Faena Hotel Miami Beach, Florida
It’s not often that you walk into a hotel lobby to be greeted by the sight of a giant gold skeleton of a mammal in a glass case through which you can see the turquoise blue and white surf of the Atlantic ocean and pristine golden sand. But that piece of artwork – by celebrated British artist Damien Hirst – sets the tone for the Faena Hotel Miami Beach, currently considered to be the coolest hotel along a strip of extremely cool places to stay.
This hotel has the wow factor in buckets and spades. Its creative director is film director Baz Luhrmann of Moulin Rouge and Australia fame, and everything about the decor is pure glamour. From the atrium with its gold pillars and exquisite murals to the swimming pool and beach area with 1940s-inspired red-and-white loungers and staff in matching uniforms, and the superb chandelier in the Living Room lounge, details are exacting and delightful. There are even some gorgeous glitzy shell mosaics and a chandelier made from colourful fish hooks. Just walking through the property and looking at all the design touches is a pleasure.
As you might expect from a luxury hotel, service is of course at all times impeccable and discreet; staff seem to anticipate your every need (after a long flight a breakfast of French brioche toast, home-made marmalade and freshly squeezed juice arrived in our suite as if by magic) and the atmosphere is refreshingly relaxed and unpretentious.
This is the kind of hotel where you feel at home instantly – and you probably won’t want to leave. Rooms are discreetly decorated and luxurious: our ocean view suite, the size of an apartment, came with a butler, a fabulous balcony and spacious sitting room and was furnished with sumptuous red and turquoise accents, a plush velvet sofa and extremely comfortable bed, as well as a wonderful Carrara marble bathroom and wet room. There’s also a rather lovely South American spa, where treatments include potent botanical scrubs and healing clays from the Amazon, as well as purifying hammam bathing rituals.
The hotel is Argentinian-owned (there is a sister hotel in Buenos Aires) and no stay would be complete without trying the Sunday brunch or el asado at the on-site restaurant Los Fuegos by Francis Mallmann. The asado – an open-fire barbecue – gives all the food a delectable smoky flavour.
There are several other restaurants to choose from, although it seems unlikely you would want to relax anywhere other than the beach on a hot day, as it really is glorious, particularly with the backdrop of the buildings along the beach, which adds to the air of urban cool meets beachfront chic.
The Hotel Faena Miami Beach only opened in December, but already it is set to become one of the world’s best and most iconic hotels. Effortlessly cool and chic, with a vintage twist, it’s already a design classic.
Travel info: Rooms from Dh2,736 a night, excluding taxes (faena.com/miami-beach/). Fly Qatar Airways from Sharjah to Miami (via Doha) from Dh4,430 return.
Fairmont Hotel, Barcelona
There are a lot of special design hotels in Barcelona, but what sets the Fairmont apart is its location, because it’s the Spanish city’s only resort hotel. So it almost feels as though you’re having two vacations in one: you can flit between the urban edginess of Las Ramblas in the city and the magnificent Gaudi mosaics at Park Güell and architecture of the Sagrada Familia before returning to your retreat, with its spectacular views of the city but atmosphere of secluded luxury.
There’s a lovely pool and al fresco restaurant, The Terrace, with its vine-clad pergola and wood-fired grill. The hotel itself actually looks a little like an aircraft hangar – it’s an extraordinary design, and the views from the rooms, of Camp Nou and the Barcelona skyline, are splendid. Accommodation has recently been renovated and it’s wonderfully elegant, with superbly comfortable beds, a calming neutral palette and fabulous bathrooms.
An added bonus of staying here is that it gives you complimentary access to the Royal Polo Club Fitness & Spa, which was named by Condé Nast Traveler as one of the top 10 fitness centres in the world (and you can actually see the horses being trained and exercised from some of the rooms). The club features an indoor swimming pool, male and female relaxation areas including steam room, sauna and hammam, and health and beauty treatments featuring Natura Bissé and Alqvimia cosmetic products.
Travel info: Rooms from Dh1,587 per night. Fly Pegasus from Dubai to Barcelona via Istanbul; prices about Dh1,850 return.
The Palace Hotel, Tokyo
With its fabulous location close to the Marunouchi shopping district, Imperial Palace Gardens and Tokyo metro station, the Palace Hotel is an oasis of calm in what can sometimes seem like a fairly chaotic city, with so much hi-tech gadgetry everywhere to assault the senses. That’s not to say the Palace Hotel doesn’t have every modern convenience, but there’s nothing shouty about it – it’s just pure, understated elegance with Oriental flair.
Although the original hotel opened in 1961, it was completely rebuilt as a high-rise in 2009, and from the moment you walk in you’re in a serene haven of opulent loveliness. The deliciously fragranced lobby sets the tone with its decor in soft golds and lime green. There are some very pleasing hi-tech touches too – remote-controlled blinds for example.
Breakfast is superb, either taken al fresco on the terrace or in the spacious Grand Kitchen, with a choice of Western or Japanese cuisine, but there’s also an amazing array of restaurants on the sixth floor, including a sushi bar and intimate tempura bar; afternoon tea is taken in the Palace Lounge and served by kimono-clad staff offering an incredible 48 kinds of tea.
Perhaps most impressive of all, though, is the Evian spa, which is absolutely stunning, and offers a menu of French and Asian-inspired therapies and an enormous pool with outstanding views of the city.
Travel info: Rooms from Dh2,197 per night (en.palacehoteltokyo.com). Fly Emirates from Dubai to Haneda Airport from Dh4,300 return.
Hotel du Petit Moulin, Paris
If you want a hotel with incredible design pedigree, then the Hotel du Petit Moulin is it – it was designed by Christian Lacroix, no less. Housed in a historic 17th-century building that was once a bakery (it even still says boulangerie on the outside), the Hotel du Petit Moulin is a little gem, with just 17 delightful rooms. The reception is decorated in pistachio and filled with orchids, there are polka-dot carpets in the corridors, and panels of embroidered passementerie (decorative trimmings) and sketches by Lacroix himself throughout.
All the rooms are individually furnished, some bold and bright, others more antiquated with a rustic feel, or zebra print and constellations, or fusing Sixties-style chic with Louis XIV-style prints and exquisite patterns. It’s all rather theatrical but it’s oh-so luxurious. You can also sign up for classes at top cookery school La Cuisine, and use the spa facilities at nearby sister hotel Pavillon de la Reine.
Travel info: Rooms from Dh778 a night (hotelpetitmoulinparis.com). Fly Etihad from Abu Dhabi to Paris; about Dh4,070 return.
Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi, Yas Island
In terms of cool location alone it would be hard to beat the Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi hotel – it’s just 2km from the Formula One circuit, and 3km from the Ferrari World amusement park, where you can easily spend a day celebrating the much-loved sports cars. What makes the hotel really special though is the outstanding design, an exciting fusion of elegance and state-of-the-art momentum, with sleek lines and some incredible features.
Highlights include the amazing LED canopy – you can actually see the F1 circuit from here – and the hotel’s stunning beachfront location, where you can relax in one of the cabanas. There are two rooftop pools offering sunset views, and 11 restaurants – everything from Italian and Southeast Asian to Indian delights. Particularly stunning is cool venue Skylite Lounge, and the exquisite Espa spa, where signature treatments include a marine detox and Balinese massage.
Rooms are meticulously appointed in shades of chocolate, taupe, white and cream, with glitzy oversized all-glass bathrooms – think rain showers and deep soaking tubs.
Travel info: Rooms from Dh625 per night, (viceroyhotelsandresorts.com).