Algiers – a low-key Mediterranean paradise
Do you dream of finding a Mediterranean city that is still unspoilt? Then make your way to Algiers the White, so named because of its glistening white appearance, said to be unique in the world. With its pristine buildings, a mix of Haussmann-esque buildings and constructions left over from the days of the Ottoman Empire, the Algerian capital exudes a charm all of its own.
Lose yourself in the winding alleyways of the Casbah, the historic heart of the city and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Breathe in the scent of mimosa, spices and coffee which float on the air. About a ten-minute walk away, you come to the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, a fascinating building constructed in 1909 in Moorish Revival style. In 2007, it was decided to turn the place into a centre devoted to the recent history of the plastic arts in Algeria: music, videos, choreography and creations of all genres subtly portray the country's identity. The Martyrs' Memorial, built in 1982 in memory of the chahids (martyrs) will teach you all about the history of Algerian independence. Take the aerial tramway up to the monument which offers one of the best views over the bay of Algiers. Further down the hill, stop off at the Test Garden of Hamma, a pretty haven of greenery which the residents of Algiers love to visit.
It would be hard, while you are here, to ignore the stunning beaches that are dotted along the coast. Take a walk to El Djamila beach, also called La Madrague, which is perfect for a cooling dip. If you want to live like a local, go for lunch to Chez Sauveur and sample its delicious sardines, caught that very day. On your way back to town, stop off at the terrace of the El Aurassi hotel which dominates the skyline of Algiers. When night falls, a multitude of city lights start to twinkle, creating an entrancing sight to behold.
Place des Martyrs or Larbi Ben M'hidi metro stations
National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MAMA)
25 Rue Larbi Ben M'hidi
+213 21 71 72 52
Chemin Omar Kechkar
+213 664 38 85 41
Test Garden of Hamma
Rue Hassiba Ben Bouali
+213 21 67 22 92
Port El Djamila
+213 661 55 00 83
El Aurassi Hotel
2 Boulevard Franz Fanon
+213 21 74 82 52
Zurich – a first-class centre for the arts
Did you know that Dadaism, the avant-garde art movement, was born over a hundred years ago in the streets of Zurich? And the Swiss city still enthusiastically welcomes and fosters creative and original initiatives today.
Let us start with MuDA – opened in February 2016 – which promotes itself as the first digital arts museum in Europe. The goal of the institution is to show the man and woman in the street how numbers and algorithms can be transformed into striking artistic expressions. Besides exhibitions, the museum runs workshops which elicit the notion of beauty on the Internet and in computer codes, for example. The museum opened its doors in one of the most vibrant districts of the city, Zurich-West. This former industrial heartland is now a hotspot for culture and nights out. Stroll under the 36 arches of the railway viaduct which is now home to a collection of shops and market halls known as Im Viadukt. You will not know where to look first with all the delicatessens, fashion boutiques, workshops and galleries found there.
The daring cuisine on offer at EquiTable is, as its name suggests, just that. Here, a kilometre south of Im Viadukt, the chef only uses seasonal, organic and fair-trade produce. And it all goes to create an explosive molecular cuisine: you identify the ingredients on the menu of the day using your palate rather than your eyes.
Spend the night at the Plattenhof, a quiet hotel fitted out with light parquet flooring, futon beds and wide windows. Next day, hop on board the Uetliberg railway for a train journey into the mountains. Twenty minutes later, you will be at the top of the lush green Uetliberg mountain. High above Zurich, you can look out over the city and its lake, while Alpine peaks rise up on the horizon. In winter, the hiking trials are transformed into a network of sledging runs to the delight of young and old alike!
MuDA (Museum of Digital Art)
+41 44 533 83 96
+41 43 534 82 77
Design Hotel Plattenhof
+41 44 251 19 10
Dakar – exotic colours and beaches
From the island of Gorée to the stunning Pink Lake to the markets of Dakar, the vibrant capital of Senegal is just perfect for a city break off of the beaten track.
For an unforgettable meal, head to Le Cozy. Its blue-lit rooms are always full as it is a popular spot for locals. Try the beef tataki or a fresh fruit soup in an atmosphere that becomes more and more electric as the evening wears on and people take to the dance floor.
From your room at the Hotel du Phare, you can look out over the whole bay, from the Phare des Mamelles lighthouse to the island of Gorée, also known as Memory Island. Located a couple of kilometres from the mainland, this island has pastel-coloured colonial houses, streets overflowing with bougainvillea and the reminder of buildings associated with the slave trade. In fact, the island has become a memorial to the slave trade in Africa and was recognised as an official commemoration site by the United Nations (UN) in 1978. For an excursion not far from the hectic capital, head to the Pink Lake (also called Lake Retba) located about 30 kilometres from Dakar. Its fascinating colour is caused by microscopic algae which produce a red pigment to withstand the high salt content in the water.
Finally, make sure you visit the Théodore Monod museum. Located right in the city centre, come and admire its collection of over 9,000 items, including death masks, terracotta statuettes and drums made of animal skins. It is a fascinating insight into Senegalese art.
Le Cozy restaurant
8 Rue Ramez Bourgi
+221 33 823 06 06
Hôtel du Phare
36 Cité des Magistrats
+221 33 860 30 00
Pink Lake or Lake Retba
Théodore Monod museum / IFAN Museum of African Arts
Rue Emile Zola