A look back at the best boutique hotels of the decade — according to you.
The past decade has been monumental for the hotel industry. The boutique hotel revolution that launched in earnest in the aughts all but exploded in the 2010s. Not too long ago, a certain type of person might seek out a boutique hotel, but now the boutique hotels seek out you — there are options to meet every conceivable taste and budget, and more competition for your stay than ever before.
A lot can happen in ten years. Trends can easily be born and fade away all within just a single decade. It’s no different with boutique hotels as, almost by nature, they try to one-up each other and pioneer the cutting edge. But it’s one thing to attract attention for the first few years after you open. It’s another thing entirely to stay in demand for the long term. So then, how does a boutique hotel remain relevant in the face of so many newer, younger competitors? How do they survive all of the constant upheaval? How do they endure the passage of time and trends?
It’s not easy, that’s for sure. Just think for a second about how much consistent effort and investment it takes to keep a hotel feeling as fresh and exciting as the day it opened. When you check in to a hotel, you’re expecting it to look and feel exactly as it looks and feels in the pictures (taken before the first guests ever arrived). Think about what it takes to keep all of those carefully curated pieces of furniture looking good year after year. Think about what it takes to weather the storm of fads and fashions that swirl from season to season. Think about what it takes to be incredibly specific — as all great design is — yet appeal to a large enough audience to guarantee the rooms will be full and the business will be in the black.
The following hotels have endured, and they’ve done it while staying at the top of their games. They are the highest-rated Tablet hotels of the past ten years, according to the feedback of our verified and very discerning guests — some of whose post-stay comments are included below. These hotels maintain a level of quality that requires giving care and attention to every little detail. We’re happy to reward their stellar efforts with a little care and attention of our own.
Hotel Saint Cecilia
Gino said: “Every single detail has been thought out! Best mini bar EVER! Best Bathroom Products. The bed is a cloud. The record players in the room and vintage vinyl how sexy is that? The staff in incredible. Such a cozy bar with fireplace to have night cap. Gorgeous garden.”
Amber said: “This was my third stay at Hotel Saint Cecilia and it was amazing once again. Every detail is on point and the attentive and friendly staff made sure of it. My heart breaks a little each time I check out. Hope to be back really soon.”
Lisa said: “The lush beauty of the grounds; the hip, witty, sensuous decor of the rooms; the succulent room service; and the gracious, totally obliging staff. Plus, it’s so nice to see the little touches, like puffy, unwrapped cotton balls in a lovely jar.”
Charleston, South Carolina
Damon said: “I fell in love with the Dewberry right away. From the moment I checked in to hailing my taxi on the way out, it was nothing less than a perfect stay (and I should note I was there for only one night). The hotel and its facilities are beautiful and stylish, but the main standout was the staff. They were all enormously gracious and went out of their way to be both accommodating and considerate, at one point even surprising my sister (not a guest) with free bubbly for her birthday. If I could give the hotel an 11/10 I would.”
Katie said: “The whole vibe of this place is perfect. A mid-century modern dream. From the lobby to the rooms to the outdoor spaces, I would stay here forever if I could. Friendliest staff ever too.”
The Warehouse Hotel
Geo said: “Reminded us of some of our favourite New York City and East London spots. Awesome decor, lovely staff and everything felt super organised and clean. We were caught in a rainstorm on our way to collect our stored luggage (post-checkout) and the staff couldn’t have been more amazing, rushing to bring us towels and asking what they could do to help us. Welcome cocktail was an amazing touch, and honeymoon special touches made us feel so special. We wish we could have stayed longer, and will definitely be back on our return to Singapore. Location was also great, very close to all of our favourite cafes and bars, and not far from the nightlife around the river.”
Samantha said: “The style of the common spaces was like a modern Scandi-Asian fusion (long gorgeous leather couches, wood mixed with metalic/glassy surfaces). The mattress was divine–I have never slept so comfortably in a hotel (maybe even at home?).”
Villa Spalletti Trivelli
Chad said: “Quiet, understated, and elegant. This hotel felt more like your personal Roman palazzo than a hotel. The personal service and authentic hospitality was memorable.”
Dev said: “Felt like a home. Kindest staff. Beautifully maintained facilities. Extremely generous with all the extras like alcohol, water, snacks and bath products. On a level I have never experienced before!”
Nicholas said: “The experience was similar to being the guest in a luxurious private home. I did not have the sense of “just being in a hotel”. The customer service was impeccable at all times – always friendly, discrete and appropriate. I had sent a set of special requests ahead of our arrival and all of them were followed through to the last detail. The ambience of the hotel was exceptional and totally in keeping with the character of the original house. We also appreciated the privacy of the hotel and that we felt welcome and relaxed throughout our stay. To date the best hotel I have stayed in ever.”
Anne said: “Where to start?! Everything about my time spent in this gorgeous home – and it really does deliver on its aspiration to make guests feel they are indeed at home – generated off-the-charts-level satisfaction. I was devastated to leave! If forced to choose my favorite feature of the stay, I would have to say it was the full spectrum of full-sized luxury bath products included in the rooms: such a beautifully defining touch that only added to the sense of unlimited relaxation and peacefulness that abounds there!”
Frederick said: “Without a doubt staying at Ett Hem was one of the best hotel experiences I have ever had in my many years of travelling. It truly feels like you are staying in a home and not a hotel. The rooms and public spaces are beautifully decorated and are extremely homey and pleasant to be in. We did not want to leave! The staff is incredible and made every effort to be helpful and make us feel welcome. All of the food we had there was amazing and the amenities in the spa and bathroom are incredibly nice.”
Napa Valley, California
Lesley said: “I am not exactly sure how to put into words how wonderful our stay at Carneros Resort and Spa was. The staff was amazingly friendly, catering to our every whim. The pool was a wonderful spot to spend an afternoon, and those views of the vineyards are not to be missed! The food was absolutely divine. Boon Fly has a wonderful charm and the food was out of this world. We saw quite a few locals coming in for dinner, so you know its a hit! We only wish we were able to save room for their famous donuts. We loved wandering the village-like resort at dusk. It felt like a luxurious, little resort community where everyone was always in a good mood. Having our own private cottage was divine and our own private firepit was very romantic. It was actually while sitting around our firepit that my boyfriend got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. It is a truly incredible experience that we will both never forget!”
Chuck said: “We love everything about this special place. The pool overlooking the hills, the food, the bocce courts, biking to vineyards, the outdoor showers and privacy – the amazing beds…we love it all.”
The Bowery Hotel
New York, New York
Cynthia said: “Ideal boutique hotel with charm and character and getting all the things right that count, especially the impeccable customer service.”
Anne Marie said: “The customer service with the staff was excellent, everyone was lovely. I was originally placed in room 311 however the hotel generously moved me after I made the request due to noise issues from the adjacent event user. The hotel has great bedding, great toiletries – all le labo, and a good mini bar selection. The rooms are beautiful with great plumbing fixtures and giant windows. Great location accessible to many great restaurants, fitness, and shops – just a 10 minute walk to SOHO.”
Ryan said: “Beautiful rooms with thoughtful amenities and wonderful city views. The perfect hotel bar.”
So/ Das Stue
Jessica said: “The staff was exceptional and very professional. I loved the decor of the hotel and its relation to the renowned Berlin Zoo. The rooms were very spacious and incredibly comfortable. The location was very central and I enjoyed the proximity to the Tiergarten which is filled with trees and a lovely place to ride a bike or stroll in.”
Louise said: “Elegant, spacious, quiet, comfortable, great service and good food. Well priced.”
Matt said: “A simply magnificent hotel in every way. Superb decor, great building, good location and staff that are out of this world. Excellent price. So good. They booked the best restaurants in town for us. The guy who checked us in really pleasantly tried to up-sell us to a better room at a good rate. He cared. He tried. He did it well. Did I say this hotel is majorly magnificent??”
Elise said: “Like all the Firmdale Hotels, the Haymarket gives the feeling that it has been freshly updated. The quality of the fabrics used, the artwork, the style, are all wonderful. Since my last visit three years ago, the bar area has expanded, taking away a bit from the lobby area. Quiet. Very clean. Breakfast abundant. Location ideal for theatre, shopping, National Gallery and Royal Academy, Covent Garden.”
Chris said: “The hotel had a really nice atmosphere and is in a good location for going to the theatre and getting around London. Our kids particularly liked the indoor pool. We had dinner by the pool one night which was great.”
Matt said: “Overall service, the design of the hotel ( love all the Firmdale Group hotels) As I arrived at 9am, way before check in, the staff were great about offering me the spa to change in and freshen up.”
Crosby Street Hotel
New York, New York
Arnaud said: “Great vibe, real style, and great accommodations – common areas, rooms and bathrooms are top notch. Oh, and they love dogs!”
Peter said: “Exceeds the brand values of the Firmdale group. Impeccable design and execution. Beautiful natural light in the rooms.”
Sir Peter said: “The Crosby is wonderful and by no means a poor relation to its Alma Mater the Covent Garden hotel in London. Firmdale should be proud of this splendid unfussy and thoroughly efficient hotel that overcomes the tendency for NYC hotels never to live up to expectations. Add to that superbly trained friendly, literate, helpful and articulate staff who help but never impose and one feels totally at home! Bravo!”
The Next Ten
The Saint James
Suffice it to say that the Saint James is anything but typical. In Paris a freestanding house is unusual enough — something like the Saint James, almost a country-style château, surrounded by a wall and garden, is vanishingly rare. Add in the fact that it’s open for business as a hotel, and it’s almost too much to take.
There’s no challenge Aman resorts isn’t up to — certainly not Tokyo, where they’ve created something that the rest of the world’s luxury hoteliers will be chasing for a decade or more. Turns out the top of a Japanese skyscraper is tailor-made for the kind of quiet seclusion an Aman resort is tasked with providing.
Palm Springs, California
Recycled from the Fifties and refreshed for a style-conscious clientele, this woodsy hideaway is the kind of place where people play horseshoes and read books by their private campfires. At night, the property’s original red barn opens for dinner and drinks. It’s a dreamy hipster version of the summer camp of your childhood.
The eclectic, bohemian, vintage-inspired style that’s currently all the rage in the United States is also, you’ll find, all the rage in Europe — and in Italy, where the word “vintage” covers several hundred more years of history, the resulting style is rich indeed. For an illustration, you could hardly do better than Soprarno Suites.
Contemporary design on the Amalfi coast — that alone makes La Minervetta worth noting. And we’re not using “contemporary” as a euphemism for that faceless minimal international style, either; you’ll find little in the way of greys or cream tones in La Minervetta’s twelve guest rooms.
The Greenwich Hotel
New York, New York
The Greenwich Hotel has a celebrity owner (none other than Robert DeNiro), a prime Tribeca location, impeccable design credentials courtesy of one of New York’s top firms, Grayling Design, and some truly obsessive construction, having something to do with thousands of very expensive handmade bricks.
The Soho Hotel
The Soho is impossibly glamorous, a luxury boutique that is at once classic and original — classic in the London sense of overstated and outsized comfort, robust and enveloping furnishing and fixtures and original in its avoidance of worn-out tropes like featureless white rooms and cheap ‘Zen’ minimalism.
Ugenta, a two-room, 200-year-old ryokan in the mountain woods outside Kyoto, isn’t exactly designed to maximize profits: they’ve got as many teahouses as they have guest rooms. They could’ve converted one of them into a third guest room — but then your host’s attention would be that much less focused.
Walking the halls of the Mercer Hotel Barcelona is a bit like hanging out in a forward-thinking gallery of modern design, where the exhibits never close and management lets you stay the night — except here, the impeccable modernist furniture and glass partitions are housed in an ancient defense tower.
Boutique Hotel Restaurant Krone
This Swiss medieval hilltop village has a population around 500, give or take. Safe to say there’s only room in town for one hotel like Krone, and it’s everything you’d want: a classic timbered building, meticulously preserved and reconstructed, but betraying not a hint of the luxe modern interiors inside.