There are plenty of gorgeous island nations in the waters off the coast of Africa, where jet-setters can hang out on white sand beaches or hide away in overwater bungalows dangling above picture-perfect archipelagos. For many however, the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean is the continent’s crown jewel. More than 100 beautifully pristine islands, countless far-flung resorts and (more recently) a variety of private island escapes make the Seychelles a perennial favourite amongst the well-heeled, celebs and royals seeking to unwind in private, unadulterated luxury.
Located on the outer edge of the Seychelles and a 35-minute flight southwest of the largest island of Mahé, it’s safe to say that if you land on Desroches you are not stopping-off en route to somewhere else.
Sparsely populated 933-acre Desroches is a low-lying stretch of coral, awash with lush vegetation and enveloped by spectacular dive sites and exceptional fishing options. The island’s animal sanctuary cares for over a hundred Aldabra tortoises and a Creole village provides an insight into the Seychellois way of life.
Intimate Four Seasons Resort Seychelles at Desroches Island (formerly called Desroches Island) is the well-known American hospitality brand’s second property in the country, and has been designed to strike just the right balance between the energy of larger sister property Four Seasons Resort Seychelles on Mahé and a secluded private-island retreat, the latter of which are rapidly gaining popularity amongst discerning travellers.
Guests are accommodated in just forty breezy beach suites and bungalows, all of which boast private plunge pools, indoor-outdoor bathrooms, and a casual-cool island aesthetic.
Families or small groups can settle into one of eleven swishy private villas, liberally spaced along the island’s nine miles of sugary beaches – each of which feature three, four or five bedrooms, a full kitchen and a dedicated butler. Four Seasons does butlers very well indeed, and, perhaps just coincidentally, British Airways recommenced its service between London and the Seychellen capital of Victoria at the same time as the opening of Four Seasons Resort Seychelles at Desroches Island back in March. Perhaps because it was the most exciting new resort to emerge in a destination already awash with lavish hotels?
Stretching for 800kms along the east coast of South Africa, the country’s KwaZulu-Natal province is divided into eight, distinct geographical destinations, centred around the capital, Pietermaritzburg, and its largest city, Durban. The three coastal regions and their beaches bordering the Indian Ocean comprise the thin lowland strip of the South Coast, dotted with resort towns stretching towards the Eastern Cape; the North Coast – also known as the Dolphin Coast – between the Umdloti and Tugela Rivers; and the more remote Elephant Coast with its internationally important wetland parks.
Formed in 1991 and located in the latter, between Mkuze Game Reserve and the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park, Phinda Private Game Reserve boasts a rich diversity of ecosystems, and is situated in an area of KwaZulu-Natal that is home to many protected parks and reserves which are among the best in Africa, and offer unique opportunities to see the Big Five, as well as many rare and endangered species.
Tucked into the edge of a dappled forest, sole-use safari lodge AndBeyond Phinda Homestead re-opened on 28,555-hectare Phinda Private Game Reserve just a few months ago after a completely rebuild, following a devastating fire in December 2016.
Inspired by the lodge’s natural surroundings and local Zulu culture, interiors are furnished in clean lines and earthy tones, highlighted by burnt clay, aloe and red. Traditional Nguni hides, intricate basketwork and colourful craft pieces – all sourced directly from local communities – are featured throughout the property, paying homage to the area’s proud and vibrant heritage and the reserve’s past as a cattle and pineapple farm.
An interactive kitchen brings the lodge’s private chef into the center of the guest experience. Homegrown herbs enhance the hearty fare prepared for guests. Inviting guest areas, open to the cooling breezes, blend perfectly into private bedrooms and spacious bathrooms, where oversized deep-soaking tubs look out onto beautiful landscape and the surrounding bush. The overall result is an elegant yet warm contemporary bush home, and the perfect base from which to explore the thousands of surrounding hectares with the lodge’s dedicated ranger, tracker team and safari vehicle.
Game drives as well as meal times are completely tailored to guests’ wishes, giving you the rare opportunity to completely personalise your safari experience. And after a long game drive, guests can relax in the sparkling swimming pool or indulge in a therapeutic massage. Other on-site facilities include a library, sprawling outside timber deck and a gym.
2008 marked a noticeable change in Liverpool, England’s historic maritime city in the northwest of the country, where the River Mersey meets the Irish Sea. A key trade and migration port from the 18th to the early 20th centuries and famously the hometown of The Beatles, Liverpool had just celebrated its 800th birthday in 2007, when the following year the city became a European Capital of Culture. This very public opportunity to showcase its cultural life and development marked the veritable rebirth of this characterful metropolis, the effects of which have yet to slow down.
Liverpool so deftly used its Capital of Culture status to completely transform its cultural base, not to mention the way in which the city was viewed internationally, that, one decade on, Liverpool still continues to develop and grow at a pace that few could have imagined ten years ago. In tandem with this progression, the city’s restaurant, nightlife and tourist industries have also blossomed exponentially, resulting in a fascinating and well-rounded cultural destination, which holds its own internationally and makes for a superb city break.
Liverpool’s beautiful Georgian Quarter is a legacy of the city’s former wealth, and the area boasts one of the largest collections of terraced Georgian town houses outside London. Treading the cobbled streets of this picturesque district is to uncover a different story at every turn, and hence, unsurprisingly, the Georgian Quarter has become a hotspot for production companies filming everything from Hollywood blockbusters to TV dramas against the backdrop of gorgeous buildings.
At the heart of Liverpool’s Georgian Quarter is Hope Street, which won the Academy of Urbanism’s 2013 Great Street Award. Dominating the skyline at one end of Hope Street is Liverpool Cathedral – Britain’s biggest cathedral, the largest Anglican cathedral in Europe and the fifth largest in the world. At the other end of Hope Street, the starkly contrasting Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral is another of the city’s magnificent landmarks, and regularly hosts cultural events including music concerts and recitals. In between these two Liverpool icons is Hope Street Hotel, the city’s first boutique offering, which skilfully marries new and old buildings (one dating back to 1860), including a magnificent, Italian palazzo-style Victorian warehouse, the ground floor of which is home to the much-lauded London Carriage Works restaurant.
Upstairs, a selection of individually-styled rooms and suites offer guests a taste of the past updated with contemporary decor and modern conveniences. Aptly described by The Sunday Times as ‘Isambard Kingdom Brunel meets Carrie Bradshaw’, Hope Street Hotel is the perfect base from which to explore Liverpool’s Georgian Quarter, the real beauty of which is that even if you veer off the beaten track, you will almost always find hidden architectural treasure.
Surry Hills neighbourhood is located in the south-east corner of Sydney’s business district and is very much the city’s go-to dining and drinking destination. Fancy high-end restaurants happily sit side-by-side with bijou bars, clothing boutiques, quirky shops, public parks and art galleries.
Conceptualised from the outset to have a distinct personality and interact with its surrounding urban environment, Paramount House Hotel is housed within two skilfully stitched together uber cool buildings in Surry Hills – the original 1940s former Australian headquarters of Paramount Picture Studios and the adjoining film storage warehouse. The 29-key hotel occupies shares the space with the Golden Age Cinema and Bar, Paramount Coffee Project Café (serving some of the best blends in Sydney), Paramount Recreation Centre and a chic co-working area called The Office Space. Hyde Park is just a few minutes’ walk away.
The hotel’s reception is so understated that it wouldn’t be difficult to miss, and is simply marked by copper herringbone doors either side and a concrete sign that says, ‘Permanent Vacation’. Guests checking-in are routinely greeted with a glass of wine or a cold beer.
Upstairs, the 27 bedrooms and two suites – occupying four floors of what was once the film storage warehouse – have a distinctly industrial feel to them, offset with a multitude of stylish touches and gorgeous accessories that will have you asking the inner-city hipster staff where it all came from. Contemporary tapestries hang on the walls. Bed linen in soft shades of blue and apricot is adorned with merino blankets, while colourful Pakistani kilim rugs offset tiled floors, cement ceilings and exposed copper pipework. Most rooms have enclosed plant-bedecked terraces or balconies. Some of the terrazzo-tiled bathrooms feature stunning Japanese-inspired wooden tubs.
There’s a gym on the roof and always so much going-on in the building that you will almost certainly be reluctant to leave.
In recent years a number of funky boutique hotels have popped up in the Portuguese capital to aid Lisbon’s claim to being one of Europe’s cool cities. But, not until The Lumiares opened – housed with a beautiful, lovingly restored 18th-century palace, atop a hill in the heart of the old city – did any of them make such a mark on Lisbon’s hospitality scene.
With its 53 luxuriously spacious rooms, an elegant spa, two great restaurants courtesy of acclaimed Miguel Castro e Silva (one of the country’s best-known chefs) and a fashionable rooftop bar, The Lumiares has undoubtedly set a high new hotel standard in the Portuguese capital.
Almost every piece of artwork and swathe of fabric in The Lumiares was designed and made in Portugal, some of it within walking distance of the hotel. In fact, it wouldn’t be inaccurate to describe The Lumiares as a tribute to Portugal’s craftsmanship, traditions and food.
Much of the hotel’s mid-century contemporary furnishings were produced by Room 2 Fit – one of Portugal’s leading bespoke manufacturers, which produces high quality furniture, millwork, upholstery, lighting and drapes. The divine bedroom rugs were made by Ferreira de Sá, which has been producing premium hand-tufted rugs in a small town in the north of Portugal since 1946. Hand-woven tapestries adorn the walls of every guest room, incorporating the black-and-white logo of the hotel together with Lisbon’s characteristic blue and yellow. Everything has been beautifully brought together by local architects Metro Urbe, who have skilfully blended the 18th and 21st centuries with dramatic effect, around the original grand, central stone staircase, which is the only remnant of the original palace, above which hangs a stunning Beau McClellan-designed cubic brass lighting installation that echoes the geometric black and white flooring of the hotel’s lobby.
Corner rooms on the third and fourth floors boast sweeping views across the city towards São Jorge Castle and down to the harbour. Meanwhile, second floor rooms have the highest ceilings, since these were the most lavish rooms of the former palace. All have deluxe kitchenettes kitted out with high-end appliances and premium porcelain, complete with a fridge containing complimentary white wine, water and milk. The attention to detail throughout The Lumiares is second to none, and a stay in any room in this gorgeous hotel will undoubtedly be memorable.
The latest project of talented French-Swiss architect Romain Michel-Meniere, who first visited Morocco 15 years ago, Berber Lodge is located in the tiny village of Oumnas, in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains about 20 kilometres outside Marrakech.
Michel-Meniere discovered Oumnas while he was working on Kasbah Bab Ourika, a romantic hotel in the Ourika Valley which he made his name designing. So, when he finally got round to opening his own hotel, Michel-Meniere purchased seven hectares of land just outside Oumnas, and turned for help to friends Karl Fournier and Olivier Marty of French Studio KO, the design team behind Marrakech’s stunning Yves Saint Laurent Museum.
The result is a relaxed, elegantly pared-down boutique hotel of just nine rustic-chic lodgings, housed within several traditional, pink pisé village-like single-storey structures, interspersed with gardens of wild grass and ancient olive groves, replete with a 20-metre jade-coloured swimming pool.
Each cottage-style room stands alone for privacy and boasts a private garden or terrace. Inside, interiors combine a heritage feel with modern or vintage furniture, punctuated by custom-made wicker pieces, Berber bridal chests, hand-knotted rugs and fabrics plus items from Michel-Meniere’s personal collection. Bathrooms are oversized, equipped with baths and showers and laden with luxurious hand-woven towels. The overall aesthetic is effortless, stylish and serene, and, most of all, modest.
As you can imagine, such simplicity makes for a highly relaxing and laidback stay, especially when feasting on the unpretentious yet delicious contemporary Mediterranean-Moroccan dishes served in Berber Lodge’s bijou on-site indoor dining room, where you will usually find Michel-Meniere chatting to guests.
Housed within Washington’s former 110-year-old First Christ of Scientist neoclassical church – perched on the corner of Euclid Street and Columbia Road, in the diverse and constantly-buzzing Adams Morgan neighbourhood – the first spinoff of LA’s hip Koreatown hotel is truly like no other hotel in routinely stiff D.C.
For starters, the dramatic entrance is nigh on monumental. Just watching people weave their way up and down the front steps, and through the towering columns, is an attraction in itself. Once inside, 20-metre vaulted ceilings criss-cross a spectacular lobby, above which the church organ’s pipes have been reimagined as a striking chandelier which hangs in the center. Lobby seating has been fashioned from repurposed mahogany church pews adorned in midnight blue velvet, lifting them way beyond their original use. Staff are stylish, laid back, polite and knowledgeable with a hint of hipster. The hotel’s soundtrack is live, non-profit, culinary-driven internet radio station and podcast network Full Service Radio, created by Heritage Radio alumni Jack Inslee, which broadcasts from the lobby and a rooftop terrace. Salvaged pages of old hymn books have even been re-used to create art pieces.
Like its sister hotel in Los Angeles, The LINE DC artistically perpetuates a stylish aesthetic that pays homage to both its structure and the surrounding neighbourhood, creating a supremely social, community-like vibe which is unlike any other Washington hotel.
A selection of drinking and dining options, helmed by local talent, further bed the hotel and its F&B venues into Adams Morgan, including modern lobby café The Cup We All Race 4 which serves Counter Culture Coffee and delicious, no-nonsense food, courtesy of celebrated chefs Spike Gjerde and Erik Bruner-Yang.
Unlike the hotel’s restaurants, bars and public spaces, which positively encourage meeting and mingling, the vibe of the 220 guest rooms and suites upstairs have been thoughtfully designed to promote a sense of calm and relaxation. Featuring brass bed frames, curated local artwork and mini libraries sourced from nearby Idle Times Books, makes staying at The LINE DC like being in a cozy home away home, and as check-out time approaches, leaving is likely to be the last thing you’ll want to do.
The former marshland of Le Marais is almost certainly Paris’ trendiest neighbourhood. The historic Parisian district set on the Right Bank, between the Pompidou Centre and the Bastille, is brimming with everything from fashionable cafés, intimate restaurants and funky bars, to gorgeous museums and some of the city’s leading contemporary art galleries. The area is also presided over by some gorgeous golden stone mansions, transformed over the centuries from noble residences into a variety of uses including workshops, factories and Chinese wholesalers, and nowadays stunning synagogues and desirable apartments.
Just a few years ago, the reopening of one of Le Marais’ most magnificent buildings, the Musée Picasso, grand siècle Paris at its best preserved, gave visitors yet another reason to spend time in this historic district.
On the fringes of the Marais, Hotel National des Arts et Métiers combines industrial edginess and innovation in two updated Haussmann buildings, drawing its name and inspiration from the nearby Musée des Arts et Métiers, the city’s esteemed engineering and manufacturing institute. This is fashion magnate Samy Marciano’s second property on Rue Saint-Martin, where neighbourhoods Sentier and Le Marais meet, following the success of his striking Art Deco Hôtel Bachaumont down the road.
Jerusalem-born Paris-based designer Raphael Navot has furnished Hotel National des Arts et Métiers with intensely seductive interiors of hand-crafted natural materials, soft lighting and plenty of greenery, juxtaposed with industrial accents that include oxidised pipes and classic French wrought iron furniture.
Upstairs, 70 rooms including 10 suites are bright and modern. Beds are made with the finest Parisian linens (naturellement), many rooms have balconies which overlook the classic rooftops of Paris.
Budget permitting (your holiday cash will buy you a lot more here than it will at Hôtel de Crillon!) book the oak-floored 100sqm penthouse for magnificent sprawling vistas plus your own sitting room with fireplace, dining area, kitchenette and rooftop terrace cum suntrap.
Universally regarded as the avant-garde capital of Spain, Barcelona is a natural location for Ian Schrager’s growing EDITION empire. Hence, somewhat unsurprisingly, since opening its glamorous doors just a few months ago, Barcelona’s most awaited hotel unveiling of 2018 has already carved out a unique niche as an elegant urban resort in an unforgettable location, offering intimate and sophisticated boutique-style guest rooms alongside seductive and well-considered common spaces.
Located on the edge of El Born – the city’s creative hub in the centre of famed Ciutat Vella – Spain’s first EDITION property is situated in the most historic part of Barcelona, an area positively vibrating with life, style and energy and considered by many to be the beating heart of the city.
Under the creative direction of Ian Schrager alongside famed Spanish interior designer Lázaro Rosa-Violán, what was once an outdated and underused 70s building has been transformed by Carlos Ferrater Studio into a contemporary, glass-fronted hospitality haven.
Home to 100 impeccably turned-out tech-savvy bedrooms and suites, The Barcelona EDITION is crowned with a gorgeous 10th-floor urban rooftop terrace, plunge pool and cocktail bar – all breezy white fabrics and lush greenery – which has already become a firm favourite with hipster Barcelonians.
Three restaurants, two more bars (including a fresh incarnation of The London EDITION’s award-winning Punch Room), a yoga and meditation studio, and a 24-hour state-of-the-art smoked oak skin-lined gym complete a dynamic social hub, where guests and visitors alike can work, relax, socialise and dine all under one beautifully executed roof.
Omaanda (meaning rhinoceros in Oshiwambo), is the fourth property in the Zannier Hotels collection, a Belgium-based hospitality group that specialises in small, boutique properties with a pared-down yet sophisticated design aesthetic.
Inspired by the Ovambo tribe, Omaanda takes its name from its location in the heart of the 9,000-hectare private Zannier game reserve, located in the savannah near the Namibian capital of Windhoek.
The reserve is managed by N/a’an ku sê, one of the country’s premier conservation organisations, which strives to sustain the preservation of natural spaces – a conservation mission that aligns with the values of the Zannier Reserve, which is home to a rich sanctuary of flora and fauna as well as wildlife.
Like the lodge’s name, everything about the property flows organically from the sights, sounds and culture of this wide, savannah-covered corner of Namibia. And thanks to their traditional Ovambo architecture of rounded, natural clay walls topped with hand-finished thatched roofs, the camp’s hut-like buildings appear to rise out of the dusty plains and look right at home in their surroundings.
Inside the lodge’s ten deluxe guest huts, long-time Zannier Hotel’s collaborator, Géraldine Dohogne, has approached the decor with a natural respect for the region’s ancestral architectural techniques. The result deftly combines Dohegne’s signature stripped-back approach to luxury with one-of-a-kind antique pieces sourced from Namibia and neighbouring countries. From large, private terraces, guests enjoy views stretching towards the mountains in the distance. In the mornings, guests often rise to find curious baboons lounging on the cool, polished concrete decks.
Banded mongoose, pangolins and caracal are often spotted alongside zebras, giraffes and hyenas during daily game drives. Though elephants and rhinoceroses do not roam freely through the reserve, at its center is a hospital for injured or abandoned rhinoceroses and elephants, funded by the JoliePitt Foundation, the main aim of which is to raise awareness and educate the planet on the need to support and preserve the wild world. At the hospital, guests can get up close and personal with animals, and gain a deeper appreciation for those that champion the massive conservation efforts that have helped rehabilitate the country’s wildlife, which has flourished since protective programs which were put in place in the mid-1990s.
Shanghai is not short of top-end hotels. On the contrary, deluxe properties seem to be popping-up in China’s biggest city at breakneck speed. Just this year alone has seen stunning Amanyangyun, health and wellness-driven Anandi Hotel & Spa, and Las Vegas’ famous Bellagio all open in Shanghai, the latter minus the casino but replete with all the glitz of its American namesake.
Located in historic Dazhongli neighbourhood in the heart of Shanghai’s popular Jing’an district, the newest addition to Swire Hotels’ hospitality portfolio and the fourth property from the super-stylish House Collective (the group behind the gorgeous Upper House in Hong Kong which The Cultured Traveller reviewed in issue 8 issuu.com/theculturedtraveller/docs/08/44), The Middle House was inspired by the city’s rich heritage of craftsmanship and culture.
Courtesy of renowned Italian designer and architect Piero Lissoni, contemporary design has been blended with traditional Asian elements in 111 guest rooms and suites plus 102 serviced apartments, throughout which bold lines and clean silhouettes prevail by way of custom furniture inspired by traditional Chinese pieces, transparent room dividers and original Chinese artwork alongside rich dark woods and sumptuous white linens. Whilst the result is a chic blend of Shanghainese decor and a contemporary Italian approach to interiors – offering guests a much-needed sensory respite from the pulsating metropolis outside and a veritable oasis of calm in one of the world’s busiest cities – the overall style is sealed by the outstanding art collection which runs throughout the hotel.
Curated by Alison Pickett, who is responsible for all House Collective’s art-centric hotel interiors, the theme at The Middle House is ‘I Dream of China’, which has been brought to life via more than 650 cutting-edge pieces liberally scattered throughout the property: from an extraordinary Chinese robe covered in 12,000 ceramic butterflies which hangs in the lobby, to striking by Richard Winkworth paintings in Café Gray Deluxe restaurant, overlooking buzzing Nanjing West Road, where guests can indulge in New York¬-based chef Gray Kunz’s signature mix of modern European cuisine made with Asian ingredients. Elsewhere there are two further restaurants for guests to feast in: homely Italian Frasca and contemporary Chinese Sui Tang Li.
The Middle House’s seemingly immaculate design aesthetic flows into the hotel’s basement, which accommodates a swimming pool, sauna, steam room, gym, yoga studio, juice bar and HYPOXI room, plus a superb spa, where a signature Chi Ling Lian facial will almost certainly put you right post-flight.
Set on a large estate that includes one of Sweden’s biggest organic dairy farms, Kristina and Baltzar Wachtmeister are the ninth generation of the family to be running Wanås (pronounced “Vanoos”), which thanks to its unique mix of a lush country setting, historic architecture, cutting-edge art and more recently a rather good restaurant and inn, has become a destination for art lovers from around the world.
With a history going back to at least 1440, Wanås estate is home to numerous buildings erected in a variety of architectural styles, anchored by a 1560s step-gabled, Renaissance-style castle, to which two wings were added in the 18th-century. Beyond the fairytale-like main building, several 19th-century farm buildings serve as art spaces, a shop and deli, and – as of last spring – a modest yet stylish 11-room inn and restaurant, the latter serving locally-focused dishes using ingredients from Wanås’ own organic farm.
Located just outside the village of Knislinge, Wanås makes for a perfect day trip from either Malmö or Copenhagen, both of which are roughly a 90-minute drive away. If you are going to make the 3.5 hour train journey from Stockholm followed by the 30-minute taxi ride from the station, you might as well stay overnight in one of the eight individually decorated double rooms and three junior suites at Wanås’ boutique inn-like hotel, which combine Nordic design and sustainability with locally sourced materials in contemporary elegant fashion, mixing vintage furniture, contemporary art, natural materials and rustic walls. Vintage pink-tiled bathrooms, limestone and oak floors, soft beds and custom-made furniture complete the carefully curated rustic-chic aesthetic.
More than 80,000 people visited Wanås last year and obviously not all of them stayed at the inn! Most made the trip to visit the world-class art park, Wanås Konst, where more than seventy works are scattered across the property’s 100 acres. You will need a good few hours to see them all. Not to be missed is Ann Hamilton’s “Lignum”, which occupies all five floors of a former farm building. Two multi-sensory installations in the forest are also worth foraging for: Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg’s “In Dreams”, and Robert Wilson’s “A House for Edwin Denby”.
Other pastimes include walking in the majestic beech forest, relaxing in front of a roaring fire in the lounge, stargazing on a starry night or enjoying a long Scandinavian summer evening. The inn’s mudroom is equipped with boots and rain jackets to cater for every outdoor eventuality, and guests venturing out for a short walk have been known to return late into the night, after uncovering many of the estate’s hidden gems.