Top 10 Best Hotels in Europe

A Spanish finca turned super-smart boutique hotel; a history-steeped Russian grande dame, and a splashy beachside hangout on a party-centric pocket of the Turkish coast. All beautiful but original, these are some of our editors’ best-loved European hotels.

10 - GRAND HOTEL DE CALA ROSSA, PORTO-VECCHIO

The best hotels in France 2021

GRAND HOTEL DE CALA ROSSA, PORTO-VECCHIO

Corsicans get a bad rap for being inhospitable, especially compared to their island neighbours, but there are two sides to life here: the one locals enjoy – access to secret beaches and an enveloping sense of community – and the more polished, arms-length experience that visitors tend to encounter. What’s special about this place, near the glitzy coastal town of Porto-Vecchio, is that it offers both. Run by the Canarelli family since the late 1970s, it has the lively, everyone-knows-everyone vibe of a sprawling beachfront villa with white-stucco domed ceilings and plenty of inviting linen sofas to curl up on. 

Regulars and newcomers are embraced like long-lost pals by staff, many of whom have been here for decades. Such an air of comfort only adds to the thrill of the experience, which starts, of course, with the unbeatable location. The hotel has its own lick of sandy beach dotted with sunbeds and parasols, and its gardens hum with the sound of birds and insects in the summer months.

The blue, blue bay is the focus of everything, as is the jetty, from which the catch of the day is delivered directly into the hands of chef Pascal Cayeux, who has plenty of home-grown produce to work with from the expansive kitchen garden. The latter is worth a visit. Heady with the scent of mimosa and native aromatics, it was laid out masterfully by landscape architect Phillipe Niez. In the evenings, the mood at dinner is always jolly – guests linger long after pudding is finished and star-gaze while listening to the guitar strum of local musicians. Old school and under the radar, just like the best hotels in the Mediterranean often are.

9 -LE BRISTOL, PARIS

The best hotels in France

LE BRISTOL, PARIS

Fresh from a summer spruce, everyone’s favourite hotel in Paris is in irrefutably fine fettle. Despite being classified as worthy of having even more than five stars, the twinkling edifice manages to feel delightfully homely. Perhaps it’s something to do with the resident white Burmese cat, Fa-Raon, slinking along the carpeted corridors and purring atop the check-in desk. Or the fact that the doormen smile at everyone, not just guests, but any parcel-laden shoppers trotting down Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. The grandeur and the opulence – polished marble, Louis XV style interiors, gilded furniture, swagged curtains, wall tapestries – is brought down to earth by a gentle familiarity.

 The gorgeous new look of the courtyard at the hands of Lady Arabella Lennox-Boyd may be filled with French flora but the climbing roses and trellised walls gently hark to an English country garden. The lovely big bedrooms are essays in green chintz, Colefax & Fowler and Farrow & Ball. The deep bathtubs come with plump pillows. The fantastically elegant old fashioned wooden lift has its own little sofa, just like Claridge’s. The views from the suites take in the Eiffel Tower and Le Grand Palais. And the spa, which can whip years off your face with a La Prairie anti-ageing facial, might just also offer the best massages in the whole city. While away the day in Café Antonia, just past the lobby.  

It’s the central hub for high powered fashion folk and starry Hollywood actors who all flock here all year round for power breakfasts of buttery scrambled eggs, minutely diced fruit salad and the ultimate bread and pastry basket. Later on there’s Michelin-bedecked Epicure (three stars) and the brasserie 114 Faubourg (one star). And by evening Le Bar is exceptional, very dark, and very seductive. Work your way through the cocktail menu and then retreat upstairs for the most comfortable night’s sleep.
2021

8 - ALCUZCUZ, ANDALUCIA

THE BEST HOTEL IN SPAIN 2021

ALCUZCUZ, ANDALUCIA

An antidote to the hectic and brash flashiness of nearby Marbella, this 19th-century, red-ochre hillside farmhouse close to the Serranía de Ronda is very special indeed. It has belonged to the aristocratic Parladé family for six generations, the most recent inhabitants being the interior designer Jaime Parladé and his wife Janetta, a watercolour artist from the UK. A dreamy combination of his extravagant collectibles and her touches of British elegance have resulted in the kind of tasteful, layered styling that can’t be faked – tapestries as wall hangings, eclectic paintings, ancient suzani textiles.

 The finca is now a boutique hotel, run by Parladé’s nephew, Andrés, where pan con tomate, jamón Ibérico and freshly squeezed orange juice are served at breakfast on a traditional terracotta-tiled terrace, thick overhanging wisteria vines shading the tables and framing views of the Costa del Sol in the distance. A hidden, green-hued saltwater swimming pool surrounded by carob and olive trees overlooks the landscape that inspired Hemingway and Rilke during their stay in Ronda. The library has shelves stacked with well-thumbed novels and art books whose spines have started to crack.

 Before Moroccan-influenced Mediterranean suppers at the next-door Alcuzcuz Gallery restaurant, guests can browse its gorgeous antique shop for custom wicker trunks, dhurries made in India and jewel-coloured lamps, all designed by Parladé. The six bedrooms in the main finca are equally striking but former chapel La Capilla, with its domed ceiling and Moorish aesthetic, is particularly pretty. This is a place where interior designers holiday, scribbling and snapping away – just check out the guest book. The smartest house party you’ve ever been to.

7 - THE ALBATROZ HOTEL, CASCAIS

THE BEST HOTELS IN PORTUGAL 2021

THE ALBATROZ HOTEL, CASCAIS

Although once a whitewashed fishing village, Cascais long ago swapped that simple existence for tangible glamour. Among imposing 19th-century villas where grand European families sought out a cool breeze to escape the hot summer lies the much-loved Albatroz, a constant in a shifting seascape. Since opening as a tiny inn in the 1960s, it has blossomed to become one of the first five-stars in town. 

Its buildings jut out on a rocky promontory, close enough for the pounding waves to weave through any pillow talk, with the beach of Conceição just steps away. Inside, there is an enduring sense of elegance; a hint of mystery from the war era when spies filled the salons. A 21st-century freshness has just been added by talented designer Gracinha Viterbo, who introduced hand-painted tiles, limestone and palm-tree wallpaper, with a nod to the country’s maritime past in sea-blue friezes where monkeys jostle with flamingos. Bedrooms are split between the old palace and a modern wing; there are also six hidden rooms in Italianate jewel The House of the Yellow Ceilings.

 The restaurant, buzzing with ladies from Lisbon who lunch toying with plump scarlet prawns, overlooks the sand, but the best seat is at the bar. To be here, glass of wine in hand, boats bobbing on the waves, is as near to perfection as it comes.

6 -SANTA CLARA 1728, LISBON

THE BEST HOTELS IN PORTUGAL 2021

SANTA CLARA 1728, LISBON

Stop a local on the cobbled streets and ask for this Lisbon hotel address and you won’t necessarily have any luck with directions, because this tiny space remains strictly for the cognoscenti. It isn’t one of the imposing palatial edifices on grand Avenida da Liberdade where modern hotels have, not always seamlessly, been inserted into old brickwork. Nor is it a tiny, flat-roofed Moorish townhouse in the labyrinth of narrow streets that make up the Alfama. 

But this six-bedroom property in the old cultural quarter, atop one of Lisbon’s seven hills, removes the feeling of being a traveller in a foreign city, managing what so many promise but don’t deliver: to be a home from home. The rose-hued, multi-storied house was one of the few that survived the devastating 1755 earthquake, its ancient, solid walls tangibly resonating with history. It’s part of the peerless Silent Living family (other siblings include sand-floored marvel Casa Na Areia in Comporta and minimalist temple Casa No Tempo in Evora), so the interiors are perfectly simple and sedate. Overhead lights dapple pools of warmth onto a long oak dining table by architect Manuel Aires Mateus; a richly textured oil painting on the wall adds colour. 

This is where breakfasts of crushed avocado and suppers of fish of the day with market vegetables are spread out. Upstairs, the rooms are aesthetically minimalist. Open the curtains, climb into the open-plan bathtub hewn from one piece of limestone, and watch the moon rise above the National Pantheon, an integral part of the skyline, placing you right in the here and now.

5 -HOTEL ASTORIA, ST PETERSBURG

THE BEST HOTEL IN RUSSIA 2021

HOTEL ASTORIA, ST PETERSBURG

St Isaac’s Square is one of the most spectacular urban spaces in the world. The cathedral rises up like a mountainous island in a granite sea. And the long façade of the Astoria, on the east side of the broad piazza, is like the hull of some Art Nouveau galleon moored offshore. It was built to house high-born guests of the tsar, invited to the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty in 1913, and has always had an aristocratic air – even in the grey days of Soviet rule. 

When it was acquired by hotelier Rocco Forte, his sister Olga Polizzi refreshed and restyled every inch of the interior, giving it back its tiara sparkle. The 21st-century version could not be more contemporary or refined – and the rooms are supremely comfortable. Ask for one with a view of the towering church to feel as if you could reach out of the window and touch its golden dome. This is a building steeped in culture and history. Isadora Duncan drank Champagne at the bar with her Russian husband, the peasant poet Sergei Yesenin, who spoke not a word of his wife’s language. Mikhail Bulgakov reportedly worked on his magical novel The Master and Margarita in room 412.

 Rasputin is said to have conducted his affairs here, just beyond the baleful gaze of the tsaritsa in the Winter Palace. And the hotel is only a jeté and a cabriole from the Mariinsky Theatre: any lunchtime you might see the cygnets of the corps de ballet wolfing down a bowl of borscht while on a break from Swan Lake. The ground-floor restaurant is a fabulous showcase of Russian cooking: Olivier potato salad with Kamchatka crab; Siberian pelmeni (like money bags filled with meat or mushrooms); limpid ukha fish soup… Tchaikovsky himself would recognise practically everything on the menu

4 - TENUTA DI MURLO, UMBRIA

THE BEST HOTEL IN ITALY 2021

TENUTA DI MURLO, UMBRIA

The first thing you notice is the space. In every direction are rolling hills of deep emerald – and almost nothing else. At this labour of love spanning thousands of acres, the great outdoors is the point. Alessio and Carlotta Carabba Tettamanti have spent the past 12 years converting parts of the estate, which has been in Alessio’s family for centuries, into a project celebrating everything that’s glorious about the green heart of Italy.

 Remarkable for being so intact, the property looks much as it would have before World War II, when the workers who sustained its upkeep began their exodus to towns, leaving behind more than 55 ruins: farmhouses, barns, a water mill, a watchtower or two. The first to be restored was San Savino, the former parish church, whose reassuringly solid stone walls date from the 14th century. With four bedrooms, a full cook’s kitchen, a deconsecrated chapel-turned-living-room and wide gardens framing a pretty pool, it encapsulates the USP: smart interiors (Carlotta’s look mixes shades of Kit Kemp with a dash of Flamant – and the odd flourish of colour), with full exposure to that timeless landscape. 

Accommodation ranges from B&B-style rooms and one-bedroom cottages to Castiglione Ugolino, a gorgeous castle that sleeps 20 and hollers ‘have a really fun gathering here’. Larders can be filled with produce from the estate; chefs can be dispatched, too, if you don’t fancy cooking. Or wander down the hill to feast at Murlo’s Il Caldaro restaurant; porcini and cinghiale in autumn, broad beans and sweet-succulent tomatoes in early summer, wolfed down amid profusions of hydrangeas and blissful silence.

3 - MACAKIZI, BODRUM

THE BEST HOTEL IN TURKEY 2021

MACAKIZI, BODRUM

In the 1970s Mick Jagger, Rudolf Nureyev and their pals flocked to the sleepy fishing village of Türkbükü on the west coast of Turkey, lured by a boho B&B run by flamboyant host Ayla Emiroğlu. Thirty years later, her son Sahir Erozan had loftier visions, transforming the modest Bodrum guesthouse into Maçakizi – 74 rooms spread across four bougainvillaea-bright terraces on a sweeping site overlooking a beryl-blue bay. Today the whitewashed hangout is a magnet for Istanbul’s soigné night-owls and well-heeled Euros – you can see why the buzzing peninsula is often labelled the St Tropez of Turkey. Breakfast (pillow-soft sesame pide slathered with honeycomb) is taken late. By midday, rows of beach beds are strewn with Hermès sarongs and everyone seems to know each other.

 Stealth yachts and teak sailboats anchor for the night so their inhabitants can come ashore to feast on chef Aret Sahakyan’s deft cooking: creamy calamari carbonara and delicate lamb manti (dumplings). It could be just another frou-frou designer resort. Yet Maçakizi is unlike anywhere else, because it has identity, personality and a twinkle in its eye. This is all to do with the wonderfully charismatic Erozan, who flits between his many friends (Kate Moss is a regular), Cohiba clenched between his teeth, vodka on the rocks clinking. The white and taupe bedrooms are lovely but most of the action takes place outside: the beach deck, the breezy restaurant, the waterside bar for Bellinis. 

It has all the signatures you would expect from a cool independent hotel: a boutique stocking local designers (the Mae Zae bashed-gold earrings are hard to resist), a Bodyism gym and its own wonderful boat, Halas 71, a converted 1914 steam liner. Yet more than that, Maçakizi is simply a club you want to be part of.

2 - MANDARIN ORIENTAL HYDE PARK, LONDON

THE BEST HOTELS IN THE UK 2020

MANDARIN ORIENTAL HYDE PARK, LONDON

After a roof fire in June 2018, this flag-flying regal stalwart reopened last April. No one has dared to mess with the turreted exterior, and staff still meet guests at the door in red tails, but gone are the heavy curtains and throws. Instead, everything is lighter, fresher – even the marbled lobby – and rooms have been painted a pale grey with gold lampshades. The carpets have been replaced with wooden floors and little libraries curated by bookseller Heywood Hill. 

Still the best are the Hyde Park-facing rooms where the sound of the Household Cavalry clip-clopping past is better than any morning alarm. Artist Leah Wood has updated the Butterfly Terrace with hand-painted floral art; in the ballroom – where the Queen learned to dance – every millimetre of gold leaf has been restored; and both Bar Boulud and the molecular Dinner by Heston Blumenthal are packed every night. Gracious and unstuffy, it’s still the best-situated hotel in London.

1 -THE WESTBURY, DUBLIN

THE BEST HOTELS IN IRELAND 2020

THE WESTBURY, DUBLIN

The Westbury may not have the gracious Georgian proportions of some of its rivals, but it’s a less-buttoned-up local charmer with real flair. The Doyle Collection is a family-run Irish hotel group that counts London’s The Bloomsbury among its premises, and The Westbury is its flagship on home turf. It’s the little things that matter here, such as the team’s genuine warmth and desire to help guests tap in to the Dublin scene – whether engaging them with an expert-led art walk or guiding them to the city’s new foodie highlights.

 Location also counts. Trinity College, Grafton Street and the city’s best shopping hubs are just a skip away – or slip out through the back door into Dublin’s creative quarter, a browsable cluster of boutiques, cafés and galleries. Back at The Westbury, the owners’ collection of gallery-grade Irish art hangs in the drawing room, while the glam Sidecar Bar has butter-soft, caramel leather banquettes to roll into over a couple of killer cocktails. Decoratively speaking, a rolling programme of refurbishment has been bringing all 205 bedrooms bang up to date, with makeovers shot through with nods to the 1930s in a swatch of silver, mauve, mink and eau-de-nil tones.

 Locals gossip over lattes in Balfes Bar & Brasserie, while the first-floor Wilde restaurant – named after a certain Irish-born literary great – is one of the capital’s prettiest dining rooms with its in-out balcony and street views (order the signature Irish coffee and be prepared for the theatrical pyrotechnics involved in preparing it). This is a rooted hotel that offers a window on contemporary Dublin without peddling the usual Irish clichés.

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