The Best Hotels
Exploring Europe can mean hiking in England’s Lake District and skiing in the Swiss Alps. Or it can be sunning on a Croatian beach and partying the night away in Berlin. Or it can mean getting blissfully lost in its scenic landscapes and storied centers of history, food, and culture. The diverse offerings of this continent are reflected in its stunning accommodations, which include everything from castles that have been transformed into five-star hotels to resorts surrounded by champagne vineyards.
Areias do Seixo
On the Portuguese coast, an hour north of Lisbon, is what began as the owners’ vision of a humble meeting place for visitors. What appears today is more of a modern glass palace on the edge of the ocean, a rambling series of outdoor patios, guest rooms and private villas with their own swimming pools and grills. Design and amenities throughout are ecologically inspired, including the spa. The kitchen and daily tasting menus are inventions of the onsite vegetable garden and sustainably cultivated local seafood, produce, and game. Within the superb architecture, views, and offerings, there’s a space to fully immerse in relaxation that can’t be taken for granted.
County Mayo, Ireland
Staying in a classic Irish castle for at least one night is as essential to your Irish bucket list as drinking a pint of Guinness and getting stuck behind sheep-traffic on a winding back road. For a taste of classic Irish luxury and hospitality, and a heavy dose of fairytale feels, stay at Ashford Castle on the border of Galway and Mayo in the beautiful west of Ireland. What exactly produces those fairytale feels? A stunning take-your-breath-away setting of this moated medieval-cum-Victorian castle on 350 acres of lush green woodlands hugging Lough Corrib. Pristine, personal service that has been refined and perfected on Ashford’s countless celebrity and dignitary guests. A recent and loving restoration that married the castle’s character and charm with all the expected modern comforts and technology. A private cinema, formal dining room, elegant rooms, and high-end spa, as well as onsite amenities that include everything from archery and falconry to zip-lining and golf. And finally–there’s that authentic warmth and charm which is delivered with every interaction, be it your barman, your local guide, or those two giant wolfhounds who take you for a morning walk in the woods.
Rich & Famous
Four Seasons Moscow
Literally dripping with diamonds (there’s a jewelry store in the lobby with display cases scattered throughout), the Four Seasons Moscow is everything you could ever dream of in a luxurious Russian hotel—shiny marble walls and floors, oversized chandeliers, rooms the size of a large apartment, and one of the most over-the-top urban spas in the world. While luxury chain hotels can sometimes feel a bit stuffy and corporate, the Four Seasons Moscow is anything but—it’s dynamic, sexy, and right in the middle of it all, just steps away from the Kremlin, the Red Square, St. Basil’s Cathedral, and the literal center of the city. Just don’t forget your fur coat.
Hotel Adlon Kempinski
There are few hotels that rise to the description of legend, but the Adlon Kempinski manages to not only live up to its legacy, but to surpass it. Ever since it first opened next to the Brandenburg Gate in 1907, it has been a center point for a nation and a spotlight for culture. It has hosted state-visits from the last Tsar of Russia to President Barack Obama. It’s where a fictional Sally Bowles went to meet her father, where Greta Garbo told the world she wanted to be alone, where Michael Jackson infamously dangled a baby out a window. And though it was destroyed in World War II, it has been lovingly restored to its former splendor down to the reconstructed elephant fountain in the lobby bar, a replica of the one the Maharaja of Patiala gifted to the property in 1930. But beyond its lore is everything that makes a grand hotel grander: divine elegance, supreme comfort, and a staff that is both refined and kind.
One could award Le Meurice five stars solely based on location—in the First Arrondissement, directly across from the Tuileries Garden, and minutes from the Arc de Triomphe and Louvre—but of course there is much more to it. This palace has hosted artists, royalty, and luxury-seeking visitors alike since 1815 (Dali lived here for years), and today shrouds guests in over-the-top, decadent plein de vie details in a Louis XVI style: crystal chandeliers, gilded panelling and gold crown molding, sky-high murals, and a two Michelin-star restaurant. Though you have your pick of walking-distance gourmet restaurants, making time for cocktails, afternoon tea, or brunch is a must here.
Cheap & Chic
Mama Shelter Prague
Prague, Czech Republic
Within minutes of arriving in Prague’s Mama Shelter hotel you will be feeling the love. “Mama Loves You!” and “Come to Mama!” are displayed in the slick lobby. The personal message on the full-length mirror in your cool, compact, well-designed bedroom echoes this sentiment as does the “Mama loves you from head to toe” message on the organic body cream in your modern bathroom. There’s much to love back: the wildly colorful murals and rugs throughout; quirky design touches like cartoon masks on the bedside lamps, tables fashioned from stacks of books, and whimsical furnishings; wallpapered elevators; vintage video games in the lobby (and, um, free porn in the rooms); and those red-tile roof views of one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. Add an excellent restaurant, lively bar, and outdoor terrace all designed to encourage lingering and socializing; a warm, personable staff who insist you try the goulash (and rightly so) and recommend nearby boutiques and galleries; and a location in an up-and-coming neighborhood just a short tram ride to the heart of Prague and all its top attractions. This hotel manages to be both luxurious and affordable, which is almost as much of an accomplishment as its ability to be both authentically warm and authentically cool.
Earlier this year, we called the Mandrake Hotel the “most mysteriously magical hotel in all of London.” And we absolutely stand by that statement. This is a house of mysticism and charm and it’s apparent from the moment you arrive through its nondescript entry, as though crawling through the rabbit hole, that you’re in a whole new world. Here you’ll find multi-storied gardens, paintings that are perhaps conjured from an ayahuasca fever dream, and a spa where relaxation comes not from touch but from singing bowls. The guest rooms are uniquely and superbly decorated—some have the refined taste of an English drawing room or a modernist New York brownstone, while others are so gloriously bonkers that you’ll feel as though you’re in the fits of a hallucination within a Parisian bordello. The Mandrake is a hotel that will calm your body, wake your mind, and sustain your spirit.
A lot can go wrong at a modern-designed hotel—all too often privacy and comfort are forsaken for style (not even the closest of couples want a window from their bedroom to their bathroom). But that’s not the case here, not at the New Hotel. Though it’s incredibly well-designed, even romantic—from the dining spaces to the guest rooms—it’s an exceptionally relaxing hotel. Even the perfume of the lobby manages to supply an olfactory serenity, which is a welcome treat after a long flight to Athens. The rooms are quirky, somewhat whimsical, but will easily bring about a smile. And the bathrooms, which are spacious and beautiful, are compartmentalized to allow as much or as little concealment between you and your sweetheart.
Muhu Island, Estonia
On an island off the coast of Estonia is this special little estate, surrounded by views of bays, inlets, and the coastal marshes of the Baltic Sea. The old stone manor today—full of sheepskin rugs, oversized windows, and fireplaces—resembles the low-key country home of Estonian royalty. Guest rooms are in the main manor and private farm or carriage houses. At the Alexander restaurant, you’ll find fresh baked bread, homegrown vegetables, and Nordic Island’s cuisine garnished with foraged flowers and plants. Activities encourage exploring the incredible area, especially known for rare orchids, with birdwatching, helicopter rides, cultural tours, golfing, and spa treatments.
Weird & Wonderful
Relais La Suvera
Not far from Siena, in the middle of Tuscany stands the old, crumbling palace of Pope Julius II. It was built as a fortress in the 12th century before its papal upgrade, and in 1990 made into a hotel by Marquis Ricci and his wife, Princess Eleanora Massimo, both of whom live on the grounds. To be fair, it is a very odd property—ancient statues, family heirlooms, and the shadows of history are around every bend—and will not conform to everyone’s taste (we even called it the spookiest luxury hotel in the world). And though it’s possible for it to be outside of one’s taste—it lacks some of the amenities of modern comfort—for those who embrace its old-world charms, it will be impossible to merely like it, but rather, fall hopelessly under its haunting spell. Its unique yesteryear elegance is what ultimately elevates it as a superb luxury hotel.
New & Noteworthy
Retreat at Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland’s most visited and beloved attractions, conveniently situated between Reykjavik and Keflavik International Airport, making it an easy stop between the two destinations. But now, with the opening of the Retreat at Blue Lagoon, visitors can make the extraordinary location homebase and indulge in the holistic spa experience as much as they like. And with one-of-a-kind amenities like geothermal seawater; lava canyons; natural beauty products like silica, algae, mud, and clay masks; and a mineral-rich waterscape at your doorstep, your health and wellness are sure to positively benefit from your stay.
This remote, ’60s-era boutique hotel in the Khevi province of Georgia is set against a backdrop of Mount Kazbek. The town at the hotel’s base is still developing, which belies the grandness of the rustic-chic ski lodge that you’ll find farther up the mountain. During Soviet times it was a haunt for government officials, as well as a sports base. Minimal yet cozy guest rooms have balconies that look out onto the sublime natural surroundings. On the lower level is a 30-foot heated indoor swimming pool with floor to ceiling windows revealing views of the icy mountain range; upstairs you’ll find an open dining room serving traditional Georgian cuisine, a sprawling terrace where you can wrap yourself in a blanket and enjoy wine under the stars, and a very small casino.
Cheap & Chic
This Menorcan farm-turned-chic-hotel is a sleek, sophisticated blend of the historic and modern, with beige and white interior colors surrounded by whitewashed and original stone walls. High quality of care and design here match a location rich in heritage and natural beauty. The outdoor patios, great lawn and pool deck stretch out among arid farmland, native plants and flowers, and the azure of the sky and sea. On a hill surrounded by vineyards (but close to Menorca’s best beaches), rooms with private patios look out to the Mediterranean Sea. Local wine is plentiful, and cuisine make the most of Menorcan flavors, utilizing the parilla and access to fresh, local seafood.
Weird & Wonderful
In a little village by the Lule River and high among the forest pines, you’ll find an enchanting series of floating abodes: among them, a wooden cabin, bird’s nest, UFO, and modern glass-panelled cube. Treehouse quarters are relatively small, of course, but necessities like bedding don’t lack in comfort and ease. The kitchen, making dishes out of foraged forest berries and locally caught fish and game, prides itself on expressing the uniqueness of the magical area. Activities range from your favorite regular outdoor pleasures (hiking, biking, fishing, and moose-gazing) to the extra special (horse-pulled skiing, dog sled rides, ice dining, and a treehouse steambath).
Rich & Famous
Lake Como, Italy
Villa D’Este is the setting of a fairytale, starring you. One of Italy’s most exclusive hotels, it’s an improbably gorgeous hotel, filled with priceless artworks in gilded frames, sumptuously over-the-top fabrics, luxurious marble bathrooms, and the famous floating swimming pool built into a dock on Lake Como. The views here are stunning, with glassy Lake Como visible at every turn, and lush green mountains sloping into the sea. And while this is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in Europe, that’s not the only reason to visit. Villa D’Este is a hotel like no other, where service goes above and beyond—when you’re here, you’re royalty.