It’s that time of year when all the Top travel lists of 2015 are revealed – when Travel & Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, New York Times, Andrew Harper, Indagare and the like publish and circulate their lists of the hottest destinations and hotels for the year ahead. Admittedly, I devour them all. Over the last few months, I edited names several times while assembling our own personal annual list of favorite new hotel openings. There are so many new places (both in 2014 and anticipated ones for 2015) we are excited to check out, that I had a hard time paring them down to our usual 15 – so this year we have three more than usual.
Some will be expected (you know, the ones you see on almost every travel list) and some will hopefully be welcome surprises. As we already reviewed and posted some exceptional new openings last year – Nizuc in Cancun, Ham Yard Hotel in London and Park Hyatt Vienna – they will be noticeably missing.
We can only hope to get to one or two of the hotels on our list this year and post a review. In the meantime, stay tuned over the next few months for an ‘Inside Look‘ on some of the hotels below.
Now for the names (in no particular order):
1) One & Only Hayman resort – Reopened August 2014
Australia’s most luxurious resort was on our list last year and will probably remain on our list every year until we get our tuchus down under. Hayman Island Resort, now under the management of One & Only luxury hotel chain, re-opened in August after a serious $80MM makeover. Set in heart of Great Barrier reef, the hotel seemingly has it all: a magnificent location, palm-fringed beach, two stunning pools, sports galore, a wide variety of restaurants and bars, and all completely new spacious suites. In fact, 50% of the 160 renovated accommodations (reduced from 209) are suites and villas ideal for families and groups. Looks like paradise to us…just wish it was closer.
2) Malliouhana, Anguilla – Reopened November 2014
The opening of the Malliouhana – the hottest opening in the Caribbean since the Viceroy on the same island – was a given for our list. After being closed 18 months for a much needed redesign, the resort (now under the Auberge Resorts brand) re-opened in November, 30 years to the day of its original opening. Those of you who know this property already – with its enviable location on a bluff and 25 ocean-front acres – will be happy to see its iconic white buildings intact. What to expect, then? Revamped 44 rooms (all with ocean views), two new infinity pools and a signature Auberge spa, to name a few . We are anxiously awaiting a verdict for those who checked it over the holidays but anything that Auberge touches is usually perfection.
3) Cheval Blanc Isle De France, St Barts – Opened October 2014
While the recently opened The Brando resort in French Polynesia is being lauded as the new ‘ultimate’ place to escape, we prefer to look closer to home, thank you very much. Vacationers may be grumbling about the recent Russian invasion of the chic isle of St. Barths (even Paul Allen docked his 414-foot yacht Octopus in Sydney instead of St. Barths for the holidays this year), with the Russian economy free-falling we are placing our bets on the newly opened Cheval Blanc St. Barth Isle de France as THE place to escape (as least its closer).
The Isle de France, located on the u-shaped Flamands Beach, has long been the Grande Dame of St. Barths hotels. Now under the luxury brand LVMH’s hotel portfolio (this is LVMH’s newest property since the Cheval Blanc in Courchevel), this fine lady got a major upgrade but with her ‘heart and soul’ remaining intact. What you will find is 34 newly updated west indies-style suites, bungalows and villas with panoramic views of the ocean, a Guerlain spa (the only one in the Caribbean), guest access to a 21-meter-long yacht, and beach front and alfresco restaurants to finish it off. Last but not least – private butlers called Alchemists … ah, only in St. Barts.
4) Cromlix, Scotland – Opened April 2014
Aye, Sassenach. Ever since we were introduced last summer to the highly-addictive Starz Outlander series and kilt-clad Jamie Fraser, we have been yearning to transport ourselves to the Scottish highlands while riding the drought until the series returns in April (I guess I am a droughtlander). Now we have another reason to get there: not far from Edinburgh in the countryside of Perthshire is the stunning Victorian mansion hotel called the Cromlix. Beautiful in its own right, this 15 room/suite hotel has the added advantage of being owned by none other than Scottish-born tennis ace (#6 in the world, when we last checked), Andy Murray. The 1874 regal estate is set on 34 acres with plenty of activities to satisfy any outdoor enthusiast but what draws us most to Cromlix is the opportunity to pretend living like lairds and ladies in the sumptuous surroundings of this historic home.
5) It’s a tie: Buddha Bar Hotel and The Peninsula, Paris – Opened July 2013 and August 2014
My heart is always with Paris, even more so in the wake of last week’s tragic events. I’m always on the alert for new openings in my fave city and while I (and my wallet) rarely stray outside of the Left Bank, all the recent new Right Bank hotel openings leaves me with my head swirling and wondering what I am missing. I couldn’t decide between two of the most impressive recent right-bank openings -the decadent Buddha Bar Hotel and the extravagant The Peninsula. So I didn’t.
Steps from the Arc De Triomphe, the 200-room (including 34 suites) Peninsula is housed in a 19th Century Hausmannian building that used to be the legendary Majestic Hotel (where Gershwin wrote “An American In Paris”). After four years of painstaking renovation, the limestone-facaded Peninsula opened in August. The dramatic lobby, with soaring ceilings and an 800-crystal leave art installation twinkling in mid-air, is a sight to behold. Everything in the rooms is tablet-driven, from the shades to the temperature. But what we can’t wait to check out the most is the restaurants, namely the Kleber Lounge and Bar adorned with gold-leaf mouldings and painted ceilings and the rooftop (with retractable roof) restaurant L’Oiseau Blanc where one can enjoy 360-degree views of Paris.
The Buddha Bar Hotel is housed in an 18th century Hotel Particulier overlooking the rue du Faubourg St. Honoré and near Le Madeleine (just a short walk from the Buddha Bar restaurant). Consistent with the previous Buddha Bar openings in Prague and Budapest, the owners aim to provide a 5-star experience in a stylish contemporary setting at this 37 room/19-suite hotel. The lobby, like the Peninsula, is dramatic: a ceiling of 120 red lanterns and a mosaic dragon (meant to symbolize strength and life) greet guests upon entering the hotel. We can’t wait to check out the magnificent courtyard which is surrounded by five different lounges and the dramatic signature bar Le Qu4tre, and restaurant Le Vraymonde (named after the owner Raymond Visan). Stay tuned as we do an Inside Peek of this hotel – the gorgeous interiors alone deserve their own post!
6) L’Apogée Courcheval – Opened December 2013
So many new and renovated ski lodges are cropping up all over the Alps, we can’t keep up. Last year, the beyond gorgeous Chedi Andermatt in Switzerland was the talk of the alps and was a pick for our 2014 list. While L’Apogée Courcheval has been open a whole year now (egads!), we somehow skipped this gorgeous 53-room (33 suite) property.
The first mountain lodge for the Oetker Hotels (who own such legendary hotels such as Bristol in Paris and the Hotel du Cap in Antibes), this lodge is a sight to behold. You know you are in for something special when a 53-room hotel boasts a staff of 170 and is only open during the ski season. It’s hard to decide what is the most impressive: the private conveyor belt delivering guests from the mountain to the hotel, the hotel ski-room offering the hotel’s custom-made skis or the luxurious and cozy interiors (everything in the hotel is custom made/bespoke) designed by India Mahdavi. Visit their site: Total ski porn.
7) Soho House Istanbul – Opening early 2015
I’m not sure what I am more excited about: that I can now experience London-based Cecconi’s restaurant in Istanbul or that the Soho House is coming to this historical and cultural city. Bringing more serious competition to the Istanbul hotel scene, this members’ club and hotel will be located in the artsy Beyoğlu district and span three buildings including one which was once the first US government-owned diplomatic premises in the world.
Anticipated to be the biggest of the Soho Houses around the world, this 87-room Soho House will have (in addition to typical ‘Soho House’ club spaces) two rooftop pools, a large screening room, a Cowshed spa and of course…a Cecconi’s restaurant. Sweeeeet.
8) The Gainsborough Bath Spa, England – Opening early 2015
There is no shortage of wonderful places to rest your head in the beautiful spa and UNESCO World Heritage city of Bath but the addition of The Gainsborough Bath Spa is worth keeping an eye on when it opens. The building of this 99-room hotel and spa has some serious Georgian, Victorian and even Roman roots. The three buildings that will be joined to be the Gainsborough were once used as a vast townhouse, a hotel, the Royal United Hospital part of Bath College…and even roman baths (apparently, when a wing to the hospital was being build in the late 1800s, they found roman baths in the cellars beneath the building but then they were covered up and forgotten). With the opening of the Gainsborough Bath Spa early this year, the baths are back. We have our eyes on the Spa Suites which will have bath-tubs with three taps: hot, cold, and thermal water that springs directly from underground.
9) Hotel Urso Madrid – Opened September 2014
The 78-room Hotel Urso Madrid, housed in a gorgeous 18th century building smack in the center of Madrid, grabbed our attention when it opened in September. This formerly private house has been transformed into a stylish, chic hotel decorated with modern interiors and muted tones on the inside – a nice juxtaposition from its beaux-arts exterior. Our favorite thing about the hotel, though, is its location. It is only a few minutes’ walk from the trendy neighbourhoods of Serrano, Malasaña and Chueca and the boutiques along Calle Fuencarral AND it is right opposite the new Barceló food market, which is loaded with bars, restaurants and delicatessen stalls. Inside the hotel is another matter: Urso’s restaurant, The Table, will be a ‘pop-up’, featuring six different restaurants that will travel to Madrid and stay at the hotel for a month each, transforming the restaurant into their own.
10) Wild Rabbit – Opened 2013
We are heading back to London this September and when we do, will be making a two hour detour to the divine Cotswolds where we have been wanting to go ever since Cameron and Kate house swapped homes in the 2006 film,The Holiday.
Nestled in the Cotswolds in the town of Oxfordshire, the 12-bedroom Wild Rabbit, open since 2013, is a charming hotel housed in a stone building from 1750. Imagine a country-modern English inn decorated in muted palettes and dotted with cozy fireplaces, original stonewalls and beams, along with a gourmet restaurant and pub featuring local produce in farm to table menus. Sprinkle in some dogs. The proprietor, Lady Carole Bamford, also owns both the well-known Daylesford Organic Farm in Gloucestershire and food shops. Upstairs, each of the bedrooms, named after wild animals like Hedgehogs, feature a log fireplace and are decked out with Daylesford goodies. Stay tuned.
11) D’Angleterre Copenhagen – Reopened May 2013
This iconic and historical (259 years old to be exact) hotel emerged from an extensive 3 year $20 million renovation that gives us enough of a reason to return to Copenhagen after my last visit to the city 30! years ago while studying abroad. Hotel D’Angleterre‘s location – with Nyhavn Canal in front of the hotel and the city’s best shopping and lively bars and restaurants just behind it – can’t be beat. All of the hotel’s 90 elegantly designed rooms in the elegant Neoclassical building have been renovated with new technology (we like the B&O televisions), higher ceilings and some with floor-to-ceiling french doors and terraces looking out over the canal. Want to indulge? Inside the hotel is a new champagne bar Balthazar, a 2,000 square foot marble and tile swimming pool and Michelin star restaurant, Marchal.
12) Soho House Chicago – Opened August 2014
We are so bullish on the Soho House that we are including another opening on our list – this time in the Windy City. Housed in a six-story 1907 warehouse, Soho House Chicago retains masses of original features alongside more modern additions – there’s a 40-seat screening room and rooftop pool with outdoor fireplaces for starters. The first floor, called The Allis after the Chicago-Allis Manufacturing Corp. that was its previous resident, has plush velvet chairs and farm tables inviting anyone to lounge and order food or cocktails by night from the lobby café. Like the other Soho Houses around the world, there is the requisite Cowshed Spa, screening room and club floor for members and plenty of restaurants. Here you will find, among others a Chicken Shop – a 1950’s inspired rotisserie joint, and Pizza East – serving charcuterie and wood-fired pizzas in a rustic dining room.
13) Mustang Monument Nevada – Opened June 2014
Based on uniqueness alone, Mustang Monument is our favorite pick of the bunch. This uber-cool 2015 eco-sanctuary in Nevada is home to hundreds of free-roaming mustangs, thanks to philanthropist Madeleine Pickens. Picture yourself glam-camping in tee pees, hanging out with real (and gorgeous, so I’m told) cowboys and riding in the sunset (on a horse or ATV) on the Nevada plains along with nearly 600 wild mustangs – all saved from slaughter and protected on the 900-square mile refuge. After a cocktail at the saddle seated bar in at the ranch’s saloon (see the top photo) and a communal 3-course dinner, gather round the camp fire for marshmallows to talk about your day.
This all-inclusive Old West experience with lodging in one of this working ranch’s 20 luxurious tee pees or safari cottages is available only from June to September. The best thing? 100% of the profits from your stay go towards saving these beautiful four-legged creatures.
14) Bahia Vik, Uruguay – Opened December 2014
How does rolling out of bed in your own private beach bungalow and watching the horses canter by on the dunes sound right about now? It sounds pretty darn good to me. The newest Vik property to open, Bahia Vik, looks pretty incredible: 21 rooms (including eleven 2-3 bedroom bungalows) spread across ten acres on Playa Mansa overlooking the Atlantic in beach town José Ignacio (more barefoot chic town than nearby glitzy Punta del Este). Like its incredibly stylish siblings, Playa Vik and Estancia Vik, this third Vik property emphasizes contemporary Uruguayan architecture, art and design. If you need a diversions from the beach, a library, game room, spa and gym are all part of the property as are its four pools and restaurant, La Susana.
If you are thinking of making the trek to Uruguay, its worth thinking about combining ranch and beach in one vacation. We love the idea of pairing Bahia Vik with the gorgeous colonial-style Estancia El Colibri in Cordoba, Argentina. To get more details, contact our friend and Latin America specialist, (who has been on Travel & Leisure magazine’s A-List of travel agents for the past nine years) Eric Sheets, founder of Latin Excursions at [email protected]
15) Mont Rochelle, Franschoek South Africa – Opened September 2014
A trip to South Africa without a visit to the winelands and Dutch university town of Franschoek is just sacrilege. We can’t wait to get back and buy more antiques and wine. The newly re-opened Mont Rochelle, located on a hilltop overlooking its 96-acre vineyard and mountains, is just up our alley with lots of welcome changes: a new spa with Hammam, heated pool, restaurant, and a well known new owner: Richard Branson of Virgin group. We stayed here one night in 2002 when the hotel was formerly La Couronne (destroyed in a 2006 fire) and the views are beyond words. The 22 rooms of Mont Rochelle have all been refurbished. A perfect spot in between Capetown and safari to rest up and relax.
16) Park Hyatt Zanzibar – Opening March 2015
Following the recent guest review of the new Park Hyatt Vienna, we are especially excited to see the hotel chain will be coming to the sultry shores of Zanzibar. As we hit Tanzania this July to view the migration, we may just have to make an excuse to divert our flights here on our way home to check it out!
Seated enviably on the beachfront in Stone Town, the historical centre of the Zanzibar City and a designated UNESCO Heritage site, Park Hyatt Zanzibar’s 67 rooms and public spaces will reflect its Swahili culture with a unique blend of Arab, Persian, Indian and European elements. Just like the island.
17) Hoanib Skeleton Camp – Opened August 2014
Namibia (along with Nicaragua) was one of most talked about emerging/hot destinations for 2014, not coincidentally I am sure coinciding the opening of Wilderness Safari’s newest luxury camp, Hoanib Skeleton Camp. Tents are designed in a modernist safari style in muted tones of khakis, blending with the stark aesthetics of the stunning Namibian desert. The camp is based along a private concession abutting Skeleton Coast National Park, which is home to over 600 desert elephants, giraffe and hyena. Was too cool to not include in this year’s list.
18) Jaipur Rajmahal Palace – Opening January 2015
The exotic destination of Jaipur has a permanent mark on our bucket list and the soon-to-open Rajmahal Palace – housed in a 18th century palace – is giving us a reason to stop making excuses. Luxury hotel brand Sujan – known for their luxury tented camps in Kenya and India, took over the former hotel (which was more ‘Exotic Marigold‘ than hotel if you know what I mean) and gave it a serious overhaul. The former home to Guyatri Devi (‘queen of Jaipur’ and considered one of the most beautiful women in the world by Vogue) will have 15 suites, two restaurants and pool with a bold color theme of pink and turquoise throughout the hotel. Expect a less formal but equally luxurious experience than nearby Taj Rambah, the former royal palace.
Like what you see? You can book any of these hotels and receive special Virtuoso rates and VIP perks (upgrades, late check-outs, complimentary breakfasts and more) through our partnership with luxury travel agency, Classic Travel. Go to www.classictravel.com/inviato or call (888) 212-6444 and mention ‘Inviato’.