We braved the global pandemic. We survived 2020. And although the world has seen losses beyond measure over the last year, it’s perhaps time to look for the light at the end of this nightmarish tunnel. And one of the biggest rays of hope that the world can hold out for us is the possibility of being able to travel footloose and mask-free once more.
It’s heartening that through all the doom and gloom, the idea of travelling hasn’t dimmed, even though most of us were confined to our homes and neighbourhoods. And also, that once we are ready to pack our bags and give in to our wanderlust again, there are a host of new, life-affirming luxury hotels waiting to serve as a gateway to delightful destinations.
Now that Europe is slowly getting safer and more accessible, here is our pick of the most promising ones that opened (and some that are still in the process of doing so!) across the Continent in the midst of the medical mayhem but ones that we hope will help to alleviate the collective anxiety by allowing us to soak in alluring vistas and pamper ourselves impossibly.
Airelles Château de Versailles, France
Undoubtedly one of the most anticipated hotel openings in the world, Le Grand Contrôle is a clutch of 14 beautifully restored rooms in a grand building inside the walls of the fabulous French Château de Versailles that is slated to open its doors on June 1, 2021. Your key to a suite here unlocks privileged access to the globally renowned 2,000-acre gardens and the majestic palace halls and apartments of the palace.
Live well: Step back in history as you step into these sumptuous signature suites, replete with period furnishings and fittings, and live like a French royal. Where even the welcome team’s uniforms are true to their 18th century avatars! The use of today’s technology, such as geothermal energy to heat the building or LED lights to give new life to antique chandeliers, is so cleverly camouflaged that you will feel the benefits of modernity but it will never intrude on your sensibilities. Dining at a table curated by the legendary Alain Ducasse will take you back to the days of excellent excess during the reign of Louis XIV and Marie-Antoinette. Every meal is a work of art and we won’t blame you for losing your head over this experience!
Be well: The purity of Swiss skincare and Marie-Antoinette’s elaborate beauty rituals meet in the best possible way in the checkerboard marble environs of the Valmont Spa. Finf the ultimate relaxation in the luxe sauna, hammam and indoor swimming pool or simply look up to feel uplifted by the hand-painted fresco on the ceiling!
One & Only Portonovi, Montenegro
The Adriatic Sea is the new Mediterranean. And if you’ve sailed those azure waters, you’ll know just why. The chicest new riviera on the block has it all and then some – deep forests, medieval magic and jewel-toned waterfronts. Drop anchor at the One & Only Portnovi, that’s located at the mouth of Boka Bay, where Montenegro shimmers forward to kiss the Adriatic on both cheeks.
Live well: Picture their stunning signature villas with panoramic views and exclusive beach access, which offer complete privacy and pampering in every possible way, from personal jetties to dedicated butlers. And if you want to, there are several amazing dining options, including refined Italian at the al fresco Sabia by the renowned Chef Giorgio Locatelli and poolside Japanese at the Tapasake Club.
Four Seasons Madrid, Spain
It’s in the heart of the old city. And brimming with beauty and tradition of a Spain gone by. And yet, just like the Andalusian Flamenco, a dance form which has been revived and often reimagined, the Four Seasons Madrid breathes a breath of fresh air into the old ways even as it celebrates their flamboyance.
Live well: Set in the Centro Canalejas, which unites seven splendid historical buildings, the oldest of which is a palace dating back to 1887, it even boasts a dramatic rotunda topped by a copper cupola. And then there’s the stylish rooftop restaurant by Spanish celebrity chef Dani García, a plush pool terrace and opulent high-ceilinged suites with all the gilt-edged bells and whistles you’d expect. Experience VIP shopping with a personal shopper in the private lounge at the luxe Galería Canalejas spilling over with prestigious Spanish and international brands.
La Réserve Eden au Lac Zurich, Switzerland
Take a century-old Alps-facing hotel on a beautiful lake and add some modern-day glam and tech without taking away its old-world charm. And who else can do this better than French design doyen Philippe Starck?
Live well: La Réserve Eden au Lac Zurich has been created to evoke a luxury yacht club. One that expertly blends contrasting design accents – mod and contemporary, glam and rustic, etc throughout the 40 rooms and suites as well as in the restaurants – Eden Kitchen & Bar on the ground floor and La Muña on the rooftop. And unlike other refined Swiss dining establishments, these offer a warmer, more communal dining experience along with flexibility of timings. An elegant cigar lounge and treasure cellar will appeal to the aesthete in you.
Be well: Start your day with a jog on the shores of Lake Zurich or take an invigorating dip in its crystal-clear waters. If that doesn’t ding your activity meter, then there’s always the state-of-the-art fitness room offering you the latest gym equipment.
Rocco Forte Villa Igiea Palermo, Italy
A grand example of Sicilian Art Nouveau, the villa was built by two of the richest, most prolific and eminent men in Palermo in the late 19th century. This palazzo is at the perimeter of pulsating Palermo city, located at the foot of the historic Mount Pellegrino and the scenic Gulf of Palermo. From June 2021 onwards, you can feast your eyes on views from the tiered villa gardens sweeping down to the port and out to the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Live well: Each of the 78 rooms and 22 suites is inherently Sicilian and yet incredibly Zen, with classic parquet, exquisite Carrara marble, and furnishings in serene hues maintaining cool temperatures in the warmest of summers. The menus at Rocco Forte Villa Igiea Palermo have been carefully crafted by Michelin-starred chef Fulvio Pierangelini to pay a refined tribute to timeless traditional recipes. Expect the finest of local ingredients from farms, estates, and fishing villages that make for a truly gourmet celebration of the island’s extraordinary natural bounty.
Be well: The Rocco Forte group is known for their wellness offerings and Irene Forte Skincare has been lauded for being the ‘new natural’. At the spa, apart from all the most advanced skincare rituals, you can transform your body with an Endosphère treatment that incorporates active Sicilian ingredients from apricot to blackcurrant and white wine to witch hazel! Eat from Chef Pierangelini’s health-focused menu created in collaboration with nutritionist Giancarlo Giammarresi, for wellness that’s more than skin deep.
Kempinski Palace Engelberg, Switzerland
Pick an all-out Alpine experience in the Engelberg-Titlis area, which is the largest summer and winter holiday destination in Central Switzerland. The Kempinski Palace Engelberg, once the historic Europäischer Hof Europe Hotel, is all set to open in June 2021 in all its updated, upscale Art Nouveau glory.
Live well: It boasts 129 rooms and suites that are situated in the Belle Epoque wing and showcase modern Swiss sensibilities. The light-filled Winter Garden restaurant offers the best of farm-to-table fine dining over the finest Engelberger vistas through floor-to-ceiling windows. The Cattani restaurant is brings together Swiss classics and modern vegetarian options in a sophisticated setting, while the lively Palace Bar is particularly atmospheric as the sun sets and shadows lengthen outdoors.
Be well: The spacious spa on the rooftop offers untrammelled vistas from the infinity pool. Think spa luxe in the form of a relaxation room with a fireplace, a Finnish sauna and bio sauna, a soothing steam bath, an ice fountain and a fitness room with state-of-the-art gear.
The Hoxton, Rome, Italy
A story that began in London’s East End 15 years ago, now has a tenth chapter in Rome this Spring! In typical Hoxton style, the Italian mid-century inspired building is in one of the chicest neighbourhoods of the city (stars of Italian cinema and TV live in the Parioli precinct).
Live well: Its 192 bedrooms come in sizes to suit any kind of stay, from shoebox to swish and are designed with aesthetic highlights ranging from polished parquet floors to statement headboards and brass fixtures. The Hoxton, Rome, has partnered with local restaurant and micro-bakery Marigold to create Cugino – an all-day destination for fresh bakes as well as meals. Post 6 pm, it makes the most of Aperitivo hour, morphing into a lively bar and late-night cocktail spot. And, come September, there’ll be another restaurant to tantalise your tastebuds too.
Work well: This one doesn’t have a spa but L’appartamento, their meeting and events space on the lower ground floor, has five rooms centred around a communal pantry and eclectically furnished with vintage Italian pieces and statement terrazzo floors. That’s as boutique luxe as it gets.