17 Mar


Consider The Gold List the answer to the question we get asked more than any other, where are the best places to stay?

Our annual collection, passionately selected by our team, displays the city hotel that consistently does everything right as well as the coastal getaway. The only thing left to do is choose the vacation experience that’s best for you – and start exploring!

1. Marbella Club – Málaga, Spain

This heritage property on the Andalusian coast has been synonymous with unassuming luxury since it began life as a hangout for Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe’s friends in the 1950s.

Over time it has evolved from a string of Californian-motel-inspired lodges into a rarefied village anchored by the beach. Yet despite its growth, it has maintained the intimacy of a members’ club. Post-pandemic additions such as El Patio restaurant draw upmarket locals to sip pressed juices after yoga classes or crisp rosés later on. The recent reincarnation of the iconic Beach Club, once erring on the side of silver service, has an artisanal, eclectic feel, with vibrant corals, Art Deco-style umbrellas, and hand-painted tiles.

It’s why families gather poolside for languorous lunches. But the kids’ club is the greatest triumph. There are exhaustive activities, gorgeous free-flow creative spaces, and engaging, energetic staff who work subtle magic.

Time to slink into the sea gazing Thalasso spa, try some Kundalini yoga or a little paddle surfing perhaps even a zingy Zoco cocktail by the pool. Life is all about balance, after all.

2. Santo Mauro, a Luxury Collection Hotel – Madrid, Spain

Built between 1860 and 1902 as the private palacio of the Dukes of Santo Mauro, the 49-room hotel, now owned by Antonio Catalán, occupies an affluent corner of the Chamberí neighbourhood where the ebullience of downtown Madrid gives way to a patrician quietude.

The 93-member staff, smiling and as impeccably turned out as the surroundings, make you believe you’re a friend of the duke, simply hanging out for a night or two in your regular Madrid bolthole.

Meanwhile in the French-style formal garden, deliciously re-imagined by landscaper Fernando Valero as a maze of box hedges and trickling fountains, the gravel crunches underfoot.

From beyond a line of towering horse chestnut trees and a high fence hung with ivy comes the murmur of what may just be, right now, Spain’s most exciting city. Hard though it is to tear yourself away from this well-upholstered bubble of gorgeousness, it must be done.

3. El Palace Barcelona – Spain

Locals still call it “El Ritz” – it was César Ritz’s last grand project – and while it officially lost the name decades ago, it clung to the theatrical pomp.

The lobby’s basalt-black columns are the definition of mausoleum chic, as if ready to stage a production of Salome. Like all grandes dames, it gives good gossip and drops a few names.

The rooftop pool terrace has been reclaimed by summer DJ sets and cocktail-fueled art lessons. Too much of fun on a terrace we think!


4. Cipriani, A Belmond Hotel – Venice, Italy

The journey is as important as the arrival, they say, and when applied to the home and garden of earthly delights that is the Belmond Cipriani, it means something.

The result is a place that is still unrivalled for that spirit of urbane hedonism; for generous and attentive service that never genuflects; for an easy atmosphere of peace and sanctuary alongside a sense of clubhouse discretion and rarefied exclusivity.

In the summer, when the canals in Venice get stickier, the Cipriani offers more than a breath of fresh air.

The grounds are large enough for tennis courts, a kitchen garden, a vineyard, and a spa within the orange blossom-scented Casanova gardens, sunbathing is raised to the level of theatre, with endless opportunities for people-watching around the travertine-marble terrace.


5.Caruso, A Belmond Hotel, Amalfi Coast – Ravello, Italy

Gardens arranged with lawns, rose borders, half concealed hammocks, and citrus trees fanned beneath the palace like giant steps.

Wisteria vines drop petals from the pergolas, outshone by the punch-pink, first-bloom bougainvillea.

It is a view nothing can prepare you for. Food and the leisurely eating of it, is the main deciding factor of most returns to Caruso.


6. Grand Hotel Tremezzo – Como, Italy

In an increasingly rapacious Italian hotel scene, some iconic family-owned properties retain that made-in-Italy, one-of-a-kind elixir that the bigger players can only dream of. The decadent Grand Hotel Tremezzo is decidedly one of these: It has been in family hands since opening in 1910 and comes with Grand Tour charm in spades.

Sitting a little back from Lake Como, looking out onto Bellagio, the Liberty-style building conjures a Grand Budapest Hotel set, an impression that grows when you enter the formal lobby with its sweeping red-carpet staircase, antique gilt-framed mirrors, and marble-encased bathrooms.

The hotel feels intimate thanks to its smaller cosy spaces: a cocooning spa with a heated swim-in, swim-out pool and Santa Maria Novella products; an outdoor pool surrounded by a forest of trees and blooming flowers; and tucked-away bars and corner banquettes in the restaurant (be sure to try the gold-leaf risotto).

But the true pièce de resistance is the floating pool sitting on the lake – cinematic grandeur incarnates with a Lido-like beachfront, bright orange and white umbrellas, and chic custom loungers.

7. Villa Igiea, a Rocco Forte Hotel – Palermo, Italy

This graceful estate is such a sharp contrast to wild Palermo that once you arrive you feel as though you have travelled to the other side of Sicily, not simply 10 minutes from the city centre.

It’s pool, bars, and breezy guest rooms feel like a glitzy clubhouse of sorts for European dynasty families, who congregate for aperitivo hour in dresses and loafers on the outdoor terrace overlooking the bay, a dapper pianist tickling the ivories in the corner.

Inside, Art Nouveau touches include whimsical frescoes and grand staircase, they feel like a modern extension of what still is very much a classic seaside resort. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

8. Deplar Farm – Iceland

Some places defy, or maybe transcend, the whole notion of what a hotel is.

Deplar – a turf-roofed former farm on northern Iceland’s Troll Peninsula, where sheep outnumber people – is one of those.

It lingers in the memory as a series of sensations: the shuddering tingle of the icy plunge pool after meditation in a 200-degree sauna; the sight of ephemeral sea spray against the pinkish morning light on a silent sea-kayak trip among the seals; the shimmering, blissful half-sleep of a sound bath, in a small candlelit room.

Though it almost looks like just another black timber farmstead on the drive up the valley, the 32-guest lodge is a lair of pure-grade hedonism!

9.The Goring – London, UK

The Goring is London to its very core. And unlike so many of its fellow luxury hotels with their slick, inoffensively international feel, it really couldn’t be anywhere else.

From the scarlet-coated concierges to the antiques-filled rooms, proximity to Buckingham Palace, and a dining room that was a favourite of both Margaret Thatcher and the Queen Mother, this is a true icon of the capital’s hotel scene. But it’s very much traditional rather than old-fashioned, and under that classic hood purrs an exceptionally modern engine.

Beds are supremely comfortable and towels lusciously thick, while the bathrooms have vast walk-in showers and tubs big enough to host your own regatta.

Service is smiling but very professional. In the summer arum bar pops up in the garden, and things get very merry indeed. The Dining Room is a bastion of traditional British food: oeufs Drumkilbo, rack of Romney lamb, Longhorn beef Wellington, and the restaurant’s legendary lobster omelette.

10. Tierra Patagonia – Chile

A room with a view is enduringly special, but one that frames such retina-searing scenery is something else.

All 40 rooms in this horseshoe-shaped hotel gaze up at the Paine Massif, rising beyond the Sarmiento Lake, where waves roar when the wind picks up. Whether you’re snuggled in a sheepskin rug on a windowsill or swimming in the infinity pool, those towers are transfixing and ever-changing with the weather.

This environmentally sensitive property is almost impossible to see from afar. By storing and replanting all vegetation on site, landscape artists Catalina Phillips and Gerardo Ariztia have created a wildlife haven where guanacos and rhea graze in the bush.

Respect for culture and nature is everywhere, from dioramas depicting Chile’s history of exploration to Calafate sours made with locally produced berry liqueur at the bar. Tierra offers a chance to see and do Patagonia differently, starting and always ending with that unbeatable view.

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