Since opening in 2001, The Peninsula Chicago has wowed visitors with its Magnificent Mile address, friendly staff and modern decor. Each guest room and suite offers cream, black and navy blue hues, as well as a Nespresso coffee maker, Bernardaud china, a tablet and one king-sized or two double beds with custom Pratesi linens. On the hotel's 19th and 20th floors, travelers will find The Peninsula Spa, which offers Asian-inspired treatments, an indoor pool and a 24-hour fitness center. The No. 1 Best Hotel in Chicago also houses four on-site dining venues that serve small bites, European dishes, modern American fare and Asian cuisine. (Courtesy of The Peninsula Chicago)
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
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
Auberge aux Deux Lions is close to the most popular areas of the city without being in the heart of the action. This small, urban hotel is located in the Montcalm district and is not far from the old city. Certain rooms show off the stone walls from the oldest parts of the hotel, which date back to 1909. As this hotel is quite small, reservations are an absolute must, and the staff is willing to help with anything and everything, including a free walking tour of the city to help adjust to Québec City.
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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)
A good place to get one’s bearings when visiting Quebec City is the Citadelle of Quebec. It is only a short walk from most of the Old City hotels. Originally conceived by French colonists, and constructed by British forces, the fort has the perfect, and near impenetrable, defensive position atop the plateau. It has served to restrict entry to the important St. Lawrence River and formed the centrepiece of the town’s defensive structures. These include a circling stone wall which survives to this day, making Quebec City the only remaining walled city in the US or Canada. Despite being an active military installation, and an official residence of both the governor general of Canada, and the Canadian monarch (currently Queen Elizabeth II), tours of the site are available throughout the year. The citadel, along with the historic district of Old Quebec, is a designated World Heritage Site.
The 5-pearl, 65-room Encantado sits in a secluded spot a few miles north of Santa Fe with great views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Big, luxurious rooms are decorated in a modern Southwestern style, featuring concrete and wood floors, Native American-style rugs, and a color scheme of warm browns and oranges, as well as high-end extras such as radiant floor heating, wood-burning fireplaces, and private patios. The fine dining at Terra restaurant is rated highly, and the resort also features an outdoor seasonal pool, whirlpool, luxury spa, and even free rentals of a Mercedes Benz for the day.
Highly recommend for a white Christmas! The city is so magical complete with German Christmas markets and carolers (come prepared for the cold!). Old town is beautiful (very European) and there is lots to do. Recommend trying the toboggan ride (great for all ages) and a visit to nearby Jacques-Cartier National Park if you like the outdoors! Tip: make sure you have the right change (in coins) for the buses.