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Creative Spaces: Artsy Escapes Around the World


Between the historic landmarks and the big-ticket sights, sometimes you just need a local arts injection. In this blog, we cover cool artsy hangs in big-time culture hubs and upcoming enclaves in cities with more hidden indie arts scenes.

Hipster Hangs in Bangkok

Photo: BACC, MoCA

Beyond the temples, Buddhas, and palaces, Bangkok's got a thriving local arts scene. To dip into this world, make your first stop the Bangkok Arts & Culture Centre (BACC) in Siam and your second stop the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA), a purpose-built gallery not far from the city centre. For a deeper dive, take yourself on a walking tour of the riverside neighbourhood Talad Noi, which has become something of an artsy enclave, brimming with indie galleries, hipster cafés, and street murals.

Want to drink in an artsy environment? Bookmark these bars: WTF Gallery and Café in Sukhumvit 51, JAM Café in Sathorn, 23 Bar + Gallery in Phra Kanong, Smalls in Suan Phlu, Teens of Thailand near Chinatown, and the Art Deco-style SEEN Restaurant & Bar Bangkok on the rooftop of Avani+ Riverside Bangkok Hotel.

Where to stay: The riverside is hands-down the best area to stay in Bangkok. Avani+ Riverside Bangkok Hotel gives you sky-high views over the Chao Phraya River, just an easy, traffic-less shuttle-boat ride from the central Taksin Pier.

Too-Cool-for-School Melbourne

Photo: NGV

A pro of Melbourne's moody weather is that the city has a well-developed indoor culture. This manifests as film festivals, comedy festivals, and arts festivals, on top of an intense coffee scene. For an effortlessly artsy day, begin by caffeinating at the nearest fair-trade roastery, then hop on a tram to see the free exhibitions at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). After that, Google some DIY walking tours to see the best of Melbourne's street art. And don't run out of time for a wander through the suburbs of Fitzroy and Brunswick, for their indie galleries, quirky cafés, and boho bars.

Where to stay: The best place to stay in Melbourne is in the CBD (central business district). Enjoy four-star comforts, plus apartment-style mod-cons at Avani Melbourne Central Residences, within close walking distance of the city's main pedestrian mall, and in the free tram zone.

Dubai's Upcoming Art Scenes

Shopping, dune-bashing and… warehouse galleries? Alserkal Avenue is an ever-evolving collection of galleries in downtown Dubai where you can check out local contemporary art. It's also got cool cafés, an indie cinema, and the UAE's only indie vinyl shop. To hang with the city's coolest during your stay, check out their online calendar of live events and exhibitions.

A 20-minute drive up the road, d3 (Dubai Design District) offers a similar artsy vibe, with galleries, shops, co-working spaces, and a growing number of cafés and restaurants. d3's calendar of events and workshops is also worth checking out if you like design and fashion events. Since you're in Dubai, you might want to combine arts with some shopping, in which case, head to City Walk. This open-air retail and dining precinct mixes boutique shopping with art installations and colourful murals.

Where to stay: Stay at Avani+ Palm View Dubai Hotel & Suites and enjoy panoramic Palm views from your room, with the action of JBR Beach and Dubai Marina a mere 10 minutes away. Or enjoy Avani Ibn Battuta Dubai Hotel's proximity to shopping at Ibn Battuta Mall, with a metro stop connected to the hotel for easy commutes around the city.

Musing in Madrid

It's harder escaping the arts scene in Madrid than finding it, with all its epic museums and ubiquitous Art Nouveau architecture. Assuming you don't need help finding classic arts spaces in Madrid, here are some trendy contemporary spots worth putting on your radar. 

The most prolifically cool barrio in Madrid is Embajadores, where tapas bars, indie shops, and little galleries and studios collide. Lavapiés next door has a similar vibe, with its markets, murals, and a cultural melting pot of restaurants. Visit on the weekend to browse the El Rastro flea market, then wander the galleries of Museo Reina Sofia for a hit of 20th-century art.

Where to stay: Avani Alonso Martinez Madrid Hotel is the type of artsy stay you want in a city like Madrid. Nothing bland or beige here, plus it's right by a metro stop so you can get around the city with ease. Bonus points for the hotel's Hidden Art Gallery and Artists Studios tour.

Cool Corners of Lisbon

The capital of Portugal is another city with plenty of artsy things to do. Any visit should begin with a visit to the old town of Alfama, where you can see historic sights alongside street art by local artist Vhils. Next, head to the UFO-shaped Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, then LX Factory, an arts centre with indie shops and restaurants set in an old industrial precinct. For a whole neighbourhood of cool things, visit the upscale area of Principe Real and adjoining Bairro Alto, where you'll find hipster shopping and happening hole-in-the-wall boho bars.

Where to stay: Avani Avenida Liberdade Lisbon Hotel is right on the edge of Principe Real, overlooking the very fancy boulevard of Avenida da Liberdade. See the tourist sights around nearby Rossio during the day, then scour the sloping laneways of Bairro Alto in the evenings for hidden cocktail bars. End your evenings with twinkling city views from the rooftop SEEN Lisboa, back at home base.