The George V, Carlyle, Cipriani, Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, Sandy Lane… the fabulous properties that have not made our final cut reads like someone else’s hot hotel list. Starting with a clean slate, our team of writers, luxury travel writers, hotel specialists and destination experts have scoured the globe to bring you only the very best. We have not accepted the status quo, the grande dames have not enjoyed their usual seat at the top table and nor have we added new properties simply for the sake of freshness.

So what do these hotel have in common? Firstly, they have each earned their place. Every hotel has been tried, tested, rated and cross-compared – and that was just to make the long-list. Secondly, they offer something extraordinary – be it location, service, style, soul, design, seclusion, facilities or romance. But above all, these are properties that will affect the way you feel. Life should be better when you check in.

Cotton House Hotel

Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

Cotton House Hotel, Barcelona, Spain

Housed in the former headquarters of the city’s cotton guild, this hotel has honoured its origins. As well as original features and antique furniture, you’ll encounter rooms with names like ‘Taffeta’ and ‘Damask’ and a small salon with displays of cotton bolts where you can have your very own shirt made to measure.

Location

Although it’s a favourite with smart hotels, the Gran Via doesn’t have a great deal going for it in terms of neighbourhood appeal, shops or restaurants. It’s well connected for public transport, however, and a taxi can whisk you from here to anywhere in the city in a matter of minutes.

Style & character

As with so many of Barcelona’s new breed of design hotels, interior designer Lázaro Rosa-Violán has worked his magic over the Cotton House, combining the grace of the original building with modern artworks and bold colours. The result really is stunning.

Service & facilities

Considering that the staff at this ultra-new hotel are still cutting their teeth, they do a good job of welcoming guests, remembering names and providing everything they might need.

  • Bar
  • Fitness centre
  • Laundry
  • Parking
  • Pool
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Spa
  • Wi-Fi

Rooms

The standard rooms are decently sized, immaculate and all-white, save the odd cotton-themed botanic print. Beds are huge, as are the shower cubicles (with rain shower).

Food & drink

The Batuar restaurant serves updated Catalan dishes all day long, and also doubles as the breakfast room (you can take breakfast out on the terrace if the weather is good). The cocktail bar sits within the dining room, but if you’re not eating, the loveliest place to drink is the library, still stacked high with original books.

Value for money

Doubles run from €196 (£142), excluding the lavish breakfast from €18 per person (£13). Wi-Fi free. It really is excellent value.

Access for guests with disabilities?

There are four bedrooms adapted for the disabled and a ramp for the swimming pool.

Family-friendly?

All but the lowest-priced rooms have sofa beds, and children under 12 stay for free.

Lime Wood

New Forest, Hampshire, England

Londoners looking to for a change of pace could do worse than this luxury country-house hotel, located in the heart of the New Forest. Attention has been paid to all the little details: oaks doors, lush colours and soft lighting, giving a relaxing and content atmosphere. The spa is excellent

Location

Set in 145 square miles of ancient heath and woodland where ponies, donkeys, pigs, cattle and deer still freely roam – the New Forest. While the New Forest has gained glamour and style from Lime Wood, Lime Wood has gained naturalness from the Forest.

Style & character

It’s the attention to detail throughout Lime Wood that makes it special and why it will stand the test of time. The oak doors are thick, the paint finishes lush, the brickwork laid to the architect’s design; soft floor lights switch on automatically as you walk into the bathroom; a million-pound glass roof retracts above the inner courtyard at the press of a button; stylized sitting rooms melt one into the other, pale lemon into lilac into mint green, each with an open fire. A pity about some of the pictures, especially those in the lovely hall (fabulous ‘oak leaf’ chandelier though).

Service & facilities

At first it all felt too glacial; now there are children tickling the ivories of the Yamaha grand and couples swanning on the terrace and amongst the carp pools. Dogs are welcomed with Bonios wrapped in lime green ribbon. It feels a treat to be here, but also relaxing.

In the sybaritic Herb House Spa ­– airy, encased in glass and surrounded by greenery, there are private bathrooms with deep copper baths in the changing rooms, sensuous swimming, hydrotherapy and steam pools, a pioneering raw food café, Raw and Cured, a tempting shop, Curated, a mud house, relaxation rooms and state of the art gym leading to a beautiful rooftop garden, all with sylvan views. Spa treatments are by Bamford, Voya, Pai, Tri-Dosha and Aromatherapy Associates.

  • Bar
  • Fitness centre
  • Laundry
  • Parking
  • Pool
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Sauna
  • Spa
  • Wi-Fi

Rooms

Gorgeous and sexy. Pavilion rooms melt into their New Forest surroundings.

Food & drink

The Scullery, previously used for informal meals, is now the breakfast room, while the main dining room, once a rather austere affair, has been transformed into Hartnett Holder & Co. The new look is dramatic and it has given the hotel a heart. Redesigned by Martin Brudnizki, it’s a warmly coloured space that you just don’t want to leave, as relaxed as it is lush and enveloping, with a central bar where guests can also dine, and where some dishes are ‘finished’ for added drama. As for the food, that most grounded of all celebrity chefs, Angela Hartnett, has joined forces with existing Lime Wood chef Luke Holder and to produce Italian inspired dishes that are as informal, yet polished as their surroundings. Fine dining and big plates are banned; sharing plates are in; home cooking is the key. The glamour is still there, courtesy of Brudnizki, but the stiffness has gone. It’s how we want to live today, and as at their sister hotel, The Pig in Brockenhurst, Lime Wood has reflected the mood perfectly.

Value for money

Expensive, but room prices are on the nail. Doubles from £315.

Access for guests with disabilities?

Access possible for guests with disabilities.

Family-friendly?

Yes.

Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc

Antibes, Côte d’Azur, France
Hotel du Cap Eden Roc, Antibes
A throwback to the F.Scott Fitzgerald era, this grand 19th-century mansion on the Cote d’Azur is set among nine hectares of landscaped gardens, with a guest list that reads like the credits of a Hollywood movie.

Location

Sitting on a quiet road at the rocky tip of Cap d’Antibes, the hotel is a 10-minute drive to the Musée Picasso in the Château Grimaldi. It is 30 minutes by car to Cannes and 35 minutes to Nice.

Style & character

It is one of the world’s most splendid hotels with its classic architectural lines, sumptuous Louis XV and XVI furnishings, gilded mirrors and chandeliers.

Service & facilities

Flawless service with a no-holds-barred concierge. There is a heated infinity pool, five clay tennis courts, 33 cabanas and a boutique. The Sisley spa has four treatment rooms, as well as a sauna, steam room, gym and beauty salon.

  • Bar
  • Fitness centre
  • Kids’ club
  • Laundry
  • Pool
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Spa
  • Tennis court

Rooms

The 25 sq m standard rooms can be found in either the main Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc building or the more private Les Deux Fontaines Residence. They overlook a courtyard or the gardens, and some have a private terrace.

Food & drink

Have a drink at the Eden-Roc Champagne Lounge on the Mediterranean (or the Bar Bellini or Bar La Rotonde when the weather cools). The gastronomic Eden-Roc Restaurant serves classics like roasted sea bass and lobster with tarragon; the Grill offers Provençal-style gambas at the seafront pavilion. There is also a juice and ice-cream bar in a cabin in the garden, and at breakfast time there are hot crepes at the buffet.

Value for money

Double rooms from £850 in low season; rising to £970 in high. Breakfast included. Free Wi-Fi.

Access for guests with disabilities?

There are rooms with wheelchair access, an elevator to access the restaurant and wheelchair-accessible bathrooms.

Family-friendly?

Every day in the summer (June, July and August) there is a kids’ club with daily programmes from 2-6pm including cultural and sporting activities: team games, treasure hunts and nature walks. There are also jet skis, kayaks, stand-up paddle boards and parasailing equipment.

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