Finding the less obvious can be more rewarding, so as the weekend looms we bring you our top five hidden attractions in London, Paris, Istanbul, New York and Tokyo from the winter guides. From a tucked away museum to a restaurant among the trees, we think you’ll love tracking them down.
LONDON – Leighton House Museum
A decorative antidepressant for a gloomy day, the full-on Orientalism and Victoriana of this jewel-like small museum in west London contrast thrillingly with its restrained red-brick architecture. It was first opened to the public in 1929, some 30 years after the death of Lord Frederic Leighton, an English artist associated with the Pre-Raphaelites, whose paintings, drawings and sculptures share the space with excellent temporary exhibitions. Closed Tuesdays. www.rbkc.gov.uk/subsites/museums/leightonhousemuseum1.aspx.
PARIS – La Chapelle Expiatoire
The neoclassical atonement chapel is a melancholy yet beautiful reminder of the French Revolution, built by Louis XVIII on the spot where the bodies of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were brought after being guillotined on place de la Concorde in 1793. A memorial mass is held here every January on the anniversary of Louis XVI’s execution but otherwise you will probably have the chapel all to yourself. www.chapelle-expiatoire.monuments-nationaux.fr.
ISTANBUL – Chora Church Museum
It’s tiny, tucked away and has been falling to bits since the 5th century. But the Chora offers a near-religious experience. Golden mosaics of spellbinding intricacy were covered up by Ottoman Muslims after 1453. They lay preserved under plaster until their restoration in the 1950s and now rank among the finest in the world. They’re at their most beguiling in the shady winter half-light. www.choramuseum.com.
NEW YORK – The Inn at Irving Place (pictured)
This cosy hotel represents an elegant, antique-filled step back in time, just a short stroll from Union Square. There are only 12 rooms, set across a couple of original 19th-century brownstones. It feels like a classic, comfortable European guesthouse, complete with a real fireplace and bone china in Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon. It’s the antithesis of the glacial, corporate chains nearby. Favourite room: the Loulou de La Falaise suite has fiery red, rich wall coverings, while the Madame Olenska suite, overlooking the street, is great for people watching. www.innatirving.com.
TOKYO – Eatrip
The setting is an old Japanese house, right in the heart of Tokyo, but so hidden among the trees that you could be anywhere. The philosophy is straight from the Alice Waters school of bringing out the best in fresh, organic ingredients. The wines are natural and exceptional and, with the friendly service, you feel like you’re dining in a friend’s farmhouse. Favourite table: the seats at the counter allow you to see the chefs in action. www.eatrip.jp.