Welcome to Fantasy Travel Week, when traveling the world for food and adventure is squarely on our minds.
Tricked-out rooms are only part of a hotel’s allure. Eye-catching design, an animated bar and a pool (bonus if it’s on the roof) are really what we crave when we’re not playing tourist. From New York to Cuba (yes, we’re really allowed to travel there now) to Myanmar, here are 12 newish hotels where we’re eager to spend the night.
West London, home to the world-famous Kew Gardens, is admittedly not the city’s liveliest neighborhood. The arrival of Urban Villa, however, gives travelers without a penchant for botany a sophisticated incentive to make the Tube schlep out there. London is known for its plethora of extremely pricey, cramped hotel rooms, but Urban Villa’s — all 100 of them are suites — start at a commodious 350 square feet and flaunt floor-to-ceiling windows. Peel yourself off the sun lounger in your enclosed winter garden for a Negroni at Sour Diesel, the concrete-and-glass indoor-outdoor lounge.
Luxe La Réserve might be the Parisian hotel everyone is clamoring to sleep in, but the Hilton Paris Opera is a not-too-shabby alternative. After a $50 million face-lift, the former Concorde Opera Paris — which first opened in 1889 as a respite for guests of the Exposition Universelle — once again resembles its elegant Belle Époque past. Sip on champagne in the bar that evokes Christian Lacroix, or, better yet, amid Le Grand Salon’s hand-painted frescoes. Springing for a suite means access to a meditative balcony.
Some of the world’s most debauched partying occurs in Dublin, but a 15-minute walk from all that Temple Bar revelry, you’ll find an oasis in the form of the edgy Dean Hotel. Feast on chicken in the downstairs rotisserie, sip cocktails up on the roof as you take in 360-degree views of the city or unwind in your room. All 52 of them are stocked with contemporary Irish artwork and a stash of vinyl for those much-desired Rega turntables.
After a $29 million renovation, what was once one of the Big Easy’s two W Hotels — the quiet one straddling the French Quarter and Warehouse District — has morphed into the classy Le Méridien New Orleans. Subtle Mardi Gras references and Louis Armstrong quotes woven throughout the design firmly anchor the hotel in Crescent City culture, but LMNO, helmed by Colombian chef Mauricio Gutierrez, serves up decidedly more global cuisine than those typical hefty po’boys. Work it off with a few laps in the rooftop swimming pool.
Athens, home to the University of Georgia, is known for its rich music history as much as its academics. R.E.M, the B-52’s and Widespread Panic all got their start performing in this funky little town. Paying homage to these artistic roots is Graduate Athens, one of the first properties from Graduate Hotels, the new brand intent on bringing design-savvy accommodations to college towns. The quirky former motel rooms are adorned with retro photos, bulldog lamps and splashes of plaid. While away the evening at the Foundry: the onetime metalsmith mecca is now a primo spot to take in live bluegrass while smothering BBQ chicken in Alabama white sauce.
Now that Obama has decided Cuba is no longer an enemy of the state, tourism in the rum-soaked island is naturally spiking. One coveted destination is the massive Hotel Meliá Jardines del Rey, located on Cayo Coco. A restaurant-lined — bring on the ice cream parlor — “boulevard” certainly lends an element of kitsch to the sugarcane-plantation-inspired all-inclusive resort, but it hardly matters when there is a daiquiri in hand. The rooms strewn with rattan furniture, spread out over three-story bungalows, are true tropical retreats.
Many a corporate behemoth has planted its hotel flag in Beijing, so the debut of the intimate Sofu, in historic Huguosi Hutong, is even more inviting. The motley rooms, featuring four-poster beds ringed in stockings, wicker furniture and freestanding bathtubs are clever, as is the brick-walled restaurant with velvet chairs. For a little post-whiskey fortification, wander through the nearby food-filled gourmet mall.
Nusa Dua’s idyllic southern tip is where you’ll find the posh Ritz-Carlton, Bali. Here, overlooking the Indian Ocean, a gleaming glass elevator whisks guests between nature’s dueling eye candy: elevated cliffs and the beach. Among the 313 rooms are cliff-top and ocean-view villas with heady panoramas that will be hard to leave when those obligatory visits to gilded temples beckon.
Tokyo is the site of Aman Resorts’ first urban hideaway, and true to Japan’s Zen ethos, it’s a natural beauty crafted from timber and stone. Tranquility is found not only in Aman Tokyo’s 84 guest rooms, dotted with Shoji screens made from washi paper and deep-soaking tubs, but in the basalt infinity pool and the veranda-surrounded garden.
A number of much-buzzed-about hotels recently sprouted in New York — the Park Hyatt and Knickerbocker among them — but it’s the Hotel Hugo that has helped cement Hudson Square as one of the city’s hottest ‘hoods. Hovering between the shops of SoHo and the Hudson River, Hotel Hugo’s 122 rooms successfully unite industrial light fixtures with sleek Italian tiles. After rooftop cocktails overlooking the Statue of Liberty, even locals know to flock to Il Principe for osso bucco.
Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro have long stolen Santiago’s thunder, but South American jet-setters are realizing the Chilean capital is a vibrant arts and nature epicenter. From the folks who brought us the striking cold-storage plant turned Singular Patagonia comes the Singular Santiago Lastarria, a stone’s throw from the Museum of Fine Arts. The 62 rooms are sophisticated, with touches of wood, leather and marble, but considering the rooftop pool and bar overlooking the lush Parque Forestal, there will hardly be a moment to savor them.
It may sound like a gimmick, but the brass-adorned and leather-swathed Vintage Luxury Yacht Hotel, anchored in Myanmar’s Yangon River, is a dreamy portal back to the 1920s. Set on a five-deck Finnish ship, the offbeat, nautical-themed 104-room property brims with faux-wood wallpaper, battery-powered lanterns and feather fountain pens — and yes, that “phonograph” is really a docking station. Incomparable sunrises await in the splurge-worthy riverside digs.
Urban Villa: Great West Road, Brentford, London TW8 0GA, urbanvilla.com
Hilton Paris Opera: 108 Rue Saint-Lazare, 75008 Paris, hilton.com
Dean Hotel: 33 Harcourt Street, Dublin 2, deanhoteldublin.ie
Le Méridien New Orleans: 333 Poydras Street, New Orleans, LA 70130, lemeridienneworleanshotel.com
Graduate Athens: 295 East Dougherty Street, Athens, GA 30601, graduateathens.com
Hotel Meliá Jardines del Rey: Playa Flamenco, Cayo Coco, Cuba, melia.com
Sofu Hotel: 85 Huguosi Street, Xicheng District, Beijing 100035, sofuhotel.com
The Ritz-Carlton, Bali: Jl. Raya Nusa Dua Selatan Lot #3, Sawangan, Nusa Dua, Bali 80363, ritzcarlton.com
Aman Tokyo: The Otemachi Tower, Tokyo 100-0004, amanresorts.com
Hotel Hugo: 525 Greenwich Street, New York, NY 10013, hotelhugony.com
Singular Santiago Lastarria: Merced 294, Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile, thesingular.com
Vintage Luxury Yacht Hotel: Seikkan Township, Yangon, Myanmar, vintageluxuryhotel.com