Top Ten Hotel Openings of 2010
The tentacles of luxury have gripped capital cities so tightly that the phrase "The Big Smoke" more likely refers to wisps of black forest incense and lavender candles, not the white clouds of industry. Last year's list of top hotel openings was impressive for the mere fact that luxury boutique hotels were still fighting to open their doors, no matter where they were. This year, though, with the luxury tide returning to strength, there were a huge number of openings all over and the list took a bit more curating than even we expected. That means there were a very good hotels and resorts that aren't on this list, but - again with the help of our friends over at TabletHotels.com - these are the special establishments in special places that we think you should know about...
Yi House Art Hotel (Beijing, China)
Jiuxianqiao Lu, 2 Hao Yuan, 798 Yishu Qu, 706 Hou Jie 1 Hao Jie1 Hao, Beijing 10015, Beijing
Beijing's 798 Art District began as a furrow in the field of Communism in the fifties, sown with factories in which Chinese, Russian and East German argued over how best to turn a Five Year Plan into a lesson in raising good, healthy Reds. The Communism remains but the "reds" are now more likely to describe Alfa Romeos and artists' salons, and it is in this reclaimed fertility that you will find TabletHotels.com pick the Yi House Hotel.
A 30-room boutique establishment built in a converted crystal factory, parent company Epoque Hotels describes it as offering superior accommodation, entrancing spaces and amiable service. Those imprecise compliments are belied, however, by the very specific beauty of the hotel's blend of modern, life-sized art within gorgeous, livable spaces. Zhou Enlai, the Cold War era premier who put the first factories there, would probably be loathe to spend a night there, but we imagine he might admit that the Yi House Hotel is indeed "Yi," which in Chinese roughly translates to 'guest house without equal.'
One&Only The Palm, Dubai (Dubai, UAE)
The Palm Jumeirah, Dubai 37252, United Arab Emirates
This One&Only Palm is not only in Dubai, but it sits at one tip of the crescent arching around Palm Jumeirah, the man-made palm-tree-shaped archipelago that grows into the Persian Gulf. And all of that means one thing: it has absolutely everything.
The Moors and Andalusians provide the architectural references, within which are arranged 35 suites and apartments in the Grand Manor House, roughly sixty suites spread throughout six freestanding "low-rise mansions," and four private villas with two- and three-bedroom lodgings. Each and every room gets woven fabrics in turquoise and purple, dark wood furnishings and ornamental glassworks, over-sized marble bathrooms, and private balconies or outdoor terraces or private pools.
There's a 9,200-square-foot, climate-controlled pool overlooked by - and this is a first for Dubai - air conditioned poolside cabana suites. When saltwater summons there's a quarter-mile of private beach. When fitness calls there's a 2,300 square-foot fitness center with personal trainers, lap pool, sauna and Heat Experience. When beauty beckons there's a 25,000-square-foot spa with nine private spa suites and three- and five-day "wellness journeys." The three restaurants are tended by Michelin-starred Yannick Alleno. The watersports include sailing, kayaking, windsurfing, water skiing, and fishing.
And in case you were wondering, yes, hosts and butlers are on duty 24 hours a day. Because it's Dubai. And that's what they do.
Gallery: One&Only The Palm Dubai
Alila Luang Prabang (Luang Prabang, Laos)
Unit 4, Ban Mano, Old Prison Road, Luang Prabang, 0600, Lao P.D.R.
The words "Laos" and "luxury" are still only learning to dance together, but the pace has quickened with the opening of the Alila Luang Prabang. As the former royal capital of Laos and a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1995, the deep green lush of Luang Prabang is a natural spot for the Alila's combination of Asian, colonial and contemporary.
And all-suite resort, the 23 rooms are grouped around the central courtyard and set inside a low, French colonial building. Although suites have their own courtyards, gardens and fireplaces, terraces or pools, large, soft-cushioned sofas and lounge chairs, each suite has a unique layout. And the corner suites have access to the tower where you can enjoy a private dinner while watching the sun set over the nearby city center and distant mountains.
Kaipen restaurant offers gourmet French-influenced Laotian dishes with items from the resort's organic garden, or the Ka-toke Cooking School will teach you to prepare them yourself. The spa has four double treatment rooms and its practitioners are trained in anatomical physiology and massage. Away from the Alila, the temples and monks collecting alms are reminders of an ageless way, while the art galleries, night market, and nearby Mekong and Nam rivers provide locales for a different take on meditation.
Or do like the colonial French did, and have your Dubonnet at the Alila's Sabai Lounge & Library. That's a form of meditation, too, you know.
Gallery: Alila Luang Prabang
Forty 1° North Marina Resort (Newport, Rhode Island)
351 Thames Street, Newport, Rhode Island 02840
Another TabletHotels.com selection, sited on the shore of Newport, Rhode Island at 41 degrees north latitude the toponymically named Forty 1 North Marina Resort is where new waves meet an old town. Its clapboard-and-shingle exterior and dark interior spaces treated with stained woods and stone hold fast to a centuries-old aesthetic, while its 28 rooms, some laid out like cottages, are awash in light and ocean breezes from the floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding French doors.
The amenities in this LEED-certified escape, though, are all of today, with flat-screens and free Wi-Fi, pre-loaded iPods, newspapers delivered on iPads, Frette bedding, Malin+Goetz toiletries and superfine Green Earth Towels, in-room spa services and 24-hour in-room dining. Wet bars can be stocked with your choice of aperitifs, and gas fireplaces warm each guestroom and suite - or you can steam off the chill in your two-person soaking tub.
There's valet parking to boot - but better than that, the marina can house yachts up to 250 feet. So when you've given up on the old town in Nice, a New World berth at Forty 1 North will await you.
Gallery: Forty 1 North
Amanfayun (Hangzhou, China)
22 Fayun Nong, Xihujiedao Xihufengjingmingsheng District, Hangzhou, PRC 310013
Aman Resorts took over a rustic Chinese village just outside the city of Hangzhou, one of the seven historic capitals of China, and turned it into Amanfayun. Though it lies in a valley just 20 minutes outside the city proper, it provides quite repose within a riot of fauna that includes tea bushes, bamboo, Sweet Osmanthus, Magnolia, Camphor, Chinese Horse Chestnut, Common Fig, Chinese Ash and Waxberry.
The central 18th century courtyard house, Fayun Place, houses reception and a lounge, cigar room and library. Surrounding it, within the village walls, are 16 village rooms of nearly 700 square feet - and those are the smallest rooms - nine village suites, 12 deluxe village suites, and four village villas of more than 2,000 square feet apiece. Those last come with their own private massage treatment rooms and separate spa showers. then there's the mandarin's lair, the Amanfayun Villa of about 3,000 square feet, with two king-sized bedrooms and a private massage room. Yes, you'll need that...
Every room gets underfloor heating and air conditioning, private or semi-private courtyards, and all of the furniture is freestanding except for the televisions - because they're only available on request. When your urge to roam comes on like that of previous visitors to the area, Marco Polo and Kublai Khan, there are seven nearby temples - some of which are among the most important in all of China - the Six Harmonies Pagoda, tea fields where Dragon Well green tea is grown, the tea museum, and the West Lake and its private pavilion for hotel guests.
The Restaurant - that's its name - has the only Western food you'll find when the urge for burgers comes on, otherwise replenishment will be had through traditional fare at Hangzhou House or steamed delicacies at Steam House. Unless you prefer to recharge in one of the spa's eight treatment rooms, reflexology room, fitness center, or Tai Chi/yoga/meditation room, because man does not live on steamed dumplings alone.
The House Hotel Nisantasi (Istanbul, Turkey)
Abdi Ipekçi Caddesi, No : 34 Teşvikiye, Istanbul, Turkey
The Turkish entrepreneurs behind The House Cafe chain decided to open a brace of boutique lodgings, and The House Hotel Nisantasi is one of the results. The establishment was laid out by The Autoban Group, a Turkish design concern whose custom wood furniture and mix of lines, materials and hues gives every space a complex texture that rewards the eye. One look and there's no wonder why TabletHotels.com is all about this one.
There are 45 rooms on five floors, ranging from 269 square feet for a Classic King to 484 for the Terrace Junior Suite King, which additionally offers 100 square feet of private terrace on the rooftop. Every room is fitted with a walk-in dressing room, marble bathroom with shower and bathtub, and free Wi-Fi, and the list of 24-hour amenities is includes the concierge, gym, and room service.
The nearby historical sights of the Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaar aren't open round-the-clock, but the Bosphorus, just a few minutes away is. If your inclinations are less riverine and more Riviera, you can try the Prada store - the Hotel Nisantasi is built on top of it.
Gallery: The House Hotel Nisantasi
Wangz Hotel (Singapore)
231 Outram Road Singapore 169040
The silver mesh cylinder shot through with asymmetrical windows that is Singapore's Wangz Hotel is guaranteed to deliver at least one benefit: every one of the 41 rooms has a view. It is Art Deco meets Straits Settlement, and its compact footprint, as with the city state surrounding it, makes the most of its space.
There are six types of rooms, starting with the 280-square-foot Superior with its king or twin Sealy Posturepedic beds and goose-feather duvets and music piped into the bathrooms - which also have views. A notable feature for true cosmopolites: universal power outlets.
Hopscotch past the Canopy, Balcony and Soak rooms and get straight into the Deep Suite, with 500 square feet of "multi-functional living space," which is probably meant to mean bouncing from the king-size Sealy Posturepedic to the rain shower to the free breakfast, lunch and dinner that Deep Suite residents get at the hotel restaurant, Nectar, to perhaps a late night stop to Halo, the rooftop back, then back to that king-size...
This is normally where we'd dip into some prose about the spa, but Wangz doesn't have one. Nor does it have a pool, which means it might seem to have a leg down on the superluxe amenities, but as a funky, chic place to get away from it all in the land of Raffles, Banyan Tree and Alila, and in a city where it's almost impossible to get away at all, it's without doubt worth a look.
Gallery: Wangz Hotel
Pousada Palácio do Freixo (Oporto, Portugal)
Estrada Nacional 108, 4300-316 Porto, Oporto Region, Portugal
In the 'what's really, really old is new' department we have the Palácio do Freixo, a baroque palace built in 1742 along the Douro River in Oporto, Portugal. The loose chronology has it pegged as a residence, then part of the Harmonia Flour Factory, then a state-sponsored professional training center, and now, finally, a public residence.
The main building is where the restaurant, bar, lounging areas and meeting rooms are located. The factory next to the palace is where the rooms are, as well as the gym, sauna, spa and Turkish bath. There are four room types, most with views of the river: 30 standard rooms, 47 superior, 9 suites and 1 special suite. The rooms are loaded up with all the mod-cons, but hotel itself doesn't gush about all that it has to offer - and in fact, it's even kind of hard to find; although there are others on this list that are further flung, you need just as much commitment to get to the Palacio.
But once there, in an establishment that was declared a National Monument in 1910, that sits in a city that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996, there's is plenty to enjoy beyond its 18th century facade: cruises down the Douro, the Ponte de D. Luis, constructed by an Eiffel acolyte, the Augustinian monastery of Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar and wine lodges along the river banks. Or, being in Oporto, don't forget... there's all that port.
Saffire (Tasmania, Australia)
2352 Coles Bay Road, Coles Bay, Freycinet National Park 7215, Australia
When Tasmania decided to crash the 5-star party, you could hear the ruckus all the way from... Tasmania. The Saffire-Freycinet sanctuary on the east coast of Australia's southern island territory is a wonder of finely detailed luxury, with the Hazards Mountains, Freycinet Peninsula and Great Oyster Bay providing a balance of natural beauty.
There are just 20 suites, each designed to provide maximum privacy from other humans, and at the same time maximize the views of the variegated mountains and crystal waters through floor-to-ceiling windows. There are separate living and sleeping areas, furnishings wear names like Eames and Herman Miller, televisions descend from recesses in the ceiling, showers and baths are double-sized, beds are king-sized, Zen rock gardens await meditative raking, and if you pass over the Deluxe and Luxury Suites for the Premium Suite you'll get a private kitchen, private plunge pool and a dining room, and a complimentary 2-hour spa treatment. Not that those others are left out: Deluxe and Luxury dwellers get free breakfast and lunch and a free 1-hour spa treatment.
The spa has just three treatment rooms that overlook a reflecting pool, while the main building is perched atop the colony and forms a long, glass-lined parabola perfect for catching the glinting light in the lounge or Palate, the restaurant. When it's time to install yourself in the artwork of your surroundings, there are excursions to the deserted islands and secluded beaches in the bay, cycling, bushwalking, quad-bikes, more hiking than you can shake a walking stick at, a trip to an oyster farm and helicopter jaunts to fly fishing or golf courses. And that's just the first page of possible activities. Or, in case you missed the photo above, you could just lay in bed and look at the mountains. No one would blame you...
Casta Diva Resort (Lake Como, Italy)
via Enrico Caronti, 69, 22020 Blevio, Lago di Como
As with the Palácio do Freixo, this began as a private residence in the 1700s. Now open to the public and shot through with overtones of Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, the Casta Diva resort is the only five-star Lake Como resort that stays open throughout the year.
There are 75 guest rooms with lake views, some with terraces or balconies. The rooms are soundproof. The Wi-Fi is free. The smallest suites are 1,200 square feet. There are six modern villas and three historic villas, topped off by the 4,100-square-foot, three-bedroom Villa Norma and its garden, private dock, wine cellar, play room, billiard room, outdoor Jacuzzi and terrace. The list of what the Casta Diva offers all of its guests begins and ends with the word "tutto," plus outdoor and indoor pools and pillow menus and tennis courts and secretarial services and a 13,000-square-foot spa and homemade pasta. Oh, and Milan and Lugano are just an hour away. Seven golf courses are even closer.
Not that there's any need to overdo it: a drink by the shores of Lake Como is good enough for Clooney, so you should probably just grab a Limoncello at the Casta Diva's Bellini Bar and then see where the beauty takes you.
Gallery: Casta Diva Resort