January 11, 2023
Tablet is your source for discovering the world’s most exciting boutique hotels — places where you’ll find a memorable experience, not just a room for the night. For over twenty years we’ve scoured the earth, evaluating hotels for every taste and budget, creating a hand-picked selection that’s proven and unforgettable. Now, we’re the official hotel selection of the legendary MICHELIN Guide.
In Venice, tourists might outnumber residents, but staying in the bustling heart of the city isn’t likely to diminish your experience — especially when the bustling heart in question happens to be San Marco, home of the Rialto Bridge and St. Mark’s Square. Don’t be a contrarian about it: this place is popular for some very good reasons. And what makes the eleven-room Corte di Gabriela so inviting, besides its location, is that it finds inventive ways to work within the Euro-boutique framework — yes, it’s a refurbished 19th-century building, but it plays with Venetian tropes to create an atmosphere of design-hotel chic, offering a luxurious experience that never takes itself too seriously.
That’s not to say that the guest rooms flout convention in any overblown or distracting way. Exposed beams — remnants of the original construction — preside over gilded mirrors and proudly ornate armchairs that exist alongside famously contoured Eames furniture. The décor doesn’t stick to one specific color palette, and the rooms are the better for it. Nobody does stark black-and-white better than the Italians, but this hotel livens up the proceedings with rich shades of ochre and green. The views are undeniably romantic, and best experienced on one of the balconies overlooking the canals.
Not IQs, as in Intelligence Quotient — though you will indeed feel smart staying here — but i Qs, Italian for, well, “the Qs.” This is an annex, or perhaps more precisely a satellite property, belonging to Charming House DD.724, and its four exceedingly stylish suites stand about twenty minutes from the main hotel, close by to the Piazza San Marco, with views over the Rio del Mondo Nuovo.
It’s notable for essentially the same reasons we love the original Charming House; in a town that’s known for its historical beauty, and whose hotels are known for a certain forced antique cuteness, the Charming House’s style is decidedly modern, its version of Venice a more relevant, contemporary one than you might have thought possible. And if the small size and intimate atmosphere is a strength of the original Charming House (it is), then it’s even more true of the Qs.
There’s no escaping the past in Venice; even the Venice Venice Hotel, dedicated as it is to “postvenezianità” — post-Venetian-ness — finds itself in the 13th-century Byzantine-style Palazzo Ca’ da Mosto, overlooking the Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge. Its owners, however, have their sights set squarely on the future, and take their inspiration from the avant-garde spirit that they feel has always been an integral part of Venetian life.
While the historic structure remains immaculately preserved, this avant-garde spirit is immediately apparent in the artwork and the interior design — this is most definitely not another Renaissance period piece. Venice Venice is connected more closely to the Venice of the Biennale, and is furnished and decorated with design pieces and artworks from a number of disparate movements, from modernist classics to the present day.
The Experimental Group has blossomed quickly from a word-of-mouth Parisian cocktail phenomenon to a full-fledged hospitality concern, with hotels in Paris, London, the Alps, and now Venice — and if there ever were a city whose hotel scene needed an infusion of youthful cool, it’s this one, whose bridges and canals are so thick with tourists you could be forgiven for wondering if there’s any nightlife culture here at all. That’s where Il Palazzo Experimental comes in, of course — not only does its bar, the Experimental Cocktail Club, answer that question in the affirmative, but as a hotel it turns the classic gestures of Venetian design into something fresh, contemporary, even sexy.
As with all the Experimental hotels the lion’s share of the credit has to go to Dorothée Meilichzon, the architect and designer responsible for the hotel — though in this case the bar, no less memorable a space, was designed by Cristina Celestino, as a tribute to the late Venetian architect Carlo Scarpa. The rooms are compact, space being rather at a premium in this precariously situated island city, but they’re comfortable, even a bit decadent, and some come with views of the Giudecca Canal. And the restaurant serves sustainable and locally sourced Venetian fare, and is a fixture on the nightlife scene for locals and travelers alike.
When it comes to living modern life while surrounded by reminders of the past, nobody’s as comfortable as the Italians. For behind the postcard-perfect Venetian-Gothic exterior of this former convent is something else entirely: a thoroughly modern luxury boutique hotel. Not that you’ll think for so much as a moment that you’re anywhere other than Venice. Set at the mouth of the Grand Canal, with the lagoon on one side and narrow alleyways on the other, the scene surrounding the Centurion Palace is about as typically Venetian as it could possibly be.
The interiors, though modern, aren’t exactly a clean break with local tradition. Each room is different, but elaborately patterned wallpaper or upholstery abounds, often in royal red. The gold-colored walls and floors of the bathrooms are meant to suggest a candy wrapper, and the twisting, root-like stems of many of the lamps seem inspired by works in the Guggenheim next door. The suites, many of them with private balconies, have the best views, especially the ones overlooking the Grand Canal.
If ever there were a city that needed a bit of the old Philippe Starck treatment it was Venice. Here a little design goes a long way — not that you could accuse the Palazzina Grassi of being just a little bit designed. Here Starck is at full strength: masks on the bedside lamps, comically exaggerated chandeliers, mirrors on every surface. It’s a classic Venetian palazzo filtered through the mind of a dedicated anti-classicist, and the result was always going to be memorable — and now, after an extensive refurbishment, it once again looks as new as it did on the day it opened.
In a Starck hotel the bedrooms feel less like a refuge and more like some kind of provocation. Enough of the bones of the old structure remain to firmly remind you you’re in Venice, and there’s a bit of fun to be had with the city’s famed glasswork. Meanwhile just outside is the original Venice, which is somehow made fresher and more vibrant by contrast with the Palazzina’s inventive interiors; you’ve never seen the Grand Canal quite like this.
Even by Venetian standards, the Hotel Metropole is steeped in history — this was once an orphanage where Vivaldi gave music lessons. More recently, though still decades ago, it was acquired by the Beggiato family, and remains a family-owned and -operated hotel, decorated with the owners’ collections of art and antiques. And while it’s been renovated to keep pace with the times, its style is deliciously decadent, and eclectic — spanning a couple of centuries, and incorporating influences from all along the Silk Road, from Venice to Shanghai and everywhere in between.
Its location is impressively central, right on the Riva degli Schiavoni promenade, not far from St. Mark’s Square and local landmarks like Harry’s Bar. Inside, though, it’s anything but busy, and the rooms and suites, many of which face either the canal or the lagoon, are little self-contained worlds of luxury.
The relationship between Splendid Venice, the hotel, and splendid Venice, the city, goes back a long time. An inn was first built on this site in the sixteenth century, and the property has been almost continuously in use as hotel since, although a 21st-century renovation eradicated any traces of mustiness or fustiness in the accommodations. Can’t argue with the decision to keep the rosy façade with casement windows — splendid, indeed.
And who’d want to obscure the inescapable fact that you’re in Venice, anyway? You enter, for example, by water taxi or gondola onto a private dock, complete with characteristic candy-stripe mooring poles. The lobby opens onto a traditional campiello, or glass-topped atrium, from which you’ll have easy access to an elegant ground-floor complex of dining and lounging spaces, nearly all of it illuminated by sizable windows. Le Maschere is a definite highlight, its name recalling the neighborhood’s history as a mask district: feast on Venetian specialties, mostly seafood, then transition to the sumptuous, convivial bar for bellinis and gondola-watching. Plant yourself in the library with an Italian-strength coffee every morning — the comfy chairs, suitably worn volumes, and canal views all play a strong part in its cheery, adventuresome ambience. And the altana, or rooftop terrace, makes for a terrific view of St. Mark’s campanile, especially in the company of cocktails and candlelight.
Venice, perhaps more than any other Italian city, is a place that wears opulence well. And while Ca’ Bonfadini may hide itself away behind a relatively unassuming, if handsome, 18th-century façade, what’s inside is the kind of high elegance for which Venice has become practically synonymous. Its location, right on the Cannaregio canal, offers both convenience and quiet in roughly equal measure; its interiors are an ode to the city’s neoclassical period, full of artworks, frescoes, and an occasional piece of modern furniture alongside an ornately carved desk or a gilt-fringed mirror.
Some hotels save the extravagance for the public spaces, but here the suites are, if anything, even more elaborately textured. Safe to say “minimalism” was not one of Ca’ Bonfadini’s inspirations. They’re equipped with modern comforts but they’re not chasing modernity — here, what’s promised is an experience of historic Venice. Breakfast is served en suite, and there’s a restaurant, DAMA, under the direction of chef Lorenzo Cogo. But for the most part you’ll spend your days out and about, with the expert guidance of the hotel’s staff.
Your eyes do not deceive you: the Aman Venice is exactly what the name implies. It’s fitting that Aman, those masters of luxe villas on jade-green desert islands, would choose this as the setting for their first city hotel. Like many of Aman’s far-flung, impossibly photogenic locales, there’s a sense that Venice isn’t quite of this earth. And, more prosaically, they’ve already perfected the craft of the waterborne arrival on those selfsame desert islands, and it’s a skill that transfers seamlessly to Venice’s canals.
The next biggest departure, after the distinctly urban (and quite marvelously central) location, is the fact that they’ve made use of a meticulously preserved Renaissance palace as a setting, rather than build something modern. Of course in Venice it couldn’t be any other way, but it’s a pleasure to see that they know when to leave well enough alone — aside from some subtly stylish contemporary interior design interventions, and a generous shipment of modern furniture from the likes of B&B Italia, it’s looking much as its old merchant founders would have left it.
When it comes to a romantic spot for a special occasion in Venice, we would urge you to consider the following boutique hotels.
Hotel Metropole Venice
Hotel Londra Palace
If you’re looking for an interior design experience you’ll rarely get elsewhere in the world, the following boutique hotels in Venice boast glorious original frescoes.
Corte di Gabriela
It’s the biggest understatement you’ll find on our website: Venice is known for its canals. The following boutique hotels gaze over them.
Monaco & Grand Canal
Sina Centurion Palace
Hotel Metropole Venice
St. Mark’s is the main public square in Venice. The following Venice boutique hotels are minutes away.
Monaco & Grand Canal
AD Place Venice
Hotel Londra Palace
The following Venice boutique hotels feature their own spas. Enjoy.
Hotel Metropole Venice
JW Marriott Venice Resort and Spa
Hotel Gritti Palace
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