Further up towards the Arc de Triomphe, and much bigger and perhaps a little brassier than the Crillon, with slightly showier service, the George V vies for the top spot in Paris. It has an Art Deco rather than an 18th-century heritage, but the feeling is just as much that of a city palace. The rooms – of a good size and more consistent than the Crillon – are in Louis XV style. Le Cinq is the gastronomic restaurant, currently holding two Michelin stars.
For sheer style, there is nowhere in Paris – possibly in the world – to beat the Hôtel de Crillon. The polished marble floors, the guilded stucco, the glittering chandeliers, and the oh-so-discreet and efficient service are the epitome of what a palace hotel should be. Rooms vary enormously – some are palatial, some much more modest – but all are smart. The showpiece restaurant, Les Ambassadeurs, has one of the best wine lists anywhere.
The de Vanssay family has occupied the honey-stoned chateau since the 15th century. The present, 20th count and his Anglo-American countess welcome you as if all those centuries have been building up to your arrival. There’s a convivial voluptuousness about the public rooms and bedrooms, all restored in the brightest possible period style. Stateliness is softened by civilised gaiety – notably at dinner with the hosts. Outside, the chateau grounds stretch for ever. Beyond them, the Loire Valley.
When the British Cummings family arrived at this former Cistercian abbey in 2005, they took vows of luxury and elegance – now amply fulfilled. Slotted into the hidden Ouche (pron: “Oosh”) valley and surrounded by 35-acre grounds, the magnificent old pile is sumptuous with comfort, stately style and temptations enough to distract the most ascetic of abbots. Not least in the Michelin-starred restaurant. Among the very best Burgundian establishments, in short.
Opened by King Alfonso XIII in 1910, Madrid’s grandest five-star hotel has just celebrated its centenary, an event marked by the revamping of rooms and the luxurious spa and gym. All 167 rooms and suites are different. The location is superb, by the Prado museum and a short walk from the Retiro park.
Appropriately named after an ancient Thai capital, the Sukhothai is palatial in size, style and décor, contemporary in service and amenities. If you want traditional Thai elegance – in fabrics, cuisine, art and ancient Khmer-style carvings – this is arguably the best that Bangkok has to offer, with its rooms the very definition of Far Eastern luxury.
Opened in 1958, the 193-room Hotel das Cataratas has a pink-and-white facade, extensive tropical gardens and colonial-style rooms with hardwood floors, and lies deep inside Brazil’s Iguaçú National Park. Guests who rise early can enjoy a near private viewing of a cacophonous, 2.5‑mile-wide waterfall aptly described as “an ocean falling into an abyss”, then take dreamy walks through a naturally spritzed rainforest rich with colourful birds and flowers.
Malá Strana’s most appealing former palace serenades its demanding guests with jazzy modernist designs by Rocco Magnoli; top-drawer in-room stereos equipped with Mozart and Beethoven playlists; views overlooking a formal Baroque garden straight out of Shakespeare; and a staff musicologist. The incredible location and grand service complete the magic.
Try to forget what happened here in 2008 and focus instead on the illustrious history of India’s most celebrated hotel. Opened in 1903, it has played host to everyone from the Beatles to Barack and Michelle Obama. Its vaulted ceilings, tranquil courtyard and airy, colonial bedrooms are a marvellous introduction to traditional Indian style. Excellent spa, too.
Found on one of the world’s finest whale-watching coastlines, this five‑star retreat offers unadulterated luxury without the guilt. Every effort has been made to assimilate these fabulous private lodges – complete with all mod cons, state-of-the-art bathrooms, four-poster beds and unsurpassable views – into the environment. And what an environment: a 1,750-hectare reserve that is home to more than 740 different species of plants and the impossibly white sands of Walker Bay.
An enchanting, elegantly furnished seaside hotel in a chichi French resort. A 17th-century former ship owner’s house, it has been imaginatively and sensitively restored, and the restaurant is exquisite. Each of the 20 rooms is named after a local historical character; ask for one overlooking St Martin’s busy harbour.
Jordan Mozer, a Chicago-based architect, has transformed this former iron foundry into a bravura display of designer exuberance, a feast for the senses – and one of the coolest places in Hamburg. Dramatically lit curvy pillars tower in the three-storey-high Asian-themed restaurant; differing scents define each floor; free-standing baths and futuristic curves are the mark of the rooms. Looking for the wow factor? You’ll find it here.
A beautiful setting in a 30-acre tropical garden reaching out to the beach, a Spice Market café serving a medley of Chinese, Indian and Malaysian dishes, classically elegant (Shangri-La-style) rooms (the best with giant-sized, petal-strewn bathtubs on terraces within earshot of the sea) and, in the superior Rasa Wing, a happy hour of free-flowing champagne and exquisite canapés.
A refreshingly unpretentious hotel on an undeniably ostentatious stretch of the Côte d’Azur, the Villa Marie is a rambling Provençal villa, with beautiful, high-ceilinged rooms, an understated, Parisian-chic clientele and an excellent restaurant with views over vineyards down to the bay of Pampelonne.
The film director Francis Ford Coppola used this as his secluded mountain bolt hole for several years before throwing open its doors to the public. It now has 20 airy bungalows on stilts dotted around a tree-covered hillside overlooking a babbling stream. There is a lovely restaurant and bar (featuring the original ceiling fan from Apocalypse Now), and charming staff.
A swirling pattern of more than a million mosaic tiles guides you through the dazzling lobby at the heart of this restored temple of Art Nouveau. Here modern chandeliers blend perfectly with original stained glass and velvet furnishings to create stately 21st-century comfort. Perfectly situated at the foot of Budapest’s Chain Bridge, this new grand dame of eastern Europe is crowned with a contemporary rooftop spa complete with sweeping views of the Danube.
The trouble with so many family hotels is that they leave either parents or children feeling short-changed. But Calcot Manor manages to deliver for all ages. It’s luxurious without being precious, has superb, well-staffed children’s den areas for young and older children, and an exceptional spa, with a lovely indoor pool. Service is spot on and the food is good – both in the formal restaurant and in the family-friendly Gumstool pub.
Remembering the location of your room may require some concentration as the 30-odd spacious suites are dotted around this walled village. Decked out in Italian marble and Parisian antiques, they boast whirlpool baths and large terraces with sweeping views of the Mediterranean. Inside the grounds, a series of intricate terraces drops towards the ocean, revealing quiet courtyards, swimming pools and Moroccan-style gardens, while the chateau itself is all high ceilings and vast chandeliers. Give a Gallic shrug to austerity and book a table at Philippe Labbe’s fabulous restaurant (two Michelin stars).
An 11-suite extravagance on the slope of Franschhoek, the Cape village that is probably South Africa’s prettiest. No expense has been spared. Each of the suites has its own decor theme, from Buddhist retreat to French decadent, while the public areas are a riotous collection of Louis XIV furniture, Persian carpets, plus objets, art and fabrics from India, Indo-China, France, Italy and everywhere else. And it works thanks to the impeccable taste of Liz Biden, the proprietor.
This intimate hotel not only has a beautiful garden – a precious thing in Venice – but also six stylish rooms that break the Venetian decorative mould (no heavy brocades, velvet swags and the like) while preserving plenty of pleasing period details. Unlike other excellent mid-range hotels in the city – notably La Calcina (www.lacalcina.com) – it’s also centrally located, close (but not too close) to the Rialto. Read our full review of Oltre II Giardino, Venice.