Skip to content

Travel insider Olwethu-Thando Klaas shares her top 5 guide on where to eat, sleep, shop & play in the world’s most fabulous cities

Olwethu-Thando Klaas is an African travel aficionado with a taste for variety and a nose for hidden gems. Here, she shares her top 5 guide to some of the world's best destinations.

I always tell people that the only way to truly enjoy a trip is to choose places and things to do that you love.

Considering how much time, effort, and money goes into travel, you’d think people would want to make it worth their while, but I’ve seen people go on (and then complain about) trips not suited to anything they like.

My trips used to be centred around Fashion Weeks or my persistent pop culture fascination. These days, I’m pretty simple: I like a place with enough civilization to have a functioning public transport system. I like crisp white linen on my bed and dining options that speak to the heart of my destination. I want to be around locals too, for a bit of people-watching, and I need art and screensaver-level views!

I’ve had some fun experiences finding quality picks at different price points during my adventures, as well as a few harrowing horror stories along the way (looking at you, Paris!).

I’ve learned that I love writing about both the good and bad experiences. This time, I’m sharing some gems I recommend, straight from my travel diaries.


Eat: Charlie's Beach, right near the Berlin landmark known as Checkpoint Charlie, is a great find when the weather’s right.

After you’ve had your fill of history in Friedrichstraße, switch gears to the present, with an afternoon on the sand, eating delicious Döner Kebabs and drinking beer while DJs play head- bopping jams.

Drink: While Berlin has loads of bars and restaurants at which you can enjoy a drink, I recommend seeing the city sites while grabbing a drink streetside. You’re allowed to walk and drink so give local beverages like Fritz-Kola, Radler or Schöfferhofer Weizen a try.

If you really want a place to settle down in and drink - daytime or nighttime - definitely head to NENI restaurant and Monkey Bar. There you’ll find great service, strong drinks, comfortable eclectic seating, diverse music at play, and one of the most incredible views stretching through city.

Sleep: 25Hours Hotel Bikini Berlin

This is hands down one of the most value-for-money stays in Berlin. All hotel expectations at West Berlin’s funkiest outpost are met but repackaged in a way that’s unique to the 25 Hours hotel brand.

Shop: If you’re lucky enough to be in Berlin on a Sunday, take a train to Mauerpark Flea Market.

This is the largest market in the city and includes kitsch, cool items along some of the freshest German food finds.

It's a fantastic introduction to Berlin folk, their lifestyles and aesthetics - all in a green outdoor space.

Play: Techno rave, electronica and the like are still big in the Berlin club scene, so check out famed spots like Berghain, KitKatClub, Watergate, or Anomalie, which also plays host to film screenings, pop-ups, open-air raves, and art exhibitions on occasion.


Eat: Gjelina

Thanks to Chef Travis Lett, it was at Gjelina that I truly embraced that Duck Confit is my favourite fine dining meal.

Gjelina is a justly celebrated restaurant with Cali-minded food and decor sensibilities. Surprisingly, it continues not to pop up on many travellers' radars, despite being a favourite hangout for Lenny Kravitz, Drake, and even Leonardo DiCaprio - must be the ‘No Photography’ rule!

The food here is inventive and flavoursome, and Brunch is the apparent meal to come for. I say book a spot for any afternoon or dinner meal and start easy with the Anchovy & Burrata Toasts. The menu plays to American palates, and pairs well with light wines and smokey whiskies.

But truly: The Crispy Muscovy Duck Confit, plated with Braised Cabbage, as well as Chicory, Panache Striped Fig, and a Sherry Vinaigrette, is worth the trek from LA central to Venice Beach alone!

Drink: Mama Shelter LA

Hands down my favourite watering hole on the West Coast, Mama Shelter LA is so much fun, warm, welcoming, and so rich in colour, textures, offerings, and culture.

I love how different each of their hotel branches are around the world. They're also at a great price point for LA, allowing you to see some of the best parts of the City of Angels, from up high among stunning and boisterous company.

Sleep: ACE Hotel DTLA for hip design, serviceable hospitality, and hot rooftop vibes!

You’ll sleep great (thank you cosy hypoallergenic mattress), and have the necessary amenities and facilities like free Wi-Fi, a SMEG minifridge, and a glossy ensuite bathroom.

You’ll eat well too…but that’s not just why I’m recommending this one. ACE Hotel DTLA has a fantastic rooftop pool for guests, with a Chrome and concrete-based bar, as well as a mixologist at the ready. There are plenty of towels and sunloungers to use, and I am very much a fan of cooling off in the midday California sun, with a potent chill drink and a magnificent city view.

Shop: Abbot Kinney Boulevard

Abbot Kinney Boulevard is situated at free-spirited Venice Beach, and is known as the ‘coolest block in America’.

This street reminds me of Cape Town’s Bree, Long, and Loop Street in their best years - experiential, saturated with local artisans, new-age eateries, quality wares, and some of the best in established and up-and-coming fashion talent.

At Abbot Kinney, you can shop everything from boho fashion (like at A+R) and surf gear to runway fresh designs; boutique stores also sell knick-knacks and hipster beauty products, and there are cannabis stores here too.

The laidback atmosphere and clean air are so inviting. You’ll find it hard to head home after a visit here.

Play: Universal Studios for what basically amounts to Disneyland for Millennials!

With pretty jaw-dropping immersive rides and tour-guided production drive-throughs, you can experience movies and television show sets like never before.

I enjoyed the actual Fast & the Furious, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, and The Mummy amusement park rides in particular - allowing riders to be a part of some of their favourite classic films.

This satisfied the pop culture part of me like no trip ever before!

*PRO TIP: If you’ve always wanted to see the ‘hottest’ celebrities currently working and be part of a film screening or live studio audience, get FREE tickets to shows like The Voice or Jimmy Kimmel, which tape in Los Angeles, on


Eat: Sadelle’s or Maialino (vicino), depending on your mood for crowds.

Sadelle is a restaurant notorious for passable food and even better chances of celeb-spotting. Theatre lovers and foodie locals frequent the pretty straightforward restaurant with its rustic interior and Jewish fare. They’ll be no dynamic taste dimension here (See: their Freddy Salad with shrimp, heart of palm, avocado, radish, crispy shallots etc.), but you’ll leave full and pretty pleased with the overall experience.

Maialino (vicino) is an Italian restaurant true to its roots and offering up hearty Italian cuisine with refreshingly crisp drinks to match. The restaurant is situated on Lexington and makes it close enough to several parks to walk off your meal - maybe at the stunning Madison Square Park, Bryant Park, or The High Line.

Drink: You’ll want to catch some amazing sunsets and see the New York skyline glitter in the dark, from the downtown DUMBO area. Walk over the Brooklyn Bridge and prepare to be spoiled for choice.

Rooftop bars and restaurants like Rooftop Reds or the Time Out Market located right at Brooklyn Bridge Park, are great experiences you’ll cherish

Sleep: The now permanently closed Gramercy Park Hotel used to be my number one recommendation, but since they’re no more, I recommend booking a stay at The Standard Hotel.

It's cool in the best ways a hotel can be - trendy, but delivering on traditional hospitality standards in your room while also making its mark with a chic and accessible personality that brings in travellers and locals of the most interesting kind.

Shop: Forgo the pricey (but stunning) Fifth Avenue, and head to the Chelsea area for some real shopping like a local. You can pick up essentials you forgot to pack (it's always a laptop charger adapter for me), as well as score designer goodies for a steal if you’re lucky. There’s a wealth of pop-ups and collectives in various ground-floor spaces, so keep an eye out as you stroll.

Nolita, short for North of Little Italy, is where to go for some of the best fresh deli goods too!

Play: Unless you’re a theatre lover, I’d venture midtown or downtown for some other type of fun.

Midtown South is where karaoke is popping, but I had the best time partying till the early morning with a friend in queer-safe bars in the West Village, like Pieces. And honestly, my favourite nighttime activity was catching the live Stand-Up Comedy shows at the Comedy Cellar in Greenwich Village (near NYU and the ‘FRIENDS’ apartment building).


Eat: Osteria Del Cappelari is where locals dine when they’re off the clock.

By recommendation of my hotel team as well as Italians I met along the way, this eatery has that plate of pasta you always dreamed about. Finish a day or night there, with sensational food (like Stingozzi all'Amatriciana) in hearty portions, and a chill glass of quality vino (I recommend the Rose called The Pescanera by Ippolito).

Drink: Hey Güey!

A postcard-worthy view from the Rione Regola greets visitors to this rooftop bar. Hey Güey sits above the Chapter Roma hotel, but carves its own personality and brings the world to Italy’s famed Roma. Mexican-themed, it offers comfortable seating, a ‘vibey’ joie de vivre atmosphere from midday to late evening, and its drinks (from shots to cocktails) are amazing!

Sleep: Chapter Roma

This is 5-star service and luxury, for 4-star budgets!

Looking like it belongs on a Pinterest Board, Chapter Roma is a design boutique hotel you’ll brag about.

It's visually stunning, with bespoke designs and fixtures, and all housed in a building still brimming with historical relevance and reverence. You’ll rest comfy, clean up swiftly, and be ready to take on your itinerary with gusto, after just a night at Chapter Roma.

Shop: In the in-between of Rome’s Jewish Quarter and Regola district, is a neighbourhood teaming with exactly what a traveller wants to shop for in this historical city: wine, fashion, art, maybe flowers, some cheese, and so much more.

Enotecas, special Italian wine shops, dot themselves around this area, and the rest of the city. And Campo de’Fiori is a perfect choice to visit, for example, with its flower and food stalls.

Play: Rome is notorious for its Speakiesies, so definitely plan a bit of speakeasy-hopping in the city - starting with the Jerry Thomas Speakeasy and its throwback design to Prohibition-era Rome. You may have to ask your hotel Front Desk to help you locate the hidden door though, in the Osteria delle Coppelle area.

Having fun in this Italian city could mean anything from shots to fancy drinks 7 cigars, or playing chess with locals.

For variety, I recommend trying several different spots in one night (like Voodoo Bar, as well as ‘Ma Che Siete Venuti A Fà’ for meeting new people).


Eat: Libertine Petit Café - for meaty or vegetarian meals AND a view while people-watching!

Nestled away in the Noordermarkt vicinity, is this beloved and buzzy restaurant.

If you’re travelling solo and if it wasn't just the waiter lying to me, solo visitors get a free glass of bubbles to start.

Give their Risotto a try because that Pumpkin Sage addition really made the dish all the more memorable!

Drink: Reguliersdwarsstraat for bar-hopping fun!

For a drink in a space with amazing energy, music, and dancing, head to the well-known Reguliersdwarsstraat. I did sundowners here and wound up only back at my hotel at 2 am.

Sleep: Volkshotel has a trendy traveller's coolest wants & needs under its roof.

This hotel has at least 3 different kinds of sleep quarters fit for various travellers: Cabins - budget-friendly contained pods; Rooms - the standard hotel room and its fixings, as well as space enough for 2 and their luggage; and Special Rooms/Suites - Some of the most visually stunning and unique spaces which are each designed by different creatives.

Even better, along with a sauna, hotel guests have access to rooftop ‘Bad Plaats’ (hot tubs) perfect to soak in at sunrise or even sunset. They’re a relaxing cultural experience no one should miss!

Shop: If you're in Amsterdam on a Monday, head for ‘Noordermarkt flea market for some thrifting. Antiques and some homeware gems have been known to pop up there.

Dam Square is where you go for the basics, replacing broken phone screens or chargers, and finding the globally trendy stores.

Sidestep Amsterdam central and explore the neighbourhoods beyond it (walking or cycling), for special smaller-scale shops. De Pijp neighbourhood is great for shopping boutique fashion.

Play: For Art, a must-see is Moco Museum.

Immersive Art experiences are some of my favourite once-in-a-lifetime adventures, and Moco Museum has one of the most vibrant in the world. See, and experience art by BANKSY, Basquiat, Studio Irma, Jeff Koons and more, at Moco Museum.

*PRO TIP: Buy the IAmsterdam Card at their stores around the city, and you’ll be in for so many discount perks to museums, restaurants, and for transportation around the city!

I’m already planning my next trips, and you can score fresh travel tips and insights on

Find evergreen reviews and guides, to places like Paris (because it's not all croissants & red berets) and Cape Town, there too!

Share this article: