Jewelers Share Their Travel Secrets to the World’s Coolest Cities

From June 29 to July 6, I vacationed in my hometown of St. Petersburg, Russia. (My family emigrated from Russia’s imperial capital in 1978 and we chose this summer to stage our triumphant return.)

I’ll dedicate a future blog post to the city’s tremendous jewelry heritage (one word: Fabergé). For now, however—in the spirit of summertime travel—I’ve asked a handful of my jeweler friends to provide the inside scoop on the cities they know and love best. At the end, I’ve included tips to St. Petersburg and another favorite destination of mine, Mexico City. If you travel anywhere this summer, I hope it’s to somewhere as fabulous as these places!

Tokyo: Simon Alcantara, designer

Simon Alcantara

Can’t-miss restaurant?

Simon Alcantara: Cicada in the Aoyama neighborhood, is a restaurant I always go to a few times when in Tokyo. It has a wonderful and chic vibe and the food is fantastic.

Favorite spot for a late-night drink?

Alcantara: Two Rooms, also in the Aoyama district, is a great place to meet for drinks. It’s a very international crowd and always so much fun. During the summer and early fall their terrace is open and the view is spectacular.

Transportation tips?

Alcantara: Buy a PASMO card as soon as you arrive! You can use it on the Tokyo Metro and JR lines, and most convenience stores. Tokyo has one of the best, cleanest, and safest public transportation systems in the world. Getting into the city from Haneda airport is easy on the Tokyo Metro and JR lines. The taxis in Tokyo are also great and beautiful, but expensive—remember not to open the passenger door, the driver will open it for you from inside the taxi. Taxis and Uber are a great late-night option.

Dream one-day itinerary?

Alcantara: If you’re in Tokyo for one day, I suggest you have an early breakfast at your hotel (you’ll probably be jet-lagged anyway) and start your day with a walk in Yoyogi Park in Harajuku. The Meiji Temple is located in the park. Afterwards you can explore Harajuku, Omotesando, and the Aoyama districts for great shopping and site seeing. Stop in at the Espace Louis Vuitton to see what exhibition they have, and the Nezu Museum is also in that area. Have lunch at Cicada or CityShop and walk down into Shibuya after lunch to witness the busiest crossway in the world! From Shibuya, head over to Daikanyama and visit Tsutaya, the biggest bookstore in Japan—they’re open until 2 a.m. every day. Afternoon coffee and pastries are a big deal in Japan and coffee shops fill up around 4 p.m. You’ll find plenty of places all over Daikanyama. For an early dinner, I suggest Ivy Place, also in Daikanyama, right by the Tsutaya book store. They have a beautiful patio as well and you will feel as if you have been transported out of the city. If you still have energy, take an evening walk in Hibiya park—it’s a magical place. Afterwards head over to Two Rooms for a night cap!

Single best piece of pro advice for newbies?

Alcantara: Be on your best behavior. The Japanese people are the most polite and elegant people I have ever met. Be respectful of their culture and customs and you will have the time of your life!

14k hand-woven hoop earrings with labradorite; simonalcantara.com

Sydney: Dallas Prince, designer

Dallas Prince (photo by Dennis Trantham)

Can’t-miss restaurant?

Dallas Prince: Hugos on the wharf at Manly Beach​.

Favorite spot for a late-night drink?

Prince: Anywhere on Sydney Harbor by the Opera House!

Transportation tips?

Prince: Sydney is fabulous by car, but you will be amazed at the stunning landscapes and sunsets you can see by ferry!

Dream one-day itinerary?

Prince: Arrive in Sydney on the 6:30 a.m. flight, clear customs in record time, and catch a taxi to Manly Beach for breakfast at Hemingways. After a double cappuccino to go, I drop my bags at the Novotel Manly Beach Hotel and head straight to my favorite shops to find the perfect fascinator to wear with my stylish Melbourne Cup outfit. The single most exciting day of parties in Australia is the Melbourne Cup Horse Race in November! It is the Academy Awards of fashion and the entire country stops to watch the festivities and the race. After attending multiple parties and picking the winning horse in the Cup, I “let it ride”!

Si​ngle best piece of pro advice for newbies?​

Prince: Plan your budget and know what time of year is best for your trip. Australia is a bit expensive and our ​s​ummer in the U.S. is their winter. Australians are extremely happy to help you in any way, so get to know them. Sydney is an extraordinary place with people to match​. You will love it there​: G’day!

VINCE & Prince ring in 14k rose gold with 10.82 cts. t.w. trillion-cut tanzanite 0.78 ct. t.w. round white diamonds; $18,250; Dallas Prince Designs

Paris: Randi Molofsky, JCK jewelry director and cofounder, For Future Reference

Randi Molofsky

Can’t-miss restaurant?

Randi Molofsky: Davé at 12 Rue de Richelieu, the most fashionable Chinese food in town. You’ll be served by the owner, Davé, with the ghosts of Yves Saint Laurent, David Bowie, and Alexander McQueen hovering nearby. The food isn’t Michelin-rated, but the deep red walls covered top to bottom with framed photographs and the dimly candlelit ambience will make you feel like an instant celebrity.

Favorite spot for a late-night drink?

Molofsky: The Hemingway Bar at the Ritz: classic Parisian people-watching, the world’s best martinis, and the chicest bathroom in the world. What more could you want?

Transportation tips?

Molofsky: Uber in Paris has the most handsome drivers (dressed in slick suits) and fancy European automobiles. Otherwise, walk—it’s too beautiful to miss a minute!

Dream one-day itinerary?

Molofsky: Coffee at legendary Café de Flore in the 6th arrondissement; vintage shopping in Le Marais, an old neighborhood in the center of town; afternoon tea at Le Meurice; a stroll through the Tuileries Gardens and a pop in at the Louvre; happy hour at Dirty Dick, a Tiki bar in Pigalle; escargot, steak au poivre, and Chateauneuf de Pape at Le Grand Colbert; nightcap at Silencio on Rue Montmartre.

Single best piece of pro advice for newbies?

Molofsky: If you like shopping, Galleries Lafayette is the place to splurge on that “out of my budget” item you’ve been coveting. You’ll be surprised at how much you’ll save. Then head downstairs to the basement VAT office for your tax return. Don’t forget to drop your envelope in the station at the airport to seal the deal!

St. Petersburg, Russia: Victoria Gomelsky, editor-in-chief, JCK and JCKonline.com

That’s me on the right with my twin sister, Julia, and my boyfriend, Jim, drinking vodka at Russian Vodka Room No. 1.

Can’t-miss restaurant?

Victoria Gomelsky: Korushka. Besides its prime location on the grounds of the Peter and Paul Fortress on the Petrograd side of the Neva River, this lovely restaurant excels at its signature dish, fried smelt, a St. Petersburg specialty. The extensive menu also features dozens of tasty Georgian dishes, including the unbeatable meat dumplings known as hinkali. Request a table in the room that faces the Neva—the view of the Winter Palace, St. Isaac’s Cathedral, and the city’s spectacular bridges is one of the grandest in the world.

Favorite spot for a late-night drink?

Gomelsky: Borodabar on Kazansky Street is a small but hip cocktail bar serving smoky Old Fashioneds. On your way home, cross charming Griboyedov Canal using Bank Bridge (look for the gilded Griffins presiding over each side)—the sight of the fairy-tale-like Church of our Savior on the Spilled Blood, way off in the distance, will take your breath away. (For vodka lovers, the selection at Russian Vodka Room No. 1 is outstanding; try the Sadko brand—it’s smooth and sweet and goes down far too easily.)

Transportation tips?

Gomelsky: Uber is fast and reliable here—and cheap as can be. Magically, each ride seems to cost no more than $2, regardless of distance. But don’t miss the city’s remarkable metro—the subterranean network is deep and surprisingly artful; many stations are festooned with colorful murals evoking St. Peterburg’s Art Nouveau and Soviet past.

Dream one-day itinerary?

Gomelsky: You can’t visit Peter without seeing the Hermitage. Give yourself at least two hours and be sure to tour both the Winter Palace and the newer building (located across Palace Square) housing 19th- and 20th-century masterpieces by Renoir, Van Gogh, and Picasso. Georgian food is to die for—grab lunch at Tarkhun, one of numerous places serving traditional shashlik and harcho. Hopefully you’re not museum-ed out by now, because the Russian Museum is not to be missed—the works of 19th century painter Ilya Repin are a revelation. Afterwards, shop for matryoshka dolls and cheap souvenirs at the stalls beside the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood. Dinner at Sadko near the Mariinsky Theater is a great pre-ballet option. Cocktails at Bar Kabinet, a local speakeasy, will prime you for an evening canal cruise. If you’re lucky enough to be here during the White Nights (June 15 to July 15), you’ll marvel at the surreal lavender light—at midnight!

Single best piece of pro advice for newbies?

Gomelsky: Skip the fountains—and crowds—at Peterhof, St. Petersburg’s heavily touristed answer to Versailles, in favor of roaming the canals that line the historic city center. Nevsky Prospekt is a zoo of pedestrians—seek refuge in Eliseev’s, an Art Nouveau emporium of chocolates, pastries, and caviar. Oh—and buy a Russian SIM card when you arrive at Pulkovo Airport. For less than $10, you get 200 GB of data, allowing you to Instagram this gorgeous city to your heart’s delight.

Mexico City: Victoria Gomelsky, editor-in-chief, JCK and JCKonline.com

Can’t-miss restaurant?

Gomelsky: Pujol. My boyfriend and I celebrated his birthday there two years ago, and we still talk about chef Enrique Olvera’s epic flavors (especially the 600-day-old mole). Contramar in the Roma district, and Tenampa on Plaza Garibaldi are close seconds.

Favorite spot for a late-night drink?

Gomelsky: Any mezcaleria will do, but Bòsforo, near the Palacio de Bellas Artes, is super cool.

Transportation tips?

Gomelsky: Uber. Everywhere. On a recent visit, we used the car service to get to the pre-Columbian ruins of Teotihuacan.

Dream one-day itinerary?

Gomelsky: Begin the day with a leisurely breakfast in the leafy Condesa neighborhood. Splurge on an Uber to Teotihuacan—you’ll need your energy to climb the awesome pyramids of the sun and moon. When you’re back in the city, fortify yourself with food and drinks at any of the restaurants in the historic Camino Real, a vision of 1960s Modernism located in the heart of Polanco. Visit the National Museum of Anthropology and stroll through Chapultepec Park before having pre-dinner drinks on the rooftop of the Hotel Habita in Polanco. Finish the night off with mezcal cocktails on Avenida Álvaro Obregón in Roma.

Single best piece of pro advice for newbies?

Gomelsky: Before your trip, check out the latest “36 Hours” article in The New York Times travel section. It won’t steer you wrong. And save 24 hours for a side trip to the charming silver town of Taxco (home to Mexico’s best known jeweler, Daniel Espinosa).

JCK Magazine Editor


  • Lapidary Artist

    G’day sport! Taxi from Kingsford-Smith Airport to Manly in the morning will be extremely expensive and slow because of peak hour traffic. Much better train to Circular Quay then beautiful ferry trip past Opera House to Manly. But why waste time in Manly? Check out the where the Jeweller’s work in the upper floors of Dymock’s building, George St.
    PS: A day at Peterhof, 12 years ago, few tourists, stunningly beautiful. A magnificent city. Looking forward to your Faberge story.

    • Victoria

      Thanks for your comment!