‘Coûte que coûte’ goes the punning family motto of Sir Charles Coote, for whom the opulent Ballyfin estate was conceived in the early 19th century. ‘No matter the cost’ is how this loosely translates, proving as apt an adage in the 21st century as it was then. Many millions of euros may have been lavished on this stately pile in County Laois, both in its original construction and, more recently, its painstaking restoration. For the architectural historian, the house is a head turner – the culmination of Regency craftsmanship brought together in lusciously modelled plasterwork, scagliola in varying colours, stained glass and staggeringly intricate parquetry. For the sybarite, the house is a place of comfort and grandeur, not least in the Gold Drawing Room where walls are hung with lustrous silk and vast windows frame views of the 28-acre lake. Bedrooms are also decorated with rich fabrics and wallpaper, fine antiques, fresh flowers from the garden, art and books – a fabulous amalgamation of Anglo-Irish panache. New this year is Ballyfin’s 21st room and first standalone property: the tiny Gardener’s Cottage overlooking, to the rear, the walled gardens, which supply Ballyfin’s kitchen with organic fruit and vegetables. The grounds are made for strolling in the complimentary wellies, with grottoes and rockeries, a folly and a fernery, a rose garden and an aviary. There is no finer Irish-country house experience. By Pamela Goodman
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.”
Guests may be surprised to hear that this exquisitely restored 1835 palace, with all its courtyards and pageantry, wasn’t built for a queen—but rather, for the queen’s favorite handmaiden. Later on, it was used as a royal guesthouse and hunting lodge, though it’s since comfortably taken its place as one of Rajasthan’s most luxurious hotels. Enjoy an evening of Champagne, moonlight, and candles in a private dining tent illuminated by flaming torches and pitched on the palace greens, and make sure you get to the Steam bar, which occupies a restored train.
This 13-acre property, enviably sited in the centro, is without peer in a town that has its share of swank hotels. Portals and stone paths lead to tiered swimming pools, two-person cabanas, covered patios, and a tequila bar, and the 67 rooms are grand and outfitted with regionally sourced hardwood floors and Spanish colonial furnishings. Even a standard king, at an already-generous 535 square feet, comes with special treatment: A bubble bath lit by candles is drawn at turndown upon request.
The 50 individually designed rooms at this boutique hotel within the White City (a Tel Aviv neighborhood known for its collection of Bauhaus buildings, as well as for art galleries and designer boutiques) are spread between two historic townhouses—23 and 25 Nachmani Street, respectively—which are divided by a fragrant citrus garden. There’s a rooftop infinity pool, a 1940s-style Library Bar, a formal French-Mediterranean brasserie, and an excellent Izakaya-style Japanese restaurant—so you won't want for activity (or sustenance) while you're here.
This fashionable hotel earns acclaim for its elegant design and prime location in Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood. The No. 4 Best Hotel in Chicago boasts exceptional customer service, an indoor pool, a spa and a health club. Accommodations within the Waldorf Astoria Chicago are dressed in stylish gray tones and contemporary furnishings. (Courtesy of Waldorf Astoria Chicago)