Contact us!





Call us!
  • General Inquiries
    +1 (888) 398-6555
  • New York Office
    +1 (212) 398-6555
  • Los Angeles Office
    +1 (310) 730-0030
  • Miami Office
    +1 (305) 800-6555
  • Bogotá Office
    +57 1 616 4133
  • Madrid Office
    +34 919 01 25 55
  • Toronto Office
    +1 (416) 279-1900
The Art of Living in Toronto

The Art of Living in Toronto

With its diverse communities, culture and cuisines, a weekend in Toronto is like a quick trip around the world.

Toronto is a city of neighborhoods. And what ties all these communities together is the love of culture. There are amazing galleries, theaters and concert halls celebrating art all over the city. Surrounded by buildings by internationally renowned architects and restaurants run by top chefs, Torontonians have elevated everyday life to an art form. Even jogging past the city’s exceptional outdoor murals and sculptures is an art experience.

Here’s an insider’s guide to nearby neighborhoods that you need to explore in The Six.

THE CROSSROADS OF CULTURE

The Shangri-La Hotel is the place to begin any explorations of Toronto because it bridges three dynamic neighborhoods: the Financial District with its towering skyscrapers and five star dining experiences; the Entertainment District, and Queen Street West, a unique shopping and dining strip.

In fact, your first engagement with Toronto’s globally celebrated cultural community begins just outside of the Shangri-La. The exterior of the hotel is home to the iconic sculpture, “Rising”, by Chinese artist, Zang Huan. Bringing the best the world has to offer together is, in fact, the city’s true talent.

After checking into the hotel, you’ll want to check out of your work week with a relaxing afternoon tea in the Lobby Lounge. The lobby is a hub where visitors and locals come together to take in daily live music performances played on the custom-made Fazioli Piano. It’s always buzzing, but after a busy work week, it also provides a zen-like sense of home, thanks to paintings by famed Shanghainese artist Wang Xu Yuan.

The Lounge is also home to a rotating exhibition of vintage couture fashions featuring designers such as, Alexander McQueen, YSL, Chanel, Versace and many others.

Performance Art

At night, you want to make the Entertainment district your destination. Take in an early dinner at Kojin from David Chang and Chef Paula Navarrete. Located above Momofuku, this vibrant restaurant serves a Columbian influenced lunch and dinner menu.

Then cross the road to the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. It is home to the National Ballet Company and the Canadian Opera Company. The opera in particular is known for classic performances done in collaboration with visual and other artists such as performance artist Robert Lepage, director Atom Egoyan, and musician Rufus Wainwright. Just a short walk west down King Street, you can hear the symphony at Roy Thompson Hall. Or stroll over to see some live theatre in the nearby Entertainment District (Elgin and Wintergarden on Yonge Street, or the Royal AlexandraPrincess of Wales, on King).

In warm weather, you can talk about performances while taking in a nightcap on the rooftop bar at Lavelle for a masterpiece of a gin and tonic. Or return to the lobby for a delicious cocktail or two.

Good Morning

Toronto’s many outdoor art installations let you enjoy some inclusive culture while you wake up with a walk, bike, or run. Set your course to take you past the Bentway, the Stackt shipping container market or jog over to the Distillery District for many interactive and experiential installations. The concierge service at the Shangri-La is ultra-connected and can help you make a map of outdoor art (or coffee shops for a post jog pick-me-up.)

After your morning workout, relax with a pre-lunch treatment at the Miraj Hammam Spa on the fifth floor of the Shangri-La.

 

Cultural Heights in Botero’s Colombia

Cultural Heights in Botero’s Colombia

A Feast for the Eyes and Lips

If you’re traveling to Colombia on business or looking for a unique side trip adventure from Miami, you might opt for Bogota,  a place of dichotomy, where  passionate culture  meets passionate food.  In the central city streets, you’ll find women dressed like supermodels on a runway and men in tailored jackets but also easy trekkers in the greener areas and locals attending church services on Sunday.  Because Bogota is filled with colonial style buildings and  hidden spots, and the geography  is vast (with areas varying in safety)  start your planning through your hotel.

Our top choice for accommodation is the Four Seasons.  Choose the Four Seasons Bogota for impeccable service or the Four Seasons Casa Medina with its romantic gardens, patios, and hanging flora. Perhaps take a night in each location, to experience difference sides of the city.

CHARTING THE COURSE

Once you’ve landed, you can chart your course. You can have the concierge book a taxi straight away to the old center to the Botero Museum — located on a full art block that includes the  Centro Cultural Gabriel Garcia Marquez — and will feed you  a feast for the eyes that will pepper your senses.

An absolute ‘Must See,’ the Museo Botero  features over a hundred works of the artist — considered perhaps the most important Latin American artist of all time and “the most Colombian” — as well as some paintings from Dali, Chagall and French impressionists (208 pieces in all.)  Botero — known for  figurative “oversized” personas in paintings and sculpture, he has often been considered a political artist, showing the state of the common man in his surroundings. However, in press interviews he has countered this,  stating he works intuitively, without preconceived symbolism.  To see such quantity of Botero’s paintings in one space connects the viewer to him on a personal level, for a larger than life experience, seeing Colombia through the eyes of Botero’s personages. Presented with narrators of the place you’re standing in, the art comes to life from the walls.

The magic will stay with you  as you descend back onto the streets at dusk, where you can opt for some local ceviche at Central Cevicheria (camarones y calamares) if you’ve got energy to burn or head back for  more classic fare  — a steak or pasta — at  the Four Seasons Restaurant.

Immersing in the richness of the city

Wake up early the next morning, to take the funicular tram  (10,341 feet)  up Mount Monserrate, the hill — or rather mini mountain — by 9 am or so. It’s a ten minute mount.  You might catch the mass at a church there or walk with the locals through the gardens.  The view of the city below is breathtaking.   (Pro Tip: Stay hydrated, since water evaporates at such high altitudes.)

You’ll be hungry when you get back down the hill to La Candelaria again,  to join  the line at a deceptive but delicious famed hole in the wall called La Puerta Falsa, where you  can indulge in hot rolls, chicken tamales, and hot chocolate before shopping treasures in the numerous side shops.

Local vendors here sell beautiful jewelry and other crafts.  There are “ruanas” — thick often striped ponchos — often created by communities of families over generations and “sombreros veultaios” official Colombian style hats with geometric patterns. They are created by the Zenu tribes in the North but are worn throughout the country.  You might also snag yourself a colorful  “mochila wayuu” or sack like handbag made of wild cotton, maguey, alpis and other natural fibers twisted into “S” and “Z” patterns, in bright tangerine, lemon, cherry and turquoise. Each one takes roughly three weeks to create. There are leak proof “werregue” bowls made from palm trees (and exclusively by women) as well as “guacumayas” baskets, assembled from colorful woven rolls.  Purchases aid residents who rely on such traditional crafts to survive. So you can dress yourself into a rainbow and help people at the same time.

Eating like a Bogotano

Now that you look like a native,  it’s time  to eat like one, starting  with  appetizers —a wonderful creamy burrata at Delucca Restaurante — and crisp white wine.  Or perhaps drinks inside what looks like the inside of a slot machine at Andres Carne de Rez (Chia)  with some tacos at  Cantina y  Punto,  a  laid back Mexican joint.  Or  follow  up with a meal at Club Columbia, where you can taste an array of delectable ceviches, rice  dishes,  chorizo, steaks, and salads. You might want to try  the organic fare of childhood friends Tomas Rueda and Juan Pablo Tomás Rueda (from lamb chops, sausages, asparagus, to artichokes and cheese sauces)  at  Donostia, with its chic black and white decor.  Bistro El Bandido features French fare (grilled prawns, croque monsieur, and coq au vin) as well as live music.  At Salvaje, you’ll feel  as though you’ve gotten lost in a jungle — with wall hanging flora — as you feast on plates of salmon and mushroom fried rice, avocado and cheese  enhanced dishes, and roasted meats.  At the end of your trip, you’ll end up boarding the plane stuffed but happy, just like one of Botero’s muses.

 

Sensory Deco Daydream Miami

Sensory Deco Daydream Miami

Tap into your Inner Design Junkie with All your Senses

When you hear about a weekend in Miami, perhaps neon lights and the pulsating bass of nightclubs come to mind. But there’s another side to Miami — Art Deco history; a science museum; an innovative shopping bazaar; and tasty cuisine — that makes it a sophisticate’s destination — especially for visually oriented travelers. Aside from the beach and bling,  you can curate your own “high/low”  sensory immersion, from lush accommodation to local street tours.  Here’s our prescription for the perfect adventure.

ROMANCING AT THE FAENA

Stay at the stunning Faena Hotel to create  the perfect fantasy fairy tale where, depending on the room — whether sleeping quarters; public areas; verandas overlooking the sea; or poolside — you can mentally imagine yourself in a romantic European daydream to a lavish Turkish caravan. Created by Argentinian real estate developer Alan Faena — with interiors collaborators— costume/set designers Catherine Martin and Baz Luhrmann), cherry red accents everything from  opulent chairs to beach umbrellas.   Once you check in and are greeted by the bronze  Damien Hirst  grab a poolside table  for lunch at Los Fuegos, where you can chose from a selection of tasty selection of fish, meat, salads.

Stimulating the senses in Miami

In the afternoon,  head over to  Wynwood to see art collections starting with the Wynwood Walls   — an incredible outdoor collection of street and graffiti artists including Kenny Scarf, Swoon, Shepard Fairy and others — that was started by developer Tony Goldman a decade ago. Each year, new international art stars are highlighted.  The  displays are free of charge. Seeing them feels like visual skateboarding.

Afterwards, take it indoors to the Rubell Family Collection  Contemporary Arts Foundation — housed in the 45,000 square foot former Drug Enforcement Agency — and you’ll see  the work of  Cindy Sherman, Jean Michel Basquiat,  Kara Walker, Jeff Koons and more up close in the permanent collection, as well as other  temporary exhibits.

In the district itself,  you’ll find folks selling sea shell jewelry and taco trucks on the street. So grab a conch and a snack before heading back to the hotel to indulge in one of the spa treatments at the Tierra Santa Healing House before dinner.    Formulated around South American concepts, in addition to massages and facials, you can opt for  a shamanic healing body ritual.  Think muds, scrubs, stones, sacred oils, and healing butters.

For a luscious first night taste sensation,  eat at Wynwood Kitchen for  latin spiced cuisine — and  for dining within futuristic paintings by Shepard Fairey, Christian Awe, and sculptures by David Benjamin Sherry. Or try  Alter,  for multi coursed, responsibility sourced local dishes.

By the next morning, you’ll be ready to strap on your trainers  for the the  Art Deco Walking Tour. Started by the Miami Design Preservation League, it delves into the history of the hotels dotting  the shoreline that  started as stucco cement apartment houses during the Prohibition Era for working class families.  You can stroll with both locals and tourists and imagine yourself in another era,  perhaps as a player in in one of the gambling houses run by mobsters in the 1940’s.  Al Capone was right at home in Miami Beach, as were working class families who moved into these originally cheap and cheerful apartment houses facing the shoreline.  Later, singer Gloria Estefan bought one of the properties. Fashion designer Gianni Versace had to knock one of the original buildings down to make space for his pool.  While the construction seems deceptively simple, with small windows and often four to six floors, they were modeled on rich movements, including  expressionism of the 1920’s; Cubism; and Bauhaus.

Two post tour options to round out the afternoon are the Perez Art Museum  and  the  Frost Science Museum,  where you can tap your inner child surrounded by  tropical fish and sea horses.  Frost  offers immersion into local sea life  with an aquarium;  a planetarium; and exhibits on evolution from dinosaurs to birds. There are interactive schemes so you can explore the mind/body connection or play engineer for an hour in the design lab.

The Perez Art Museum —  right next to the Frost —  features  local and global artists of the last two centuries  and a sculpture garden.   You can tap  off the zen vibes after a walk in the art and flora, by tasting some of the “poke bowls” — marinated fish and vegetables over rice— at the museum’s cafe that overlooks both the outdoor installations and the water.

If you stay the evening in  the design hood,  try  Joey’s Wynwood — located in the Wynwood Art District — for pastas and speciality pizzas.   Or head back to the Faena Hotel for a late afternoon yoga class at the spa. Indulge in  the cooking of  Paul Qui at PAO restaurant, which features  a fusion of Filipino, French,  Spanish, and Japanese flavors. Then try  the spicy margaritas at the Saxony Bar and catch  live music at the Living Room.

Weekend Away

Here’s what we know: There’s nothing like a weekend away to up your energy and reset your soul. There’s plenty to do in a place for 48 hours—and we want to show you.

Our expert weekenders have touched down in destinations around the world and are here to offer up the best things to do—and eat, and drink, and Instagram (#priorities)—all while staying at the top hotels.

Whether you’re looking for a place to cozy up in Paris, the must-see sites on a family-friendly trip to Havana, or the hottest spots to hit on a girlfriends getaway in Miami, these lux ideas and exclusive itineraries will make you want to break out that carry-on and go see the world.

Culture and Connection in Cuba

Culture and Connection in Havana, Cuba

First in Service co-founder and CEO, Fernando Gonzalez, spends a long weekend soaking up the history, architecture and food scene in the Caribbean Havana.

From the moment I landed in Havana, I knew there was something special about the city. Open to U.S. travelers just a few short years ago, Cuba is one of those places I’ve always wanted to visit—and Havana was the ideal starting point. As a Cuban-American myself, the country is a gateway to my own family’s story—and an experience I couldn’t wait to share with my wife, Awilda, and our daughter, Sofia.

OLD HAVANA

Appreciating the architecture

I’m an architecture and design aficionado, and the sheer beauty of the buildings throughout the city was unparalleled—I was blown away. From the colors to the architectural elements, the detail and creativity that went into crafting each one was evident. Walking through the streets of Havana is a great way to take it all in—and booking a tour guide to provide historical context and background information makes it even better.

Taking in the culture

At 13, my daughter Sofia is an avid traveler—she’s been to some 30 countries—but this trip allowed us to take in a culture that was at once familiar and totally new, and see the country from a totally different perspective. From our home base at the Hotel Saratoga in Old Havana, we were able to see and experience much of what makes the city tick. That included going on a tour with a music historian to learn more about the history of Cuban music, visiting amazing art galleries, and shopping at places like Clandestina, a shop where almost all the wares are exclusively designed in the country.

Savoring the cuisine

If you’re a food lover, this is the place to be: the burgeoning culinary scene in Havana is tremendous. In the course of our five-day visit, we ate at about ten different restaurants and they were all excellent. Some to consider on your trip: Al Carbon in Old Havana, El Cocinero, and Otramanera in Havana’s Playa neighborhood. Since we were there over New Year’s, we also enjoyed an amazing gala and dinner at the Plaza de la Catedral.

Overall, if the goal of traveling is not only to enjoy the food and music of a new place, but also to experience the culture and open your eyes to what it has to offer, than going to Cuba—and Havana, in particular—allowed us to do just that. I know my family and I are already planning to visit again soon.