There are other cities that possess a comparable crackle and fizz, a similar quotient of what Martin Amis once referred to as ‘italics in the air’. New York, naturally. Tokyo. London on a good night. Sydney. São Paulo. But nowhere else on earth does confusion, complication and contrariness quite like Shanghai. Here is a place that is neither completely Chinese nor wholly Western; where foreign-ness has been courted, embraced, shunned and then courted and embraced again; where unobstructed expansion and unpredictable change are the only constants. These qualities are quite thrillingly visible to the naked eye. The best vantage point from which to take them in is this hotel, at the northernmost end of the Bund, directly across the Huangpu River from the dense forest of skyscrapers that has lately popped up in Pudong. Any room in particular? No – practically all have excellent views. Otherwise Sir Elly’s rooftop terrace bar is perfect, especially in the evening. With its understated opulence – muted silks and vivid Art Deco flourishes – the hotel mirrors the hybrid aesthetic of the city itself, cosmopolitan, polyglot, at once nostalgic and contemporary. Shanghai may not have looked so good or felt so energised since its first period of explosive growth in the 1920s. And nowhere else allows you to savour its beauties and ironies in such fine style as the Pen. It embodies much of what made this beguiling, elusive, maddening city great – and still does. By Steve King
Built on the bones of an old temple (hence the name), this 142-room hotel is a haven for the hip and slightly edgy, and reflective of wider development in the Chengdu area. Designed by U.K. architecture firm Make, the hotel comprises two L-shaped halves separated by a verdant courtyard evoking Sichuan’s rice terraces. Rooms are minimalist and incorporate local materials (timber, bamboo, step stones) and architectural elements—ask if you can get one facing the courtyard. And while the hotel offers French bistro-style plates at its Temple Café and regionally inspired Italian fare at Tivano, head for the wood-lined Mi Xun Teahouse, whose design is inspired by Chinese medicine. With its vegan/vegetarian menu, it’s the hottest seat in the house—if you can get one.
This South Carolina standout is truly a sanctuary. The resort's spacious accommodations include marble bathrooms, customized minibars and balconies with ocean views. The Sanctuary, the No. 2 Best Hotel in South Carolina, beckons to those looking to relax thanks to its abundance of amenities, including a spa, multiple pools, ample dining options and five golf courses. Aside from the property's facilities, the friendly employees bring visitors back year after year. (Courtesy of Kiawah Island Golf Resort)
Though Napa Valley is filled with high-end properties, one of its most well-regarded resorts is Calistoga Ranch. This Auberge-affiliated resort – the No. 2 Best Hotel in Napa Valley – is home to all sorts of luxurious features, including a wine cave, a mineral pool and a fleet of Mercedes-Benz vehicles that guests can borrow for free. The property also offers a variety of specialized experiences (for a fee), from beekeeping courses to wine blending experiences. Meanwhile, accommodations boast indoor-outdoor living areas with fireplaces, as well as outdoor rain showers, separate soaking tubs and wet bars with gourmet snacks. (Courtesy of Calistoga Ranch, An Auberge Resort)
With this fresh city crash pad, Mexico’s Grupo Habita has, once again, demonstrated its knack for sniffing out budding star designers and promising hot spots. Taking up residence in Northwest Tower, The Robey jostles alongside artisanal coffee shops, independent boutiques, and pop-up restaurants in Chicago’s creative corner between the hipster neighborhoods of Bucktown and Wicker Park. The slender, triangular-shaped Art Deco pile slots like a slice of pie right into the junction where Milwaukee, North, and Damen avenues meet. Of the 69 rooms, the best are the corner suites, where wraparound windows shed natural light onto low-key, unfussy interiors by Belgium’s Nicolas Schuybroek and Marc Merckx. The real head-turners, though, are the collection of bars and restaurants, not least the curbside Café Robey, which hums from the first plate of eggs and hash browns in the morning to last call at night. The Lounge, on the second floor, is a wind-down joint with live music, but the Up Room, the 13th- floor rooftop bar, is the place to go for the full Chicago effect, with its sprawling cityscape views. Here, custom-made seating is interspersed with mid-century modern finds that don’t detract from the building’s original features: terrazzo flooring, brass details, and marble wall panels. Come summer, the only place to be is on the sixth-floor outdoor pool terrace, the Cabana Club, with a basil gimlet in hand. Barely two years old, The Robey has already shaped up to be a hotel heavy hitter in this heavy-hitting town. By Lauren Ho
This meticulously resorted Victorian manse set on 34 acres of Scottish woodlands first made headlines in 2014, when it was acquired by none other than tennis star Andy Murray, who hails from this part of Perthshire. Yet you'll find almost no trace of the pro here other than his fondness for this nook of the Highlands. Famed French chef Albert Roux runs the kitchen at Chez Roux at Cromlix, offering up elegant French-meets-Scottish food. There is also a whiskey room where guests can kick back and enjoy a number of different Scottish whiskies, as well as rooms for private dining. As with any Scottish estate, it's all about the daytime activities. Cromlix offers tennis coaching on their own Wimbledon-grade courts (of course), loch fishing, archery, garden games, and falconry.
The Langham, Chicago earns ample compliments from former guests. Everything from the property's attentive service to its quiet downtown location to the delectable cuisine plated at Travelle Kitchen + Bar earns rave reviews from visitors. Plus, rooms at the No. 2 Best Hotel in Chicago boast spacious layouts (each measures at least 516 square feet) with elegant white, black and purple color schemes, rain showers, deep-soaking tubs, liquor cabinets and free Wi-Fi access. Additional amenities, such as a health club, a 67-foot pool and a spa, are available outside the rooms. (Courtesy of The Langham, Chicago)
Filling the top floors of a 58-story financial district building, the Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong's location is one of its strongest selling points: Its prime location, right at the heart of the city's commercial center, means guests have easy access to high-end shopping and the Metro, plus, it's just a quick walk to the iconic Oriental Pearl Tower. As you might imagine, the cloud-level rooms, described by guests as large and luxurious, have perfect views of the Huangpu River and the city's ever-evolving skyline.
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)
Guest feedback was taken very seriously when andBeyond rebuilt its flagship camp in early 2018, in the same plum position in the Kichwa Tembo concession (more than 800 private hectares), bordering the Mara Triangle’s National Reserve. Which is likely why the duo who designed the original 20 years ago, Debra Fox and Chris Browne, didn’t make any unnecessary changes in the redo. Nothing was changed for the sake of change: vintage silver, crystal decanters, leather armchairs and extravagantly deep sofas were reused, recycled or reupholstered, while old-world maps and brass fittings were added. Kenyan-grown roses still give a homely touch. New to camp is a family suite, gin bar and safari boutique stocked exclusively with home-grown designer labels. The Mara Triangle is the sharp edge of Masai Mara safaris, and not just during migration season. On any given day, the open plains are thrumming with memorable sightings: a 40-strong herd of elephant, a week-old giraffe galloping clumsily after its mother, hundreds of zebra and antelope, a pair of black-backed jackals trotting through the long grass, and lions snoozing on a little-used track. Being in a private concession means guests can also go out on night drives, have silver-service bush banquets accompanied by deeply resonant Maasai chanting, and the chance to do a walk or trail run with a Maasai guide. Andbeyond is a top safari outfit, known for its highly designed lodges and camps throughout Southern and East Africa and its commitment to the care of the land and local communities. Now its exceptionally located big-hitter property is back, with even more space than ever. By Jane Broughton
Tucked in the Virginia countryside amid the Blue Ridge Mountains, Primland attracts travelers looking for a mix of activity and relaxation. There is no shortage of things to do here, from kayaking and golfing to horseback riding and stargazing. The property also has a spa, and hosts yoga and meditation classes. And guests appreciate the variety of accommodation options, too, with a traditional lodge, suites, cottages and even tree houses to choose from. (Courtesy of Primland)