World's Top 50 Hotels 2015
Two decades ago, we began asking T+L readers to share with us their favorite hotels and resorts. They’ve taken into account value, service, food, and design, among other categories, to determine the best properties in the world. Each year, the list is surprising, dynamic, and provides clear insight into the trends and tastes shaping our global travel community.
This year, readers’ favorite hotels ranged from the far reaches of India to the frenetic streets of Tokyo. But a significant number of the winners are closer to home, with nearly 40 percent of the hotels on the Top 50 list located stateside. A clutch of chic properties in California, two on Rhode Island’s picturesque shores, and a duo perched on Sea Island in Georgia are just a few of the beloved standouts.
There is no shortage of options in classic European cities—Paris, Venice, London—as well as Asia’s booming hotspots, including Shanghai and Chiang Mai. Let’s not forget the dreamy resorts scattered across Mexico’s best beaches.
For trip inspiration or a few hard-earned daydreams, click through our list of World’s Best Hotel winners.
No. 50 Four Seasons Resort, Punta Mita, Mexico
As the first luxury resort to appear on Punta Mita, this property has set the standard for indulgence in quintessential Four Seasons style. The premier Punta Mita retreat snagged the choicest stretch of Bahía de Banderas, and many casitas offer ocean panoramas. If the Pacific isn’t enough, guests can choose between five pools, including a heated infinity option and a series of small plunge pools. Many familiar names appear throughout the property, including a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course and a seafood-focused restaurant by Richard Sandoval. The resort’s biggest draw is its tropical waters—ideal for whale watching, snorkeling, diving, and sunning on the nearby Marietas Islands.
No. 50 Inn Above Tide Sausalito, Sausalito, California
This debut property sneaks onto the Top 50 list with a score that has it tied with the veteran Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita. So how did cozy, shingled Inn Above Tide wash away the competition in this year’s poll? The hotel sits on the San Francisco Bay, atop concrete and timber pilings that allow balconies and teak-furnished decks to jut out directly over the water. Complimentary selections of California wines, wood-burning fireplaces, Bulgari toiletries, and in-room binoculars for spying on the locals (sea lions, migratory birds, and stand-up paddle boarders) seal the deal. Book a table at nearby restaurant Fish for the West Coast iteration of the lobster roll, made with Dungeness crab.
No. 48 Belmond Hotel Caruso, Ravello, Italy
From its limestone throne at the highest point in Ravello, pitching toward the Tyrrhenian Sea, this 11th-century palazzo dazzles both inside and out. Colorful frescoes and Moorish arches adorn the façade, while rooms boast mosaic tile floors and, in many cases, private gardens. Look too quickly, and you may think the rooftop infinity pool extends straight into the Mediterranean. Take breakfast on the patio, where pastries are replaced every half hour to maintain freshness, before boarding the Belmond’s traditional wooden boat, Ercole, for an afternoon tour of the Amalfi Coast. For dinner, there are wood-fired pizzas and roasted seafood entrees to be enjoyed alongside the Belvedere Restaurant’s ancient rose bushes.
No. 48 Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten Kempinski, Munich, Germany
If you can draw yourself away from the exquisitely restored stained-glass dome in the lobby, ideal for letting in refracted light, you’ll find this Neoclassical hotel is as regal and distinctly European in all other aspects. Rooms feature precious woods and exclusive reproductions of Pinakothek canvases, though its position on Maximilianstrasse, Munich’s Fifth Avenue, which draws such an elite crowd. Aside from the lobby, it’s the glass-enclosed rooftop pool and spa complex that serves as the property’s crowning jewel. Book a holistic-focused treatment and sip fresh-pressed juices on the rooftop terrace.
No. 47 Lake Placid Lodge, Lake Placid New York
After a devastating fire destroyed the 19th-century main building, this hotel was gorgeously rebuilt to surpass its original rustic-chic vibe. The Relais & Chateaux property offers an upscale arts and crafts aesthetic, with handmade birch beds and blanket-strewn Adirondack chairs. Come snow or sun, guests can take advantage of upstate New York’s natural bounty with complimentary boats, bikes, skis, snowshoes, and toboggans. Opt for one of the luxe, shore-facing log cabins from the 1920s and 1930s, where morning sunrises bring fresh raspberry pancakes and jars of preserves delivered magically to your door in a wicker basket. Evenings end on a sweet note, too, with nightly s’mores (made with artisanal marshmallows and chocolate) around the bonfire lit at dusk.
No. 46 Calistoga Ranch, Calistoga, California
Pacific Coast nature lovers can’t get enough of this woodsy, 157-acre Eden tucked in a canyon of ancient oaks and bubbling creeks, just steps from the Silverado Trail. Freestanding cedar-shingle lodges with copper accents, panoramic windows, and outdoor rain showers are best known for their double-sided, indoor-outdoor fireplaces. Evidence of the ranch’s Napa Valley heritage can be found in the cabernet wine bath at the Bathhouse Spa, morning yoga in the mountainside wine cave, or (more traditionally) an estate wine tasting. Travelers who need a touch of the extravagant will appreciate the on-site Mercedes-Benz, available (at no extra cost) for jaunts through the countryside.
No. 45 The Goring London, London, England
This year, for the first time in more than a century, The Goring closed its doors for a top-to-toe renovation. Now a whimsical, hand painted scene of London’s zoo animals running wild in the city graces the Front Hall of the centrally located Belgravia institution. The remaining walls are covered in hand-dyed, archival silks. But it’s the éclair cart that roves through the lounge during afternoon tea, as well as the new fleet of footmen, that have caught guests’ attention. Visitors staying in the hotel’s suites can make requests of their designated butlers—decked out in vibrant red tailcoats and gold-trimmed waistcoats—for any number of outlandish things, such as a typical English picnic in a royal park (with champagne, of course), an ironed newspaper, or even a Shetland pony. Now that’s service.
No. 44 Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
When it was first built, this landmark property was the city’s tallest skyscraper, towering over Hong Kong at 25 stories. Decades later, it remains a lustrous local legend, with glossy black marble in the lobby and, in the rooms, glazed ceramics, velvet fabrics, and polished wood panels. Above the ground floor, retail includes the Café Causette and Cake Shop, where the city’s socialites and pampered guests enjoy dim sum, mini quiches, and meticulously decorated wedding cakes. A recent redo has transformed the balconies into glass or white English oak sunrooms, which create a much-appreciated barrier between guests and city smog.
No. 43 Lodge at Sea Island Golf Club, Sea Island, Georgia
Perks of staying at this genteel country resort (just off southeastern Georgia’s Atlantic coast) include private butlers and access to three legendary golf courses—complete with marsh and St. Simons Sound views, as well as a roaming bagpiper in the evenings. Suites and living rooms are more than 1,000 square feet, with plush oriental rugs and soaking tubs in the bathrooms. We suggest booking Nos. 2 and 3 for their enormous balconies that overlook the 18th hole. For guests in need of a little extra indulgence, there are six on-site restaurants (and a food truck) as well as a 65,000-square-foot spa at the lodge’s sister property, The Cloister.
No. 42 Hotel Lungarno, Firenze, Italy
Lush interiors by the famous Ferragamo fashion family warm up this jasmine-covered medieval stone tower, which is old world and wholly romantic. The rooms (spacious by Florentine standards) are done in crisp shades of blue and cream: a nautical reference to the neighboring River Arno. Botticino marble can be found in the bathrooms and antique furnishings in the bedrooms. Consider a Junior Suite for access to a private, river-facing terrace, or the Suite Torre to be perched inside the building’s tower.
No. 41 Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Set among terraced paddy fields, this resort achieves complete tranquility despite being only twenty minutes outside Chiang Mai proper. Its poolside villas and pavilions all built with vaulted ceilings and polished teak floors, resemble Thai temples. Unwind in one of the spa’s elegant treatment suites with private steam rooms and outdoor soaking tubs, or try your hand at preparing noodle soup with chicken or dry spiced curry with pork at the resort’s cooking school. Ingredients are often sourced directly from the property’s private, organic garden.
No. 40 Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme, Paris, France
Elegant interiors with limestone, mahogany, bronze sculptures, and light fixtures give this palatial hotel a definite sex appeal that lacks in many of the city’s other rarefied, regal properties. Inside the five fused Haussmann-era townhouses, guests can enjoy a museum-worthy art collection. The rooms are adorned with golden window shades, silken duvets, and furniture that is entirely handmade. None of the standard doubles compare to the five-figure nightly price tag on the two-story Presidential Suite, which has hosted such notables as Madonna and the Dalai Lama, and has a glass-roofed master bath and a hammam.
No. 39 The Peninsula Tokyo
International business and leisure travelers for whom money is no object bed down in the tower’s top suites, with their panoramic views of Hibiya Park and the Imperial Palace. Nearly every detail about The Peninsula Tokyo helps visitors discover and decode the frenetic city streets, many of which have no names. The concierge staff is famous for snagging reservations at Michelin-starred restaurants or securing the best bilingual guides. In-room iPods come equipped with convenient tours, and the room phone transforms into a cell phone. Though four primary subway lines converge in the hotel’s basement, for many, the hotel is a destination in its own right. Locals often can be found at tables in one of the property’s five restaurants. Try the kaiseki-style tasting menu at Kyoto Tsuruya, or an award-winning cocktail (Perfect Eden with gin, yuzu syrup, lemon juice, cypress bitters, and violet and aloe liqueurs) from the top-floor sky bar, Peter.
No. 38 Egerton House Hotel, London, England
Since the late 1800s, the Egerton House Hotel has been operating as a private guesthouse. But it wasn’t until this year that the twin red brick property making up the historic hotel appeared on our World’s Best List. The 1843 building in the heart of London’s posh Knightsbridge district is home to 28 rooms that blend modern features and opulent, Old World charm to great effect. Each room includes elaborate brocade fabrics, fresh-cut flowers, and antique furnishings, as well as flat-screen televisions and Bose docking stations. Guests also enjoy such first-rate amenities as use of the Aquila fitness spa, complimentary wif-fi, and afternoon tea, complete with finger sandwiches and Devonshire clotted cream.
No. 37 Cavallo Point Lodge, Sausalito, California
This property, situated on the spectacular promontories known as the Marin Headlands, has come a long way since its days as Fort Baker—a depot and officers’ residence during World War II. Now, the spa and lodge offer adventure-seeking guests strategic access to the Golden Gate Bridge, which casts its iconic shadow over the eco-friendly rooms and sprawling lawns. Choose between historic rooms in the whitewashed quarters with pressed-tin ceilings and porches complete with rocking chairs, or one of the newer contemporary spaces with bamboo furniture and bay views.
No. 35 Wentworth Mansion, Charleston, South Carolina
Like its aptly named restaurant Circa 1886, everything at this hotel is plucked straight from the Second Empire. The estate was originally a private home and still exudes Victorian grandness, with its original stained glass windows, crystal chandeliers, and a rooftop cupola for unobstructed views of Charleston. In the mansion’s former stables, guests can enjoy modern spa treatments, and complimentary sherry and port are offered in the parlor every evening. Breakfast is included, but you’ll want to return to the lauded restaurant for dinner. The lamb with huckleberry and goat cheese is a summertime standout.
No. 35 The Peninsula Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
Readers have raved about this property for twenty years in a row, noting its glamour starts from the first glimpse of 14 customized Rolls-Royce limousines waiting just beyond the entry fountain. Inside, bellboys don old-school pillbox hats, and a string quartet plays classical music. Ascend the 38-story tower to the recently renovated rooms, which balance burlwood cabinetry and vintage luggage-inspired hardware with new, modern tablets that control everything from the lighting to the blackout curtains, music and 3D television screen. We suggest keeping the shades up—you won’t want to miss the vistas of Victoria Harbour and Kowloon. For even more heart-stopping views, schedule a helicopter tour of Hong Kong’s Geopark from the rooftop helipad: the only in the city. Would you expect anything less of Hong Kong’s oldest hotel, and one of the most veteran properties on our list?
No. 34 Cape Grace, Cape Town, South Africa
This hotel gets high marks for its stunning views of the sailboat-speckled harbor and Table Mountain. But genuine hospitality and intuitive service is what makes this a repeat World’s Best winner. When you return—which you most certainly will—seeing the staff will be like reuniting with old friends. From the moment you pass from the pedestrian bridge to the hotel’s private quay, you’ll be overwhelmed by the thoughtful details, such as hand-painted fabrics and a storybook in each of the 121 rooms that tells the unique tale of its design. Look for china recovered from shipwrecks and ship manifestos. Whether you’re vacationing or securing a business deal, make time for the Bascule Bar, which is stocked with more than 500 whiskeys.
No. 33 Hotel Alfonso XIII, a Luxury Collection Resort, Seville, Spain
Since the days of the Spanish king who gave the hotel its name, this property has catered to royal expectations with its stained glass, colorful Andalusian tiles, and silk-draped walls. The Moorish castle’s surprisingly contemporary furniture in the guest rooms and suites may be a bit of a turnoff for traditionalists, but the new private boutiques are welcome reprieves from the somewhat touristy streets of Old Seville.
No. 32 Cloister at Sea Island, Sea Island, Georgia
Discriminating East Coasters flock year-round to this historic 1928 Mediterranean-style mansion, set on a private barrier island south of Savannah. Beach Club Suites come with kitchens, fireplaces, and balconies, but all have finer period touches (exposed wood beams, handmade Turkish rugs). Hop on the restored antique yacht, the Cloister Belle, for a 90-minute tour of the salt marshes or relax at the new two-story spa, complete with indoor forest and lagoon. Post-massage, don your best sport jacket for dinner at The Georgian, where painted china is the necessary backdrop for five-star fare such as frog’s leg confit. Conclude the evening with a movie in the on-site theater, or with a cone from the ice cream parlor, Wonderland.
No. 30 Hotel Terra Jackson Hole, Teton Village, Wyoming
This environmentally conscious hotel has bamboo wood furniture and 100 percent organic mattresses in the guest rooms, while the lobby is decorated with art made from reclaimed barn wood. Nontoxic paint and water reduction systems have helped to make this a LEED-certified property. Of course, eco-friendly and luxurious don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Heated floors and a rooftop hot tub with views of Jackson Hole Mountain make this boutique property fit for the in-crowd.
No. 30 Inn at Little Washington, Washington, Virginia
It’s hard to believe that this 18-room inn, now a destination in its own right, got its start as a converted garage in the unassuming village of Washington, Virginia. The cashmere bed throws, 17th-century reclaimed French chateau floors, and amethyst-studding ceilings do their due diligence in disguising the humble origins. Book room No. 5 for a private balcony that overlooks the courtyard garden. Save your appetite for dinner at Chef Patrick O’Connell’s legendary restaurant, where refined American fare such as prosciutto-wrapped veal Shenandoah with fontina ravioli comes from a custom-designed, Windsor Castle-inspired kitchen by designer Joyce Evans.
No. 29 Le Bristol, Paris, France
A lengthy $130 million facelift has restored a youthful, lighter glow to this 90-year-old dauphine. While 19th-century French regalia remains (there’s endless toile and gilded ceilings that date to 1925), the new Le Bristol Paris now enhances its stunning Eiffel Tower views with floor-to-ceiling windows. The Epicure restaurant, of three Michelin stars, has been completely redone with romantic two-tops overlooking the leafy courtyard, and 114 Hauborg and Le Bar du Bristol have joined the gastronomic team. The hotel also added two apartment-style gems, reachable by an original wrought-iron elevator. Ascend to the Panoramic Suite (you’ll recognize the 2,150-square-foot space from Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris) for French master paintings, a private gym, and a white and lavender bedroom that has been graced by Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams.
No. 27 Banyan Tree Mayakoba, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Like its Rosewood neighbor, this resort is a tranquil escape from Mexico’s touristy spring break beaches. The Banyan Tree’s swooping pagodas and Eastern-rooted spa treatments are a hat tip to the brand’s Thai origins. All guests can enjoy the supreme privacy of the property’s 107 stand-alone villas, with a minimum of 3,150 slate-floored, sky-lit square feet. Don’t skimp on a spa visit during your stay. The Rainforest Indulgence, a succession of eight hydrotherapy treatments that emulate the surrounding jungle, concludes with a dip in the Vitality Pool—all luminous, underwater chaises and acupressure jets.
No. 27 The Little Nell, Aspen, Colorado
There is perhaps only one thing more extravagant than the ski in/ski out resort itself, where celebs such as Heidi Klum and Beyoncé warm up after a day on the slopes with in-room gas fireplaces or a glass of red from the 20,000-bottle cellar. But it’s not ski concierge, equipped with warm boots and lift passes, or the recent Holly Hunt revamp that brought warm wood and soaking tubs to the mountainside retreat. The true indulgence is the signature hot chocolate, made with half-and-half, sugar, Valrhona Cocoa, a pinch of salt, and topped with a choice of whipped cream, marshmallows, chocolate chips, or a peppermint stick—or all of the above.
No. 26 Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park, New York
One of the biggest draws to this landmark Manhattan hotel is its premier location on the southern edge of Central Park. The limestone-fronted Emily Roth building is a testament to the resilience of Old World charm, thanks to tasseled damask curtains, a brigade of carriage horses on hand for romantic sunset rides through the park, and loaner Burberry trench coats for blustery days. The Auden Bistro & Bar is the newest addition to the property, and serves new American fare alongside classic cocktails like—what else?—a Jim Beam Manhattan with vermouth, orange bitters, and an orange twist.
No. 25 Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa, Johannesburg, South Africa
A koi pond, azure swimming pool with underwater music, and 10-acre garden proved to be the perfect backdrop for Nelson Mandela, who penned his autobiography here after his release from prison. The hotel has one of the most exclusive addresses in the Sandhurst suburb, and is best known for its African art collection on display throughout the hotel. The sleek, contemporary manse has 53 rooms, all of which are fashionably done up with natural materials such as horn and wood, as well as modern, tribal-inspired prints. Like the interior design, the food and beverage program is regional in focus. South African wines can be found in the minibars, and Qunu Grill, the hotel’s newest restaurant, spotlights native cuisine with grass-fed beef from the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and mussels from the coast.
No. 24 Gritti Palace, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Venice, Italy
In 2013, Starwood’s Luxury Collection put $55 million into renovating this legendary Venetian hotel. During the 15-month redo, no detail was left unconsidered, down to 200 silk wall coverings and textiles reproduced from the Rubelli firm’s archives exclusively for the hotel. Here, opulence is authentic and the glamour of the 15th-century palazzo is underscored by the presence of 880 thoughtfully refurbished antiques and light fixtures. Take breakfast at Club del Doge, the floating terrace on the Canal Grande. Our only gripe? That the breathtaking new rooftop space is reserved exclusively for guests at the Redentore Terrazza Suite. Che peccato.
No. 23 Primland, Meadows of Dan, Virginia
Stargazers rejoice at this secluded estate, where 12,000 woodsy acres and an elevation of nearly 3,000 feet offer unusually clear views of the night sky. Watch the constellations pass overheard, or take a peek through the observatory’s Celestron telescope. Whether you opt for a room in the main lodge, a luxury cottage, a private home, or even a cedar tree house perched in the limbs of an ancient oak, all of the property’s accommodations offer spectacular views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. While climbing trees (with ropes and a guide) or playing the Donald Steel-designed golf course, keep an eye out for roaming animals, such as black bears, bobcats, and bald eagles.
No. 22 The Peninsula Bangkok, Bangkok, Thailand
Thanks to a clever, wave-shape design, this luxurious 37-story property grants every one of its 370 rooms commanding views of the Chao Phraya River and the skyline across the water. Teak floors, marble bathrooms, silk-covered furniture, and control panels (for mood lighting and curtain-closing) outfit the Grand Deluxe rooms, which also have protruding, V-shaped windows to produce panoramic scenes. In 2007, the spa expanded to a sweeping 21,000 square feet. Here, pampering is an art form best expressed through treatments like chakra balancing and Thai yoga massage. Get to downtown Bangkok without the traffic via one of four ferries that shuttle guests to the piers hundreds of times a day.
No. 21 Rosewood Mayakobá, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
This all-suite property in a small city in the heart of Riviera Maya is the antidote to nearby touristy resort meccas, such as Cancun. With 130 rooms, some of which are suspended dramatically over a freshwater lagoon, it sports walls of Yucatan limestone blocks and angular, cantilevered roofs, integrating effortlessly into the natural surroundings. Outdoor garden showers and stargazing decks may make it difficult to leave your suite, but we suspect the lancha-style fishing boats or chaya-mojito salt body scrub at Sense, the spa set on an island with its own cenote, will coax you away.
No. 20 Allison Inn & Spa, Newberg, Oregon
Willamette wine country’s favorite retreat blends comfortably with its surrounding 35 acres of wineries, gardens, and grassy lawns. The rooms are homey, with gas fireplaces, soaking tubs, tangerine bath salts, and bay window seats laden with cushions and a chenille throw. Get a bird’s-eye view of the valley on a hot air balloon ride or helicopter tour. More than 800 labels are featured on the inn’s wine list, which range from the property’s own Austin Knoll to selections from as far away as Australia, New Zealand, and Lebanon.
No. 19 Ocean House, Watch Hill, Rhode Island
Long loved by local and visiting aristocrats, this Victorian oceanfront hotel was recently rebuilt to the tune of $146 million, and the 1868 property is as grand as ever. The number of rooms has been edited to 49 (not including suites and apartment-style residences), though there are double the windows and, consequently, double the light. Stay in the Grand Deluxe Room 301 for its ocean views, oversized soaking tub, and blue-tiled fireplace, or opt for a private villa. If you look quickly, you may catch the ghost of a lace parasol or top hat bobbing across the lawns. Consider visiting in the off season—moody skies, long walks on the private beach, and leisurely laps in the 25-meter spa pool—for a far more intimate stay.
No. 18 Chanler at Cliff Walk, Newport, Rhode Island
Like many of the Vanderbilt-era summer homes in this golden seaside town, Chanler at Cliff Walk was once a private mansion, now transformed into a refined New England resort. Each of the hotel’s 20 rooms is uniquely designed, though all conscious of Newport’s colonial, nautical atmosphere. Make a reservation at the hotel’s restaurant, the Spiced Pear, for Chef Thomas Duffy’s seafood-driven, six-course tasting menu (butter-poached Maine lobster, Narragansett Bay tautog with gnocchi). The recreational trail tracing the Breakers is best enjoyed at dusk, after the crowds disperse and the impressive homes are backlit by the setting sun.
No. 17 One&Only Palmilla, San Jose del Cabo, Mexico
Thanks to an emphasis on personalized service (where staffers call guests by name) the 173-room property feels more like a boutique hotel than a large resort, and attracts its fair share of celebs and moneyed moguls. In the wake of Hurricane Odile, the One & Only Palmilla has seen a number of new additions and improvements. Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s restaurant has been transformed from an Asian-fusion eatery into an upscale steakhouse (pick one of 15 cuts from a glass-walled meat cellar) while the spa has been expanded to include a juice bar and a barbershop. From its perch on Mexico’s Baja peninsula, the property maintains its position as one of the premiere resorts in Los Cabos. Larger groups should go all-out for Villa Cortez, the hotel’s only stand-alone suite, complete with four bedrooms, a private gym and spa, a pool, a stocked kitchen, and a dedicated staff ready to book experiences like moonlit guitar serenades with unobstructed views of the sea.
No. 16 The Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra, India
With its Moorish arches and sandstone columns, fountained courtyards and tranquil water gardens, The Oberoi Amarvilas resides in the shadows of the iconic Taj Mahal. Not a single room exists without a view of the glittering, white marble mausoleum—even some bathtubs boast views. Book a premium room for French doors that open onto a balcony for an even more spectacular panorama. Take a dip in the hotel’s infinity pool and sip a signature Amarvilas ice tea, made with regional flavors such as orange mango and cinnamon or chamomile and spearmint.
No. 15 Four Seasons Hotel, Gresham Palace, Budapest, Hungary
Before it was one of the Four Seasons’ grandest properties, Gresham Palace housed an insurance company. Later, it hosted Soviet soldiers and, after that, was portioned into small apartments during Hungarian Communist rule. Now, the 1906 Art Nouveau structure exceeds its original grandeur, thanks in large part to a $125 million restoration. The lobby wows visitors with its stained-glass windows, 1,021,200 mosaic tiles (which appear on the façade, too), and a custom-made crystal chandelier of hand-shaped leaves that dangles from a glass cupola. Opt for a high-level, Danube-facing room, and plan your visit during summer to check out the nearby Festival of Folk Arts at the Castle of Buda. Meanwhile, the Chain Bridge and St. Stephen’s Basilica are just steps away.
No. 14 Inn at Palmetto Bluff, A Montage Resort, Bluffton, South Carolina
Life at this Southern resort seems to move with the leisurely pace of the neighboring May River. Set on coastal marshland, guests can indulge in a little southern comfort with fireplaces and private, screened-in verandas. Play the wide fairways of the 18-hole, Jack Nicklaus-designed signature golf course, or venture out on a naturalist-led alligator “hunt.” Bird-lovers have the opportunity to paddle a complimentary kayak or canoe through the lagoon to spy more than 100 species, including great blue herons and snowy egrets.
No. 13 Le Meurice, Paris, France
It’s only fitting that this 19th-century grande dame, nestled squarely between the Louvre and Tuileries Garden, should be described as nothing less than a Parisian masterpiece. After a Philippe Starck-led re-do in 2007, Le Meurice has a refreshed modernity, including refrigerator-frosted mirrors and gilted, three-legged tables that are a clear nod to artist Dalí, who frequented the hotel. Even Alain Ducasse, three Michelin-starred restaurant, has artistic flavor: original pieces by Pierre Tachon and ornate Japanese craftworks adorn the tables. For the only 360-degree balcony view in Paris, splurge on the enormous Belle Etoile Suite, all gleaming marble and Italian brocade. Even the most standard rooms, however, have distinguished Louis XVI-style furniture and soundproof walls.
No. 12 The Wickaninnish Inn, Tofino, British Columbia
At what seems like the edge of the world, on a remote stretch of British Columbia’s pine-fringed cape, The Wickaninnish Inn matches rugged nature with understated luxury. After strolling across Chesterman Beach alongside the churning Pacific, or hiking through old growth forests to hot springs and tide pools, return to watch a fierce storm unfold from your ocean- or beach-view balcony. Thanks to triple-glazed windows, the thunderous squalls can be marveled at in utter silence. All rooms stay cozy with fireplaces and heated tile bathroom floors. Book a hot stone massage at the Ancient Cedar Spa, where all treatments use eco-friendly products, including locally made Seaflora.
No. 11 Hotel 41, London, England
With two staff members for every guest, 24-hour room service, an in-room “whatever, whenever” button that connects you with an employee who can provide exactly that, not to mention a dedicated pet concierge for your four-legged companion, Hotel 41 achieves top marks for service. Sleek, black-and-white décor gives the 30 individually appointed rooms (book a split-level Junior Suite for an open fireplace and a handmade king mattress) a sense of unison, and its convenient location across from the Royal Mews help guests get a head start on sightseeing. The wide array of complimentary perks (including unlimited wi-fi, welcome champagne, and an open pantry) give Hotel 41 major cred with families and young couples.
No. 8 Farmhouse Inn, Forestville, California
On the heels of an $8 million renovation, the laid-back Sonoma inn has renewed interest among wine aficionados across the country. Set amid hundreds of wineries north of San Francisco, the luxury property (which does, indeed, have a farmhouse) has added nine rooms and a spa that uses fresh ingredients grown at one of its many on-site gardens. Of course, visitors don’t just come for the luxurious accommodations. The Michelin-starred restaurant attracts its own following with such iconic dishes as Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit—a trio of bacon-wrapped loin, ribs, and leg confit. Take advantage of the customized in-room wine tasting or try local varietals on a sommelier-led tour.
No. 8 The Peninsula Shanghai, Shanghai, China
This towering 235-room, granite-clad building resides on a stretch of the historic Bund waterfront. Its gleaming brass and mahogany elevators transport high-end clientele to their Art Deco-style rooms. These somewhat modern reflections of The Peninsula’s period neighbors, the Shanghai Club and Sassoon House, feature elements of 1920’s Shanghai: imported stone, embossed glass lamps, and black lacquer furniture set against a creamy ivory backdrop. All the 21st-century amenities that today’s travelers expect are also at home in the elegant space. Rooms come with Wi-Fi, VoIP phones, portable master control panels, and spa tubs with music and light settings, but your most valuable asset here is Simon Huang. Tap the chief concierge for his restaurant, bar, and cultural recommendations.
No. 8 Sunset Key Guest Cottages, a Luxury Collection Resort, Key West, Florida
This resort may only be a 10-minute ferry ride from Key West, but its location on a small, private island offers nothing short of seclusion. Indulge your Castaway fantasies in the whitewashed cottages, equipped with a fully stocked kitchen and wrap-around verandas. Book an ocean view suite to enjoy your customized breakfast basket sitting on an Adirondack chair on your porch. If complete isolation sounds unnerving, head to the island’s restaurant, Latitudes, for a complimentary glass of champagne and fish so fresh it was caught off the resort’s own pier.
No. 7 Singita Sabi Sand, Kruger National Park, South Africa
If watching the African sun set over a pride of lions sounds like a trip of a lifetime, you’re not alone. Singita Sabi Sand game reserve boasts two separate lodges with distinctive interiors by emerging African designers. Boulders sits on the edge of the Sand river, and evokes the raw, untouched nature of the landscape with organic materials and tribal artifacts, while Ebony puts on a vintage safari spin with Colonial-era furniture and décor. Both offer guests everything from private plunge pools to well-stocked wine cellars. Embrace your adventurous side with a mountain-bike ride through the bush or a photography-focused safari. For once-in-a-lifetime views of elephants bathing in the Sand River, book Ebony Lodge’s Suite 1.
No. 6 Four Seasons Hotel, Istanbul at Sultanahmet, Sultanahmet, Istanbul
Before this was an upscale, unusually intimate Four Seasons, the century-old Neoclassical building was an infamous prison. Fortunately, the stark cellblocks have given way to 65 chic rooms that maintain architectural details like vaulted ceilings and arched windows. Other shadows of the property’s past remain: the courtyard garden, which was once the exercise yard, and the watchtowers, which now house the building’s elevators. While reliable Four Seasons service and elegant style is key, it’s the hotel’s location in the heart of Sultanahmet that stuns guests. The city’s greatest monuments—the Hippodrome, the Blue Mosque, and Topkapi Palace—are less than a five-minute walk from the lobby. Just by stepping onto the hotel’s roof terrace, you’ll have immediate views across the Sea of Marmara during the day and the illuminated Hagia Sophia at night.
No. 5 The Oberoi Rajvilas, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India
Majesty and modernity coexist perfectly at this tranquil resort in Jaipur, where guests can explore the 32-acre property on an elephant ride to Naila Fort, or lounge poolside while dedicated staffers shoo away pesky pigeons. Standard rooms feature teak bars with bone inlay and white marble baths, while air-conditioned tents completely redefine your notions of camping. Royal and Luxury tents come outfitted with Burmese teakwood floors, claw-footed tubs, and hand block-printed canopies woven with gold thread. During the coolest months, from October to April, rare Indian delicacies can be enjoyed at Raj Mahal restaurant. Order one of the aromatic biryani rice dishes that feature herbs grown in the on-site garden, and sip a signature Gulkand martini with rose marmalade and lime. Retreat to the 18th-century haveli for an indigenous spa ritual (chakra balancing, Ayurveda massage) and specialty baths filled with rose water, milk, and marigolds. Balance your chi with daily morning yoga asanas and meditations in the Shiva temple.
No. 3 Triple Creek Ranch, Darby, Montana
It’s easy to conjure romance at this retreat tucked away in the Bitterroot Mountains among 600 sprawling acres of kid-free forests. This World’s Best mainstay was No. 1 in the world last year, thanks to its Relais & Châteaux service and luxurious accommodations. The 23 rustic log cabins are elevated by cozy touches such as wood-burning stoves, steam showers, and private hot tubs. Get a taste of the wild west with tailored itineraries that include everything from horseback riding to cattle drives, helicopter tours above Glacier or Yellowstone National Parks, and even sapphire panning. When you’re ready to come indoors, you’ll find staffers on hand to welcome you with fresh-baked cookies—or recommend a bottle from the glass-and-mahogany wine cellar, now home to more than 700 wines and champagnes. Don’t be shocked if you feel one stay wasn’t enough; approximately half of all visitors are repeat guests.
No. 3 Ashford Castle, County Mayo, Ireland
This Medieval castle, the oldest in Ireland, has hosted dignified guests throughout its nearly 800-year history: Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness (the Guinness), who once owned the dazzling space, John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara (who stayed there during the filming of John Ford’s The Quiet Man) and, most recently, Ireland’s Prime Minister, who visited to celebrate the property’s reopening in April after a $75 million renovation. While thoughtful restorations were made to the building’s stonework and infrastructure, it’s the modern new additions getting all the attention—a billiards room, a 32-seat movie theater, and, this month, a full spa with a heated, indoor pool.
No. 2 Castello di Casole - A Timbers Resort, Tuscany, Italy
Amidst the olive trees and knotted grapevines dotting this 4,200-acre Tuscan estate is a castle that dates to the 10th century. An extensive renovation has transformed this historic site into a 41-suite resort, complete with classic oil paintings, exposed wooden beams, and reclaimed terracotta. Book a local oil- or wine-based treatment at Essere Spa (originally the wine cellar) and finish off the evening with a bottle of the estate’s exclusive Dodici wine, gifted to all guests upon arrival.
No. 1 The Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur, Rajasthan, India
A palace fit for a maharaja, The Oberoi Udaivilas is nothing short of an oasis amidst the country’s frenetic energy. The hotel sits on its own private island in Udaipur—consequently, the former hunting grounds of India’s kings—and guests are transported to the property via private boat. After crossing Lake Pichola and the hotel’s main courtyard (with a white marble lotus floating in a reflecting pool), enter your accommodations. Book one of nine Premier rooms for a semi-private pool, terrace, and views of wildlife such as peacocks and white-spotted deer. Visit the on-site Bada Mahal, an 18th-century former palace with delicate frescoes, or take a camel ride to Devigarh Fort Palace for lunch. Repeat visitors will love the departure gifts the property bestows, such as traditional mirror-work coasters or jewelry boxes.