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
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This Design Hotels property features eclectic decor that complements its central SoHo neighborhood. Each room boasts a bold patterned headboard, high ceilings, a vibrant accent wall and unique touches like a window seat and a bone inlay dresser. Standard room amenities at the No. 4 Best Hotel in New York City include walk-in showers, flat-screen TVs and Bose Bluetooth speakers, but upgraded suites also offer extras like minibars and fresh flowers. Outside their digs, guests can take advantage of additional perks, such as a screening room, a rooftop garden and The Crosby Bar, a traveler favorite. (Courtesy of Crosby Street Hotel and Simon Brown)
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Not only do Mr and Mrs Robert Wtterwulghe share an extraordinary surname, they also hold the world record for the most visits made by paying guests to One&Only Le Saint Géran. The Belgian couple made their 88th pilgrimage here this past year. Few hotels inspire such loyalty. When it opened in 1975 it was, if not the only place to stay in Mauritius, the only one you would have wished to stay in. Its proprietor, South African Sol Kerzner, announced his intention to ‘blow the guests away’. In a sense, he achieved the opposite. They came in droves. They are still coming in droves. These days it is not uncommon for three generations from the same family to arrive simultaneously. Now Mauritius has the greatest concentration of five-star hotels of any island in the Indian Ocean and yet Le Saint Géran has in no way been overtaken. The changes made during a 2017 makeover were uncontroversial, either merely cosmetic or merely sensible. The number of rooms has decreased, and they are the very definition of tasteful neutrality, taupe and teal, as soothing as a sea breeze. The spa has expanded and there’s a new pool. But the essentials remain the same. The location – on 60 acres with a mile of flawless beach – is unbeatable. The spangled Alice Temperley teepee is still available for seaside revels. The adored tree in the lobby continues to grow. By Steve King
Originally the Royal Danish Embassy, designed in the late 1930s by the same architect as the city's famed KaDeWe department store, Das Stue opened its doors as a hotel in early 2013. Spanish-born interior designer Patricia Urquiola has created a playful mix of old-meets-new, which has attracted a chic clientele. Das Stue occupies prime real estate in more ways than one: sitting on the edge of the Tiergarten, it’s a mere 1.6 miles from the famed Brandenburg Gate. Decor is modern but peaceful, with floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows—many rooms have views of the park. When you need to relax after a day out sightseeing, head to the 260-square meter spa, which has a 14-meter long indoor pool and a Finnish glass sauna.
Halekulani, the No. 1 Best Hotel in Honolulu – Oahu, wins favor with guests for its luxe accommodations and impressive views of Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head. Guest rooms are outfitted in a sleek "seven shades of white" theme and the property offers several on-site amenities, including a spa, multiple restaurants and a unique outdoor pool that features an orchid mosaic on its floor. (Courtesy of Halekulani)
This was founded in 2001 by siblings Joe and Catherine Bartolomei, whose great-grandfather migrated from Italy and acquired a ranch and vineyards, building the house where Catherine still lives today. She and Joe are a constant presence, checking in with regulars at the restaurant and joining in afternoon wine tastings (including a knockout red-field blend from their own Lost & Found label). Their deep Sonoma roots translate into perks for guests at local wineries, restaurants and shops, whose owners invariably light up at their mention. And the pair’s enthusiasm percolates through to the easygoing attitude of the longtime staff. You’re as likely to get a great oyster shack or hiking trail tip from the parking attendant as you are from the concierge desk. Of the bedrooms, the newer ones at the quieter, wooded end of the hotel are best, with porches that feel suspended among the trees. Inside you’ll find a conga drum refashioned as a cocktail stand, a vintage ladder propped against one wall under the vaulted wooden ceiling. A double-sided fireplace faces both the bedroom and the Adirondack chairs outside on the porch. The inn’s restaurant has become a destination in itself: chef Steve Litke has a light touch with his Mediterranean-inflected menu, including a delicate Hokkaido scallop with Moroccan spices, and a thyme-scented trio of rabbit (applewood-smoked loin, confit of leg, roasted rack with mustard cream). But you can take the electric car out and head westward to the coast and have lunch at the inimitable Marshall Store, where Sonoma’s best oysters (raw and wood-fire-grilled) are served on wooden barrels along the shore of Tomales Bay. Family-owned and run hotels are now a rarity in California’s wine country, which makes this switched-on place so exceptional. By Peter Lindberg
Situated on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Hideaway at Royalton Punta Cana offers elegant, adults only getaways along stunning golden-sandy shores. During your stay, savour gourmet cuisines, artfully-prepared cocktails and stunning oceanviews while doing as much or as little as you’d wish. Delight in thrilling water sports or escape to the spa offering pampering treatments for a small fee. Afterwards, luxuriate on a comfortable beach lounger or delight in afternoon hors d’oeuvres served poolside with fresh towels and wait service. When it comes time to grab a bite to eat, choose from a variety of dining options including Dorado, Hideaway’s main restaurant serving à la carte breakfast, lunch and dinner. One of the most notable features of this boutique-style resort are the lavish accommodations, with preferential suites featuring Royalton premium DreamBeds™ with high thread count sheets. Guests can also upgrade to Diamond Club to enjoy added amenities such as butler service, a selection of in-suite liquors, upgraded room service and exclusive reservations at the resort’s esteemed à la carte restaurants.
White Elephant Village's close proximity to Nantucket's Children's Beach and ample complimentary kids amenities (think: video games, boogie boards and coloring books) make this a popular option for families. However, visitors of all ages enjoy staying at the No. 1 Best Hotel in Nantucket, citing the property's superb service and spacious accommodations as highlights. Rooms, suites and residences offer island-inspired decor, minifridges and high-definition TVs, among other perks. Plus, all guests have access to an outdoor pool, free loaner bicycles, a spa and daily treats in the lobby. (Courtesy of White Elephant Village)
The winning U.S. hotel in the survey has a quintessential American spirit: located in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley, it’s a four-star dude ranch where you can rustle dogies by day then reward yourself with duck confit, Wagyu steaks and a huckleberry trifle by evening, all with thoughtful wine pairings. As a result, the hotel also ranked at No. 3 in the U.S. for cuisine, and in the top 10 for its elegantly rustic design: cedar-lined log cabins, stone fireplaces and world-class Western art. Given its thorough menu of complimentary activities—including fly fishing, archery, skiing, and even horse-pulled skijoring—readers also ranked the high-end Triple Creek at No. 1 for being a solid value.
Twenty-six years on, Ellerman House is still everybody’s fantasy bolthole in Cape Town: minutes from the best beaches and the Table Mountain cableway, but close enough to the city and its dynamic food, art and design scene. Sandwiched between Lion’s Head and the Atlantic Ocean, the Cape Edwardian mansion looks like a private residence from the road, one of many overlooking the sea in the wind-protected suburb of Bantry Bay. And that’s exactly what keeps guests coming back. The bar, restaurant and spa are exclusive to invited and resident guests, which means it’s very private and secure. Owner Paul Harris takes enormous pride in his country – his impressive collection of South African art spans original works from the turn of the last century to current contemporary art. An informal tour of the collection with one of the in-house art experts is a fascinating lesson in the country’s socio-political history. Then there are the 7,500 bottles of rare and vintage South African wines in the cellar and the indigenous plants sourced from Kirstenbosch (Cape Town’s answer to Kew) in the one-and-a-half acre terraced gardens. Besides the main house, there are two modern, minimalist private villas built into the granite mountainside, as well as a wine gallery and an excellent little spa. Checking into one of the individually decorated rooms in the house – many with local African design elements, some on the small size – feels both comfortable and comforting. As does the open-access kitchen. Walk right in, tell the chefs what you’re craving and it is whipped up in minutes. Better yet, take a snack back to your room. The post-sunset vista from the balcony has to be one of the best views of the Atlantic found anywhere on earth. By Jane Broughton
Remember when some places used to call themselves art hotels, for the sake of a few second-rate daubings on the walls? Well, this opened in 2013, a key player in Oslo’s waterside reboot, and has the sort of collection many urban galleries would kill for. There’s a genuflecting bronze by Antony Gormley outside by the revolving doors, a Julian Opie animation in the lift, and you’ll spot pieces by Warhol, Richard Prince, Niki de Saint Phalle and Tony Cragg dotted around the public spaces. The Thief is the work of Petter Stordalen, who drives a biofuel-powered Ferrari and has banned bacon in his hotels for sustainability reasons. It straddles the water on the reclaimed islet of Tjuvholmen, a sheeny-shiny place of glinting bridges and newbuilds, many of which are home to small independent galleries – though the big-hitter is the neighbouring Astrup Fearnley, from where much of the hotel’s artwork is borrowed. The spa and pool are accessed via a secret underground tunnel – locals come for the Sauna Guss experience, inspired by Dr Kneipp’s immune-system-boosting methods, with a dip in the icy Oslofjord followed by a sauna using essential oils. Rooms are clad in touchy-feely textures, golds and greys, with picture windows to slide wide open for gulps of Nordic sea air from the harbour below. (Two of the biggest rooms were designed by Lee Broom and Peter Blake, riffing on Fifties and Sixties London – a cubist coffee table here, a geometric-patterned sofa there.) The rooftop restaurant was recently revamped, British chef David Taylor has fun with regional ingredients (scallops, turnips, monkfish, lamb neck) at the FoodBar restaurant, the bar has helped up Oslo’s cocktail game (try the Michael Jackson and Bubbles – rum, banana cordial, green tea, Champagne, in a ceramic monkey head). London-born Dominic Gorham is the personable go-to chap for guests, taking it to the stage to MC regular unplugged music sessions. It’s a 15-minute walk from the town centre – this is a city for striding out, along the Aker Brygge waterfront, over the glacier-like Opera House and up for more sculptures in the hillside Ekeburg park. The Thief’s new art collection is set to arrive soon, along with a sister hotel in town, Amerikalinjen. Oslo’s overflowing oil wealth meant this was a city that never bothered itself unduly with drawing visitors, but that’s changed and it has a fresh international outlook – this is the best place to feel you’re part of that. By Rick Jordan
Twenty-six years on, Ellerman House is still everybody’s fantasy bolthole in Cape Town: minutes from the best beaches and the Table Mountain cableway, but close enough to the city and its dynamic food, art, and design scene. Sandwiched between Lion’s Head and the Atlantic Ocean, the Cape Edwardian mansion looks like a private residence from the road, one of many overlooking the sea in the wind-protected suburb of Bantry Bay. And that’s exactly what keeps guests coming back. The bar, restaurant, and spa are exclusive to invited and resident guests, which means it’s very private and secure. Owner Paul Harris takes enormous pride in his country—his impressive collection of South African art spans original works from the turn of the last century to current contemporary art. An informal tour of the collection with one of the in-house art experts is a fascinating lesson in the country’s socio-political history. Then there are the 7,500 bottles of rare and vintage South African wines in the cellar, and the indigenous plants sourced from Kirstenbosch (Cape Town’s answer to Kew) in the one-and-a-half acre terraced gardens. Besides the main house, there are two modern, minimalist private villas built into the granite mountainside, as well as a wine gallery and an excellent little spa. Checking into one of the individually decorated rooms in the house—many with local African design elements, some on the small size—feels both comfortable and comforting. As does the open-access kitchen. Walk right in, tell the chefs what you’re craving and it is whipped up in minutes. Better yet, take a snack back to your room. The post-sunset vista from the balcony has to be one of the best views of the Atlantic found anywhere on earth.
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