Thinking of a much-needed getaway but unsure which vaccinated travel lane (VTL) to embark on? With 24 VTLs back in place from Jan 21, Singaporeans will have plenty of destinations to consider. Here are NSMan’s choices to satisfy 6 different types of travellers:
Fashionistas – Florence, Italy
Forget Milan, for Florence is another lesser-known Italian city that has been making fashion waves in recent years. The Renaissance city is where several pioneers of Italian haute couture – Roberto Cavalli, Gucci, Emilio Pucci and Salvatore Ferragamo, among others – made their name.
Pay a visit to Gucci Garden, a museum and exhibition space dedicated to the story of the fashion house since its creation in 1921. There’s also the one-Michelin-star Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura, and a boutique. Similarly, Museo Salvatore Ferragamo was created to acquaint an international audience with Ferragamo’s artistic qualities and the role he played in the history of footwear and international fashion.
To purchase some of these extravagant pieces, Via de’ Tornabuoni is the street to stroll down, home to these houses and more than 600 other luxury retailers like Hermes, Prada and Burberry.
Foodies – Barcelona, Spain
Jamon, paella, and gazpacho – these are well-known Spanish food items across the globe. To get an authentic taste of Spanish cuisine, start your food hunt at Barcelona’s bustling La Boqueria Market. Wind your way past the vegetable grocers, dried sausage sellers, and olive purveyors, to find the mini restaurants with only bar counter seats.
At the legendary Bar Pinotxo for example, a whole range of fresh, traditional Catalan tapas are available, where choices run the gamut from chickpeas with black sausage and cap i pota (braised beef cheeks) to spinach omelette and fried artichokes.
Then walk off some of the calories by exploring the imposing La Sagrada Familia, probably Antoni Gaudi’s most recognisable project in the city. Gaudi is also behind other unmistakeable creations such as Park Guell and Casa Mila.
Hallyu fans – Seoul, South Korea
The ultimate K-pop pilgrimage will start from the recently-opened (June 2021) BTS museum, a 4,700 sq m space in the basement of Korean record label Hybe’s headquarters. Fans of the Korean supergroup will find screens playing BTS’ performances, their stage costumes, and of course a souvenir shop selling memorabilia from BTS and other artistes under Hybe.
The best bet for stargazing is at Gangnam’s K-Star Road, which is lined with luxury stores, cute cafes, and K-pop agency offices. If lady luck isn’t smiling that day, you’ll still be able to grab selfies with G-Dragon and Rain – or rather their wax figures – at Grevin Museum Seoul.
To dress and attempt to look like a K-pop idol, look no further than Dongdaemun, an area packed with more than 20 shopping malls and an estimated 30,000 speciality shops hawking clothes and leather goods to electronics and toys. Also in the area is Mukja Golmok, an alley dedicated to Korean street food and snacks like tteokbokki (Korean rice cakes).
Outdoor adventurers – Alberta, Canada
The province in western Canada is home to the gorgeous Canadian Rockies, the metropolises of Calgary and Edmonton, and endless swathes of breathtaking natural scenery. In particular, the stretch of highway from Lake Louise to Jasper is possibly one of the world’s most gorgeous drives, as it offers countless Instgram-worthy shots of ancient glaciers, roaring waterfalls, and scenic lakes.
Regardless of which season you visit, there are a plethora of activities to satisfy the nature lover. In summer, visitors will be able to go hiking, fishing, horseback riding, kayaking or whitewater rafting in a landscape punctuated with lush meadows and hidden alpine lakes.
When the snow falls, visitors can instead cut into the marshmallow fluff while snowboarding or skiing, tame the backcountry in a snowmobile, or cosy up under a buffalo rug and let a guide and his sled dogs mush you through snowy forests.
History buffs – Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul has been home to several civilisations throughout history, such as the Ottoman and Byzantine Empires, where each left an indelible mark in the city. Its most impressive architectural masterpiece, the Hagia Sophia, was originally built as a Christian Orthodox cathedral in the 6th century, before it was converted into a mosque during the Ottoman era, then a museum in 1934, before it reverted to a mosque in 2020. It is open to tourists, but temporarily closes during prayer hours.
Just across the Hagia Sophia stands another monumental structure, the Blue Mosque and its towering six minarets. Other must-visits in the vibrant city include St Antoine Church, the largest Roman Catholic Church in Istanbul; the Basilica Cistern, a subterranean water reservoir in Constantinople’s time; and the Dolmabahçe Palace, an extravagant Ottoman-era palace with 285 rooms, 44 halls, 68 toilets and six hammam (traditional Turkish bath).
Cafephiles – Melbourne, Australia
Expand your brunch horizons by heading Down Under, for Melbourne’s cafe scene teems with Australian-style cafes synonymous with egg-lectic brunches. For us, the word brunch brings to mind images of avocado on toast, pulled pork hash, and delicious cups of Magic (a unique Melbourne coffee made with a double ristretto, filled three-quarters of the way with silky milk), or a cold-pressed juice.
The more well-known suburbs like Fitzroy (Industry Beans, The Breakfast Thieves), South Yarra (Lucky Penny, Two Birds One Stone), and Collingwood (Proud Mary, Aunty Peg’s) offer many brunch hangouts. Each offers their own take on brunch guaranteed to satisfy any palate; some are even located in disused industrial warehouses, oozing that cool, hipster vibe.
The best thing is, it won’t be difficult to find a good cafe tucked away even in a quiet suburb like Northcote (Barry), or Richmond (Top Paddock) serving up brunch for the bleary-eyed masses all days of the week.
SAFRA Members receive 5% off Klook activities with min. spend $50 (capped at $10) and 10% off first-time bookings on the KKday app. Plus, enjoy up to $50 off selected travel packages from Dynasty Travel. For more information, go to www.safra.sg/promotions/klook, www.safra.sg/promotions/kkday and https://www.safra.sg/promotions/dynasty-travel.
VTL requirements can change at short notice; stay safe and keep yourself updated at safetravel.ica.gov.sg/vtl/requirements-and-process. For advisories for travellers departing Singapore, check for updates here at safetravel.ica.gov.sg/departing/overview.
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