Looking for a brand new luxury hotel to stay in when you can travel again? BOAT rounds up the hottest new luxury hotels you should know about, opening their doors around the world for this first time this year.
Hotel de Russie, Italy
Tucked between Piazza del Popolo and the Spanish Steps, Hotel de Russie is where Romans and glamorous visitors mingle over cocktails at the Stravinskij Bar, and long lunches in the courtyard restaurant, Le Jardin de Russie. Described as “paradise on earth” by Jean Cocteau in 1917, the hotel’s secret Mediterranean tiered garden, with its terraces, grottos, fountains and statues, is a favourite spot. The hotel is now fresh from a one-million-euro renovation project which brought it back to its neoclassical splendour and to the way it was originally envisioned by architect Giuseppe Valadier in the 1820s.
Inside, rooms are designed using a seamless blend of the old and new with bright colour accents, prints and clever art. Olga Polizzi, director of design for all Rocco Forte properties, used furnishings by Porada and Porta Romana, Zimmer + Rohde fabrics and Lewis & Wood wallpapers to create cosy interiors to retire to when the hustle and bustle of the city gets too much. Nothing beats rooftop views of Rome at sunset, so make sure to book one of the suites: Nijinsky, Picasso, Popolo and Vaselli each have their own private terracebook now
Mandarin Oriental Ritz Madrid, Spain
After visiting the Ritz in Paris and in London on his honeymoon, King Alfonso XIII of Spain came home determined to see a Madrid outpost. Since opening its doors in 1910, the hotel has hosted everyone who mattered that has travelled to the city: from Prince Rainier to Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra. The restaurant’s private dining room is named after the pseudonym that First World War spy Mata Hari used when she checked in in 1916.
For the restoration of this grand dame, Mandarin Oriental enlisted Spanish architect Rafael de La-Hoz and French design duo Gilles & Boissier (who are also behind the interior of 55-metre Atlante). The most ambitious endeavour was reinstating the large glass canopy ceiling over the ground-floor courtyard restaurant and seating area, which had remained covered for about 80 years, imbuing the space with the atmosphere of a sunny, lively and well-groomed public square where the chicest Madrileños meet. In a nod to the Prado Museum across the road, the bespoke artwork is heavily influenced by the Golden Age of Spanish art. For the walls of the sultry, gold-leaf covered Pictura bar, Paula Anta created large-scale photographic portraits of contemporary Spanish creatives dressed in period costumes against dark background, inspired by Velázquez’s paintings. Talk about past and present blissfully meeting.book now
Maison Villeroy, France
Adding to an ultra-exclusive list of properties in Courchevel, St Barths, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and London, Le Collection’s latest outpost is in Paris’s 8th arrondissement, right in the middle of the city’s Golden Triangle. Maison Villeroy is housed in a former mansion, built in 1908 by Ernest Rahir for Nicolas Lucien Villeroy (son of Maurice, of Villeroy & Boch fame). Discreetly blending into quiet Rue Jean-Goujon, it looks – and feels – much more a home than a hotel, targeting guests who value privacy and want to feel like residents rather than visitors.
The Restaurant, called Trente-Trois, is for residents only and is led by Michelin-starred chef Sébastien Sanjou. A 24-hour butler service is also available to guests, and there's a spa hidden in the basement, which uses products by L’Officine Universelle Buly.book now
&Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Namibia
In a flock of new openings in Namibia, one property stands out for its eco credentials. &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge sits on a 12,700-hectare private reserve right by the Namib-Naukluft National Park. Johannesburg-based architect Jack Alexander and Fox Browne Creative were appointed to overhaul the existing structure while also dramatically reducing its carbon footprint.
Far from trying to compete with the stunning backdrop of the Nubib Mountains, the architects chose responsibly sourced natural materials which seamlessly blend into the surroundings. There are only 10 standalone suites, plus a two-bedroom Star Dune Suite, all featuring private pools, outdoor showers, butler hatches and stargazing skylights. The outdoor spaces were designed as viewing platforms to take in the scenery while enjoying a break from exploring (activities include high-adrenaline quad biking in search of golden moles, dune-trekking at sunrise and scenic hot-air balloon or helicopter rides). The rooms’ interiors are open-plan in order to offer unobstructed views of the outdoors, and are considerately decorated with natural materials in a pared-back, neutral palette. Namibian artisans Karakulia Weavers created bespoke wall hangings and rugs across the property, and the solid oak dining table in the restaurant was handmade by South African firm Umdabu.
New roofs were installed, made with high-density insulation material and covered with solar panels, which generate the energy required to run make each room completely self-powered. The suites are also equipped with their own water filtration system, and grey water is also used to fill up a man-made watering hole located right in front of the lodges, which affords guests an all-day view of zebras, ostriches and oryx cooling down in the desert heat. And, of course, drinking water for humans is bottled on-site using recycled glass bottles (plastic is banned).
It doesn’t stop there. Sossusvlei’s sky is the darkest in Africa and the only International Dark Sky Reserve on the continent. The absence of light pollution and of humidity in the air (which is what makes stars appear as twinkling), means that some of the world’s best stargazing can be enjoyed here. To avoid any light disturbance, at night the lodge is illuminated with red light – an idea worth considering for the upper deck of a yacht as well. And for any aspiring cosmologists, the Lodge has its own observatory, hosting a resident astronomer all year round to guide visitors through the planets and constellations.
Paragon 700 Boutique Hotel & Spa, Italy
Puglia's latest boutique hotel, Paragon 700, had its grand opening set back by COVID-19 but finally flung its doors open in June 2020 for the first time. Just 11 artfully decorated rooms are housed within the restored red palace, contrasting colourfully with the whitewashed buildings of the surrounding village of Ostuni. Within the red brick façade there's a lush garden and swimming pool, a restaurant headed by chef Giovanni Cerroni, the protégé of Michelin-starred Paulo Airaudo, and a spa to boot. Guests can also expect curated experiences tailor-made to their preferences, from day trips on the hotel’s private yacht, to wine tastings, motorbike tours and cooking classes to fully embrace the local culture.
Given it's petite size, it's more than feasible for guests to consider taking over the entire hotel to themselves for an ultra exclusive summer holiday.book now
Arijiju Retreat, Kenya
From a distance, it’s practically invisible. And then suddenly, part of a hill turns out to be a rather grand house, blending into the surrounding valley thanks to its flat, grass-covered roof. Arijiju, thought by many to be the most beautiful private residence in the Kenyan highlands, was conceived as a family retreat but now welcomes visitors to the Borana Conservancy, drawn here by its magnificent wildlife. including the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and Cape buffalo).
The architectural inspiration came from both the rock-hewn churches of Ethiopia and Thoronet Abbey, a 12th-century monastery in Provence. Quarried Meru stone gives the house an earthy feel while vaulted archways around a courtyard bestow a sense of spirituality to the place. The views are carefully considered – the dining room opens up to a veranda facing the local watering hole and Mount Kenya – and the love of nature infusing the project means sustainability is at its heart, with solar power, water recycling and a ban on plastic bottles.
The same passion has been poured into the interiors, a mix of reclaimed antiques and bespoke furniture handcrafted by local artisans. The five suites are furnished with four-poster beds draped in rabbit furs, French mirrors and chandeliers, sumptuous sofas and free-standing baths. But there’s little else to distract visitors from the meditative views of the forested Sieku Valley through the floor-to-ceiling windows.
Il Palazzo Experimental, Italy
For its first Italian property, French hospitality group Experimental chose the imposing former headquarters of the Adriatica cruising company in Venice’s Dorsoduro neighbourhood. Designer Dorothee Meilichzon decided to retain many of the building’s original details: the imposing ceiling heights of the piano nobile remain unaltered, the old wooden office doors were given a new life and painted in bold, nautically inspired stripes and even the handmade iron gate leading to the garden was carefully restored. Meilichzon looked at Venice’s design heritage for inspiration, hence the Rubelli fabrics, the traditional granite terrazzo floors and the frequent nods to the style of Venetian architect Carlo Scarpa, based on his original mid-century design for the Olivetti store in Piazza San Marco, just across the canal.
For the interiors of Il Palazzo’s snug bar, Experimental Cocktail Club, Meilichzon tapped hip Italian architect Cristina Celestino, whose projects include furniture for Fendi Casa and boutique spaces for Sergio Rossi, LuisaViaRoma and the Amalfi Coast’s Palazzo Avino. Celestino drew inspiration from jewellery: the lamps hanging above the bar resemble pearl pendant earrings and the pastel pink and blue ottomans bring vintage jewellery boxes to mind. But the atmosphere is not feminine at all: the tables, finished with antiqued mirrored tops that match the bar counter (also her own design) are inspired by men’s cufflinks, and the stripes on the custom carpet resemble regimental patterns. Design-loving Venice visitors finally have a place they can call home.book now
Hotel Le Coucou Méribel, France
The sister site to Maisons Pariente hotels Crillon le Brave in Provence and Lou Pinet in Saint Tropez, Hotel Le Coucou Méribel opened for the first time during the 2019/2020 ski season. With 55 suites and two private chalets designed by Pierre Yovanovitch, the rustic-style boutique sits next door to the slopes of Le Rond-Point des Pistes. Combining traditional mountain design with panoramic views over snowy peaks, Le Coucou Méribel should be on your short-list if you're already thinking about which ski resort to visit for your winter holidays. There's two restaurants on offer, a spa with multiple swimming pools and a sauna, plus the concierge team are on hand to organise a range of tailor-made mountain experiences, from horse-drawn sleigh rides to snowmobile tours.book now
Aman Kyoto, Japan
Hotel group Aman quietly opened its third property in Japan just before the start of 2020. The hotel is located outside Kyoto’s bustling city centre, in a secret terraced garden ensconced in a 32-hectare pine, maple and cedar-swathed forest. For his final project with Aman, the late Australian architect Kerry Hill created a series of standalone pavilions, their dark, slatted timber exteriors slotting discreetly into the wooded landscape. The 24 guest rooms and pair of two-bedroom villas take their cues from the layout and minimal aesthetics of a traditional ryokan, albeit with dramatic floor-to- ceiling windows that frame the leafy views outside.
If your legs are weary after a day spent exploring the city’s 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the nearby Kinkaku-ji temple, head to the Aman Spa and wallow in the traditional onsen baths, filled with natural water from a local spring, or indulge in treatments that use ingredients such as Kyoto green tea or local sake. Follow this with a bite to eat in the Living Pavilion, where a mix of perfectly executed Western dishes and home- cooked Kyoto obanzai-style cuisine is served against a background of handmade raku tile panels, by local artist Shigeo Yoshimura, and beyond that, a serene garden.book now