We love our city breaks, with more than half of the UK’s population enjoying at least one during 2017. So Livingetc has sought out some divine boltholes, each offering the best in urban escapes, while dialling up the glam factor to the max. Portugal’s capital Lisbon, one of the world’s coolest destinations, boasts a vibrant culture and few hotels are better suited for sampling the city’s delights than the Verride Palácio Santa Catarina. In Mallorca, the Sant Francesc Hotel Singular is another reimagined period gem in the quaint streets of Palma’s Old Town. The same could be said of London’s The Franklin, tucked away in an exclusive enclave in Knightsbridge. Far more showy, but no less impressive, Public – Ian Schrager’s venture in New York – has an ethos that matches its name, a ‘populist not elitist’ series of stunning spaces for work and play. Finally, Palazzina G is designer Philippe Starck’s take on a classical Venetian palazzo – the City of Masks has had a magical makeover…
NEW YORK, USA
The lowdown An architectural A-lister pushing the limits of hip design.
Best for Culture vultures who can’t live without a USB port.
Conceived by Ian Schrager (co-founder of the Studio 54 nightclub and erstwhile hotelier/developer), designed by Herzog & de Meuron (the architectural practice behind London’s Tate Modern extension), with interiors overseen by Brit John Pawson (who previously drew up plans for the minimalist look of Schrager’s own New York apartment), Public is the Lower East Side’s latest spot to see and be seen in.
Housed in a gleaming new skyscraper, with 367 guest rooms and a restaurant, luncheonette-cum-grocery, bars, a gym, landscaped gardens, communal workspaces and dedicated art gallery/exhibition area/dancefloor (‘like Brooklyn’s Academy of Music, only better’, says Schrager), the concept takes online convenience – there’s no check-in desk or room service; both are accessed via your own device – to its ultimate conclusion.
The bedrooms are sparse, but not Spartan, with barely there furniture, floor-to-ceiling windows, plus 10, yes, count ’em, 10 USB ports and an Apple TV on which guests can watch Netflix. Celebrated New York chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten oversees the ground-floor Public Kitchen, while the rooftop bar is proving to be the most popular new night-time haunt in the city.
Be warned, though – the doormen are as ruthless as those at Studio 54. Public’s guests (each is given a wristband) are the only ones guaranteed access.
Book it Double rooms from £350.
The lowdown A red-brick establishment with the spirit of Venice.
Best for Waking up in luxury in one of the city’s most desirable areas.
In between creating interior schemes in Morocco and visiting Istanbul to have her signature ikats made up, doyenne of the boutique-hotel scene Anouska Hempel has found the time to design the look of The Franklin, a super-swanky hotel in Knightsbridge, owned by Italian brand Starhotels.
Taking her cue from the pristine, private gardens that bound the hotel at the rear, as well as her love for the spirit of London’s Twenties and Thirties café culture, Hempel has given the 35 rooms and suites a cosmopolitan feel with Italianate influences.
Tactile Rubelli velvets, silk hangings and gilded ornamental featuresare offset by acres of Carrara marble flooring and swathes of mirrored surfaces.
Venetian screens are another favourite decorating device, instilling in the lounge and parlour areas an intimate, decadent buzz. The detailing is exquisite – crystal doorknobs and églomisé finishes are a cut above the norm.
In keeping with the hotel’s decorative flourishes, the restaurant is an essential destination offering a delicious choice of Italian cuisine. Out-of-towners, and Londoners, should grab the chance to enjoy the high life – if only for the weekend – atthis sublimely chic retreat.
Book it Double rooms from £310.
VERRIDE PALACIO SANTA CATARINA
The lowdown A revamped Rococo-era mansion with striking views.
Best for Urban explorers who like sun, sea and sangria on the side.
Perched on top of Lisbon’s Santa Catarina hill, the Verride Palácio revels in its own sense of stately grandeur. The façade of this former palace overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, while to the rear, the building blends into the city’s Bica area, a bustling hive of restaurants, bars and artisanal workshops. To complete the otherworldly feel, yellow funicular trams wend their way up and down the cobblestone pavements.
If Lisbon has an atmosphere unlike other cities in Europe, then the Verride Palácio sets itself apart from its continental rivals in similar fashion, offering a personalised level of service that is impeccable. If you’re fortunate enough to stay in one of the King or Queen suites – with their stucco-panelled walls and ceilings, de Gournay wallpaper and vintage, Azulejo-tiled murals – then a butler will attend to your every need.
Not that the 17 other bedrooms in the hotel are lacking for top-notch amenities… Designer Andrea Previ has fitted each out with care and attention, imbuing a modern-classic vibe.
However, the highlight is undoubtedly the rooftop Suba restaurant, offering 360-degree views and an exciting twist on Iberian fare. Every night we spent gazing out over the vistas was unforgettable…
Book it Double rooms from £440.
SANT FRANCESC HOTEL SINGULAR
The lowdown A neoclassical manor house with an industrial-luxe look.
Best for Lovers of the Balearic island’s boutiques and beaches.
A bewitching mix of original features, including wood-beamed, frescoed and moulded ceilings (the former stables are also reimagined as the hotel’s Quadrat restaurant) and a refined edit of contemporary artwork and über-chic furniture give the Sant Francesc its status as one of Mallorca’s most popular designer destinations.
Drawing on expertise from the Catalan capital, such as interiors specialist Maria-José Cabré and the Cumella ceramic studio (whose work can also be seen in Barcelona’s iconic Sagrada Família cathedral), the hotel comprises 42 rooms, each dressed to both stimulate the senses and relax the mind.
The public areas are suitably impressive, yet retain an informal feel, helped by the friendly staff. They’ll happily offer advice on Palma’s funkiest boutiques, or which beaches get too busy during the day. If you prefer to swim at the hotel, the Sant Francesc has a rooftop pool, as well as a gym and two treatment rooms.
Breakfast is served in the restaurant or courtyard garden, while evening meals are a fusion of Mediterranean staples with an Asian edge – think red tuna tartar with wasabi emulsion, or sea bream ceviche with passion fruit and pumpkin. They sum up the Sant Francesc experience on a plate.
Book it Double rooms from £144.
The lowdown A glammed-up canal-side palazzo with a private club vibe.
Best for Fans of Philippe Starck (and film star-spotting enthusiasts).
Discreetly located in a residential area a mere 10-minute strollfrom both Rialto and San Marco, the Palazzina G would make the ideal starting point for anyone exploring this lagoon-set city. Everything you’ve ever heard about Venice is true (nasty red-coated dwarves excepted) – the art, the architecture, the gondolas, the Grand Canal.
However, for an alternative take on Venetian interiors – and the place has seen its fair share of flamboyant decorators – nothing quite prepares you for the look Starck has created at the Palazzina G. From the intimately dark receptionarea, gentlemen’s club-style bar and snug, seductive restaurantto the waves of dazzling white that splash over the bedrooms, this is a space full of contrasts and surprises, with eye-catching adornments at every turn.
True, many of the 22 rooms, ratherthan opening out to the Grand Canal face back towards other palazzos in the neighbourhood, but most have a balcony andeach has been given a sprinkling of Starck magic, whether that be some Fornasetti accessories, chrome stools or standoutVenetian staples such as vast, full-length mirrors and Murano glass.
And if you do want to reside in one of the three suites with acanal view… book well in advance – some famous actors take over these suites for weeks at a time while filming in the city.
Cameras at the ready…
Book it Double rooms from £235.