We're relentless in our search for the best hotels, and we're religious about keeping our selection up to date. Below you'll find this week's crop of hotels that have managed to survive the rigorous vetting process. We've done our part, and now it's your reviews that decide whether they stay or go.
They call Porto the Cidade Invicta for its reputation for withstanding any and all invasion throughout its history. That near-mythical sense of permanence resonates with Portugal at large, the country the wars skipped, treating visitors to a wistful glimpse of the Mediterranean Europe that might have been. That old-world appeal reaches its zenith at Ribeira Square, the city’s historic core, an architectural Magnifico fronting the lazy Douro with construction stretching back to the 16th century.
Chicago’s architectural story began before modernism — this Venetian Gothic landmark, previously a private club for the city’s (male) movers and shakers, dates back to the final decade of the 19th century. But now, after a renovation by architects Hartshorne Plunkard and an interior redesign by hospitality wizards Roman and Williams, the Chicago Athletic Association is a thoroughly up-to-date boutique hotel, in that retro-modern, luxury-boutique sort of way.
La Crosse, WI
A taste of France in the Midwest? No, it’s not a questionable new theme park attraction: La Crosse, Wisconsin was actually settled by French fur traders. It was French people who named this small city on the Mississippi River, and referred to the region’s high ridges as coulées, a term that’s still used today (sans acute accent). La Crosse comes by its French heritage honestly, so it’s no wonder that the cool new hotel in town is called the Charmant Hotel — that’s “charming hotel,” in case you took Spanish in high school.
New York City
Those for whom the Dream Midtown is a recurring one may find themselves feeling a bit of whatever the opposite of déja vu is — a feeling that, despite the evidence, they haven’t been here before. Chalk that up to a substantial renovation, which has left one of Broadway’s most accessibly stylish boutique hotels looking more fetching than ever.
Fit for a prince: the 18th-century palazzo that houses Seven Rooms Villadorata (“golden villa”) was once the home of royalty. Set in the historic heart of the Sicilian town of Noto, it’s the kind of place that could easily feel overly formal or grandiose. But the owner has gone to great lengths to make this palatial Baroque-style residence feel warm and personable in addition to being, well, drop-dead gorgeous. Frescoed ceilings, stately columns, furnishings by the best Italian designers, check, check and check. But thanks to smart planning and attention to detail, there are also countless quaint and cozy spaces waiting to be discovered.
The proprietors of Florence’s SoprArno Suites, not content to own and operate just one practically perfect boutique hotel, have got a second: Ad Astra, a stylish bed and breakfast in the Oltrarno district, south of the river, overlooking the splendid Torrigiani Garden. In this less dense corner of Florence there’s space not just for massive gardens but for a “hôtel particulier” as well — a freestanding residence originally meant for aristocratic weekenders, comprising just nine rooms, each one unique and all of them decorated with the same playful, eclectic eye that’s responsible for SoprArno.
San José del Cabo, Mexico
Twenty minutes up the coast from the boozier, cruisier Cabo is the laid-back colonial beach town of San José del Cabo, home to El Ganzo. It’s an urbane adults-only hotel, and the crowd here, expectedly, is a little more grown-up. Not grown-old, mind you — El Ganzo’s celebrity-drawing rooftop vodka bar and pool parties see to that — but wise enough to know that a big night is considerably more enjoyable when you’ve got a cloud-like bed in a cool, quiet room to return to.
The D.O.M. Hotel Rome is located inside a 17th-century palace on the city’s famed Via Giulia — taking its name from “Deo Optimo Maximo,” a Latin inscription uncovered at the church next door. It’s a welcome reminder that long before the space featured distressed wood floors, original Warhol silkscreens, and craft cocktails, it was a sacred place. (Actually, for years, and until recently, the palace held office space, but let’s focus on the historic highlights.) There’s still a sense of grandeur here, albeit one that’s been carefully updated for design-conscious travelers.