From Paris to Prague, strolling and enjoying some quintessential urban byways.

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Tasting Aperitivi Along Ripa di Porta Ticinese

When the inevitable wave of feeling underdressed crashes down, as it does at regular intervals in Milan, it’s time to seek respite near the ancient Naviglio Grande canal. My fondness for this laid-back area has been tested on many occasions: When the canal is drained of water for restoration works or maintenance, it’s a garbage-strewn eyesore. But by April 26 (just before the start of the World Expo being held here this year), the latest round of renovations is scheduled to be completed, so the shallow canal will again be filled with water from the Ticino River about 30 miles away.

The Naviglio Grande, one of two canals that slice the Navigli neighborhood, was constructed beginning in the 12th century. It was once used for the transportation of goods, but today it’s a hub for aperitivo. This nightly ritual is characteristic of Milan, where a simple pre-dinner drink with something to eat has morphed into a two- or three-hour event accompanied by generous buffets of cured meats, cheeses, focaccia, grissini, pasta, risotto, canapé-like stuzzichini and more. But the food is secondary to the social element, and it’s the Milanese enthusiasm for aperitivo that makes it the happiest of happy hours, as they’re inclined to call it.

In the early evening, friendly greetings begin ringing out along my favored street: Ripa di Porta Ticinese, which runs along the canal’s southern bank. Once a towpath for oxen and horses pulling barges along the canal, the worn cobblestones are now home to a string of bars and cafes where groups of friends gather to make the transition from day to night.

Men in tailored suits arrive by bike. Women in heels clatter across iron pedestrian bridges. Entire classes of university students occupy outdoor tables. And weaving through the diverse crowds are waiters carrying trays of beer, prosecco, vermouth and classic cocktails like the Negroni.

My preferred haunt is Mag Cafè (No. 43), where the bartenders serve creative cocktails alongside endless plates of salumi and cheese. But on this vaguely Venetian stretch, you can’t go wrong by pulling up any sidewalk seat, ordering a spritz and simply enjoying the golden (aperitivo) hour.



Rua Nova do Carvalho

For decades, streetwalkers and sailors were the main denizens of Rua Nova do Carvalho, a dockside lane of seedy nightclubs named for Rotterdam, Liverpool, Copenhagen and other ports.

These days, all types walk the street, which has been closed to traffic, painted a cheerful shade of pink and elevated into Lisbon’s most bustling new party strip, thanks to a combination of enterprising bar owners and municipal action.

Tin is in at Sol e Pesca (Rua Nova do Carvalho 44). Stacked in illuminated glass cabinets, hundreds of cans of tinned fish line the maritime-themed bar, a former fishing tackle shop. Drinkers can indulge in sardines in tomato sauce (4.90 euros, or about $5.30 at $1.05 to the euro), mackerel roe (9.50 euros) and other briny bounty with their shots of ginjinha cherry liquor (2 euros).

Gin is in a few steps away at Lateral (Avenida Barbosa du Bocage 107A), which serves multiple boutique varieties of the liquor, such as Bloom (8 euros) and Berkeley Square (12 euros). Slip into one of the classic wooden school chairs and you’ll also get an education in neo-Portuguese cuisine, from scrambled eggs with lush farinheira sausage (7.20 euros) to tuna focaccia with wasabi mustard (9.50 euros).

You’ll find robust tapas dishes at Povo (Rua Nova do Carvalho 32-36), but the real star is the Portuguese language itself. Within the intimate chapel-vaulted, candlelit space, local poets give readings and young practitioners of fado, Portugal’s melancholy folk music, perform concerts. It all goes down smoothly with Povo’s several varieties of caipirinhas (6 euros).

More spirited soundtracks abound next door. Lined with red velvet banquettes and tasseled lamps, Bar da Velha Senhora (Rua Nova do Carvalho 40) is a bordello-like den with burlesque shows and cabaret, jazz and flamenco acts. For a harder edge, order a Super Bock beer (2 euros) and crowd the stage at Tokyo (Rua Nova do Carvalho 12), a “rock bar” where albums decorate the wall and phrases from iconic songs (“We are the champions …”) are stenciled on the bar.

The street’s most medieval space hosts its most modern performers. Stony and vaulted, the cavernous Music Box club (Rua Nova do Carvalho 24) is a sonic cathedral where you’ll hear Portuguese indie rock, Brazilian hip-hop, minimalist drum ‘n’ bass collectives, funk and electro DJs. An absinthe (6 euros) makes everyone fast friends.



Pimlico Road’s Interior Design Shops

Interior designers and antiques dealers often joke that the first place to look for the best 20th-century Italian furniture and lighting is not Milan, Venice or Rome, but London. Such has been the demand among the city’s titans of finance for cascading Murano chandeliers and sleek marble tables from the 1930s through the ‘70s that names like Fornasetti, Fontana Arte and Ico Parisi have at least temporarily relegated those of Chippendale, Adam or William Morris to Granny’s attic.

I discovered this a dozen years ago when Colin Radcliffe, an interior designer, took me shopping on Pimlico Road, which is lined with dealers in handsome shops over four or five blocks. We started at No. 26, Gallery 25, where David Iglesis — known as a dealers’ dealer because other dealers often buy from him — presided (and still does) over a more-the-merrier array of virtually anything that might come out of a house, from headboards and hinges to sofas and sconces.

Today, there is an emerging DIY trend whereby Pimlico dealers, perhaps tired of tracking down increasingly rare vintage pieces, are creating their own collections. The furniture, whether their own designs or specifically commissioned, often reflect a contemporary evolution of mid-20th-century aesthetics. Others seem to work as a foil to the sleek perfection of the best 20th-century pieces, lest a Giò Ponti secretaire take itself too seriously.

For sustenance, pop into the organic farm shop Daylesford at No. 44B, where the produce and foodstuffs are as artfully displayed as the antiques nearby. For a heartier meal, try Tinello at No. 87 for Italian dishes, or more local fare at the Orange, a charming pub and four-room hotel at No. 37.



Every time I visit Vienna, I return with at least a dozen photos in my phone nearly identical to ones I’ve taken on other visits.

I love Vienna, especially its arty Sixth and Seventh districts where galleries and independent and eco-friendly clothing shops share the sidewalks with cozy cafes and restaurants. But my camera doesn’t lie, and the sites for which I want a lasting visual record are right there along the touristy First District’s main drag running between Hofburg Palace and the Opera House.

Here, on the “Golden U,” as the prime shopping streets of Kartnerstrasse, Graben and Kohlmarkt are known, sit a handful of astonishing edifices that have nothing to do with the splendor of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Rather, they are tiny, quirky boutiques tucked among the palatial facades and renowned emporiums.

Designed by pioneering Austrian architect Hans Hollein (1934-2014) and dating from the 1960s to the early ‘90s, they provide a refreshing antidote to much of the city’s imperial pomp. Despite being beloved by Viennese and the winner of the 1985 Pritzker, Hollein is little known outside the city and architectural circles.

The first shop is the Retti Candle Shop dating from 1965 at Kohlmarkt 10, with its sort of die-cut steel facade evoking a stylized candle and its interior completely clad in reflective surfaces like aluminum and mirrors. Nearby at Kohlmarkt 7 and among the most legibly “postmodern” in style is the second shop Hollein created for Schullin Jewelers.

Around the corner at Graben 26 sits his first effort for the same jeweler, known as Schullin I, which sits empty. Built in 1974, it has a facade on which it appears that metals and gems are bubbling out of the stone. Steps away at Graben 31 is Tabaktrafik, a tiny tobacconist beneath a massive bronze tobacco leaf, built in 1992.



From the neon lights and sex shops of Boulevard de Clichy to the bucolic cobbled paths of Rue Georges Lardennois, Paris has a street for every mood and mission.

You can enjoy a walkable feast amid the fine food shops of Rue de Bretagne, stagger between bars on Rue de Lappe and then rejuvenate with a run on the Promenade Plantée, a disused elevated railway line blooming with gardens.

But if you are looking for one street where you will find outfits for every occasion, then head to Rue de Charonne.

It is a meandering one-lane thoroughfare of mostly unremarkable 20th-century buildings whose street-level hangouts — cool-kid cafes, homey small bars, vintage stores — and ever-evolving selection of French indie fashion labels draw Paris’ bourgeois bohemians.

Footwear from La Botte Gardiane, at No. 25, will help you pound the pavement in style.

The collection, which encompasses everything from sparkly rock ‘n’ roll ankle boots (245 euros, or about $257 at $1.05 to the euro) to strappy sandals with ankle bands (120 euros), can be spotted on the feet of celebrities like Jean Dujardin.

Shimmery sand-colored socks (25 euros) set the tone for Emma François’ ethno-chic threads at Sessùn, No. 34. A sleeveless knee-length floral dress from the Libertad collection costs 125 euros, while a translucent indigo jumpsuit is 165.

At No. 30, add skinny jeans (160 euros) from FrenchTrotters, courtesy of the designers Clarent and Carole Dehlouz.

A collegiate look suffuses the menswear, like checkered button-down shirts with slim pen pockets (155 euros). Ladies can go formal with a sober waist-length blue trench coat (330 euros) or haute hippie in floral-print pajama pants (180 euros).

The street’s most original accessories lurk inside the black-painted confines of L’Adorable Cabinet de Curiosités de Monsieur Honoré, also at No. 30.

Animal skulls, exotic butterflies and a stuffed black bird decorate the space, which seems conceived by a debauched 19th-century zoologist. Witness the scorpions in a clear resin block (13 euros) — with a chain for keys — or black umbrellas with handles resembling a death’s head (159 euros).

By night, slumber awaits at No. 10-12 in the brand-new Hôtel L’Antoine, designed by Christian Lacroix.

Each floor’s decorative theme pays homage to the artists and artisans who have historically occupied the neighborhood.



Nobody would call Wilmersdorf one of Berlin’s hipper districts. The area suffers from a shortage of lively cafes and restaurants and has earned a reputation for being profoundly buergerlich — a slightly derisive term connoting affluent respectability. But this sprawling residential quarter in western Berlin does have one major asset: a number of attractive streets and squares, classic jewels of Mitteleuropa, that were left largely untouched by the Allied bombing at the end of World War II.

Ruedesheimer Strasse, tucked away in one of Wilmersdorf’s quieter corners, is my favorite. This tidy shopping street leads directly to Ruedesheimer Platz, which dates from the reign of Kaiser Wilhelm II, when the German capital was undergoing a rapid westward expansion into farms and woodlands. An urban developer named Georg Haberland raised financing for the project in 1905 and named the square and area after towns in Germany’s wine-producing Rheingau region. To build it, he hired German architect Paul Jatzow, known for his English country-style aesthetic, who designed tidy rows of three- and four-story earth-toned apartment buildings with manicured front lawns, carved stone porticoes, red-tile roofs, gables and mock half-timbered facades.

The heart of the platz is an intimate park and flower garden, freshly blooming with pansies and tulips every April. Overlooking the park is a 1911 fountain and a triumvirate of statues that hark back to German myth: Siegfried, the dragon-slaying hero of the epic poem “The Nibelungenlied”; and the allegorical figures Father Rhine and Mother Mosel, symbols of the main rivers that flow through the country’s southern wine-producing region.

For much of the year, Ruedesheimer Platz is a quiet urban oasis, but that aura of tranquillity vanishes between May and September. That’s when the annual Rheingau wine festival, or Weinbrunnen, moves in. Wine producers from across southern Germany and Austria sell their rieslings and spaetburgunders from a wooden hut in the square from the afternoon until late evening. On some weekends there is live music and an outdoor market.

The festival has become one of Wilmersdorf’s most popular events, but it hasn’t pleased everybody. Last year, one irate Ruedesheimer Platz resident demanded in a court filing that the festival be drastically shortened, claiming that it was disturbing the peace. Five thousand locals signed a petition to keep the festival in place, which means that the wine is likely to keep flowing for a long time to come.


Calle 31 de Agosto in San Sebastián

When the cool evening breeze whistles down the narrow lanes of San Sebastián’s Parte Vieja, the rumble of storefront grates being raised echoes beneath the wrought-iron balconies and signs emblazoned with the blocky typeface of Basque Country.

The Old Town in Donostia — as every proud Basque will tell you the city is rightly called — is preparing for the nightly txikiteo, the sociable crawl from one pintxo bar to the next.

This gracefully aging belle epoque city on the northern coast of Spain is renowned for its cuisine, the backbone of which is the pintxo. These small snacks arrayed on countertops in bars across the city range from simple anchovy-topped toasts to culinary masterpieces in miniature.

The highest concentration of pintxo bars is in the Parte Vieja, a compact grid of stone-paved pedestrian streets at the foot of Monte Urgull.

Although a txikiteo in the Parte Vieja is rarely confined to a single street, everyone invariably winds up, at some point in the night, on a 200-yard stretch of my favored lane: Calle 31 de Agosto, the only street to survive a devastating fire on that date in 1813.

Traditionalists linger beneath the legs of jamón Ibérico hanging above the wooden bar at La Cepa (No. 7-9), savoring tissue-thin slices of Spain’s superior cured ham.

Or they gather under the awning of Gandarias (No. 23), a locals haunt serving classic pintxos like the skewer of anchovy, olive and guindilla pepper collectively known as the Gilda.

More-contemporary palates are sated at A Fuego Negro (No. 31) with playful pintxos like hot squid-ink “doughnuts” and olives filled with vermouth.

Of the many other pintxo bars on the street, none is better for a final stop than Atari Gastroteka, on the corner with Calle Mayor (No. 18). The expertly mixed gin tonics are why you’re here, although the location facing the beautiful Baroque facade of the Basílica de Santa María del Coro certainly doesn’t hurt.

Carry your bulbous glass out to the church steps and bask in the golden streetlight glow until someone shoos the crowd inside or the hour grows so late that the farewell refrain — “Agur!” — chases you home.



Calle Zurbano, the Park Avenue of Madrid

Soon after moving to Madrid a dozen years ago, an acquaintance asked me where I hoped to settle. My answer, Calle de Zurbano — or simply Calle Zurbano, as it is usually called — brought a chuckle as he explained that it is one of the city’s best addresses, like Park Avenue in Manhattan, a street lined with palatial homes, five-star hotels and fine restaurants. “Well, who wouldn’t like to live on Calle Zurbano?” he asked.

I simply loved the look of the street — and still find it perfect for idle strolling. It connects trendy Chueca and Salesas in the city’s center with the high-rise business hub farther north, giving the street a great mix of genteel early-20th-century revivalist buildings sitting shoulder to shoulder with brooding-on-the-outside, plush-on-the-inside examples of Spanish brick modernism from the 1970s.

Many buildings have verdant gardens tucked alongside, while others have flowering vines or colorful tiles clinging to their facades. The lobbies of a dozen buildings betray the locals’ collective taste for bold modern sculpture. Interior designer Lorenzo Castillo, who recently renovated the lobby and public rooms of the Hotel Santo Mauro at No. 36, agrees. “It’s one of the few streets in Madrid where you feel like you’re in a grand European capital,” he said.

Castillo’s update of the hotel, set in the former palace of a nobleman, offers a Grand Tour of styles and periods, from 18th-century Chinese to swinging 1960s London. The glam mirror-clad bar and paneled library restaurant provide respite from the action on the street.

Other refreshments — Spanish wines, jamón Ibérico and tinned delicacies from the sea — can be picked up at Mantequeria Gascón at No. 65, with its ornate carved wood and reverse-painted glass facade from the 1930s.

Or try one of the two tasting menus at Sergi Arola Gastro at No. 31, which this year is open for two “seasons,” April to June and September to December

With only three tables inside, Maria’s Bakery at No. 15 offers a more casual (and affordable) alternative, with crusty artisanal breads, pastries, Argentine delicacies and, for lunch, scrumptious leek and feta quiche or delicate chicken cutlets with zesty tabbouleh.

Other worthy stops nearby include the house museum and former studio of impressionist painter Joaquín Sorolla at General Martínez Campos, No. 37, and a few doors down, at No. 29 on the same street, Los Fernández, which has been producing hand-loomed tapestries and carpets since 1901.

The best things in life may not exactly be free, but many can be savored along Calle Zurbano.



Offbeat allure along Krymska street

There were certainly prettier Prague streets that could have exploded with newfound cultural allure, but for some reason the big change happened on dirty, crooked little Krymska. A short downhill lane in the relatively rundown residential neighborhood of Vrsovice a mile or so southeast from Old Town, Krymska had virtually nothing of interest when the city’s favorite English-language bookstore, Shakespeare and Sons, closed its original location there in 2010, focusing on its other branches in central Prague and in Berlin. But when the very cool Café v Lese at No. 12 opened in the same spot a few months later, a new era began.

Since then, a handful of galleries, cafes, bars and the like have opened along Krymska’s curtailed length — many just within the last year or so. At the very top, the 3-year-old Plevel restaurant (Krymska 2) offers well-regarded vegetarian and raw food, both relative rarities in pork-powered Prague. Near the bottom of the hill, the artistic salon and exhibition space The Solution, at No. 27, displays the work of at least one local artist and one international artist each month.

Many of the best new destinations have appeared on the street’s final stretch, just after Krymska doglegs around the corner to head south. Last June, the cool new cafe Zenit (Krymska 24) opened in this final section, serving snacks and drinks in a literary (meaning “ruin-like”) atmosphere. A few doors down, the 4-month-old InCider Bar, No. 26, specializes in local versions of hard apple cider, a new trend in the beer-loving Czech Republic. And just on the other side, Strojovna, No. 24, offers clothing repair as well as sewing, knitting and crocheting workshops.

The changes extend beyond the short, 400-yard stretch of Krymska itself, with neighboring streets gaining attractions like Café Sladkovsky (Sevastopolska 17) one of the city’s smartest new coffeehouses. In a way, it’s hard to push for Krymska and Vrsovice as a tourist attraction: The streets are still rundown, uneven and scarred with graffiti, and unlike prettier parts of Prague, there are no major monuments, bridges or castles. But you can easily decide for yourself: A 15-minute ride on the 22 tram from the Narodni Trida station in central Prague will take you straight to the Krymska tram stop.



A Creative Cool Along Oslo’s Akerselva River

Oslo has its share of interesting streets, including Karl Johans Gate, which runs past landmarks to the Nordically modest royal palace, and Markveien, which is laden with vintage shops. But what is a street, really? If it’s a thoroughfare that joins parts of a city, preferably infused with urban culture, you could argue that the Akerselva is Oslo’s most vital byway.

The river that cuts through Oslo once marked the social divide between the waterway’s eastern side (working class, immigrant) and its western (prosperous, natives). But these days, a force more powerful than class unites the banks: the rolling tide of Scandi cool that is turning the chunk of the Grunerlooka neighborhood, which stretches from Sannergata in the north to Nylandsveien in the south, into an art and design destination.

On the eastern shore, vintage clothing stores and bike shops vie with artisanal coffee roasters like Tim Wendelboe (Grunersgate 1). It’s all very Brooklyn until you come to the grain silo towering over Marselis Gate at river’s edge. Built in the 1950s, it was turned five years later into student housing with rounded rooms and candy-colored balconies.

Many of the former industrial buildings along this stretch of river have been put to aesthetic uses. The city’s former electric works now houses the Norwegian Center for Design and Architecture (Hausmanns Gate 16), which organizes everything from exhibitions of Charles Eames’ work to debates on urban development. Dansens Hus (Mollerveien 2), in a converted factory, is the country’s premier center for dance (with an excellent cafe and bar that has cactus-adorned lamps and cozy chaises).

Bla Brenneriveien (Brenneriveien 2) is known for jazz, hip-hop and indie bands as well as literary nights and Sunday afternoon concerts. The club, surrounded by street art, is near a handful of galleries. Brenneriet (Brenneriet 9) exhibits work from students at the Strykejernet art school, while the Office for Contemporary Art Norway (Nedre Gate 7) showcases projects like “Of Love, Departures, and Countering Defeats in Choleric Times,” exhibits, performances and lectures devoted to “the unraveling of modernity.” Around the corner, the gallery ROM (Maridalsveien 3) focuses on the conjunctions between architecture and contemporary art.

Another former factory, this one devoted to train-track production, is now Mathallen (Maridalsveien 17A), a food hall with Spanish tapas, French pastries and the occasional reindeer-pie vendor among those selling fish or cheese. There’s also a brewery in the basement, but the retro bar Morgenstierne, a short walk away and above a boisterous restaurant, makes for a more louche night out.



Grosser Muristalden, a Street in Bern That Inspired Artist and Dreamers

Seen from a distance, the Grosser Muristalden doesn’t look like much, especially against the arcades and alleyways of a city as pleasing as Bern.

It is just a road and not even a cobbled one at that. The asphalt rises sharply over the cold, green Aare River and then bends at a big chalet to become just another street. There are no shops and no museums, just the evolving views of Switzerland’s most beautiful city framed by giant plane trees.

Most people don’t get this far. They stop at the Altes Tramdepot at its base for a hefeweizen and spaetzle or wander left instead of right to reach the Rose Garden. If you really want views you can ride a funicular up the Gurten, Bern’s home mountain. To appreciate the Grosser Muristalden, you should walk.

I found this out by accident one late-summer day. I had just arrived as a wide-eyed immigrant and set out on my bicycle to discover the city where my daughter would be born. From the Zytglogge, a 13th-century clock tower, I rolled east past Albert Einstein’s house and down toward Bear Park, where a flat path shot along the river. I missed my turn, the road cocked skyward, and I learned the Grosser Muristalden is best on foot.

Up and up I pushed the bike, the city undressing itself with each step. Below me stretched the Matte, a medieval warren where the streets spoon a bend in the river. I spotted a building where Rodolphe Lindt played with cocoa butter and a new conching process that made the Swiss forever famous for chocolate.

Farther to the north stood a jazz club and a house that some club-bearing insurgents hit with a cannonball in 1802. (You can still see the wound.) Above it all towered the late-Gothic spire of the Muenster, a cathedral started in 1421. From its airy top the Alps felt so close you could smell their breath.

As a 17-year-old in the late 1800s, artist Paul Klee would sit along the Grosser Muristalden and sketch the scene below, using only contrast to form his lines. During my years in Bern, I sometimes stood where he stood and watched how the seasons braced against each other to create something new. Golden leaves became snowy steeples. Boughs turned prickly, and the geraniums bloomed. Every time it felt like mine.



Itfaiye Caddesi in Istanbul

In the shadow of the stone arches of the Romans’ monumental Valens Aqueduct, Itfaiye Caddesi is a world away from the bustle of a rapidly changing Istanbul, with its high-rises and traffic jams.

Decades ago, an influx of mainly Kurdish people from southeastern Anatolia set about opening butcher shops, spice shops and cafes here and around a 5-block-long, largely pedestrian area in the Fatih district.

It’s not clear why the area is called Kadinlar Pazari (Women’s Bazaar). Some imagine it was the site of a female slave market in Ottoman times. Others say it’s because women do most of the food shopping for Turkish households.

In addition to those shoppers, young people sit on stools underneath the aqueduct’s arches sipping glasses of strong tea. Rows of old men in crocheted skull caps warm the benches across from the peaked windows of the low-slung Husam Bey Tezgahcilar Mosque, and street vendors sell cleaned lamb intestines for making mumbar dolmasi, which are stuffed with cinnamon-spiced ground lamb and rice. Other carts might be loaded with ruby-red pomegranates, walnuts and dried figs.

On one end of the square, near the arches, a shop sells several varieties of honey — pine, chestnut, clover — some of it still in a waxy comb. At the other end, toward the Golden Horn, spice shops display their wares in colorful mounds, with strings of dried eggplant and peppers dangling like semiprecious gems. You can find a half-dozen types of red pepper flakes; hashas, or poppy seeds; allspice; and mahlep powder, made from the seeds of sour cherries.

The square is also a great place for lunch, and office workers crowd into spots offering buryan kebab: chunks of pit-roasted lamb served on a warm disk of thick, quilted pide bread. Add a sprinkling of spices served on the side, including lemony sumac and fragrant dried thyme. Top it off with salty fresh ayran, a foamy yogurt-based drink served with a long-handled spoon.

Then ponder your next move over a metal plate of kunefe, a cheese and sweet syrup dish that’s baked until it is crisp and golden.