Visiting an iconic city, whether for business or leisure, is a rewarding and invigorating experience. However, after a day of exhausting sightseeing or hectic business meetings, there’s nothing more exciting than the prospect of relaxing at a hotel that let you fool yourself into thinking you are kicking back at a five star resort. With magnificent pools, tranquil gardens, and serene spa retreats, some of the world’s most exclusive city hotels offer the kind of leisure facilities that will make you forget you’re in the center of a major city. I hereby present you my top 10 of the world’s best urban resorts, each one of them a destination unto itself.
There is more information (with reviews and Youtube clips) below the slide show. Think I missed one? Share your favorite urban resort in the comments section or take my poll below!
10. FOUR SEASONS FLORENCE, ITALY
Four Seasons turned one of the city’s most amazing palaces and a former papal residence with the largest private park in Florence into an urban resort without parallel. Much of the palace’s original renaissance artistry was restored in the years immediately prior to the Four Seasons’s opening. The hotel’s interiors are adorned with arches, inlaid pillars, friezes, painted frescoes and marble floors. The hotel’s 116 guest rooms and suites at are located within three buildings, and no two rooms are alike, resulting in artistry and historic details that will keep guests fascinated. With its staff to guest ratio of two-to-one, and a location close to The Accademia, where Michelangelo’s “David” resides, this property offers the best in services, atmosphere, and location. Add the exclusive spa facilities and incomparably lovely grounds with their extensive offerings, and guests can lose themselves in Renaissance history without sacrificing contemporary Italian flair and cutting-edge technology.
Hotel website: Four Seasons Florence
Tip: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, welcome gift, daily breakfast, $100 USD resort credit, early check in and late check out).
9. PALACIO DUHAU – PARK HYATT BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA
Palacio Duhau – Park Hyatt Buenos Aires is legendary five-star hotel that is breathtaking inside and out. The hotel perfectly blends the 1930’s charm of the French Palacio Duhau with contemporary design, décor, and modern day comfort and amenities. Much of the hotel overlooks beautiful gardens that are like a secret green oasis in the centre of bustling Buenos Aires. The hotel combines two buildings: a Palace from 1934, restored in 2006, and a contemporary building, designed in total harmony with the original architecture. The artistic nature of the city is reflected throughout the hotel and its 165 guestrooms with works of art adorning many of the walls and the hotel even boasts its own art gallery for you to while away the hours. Offering standard and deluxe rooms or suites, outstanding restaurants, the atmospheric Oak Bar, the luxury Ahín Wellness & Spa as well as an art gallery, pool, Tango classes and fitness studio – there is very little you are left wanting for.
Hotel website: Palacio Duhau – Park Hyatt Buenos Aires
Tip: enjoy complimentary VIP benefits when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, daily breakfast for 2, wine and cheese tasting for two once during your stay, early check-in, and late check-out.)
Review: read here my review of Palacio Duhau – Park Hyatt Buenos Aires.
8. W BARCELONA, SPAIN
Rising like a sail from the Mediterranean’s brown sands, the W Barcelona is as much a work of modern art as it is a luxury hotel. Famed Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill, whose world-class buildings include architectural icons in Chicago, the Shiseido headquarters in Tokyo and the headquarters for Cartier and Christian Dior in Paris, designed the hotel. Located in the stunning waterfront area of Spain’s most dynamic and stylish city, W Barcelona boasts unparalleled views of both the Mediterranean Sea and the city of Barcelona from most of its 473 fabulous guest rooms and suites. The hotel features exciting dining, nightlife and entertainment options for which the W brand is known, including a roof top bar, large spa, several food and beverage concepts, a large indoor and outdoor pool, and a private beach club, lending this property the ambience of a hip resort rather than a city hotel.
Hotel website: W Barcelona
Other accolades: W Barcelona also features in my top 10 lists of hotel rooms with the best view in the world, the most amazing city hotels in Europe, and the best hotels in Spain.
Tip: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and USD $100 food or spa credit).
Review: read here my review of the W Barcelona.
7. MARINA BAY SANDS HOTEL, SINGAPORE
The most spectacular hotel in Singapore, the Marina Bay Sands hotel comprises three 55-storey towers, 2,560 luxury rooms and suites, and 18 different room types. Shopaholics will rejoice in the rows of luxury retailers at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, which houses the largest collection of coveted designer boutiques in Asia. Complementing the retail space are delectable dining options, which includes restaurants by celebrity chefs, fine dining and casual eateries. Designed by visionary architect Moshe Safdie, the SkyPark floats atop the three soaring hotel towers at a height of 200 metres (650 feet). This gravity-defying platform is one of the largest in the world: the 1.2-hectare SkyPark stretches longer than the Eiffel Tower laid down and is large enough to park four and a half A380 Jumbo Jets. It houses a ticketed observation deck, lush gardens, top-notch restaurants and an exclusive, infinity-edge swimming pool with a legendary view.
Hotel website: Marina Bay Sands Hotel
Other accolades: Marina Bay Sands Hotel hotel also features in my top 10 lists of the world’s most beautiful hotel pools, the world’s most spectacular hotel rooftops, and swimming pools with the world’s most astonishing vistas.
6. THE EMIRATES PALACE, ABU DHABI, UAE
Conveniently located near major business quarters, shopping malls and local attractions, Emirates Palace is the ideal address for your business/leisure requirements during your stay in Abu Dhabi. The hotel was created with the aim of showcasing Arabian culture. It is located on a 1.3 km (0.8 mi) private beach, amidst 85 hectares of lawns and gardens, and features no less than 114 domes, some of them 80 meters high. Abu Dhabi’s famous Corniche runs from here all the way north. The Emirates Palace is the second most expensive hotel ever built, only surpassed by Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. The hotel also had higher construction costs compared to the Burj Al Arab in neighbouring Dubai. The hotel’s 394 accommodations, 302 of which are rooms and the remainder are suites, are all furnished in gold and marble. The hotel is managed by the Kempinski Hotel Group.
Hotel website: The Emirates Palace
Other accolades: The Emirates Palace also features in my top 10 list of the world’s most magnificent palace hotels.
Tip: get complimentary VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, early check-in, late check-out, daily breakfast, and $100 USD resort credit).
5. THE CHEDI MUSCAT – A GHM HOTEL, OMAN
Situated on the stunning Boushar Beachfront in Oman, where crystal Gulf waters mirror images of glorious mountain ranges, The Chedi Muscat is an oasis of mysticism and luxury. Although the hotel opened its doors more than a decade ago (in 2003), it remains a standard-bearer for quiet luxury and still ranks as Muscat’s most elegant and exclusive resort. Omani architecture meets sleek minimalism here, thanks to the inspired design of Jean-Michel Gathy. It’s located on a long stretch of private beach and 21 acres of beautifully landscaed gardens. Sparkling waters, vibrant gardens and dramatic mountains as seen through the grand windows in all 158 tasteful, well-appointed guest rooms and suites heighten the calming effect of the natural and timeless environment. Facilities at The Chedi Muscat are utterly comprehensive, with six distinct restaurants, a thirteen-suite Balinese spa, three swimming pools, including a stylish 103-mere (338 ft) long pool, a gorgeous health club plus two executive meeting rooms.
Hotel website: The Chedi Muscat
Other accolades: The Chedi Muscat also features in my top 10 list of the best luxury hotels in Oman.
Tip: enjoy complimentary VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. upgrade, free breakfast, a 50-minute massage for up to two guests per stay, early check-in, late check-out, and roundtrip airport transfers).
4. THE LODHI, NEW DELHI, INDIA
Amidst the lush order of Lutyens’ Delhi, just minutes from the grandeur of Rashtrapati Bhavan, the peaceful Lodhi gardens and many other iconic sites, The Lodhi hotel provides one of the world’s most colourful and cosmopolitan capital cities with a tranquil retreat. Offering essential respite in spacious surrounds, this city-based resort is an elegant haven exuding an air of sophisticated calm, and provides guests with the ultimate in comfort, as well as the ideal base from which to experience the city. The Lodhi ethos is simple and easy luxury. But it’s also an ethos of ‘contrasts’, from the dynamic and vibrant atmosphere in the restaurants, courtyards and public areas to the seclusion, peace and club- like atmosphere of the seven floors of guest accommodation. Unique in a urban resort, all of the 31 rooms and suites feature private plunge pools, come with exceptional views, and have terraces dappled. After ‘growing up’ as an Aman city resort since its opening in 2009, the hotel is now an independent, standalone property .
Hotel website: The Lodhi
Tip: enjoy complimentary VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. upgrade, free breakfast, a 50-minute massage for up to two guests per stay, early check-in, and late check-out).
3. FOUR SEASONS HOTEL ISTANBUL AT THE BOSPHORUS, TURKEY
Located along the Bosphorus, in one of Istanbul’s most naturally beautiful neighbourhoods, the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosporus is a former 19th-century palace transformed into a hotel sanctuary of luxury and comfort. It consists of three blocks, with the original palace building flanked by two modern wings. A circular drive sweeps down to the entrance, in the main palace building, with a lovely tiered gardens interspersed with fountains and waterfalls in the middle. The hotel’s main asset is an expansive waterfront terrace with a large swimming pool, plenty of sun loungers, and a private boat dock, linking the hotel to its sister property, the Four Seasons Istanbul in Sultanahmet, which is close to Istanbul’s historic sites. The 145 guest rooms and 25 suites are an airy fusion of traditional Ottoman architecture and contemporary furnishings. The pillared underground swimming hall (with classical music playing underwater) and hammam are not to be missed!
Hotel website: Four Seasons Istanbul at the Bospohorus
Other accolades: The Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus also features in my top 10 lists of the world’s most luxurious large city hotels, the most fabulous hotels in Istanbul, and the best luxury hotels in Turkey.
Tip: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and $100 USD food and beverage credit).
2. THE SIAM HOTEL, BANGKOK, THAILAND
The Siam hotel – opened in 2013 – is in a category of its own and unique to the Thai capital. With only 39 suites and 3 acres of property along the river, guests are able to experience a resort atmosphere and a level of exclusivity that is not available at Bangkok’s larger luxury properties. The suites at the Siam are amongst the largest in city, all outfitted with plush furnishings, super-sized king beds and lofty ceilings. Each room has been individually designed with original turn of the century oriental artwork and antiques. The Siam is located in an area that is near Bangkok’s historical palaces, temples and museums and, in the Dusit neighborhood, one of Bangkok’s most coveted areas. Guests can also choose for an intimately private Pool Villa and bask in either Thai, Chinese or Colonial surrounds. Every villa is awash with lush internal gardens and features a private swimming pool and open-air roof terrace, perfect for private sunbathing, evening cocktails or tête-à-tête dining.
Hotel website: The Siam Hotel, Bangkok
Tip: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, welcome gift, daily breakfast breakfast, $100 USD food & beverage credit, early check in and late check out).
1. ONE ANd ONLY CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA
This urban chic resort, located in an enviable spot in the city’s fashionable Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, set a whole new standard for South African hotels when it opened in 2009. The hotel overwhelms its guests upon arrival with breathtaking Table Mountain views through the massive windows of the spectacular lobby. There are two sections in the hotel: one is the ‘Spa Tower’ with 40 suites and the other is the ‘Marina Rise’ with 91 rooms. All rooms and suites feature oversized bathrooms and are adorned with fabrics and furnishings recalling the warm, muted tones of Africa’s savannahs. The One&Only Cape Town resort’s exclusive Spa Island, is built on its own, man-made island and centered around a large, lagoon-shaped pool. Dining at One&Only Cape Town is a pure delight with two of the city’s most acclaimed restaurants, Rueben’s restaurant, and Nobuyuki Matsuhisa’s Nobu restaurant.
Hotel website: One&Only Cape Town
Other top 10 accolades: One&Only Cape Town features in my top 10 lists of the world’s most luxurious city hotels, the most fabulous hotels in Cape Town, and the best luxury hotels in the world.
Tip: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, welcome gift, daily breakfast breakfast, $100 USD resort credit, early check in and late check out).