“Stylish, brutally frank, and sometimes, frankly brutal.” That\’s how LUXE City Guides describes their accordion-pleated travel guides that are just the right size to pop into a pocket or purse. LUXE City Guides, headquartered in Hong Kong, first came out in 2002 with a series on-not surprisingly, Asian cities. Now there are 19 in the series featuring such tourist-friendly locations as Hong Kong, Melbourne, Phuket, Shanghai, Sydney, and most recently Istanbul, Madrid, and Paris.

The recommendations for each city guide are gathered from 25 residents of that particular city, and are then assembled by a local city editor. The publishing editor of LUXE then flies to each city to personally check out each of the final selections, with the yardstick being, “If we loved it, it\’s in, if it\’s not, it\’s not worth it.”

Because of the format (the guides are printed on heavy card stock, with no illustrations), they can be updated twice a year so you know you\’re getting the most current recommendations.

I recently ordered the Paris guide since that\’s a city I know well…and always want to know better. The guide is subdivided into the usual categories of accommodations, restaurants, activities, shopping, and the like, but then is further subdivided into categories such as “Standout Stores,” “Smart and Casual Restaurants,” etc. There is also a section called “LUXE Loves” and “LUXE Loathes.” As often as I travel to Paris, I still found some recommended shops and the like that I wasn\’t familiar with and will definitely make a note of for my next visit; for visitors who have never been to Paris, there is a good balance between the must-see attractions and the undiscovered spots that help you create a just-for-me type of experience.

What\’s the most fun about these guides is the writing-light and breezy, not at all guidebook-y. Reading them is like having a chat with a very hip friend who\’s telling you all the best places to go. And at only $9 a guide, the price won\’t put a dent in your souvenir-shopping budget!

For more information or to order, visit http://www.luxecityguides.com/.

Carol Sorgen Columnist, Writer, World Traveler

Carol Sorgen is a nationally recognized writer, editor, and public relations consultant. Her articles—on subjects as diverse as travel, health care, education, architecture, interior design, the arts, and business—appear in both print and on-line publications including The Washington Post, DC Style, Resort Living, The Baltimore Sun, European Homes & Gardens, Decorating Spaces, Chesapeake Home, WebMD, Baltimore Jewish Times and Washington Jewish Week…to name just a few.