HOTELS

Budapest: The Aria

Aria

The Aria Hotel Budapest is both a glam refuge and a social hotspot, featuring 49 big rooms, a glass-enclosed courtyard and a year-round rooftop garden with 360-degree views, all underscored by breezy, comfortable whimsy and a solid commitment to a music motif.

Vibe: One of six properties in the Library Hotel Collection, which includes Hotel X Toronto, the Aria is a bright and bold, bottomless pit of quirky luxury, with each room celebrating the work of a star from the worlds of jazz, classical and contemporary music. An eccentric elegance permeates throughout, from the hurricane lamp-lined entryway along a piano-key pathway, through a glass-enclosed courtyard, past gold sconces and a grand piano, right on up into a sumptuously simple rooftop patio.

CRUISE: THE DANUBE RIVER

Rooms: Large rooms face the city or the courtyard, ranging from studios to three-bedroom suites. Expect caricature-style portraits of your particular musician or composer lording over bold colours and unexpected patterns, from stripes to toile. Marble bistro tables and mantels mix with oval-shaped velvet furniture, colourful tables and cabinets, coffered ceilings and Kartell lamps. Five-piece Italian onyx bathrooms have heated towel racks and Molton Brown amenities. Sun rooms on the top floor let in the light.

F&B: Presentation is absolutely everything here. Liszt Restaurant promotes rich, historical dishes with a modern twist—smoked trout, venison tartare, pumpkin carpaccio, roast goose. The chef’s table is particularly satisfying. The blue and green Mirror Room out front is perfect for lunch or cocktail hour and the seasonal street-side patio prompts plenty of people-watching. Free wine and cheese afternoons in the courtyard are a nice touch. The High Note SkyBar with its bright yellow and rattan seating is a sea of gorgeous with a full view of St. Stephen’s Basilica next door.

Extras: Yoga on the roof, anyone? The sexy, jazzy pool area is fun and fanciful, attached to Finnish and infrared saunas, steam rooms and whirlpools. You can even have breakfast there. Harmony Spa carries on with the musical theme with an “orchestra” of sensory experiences to indulge in.

Off-Site: This is the city centre on the Pest side of the Danube River steps from the Danube Promenade, so nothing is very far away. The Budapest Eye ferris wheel and the cafés and bars of Elizabeth Square is a short walk away, as is the lovely Liberty Square park. Buda Castle and many of the art museums are a 20-minute stroll across the river.

Rate: $$$
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Toronto: Westin Harbour Castle

Westin Harbour Castle

The 977-room Westin Harbour Castle, with its two 34-storey waterfront towers, offers dreamy views of both Lake Ontario and the entire city. Built in 1975, it is the quintessential urban convention resort, with a giant gym and the largest hotel ballroom in Canada.

Vibe: A brass-and-glass style pervades throughout The Westin Harbour Castle, toned down with subtle lobby lighting, via oversized square light fixtures and backlit columns. Understated patterns, light woods and neutral tones carry on up all 34 stories of both towers. This institution is constantly busy with tourists and conventioneers, wedding parties and weekenders—all finding their needs met. Anchoring the city to the lake at the bottom of Yonge Street, the hotel manages to seem detached from the downtown bustle while still being just a stone’s throw from it.

Rooms: Traditional but refreshing rooms in four categories have been revitalized with new window coverings, wallpaper and patterned carpets with sexy flecks of red, all clean lines, oak furniture and an eclectic mix of textures. Lakeside rooms sport stunning views of Toronto Island, the corner suites particularly first-rate. Bright, simple bathrooms include a moulded sink and a makeup mirror, with bath/shower combos.

F&B: Culinary treats have a wellness focus here. The Chartroom Bar & Lounge spanning the length of the lobby serves lighter fare and smart cocktails. The casual Mizzen Restaurant is for breakfast only, both via buffet and à la carte. Toulà Restaurant & Bar on the 38th floor is a high-end Italian experience with breathtaking panoramic views of the city and Lake Ontario. Innovative 14-seat chef’s table, Savoury, pulls out all the stops.

Extras: A huge solarium housing the pool and whirlpool features old-school teak chaise longues and looks out onto an expansive outdoor terrace and tennis court. A 1,500-square-foot 24-hour gym sports a squash court, a yoga studio, steam rooms and saunas. Memberships are open to local residents as well. The hotel also has a gear lending program with regards to fitness, so guests can pack light yet take advantage of the club’s guided summer running club.

Off-Site: Harbourfront Centre, with its full program of arts and cultural events, including two dance stages and Power Plant Art Gallery is a 10-minute walk away, as is Air Canada Centre and Union Station—linking regional and city transit systems. Lake Ontario is at your doorstep.

Rate: $$
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Toronto: The Ritz-Carlton

Ritz-Carlton

This sumptuous sanctuary draws an unsurprisingly diverse mix of international guests, many from the UK and Europe, including business travellers, bleisure travellers, families and special-occasion celebrants—and Ritz-Carlton brand loyalists with high expectations.

Vibe: A grand style pervades at the Ritz-Carlton Toronto, but never gets too showy. The hotel’s definitive global feel is evident via the traditional look of high-level luxury, but classic Canadiana—via the hotel’s permanent 450-piece art collection by Canadian artists or those living in Canada—makes it unique. Refreshed and streamlined public spaces on the higher floors feature carpets with swirling patterns that mimic the movement of Lake Ontario, colours occurring in nature and old-style heritage elegance.

Rooms: Find soft beds, Italian linens, traditional furniture, rich textures and a muted colour palette throughout 200 of the 263 rooms. They have lots of cabinets and closet space, plus minibars and espresso machines. Marble bathrooms have double sinks, a private toilet, a shower and a big bathtub. But splurge for one of the suites: Modern Hollywood Regency touches pervade in the form of a grey and silver colour palette punched up with gold finishings, geometric-print wallpaper, and low-slung, mustard-yellow furniture. Deco-style mirror treatments and sconces shine up an already-bright bathroom. During the night, motion-sensored lighting will lead you safely to the Kohler Intelligent toilet’s blue glow.

F&B: More than half of the hotel’s restaurant business is local, which speaks volumes, as competition in the Entertainment District is more than stiff. TOCA Restaurant (standing for Toronto, Canada) is full-on Italian fine dining with a refined-rustic feel—all wood floors and ceilings, tufted banquettes and hand-painted chargers. Its famous cheese cave stores a curated cache of English, French, Italian, Quebec and Ontario cheeses. The main-floor DEQ Terrace & Lounge is always busy inside and out (weather permitting), serving comfort food in the form of mini burgers, meatballs and truffle fries. The Ritz Bar at the hotel’s front door is a swirl of liquid nitrogen-laden cocktails most nights. By day, it’s a local coffee hangout. Have the exclusive Black Ivory Coffee ritual.

Extras: With 16 treatment rooms, the impressive fifth-floor spa is a glam retreat, the only Spa My Blend by Clarins in North America, with skin treatments that can be custom-tailored to your skin type. An enclosed Champagne Nail Bar sits adjacent to reception. The 24-hour fitness centre is run by Innovative Fitness, offering personal training and a running club. A salt-water pool sports spa jets along one side, with a small whirlpool in the corner.

Off-Site: In the thick of the Entertainment District and within walking distance of the Financial District, the Ritz-Carlton is a three-minute walk to Roy Thomson Hall (home of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra), the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, and the Royal Alexandra and Princess of Wales Theatres. The CN Tower, Scotiabank Arena (home of the Maple Leafs hockey team and the Toronto Raptors basketball team) and Rogers Centre (home of Blue Jays baseball) are 10 minutes away.

Rate: $$$$
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Toronto: The Hazelton

Hazelton

The welcoming and well-maintained Hazelton Hotel hits all the right luxury, service and style notes to make it popular with the international chic-seeking crowd. This Trip Advisor favourite is anchored by Mark McEwan’s ONE Restaurant and ringed with one of the sultriest patios in town.

Vibe: The independent Hazelton Hotel has the type of full-on luxury favoured by lifestyle-conscious high-achievers from the worlds of art, fashion and entertainment, including the occasional pop star. The style speaks of a well-appointed old-style private club—all dark and plush, with plenty of texture and cozy seating nooks. Retro colours—rusts, greens and oranges—are given a contemporary twist, with amber lighting, metal accents, soft fabrics and ostrich leather warming things up.

Rooms: All three tiers of accommodation sport rooms that are spacious, uncluttered and subdued, with huge wardrobes, swivel TVs, a mini bar, a pillow menu, drapes you can manipulate from a bedside switch, and a through-the-roof thread count. A Nespresso machine will help kick-start your day. A sexy, dark green granite bathroom doesn’t feel overdone and comes replete with heated floors, TVs embedded in the mirrors, L’Occitane amenities, a big bathtub with Epsom salts and a separate shower. Nineteen of the 77 rooms have walk-out balconies, with the rest featuring Juliet balconies.

F&B: ONE Restaurant is a destination in itself, helmed by one of Canada’s leading chefs, Mark McEwan, who, in addition to having his own TV show, The Heat, was one of the judges on Top Chef Canada. Classic French and Italian flavours are matched with the best ingredients Ontario has to offer. A classic P.E.I. grass-fed beef selection of steaks is supported by hearty seafood items and a selection of decadent pasta dishes, plus a huge starter list that includes things like salmon tartare, fresh oysters and grilled octopus.

The intimate Neil Young private dining room is sequestered at the back of the restaurant. Guests can enjoy 24-hour in-room dining. The lively bar is perfect for people-watching and a boxwood-lined patio is always busy.

Extras: Find attentive, luxury-calibre service from a team of staff that is quick off the draw to call you by name. A full-service spa touts Swiss product line Valmont. The spa and fitness centre changing areas have large steam rooms, with a lift that takes you down to a tranquil salt-water pool. A 25-seat screening room can play host to everything from business presentations to sports events to Oscar parties. The Yorkville Room seats 70 people for intimate private suppers or business luncheons.

Off-Site: Tucked away in the tree-lined heart of Toronto’s up-market Yorkville district, the Hazelton overlooks a cluster of fashionable boutiques, bars and restaurants, all just a two-minute walk from Toronto’s Mink Mile, the city’s designer shopping strip.

Rate: $$$$
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Toronto: Le Germain Mercer St.

Le Germain

Built in 2002 in what used to be a hat factory, this stylish boutique property run by the Quebec-based, family-run Le Germain chain of hotels is a cozy retreat catering to everyone from creative business travellers to weekend sporting-event staycationers.

Vibe: Tucked away on quiet and unassuming Mercer Street, Le Germain is more hideaway than hotel. Comfortable and unstuffy, it plays host to business travellers from the creative industries, local staycationers and brand-loyal French Canadians. Nature-inspired colours, patterns and textures bring a little bit of the outdoors inside, creating a Zen, walk-in-the-woods atmosphere.

Rooms: With dark furnishings, plenty of rich wood, grey concrete ceilings, thick wooden Venetian blinds and forest floor-patterned carpet, the 123 rooms exude style. Recycled felt wall covering dampens the sound. Even sexier is a white moulded-Corian bathroom sink and vanity, and a mirror backlit with flattering, brilliant-white light. Accoutrements include a baby Bose stereo, espresso machine, kettle and minibar.

F&B: Sporting an American bistro vibe, Victor Restaurant Bar is open all day, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner in a soothing room filled with soft grays, blue leather banquettes and dramatic dark grey drapery. A swirling gold metal light fixture doubles as an art installation. A classic menu is kept simple, leaning on comfort: things like root vegetable cassoulet, butter roasted scallops and braised lamb shoulder.

Extras: Early adopters of the no-checkout-time policy (when you book direct), Le Germain is ahead of the curve in terms of fitting themselves into the rhythms of the guests, rather than the other way around. A sumptuous lounge-library a few steps up from the lobby has sofas so deep they almost swallow you whole. A mezzanine boardroom holds up to 100 people and a 24-hour fitness centre with a great view is located on the 11th floor. Repeat guests can arrange to leave items like workout wear behind for their next visit.

Off-Site: With so much within walking distance, including the subway, the location couldn’t be better. Rogers Centre, the CN Tower and Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada are a five-minute walk away, as are two of Toronto’s top live-theatre stages and the Toronto International Film Festival Lightbox. A few blocks east sits Roy Thompson Hall, home of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and the famous Second City comedy club is just at the end of the street.

Rate: $$$
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Toronto: The Four Seasons

Four Seasons

The flagship property of the Toronto-based Four Seasons brand is pure five-star heaven. Built in 2012, it maintains a glowing reputation for service and opulence on all fronts, an urban retreat for business and leisure luxury travellers, special-occasion celebrants and incognito celebrities.

Vibe: The Four Seasons Toronto is timeless, modern and sophisticated, warm and welcoming. Expect vaulted ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows and acres of mahogany, accented with black and gold. The hotel celebrates homegrown design talent and artwork, showcasing 1,700 pieces of Canadian art throughout. The lighting in the entire hotel is so flattering, visitors Instagram about it constantly. Typical, loyal Four Seasons fans include business travellers during the week, with tourists taking over at the weekend. Visiting celebrities and athletes inject a dash of glamour any day of the week.

Rooms: The expansive 259 rooms and suites over 21 floors are beyond comfortable. The design is contemporary, with cozy textures and muted colours, grey rugs and European oak flooring, ample bleached Koto wood veneer cabinetry and windows that actually open. Bedside iPads provide info on restaurants, recreation and special events and a wee Bose speaker pumps out ample sound. Big bathrooms are clad in Canadian marble and feature a soaker tub, a spacious shower, a makeup/shaving mirror and a TV embedded in the main mirror. Rooms are equipped with Nespresso machines, but no sign of George Clooney.

F&B: Globally renown Michelin-star chef Daniel Boulud created the 120-seat French brasserie Café Boulud on the second floor. The classic bistro dishes, including whole rôtisserie duck and chicken, were inspired by the type of family-style meals Boulud remembers from growing up near Lyon. Breakfast is also an event here, with delectable Parisian-, American-, Italian- and Canadian-inspired items. Boulud is also the orchestrator of the bustling dBar on the main floor, its lively social scene and excellent menu a hit with the whole city.

Extras: The 30,000-square-foot, full-service spa is one of the best in town, with 17 treatment rooms and an indoor pool. Change rooms are massive and luxurious, incorporating a full lounge, steam room and sauna. A 3,500-square-foot, state-of-the-art gym with an adjoining yoga studio is open 24 hours.

Off-Site: Right in the heart of the fashionable Yorkville district, the Four Seasons is a two-minute walk from Toronto’s “Mink Mile” of luxury-goods retailers, fine restaurants, galleries and cafés. The Royal Ontario Museum is a 10-minute walk west. Many guests rarely leave the neighbourhood. Those who do, find themselves conveniently equidistant from uptown and downtown.

Rate: $$$$
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Toronto: The Broadview

Broadview

Formerly the home of Jilly’s Strip Club, this Romanesque Revival-style building constructed in 1891 as the social and retail hub of Toronto’s east end is now a dazzling 58-room boutique hotel. It anchors the Riverside and Leslieville neighbourhoods, both of which continue to gentrify at a dizzying speed.

Vibe: The Broadview Hotel is hit with creative industry business travellers who want to be close to downtown but still enjoy a local experience in a cool part of town. The history of the building is cleverly incorporated into the design and construction, the décor a mix of time periods. Each space has a different feel—modern but reflective of the 125-year story without focusing on any particular era. The lobby bar wallpaper was reproduced from the original pattern found underneath the layers of a century of wallpaper. The generous use of brass hints at the building’s tenure as a men’s club. Parts of the old fire escape that once covered the east side of the building have been repurposed into a lobby wall installation.

Rooms: Spacious rooms sport sumptuous fabrics, high thread-count bedding, custom-built dark-wood furniture, laminate flooring and marble-top tables. Thick red velvet curtains and quirky brass pole stands carry through the strip-club motif. All-marble bathrooms with contrasting matte-black finishes exude luxury. TVs stream content from your phone app, and at the opposite end of that scale, a record player and a selection of vinyl albums give guests a tactile music experience. Some rooms include a private outdoor seating nook.

F&B: The pink neon-lit circular bar of The Café + Bar off the lobby is a hit for pre-dinner or after-work drinks and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Main-floor restaurant The Civic is a destination in itself, the chefs embracing local and the menu not pricing itself out of the neighbourhood. The stunning 100-seat Rooftop is an indoor-outdoor space sporting 360-degree views of the city via an L-shaped patio, floor-to-ceiling glass walls and a pyramid skylight. A sharing menu and smart cocktail list make it a hotspot.

Extras: The 3,000-square-foot Lincoln Hall on the second floor is connected to a 1,000-square-foot outdoor terrace, which, when used together, can accommodate 270 people. The 700-square-foot Dominion Suite is available for small cocktail receptions or meetings. The private seventh-floor Tower can suit up to 30 people for drinks, and the adjacent Rooftop holds up to 240 reception guests. No gym or spa facilities available.

Off-Site: The Broadview sits on the corner of Queen Street East and Broadview Avenue at the edge of downtown, just a few minutes’ drive from both the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway, Toronto’s major motorways. An entrance to the Don Valley hiking and biking trail is a five-minute walk away and the heritage Distillery District is a 20-minute walk away.

Rate: $$$
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Toronto: The Bisha

BIsha

With almost 100 rooms over five storeys—including an entire floor designed by rocker Lenny Kravitz—the stylish Bisha Hotel Toronto from Canadian hospitality impresario Charles Khabouth marries laid-back glamour with razor-sharp design, offering boutique-hotel intimacy alongside luxury-chain comfort.

Vibe: Managed by Loews Hotels, the Bisha takes over the first eight floors of a 44-storey tower, which it shares with 350+ condos. Visitors are welcomed into a lobby that exudes sex appeal via black marble, crushed velvet and etched gold. The chic public spaces are bold, lavish and textured, with panelled walls, natural stone, soft leathers, lacquered wood trimming and rich textiles. The whole hotel has an art-gallery vibe, complete with dozens of Warhol prints and more than 3,000 pieces of art.

Rooms: Old-school opulence and jet-set glamour are mixed with modern yet eclectic aesthetics in the decently sized rooms and suites. The overall approach to the design of the rooms was “Your Coolest Friend,” hence the bar cart, patent-leather sofas and Instagrammable salon-style art. The prints and photos, which are different in every room, look like they were collected over time, adding to the design cohesion. Deco-inspired lacquer armoires are over-the-top gorgeous, as are the bathrooms replete with Nero Marquina marble and satin nickel finishes. Lenny Kravitz brought a rock-and-roll sensibility and soulful elegance to the design of 14 rooms, including the 2,000-square-foot Bisha suite, which features a 1,000-square-foot terrace.

F&B: Internationally renowned Iron Chef contestant Akira Back lends his talents and his name to the Bisha’s main restaurant, his first in Canada. Hot and cold sharing plates run the gamut between tartare, tataki, tacos and tempura. The list of sushi, sashimi and signature rolls is long and tantalizing. Breakfast, lunch and dinner is served on the 44th floor at the white oak-panelled KOST, a bright beach house-style space sporting porcelain table tops and a modern Mexican menu. Mister C. Bar Room off the lobby is dark, sexy and subdued, with plush, low furniture, a smart cocktail menu and a lengthy whiskey list, all inspiring tasteful tête-à-têtes.

Extras: Facilities include a very large fitness centre that also caters to building residents and a 2,300-square-foot event space on the 43rd floor with state-of-the-art audio/visual. An outdoor infinity pool and patio off KOST restaurant on the 44th floor sport a stunning view of downtown.

Off-Site: At the epicentre of Toronto’s Entertainment district, the Bisha is a five-minute walk to both Rogers Centre (home of Blue Jays baseball) and the CN Tower. Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, Roy Thompson Hall (home of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra) and King Street West nightlife are a 10-minute walk away. You can reach both the Business District and the Toronto Harbourfront on foot in 15 minutes. The Second City comedy theatre is across the street.

Rate: $$$
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Panamá: The Central Hotel

Central Hotel

Panama City’s very first hotel is recognized by UNESCO for its architectural significance within the Casco Antiguo, a designated World Heritage Site in Panama City.

The Central Hotel was built in 1874 and reopened in 2016 after a major renovation restored its 135 rooms to their former glory. Developers stuck close to the original French-influenced designs, preserving the hotel’s façade, vaulted ceilings, grand staircase, gabled rooftops and all.

Vibe: Everyone here is well-heeled and has a jacket or two in their suitcase. Expect special-occasion celebrants, families enjoying family time, and a business crowd that is in tune with the good value.

Rooms: The décor of the Central Hotel’s 135 rooms is elegant in its simplicity, naturally favouring a colonial-style, with white walls adorned with simple art, oatmeal rugs, crisp white linens and white padded headboard, all contrasted with dark wood flooring and wooden chairs. White double doors open up to mini balconies with metal railings. The modern bathroom is so shiny you may need sunglasses.

F&B: Guests tuck into a nice tapas lunch at Bistro Central, which spills out onto the sidewalk patio out front. For dinner, the elegant La Central will set you up with a nice, juicy steak. The rooftop Bar Lounge has one of the best views in the city.

Extras: The little swimming pool on the roof is quite darling and perfect for late-afternoon daydreaming, overlooking the neighbourhood’s ceramic-shingled roofs and out to the Panama City skyline. Very romantic.

CRUISE: THE PANAMA COASTLINES

Off-Site: The hotel sits on the east side of Plaza de la Independencia, opposite the Cathedral, in the very center of the cobblestoned Old City or Casco Viejo. This is where much of the city’s nightlife is situated and where most of the tourists anchor their stay, so the mix of local and visitor is both intriguing and welcome. This part of town is also one of the safest. The Central Hotel is walking distance from some of the best restaurants in town, as well as the Panama Canal Museum and the Panama Art Society.

Rate: $$
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Portugal: Ozadi Tavira

Ozadi

An oasis in the Eastern Algarve resort community of Tavira ticks all the right boxes.

Portugal’s south coast is awash in the most fabulous beaches, and the eastern side of it is the country’s best-kept secret. Right in the thick of all this bliss sits the 77-room Ozadi Tavira Hotel, which was built in the 1970s and renovated to the nines in 2014. It manages to maintain the original character of that swingin’ decade, blending on-trend colours, cork design details and local traditional homewares into its hyper-mod space.

Vibe: The crowd is a leisurely one, primarily special-occasion celebrants, wee families, retirees and honeymooners. Everyone seems to fit in here and everyone has come specifically to relax and enjoy the scenery.

Rooms: A modern mix of local craftwork and retro embellishments dress up the public areas and the rooms. Finishing touches like cork end tables, colourful ceramic light fixtures and headboard artwork add a local link, fusing the hotel with the surrounding region. Rooms come equipped with a mini bar, free Wi-Fi, air conditioning and a room safe, plus natural, marine-based bathroom amenities. Furnished balconies with views of the gardens, the hotel pool or the countryside amp up the luxe factor.

F&B: Two restaurants here: The Ozadi Terrace, serving buffets with a view of the sea, and the Orangea Bistro overlooking the pool. Both offer Mediterranean and regional cuisine heavy on the seafood (naturally) and both have outdoor patios that are open at different times of the day. A third-floor cocktail bar and a pool bar are often home to live music and sunset get-togethers.

THINGS TO DO: IN THE EASTERN ALGARVE

Extras: The Ozadi’s wellness offerings are considerable considering the hotel’s smallish size, with massages and facials, detox and weight-loss programmes, and personal trainers. A Padel court come with equipment and classes. The pool is superb—beautifully designed, quiet yet glamorous—like you’re an extra in a spicy European movie. Shaded areas, grassy expanses and the restaurant patio are all steps away.

Off-Site: The Ozadi is mere minutes from the region’s iconic beaches, world-class year-round golf and quaint seaside villages. Tavira itself dates back to 2000 BC, so there’s plenty of history to sink your teeth into, including 37 churches. Cacela Velha, a small fishing village overlooking the Ria Formosa, is a great spot to wander through before or after a nice, three-hour lunch. Medieval castle ruins at Castro Marim date from 5000 BC. Visitors also take advantage of loads of nature tourism, horseback riding, cultural tours, kitesurfing and windsurfing.

Rate: $$
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Costa Rica: The Andaz Papagayo

Andaz Papagayo

This serene retreat in the posh part of the northern province of Guanacaste delivers local culture with a side of smart style.

Designed by noted Central American architect Ronald Zürcher, the stunning Andaz at Peninsula Papagayo is inspired by nature, buoyed by local art and crafts, and folded into its surroundings with a keen attention to the lay of the land and the wildlife that surrounds it.

Vibe: The Andaz Papagayo was big on sustainability and developing local cultural programs long before it was a trend. Visitors tend to be well-heeled yet down to earth, with interests in wildlife and nature, as well as good design and good value. And so many critters! You’ll spot tons of birds, moths and butterflies, howler monkeys and white-faced capuchin monkeys, and the coatis, who can get quite bold—surprise, surprise, they’re related to raccoons.

THINGS TO DO: IN GUANACASTE

Rooms: The 150+ spacious rooms are exquisitely designed, blending right into the bamboo trees and white- and black-sand beaches. Expect loads of low furniture, natural wood and many wildlife-influenced décor and furnishings, including basket-like light fixtures, which were inspired by the nests of the oropendolas that call this neck of the woods home. My bathroom gave way to a balcony with a shower, which was quite heavenly.

F&B: There’s a proper restaurant and bar in the thick of things at Andaz Papagayo, but the highlight is Ostra restaurant, just a little walk away from the main buildings. You feel like you’re dining in a private villa, enjoying iconic Peruvian dishes with a Costa Rican twist. A whole page of the menu is devoted to ceviche, where you choose a fish and a style of ceviche and it is then mixed to order.

Extras: The series of pools was designed to mimic the riverside, drawing a parallel to the Costa Rican culture of spending family time at the water’s edge. And during my massage at the Onda Spa on the hilltop, I felt like I was tucked into a little treehouse overlooking the bay. Each treatment room has its own bathroom and mini-balcony for a serene post-treatment cool down.

Off-Site: Papagayo is a lush peninsula of protected parkland jutting out into the Gulf of Papagayo with basically just one road in and out. But it has several multimillion dollar homes and villas, for rent by the Kardashians or Beyoncé—or you. While The Four Seasons sits on the tip of the peninsula, the Andaz looks out over Culebra Bay on the south coast, with the main Costa Rican coastline in sight along with a dazzling new Marina Papagayo. (Let’s play count the yachts!) The 35-minute drive from the region’s international airport is one of the top reasons Papagayo is favored by Hollywood celebrities flying down for the weekend. An Arnold Palmer-designed golf course is not that far away, either.

Rate: $$
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Singapore: The Warehouse Hotel

Warehouse Hotel

One of the best design hotels in Singapore is naturally one of the coolest.

Built in 1895, The Warehouse Hotel was actually a spice-trade route warehouse, back in the days when this area of Singapore was filled with gangsters and their lackeys. Fast-forward to January 2017, when the loved-up version of this grand building opened as an independent 37-room boutique hotel, featuring a destination restaurant, a glam lobby bar and a cool clientele.

Vibe: Expect a fairly international, sophisticated crowd from Korea, the United States, the Philippines and Europe. Young couples, lots of business creatives, solo business executives and the semi-retired young-at-hearts all find a home here.

THINGS TO DO: IN SINGAPORE

Rooms: Sexy, modern rooms have an industrial feel, with muted tones of taupe and grey mixed with green marble, wooden flooring, black metal framing and original brick masonry. It feels like the slick apartment of your coolest friend. Find lots of attention to detail, right down to the coffee mugs designed by a local ceramic artist. Minibars are filled with Southeast Asian-specific products, such as Vietnamese chocolate and egg-yolk potato chips. The Bang & Olufsen Bluetooth speaker is a nice touch, as are the eco-certified Ashley & Co bath amenities.

F&B: The bar and restaurant at The Warehouse Hotel are big, big draws, for both the visitors and the locals. The 52-seat Pó Restaurant is managed by noted Chef Willin Low, a trailblazer in the homespun Mod-Sin food movement, which takes the flavours and recipes of traditional Singaporean dishes and gives them a modern twist. The name Po is both an homage to popo, the Mandarin word for grandmother, and to the classic spring roll, popiah. The spacious, 70-seat Lobby Bar whips up incredible concoctions using Asian flavors like kaya, kaffir lime, star anise and cinnamon, with all its infusions and essences made in-house. Try the Madame Butterfly.

TASTE TO TRY: RIBS FOR BREAKFAST
HOW-TO: ORDER KOPI COFFEE

Extras: Though small and not really overlooking much except a busy street corner and a gas station, the little infinity pool on the side of the hotel is quite fun. The clear acrylic pool walls will make for more than a few Instagram-worthy moments. Take a sun hat.

Off-Site: The Warehouse is situated on the Singapore River on Robertson Quay, blending in with the Riverwalk restaurants, cafés and shops. It is just a short walk from both Chinatown and the pubbier districts of Clarke Quay and Boat Quay.

Rate: $$
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Courtenay-Comox: The Kingfisher

Kingfisher

The Kingfisher Oceanside Resort & Spa near Royston on Vancouver Island is many great things rolled into one tidy package—boutique beach resort, destination spa, yoga retreat and top-rated restaurant. Guests can sink into soothing hands at the spa, realign with a yoga class, take a dip in the outdoor pool, breathe in the lavender-scented sea air, watch the boats cruise around the Gulf Islands or sit in a garden chair and do nothing at all.

Vibe: Special occasion celebrants, weekend-away couples, small groups of friends—all check in at the Kingfisher to put their feet up for a few days, relax at the spa, take advantage of the full yoga schedule at Starfish Studio and tuck into fabulous meals. The restaurant and spa are destination spots for locals, too, which makes the mixed-company mix more interesting.

Rooms: Heated bathroom floors! Spacious oceanfront rooms have large, comfortable beds, a giant wall of patio doors, two easy chairs in front of a gas fireplace, a handy kitchenette and a right-in-the-room whirlpool bath. Given the wellness focus of the resort, the tub don’t seem as naughty or cheesy as many do. A new wing of courtyard and ocean-view rooms is polished and prime, with shiny wood floors, panelled walls, leather furniture and nice cotton.

F&B: Contemporary West Coast goodness can be found in Ocean7, a fine-dining restaurant that hits all the local and sustainable notes with a focus on seafood, grain-fed meats and organic produce. The view is spectacular, made even more natural by the moss-covered, driftwood strewn rooftops of the oceanfront buildings—such a cool idea. The adjacent AQUA Bistro & Wine Bar serves more casual fare and opens up onto an expansive patio overlooking a courtyard garden complete with gas fire pits.

Extras: The Pacific Mist Spa is the real draw to the Kingfisher, with its rainfall showers and Italian-tiled everything, a nice pool and an infrared sauna. The signature highlight is the Pacific Mist Hydropath, a detoxifying hydrotherapy circuit designed like an underground cave with eight different elements, including mineral pools, waterfalls (hot and cold), a steam room and a salt-scrub tub.

THINGS TO DO: ON VANCOUVER ISLAND

Off-Site: Vancouver Island’s gorgeous eastern coastline sets the scene here, with breathtaking views of Comox across the bay and a few Georgia Strait islands off in the mist with the mountains and Sunshine Coast beyond. You are close to Comox Valley activities and wineries, and not that far from Highway 4, which leads to the west side of the island, Tofino and Ucluelet.

Rate: $$
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Germany: Lübbenau Castle

Lübbenau Castle

No B&Bs for me—I’m bunking at the castle. Lübbenau Castle anchors the tourist town of Lübbenau in the district of Brandenburg, about an hour southeast of Berlin. Redecorated in the 19th-century Renaissance style, the castle features 44 rooms and suites over three floors in two wings, plus 20 family-sized suites in the renovated stables.

Vibe: This region has been welcoming all kinds of visitors since the 1860s when the rail lines were established and not much has changed. The crowd is mostly middle-aged couples and younger families enjoying quiet time in the country. There are a few campgrounds nearby. Business people book in during the week, giving the castle a slight conference-y edge.

Rooms: Lübbenau Castle sports six room sizes, from single to family size, plus two grander suites, with each room featuring a different configuration. Guest-home-style furnishings are traditional and fairly mumsy in a comforting way, with sturdy, pale-wood tables and chairs, gold-based lamps, lots of rusts and greens, and chintz-patterned pillows and curtains. In the stables, 20 family-sized holiday apartments, five of them barrier free, carry on the same traditional, colorful style. Main floor rooms have use of a garden.

F&B: Your standard buffet breakfast is included—and it is hearty. The Castle Restaurant Linari is cozy and quaint, done up in pastels, doing the classic German dishes so very well. “Nature writes our menu” is the chef’s motto, signifying local produce, herbs, meat, poultry and fish. The manly Rocco’s Linari Bar sports striking red walls, tufted leather sofas, comfy chairs, a pool table and a giant cocktail list filled with all the classics.

Extras: Use of the sauna and steam bath at the spa in the castle vaults is included in the price of your room.

Off-Site: The surrounding area, known as the Spreewald, is a UNESCO bio reserve made up of more than 300 natural, ice age-created canals weaving through forest and farmland, with inhabitants getting to and from their homes by hand-paddled, flat-bottomed pine river boats—i.e. there are no roads. The castle is a 10-minute walk to both the boat rental facilities and the old town high street, complete with centuries-old buildings, quaint shops and restaurants, and the fabulous Spreewald Museum. An incredible open-air museum down the road is set up like a farm village and mirrors life in the 1800s. There is also a Pickle Museum—not kidding—which celebrates the region’s history of growing almost nothing but cucumbers.

THINGS TO DO: IN SPREEWALD

Rate: $$
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Montreal: Le Mount Stephen

Mount Stephen

Le Mount Stephen is a reworked Montreal mansion radiating both the storied grandeur of an earlier time and the chic glamour of the modern age.

Opened in May 2017, Le Mount Stephen is a modern 11-storey, 90-room hotel built behind and anchored to historic George Stephen House, a Renaissance Revival mansion built in 1883 in Montreal’s Golden Square Mile.

First a residence for this prominent businessman (once president of the Bank of Montreal and of the Canadian Pacific Railway), the mansion served as a men’s social club for most of the 20th century.

Vibe: Part of the city’s heritage, the building is a bit of Victorian magic, the original aesthetic of the interior design having been breathtakingly preserved—Cuban mahogany, Austrian stained glass, Italian marble, Hungarian light fixtures and all. The craftsmanship of the woodwork up the walls and across the coffered ceilings is beyond stunning. Visitors enter through the stone entranceway and into a grand foyer, with hotel guests then passing through to the hotel lobby in the new part: contemporary and airy, bright and white with dashes of old-style glamour infused into the modern look.

Rooms: Starting at a generous 32 square metres, rooms are airy and bright, despite the tiny little honeycomb-style windows. Blond wood and neutral colours lend a natural vibe, punched up with luxury amenities like zillion-thread-count sheets and pillow menus. Nice, nice bathrooms feature heated floors and an extremely odd but fun chromotherapy rainforest shower that washes you with a sequence of colours as you shower. The two-level suites are off-the-hook beautiful, as is the luxury loft if you’re celebrating and even if you’re not.

HOTEL REVIEW: HÔTEL LE CRYSTAL

F&B: On the main floor, British-inspired Bar George helmed by noted Chef Anthony Walsh is managed by Oliver & Bonacini. The kitchen turns out updated English fare with a definite Quebec influence—things like Baked Sea Bass, Beef Wellington and Rabbit Leg Confit. The restaurant and the bar, with a wing that was once a winter conservatory, are festooned with wood and crystal for days.

Extras: A 24-hour fitness centre can help you work off dinner, and an efficient, two-treatment-room spa can take care of the wellness side of things. Le Mount Stephen sports more than 6,500 square feet of event space, including the opulent 5,000-square-foot Elizabeth Ballroom. Private rooms in the mansion—what were once Mr. Stephen’s offices and private chambers—are gorgeous. The Strathcona Room is particularly elaborate with its lemongrass wood paneling, ornithological stained-glass windows and Italian marble fireplace replete with original tiling.

Off-Site: The Golden Square Mile is at your finger tips. Dougie needs a new pair of shoes.

Rate: $$$

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Singapore: The Andaz

Andaz Singapore

At the Andaz Singapore, the vibrant and multicultural flavour of the city is played to the hilt, revealing a sexy, service-oriented luxury retreat in the sky.

The first Andaz in southeast Asia, the Andaz Singapore takes over the top 14 floors of a dazzling honeycomb-like skyscraper, with its reception on the 25th floor. The hotel immerses guests in Singaporean culture, its public areas mirroring Singapore’s intimate laneways, iconic shophouses and quaint customs.

THINGS TO DO: IN SINGAPORE

Vibe: Business creatives, hip couples, Andaz loyalists and smartly dressed families hunker down here. This is a crowd who appreciates the high-style design and is willing to pay a bit more for that. Local art is constantly pointed out by staff, who are proud of this heritage homage. Everywhere, attention to detail is paramount, right down to the hallways: Quaint, old-style Singaporean mailboxes outside the room doors house the doorbell and accept your key card.

Rooms: Starting at 400 square feet, the 342 rooms are big in a town where big isn’t really an option. A sleek and modern design highlighted by ample wood panelling and floor-to-ceiling doors is injected with hits of traditional Singapore, including bright mustard and rust tones, and flat, round light fixtures. The wooden-framed, illuminated bathroom mirror is cheekily shaped like a hand mirror hung on a peg. Find premium linen, soundproof windows, spacious closets, and free minibar snacks and soft drinks. Fancy Christophe Laudamiel bathroom amenities smell divine.

F&B: Six restaurants and three bars meet your dining needs with ease. The big trend in Singaporean cuisine is Mod-Sin, a reworking of Grandma’s home cooking: traditional recipes given a modern twist. You can find it anchoring the menus of some of the city’s top restaurants, including the Andaz. At Alley on 25, the street-dining experience is not just woven into the menu but into the design of the various eateries as well, with a concept that mimics a street market. Poking your head around corners reveals small kitchen stations whipping up rice, noodle and meat dishes or barbecued fare cooked over a charcoal grill—all delicious. Alcohol is expensive in Singapore, so be prepared for the hefty cocktail bill or take advantage of the daily Happy Hour, when wine and beer is marked down.

HAVE RIBS FOR BREAKFAST

Extras: OMG there are teepees on the roof in the garden. The Stork Bar on the 39th floor rooftop has the most amazing 360-degree views, you will want to squeeze every second out of sunset drinks. The infinity pool has an absolutely incredible view.

Off-Site: In the immediate vicinity, the hotel is a 10-minute walk to a few cultural districts, including Little India and Kampong Glam, with its trendy eateries, hip bars and chic boutiques situated alongside the landmark Sultan Mosque and ubiquitous, cooler-than-they-used-to-be government housing buildings. The hotel’s central location, right on the MRT subway line (Bugis Station), allows for easy access to all parts of town. The Central Business District is a five-minute Metro ride away.

Rate: $$

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Toronto: The Delta

Delta

With Toronto’s two main sports venues, plus the iconic CN Tower and Ripley’s Aquarium at its doorstep, the Delta Toronto has seen its fair share of sports fans, concert-goers, families and tourists, all drawn to the hotel’s “bare maximum” motto, which focuses on the essentials with very little fluff.

Vibe: The interesting mix of guests—from blue suits to baseball caps—makes for a lively mix. The movie industry is also attracted to the Delta, happy to have the luxury of space, with productions often blocking off big swaths of guest rooms, of which there are 567 over 40 floors. A clean and modern Canadiana look and feel runs throughout, with hits of bright colour and bold murals punctuating white oak and copper finishes.

Rooms: The views are picture-perfect. Corner-room views are absolutely stunning, while rooms with bathtubs that overlook the cityscape are beyond popular. The simplicity of the design—clean lines, neutral colours, efficient desk space, white oak headboard and cupboards—boosts the comfort factor. Non-essentials such as robes and a minibar have been nixed in favour of the “more-essentials” like an iron and ironing board. Indirect lighting makes for a cozier atmosphere. Smart TVs let you browse hotel services, check in with the concierge, check out the room service menu or check out of the hotel altogether.

F&B: The SOCO Kitchen + Bar does triple duty, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. A side counter sells coffees and lighter snacks. Neither feature fancy hotel prices: they are both very much places for the neighbourhood, busy on concert and game nights, and a hit with nearby office workers. The dining room is expansive and comfortable, with high ceilings, more blond wood, a long bar and a sexy side lounge. A small whisky bar tucked just off the lobby tempts local downtowners to perhaps catch a later train. The Roof at SOCO on the fourth floor is an outdoor retreat with a view for cocktails and light snacks.

Extras: Prime conference facilities reel in the business crowd and convention groups daily, utilizing more than 17,000 square feet of space. A roomy fitness centre and salt water pool, complete with a hot tub and steam room, take up the fourth floor. A Club Lounge on the 46th floor is open to guests in Club level rooms on floors 43 to 46, offering simple breakfasts, a comfy “living room,” a small meeting room and work space.

Off-Site: Scotiabank Arena (home of the Maple Leafs hockey team and the Raptors basketball team) and Rogers Centre (home of Blue Jays baseball) are both a four-minute walk away. The Delta is directly connected with the downtown underground pedestrian network, PATH, which is linked to Union Station around the corner, connecting guests to the subway, the VIA passenger rail system, the GO commuter transit system and the UP Express train to the airport. This is particularly good for winter visitors. Tourists can be enjoying the waterfront within a five-minute walk south.

Rate: $$

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Toronto: The Drake

Drake

The arts-oriented, 19-room Drake Hotel, originally a derelict apartment block, still maintains the high hip quotient it has enjoyed since it opened. A hit with both local and international creative types, it is a true Toronto cultural hub, covering all the travel basics—art, music, food and shopping.

Vibe: It doesn’t get much cooler than this. Informal, quirky and fun, The Drake is a pioneer of the small boutique experience in the city—artsy and original, with a high- and low-brow look and feel. The building’s façade, original granite floors and front lobby design details hark back to the building’s rambling past. Art springs out of almost every corner, as you would expect from a hotel with a full-time art curator. The Drake was the first North American hotel to offer a “pleasure menu,” featuring items from sex shop Come As You Are.

Rooms: The rooms sport bold colours and patterns, retro-style furniture and lighting, simple wood shelving and a stand-out original piece of art above a wooden headboard. A functional luggage rack along the top of one side frees up floor space and doubles as a clothes rack. Rooms also come loaded with tempting snacks and a ton of alcohol, a Bose SoundLink Mini, and a safe cleverly stashed inside a drawer. Bathrooms feature a private toilet and a large shower, with Malin & Goetz amenities adding a dash of luxury.

F&B: Culinary offerings in three main spaces—café, lounge and rooftop Sky Yard—are inventive, with the kitchen producing as much as possible themselves, including all the bread, charcuterie, pasta, and preserves. A raw bar churns out made-to-order sushi. The burger is one of the best in town, with “fancy fries” covered in grated pecorino cheese and truffle butter. The café does a serious breakfast, serving specialties such as house-smoked salmon, house-made sausage and a killer breakfast sandwich. A cocktail list is chock-full of booze-forward drinks created by the resident bartenders, and the wine list is longer than you’d expect, with varied price points.

Extras: A host is stationed at the front door to direct human traffic at busy times, adjacent to the small 24-hour reception desk. Guests get a discount at The Drake General Store across the street, a lifestyle emporium and apothecary with locations across Canada. The Underground space in the basement is busy with meetings, events, live bands and poetry slams. The hotel maintains partnerships with a nearby yoga studio and a gym.

Off-Site: The Drake is right in the thick of the Queen Street West shopping strip. Downtown is an easy 15-minute streetcar ride eastward and trendy Trinity Bellwoods Park is a 10-minute walk. The Ossington Avenue strip of fashionable bars and restaurants is two blocks away.

Rate: $$

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Toronto: Kimpton Saint George

Kimpton Saint George

More like a residence than a hotel, the midtown Kimpton Saint George is a melting pot of boutique luxury style. The homey feel flows from the smiley staff to the living room-like lobby and up into spacious, tasteful retreats done in a mix of unconventional colours and distinctive design details.

Vibe: Formerly a Holiday Inn, the Kimpton looks more like a residence than a hotel, full of fun quirks, clever details, and arched doorways, hallways and mirrors uniting the design of the public spaces. A cool shade of blue-green replaces the regular hotel beige. Expect lots of wood, patterned rugs and many other earthy colours and textures, including loads of natural light. A fireplace warms up a cozy and comfortable living room-like lounge off the lobby, a fine spot to settle in with the newspaper.

Rooms: The design of the 188 rooms, including 21 suites, is meant to capture the essence of the Annex neighbourhood’s heritage homes, with sculptural furnishings like moulded walnut desks and rounded mirrors, plus gold light fixtures and locally sourced art. The colour palette mimics Canadian nature with a mixture of blues, greens, grays, browns and rusts—practically every shade of a Group of Seven painting. A record player comes with a new selection of Canadian vinyl. White oak armoires feature natural caning at the door faces and a white resin squirrel sculpture inside, a nod to Toronto’s famous west end albino squirrel. Frette sheets, robes and towels add a distinct touch of luxury. Grey-tiled bathrooms feature a marble vanity and natural Atelier Bloem amenities. A yoga mat can be found in every closet. The standard room size is 300 square feet.

F&B: The sole restaurant is The Fortunate Fox, a lively, third party-owned gastropub doing breakfast through dinner and on to late-night snacks. An elevated pub menu features all the basics, including fried chicken, a curry, fish and chips, burgers, pizzettes, sandwiches and salads. Everything is made from scratch.

Extras: The Peregrine Room is the main event room on the ground floor with 1,500 square feet of space in total, including a break-out area. Natural materials, natural light, warm tones of peach and gray, locally sourced furniture and cheeky artwork make for a very non-businesslike atmosphere. An airy, state-of-the-art fitness room also sports an adjacent exercise/yoga room. Bicycles are available for those who want to hop on the Bloor Street bike lane right at the front door.

Off-Site: The Kimpton Saint George is right in the middle of town, between the west and east ends, and equidistant from uptown and downtown. Hotel guests can walk to The Royal Ontario Museum and The Gardiner Museum (Canada’s national ceramics museum) in under 10 minutes. The famed Bata Shoe Museum is directly across the street.

Rate: $$$

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Toronto: Hotel X Toronto

Hotel X

Spanning nine acres of waterfront land in a corner of Exhibition Place, home to Canada’s largest event venues, Hotel X Toronto is the main hub for all the nearby trade shows, conferences and fairs, with more than 400 stylish rooms delivering an incredible view.

Vibe: The look is modern and intimate. A lobby bathed in natural light, a massive living wall behind the front desk, guest room windows that open, multilevel terraces—every effort has been made to bring the outside in at Hotel X Toronto, part of the Library Hotel Collection. The entire hotel is filled with large-format nature photography by Neil Dankoff, with a whole gallery devoted to his work on the main floor. Expect to see everything from tuxedos to shorts and t-shirts at the front desk.

Rooms: The comfortable 365 rooms and 39 suites over 26 floors are pared-down but posh, with ample room for your own things. Expect orange leather club chairs, high-design modern lamps, regal blue and gold carpets and textured, stone-coloured wall coverings. Soft beds sport big wooden padded headboards. Roomy marble-filled bathrooms have glass doors, with most containing both a bathtub and a shower.

F&B: Casual eatery Maxx’s Kitchen is bright and airy, with an open kitchen and views of the lake. Pétros82 Mediterranean restaurant and raw bar overlooking Stanley Gardens has a massive menu incorporating land and sea, plus a raw and cured list that includes three different kinds of caviar. The menu themes carries on into the Lobby Bar with small plates and a short but dangerous cocktail list. The three-level rooftop Falcon SkyBar offers a collection of spaces to get your drink on and enjoy the view.

Extras: The scope of the facilities is staggering, mostly due to Ten X Toronto, a private member fitness club, and the serene Guerlain Spa, the talk of the town. The gym is the biggest hotel gym in Canada with 90,000 square feet of space. It houses four indoor tennis courts, nine glassed-back squash courts, a golf simulator with 90+ courses, and four studios for yoga, spinning, Pilates and group fitness. Guests can also take advantage of two outdoor pools, one attached to Falcon bar. The various configuration of indoor and outdoor meeting space totals 27,000 square feet, including a ballroom that will seat 450. Two cinemas seat 52 and 250 people, which will make Toronto International Film Festival revelers feel right at home. Services also include a VIP and group check in/out lounge, five house BMWs, and free rides to and from Union Station and the Toronto Island Airport. A large daycare facility is divided into three rooms based on age.

Off-Site: Hotel X is a 10-minute drive from the Entertainment and Financial Districts, the Toronto Harbour, the CN Tower and Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, Queen Street West shopping and nightlife and the King Street West strip. Toronto Island Airport is a five-minute drive away. BMO Field, home of the Toronto Argonauts and Toronto Football Club, is a 10-minute walk away.

Rate: $$$

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Toronto: The St. Regis

St. Regis Toronto

The St. Regis Toronto—formerly The Adelaide Hotel and before that the Trump International—is Canada’s first and only St. Regis hotel. It boasts the largest rooms in the city (from 550 square feet). There is a rather rarified air; those seeking top service, the best location in town and marble everything should be more than satisfied.

Vibe: Despite being very elegant, the St. Regis Toronto’s high-style public spaces have a homey feel, a relaxed element of sophisticated comfort. Interiors are modern-traditional with an icing of early 20th-century glamour. Expect sumptuous low seating, marble tabletops, gold accents, patterned tile flooring and almost futuristic mood lighting, with a colour palate of taupe and tan, grey and silver. There’s a good mix of business travellers who appreciate being a short dash from their head offices, and leisure guests lapping up the luxury amenities.

Rooms: The 261 rooms at the St. Regis are sumptuous and comfortable, all white leather and dark marble with signature purple and lavender accents. Expect patterned carpets, glass tabletops, high-gloss lamps, oodles of crown moulding and sconces dripping with crystal. Bathrooms feature double sinks, shower and tub, heated marble floors, a television embedded in the mirror, a shaving/makeup mirror and fluffy robes.

F&B: At LOUIX LOUIS, the St. Regis 31st-floor hotspot, an Art Deco-tinged design is highlighted by a soaring vaulted ceiling with opulent and dramatic lighting, almost floor-to-ceiling backlit bottles behind a long bar, soothing wooden wall paneling and herringbone-patterned wood flooring. The menu highlights a seafood-forward selection of appetizers—caviar, oysters, seafood platters, smoked scallops and trout—plus a small but satisfying selection of à la carte mains such as Dover sole, striped bass, pastas, ribs and steaks. A gratifying breakfast is anchored by a classic Canadian Breakfast and augmented with signature dishes such as a Pastrami Hash Skilled and Trout Avocado Toast. Astor Lounge on the main floor is modern and elegant, elevated by jazz music and the signature, daily champagne sabering ritual at 6 p.m.

Extras: A tranquil infinity salt-water lap pool and whirlpool overlook the city on the 32nd floor. The fitness centre sports great views of the city and Lake Ontario, with prime equipment and a movement studio for yoga and Pilates. The hotel’s The Spa at The St. Regis Toronto offers a full-service experience with signature massages, facials, body treatments and aesthetics.

Off-Site: ‘The best address in town’ is the well-used catchphrase of the hotel. The St. Regis is literally five to seven minutes walking distance from everything: the business district, Union Station, City Hall, Scotiabank Arena, the Four Seasons Centre, the Sony Centre, the Eaton Centre, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Hudson’s Bay, the King Subway Station, the Hockey Hall of Fame, the Design Exchange, several live theatres and more.

Rate: $$$$

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Toronto: The Shangri-La

Shangri-La Toronto

Brimming with an elegant, international flavour, the welcoming Shangri-La Toronto embodies total luxury. Its renowned lobby, luring both locals and travellers, is really an urban living room in the heart of the city, featuring live music every day of the week.

Vibe: The Shangri-La Toronto is a magnet for the wealthy and the interesting – especially so if you happen to be both. Guests are an eclectic blend of people from the worlds of fashion, arts and culture, business and finance. Although the Shangri-La brand has a worldwide décor blueprint – Asian elegance, rich wood, silk walls, bold patterns, museum-worthy artefacts – each property is unique. Unlike other downtown Toronto hotels, the leisure crowd isn’t relegated to the weekend.

Rooms: The 202 rooms spread over 17 floors are dripping with Sapele veneer, Asian-inspired geometric patterns and muted earth tones. The look is conservative, but glamorized with refined touches, from the patterned glassware to the soft nightlights under the bedside tables. Both the drapes and the sheers are motorized. iPads put you in touch with room service, housekeeping, bell service and the 24-hour concierge. Minibars are filled with 200 mL bottles, so you can pour a proper drink, and closets come equipped with yoga mats. Oversized bathrooms clad in floor-to-ceiling white Italian marble feature a jet tub, and LCD TVs embedded in the mirror.

F&B: Hand-blown green and amber Bocci glass and pale oak lattices welcome guests from the lobby into the 30-seat lounge that fronts Bosk, the hotel’s forest-themed 80-seat restaurant. With private dining space and a seasonal terrace, Bosk is busy breakfast, lunch and dinner, proffering seasonal cuisine, regional and genuinely Canadian: Dinner mains include Nova Scotia scallops, Atlantic halibut, and Beverly Creek lamb with crispy sweetbreads. Signature breakfast items include a wide selection of egg dishes plus Chinese Dim Sum. Sixty-eight different kinds of tea are served every day during traditional Afternoon Tea in the Lobby Lounge.

Extras: A sumptuous 42-seat screening room can be booked for films, junkets and events. A dedicated business coordinator is available during the weekdays. On the fifth floor, the 24-hour fitness centre is better than most brand-name gyms, with an adjacent yoga studio. Spin classes and personal trainers are also at your disposal. Luxurious changing rooms are equipped with large steam rooms. The pool area is a little world all its own, with cascading water columns, a huge whirlpool, private terry-lined cabanas with built-in TVs, and an infrared sauna. Miraj Hammam by Caudalie, Paris, also on the fifth floor, offers an intriguing mix of Middle Eastern hammam and French vinotherapy, spread over 12 treatment rooms and two hammam rooms.

Off-Site: Bookended by the Soho House Toronto and the upscale Momofuku Noodle Bar and Milk Bar Toronto, the Shangri-La is a hub for the hip. It’s a 10-minute walk to Saks Fifth Avenue, the Eaton Centre, the shops of Queen Street West and the financial district, and a three-minute walk to the subway. The Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts (home of the National Ballet of Canada and the Canadian Opera Company) and Roy Thomson Hall (home of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra) are both four minutes away.

Rate: $$$$

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Northern Ireland: Newforge House

Newforge House

The historic Newforge House guest home about a half hour southwest of Belfast on the outskirts of the village of Magheralin is run by owners and chefs John and Louise Mathers. John converted the Georgian family home in 2005, relocating his parents to what his mother refers to as the “pig houses” at the back of the 16-hectare property.

Vibe: This is a small country house done to the nines with perfect service, amazing food and a fire going in the drawing room. The host is beyond charming. While the antiques are extraordinary and the rooms quaint and comfortable, people come here to eat.

Rooms: With just six rooms, you get to know everyone fairly quickly. Rooms are filled with antiques that have been handed down for six generations, surrounded by original features comforted up with modern beds, Egyptian cotton, luxurious bathrooms with marble floors and Wi-Fi. You feel as if you’ve wandered into a Jane Austen novel, just waiting for someone to call you down to supper.

F&B: The kitchen at Newforge House conjures sweet and savoury delights using local ingredients, including fruit from their orchard and vegetables from the garden. All the meat is raised a stone’s throw away and a dozen or so hens come through each morning with fresh eggs. The dining room draws the weekend-away crowd from all over Ireland. We sit down to a feast of roast lamb, fresh fish and incredible cheese, then linger over after-dinner whiskeys by the fire. “Growing our own or using local produce means that we use not only foods in season, when they are at their best, but also varieties that best suit our weather conditions and soil,” explains Louise. Dinner is at 8.

THINGS TO DO: IN NORTHERN IRELAND
HOW-TO: DRIVE ON THE LEFT

Extras: The preserves and chutneys are absolutely insane, as is the gin list, which includes gins from around the world plus house-infused gins and vodkas with flavours of raspberries, blackberries, sloes and damsons (a relative of the plum).

Off-Site: Edenmore Golf & Country Club is a five-minute drive away. Ten minutes away, Lurgan Park is the second biggest park in Ireland and its Brownlow House has 365 rooms. Hillsborough Castle & Gardens, where the Royal Family stays when they come to Northern Ireland, is 15 minutes away. Hilden Brewery is the oldest independent brewery in Ireland, just 20 minutes away.

Rate: $$$

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DISCOVERNORTHERNIRELAND.COM

Chicago: Hotel Roundup

There are a surprising number of awesome Chicago hotels cropping up, many of them opening in elegant, refurbished landmark buildings.

The Robey took over a 1929 Art Deco office building in Wicker Park, a one-minute walk from the L Blue Line (the one to and from O’Hare). The rooms are modern and sparse, still carrying a torch for the building’s former life. Cocktails in the UP Room on the 13th floor will net you a 180-degree view of downtown—and a mean Old Fashioned. $ therobey.com

READ MORE ABOUT: THE ROBEY

Hotel Zachary is across the street from Wrigley Field. Rooms are a mix of contemporary and traditional, modern lighting and local art mixed with pinstripes and wingback chairs. The Zachary is a great home base for sports fans, comedy fans (all the top clubs are here) and gay-bar fans—Boystown is a convenient, five-minute walk away. $$ hotelzachary.com

THINGS TO DO: IN THE WINDY CITY

Moxy Chicago Downtown does form and function extremely well in the River North area, a short walk from Magnificent Mile. This is a sink-by-the-bed, pegs-for-your-clothes kind of place, but extremely well designed. The lobby is like a colourful clubhouse, filled with art, games, a 24-hour taco counter, a coffee bar and a bar bar. $ moxychicago.com

The Hotel at Midtown in Bucktown is a fitness oasis, a “sports resort,” part of the Midtown Athletic Club. Rooms are minimal and masculine, all hardwood flooring, toffee leather chairs and dark wood headboards. Guests get in on the tennis, boxing, spinning, aquatics, golf simulators, even yoga on the roof at sunrise. There’s a spa, too. $$$ midtownhotelchicago.com

Found Chicago is also in the River North area, part of a chain whose charm lies in its budget-friendly quirkiness. Both private and dorm-style rooms are simple and sparse, but fun and snug. Public spaces are a blaze of colour, the furnishings and objets culminating in a 1970s rumpus-room look. Be sure to check out the Asian-inspired bar and lounge. $ chicago.foundhotels.com

F&B: TIKI BAR ACTION

St. Jane Chicago opened in what was a Hard Rock Hotel in the Carbide & Carbon Building, another Art Deco landmark. Rooms have a feel for the past, with a pink and taupe colour palette, black leather chairs, gold accents, marble bathrooms, all very 1930s. $$$ stjanehotel.com

Hotel Julian, located in what was once the Atlantic Bank Building, this spot was named for the patron saint of travellers. You’ll find high ceilings, nice linens, leather headboards, elegant armoires and black-and-white bathrooms. Public areas are playful and cozy. The steak-forward gastropub About Last Knife is worth it just for the name. $$ hoteljulianchicago.com

CHOOSECHICAGO.COM

Buffalo: Hotel Henry

Billed as an “urban resort and conference center,” Hotel Henry is set within national historic landmark the Richardson Olmsted Campus, a former mental-health facility. It makes creative use of historic space with a modernizing of the architectural grandeur after years of neglect. This sounds like a movie synopsis.

Vibe: Opened in 1880 as the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane, the building was designed by famed architect Henry Hobson Richardson in Romanesque Revival style. Hotel Henry is the first tenant in what will be a major renovation of the whole complex, injecting large open spaces with an art-gallery atmosphere over five floors. At any given time, the hotel exhibits about 100 pieces of art. Dramatic white corridors feature massive windows bringing in buckets of natural light with a river of blue carpet injecting a swirl of colour.

Rooms: As with any revamped building, the layout of the 88 rooms and suites vary throughout. Décor is pared-down and modern, the 18-foot ceilings,14-foot windows (with motorized blinds) and recessed lighting adding a dash of drama. Wedge pillows dress up a comfortable platform bed and an adaptable wall system keeps things orderly acting as an open “closet.” Sunny bathrooms are equipped with European-style Porcelanosa fixtures.

THINGS TO DO: IN BUFFALO

F&B: Just off the hotel’s second-floor lobby, 100 Acres: The Kitchens at Hotel Henry is a restaurant, bar, bakery and coffeehouse for hotel guests and neighborhood locals, offering many different seating and service options centred around one common menu. New American cuisine highlights regional products and produce with a made-from-scratch credo. Standard hotel staples are given a Mediterranean twist—marinated chicken with raita, yellowfin tuna with skordalia, seared scallops with a raisin caper vinaigrette, roasted beets and tahini. Vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free options cover the bases.

Extras: The hotel has a variety of spaces for workstation setups and more than 20,000 square feet of meeting and event space, much of which is also filled with art. A 24-hour gym and a running path among the surrounding 42 acres of parkland keep guests in top form.

Off-Site: Hotel Henry is in Buffalo’s north end, within walking distance of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and the Burchfield Penney Art Center. Delaware Park is a five-minute drive away, as is the hip neighbourhood of Elmwood Village. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House is a 10-minute drive away.

Rate: $$

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Victoria: The Magnolia

Magnolia

With just 64 rooms, the independently owned Magnolia Hotel & Spa always ranks high on the annual top 10 lists. A service-forward approach and a close-to-everything downtown location minutes from Victoria’s inner harbour make it a hit with both tourists and the busy bleisure crowd.

Vibe: The majority of Magnolia guests are week-day travellers from the realms of finance, law (the courthouse is nearby), government and IT. Traditional décor is elegant but not overstated and modern touches keep it from getting mumsy. Vaulted ceilings, gleaming glass, gold accents and orchids dress things up nicely. Grey felt sofas and a gas fireplace warm up the lobby lounge area, where floor-to-ceiling wood paneling is propped up with equally dramatic patterned curtains. Tourists change seasonally, with the shoulder seasons seeing more regional guests from Vancouver and Seattle.

Rooms: Spacious rooms (starting at 300 square feet) feature multiple patterns and textures, with colours borrowed from the rest of the hotel décor—taupe, pearl, silver, grey, gold. Modern marble bathrooms all have a shower and tub, plus plenty of vanity space. Ask for a Signature corner suite for a view of the parliament buildings, a gas fireplace and a cozy corner for reading.

F&B: Opened in 2018, The Courtney Room is bright and white, an airy French bistro-style neighbourhood hub with a more casual main-floor brasserie and bar, and a smaller, upscale upstairs dining room. Expect local fish and meat with a bit of a French twist. The tasting menu is highly recommended. For breakfast, the Egg, Avocado and Crab salad will last you to lunch and beyond.

Extras: Repeat guests have everything as they like it, thanks to detailed notes from their last stay. Spa Magnolia sports seven treatment rooms, a relaxation lounge and well-equipped change rooms, its signature treatment being a 90-minute body scrub, facial and massage. The hotel also has bikes to lend guests, and has created a series of seasonal and theme-based biking and walking maps to show visitors the best of Victoria.

THINGS TO DO: ON VANCOUVER ISLAND

Off-Site: With 20 restaurants within a five-block radius and the cream of Victoria’s shopping within just seven blocks, there’s little need to get on a bus or in a cab. Victoria Conference Centre, The Royal BC Museum, the Harbour Air Seaplanes dock and the BC legislature are all a five-minute walk away. Both the Dallas Road beach and Holland Point Park are a six-minute drive away.

Rate: $$

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Tofino: Tofino Resort + Marina

The hip home base of this ocean-front community on Vancouver Island’s west coast is a full-service, one-stop shop, delivering better-than-basic comfort, fine dining, a lively watering hole, a water taxi, and an ocean adventure centre ready to whisk you away to the region’s islands and inlets.

Vibe: Rustic comfort rules at Tofino Resort + Marina, which opened in July 2017. The five main buildings are simple but slick, lots of white and natural wood, with a pared-down Canadiana vibe. This is a rubber-boots-and-jeans kind of playground for any age and any size of wallet. The typical guest is the adventurer who just wants to spend the entire day on the ocean fishing, sight-seeing or surfing, crash right after dinner, and then do it all over again the next day.

Rooms: Frill-seekers need not apply—the focus here is on essentials only, the idea being if it’s not useful, it’s gone. (Bye-bye throw pillows.) That said, the 63 rooms are comfortable, with simple bathrooms, everything done in black and white and gray. Many of the kitchenettes from a previous incarnation have been turned into a second bedroom. Rooms on the second and third floors sport balconies with plastic Adirondack chairs.

F&B: At the sunny 1909 Kitchen, ingredients are sourced and foraged from Tofino’s oceans, shoreline and forests. Wood-fired pizza and fresh seafood rules, complemented by an assortment of small dishes, including wild mushrooms and wood-roasted vegetables. The kitchen will also happily prepare any fish you catch. Breakfast is hearty and healthy, the menu including a BELTCH—bacon, egg, lettuce, tomato and cheddar on a house bun. The rustic Hatch Waterfront Pub is the only bar in town where the locals actually hang out with the tourists.

TASTE TO TRY: TAKE A FOOD TOUR

Extras: The Adventure Centre is a big draw, setting you up with fishing charters, whale- and bear-watching tours, cultural tours and sight-seeing to all the nearby islands, forests and inlets. Go for surf lessons, crabbing excursions, scenic flights, free diving, sky diving or yoga. A water taxi can take you to hike the hilltops or swim in a secluded cove. The marina is the only full-service dock in town, accommodating boats of up to 130 feet. Harbour Air also docks here, its float planes bringing in guests directly from Vancouver Harbour. As the resort co-owners are NHL hockey players, a big state-of-the-art gym is equipped the best of everything and a hit with the locals, too.

Off-Site: Tofino is just north of a magnificent string of surf-worthy beaches and the rugged wonder of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, a three-hour drive from Nanaimo, B.C., and a 45-minute flight from Vancouver Harbour. The resort is a five-minute walk to the centre of Tofino, with all its restaurants, surf shops and artisan boutiques. The Tofino-Long Beach Airport is a 20-minute drive south.

Rate: $$

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Toronto: The Anndore House

Toronto’s new Instagram-friendly hotel for the modern, mid-range traveller began life as executive apartments in 1955 before becoming a Comfort Inn. After a total reno, this 113-room “house” is now a home-away-from-home for business creatives and a gathering spot for the local condo crowd.

Vibe: Chic public areas of the Anndore are dark and sexy with a whiff of retro—a nod to the past with a modern touch. A kitchen island-style front desk expresses a casual character. Earthy greens, eggplant and garnet are matched with dark wood and subdued lighting. Gold accents on flooring, skylights and furniture add a glam touch. Gold-framed art hung salon-style carries on into the paneled and velvet-forward lobby bar and the gorgeous restaurant beyond, which are linked by dazzlingly lit open shelving filled with white crockery.

Rooms: Anndore rooms sport a retro, industrial loft style, spartan but not sterile, relatively frill-free yet cozy. Brick walls, exposed electrical and wall coverings that mimic the look of concrete are warmed up by white wooden window shutters, a leather club chair and a patterned rug. A banker’s desk lamp and a Crosley record player punctuate the blond wood cabinetry, along with a small selection of vinyl records. (Neil Diamond! Glenn Campbell!) A bright, white-tiled bathroom carries through the industrial theme with stand-out gold faucets, black cage lights and hexagonal floor tiling. Labelled light panels are a godsend.

F&B: The 145-seat Constantine Toronto restaurant draws a crowd from all over town, lured by admired chef Craig Hardy’s clever mix of Italian and Middle Eastern fare. The huge open kitchen is on full display, practically in the middle of the room, anchored by a wood-fire grill and pizza oven. Expect things like pumpkin kibbeh stuffed with feta, grilled halloumi on Italian fritters, lamb sausage pizza and duck kofte, along with gorgeous hand-made pastas and sumptuous meats. The 50-seat bar mixes smart cocktails and serves shareable menu items. Out on the street, the Scarlet Door Café does the hotel’s grab-and-go duty.

Extras: Guests can use the hotel app to check in, open their door, control the lights and temperature, order room service and watch TV. The app also acts as a concierge service, offering tips on living like a local, listing weekly events, restaurant recommendations and guidebook must-dos. Gym-goers are given a complementary pass to Hone Fitness behind the hotel. Crows Nest Barbershop opened its fifth Canadian location in the Anndore’s storefront to keep the gentlemen tidy.

Off-Site: Conveniently located on a quiet street one block away from the crossroads of the city’s subway system at Yonge and Bloor, The Anndore House is a five-minute walk from Bloor Street’s luxury shopping, the upscale Yorkville area and the LGBTQ neighbourhood. The Royal Ontario Museum is a 10-minute walk east. Downtown shopping is 10 minutes away by subway and the Financial District is a 15-minute taxi ride.

Rate: $$

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Toronto: Fairmont Royal York

Dominating the skyline for decades after it was built in 1929, the Royal York is the Canadian grande dame of the Fairmont chain. Amping up the luxury factor has kept the hotel in step with the times, a storied icon with a modern outlook. Recent guests have included members of the British Royal Family, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mahershala Ali and Lady Gaga.

Vibe: With 1,329 rooms and suites over 18 floors, the Royal York is a busy, busy place, yet still maintains an air of relative calm. The hotel was originally one of the Canadian Pacific Railway hotels, built across Canada around the same time as the railway, which linked the country from coast to coast. The original hand-painted wood coffered ceilings and lavish ballrooms have witnessed thousands of milestone events and business conventions, and the famous Imperial Room has played host to countless entertainers, from jazz legend Duke Ellington to Jim Carrey. And the clock tower has been an iconic meeting spot since the hotel opened.

Rooms: Traditional yet not overly so, the room design incorporates the old with the new, sporting modern colours, maple furnishings, lots of pattern and texture, plus striped floor-length curtains. Small but sensible bathrooms feature marble floors, spacious showers, makeup/shaving mirrors and luxurious Le Labo amenities. Spacious Fairmont Gold rooms feel like sumptuous little apartments, with cool tones, rich textures and Art Deco accents. Gold guests get access to the 18th-floor reception and lounge.

F&B: REIGN Restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner—classic Canadian fare with a slight French perspective. A meat-forward dinner menu features beef, bison, boar, duck and lamb, while also offering oysters, poached shrimp and butter-roasted sablefish. At breakfast, try the smoked steelhead trout and wood-fired bagel. The adjacent bar is inviting and comfortable, with low seating, nooks for intimate or business chats, and space for live music. A pop-up bakery appears in the morning in one corner, offering fresh-baked pastries and specialty coffees. The lobby is taken over almost entirely by CLOCKWORK lounge, its swish bar anchored to a stunning clock tower. The classic Library Bar in the hotel’s west corner has been shaking Martinis and mixing Manhattans for decades. Canada’s only Benihana Japanese Steakhouse offers Teppanyaki, sushi and sake on the lower level, where guests will also find Piper’s Pub, which serves casual pub fare.

Extras: A fitness centre, complete with sauna and steam room, sits opposite a sizeable swimming pool and whirlpool. The lower level of the hotel is a little high street in itself, home to a variety of small shops. Mezzanine and 19th-floor meeting and event space can handle almost 3,000 people across 32 function rooms.

Off-Site: The Hockey Hall of Fame, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and Meridian Hall are two short blocks away. Scotiabank Arena (home of Toronto Maple Leafs hockey and Toronto Raptors basketball) and Rogers Centre (home of Blue Jays baseball) are a 10-minute walk away, as are the CN Tower and Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada. The hotel is part of PATH, the underground pedestrian network, which is linked to Union Station across the street, connecting guests to the subway and to all above-ground trains, including the UP Express train to the airport.

Rate: $$$

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Ottawa: Fairmont Château Laurier

Named after Canada’s seventh prime minister Wilfrid Laurier, Fairmont Château Laurier has dominated the Ottawa skyline since it opened in 1912. Its elegant corridors and grand ballrooms witness to countless international events and celebrity guests, the hotel is almost as recognizable as its neighbour, Parliament Hill.

Vibe: Old World grandeur starts right at the Château Laurier wooden, revolving front door and never stops. A hushed, museum-like atmosphere permeates much of the cavernous public areas and banquet rooms, with their turn-of-the-century furnishings, hand-painted ceilings, marble flooring, ornate plasterwork and vast yards of drapery. Photographer Yousuf Karsh once had his studio in the hotel, and a few of his most famous portraits hang in the lounge off the lobby, including a portrait of Churchill that made its way onto the British £5 note.

Rooms: The 426 rooms, including 33 suites, maintain a glamorous old-fashioned aura—elegant lamps, heavy curtains, comfy armchairs and solid desks and cupboards, maple bed frames and nightstands. The traditional look is augmented with ample textures and rich colours—taupes and soft grays in some rooms, bright blue and green stripes in others. Smallish marble bathrooms are bright and clean, with good lighting.

F&B: Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in Wilfrid’s Restaurant, where guests sink into plump armchairs and tuck into things like seared scallops, stuffed quail, prime rib and spice-brined duck. The breakfast menu includes a spicy Shakshouka alongside skillets and omelets, and a daily smoothie. The sleek and chic Zoé’s serves traditional afternoon tea before welcoming the cocktail crowd at 5 p.m. Find more casual fare there, including charcuterie and cheese plates, salmon and beef tartares, a succulent lobster roll and an outstanding steak.

F&B: OTTAWA COCKTAIL CRAWL

Extras: A health club on the lower level is equipped with state-of-the-art fitness machines and free weights, with personal training available on request. Massage therapy is also available, although there is no formal spa. A nautical-themed, 60-foot Art Deco swimming pool props up one end of the health club for your morning laps. Take the half-hour, self-directed walking tour of the hotel guided by iPads loaned out at the front desk.

Off-Site: Situated a few steps from the Rideau Canal, the Château is a five-minute walk from Canada’s parliament buildings, the ByWard Market area, Confederation Park where the Ottawa Jazz Festival takes place each June, the Rideau Centre shopping mall and Nordstrom, and the National Arts Centre. The National Gallery of Canada and the Canadian Mint are 10 minutes away.

Rate: $$$

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Ottawa: The Andaz

Canada’s first Andaz hotel opened in late 2016, fittingly in the nation’s capital, glamming up what was once a nondescript office building. With subtle, landscape-inspired artistic gestures, sparkling cuisine and warm hospitality, every inch of its 16 floors highlights the essence of Canadiana.

Vibe: Entering the Andaz ByWard Market is like stepping into the living room of a relaxed, very modern home. Unreservedly hospitable service is no-nonsense Canadian—unstuffy and unfussy, and in two languages. Each floor takes on a persona of a Canadian province or territory, with art curated by the Canadian Council Art Bank. Signature Andaz Salon events—lectures, exhibitions, live performances—connect guests to local cultural experiences.

Rooms: Two hundred residentially styled rooms champion Canadian design, materials and motifs. White walls, ceilings and linens, plus oatmeal curtains and carpets lend a fresh feel. Woolen and felt upholstery, moulded wood furniture, leather drawer pulls, and walk-in closets are simple yet sumptuous. Fun copper light fixtures do double duty as installation art. What looks like herringbone-patterned wooden flooring is actually tiling.

F&B: The hotel’s destination restaurant Feast + Revel showcases uniquely Canadian items like bison skewers, lamb poutine, Arctic char, scallops with smoked bacon and a varied duck platter that serves four. Besides a breakfast buffet, top morning items include a Vegetarian Breakfast with smoked vegan sausage and roasted mushrooms, and a Breakfast Poutine loaded with duck confit, kale, caramelized onions, cheese curds and rich gravy. Copper Spirits & Sights, the rooftop bar, boasts amazing views and is poised to become the new It spot for the city’s chic-seekers, with a patio that features banquette seating and open fire pits.

Extras: The 24-hour fitness centre on the 16th floor sports floor-to-ceiling windows for an optimum view while you work out.

Off-Site: The hotel is right in the thick of things, anchoring the east end of Ottawa’s historic ByWard Market area with its multitude of shops, restaurants and bars. It’s walking distance from Parliament Hill, all the major national museums and galleries, and Gatineau, Quebec.

Rate: $$$

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French Polynesia: Maitai Lapita Village Huahine

On Huahine, vacationers get a modern-day Tahitian island experience, a chance to see how real people live.

The Maitai Lupita Village is a perfect mix of past and present, with a beautiful infinity pool that looks out onto the very same view explorer Captain James Cook had in the late 1700s.

Vibe: Designed specifically with the region’s rich history in mind, this Huahine property yields spacious bungalows in the style of canoe huts, architectural details that mimic traditional Tahitian artwork and motifs, and a small built-in museum full of ancient artifacts, some dating back to 1500 BC.

Rooms: Thirty-two Garden and Lake Bungalows offer total privacy, mixing traditional design and décor with modern comforts. It’s like an exotic movie set, complete with vaulted ceilings, intoxicatingly fragrant flowers and plants, and massive terraces that look out onto the botanical parkland and mountains beyond.

F&B: Find a fusion of French and island cuisine at Omai Restaurant and the Oaoa Bar overlooking the beach. Fresh ingredients rein in dishes such as grilled yellowfin tuna, king mackerel, goat curry; fixings like marinated seaweed and exotic fruit chutneys add to the deliciousness. The house Maitai is perfect.

Extras: Free snorkeling gear and kayaks. Duck into the week museum to learn about the history of the Lapita people, the pre-Polynesian ancestors. Pottery shards, wooden and whalebone sculptures and tools, tinted engravings, 19th-century photographs, reproductions of war clubs, fishing lures and jewellery—all help illustrate early life here.

THINGS TO DO: IN FRENCH POLYNESIA

Off-Site: Rustic and down-to-earth, Huahine is a bit of an artist enclave, and home to more than a few French and American ex-pats looking for a simpler, slightly bohemian life. The two-island grouping is also the site where archaeologists have found the oldest carbon-dated remains, pre-dating Hawaii.

Rate: $$

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Chicago: The Robey

The Robey

Built into a triangular, former Art Deco office tower in Wicker Park, The Robey is perfect for the hipster in all of us.

A retro feel sets the scene right at the front desk and carries on up to the rooftop bar and wraparound terrace, complete with a stunning view of downtown and an up-close look of the building’s spire. Cue the Instagram.

Vibe: With its abundance of restaurants, lounges and private spaces, The Robey is a social hub. It honours its past with preserved Deco features (including bronze elevators) with minimalist Mid-Century touches at every turn, all gold metal trim and frosted glass.

Rooms: The 69 tower rooms feel like the former offices they once were, with that opaque wire glass, industrial colours, hardwood floors, simple furnishings. Big windows let in a ton of light, so motorized blackout drapes are very welcome. Twenty multi-bed Annex Loft rooms in an adjoining warehouse building from 1905 offer up industrial style and boutique finishes, perfect for families and the budget-conscious.

THINGS TO DO: IN CHICAGO
MORE CHICAGO HOTELS

F&B: Where to begin here. Café Robey on the main floor has a neighbourhood open-kitchen restaurant feel, doing American comfort food up extremely well. Have the duck hash for breakfast. We saw a man having bourbon for breakfast, but maybe don’t do that. A big, soothing lounge on the second floor is part work space, part bar. The indoor-outdoor Cabana Club on the 6th floor is a hot weekend ticket, offering 180-degree views of town, a small food menu and a big cocktail list. And the UP Room is the 13th-floor rooftop cocktail bar with exclusive access for guests at happy hour. The view is insane. So is the flight of mezcals.

Extras: Free bicycles! Free water and beers in the room.

Off-Site: Wicker Park has its own little high-street shopping bit, with little eateries scattered throughout. Vintage-wear worshippers scour the second-hand stores here and then stick around for tacos afterward. Go for a big walk along The 606: elevated parkland on what was once the Bloomingdale rail line, its story similar to that of New York’s High Line. When the sun sets, the nearby Logan Square area is littered with action.

Rate: $$

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Newfoundland: Fogo Island Inn

Fogo Island

Radiating both modernity and tradition, this comfortable resort on one of Newfoundland’s most remote and beautiful islands delivers homespun luxury with community-oriented hospitality.

The hospitality here is sublime. Guests get a feeling they’re at Grandma’s house and can do as they please. As a charitable, socially conscious business, the Inn reinvests profits in the Fogo Island community.

Vibe: Sweeping contemporary architecture is contrasted with interiors based on the history, traditions and cultural icons of Newfoundland. The result is an upscale take on the fishing village leitmotif, an unfussy prettiness that is understated yet sumptuous—a meeting of new and old. Colourful furniture, quilting and crafts punch up white-painted wood floors, walls and ceilings. A thought toward the essence of Newfoundland culture can be found at every turn.

Rooms: Ranging in size from 35 to 100 square metres, the 29 rooms and suites sport floor-to-ceiling North Atlantic views, handy binoculars, heated wooden floors, hand-crafted quilts and rugs, and locally produced furnishings. Toile wallpaper designs spotlight local architecture. Bathrooms feature electronic toilets and walk-in showers. Twenty-one rooms have wood-burning stoves and 11 rooms have soaker tubs.

F&B: The local Fogo Island flavours never stop. But don’t expect a larder full of the usual North American staples—you eat what is available in Newfoundland at that particular time of the year, with limited outside ingredients involved. Think foraged berries, mushrooms, wild greens; produce procured from neighbourhood community gardens; the freshest seafood, including the province’s ubiquitous and delicious cod; salt-cured meats and some wild game. Absolutely everything is homemade with menus changing frequently.

TASTE TO TRY: LAMB BELLY

Extras: The Inn features a lobby lounge and bar, tea room, art gallery, library and cinema. Wellness facilities include a gym, and rooftop saunas and hot tubs.

Off-Site: This part of the province is famous for parading icebergs, cavorting whales, wild storms and the Northern Lights. The resort’s Community Host Program matches local people with incoming guests to help orient them to the region and to its heritage. Free excursions include a range of natural, cultural, marine, and artistic activities: things like guided geological hikes, berry-picking and jam-making, boating and fishing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling, bike rides and bonfire nights.

Rate: $$$$$

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St. Vincent: Petit St. Vincent

Part of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World collection, this remote, all-inclusive 115-acre private-island resort at the southern tip of the Grenadine Islands delivers full-on luxury.

Petit St. Vincent (PSV) is legendary within travel circles for its stunning and secluded one- and two-bedroom villas, for the five-star service and food, and for not changing a damned thing in 50 years, including its signature flag system for room service.

Vibe: While the air conditioning and the Balinese spa may be new, the vibe is still strictly 1960s, a delicate balance of luxury and nature, of old-school charm and posh amenities. The lo-fi nature of the place well suits the unstuffy attitude of the guests despite the cost. The cast of characters is well-heeled for sure.

Rooms: The 22 private cottages at Petit St. Vincent have a rustic feel—brick walls, exposed ceilings with fans, wooden lamps, sideboards a bit tacky from the varnish and the humidity. It’s island living with a dash of ritz and a ton of aircon—or not: Two walls of a spacious living room open out onto my private veranda overlooking the ocean. Guests are attended by butlers who drive little mini jeeps around the property, bringing you lunch or fresh towels or bottles of rosé, whatever you want.

ALSO EXPLORE: GRENADA

F&B: At both the multi-terraced main pavilion and the toes-in-the-sand beach restaurant, I devour melt-in-my-mouth tuna ceviche and beautifully grilled snapper. The kitchen grows as much of its own food as possible. Besides the chef garden, there are eggs from organic chickens and banana, almond, papaya and citrus trees. You can also request a picnic and enjoy it anywhere on the island, beach or bluff, or ask for a little spot on the beach to be set up for a romantic dinner for two.

Extras: The Jean-Michel Cousteau Caribbean Diving Center is a sister branch of the diving legend’s famous scuba program in Fiji. The team opens visitors up to about 20 dive sites, all within a relatively short distance of the main pier.

Off-Site: After a ride on the Petit St. Vincent sailboat the Beauty on a day excursion to nearby Tobago Cays Marine Park, a five-island grouping about an hour’s sail away, I snorkel the reef and then spot a turtle the size of an ottoman. No guff.

Rate: $$$$$

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Siem Reap: The Rambutan

A cozy atmosphere, traditional Khmer décor, central salt-water pool and warm staff provide an effortless, easy feeling.

On the quiet Wat Damnak side of Siem Reap (so named after a landmark temple) sits a little oasis on a pedestrian side-street. The Rambutan is a three-pronged property: a main hotel with 16 rooms, a 10-room resort wing and five luxury apartments.

Vibe: “People feel at home here. With the pool in the middle and the rooms built around it, it’s like Melrose Place,” Tommy the manager says. “It’s not big, but there are enough corners that you can have your own quiet spot.” The hotel started off being super-gay, but now the clientele is very mixed. “We get the nice crowd, a mix of Americans, Canadians, Australians, Europeans, and those closer to home—Chinese, Japanese and Korean. We get a lot of solo women travellers, mostly older, who come back a few times a year.”

Rooms: The Rambutan style is instantly relaxing—a mix of Balinese, French, Khmer and Indonesian elegance—things the owner has picked up in his travels over time. “Every room is different,” Tommy says. “The palm wood we are using is not tropical, so it’s harder, and environmentally better than teak. All the tiles are handmade locally in Siem Reap—even the new ones look like they’ve been there forever.”

F&B: A fun little dining room churns out Western and Khmer dishes from a kitchen helmed by six young locals from the local hospitality schools. Local ingredients—the herbs are insane—give the menus an extremely fresh twist. We start off most evenings having the bartenders mix us sublime pepper-infused martinis.

Off-Site: Strike out in the morning for at least one full day of temple-trekking at Angkor Wat; you can fit three of the more popular ruins into the day’s agenda. You could easily spend a week combing through each of the temples. Counter your day in the countryside with a town day doing nothing but wandering the shops, buying exquisite handwoven fabric, fingering the plethora of handbags, disappearing into the spas—which range from the simple to the sublime—and sitting on patios. Go to Bar Code to watch a drag show, which, even on a weeknight, draws local men and women, expats and tourists alike.

Rate: $$

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Mexico: UNICO 20º 87º

UNICO

The five-star, adults-only UNICO 20º 87º Hotel Riviera Maya, a half an hour south of Playa del Carmen, bills itself as an “all-exclusive” all-inclusive resort, with a laundry list of perks such as butler service, select spa services, 24-hour room service and free phone calls home all built in to the cost.

Vibe: A very social atmosphere is promoted at the UNICO, with guests are encouraged to mix, not for anything as mundane as volleyball or aquafitness, but at live music events, mixology classes and cool off-property excursions that take you into the real Mexico.

Rooms: The 448 rooms have a glamorous but low-key hacienda feel, all rustic and homey, with natural materials, handmade décor elements and local art. Main-floor rooms feature a semi-private swim-up pool, while those on the floor above sport massive spa tubs right on the patio. (Wear your swimsuit!) The resort even offers hypoallergenic rooms put through a multitude of air-purifying paces, going so far as to employ a type of shock-treatment method to kill bacteria.

F&B: When the breakfast buffet has a carpaccio station—beef, salmon, tomato, cucumber, octopus!—you know you’re in for a fancy week of good eating. Lavish culinary offerings from UNICO’s five restaurants are culturally varied, each with its own spin, from simple to splendiferous. At Cueva Siete restaurant, one of four on the property, traditional Mexican dishes are given a modern twist by a rotating lineup of award-winning Mexican chefs.

ALSO EXPLORE: PLAYA DEL CARMEN

Extras: Traditional butler service has been replaced at UNICO by a local host, available 24/7 via smartphone app, where you can also find the daily schedule and connect with resort services. I’m simply too Canadian to ring someone to come over and draw my bath. I can manage the plug and the tap and a squirt of soap. At the Esencia Spa, I worked the water circuit like a pro, moving from the sauna to the cold room, where a large pipe from the ceiling spat fresh crushed ice into a bowl all day long. From there, I donned those funny paper underpants before being scrubbed down and wrapped in chocolate. Yes, chocolate.

Off-Site: UNICO has also joined the ranks of resorts taking guests off the property on local excursions to meet the people. My morning spent cliff-diving into the deep, fresh-water cenotes was followed by a barbecue lunch in an indigenous village, where I practically inhaled the best chicken I’ve ever tasted.

Rate: $$$

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Miami: The Stanton

Stanton

Things get a little quiet at the tail end of South Beach—and that’s just the way everyone likes it.

Tucked away near the bottom of Miami’s fabled Ocean Drive, past the pastel-painted strip of Art Deco hotels and their raucous sidewalk eateries, sits SoFi, the soothing South Beach neighbourhood south of 5th Street. Here, a quaint and quiet combo of condos and small resorts delivers a peaceful beach vibe, one that’s happily echoed by the Marriott Stanton South Beach.

Vibe: A retro cottage feel greets you in the lobby: tons of blonde wood punctuated by colourful, quirky artwork, low-slung leather sofas, terrazzo flooring, mid-century-style wooden sideboards propping up cool lamps.

Rooms: The beach cottage character continues up in the rooms, with their creamy white walls, even more wood and herringbone-patterned ceramic floors. A leather headboard, curved work station, velvet arm chair and ample bathroom complete this comfort zone. Everything is modern and airy, right down to the little vermilion chairs on the balcony.

F&B: Tuck into the carnitas, then a platter of ribs with grilled spring onions and fresh avocado at Lolo’s Surf Cantina, the Stanton’s Baja-inspired parkside café, where the mezcal margaritas have me at “hola.” Sure I could live here, but I’d have to get bigger pants. This certainty is underlined later on at Azabu Miami Beach, the resort’s Zen, izakaya-style restaurant, complete with a wall of Japanese whisky.

Extras: Spend the extra dollars for a value-added package that nets you faster internet, welcome margaritas, free bottles of water, beach chairs, bike rentals and one fitness class per day—things like cardio kickboxing, high intensity interval training and mat Pilates.

Off-Site: The fact that SoFi is within walking distance of a lot of good food—dozens of restaurants and bars, including the iconic News Cafe, the legendary Joe’s Stone Crab, celebrity chef Justin Smillie’s Upmarket and more—gives the Stanton an even greater edge.

Rate: $$

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Al Fresco Tubs

al fresco tub

It just takes one hotel to start the trend ball rolling and the rest will surely follow to save face. Of the many “authentic” and relaxing ways to slow guests down in a tech-forward world, the trend of kitting out private patios with an al fresco bath tub has to be one of the most whimsical.

Now that every single hotel in the world has a rainfall shower head, the folly of a quick dunk in an al fresco tub on the terrace really ups the game. Here are a few of the newer favourites on our radar.

RIVIERA MAYA, MEXICO: UNICO 20°N 87°W Hotel. Second-floor rooms in the Alcoba Ocean View category of this all-exclusive, all-inclusive, adults-only resort come with an outdoor spa tub right on the patio, looking out onto the whole resort and the ocean beyond. The upscale hacienda-style rooms are so beautifully designed, you won’t want to leave. As the tubs are on the balcony, you’ll have to dress appropriately for this hydra-therapy experience—unless the lights are out. $$$
UnicoHotelRivieraMaya.com

SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA: Rambutan Hotel & Resort. This quaint gem on the quieter side of Siem Reap comes in three parts: a main hotel with 16 rooms, a 10-room resort wing, and a few luxury apartments. On the resort side of things, the Deluxe Terrace and Deluxe Rooftop Terrace rooms have their own private patio with an outdoor bathtub and splash shower. When you tire of traipsing through the nearby temple ruins, you can relax in a cool bath after a nice massage at the lobby spa. $
RambutanSiemReap.com

LONDON, UK: The Zetter Hotel. This Clerkenwell mainstay has been wowing the hip and happening crowd with its 59 boutique hotel rooms since 2004, with the nearby Zetter Townhouse joining the party in 2011. The art and design, the attention to detail, and the state-of-the art tech amenities keep people coming back. But the hotel’s recent refurbishment of its Deluxe Rooftop rooms on the fifth floor will garner even more fans thanks to private al fresco tubs on the terrace. A gin in the bathtub, anyone? $$$
TheZetter.com

BIG SUR, CALIFORNIA: Glen Oaks. Things are big in Big Sur, Al Fresco tub included. At the Big Sur Cabin at the magnificent Glen Oaks lodge, you and your significant other can embark on a romantic double-soak adventure in the outdoor tubs, witnessed only by the nearby redwoods and the cozy wood fire pit. $$$
GlenOaksBigSur.com

Airstream Hotels

airstream hotels

The first one was built in 1929 and the appeal has never worn off. The iconic Airstream trailer has become a bona fide paean to aluminum. Now employed as food trucks, guest rooms or bunkies, vintage Airstreams continue to trend, with the company still making money hand over fist, selling five times as many trailers as it did 15 years ago.

With Airstream hotels, the hospitality industry proves it is nothing if not industrious. While some hotels have a trailer out back or in a courtyard to rent along with their regular rooms, these select few go whole hog.

AUSTRALIA: Notel, Melbourne. Up above the world so high, taking over roof of a concrete parkade in the middle of Melbourne, the Notel is a world unto itself. Six 31-foot Airstream trailers have been refitted beyond your wildest dreams, Modern minimalism at its most glam—this “hotel” is like a music video set waiting for the count-in. Each trailer features queen beds, premium organic bamboo linen, a minibar and a virtual concierge via the iPad to help you get the most out of Melbourne’s superb dining and entertaining scenes. The Notel has single-handedly invented urban glamping.
hotelmelbourne.com.au

TEXAS: El Cosmico, Marfa. This campground in Marfa, an international art mecca in the Texas southwest, considers itself an “exit from the world of urgency,” taking its inspiration from a long, storied American history of nomads and bohemians. Luckily, you’re in no hurry. No Airstreams here: Vintage Vagabond, Kozy Coach and Imperial Mansion trailers in four different size categories are sparse and cozy, restored with marine-varnished birch interiors and a hodgepodge of furnishings collected from around the world. Each one has a different combo of camp amenities for cooking, dining, sleeping and bathing. Trailers merely scratch the surface here: The campground also offers a string of teepees, safari tents and yurts. Seriously, they had us at wood-fired Dutch hot tub.
elcosmico.com

CALIFORNIA: AutoCamp, Guerneville. Set in a grove of California redwood trees 90 minutes north of San Francisco in the thick of the Sonoma wine country, AutoCamp is more glamping than camping for sure. Vintage Airstreams feature queen beds, flat-screen TVs, incredible spa-inspired bathrooms and boutique hotel linens. Some have big bathtubs. The jewel in the crown is the Mid-century Modern clubhouse with indoor fire pit. Cruiser-style bikes are provided for getting around the campgrounds. The nearby Russian River amplifies the fun in the form of swimming and canoeing. Two other locations in Yosemite and Santa Barbara.
autocamp.com

FRANCE: Bel Repayre Airstream and Retro Trailer Park, Manses. Ten vintage Airstreams have been restored to their original form, each from the year it was constructed, at this peaceful camp in a non-touristy part of southern France. Expect retro dishware, mod accessories, maybe even an 8-track player. With views of the surrounding Pyrenees Mountains, guests can relax or enjoy hiking, biking, swimming, canoeing, horseback riding, climbing, festivals, underground caves, medieval churches and more than a few castles. The website is particularly boastful of the camp’s Canadian red cedar hot tub. One trailer has been turned into a food truck and another into a bar. Belly up.
airstreameurope.com

Wine Country Holidays

No two-star, chintz-laden, lace-curtained express hotels for you. You’re doing your favourite wine region up right. These fabulous lodgings in California, Argentina, South Africa and British Columbia are perfect for a milestone birthday, a honeymoon or a business-incentive perk.

CALIFORNIA: Calistoga Ranch, Napa. Tucked away in a private canyon just outside of Calistoga, the Napa Valley spa town famous for its hot springs and volcanic mud baths, this private woodland retreat is billed as a place “where nature is the primary amenity.” Ten minutes away from some of the region’s finest wineries, it has a relaxed outdoorsy vibe that mirrors the surrounding 140 acres of pristine pines and oak-grove glory. The 50 private lodges offer a mix of indoor and outdoor space, sporting cedar decks with outdoor fireplaces. If walking trails, wildlife and wine are high on your list, this is the place.
$$$$
calistogaranch.aubergeresorts.com

ARGENTINA: Casa de Uco, Uco Valley. Even though there are horses, this is no hacienda—it’s a super-modern, eco-friendly concrete retreat in the middle of Uco Valley wine country, southwest of Mendoza. Sixteen rooms are sunny and spacious, all light wood and concrete flooring, but you will be spending your time out of doors in the surrounding 800 acres: the vineyards, the winery, the Andes Mountains, the pond, the riding trails—this is one big, breathtaking back yard. The isolation is perfect for a complete getaway and the Malbec is some of Argentina’s best.
$$$
casadeuco.com

SOUTH AFRICA: Mont Rochelle, Franschhoek. If it’s good enough for Richard Branson, it’s good enough for you. He bought this 26-room boutique hotel, manor house and winery one hour from Cape Town in 2014, gussying it up considerably and adding it to his exclusive Virgin Limited Edition collection. Rooms are palatial and quirky and gorgeous, with bright hits of colour and creature comforts galore. The scenic vineyard and surrounding 100 acres makes a stunning backdrop for wine-tasting, swimming pool-dipping, perfect picnicking, cellar-touring and much relaxing. Franschhoek is a traditional vineyard town, touted as the food and wine capital of South Africa, so you know your stomach is going to be well taken care of.
$$$
virginlimitededition.com

BRITISH COLUMBIA: Sparkling Hill Resort, Okanagan Valley. This modern wellness retreat sits on top of a granite bluff in Okanagan wine country, its 139 giant rooms overlooking Lake Okanagan and the Monashee Mountains. The resort was envisioned by the famous Swarovski crystal family and thanks to them, 3.5 million Swarovski crystals have been worked into the design. The KurSpa is one of the country’s best, big on holistic treatments and whole-body wellness. The resort is a marriage of natural BC beauty and European elegance.
$$$
sparklinghill.com

LA: The Standard Hollywood

Let the Sunset Strip set the stage for your next big Hollywood scene. Yes, this is a young hangout, but really, everyone can fit into The Standard in West Hollywood, home of the hip.

The mid-century Modern Standard Hollywood makes an excellent home base for checking out the various neighbourhoods both trashy and ritzy, people-watching around the blue AstroTurf-lined pool deck or checking out the view from your semi-circular, retro-style balcony.

Vibe: The Standard is tops with the art crowd, smartly dressed millennials, starry-eyed tourists, film business creatives, young actors waiting to be discovered, and people like me who just want to have a good Hollywood sighting or at least think I might have seen someone recognizable. I saw a total of one celebrity the whole time: Juan Guzman from Narcos. The Box is a celebrated, glass cupboard behind the front desk big enough to fit a person and a few pillows. This art installation is a tableau vivant, sporting a model relaxing or a guest artist making art.

Rooms: Rooms are spartan but comfortable, minimal but warm. Millennials love their creature comforts, so there are plenty: Egyptian cotton sheets, down pillows, floor-to-ceiling windows, decadent mini bars and Bluetooth speakers. Breathing space runs from 300 to 500 square feet; more than you would expect. Bold patterns, blue headboards, little work stations, cute bathrooms and a silver vinyl beanbag chair round out the room.

F&B: The restaurant Croft Alley is open around the clock, its menu doting on the Cali cuisine. It also does an amazing breakfast. The Cactus Lounge with its desert mural and round rattan chairs leads out to the Pool Deck, where Hollywood hopefuls have their power lunches and mineral waters. I didn’t come all this way to watch Juan Guzman eat a cheeseburger, but there you go.

Extras: One very cool thing about The Standard Hollywood is that you get to choose your own check-in and check-out times. The pool is really the most fun, very relaxing with great service and terrific view of the hillside—you could spend all afternoon here and many do. Have fun eavesdropping to get the gist of the callbacks or at least play spot the accent to guess where people are from. Juan Guzman is from Puerto Rico, but I think he lives in Vermont.

Off-Site: In the heart of arty West Hollywood on legendary Sunset Boulevard, The Standard is walking distance from all the cool Hollywood haunts—Chateau Marmont, The Griddle Café, The Comedy Store, Whisky a Go Go, The Viper Room and more. As well, it’s an easy cab to the Hollywood tourist traps like Grauman’s Chinese Theater. Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive, and the retail therapy of Robertson Boulevard, are also within easy reach.

Rate: $$$

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Reykjavik: Icelandair Natura

Icelandair Natura

Despite a revolving door of one-night-only guests, this Icelandair hotel is a stylish and cozy oasis of calm. One of a handful of Icelandair hotels in Iceland, the Natura flawlessly mirrors the natural beauty found right on its doorstep. Built in 1966 and renovated in 2011, it gives green-certified comfort, great art—and attuned service.

Vibe: As the airport is next door, the domestic business traffic at the Icelandair Natura is considerable and well-catered to. Then, there are the tourists: Fleece-clad adventurers on their way to and from excursions to the magnificent countryside (in rented 4 x 4s with a driver); young marrieds who take advantage of a stopover package, checking in for a few days before heading on to Europe; nature-lovers who like to escape to the surrounding parkland yet still be “in town”; people en route to northern cities like Akureyri to see the Northern Lights.

Rooms: The 200 rooms exude authentic Iceland character, i.e. they’re spartan. Simple, modern décor includes lots of blond wood, parquet flooring, wool felt and clean lines (and little fridges). You have everything you need and little else, which is just the way I like it. Sóley Organics amenities in the bathroom deliver the benefits of local healing herbs and oils.

F&B: Satt Kitchen does breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night snacks and it’s kind of a miracle that they keep it so very clean. Find the standard hotel menu items like pizzas and sandwiches, plus a nice selection of Icelandic food to keep the locals happy and to expand your taste horizons. An in-house bakery is another example of the hotel’s high comfort factor.

Extras: The art is a breath of even more fresh air. The work of Icelandic painters and sculptors is front and centre, including the whimsical wooden creations of Adalheidur S. Eysteinsdottir, which you will find all over Iceland. There’s even a small gallery to escape to. The library also shows films if you don’t feel like sequestering yourself in your room. There’s also an indoor swimming pool and a nice spa.

Off-Site: The Icelandair Natura sits in the woodlands at the edge of town, just a five-minute walk from Reykjavik’s domestic airport next door. Designated parkland surrounding the hill of Oskjuhlid nets you hiking trails and cycling paths, and the fresh ocean air of Nautholsvik geothermal beach is 15 minutes away if you fancy a kayak or a swim. The hotel is a 10-minute walk from the Perlan, a glass-domed museum and restaurant, and the city centre is a 20-minute walk away.

Rate: $$

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Edinburgh: The Scotsman

Scotsman

No two rooms are alike in this Baroque beauty at the top of North Bridge. This landmark building just off the Royal Mile, formerly the home of the Scotsman newspaper, manages to retain its Edwardian glory while sparkling with modern comfort across its 73 rooms.

Vibe: The crowd at the Scotsman is upscale for sure, but not stuffy in the least. There’s a big contingent of business-bleisure traditionalists and plenty of tourists who will book just for the high Scotland heritage factor, particularly now that the turn-of-the-century charm has been spruced up to more luxe levels with certain room categories. The elegant marble staircase is worth the price of admission, stained glass windows and all.

Rooms: Because this was an office building for most of its life, no two hotel rooms at the Scotsman are the same, spread over nine floors in two buildings. Expect acres of wood wall paneling, vaulted ceilings and big marble bathrooms. Reporter rooms, Director rooms and Feature suites have a contemporary-traditional style, sporting neutral tones of grey, silver, light blue and oatmeal.

THINGS TO DO: IN THE HIGHLANDS
THINGS TO DO: IN SPEYSIDE

F&B: Set within the Scotsman’s former advertising department, The Grand Café has kept all its period features, which date back to 1905. It seats 150 people at full tilt, doing breakfasts, brunches and lunches through to afternoon tea and dinner, from 8 a.m. to 3 a.m. Afternoon tea is a glorious experience, particularly if you amp it up with champagne.

Off-Site: The hotel is walking distance from so many things, there is hardly any need for a taxi: The Royal Mile is a one-minute walk away; the Waverley Railway Station, two. This is the station you need to catch a train to Glasgow and there’s one practically every half-hour. The Scottish National Gallery and Edinburgh Castle are both a 10-minute walk away. Holyrood Palace at the end of the Mile is a 15-minute walk. And from your room, you can enjoy views of Edinburgh Castle, The Mound, Carlton Hill (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the Princes Street Gardens.

Rate: $$$

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Quebec: Ice Hotel

Winter glamping returns year after year—same time, same place. Built every January in Valcartier Village Park out of 30,000 tons of snow only to melt when the higher temps return, the Hôtel de Glace is the only ice hotel in North America and a solid rival to its counterparts in Finland, France, Iceland, Sweden and Switzerland.

Vibe: With 44 rooms, the Ice Hotel welcomes an international crowd, who rest their heads in thermal sleeping bags in –5º rooms. You have to be game for the fun of it all, but the unique beauty of the surroundings—thanks to the creations of 15 different ice sculptors—makes it all worthwhile. Expect both local and international traffic here, mostly the curious, the courageous and the canoodling. This is a great honeymoon spot, thanks to the super-romantic fairy-tale atmosphere.

Rooms: The Ice Hotel is open all day for tourists, who can wander throughout the entire hotel, including the rooms, with overnight guests not really “checking in” until after 9 p.m., when the staff has administered turn-down: i.e. rolled out the sleeping bags. Standard rooms contain a wooden-framed ice bed with a mattress and covering, plus an ice side table—that you can’t really use, because whatever you put on it will just melt into it. The sole light is incorporated into the bed frame. Dark velvet curtains cover all doorways, and not that well, so it’s best to bring earplugs, even though it’s far too cold to have sex. Fancier rooms are larger, with ice sculptures carved into the walls and gas fireplaces that are lit for about 45 minutes pre-bedtime. Guests just bring themselves to their rooms, leaving everything else in lockers in the Valcartier Hotel. Outer clothing gets stored in the nylon bags the sleeping bags come in, then you wriggle first into a nylon sheath and then into your mummy-style sleeping bag. Most guests opt for ski underwear—and a toque. Cellphones get tucked alongside your body so as not to freeze, all the better to take those all-important selfies. There are a few portable toilets, but all facilities, including showers, are inside the Valcartier.

F&B: There are nine different eating establishments within the resort area. The food is nothing special, most of it fast-food counters and ski-lodge cafés, with the exception being O’Grill, serving classic Quebec favourites, and Le Chalet Sportif, dishing out elevated pub fare. There are three ice bars furnished with ice tables and adorned with many marvellous ice sculptures and “cozy” seating areas, plus a couple of gas fireplaces.

Extras: A gorgeous ice chapel in the outer courtyard is undoubtedly one of the most romantic wedding-ceremony settings in the world. An outdoor spa area offers a hot-tub experience under the stars.

Off-Site: Ice Hotel guests can also have the run of all the Valcartier facilities, including a day spa, an outdoor tubing park and a gigantic indoor water park.

Rate: $$$

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London: The May Fair

May Fair

This five-star London heavyweight is still packing in the In Crowd. King George VI opened The May Fair in 1927 and now, this old girl doesn’t really look a day over 30.

Vibe: Always a bit more rock and roll than some of its neighbours in London’s Luxury Quarter, the opulent 404-room May Fair has both pedigree and panache—with a dash of whimsy thrown in for good measure. Spot the celebrity! Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, a variety of soccer players. The hotel also has a big Middle-Eastern clientele. You may even see a bowler hat or two, worn with absolutely no irony.

Rooms: Though ornate, rooms have lots of space for your own things and big bathrooms. Bold colours and patterns reign here throughout all the various room tiers, including bright red furniture, zebra-striped tables, and padded crocodile-print headboards and benches. Suites are even more opulent, gussied up with even brighter colours—fuchsia, yellow, turquoise—plus lots of shiny objets and quirky surprises like a bathtub lit from within.

F&B: All warm and woody, the May Fair Kitchen serves an extensive menu of Spanish and Italian small plates, including pizzas, pastas and risottos, plus grilled meats and fresh seafood. Adding even more to the variety, it also serves a few Mexican and Peruvian dishes from two other nearby restaurants operating under the same Kitchen banner. The A-listy May Fair Bar is legendary, with one of the best cocktail menus in the neighbourhood. Think: homemade infusions and out-there herbs. When you offer bespoke, floral-infused cocktails on the garden terrace, you’re pretty much at the top of your game.

Extras: The 200-seat luxury screening room is one of the best private cinemas in town. Comfort reigns supreme: The Italian leather seats have little fold-out tables for your snacks.

THINGS TO DO: LONDON GAY BARS

Off-Site: London’s Luxury Quarter always dazzles. The hotel is steps away from Green Park, a stone’s throw from leafy Berkeley Square and a short walk from Hyde Park Corner. Knightsbridge and Kensington are just down the road; this neighbourhood is as posh as you can get. Everyone who walks the streets is beautifully dressed, unsurprisingly, as Saville Row is about six streets over. The luxury shops of Old and New Bond Streets are sure to tempt. Jermyn Street, where royal family members gets their shirts and shoes made, is a five-minute walk away. The Buckingham Palace gate is a 10-minute walk.

Rate: $$$$

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Lyon: Mama Shelter

This cheeky French chain of value-driven, design-forward hotels owned by Accor exhibits all the comforts of home with less attitude than you’d expect. Designed by Philippe Starck, the 156-room Mama Shelter is one of 13 in the world, including one in both London and LA.

Vibe: “Mama is more than a building; it’s a lifestyle.” True to its word, the hotel is a haven for the young and artistic—and the young-at-hearts—creatives from the worlds of media, music, film, art and design. Created by the same family that invented Club Med in the 1950s, it is atypical to say the least, a dizzying display of design-rich eye candy absolutely everywhere, including the chalkboard ceilings.

Rooms: Simple, straight-forward comfort comes with a whimsical cheekiness in the form of cartoon character masks. White walls, lamps and desks, and neutral flooring is accented with pops of bright orange and lime green in the open closets and fridge nook. Throw in 100% cotton satin sheets and organic bath products, and you’ve got a “bare maximum” situation. The rooms all sport smart TVs: watch free movies on demand as well as regular TV, listen to music, surf the internet, Skype and access the digital concierge. The penthouse terrace includes a ping-pong table.

CRUISE: THE RHONE

F&B: The restaurant at Mama Shelter is a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach, a swirl of colour and light, almost overwhelming. Artful, Asian-inspired cuisine carries through all food menus, with a few French classics thrown in—you’re in the capital of French gastronomy after all. The cocktail list is cool and the wine list is huge, even for France.

Extras: Free of parabens, PEG, phtalates, synthetic perfume and colouring agents, the organic Absolution bath products are certified by Ecocert Greenlife and made in France. “Mama loves you from head to toe.”

Off-Site: The hotel is a 12-minute walk from the Rhône River, just a bit southeast of the centre of Lyon. It is a 10-minute drive to the central quartier of Les Cordeliers and the old city. The Jean Macé Metro station and above-ground rail station are both a five-minute walk away.

Rate: $$

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Florida Keys: Playa Largo

Nestled within the natural environs of Key Largo, Playa Largo Resort wins awards and hearts in the Florida Archipelago. Part of the Marriott Autograph Collection, this upscale gated retreat along 15 acres of secluded shoreline in Key Largo is the first new-build resort in the Upper Keys in more than 20 years. Expect dense foliage, a private white sand beach, modern-traditional décor, great food and even better sunsets.

Vibe: This is a fairly moneyed, pineapple mojito kind of crowd, but laid-back enough to enjoy the boho-tinged vibe. At sundown, an Eventide ritual gathers guests together for shoreline cocktails and music by the fire pits, some right from the pool, some already dressed for dinner.

Rooms: The 177 modern-traditional rooms, suites and bungalows are comfortable and luxurious, featuring natural colours and dark wood, tufted chairs and headboards, plus a few nautical touches to remind you that you’re actually at the beach. Amenities include a mini-fridge, iPad, free Wi-Fi and premium cable.

F&B: The open-air oceanfront restaurant Sol by the Sea has a beach house flavour, all driftwood décor with brightly coloured accents. The great views of the bay set you up for American coastal cuisine, things like crab fries and curried black grouper—and pineapple bread with molasses butter. Lobby bar Las Olas features Peruvian style ceviche, washed down of course with Pisco Sours. Steaks and seafood can be found at the fine-dining venue La Marea.

Extras: Ocean Spa and Lounge is spacious and modern, combining modern cosmetic tech with tropical wellness wonderment. Watersports include all the paddles, personal watercraft, parasailing, eco tours and private charters. Triple hammocks are strung out on triangular metal frames so as to give the poor trees a break.

Off-Site: The Playa Largo is 65 miles from Miami airport and 100 miles from Key West, so almost halfway down the Overseas Highway. Watersports like diving and reef snorkelling are close at hand, with glass-bottom boat tours and kayaking to be found in nearby John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, just five miles away.

Rate: $$$

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Grenada: Petite Anse Hotel

Petite Anse

This 13-room Petite Anse on Sauteurs Bay makes you feel like you have the whole north coast of Grenada all to yourself. Hosts Annie and Philip Clift deliver a warm and welcoming, slightly Bohemian environment that includes a tropical garden, pool, whirlpool, bar and restaurant, all just a few steps from a wild palm-studded beach.

Vibe: Visitors to the Petite Anse are after peace and quiet. Guests really fit in with the locals, who drop in for a chat, a drink or a meal. This is a good honeymoon spot, and a great place to escape to after you’ve spent some touristy time around the southern peninsula and in the fancier resorts of St. George’s.

Rooms: Eleven stand-alone, air-conditioned bungalows feature decks or terraces and hammocks to fall asleep in. Wooden flooring and simple colonial-style wooden furniture is unfussy and functional. Canopied beds have netting to swirl around you, though a steady ocean breeze here keeps the bugs away. Spacious ensuite bathrooms are more open to the elements and to the front deck. Two rooms in the main part of the hotel are also well-equipped and comfortable.

THINGS TO DO: IN GRENADA
TASTE TO TRY: GRENADA GASTRONOMY

F&B: The European-inspired dining room is a destination restaurant, with many locals stopping in, elevating the insider experience. Fruit and vegetables come from the owners’ gardens or are carefully sourced from regional farmers. Fish is sourced from local anglers. The menus change daily and also include steaks, chops, chicken and fresh salads—and homemade ice cream. A traditional breakfast of fried bread and salted fish will stick to your ribs. A lounge area is equipped with a library and stacks of board games to while away rainy afternoons.

Extras: Annie is famous for her love of animals, which roam the complex and become fast friends. She sometimes rides down from her nearby plantation house atop Darius the donkey. I played with a mischievous teenaged cat for a half-hour in my room each night at turndown until he got bored and wandered off.

Off-Site: This little retreat is miles away from the neighbours and that’s exactly how you want it. The hotel looks out to Ronde Island and Carriacou, and their surrounding little Lower Grenadine islands. The resort is a six-minute walk from the beaches of Sauteurs Bay. In the car, you’re six kilometres from Levera National Park, 11 kilometres from Belmont Estate with its plantation tours and museum, and 45 kilometres from Maurice Bishop International Airport.

Rate: $$

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Barbados: Ocean Two Resort

Award-winning, family-owned Ocean Two is a little taste of luxury tucked into one end of Dover Beach, off the beaten Saint Lawrence Gap path in south Barbados. Opened in 2011, it still looks new, offering both good value and good people-watching.

Vibe: Nicely dressed, mostly young Canadians, Americans, English and Europeans co-mingle at the Ocean Two breakfast buffet and later in the pool. Say hello to lots of young couples and honeymooners, some LGBTQ, fun-loving packs of special-occasion celebrants, a few families, some multigenerational, not a lot of kids. Everybody loves a rum punch, I noticed. The front desk is absolutely razor sharp.

Rooms: Traditional mahogany furniture and contemporary furnishings dress up clean and comfortable rooms, equipped with TVs, rainfall showers and furnished balconies. Some rooms have whirlpool tubs. Big one- and two-bedroom suites also have full kitchens (with big fridges) and living/dining areas—really these are like small apartments. My suite came with a little de-humidifier, which was greatly appreciated.

F&B: Ocean Two keeps it simple with just one open-air restaurant steps from the beach and pool serving a breakfast buffet, lunch and dinner. The food and beverage program is overseen by chefs who also lead the kitchens at Sea Breeze Beach House and South Beach Hotel. The restaurant and swim-up share the same bar, but the real action is in the expansive lobby lounge and onyx bar of Oasis, which runs from the front desk straight out to the pool. Swooping, pillow-laden banquettes and basket chairs lend a patio feel. A rooftop terrace and plunge pool is a good spot to watch the sun go down on your day.

TASTE TO TRY: COU-COU

Extras: Ocean Two is the perfect size, a Goldilocks medium, neither sprawling nor puny. It has its own little stretch of beach and a pool split into two sections, one long enough to swim laps. But my most favourite touch is retro: the big, metal, plush pool loungers reminiscent of a Golden Girls lanai. They just don’t make them like that anymore. A 24-hour gym works off the calories from all the rice and beans.

Off-Site: Ocean Two is steps from Dover Beach on the Caribbean Sea along the south west coast of Barbados in the busy hotel-heavy Saint Lawrence Gap area. Both the capital of Bridgetown and the airport are about a 25-minute drive away. A strip of casual restaurants and bars is just a five-minute walk away—you can stumble home.

Rate: $$$

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Montreal: Hôtel le Crystal

A chic upgrade gives a Golden Mile heavyweight luxury status. Since opening in 2008 as one of the first boutique hotel-condo hybrids in the city, Hôtel le Crystal has been an oasis of calm in a busy part of town. A cool new renovation sees it embracing the cool qualities of its name, and amping up the luxe factor.

Vibe: Super nice staff at Le Crystal! Service is warm, unscripted and efficient. Rub elbows with sports fans and concert-goers with cash (they’re not sitting in the cheap seats), business people and visitors who are drawn to the glamour of the Golden Mile in some way, be it the shops or the restaurants, the architecture or simply the chic-factor.

Rooms: A crystal-patterned mural and carpeting, plus a mirrored sculpture, play up the décor theme in the loft suites. Larger suites have crystal-shaped coffee tables. Clean lines and minimal fuss (read: no other art) lend a sense of airiness. A small kitchenette is equipped with a sink, fridge and microwave. A long, white workspace counter doesn’t get in the way. Big bathrooms have shiny, white tiling and ceramic flooring, chrome-trimmed double sinks, soaker tubs and rain head showers. Some suites sport room-sized balconies, almost doubling your space. Like, you could have a cocktail party for 25 on a nice day, provided everyone brings a hat.

ALSO TRY: LE MOUNT STEPHEN

F&B: Highly touted Thai restaurant Siam Centre-ville is right off the lobby, serving authentic Thai cuisine inside and out. There’s also a Starbucks counter in the hotel, too.

Off-Site: There’s lots going on outside the front doors of this convenient spot at the edge of the Golden Square Mile in west-central Montreal. The hockey arena, Bell Centre, is a two-minute walk, as are the shops of St. Catherine Street West. Both Concordia University and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts are a 10-minute walk away, as is the Central Train Station. And you can walk to Old Montreal in about 25 minutes.

Rate: $$$

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Whistler: Nita Lake Lodge

NIta Lake Lodge

Delivering total Canadiana in myriad forms, Nita Lake Lodge is one of the top three resorts in town, combining sexy chalet style, a laid-back vibe, top-notch dining and hillside convenience in one seamless package. That it is a hangout for locals, too, yields even more authenticity.

Vibe: Nita Lake Lodge is the real Whistler, complete with a full-service spa and outdoor hot tubs. The resort caters to an upscale international crowd, who show up year-round to take advantage of the scenery, the sports and the spa, usually all three. Vancouverites come for a relaxing overnight or two, and the locals pop in for lunch, cocktails and dinner, taking advantage of the indoor/outdoor lounge and restaurant.

Rooms: Simple but sumptuous chalet style and efficiency dominates the décor of the 77 large rooms, all with king-size beds and gas fireplaces with basalt mantels. Expect leather furniture, dark wood, big cupboards and textured furnishings. Kitchenettes are equipped with a microwave, fridge and sink, with bathrooms sporting soaker tubs, heated floors, a rainhead shower and a ton of vanity space.

F&B: Aura Restaurant is calm and comfortable, full of Canadian art framing an open kitchen that turns out French with a West Coast twist. Comfort food reigns here: squash risotto, roasted cod and seared scallops, braised short ribs, burrata and tomato salad, and PEI lobster. A smaller menu from the same kitchen is offered next door at Cure Lounge & Patio to complement its cocktails, craft beers and BC wines. And Fix Café features gourmet grab-and-go goodies for early risers or those in need of a caffeine fix or picnic fixings.

Extras: The spa is the perfect spot to while away the après hours, rejuvenating tired muscles in one of the outdoor hot tubs, the heated outdoor pool or the steam room, all co-ed. Treatments run the gamut, from body treatments to hydrating facials, and include a new cellulite-reducing laser treatment. There’s nothing like an outdoor hot tub on a cold day after a big hike or afternoon of skiing. An independent full gym keeps both locals and guests in top form. A nail bar will set you up with a manicure and a mini bottle of Champagne.

READ MORE ABOUT: THE SPA

Off-Site: Just a 10-minute drive via the free shuttle from Whistler Village, Nita Lake Lodge is on the outskirts of all the action but close enough to still be convenient: The Creekside Gondola is 500 metres away. The resort also abuts the Valley Trail, a 44-kilometre paved path for hiking and biking. The lake is two seconds away.

Rate: $$$
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St. John’s: Inn by Mallard Cottage

Inn by Mallard Cottage

Go for the traditional Newfoundland charm—stay for the warm-hearted, unending welcome. Opened in June 2017, the Inn by Mallard Cottage is a little taste of heaven surrounded by the craggy harbour cliffs of picturesque Quidi Vidi Village, delivering legendary Newfoundland hospitality at its best.

Vibe: At Inn by Mallard Cottage, two separate guest houses contain a total of just seven rooms, each so quaint you may never want to leave. Vacationing couples, business creatives, retirees—a mixed bag of relatively well-heeled guests comes here to relax for a few days and read a book. People celebrating a special occasion will book a big dinner at the renowned Mallard Cottage restaurant across the street, and then spend the night.

Rooms: Find high ceilings and king beds in 435 square feet of space with white painted wood walls and floors. Punches of colour come from the traditional wooden furniture and handmade quilts on the beds. There are no TVs, but a Tivoli radio with Bluetooth capability sets you up for sound. Big bathrooms have walk-in showers. Rooms are also equipped with a free bottle of wine and beers in the fridge (also free).

F&B: Once the private residence of the Mallard family, 18th-century Mallard Cottage is a National Historic Site of Canada, refurbished as a restaurant in 2013. It focuses on seafood, wild game and local produce whipped into jazzed-up Newfoundland culinary staples. The menu is posted on Instagram every day and can include dishes like corn-fried cod cheeks, salt cod tartare, pickled mussels and hedgehog mushrooms—everything in season. Reservations are required. A daily hot breakfast is served there in high season, but the special treat is the little breakfast tray that arrives at your door in the morning, with coffee and baked treats.

ROAD TRIP: GO FORAGING

Extras: Hardy Boys books! The friendliness of this neck of the woods is unbeatable, like you’ve being invited into someone’s home. As such, the Inn’s multiuse common room has a big table, around which you can chat with whomever is handy, power up a laptop or pour yourself a drink from the common bar (also free).

Off-Site: Close to hiking and biking trails, fishing excursions and berry picking, this fishing community was first settled in the 16th century. Quidi Vidi Village is a 10-minute drive from downtown, and you feel like you’re out of the city even though you’re not. It is also home to a visitors’ centre and art studios, as well as Newfoundland’s largest micro-brewery, Quidi Vidi Brewery. The airport is 20 minutes away.

Rate: $$

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Buffalo: InnBuffalo Off Elmwood

InnBuffalo

A restored Victorian mansion in a trendy part of Buffalo is run by innkeepers who knows their stuff. If this nine-suite inn feels like you’re staying in someone’s home, it’s because you are: Ellen and Joseph Lettieri and their daughter also live here, welcoming guests to the former Hewitt Mansion built in 1898.

Vibe: InnBuffalo is a charming B&B-boutique hotel hybrid as intimate and individual as the Elmwood Village neighbourhood itself. With only nine rooms, you get to know everyone else fairly quickly. Guests are small-hotel fans who like the comradery B&Bs generally create. The inn is also great for those who like their hotel rooms to look like they belong in a museum; people for whom “antique” is maybe a verb. The innkeeper himself stands out a mile, the epitome of hospitality—genuine, full of stories, quick with a handshake.

THINGS TO DO: IN BUFFALO

Rooms: “I sell sleep,” Joe reveals on the front porch one morning over coffee. As such, beds are extremely comfortable, surrounded by antique furniture. New and bright subway-tiled ensuite bathrooms have heated marble flooring. Rooms also come equipped with Keurig coffeemakers and free Wi-Fi.

F&B: Breakfast is king at InnBuffalo, with scones and bread-baked fresh daily, made-to-order egg dishes and fruity pancakes. It’s like Mom just asks you what you want. Have the signature spinach scramble.

Extras: The inn is a “preservation in progress,” with many original elements in tact. Common areas are filled with period furnishings, including leaded glass-panelled bookcases, coffered ceilings, silk damask wallcoverings, varnished secretaries and a basement billiards table. This is a boon for restoration students from nearby Buffalo State, who get to practice on the parts of the mansion that still need attention.

Off-Site: Elmwood Village is in central Buffalo just south of Delaware Park, about one mile from downtown. It has a reputation for being one of the city’s more cosmopolitan neighbourhoods, filled with popular independent shops, cafés, bars and restaurants. The Albright-Knox Art Gallery is a 20-minute walk north. The Peace Bridge is a 15-minute drive away. Niagara Falls is a 30-minute drive away.

Rate: $$

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Key West: The Ocean Key

Take a step back in time at this chic Keys icon on historic Duval Street. With the absolute best spot to watch the sun set in town, classic four-tower Ocean Key Resort and Spa overlooking the Gulf of Mexico sets the standard for traditional Key West relaxed luxury, i.e. fun yet stylish romp-ability.

Vibe: Most Ocean Key guests have visited before and wouldn’t stay anywhere else. While not exactly high-rollers, they have a certain air of success about them, particularly the groups of vacationing middle-age couples and young families. Keep an ear out for Alabama and Georgia accents—perfect for a game of spot the American.

Rooms: A natural Caribbean look—a turquoise, green, blue and yellow colour palette, hand-painted furnishings and local art—sets a relaxing and breezy tone. Speaking of breeze, all rooms feature a private balcony with views of the sea or Duval Street. Along with a pull-out sofa and jetted tub, you can expect a minibar, free Wi-Fi and in-room dining. Two-bedroom suites size up to 1,200 square feet, the largest on the island.

F&B: You can eat at the pool and on the Pier—savouring ceviche, conch hushpuppies and fish burgers—but save your belly for Hot Tin Roof, named after author Tennessee Williams, who spent a lot of time in Key West. Find painted ceilings, teak and mahogany trim, white leather chairs, warm ocean breezes and quiet company. Tuck into Caribbean and Floridian comfort food like scallop risotto, caramelized grouper and broiled lobster.

Extras: The guests-only pool is really kind of a pool-slash-lounge, all striped blue drapes and white cabana beds, frozen fruit treats and proper terry chaise covers. Sunset Pier along the sea side of the property offers not only the best place to catch the sunset, but also a local live band every night. And don’t worry, there’s lots of shade there if you’ve taken to day-drinking. Spa Terre is small, but its island-themed treatments, particularly the facials, will set you up with prime pampering.

Off-Site: Happily, Mallory Square and all the busking, trolley-bussing, and tourist-attracting charm is right outside and around the corner. Enjoy the whole of Old Town’s shopping, dining, museums and attractions all within an easy one-square-mile pedi-cab ride. The Key West airport is a 20-minute drive away.

Rate: $$$

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Miami: Eden Roc

Designed by famed Miami Modern architect Morris Lapidus in 1956, the Eden Roc oozes nostalgia from every terrazzo corner. Yes, it’s a little quiet up there in the mid-40s, but you don’t need to bunk in the thick of the South Beach noise to still avail yourself of its action whenever you want. The hotel is less ostentatious than the Fontainebleau next door, but with its own sense of glamour thanks to its hotel-within-a-hotel, the Nobu.

Vibe: There’s an international crowd at the Eden Roc, fairly well-heeled, and relatively young. Because of the two hotels in one layout, you see all kinds—the scenesters checking into the Nobu and the business creatives and laid-back leisure crowd signing up for the Eden Roc’s cool brand of sophisticated swing: Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Nat King Cole—the hotel is steeped in entertainment history.

Rooms: There are two towers here, one from 1956 and the other built in 2006, both offering high-style Miami luxury. The older suites are small but chic, with sky-blue patterned carpeting and tall, white headboards; dark, minimal furniture. The new tower sports the same simplicity with each room having an ocean view. Find neutral tones and lighter wood here, with big TVs, a desk, a garment steamer (so handy and it worked!), a Bluetooth speaker, rainfall shower heads, a lighted mirror, a gourmet coffee machine and boxer-style bathrobes.

ROAD TRIP: THE FLORIDA KEYS

F&B: In 2016, the Eden Roc passed the management of its food and beverage facilities to Nobu Hospitality. The circular lobby lounge is an Art Deco dream, busy day and night, with still a bit of a scene after dark, even after all these years. Off the lobby, Nobu Restaurant still defines dramatic Japanese style and cuisine, mouthwatering if more than a little pricey. Poolside, Splash by Malibu Farms serves healthy organic fare throughout the day, including an à la carte breakfast.

Extras: Wind up or down at either the massive gym or the destination day spa, replete with steam room, sauna and hot tub. Borrow one of the hotel bikes for free and go for a spin along the boardwalk, rent a cabana poolside, or stretch out for full service at the beach.

Off-Site: Perfect spot, really: A 10-minute drive to Lincoln Road and the “city centre,” Lummus Park and the historic Art Deco District, and a 20-minute drive to downtown Miami, the Wynwood art district. The luxury shops of Bal Harbour are 20 minutes north. Miami International is 30 minutes away.

Rate: $$$

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Barbados: The Crane Resort

Tradition lives on at the oldest continually operating hotel in the Caribbean. Opened in 1887, The Crane was once the haven of visiting plantation owners and rich sea merchants. The 18 historic rooms are still there, now surrounded by 234 other one- to three-bedroom suites and penthouses.

Vibe: At The Crane, you will meet well-heeled American, Canadian, British and European couples, groups of friends, retirees and families who have been coming back year after year for years, including the timeshare guests who make you feel at home by being at home themselves.

Rooms: Mahogany absolutely everywhere. Even the one-bedroom suite feels like a small condo, your two kids bunking down in the large living room. A dining room and full kitchen (fridge with ice dispenser, dishwasher, washer-dryer) is perfect for families who want to have at least a few meals in. Bedrooms have a four-poster king-size bed and a writing desk, leading into a big bathroom with two wardrobes, whirlpool bath, separate toilet, separate shower and double vanity.

F&B: The Zagat-rated Zen restaurant is the island’s go-to for Japanese and Thai food, its private booths elegant and inviting. D’Onofrio’s Trattoria bills itself as casual family dining, but I must have dined when the children had all gone to bed. It serves the best Italian food I have ever had in the Caribbean, full stop. Sun-worshipers flip-flop into the palm grove behind the beach for hearty lunch plates at The Grove Bar & Grill.

TASTE TO TRY: TRADITIONAL COU-COU

Extras: Swimming pools for days! Even the swimming pools have swimming pools. Many ground-floor suites have private pools up to 28 feet long. Corner rooms have plunge pools in the turrets on every floor and penthouse suites have 12-foot pools with rooftop garden decks. The Crane is also equipped with a full-service Serenity Spa, a fitness centre and a kids club. (Yes, there’s a swimming pool for adults only, too.)

Off-Site: The serene beaches of the east coast are a 30-minute drive north. The south coast beaches are a 20-minute drive and you can reach the beaches and nightlife of the west coast in 40 minutes. The airport is just 15 minutes away.

Rate: $$$
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Dominican Republic: CHIC Punta Cana

CHIC Punta Cana

This “all-exclusive” adults-only sunspot on Uvero Alto Beach just north of Punta Cana on the famous Coconut Coast is sexy fun. It’s a guilty-pleasurable mix of South Beach and Las Vegas, glam as all get out with just a dash of cheesiness to make things interesting.

Vibe: You know that bubbling-under house music soundtrack that sounds like nothing and never ends? That. The CHIC Punta Cana is rather a scene, but you don’t have to participate if you don’t want to. A big casino with Blackjack, Roulette and slot machines is open from noon until 3 a.m. This is balanced out with a Detox Oxygen Bar that serves recreational oxygen shots and healthy drinks.

Rooms: The 320 rooms at the CHIC Punta Cana are super modern, mostly all white with black trim and purple light. That sounds like the ’90s, but it’s actually fun; you feel like you’re starring in a Disaronno TV commercial.

F&B: The à la carte restaurants are an interesting mix: Italian, Japanese, Middle Eastern and steak house, all lavishly decorated and trying really hard. There’s a giant round bar between the lobby and the casino and a sports bar cum nightclub combo that also has billiards. This is good if you want to escape the heat for a couple of hours and watch the game, whatever your game is.

Extras: The Diamond Club upgrade is worth the splurge, as they lay it on thick: butler service, better room-service menus, private check-in lounge, exclusive pool and beach areas, and a Club Lounge that you should not pooh-pooh, because this is where all the nicer booze is. But the Diamond Club kicker is access to the glass-walled, mosaic-tiled Mermaid Pool.

Off-Site: Try to make it over to the coast of Bavaro to soak up the surf vibe and hop on a catamaran for a few hours. You can snorkel in the Cortesito Reef and relax in the natural pools. These are party boats, so bring a fit liver.

Rate: $$$

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Grenada: Silversands

Silversands

Opened in November 2018 at one end of Grenada’s Grand Anse, this sublime 43-suite resort is proving a fast favourite with the “in” crowd, boasting the longest pool in the Caribbean at 100 metres.

Vibe: Designed by French firm AW2 with the international jet-set circuit in mind, the minimalist 43-suite, nine-villa Silversands is a sea of tranquility, its blond wood, neutral tones and pale marble buoyed by exquisite furniture from Spanish architect Patricia Urquiola.

Rooms: The Silversands rooms are done in neutral-toned glam—oatmeal is the new oatmeal—and lots of vertical wooden slats shooting up walls and camouflaging the cupboards and closets. The seating areas are so inviting you may actually spend time sitting in them. I fell asleep on a giant chaise longue on the balcony (with earplugs to mute all the birds), which is something I never do.

THINGS TO DO: IN GRENADA
TASTE TO TRY: GRENADA GASTRONOMY

F&B: There’s a wine cellar with 1,000 bottles in it. Is this big? I don’t know, but it sounds like I want to drink all of it. Breakfast at Asiatique is stellar—do not skip this. In the evening, it pumps out Modern Thai underneath huge, curlicued wooden ceiling installations. At the beachside Grenadian Grill, we sipped rosé and lunched on salmon tartare and French fries—it was two hours of heaven. Having rum nightcaps under the canopies of the beachfront lounge, we miraculously blended in with the jet-set crowd grooving to the DJ, but really, anyone can fit in here and have a good time and not feel intimidated by the rather posh peeps.

Extras: The Silversands Spa offers locally inspired treatments, sauna, hammam and private pool, plus a tricked-out fitness centre. With a rum and cigar lounge (which seems kinda ’90s to me), the resort is destined for the society pages.

Off-Site: With few high rises and less development, Grenada still manages to possess the kind of charm that appears slightly manufactured elsewhere. Do the hikes up rainforest mountains and find time to book an afternoon on a wooden boat sailing. Make sure you eat the chocolate; it will be the freshest you will ever taste. Prime scuba diving at the Underwater Sculpture Park is well worth it, even if you’re snorkelling.

Word Googled While Writing This: Curlicue

Rate: $$$$

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Boutique Hotel Hunting

boutique hotel

Trust the British to have a nickname for a naughty hotel stay. The “Mr & Mrs Smith” weekend is a pseudonym for a romantic escape for two.

It’s also the name of an online boutique hotel finder that we turn to to unearth off-the-beaten-path places to lay our heads via SmithHotels.com.

Co-founders James and Tamara Lohan have been helping people find the perfect hotel for more than a decade, well-known for “dirty weekends in the best possible taste,” says James. “We’re marketing small, independent, unique hotels that have quirks. We act as matchmaker between the customer and the hotels.”

Now operating in Canada with smithhotels.com, the Lohans know what you should be looking for in a boutique hotel room. “Size will determine the kind of experience you’re going to have,” says James. “Sometimes you want a buzzy atmosphere and sometimes you want something intimate. From the size, you can work out what kind of experience the hotel is going to deliver.”

Food is probably the next most important thing to consider. “Try to find out about the chef; have they won any awards? Is it formal or casual? We also look for spas—this is an indulgent weekend away, after all.” The site also lists the top places to eat, drink and be merry in the vicinity of each hotel that gets their stamp of approval.

SMITHHOTELS.COM