Every year, Travel + Leisure's editors look at thousands of hotel openings and renovations around the globe with one mission in mind: what properties will truly be game changers for our readers. A great location, thoughtful design, and intuitive service are a given. What’s harder to define is a little thing called buzz-factor. A standout hotel might be adding to the fabric of a neighborhood through events, opening up entirely new destinations by their very presence, and going above and beyond in terms of excursions (helicopter safaris, anyone?) to truly transport their guests.
With that criteria in mind, we compile the It List — our annual collection of the best new and reborn properties worldwide. Following spirited in-office debate and deliberation, we whittled down our master list of hotels openings from last year to just 100 properties. From there, we tapped our global network of contributors for detailed, firsthand accounts of each. We asked them about touches like the softness of the sheets; the signature dishes at restaurants; and the views from their rooms. After carefully considering their feedback, we narrowed down the list down even further, settling on 56 stunning hotels in places as close by as our hometown of New York City and as far-flung as the African island of Madagascar.
Not every hotel is a new build. Indeed, one of our favorites this year is Paris’ Hôtel de Crillon, an 18th-century grand dame that reopened last July, under new management from Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, following a four-year closure. With a history that stretches back to when Louis XV commissioned the palace’s neoclassical façade, the hotel has gilded friezes, pattered marble, and frescoed ceilings that are classified landmarks. But now, thanks to a sensible modernization by five Paris-based designers — Chahan Minassian, Cyril Vergniol, Tristan Auer, Aline Asmar d’Amman, and Karl Lagerfeld — it also features modern accents like low-slung tubular sofas, tables inlaid with semiprecious minerals, and grey and neutral tones. The Crillon is now the de facto social hub for Paris’ bright young things.
The social scene at London hotel The Ned, the latest property from the Soho House group, is equally as vibrant, with a lobby bar that hosts regular cabaret performances and is home to no less than eight restaurants. Meanwhile, at Toronto's Broadview Hotel, in the up-and-coming East End, a cool crowd congregates on the rooftop lounge to drink craft beers and listen to DJ-spun tunes.
Wilderness Safaris Bisate Lodge is a one-of-a-kind in that it is Rwanda’s first luxury safari accommodation. The country’s comeback in the tourism space is remarkable, given that it was embroiled in a civil war just twenty-four years ago. Bisate is part of the progress, and leading more travelers to experience this beautiful corner of the world. The six-villa ecolodge, which opened in June of 2017, organizes trekking tours into the quietest corners of Volcanoes National Park, giving visitors the rare opportunity to glimpse endangered gorillas in their natural habitat.
And while we probably won’t know the luxury that is owning your own island, Cempedak, an adults-only paradise in Indonesia’s Riau archipelago, gave us permission to pretend, if only for a few days. Here, the owner, Andrew Dixon, has taken sustainable development in the region to new levels, using native material like alang-alang grass, lava stone, and compressed bamboo to construct the curvaceous thatched villas. Secluded and luxurious, Cempedak is a grown-up hideaway perfect for those wanting to get away from it all.
But those are just a few notable mentions. The list that follows is our definitive guide to hotels that are destinations in their own right. Find your next vacation in the slideshow ahead, then share your favorites with us on social media using #TLItList.