Published November 18, 2012
Long gone are the days when lodging choices offered no happy medium. Now, nearly everywhere in the world, travelers aren't limited to either cheap motels or large, nondescript hotels. In a pleasant paradox, boutique properties have become commonplace. Intimate, comfortable and often eccentric in the best of ways, they range from hospitable inns to cozy châteaux. The boutique hotels on our exclusive list were selected for both their intimate size and individual style, ensuring a unique, homey experience with every visit.
Beverly Hills, California
Built in the 1930s, this stylish property is situated on a quiet street just off busy Wilshire Boulevard. Within this beautiful hidden gem, France meets the Far East in designs by Kelly Wearstler. The 44 Mandarin and Parisian Rooms offer a touch of whimsy, with Chinoiserie screens, hand-tufted European carpets, gilded armchairs and other unique decorative touches. Although the amenities are few, privacy and exclusivity are abundant. Guests here can live like well-heeled locals, as they stroll to Rodeo Drive or enjoy The Green Hour, a daily absinthe tasting at the hotel's seductive Bar Noir.
Take one thirteenth-century monastery. Add a hip hotel brand. Then plop it in one of Prague's most enchanting neighborhoods and you've got the recipe for the best boutique hotel in the Czech capital. Welcome to The Augustine, a Rocco Forte property that shares its opulent space with a working monastery. Rooms are large and comfortable, boasting all the amenities one would expect from such a luxe hotel (Wi-Fi, plasma TV, high-end bath products). In-house restaurant The Lichfield is set in the courtyard and serves elevated Czech and continental fare. Once you manage to leave the creature comforts of the property, you'll find yourself right in the heart of Prague, a cobblestone's throw from fourteenth-century Charles Bridge and the powder blue-domed St. Nicholas Church.
With a location on St. Kilda Road, near the city's fashionable theater, shopping and restaurant districts, this 100-room hotel melds designer chic with warm Down Under hospitality. The contemporary bedrooms and suites are done in rich tones that create a sense of comfort that never sacrifices style. At Dish restaurant, a regularly changing menu reflects the latest trends in Australian cuisine, while at Amberoom bar, the sexy vibe lures local VIPs. Given its intimate size, the hotel offers a surprising wealth of amenities, including a business center, grand ballroom, banquet and meeting facilities, gym, library and massage services.
Hotel Franklin Roosevelt
For those who want to experience Paris like a local, Hotel Franklin Roosevelt is an ideal choice. This discreet family-run hotel is well-situated between the avenues Montaigne and George V, walking distance to the Champs-Élysées and some of the city's best shopping. Six stories high and clad in stone, the hotel blends into its surroundings, and its 48 guest rooms and suites are fully soundproofed, ensuring a peaceful night's sleep. The late nineteenth-century building also houses a glass-roofed lounge where breakfast is served each morning and a wood-paneled bar for relaxation at the end of the day.
This 30-suite sanctuary resides in central Bali, amid rice terraces above the dramatic Ayung River. With the artist community of Ubud so close by, it's no wonder this hotel feels like a living gallery. The property has been designed to reflect nearby villages, while at the same time offering such resort pleasures as a luxurious spa, pool and tennis court. Each of the freestanding thatch-roofed suites is its own retreat, and choices include those with pools and tropical gardens. For the ultimate in privacy, guests can stay in the 1,500-square-meter Amandari Villa compound, complete with five separate pavilions containing bedrooms, living space, dining room and kitchen. Relaxation here comes in many forms, including private classes with the resident yoga teacher.
Relais Santa Croce
A seventeenth-century palazzo converted into a luxurious boutique hotel, this ornate property sits within walking distance to some of Florence's most treasured historic sites. Lavish public spaces — featuring parquet floors and frescoed ceilings — lead to 24 elegant guest rooms and suites, each with sweeping views that include the Duomo, Santa Croce Basilica, Piazza della Signoria and/or Ponte Vecchio. The Old World atmosphere is paired with excellent service, from personal butlers to the attentive general manager. And house restaurant, Guelfi e Ghibellini will remind you why Tuscany is one of the world's most popular destinations for those who love to indulge in fine food and wine.
There's no modern hotel gimmickry going on at this boutique property; no tech-y gadgets; no funky design in the lighting or shower. Just eleven spacious rooms and two suites set in a stone Mediterranean villa from the 1930s. Sure, there's in-room check-in, a very friendly, professional staff and complimentary Wi-Fi. But it's all about one thing here: the view. Set on a cliff just above Dubrovnik's walled Old Town, the hotel's views are worth double what you pay to lay your head on one of its cushy pillows.
The Upper House
Despite being nestled within Pacific Place, Hong Kong's bustling commercial and retail complex, this intimate property offers the feel of a private residence. Asian chic best describes the style — a subtle blend of neutral tones, clean lines and Oriental accents. The guest rooms are notably large and feature walk-in rain showers, freestanding bathtubs and panoramic harbor or island views from both the bedrooms and bathrooms. As for the thoughtful details, they range from personal iPod touch systems stocked with local recommendations to Lexus RX 450h town car service. Café Gray Deluxe emphasizes organic produce, while the 49th-floor Sky Lounge offers a dramatic setting for evening drinks. Those seeking escape from the overstimulating streets of Hong Kong need look no further than the sixth floor, home to a quiet lawn and garden.
Although situated in the heart of Stockholm's business district, this 65-room hotel is known for its personal service. The concierge will happily guide you to the best restaurants, hottest performances and under-the-radar sites. Sophisticated style begins in the lobby, which doubles as a gallery, displaying works by local and international artists. Rooms are done in clean Scandinavian style, but if you choose one of the signature suites, you will find imaginative touches such as an antique tiled stove or funky loft bed. Berns Asian features à la carte favorites, as well as a Chinese afternoon tea, and Berns Bistro & Bar showcases French cuisine.
The Soho Hotel
While Ian Schrager continually gets props for his role in shaping the boutique hotel world, we have a soft spot in our heart for Kit Kemp, whose Firmdale hotels are true lessons in originality. This quirky little property combines traditional lines, classic glamour and playful color schemes to create a unique collection of 91 guest rooms, suites and apartments. Though the hotel is small, its offerings are big in scope. REFUEL Restaurant & Bar is one of the hottest meeting spots in the city, and two screening rooms (complete with cowhide-covered chairs) ensure a regular stock of celebs on the hotel guest list. As for the location, it's ideal, on a quiet street in the heart of London's trendy entertainment district.
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