This London property marks the first non-U.S. based hotel for The Standard—and they’ve gotten it so right. Along with the stylish building itself — which has been completely renovated — you’ll find great restaurants (and a Michelin-starred chef), colorful rooms, and the unique Sounds Studio, plus so much more.
Location: The 10-story Brutalist-style building is located in the revitalized neighborhood of King’s Cross in North London. It’ll take you about 40 minutes to reach the hotel from Heathrow Airport and once there, you’re close to public transportation, including St. Pacras International station—and about 15 minutes from most of the major hot spots, whether you’re looking to visit the Tate Modern or Buckingham Palace.
Vibe: The recently restored building itself, with its great architecture and bright red elevator that can be seen from the outside, gives off a stylish and trendy vibe right from the start. And it only continues inside. There are a total of 266 rooms. That includes The Single, which has a studio-like feel for when you’re traveling solo, the King’s Terrace which comes complete with an outdoor bathtub (!) and the Suite Spot, which at 861 square feet is the largest of the rooms, and features floor-to-ceiling windows and“emperor-size beds.” Though it’s slightly smaller at about 732 square feet, the Suite Terrace has many of the same amenities as the Suite Spot, but also includes a huge terrace with outdoor seating and great open-air views. The rooms are bright, with a mid-century California vibe—and come with great amenities, like Bang & Olufsen Bluetooth speakers and custom-made Craig Green robes.
Why We Love It: There’s so much to love about this property—from the rooms to the restaurants. On the food front, there are three unique spots on-site. Isla, which has an outdoor garden area, “offers an approachable seasonal menu featuring light proteins and a predominantly natural wine list.” Breakfast is available in the morning, and then the kitchen is open until almost 11 p.m. every day of the week. Then there’s Double Standard, the casual, ground floor restaurant that—like Isla—is run by chef Adam Rawson. For dinner, there’s Decimo, which occupies the enviable top floor of the hotel (the views!)—and can be reached from that red elevator. Opening in October 2019, this marks the first London outpost for Michelin-star chef Peter Sanchez-Iglesias and “merges the Spanish cuisine of his family with his love of Mexico.” Also cool? The Sounds Studio. Here’s how they describe it: “A recording booth, a performance pod, a living magazine—the Sounds Studio is a broadcast recording venue that with the open of a window can act as a public stage to hotel guests and beyond.” You’ll find it in the Library Lounge—which also features a great book collection—and you can visit their website to see what’s on tap.
Why Go F1rst: TBD
F1S Tips: Don’t worry about leaving your pup at home—all the rooms are pet-friendly.
Mandarin Oriental Lake Como
Mandarin Oriental Lake Como
Area: Lake Como, Italy
Vibe: Sophisticated and stylish
Fun Fact: Most of the rooms have balconies or terraces
Don’t Miss: The outdoor pool sits right on Lake Como.
Ready for some lakefront relaxation? Then the Mandarin Oriental Lake Como it is. Located right on Lake Como, in the town of Blevio, about an hour outside Milan, this property is primarily housed in a 19th century villa and features stunning lake views throughout. With two distinct restaurants, a huge spa, gorgeous gardens, and a pool that will leave you feeling like you’re floating on the lake itself, you’ll be able to sit back, relax, and take in all the beauty that abounds.
Location: With its enviable location on the banks of Lake Como, this property is mostly located within Villa Roccabruna, a building (the stonework alone is amazing) that hails from the 1800s. The hotel is close to the town of Blevio, which makes it easy to enjoy all that Lake Como itself has to offer. It’s about 50 minutes from Milano Malpensa international airport—plus about an hour from Milano Linate airport and 90 minutes from Bergamo airport.
Vibe: Sophisticated and stylish, the hotel feels historical and old-world while still being modern and contemporary—a juxtaposition that works well. The property is also enveloped by verdant botanical gardens. There are 75 accommodations, divided between rooms, suites, and private villas. They all make great use of the lake, and most of the rooms and suites—which are well-appointed and outfitted in a neutral color palette—have their own balcony or terrace. For something a little different, there are two villas: the one bedroom Villa Della Rocca, which has stunning views from its floor-to-ceiling windows (even the soaking tub has its own view!) and the three-bedroom Villa del Lago, whose entrance is just steps from the Lake and includes an outdoor Jacuzzi and its own private dock.
Why We Love It: The property truly makes use of its lakeside location—from the rooms and suites to the dining options. In fact, both of the restaurants on the property offer amazing views of Lake Como. There’s the hotel’s signature restaurant, L~Aria, which is “tucked away within a lakefront building in the heart of the gardens” and has a huge terrace that overlooks the water and offers stunning views from its outdoor tables. The restaurant, featuring gourmet Mediterranean cuisine, serves breakfast and dinner every day, plus lunch on Sundays. Then, you can snag lunch and dinner, plus afternoon tea and aperitivos at CO.MO Bar & Bistrot. With its cool blue sofas and opulent feel, the restaurant’s outdoor terrace is also lined with tables overlooking the water. But it’s not just water views and great dining, the hotel’s spa—a whopping 13,000 square-feet—is also impressive: there’s a fitness center, beauty studio, and you can enjoy water-themed treatments like “On the Lakeshore” or “The Power of Water,” a 3.5-hour treatment that includes a massage, full-body exfoliation and more. There’s a Thermal Area offering plenty of heat and water experiences, an indoor pool as well as an outdoor pool that juts out right into the lake and includes lots of lounge chairs for relaxing and soaking up the atmosphere. The hotel also has space for meetings and events—and a quick scroll through the gallery of photos on their website will give you an idea of the gorgeous events they can host.
Why Go F1rst: If you book with First in Service, you’ll receive a complimentary buffet breakfast for two every day of your stay, a $100 resort credit, and early check-in/late check-out as well as an upgrade, if available.
F1S Tips: There are plenty of wellness options, including a Finnish sauna and Himalayan salt room, to help you truly relax and unwind.
Madrid, a New Old City
Madrid, a New Old City
City on the verge
An empty street glazed with drizzle at 2am. You stare at the shuttered storefront thinking this can’t be right. They said Bar Cock is “a must”, and you skipped the childish joke about the name. Now, facing heavy metal blinds, you wonder what got lost in translation. But the door is ajar, warm light within and, you figure, what’s the worst that could happen?
Push past that off-putting intro into an Almodóvar film: a baronial hall glowing like amber, nocturnal creatures whisper in pairs in deep club chairs and dark wood that has surrounded Salvador Dalí, Ava Gardner, Hemingway (of course), and George Clooney, to name a few. Founded in 1921, and it feels it when the bow-tied waiter serves your martini.
That dissonance between what you’ve heard and what you see happens again and again in Madrid. Questioning the brutalist block that hides plush Hotel Villa Magna. Hunting conceptual art down an alley behind Atocha station, or a minimalist boutique in opulent Salamanca. Finding five-star Gran Hotel Inglés on a street clamoring with youth hostels. You’ll start to doubt Google Maps.
Outwardly austere, Madrid is easy to miss. On the avenues, temples cap monumental banks, imposing apartments and grand hotels. Behind them, shops huddle in ashy side streets beneath prim Juliette balconies and conservatory windows. If Barcelona feels flirty, feisty, Madrid is her stoic sister. Which doesn’t mean she’s dull—she just makes you earn it.
“It’s very Castillian,” says Javier Bone-Carbone, art curator and Taschen editor, referring to the culture of the Spanish heartland surrounding Madrid. Moorish modesty overlaid with Hapsburg grandeur lend the city a severe formality. But break that surface tension and you’ll discover its interior riches. “Madrid isn’t like Paris, with a checklist of landmarks to see,” explains Bone-Carbone, “it is about interaction.”
Two of Madrid’s best-kept-secret hotels exemplify its inward-facing character.
Since the 1970’s, Villa Magna is the choice for heads of state, movie stars and others wishing to fly below the radar. Built by a family on the site of their 19th-Century mansion, its modernist architecture is a departure, but one that casts the traditional style and warm hospitality within in an even brighter light. Later Turkish, Portuguese, and now Mexican owners added their own touches—a marble-lined hammam in the spa, new gardens—and expanded the art collection. Just 150 Empire-style rooms, villa-worthy bathrooms, and two penthouse apartments with vast terraces and views to the mountains feel like a well-staffed home. Shopaholics will appreciate the private passageway to a designer-curated outpost of El Corte Inglés. And don’t miss We Collect, a gallery and art club nestled in a Zen garden around the outside.
Surrounding Salamanca is Madrid’s “uptown”. Luxury-brand flagships line Calle Serrano and independent designers sprinkle the leafy backstreets. Taste traditional flavors at intimate, age-old La Parra—divans and Moroccan tile under candle-light and the hushed voices of old-Hollywood types. Or discover new ones at Amazonico—starlets and soccer stars picking at piquant hamachi and rare beef rodizios under cascades of jazz and tropical foliage.
A few blocks south, Gran Hotel Inglés opened in the 19th Century as Madrid’s first luxury hotel. Its return to five-star status signals the revival of artsy Las Letras, Madrid’s medieval heart. An extensive lobby library, including rare volumes of Don Quixote, pays homage to the area’s roots. Cast-iron columns mix with Chesterfields and Oriental rugs for a SoHo vibe. The rooms span old and new. Smartphones guide you around town, while deep, clawfoot tubs soak sightseeing-weary bones before heading out for an infamously late Spanish night.
A wave of restaurants, luxury stores and hotels welcome you to a “new” Madrid rising in the old city-center: glitzy and extroverted, not ashamed to shine. “The middle and upper classes used to be very pijo, a bit stuffy” says Kiko Buxo, fashion designer and founder of minimalist brand Shon Mott. “But the younger generation are more experimental.” Europe’s third-largest city is quickly catching up to its peers. Think laid-back London, or brash Berlin.
Trend spotters long know that Madrid’s creative edge cuts through Chueca. Once a down-and-out barrio, it is back with a by-now-familiar urban mix of goths, gays and gallerists sipping craft beers and coffees on the sunny plazas. Here you’ll find Isolee, Madrid’s first concept store, and Lab Lamarca, its most recent. Specialist shops offer handmade papers, Japanese ceramics and retro-pop foods. Or feast your eyes at established white-cube galleries like London’s Marlborough, and local groundbreakers like Travesía Cuatro.
Now that vibe is moving further south. Construction cranes over Gran Via announce the arrival of brand name luxury condos above a multi-story shopping arcade sure to bring some of Salamanca’s style downtown. Students and backpackers still flock to Puerta del Sol for selfies on the well-trod tourist trail between the royal palace and Prado—Goya, check. El Greco, check. Velazquez, check. But above their heads a real estate boom is transforming the old tenements around Madrid’s old theater district.
So while Spain’s capital is hardly off the beaten path, it rewards the curious who push past first impressions. Plenty of folk will stroll Paseo del Prado, spin through the museums, taste tapas and sangria on Plaza Mayor—and not have seen a thing. No wonder Almodóvar chose Madrid for his seething tales of love and madness. But it’s all about to erupt. Expect a star performance.
Maison Montespan Paris
Maison Montespan Paris
Area: Paris, France
Vibe: Sophisticated comfort
Fun Fact: Geared for families, there’s lots for kids to enjoy
Don’t Miss: Relaxing on the well-appointed rooftop
This residence in the 16th arrondissement in Paris offers the best of both worlds: A private home with all the comforts of a hotel—and we are here for it. With five bedrooms, great amenities (heated pool, gorgeous rooftop) and the opportunity to experience all the city has to offer, the family-friendly maison gives a whole new meaning to the idea of a “home away from home.”
Location: The home is situated in a residential neighborhood in the sophisticated 16th arrondissement. It’ll take you less than 40 minutes to get to the area from the airport, but unless you’re planning to rent a car, let the maison take care of it: They can arrange for a private car and driver to meet you at the airport and take you directly to the home. Once there, you’re close to a variety of landmarks: it’s a 10-minute drive to the Eiffel Tower and 20 minutes to the Louvre, and in the 16th arrondissement itself, you’ll find cool spots like Fondation Louis Vuitton, the Jardin d’Acclimatation and the food options along the Rue de la Pompe.
Vibe: If you walk in and it feels like home, that’s the point. With an open floor plan and contemporary décor, the home is stylish and lux, but still comfortable and welcoming. There are 5 rooms and suites, each with their own bathroom—and the whole space sleeps 10 total. There are three bedrooms, all which are sophisticated, with fun pops of color and gold accents throughout. On the top floor, you’ll find two suites. Offering similar décor to the rooms below, the suites also include their own wrap-around balconies.
Why we love it: We love that this home brings the lux—from the service to your surroundings—without feeling stuffy. Throughout your stay, you’ll have a butler on hand, housekeeping services, daily breakfast and afternoon tea service, with fresh pastries made by a French chef. Along with the bedrooms, the open-concept home has a kitchen, living room with a Steinway piano, dining room and elevator, as well as a heated indoor swimming pool and fitness center, complete with stationary bike, boxing bag, and treadmill. And with all that space, the home is very family-friendly. In fact, they say, “Ideally conceived to accommodate your family, Maison Montespan is designed for all ages. The safety, comfort and entertainment of your children are at the heart of our concerns.” And they really mean in: For the youngest family members, there are cribs, high chairs and other necessities available, and for older kids, there are all sorts of activities that can be arranged—from yoga classes to magic shows. Plus, if you prefer, they can switch the pool to a playroom or screening room. (And did we mention they can also arrange babysitting? Win-win.) The activities aren’t limited to kids, either. There are a whole slew of “experiences” that can arranged, whether you’re interested in food and wine, music, or taking tours of the city. Also of note: The great outdoor space. There’s a rooftop with a summer kitchen, as well as a dining area, lounge chairs and sofas and a bioclimatic pergola—perfect for enjoying the space any time of day. Looking for something different? The house can be used as an event space as well.
Why Go F1rst: If you book with First in Service, you’ll receive early check-in and late check-out, depending upon availability.
F1S Tips: Art lovers will be impressed by all the pieces throughout the home, all created by French artists such as Laureline Galliot, Léo Caillard and Aude Herlédan. Bonus: If you fall in love with a particular piece, you can purchase it and bring it back to your own home.
Pretty Pretty Pugliese
Pretty Pretty Pugliese
Rocco Forte’s newest idyll gathers the ingredients for laid-back luxury.
In the hardscrabble earth of Puglia grows a lifestyle ruled by simplicity. For centuries, the sun and heat here have dictated the architecture and daily rhythms. Meanwhile, necessity nurtured the food and spirit of hospitality. Today, from these austere traditions, Rocco Forte Hotels’ Masseria Torre Maizza casts light on a modern kind of luxury—free from distracting adornment and confining ritual—that lets the goodness of essential ingredients shine through.
Down a chalky road hemmed by stacked stone walls and stands of 700-year-old olive trees sits Masseria Torre Maizza. Part plantation, part fortress, masserie have a particular local pragmatism that combines a lord’s luxury with a farmer’s frugality and a soldier’s sobriety. Masseria Torre Maizza, opened in April as Rocco Forte’s twelfth hotel, is no exception.
The 16th century villa forms a citadel over the forecourt, and grapevine-laced pergolas surround a large pool behind. Beyond, an arched gate leads to a garrison of rooms reaching toward the Adriatic across a landscape softened by ponds and putting greens. Crisp and relaxed, the forty rooms range from breezy ocean-view doubles to sprawling suites with private gardens and plunge pools. Stone floors and vaulted ceilings, tailored linen, handcrafted ceramics and pops of sun-bleached color tame the modernist take on traditional furnishings.
As farmers and fishermen the Pugliese were never rich, but always knew their ingredients. This created Puglia’s cucina povera, “poor food”, which says more about its simplicity than its paucity. At Carosello, the hotel’s destination restaurant, dine on reinvented local classics featuring exquisite quality and ingenuity: like the olive oil that is Puglia’s green gold, or its burrata enriched with oozing buffalo cream, or shells of orechiette made with grano arso—burnt grains, once a field scrap, now a delicacy—sautéed with rapini leaves or chickpeas echoing Arab influences from centuries ago.
When the sounds of wind and sea and songbirds beckon outdoors, Torre Maizza’s spa offers a wellness program, including yoga or body and facial treatments in the gardens using olive oil, and sea salt and apricot scrubs. Excursions go even further: just a few miles down the road to the hotel’s private beach club, or on an exclusive mini-cruise to nearby fishing towns and swimming spots. In Alberobello discover Puglia’s UNESCO-listed trove of beehive-shaped trulli homes, and learn about and how to make the region’s ceramics, jewelry, olive oil, wines, pasta and other foods.
Luxury, you see, is easy.
Modern and historic
Oscar Wilde often stayed in the Royal Suite
The hotel’s Swarovski-encrusted peacock, Oscar
Originally built in 1887, this London hotel recently reopened after a multi-million dollar historic renovation—and the upgrade is evident: With access to gardens, rooms and suites that offer lots of amenities and great dining all in one location, the property feels stylish and fresh while still retaining its historical significance.
Right on Sloane Street, the hotel straddles both the Chelsea and Knightsbridge neighborhoods in London. It’s easy to choose your direction, too: Use one exit in the hotel and you’ll wind up closer to the Chelsea side, use another and you’re on the Knightsbridge end. The hotel itself is only about 35 minutes from Heathrow airport, and the central location make it easy to access the entire city.
At this more-than-a-century-old property, you’ll find lots of whites and greys, with golds and reds throughout. There are 54 rooms and suites, including a few one-bedroom “specialty suites,” like the Royal Suite, where a certain famous author with the last name Wilde once regularly called home. And in the rooms themselves—some of which look out onto the garden—there are lots of special touches, from statement headboard pieces above each bed by British female artists, to specialty tea sets to help you really get into the English spirt.
Why we love it:
Aside from the enviable location and the impressive history, (The paparazzi would have definitely set up shop outside: It’s said that socialite Lillie Langtry and the Prince of Wales courted there, among other gossip-worthy tidbits) the hotel offers a chance to unwind and relax in fun and unique ways. There’s dining, of course, including the hotel’s signature restaurant, Adam Handling Chelsea, which serves up a contemporary twist on English favorites. There’s also a bar, as well as Afternoon Tea served in the lounge, named Cadogan’s. Private dining options are available—and as you enter one of the dining rooms, you’ll be greeted by a Swarovski-encrusted peacock. (His name is Oscar, in case you were wondering.) But there are even more special touches. Here’s one: Guests have access to Cadogan Place Gardens, which are normally reserved only for residents, and the hotel can provide everything from a tennis set to yoga mats to take into the gardens. Another? “In-room libraries,” where you can kick back with a book from local bookstore, John Sandoe Books Ltd. (which has been around since the 1950s). Then there are the traditional de-stressors, from a spa to a 24-hour fitness center. The hotel caters to family life too, with kids menus and in-room board games.
Why you should Go F1RST:
When you’re ready to book, doing it through F1S will snag you VIP welcome treats, breakfast for two every day of your stay, your choice of complimentary lunch or quintessentially English tea for two, and a complimentary upgrade, if available.
Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens
FOUR SEASONS ASTIR PALACE HOTEL ATHENS
The now renovated 1960’s bungalows are original
Arriving via helicopter on the hotel’s helipad!
City meets beach at this Athens resort, the first in Greece for the brand. Set on 74 acres of beachfront property, with truly stunning views of the Aegean Sea, you’ll never want to leave—but when you do, you’ll be just steps from the city and it’s many amazing cultural attractions. And with eight restaurants, a spa and a helipad (so not only can you stay in style, but arrive that way as well), there’s no shortage of lux amenities to make for a truly one-of-a-kind escape.
What’s particularly great about the property—on the Astir Peninsula—is that it’s only a half hour from downtown Athens, which means you can do the touristy thing in the morning and then hang out on a lounge chair by the beach all afternoon. The renovated and updated hotel, once the home of the Astir Palace Hotel, is also about half hour from Athens International Airport Eleftherios Venizelos—and the hotel can set up transfers, including by helicopter. (And if you opt to arrive by helicopter, you cut your commute in half, to just 15 minutes.)
There’s a full-on resort vibe at this property, even though you’re so close to downtown Athens, thanks largely to its private location on the Athens Riviera. Once there, you can choose from 303 suites, rooms, and bungalows—with the suites and rooms divided among two buildings, the Arion and the Nafsika. The Arion offers more of a “laid-back vibe” and includes a suite of up to four bedrooms, which boasts both a private terrace and pool. The rooms and suites at Nafsika, on the other hand, all have ocean views and include suites of up to three bedrooms, some with their own pools. If you’re looking for a slightly different feel, try one of the bungalow suites, which all have decks or balconies—and a number of which offer private infinity pools and more. In general, the rooms offer a sense of relaxation, with greys, whites and natural wood elements.
Why we love it:
While you can—and should—check out all the amazing history and culture in Athens (hello, Acropolis!), if you prefer to also spend lots of time hanging out at the hotel, you won’t be disappointed. In fact, there’s little not to love about this lux property. That starts with its surroundings, which includes three (!) private beaches and a long boardwalk, ideal for lounging. But it doesn’t stop there for water-lovers, who can take a dip in one of the resort’s three pools, or try their hand at snorkeling or stand-up paddle boarding. There are lots of other activities, too, including a basketball court, jogging trails and tennis courts. When it comes to dining, possibilities abound, thanks to the eight dining and drinking options—from Taverna 37, which serves up Greek cuisine to Mercato for Italian to Aristotle’s, where you can enjoy a cigar and cognac or whiskey. For those whose idea of relaxation tends towards the massage-and-facial variety, the Spa at Four Seasons has 10 treatment rooms, as well as “The Fountain House,” featuring an aroma steam grotto and lots more. Plus, there’s a salon and 24-hour fitness center with classes. Traveling with family? There’s a Kids for All Seasons program—plus babysitting can be arranged, and there are kid-specific offerings, like cooking classes.
Why Go F1RST:
When you’re ready to start your Greek adventure, booking through First in Service means you’ll also get breakfast for two, served either through room service or at the hotel’s restaurant, a $100 spa credit, an upgrade if available and a welcome note at check-in.