A new generation of guidebooks is out to prove that they don't have to be dull and bulky. Instead, they come with glossy photos, slick prose, and streamlined designs.
An offshoot of an alternative weekly magazine, Le Cool Changed My Life: A Weird and Wonderful Guide to Barcelona is loaded with photos, artwork, and a million different type treatments. The end result is a bit busy, but never boring (lecool.com, $20).
Focused on everything elegant, chic, upscale, and gourmet, the series consists of 16 city guides, each one sprinkled with sleek color photos. Hotel and restaurant selections are given ratings for atmosphere, service, etc., so there's little ambiguity (hg2.com, $17).
Night + Day
Take your pick of three themed itineraries--Hip, Classic, and Hot & Cool--in San Francisco, New York, Paris, Athens, and eight other cities by the end of 2006. The format is traditional, with minimal art and meaty descriptions of attractions, clubs, shops, and hotels (pulseguides.com, $18).
From the design gurus at the magazine of the same name come handbooks small enough to fit in your back pocket, filled with the most handsome hangouts in 20 cities, with 40 more due in 2007. Tabs make it easy to flip between sections like Shopping and Escapes (phaidon.com, $9).
About the size of bookmarks but a bit thicker, the accordion-style guides cram in plenty of info, along with blunt advice: "Avoid the area of Kuta like you would cholera," the Bali one says. At times, descriptions feel too skimpy. Most of the series' destinations are in Asia, though guides for Paris and Madrid are in the works (luxeguides.com, $9).