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Tablet was founded by Laurent Vernhes and Michael Davis in 2000 as a cure for boring travel and an antidote to the Internet’s most common affliction: an overdose of options. I have been among their loyal users for years, and love that they do the hard work of selecting only the world’s most extraordinary hotels, while making the booking process painless. Hotels are anonymously visited and evaluated by their team of experts, and they only keep them on the site if customers are happy. I love the special perks in many of the hotels including free room upgrades, free wine, spa credits and special amenities which really make it a special value.
I spoke exclusively with Laurent Vernhes about this years selection of the Top 25 Hotels and he explained, “What’s different about Tablet is that we refuse to view hotels as a simple commodity. For us, travel isn’t merely about convenience, it’s about experience. Our customers are people for whom a hotel is more than some function of location, amenities, price, and reward points. All of the hotels on this top 25 list — and all of the hotels on Tablet — are there because they offer something memorable and unique.”
Zoku Hotel Amsterdam
At Zoku Amsterdam, located in the Eastern Canal District, a kitchen table is the central feature. Zoku is one of a wave of new hotels that don’t just accept that reality, but embrace it, offering up smartly designed lofts that merge work and living space. The draw here is Zoku’s series of cool and colorful modern lofts. Screens and sliding doors cleverly separate the elevated sleeping area from the kitchen and work area. And everything’s functional; the kitchen is stocked with everything from olive oil to a garlic press to a Tupperware set, while the workspace features scissors, staplers, and extra pencils. The hotel contains a range of light-filled, open-plan “social spaces” that encourage communal work and play, including a living room, an airy kitchen, a bar, and work spaces.
Old Clare Hotel Australia
The Old Clare – Sydney
Located in the popular Chippendale area, just to the south of the central business district, the stylish 62 room Art Deco Clare Hotel has been joined together with the Victorian-era Carlton United Breweries. The rooftop pool and bar is a highlight as are its three restaurants headed by a superhero team: Clayton Wells, a Momofuku alum; Sam Miller, former Noma sous chef; and Jason Atherton, a Michelin star winner who’s apparently in global-domination mode.
Byron Bay Australia
Elements of Byron – Byron Bay
A spectacular setting for this beachfront resort in Byron Bay, a coastal town in New South Wales. There is a spa, of course, and a range of dining venues, the massive infinity pool, the indoor-outdoor cocktail bar. But the architecture is sleek and contemporary, low-impact and single-story, the curving lines inspired by organic forms — the striking central pavilion is modeled after the look of a windswept sand dune. The guest villas are divided into four categories: Dunal, Rainforest, Eucalypt and Wetlands. Needless to say, their design was inspired by nature, and while amenities vary, they’re all drenched with natural light and smartly outfitted with timber floors, stone fixtures, and leather detailing. Standard features include private terraces, king-sized beds, some face the beach, others a lake. But they all feel delightfully private, tucked away into the forest.
Phum Baitang Siem Reap
Phum Baitang – Siem Reap
This new 45-villa retreat recreates the simple charm of village life, set just outside of town, slightly apart from Siem Reap’s many hotels. Thatched-roof wooden villas rise up on stilts amid landscaped gardens and paddy fields, and the large swimming pool, like a mirror, reflects the image of towering palms overhead, while travelers sip tea or cocktails at the outdoor bar. It has a traditional Cambodian colonial aesthetic, but with open-plan living and first-class materials from aged wood to smooth stone. Each villa has ample lounge space both indoors and outdoors. Terrace Villas have large decks, while Pool Villas feature private gardens with plunge pools. Elsewhere on the grounds, you’ll find a spa, a yoga pavilion, and a pair of restaurants, one that even recreates the look and feel of a local street market.
Vira Vira Hacienda Hotel Chile
Vira Vira Hacienda Hotel – Pucón
Pucón, Chile is an 80-minute flight (and then a 90-minute drive) from Santiago, a city that already feels far away from pretty much everything. Perched on the water’s edge, and at the foot of a snow-capped volcano, in Chile’s pristine lake district, Pucón is the gateway to an almost unspeakably gorgeous landscape. It’s long been a playground for outdoor adventurers, and now it has its first luxury hotel — Vira Vira Hacienda. It’s a place for first-rate relaxation, and some serious wining and dining, before and after skiing or snowboarding, kayaking or rafting, climbing or horseback riding. There are 21 guest rooms, six in the main lodge, twelve “senior suites” in a riverfront building, and another three in the house the owner built for his own family. Suites come with private fireplaces and terraces with outdoor hot tubs. Eating and drinking are a major focus at Vira Vira. The hotel sits on a farm and cheese dairy, but the products aren’t sold anywhere — they’re for the hotel chef’s exclusive use.
Boho Prague Hotel
BoHo Prague Hotel – Prague
Old Town is still very much the place to be in Prague’s hospitality scene, which makes minimalist-chic design that much more of a statement, given the city center’s Gothic-Baroque backdrop of spires and ornate stonework. BoHo Prague’s post-office past is plain enough, what with the soaring ceilings and oversize windows, There are 57 rooms and suites as well as a modest spa area with high-tech fitness equipment and a hip little sauna, complete with recessed lighting and mosaic alcoves.
Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain
Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain – Chengdu
Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain is one of the brand’s newest offerings, and its first in China, strategically located outside Chengdu, near two cultural attractions that bring a steady stream of visitors to the region: the ancient Dujiangyan irrigation system, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its own right, and Mount Qing Cheng, better known as the birthplace of Taoism. The resort is set on a piece of land that looks like a watercolor painting: all lush greenery, water lilies floating on ponds, elegant pergolas and wooden huts. Guest rooms are far from basic. The smallest of the suites clocks in at a spacious 850 square feet — the high ceilings and separate living and sleeping areas make them feel even larger. A state-of-the-art Six Senses Spa, specializing in ancient Chinese treatments is updated for modern travelers. There is also two swimming pools, an old-fashioned teahouse, two cocktail bars, and three restaurants — all focused on local ingredients, some sourced from the resort’s organic gardens
Off Paris Hotel
OFF Paris Seine – Paris
Occupying a gently bobbing twin-hulled barge moored to the Left Bank, alongside the Gare d’Austerlitz in the 13th Arrondissement, it’s certainly one of a kind. What could come off as little more than a novelty is instead a tasteful, stylish, and remarkably comfortable hotel. On the water. The standard rooms make some concessions to the premium placed on space, but the suites very quickly spread out into proper luxury territory. It’s perhaps best experienced above decks — there’s a summer terrace with a plunge pool, as well as a bar that serves signature cocktails, wines and tapas.
Nolinski Hotel Paris
Nolinski – Paris
The hotel is located on Avenue de l’Opéra in the 1st arrondissement, near the Comédie Française and the Palais Royal garden, not far from Tuileries Garden. Merging classic Parisian sophistication with a modern edge: picture a minimalist lobby lined with Carrara marble, floor-to-ceiling windows framed by heavy drapery, dark wood paneling, the rooms’ original moulding set off by walls painted a cool shade of slate gray. Public spaces and guest rooms alike are filled with interesting sculptures, mirrors, and paintings, unusual light fixtures, lively patterns, small floral bouquets, the occasional retro lamp or vintage radio, and splashes of color from emerald green and turquoise to burgundy and burnt orange. For a hotel with such a grand atmosphere, the Nolinski is relatively small, with 45 soundproofed guest rooms and suites. Downstairs, the Grand Salon, with its silver leaf ceilings and bronze fireplace, is a memorable venue to cozy up in with an aperitif in an old-fashioned swivel armchair. Nolinski’s brasserie, Réjane, with its brass bar and winter garden, is another lovely spot for drinks or dinner. In such a prime location in Paris, you might not plan to hang around the hotel, but the Nolinksi’s opulent spa, La Colline, with Louis XIV armchairs and sofas set up around a stone-walled swimming pool, is a glorious place to recover.
La Maison d’Ulysse
La Maison d’Ulysse – Baron
This fortified, luxe-rustic, 16th-century farmhouse offers the views, the cuisine, and the architecture, all perfectly adapted to that picturesque backdrop. Terra-cotta roof tiles, burnished floor tiles, ravenous swaths of ivy — all given a breath of fresh of air by contemporary elements like sleek lighting, walk-in showers, and breathable, minimalist layouts. Each room in this former silk farm comes uniquely decorated with hand-sourced antiques and whimsically repurposed furnishings; exposed beams, old-time radiators, earthenware, and wrought iron. A charming, stone-walled dining patio mingles Indian and island flavors with hyperlocal Provençal staples for a parade of intensely flavorful, visually stimulating plates. The public spaces offer a variety of settings for whichever relaxation mode suits best: cocktails and champagne by the pool.
Masseria della Volpe Hotel
Masseria della Volpe – Sicily
A restored 19th-century manor farm in the Province of Syracuse, it is set on a verdant, rambly patch of earth just southeast of Rosolini, with vineyard-bearing, weathered limestone hills in one direction and the untroubled Ionian Sea glinting in the other. By spacing the facilities out — rooms here, tented pavilion here, heated pool there, bocce and tennis courts way over there — the owners found a clever way to subliminally put guests in touch with their arboreal bounty. That ecological commitment runs deeper: the entire hotel runs on solar power. The Royal Family suite is my favorite with three spacious bedrooms, a private rooftop terrace, and a ground-floor terrace overlooking the pool to allow you to fully enjoy the Mediterranean coastal landscape.
Ad Astra Hotel Florence
Ad Astra – Florence
This is a stylish 9 room 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 the hotel as well — a freestanding residence originally meant for aristocratic weekenders, comprising just nine rooms, modernist Italian design classics from the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies, as well as classic Florentine craftsmanship and a taste for eye-catching contemporary art.
Antonello Colonna Resort & Spa
Antonello Colonna Resort & Spa – Labico
The famed chef and restaurateur Antonello Colonna opened this twelve-room hotel, the Antonello Colonna Resort & Spa, adjacent to his famous restaurant in Labico. The resort is cool and contemporary, housed in a sleek concrete and glass structure that lies low to the ground amid field and forest. Guest rooms are all clean lines with modern design, bathed in sunlight and lined up in a long row, a series of petite and pristine sanctuaries that open directly onto the park. A few of the higher-end options have Eames chairs and super-king-sized beds with bathtubs. All rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows. It’s all about slowing down and enjoying classic pleasures; walking in the fields, reading a book by the outdoor pool, or checking into the excellent spa with its Turkish bath and indoor thermal pool. You could muster up the energy to visit one of the region’s wineries. But you’ll want to save your appetite for dinner at Colonna’s legendary restaurant.
Setouchi Retreat Aonagi
Setouchi Retreat Aonagi – Matsuyama
A mountain hotel in Japan located in a land of precipitous heights and ragged coastline, it’s the polar opposite of Tokyo. This petite mountaintop hotel with views of the Seto Inland Sea offers minimalist luxury extending to the hotels seven suites with sea views from the terrace, some with jetted tubs. The Cave is their unique heated pool that can be used year-round. The hotel also includes hot springs, jacuzzi’s and a sauna with views onto the garden.
Hotel Cappuccino Korea
Hotel Cappuccino – Seoul
Within 18 stories, Hotel Cappuccino artfully balances right on the line between hostel and condo. Many of the 141 rooms are single-occupancy and there’s a pleasing futuristic quality to the geometric, brushed-steel, perforated-metal visual themes, with touches of urban chic in the exposed pipes, loft windows, and grayscale palette. You’ll want the view from the upper stories if at all possible. The hotel attracts a youthful audience, and rest assured there are spots to mingle. Hot Eatsue mixes Japanese, Vietnamese, and Thai influences with Korean comfort food on the 17th floor. Downstairs, a café does the hotel’s name justice with hearty blends by Anthracite and all-important microbrews by Magpie. It’s extremely dog-friendly with a portion of the menu devoted to feeding canine companions.
Almaha Marrakech – Marrakech
There’s something undeniably special about staying in a riad, even the most basic ones — something unique and wonderful about leaving the busy streets of the medina and stepping into the quiet central courtyard of a traditional Moroccan house. Tucked away in the former royal stables of the Kasbah, the oldest and most important section of the city, the hotel is an otherworldly place. Like many other riads in Marrakech, it’s grand and opulent, decorated with traditional tiles, carved wood. Heavy cedar doors open into the 12 hotel suites, each spacious and sumptuously outfitted with a marble bath and fireplace, the floors heated from underneath. Each is a bit different: some have cozy reading alcoves, others have civilized seating areas, and many feature private patios or terraces.
Dedon Island Resort
Dedon Island Resort – Philippines
The resort isn’t a private island, but one of several resorts on Siargao, an island sometimes referred to as the surfing capital of the Philippines. Ringed by coral reef and clear waters, and covered with powdery white beaches and mangrove forest, the setting is as gorgeous as you’d expect. Dedon Island, on Siargao’s southern coast, is the sort of low-key, sustainably built resort where you can kick off your flip-flops and go barefoot. The villas, it should be said, are really something to write home about. Each is generously sized — freestanding, set a good distance from the neighbors, with its own private porch and tropical gardens planted with orchids and spider lilies — and features various cushion-lined spaces that invite you to take a load off. And in true modern style, it’s the bathroom might be the most impressive space. Large and opulent, with a luxurious high-pressure shower suspended over a sumptuous stone floor, it’s the bathroom of your dreams.
Villa Extramuros – Arraiolos
A buzzed-about boutique hotel that’s located in Arraiolos, which is near the city of Évora, which is the capital of the province of Alentejo. While the sculptural white villa might seem, at first, at odds with the natural landscape, there’s nothing over-the-top about this hotel. With just five guest rooms and a sleek, down-to-earth aesthetic, Villa Extramuros is a minimalist getaway surrounded by olive groves and oak forests that invite a late-afternoon wander. There’s nothing much to do here except sleep in, feast on a leisurely breakfast, catch a few rays beside the infinity pool, and maybe catch up on that book you’ve been trying to read for ages. Thanks to its intimate size and a variety of art-filled public spaces — two terraces, a patio, the pool and surrounding deck, a living room stocked with books and warmed by a fireplace in colder weather — it’s almost like being in a private house, but with all the perks of staying in a hotel. All five rooms are cool and airy, with private patios.
Cooking and Nature-Emotional Hotel
Cooking and Nature – Emotional Hotel – Alvados
Located near the Parque Natural Serras de Aire e Candeeiros, this hotel’s sleek concrete and glass exterior and its dozen individually decorated guest rooms, is an ideal place to hang your hat during a side adventure into this otherworldly stretch of limestone hills, shadowy grottoes and colossal underground caves. The design of each of those rooms was inspired by one of twelve emotions. The Magic room has a children’s book aesthetic, with candy colors, checkered floors, and fairytale-inspired murals; the Passion room, lined with mirrors, has the look of a Parisian cabaret. Emotions run the range from Adventure to Happiness to Romance. It’s not just the cooking you’ll eat, it’s the cooking you can do under the guidance of a modern Portuguese chef. During a cooking lesson, you’ll sample local cheese and olive oil before wading through the garden, wine glass in hand, to source ingredients for your dinner menu.
Art Mai Gallery Nimman Hotel
Art Mai Gallery Nimman Hotel – Chiang Mai
The hotel is eight stories tall, with a modern art gallery on the ground level. And above that, each of the seven floors was designed by a different contemporary Thai artist working within a certain theme or genre. Categories include classics like Pop Art (fourth floor) and Impressionism (seventh floor), as well as Nude Art (on the second floor, if case you fancy taking a stroll down this particular corridor.) It’s not quite as racy as it sounds, but these rooms and suites, seductively outfitted in black and white, are for adults only. On the Abstract Art floor, for example, the exposed brick walls and earth tones evoke the cozy feel of an artist’s studio, while the top-floor Lanna Romantic rooms, with their sophisticated grays and minimalist canopies, look comparatively exotic. The square footage varies widely, too. Most floors have a range of room categories, including an Artist Signature Room — spacious, open-plan suites that are practically miniature art galleries. Elsewhere in the hotel, there’s a sleek infinity pool and terrace with views over the city, and the industrial-chic Jarid Restaurant, specializing in Thai fusion cuisine and cocktails.
South Congress Hotel
South Congress Hotel – Austin, Texas
The building goes wide and relatively low-slung at just three stories, a conversation piece, to be sure, though not in the obnoxious-façade mode; muted colors and natural materials reign supreme inside and out. One negotiates the public spaces in series, passing through cool and inviting rooms in a tranquil succession of blued steel, rusticated bronze, white bricks, terra-cotta, and cedar accents. The guestrooms sublimate those patterns via geometrically calming color blocks, hardwood flooring, and a light-flooded layout. You’ll find many a reminder that this is still funky, accessible Austin: caged pendant bulbs, articulated bedside lamps, stationery, locavore minibars. There’s a street-level lobby bar, separated from reception via extended bookshelves lined with design and travel volumes. The requisite pool bar graces the second floor, and besides the all-day, continental comfort plates on offer at Café No Sé. A family of additional eateries are in the works; expect haute Japanese and a new American bar and grill.
The Dewberry Hotel
The Dewberry – Charleston, South Carolina
This new boutique hotel is in the downtown Charleston landmark formerly known as the Mendel L. Rivers Federal Building now bears the name of John Dewberry, the Atlanta developer who spent the better part of a decade transforming the structure. He commissioned local artisans to apply a custom-made gray limewash to the exterior. He didn’t just perk up the flowerbeds, he built a romantic walled garden evocative of old-world Charleston, then modeled the design of the hotel’s spa on his personal carriage house. Practically every surface throughout the lobby, living areas, and guest rooms is made of smooth stone or hard wood — cherry, oak, walnut, mahogany, travertine, Danby marble — while the furnishings are either vintage or bespoke and hand-crafted. Guest rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows, many with views over the Charleston Harbor, as well as original artwork and seasonal minibars curated by the Deberry’s executive chef. Downstairs, a lovely living room awaits guests from noon till midnight. Go for tea in the afternoon, or a cocktail at the brass bar before dinner. Henrietta’s, the onsite brasserie has quickly become a new staple on the Charleston dining scene.
Chicago Athletic Association
Chicago Athletic Association – Chicago, Illinois
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 and is now a thoroughly up-to-date 241 room boutique hotel, a retro-modern, luxury-boutique. Cindy’s is the rooftop terrace restaurant, and the Cherry Circle Room brings the Athletic Association’s long-serving dining room back to life, with inspiration from a century of menus. The Game Room and the Milk Room are (fraternal) twin speakeasy-style cocktail bars, the former featuring plenty of games and the latter largely substituting whiskey for milk.
Faena Hotel Miami
Faena Hotel Miami Beach – Miami, Florida
Alan Faena, the pioneering Argentinian hotelier created the new Faena District, set for completion in 2017, occupying an eight-block stretch of prime oceanfront real estate. There are condominium towers, a high-end design bazaar, and a cultural center, but for the moment, the knock-out highlight is the newly opened hotel. The grand entryway, nicknamed “the cathedral,” features gold-leaf ceilings, intricate mosaic floors, and a series of gargantuan murals by the Argentine artist Juan Gatti, plus a massive glass wall revealing views of the sea beyond. Upstairs, guest rooms and suites evoke Miami’s glamorous Art Deco past. It’s all curving lines, jewel tones, and retro-inspired decor, with luxe amenities and a distinctly Faena twist: bespoke bed linens made in Italy, Carrara marble bathrooms, and private butlers to attend to your every need. Suites have freestanding bathtubs, opulent dining rooms, and balconies with ocean views and plush furnishings. there’s Tierra Santa, the hotel’s lavish spa, there’s Pao by Paul Qui, serving in the chef’s signature modern Asian cuisine in a moody, low-lit space with half-moon leather booths, but perhaps the most hotly anticipated restaurant is Los Fuegos, by the visionary Argentinian chef Francis Mallmann.
1 Hotel Central Park
1 Hotel Central Park – New York City
The hotel is located On 58th Street, between Billionaires’ Row and Central Park and is a statement of intent from 1 Hotel Central Park, the flagship of the 1 Hotels group, headed by Barry Sternlicht, founder of Starwood and the W hotels. A huge proportion of the interior surfaces are made from salvaged materials, from the salvage lumber and brick in the guest rooms to the fitness center’s floor, which once belonged to the University of Wisconsin’s basketball team. The 229 rooms are visually stylish, quite apart from their construction, and the textured, organic look of the hotel’s public spaces stamps an immediate identity on the place. Combine it with a restaurant, Jams, that serves impeccably sourced farm-to-table cuisine, and you’ve got a recipe for success.