As if the Pen didn’t already tower above the competition – and it has from the day it opened, right opposite Saks on Michigan Avenue, in 2001 – a $37-million renovation in 2016 took it way over the top. Bedrooms were always large for downtown Chicago but feel even more spacious now, thanks to clever ship-cabin cabinetry. Indeed, interiors have a yacht-like feel, in both the space-saving design and the burled wood and leather finishes. Even the entry-level rooms have a separate living area. With muted pale-blue and steel-grey tones, the palette nods towards Lake Michigan, while a wall-size, hand-embroidered rendering of a chrysanthemum refers to Peninsula’s Asian roots without feeling overly on-the-nose. But it’s the in-room tech that’s the true knockout here, with all sorts of ingenious smart-home conveniences. From the bathtub, one touch on the ‘Spa’ button will soften the lighting, stream in a not-at-all-annoying soundtrack and activate the do-not-disturb sign. Maybe you’ve encountered similar tech elsewhere; the difference here is that it actually works – and you don’t need a 15-minute tutorial to figure out the controls. While it’s very hotel-room-of-the-future, the Pen doesn’t feel brave-new-world impersonal: there’s a warmth and softness to the design that feels timeless and embracing. But try and tear yourself away to check out Green River for craft cocktails and Gibsons for steaks. Abundantly comfortable, smooth as hand-embroidered silk but never too sleek, the Pen is far and away Chicago’s top-dog hotel. By Peter Lindberg
Europe had 18 winners — including first-timer Six Senses Douro Valley, in the heart of Portugal’s stunning wine country — while Mexico can boast of 10. No surprise that Rosewood San Miguel de Allende made the cut, surely in part thanks to its location in the No. 1 city in the world. “The rooftop bar was our go-to place for drinks,” said one reader. “A very special place.”
People who don’t live in Los Angeles have a fantasy of what life in LA must look like. Towering palms. Bougainvillaea. Birds of paradise. And a fabulous bungalow tucked right in the thick of it, where every hour is golden hour. The Hotel Bel-Air, in the heart of the residential neighbourhood of the same name, is this fantasy come to life. One of the first sights to spot across the threshold is a swan lake. A lake with actual swans frolicking in it. The 12-acre gardens are part of the magic and made for meandering, with streams, footbridges, guava, pineapple, lemon and orange trees, as well as coastal redwoods that are most certainly not common in these parts. Out-of-towners and peace-and-quiet-seeking locals come here for privacy and to shelter from real life. Most never leave the grounds. In 2011 Alexandra Champalimaud did a full revamp of the lobby and spa, and designed the sizeable rooms to be lived in – they are cosy, with fireplaces, high ceilings and towels as thick as blankets. The bar is effortlessly cool, with photographs by Norman Seeff covering the walls, and the Wolfgang Puck restaurant, reimagined by David Rockwell a handful of years ago, is completely al fresco. You could venture out and explore LA, or you could order a crisp white and kick back beside the always-set-to-28˚C pool and forget there’s a world beyond the swan lake. This is where you want to stay in LA to feel like a high roller even if you’re not one. By Lauren DeCarlo
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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
Rooms at the Mercer are bright, spacious, and impeccably laid out; some have even been built into an original Roman defense tower, translating to walls of gorgeous, centuries-old brickwork. The food here is equally superior, without being stuffy: you’ll find foie gras and caviar, yes, but also patatas bravas and beer. For the full five-star boutique experience, there’s no better bang for your buck in Barcelona.
At the No. 2 Best Hotel in Maui, guests are greeted with panoramic views of Wailea Beach and the Pacific Ocean. Accommodations are spacious (each room measures at least 600 square feet) and include lanais, locally inspired art, deep-soaking tubs and Nespresso coffee makers. On the resort grounds, travelers will find three saltwater pools, two tennis courts and a spa, but this resort's best attribute is its kid-friendly atmosphere. One of the island's most family-friendly properties, the Four Seasons Resort Maui offers everything from a game room to a waterslide to the brand's complimentary Kids For All Seasons activities program. (Courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea)