If you’re stuck in the office this summer, don’t envy you’re colleagues supposedly taking a break from the day-job. Investment bankers are notoriously still glued to their smartphones during vacations, closing deals and keeping tabs on what’s going on with their colleagues to ensure they’re not out of the loop.
By staying put in one of the big, developed financial centres, not only are you avoiding sunburn, all-inclusive restaurants and gloomy, box-ticking sight-seeing trudges, you’re sticking close to the many, many things on offer in the cities during the summer months. Here’s how to make the most of your summer in London, New York, Singapore and Hong Kong.
A stone’s throw away from the City is the Barbican, Europe’s largest performing arts centre. Currently it’s in the midst of an immersive Digital Revolution exhibition, which runs until mid-September and showcases how technology has helped transform the arts. You have the chance to experience the mind-boggling visual effects of the film Inception, thanks to an exhibition by its Oscar-winning VFX supervisor Paul Franklin. Or you could just take some time to play old school video games.
London’s financial districts are full of Mamils (middle-aged men in lycra) riding their top-end bikes around the City’s narrow streets and donning the finest in expensive cycle gear. It’s a tricky business dodging through the traffics, avoiding pedestrians and angry white van men, however. This weekend cycle in peace – an eight-mile loop of central London has been closed off to traffic for Ride London and, provided you register in advance, is completely free. Cyclists of all abilities can take part, but there’s bound to be some racing involved.
If you have the time to take clients out for a long boozy lunch (assuming your employer still allows such a thing), there are a raft of new choices in and around the City. City Social opened at the top of Tower 42 in May, replacing Gary Rhodes’ ‘Rhodes 42’ restaurant, and offers stunning views over the City, live jazz and some pretty pricey steaks.
Further out, Leon founder Allegra McEvedy has launched Blackfoot in Exmouth Market, with a menu consisting almost entirely of pig…
Some say London is the best place to be on a sunny day, others view it as claustrophobic and sweaty and want to escape to the coast. As a middle ground, why not head to one of the ‘beaches’ in the city? Camden Beach recreates the British seaside by dumping 950 tonnes of sand on the rooftop of the Roundhouse in North London, offering end-of-pier amusements, live music and pop-up restaurants. Meanwhile, the South Bank has rolled out its artificial beach again as part of the Festival of Neigbourhood, which runs until 8 September.
There’s no shortage of expensive cinema events offering punters the chance to watch older films in a novel environment – Secret Cinema and Future Cinema combine fancy dress with outdoor viewing. The most interesting surely has to be Hottub Cinema in Shoreditch, though, which does exactly what it says on the tin – watching films in an inflatable hottub. The next event is Something About Mary on 15 August.
Feeling flush? Then head down for a summer drink at the Albannoch Bar in Trafalgar Square and order a shot of Balvenie Whisky. It comes in at a cool £750 for a double.
While there are large tour boats that haul hundreds of tourists around the Statue of Liberty and other New York sites, chartering your own boat is likely a lot more enjoyable. And it’s not outrageously expensive if you find the right company.
Through Sidetour.com, a great site for booking all New York experiences, you can charter a small private boat of six for $64 per person that will take you around the lower harbor. Bring your own wine and cheese. I’ve done it – it’s great.
You can also kayak the Hudson, if you dare, for free at the Downtown Boathouse.
“Without question the best restaurant in the city,” is the top review for Per Se, a Thomas Keller restaurant that tucked in Columbus Circle that overlooks Central Park. It’s obscenely expensive and rather hard to book, but you’ve got a much better chance at a seating during the summer when others are away on vacation.
A nine-course pre-set meal will cost you just under $200, but it is supposed to be worth it.
Governor’s Island is a tiny, 172-acre piece of land just off the southern tip of Manhattan. It’s also one of the coolest outdoor concert venues in the area. The ferry station is walkable from Wall Street and you’ll be there in no time.
Outside of the concert hall and beer garden are public art displays, walking and biking paths and Hammock Grove, which is exactly what it sounds. A grove filled with 50 or so hammocks. You’ll have amazing views of Manhattan, New Jersey, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Day or night, it’s a perfect weekend retreat without needing to leave the city.
Or you can take a cab or a subway. But do it on a Saturday so that you can check out Smorgasburg, a weekly summer get together of some of the most interesting local and not-so-local food vendors. Quite literally every wacky dish, dessert, sauce or snack imaginable is available.
You can also drift over to the famous Brooklyn Flea Market, which routinely hosts over 250 vendors. Makers of clothes, vintage jewelry, records and other random tidbits.
New York offers a host of amazing but rather obvious museums: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Modern Museum of Art and the Frick, amongst others. But perhaps the most interesting is PS1, MoMa’s sister museum located across the river in Long Island City. It’s dedicated solely to contemporary art and features new exhibitions and series that push the bounds of what rivals offer in Manhattan. They also put on a free weekly dance party on Saturdays that is known to get a little weird.
Take to the seas this summer without going overseas (and without slumming it). For an initial entrance fee of about US$7k you can become one of only 900 members of the exclusive Aberdeen Boat Club, located on the southern shores of Hong Kong Island. Compete in the club’s convivial “restaurant series” summer yacht races, which all finish at various eateries on Hong Kong’s dramatic coastline. The Republic of Singapore Yacht Club is the oldest in Asia and is even more reassuringly expensive at about US$12k for an “ordinary membership”. Sail out into the South China Sea for the day then check in to the club’s Marina Lodge hotel and dine at one of its four fancy restaurants and bars.
Public transport may be cheap in Singapore and Hong Kong, but car ownership certainly isn’t. If you’re a junior financial professional seething with envy at senior colleagues with their own wheels, try hiring a car that is bound to be better than theirs. A 15-minute rental (yes, just 15 minutes) of a Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder from Dream Drive in Singapore costs US$240. In Hong Kong you can rent a Bentley Continental for one whole day for a mere US$4,455.
Want to outspend your colleagues who’ve spent thousands staying at plush foreign resorts? In Singapore – recently dubbed the world’s “hottest new cocktail city” by CNN – head to nightclub Pangaea and spend US$26k on a Jewel of Pangaea, a cocktail containing gold-flecked Richard Hennessy cognac, 1985 vintage Krug champagne and a Mouawad Triple X 1-carat diamond. At Ozone in Hong Kong, it’s the view that impresses: the so-called “sky bar” is perched on floor 118 of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and is among the world’s highest watering-holes.
Hipsters may outnumber bankers in Singapore’s flourishing independent coffee scene, but at d’Good Café in suburban Holland Village there’s a drink designed especially for the wealthy: a cup of civet coffee costs a staggering $US30 – its rare beans are harvested from the dung of the civet cat whose digestive process apparently makes them produce a richer, smoother beverage. Hong Kongers may want to spend the weekend checking out their city’s 10 best coffee bars, so when colleagues next propose a business meeting at Starbucks, you can smugly suggest a trendier alternative.
“I spent Sunday trekking, mountain biking, eating seafood and dodging wild boar and monkeys on a tropical island”: water-cooler banter guaranteed to counter chat from colleagues who’ve just returned from overseas holidays. You have in fact stayed in your own country and visited Pulau Ubin, a jungle-covered Singaporean island just 10 minutes boat ride from the mainland. Impressing your colleagues with your home-grown outdoor adventures is even easier in Hong Kong, a territory chock-a-block with hiking trails and hills. Try the High Island Reservoir East Dam to Sai Wan Pavilion walk and marvel at “ancient rocks, scenic coastline and a chain of some of the most beautiful beaches in Hong Kong, looking east to the surging Pacific Ocean”.