Slim and sexy, LUXE City Guides offer compact, useful, humorous insight into the glossy urban sheen that makes world cities shine. Design hotels, avant-garde shopping, and destination restaurants on the right side of cool get described in tight and sassy English, in a handy 21-page foldable tome (or smart phone app), to be used in conjunction with a subway map or a wizened cab driver. Some of the listings may be a bit posh for my humble journalist’s pockets, but most are accessible to well-rounded travelers who appreciate design and comfort, satisfied with sipping on a cocktail at the bar of a stylish hotel and soaking up the ambience, if soaking in a tub upstairs is out of range.

I purchased the Miami guide a few weeks ago just to see how the LUXEuriants handled my former stomping grounds and was pleasantly surprised by the smart overview of the city, the geographic coverage, and how the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables was expertly summed-up in four lines. I also liked the $10 purchase price of the guide. As a traveler who straddles the line between upscale and underground – out of both necessity and cultural curiosity – I could have used a bit more info on accessing the underground music scene, and I noticed the absence of non-Latin ethnic food and cultural listings (and I ain’t talkin’ sushi, neither).

Still, the verve and authority of the writing reeled me in, and even inspired me to participate in the LUXE Guides + Grantourismo Grand Tour competition, in which entrants had to plot out a tour to five of the cities LUXE covers in 100 words or less. I won second place in the second round with this li’l number:

Start off with a little retail therapy in London’s mix-and-match Marylebone district, followed by tea and symphony at the Royal Albert Hall – the Proms are on. Hop across the Pond and, en route to fantastic light-tripping, stop by Brooklyn’s beautifully diverse Fort Greene Park for the free Sunday afternoon soulful house session and a slab of Southern-style barbecued ribs. Next stop: Tokyo, training the taste buds to distinguish between Ginjo-shu and Junmai-shu in a Shibuya sake salon. Swing through Singapore and take a dip in the airport’s rooftop swimming pool as a warm-up for professional relaxing on Phuket’s Kamala Beach.

Whether or not you’re planning a real Grand Tour soon, or just need a bit of armchair inspiration, a LUXE City Guide is an excellent city-slicking companion. And if you’re feeling a wave of creative wanderlust coming on, wander over to Grantourismo and submit your own 100-word Grand Tour. You could win a plush set of LUXE guides all your very own!

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