By Devorah Lev-Tov
July 08, 2020
Credit: Jenny Zarins/Courtesy of Raffles Istanbul

This year’s World’s Best Awards survey closed on March 2, just before widespread stay-at-home orders were implemented as a result of COVID-19. The results reflect our readers’ experiences before the pandemic, but we hope that this year’s honorees will inspire your trips to come — whenever they may be.

Old World Europe nails luxury, with countless hotels in cities across the continent managing to wow guests. So fierce is the competition that our list this year contains only one repeat entry from last year — even though none of the honorees are newly opened. In this 25th edition of the World’s Best Awards, T+L readers loved a mix of historic and grande dame properties, modern builds, well-known luxury brands, and iconic boutique hotels, proving that when it comes to top-notch European city hotels, there is no one-size-fits-all choice. Still, the best city hotels in Europe do have a few things in common: plush rooms, luxe amenities, high-quality dining, and a friendly staff offering flawless service.

Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Hotels were rated on their facilities, location, service, food, and overall value. Properties were classified as city or resort based on their locations and amenities.

Demonstrating the importance of location, hotels in the center of town captured most of the spots on this year’s list, including the No. 4 Ritz Paris (near the Louvre Museum and Jardin des Tuileries), the No. 13 Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet (close to the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque), and grande dame De L’Europe, which came in at No. 12 (right in the middle of canal-filled Amsterdam).

Of course, location is just one part of the puzzle: No. 9 J.K. Place Roma, near the Spanish Steps, has “first-class service, stunning facilities, top-notch food, and a great central location,” raved one reader. London hotels claimed five spots on this year’s list and four of them are centrally located around Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, Mayfair, and Piccadilly Circus. But Hotel Café Royal secured its third-place spot on the list thanks to being found “right in the heart of London,” as one voter wrote, as well as for “service [that] is very personal and warm.”

This year, the top spot goes to a sleek high-rise: the Raffles Istanbul. Scroll on to see the complete list of the best city hotels in Europe.

1. Raffles Istanbul

Credit: Jenny Zarins/Courtesy of Raffles Istanbul

Score: 98.40

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Istanbul is filled with historic properties that pay homage to the city’s bygone Byzantine and Ottoman Empire days, but our winner bucks that trend. Instead, the sleek Raffles Istanbul is found inside a mixed-use development, all glass and neutral hues. It’s decidedly modern, with contemporary comforts, technologically integrated rooms, and top-notch facilities like a spa with three hammams, an indoor and outdoor pool, and a fitness center with both yoga and Pilates studios. Guests appreciate that the “rooms are big and spacious; the service is excellent; and the food delicious and well presented,” as one reader enthused.

2. Shangri-La Hotel, at the Shard, London

Courtesy of Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts

Score: 98.06

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3. Hotel Café Royal, London

Credit: Courtesy of Hotel Café Royal

Score: 97.07

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4. Ritz Paris

Credit: Courtesy of Ritz Paris

Score: 97.01

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5. The St. Regis, Florence

Credit: Courtesy of The St. Regis Florence

Score: 96.62

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6. Mandarin Oriental, Munich, Germany

Credit: Courtesy of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group

Score: 95.25

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7. The Milestone Hotel & Residences, London

Credit: Courtesy of Red Carnation Hotels

Score: 95.16

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8. Park Hyatt Milan

Credit: Courtesy of Park Hyatt Milan

Score: 95.11

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9. J.K. Place Roma, Rome

Credit: Courtesy of J.K. Place Roma

Score: 95.09

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10. The Stafford London

Credit: Courtesy of The Stafford London

Score: 95.03

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11. The Connaught, London

Credit: Courtesy of The Connaught

Score: 95.00

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12. De L’Europe Amsterdam

Credit: Courtesy of De L'Europe Amsterdam

Score: 94.91

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13. Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet, Istanbul

Credit: Courtesy of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

Score: 94.83

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14. Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona

Credit: Courtesy of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group

Score: 94.82

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15. Four Seasons Hotel Firenze, Florence

Credit: Courtesy of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

Score: 94.56

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See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2020.