Check out our recommendations for what to do, where to go and what to eat in some of Cayman’s favorite overseas destinations this December.
CULTURE The candlelit Church of the Holy Sepulcher is believed to be built upon the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. From there you can make your way to the Western (or Wailing) Wall where the remnants of Judaism’s Holy Temple are venerated, and later marvel at the Dome of the Rock.
SHOPPING Plunge into the Old City Market, part of the Muslim Quarter, to haggle for local delicacies – from coffee and cardamom to hookahs and handmade jewelry. For familiar high-end brands, on the other hand, head to Mamilla outdoor pedestrian mall, which is essentially Israel’s answer to Fifth Avenue.
FOOD At the much-celebrated Machneyuda, a changing market-to-table menu is served from an open kitchen. The atmosphere is energetic and playful, with one signature dish seeing ice-cream flung on tables covered in aluminum foil. Or bag an outdoor table at Azura, where you can sample Kurdish kubbeh soup, garlicky hummus and oxtail stew, while watching the groups of old men playing backgammon.
COCKTAILS Entering through a ‘secret’ sliding bookshelf entrance, Gatsby wows with its vintage 1920s speakeasy design – all Art Deco lamps, swing music and smoked glass. Home-brewed mixers, syrups and garnishes make the craft cocktails really shine.
WHAT’S HOT THIS MONTH Where is more apt to travel to around Christmastime than the Holy Land? It is a particular Christmas custom to visit Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity (just six miles south of Jerusalem) on Christmas Eve, believed to be the exact spot where Mary gave birth to Jesus.
Prague, Czech Republic
CULTURE With its fairy-tale silhouette of spires and towers, there’s no missing Prague Castle, home to some of the Republic’s greatest artistic treasures. The Strahov Monastery is another cultural treasure chest: Gawk at majestic ceiling frescoes, shriveled ‘sea monsters’ in an 18th century cabinet of curiosities, and thousands of precious manuscripts.
SHOPPING Style yourself in cool clothing pieces by emerging Czech designers at the Blackout boutique. Prague is also a wonderful place to unearth unusual antiques, and at Antikvita the wares include everything from costume jewelry and timepieces to porcelains and toys.
FOOD Keep out the wintry cold with steaming Czech goulash, dumplings and schnitzel, washed down with golden lager. You’ll get to sample these freshly cooked classics at tavern-style Lokál Dlouhááá. Field is a fun and informal restaurant despite its Michelin star, but you’ll have to book well in advance to sample the chef’s exquisite dishes incorporating freshly foraged herbs and edible flowers.
COCKTAILS Even the menu design at Black Angel is exquisite, its recipes set within an illustrated story about a time-traveling bartender. The cocktails – which include classics, twists and even Tiki drinks – are world-class, but it also utilizes regionally-produced spirits. A vaulted ceiling, live pianist and crystal chandeliers all add to the atmosphere.
WHAT’S HOT THIS MONTH Prague boasts one the world’s most impressive Christmas markets, taking over the Old Town Square with a cacophony stalls selling tree ornaments, Czech crystal, puppets, sweet treats and mulled wines.
CULTURE Deep within the jungles of Petén Province, Tikal is an ancient Mayan citadel with jaw-dropping temples, rising more than 44 meters out of the lush landscape.
SHOPPING Guatemala City’s In-Nola is a large, beautiful store for picking up traditional textiles and other arts-and-crafts gems at fair prices. Up in the highlands town of Chichicastenango (Chichi), the famous twice-weekly open-air market is another hotspot for authentic souvenirs, such as pottery, masks and wood carvings.
FOOD Should you find yourself on the road to Los Sapos ruins, don’t miss Hacienda San Lucas’ house specialty of fire-roasted chicken smothered in a spicy adobo sauce, which the owners claim is based on ancient Maya recipes.
COCKTAILS The colonial city of Antiqua has numerous buzzing, quirky bars hidden in its cobbled streets. Tiny wine bar Tabacos y Vinos has an appealing (albeit risky) pricing strategy, in which every glass of wine you buy is cheaper than the last, as well as serving tasty nibbles and cheese boards. For a vast range of world-class drams pull up a chair at the Whisky Den & Coffee Bar.
WHAT’S HOT THIS MONTH St Thomas’s Day is a major event in ChiChi; in fact, a week of festivities starting on December 13, with parades, traditional dances and fireworks. On Dec. 21, the celebration culminates with performers scaling 30-meter-high wooden poles beside the Iglesia de Santo Tomás to leap and swirl down to the ground at high speed, their ropes unravelling as they go.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
CULTURE Take a guided walking tour of Kampung Baru, the city’s oldest neighborhood, where traditional Malay wooden houses and street food hawkers provide an interesting slice of village life within the metropolis. The lush, landscaped Heritage Park is another delight to discover on foot.
SHOPPING Glitzy, air-conditioned malls are something of a Kuala Lumpur specialty. The ultimate red-carpet retail experiences are to be found at Starhill Gallery, which houses 100 luxury labels, and indoor/outdoor Pavilion, where different zones dedicated to Japanese brands, food or couture.
FOOD Hakka noodles are hard to find in Kuala Lumpur, and Toast and Roast does them best – springy egg noodles tossed in glistening lard and topped with minced pork, crunchy deep-fried fish skin and sliced spring onions. It may look unimpressive but the crunch of the fish skin against the savoury slick of the noodles is a combination that has to be tried to be believed.
COCKTAILS Jack Rose has plenty of ‘70s and ‘80s nostalgic charm, inviting guests to bring their own vinyl to spin on the record player, and the aged Negronis are second to none. With its menu organized by era and, PS150 is a top-notch bar that tailors high-end mixology with Asian flavors.
WHAT’S HOT THIS MONTH Hailed as one of the best cities in Asia for an exciting New Year’s Eve party, KLCC Park becomes a massive outdoor concert venue for Dec 31, while historic Merdeka Square hosts traditional dance performances and marching bands.
CULTURE Tasmania’s latest cultural attraction is the provocative MONA art gallery. Founded by David Walsh, a professional gambler, the giant concrete and metal edifice overlooking the Derwent contains 400 works of art, plus a bizarre collection of classical antiquities and pop art installations – described as a “subversive adult Disneyland.” You must also pay a visit to the Tasmanian devils at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, leaders of a breeding program for these surprisingly cuddly mammals.
SHOPPING Eastland Äôs Shopping Centre contains many independent boutiques, fashion outlets, toy stores and a large food court. If it’s Tasmanian-made gifts you’re after, go to Salamanca Arts Centre, where the range includes unique ceramics, glass, woodwork and jewelry.
FOOD The menu at award-winning restaurant Smolt pays tribute to Tasmania’s amazingly fresh seafood – the salmon, mussels and oysters are superb. Located in a restored 1830s flour mill, there are gorgeous water views to savor and the five-course evening degustation menu is an indulgence.
COCKTAILS The craft beer scene is thriving here. Sample its brews at heritage-listed cottage Chichi, Preachers or The Winston. Seemingly floating above the water on a four-story pier, The Glass House offers a seriously impressive list runs of sakes, Tasmanian wines and classic cocktails made with local spirits.
WHAT’S HOT THIS MONTH The 628-nautical-mile Sydney to Hobart yacht race is one of Australia’s greatest sporting events, with competitors sailing into the city docks on December 27. Then the Taste of Tasmania Festival fills the waterfront (Dec. 28 – Jan. 3). Watch world-class street performers, settle into a bean bag for an outdoor movie in the park and graze your way through regional produce.