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The It List

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Photo: Dean Kaufman

New Urbanists

Mandarin Oriental, Prague

The luxury Asian hotel group, famous for skyscraping glitz and glamour, has set up shop in a 17th-century monastery.

Location In the middle of the ancient Mala Strana neighborhood, a few minutes’ walk from the Vltava River and the Charles Bridge.
Pedigree The arrival of a Mandarin Oriental hotel is a merit badge for a city. This is the fourth European property from the Hong Kong-based company.
Style + Design The spotless cobblestoned entrance courtyard, occupied only by the hotel’s black Mercedes, feels like a Czech version of Davos—you almost expect to see Bill Gates and George Soros stroll by. Inside is an elegant maze of chambers and staircases, polished blond limestone and cream suede, accented red throw pillows. Many rooms have the original deep bay windows, and a blending of rich colors and natural tones dominates the décor.
Service + Amenities The youthful staff is helpful to the point of exuberance. The spa is set in a former Renaissance church (with a transparent floor revealing Gothic ruins beneath); the restaurant serves both pan-European cuisine—including a delicious pata negra ham appetizer and lots of game—and Asian dishes.
Value for Money Long live Eastern Europe! For the price of a night in a third-tier London or Paris hotel, Prague’s Mandarin Oriental has surroundings fit for a king.
459/1 Nebovidska, Mala Strana; 866/526-6567 or 420-2/3308-8888; www.mandarinoriental.com; doubles from $497.

Ritz-Carlton Beijing, Financial Street, Beijing

A glass-and-chrome tower whose ultra-sleek interiors seem spot-on for the city during its 2008 Olympic Games buildup.

Location Beijing’s newest commercial district, on the less developed western side of the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.
Pedigree This is a radical departure for Ritz-Carlton, which rolled out a new look for the company in 2006.
Style + Design Slightly minimalist, but with bold splashes of classical China, such as the entrance’s massive yin-and-yang marble sculpture, paintings by Chinese artist Bo Yun, and decorative screens.
Services + Amenities Standard rooms are a generous 538 square feet and feature 37-inch flat-screen TV’s. The 16,000 square-foot spa has, bizarrely, a full-length movie screen dominating one end of the 22-yard swimming pool. (Slot in a DVD of Mark Spitz for inspiration and your lap times just might improve.)
Value for Money While it doesn’t enjoy walking-distance convenience to the Forbidden City, as do its five-star rivals, the hotel surpasses them in design, and a solicitous staff seems more than eager to please.
1 Jin Cheng Fang St. E., Financial St.; 800/241-3333 or 86-10/6601-6666; www.ritzcarlton.com; doubles from $538.

Hotel de Rome, Berlin

A grand 19th-century monument gets a new look from an ambitious hotelier intent on giving the illustrious Adlon a run for its money.

Location Billing itself as "Berlin’s architectural gem," the Hotel de Rome occupies the old Dresdner Bank headquarters on Unter den Linden, overlooking the Baroque-era Bebelplatz.
Pedigree The Rocco Forte group (Brown’s Hotel in London, the Hotel de Russie in Rome) typically makes magic out of rundown but exquisitely situated properties in Europe’s prestige capitals.
Style + Design Public areas, overseen by in-house guru Olga Polizzi, are simultaneously modern and grandiose: the lobby is replete with marble, dark velvet furniture, and heroically proportioned Romanesque vases. Bedrooms are less successful, but the bathrooms are the vast polished limestone playgrounds expected of this class of hotel.
Service + Amenities The Mediterranean restaurant, Parioli, serves up faultless veal saltimbocca and wild mushroom ravioli, and the bar has quickly established itself as a favorite with Berlin’s glitterati. The black granite-and-limestone spa, in the old bank vaults, is spectacular; among the first-rate treatments are a lomilomi massage and a carrot-vitamin body wrap.
Value for Money The address is ideal and the public spaces deliver, but room prices are ultimately out of line with the rooms themselves. The buffet breakfast, at $35 a person, is a particular sore spot.
37 Behrenstrasse; 49-30/460-6090; www.roccofortehotels.com; doubles from $600.


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