On The Road

Eight Cool New City Hotels

Our round-the-world guide to the best new places to rest your head

  • The Shangri-La at The Shard, London

What makes a truly great city hotel? A jet-lag-curing bed you wish you could sleep in every night? A cool, quiet bar? Stylishly refined facilities and seamless service? All of the above, and more, we say. Amid the noise and chaos of the world’s biggest, brightest metropolises, a new hotel has to be something truly special to stand out. But at the same time, it needs to be an oasis of calm; a place for regrouping and recharging in comfort. (An award-winning restaurant wouldn’t go amiss either.)

Whether you’re travelling for business or pleasure – or even a little of both (yes, people are beginning to use the portmanteau “bleisure”), we’ve explored the latest openings in eight of the world’s most important city destinations, pinpointing our favourite hotel in each. These are the properties with standards as high as their thread counts; the effortless homes away from home. 

1. WALDORF ASTORIA, AMSTERDAM

Created from six of Amsterdam’s grand waterfront mansions, the Waldorf Astoria stands proudly on the banks of the chic Herengracht (“Gentleman’s Canal”), exuding Golden Age refinement. Elegant and regal, many rooms still boast their original 17th-century fireplaces, and even the hotel’s signature spicy scent comes courtesy of Louis XIV’s candlemaker, Cire Trudon. In a former life, part of the building was a bank and they’ve turned the vault into an exclusive den of a bar beneath the hotel. Here, cocktail ingredients are whipped out of original safety deposit boxes and mixed into rich, heady concoctions for Amsterdam’s creative tastemakers. (The “Zwollywood” is highly recommended, though more than two could have you talking double Dutch.)

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Room 337 commands sweeping views over the roofs of Amsterdam, the canal and the hotel’s expansive private garden. Part of the former mayor’s residence, it has original 17th-century exposed beams, as well as a huge bathroom with standalone tub.

Who to know

The hotel’s larger-than-life GM, Mr Roberto Payer, is a legend on the Amsterdam hotel scene, with a bottomless supply of local tips. A coffee connoisseur, he’ll suggest the best places for getting your caffeine fix. 

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2. THOMPSON MIAMI BEACH, MIAMI

Set in a 1940s Art-Deco skyscraper, the latest addition to the Thompson family is a beach-style hotel with city slickness. Situated just north of South Beach, Thompson Miami Beach combines the best of old Miami with 21st-century comforts. Check out the Prohibition-era speakeasy, hidden in the unassuming poolside 1930s house. With 380 guest rooms, including 30 suites, this is the perfect place for going MIA in Florida.

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The Ocean Suite has a spacious corner balcony with floor-to-ceiling windows, a daybed for lounging, a wet bar and gourmet mini-bar.

Who to know

Celebrity chef Ms Michelle Bernstein is the award-winning force behind Seagrape restaurant where everything is sourced locally featuring an abundance of fresh vegetables simply prepared, creative small plates, a selection of steaks and a rich raw bar.

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3. THE PENINSULA, PARIS

Located in the heart of the elegant 16th arrondissement, just steps away from the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Elysées, The Peninsula Paris is the group’s first European opening, and they’ve done it in flamboyant style. The refurbished 19th-century Belle Epoque building has some of the largest hotel rooms in the city, each with a self-contained dressing area and walk-in closet. With grand touches throughout (the lobby is dominated by a hanging sculpture of 800 Czech-crystal leaves), it’s fair to say that The Peninsula outshines many of its City of Light rivals.

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Deluxe Room 520 is a fraction of the price of The Peninsula’s suites, but still has a sitting room, a spacious marble bathroom and a stunning view of the Eiffel Tower.

Who to know

Executive chef Mr Jean-Edern Hurstel is one of France’s brightest young culinary superstars, and the high flyer behind the outstanding L’Oiseau Blanc rooftop restaurant. Order the Saint-Sever guinea fowl.

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4. THE LUDLOW, NEW YORK

A first incursion into the rapidly flourishing Lower East Side for hip hoteliers Mr Sean MacPherson, Mr Ira Drukier and Mr Richard Born, The Ludlow is equal parts grit and glamour. Think chandeliers and exposed wooden beams; elaborate mosaic floors strewn with battered leather armchairs. Sink a cocktail or two with the LES glitterati clustered around the lobby’s roaring fire, or collect your thoughts in the enclosed garden – a rare cocoon of Manhattan calm. The edgy Gallic bistro, Dirty French, is not to be missed either.

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The SkyBox Loft has a 180-degree view of Manhattan, plus a marble tub to luxuriate in as you soak up the panorama.

Who to know

Chief bartender Mr Thomas Waugh, master of The Ludlow’s “cocktail programme”. Get on his good side by ordering a Belmondo – his signature cocktail – made from a blend of tequila, pear, ginger and lemon juice.

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5. HOTEL 1888, SYDNEY

Hotel 1888 styles itself as the “world’s first Instagram hotel”, and Sydney’s newest boutique offering plays heavily on coincidence. The year it was constructed – 1888 – was also the year that Kodak launched with a patent for its first box and roll cameras. As a result, the hotel has a strong photography focus, with quirks ranging from a free night’s stay for the month’s best Instagram shot to a “selfie space” for guests to pap themselves. Right now Instagram users with more than 10,000 followers automatically qualify for a free night, too. The hotel itself is extremely photogenic: think exposed brick walls, huge period windows and floods of natural light illuminating bright, punchy Pop Art. Then get swiping: those filters won’t choose themselves.

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The sleeping quarters are on the mezzanine; downstairs there’s an enormous round tub, a vintage bar and lounge room – all accessed via its own front door onto the street.

Who to know

Receptionist Ms Jess Ivery has her finger on the button and will get you a table at nearby Momofuku Seiobo, one of Sydney’s finest diners.

WHAT TO WEAR

  • Incotex Slim-Fit Linen and Cotton-Blend Shorts

6. SHANGRI-LA AT THE SHARD, LONDON

London’s new hotel scene is as cluttered as its skyline. The Mondrian on the South Bank and The Beaumont in Mayfair are newly opened stand-outs. But there’s one property guaranteed to make you feel above it all: the Shangri-La at The Shard. Taking up floors 34-52 of Mr Renzo Piano’s iconic glass spire, the star turn is the infinity Skypool on the 52nd floor – right at the sharp end. This is officially the highest pool in Western Europe, boasting spectacular views. Afterwards, dry off at the adjacent Gong bar and enjoy a sunset over central London with an award-winning Black and Blue Swizzle cocktail (ingredients include blue cheese, if you can believe it). Later, dive into your unfathomably comfortable Shangri-La bed, with its patented body-contouring technology.

Book this room

Opt for a northwest-facing Iconic City View room to take in the best panorama of iconic London landmarks, from St Paul’s Cathedral to The London Eye and Big Ben.

Who to know

Mr Toru Machida, the charismatic head of the 25-strong concierge team. A former winner of the Society of The Golden Keys’ Concierge of the Year Award, he’ll be able to help you navigate the foodie highlights of Borough Market, just across the street from the hotel.

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7. SOHO HOUSE, CHICAGO

This is the big one – literally. At 108,000sqft, Soho House Chicago is the largest of the 12 Houses in the group to date. But it’s also the most hotly anticipated. It was nine years ago that Mr Nick Jones, CEO of the private members’ clubs for “creative souls”, first notched the deal on this old belt factory. Now, finally, the striking six-floor building in Chicago’s edgy West Loop district has completed its transformation into an international outpost of style and comfort. Two floors are dedicated to 40 bedrooms, but you’ll be spending most of your time on the Club floor – or, come summer, lounging poolside on the rooftop.

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“Tiny” by name, but each of these six bedrooms contains a king-size bed and walk-in rainforest shower. Starting at around $240 a night, they’re a real snip.

Who to know

Ms Joey Stevenson, the event programming manager, interviewed hundreds of local creatives in order to find the right people for this property, so she has her finger on the pulse when it comes to the club’s entertainment calendar. Book ahead.

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8. ANDAZ, TOKYO

The jewel atop Tokyo’s latest glitzy development, Toranomon Hills, Andaz feels welcomingly different and refreshingly personal. First, there’s the absence of a traditional lobby. Instead, you’re greeted by stylish hosts armed with tablets to deal with the check-in procedure in a far more comfortable and civilised fashion. Then there’s the washi paper and walnut partitions in each room, allowing you to customise the space based on your own personal style. Even the airy AO Spa offers a completely bespoke style of treatment: “Jiyujizai” (a Japanese term meaning “your creation”). You can choose everything from the herbs used to the style and structure of your treatment. The hotel’s aim is to “welcome guests as if they are friends in an unscripted and inspiring manner”. Design your very own comfort zone.

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The Andaz Large King. A 65sqm corner room with wide windows that maximise natural light – with views of Tokyo Skytree or the Imperial Palace grounds.

Who to know

Ms Andrea Lobo, front office manager and driving force behind the “hosts”, who keep the Andaz running smoothly. She’s also a font of information for boutique menswear shopping tips in nearby Ginza.

WHAT TO WEAR