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Four Reasons to Explore Istria, Croatia Now

Istria

The Istrian Peninsula has all the knockout beauty of the Dalmatian Coast—without the crowds. We found four reasons to explore.

Because its islands and beaches are still a (relative) secret. Leave Venice to the cruise ships. Just across the Adriatic, Istria is laid-back and idyllic—and rocky beaches abound. In Kamenjak Park, near Pula, cliff-jumping into the sea is a pastime. Farther north, you’ll find the popular sunbathing spot Monte Beach, reached via steep stone steps, and the wildly beautiful Golden Bay. Board the crewed wooden cruiser Delfin, based in Rovinj, for daylong trips to outlying fjords and archipelagoes, with stops at St. Andrew (where you can visit a sixth-century monastery), lush St. Katarina Island, and the St. John lighthouse.

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The Moment: San Cassiano, Italy

San Cassiano: Hotel & Spa Rosa Alpina

6:04 p.m.: It’s early evening, and as you walk back through sage- and wildflower-dotted meadows to Rosa Alpina Hotel & Spa, you can’t decide which is more impressive: the light hitting the limestone crags of the Dolomites or the fact that you were actually scrambling over boulders up there this morning. Yes, you earned that hearty Tyrolean lunch you enjoyed a few hours ago—fire-grilled steak, local cheeses, and kaiserschmarrn (caramelized pancakes)—in hotel owner Hugo Pizzinini’s 18th-century cabin, which has been part of his family’s private reserve for generations. You can’t quite believe you booked a mountain bike tomorrow to visit the 15th-century church of St. Catharina in Corvara and its frescoes. And—despite the fact that dinner tonight is at the hotel’s Michelin two-starred restaurant, St. Hubertus—you definitely can’t believe you’re already hungry. $$$

Related Links:
T+L’s Guide to Beautiful Views
Best U.S. National Park Views
Best New Mountain Resorts

Photo courtesy of Rosa Alpina

Affordable (and Stylish) European Hotel Chains

European Hotel Chains: Radisson Blu in Stockholm

Though they’re less known to American travelers, these design-conscious brands have surprisingly well-priced rooms. Plus: A few of our favorite up-and-comers.

Room Mate

Presence in Europe: 15 hotels (11 in Spain)

Rates From: $95 (Madrid, Istanbul); $136 (Amsterdam, Florence)

This Spanish company, cofounded by former Olympic horseback rider Enrique Sarasola, is known for its futuristic-looking hotels (origami-like furniture; neon lights). It recently opened outposts in Istanbul’s chic Beyoğlu district and on a man-made island in Amsterdam; Milan and Rotterdam debut in 2015.

Scandic

Presence in Europe: 154 hotels (76 in Sweden)

Rates from $114 (Oslo); $177 (Stockholm)

Based in northern Europe, Scandic blends contemporary design and cutting-edge technology; it recently became the world’s first hotel chain to offer brand-wide online checkout (through smartphone or computer). British star chef Jamie Oliver creates menus for each property and is bringing his own restaurant to Stockholm’s Scandic Anglais this fall.

Radisson Blu

Presence in Europe: 182 hotels (25 in Germany)

Rates From: $147 (Madrid); $319 (Paris)

Radisson Blu’s pedigree can be traced to its first European hotel: Danish architect Arne Jacobsen’s 1960 Royal Hotel in Copenhagen. The company continues to attract homegrown talent, including François Champsaur, who worked on Paris’s Le Metropolitan. Look out for new locations in Belgrade and Oslo.

Novotel

Presence in Europe: 248 hotels (113 in France)

Rates From: $85 (Athens); $110 (Berlin); $124 (Barcelona)

Though established in 1967, France’s Novotel brand stays current with redesigned rooms and a virtual concierge service via on-site kiosks and a smartphone app. Among the latest arrivals are a location near London’s Wembley Stadium and a 360-room property in Moscow that’s a short drive from the Kremlin. Next up: Rotterdam.

Meliá

Presence in Europe: 65 hotels (45 in Spain)

Rates From: $205 (Vienna); $286 (Capri)

Expect well-located, city-center hotels that embrace local design from Majorca-based Meliá. Consider its two most recent openings: Meliá Vienna sits in the city’s tallest building (a glass tower by Dominique Perrault), while the 19 rooms at the Villa Capri are outfitted with Murano chandeliers and Poltrona Frau and Cappellini furniture.

Ones to Watch

This month, Scandic Hotels debuts the stripped-down brand HTL ($) in Stockholm; 20 more are planned by 2019. The Millennial-focused Citizen M ($)—with free movie streaming and self check-in—opens in Paris later this year. 25Hours Hotels ($) recently headed to Berlin for its seventh property. The arty, edgy company Nhow ($) has launched in the culture-rich cities of Berlin, Milan, and Rotterdam.

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Restaurants
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Related Links:
Europe's Best Affordable Hotels
Guide to Hotel Loyalty Programs
Trend: Boutique Hotels from Big Hotel Chains

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@timeinc.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.


Photo by Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group

Beijing Fast Forwards to the Future

Beijing

The headlong rush of Beijing’s booming scene, as seen by T+L—old-school restaurants, futuristic architecture, Internet entrepreneurs, and over-the-top nightclubs.

In Beijing, the past trembles before the future. Nowhere on earth is the fast-forward button pressed with such might and frequency. Nowhere else do the centuries disappear into the night, handed over to starchitect Zaha Hadid’s Galaxy Soho, a building that looks like four UFO’s have landed around a traditional Chinese courtyard, or to shopping malls called the Place or the Village, or to ring roads that encircle the Forbidden City carrying millions of cars, each barely inching forward through the haze of pollution that the government euphemistically likes to call “bad weather.” And yet even as you slide past the ghost buildings that line the impossibly wide boulevards, broken up only by flashing billboards of Western beauties hawking Dior, you start to think: This is where it’s at. Beijing, China’s political capital, is where the future will be partly decided and packaged and presented to large swaths of the globe. Even a few of the foreign denizens of the financial capital, Shanghai, tell me they’d rather move to Beijing, if only to better grease the palms of those who actually wield power, the functionaries of China’s Communist Party. I’ve met many Europeans who proudly announce that they’ve never in their entire lives visited New York. To participate in the 21st century and not know Beijing will require similar pride. Or foolishness. In fact, the saddest flight in the world is from America’s decrepit Newark Liberty International Airport, essentially a giant bathroom with airplanes, to the gleaming and sinuous Norman Foster–designed Beijing Capital International Airport.

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Neighborhood Guide to Istanbul

Istanbul

Where to go now—neighborhood by neighborhood in Istanbul.

On my first visit to Istanbul, in the mid 1980’s, donkey carts still trundled across the iron Galata Bridge between the historic Old City and the Europeanized Beyoğlu quarter. And right away I was hooked...on faded Byzantine frescoes and smoky kebabs and tulip-shaped glasses of tea. I’m even more smitten today, as I gaze over the Bosporus boat traffic from the window of a little apartment I bought in the leafy Cihangir quarter. Istanbul is a global megalopolis now, a place where grit and gloss, East and West, secularism and Islam all collide with a jolt—or just as often cohabit gracefully. This is my Istanbul.

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SBE Group to Launch New Brand, SLS Lux

201405-hd-new-sls-lux-brickelljpgFamous for its design-focused properties, the SBE hotel group has been expanding quickly, with the recent launch of The Redbury South Beach (a T+L 2014 It List winner) and the debut of the 1,600-room SLS Las Vegas this August.

Part of the Sin City project’s allure? SLS Lux, an all-suite hotel experience—and separate brand—set in one of three towers. The other two will house SLS Story, with lower prices and more playful rooms (to wit: beds that sit in the center, doubling as a couch/entertainment piece), and SLS World, geared toward the business traveler.

Guests of SLS Lux will have a private entrance and access to a dedicated concierge, who could, for example, get you a last-minute seating at the chef’s table at Katsuya. On the horizon: SLS Brickell, a Philippe Starck-designed hotel and residential project in Miami’s fast-developing business district, along with the 85-suite SLS Lux Brickell, the vision of Yabu Pushelberg.

Jacqueline Gifford is a senior editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo courtesy of SBE

Galway, Ireland Untamed

Galway Ireland

On a journey to the rugged coast of Galway, Ireland, T+L finds small towns and quiet pubs, raucous musicians, and no shortage of Irish resilience and pride.

The sky is without stars or moon. There are no lights, no sign of life in any direction, only the night—and the road. The car’s headlights shine into blackness, revealing the thin, crooked, ungraded ribbon of tarmac disappearing into mist. When I step out the wind is ripping. The rain has stopped. I think perhaps I can hear something through the wind, someone calling. I listen harder, and then I hear it again. Voices? This is the Bog Road outside Clifden, in Connemara, County Galway, in the far west of Ireland. I’ve been told it’s haunted.

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T+L's Favorite Hotels for Bike Month

201405-hd-bike-month-bahia-beach-resortjpg

It's Bike Month, and hotels are getting in on the action. Here, a few of our favorite two-wheeler programs at properties around North America:

All that separates Santa Monica's Shutters on the Beach from the ocean is a bike-path. Luckily, the hotel has a fleet of bright-green cycles designed by Kate Spade available to rent.

On the Atlantic, Miami's James Royal Palm has complimentary Republic bikes for guests to ride along the South Beach boardwalk.

And in Puerto Rico, the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort (pictured above) is a nature preservation unto itself, with secluded paths through a 70-acre bird sanctuary—home to endemic parrots. The hotel provides complimentary bike rentals.

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Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage Opens

Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage

There’s a noteworthy new spot worth considering for your next weekend getaway. The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage, set on a bluff above Palm Springs and California’s Coachella Valley, has thrown open its doors again today after a seven-year closure (you can thank the financial crisis for the delayed debut).

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Marriott's New PlusPoints Will Turn Your Tweets into Loyalty Points

201405-hd-marriott-pluspoints-socialjpgSocial media engagement has become increasingly valuable to hotel brands and travel companies—look no further than our own SMITTY Award winners—but today, Marriott is becoming the first company to place a real dollar value on customers’ tweets, check-ins, and likes. With PlusPoints, a new feature of the brand’s much loved rewards program, visitors who download the Marriott Rewards app and synch their social media accounts will now see their points balances increase with every digital interaction—up to 2,000 points each month. Says Rich Toohey, VP of Marriott Rewards, “It’s a way to provide immediate gratification for our members, who happy to be very active on social media channels.” Immediate is right: most interactions (geo-tagged Instagram pics; Facebook comments; check-ins and tweets) will yield an automatic deposited of 25 points to your Marriott Rewards account, while one-time activities, such as liking a property page on Facebook, will boost your balance by 250 points.

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