com

Belmond Cadogan Hotel London

For Bookworms

Belmond Cadogan Hotel in London

You'll be inspired to put pen to paper at this reimagined Chelsea property, which opened in February after a flawless $48 million renovation of the 1887 Cadogan Hotel. Oscar Wilde's former pied-à-terre is now part of the Royal Suite, in-room libraries are curated by family-owned John Sandoe Books, and an installation of 600 bronze-cast hardbacks encases the lobby elevator bank. Guests of the 54 rooms and suites are granted a key to Cadogan Place Gardens across the street, where they can sit under a mulberry tree with a notebook and sketch their own picture of Dorian Gray. Need inspiration? One taste of the decadent chicken butter at chef Adam Handling's eponymous restaurant will do the trick.

WE LOVE that reading in the bath is encouraged: The deep Victoria + Albert soaking tubs feature a bamboo bathtub tray complete with a book stand—and a holder for your Champagne flute. From $620, belmond.com

Eaton DC Washington, D.C.

For Social Activists

Eaton DC in Washington DC

K Street may be synonymous with D.C. lobbyists, but, as of last September, it's also home to a new hub for budding activists. Katherine Lo—the daughter of the Langham hotel group's chairman—designed her 209-room Eaton DC to inspire the next RBG or AOC at every turn. Tune in to the house radio station, grab a book from the Radical Library (which features works by Roxane Gay and Langston Hughes), or brainstorm with fellow progressives over turmeric lattes at the Kintsugi café. You can even call down to the front desk for a nightstand copy of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

WE LOVE Erik Thor Sandberg's Wonderland-themed lobby mural, Allegory, which replaces Alice with civil rights icon Ruby Bridges, the first black child to desegregate an all-white elementary school. From $199, eatonworkshop.com

Noah Surf House Santa Cruz, Portugal

For Surfers

Noah Surf House in Santa Cruz, Portugal

You'll want to learn the Portuguese word for “to chill" (relaxar) before you set foot in this surf-bum paradise, which opened on the Silver Coast, 50 minutes from Lisbon, last July. Its 21 rooms are divided between a central surfhouse that features hostel-style bunk accommodations and 13 boxy bungalows that dot the hilly dunes. There's an inescapably '70s SoCal vibe here, from the beanbag chairs and rope swings to a skate park and an organic garden filled with a small brood of hens.

WE LOVE the upcycled decor, which incorporates traffic signs, old boats, octopus traps, and fishing nets. From $182, noahsurfhouseportugal.com

KAI Sengokuhara Kanagawa, Japan

For Zen Seekers

KAI Sengokuhara in Kanagawa, Japan

It's impossible not to relax at Japan's newest onsen (hot spring) resort, which opened last July in Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, two hours by train from Tokyo. The art-themed ryokan invites you to slip into a yukata (cotton robe) and then do absolutely nothing—except soak in the milky, mineral-rich water piped from the Owakudani volcanic valley into a communal bathhouse and private guest room soaking tubs. Equally invigorating are 24-year-old chef Akari Sash's inspired kaiseki dinners; with dishes like abalone grilled over nearly 400-degree stones, she'll have you forgetting all about Western-style spa meals.

WE LOVE the tenugui (cotton towel) decorating workshop, which feels like a sophisticated answer to the adult coloring book trend. From $332 per person, including breakfasts and dinners, kai-ryokan.jp

The Carpenter Hotel Austin, Texas

For Foodies

The Carpenter Hotel in Austin, Texas

You'll wish you could sign up for a meal plan at this millennially minded hotel, just steps from Zilker Park. Food-world power couple Christina Skogly Knowlton and Andrew Knowlton (the host of Netflix's The Final Table) are behind the offerings at Hot L Coffee and Carpenters Hall, a restaurant located in, yes, a former union hall. Start with huckleberry butter–topped waffles, snack poolside on the best chocolate chip cookies ever, then sip a pear brandy–based Kind Eyes cocktail before a dinner of big-as-your-head chicken schnitzel. The 93 rooms are just as delectable, with custom-designed striped cotton blankets, blue-and-terracotta-tiled bathrooms, and thoughtful, vintage-inspired over-bed lights.

WE LOVE that each room has a terrace, outfitted simply with two folding chairs—the perfect place to sip a surprisingly inexpensive minibar Lone Star at the end of the evening.From $175, carpenterhotel.com

7Pines Resort Ibiza Ibiza, Spain

For Swanky Swimmers

7Pines Resort Ibiza in Ibiza, Spain

Forget Ibiza's party-hearty reputation: At 7Pines, on the Mediterranean island's quieter west coast, relaxation is key. Guests at the 186-suite property from The Leading Hotels of the World don't need to pack much more than a bathing suit (and a dinner-appropriate outfit or two) because they'll want to spend all day snapping mermaid-inspired Instagram shots along the infinity pool's glass wall. Need a change of scenery? A five-minute walk down a stone staircase leads to secluded Cala Codolar beach, where all the sunbathers look like they stepped out of an Antonioni film. Finish the day with a massage at the Pure Seven Spa, which, of course, has its own pool.

WE LOVE that no matter where you dine—on modern Asian cuisine at The View, prawn tartare at the Cone Club, or piña coladas at the Pershing Yacht Terrace—the Balearic Sea is always in sight. From $448, 7pines.com

Photo Credits: Marcus Jolly (Hotel Amparos); Jordan Layon (Eastwind Hotel); © E Leong (The Middle House);Eric Laignet/Paris Images (Hotel de Berri); Adam Szafranski (The Ramble Hotel) Nicole Franzen (Shinola Hotel); Courtesy of Belmond Cadogen Hotel (Belmond Cadogen Hotel); Adrian Gaut (Eaton DC); Noah Surf House Portugal (Noah Surf House); Akifumi Yamabe (KAI Sengokuhara); Alex Lau (Carpenter Hotel); Tomas Alonso Salvador (7Pines)

The day off: Nashville

By The Hub team

Story by Nicolas DeRenzo | Hemispheres May 2019

Music City's burgeoning tech scene is tapping into the Tennessean capital's creative energy with outposts for such brands as Lyft, Postmates, Warby Parker, and Amazon, which is opening a 1 million-square-foot operations center complete with 5,000 jobs. “Silicon Honky Tonk," anyone?

Search flights

9 a.m.

Cafe Roze in Nashville.

Cafe Roze chef Julia Jaksic named her East Nashville eatery after the Croatian word for “pink," a color that dominates the sunny space. Grab a bar seat and order a cardamom-rose latte and a country ham toast—a slab of sourdough heaped with soft-scrambled eggs, paper-thin Benton's ham, and snowdrifts of parmesan.

11 a.m.

Tennessee State Museum,

Cross the Cumberland River and head to the Tennessee State Museum, which moved into its new $160 million digs last fall. The collection, which covers 13,000 years of area history, features such objects as Andrew Jackson's inauguration hat and a spangly Dolly Parton outfit and guitar.

1 p.m.

Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint sign

Hot chicken is a staple here, but Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint makes the case that Nashville is an unsung BBQ town, too. Pitmaster Pat Martin got his start in nearby Nolensville, but his downtown location is a 13,000-square-foot ode to hickory-smoked, Western Tennessee–style whole hog.

3 p.m.

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Let's face it: You're going to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Once you're there, don't skip Hatch Show Print, which moved into the same building in 2013. America's oldest letterpress print shop, which turns 140 this year, has churned out bold concert posters for everyone from Elvis Presley to Kacey Musgraves. Try pressing your own on one of the store's guided tours.

5 p.m.

Room at the Bobby Hotel.

Stroll over to historic Printers Alley to freshen up in your room at the new Bobby Hotel. Stop to greet the staff—in particular, the hotel's mascot, Sasha the rescue dog—and check out lyricist Bernie Taupin's mixed-media artworks in the lobby before heading up to the rooftop lounge, which offers seating in a 1956 Scenicruiser tour bus.

7:30 p.m.

Dinner is at Bastion, former Catbird Seat chef Josh Habiger's 24-seat spot, which is hidden, speakeasy-style, in a cocktail bar/nacho joint in the Wedgewood-Houston warehouse district. Go for the “Let's Try Everything" tasting menu option, offering a flurry of small plates with deceptively simple names, such as Raw Lamb + Sunflower, Mackerel + Barley, and Apple + Foie Gras.

10 p.m.

Back on the east side, duck into a different sort of speakeasy, the Southern outpost of NYC cocktail den Attaboy. There's no menu, so your server will ask you a series of questions, and then, in the words of Grand Ole Opry member Carrie Underwood, let Jesus—or whoever's behind the bar—take the wheel to craft you a perfectly bespoke drink.

Photo Credit: Lisa Diederich Photography (Cafe Roze); courtesy of the Tennessee State Museum (guitar); courtesy of Martin's BBQ (sign); Andrea Behrends (Bastion); CK Photo/courtesy of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (vintage posters); Aaron Ingrao (Attaboy)
Search flights

Weekend inspiration: Ellijay, Georgia

By The Hub team

Only a few hours from Atlanta we found a calm and sweet retreat at the start of the Appalachian Trail. Most folks know about the mountain escapes in Blue Ridge, but not many know about the nearby town of Ellijay.

We recommend renting a cabin for a weekend getaway. Blue Sky Cabin Rentals have some stunning cabins on lakes and in the mountains with wilderness views galore.

Here are our favorite things to do while in Ellijay for the weekend.

Friday

Pizza at Ellijay Wood Fired Pizzas

When you arrive on Friday evening, stop by Ellijay Wood Fired Pizza for some delicious thin crust pizza with creative toppings. Afterward, head around the corner for build your own frozen yogurt at Abby's Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt.

Saturday

On Saturday morning, stop by the cozy Ellijay Coffeehouse for a cup of coffee and their egg and apricot panini. Everything is homemade and high-quality.

After a hearty breakfast, check out one of the stunning hikes around the area. This town marks the beginning of the Appalachian Trail, so if you'd like to experience some of it, drive to the beginning of the Long Creek Falls Trail. This gorgeous walk will take you through the Three Folks Valley and to the Falls, giving you a taste of the Appalachian Trail.

After hiking, pack a picnic lunch and head to one of the wonderful wineries in the area. We recommend starting at Fainting Goat and then heading to Chateau Meichtry Family Vineyard and Winery, Ott Farms and Vineyards, Engelman Vineyards and Cartecay Vineyards. If you only have time for a single stop, our favorite was the stunningly beautiful Chateau Meichtry Family Vineyard.

Pro tip: Each year, in the month of March, the Winegrowers Association of Georgia organizes a winery tour passport that you can purchase for $50 to experience a tasting at all of the vineyards in the area.

Once you've enjoyed a few tastings, we recommend ending your evening at Chester Brunnenmeyer's Bar & Grill in Blue Ridge for dinner. Their steak is creatively plated and delicious.

Sunday

After all the hiking and wine tasting festivities from the day before, there's nothing better than a lazy Sunday morning. If you're looking for a good traditional Southern breakfast, look no further than the CornerStone Café. Their biscuits are everything a Southern biscuit should be — slightly salty, very fluffy and infinitely satisfying.

After breakfast, grab your tennis shoes and wander through the incredible antique malls that are scattered throughout this charming Georgia town. We found shabby chic treasures, fine Victorian dishware and antique hutches galore.

Antique shop

Stop by the Cantaberry Café for traditional American staples, like their fantastic egg and chicken salad sandwiches. Then, see if Cartacay Winery is open across the street in case you missed getting a bottle of wine there the day before. We grabbed a few bottles of their chardonnay for our Mom.

After lunch, devote some serious time to exploring Ellijay's home décor shop, Artful Ellijay. The outside features a large balloon mural by Kelsey (commissioned by Artful Ellijay) and the inside features an impressive assortment of sophisticated, silly and carefree items your house probably needs. We were obsessed with Kim Daniel's whimsical and joyful paintings of farm animals, the wood trolls hidden in crevices around the shop and their impressive display of children's gifts.

Once you're done shopping, head across the street to River Street Tavern for dinner. The Reubens are worth the calories.

Hemispheres

Three Perfect Days: Iceland

By The Hub team

Story by Diane Vadino | Photography by Adrienne Pitts | Hemispheres May 2019

Not long ago, Iceland was a spectacularly beautiful but seldom visited wonderland of waterfalls, volcanoes, and geysers in the lonely North Atlantic, still finding its national feet after centuries of Norwegian and Danish rule. Then, an unlikely confluence of events: The economic crisis of 2008–09 turned the country upside down—and paradoxically made the once prohibitively expensive destination affordable for visitors. A year later, the air traffic–halting eruptions of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano landed Iceland, in all its geothermal splendor, on news broadcasts around the world. Now, the word is truly out, and the supremely photogenic country welcomes so many tourists—2.3 million in 2018—that visitors outnumber residents by a ratio of seven to one. How to find a place for yourself, away from the crowds? Make a break for the majestic north, where whales sidle up to sightseeing boats, and the aurora borealis can be viewed from the comfort of geothermally heated pools. Then cap things off with a day in the picturesque capital, Reykjavík, home to a world-class art and dining scene, dramatic seascapes, and a pretzel that's possibly worth the trip itself. These days, the sun barely sets. The lupine is blooming. Paradise awaits.

Search flights

Day 1

Tailing whales across Skjálfandi Bay

The GeoSea Geothermal Sea BathsThe GeoSea Geothermal Sea Baths

All is quiet, and all is magnificent.

We have sailed west, into the center of Skjálfandi Bay. Everything around our ship—land, sea, sky—is some variation of gray, except for our full-length, cherry-red survival suits, which resemble the gear crabbers wear during blizzards on Deadliest Catch. My seasick fellow passengers, unsteady on their feet, haul themselves to the guardrail and peer stoically into the distance.

Naustið, a restaurant in Húsavík

At first, the wildlife is limited to birds: gannets, Arctic terns, black guillemots with white patches on their wings.

But we are not here for birds. All of us—I hear Japanese, French, English, German, Scandinavian languages that I can't distinguish from one another—are here for whales.

The whales cannot be trusted to appear on cue, our North Sailing guide says over the ship's loudspeaker. We rely on their favor. This is the North Atlantic, not SeaWorld.

And so we wait. I email my landlord, my boss, and a woman who wants to buy an antique pitcher from me. But then we hear it: a whale surfacing, blowing air through its spout, and, all at once, it's magical. (It sounds like a massive, wet poof.) We hear it again. Then, suddenly, we see the source of the sound, as a slick black tail flips up and then down into the water. Everyone on the boat rushes in the direction of the whale, slipping on the wet deck, jockeying for a place at the rail. The whale, a humpback, skims the surface desultorily before diving again. It's soon trailed by a boat from a competing tour company, whose passengers look exactly like us, except their suits are black and fluorescent yellow. At times, the whale swims just below the surface, perhaps 50 feet from us and sinking fast, so we see only its massive outline. Another boat arrives, its passengers clad in neon orange. The boats follow the whales. Sometimes we get the best view; sometimes another boat does.

A stuffed hooded seal at the Húsavík Culture House

A rhythm establishes itself: tedium, the majesty of whales, tedium, the majesty of whales. The majesty, though, is cumulative: Before we turn and head back to the small port at the town of Húsavík, Iceland's whale-watching capital, we have seen a dozen of them (or the same whale a dozen times; who can say for sure?), flipping and swimming and turning tail in the water. As we disembark, I feel strangely euphoric, enchanted. I want whales everywhere to be happy and safe.

In summary, my dominant impulse is not to eat them. I discover at the nearby Húsavík Whale Museum that not everyone shares this response. “People go on the tours, come into the museum, and ask where they can eat it," says Garðar Þröstur Einarsson, a whale specialist and former guide. “Sixty percent of the minke whale meat in Iceland is eaten by tourists."

We're surrounded by exhibits that testify to the immense humanity of whales. “That is bananas," I reply.

No restaurants in Húsavík serve whale meat—certainly not Naustið, with its bright, mid-century mariner design. What it does serve: potatoes and wild arctic char, caught that day in a lake named Kálfborgarárvatn. (When Naustið's owner tells me the lake's name, I write down “K-???????" in my notebook.)

“Then we hear it: a whale surfacing blowing air through its spout, and, all at once, it's magical."

From there, I drive to the other end of Húsavík, to the GeoSea Geothermal Sea Baths, a brand-new pool complex perched on a cliff above the harbor. Pools are central to Iceland's idea of itself—as primary to its national identity as pubs are to Britain or cafés are to France, according to Icelandic author Alda Sigmundsdóttir. The Blue Lagoon, a massive bathing complex near the airport in Keflavík, is the best known, but it's just one of many in towns large and small across the country. None are as beautiful as Húsavík's.

Or, at least, I think they're the most beautiful. By the time I get to the pools, it's pitch-black. (It's hard to imagine a better place to view the northern lights, though the optimal viewing time is late September through March.)

The air is cold, so I sit as low as I can in the naturally heated water. The Icelanders are less delicate, walking between the pool and the bar, picking
up beers through a service window and drinking them at leisure.

I have seen my fill of whales, but I know that it should be possible to hear them from the pool, so I stay in the water much too long, waiting for another of those spouting poofs.

The GeoSea Geothermal Sea Baths

Pool Etiquette

Of the wide array of Icelandic souvenirs—from the ubiquitous wool sweaters to every iteration of puffin memorabilia—none will offer a window onto the national view on visitors like Alda Sigmundsdóttir's The Little Book of Tourists in Iceland, a collection of essays on local sensibilities. If you heed just one of her advisories, let it be this: Before entering a public pool, take a shower. (No clothes. Not optional.) “You need to shower, naked, at the pool before going in," she says. “It sounds kind of facetious and silly, but not showering really does upset the local population." Swimming pools, Sigmundsdóttir says, are crucial to the culture—and their customs must be respected.

Day 2

A pair of waterfalls and Iceland's biggest toy box

The grand Go\u00f0afass waterfall The grand Goðafass waterfall

I've been to Iceland several times before, but like many visitors, I stayed in and around the capital, Reykjavík, exploring only as far as the Golden Circle. The attractions on this well-worn circuit—Þingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss waterfall, Geysir—are spectacular. They are also very, very popular, meaning that they are in some ways victims of their own exceptional success.

A ram at Deplar FarmA ram at Deplar Farm

So, instead, today I've decided to embark on a self-drive version of the north's equivalent of the Golden Circle: the Diamond Circle tour. (There is also a Silver Circle tour, near Reykjavík; Iceland will run out of gem names before it runs out of scenic excursion possibilities.) To see as much as I want to today, I leave at 6:30 a.m., before anything (including Húsavík's bakeries) is open.

The spa at Deplar FarmThe spa at Deplar Farm

I begin with a 50-mile drive that meanders north (and then south) to Dettifoss, Europe's most powerful waterfall by volume and the location used for the opening scene in Ridley Scott's Prometheus. It is staggering, monumental. From there, I head south to the Ring Road, which circles the entire island: If I turn east and go about 500 miles, I'll hit Reykjavík. I go west, though, to Mývatn, a wild expanse of a lake that looks broody and Scottish when the sun ducks behind the clouds and like a sparkling turquoise field when it emerges. My third stop is Goðafoss, another waterfall. It's more approachable than Dettifoss—literally, in that it seems less like the sort of thing you fall into by accident, never to be seen again. All things being equal, I prefer Goðafoss (pretty) to Dettifoss (existential).

North Atlantic salon at Depler FarmNorth Atlantic salon at Depler Farm

My fourth stop is the reason for my non-leisurely pace: Deplar Farm, an unassuming yet gorgeous hotel in the Fljót Valley run by Eleven Experience that's a magnet for the sort of finance executive or celebrity seeking a no-expense-spared vacation. “You're going to Deplar!" a guide I meet at Mývatn exclaims when I share my itinerary. “They've got the biggest toy box in the country." Justin Timberlake, he adds, is a fan.

I don't understand what “toy box" means until a couple of hours later, when I see it while trailing behind my guide, a mountaineer/artist named Thorlakur Ingolfsson. He goes by Laki, which is pronounced “Loki," like the god/Avengers villain. (Tom Hiddleston has some serious competition.) Guests at Deplar are paired with a guide, and I am lucky Laki is mine. The lodge offers myriad activities, from helicopter skiing in the winter to salmon fishing and kayaking the nearby fjord in warmer months. Equipment for all these activities is stored in the “toy box," a hut stocked with snowmobiles, hiking boots, snowshoes—anything you might need for expeditions big and small.

“Imagine the adventure you'd have if you just rent a car and follow the weather."

The grand Go\u00f0afass waterfallThe grand Goðafass waterfall

Not feeling particularly sporty, I opt for an easy hike into the surrounding hills, followed by a very late lunch of North Atlantic salmon with lentils and beets at the property's Ghost Farm. This gives Laki and I plenty of time to discuss the best way to travel through Iceland. “The weather has such a huge impact on what you're able to do here," he says. “Really, the thing to do is check the weather in the morning and go where it's good." That's easy, I say, if you're not coming from far away and if you didn't have to make hotel reservations six months in advance. “If you can, being flexible is better," he replies. “Imagine the sort of adventure you'd have if you just rent a car and follow the weather, if you truly go and explore a world that's beautiful, pristine." I can imagine it.

Afterward, there is yoga, a massage, and the opportunity to soak in an outdoor pool. (Clouds scupper my northern lights ambitions.) Dinner is served at 9, and it is tremendous: beef medallions with beets and sunchokes, all locally sourced.

I've stayed in hotels all over the world, and Deplar just might be the best. Even before I fall asleep, I am sending imploring emails to my friends, with pictures of the property—even in an all-day mist, with low, gray clouds, it is stunning—asking them to return with me.

Day 3

Reykjavík from land and sky

Inside the Harpa concert hall in Reykjavik

In the morning, I leave Deplar Farm with regret, after a breakfast of delicious, crepe-like Icelandic pancakes with powdered sugar and berries. From here, it's either a tidy helicopter ride or a straightforward drive to Reykjavík. Not being Justin Timberlake, I opt for the latter: a five-hour trek I make under sullen skies. Even without any sunshine, the scenery is dizzying; I have to fight the impulse to pull over and take photos at every turn.

A green corner at the Coocoo's Nest in ReykjavikA green corner at the Coocoo's Nest in Reykjavik

Reykjavík is so compact that it's easy to see a lot, fast. I begin with the city's most distinctive landmark: Hallgrímskirkja, which looks somehow both Art Deco and ancient. The exterior is striking—it looks like a fighter jet sitting upright or, equally, where elves in a Tolkien book might worship—while the interior resembles the Lutheran churches of my childhood (read: like a suburban hotel ballroom). It's well worth the wait to go to the observation tower: At 240 feet, it offers superb, 360-degree views of Reykjavík, the harbor, and the mountains to the north.

Smoked beef fillet at MossSmoked beef fillet at Moss

Two hundred miles of driving followed by some intense church viewing means that I'm both (a) ready for a walk and (b) starving—so I head toward Grandi, a onetime industrial, now up-and-coming area by the harbor that's home to a popular ice cream shop, Valdís, and a buzzy brunch spot, Coocoo's Nest, as well as Reykjavík's oldest restaurant, Kaffivagninn, where I have a plate of light and crisp fish and chips (basically the official meal of Reykjavík).

Sufficiently reenergized, I head to my second stop in Grandi: Studio Olafur Eliasson. If you don't recognize Eliasson's name, you may know his work: He installed waterfalls that seemed to hover 100 feet above New York City's East River in 2008—and, later, above the Grand Canal at the Palace of Versailles. He is also the author of my favorite book about Iceland, a collection of 35 images, submitted by Icelanders, of their cars stuck in rivers (title: Cars in Rivers), and the designer of the glass facade at Harpa, Reykjavík's concert hall.

“If there's a problem with Iceland, it's that the spectacular becomes everyday."

The studio, which is open to the public, is at Marshall House, a former fish factory. I wander past Eliasson's works, including Untitled (Spiral), a tall spiral of metal spinning up (or down), and then I see the artist himself. (If you couldn't tell, I'm a fan.) I know it makes sense that an artist would be working in his own studio—and would be involved, it seems, with the taking down of one installation or the setup of another—but it is too great. I stop and stare and then run away as quickly as I can, before anyone catches me staring.

A statue of Leif Erikson in front of Hallgr\u00edmskirkjaA statue of Leif Erikson in front of Hallgrímskirkja

I have one more stop in Reykjavik: Brauð & Co., which makes pretzels that might be the finest anywhere in the world. I buy three (one for now, one for the very near future, one I will save for a post-dinner snack) and head to the heliport. The weather has cleared, and the sky is cloudless for my flight with Reykjavík Helicopters, which I share with a British woman and her teenage daughter. We fly from the city to a geothermal area, with burbling hot pots and steam vents. Sheep cling to the side of a hill, undoubtedly enjoying the warmth: It's like standing above a laundry vent, except it smells of sulfur instead of fabric softener. The Brits and I trade travel suggestions (as well as seats on the way back so that both the daughter and I have a chance to sit in the front, next to the pilot, an Austrian who trained in Oregon). They report particular enthusiasm for their northern lights tour. “We saw them the first night, and it was nothing special," the mother says. “But the second night—truly one of the most wonderful things I've ever seen." They show me an app that provides a positive forecast for tonight's aurora: Like the whales, the northern lights may appear. Or, they may not.

Iceland by Cruise

Have nine perfect days to spend in Iceland? Circumnavigate the country on Hurtigruten's expedition voyage and explore every aspect of the wild landscape, from the Westfjords and northern volcanic lakes to picturesque coastal towns like Bakkagerði, where some of the 100 or so residents might regale you with tales of elves and trolls. Onboard, enjoy in-depth biology lectures and a photography workshop (gotta get that whale shot!) along with locally sourced meals. There are also on-deck hot tubs and a sauna—this is Iceland, after all. From $4,444, hurtigruten.com

As we fly back to Reykjavík, we agree that it's all spectacular: the lakes and mountains, the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in the distance. But is this more marvelous than the whales? The cliffside pools? The continent's most powerful waterfall? The other, less obviously murderous waterfall? The sheep, the hotel, the view from Hallgrímskirkja?

If there is a problem with Iceland, it's that the spectacular becomes everyday. (Confession: I spend the last 10 minutes of our time at this geothermal area, one of the most dazzling places I have ever seen, playing Candy Crush.) Can you burn out on natural beauty? Is there a point when too much is too much?

Inside the Harpa concert hall in Reykjav\u00edkInside the Harpa concert hall in Reykjavík

As it turns out, I may be at that point. I head to The Retreat, the new five-star hotel attached to the Blue Lagoon, which offers a more exclusive experience of this exceptionally popular attraction. In the pool, I watch an Instagram influencer do a photoshoot, surely a daily occurrence here. Another vote for northern Iceland! At this point, I take my directions from the hotel's name and retreat to my room—specifically, to the tub positioned in front of floor-to-ceiling windows and the shockingly turquoise water outside—before going to chef Ingi Þórarinn Friðriksson's showcase restaurant, Moss.

Where to Stay

Grindavik

The Retreat at Blue Lagoon
The minimalist 62-suite Retreat opened last year, offering a super-exclusive experience of the popular geothermal day spa. Retreat guests can enter the adjoining Blue Lagoon, but Blue Lagoon day-trippers have to pay for access to the Retreat, where every angle reveals an Instagram-ready vista of the turquoise, mineral-rich water or the surrounding lava field. The staff, four restaurants, and spa treatment options are all top-notch. From $1,350, bluelagoon.com


Reykjavík

Alda Hotel
Ideally located on Laugavegur street, surrounded by the city's best shopping and restaurants, Alda is within easy walking distance of all of Reykjavík's attractions. In addition to the spacious rooms, this boutique property offers a sauna and outdoor hot tub, plus three buzzing spots on the ground floor: a design-y lounge, the busy Brass restaurant, and a hip, award-winning barber shop (book a cut in advance). From $135, aldahotel.is


Kefalvík

Hotel Berg
Nearly all foreign visitors arrive in Iceland through Keflavík, home to the international airport, but few stick around to explore the surrounding Reykjanes Peninsula beyond the Blue Lagoon. Ease your arrival by staying nearish to the airport at the super-stylish Hotel Berg, which offers a rooftop pool (ideal for northern lights viewing), free airport transfers, and a master class in Scandi design. From $131, hotelberg.is


Troll Peninsula

Depler Farm
At Deplar Farm, an all-inclusive resort on the remote Troll Peninsula in northern Iceland, experience is the key word. The 13 rooms in the turf-roofed lodge are cozy, but visitors will spend most of their time taking advantage of the outdoor activities: heli-skiing, fat-tire biking, fly-fishing, and much more.elevenexperience.com



Remember the north.United offers daily service from New York/Newark to Reykjavík, Iceland, between June 6 and October 3. Visit united.com or check the United mobile app for details and schedule.

Search flights
Scroll to top