When Muchi Gubwe was a fledgling hotel concierge in Cape Town, he would often refer to his seasoned colleagues as “moving encyclopedias.”
“Forget Google,” Mr. Gubwe, now the head concierge at the Mount Nelson, a Belmond hotel in the city’s Gardens neighborhood, said on a video call last month. “These are the people you need to speak to.”
The Times took Mr. Gubwe’s advice. We asked him and four of his counterparts at luxury hotels around the world — including Gurkan Aslan, from the Peninsula Istanbul; Pissinee Rajatabhothi, from the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok; David Gonzalez, from the Langham, Chicago; and Igor Alvim, from the Fasano Rio de Janeiro — to recommend experiences in their cities that would be stellar gifts for the holidays.
All five are members of Les Clefs d’Or (in English, the Golden Keys), a professional association of hotel concierges headquartered in Paris.
Like Mr. Gubwe, Mr. Gonzalez and Mr. Alvim spoke with The Times via video call, while the interviews with Mr. Aslan was in person and Ms. Rajatabhothi, by email. Their remarks were edited and condensed for clarity.
Chief concierge, the Peninsula Istanbul
A must is a Bosporus cruise because that’s the most magical part of a visit to Istanbul. We advise a minimum of two to three hours.
Picture yourself sailing between two continents. It’s very special, especially for proposals. Many guests prefer to do that right in the middle of the Bosporus with a romantic private dinner on a private yacht during sunset, with champagne. We arrange catering from the hotel. And we have our own pier here.
Cruising up towards the Black Sea, you see all the old Ottoman houses on the water. As you go north, it gets more beautiful, more green. We have created some seasonal experiences such as in May, when the Judas trees bloom — they look like lollipops, with a very special purple color.
Sometimes, guests are looking for different things to see and do, especially in the summertime, and want to get out of the city and swim, which you cannot do on the Bosporus. If you have the day, you can rent a boat to visit the Princes’ Islands, a group of nine islands in the Sea of Marmara. During the Ottoman period, some of the princes were exiled there.
Only four of them are open for public visits: Kinaliada, Burgazada, Heybeliada and Buyukada. The islands are quite famous for their fresh seafood.
Sedef, the island farthest from the city in the archipelago, is private. It belongs to one of…