The seaside town of Saint Julian’s, just up the coast from the Maltese capital of Valletta, is a mere ten minutes from the island’s airport, but offers a degree of tranquility and privacy that the dense old city can’t always match. And in the HOLM Boutique & Spa, it’s got a hotel unlike any other — a luxury boutique hotel that’s bold, brash, and unafraid of a little self-expression.
The Baroque palazzo known as Casa Rosselli-Massa is a splendid piece of 17th-century history, and many of Valletta’s hoteliers would have been perfectly content to keep it that way. But the AX Hotels group had greater ambitions. Forward Architects transformed this heritage structure into Rosselli – AX Privilege, developing no fewer than six distinct looks for the hotel’s 25 rooms and suites. It’s a much-needed dose of high design for Malta’s capital city, and a hotel that makes good on its promise to deliver an experience you won’t soon forget.
In a city like the Maltese capital of Valletta, with its fortifications and its Baroque ornamentation, you might expect a hotel to lean heavily on historical atmosphere. AX The Saint John, however, has taken a liberal approach to its own history. This 19th-century townhouse, right in the heart of the city, has been updated in a style that’s entirely of-the-moment, even as it pays its respects to the past.
The baroque city of Valletta, capital of the island nation of Malta, is becoming a hot destination, thanks to its mid-Mediterranean location, its distinctive visual language, and a surfeit of excellent hotels. Among these is Palazzo Consiglia, a 13-room boutique hotel right on the edge of the old town — a hotel that’s both better equipped and rather more opulent than its small size might prepare you to expect.
The Myconian Collection is a smallish, homegrown, locally owned hotel chain, and fully a third of its hotels happen to be located in the hills above Elia Beach, which ought to tell you something about how spectacular this place is. The Myconian Avaton Resort is the highest of the three, with the panoramic views and the relative seclusion that that implies. And its rooms, suites and villas are among the group’s most luxurious — though, to be fair, that’s drawing the distinctions pretty finely, as the others are not exactly rough.
Sometimes you’re in a mood to blaze a new trail and hide out in some emerging destination nobody’s ever heard of. But often the classics are classics for a reason — and if you ignore Mykonos because of its fame, you risk missing out on what just might be the Greek island experience in its purest and most concentrated form. The Myconian Ambassador doesn’t shy away from the spotlight. The location, on a hillside just above the beach at Platis Gialos, makes for stunning sea views. And the sheer luxury of its rooms and suites makes a compelling case for Mykonos as the capital of the Mediterranean good life.
A utopia, strictly speaking, is a perfect yet imaginary place. The Myconian Utopia Resort, in contrast, is real — and it’s spectacular. One of a handful of luxury hotels belonging to a small homegrown chain, this particular Myconian, in the hills above Elia Beach, has the astonishing sea views that are more or less standard on this part of the island — and it’s particularly notable for its striking modern visual style.
The Myconian Collection began decades ago with a single hotel, and a single hotelier. Today, his four sons, back from studying hospitality management in Switzerland, run a large handful of luxury hotels across the island — the most luxurious of which has to be the Myconian Villa Collection, in the hills above Elia Beach, on the island’s southern coast.
We know Portugal is suddenly chock full of stylish and sun-kissed modernist luxury resorts, but what often goes unmentioned is that they tend to be extraordinarily family-friendly as well. Even by local standards, however, Martinhal Lisbon Cascais Family Hotel is an outlier. The word “family” is in its name for a reason — not only is there a baby concierge (not quite what it sounds like) and a capacious and well-equipped kids’ club, but seemingly everything here is designed to reduce stress and maximize ease for travelers with kids.
Martinhal is best known, at least on Tablet, for its hotel in Sagres, with its timber-wrapped modernist villas. You might not guess from the photos, but it’s an extraordinarily family-friendly hotel. So when the same group opens another hotel with “family suites” in its name, you can take them at their word. Martinhal Lisbon Chiado Family Suites is just what it sounds like: a townhouse hotel in Lisbon’s Chiado district whose 37 suites are eminently well-suited to families traveling with children, right down to the Tintin artwork in the kids’ bedrooms.
You keep thinking there’s no way the Algarve coast can keep dazzling, but it just keeps going, beach after unspoiled beach, eating up a whopping two hundred kilometers of southern Portugal. That’s plenty of space for every kind of hotel to host the millions of sun-seekers that descend upon the beaches during the summer. It makes perfect sense, then, for a place like Martinhal Beach Resort and Hotel to contain multitudes; an ambitious offering of varied guest-room styles with the facilities and amenities of a massive luxury resort, and a place particularly well-suited to families traveling with young children.
On Santorini, the view’s the thing, and there may be none better than that from the pool deck at Katikies, looking out over the island’s submerged volcanic caldera and the sea beyond. This hotel is a feast for the eyes, not just a scenic overlook but a sparkling white modernist take on a traditional cliff dwelling, spilling down the steep hillside a hundred meters above the water.
High above the sea, at the highest point of Santorini’s volcanic caldera, Chromata would be remarkable enough for the view alone. Some of Santorini’s hotels attempt to compete with this natural spectacle, perhaps not realizing that any attempts at arresting interior design would be overshadowed by the natural beauty of the place.
The differences between the best Santorini hotels are remarkably subtle; how to distinguish one sun-drenched, white-washed hotel on a scenic seaside cliff from the next? More than anything, it just comes down to execution — well, that and the sublimity of the views, but the photos say it all in that department. Kirini Suites is hardly breaking new ground on Santorini — if anything, their vision of the quintessential Greek Island hideaway is even purer than the competition’s. It’s just that, at Kirini, all the fresh white paint is somehow more pristine, the infinity pool overlooking the sea that much more spectacular, the suites even sunnier and breezier, and the beds more perfectly cloud-like than the competition’s. Add to all that some of the best food on the island and a serene little spa, and Kirini is a contender for the best hotel on an island with some serious competition.
None of the Greek islands are particularly unsightly, but even among such gems, Corfu stands out. And equally easy on the eyes is Domes Miramare, a modernist hotel that was originally constructed in the Sixties for the Onassis family. And after a thorough yet sensitive renovation — its original mid-century style is perhaps more fashionable than ever — it’s back in business under Mariott’s Luxury Collection banner.
Many Greek island hotels and resorts get by on scenery alone, thanks to the natural splendor of the region, but the Domes hotels know that eye-catching contemporary design is a complement, not a distraction. Domes of Corfu looks straight out into the Ionian Sea from a hillside above the idyllic Paralia Glifadas beach, which means it’s got the views covered — many of the suites face the beach from their balconies, and many of the common spaces partake as well.
This small luxury hotel complex sits high on a hilltop overlooking Mykonos town, and its swimming pool terrace, splendid enough in itself, boasts commanding views of the city’s rooftops. The location may not be as dramatic as the archetypal Greek island resort, perched on a cliffside, but there’s something to be said for a quiet residential location like Semeli’s.
So plentiful are mainland Italy’s charms that it’s easy enough to overlook Sardinia. But to do so is to risk missing out on some truly spectacular natural beauty. This island is, on the whole, a bit more rustic, a bit less polished than the peninsula. But the Costa Smeralda is the exception, blending wild, unspoiled landscapes with some of Europe’s most extravagant luxury resorts. Against this opulent backdrop, a place like the CPH | Pevero Hotel feels downright restrained, even with its five swimming pools, its extensive spa, and its seemingly endless outdoor terraces.
Lately, visitors to the Mallorcan capital with a taste for boutique hospitality find themselves spoiled for choice — on a per-capita basis there are few small cities with quite so many exquisitely individual boutique hotels. Hotel Antigua Palma, in the medieval Jewish quarter on the south side of the old city center, is a fine example: an aristocratic residence from the 17th century, remodeled in the 18th, and most recently converted into a 27-room luxury boutique hotel that combines classic architecture and well-preserved period details with contemporary furnishings and the high-end modern comforts demanded by 21st-century travelers.
Once a winery, this beachside plot in the western Peloponnese has found its true calling, its weathered century-old concrete forms converted into the stunning, industrial-chic Dexamenes Seaside Hotel. Here owner Nikos Karaflos and architects K-Studio have achieved maximal effect with light-handed interventions, removing the winemaking machinery and converting the concrete storage tanks one-to-one into hotel rooms.
The location is as central as it gets, a scant 200 meters from the Piazza del Duomo. And while the building that contains Speronari Suites is a 19th-century palazzo, its interiors could hardly be more contemporary — Angus Fiori Architects and interior designer Francesca Attolini have created a powerful reminder of why Milan is Italy’s capital of modern style. Though the atmosphere is residential, this is a proper luxury hotel, albeit a low-key one; witness the high-end comforts in the bedrooms and particularly the bathrooms, and the gym and sauna provided for guest use. Connected to the hotel is El Porteño, an Argentine bistro with a globe-spanning selection of wines.
That’s a capital A, not just the indefinite article “a” — A Hotel Mykonos certainly isn’t just any hotel. It’s set in the hills above Mykonos’s port and old town, making it a private enclave in what can at times be a busy destination. And if there’s one common thread that elevates it over other boutique-sized Greek island escapes, it’s the sense of tastefulness that pervades its rooms, suites, and common spaces; the classic minimalist white-on-white look that’s typical of the region is brought to life by well-crafted accents in rough-hewn wood or hand-made ceramics.
The Standard hotels have always been among the most glamorous of the boutique hotel names, and in retrospect it was only a matter of time before they found their way to Ibiza. This Balearic paradise is a perfect fit not only for its famously lively nightlife, something of a Standard specialty, but also for its exceedingly laid-back atmosphere, which brings to mind the brand’s ultra-chill Miami outpost.
It’s almost beyond living memory now, but Montenegro had something of a golden age in the middle of the last century, when the likes of Richard Burton, Marilyn Monroe, and Sophia Loren were luxuriating on its beaches. Travel to the Bay of Kotor, where the baroque-palace-turned-boutique-hotel Palazzo Radomiri overlooks a particularly stunning stretch of coast, and the perspective starts to lengthen. Scattered among the steep hillsides that frame the narrow bay here are ruins left behind by the Greeks, Romans, and Illyrians, and then there are those marbled streets and Italianate piazzas from the days when Venetian seafarers passed their days here — in lavish style, if the architecture is any indication — after getting their fill of skirmishing with pirates. So, though Montenegro has experienced something of a renaissance as a destination among savvy beach-goers over the past half-decade or so, this is not a place getting its first taste of glamor.