The age of the mega-hotels — and the most luxurious to book now
The global economy may be slipping into the abyss, but it hasn’t stopped a dizzying raft of goliath-style luxury hotels from cropping up across the globe, or classics from embarking on inconceivable renovations (see Claridges’ new five-storey ‘iceberg’ basement).
The big guns appear to be taking an aggressive approach to expansion – Rosewood, Six Senses, One&Only, The Peninsula – with the latter opening in London this year to the tune of £1 billion.
Meanwhile, the Atlantis The Royal in Dubai has set creative circles ablaze with controversial opinions on the new 43-floor behemoth — the opening of which Beyoncé was paid a reported $24 million to perform at. Here, mattresses are hand-stitched, pools are thrilling, sky-high transparent tanks overlook the Arabian Sea, and menus receive a brush of celebrity from Gordon Ramsay to Nobu.
With heavyweights dominating 2022-23’s new hotel lists, there’s a sense that boutique fever has waned or, at least, is less profitable than these superstructures, harbouring assorted notions of that overstretched term ‘luxury’. All claim to be its epitome, whether it’s through their smooth-as-butter service, palatial interiors, or futuristic touches.
This shift back to big spans the reimagining of vast, historical buildings to cutting-edge design and architecture that rips up the rulebook (and, occasionally, the surrounding landscape). Here are the hefty luxury hotels to know about this year.
Raffles, London at the OWO: Spring 2023
London is having quite the year with hotel openings, and Raffles London at The OWO is top of the anticipation list – along with the Peninsula. Occupying the once tobacco-stained Old War Office in Whitehall, where Winston Churchill deliberated plans to defeat the Nazis and Ian Fleming was inspired to write James Bond, the landmark hotel is not short of history to dine off. Nor of dining rooms, it turns out, with a remarkable nine restaurants and three bars rendering this once nerve centre of British defence a convivial, Champagne-fuelled hub for both patriotic Londoners and history buff visitors.
The Peninsula, London: Spring 2023
It’s The Peninsula’s first foray into Britain, and it’s already come at an eye-watering price. The perfect storm of Covid, global supply-chain issues, a dearth of workers, and inflation has bumped up the bill for the glossy Hong Kong hotel group to a spicy £1 billion. Clipping the edge of Belgravia and Hyde Park, each of the 190 rooms reportedly cost £5 million to build and then dress to architect Peter Marino’s exacting standards. The wait will surely be worth it for its Cantonese restaurant, swing-a-cat suites, and a mini shopping arcade to rival some of nearby Mayfair’s, not to mention the vast spa crowned by a 25-metre pool.
The Emory, London (Knightsbridge): Winter 2023
Maybourne, behind London’s haut hotel triumvirate – Claridges, The Connaught, and The Berkeley – is adding a Knightsbridge property into the discreet luxury mix, with an art and culture focus. Designed by the late Richard Rogers and Ivan Harbour, the building is a modernist marvel, topped with white shapes recalling the masts of a ship. Top-of-their-game interior designers such as Patricia Urquoila and André Fu have been allocated a floor each to spill their vision into, serving up a novel dose of design variety across its nine floors and 61 spacious suites. And aside from chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s locavore and seasonally guided menus, and a four-floor wellness space with a photogenic 22 metre pool, it’s the sweeping rooftop that’s set to steal the spotlight, with its knockout panoramic views over the capital.
Mandarin Oriental Mayfair, London: Spring 2023
A futuristic glass addition to historic Hanover Square, Mandarin Oriental Mayfair is the modern-thinking, smooth-talking little sister to the group’s Knightsbridge grand dame, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park. Along with 50 slick, contemporary rooms and suites choreographed by UK-based Studio Indigo, a staggering 77 private residences have been tacked onto the hotel, with owners having full access to the facilities, including in-room dining and the spa’s 25-metre swimming pool. Communal spaces designed by Tokyo-based studio Curiosity will riff on the members’ club, with walls showcasing the works of local British artists. While Korean chef Akira Back is landing his kitchen wizardry on UK soil for the first time, making the restaurant alone — along with his ABar rooftop bar — a reason to visit.
The Fifth Avenue Hotel, New York: Spring 2023
There’s a serious buzz around the opening of Fifth Avenue Hotel in New York, and rightly so. Sewn into Manhattan’s history (and the former skin of New York’s NoMad), the hotel splits across two buildings: a glossy 24-storey skyscraper with 124 rooms and the once Second National Bank Building with 24 spacious suites carved into the original Gilded Age structure. This thrilling blend of the city’s past and present will be expressed through Martin Brudnizki’s trademark restrained glamour, while guests can take a leisurely stroll from the hotel doors to Macy’s, The Rockefeller Center, or MOMA.
Atlantis The Royal Dubai: February 2023
It’s a Marmite situation. Atlantis The Royal Dubai’s Jenga-like structure on Palm Island may not gel with the coastal surroundings quite like Maldives’ Robinson Crusoe-style overwater villas, but it’s certainly not short of beach space (the longest privately owned stretch in Dubai) or pampering trimmings (self-described as ‘ultra-luxury’). Turbo-charging banal notions of luxury seem to be the exercise du jour for many Dubai hotels – a formula that clearly works for its clientele. Eyes may roll, but having sampled 17 different restaurants (some Michelin-starred, others drawn up by celebrity chefs), soaked in the Arabian Sea views from the infinity sky pool, and snoozed like a baby on hand-stitched mattresses with crisp cotton sheets, the cynicism may begin to wear off.
Peninsula, Istanbul: February 2023
The Peninsula is on a roll, and its opening in Istanbul’s historic Karakoy district is certainly one to watch. Its chosen position on the banks of the Bosphorus puts the recently reinvigorated Galataport on the map, with its fresh-to-the-scene boutiques and galleries mere moments from the hotel’s swishy lobby. The 177 rooms are designed in step with this corner of the city, from the Grand Bazaar to the comings-and-goings along the wide, glistening Bosphorus. Walls are adorned with artworks from a mix of established and emerging Turkish artists, and interiors project a modern, elevated take on Turkish style. Three of the four buildings this vast Istanbul newcomer occupies are protected historical landmarks, with strict rules around reverential design which the project had to adhere to. In true Istanbul style, a rooftop restaurant and bar, as well as several terraces and balconies will make the most of the long summers and views of the ancient city; as will the enormous outdoor swimming pool running along the Bosphorus.
Capella Sydney: March 2023
From the Singapore chain known for skillfully weaving tradition and wow-factor interiors into landmark buildings, Capella Sydney marks the group’s first move Down Under. The hotel will breathe new glitzy life into the Department of Education building (heritage-listed) in Sydney’s Sandstone Precinct with a remarkable 192 rooms and 32 suites. The gold-tinted building’s 20th century Edwardian Baroque charm has been carefully preserved amid a contemporary shake-up, with the original marble-clad lobby receiving lashings of modern art and the McRae Bar channelling early 20th century curios, with all the Victoriana trimmings.
Mondrian Singapore Duxton: March 2023
Unstoppable Ennismore is set to open a 300-strong room and suite Mondrian hotel in Singapore’s Duxton Hill neighbourhood. As with its Hoxton hotels, the Mondrian will act as a cultural magnet for creatives, foodies, and laptop-wielding freelancers with a cool rooftop bar for those who take their downtime seriously. Los Angeles-based Studio Carter has seized on a “deconstructed shophouse chic” brief, harking back to Singapore’s centuries-old shophouses through a cool, contemporary prism. Rooms also take their modernist cue from traditional Singaporean architecture. Rather than the expected lobby, guests will spill straight into a convivial restaurant and bar space as soon as they enter, immediately lowering shoulders several inches and honouring Ennismore’s winning trainers-and-truffle-tartare combination.
One&Only, One Za’abeel: 2023, homes available to buy now
Another Marmite structure from Dubai, One&Only’s One Za’abeel continues the hybrid hotel trend where a mix of rooms and residences are anchored by a top-drawer spa and restaurant. Two shiny skyscrapers connected by the world’s longest cantilevered building comprise One&Only’s third Dubai hotel, whose 229 subdued, cosmopolitan-flavoured rooms all enjoy floor-to-ceiling views of the city skyline. The pool is vertigo-inducing, spanning the 24th floor, with glass walls peering down over the swish Za’abeel neighbourhood.
Bulgari Hotel Rome: Spring 2023
2023 is set to be the Eternal City’s year, with Six Senses, Nobu Hotels, and Italian-to-the-marrow Bulgari opening up their freshly painted rooms to salivating guests. Having caused a storm in Paris, with its marbled-and-leathered modernity mere moments from the Arc de Triomphe, Bulgari Hotels is heading home to roost, with a grand opening in Rome. Set in an imposing 1930s modernist building in the Campo Marzio neighbourhood (moments away from the Spanish Steps and Via del Corso), Bulgari Roma will be dressed head-to-toe in Italian maximalism, with a library showcasing the history of jewellery and many of the 100 rooms and suites privy to views of the Arca Pacis and the Mausoleum of Augustus. Bulgari keeps to its tried-and-tested formulas – notably, Antonia Citterio Patricia Viel leading the charge on the building restoration and interior design, as well as star chef Niko Romito continuing his stellar work for the brand’s hotels, pulling together a kitchen and menu for Il Ristorante and The Bulgari Bar.
Raffles Udaipur India: Opened in 2022
It’s clear from Raffles London at the OWO that the group doesn’t sweat the small stuff. But Raffles’ first move into India surprised even the loyalists, with its whooping palatial pile dominating a 21-acre private island cast adrift in the Udai Sagar Lake. Guests are encouraged to wander the white frangipani gardens, where they may spot a flamingo or kingfisher. 101 rooms seize on an East-meet-West design narrative, blending western aesthetics with Rajasthan’s regal splendour, while balconies and plunge pools make the most of the views of the lake, the surrounding Aravali mountains, and an ancient temple. Raffles storied nothing-is-too-much butler service is dispensed here with a certain flamboyance this novel-worthy-setting seems to demand.