It’s not a Rorschach test. Don’t dwell too long on Brazilian architect Ruy Ohtake’s uncommon structure sitting on a grassy patch in São Paulo’s refined Jardim Paulista neighbourhood. Is it a watermelon slice? An ocean liner? Step inside the gargantuan belly of a sunlit lobby, then spread out on one of the International Klein blue cushion couches to imbibe a glass of Champagne. More liquid satisfaction is found along The Wall, the lobby bar with its 60ft high stash of spirits (for bibliophiles, 300-plus titles hide alongside). Guests are sent on a sensory adventure, from the unlit lift and barely illuminated corridor to 95 white-on-white cabin-like guestrooms, where an oversized porthole window continues to play with a sense of scale even as an abundance of natural light flows through (highly effective blackout panels close it at the touch of a button). Most fun are those rooms running along the building’s elongated curve, featuring floors that could almost double as a skateboard park. Surround-sound speakers are hidden in headboards, and in the see-through bathroom is a tub with whirlpool jets; less hi-tech but highly coveted are the complimentary Havaiana flip-flops in the closet. Save your appetite for the plump pink salmon sashimi, spicy Amazonian cassoulet and Portuguese arroz de pato (duck rice) at Dijon-born chef Emmanuel Bassoleil’s rooftop Skye restaurant with its 360-degree metropolitan panorama and ruby-red lacquered swimming pool. Commandeer one of the white double daybeds and order Brazil’s national cocktail, the Caipirinha, colour-coordinated with the pool with fresh strawberries and raspberries. By Cynthia Rosenfeld
Proximity to all the attractions in Old Quebec of our interests. Comfortable, spacious room with ample storage; quiet, effective air conditioning. Nighttime silence despite location on the main street into the central location for street performers in front of the famous Hotel Frontenac and promenade overlooking the Saint Lawrence River. Helpful staff willing to haul our heavy suitcases up the steep and narrow stairs to our room.
This legendary hotel on Manhattan's Upper East Side has a highly developed sense of noblesse oblige. The Carlyle opened inauspiciously in 1930, the year after the Wall Street Crash, and its lobby retains the original black-and-white tiled floor designed by Dorothy Draper. The lift operator knows each guest's name and room number, handy should you return late and a little squiffy. And each room has a proper key: no troublesome cards or spooky 'iris recognition' here. The bedrooms themselves are generously sized - at least for New York - while the tower suites are positively vast and very beautiful, with pale beechwood parquet floors, Chinese cabinets, onyx lamps and silk-cushioned fauteuils, as well as heart-stopping views of Central Park. Refreshment is never far away: tea is served in the Ottoman-styled Gallery, cocktails in the Bemelmans Bar (the bar of the Upper East Side) and lunch or dinner in the Carlyle Restaurant, which is decorous without being sedate. And music is inherent at the Carlyle, whose first tenant was composer Richard Rodgers. In its public rooms and suites there are 14 baby grand pianos, and Woody Allen still plays jazz clarinet every Monday night, six months of the year, at the ground-floor Café Carlyle. But in the end, the Carlyle's brilliance lies in its understatement. The fire instructions say, 'Remain relaxed'. Here, at what is still New York's grandest hotel, it's hard to do anything else.
Featuring a coveted location in the charming Georgetown neighborhood, the No. 3 Best Hotel in the District of Columbia, offers contemporary digs and an upscale atmosphere. All of the property's accommodations boast neutral decor with vivid artwork and accent fabrics, plus granite bathroom countertops, minibars and glass-enclosed showers. Outside the rooms, visitors will find additional amenities, such as a 12,500-square-foot gym, an indoor lap pool, a 24-hour business center and a wine bar. (Courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC and Michael Kleinberg)

Travelers love the elegant Mediterranean-style facade and ample amenities available at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar, the No. 1 Best Hotel in San Diego. Situated about 20 miles north of San Diego amid Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, the hotel offers a golf course, an award-winning spa, a palm tree-lined pool and multiple dining options. What's more, guests rave about the spacious accommodations and the friendly employees, from the bell staff and the valet to the concierges and the restaurant servers. (Courtesy of Fairmont Grand Del Mar)
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.
Secluded among 157 acres of ancient trees and burbling streams, this Northern California retreat got raves from readers for its leafy privacy. The 48 “rooms” are actually cedar-and-glass cabins with huge views of the woods, along with fabulous outdoor living rooms, “bath gardens” and outdoor showers. Given the spa’s mud baths and private mineral-soaking pools, the resort also scored well with readers for its stress-relieving potential. 
The Magnolia Hotel & Spa is a small, boutique property situated in downtown Victoria. Its enviable location in the city's center makes the hotel suitable for both business and leisure travelers; however, some say city noise can seep into the accommodations. Rooms are equipped with free internet access, minibars, marble bathrooms with glass showers, deep soaking tubs and sweeping views of the city or Inner Harbour. You can enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner at Magnolia's on-site eatery, The Courtney Room, which serves up French dishes. As for customer service, recent guests enjoy the attention to detail – travelers are treated to a welcome gift of fruit and handmade chocolates – and praise the staff for being exceptionally friendly and helpful. The Spa Magnolia is also lauded for coupling a relaxed atmosphere with a versatile array of treatments.

People talk about old classics, but this one has roots dating back to the 11th century. Shipwrecked en route to Constantinople, a wealthy Italian family built the foundations of the Caruso on a limestone bluff above Ravello, a symbol of their power and good fortune to have escaped unharmed. And here, their high eyrie remained, withstanding the wars of the Middle Ages, neglected, repaired, neglected again, until 1893 when Pantaleone Caruso stepped in and turned it into a hotel. Belmond (then Orient-Express hotels) took over in 2000 and began a serious restoration: art historians were shipped in to unearth the building’s arcadian frescos, archaeologists arrived to uncover the original medieval foundations. Today, Old Masters hang in the marble corridors and the 50 bedrooms have been brought up-to-date, but not charm-crushingly modernised. They retain their original vaulted ceilings, stone fireplaces and terracotta tiles, and have bathrooms stashed with bottles of Penhaligon’s. It has just opened Villa Margherita too, a two-bedroom retreat deep in the heady gardens. Guests feast on lunches of lobster, langoustine and truffles, or head down to the water to explore the craggy coastline on the hotel’s pretty wooden boat. It’s a place synonymous with seclusion, with its lemon-scented air and hanging gardens spilling down onto the Tyrrhenian Sea, stony nooks and quiet spots to sit and take in the dizzying views. And romance: it is said to be where Jackie Kennedy and Gianni Agnelli began their affair, where Humphrey Bogart, Greta Garbo and Virginia Woolf came to hide out. A truly brightening, timeless place. By Martha Ward

DH Lawrence penned a love letter about it, Mussolini held court during the war, Churchill was moved to get out his watercolours and his memory lives on in the ancient resident cat of the same name that slinks around picking up titbits of the Michelin-starred food. This peachy-pink palazzo on the still waters of Lake Garda has been stealing hearts since the 1890s, and at the turn of the millennium, it was opened as a hotel, the loveliest in all of Italy. But what makes it so special are all the non-hotel bits: the exquisite antiques everywhere, the silver photo frames filled with black-and-white family shots, the engraved tumblers of fresh roses, the deep bath tubs, and the circus-striped umbrellas by the charcoal-grey slick of swimming pool. Helicopters land on the pristinely manicured croquet lawn and return guests arrive to a fanfare of hugs and kisses, pats on backs. They come here to feast like kings at night on plates of tortellini carbonara, spend the day lolling fatly by the pool watching the ducks and the windsurfers pootle past, and sleep outrageously well under frescoed ceilings in beds made up with crisp, scallop-edged Frette linen. Steep mountains provide a dramatic backdrop for the garden, and early mornings are particularly magic, the silvery pale ethereal light drifting across the lake. The feel of the place is old-school, spick and span, timeless, a bit matronly – and for anyone who likes a bit of Great Gatsby-style cosseting, it’s a dreamy retreat. By Issy von Simson

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