With a flotilla of boldfaced big-hitters hugging its sunny shores, Dubai isn’t exactly short of luxury digs. But what makes the newly opened Bulgari stand out is its location on its own seahorse-shaped manmade island, and its low-slung layout, a pleasing retort to the city’s ubiquitous canyons of skyscrapers. This is down to the group’s Milan-based architects, who anchored the hotel so it separates two bays: one an oh-so-quiet stretch of beach lined with villas; the other a super-smart marina with a sweep of restaurants and the Bulgari Yacht Club – a first for the brand. Structures are topped with layers of coral-like latticework; other marvellous textures that draw the eye include backlit green onyx, black granite and woollen Beni Ourain rugs from Morocco, picked out with covetable objects from B&B Italia and Flos. The city centre thrums on the other side of a 300-metre bridge, but with six bars and restaurants at the hotel, there really is no reason to cross it. La Spiaggia is a poolside crowd-pleaser that flips out wagyu beef burgers during the day, while in the evening, a Negroni from the oval Bulgari bar is a punchy aperitif for oysters and bottarga risotto at the neighbouring Niko Romito restaurant. The wow factor, though, is provided by the immense spa, with its ice fountains, hammam and an indoor pool – lined with a mosaic of real gold tiles, naturally – that has far-reaching views of the sea and the Dubai cityscape through floor-to-ceiling windows. The sense of contented wellbeing isn’t limited to the spa. In a land of hyperbole, this is understated perfection that thinks big. By Lauren Ho
The No. 3 Best Hotel in New York City, The Towers at Lotte New York Palace is a hit with visitors thanks to its superb customer service and breathtaking city vistas. The hotel sits on the top 14 floors of its sister property, Lotte New York Palace, in the heart of Manhattan's Midtown East area, meaning every room has a view. Plus, guests of The Towers have access to all of the larger property's amenities, including its spa, restaurant, bakery and bars, as well as free perks, such as car service within a 20-mile radius, Wi-Fi access and shoeshines and clothing pressings. (Courtesy of The Towers at Lotte New York Palace)
Spending the night at this place feels a bit like finding yourself in an Agatha Christie novel. Here you are, one of a group of strangers staying in an elegant mansion that’s laced with a sense of history and intrigue. Except there’s no mystery about why it’s so appealing. Every aspect has been meticulously thought through: the courtyard, the orangery, the library stacked with fantastic books and the living room in which to read them. There’s even a hammam in the basement. The name translates as ‘a home’, which is exactly what the 12-bedroom townhouse hotel feels like, though one, admittedly, conceived by one of the world’s great interior designers. Ilse Crawford has created the most exclusive place to hole up in the Swedish capital, precisely by not making it feel too exclusive. Yes, you have to buzz to get into the private garden to enter the hotel, but once inside there’s a wonderful mix of classic Scandi design and modern pieces, including a handsome brass bar cabinet by London craftsman Jack Trench. The atmosphere is relaxed and unfussy; guests are free to wander into the kitchen and chat to the chef. The location is great, in the heart of Ostermalm, the smartest neighbourhood in the city, but set away from the main roads. With incredible taste, warmth and no snootiness whatsoever, this hotel is a fusion of all that’s best about Scandinavia. By Stephen Whitlock
Not only do Mr and Mrs Robert Wtterwulghe share an extraordinary surname, they also hold the world record for the most visits made by paying guests to One&Only Le Saint Géran. The Belgian couple made their 88th pilgrimage here this past year. Few hotels inspire such loyalty. When it opened in 1975 it was, if not the only place to stay in Mauritius, the only one you would have wished to stay in. Its proprietor, South African Sol Kerzner, announced his intention to ‘blow the guests away’. In a sense, he achieved the opposite. They came in droves. They are still coming in droves. These days it is not uncommon for three generations from the same family to arrive simultaneously. Now Mauritius has the greatest concentration of five-star hotels of any island in the Indian Ocean and yet Le Saint Géran has in no way been overtaken. The changes made during a 2017 makeover were uncontroversial, either merely cosmetic or merely sensible. The number of rooms has decreased, and they are the very definition of tasteful neutrality, taupe and teal, as soothing as a sea breeze. The spa has expanded and there’s a new pool. But the essentials remain the same. The location – on 60 acres with a mile of flawless beach – is unbeatable. The spangled Alice Temperley teepee is still available for seaside revels. The adored tree in the lobby continues to grow. By Steve King
Reachable only by boat or seaplane, Little Palm Island Resort & Spa is located on a private island where wild key deer roam. It includes 30 luxurious suites, many with private oceanfront verandas. A favorite getaway for celebrities, it provides a secluded place to unplug from the world (use of technology is discouraged) and experience a romantic vacation in a lush, tropical environment.
Hidden among fisherman’s casas painted cobalt-blue, pink and pistachio bordering Trancoso’s sleepy village square, where the town’s elders gather to shoot the breeze, Uxua is almost imperceptible to the passer-by. The only giveaway is the tables of smart Cariocas and international hipsters sipping passionfruit Caipirinhas while watching the early evening scene unfold on the Quadrado. Golden light catches the locals playing football around the whitewashed 16th-century church. This is just how expansive Dutch owner Wilbert Das (Diesel’s former creative director) likes it. Surrounded by dense rainforest and teetering high on a ridge overlooking the powder-sand fringed Atlantic, Uxua fits right into the post-hippie utopia of Trancoso. Working with local artisans, Das has turned the hotel into a collection of rustic renovated casas, cottages, an intimate treehouse and a tribal-inspired spa. All are cloaked by hummingbird-flecked tropical gardens and centred around a pool lined with green aventurine quartz, which, for those not up on their healing crystals, is said to be very therapeutic. Interiors are haute-boho: roomy indoor-outdoor sitting rooms and airy living spaces with dazzling-white walls and muslin-canopied beds, accented with lots of reclaimed wood, antiques and vintage finds including brightly painted Virgin Mary statuettes. A decked path runs through mangrove forests to the beach, where there are enormous day beds for post-breakfast snoozing and a beach bar fashioned from an old fishing boat – just stay horizontal and another Caipirinha will soon find its way to you. This is the South American coastal retreat that’s on everyone’s radar. By Chris Caldicott
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At the No. 1 Best Hotel in Tennessee, guests will find a variety of accommodation options to suit all preferences, including light and airy rooms with antique furnishings and rustic cottages with stone fireplaces. But the main draw of this property is its location on a working farm about 30 miles south of Knoxville, Tennessee. Visitors can go horseback riding, interact with farm animals or get gardening tips from the hotel's master gardener before savoring dishes made with ingredients grown on-site. (Courtesy of Blackberry Farm and beall + thomas photography)
Highly recommend for a white Christmas! The city is so magical complete with German Christmas markets and carolers (come prepared for the cold!). Old town is beautiful (very European) and there is lots to do. Recommend trying the toboggan ride (great for all ages) and a visit to nearby Jacques-Cartier National Park if you like the outdoors! Tip: make sure you have the right change (in coins) for the buses.