1. Grand Hotel Tremezzo, Lake Como
Italians are not known for their discreet approach when it comes to luxury — more is more tends to be the rule — and yet there is something positively genteel about the Italian Lakes. Could the likes of Byron, Shelley, Goethe, Balzac, Twain and Woolf, visitors all, have been wrong?
Head north from Como, the main town on the eponymous lake, fleeing the traffic congestion caused by the daytrippers trying to grab a glimpse of George Clooney. Tremezzo is a tiny lakeside village presided over by the Grand Hotel Tremezzo, a family-run villa that provides the perfect hideout for those wanting to cocoon themselves in quietly romantic glamour.
Of course, if you’re feeling the need for a little passeggiata, then the hotel’s chatelaine, Valentina de Santis, will be happy to arrange a trip to the nearby historical Villa del Balbianello (well worth a visit) and a table at Il Gatto Nero (The Black Cat) where Signor Clooney is a regular ... not that we’d go there just for that, of course.
- Jamie Huckbody
2. One Aldwych, London
The British capital is home to countless grand hotels and pioneering boutique boltholes. So where does One Aldwych fit in the mix? It’s not quite the English eccentric of Kit Kemp’s Firmdale group, nor does it have the overt classicism of, say, The Ritz (although the building was designed by the same architects). It’s not trying to be a Royal favourite, such as The Goring, or a modernist’s dream, along the lines of its new Norman Foster-designed neighbour, ME London.
Instead, a stroll from Trafalgar Square is this rare creature that somehow blends the best of the above to create a very British example of quiet luxury. The rooms aren’t London’s biggest or flashiest. But One Aldwych eclipses many of its rivals with its commitment to service, and thoughtful touches that genuinely make for a more interesting stay.
It might be the collection of Rizzoli tomes personally curated by Sir Paul Smith for guests in the Lounge at One: a space for reading, relaxing, taking tea or just retreating. It might be the Film & Fizz nights, where bubbles and blockbusters are served in the private screening room. Or the Live at One series that sees ballet performances from the nearby Royal Opera House and productions by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon broadcast direct to the hotel’s theatre for the ultimate night in. Best of all, perhaps, is its location. You’re walking distance from Soho’s temptations, Bond Street’s retail pleasures and Mayfair’s restaurants. Some of the world’s best theatres are within blocks, including Covent Garden’s revered Donmar Warehouse.
And the Aldwych area itself continues to reinvent itself, with bars, hotels and restaurants (make a beeline for the nearby Delaunay, a sister to the fashionable Wolseley, for brunch beside members of the A-list) breathing new life into an area somewhat forgotten when the newspapers moved out two decades ago.
- Frances Hibbard
3. Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong
The only way is up in Hong Kong, where taller, brighter and bigger is often the mantra. The Ritz-Carlton in the ICC tower over on the Kowloon side is the world’s highest hotel, and developers are in a constant race to build on the freshly reclaimed land on either side of Victoria Harbour.
But not all of Hong Kong is about flash, crackle and pop. The Mandarin Oriental hotel, a model of discretion in the heart of Central, might this year be celebrating its 50th birthday but in many ways feels far older, so deeply woven is it into the fabric of the city.
MOHK is old-school. Which is not to suggest it’s old-fashioned — on the contrary, rooms are functional pods of modernity, with views down over the Star Ferry as it chugs back and forth between Kowloon and the island. The culinary boundaries are certainly pushed by the molecular menus of chef Uwe Opocensky in The Krug Room. The Mandarin Spa is a two-storey temple of calm.
But there’s such a sense of occasion surrounding almost everything at MOHK, from the tradition of The Mandarin Barber and the ground floor’s shoe-shine station to the ritual of afternoon tea — an event for locals as much as visitors — that the hotel feels almost timeless in its appeal. Service here borders on the psychic. But what’s refreshingly absent is a need to demand loyalty or to flaunt its enduring nature. It’s as Hong Kong as mooncakes, and as popular, but to boast would be gauche.
- Frances Hibbard
4. Hotel Metropole, Monte-Carlo
It’s safe to say that when Karl Lagerfeld agrees to design the frescoes for your revamped spa, pool and outdoor terrace, you’re hardly a run-of-the-mill establishment. Sure, it sits slap-bang in the heart of slightly manic Monte-Carlo, just across from the Boulingrins gardens, but the second you pass under the green arch leading into the Metropole’s driveway, you’re already sensing this is no ordinary Monaco hotel. There are still the Bentleys and Aston Martins jostling for space in its courtyard.
In the lobby, floral arrangements the size of children’s swimming pools grace side-tables, and high-flyers clink cognac glasses while conversing in hushed tones.
Monte-Carlo has always attracted the rich and their super-yachts, but if you’re expecting Bond-style glamour, just be warned that some parts these days — most notably the casino — are more depressing than decadent.
Perhaps that’s why the classic elegance of Hotel Metropole has such an impact. After all, when else will you get to live like European nobility? Metropole simply doesn’t do simplicity. But it does do grace, and serious collaboration.
Its three restaurants are managed by esteemed chef Joël Robuchon, while Lagerfeld’s handiwork in the pool area is an amazing fresco-style installation portraying the story of Ulysses. Lagerfeld also designed a light constellation for the pool, so when the sun sets, it’s hard to beat as a spot in which to sip a cocktail, enjoy the DJ and a Robuchon canapé, and rub shoulders with Monaco jetsetters.
- Eugenie Kelly
5. Mr. C, Beverly Hills
For a hotel run by members of such an esteemed hospitality family — owners Maggio and Ignazio Ciprianis’ great-grandfather Giuseppe started the legendary Harry’s Bar in Venice — with a location in LA’s monied and movied heartland (it’s on the border of Century City, the original backlot of 20th Century Fox), Mr. C is a surprisingly understated option.
This new boutique hotel feels not unlike a family home, albeit a glamorous one kitted out with acres of mid-century-modern furniture. You won’t be bothered by the paparazzi here, which is possibly what draws the likes of Sir Richard Branson and Margherita Missoni through its doors.
Instead, upon check-in you’ll be offered a bellini and ushered to your suite: clean-lined spaces adorned with black-and-white vintage Italian film photography in a nod to both its heritage and locale. Balconies with Hollywood-sign views and bathrooms with a Venetian yacht vibe — another tip of Mr. C’s hat to its owners’ origins — complete the picture.
Mr. C’s special gift is to provide an oasis within the eye of the LA hubbub. The hotel’s complimentary town-car service can get you to the nearby Beverly Center or the Fred Segal on Melrose. But it’s just as tempting to book one of the hotel’s poolside cabanas — the teak-framed pool is Old Hollywood cool — and order from the Cipriani classics on the menu: you can’t really go wrong with carpaccio, burrata and taggiasca olives, and more of those bellinis.
- Frances Hibbard
6. Hôtel Lancaster, Paris
When it comes to Paris fashion week, no front-row editrix worth her weight in Louboutins wants to stay in one of those glitzy, monolithic hotels anymore. Who wants to come face-to-face with their arch rival at the breakfast buffet each morning? Cue the Hôtel Lancaster: a smaller, more intimate stopover that manages to be both grand and cosy. For that we can credit the interiors: a mix of dreamy Louis XVI antiques and Ladurée macaron-hued modernity.
Check in at the Lancaster and you’ll find yourself a stone’s throw of the Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton on the Champs-Élysées and the Céline boutique on Avenue Montaigne. And after a day of frock-watching, this tranquil haven delivers just what you need: respite from the biannual fashion circus and an actual meal.
The Lancaster’s freshly renovated inner courtyard is planted with flora from five different continents, while in its Michelin-starred restaurant, La Table du Lancaster, chef Julien Roucheteau takes you on a gastronomic stroll through seasonal French fare. Bliss.
- Jamie Huckbody