Now, more than ever before, properties are going the extra mile to ensure an authentic stay for guests—infusing the stay with local touches that were often missing from cookie-cutter hotels. This is true in hotels of every price range, which is progress we can all embrace. And, who doesn’t love the thrill of a new room---discovering the amenities in the bathroom, trying on the robe, reading the room service menu…indeed, checking in is a discovery every time. My favorite hotel experiences from 2016 run the gamut from a quiet house in the wilds of Scotland to a luxurious high-rise towering over Tokyo. It’s a big world; make every stay count when you travel—you can’t go wrong with these five.
Grand Hotel Du Lac: This is one hotel you can earmark for lakefront luxury romance. It embodies French joie de vivre with a healthy dose of Swiss excellence. Located in Vevey, Switzerland on Lake Geneva, this part of Europe has it all: turquoise crystalline waters, majestic alpine peaks, temperate weather, medieval villages, and oh, lovely wines. Such a setting is a natural fit for luxury hotels and the Grand Hotel du Lac tops the list delivering the twin charms of intimacy and decadence. In 2005 the property underwent extensive renovations and is today a Five Star Superior hotel as well as a member of Swiss Deluxe Hotels and Relais & Chateaux.
Atlantis by Giardino: This is a brilliant revival of one of Zurich’s most intriguing hotels and a must-visit for architecture and nature lovers. Resting at the base of Üetliberg Mountain, it offers guests a taste of the alpine/outdoorsy side of Switzerland, and it’s a mere 15 minutes from the city center. The hotel has a history that dates back to the 1970’s and is best known for its design features, (it is also a member of the Design Hotels collection). Back in its heyday, movie stars and athletes frequented the property often, including the likes of Muhammad Ali, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Sammy Davis Jr.
The property offers tremendous views, miles of hiking trails, and alpine quiet. It’s a stylish perch infused with vintage architectural flair overlooking Zurich ---a rather unparalleled combination in this historic city.
Las Ventanas al Paraiso, A Rosewood Hotel: Las Ventanas is truly one of the most romantic properties I have ever visited. Think honeymoon or big anniversary when booking here. It’s hedonistic in every way, from ocean views to royally-inspired service, this hotel is a classic example of ultra-luxury. The hotel hugs a wide swath of ocean shoreline between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. Every inch of the resort is thoughtfully composed and furnished with the works of local artisans, from tapestries and murals to light fixtures to ironwork. In keeping with the Rosewood “Sense of Place” mantra everything about this property, from native plants to cuisine, evokes the essence of Mexico’s Baja region.
The Glenmorangie House: When I think of this charming home by the sea I remember warm convivial four-course dinners with the other guests, fireside whisky tastings, sleeping under heaping piles of downy bedding, and the pure unsullied beauty of the Scottish countryside. This manor house was once only for private use by the Glenmorangie Company— fortunately, now anyone can visit and if you are inclined to whisky, golf or nature, put it on your bucket list. Located about an hour from Inverness, in Fearn by Tain, the property is perched on a gorse-covered hillside overlooking the sea. It is indeed a decadent little Inn (just six bedrooms and a handful of cottages) --set inside a manor house built in the 1700’s. The trappings are full-on five-star complimented by some of the best service I’ve ever experienced.
Andaz Tokyo: There are many luxurious places to stay in Tokyo but the Andaz gets extra points for delivering a sleek, stylishly modern Japanese experience. Rising 50 floors above downtown Tokyo, the first thing I noticed, after admiring the stunning views, was the scent. Mind you, I’m not talking about something artificial, I’m talking about the rich scent of quality furnishings, deluxe textiles and supple leather—let’s face it, you really can smell luxury. My room was a study in Japanese purity without being sterile boasting ample floor to ceiling windows and beautifully considered furnishings.
Some five-star hotels have a certain air of formality that gives me a stomachache, but this one has a mature elegance, a place where I like to think JackieO might have stayed.
NH Collection Barcelona Gran Hotel Collection: This is a nicely styled destination boasting smartly furnished modern rooms that with an eye towards business travelers---and I’d be remiss if I failed to mention the hotel’s amazing breakfast spread (one of the best I’ve had in Europe). The hotel has an unbeatable location ---I walked to La Sagrada Familia from here, and Las Ramblas is a short eight-minute walk as well. Central location, nice modern rooms, a terrific breakfast, and good rates (around 220 Euro per night).