The TPG 20: Staff picks for our favourite new hotels
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Right about now, we bet you’re ready to find something to celebrate. 2020’s been a tough year for so many people around the world, and our hope for 2021 is that we all see the light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel. So, while dreaming up coverage for an all-virtual version of the TPG Awards, the Travel team wanted to create a story that would ignite happy thoughts and travel dreams.
Today, as part of Hotels & Destinations Week at the TPG Awards, we’re thrilled to introduce The TPG 20, a list of brand-new and recently reimagined or renovated properties that opened in 2019 and 2020. These are the places that TPG staffers visited and felt were truly special and worth a visit.
Many of these incredible places opened during the pandemic, and not enough travellers have had the opportunity to visit. But, trust us, you have so much to look forward to when you get out on the road again!
Here are 20 incredible properties we recommend.
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Here’s what we love
- It’s an all-suites hotel with spacious rooms by Manhattan standards
- Convenient location near Central Park
- Super comfy beds
In the summer of 2019, the London New York on 54th Street went through a top-to-bottom transformation to become the Conrad New York Midtown.
Not only does this hotel live up to its high-end Conrad brand name, but what makes the hotel truly special is that it’s an all-suites hotel in a city where most standard hotel rooms are extremely small. At the Conrad New York Midtown, you are guaranteed to be able to spread out in at least 525 square feet of a physically comfortable and visually pleasing true two-room suite.
Seriously, the bed is absolutely amazing — one of my top-five, all-time favourites. But when it’s time to eventually drag yourself out of bed, you are just a short couple of blocks south of Central Park.
Closest airports: Choose one of the New York City area’s three airports: New York’s JFK, Laguardia (LGA), Newark (EWR)
How to book: Book with 77,000 to 95,000 Hilton Honors points per night.
–Summer Hull, editorial director
Here’s what we love
- A dizzying lineup of spa treatments and fitness classes
- Rooms scientifically engineered to help you sleep
- Resort-like amenities, such as a heated pool on the roof deck
Hotels debut in New York City with whiplash-inducing frequency, but it’s not every day you get a flagship property from a brand-new hospitality brand.
Equinox, the powerhouse fitness brand behind the eponymous gyms, SoulCycle and more, opened its first-ever hotel in New York City’s new Hudson Yards development last summer. And, as you might expect, the property has knockout amenities fit for travellers who want to prioritise wellness.
Guests can take advantage of a eucalyptus steam room, dry sauna, multiple pools and unlimited fitness classes. But the hotel doesn’t disappoint when it comes to its hotel product, either. Equinox turned to science to craft rooms specifically designed to help guests have a restful night’s sleep. Rooms feature padded walls and upholstered leather headboards for soundproofing; all-natural mattresses and separate duvets designed to keep you cool at night; and the rooms are whisper quiet and free of most ambient light. Best of all, Equinox wasn’t parsimonious with its square footage: Ample bathrooms and spacious foyers give travellers plenty of room to unwind, even in cramped New York City.
Closest airports: Because the Equinox Hotel is on the far west side of Manhattan, your best bet may actually be Newark (EWR), though the other New York City-area airports (New York-JFK and LaGuardia) will do just fine.
How to book: The Equinox Hotel isn’t part of any loyalty programme, though eligible American Express and Chase cardholders can book this property through American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR) for perks that will further elevate your stay. A deluxe room with a city view and king bed was going for $715 per night for dates in December.
–Melanie Lieberman, senior travel editor
Here’s what we love
- Its proximity — and free shuttles — to Walt Disney World
- Plenty of high-end amenities but still kid-friendly
- Spa-like bathrooms
A brand-new, high-end hotel that offers amenities for both kids and adults and is located just outside the boundaries of Walt Disney World Resort sounds almost too good to be true. But it’s a real option you can choose at the JW Marriott Bonnet Creek in Orlando, which opened over the summer.
An obvious highlight of the JW Bonnet Creek is its extreme proximity to Disney World, along with the hotel’s included shuttles to and from the Disney World theme parks and Disney Springs shopping area. But, the JW Marriott Bonnet Creek is a very fine hotel all on its own. There are two pools — one with a zero-entry section and cabanas — as well as an adults-only pool, a rarity in the Orlando area.
The hotel also includes a miniature golf course, climbing wall and outdoor play area, which is adjacent to an indoor kids club that will likely have an even greater list of offerings post-pandemic.
And then there is the JW’s spa, on-site restaurants, extremely comfortable rooms, along with the room’s spa-like bathrooms that outpace the vast majority of offerings from other hotels in the area.
Closest airport: The Orlando International Airport (MCO) is about a 30-minute drive from this property.
How to book: Book with 40,000 – 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.
Here’s what we love
- Easy access to Big Sky Country and Yellowstone National Park
- Clean, modern design
- Incredible on-site bars and restaurant
- First four-star hotel in Bozeman
Bozeman is one of the fastest-growing cities in the West, and the addition of a four-star hotel is a welcome upgrade to the hotel scene. The hotel was built in the shell of the old 1941 National Guard armoury (hence the name). It’s been gut-renovated and the interiors are fabulous. The rooms are large and well-designed. The furnishings are high-end and luxurious — as is the bedding.
This hotel is a great spot to rest after flying into BZN for a night or two before you continue on to Yellowstone National Park. The park is just about a 90-minute drive from the hotel.
The lobby restaurant, Fielding’s, is named for the original architect of the armoury and has a fantastic bar and delicious burgers. It’s already become a Bozeman hot spot.
Perhaps even cooler is the speakeasy-style bar in the basement called Tune Up. It’s billed as a whiskey bar, but it offers every type of adult beverage you could want in a stylish setting.
A rooftop pool is closed due to coronavirus at the moment, but another restaurant is planned up there — to be called Sky Shed.
However, my favourite amenity was the free bicycles at the hotel. Take a ride around this fun little city and explore the mansion district or one of the many parks around town.
Closest airport: The Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN) is just about a 15-minute drive from the property in downtown Bozeman.
How to book: Rates fluctuate between around $170/night to as high as $280/night depending on the date. A standard redemption is for 40,000 IHG Rewards Club points or you can pay in points and cash for 30,000 points and $60.
–Clint Henderson, news editor
Here’s what we love
- An all-inclusive property you can book with Hyatt points
- Plenty of interesting activities
- A beautiful property that lends itself to relaxation and meditation
One of the crown jewels in the World of Hyatt loyalty programme is the Miraval Austin Resort & Spa. This wellness-oriented property joins the Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa and Miraval Berkshires Resort & Spa in Massachusetts (see below for more on that hotel). The Austin property opened its doors in 2019 and offers a destination where almost everything — from your Tex-Zen yoga set to country tunes to “strawberry chovocado” smoothies and meals — are included in your rate.
The Miraval Austin resort is just west of Austin on 220 rolling acres overlooking Lake Travis. From the poolside views to the rooms, the property is gorgeous and succeeds in helping guests with their search for balance.
At the resort, you have your choice of indulging at the spa, swimming in one of the two infinity pools, riding (or even painting?!) horses, taking classes, exercising or meditating — either in formal, guided meditation or on your own in a quiet, reflective spot or in a hammock under the trees.
Of course, you don’t have to do that at all. You can just be pampered, eat good food and visit the bar next to the main pool. There’s no right or wrong way to enjoy your time at the Miraval Austin.
Closest airport: The Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) is about a 30- to 40-minute drive from this property. There is an included hourly shuttle you can book through the resort.
How to book: Book a single-occupancy room for 45,000 World of Hyatt points or a double-occupancy room for 65,000 World of Hyatt points per night. That’s a lot of points, but remember that your stay is largely all-inclusive, with a $175 spa credit per night, per person — even when staying on points. There’s also a promotion running through the end of the year where you get a buy one, get one free award night at Miraval, making two nights for single occupancy cost just 45,000 points with one $175 credit included.
Here’s what we love
- Wellness-themed resort to disconnect from 2020
- Expansive property on beautifully-landscaped grounds
- Easy access from major Northeast cities
- Food and most activities included
A luxurious wellness escape is an antidote to the year that 2020 has been. Sure, it’s not a complete fix, but we’ll take any opportunity we can get to disconnect and focus on being in the present.
The Miraval Berkshires is one of those properties where you can do just that. I stayed there in July 2020 as one of my first trips during the pandemic and it provided a much-needed escape to recenter and recharge.
Miraval, part of the Hyatt family of brands, has two other locations — Austin and its original Arizona property. The recently-opened Berkshires outpost is its latest iteration of a resort focusing on personal well-being.
I had spent most of the early days of the pandemic in my cramped New York City apartment, so I savoured the ability to retreat to an expansive property in an idyllic New England setting. With healthy, delicious meals, a zen-like spa and an endless array of activities — from hiking to pottery to horseback riding — it was truly an escape like no other in 2020.
Closest airports: The closest airports are Hartford Bradley International Airport (BDL) and Albany International Airport (ALB). You can also take Amtrak to the Albany or Hartford stations.
Best of all, the Miraval offers a complimentary pickup and drop-off shuttle service at all of these locations.
How to book: Miraval is part of the World of Hyatt program which means you can earn and redeem points for stays at the Miraval Berkshires. Alternatively, cash rates are around $1,000 per night for double occupancy.
Typically, a night at the Miraval Berkshires requires 45,000 points for one guest. Because of its all-inclusive nature (meals and most activities are included), a second adult is an additional 20,000 points per night.
However, because of two incredible promotions, there is an opportunity to knock down the cost with points.
–Chris Dong, points and miles reporter
Here’s what we love
- Minimalist-chic rooms
- Outstanding food-and-beverage options
- Stunning pool deck with views to match
- A fun scene for hanging out on the weekends
The West Hollywood Edition makes a convincing case for why it should be considered one of the best points hotels in Los Angeles. Set in the middle of the action in West Hollywood — at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Doheny Drive — it’s pretty much a guarantee the hotel will be lively, especially on the weekends.
A cavernous open lobby with brand-signature, jewel-tone velvet couches and chairs greets you as soon as you enter, but the real attraction is the hotel’s rooftop space that includes a pool and a bar/restaurant. You’ll see spectacular sunsets each night. And, if it’s a clear day, you’ll be treated to an unparalleled view of Downtown L.A.’s ever-growing skyline.
Have a bite to eat or grab a drink — or both — at any one of the hotel’s three outlets. The signature restaurant, Ardor, is helmed by Chef John Fraser and features a “vegetable-forward” menu of California cuisine.
If you’ve stayed at any other Edition hotel, rooms at the West Hollywood location will feel immediately familiar. The design is minimalist but chic, with colour used sparsely. You’ll find all-white linens on the bed — along with the faux-fur throw, of course — and light wood used for the furniture throughout the room.
Closest airport: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is about 30 minutes away by car, though that’s assuming light traffic.
How to book: The WeHo Edition is a Category 7 Marriott Bonvoy property, meaning an off-peak award night costs 50,000, a standard night costs 60,000 and a peak night runs you 70,000.
–Nick Ellis, hotels editor
Here’s what we love
- A new lease on life for the storied TWA Flight Center
- A rooftop infinity pool with incomparable views of JFK’s runways
- The world’s biggest hotel gym at 10,000 square feet
- A whole room dedicated to the 1960s game Twister
The 1962 TWA Flight Center is, and was, a landmark of JFK — and now it has been reimagined as a super-stylish hotel. The 512-room property, which boasts a rooftop infinity pool with epic runway views, is a part of aviation history with a retro Jet Age vibe — very “Catch Me If You Can” (it was even used as a filming location for the movie).
The TWA is the only on-site and AirTran-accessible hotel at JFK, so it’s absolutely perfect if you need to stay overnight before an early morning flight. Depart like a rockstar. It’s even connected to Terminal 5 by flight tubes. The building is the creation of Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen, also known for designing Washington Dulles International Airport, so it’s ultra-cool.
Despite it being practically on the runway, the rooms are incredibly quiet to ensure a sound night’s sleep. The place is also full of retro nods to the golden age of flying — from a Lockheed Constellation “Connie” L-1649A that’s a cocktail lounge to a Solari split-flap message board.
For refreshment, we love the Paris Cafe (especially the black truffle pizza) and enjoy topping our stay off with a vintage cocktail (swizzle stick included, of course) in the hotel’s Sunken Lounge. Avgeek nostalgia abounds, but there’s nothing old-fashioned about the comfort and amenities.
Closest airport: JFK, of course.
How to book: Book direct with the hotel. A 290-square-foot deluxe room with two queen beds was going for $159 for dates in early December.
–Hayley Coyle, TPG U.K. features editor
Here’s what we love
- The hotel’s vibrant personality — no boring rooms here
- Excellent location in Aspen
- A vibrant apres-ski scene
Combine the artsy, luxurious, adventurous mountain town of Aspen with the 88-room funky, fun, high-end W brand and you get … the personality-filled W Aspen. This hotel, on the same ground as the former Sky Hotel, blends the area’s mountains, colours, mining culture and ski scene together in a light-hearted way.
In the shadow of Aspen Mountain, this hotel is not only an easy walk over to the lifts, but also into the heart of Aspen in case you want a drink at the historic Hotel Jerome.
The W Aspen is not where you go if you want dim lights, hushed conversations and subdued tones. Here you will find bright colours, multiple room types (some with bunk beds), good food, strong drinks and vibrant conversations. At least in a normal year, the pool, hot tub and après-ski scene at the W Aspen is as much of an amenity as anything else. Play hard, rest hard is the name of the game at this unique ski-friendly hotel.
Closest airport: The Aspen-Pitkin Airport (ASE) is just a few minutes away from the W Aspen.
How to book: The W Aspen can be booked for 50,000 to 70,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.
Here’s what we love
- The elegant, stately home ambience
- The complimentary hourly treats by the pool
- New England sophistication in a year-round summer locale
This hotly anticipated hotel opened about five minutes ago — it’s that new — and we’re so excited. It may sound familiar, as there’s a Nantucket institution of the same name, but White Elephant Palm Beach has what Massachusetts doesn’t: endless sun and sand. This luxury boutique property oozes class too, from the Mediterranean tiling to the woven rugs to the indulgent L’Occitane toiletries.
Nantucket favourite Lola 41 has also made its way to White Elephant Palm Beach, so you’ll be able to enjoy its sublime seafood in the balmy Floridian evenings, too. The whole place is ultra classy as well; there’s not a sniff of the Miami Beach party scene about it. It’s just a cool place for grownups to have fun.
The original location on Nantucket Island is synonymous with understated luxury, and we’re pleased to confirm the Palm Beach addition is like a younger sibling you’d be proud of.
Closest airport: West Palm Beach International Airport (PBI) is a short 15-minute drive to the property.
How to book: Book direct with the hotel. A 400-square-foot deluxe room was going for $650 for dates in early December.
Conrad Punta de Mita
Here’s what we love
- Fifth night free using Hilton points
- The cleansing temazcal (heat lodge) to sweat out all those margaritas
- “Agave Experience” — where you can sample five different spirits that are paired with gourmet Mexican hors d’oeuvres
This one is a bit of a jewel in Hilton Mexico’s crown. It’s big too — with three pools, a spa and a temazcal (sweat lodge) to unwind in. If you’re after some winter sun, the Conrad Punta Mita is a winner, as it’s both newly opened and very quiet at the moment. You’ve even got a solid chance for that unexpected upgrade. The grounds are lush, the rooms and suites are dreamy and there‘s also plenty to do if sun-worshipping isn’t your thing — including zip-lining, hiking, horse riding and an 18-hole golf course.
Like any self-respecting resort, there are quite a few varied options for dining — seven, in fact. We love Mesquite for casual bites from the grill, while over at Codex, it’s more of a hidden escape for Mexican fine dining. Both are equally delicious.
Maybe you’re planning an exotic wedding? At the Conrad Punta Mita, as well as palm trees and ocean views for your big day, it also offers loads of fabulous extras for the bride and groom — like Champagne, discounts on spa treatments and parent upgrades. I do!
Closest airport: Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International Airport (PVR) is roughly 50 minutes from the Conrad.
How to book: You can book with 95,000 Hilton Honors points per night.
Why we love it
- Stunning clifftop setting
- There are treehouses
- An Enrique Olvera-helmed restaurant
- Seemingly unlimited activities for people of all ages
Having just opened 1 November, the One&Only Mandarina has made a splash on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. Specifically, it lies on the Riviera Nayarit, which is about an hour from Puerto Vallarta.
With 105 villas and treehouses (yes, treehouses), you’ll feel like you’re a million miles away thanks to the hotel’s perch high above the ocean on a cliff at the edge of the Pacific rain forest. Some rooms even have their own infinity pools and outdoor showers.
Relax at the resort’s spa, which features a “yoga palapa,” full-service gym and “ancient healing therapies performed amid the elements.” The swimming pools are an attraction of their own, jutting out dramatically over the cliff and seemingly right into the ocean.
And, the hotel called on Enrique Olvera — the owner and head chef at Mexico City’s world-famous Pujol — to helm the property’s signature restaurant Carao.
If you feel inclined to leave the resort, the splendour of nature is your backyard. Mandarina (a new luxury development) provides miles of hiking trails through the jungle along with the requisite ocean activities like fishing, scuba diving and much more.
Closest airport: Puerto Vallarta (PVR) is the nearest airport, which is about 60 minutes away by car.
How to book: Book with your favourite travel agent or directly through One&Only. Dates in early December were going for $1,345 per night.
Zadun, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve
Here’s what we love
- A “tosoani” — or dream watcher — a sort of butler who will completely customize your stay and grant any wish
- The blending of sea and sand to create a magical Mexican haven
- The Zocalo lounge within the garden spa that pays homage to Mexico’s traditional town squares
This achingly-hip Ritz-Carlton Reserve property on Mexico’s San Jose del Cabo coastline is giving us serious wanderlust after opening late last year. It calls itself a celebration of “desert and sea.” The whole place has a sprinkle of mysticism, and at night, when it’s lit up all twinkly, there’s no place we’d rather sip a smoky mezcal.
Each guest gets the opportunity to have their own “tosoani” who will make their stay completely unique and that the hotel claims will be so special it will “stay with them even after they return home”. This is the loveliest of thoughts — and one that is definitely on our 2021 wish list.
Combining the desert and the sea is an alluring concept, and Zadun really makes the most of it. Sliding glass doors replace traditional walls, terraces are an extension of the rooms and plunge pools provide fresh-air bathing. If you want to go all out, we would book the Grande Reserve Villa — lodging fit for a king. You’ll have a private pool, outdoor and indoor showers, and an enormous living room perfect for a movie night or a place for kids to camp.
In case it wasn’t clear, we love a spa at TPG, and at Spa Alkemia, the healing properties of water are really celebrated — and in the most luxe surroundings. To dine, we love that at Zadun they embrace the idea of “kitchen is the centre of the home” — so the vibe is nostalgic, traditional but still exciting. (Excuse me while I refresh flight deals from London to Los Cabos.)
Closest airport: Los Cabos International Airport (SJD) is just a 40-minute drive from the resort.
How to book: You can’t use your Marriott points at this property, so book through a travel agent or directly with the hotel.
Four Seasons, Madrid
Here’s what we love
- Its central location in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol square
- The local art from emerging artists, as well as 16 replicas from the nearby Thyssen-Bornemisza museum
- The epic Dani rooftop, with gorgeous views overlooking iconic Madrid streets and magnificent architectural landmarks
- The manner in which the hotel seamlessly blends its lengthy history with a modern, contemporary feel
After years of construction, the Four Seasons Madrid opened amid a global pandemic. And as you might guess, opening a luxury hotel during a worldwide health crisis wrought with travel and movement restrictions was not an easy task.
But the Four Seasons Madrid is a peaceful, luxurious escape from the chaos. In fact, if it weren’t for the hotel’s temperature check, hand sanitizer and mask requirements, I might have completely forgotten about coronavirus and all the stress it’s brought once inside.
The lobby is a breath of elegance, outfitted with fresh, Mediterranean-inspired flowers, complete with socially-distanced sofas and guests sipping wine or nibbling macarons. The restored stained glass ceiling is a luminous focal point. This glorious piece of art is just one of the 16,000 historical artefacts that were taken out of the building while it was gutted and restored to perfection, then brought back into the hotel, giving the now-contemporary space an added dose of vintage character.
Each guestroom is different, but all boast the same refined opulence one might expect during a night at the Four Seasons: marble bathrooms, soft white linens atop the famous Four Seasons bed, and an iPad (available in 100 languages) for contacting staff. It’s not easy to combine vintage drapes with electronic devices and integrate 100 year-old-marble fireplaces with flat-screen TVs, but the hotel does so with flawless execution.
But the real highlight of this hotel is the Dani rooftop, featuring the Dani restaurant by Michelin-starred chef Andalusian Dani Garcia and an exterior terrace with breathtaking views.
Madrid has a typical saying: “De Madrid al Cielo.” It refers to the fact that when you’re in this grand capital city, you’re on the top of the world. In short, it’s a place unlike any other. And that saying — “From Madrid to the Heavens” — has never felt more appropriate than when sitting on the Dani rooftop of the Four Seasons Madrid, feeling the warm Spanish sunshine on your shoulders, admiring the history and architectural magnificence that surrounds you, all while enjoying a full-bodied class of Rioja Spanish wine.
And for just for a few moments, at the Four Seasons Madrid, life is perfect.
Closest airport: Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport (MAD) is about nine miles from the hotel.
How to book: Amex cardholders can maximize their stay by booking with Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts, which offers additional perks such as daily breakfast for two, a room upgrade at check-in (when available), noon check-in (when available), 4 p.m. check-out guaranteed, complimentary Wi‑Fi and a $100 spa credit. A superior king room was going for $533 per night for dates in early December.
–Lori Zaino, senior writer, Madrid, Spain
Mandarin Oriental, Lago di Como
Here’s what we love
- Its dreamy location on the eastern shore of Lake Como
- Nine stunning villas, including the late 18th-century Villa Roccabruna
- A centuries-old botanical garden
- An eco-friendly, plastic-free resort
I’ll admit that Italy holds a special place in my heart. Both sides of my family came from “the old country” and, throughout this crazy year of lockdowns and work-from-home, I’ve reconnected with my extended family that still live in the southern part of the country. But, one of the most endearing new resorts (it opened in 2019) — Mandarin Oriental, Lago di Como — is much farther north than my homeland.
Previously the CastaDiva Resort & Spa, Mandarin Oriental tackled a massive renovation and rebranding of the property calls the eastern shore of Lake Como its home. If you love historic buildings with a storied past, you’ll want to fully explore Villa Roccabruna, the main part of the complex. Opera soprano Giuditta Pasta bought the villa in 1827, and she was known to sing from one of the windows each day. Her dulcet tones drifted across Lake Como to composer Vincenzo Bellini who lived in the nearby town of Moltrasio. He was smitten with her songbird tones, which may have inspired him to write the operas La Sonnambula and Norma for her specifically.
Today, you can stay in one of 21 rooms, 52 suites and junior suites or two stand-alone, private villas that were carefully renovated by designer Eric Egan. He pulls off a masterful blend of Italy’s past with modern touches and Asian accents that are ever-present at all Mandarin Oriental properties.
Besides the beauty of its location — with sunset views from the resort and a mature botanical park filled with azaleas, magnolias and camellias — it’s the perfect home base for day trips to other towns in the Lombardy region, such as Bellagio and Menaggio.
You can be as active as you wish, with pastimes ranging from watersports to hiking, climbing, fishing, golfing, horseback riding and parachuting. Or, simply book time at The Spa or lounge by the pool, which appears to “float” on the lake.
Chef Vincenzo Guarino manages all aspects of the gastronomic experience at the hotel. You’ll find CO.MO Bar & Bistrot for informal meals and afternoon tea; L’ARIA in the botanical park for fine dining; and the casual Pool Bar.
Closest airports: Milan Malpensa Airport (MXP) and Milano Linate Airport (LIN)
How to book: Searching for dates in May 2021, we could snatch a superior room with king bed for $754 per night.
—Andrea M. Rotondo, senior travel editor
Hagia Sofia Mansions Istanbul, A Curio Collection Hotel
Here’s what we love
- Ideal location in the heart of Sultanahmet, behind Hagia Sophia and steps from Topkapi Palace, Basilica Cistern and the Blue Mosque
- A row of historical townhouses that have been converted into magnificent rooms featuring eclectic Ottoman décor
- Each building features 3 to 6 rooms or suites, along with a common living area on the first floor
- A swimming pool in an ancient Byzantine-era cistern
If you’re a sucker for anything historic, quaint and charming, the Hagia Sofia Mansions in Istanbul checks all of those boxes. This Hilton Curio Collection property blew me away the minute I arrived on a bright October day. Because it’s located in an alley behind Hagia Sophia, where no cars are allowed, guests are dropped off next door in front of Topkapi Palace. From there, hotel staff whisks you away in a golf cart, past historic monuments.
The hotel consists of a series of historical townhouses located behind its namesake. These townhouses are four stories high and contain meticulously decorated rooms that evoke the glamour of Ottoman Palaces and the cosiness of a country inn. The bed was the most comfortable I’ve ever slept in, and the in-room hamam (Turkish bath) was an absolute treat. Even if you book a standard room, you’ll enjoy the perks of having a suite, because every townhouse has its own living room on the first floor, which is accessible to all guests in the building.
But the best part of staying at the Hagia Sofia Mansions isn’t the incredible location, beautiful rooms or traditional Turkish breakfast. The hotel has not one but two Byzantine-era cisterns on-site. One has been converted into a restaurant and the other is now a pool. You’ll need to brace yourself for the most magnificent hotel pool your eyes will ever feast on.
Due to COVID-19, the hotel restricts pool access to reserved timeslots. Guests can book the pool (free of charge) for up to 45-minutes at a time. Staying at this hotel feels like a step back in time and a special experience. The pool definitely enhances that.
The hotel is incredibly safe, with a police station at one end of the alley and a hotel security kiosk at the other.
As someone who has been to Istanbul four times over the last eight years and stayed at multiple hotels around the city, I don’t make this proclamation lightly: The Hagia Sofia Mansions is hands down the best hotel in Istanbul for sightseeing, especially if you’re visiting for the first time. The location is unbeatable at this price point, and staying here provides a unique and authentic experience that is unmatched in the area.
Closest airports: Istanbul Airport (IST) is about 45 minutes from the property.
How to book: 25,000 to 32,000 Hilton Honors points per night, though pricing can vary depending on demand.
–Ariana Arghandewal, points and miles editor
Here’s what we love
- Restored historic elements
- An iconic Singapore Sling at the Long Bar
- Reimagined culinary concepts
You can once again experience the Lion City like the glitterati of “Crazy Rich Asians” now that Singapore‘s oldest hotel has emerged from an extensive, two-year-long renovation.
Raffles Singapore reopened in August, though many of the property’s iconic features were carefully preserved — including the famous Long Bar, which has long been credited with the invention of the Singapore Sling cocktail. After all, this property is considered a national monument.
The refresh increased the number of suites to 115, added an upscale boutique and expanded the number of food and beverage outlets in collaboration with star chefs Anne-Sophie Pic, Alain Ducasse and Jereme Leung. It also modernized the property (think: ensuite iPads). But the painstaking attention to the property’s historical legacy is what sets this property apart. The elegant black-and-white design elements remain, as do the iconic Raffles Butlers. Travellers here can experience the same meticulous service and 19th-century luxury as esteemed guests Queen Elizabeth, Elizabeth Taylor and Charlie Chaplin.
Closest airport: Fly into Singapore’s iconic Changi Airport (SIN) and catch a 20-minute taxi to the property.
How to book: Nightly rates in October 2021 hover around $590 per night.
Here’s what we love
- Beautiful design throughout the property
- Select rooms with outdoor terraces
- Great location
- Rooftop bar with stunning views
We’re fans of Marriott’s Edition brand, which has been steadily expanding to hot destinations around the world over the past several years. The newest location to open is in Japan’s capital — and one of our favourite cities on Earth — Tokyo.
While we haven’t had the chance to visit yet, we’re confident that this property will be every bit as good as other Edition properties we’ve gotten to stay at including West Hollywood, Shanghai, Bodrum, Turkey, Miami Beach and more.
The hotel has 206 guest rooms — 15 of which have outdoor terraces with jaw-dropping views of the seemingly endless Tokyo skyline — along with three restaurants and bars, including a rooftop terrace, a full-service spa and fitness centre and more.
It has a great location in the Toranomon neighbourhood, which is close to some of Tokyo’s best areas including Ginza and Roppongi. That also places you close to attractions like the Imperial Palace, Mori Art Museum and the National Art Center.
Closest airport: Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND) is the closest major airport, which lies about 11 miles from the Edition. With light traffic, the ride should only take about 20 minutes, or public transportation will get you there in about 45.
How to book: This is a Category 8 Marriott Bonvoy property, meaning free nights will cost 70,000 points on an off-peak night, 85,000 on a standard night and 100,000 on a peak night.
Waldorf Astoria Maldives
Here’s what we love:
- Plenty of on-property restaurants
- Amazing staff
- Convenient yacht transfers
- Great use of Hilton Honors points
The still-new Waldorf Astoria Ithaafushi Maldives is one of the top points properties in one of the world’s most sought-after destinations.
This resort features 122 spacious and beautifully-appointed villas spread across three islands. “Base” rooms are beach villas, but rest assured that there’s nothing basic about these spaces.
The property has a whopping 10 choices for eating and drinking. One restaurant features individual “treehouses” made out of bamboo for private dining with views of the Indian Ocean. Another features authentic flavours and techniques from the Middle East that will make you forget you’re at a five-star resort in the middle of the ocean.
A big part of the allure of the Maldives is the slate of underwater activities, and this Waldorf Astoria delivers. The property has great scuba diving as well as a marine biologist on staff.
Speaking of staff, the team of professionals here will go above and beyond to make your stay memorable. No request is too much or out of bounds.
Another fantastic feature of this property is that airport transfers are done with a luxury yacht instead of a seaplane. This really makes for a better experience, as you’re not tied to the more-rigid schedules of seaplane flights. It’s convenient, quick and allows you to enjoy more time at the resort — which is what travelling to the Maldives is all about in the first place.
Closest airport: Velana International Airport in Male (MLE) is the main international gateway to the Maldives. The Waldorf Astoria is about a 50-minute yacht ride away, and transfers cost about $900 round-trip per person.
How to book: You can book base beach villas starting from 120,000 Hilton Honors points per night. With cash rates of $1,500 or more per night, you can get a great value for your Honors points if you use them at this property.
–Brian Kelly, The Points Guy
Park Hyatt Auckland
Here’s what we love
- Terrific waterfront location with Instagrammable views
- Rooftop Presidential Suite with its own internal garden
- Plant-based and cruelty-free bath products by New York perfumer Le Labo
Perched right on the waterfront, this splendid place will make you feel like you’re floating. Park Hyatt Auckland is spread over 195 guest rooms overlooking Wynyard Quarter’s Lighter Basin and Waitematā Harbour. What we especially love about this place is the sumptuous wellness centre, spa and infinity pool. What a way to relax after the year we’ve had. Think pure tranquility, calming hues and lots of holistic treats. (Note that Americans can’t yet travel to New Zealand.)
It’s also Hyatt’s first foray into New Zealand, so it’s extra special. And local culture is tastefully combined with luxury. It’s been designed to reflect a Māori wharenui (house), a traditional place of gathering that brings families and communities together. We love this bit too: Hyatt says that the outside of the hotel is supposed to represent a Maori cloak around the building, creating a double skin of “warmth, privacy and beauty.” How caring and kind.
All rooms feature custom-designed tukutuku panels and rugs made from New Zealand wool. Despite Hyatt being a major hotel brand, this one feels really bespoke and uses the country’s ample resources and style to honour it. A guest favourite has to be afternoon tea with views over the water’s edge. There are five courses and even a sparkling tea to try, and you’ll get treated like royalty.
Closest airport: Auckland Airport (AKL) is less than 30 minutes from the property.
Featured image of White Elephant Palm Beach by Chi-Thien Nguyen/Elkus Manfredi Architects
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