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the vacation report Under-The- Radar Cities

Avoid the tourist trail and consider a short break in a more unusual destination. Here are five to explore.

Words by Emily Mathieson.

PHILADELPHIA, USA

Sandwiched between New York and Washington DC, Philadelphia often gets overlooked by travellers heading to the big-ticket attractions of the East Coast. But they’re missing out. The city has plenty of bright lights, bustle and high-flying architecture but is also undergoing an artistic boom in creative, gallery-filled neighbourhoods such as Fishtown and Northern Liberties. Add in craft beer, historic cobblestone streets, brilliant independent stores and cultural institutions and you have all the ingredients for an excellent city break.
To really get into the groove, the StayLokal (staylokal.com) has six apartments that combine home comforts (your own kitchen from which to order groceries and takeaways) with fancy hotel touches (luxury sheets, fantastic rustic-elegant design) and what they describe as invisible service, which means you can enjoy your stay with total freedom.

StayLokal, Philadelphia
StayLokal, Philadelphia

BERGEN, NORWAY

Norway’s second city is dramatically located on the country’s west coast. Its proximity to the region’s fjords makes it a beguiling destination for those who want a dose of nature alongside their metropolitan charm. Still a working port city, Bergen plays on its hearty seafaring history (especially along the picturesque harbourside lined with colourful wooden houses) but these days it’s also buzzing with youthful energy and has a lively music scene. The Villa Terminus hotel (villaterminus.no) reflects both the old and the new with carefully contemporary interiors inside an 18th-century Baroque villa. Its 18 bedrooms fuse pale Scandi minimalism with original decorative mouldings and handmade pieces and furniture by some of the world’s biggest design names, from David Chipperfield to Ilse Crawford.

Villa Terminus, Norway
Villa Terminus, Norway

BORDEAUX, FRANCE

The city formerly known as Sleeping Beauty has been awakening from its slumber, perhaps aided by the promise of a super-fast TGV to Paris later this year. Its Neoclassical sites are well known and if you want to stay close to the ornate Opéra National or mooch around the stately buildings and ponds of the Jardin Public, try staying at the Yndo (yndohotelbordeaux.fr). The intimate, 12-room hotel in a former mansion has a pretty courtyard garden and elegant rooms with colour-popping modern art and furniture.
When you want more action, join the hipsters at Darwin, a disused army warehouse repurposed with cafés, shops and hang-out spaces, or hop on a bike and head for the sleek new Cité du Vin, an architecturally striking museum devoted to the tipple that made the region famous.

Yndo hotel, Bordeaux
Yndo hotel, Bordeaux

GUADALAJARA, MEXICO

When hip hotel chain Grupa Habita move in on a city, it’s worth paying attention. Their finger-on-the-pulse properties mark that perfect transection between urban grit and sophisticated history, hence in-the-know travellers turning to Guadalajara. Some people describe it as the less intimidating version of Mexico City – a bit of culture, a bit of history, some amazing food and plenty of tequila.
Casa Fayette (casafayette.com) is its new sophisticated base, attracting fashion types and those connected with the booming contemporary art scene with its sleek combination of 1940s architecture, a chic terrace (with a diminutive pool) and a so-now colour palette of coral pinks and heritage greens.

Casa Fayette, Guadalajara
Casa Fayette, Guadalajara

MALMÖ, SWEDEN

This year’s emerging Scandinavian hotspot has all of the charms of the most famous Nordic cities, but with fewer of the tourist throngs. A break here will allow you to tick off shops, castles and the Øresund bridge (of The Bridge fame) but it’s the culinary scene that’s really bubbling. The memorably named Bastard (bastardrestaurant.com) became famous for its nose-to-tail ethos and is at the vanguard of a flurry of relaxed but refined dining spots.
The recently Michelin-starred Vollmers (vollmers.nu) specialises in the area’s Scandinavian cuisine, which might mean cod with kohlrabi and mustard or quail egg with lumpfish roe and nettle. While the hotels may be playing catch-up, for now the airily stylish Duxiana (malmo.hotelduxiana.com) is one of the best places to stay.

Vollmers, Malmö (right)
Øresund bridge, Malmö

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PHOTOGRAPHS: DEADDUCK/GETTY IMAGES, GETTY IMAGES, HEIDI’S BRIDGE, JONAS NYHAY, LINDMAN, TIBOR BOGNAR/ALAMY, PIERRE CARTON, UNDINE PRÖHL.

The Style Report
The Style Report
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