In her annual dispatch, Tablet CEO Lucy Lieberman talks about the remorse of removing hotels from our selection, and shares the newly added hotels she’s most excited about to start the year.
I kicked off the new year with a trip that had me stay at three hotels in our selection. I don’t get to travel as much as I’d like, so it was great to get out and see some of the amazing places we recommend. The first hotel I stayed in was a long-time favorite and a trailblazer of avant-garde design. The second was a fabled grand palace that we finally added a few years back. The third was basically new, and was one of the most celebrated hotel openings of 2022.
Two of the hotels were terrific (at one, you could rent out the entire spa by the hour and get total privacy — you’d better believe I took advantage of that); the other, though, didn’t meet my expectations.
We adore hotels, so it’s always hard to say goodbye to one that’s no longer living up to its promise. Swiftly corrected hiccups are fine. An erratic misstep is okay. Even an all-night takeover by DJs, disco balls, and smoke machines is tolerable with the proper advance warning (we’re looking at you, Brach Paris). This was not that. This was an issue that probably wouldn’t have a quick fix. We’ll quietly take the hotel off the site and move on. You’ll hardly notice, but you’ll know that, behind the scenes, our standards never sleep.
Our hotel selection is alive and constantly evolving — managed not by an algorithm, but by living, breathing experts who are enthusiastically opinionated (myself included). Curation is our passion, and we’ve always vowed to approach it with integrity. Hotels can’t pay for our approval, and we aren’t swayed by hype, influencers, or marketing spin. The only way a hotel makes the cut is by having extraordinary style, service, and personality. It must be a jewel of its community, and it must never, ever be boring.
There’s nothing boring about the list below.
We’re adding incredible hotels all the time, and in what has become an annual tradition, I’m thrilled to share with you the newly added hotels that I’m most excited about for this young year. Some of these places demand to be seen; they are bold-print attractions that stretch the imagination. Others are a little less dramatic, but no less compelling; they reside in destinations I’ve longed to visit, or have a unique style I’m particularly fond of.
A few of my picks even represent the very first Tablet hotels in their respective locations. If you ask me, there’s nothing more exciting than that.
New York City
At this late date no one is going to be taken by surprise upon arrival at Oia, in Santorini. The spectacular caldera is a true natural wonder, and it’s been photographed from every conceivable angle. Any hotel that’s going to stand out here is going to do it by virtue of the fine details — and there will be guests for whom only La Perla Villas & Suites, with its particular vision of modern-classic Cycladic hospitality, will do.
Joshua Tree, California
The Bungalows at Retreat by Homestead Modern are situated on the grounds of the Joshua Tree Retreat Center, home to the Mentalphysics Spiritual Teaching and Retreat Center, as well as the largest known collection of buildings by the architect Lloyd Wright, son of Frank Lloyd Wright. The Bungalows themselves are a series of very impressively restored midcentury buildings by Harold Zook, another highly regarded mid-century Modernist architect.
Mérida, the capital of the state of Yucatán, is relatively under-traveled compared to the peninsula’s famous coastal destinations, but the White City is well worth a visit — especially with hotels like the stunning Decu Downtown as a part of the package. The location, next to the cathedral, is in the heart of the city center, though the inside-out compound-like construction means the experience is a remarkably tranquil one.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
A 1936-vintage motor inn on the legendary stretch of road once known as Route 66 is now El Rey Court, a beautifully reimagined boutique hotel that is, in its new incarnation, one of Santa Fe’s most stylish lodgings. Its original architecture remains intact, and its adobe-and-timber construction is memorable, to say the least; inside, it’s a very hip, very contemporary mix of local Southwestern color and modern art and design.
Hillsdale, New York
The Hudson Valley’s Little Cat Lodge is named for Catamount Mountain, in whose shadow the town of Hillsdale stands. This is a properly rural escape, make no mistake — but it’s also within driving distance of both Boston and New York City, and attracts urban travelers with the promise of well-considered retro-Alpine style as well as a restaurant conceived by its hosts, who are also award-winning restaurateurs.
Sawāi Mādhopur, India
The combination of Six Senses and a spectacularly fortified 14th-century palace results in a degree of luxury that would be almost comical, were it not for the sheer gravity of this majestic setting. This was once home to Rajasthani royals, but there’s no sense of irony in the way it’s been repurposed as a luxury resort — it’s not an exaggeration to say that guests of Six Senses Fort Barwara are treated like actual royalty.
Among Malta’s most compelling attractions is its recent surplus of residential-style luxury boutique hotels. One of them is Iniala Harbour House, a row of four antique townhouses renovated by Istanbul-based architectural studio Autoban into an ultra-luxe lodging that’s eclectic in its design and contemporary in its comforts. The hotel faces right out over the harbor, and thanks to its small size, the vibe is ultra-private and ultra-discreet.
Kraków is said to be one of Europe’s most picturesque cities, and Kazimierz, its old Jewish quarter, is both rich with historical interest and bustling with contemporary culture. It’s perfect for the Warszauer, a small hotel that effortlessly spans the centuries. The exterior is unmistakably modern, while interiors are devoted to the work of the Polish artist Tomasz Opaliński and to a number of highly regarded international designers.
When it comes to hospitality, Norway really does have it all, from avant-garde architectural experiments to this, the oldest family-run hotel in Norway, well into its fourth century in business. The Walaker stands by the side of the Sognefjord, tucked in dramatically between the mountains and the coast. Its rooms are divided between four distinct buildings, including one, Tingstova, which dates back to the 1630s.
Hotel Indigo Inuyama Urakuen Garden pays aesthetic tribute to Inuyama Castle and the famous Jo-An tea house, even as it offers its guests a thoroughly contemporary stay. It’s set within the grounds of Urakuen Garden, which means easy views of the verdant forest as well as the hilltop castle itself. The rooms feel Japanese, but they’re not ultra-traditional — colorful graphic murals, carpets, and furnishings contribute to a lively look.
The Latrobe Building, a 1912 apartment tower in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighborhood, is now the venue for the Ulysses, a high-concept, high-design boutique hotel by hospitality brand ASH NYC. It’s inspired in part by the era of the building’s construction, and, in part by the contemporaneous novel by James Joyce whose name it shares — as well as the aesthetic sense of the Baltimore-born filmmaker John Waters.
Wilmington, Delaware flies under the radar for a number of reasons, but boutique-hotel aficionados have at least one reason to keep it on the list: the Quoin, a Romanesque bank building in the historic downtown center, now renovated by the Philadelphia-based Method Co. and Stokes Architecture + Design into a warm, livable, and richly detailed boutique hotel. The Quoin marks Wilmington’s very first hotel in our selection.
Benguerra Island, Mozambique
Part of a marine reserve off the coast of Mozambique, Benguerra is everything you want from an island escape, from the mild climate to the sandy beaches and the tall, picturesque dunes. And Kisawa Sanctuary is everything you need from a resort: a sustainable and subtly high-tech operation whose aesthetics combine modern elements and traditional crafts alike — what’s not painstakingly handmade is 3-D printed from mortar mixed on site.
Another Six Senses, but this time in a major city, which is rare and notable on its own. Six Senses Rome occupies a historical palace, the 18th-century Palazzo Salviati Cesi Mellini, a former cardinal’s residence whose exteriors and architecture have been meticulously restored and preserved. Inside, however, the sky was the limit for designer Patricia Urquiola. And the spa, naturally, is a lavish one, a Roman bath to end all Roman baths.
Lujan de Cuyo, Argentina
As Argentina’s first female winemaker, Susana Balbo has a name that carries a bit of weight — and for her entry into hospitality she lends her initials to SB Winemaker’s House & Spa Suites, a stunning luxury boutique hotel in a village just outside the city of Mendoza. The seven suites here are the stars — each is a self-contained mini-spa, complete with a sensation shower, oversized soaking tub, and massage table for en-suite treatments.