The 20 best hotels in the world
Beautiful, spacious lobby; sleek contemporary rooms; a funky sitting room area; and a great location in a wonderfully atmospheric part of Pest. A bargain to boot.
Up to £150 per room per night
1. The Lugger, Cornwall
The setting for this 17th-century inn could not be better. Sandwiched between the cliffs in the tiny fishing village of Portloe – the fiercely sloping landscape of which has spared it from development – this whitewashed hotel looks out across the harbour. But it is not just about the location – the 22 rooms are as bright and welcoming as the amiable staff, while the food (given its seafront position, fish features heavily) is superb. If you plan to push the boat out, opt to stay in the miniature cottage for something a bit special.
2. Mama Shelter, Paris
Cheap but chic, with quirky decor by Philippe Starck, and a buzzing bar and restaurant attracting cool Parisians. Beds feel luxurious; standard extras include Kiehl’s toiletries, free Wi-Fi and iMac televisions. The bedside fancy-dress masks are possibly not for everyone, but the price is.
3. Hotel Alpenrose, Wengen, Switzerland
This is the best sort of traditional, family-run hotel. You won’t find designer furnishings or trappings, but it’s a comfortable, well-run three-star set on a plateau at the edge of a pretty Alpine village, with great views over the valley below (opt for a south-facing balcony room). It has a welcoming lounge with log fire, books, games and Wi‑Fi, friendly owners and staff, and a loyal band of regulars who return year after year to ski or walk in the mountains.
4. Palazzo Zichy, Budapest
This elegantly refashioned former Hungarian count’s palace is an impressive fusion of 19th-century Habsburg-era elegance and 21st-century (Italian designer) style. Beautiful, spacious lobby; sleek contemporary rooms; a funky sitting room area; and a great location in a wonderfully atmospheric part of Pest. A bargain to boot.
5. The Inn at Narrow Passage, Woodstock, Virginia
In the heart of rural Virginia, this beautifully restored and homely colonial inn served as Stonewall Jackson’s headquarters during the American Civil War. Bedrooms are charmingly old-fashioned and filled with period antiques and each has a working fireplace. Breakfasts are the thing here; try the blueberry pancakes and French toast.
6. The Mountain Retreat Inn, Yangshuo, China
Outstanding hideaway on a bend of the Lu Long River, a few miles outside the tourist town of Yangshuo in Guangxi province and surrounded by distinctive limestone karst peaks. American-owned, it has 29 rooms, all with air conditioning, and 29 staff, who all come from local villages and provide charming service. Ask for a river-view room.
7. Dean Street Townhouse, Soho
In the heart of Soho, this hip urban hideaway is part of the Soho House collection and a masterful example of its trademark style of marrying the cool with the comfortable. All 39 rooms come with a king-size bed with Egyptian linen, a drenching rainforest shower, a tastefully cream Roberts Radio – and seven big bottles of Cowshed spa products to play with. If you’re coming to town to party, this is the base.
8. Parador Zafra, Extremadura, Spain
Zafra huddles tight, white and bright on the scorched Extremaduran tableland. Towering over it like a caballero among peons, the Parador Zafra is a 15th-century fortress without, Renaissance palace within. As a hotel, it has forfeited none of its ducal elegance. Above the arcaded courtyard, rooms retain the period nobility that suited Hernán Cortés. He holed up there, pre-American discovery, on the run from a jealous husband (though there was no swimming pool in his day). You should follow suit.
9. Corte de Lugas, Lugas, Spain
High above Villaviciosa, the farming hamlet of Lugas is so remote that they have yet to hear what happened to the Spanish Armada. Except at La Corte, a grand stone-and-wood farmstead where the welcome is sharp and frankly Anglophile. Upgraded in baronial style – all beams, open fireplace and four-posters – the family-run spot has warmth, dignity and good food, in equal measure. A cracking base for the Atlantic coast or Picos de Europa mountains.
10. Couvent d’Hérépian, Hérépian, France
Next time someone urges you to “get thee to a nunnery”, come here. Hidden away in a small town at the foot of the Haut-Languedoc mountains, the former convent has been converted into lovely contemporary suites, without losing the winding, stone-built integrity. Sisters would still find their way around the compact place, but might be surprised by the sober extravagance of the comfort, the terraces, little spa and pool, and, especially perhaps, the vaulted wine bar. Warm informality infuses the place, from the central kitchen – where you meet for table-d’hôte dinner – to the lounge-library, winter terrace and garden beyond.
£150-£300 per room per night
11. Oltre Il Giardino, Venice
This intimate hotel not only has a beautiful garden – a precious thing in Venice – but also six stylish rooms that break the Venetian decorative mould (no heavy brocades, velvet swags and the like) while preserving plenty of pleasing period details. Unlike other excellent mid-range hotels in the city – notably La Calcina (www.lacalcina.com) – it’s also centrally located, close (but not too close) to the Rialto.
12. La Residence, Franschhoek, South Africa
An 11-suite extravagance on the slope of Franschhoek, the Cape village that is probably South Africa’s prettiest. No expense has been spared. Each of the suites has its own decor theme, from Buddhist retreat to French decadent, while the public areas are a riotous collection of Louis XIV furniture, Persian carpets, plus objets, art and fabrics from India, Indo-China, France, Italy and everywhere else. And it works thanks to the impeccable taste of Liz Biden, the proprietor.
13. Château de la Chèvre d’Or, Eze, France
Remembering the location of your room may require some concentration as the 30-odd spacious suites are dotted around this walled village. Decked out in Italian marble and Parisian antiques, they boast whirlpool baths and large terraces with sweeping views of the Mediterranean. Inside the grounds, a series of intricate terraces drops towards the ocean, revealing quiet courtyards, swimming pools and Moroccan-style gardens, while the chateau itself is all high ceilings and vast chandeliers. Give a Gallic shrug to austerity and book a table at Philippe Labbe’s fabulous restaurant (two Michelin stars).
14. Calcot Manor, nr Tetbury, Gloucestershire
The trouble with so many family hotels is that they leave either parents or children feeling short-changed. But Calcot Manor manages to deliver for all ages. It’s luxurious without being precious, has superb, well-staffed children’s den areas for young and older children, and an exceptional spa, with a lovely indoor pool. Service is spot on and the food is good – both in the formal restaurant and in the family-friendly Gumstool pub.
15. Mykonos Grace Hotel Mykonos, Greece
This chic little hotel is in a great setting, just outside Mykonos town, with sweeping sea views from the lovely pool and bar. Rooms are simple but stylish, decorated in white and pastels; many have balconies overlooking the sea. The quality of the food is well above average and there is a small spa offering excellent treatments. It is sophisticated without being daunting, deeply relaxing, and beautifully run by attentive staff.
16. Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace, Budapest
A swirling pattern of more than a million mosaic tiles guides you through the dazzling lobby at the heart of this restored temple of Art Nouveau. Here modern chandeliers blend perfectly with original stained glass and velvet furnishings to create stately 21st-century comfort. Perfectly situated at the foot of Budapest’s Chain Bridge, this new grand dame of eastern Europe is crowned with a contemporary rooftop spa complete with sweeping views of the Danube.
17. Blancaneaux Lodge, Belize
The film director Francis Ford Coppola used this as his secluded mountain bolt hole for several years before throwing open its doors to the public. It now has 20 airy bungalows on stilts dotted around a tree-covered hillside overlooking a babbling stream. There is a lovely restaurant and bar (featuring the original ceiling fan from Apocalypse Now), and charming staff.
18. Villa Marie, Saint Tropez
A refreshingly unpretentious hotel on an undeniably ostentatious stretch of the Côte d’Azur, the Villa Marie is a rambling Provençal villa, with beautiful, high-ceilinged rooms, an understated, Parisian-chic clientele and an excellent restaurant with views over vineyards down to the bay of Pampelonne.
19. Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa, Penang, Malaysia
A beautiful setting in a 30-acre tropical garden reaching out to the beach, a Spice Market café serving a medley of Chinese, Indian and Malaysian dishes, classically elegant (Shangri-La-style) rooms (the best with giant-sized, petal-strewn bathtubs on terraces within earshot of the sea) and, in the superior Rasa Wing, a happy hour of free-flowing champagne and exquisite canapés.
20. East Hotel, Hamburg
Jordan Mozer, a Chicago-based architect, has transformed this former iron foundry into a bravura display of designer exuberance, a feast for the senses – and one of the coolest places in Hamburg. Dramatically lit curvy pillars tower in the three-storey-high Asian-themed restaurant; differing scents define each floor; free-standing baths and futuristic curves are the mark of the rooms. Looking for the wow factor? You’ll find it here.