Soak up the grandeur in these luxury hotels that mix history with modern flair
Blending old with new, dazzling renovation projects has transformed tired old buildings into opulent boltholes in some of the world’s most beautiful cities. A stunningly tasteful makeover of the grand 13th-century Palazzo Volpi in Venice has turned the boutique property into an elegant Italian sanctuary. While at Madrid’s Gran Hotel Inglés, the Art Deco vibe might see you swapping your jeans for a vintage frock as you soak up the sun, and in the city that never sleeps, New York’s quirky NoMad is an urban delight. Closer to home, Principal in Edinburgh blends a proud sense of tradition with modern touches and Copenhagen’s Nimb Hotel offers stylish extravagance alongside obligatory Scandi minimalism. But be warned: while city breaks are all about seeing the sights, you may struggle to leave these hotels…
The lowdown A slice of the Dolce Vita with individual design.
Best for Romantics who want to get away from the crowds.
It hardly seems possible that this beautiful 13th-century Venetian palazzo stood decaying and unloved for nearly 70 years, inhabited only by a solitary priest. Happily, new owners and Paris-based designers Anna Covre and Frederic Tubau have come to the rescue.
Staying faithful to the Palazzo’s heritage, they have created a sumptuous haven, which is handily located on one of Venice’s most attractive and serene squares. With just three spacious suites (and a fourth on the way) the Volpi’s cool, refined elegance offers a unique way to experience the Italian city. Two of the suites have one bedroom, while the third has three – plus a canal view and its own private courtyard. No expense has been spared on restoring the Palazzo’s original features, including exposed timber beams, majestic old staircase and windows.
These are complemented by brushed oak parquet and white Italian marble flooring with matching fireplaces. Bespoke furnishings comprise silk rugs, velvet chairs and artisan lighting, as well as glittering mirrors with in-built Netflix-ready TVs. The bathrooms are wildly luxurious, and the suites also have state-of-the-art kitchens and dreamy beds with memory foam mattresses and satin linen. Other finishing touches include underfloor heating for the cooler months.
Book it Suites from £263.
NEW YORK, USA
The lowdown Parisian-style chic with Broadway buzz.
Best for Hipsters keen to soak up one of NYC’s coolest districts.
This turn-of-the-century Beaux Arts building in the Flatiron District has been restored to its original grandeur with interiors by French designer Jacques Garcia. In a great location close to Madison Square Park and the Meatpacking District, the NoMad’s opulent elegance is peppered with funky bohemian touches – such as tapestry-covered furniture, faded Persian rugs, a 200-year-old marble fireplace and an antique staircase.
The 168 understated rooms feature king-size beds, original artwork, reclaimed maple flooring and custom-made furniture, including leather armchairs and vintage mahogany writing desks. Some also have freestanding clawfoot bathtubs – as well as eye-opening views over Broadway and Flatiron.
With the highlights of the Big Apple right on the doorstep, there’s a private rooftop which is perfect for aperitifs, and the NoMad’s sleek dining room is overseen by chef Daniel Humm of acclaimed restaurant Eleven Madison Park. His sophisticated dishes include suckling pig and quail with foie gras, while the menu in the leather-seated main bar has simpler options. Don’t miss cocktails in the swanky Elephant Bar, either, as it’s home to an award-winning mixologist and you may even catch a resident magic show as you sip your Manhattan.
Insider’s tip: While more than 40 million people visit NYC each year to see icons like the Empire State Building, few get off the tourist trail and discover the hidden landmarks, such as The Morgan Library, a book-lover’s paradise, and the 20-foot waterfall in Paley Park.
Book it Rooms from £223.
GRAN HOTEL INGLES
The lowdown A mix of timeless glamour with modern luxe.
Best for Couples seeking refuge in the heart of the Spanish capital.
Dating back to 1886, Madrid’s oldest hotel has been magically transformed by a £15million revamp that merges elegant Art Deco style with shiny modern twists. A bling-free oasis, the uber-cool New York Rockwell Group has reinstated bygone luxury with restored chandeliers, velvety sofas, a well-stocked library and old photos of former star guests, including novelist Virginia Woolf and painter Henri Matisse.
The 48 rooms and suites are decked out in muted greys and soft whites, with plush furnishings, wooden floors and colour-popping accessories. Many rooms are soundproofed against the city clamour, and some have freestanding marble baths and private terraces with hot tubs.
Set within the city hubbub, the hotel is just metres from Puerta del Sol, the famous central square, which bustles with shops and street performers. But there’s little need to venture far from the hotel with its super-chic cocktail bar and
restaurant serving delights such as pork cheeks in sherry, as well as a selection of pre-desserts to be enjoyed before actual dessert.
You can work off the calories in the hotel fitness centre, which also offers personal training sessions, pilates and yoga. Seem a bit much? Then opt for a pampering session at the hotel spa instead.
Insider’s tip: Madrid is a mecca for tapas – but for truly authentic flavours, avoid touristy spots and follow the locals to Calle Jesús. Here, bars such as Los Gatos, La Fábrica and La Dolores are packed to the rafters every day with Madrileños.
Book it Rooms from £256.
The lowdown Fairy-tale escapism in the heart of the capital.
Best for Weekenders wanting the buzz of the city at their fingertips.
Located on the eastern edge of the achingly-hip Vesterbro district, Nimb is known for its distinctly un-Scandi façade. Originally conceived by Danish architect Knud Arne Petersen in 1909, the white-washed, Moorish-inspired exterior features ornate marble stucco lined with floor-to-roof lightbulbs, promising a romantic spectacle to behold by day or night.
Inside, its 38 rooms (21 of which sit in the Tivoli Corner extension designed by New York-based architects Pei Cobb Freed & Partners) feature four-poster beds and antique furniture set against pinewood floors and muted walls.
Danish design gets the nod with sleek technology courtesy of Bang & Olufsen, bathrooms are stocked with Meraki skincare hampers (to be enjoyed as you soak in a Philippe Starck ultra-luxe two-person tub), and a strict ‘home from home’ ethos means you’re greeted by low lighting and jazz music when you enter your room.
Set in the historic Tivoli Gardens, Nimb’s culinary offerings provide just as much to swoon over: head to the light-soaked greenhouse, Gemyse, for organic goods, enjoy pastries at Cakenhagen or sample Smørrebrød at Fru Nimb. Over-indulged and in need of some R&R? Heave yourself upstairs for cityscape views and the only rooftop pool in the city.
Insider’s tip: Snap up a balcony room to enjoy the best of Tivoli’s open-air entertainment. Fredagsrock (or erm, Friday Rock, in English) takes place throughout the summer, featuring star acts. How’s that for a room with a view?
Book it Double rooms from £534.
The lowdown A tartan take on the cool club vibe.
Best for Those seeking a quirky base in the Scottish capital.
The newly renovated Principal styles itself as a ‘cosmopolitan clubhouse’ – and it’s easy to see why. Overlooking a private garden square, the hotel is made up of seven interconnecting Georgian townhouses in the heart of Edinburgh’s New Town, a UNESCO world heritage site.
Though there are 181 bedrooms and 18 suites, the recent £25 million restoration has steered away from a corporate feel, instead creating an exclusive, homely atmosphere. Bedrooms retain a traditional Scottish feel with tartan throws, leather sofas, hand-drawn artwork and playful red bedside phones.
Children will love the tuckbox of Scottish goodies, while adults can luxuriate in the Edwardian-style bathrooms, with rainfall showers and signature Perfumer’s Story toiletries. Some suites are even equipped with portable record players and vinyl collections, and guests can enjoy the spa and gym, too. When it comes to mealtimes, breakfast is best enjoyed in the glass-roofed courtyard Garden Room, while dinner in the turquoise-walled BABA restaurant is a must.
With its open charcoal grill, Middle East-inspired dishes might include beetroot hummus with whipped feta, and lamb shoulder with tahini yogurt.
Insider’s tip: Take an alternative tour of Edinburgh and discover its most haunted spots, including the mysterious Mary King’s Close with its warren of hidden streets. Tours are not for the fainthearted…
Book it Double rooms from £250.