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.