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
While the Fairmont Pacific Rim features a long list of luxurious amenities, its downtown Vancouver location is what helps it stand apart from competitors. Set on the Coal Harbour waterfront, the hotel sits across the street from the Canada Place cruise ship terminal. Thanks to the hotel's location, recent guests say the views from the rooms and rooftop are spectacular. When you're not gazing out across the harbor, relax poolside in one of the private cabanas or by one of the cozy outdoor fire pits. For even more serenity, visitors recommend booking a treatment at the Willow Stream Spa. Continue the pampering at Botanist, which serves regionally sourced dishes. Craving a pick-me-up? Venture to giovane cafe + wine bar, which offers house-made pastries for breakfast and Italian cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Once you've refueled, retreat to your digs where you'll find a Stearns & Foster bed, an iPod docking station and an iPad2, which you can use to order room service and operate various controls in the guest room. Although this Fairmont's high-tech amenities are an added perk, according to recent visitors, it's the hotel's exceptional service that makes a stay here memorable.
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
The No. 2 Best Hotel in New York City exudes a serene, elegant ambiance, further enhanced by its calming gold and cream color scheme. Perched on the Upper East Side, just a few blocks from Fifth Avenue's sleek storefronts, The Lowell New York provides travelers with easy access to iconic city sights and stores. The boutique property also impresses visitors with its impeccably decorated rooms and spacious marble bathrooms, its attentive staff and afternoon tea. (Courtesy of The Lowell New York)
The charming and quirky Crosby Street Hotel is located in Manhattan's trendy SoHo neighborhood. Visitors sing this boutique property's praises, noting the beautiful and stylish rooms, the lovely views from the large windows and the staff's attention to detail. The Crosby Street Hotel is also home to some unique public spaces, such as a sculpture garden, a drawing room for relaxing with a drink or afternoon tea and the Crosby Terrace and Bar. (Simon Brown/Crosby Street Hotel)
This 13-acre property, enviably sited in the centro, is without peer in a town that has its share of swank hotels. Portals and stone paths lead to tiered swimming pools, two-person cabanas, covered patios, and a tequila bar, and the 67 rooms are grand and outfitted with regionally sourced hardwood floors and Spanish colonial furnishings. Even a standard king, at an already-generous 535 square feet, comes with special treatment: A bubble bath lit by candles is drawn at turndown upon request.
This sprawling cream-colored villa is perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean, and the stunning vantage point is one of the hotel's finest features: Hermanus is known for its rugged natural beauty, and Birkenhead House maximizes that in all directions. Hermanus is a lovely add-on to any South Africa trip, and this is the best hotel in the area by far. If you're a serious whale watcher, it's a no brainer: You can't beat these views.
With seven swimming pools, a 28,000-square-foot spa and an epic beachfront location on the Kohala Coast, the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai is the No. 1 Best Hotel in Hawaii. Accommodations embrace the locale, with bright colors and Hawaiian art. Plus, many rooms include furnished terraces and outdoor lava rock showers. This Four Seasons outpost also organizes special experiences for guests, ranging from private luaus to mixology classes. (Don Riddle/Four Seasons Resort Hualalai)
Treat yourself at the legendary Fairmont Château Frontenac Quebec, Quebec City’s very emblem. One of the many things that make this legendary hotel so special is its ideal location on the promontory Cap Diamant which provides a breathtaking view of the St. Lawrence River and Old Quebec’s architecture. Its 611 rooms and suites combine a unique modern touch to rich European elegance. Le Château Frontenac is undoubtedly the best place to impress your guests during special events. Its renowned chefs offer a reinvented cuisine without flaws in any of its three restaurants. Texon the Seeing Eye dog welcomes you!
Located in the charming Georgetown neighborhood, the Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC welcomes guests with ample luxury amenities and services. The No. 4 Best Hotel in the District of Columbia houses an indoor saltwater lap pool, a spa, a health club and the highly praised Bourbon Steak restaurant. Travelers also compliment the staff members, who they describe as professional, warm and accommodating. (Michael Kleinberg/Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC)
The friendly and thoughtful staff of the Hotel du Vieux-Québec will make you feel like in the comfort of your own home. This boutique hotel located in the heart of Old Quebec is surrounded by the ramparts. Its friendly staff will be happy to reveal you the many interesting sites nearby. The welcoming hotel rooms have a contemporary decor. You have the possibility of inviting your pet from November to April in the standard rooms. The owner is committed to reducing its environmental impact through many projects that have earned him numerous awards.
The Chedi Club at Tanah Gajah is set in a rare and dramatic location in the scenic village of Tengkulak, with uniquely designed one-bedroom suites and pool villas spread out.Three 160sqm one-bedroom spa villas offer more convenience to spa-goers with daily 90-minute complimentary spa treatments in a private treatment room.A unique 550sqm two-bedroom estate named after Tanah Gajahâ€™s founder and owner, Hadiprana, features some of the finest paintings, antiques and artefacts from his vast private collection.A 10-metre long swimming pool sits outside, surrounded by tropical gardens.Each villa features broadband Internet, iPod docking stations, 32-inch flat-screen televisions and Bose home theatre entertainment systems. Read More...
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)
The title of No. 3 Best Hotel in Maui belongs to The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua. Offering views of Molokai Island from its perch on Maui's northwest coast, this 54-acre Ritz-Carlton resort wows visitors with its top-notch customer service, its spacious accommodations and its nature-focused excursions. Travelers can choose from off-site experiences like whale watching and coastal hikes, while guests also have access to two golf courses, a spa and two pools at the resort. (Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua)
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.”
The Ritz-Carlton Montréal lives up to the brand's reputation by providing sophisticated accommodations and superb service in a location that's well-suited for both business and leisure travelers. Set in downtown Montreal (within walking distance of Mont-Royal Park and the McGill University campus), this Ritz-Carlton earns high praise for its stylish guest rooms, decorated in neutral tones with bright pink accents. All accommodations come appointed with 47-inch LCD flat-screen TVs and bathrooms appointed with rain showers, flat-screen TVs and even toilets with heated seats. (Some suites also feature hardwood floors and marble fireplaces.) The property also houses a fitness center and a small pool, not to mention a garden and terrace. After a long day, you can satisfy your craving for gourmet French fare at renowned chef Daniel Boulud's restaurant, Maison Boulud. Yet despite all of these on-site offerings, it's the Ritz's impeccable customer service that impresses travelers time and time again. And thanks to Ritz's affiliation with Marriott, guests participating in the Marriott Rewards program and can earn or trade in their rewards points for extra perks.
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.
Acqualina Resort & Spa's top-notch customer service was the highlight for many past guests. This oceanfront property in Miami Beach offers concierges to assist with every want and need, and a drink is always within reach at the resort's four pools. For health-focused guests, the No. 1 Best Hotel in Florida offers wellness coaching, personal training sessions and yoga classes, as well as a fitness center and a 20,000-square-foot spa. What's more, guest rooms and suites are outfitted with high-definition TVs, glass-enclosed showers and private terraces. (Courtesy of Acqualina Resort & Spa on the Beach)
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)