In the depths of lockdown, where do you dream of? Remote islands and deserted beaches? Mountain tops or buzzy cities?
I dream of hotels: ones I’ve been to; ones I want to go to. I even made an entire wishlist in the first lockdown. I love everything about them (hardly surprising given my role as Hotels and Guides Editor for this newspaper). The ritual of arrival, the pool-side culture, the focus on enjoying yourself: they are an antidote to our anxious, Covid era.
Throughout history, people have often retreated to hotels in troubled times. Now, more than ever, they present the possibility of escape. Not just from our (rather more static) daily lives, but also our homes, where we have all spent more time than usual this year.
When lockdown lifted this summer, I went to Greece following a well-timed air corridor announcement and some last-minute bookings. I arrived late at night, and there was nothing quite like the excitement of waking up the following morning to see blue skies and even bluer sea. I flopped down on to a sunbed on a pontoon, in the glimmer of the sun with the gentle sounds of lapping water leaving me in an almost meditative state. I didn’t move for the entire day – save for jumping in. The beer tasted better; the Greek salad fresher. Life, for that moment, was wonderful.
Many of us need days like these on holiday. But this felt like I’d rebooted my brain after months of never-ending uncertainty. I returned sunkissed, feeling refreshed in body and mind.
2020 was supposed to be a bumper year for new, noteworthy hotels. And then we all know what happened. As the world has tentatively reopened to tourists – and closed again for many destinations – so too have new hotels.
While their time so far has been fraught with social distancing rules and regulations, there is still cause to celebrate. The fact that they opened in these times is reason enough to stay hopeful.
Here are the best hotels that have quietly opened their doors during the pandemic.
Forestis, Dolomites, Italy
“Peace is the new luxury”: perhaps there is no better mantra to adopt in 2020 than this one. It is also the tagline of Forestis, a new, year-round Tyrolean mountain retreat with a sustainable ethos, located on the site of a former tuberculosis sanatorium established by the Austrian monarchy. Peace isn’t hard to find up here either: at 1,800m above sea level, all 62 suites (and the swimming pool) have panoramic views of the dense mountain forest and the Unesco-listed massif of Dolomites. Original traditional architecture has been modernised: think angular edges and huge picture windows. When you’re not taking advantage of their ski-in and out offering (the Plose ski region is nearby), chances are you’ll be in the spa.
Hotel Le Sud, Provence, France
A beautiful boutique hotel which quietly opened this summer in Juan Les Pins. Native (but Paris-based) Stéphanie Lizée – know for chic Le Coucou in Meribel – is behind the 29-room property. It’s southern France incarnate, and not only by name: it’s inspired by the nearby Picasso Museum in Antibes, and the artist’s time spent in the region when he had a house at Vallauris. So guests can expect a canvas of white plaster fronted with pops of rich colours: ceramics, paint and furnishings in Klein blue, Lincoln green, terracotta and tangerine. There’s a bar, patio and garden but no pool – but the nearest sandy beach is a five-minute walk away.
Pater Noster, Hamneskär, Sweden
Pater Noster lighthouse, on Hamneskär island off the coast of West Sweden, lit up the horizon for sailors from 1868 and was, at the time, considered a high-tech masterpiece. It almost went into disrepair before it was saved by volunteers and reopened for visitors in 2007. Now, it’s been repurposed into a nine-bedroom guesthouse by award-winning design agency Stylt. Guests can go sailing, kayaking, scuba diving or deep-sea fishing (before cooking their catch) – or else they can eat homemade dishes, many of which contain the local seaweed, at the summer café. The best bed in the house isn’t actually in a room: guests can book an outdoor sleeping area on the cliffs with views out to sea. Transportation to the lighthouse is by Rib boat from Marstrand or Gothenburg.
Les Deux Gares, Paris
Maximalists rejoice: British interior designer Luke Edward Hall opened his first hotel this autumn, in Paris’s 10th arrondissement (it’s close to both Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est, hence its name). Those familiar with his style won’t be surprised by his use of bold colour and heavy patterns: candy-striped headboards, splashes of leopard print on sofas and shades of shamrock green clashed with bubblegum pink in rooms with egg yolk-coloured bathrooms. There’s also a traditional bistro turning out the classics, and perhaps the most beautiful hotel gym you’ve ever seen.
• Read the full review: Hotel Les Deux Gares
Soho Roc Hotel, Mykonos, Greece
This chic little number combines cool Cycladic curves, nature-inspired interiors and a vibrant poolside scene – perfect for the fashion-forward, fun-loving Soho House members lounging on over-sized daybeds or sunbathing on the private jetty. It’s a five-minute walk along the beach to Scorpios, the hippy-trippy beach bar where good-looking crowds queue up to dance into the sunset. Rooms are uncluttered, airy and refreshingly simple with outdoor spaces that vary from teeny garden-view verandas to huge first-floor terraces with tasselled hammocks and daybeds.
Camp Sarika, Utah, US
Aman has announced the arrival of Camp Sarika, 10 tented, west-facing pavilions with firepits and private plunge pools on an encampment set on top of flat-topped mesa rocks. The camp is attached to (and a 30-minute hike or five-minute drive away from) the exclusive Amangiri resort, where many a celebrity flocked once their local lockdown was lifted. There’s a restaurant and lounge, two spa suites, a pool and hot tub, though guests can also use the facilities at the main hotel. Activities include desert and mountain hiking, canyoneering and horse riding.
aman.com; tents from £2,605 per night, including all meals and non-alcoholic beverages, airport transfers and some activites
• Read the full review: Camp Sarika
Villa Copenhagen, Denmark
One of Denmark’s most eagerly awaited hotels of 2020 has finally opened, after the pandemic delayed its planned launch in May. Villa Copenhagen, on the site of the Danish capital’s historic post office, is a modern boutique hotel with strong eco credentials: energy from renewable sources, plus furniture and supplies made from sustainable materials.
Nobu Hotel Warsaw, Poland
Japan and Poland might not seem the most likely aesthetic partners, but Nobu Warsaw – the latest opening from the brand – does a grand job of marrying the two. It’s located on Wilcza Street in a building of two ‘wings’: the classic part is in the former Art Deco Hotel Rialto, which dates back to 1920s inter-war Poland, while the modern wing is a new angular, glass-heavy creation by a Polish architectural firm and California-based design studio. Rooms in each wing reflect where they are located – so wooden door frames and classic bathrooms in the former, and a more industrical look in the latter, with Polish art and Japanese touches across both. As always, expect the brand’s classics, including miso black cod, on the menu at the restaurant alongside dishes made from local ingredients. It’s in the creative part of the city, close to the Old Town – near the trendy Hala Koszyki food hall, wine bars, art galleries and restaurants, making it a popular weekend break spot.
• Read the full review: Nobu Hotel Warsaw
Hotel Magdalena, Austin, Texas
The Bunkhouse hotel group, which spans Texas and Mexico, adds another place to their portfolio, this time in Austin’s lively South Congress neighbourhood. The design is the first mass timber hotel in North America. It’s also specifically inspired by 1970s local lakeside culture – referencing the nearby natural swimming hole of Barton Springs. Outside, four buildings are connected by outdoor walkways and courtyards with porches, to create a treehouse feel, while inside, you can expect red, blue or green Spanish tiles, poured concrete and bespoke walnut furniture. There’s also a rock quarry, a 900 sq ft pool, a terrazzo bar and a restaurant with a live-fire grill.
Les Sources de Cheverny, Loire Valley, France
Following their highly popular Les Sources de Caudalie just outside Bordeaux, the much-loved French pharmacy skincare brand has opened its second property, this time in an 18th-century chateau in the Loire Valley. Similarly to its first-born, Les Sources de Cheverny will be surrounded by vineyards – much of whose waste and products will be used in the vinotherapy-focused spa.
• Read the full review: Les Sources de Cheverny
The Thyssen-Bornemisza art family – now in its fourth generation – has taken over a 15th-century Franciscan monastery on the car-free island of Lopud and turned it into one of the most extraordinary places to stay in recent times. It is the project of Francesca Thyssen-Bornesmisza, who first went to Croatia in 1992 to help to rescue artworks damaged in the war after the break-up of the Balkans, when she spotted the ruins of the monastery (Frank Gehry convinced her to take on the restoration two years later). All in all it’s taken 20 years to renovate the place.
Original plaster from the 16th century has been preserved, while the garden, set across numerous terraces with more than 80 species of plants, is inspired by the monks’ original. Renaissance and Gothic furniture and artwork from the family vault feature around every corner. More modern updates include a Sunset Terrace with direct sea access through an underground cave and five spacious suites instead of the original 12 monks’ cells. There’s also a shaman should you require one. The property opened this summer on an exclusive-use basis but will be available to rent per room from autumn.
lopud1483.com; doubles from €1,400 (£1,250)
Maslina Resort, Hvar Croatia
Another opening on the Adriatic, this time in the Unesco-listed Stari Grad on Hvar. The new Maslina Resort has been built with sustainability in mind. The architecture – wooden pavilions scattered across the pine tree-studded landscape – is non-intrusive, blending with the natural environment and using local materials such as Brac Island stone and Ikoro wood. The hotel reforested trees and protected native species, and it’s also energy efficient. Inside, expect locally sourced ingredients in the restaurant and beach bar, and natural, non-toxic amenities in rooms. Every single room, including the entry-level ones, have a view of the glittering Adriatic – upgrade to a suite and get a private pool or seafront living space; there are also villas on site. A spa and sandy beach completes the picture.
The Tokyo EDITION, Toronamon, Japan
A jungle-like lobby, minimalist rooms, dazzling views – and, no doubt, a soon-to-descend hip crowd: The Tokyo EDITION, Toranomon, is a fresh and modern Kengo Kuma-designed hotel, and Ian Schrager’s first Japan venture, in a cloud-brushing skyscraper. Tokyo’s first EDITION was never going to play by conventional rules. It offers a cool, 21st-century perspective on luxury, underpinned with lingering hints of Japan – from the gold leaf artworks in the guestrooms to the expanses of wood slates. The Jade Room – the signature restaurant, conceptualised by cult British chef Tom Aikens (his first restaurant in Japan) – and adjacent Garden Terrace (an open-air luxury) are due to open next year.
• Read the full review: The Tokyo EDITION, Toranamon
Hotel Fariones, Lanzarote
The people behind one of Lanzarote’s best-loved resorts, Princess Yaiza, are opening a property on the south-east coast of the island on September 1. The Hotel Fariones was the first hotel built on the island in 1967 – and now it’s back, but this time with a more modern take on the usual Seventies resort. There will be 231 rooms, suites with garden or sea views, four restaurants and four bars (including a rooftop bar and pool with sunset views), and a sea-view infinity pool surrounded by swaying palm trees.
Ace Hotel Kyoto, Japan
Temples, shrines, tea ceremony – plus tacos, DJs and craft coffee. Kyoto has received the definitive hipster upgrade with the arrival of Ace Hotel Kyoto – Asia’s first Ace – in a historic building renovated by Kengo Kuma, with 213 guestrooms, maximalist artworks and modern Japanese craft touches. Its heartbeat is the lobby: a cavernous music-filled space with a boutique, exhibition space, long wooden tables and sofas plus George Nakashima rugs on the floor (alongside, at the moment, social distancing stickers). There are also three restaurants, with a focus on American, Italian and Mexican cuisine, plus a rooftop bar and a soon-to-open private karaoke room. It’s centrally located on Karasuma Street, surrounded by the city’s neat grid-lined streets, home to small restaurants, chic boutiques, centuries-old miso stores and cafés.
• Read the full review: Ace Hotel Kyoto
Riggs Washington DC, US
Riggs Washington DC (which originally opened in February and has just reopened in time for election season) comes from the group behind Sea Containers London and Pulitzer Amsterdam and brings a dash of playful style to the political city. The 181-room hotel was previously the home of Riggs National Bank and features plenty of nods to its former life, with tables styled as vaults and coin motifs cropping up throughout. The pick of the rooms might be the four First Lady suites, inspired by some of the Presidents’ unsung better halves. Another highlight is the subterranean cocktail bar, Silver Lyan, from cocktail maestro Ryan Chetiyawardana. A new addition this summer is the Rooftop at Riggs, which has panoramic views of the city.
Raffles Bali, Indonesia
The latest Raffles to open is its 15th hotel – on the coast of Bali’s Bukit peninsula, a short hop from the southern end of the calm, aquamarine waters of the half-moon-shaped Jimbaran Bay. Accommodation is limited to just 32 private villas, each with a private pool, while meals are taken at either the lofty, oceanview Rumari restaurant, or Loloan Beach Bar and Grill down by the surf.