playa koralia pink shower

A few years ago, many freaked out that Airbnb and its subsequent competitors would be the end of the hotel experience. But if you, like us, get excited by miniature Aesop toiletries and a bidet, love a nightcap at a buzzy hotel bar and know the power of a clued-up concierge, you’ll know hotels are not going anywhere fast. On the contrary, they are stepping up their game and becoming destinations in themselves, featuring world-class restaurants, cutting-edge design and unique experiences which you won’t find elsewhere.

We spent a lot of time in hotels in 2016, with our weekly Wake Up Here column documenting some of our favourite stays. Here we round up the best of the best, from luxury city stays to country escapes, boutique and budget.

Best luxury city stay: Faena Hotel, Miami Beach

If you consider yourself a minimalist, the Faena Hotel in Miami Beach might not be for you. The grounds are positively dripping in decadence, gold and glamour from the lobby upwards. The hotel forms part of a five-block spectacle featuring an arts and culture centre, two hotels, two residential buildings and a retail complex – and that’s not even the lot of it. The Faena Hotel itself houses its own state-of-the-art theatre, restaurants, bars and mesmerising murals, mosaic, with walls decorated by the work of celebrated Buenos Aires-born artist, Juan Gatti.

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Best budget boutique: Casa Bonay, Barcelona

Inés Miró-Sans – a 31-year-old Barcelona native who worked for three years with the Ace Hotel Group in New York – opened Casa Bonay within a refurbished 19th-century mansion in March this year. Through a collaborative model which engages local entrepreneurs, the hotel is home to Satan’s coffee corner, Mother juice bar, two restaurants, arguably the best hotel bar in Barcelona and it’s very own chiringuito on the roof – making it an exciting hub for both travellers and Barcelona creatives alike. The best part? Rooms start at £85.

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Best hostel: Generator Amsterdam, Netherlands

Generator Hostels were founded with a new generation of travellers in mind, who would rather spend their money discovering the city than on an overpriced hotel room, but still expect a level of design, comfort and quality. Their Amsterdam property is located inside Oosterpark in the eastern part of the city. Set in what was once a zoological university, the space has preserved some of the old structure turning the lecture hall into a chill-out bar and the library a space for private events. Rooms range from private twins to shared quadruple, while the hostel also has its own nightclub, bar and café on site.

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Best off the beaten track: Playa Koralia, Colombia

Give up mobile phone service and give in to your inner hippie at Playa Koralia, an eco-friendly retreat located in Buritaca at the gateway of Colombia’s Tayrona National Park. Where the snowcapped Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta tumbles into the the Caribbean Sea, the Nieto family has cultivated a laid-back hideaway which blends seamlessly into its natural surroundings. There are 17 bungalows dotted around Koralia’s grounds, and with outdoor bathrooms and hammock-strewn porches, all have a touch of rustic jungle romance about them.

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Best European escape: Monaci delle Terre Nere, Sicily

Nestled in the foothills of Mount Etna, this 19th-century mansion sets the benchmark for boutique boltholes. A dusky pink main house with picturesque wrought-iron balconies and ornate window frames takes centre stage on the hotel’s 16-hectare organic farm. Here, you can roam among olive trees, citrus groves and vineyards – just watch out for the chicken pen. Spacious, individually designed suites are scattered throughout the plot in a way that makes it feel like it’s all your own. With sweeping views down to the sparkling Mediterranean, Monaci delle Terre Nere gives you the best of Sicily’s coast and countryside at your fingertips.

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Best wedding venue: The Beldi, Marrakech

Located just a 10-minute taxi ride from Marrakech, the Beldi Hotel and Country Club screams out for a party. You’d start the night with sophisticated cocktails by the blush-pink lily pond, before sitting down to a dinner set in a conservatory which brims with greenery and belts out classical music. You’d dance along the pathways than snake through the rose garden (planted with no less than 15,000 rose bushes), cool off with a midnight swim and indulge in an invigorating hammam the next day. This 15-acre estate was one of the settings for Poppy Delevingne’s three-day wedding extravaganza back in 2014, and by god is the place romantic…

Best for nature: Babylonstoren, South Africa

One of the oldest Cape Dutch farms in South Africa, Babylonstoren dates back to 1692 and sits about 45 minutes outside of Cape Town in the spectacular Cape Winelands. Its gardens – spanning eight luscious acres – attract visitors who come to wander the curving paths with juicy oranges drooping overhead, explore the prickly pear maze or greet the free-range chickens roaming through the grounds. With its focus on wellbeing, delicious food and fresh produce, it’s easy to while away the hours between the restaurant, state-of-the-art winery and spa.

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Best design: Aman, Tokyo

As justifiably acclaimed Aman’s first city hotel, spanning the top six floors of 38-storey Otemachi Tower in Marubouchi, Aman Tokyo is certainly designed to impress; and with its ultra-stylish interiors and far-reaching views across the Tokyo skyline, it could barely fail to. But what really makes Aman Tokyo stand out is the thoughtful reflection of Japanese tradition that’s been incorporated into every aspect of the experience, from the authentic Japanese hospitality, Omotenashi, to the Japanese design philosophy.

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Best London stay: Town Hall Hotel, Bethnal Green

An ode to Art-Deco, the Town Hall Hotel dates back to 1910 when – you guessed it – it housed the local council. Then, it stood as a proud embodiment of British craftsmanship, but the building has since been remastered (and extended onto Patriot Square) as a contemporary-luxe hotel. Today, it attracts an international creative crowd as well as London cool cats – not least thanks to Lee Westcott’s much-lauded restaurant, Typing Room. Uniquely channelling East London cool, the hotel is widely touted as being fundamental in putting Bethnal Green on the map as a dining destination (it was previously home to Nuno Mendes’ Michelin-starred Viajante) and one of the city’s most exciting neighbourhoods.

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Best London escape: The Pig, New Forest

If Jay Gatsby were to hold a modern-day British house party, it would undoubtedly be at one of The Pig’s expanding litter of hotels, where decadence, indulgence and gluttony prevail in the most British of ways. With properties in Bath, Southampton, Dorset and Devon, their original Brockenhurst pile invites you to kick your shoes off and dive into the type of hedonistic escape that will leave you satiated, rested and hankering for more. The Pig’s whole premise centres on the food, with locally sourced and homegrown being values at the operation’s heart – but the hotel part doesn’t play second fiddle to gastronomy. Anticipating guests’ every need before they know it themselves, The Pig avoids being generic, instead providing an inimitable luxury retreat which prioritises comfort above all else.

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Best NYC stay: Wythe Hotel, Brooklyn

At 70 rooms, the Wythe is the Goldilocks of hotels; small enough to retain a boutique sensibility, but just big enough that the common areas are always buzzing at the right times. The same applies to its location, located as it is in the heart of Williamsburg the Wythe has a fantastic, but not overwhelming, selection of nearby coffee shops, open-air food markets, thrift stores and bars. The L train into Manhattan also happens to be just a short walk away – though you might not even be tempted to leave your slice of Brooklyn heaven.

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Best NYC escape: Rivertown Lodge, Hudson USA

As much as we love New York City, there are times when it can get a little overwhelming – even for us urbanites. Hudson, a charming upstate town just a couple hours north of Manhattan, is the perfect antidote which has been gaining popularity among those in-the-know as a great option for a weekend getaway. Rivertown Lodge in Hudson is our favourite spot to spend the night and offers a nice reflection of the low-key but style-focused town in which it resides. Formerly a cinema, the 27-room hotel provides an authentic atmosphere with furnishings and décor sourced from local artisans.

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Best LA stay: The Line, Koreatown

Opened by the Sydell Group (the team behind NY favourite The NoMad and the funky Freehand Hostel in Miami) in January 2014, you’ll find The Line in the heart of Koreatown, Los Angeles. The building is a striking 12-storey, mid-century tower block and the interior aesthetic has a similarly stark, industrial vibe with lots of stripped-back concrete, while the capacious lobby features a ceiling installation made from old T-shirts. The LA Times dubbed Koreatown ‘America’s hippest neighbourhood’ back in 2012 – and it’s only getting better.

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Best new opening: Soho House, Barcelona

Nick Jones’s Soho House empire expanded into another city in October (it is already in Miami, Istanbul, Berlin and Oxfordshire, to name a few) and this one is a match made in heaven. The antidote to corporate member’s clubs, Soho House couldn’t be better suited to Barcelona, a city that is defined by its laid-back aesthetic and creative vibe. The newest member of the trendy clan will be housed in a converted 18th-century apartment block on Plaza Medinaceli, just a minute from Barcelona’s Port Vell marina. “The design approach is totally sympathetic to the building and the city” explains Jones – but true to it’s roots, the House retains it’s stylish DNA to ensure existing members feel at home.

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