Strange that a city of Manchester’s stature doesn’t have more high-end boutique hotels. But don’t blame Hotel Gotham — they’re doing as much by way of remedy as one hotel can do. And while the name obviously references New York rather than Manchester, it’s less strange than it sounds; when you start from a Twenties Art Deco bank building by architect Edwin Lutyens, an interwar Manhattan vibe is a fairly natural choice.
Washington D.C., USA
It would be easy to get the wrong idea about the the Embassy Row Hotel. There’s the name, first of all, suggesting a moneyed address and a certain kind of buttoned-up Washington formality. And then there’s the fact that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Barbara Bush have all stayed here. And indeed, it's located on a street that’s nicknamed “Millionaires’ Row.” But the hotel, first opened in 1970, has undergone renovations to the tune of $15 million. And along with a better cocktail bar and bigger bathtubs, the Embassy Row has a new attitude, one that’s hipper and more youthful, style-minded and LGBT-friendly. You can even bring your dog. Did we mention there’s a rooftop pool?
Los Angeles, CA
Los Angeles has its fair share of fun, youth-oriented boutique hotels, but leave it to Mama Shelter to make many of them look like funeral parlors by comparison. This French import, headed by design legend Philippe Starck, rogue philosopher Cyril Aouizerate, and hospitality heir (and West Hollywood gallerist) Benjamin Trigano, took seven years to turn up on American shores, and they’ve made an entrance that’s worth the wait.
Paris being Paris, there’s not exactly a dire shortage of sexy hotels. But Maison Souquet, an authentic “pleasure house” in the Pigalle that’s been turned into a five-star hotel by designer Jacques Garcia, makes quite a few of them look like cold showers by comparison. Here, just across from the Moulin Rouge, he’s created a fantasy that’s opulent, mysterious, and just slightly unreal — the perfect setting for a temporary departure from the world of the mundane.
The name may err on the side of being just a little bit too plain-spoken, but you can’t really fault Luxury Suites Amsterdam for trying — centrally located within Amsterdam’s wistfully gorgeous canal network, these folks are up against stiff competition indeed. They differentiate themselves by maintaining a quiet, buttoned-up vibe, especially in the public spaces, all drop ceilings and designer furniture. The contrast between this converted warehouse’s sleek interiors and the ramshackle charm of the history-drenched canal district could hardly be more pronounced.
You’ll have to forgive the monied elite for still referring to Megève — that Mecca of ski chalets, with the highest concentration of Michelin stars in the Alps — as a “village.” Sure, it enjoys the same slope access and Rothschild-esque après-ski culture as always, but it’s clearly moved beyond the hidden gem stage, even from the ultra-luxe hotelier perspective. To its credit, Le M de Megève fully embraces this high-style Savoyard heritage, your classic ski chalet to its core. You can’t really blame them: elevated sport that it is, alpine skiing dovetails naturally with upper-crust airs, and besides, it’s no fun not to flaunt in such company.
The original Mama Shelter was a breath of fresh air for the Parisian hotel scene — funky, stylish, and downright cheap, thanks in no small part to its slightly unorthodox location. Presumably the proprietors, spent the last half-decade or so getting the formula just right, because we’ve been waiting for an expansion for years. And when it rains, it pours; in addition to new Mamas in Lyon and Bordeaux comes the most exotic of the bunch, Mama Shelter Istanbul.
Linguaglossa, Sicily, Italy
If you think of volcanoes in Italy, Mount Vesuvius — Pompeii, and all that — probably springs to mind first. But Mount Etna, on Sicily’s eastern coast, is more than twice its size. Which is part of the reason why so many hotels in the region try to outdo each other, advertising the best views of the towering landmark, an active volcano that was named an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013. Villa Neri Resort & Spa is one of the privileged few that’s situated right on the slopes of Etna.
On the great European trains, there are only a handful of imperial suites; on an airplane, there’s only one first-class cabin. But in a great cities, there’s more than one kind of luxury to choose from. In Rome, for instance, there are the grand dames, offering a classic hotel experience — and then there are a range of small hotels and guesthouses, upscale and impeccably run, that give the modern traveler a taste of what it might be like to actually live in the Eternal City. Casa Montani is one of the latter.
Shima City, Japan
Japan’s Ise-Shima region, in Mie prefecture, may not be on everyone’s radar yet, but home to Shinto’s holiest shrine, Ise Jingu, and several other sacred sites, it’s always been a popular domestic travel destination. Now, with the G7 summit scheduled to take place right here at Shima Kanko Hotel in 2016, it’s safe to assume it’ll gain a bit more international attention. And more relevant to those of us who aren’t invited to the G7 is the fact that Shima Kanko’s newer, 50-room Baysuites wing is perhaps the best option for enjoying the area, which maintains the slow tempo and unspoiled landscapes for which Japanese country life is famous.