The new hotel top 20
Story by Nicholas DeRenzo | Hemispheres, May 2018
To compile our annual list of the best new hotels in the world, Hemispheres went everywhere, from the beaches of Tulum to the glaciers of Alaska to the palaces of India. We have a tough job, we know, but we managed to narrow it down to our 20 favorites, and no matter what kind of traveler you are, we're sure you'll find a must-stay destination. Bon voyage.
For the solitude seeker
Sheldon Chalet, Alaska
The Sheldon Chalet is definitively this year's coolest new hotel. The five-bedroom family-run luxury lodge opened this February on a rugged nunatak (an exposed rocky point surrounded by ice) 5,800 feet above sea level, surrounded by the remote, 6 million–acre Denali National Park. That location—in an area appropriately called the Don Sheldon Amphitheater—means views of North America's tallest peak and near-perfect conditions for seeing the aurora borealis. Guests arrive by air on a “flightseeing" helicopter tour over the glacier fields and, perhaps to quell any fears that this place qualifies as “roughing it," are met with a glass of Champagne and a selection of fresh Alaskan seafood, such as halibut and king crab, prepared by the chalet's private chef.
For the military history buff
Alila Fort Bishangarh, India
This architectural icon, a 230-year-old blush-pink fortress atop a granite hill in Rajasthan's Aravalli Range, lay in a state of ruin for decades, taken over by bats, snakes, and monkeys. Now, after nearly a decade of work, the Alila Fort Bishangarh is once again fit for a king, with design touches recalling the Mughal and British eras, such as jali lattice window screens, Thikri mirror mosaics, and petal-shaped arches. The 59-suite hotel makes clever use of the fort's many nooks and crannies: You can sleep in the royal residences or the barracks, relax in the library lounge in the former war room, and drink cognac in the turret cigar bar, where soldiers once poured boiling oil on their enemies through the musket slots in the 10-foot-thick walls. And the spa? It's in the old dungeon.
For the New England nostalgic
Sound View; Greenport, New York
Long Island's North Fork is more casually cool than its glitzy neighbor to the south—home of Montauk and the Hamptons—and last August, the 19th-century whaling village of Greenport got a fittingly laid-back yet luxe lodging. In-demand Brooklyn designers Studio Tack kitted out the appropriately named Sound View—the hotel overlooks Long Island Sound—in a spare Modernist New England style that pairs cedar shiplap walls with cork and rubber floors meant to evoke a sandy beach. At James Beard Award–winning chef Galen Zamarra's on-site restaurant, The Halyard, dig into fresh seafood (fluke tacos, roasted scallops) paired with North Fork wines and beers.
For the eco-friendly skier
Valsana Hotel & Appartements Arosa, Switzerland
Skiing is surprisingly tough on nature, but the Valsana, which opened in December in the resort village of Arosa, has found clever ways to combat environmental degradation. The 40-room, nine-suite hotel is nearly carbon-neutral thanks to fair trade–certified toiletries, sustainable building materials, and a state-of-the-art energy recovery system called an “ice battery" (ask a physicist). Playing off this progressive outlook, the Valsana eschews Alpine clichés for millennial-approved thrift-shop design touches, such as vintage turntables and secondhand books in guest rooms and hammocks on balconies. For an updated take on après-ski, hit the lobby's self-service wine dispensers, which are often stocked with vintages from the surrounding Graubünden region.
For the art collector
21C Museum Hotel Nashville, Tennessee
Last May saw the opening of the seventh member of the 21c Museum Hotel chain, which together forms one of the nation's largest multivenue contemporary art institutions. The Nashville location occupies the historic Gray & Dudley Building, which opened in 1900 and lends its name to chef Levon Wallace's lobby restaurant, where diners come face to face with Beth Cavener Stichter's evocative stoneware animal sculptures. In addition to the public gallery spaces, the hotel offers three Artist Suites, curated by painter Sebastiaan Bremer, composer Josephine Wiggs, actor Adrian Grenier, and artist Yung Jake. The chain's most famous pieces, however, remain Cracking Art's army of 4-foot-tall plastic penguins, which come in a different color at each location (Nashville's is teal) and which staffers move around the hotel throughout the day. Pick up a miniature ceramic version at the gift shop.
For the adventurous oenophile
Mitchelton Hotel and Day Spa, Australia
The Mitchelton Wine Estate, set among apple orchards and horse farms about 80 miles north of Melbourne, has produced award-winning rieslings and shirazes for five decades. It never ascended to the ranks of destination winery, however, until December, when it opened a design hotel and day spa. The warm, masculine space mixes natural materials both hard (blackened steel, copper) and soft (merino wool, buttery Italian leather). Sample the estate's wines while taking in vineyard views from one of the 58 rooms and suites—or, better yet, from the 180-foot-high observation tower.
For the cocktail connoisseur
Henrietta Hotel, London
The Paris-based Experimental Group is shaking up the hospitality scene with its growing roster of slinky bars and buzzy boltholes. The past year saw the opening of both its second lodge in Paris (Hotel des Grands Boulevards) and its first in London, the 18-room Henrietta Hotel, which debuted last May in side-by-side Victorian townhouses in Covent Garden. Dorothée Meilichzon's understated interiors—all brass accents, mirrored surfaces, and soft curves—call to mind an Art Deco bar cart. Confirm the bed-and-beverage's boozy bona fides in chef Ollie Dabbous's French-accented restaurant, where the cocktail menu was put together by a pair of drink historians, or in your room, which is outfitted with a bedside Experimental Cocktail Club recipe book and a minibar arsenal of 50 ml bottles of craft spirits.
For the au courant countess
Verride Palácio Santa Catarina, Lisbon
If the words “palace hotel" conjure oppressive dark woods and heavy fabrics, the Verride Palácio Santa Catarina—opened in October across from Lisbon's Pharmacy Museum—is just what the doctor ordered. Occupying a hilltop 1750 townhouse once owned by a count, the 19-room hotel is studded with historic touches, including blue and white azulejo tiles, Rococo molding, and hand-painted silk wallpaper. The space transcends Baroque weightiness by employing a palette of crisp white tones—from Celso de Lemos organic cotton linens to Carrara marble accents—bathed in the city's greatest asset: the intense Iberian sunshine.
For the introverted island-hopper
Myconian Kyma; Mykonos, Greece
Mykonos is Greece's undisputed party island (Lindsay Lohan celebrated her 30th here), but the 81-room Myconian Kyma provides a welcome respite for guests who would rather spend time under the Aegean sun than nightclub strobe lights. Opened last May on a rocky hilltop less than 10 minutes on foot from the ouzo-fueled downtown, the stark, whitewashed space is replete with shadowy alcoves for midday napping, as well as a double-level infinity pool that overlooks the sea. Many of the suites come with their own plunge pools or hot tubs, but for the best chance at relaxation, head to the Satori Thalasso Spa, which uses mineral-enriched seawater in many of its treatments.
For the midwestern modernist
Ace Hotel Chicago, Illinois
The ultra-hip Pacific Northwest–born Ace brand made its Third Coast debut in August in a former cheese factory—très Midwestern—in Chicago's burgeoning West Loop district. The building's aesthetic draws on the sleek industrial style of architect László Moholy-Nagy, who founded the New Bauhaus school here in 1937, with visual references to luminaries like Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Josef and Anni Albers. Rooms feature a host of Midwestern-made goods, including blankets from Iowa's Amana Woolen Mill, football-inspired details from Chicago's Horween Leather, and original works by students at the prestigious School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Don't miss the rooftop bar, Waydown, which takes its name from a song by John Prine, the bard of Maywood, Illinois.
For the stuffed-to-the-gills gourmand
Hotel Akelarre; San Sebastián, Spain
San Sebastián's culinary reputation precedes it: Basque Country boasts the highest concentration of Michelin stars per capita on the planet. One of the city's trio of three-starred restaurants, Pedro Subijana's Akelarre, opened a 22-room inn this March—the perfect spot for foodies to tuck in after a marathon eight-course tasting menu (with dishes like this squid risotto with butter flower) and a few too many glasses of wine from the 650-label cellar. Done up in a crisp minimalist palette of cream, gray stone, and warm oak slats, the hotel features floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Bay of Biscay. Enjoy that view over a room-service breakfast of tortilla española, chorizo, and local charcuterie from the world-class kitchen.
For the hollywood elite
NoMad Los Angeles, California
New York's NoMad Hotel and its Michelin-starred restaurant brought a touch of European elegance to an unloved stretch of Broadway, and now the brand is hoping to recreate that magic in Downtown LA. The Sydell Group filled the 1923 Neoclassical former Bank of Italy headquarters—the lobby bathroom is inside the old vault—with lush, tactile details that would fit right in at the estate of an Old Hollywood mogul: jewel-toned velvet, coffered ceilings, potted palms, even the odd stuffed peacock. Naturally, the on-site restaurants are from chef Daniel Humm and restaurateur Will Guidara, the team behind the original NoMad and Eleven Madison Park, which was named the World's Best Restaurant in 2017.
For the boho beach bum
Habitas Tulum, Mexico
Guests checking in at Habitas Tulum are asked to burn a bit of copal, a tree resin known as much for its spiritual cleansing properties as for its (perhaps more useful) ability to ward off mosquitoes. Tucked away on a secluded beach not far from Mayan ruins, this off-the-grid retreat contains 32 air-conditioned canvas tents complete with palapa roofs, king-size beds, kilim rugs, and outdoor rain showers. You can follow the property's jungle walking trails, join an Ashtanga yoga class, or borrow a complimentary bike, but this place was really designed for doing nothing, artfully: You're never more than a few feet from hammocks hanging in palm thickets, poolfront beds, or the rope swings swaying in front of the bar.
For the bargain hunter
The Hoxton, Paris
The lodging scene in Paris is booming. Reopenings of historic grandes dames like the Hôtel de Crillon and the Hôtel Lutetia have grabbed all the headlines, but for our money the most exciting recent debut is The Hoxton, which burst onto the scene last summer in the startup-filled Second Arrondissement (sometimes called “Silicon Sentier"). Nightly rates start at a cool $120 (less than one-tenth of the Crillon's), but don't expect a no-frills hostel. After all, the 172-room hotel occupies the High Rococo 18th-century townhouse of Louis XV's diplomatic adviser. Even the self-effacingly named Shoebox rooms are decked out in sumptuous detailing, such as decorative molding and herringbone parquet floors. Use all those Euros you've saved at the Rivié all-day brasserie or the Moroccan-themed Jacques' Bar.
For the aspiring lumberjack
The Douglas Vancouver, British Columbia
You could see why the Parq Vancouver might have made locals nervous: With its 72,000 square feet of casino space, the $500 million urban resort had the makings of a Vegas-style intrusion. But the developers were savvy enough to build not just a sleek JW Marriott but also an eco-friendly Autograph Collection hotel, the Douglas. The property opened in October as an ode to its namesake, the Pacific Northwest's favorite conifer, which appears throughout public spaces (the check-in area has a 25-foot replica Douglas fir encased in glass) and in the rooms and suites (each of which contains a bottle of Douglas Fir gin from the nearby Yaletown Distillery). The best part is the 30,000-square-foot park that's perched on the resort's sixth floor and is home to 200 native pines and 15,000 local plants.
For the antiques collector
When the construction of a reservoir threatened a collection of Ming and Qing Dynasty structures in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangxi, native son Ma Dadong sprang into action. Over the course of 16 years, the entrepreneur rescued and reassembled historic villas and replanted more than 10,000 camphor trees about an hour southwest of Shanghai, creating the backbone of Aman's fourth Chinese property, Amanyangyun, which opened in January. Guest villas are decorated with centuries-old calligraphic carvings and reliefs, and the 30,500-square-foot spa employs traditional Chinese medicine in its treatments.
For the urban pioneer
Hotel 50 Bowery, New York City
The Bowery in Lower Manhattan was synonymous with crime and urban decay for more than a century, but two decades of revitalization have made the neighborhood ripe for stylish visitors—and a boutique hotel to serve them. Joie de Vivre's newest New York City outpost, 50 Bowery, opened last May in a 22-story glass tower designed by Hong Kong–born architect Peter Poon. The property, located just across the street from the ornate entrance to the Manhattan Bridge, fully embraces its Chinatown location in everything from its robes (emblazoned with red dragons) to its color scheme (blue and white, à la Chinese porcelain) to its pan-Asian restaurant, Rice & Gold, from Top Chef contestant Dale Talde. In fact, the designers literally mined the area for influences: The Museum of Chinese in America curated an on-site exhibit of the artifacts that were found while excavating the building plot, which was once home to vaudeville theaters, gaming dens, and a German beer hall.
For the Instagram influencer
The Drifter, New Orleans
Tulane Avenue, at the southern end of Route 61 (the Blues Highway), is home to some seedy motels, one of which has now been revived as the Big Easy's trendiest hotel. Set around a courtyard pool, the 20-room Drifter occupies a '50s motor lodge built in the Googie style, a mid-century look that borrowed shapes from car culture and the Space Race. Expect interiors decked out in Instagram-ready pinks, mint greens, and teals, with eye-catching design touches such as Oaxacan tiles, retro Formica tables, and a wall-size installation by Carlton Scott Sturgill that's covered in roses made from upcycled Ralph Lauren dress shirts. Happy filtering!
For the eager upcycler
Trunk (Hotel), Tokyo
Tokyo's lodging scene skews toward the glossy and corporate, but when the 15-room Trunk (Hotel) opened last May in the Harajuku/Jingumae district (a part of trendy Shibuya), it brought a refreshing dose of local craftiness. The space is filled with creatively eco-conscious details: Rooms are clad in reclaimed wood, staff aprons are made from salvaged deadstock denim, cushions on the terrace were once boat sails, and even the coat hangers are repurposed factory iron remnants. Speaking to its fast-paced, youth-oriented neighborhood, the Trunk also houses a kushiyaki grilled-meat stand and an elevated take on a konbini (convenience store) that sells grab-and-go snacks and gifts, including locally sourced honey.
For the contemporary kosher-keeper
Alvear Icon Hotel & Residences, Buenos Aires
Since 1932, the Alvear Palace Hotel has stood as one of the most luxurious grandes dames in the New World. The brand added a second property, the Alvear Art Hotel, in 2013, and now it has a third, with the debut last June of the Alvear Icon Hotel & Residences. Set in a jagged glass tower on the banks of the Río de la Plata in the upscale Puerto Madero neighborhood, the hotel features 159 rooms and suites with arabescato marble wall accents and French and Italian fabrics, as well as South America's first fine-dining glatt kosher restaurant, Glitter, and a kosher dairy bar, Milk & Co.
Carole Cary-Hopson, Newark Liberty International Airport Boeing 737 First Officer, remembers how it felt piloting her first United flight.
"Shivers" she recalled. "I felt as if this is what dreams are made of. Every single time I come to work, I feel that way."
"That way" was 14 years in the making for Carole. "What dreams are made of" dates back to her childhood in Pennsylvania and frequently visiting her grandma's home in south Jersey that was right by the Philadelphia airport.
"We would go and lie in the grass by the airport and note the colors of the planes coming in and leaving, how many would come through at a time; we made graphs," said Carole. "I was fascinated by it."
As Carole grew up, she held on to that fascination, but an undergrad and master's degree later, she found herself successfully climbing her way up the corporate ladder, from the NFL to Footlocker. As her duties and roles continued to evolve and grow, Carole observed that she was always on an airplane. In fact, it was on a work trip where that observation and her life-long fascination came full circle.
"I was on a KLM flight and the pilot noticed me looking around and observing everything," she said. "So, he offered me the jumpseat and proceeded to teach me everything across the North Atlantic trip. It was then and there I realized, 'I can do this.' It all came together in my head."
Not long after that flight, Carole went on a date with a man who she now proudly calls her husband.
"I told him on that date, 'I have something to tell you and if you laugh at me about it, I'll never see you again,'" said Carole. Carole proceeded to tell him about her dream of becoming a pilot. A few weeks after that date, he handed her gift certificates to attend a flight school right outside of Manhattan.
From there, Carole moved roles in her corporate career once more, taking a job with L'Oreal where she socked away her paychecks to save up for flight school. In the meantime, she began to network in the aviation world, attending events through Women in Aviation and the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP). It was there she met her mentors, one being American Airlines Captain Jenny Beatty who handed her a mug of Bessie Coleman, the first woman of African-American and Native-American descent to hold a pilot's license.
"I stood on that crowded convention floor with Jenny and Bessie at that time and just bawled," said Carole. "I kept asking myself how I could be an Ivy League graduate and had never heard of her. At that moment, I wanted to do something with her story."
Thus, along with training, becoming a pilot and raising a family, Carole began writing a historical fiction book on Bessie, a woman who had to go to France to learn how to fly because no one would teach her in the U.S. Today, the book is near completion and once finished, 25% of the proceeds will go toward the Lt. Colonel Luke Weathers Flight Academy, an organization within OBAP that aims to grow and diversify the future pilot pipeline.
"I hope Bessie is smiling down and has forgiven me for taking so long on writing this book," said Carole. "She continues to provide me with guidance and being an example of determination. I know she would tell me to keep going and to not even dare to stop."
Well, as if Bessie already doesn't know, stopping doesn't seem to be in Carole's vocabulary.
"When you have a goal, there are a series of definitive steps," said Carole. "Each one is important and sometimes, they take many years to reach. But each one of those goals I had in the past were steps that got me to flying."
And Carole's next step?
"Continue to fly and finish Bessie's book," said Carole. "And once the book is finished, the goal is a movie and then sending 100 black women to flight school. With the numbers being only 1-2% African-American's flying, we need to fix that, and I intend to!"
Sisters and United MileagePlus® Premier® 1k members, Kelsey and Courtney Montague, are constantly traveling to create street art pieces for communities around the world. This year they teamed up with us to travel to Peru to explore the beautiful country, and to create a custom mural for a very special group of young women participating in the Peruvian Hearts program. Peruvian Hearts, now part of our Miles on a Mission program, works to support female leaders with access to education, counseling and peer support
Finding tranquility at Machu Picchu
As we hiked up the ancient steps of Machu Picchu, we were surrounded by Incan merchants, servants and townsfolk climbing the stairs to start their day. As foreigners not used to hiking at 7,9000 feet, the locals sprinted by us as we struggled up the steep steps, with the lush rainforest behind us and ancient city just beyond. But even with burning legs and straining lungs, it's likely anyone's breath would be taken away (as ours was) once they reached the clearing above this sprawling city in the clouds. All thoughts of the slightly tortuous route we took to this dazzling ancient city were forgotten the second we laid eyes on this UNESCO World Heritage site.
Along with my sister Kelsey, our Dad and our friend Clay felt the power and mystery when we all arrived at the vantage point over the city of Machu Picchu. The day before we had traveled all day from Denver flying in United's stunning United Polaris®. We slept fully flat on two excellent flights, curled up on down pillows and wrapped in Saks Fifth Avenue comforters. We slept soundly after feasting on steak and chocolate sundaes and spent a layover chatting with bartender, Steven, as he made us cosmos at the United Polaris lounge in Houston. It was wonderful, but the best part? Arriving in Peru so rested and relaxed we were able to completely savor this moment at Machu Picchu. A moment only made sweeter when our Dad turned to us and thanked us for taking him on the trip of a lifetime and giving him the opportunity to see a place he never thought he'd get to visit.
We explore the ruins with the wide eyes of children, enjoying every view and savoring every piece of information from our guide. Llamas 'own' the ruins and gently nudge tourists aside as they scamper between buildings to their favorite pasture. The terraces on the outskirts of the town were used to prevent soil erosion and to farm maize and beans. Condors soar above our heads, their keen eyes hunting for chinchillas tucked into the terrace rock walls.
Incan community members that lived or worked in Machu Picchu must have felt the same way we felt the first time they came across this thriving metropolis, situated on top of a mountain. Incan urban planners neatly organized centers for astrological studies, religious ceremonies, sports, commerce and farming. The buildings were built from granite and limestone, likely from a quarry located on the same mountaintop. Some buildings were so finely constructed scientists still don't quite know how the Incans did it.
At the end of the tour we come to the sacred rock — a perfect, flat replica of the Yanantin mountain behind it. Some mystical members of society believe that touching the rock transmits tremendous power. I won't lie that I quietly let my fingers graze the stone as a I walked by. Did I feel a sudden power rush? No. But did I leave Machu Picchu filled with a sense of wonder and a reaffirmed belief that anything is possible? Yes.
Partnering with Peruvian Hearts
The next morning, we awoke ready to tackle the most meaningful part of our trip to Peru — working with Peruvian Hearts.
Peruvian Hearts works to support women by giving them access to education, counseling and peer support. They are currently working with 32 talented, bright young women who they have hand-picked from secondary institutions across Cusco. They focus on supporting brilliant engineers, psychologists, teachers, scientists and doctors. These are the future female leaders that will change their communities, their country and the world for the better.
When we arrive to meet these scholars, they cheer, and each young woman gives Kelsey and me a hug. Overwhelmed, we both begin to cry. We are so grateful for our job as a traveling street art team, but we are on the road so much we are often very lonely. We can't remember the last time we received so many hugs or saw so many bright smiles.
When we arrive to the Peruvian Hearts headquarters a number of the young women tell us how they found Peruvian Hearts. Aldi, a brilliant engineer in training, was asked to join this special organization because she was first in her class in secondary school. She grew up in tough financial circumstances — her mother is ill and unable to work, and her father works in construction. As the only person in her family who has attended university, she is the primary hope of her family. Tears stream down her face as she describes how tough it has been for her family to survive. So many of these young women tell similar stories and carry the weight of their entire family's future squarely and proudly on their shoulders.
These stories reaffirm the reason Kelsey and I decided to join forces with United — we hope to make that weight on their shoulders a little lighter. As we worked on the mock-up for the mural to commemorate Peruvian Hearts, United decided to help in another way by including Peruvian Hearts in their new Miles on a Mission program. A first of its kind program, United MileagePlus members can now donate their miles to nonprofits they care about. Miles that will help young women like Aldi attend conferences in the United States or study abroad in Mexico.
Other women will be able to travel more freely between their studies in Lima and their families in Cusco. The young scholars were so excited to now be part of the United family and to have access to the connections a major airline can bring.
After an ideation period Kelsey decided to create a large-scale heart flock mural with 32 hearts on one side to represent the young women in the program and 32 hearts on the other side to represent those to come. Over two days we painted the piece and filled it with items that represent Peru (a llama, a condor, Peru's national flower and butterflies), Peruvian Hearts (pencils, books, and a shooting star) and a United airplane. As we worked on the piece the ladies sang, danced and told us their dreams. Dreams to travel, learn new languages, start meaningful careers and change their communities for the better.
When we finished the piece — two massive streams of hearts that appear to be coming from the person standing in the middle of the mural — the girls came to thank us. With cheers, hugs and kisses they explained how proud they were that this mural was for them and how it would continue to lift them up as they work hard to improve their circumstances.
At the end of this project Kelsey and I felt so blessed to be connected to such a wonderful group of women. At that moment we realized that is what art and travel should be about. Art and travel should connect us to each other as humans and to something deeper within ourselves — a desire to lift each other up.Visit United's Miles on a Mission program to support Peruvian Hearts .
February 12, 2020
As we continue to evaluate our operation between our U.S. airport hub locations and Beijing, Chengdu, and Shanghai as well as Hong Kong, we have decided to extend the suspension of those flights until April 24. We will continue to monitor the situation and will evaluate our schedule as we remain in close contact with the CDC and other public health experts around the globe.
We suspend travel to Hong Kong
February 4, 2020
In response to the continued drop in demand, we are suspending travel to Hong Kong beginning February 8 until February 20. Our last flights will depart San Francisco on February 5 (flight 877 and flight 869) and the last returning flight will depart Hong Kong on February 7 (flight 862).
Please check united.com for important travel information as well as current travel waivers.