Travel remains a rite of passage for the modern gentleman, but the traditional stops on the grand tours of yore have become more about history than currency. Dive into the global good life in the cities that are setting the pace for style, culture and nightlife. So ditch the backpack, bring your best blazer and upgrade your worldly experience to first class.
CC BY-SA 2.5 - 2011 Adam Wiseman/Wikipedia
Let's once and for all dispel the notion that Mexico City is in its entirety a dangerous town—especially if you focus on the chic Polanco neighborhood, a hotbed of style, culture and cuisine.
• Mexico City is full of preening, look-at-me hotels, but affairs are altogether more discreet at Las Alcobas, an intimate, 35-room establishment that values attentiveness and service more than attention-getting and scene-making. The rooms are luxurious but not ostentatious; the bathrooms are outfitted with every great amenity, most notably space. Its palette features soothing creams, grays and lavenders offset with warm woods and geometric stone accents.
• Some men buy their wives paintings for big occasions. Business mogul Carlos Slim honored his late wife with a museum. (Don't try to keep up, hermano.) Museo Soumaya opened in 2011 in Plaza Carso with a strikingly modern facade made of some 16,000 hexagonal aluminum tiles. The slick exterior stands in contrast to the classical European masterworks collected within, a list of which reads like an art history textbook befitting, well, a Mexican billionaire: Da Vinci, Degas, El Greco, Matisse, Monet, Picasso, Tintoretto and nearly 400 pieces by Rodin (Slim's wife was a fan).
DROP THE CHALUPA
• Michelin has yet to discover Mexico, but when it does, the good inspectors will have but a short stroll between Pujol and Biko, which are currently holding at numbers 36 and 38 on San Pellegrino's World's 50 Best Restaurants list. Pujol is particular noteworthy. Its minimalist decor (dark woods and stark white spotlights) focuses diners on chef Enrique Olvera's inventive twist on traditional Mexican cuisine: caviar soufflé, fried frog leg with poblano chili, guava sorbet with mezcal and worm salt. The showstopper is the piñata, a sugar orb filled with chocolate, tiny marshmallows and caramel. The defense rests. Easily.—Pavia Rosati
It's a bold new era in Marrakech. Sure, souk culture is alive and well inside the old city walls—you'll recognize the jumbled cast of snake charmers, storytellers, hawkers and hagglers. But the city's postcolonial patina has been rubbed clean by boutique hotels, deluxe hammams and high-end restaurants. These days a stopover at the gateway to Africa is a must for any modern-day prince.
• For a taste of imperial splendor, head to La Mamounia, an insanely good-looking heritage hotel that mixes Berber-Andalusian architecture with the best modern amenities. A day pass gives you access to the gardens, red-clay tennis courts and glass fitness pavilion, a spa treatment at the zellige-tiled deluxe hammam, an opulent lunch and a few laps in the enormous turquoise pool. An afternoon aperitif at the hotel's Le Bar Churchill keeps things cool and civilized (the British prime minister was a hotel regular).
GO SUPPER CLUBBING
• After a requisite trip to the night market, take a taxi outside the city center for dinner and drinks in the garden lounge at Bo & Zin supper club. There's a fire pit, champagne cocktails, sushi appetizers and private tents. Somehow, some way you'll end up at rose-petal-strewn Le Comptoir Darna to appreciate (along with a posse of pretty French girls and well-dressed Moroccans) the art of belly dancing. Some traditions are too good to give up.—Jeralyn Gerba
CC BY-SA 3.0 - 2010 Beek100/Wikipedia
The German capital is undergoing a cultural revival. Berlin is flush with artists and musicians as well as tech geniuses and gentrifiers who are building a new brand for the city. Underground goes upscale as art, commerce and cash merge into a more polished (or deliberately unpolished) design-driven experience.
GET HIGH CULTURE
• Jüdische Mädchenschule, a heavily restored landmark building, has become something of a cultural lab for Jewish-inspired gastronomy and ultramodern art. Contemporary galleries line the floor above Mogg & Melzer, a modern pastrami sandwich shop run by a club owner and a DJ intent on elevating the experience. In the same building, between Kosher Classroom restaurant and a museum dedicated to the Kennedys, there's Pauly Saal, a classy dining room in the Weimar style that pays homage to old-fashioned foods such as homemade wurst and rotisserie meats.
GET HIGH STYLE
• A 21st century church of sneakerology, Generation 13 features a new museum, café and shop housing high-end, hard-to-find and historical kicks. Top off the night by tapping into the city's best export: the party as art form. Das Gift is a new pub with video installations, whiskey, DJs and a jukebox stocked with specially mixed CDs by musicians including Robert Smith and Mogwai.—Jeralyn Gerba
No, the locals aren't really hippity-hopping around Seoul in tacky blue tuxedo jackets. But they are flexing their style in Gangnam, the high-rise district south of the Han River that encompasses the neighborhoods (or dongs) of Samseong-dong, Apgujeong-dong and Cheongdam-dong. You'll get used to it.
• Go shopping, because that's what everyone else is doing, in vast department stores like the Galleria Luxury Hall and temples to luxury like Maison Hermès Dosan Park. The more interesting action is at concept shops like Koon, a multistory boutique that sells European, American, Korean and Japanese brands—sweaters from Howlin, the indie division of Belgian label Morrison, and puffy vests from Rocky Mountain Featherbed. If you're shopping for your lady, get her something from Yohji Yamamoto's daughter Limi Feu.
GO BEYOND GALBI
• After the inevitable barbecue binge, you'll have a meat hangover like you haven't had since that ojo de bife fest in Buenos Aires. That's when you'll head to Gorilla in the Kitchen for something healthy made without butter and served in a sleek room filled with reflective surfaces. You need a drink. Maybe makgeolli, the rice-based fizzy drink traditionally enjoyed by farmers that all the kids are crazy about now. Order it at Lound, a chic late-night bar where the action starts out mild at the ground-floor wine bar and gets rowdier as you make your way to the clubby fourth floor.—Pavia Rosati
If conveyor-belt sushi and Nintendo still have a place in your heart, you can bet your Bape sneakers Tokyo is the place for you.
• In the spirit of Japanese efficiency, make your jet lag work for you and set out at 3:30 a.m. for a pilgrimage to the holy land of sushi, the Tsukiji fish market. Leave any later than that and your chances of being one of the 120 bleary-eyed witnesses at the predawn tuna auctions are approximately nil. While the bidding rages on (a record was set on January 5, 2013: 488 pounds of bluefin tuna for a cool $1.8 million), wait patiently (read: two hours) for a spot at the bar at Sushi Dai, in row six of the market. The 12 seats fill up and—thankfully—turn over relatively quickly. The toro is the stuff of legend.
HIT THE STREET STYLE
• Get your wits about you at Daikanyama T-Site. The multimedia complex from bookseller giant Tsutaya offers a one-stop design education. Wind your way around art and architecture books, past wall after wall of magazines and periodicals and through lounge areas fit for having a philosophical tête-à-tête or drooling over travel tomes; all routes seemingly lead to either the in-store Starbucks or Muji. The courtyard hosts live music, performances and weekend pop-up markets where locals linger after eating pasta and flatbread pizza at nearby Ivy Place.
HIT THE BARS
• Erase any cultural IQ points you might have accrued earlier in your trip with a visit to Robot Restaurant for a manga spectacle writ large. How can you pass up a trip to Kabukicho (the red-light district)? How can you say no to acrobatic, bikini-clad girls? Who are you to turn down a ride on a robot? Especially when the beer is so cheap.—Crystal Meers