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Top secret destinations around the world
Destinations & Inspiration

Top secret destinations around the world

Suzie Dalton
By Suzie Dalton - 38 minute read

There’s noth­ing greater than dis­cov­er­ing a hid­den gem while on hol­i­day! From less­er-known art gal­leries to bars that are off the beat­en track, a home swap is made that much sweet­er when you find a secret des­ti­na­tion. So whether you’re look­ing for a kerb­side café in an unknown hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion or you want to go where the locals hang­out, take a look at our favourite rec­om­men­da­tions for the secret des­ti­na­tions that will take your home swap break to new heights.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Eat: There are loads of incred­i­ble steak hous­es in Buenos Aires to pick from. Fogon’s Asa­do tast­ing menu has won it legions of fans.

Drink: Mil­ion restau­rant and bar is set in a man­sion. With a fan­tas­tic cock­tail menu, the Gau­cho Frozen is a par­tic­u­lar favourite. Conde Nast Trav­el­er’s round-up of the best bars in Buenos Aires has loads of great ideas too.

Expe­ri­ence: The Museo Nacionale de Bel­las Artes is a beau­ti­ful­ly under­stat­ed art muse­um. Host­ing works by Rem­brandt, Van Gogh and Rodin, this rel­a­tive­ly unknown hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion is a delight.

Sydney, Australia

Eat: Every­thing on the Brown Sug­ar menu looks delec­table. Super­food sal­ads and seafood fea­ture heav­i­ly – or go for the deli­cious but­ter­milk pan­cakes. Over­look­ing Bon­di, Ice­bergs Din­ing Room is also worth a vis­it for the view alone.

Drink: The upstairs cock­tail bar in The Cor­ner House is a secret des­ti­na­tion that we’re delight­ed to share. Try the Palomi­ta with chilli syrup and tequi­la for a feisty treat.

Expe­ri­ence: Vis­it Art Gallery NSW for a cul­tur­al treat. Can’t get there in per­son? Then check out their imag­i­na­tive YouTube chan­nel.

Melbourne, Australia

Eat: We’d trav­el to the Pope Joan for their amaz­ing rice pud­ding with rhubarb alone. Can’t get there right now? Then join us in drib­bling over their Insta­gram account.

Drink: Wine fans are in for a treat at the Mel­bourne Sup­per Club. Yes, it’s a restau­rant – but their wine list is real­ly quite spectacular.

Expe­ri­ence: Don’t leave Mel­bourne until you’ve vis­it­ed the Tar­raWar­ra Estate. Book your­self in for a wine tast­ing or enjoy a pic­nic and a bot­tle of their Pinot Noir on their beau­ti­ful lawns.

Vienna, Austria

Eat: We’re a huge fan of Aus­tri­an food – bit we also like to mix things up a bit when we’re trav­el­ling. So head to Nam Nam for an excep­tion­al thali.

Drink: Loos Amer­i­can Bar is some­thing of a local insti­tu­tion, while not-so secret des­ti­na­tion broth­el-turned-bar Tanz­cafe Jen­seits is the per­fect place for a late-night dance.

Expe­ri­ence: The Vien­na State Opera is glo­ri­ous. But if you can’t make it to one of their per­for­mances, then take a look at their YouTube chan­nel for plen­ty of free treats.

Brussels, Belgium

Eat: La Quin­cail­lerie is a sump­tu­ous treat for the eyes and the taste buds! Renowned for amaz­ing seafood, the mus­sels and grilled lob­ster are exceptional.

Drink: Beer lover? Then you need to head to Delir­i­um and take a look at the 2,000 beers they keep in stock. But Brus­sels is also a city that begs for a spot of peo­ple-watch­ing. We love S Marks the Spot’s round-up of the best cof­fee shops in Bel­gium.

Expe­ri­ence: Sur­re­al­ist art fans will enjoy the Magritte Muse­um. Kids and teenagers will enjoy it too, thanks to their imag­i­na­tive audio guides.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Eat: Capric­ciosa claim to sell the best piz­za in Rio de Janeiro – and if the reviews are any­thing to go by, they might pos­si­bly be right.

Drink: Devas­sa is a chain of small bars sell­ing craft beers, and they get great write-ups. But if beer doesn’t excite you, then this help­ful blog lists some great alternatives.

Expe­ri­ence: Open your eyes to Brazil­ian cul­ture at the Insti­tu­to Mor­eira Salles. If you can’t trav­el there right now, then bring Brazil into your home with one of their fas­ci­nat­ing Spo­ti­fy playlists.

Montreal, Canada

Eat: Look­ing for a secret des­ti­na­tion that is adored by the locals? Lucille’s Oys­ter Dive is a haven for seafood lovers – and steak afi­ciona­dos too. Fin­ish off your meal with a slice of key lime pie.

Drink: Les Enfants Ter­ri­ble has grown since we last wrote this blog, with six branch­es and a devot­ed fan­base. If you can’t get there in per­son, then you might enjoy their fun tuto­r­i­al on mak­ing the per­fect iced tea (dis­claimer: it con­tains a lot of vodka!)

Expe­ri­ence: With a film, dance, musi­cal and the­atri­cal pro­gramme, the The­atre Out­remont has some­thing for the whole family.

Shanghai, China

Eat: We have only one thought on fusion food – and that’s a big, fat yes please! Mr and Mrs Bund is a per­fect exam­ple of fusion done well, and is right­ly regard­ed as an incred­i­ble unknown hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion by those in-the-know.

Drink: Ready to hang out with the beau­ti­ful and suc­cess­ful of Shang­hai? Then M1NT Club should be top of your must-do list. Decanter’s arti­cle on the best bars in Shang­hai is real­ly helpful.

Expe­ri­ence: You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to pick­ing a tra­di­tion­al tea house in Shang­hai. Cul­ture Trip’s round-up of the top 10 tea hous­es in Shang­hai is a great start­ing point.

Hong Kong, China

Eat: Oolaa Soho is a high-end place with a gor­geous menu and a light airy décor. Don’t fan­cy leav­ing your gor­geous home swap prop­er­ty? Then get Jaspa’s incred­i­ble food deliv­ered to your door via Uber Eats!

Drink: The city is packed with slick bars. But to find a more authen­tic expe­ri­ence, take your pick from Sassy Hong Kong’s round-up of Hong Kong’s hid­den bars and speakeasies.

Expe­ri­ence: The Xiqu Cen­tre is an arts cen­tre that is focussed on con­serv­ing and devel­op­ing Can­tonese opera and oth­er gen­res of xiqu (which is tra­di­tion­al Chi­nese the­atre). This blog pro­vides a fan­tas­tic insight into explor­ing Peng Chau island.

Prague, Czech Republic

Eat: Aro­mi has a well-estab­lished rep­u­ta­tion for incred­i­ble Ital­ian food. It’s an ele­gant choice for a peace­ful evening.

Drink: Fan­cy try­ing a mod­ern beer hall with an indus­tri­al chic twist? Then head to Lokal for authen­tic pil­sners and tra­di­tion­al food. For an authen­tic expe­ri­ence, Bukowski’s is where the locals hang out.

Expe­ri­ence: Take some time away from Prague’s envi­able nightlife to explore the Jew­ish Quar­ter.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Eat: MASH Bredgade is a real hid­den gem hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion – and a haven of deli­cious steak! Or for a seri­ous­ly high-end expe­ri­ence, vis­it Noma which ranked in the world’s 50 best restau­rants.

Drink: Fan­cy a cock­tail? The head to K‑Bar, or opt for 1105 which was recent­ly list­ed as one of the world’s best bars!

Expe­ri­ence: Malmöhus Museer is Scandinavia´s old­est sur­viv­ing Renais­sance cas­tle, so don’t leave Copen­hagen until you’ve seen it. Can’t get there right now? Then immerse your­self in these incred­i­ble vir­tu­al resources.

Paris, France

Eat: Chan­nel your inner Parisian with a trip to the Hotel du Nord and enjoy time­less French clas­sics, or explore the exquis­ite menu at the Cam­bo­di­an Le Cam­bodge’.

Drink: Time Out has named La Four­mi as one of their 100 best bars in Paris – and we couldn’t agree more. Keen for more of their rec­om­men­da­tions? Then head to Chez Jean­nette which they describe as one of Paris’ hippest spots’. Ooh la la.

Expe­ri­ence: If you can peel your­self away from the icon­ic (and very touristy) Lou­vre, then head to Musee D’Orsay which is one of Paris’ best secret destinations.

Berlin, Germany

Eat: In the mood for some ele­gant Hun­gar­i­an-French food in a bistro that’s been a hot favourite with artists and politi­cians alike? Then Bistro Deryne is pre­cise­ly what you’re look­ing for.

Drink: There’s noth­ing flashy about the sim­ple drinks and ambi­ence at Bobek, but that’s pre­cise­ly the charm of this fun lit­tle bar. For some­thing more refined, head to Oscar Café – which has been named as one of the world’s best bars.

Expe­ri­ence: Admire hun­dreds of works of mod­ern art in the Lud­wig Muse­um.

Reykjavic, Iceland

Eat: Hunt out the best burg­er in Rek­jav­ic at BBQ mas­ters Grill­markadurinn (Grill­mar­ket).

Drink: Kal­di Bar is a true joy. Try to get there for hap­py hour, then ago­nise over whether to try a local gin or one of their many beer options.

Expe­ri­ence: Any­where that’s described a mod­ern glass hon­ey­comb con­cert hall’ is well worth a vis­it! From the nation­al opera to trib­ute bands, Harpa Con­cert Hall has some­thing for everyone.

Bali, Indonesia

Eat: One of Bali’s most excep­tion­al unknown hol­i­day des­ti­na­tions has to be Mamasan. Try the seared duck with green man­go and banana blos­som – or just about any­thing on the menu! Or for some com­fort food, head to the Fire Sta­tion – Sanur’s only gastropub.

Drink: Lounge on a day bed by the infin­i­ty pool and order an exquis­ite cock­tail at the Pota­to Head Beach Club.

Expe­ri­ence: For an unfor­get­table expe­ri­ence, hang out with more than 1,000 mon­keys at the Sacred Mon­key For­est Sanc­tu­ary.

Dublin, Ireland

Eat: The Wild Goose Grill is a styl­ish Irish bistro that’s per­fect for lunch or din­ner – or for a real treat, book a table for Sun­day lunch.

Drink: Dublin’s nightlife is icon­ic – but so is the day­time buzz at Slattery’s Bar which opens at 7am! For a cosy pub expe­ri­ence, Finnegan’s of Dalkey can’t be beaten.

Expe­ri­ence: From opera and musi­cals to dra­ma and com­e­dy, The Gai­ety The­atre will be a huge hit with the entire family.

Tel Aviv, Israel

Eat: Enjoy­ing a home swap in Tel Aviv? Then grab a take­away from Goocha – they spe­cialise in the most incred­i­ble seafood.

Drink: Described as a trendy gas­tro-bar with a celebri­ty chef, Secret Tel Aviv lists Port Said as one of its favourite hid­den gem hol­i­day des­ti­na­tions. Grab a drink and a shar­ing platter.

Expe­ri­ence: Dance fans should head to the Suzanne Del­lal Cen­ter for a cul­tur­al treat.

Rome, Italy

Eat: For a high-end seafood din­ing expe­ri­ence, there’s nowhere quite as refined as Quinzi & Gabrieli – though Pier­lui­gi is anoth­er excel­lent choice, and can make the addi­tion­al boast of being the first seafood restau­rant in Rome.

Drink: Any­where that describes itself as Cos­mopoli­tan, inter­na­tion­al and a bit retro’ deserves to be vis­it­ed – and Bar del Fico real­ly does!

Expe­ri­ence: Three icon­ic foun­tains are at the heart of Piaz­za Navona – for lots of insight and free walk­ing tours, this resource on what to do in Piaz­za Navona can’t be beaten.

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Eat: Head to the sun-dap­pled court­yard for glob­al com­fort food’ at The Restau­rant. For a live­li­er expe­ri­ence, try top secret des­ti­na­tion Tio Lucas for the best cuts of meat – com­ple­ment­ed by live music!

Drink: San Miguel’s old­est pub is La Sire­na Gor­da – oth­er­wise known as The Fat Mer­maid! Or head to Berlin Bar & Bistro – a place that Lone­ly Plan­et described as a caul­dron of cool’.

Expe­ri­ence: Look­ing like a pink wed­ding cake, Par­ro­quia de San Miguel Arcán­gel has to be seen to be believed.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Eat: The best Ital­ian meal in Ams­ter­dam has to be found at Caffe Toscani­ni. If you’re tight for time, then the Deli is a great place to stock up on Ital­ian prod­ucts includ­ing their icon­ic fresh pas­ta. For some­thing a lit­tle more mod­ern, try Café George which is a hip New York-style brasserie.

Drink: Indulge in a lit­tle peo­ple-watch­ing at the unpre­ten­tious Café Bosco, or for a much swish­er affair, set­tle down in MOMO with a water­mel­on vanil­la martini.

Expe­ri­ence: Immerse your­self in a won­der­ful mod­ern art expe­ri­ence at the Stedelijk Muse­um.

Auckland, New Zealand

Eat: Work­ing with sea­son­al pro­duce, award-win­ning bistro The Engine Room is a tasty delight. Mean­while, Manuka’s Mediter­ranean inspired menu is a favourite with the locals.

Drink: Mac’s Brew­bar has closed since we first wrote this blog, but the good news is that you can still try their icon­ic Mar­gari­ta Street Lime Sour at numer­ous New Zealand bars.

Expe­ri­ence: The Auck­land War Memo­r­i­al Muse­um is a great rainy-day activ­i­ty. Or if you can’t get there in per­son, browse the impres­sive online col­lec­tion.


Eat: Min Jiang is one of Singapore’s best unknown hol­i­day des­ti­na­tions. Tucked away in the Good­wood Park hotel, the lunchtime dim sum push­cart ser­vice is amaz­ing. The trou­ble is, what will you pick?! PS. Café is so suc­cess­ful that they’re shar­ing their recipes for free!

Drink: With chilled vibes and craft beer on tap, Bar Bar Black Sheep is fan­tas­tic (and there are three branch­es across the city, make it a con­ve­nient stop-off wher­ev­er you are).

Expe­ri­ence: Step away from the sleek façade of Sin­ga­pore and spend a day explor­ing Chi­na­town. Cul­ture Trip’s round-up of the best things to see and do in Chi­na­town is real­ly helpful.

Cape Town, South Africa

Eat: Sink your teeth into a juicy hunk of meat at the award-win­ning Cat­tle Baron, or enjoy gor­geous seafood with a view of Table Moun­tain at On The Rocks.

Drink: Cape to Cuba has been described as a ram­bling, chan­de­lier-filled beach hut bar with live Latin music.’ Quite frankly, if that doesn’t tempt you to try it, then noth­ing will!

Expe­ri­ence: It’s not exact­ly an uplift­ing place to vis­it, but The Slave Lodge tells an unfor­get­table tale about slav­ery in Africa.

Barcelona, Spain

Eat: Le Cucine Man­darosso offers deli­cious Ital­ian cui­sine – or you could order one of their exquis­ite cakes and head back to your home swap. For a more authen­tic Span­ish din­ing expe­ri­ence, then head to Las Fer­nan­dez for cured meats and sausages.

Drink: Time Out describes Gata Mala as one of the best-kept secrets in the Grà­cia neigh­bour­hood’. Order a G&T or a draught beer and set­tle in for the night.

Expe­ri­ence: Admit­ted­ly Sagra­da Famil­ia isn’t exact­ly a secret des­ti­na­tion – but this fas­ci­nat­ing blog on 11 secrets sur­round­ing the icon­ic struc­ture is fascinating!

Madrid, Spain

Eat: Lamuc­ca De Pra­do is a much-loved restau­rant with the locals. Expect a bistro vibe, with fan­tas­tic food.

Drink: The ele­gant lounge and ter­race at Ram­ses is a great excuse to dress up for a night out. For some­thing more roman­tic, head to El Viajero’s rooftop bar. It’s a lit­tle oasis!

Expe­ri­ence: Love art? Then you’re going to adore Museo Del Pra­do – Rib­era, Rubens and Van Dyck are just some of the icon­ic artists fea­tured here.

Stockholm, Sweden

Eat: Meat­balls and Baltic her­ring are just some of the local spe­cial­i­ties avail­able in Pelikan’s tra­di­tion­al wood-pan­elled Swedish din­ing room. Alter­na­tive­ly, Pastis offers 3 or 4 options for each course – sim­ple, yet fine dining.

Drink: Fan­cy hang­ing out at a bam­boo bar and drink­ing punch rum-filled cock­tails? Of course you do! Head to the Tiki Room for a fan­tas­tic evening – or if whiskey is more your thing, then make a bee­line for Akku­rat.

Expe­ri­ence: The 17th Cen­tu­ry ship on dis­play at the mar­itime Vasa Muse­um is sim­ply breathtaking.

Phuket, Thailand

Eat: Find­ing a secret des­ti­na­tion in the delight­ful­ly touristy Phuket is a chal­lenge – but the Wine Con­nec­tion is a real gem. Make sure you try a Span­ish Iberi­co plat­ter. Or enjoy your meal with the most beau­ti­ful sea-views at the award-win­ning Mom Tri’s Kitchen.

Drink: Feel­ing hedo­nis­tic? Then get your­self to Catch Beach Club to expe­ri­ence world-renowned DJs, themed par­ties, fire eaters and an impres­sive cock­tail list.

Expe­ri­ence: Old Phuket Town can eas­i­ly be explored in a day. Fol­low this free walk­ing guide to make sure you don’t miss the key highlights.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Eat: Spark by Caramel is a favourite hang-out for expats look­ing for tasty food, while Le Petite Mai­son is a light and airy French restau­rant influ­enced by Mediter­ranean cui­sine (though don’t let the name fool you – it’s huge!)

Drink: Barasti Beach Bar is a fun play­ground for adults, but it’s the icon­ic views of At.mosphere (also known as the world’s tallest restau­rant) that real­ly steal the show. Drop by for an ele­gant cup of tea.

Expe­ri­ence: The Spice Souk is a treat for the sens­es. Try your hand at hag­gling with the ven­dors at this impres­sive tra­di­tion­al spice market!

Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Eat: Ondine Oys­ter & Grill describes itself as a prop­er seafood restau­rant’. And thou­sands of hap­py din­ers will undoubt­ed­ly add their weight to this claim. Mean­while The Witch­ery boasts that they’re Scotland’s most famous restau­rant. Swing by for a lav­ish din­ner, or enjoy the lighter-heart­ed (and equal­ly deli­cious) after­noon tea.

Drink: Let the award-win­ning mixol­o­gists whip up a cock­tail for you at Tigerlily.

Expe­ri­ence: Vis­it the Queen’s offi­cial res­i­dence! The Palace of Holy­rood­house is a love­ly place to while away a few hours – the inter­ac­tive mul­ti­me­dia tour real­ly brings the place to life.

London, United Kingdom

Eat: Head away from cen­tral Lon­don to dis­cov­er unknown hol­i­day des­ti­na­tions such as Blue Legume. With restau­rants in Stoke New­ing­ton and Isling­ton, the lunchtime set menu is a huge hit. Alter­na­tive­ly, head to the sub­urbs to find one of the branch­es of Sodo Piz­za.

Drink: The White Horse in Parson’s Green (known affec­tion­ate­ly as The Sloaney Pony) is a local insti­tu­tion, while XO Bar in the Cae­sar Hotel serves up deli­cious aper­i­tifs and cocktails.

Expe­ri­ence: The Horn­i­man Muse­um is a huge favourite of South Lon­don­ers! Bring a pic­nic to make the most of the love­ly gardens.

Los Angeles, United States

Eat: Think you don’t like brus­sel sprouts? Just wait until you’ve tried them shaved with mint, almonds and pecori­no at Oste­ria Moz­za!

Drink: Hid­den in the icon­ic Château Mar­mont, Bar Mar­mont is a lit­tle dose of ele­gance – so make sure you find the time for a cocktail.

Expe­ri­ence: La Brea Tar Pits & Muse­um has to be seen to be believed! Home to huge fos­sils dis­cov­ered in the tar pits, this inter­ac­tive expe­ri­ence is a treat for the whole family.

New York, United States

Eat: There are loads of gor­geous secret des­ti­na­tions in The Big Apple. Tiny Ital­ian restau­rant Dell’anima is a per­fect exam­ple, while word is spread­ing about the gor­geous delights of Momofuku’s numer­ous noo­dle bars.

Drink: Once tout­ed as America’s best cock­tail bar, Death & Co is fan­tas­tic. Or head to the unsur­pris­ing­ly diminu­tive Tiny’s & The Bar Upstairs for a chilled evening out.

Expe­ri­ence: Whit­ney Muse­um of Amer­i­can Art is full of con­tem­po­rary delights.

Feel­ing inspired to explore some of the amaz­ing secret des­ti­na­tions men­tioned in this arti­cle? Or per­haps you’d like to share your own hid­den gems? We’re always excit­ed to hear rec­om­men­da­tions made by our friend­ly com­mu­ni­ty of home swap­pers! To share your top tips on the unknown hol­i­day des­ti­na­tions that you’ve dis­cov­ered, then feel free to fire up a con­ver­sa­tion in our Face­bookgroups, or tag us with your pho­tos and mem­o­ries on our Insta­grampage. Don’t for­get to use the hash­tag #welove­home­swap

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