The Burj Al Arab may well have been a showstopper when it slapped down in this city of ever-higher skyscrapers, but actually, the greatest thing about the seven-star sail is its bold architecture – and that’s best seen from one of the roomy hotel balconies opposite. The real insider’s choice among Dubai’s proud crown of Jumeirah hotels is the cooler, more understated Mina A’Salam. It is central to the mighty Madinat Jumeirah souk, with its canals and windtowers, home to two other hotels and secluded summerhouses popular with visiting starlets. Mina A’Salam is where every experienced bruncher in town comes on Friday. But hotel guests get to discover another level of service: cruising in a little abra boat for breakfast on the sun deck of the superb Pai Thai restaurant; being served up cold towels, flavoured crushed ice and fresh mango at the pool or beach club; drinking Champagne and feasting on seafood at Shimmers, the barefoot restaurant in the sand. Staying at the Mina A’Salam really does feel like you’ve made it in Dubai – it’s the hub of both its old and new worlds. By Becky Lucas
To arrive here in the dark, through deserts and date trees and mountain passes, is to be greeted by a multitude of twinkling lights from the clear starry skies and from the dim lanterns that illuminate the stone houses. This far-flung hotel lies sandwiched between the dramatic Hajar Mountains and the warm seas off the northern Musandam Peninsula in the Sultanate of Oman. Reimagined to form a traditional village, each villa has a private pool, reed ceilings, rough stucco walls and lamps suspended on ropes that reflect in the thick wood-framed mirrors. Outside, though, through the dense surrounding stands of palm, is a full-on luxe seaside hotel, with a pristine talcum-fine beach and a magnificent swimming pool set against a backdrop of towering pink peaks. Not surprising, given it’s a Six Senses, many people come here for the spa and its bespoke programmes of treatments and fitness. More unusual is the opportunity for adventure. Those who want maximum drama should paraglide, starting on a ledge 293 metres up at the top of the Zighy summit to float down over the bay. The food is worth the journey alone: Bedouin cooking at Shua Shack; wagu-beef fritters in the mountain-lair-like Sense on the Edge. Breakfasts of Arabic coffee and dishes such as akawi, labneh and zaatar-sprinkled pittas are excellent fuel for a morning of beachcombing for the cowrie shells that dazzle here – perfectly polished with a dusting of dark freckles. Six Senses is a growing group but what it does so brilliantly is stay rooted in the sense of each place and let the surroundings shine. By Mary Lussiana
After a massive renovation in 2009, this boutique reopened, and regained its place among DC's elite hotels. It's not as famous as the Hay-Adams, but its subtle blend of technology (TVs embedded in bathroom mirrors; electronic housekeeping buttons) and colonial charms (intimate library, working dumbwaiter) are second to none. All that's missing is T.J. himself. (Oh wait, no.Here he is. ... )
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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 Indian ethos that the guest is god rings true of many grand hotels in the country, yet the Oberoi likes to put its own spin on things. Rising like a great gilded cake from the western shores of Lake Pichola, magnificent Udaivilas is just the spot to wash up after a dusty Rajasthan road trip. This particular pleasure palace is a relatively recent arrival but, like the 18th-century mansions it overlooks, it was built to showcase the craftsmanship of the Rajput era: marble-carved lotus ponds; glittering thikri mosaics; delicate miniatures painted on pale gold walls hand-plastered with lime, crushed marble, egg white and tamarind. The spectacular Candle Room contains a dome set with thousands of pieces of mirrored glass. Udaipur’s busy market streets are only a few miles away, but Udaivilas has the luxury of space: 30 acres of what used to be the Maharana of Mewar’s hunting estate, with bird-filled grounds and views of the pretty lake and its floating mansions. All this grandeur could feel cold and overwhelming if it weren’t for the excellent staff. Guests are greeted off the motor boat by doormen with great twirling moustaches and within minutes everyone knows your name. Small, personal interventions include gifts of a metal-wrought tea light or beaded bag, say, left in your room alongside a handwritten note. In the most romantic city in India, this is the most spectacular place to stay. By Pippa de Bruyn
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In a city awash with much-loved legends – the Cipriani, the Danieli, the Gritti Palace – it takes something special for a newcomer to turn heads. But Aman, which splashed down here in 2013, as ever, had a trump card: Palazzo Papadopoli. Not only is this 16th-century confection right on the Grand Canal, just past the Rialto Bridge – which guests whizz under in the hotel’s glossy Riva to arrive at the palazzo’s jetty flanked by cerulean bricole – but it has also been home for the last two centuries to the Arrivabene family. Proper Venetian aristocracy, the current count and countess (Giberto and Bianca) still live here with their five children in a sprawling apartment at the top of the building. Beneath it, the first-floor piano nobile – redesigned, along with the whole of the palazzo, in the early 19th century by master of rococo Michelangelo Guggenheim – is a breathtaking, silk-draped, gilded space lit by enormous Murano glass chandeliers. The 24 bedrooms have been slotted into many of the palazzo’s original spaces, so they are all unique. But the opulence does not compete with Jean-Michel Gathy’s minimalist B&B Italia furniture. The Clooneys settled on the Alcova Tiepolo room, with precious frescoes above the bed and a hand-painted Chinoiserie sitting room, for their wedding night. Outside are two private gardens – another rarity in Venice – one of which butts up against the canal’s edge, and soon to be home to a teppanyaki restaurant. This is hands down the most splendid hotel in Venice. By Fiona Kerr
There’s a bit of an 'Alice in Wonderland' feel to the Faena, and this carries through into the rooms—particularly with the smaller accents and pieces of furniture you’ll find yourself “discovering” as your stay progresses. Outside, the hotel makes the most of its 100,000 square feet of private white-sand beach, and if you find yourself asking, "Did I just see a golden woolly mammath skeleton in a glass cage?" the answer is yes—you can thank artist Damien Hirst for that one.
Survey voters clearly don’t want to have to take a shuttle to the slopes. This 100-room hotel made the top 20 for location, since it’s just a few steps from Vail’s Gondola One. While the lobby has classic-ski-lodge stone and timber, rooms lean toward the contemporary, rather than the log-cabin vibe, with polished wood headboards and reserved earth tones. The après-ski scene is similarly elegant, with the signature scotch collection at Frost, the hotel bar. For another kind of après-ski, readers loved the hotel’s spa, which utilizes the Vail Valley’s indigenous pine, flowers, and herbs. They may have also felt relaxed by the prices. Despite its high-end setting, the Sebastian was the top U.S. ski resort in the survey’s value category.
The No. 1 Best Hotel in Utah places powder hounds right next to the slopes of Deer Valley Resort, offering lodgers ski-in, ski-out access. But it's not just a winter escape. A large outdoor pool, kayak and canoe routes and more than 300 miles of accessible hiking trails keep the Montage Deer Valley in season all year long. And aside from the plethora of on-site activities, the courteous and helpful staff is another major reason guests say they return to this luxury retreat. (Courtesy of Montage Deer Valley)
The St.Regis Bali has a gorgeous beachfront extending from Geger Beach, just south of the Nusa Dua peninsula.Its collection of suites, villas, and excellent restaurants, as well as its ballrooms and state-of-the art meeting spaces make it a resort apt for both business and leisure.Well-trained butlers are ready to assist you with virtually all your needs during your stay and offer that touch of genuine opulence that you get at St.Regis.An expansive blue lagoon serves as a centrepiece surrounded by lagoon villas, each boasting a wealth of Balinese art and inspired designs.These villas are romantic and perfectly suit honeymooners, who find a specially prepared flower bath upon arrival plus sweet fruit, dipped in chocolate fondue. Read More...
Hôtel 71 is located in a building with plenty of history: it was formerly the first head office of the National Bank of Canada in Québec City. The outside has a great example of 19th-century Neoclassical architecture, while the inside is decorated in an elegant urban style. An espresso lounge serves coffee throughout the day. The hotel is ideally located for cruises, as it is close to the terminals. It is also close to the funicular. For delightful Italian cuisine, eat at the attached restaurant, Il Matto.
That tiny-island locale is one reason Beth Blair loves Sunset Key Cottages, another top 10 contender. Its air of exclusivity is “magical, and I could go on and on about the top-notch service and views,” says the Minnesota travel blogger. But something else won her heart: “The pastry baskets that arrive every morning at the front door are a wow factor,” she says. “There's nothing more relaxing than sitting on a beach-facing patio, sipping hot coffee and nibbling on freshly baked muffins.”
This heritage urban resort will seduce you with its breathtaking views of the St. Lawrence River and the architecture of the Old fortified City, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In any one of its 611 guestrooms and suites, you will feel an elegant touch of historic Europe. Your experience at this landmark luxury hotel will guarantee you a memorable and inspiring stay in one of the most beautiful, and walkable, cities in the world.
Often referred to as the USA's best small hotel, this 20-suite Relais & Châteaux property - with cottages and outbuildings anchored by a 1795 New England farmhouse - sits in 300 acres of breathtaking wildflower meadows, pine forests, lakes and orchards. Its sophisticated style is the result of a long and fruitful relationship with the cream of NYC's interior-design world. In the 1990s, the original owner, Hawaiian newspaperman Thurston Twigg-Smith, commissioned designer and one-time Warhol apostle Jed Johnson to work his magic on the first 15 rooms. Cue chinoiserie toile pelmets, hand-carved ravens atop barley-twist bedposts and a trompe-l'oeil tented ceiling. Johnson's rooms are still marvellous, but when Twin Farms added another five bedrooms in 2005, plus spa treatment rooms, architect Peter Bohlin (known for his Apple stores) and interior designer Thad Hayes were called in. Their suites - such as The Aviary, with its Douglas-fir panelling, shag rug and buttoned-leather headboard, all in orange - are as luxurious as Johnson's, though less zesty. As delightful as the rooms are, the farm-raised, seasonal food (veal with butternut-squash purée in winter, grilled halibut and prawn gnocchi in summer) from chef Ted Ask and pastry honcho Christopher Wilson possibly tops it all. There's also access to deserted hiking trails, private ski slopes, fly-fishing, the Out of the Woods Spa and a 20,000-bottle wine cellar.
Amidst the noise and bluster of so many new British hotel openings, with their sushi chefs and foraging sessions, shiny sit-up-and-beg bicycles to borrow and pristine racks of Hunter wellies, it is worth remembering the enduring classics that are well-loved for a reason. Lucknam Park has serious pedigree. It is deliciously, reassuringly old fashioned. The deeply pretty Georgian manor house, all honeyed Bath stone, sits at the end of an avenue of sky-high beech and lime trees, surrounded by exquisite gardens like a Jane Austen film set. In the grounds there’s a personable cottage for weekending families, a world-class equestrian centre and a serious cooking school. But you don’t have to whip up your own supper. Chef Hywel Jones (who has retained his Michelin star for a 14th year) plates up exquisite food in his eponymous restaurant. That in itself is a reason to stay. As are the roaring fires, the panelled libraries, the swagged four-poster beds and the moody oil paintings. Yet it's not stuffy. A purposeful drive in recent years to make the place feel less formal has resulted in a cheery bounce in the staff's step, a raising of chatter levels to almost a hum in the evenings and a relaxed atmosphere where you can wear your robe down to the ESPA spa and back again without feeling like a terrible slob. Eagle-eyed guests will spot the curious Greek elements dotted around – the urns in the bathroom, the Acropolis paintings in the dining room, the Hellenic motif on the plates. The owners also have Hotel Grande Bretagne in Athens in their stable but this country retreat feels resonant and rooted, delightfully British to the core. By Issy von Simson
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