The Best Hotels and Resorts in the World: The Gold List 2024

The Best Hotels and Resorts in the World: The Gold List 2024

The hotel is unassuming, but not devoid of spectacle. At Al Hadheerah, a colossal open-air restaurant, nightly performances accompany the Arabian classic dishes: a belly dancer, whirling dervish, musicians, singers and even a re-enactment of a Bedouin caravan with camels and horses crisscrossing a bordering desert plateau. Cooking stations serve lamb salona and chicken biryani, and the spirited Egyptian chef de cuisine takes great delight in showing guests the underground contraption used to prepare his seven-hour slow-cooked lamb ouzi. More sedate meals are served at the Mediterranean-inspired Zala or Pan-Asian Anwā, a prime sunset spot.

Bab Al Shams remains loyal to her desert environment. In the newly opened standalone spa, home to male and female hammams carefully crafted from green-veined Cipollino Nuvolato marble, some treatments use De L’Arta, a locally grown skincare line featuring Tetraena qatarensis, a shrub found in abundance around the hotel. On a recent visit, a morning safari took us through Al Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve, over powder-soft pale-yellow dunes, past camels feasting on desert grasses, regally horned Arabian oryx, skittish gazelles and the season’s first migratory flamingoes. Indian rollers flitted between ghaf trees and lizards scuttled off into hidden burrows. It was a reminder, as Bab Al Shams has always been, that there is immense natural beauty in the UAE, if you only stop to look. From $417.—Selina Denman

The Best Hotels and Resorts in the World The Gold List 2024

Dar Ahlam

The Best Hotels and Resorts in the World The Gold List 2024

Dar Ahlam

Dar Ahlam – Morocco

This rare palm-framed fantasyland near Ouarzazate, whose name translates from Arabic as “House of Dreams,” was conjured 20 years ago from the wild imagination of a Parisian creative. Thierry Teyssier re-envisaged the 200-year-old ochre kasbah and its rammed-earth ramparts to honor its Berber heritage with authenticity, elegance and an unrivaled romance. Spells at the hideaway are more magical than ever, with the handful of rooms in the North African castle joined by spacious suites at the edge of the Louis Benech-landscaped grounds. Teyssier’s past lives as a theatre actor and event planner keep him challenging traditional hospitality as a disrupter and storyteller: every soul-stirring scene is art-directed and choreographed to enchant, with delicate, tactile interiors, seductive scents and unexpected curios at every turn. Surrendering to Dar Ahlam’s rare rhythm is akin to participating in immersive theatre, with unprompted poolside pomegranate juices, candlelit Berber tents for secret suppers and personally addressed hand-penned scrolls or other gifts at bedtime. Guests can explore vast desertscapes by four-by-four, or let the staff plan a picnic in a villager’s vegetable garden. There is no lobby, restaurant or bar, just beautiful spaces unfettered by telephones, menus or minibars. Dar Ahlam’s emotive approach to hospitality has a precious respect for Morocco’s remote rural places, with the surrounding community deeply involved. This interdependence with the people of the area is a welcome lesson in how respecting geography and hyperlocal history cultivates a richer appreciation on both sides. From $1,730.Juliet Kinsman

The Best Hotels and Resorts in the World The Gold List 2024

Igor Demba/El-Fenn

The Best Hotels and Resorts in the World The Gold List 2024

Treal Cecile/Ruiz Jean-Michel/El-Fenn

El-Fenn – Marrakech

It’s easy to forget what a game-changer El Fenn was when it opened two decades ago on the edge of the medina with just six jewel-toned bedrooms, plumes of bougainvillea and a rooftop that felt like a fabulous house party. It stitched itself into the fabric of the Red City and redefined its aesthetic with color-clashing walls and lounges of thickly woven Berber and velvet fabrics; Moorish keyhole archways and orange trees. Like the best hotels, it has moved—and expanded—with the times. Co-owner Vanessa Branson, founder of the Marrakech Biennale and a certified Marocophile, has gradually bought up the crumbling neighboring riads to create a wondrous labyrinth of 13 interconnected buildings, three pools and 41 bedrooms in blush pinks, mustards and acid yellows. Some have zellige tiles, others hand-stitched camel leather floors and carved wooden ceilings, all offset with pop art and bright contemporary installations. Various sun-dappled courtyards lead to a new wood-carved annex, which references traditional Arabic motifs in the latticework and stained-glass windows. I recently stayed in one of the “cosy” rooms, behind an ornate cedar door. On a hand-plastered traditional tadelakt wall hangs a contemporary dot painting by Moroccan artist Abdelmalek Berhiss, while a timeworn mother-of-pearl iridescent chandelier dangles above the bed. It’s nearly impossible to tell old from new, a result of using local artisans, natural fabrics and upcycled furniture. The open-air, guest-only Colonnade Café is dotted with olive trees; its modern spiral staircase, which connects the ground-floor boutique with the sprawling spruced-up rooftop, is a monument to Marrakech’s contemporary mood. mood. Yet amid the rooftop’s pool, sunbeds, and pops of color, the old magic of Marrakech endures. From $366.Chloe Sachdev

The Best Hotels and Resorts in the World The Gold List 2024

Duncan Chard/Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf

Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf – Dubai

That there is still a spot on Dubai’s 99-acre Madinat Jumeirah estate that feels undiscovered comes as a genuine surprise, given that the resort, an Arabesque fantasy of four hotels on 1.25 miles of private beachfront overlooking the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2024. But checking in to one of the newly refurbished Malakiya Villas at Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf is like stepping into your own private kingdom. There are seven discrete two- and three-bedroom residences, including the 7,000 square foot Royal Malakiya Villa. Each has its own private plunge pool and terrace, and guests arrive via whisper-quiet abra rides through man-made tropical lagoons. Interiors are a swirl of soft grays and creams, leather, silk, and bouclé, offset by grand Impressionist-style artworks. In the master bedroom, the bed is so high and well-appointed that once you’ve clambered in, princess-style, you’ll be reluctant to kick back the linens to escape for breakfast. A cadre of butlers can be reached via WhatsApp 24/7 and will materialize with perfectly mixed cocktails or servings of jewel-like treats for afternoon tea. A royal affair indeed. From $521. —Clare Dight

The Best Hotels and Resorts in the World The Gold List 2024


Lolebezi – Zambia

The Lower Zambezi National Park has long been a pilgrimage for safari-goers seeking natural drama on water as well as land. So when this new lodge was opened in 2022 on a formerly wild 12-acre concession on the banks of the Zambezi River, conservationists’ eyes were firmly turned. Owned by Dubai-based businessman Irfaan Yousuf for his wildlife-loving wife Shahida and son Lole (hence the name), Lolebezi is surrounded by game—which can be seen from kayaks (keeping a watch out for monster crocodiles and irritable hippo), sundowner cruises, walks and game drives. Built in partnership with respected African Bush Camps’ founder Beks Ndlovu, the six suites and double-height living space were designed by South Africa-based Fox Browne Creative and Jack Alexander Studio to feel like an indulgent contemporary boutique hotel, with curvaceous banquettes alongside calabash-strung art installations; reed ceilings above opulent green Italian marble. Considering the remote location, the food is remarkably inventive and fresh. There might be an Indian tandoori feast in the evening, Ottolenghi-style vegan tapas for lunch and spirulina- and baobab-spiked juices at dawn. With an Africology and Healing Earth spa set among giant leadwood trees (and, sometimes, wandering lions), a glass-walled gym, games room and velvet-seated cocktail bar, this is the most glamorous camp in Zambia. An instant classic on the African continent. From $1,375. —Lisa Grainger

The Best Hotels and Resorts in the World The Gold List 2024

Elsa Young/Londolozi

Londolozi – South Africa

Even if you’ve never been, Londolozi exists in the imagination: a sprawling cluster of five thatched-roof safari camps, in varying sizes and shades of taupe and beige, built in an ancient riverine forest around waterfalls and tangled vines. Londolozi has been owned and run by the Varty family for nearly 100 years. The word londolozi comes from the Zulu language and means “protector of all living things”. Nelson Mandela, who recovered from imprisonment on Robben Island at the family camp, described it as “a dream I cherish for a model of nature preservation in our country”. The camps feel like deeply stylish African homes, layered in natural clay, khaki and sand-colored linens. Each has its own communal open-air lobby, with plunge pools and various rooms and suites attached. All have wide views across the bush or river, some are wrapped around ancient trees, others flanked by granite rocks. Like on most top-notch safaris, you are fed well here, from the sunrise treats at early morning pre-game drives to the big breakfasts and suppers. The Varty family have been spearheading the emotional wellness trend in Africa, offering multi-day wildlife wellness retreats which involve silent treks and life-coaching sessions. Beyond just a game lodge, Londolozi sees itself as a platform to restore and heal the land. With a jovial family ethos and unbelievable wildlife (you’re pretty much guaranteed to see the waddle of big beasts and furry creatures), this is one of the world’s best safari outposts. From $1,060.Chloe Sachdev

The Best Hotels and Resorts in the World The Gold List 2024

Jonathan Pozniak/Miavana by Time + Tide

The Best Hotels and Resorts in the World The Gold List 2024

Miavana by Time + Tide

Miavana by Time + Tide — Madagascar

“How do they do it?” I kept asking myself during my stay at Miavana, a private island hideaway just off Madagascar’s northeastern coast. Its extensive restaurant menus and top-shelf drinks list would have been impressive even if it had a traiteur on its doorstep, but given that it took me two flights and a helicopter-hop to reach its perch in the remote Levens Archipelago, the logistic puzzle this toes-in-the-sand operation requires is mind-boggling. As is the price—but that does buy you a stay in an enormous breezy beachfront villa with a barefoot Bauhaus-y design from bamboo and local sandstone, slicked up with licks of copper and jolts of turquoise. You’ll also have a private pool, of course, and a palm-hemmed beach as fine and white as powdered sugar right in front. Butlers fix poolside breakfasts, fresh coconuts and in-villa spa treatments at the drop of a hat, or help organize helicopter safaris to little-visited baobab forests and otherworldly rock formations on the mainland that culminate in lavish picnics. But for all this extravagance, the things that will stick with you the most are the ones you can’t put a price tag on: coming eye-to-beady-eye with a chameleon crossing the jungle floor in its jerky gait; having the on-site experts point out birds and gecko species you’ll find nowhere else on earth; and, if you’re lucky, spotting humpback whales from the helicopter before you’ve even checked in. The best things in life might be free, but Miavana adds a priceless dash of magic. From $3,787. —Chris Schalkx

The Best Hotels and Resorts in the World The Gold List 2024

Singita Sasakwa

Singita Sasakwa — Tanzania

Built in the style of an Edwardian stone manor house, overlooking the Serengeti, this safari lodge has had gold standards since it opened in 2007. Its elegant, antique-clad interiors ooze romance, adorned with crystal chandeliers and wingback chairs, Persian rugs and African artefacts by the acclaimed Cape Town designers Cécile & Boyd. From the clifftop infinity pool, there are views for hundreds of miles over the 350,000-acre Grumeti Reserve and neighboring Serengeti, land on which wildlife migrates to Kenya’s Masai Mara. Between the lodge’s wraparound verandas and plunge pools, birds flit, filling the dawn air with song. There are terraces and tree-shaded tables for long Mediterranean-style lunches; cosy sitting rooms in which to sip fine wines by a fire, and candlelit baths to wallow in beneath shooting stars. And, of course, there’s wildlife. Since Luke Bailes launched Singita in 1993 on his South African family farm, its mission has been to preserve Africa’s wilderness while enriching communities. In Tanzania, in part thanks to the deep pockets of the Grumeti Fund started by American philanthropist Paul Tudor Jones, Grumeti is home to creatures from big cats to tiny gem-colored birds that can be viewed from well-fitted vehicles, hot-air balloons or on foot with expert guides. As there are only five camps on the reserve (a sixth is due in 2024), safari experiences feel private, but there’s also a tennis court, pool, spa and boutique. This is a place you never want to leave, and to which many return, year after year. From $4,861. —Lisa Grainger

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The Best Hotels and Resorts in the World The Gold List 2024

Ahilya Fort Devi Maheshwar

Ahilya Fort Heritage Hotel Maheshwar – India

In Madhya Pradesh, the state at India’s heart, this 18th-century sandstone fort on the banks of the Narmada River was restored by the descendants of Queen Ahilyabai Holkar, the monarch of the Maratha Empire. Since its partial conversion to a hotel by Prince Richard Holkar in 2000, it’s become a place to sink into the slower, spiritual side of India—on birdsong-filled terraced gardens over-looking the river or in the fort’s 250-year-old Ganesh temple, with its enormous bell suspended from an ancient champa tree. Nineteen rooms are scattered over six buildings and intricate maze-like ramparts. The vivid hues of Maheshwari saris enliven the calming palettes of whites and pastels. Today’s prince is intimately involved, designing and planting the hotel gardens and insisting on conscious hospitality, from strict rules around plastics and waste water to supporting the local Rehwa Society, which has revived the dying art of Maheshwari hand-weaving, especially for saris. Lunch salads from the organic garden and thali suppers are served in surprising nooks: in the garden, under a lush canopy of vines, or on a rounded rampart. The afternoon tea service, aboard a hand-poled wooden boat drifting along the river, is a treat. Unfailingly gracious staff can arrange magical excursions, from sunset and sunrise cruises to village walks, temple visits and riverside arti prayer ceremonies. Every morning, 11 Brahmin priests perform the ancient Lingarchan Puja, a Hindu blessing ritual, near the covered breakfast mandap—just one of many moments to treasure here. From $420. —Shunali Khullar Shroff

Amanpuri Thailand

Courtesy Amanpuri

Amanpuri – Phuket

The original outpost of the globe-spanning Aman empire, this Phuket location was initially intended as a holiday home for Indonesian hotel guru Adrian Zecha. Eventually, he expanded the blueprint into a small boutique resort that opened in 1988. In the following decades, Amanpuri became a hush-hush haven for monarchs and supermodels, with yearly touch-ups and regular renovations (an extensive makeover finished last summer) constantly making it look as if it was brand-new. The hotel’s Thai temple-like pavilions have since been imitated by resorts all over Southeast Asia. But the ones surrounded by lush gardens and coconut palms here, accented with timeworn Buddhist antiques and fresh orchids, still feel like the real deal. During a recent project, the pavilions’ honey-hued interiors shed their low-slung ceilings to reveal the high-pitched teak wood beams that were hidden behind, while the rather poky old bathtubs in the mirror-clad bathrooms were replaced with newer models. The property frequently appears in Condé Nast Traveler’s Spa Guide, and for good reason: its Holistic Wellness Centre, which offers everything from crystal healing sessions to hi-tech IV infusions and medical check-ups, is one of Thailand’s very best. Despite the worldwide acclaim, the resort remains blissfully serene even during the high season, although scoring the best canvas-covered beach cabanas can turn into a game of musical chairs. Ask one of the hosts to try to reserve your favorite one. From $1,770.Chris Schalkx

The Best Hotels and Resorts in the World The Gold List 2024

Bawah Reserve

Bawah Reserve — Indonesia

Bawah is the largest of the six islands in this tiny archipelago. There are 36 suites, villas and lodges here, a line-up of restaurants and bars, walking trails through primary forest, open-air massages, an immaculate lawn tennis court, nature-immersed spas and a boutique. Singapore-based shipping magnate Tim Hartnoll was on a sailing holiday when he dropped anchor to discover these lush outcrops of islands and their sheltered lagoons. So began the journey to create a hideaway resort. Villas are over-water, some front the beach or are set back in the forest. Stone staircases lead to the sea, where the water is so clear that it’s possible to spy marine life without even putting on a mask. Sundowner cocktails are as wonderful as you might expect—there is The Grouper, a laid-back poolside bar, or up the hill, Jules Verne. Dining can be at Tree Tops in the canopy or on the beach at The Boat House. Guests can also opt for private dining at various spots around the islands. The spas offer daily massages (included in your stay) as well as traditional masks, scrubs, compresses and wraps using local ingredients, such as coffee, cocoa and raw honey. The property sits in the Anambas archipelago and is an 80-minute flight from Batam, an Indonesian island that’s a quick boat ride from Singapore. Many of Indonesia’s 17,000 plus islands have been smashed by overdevelopment, palm oil plantations, plastic waste and water pollution, which is why Bawah and its fierce environmental program feel so crucial. For principled eco credentials and a sense of lost world remoteness, there’s nowhere like Bawah. From $1,892.Michelle Jana Chan

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Courtesy COMO Hotels and Resorts

COMO Uma Punakha – Bhutan

The COMO brand blends beautifully into this emerging, ecologically fragile Himalayan nation, with its overriding focus on wellness, sustainability, community and sense of place. The region of Punakha enjoys Bhutan’s balmiest climate, and it is to its Dzong fortress-monastery that the entire monk body migrates to escape the fierce chill of winter. The footprint of this rural hideaway is gentle: only 11 rooms. The low-slung structure, built like a local fortress, perches high on a river bluff, with double doors opening into a leafy courtyard. Each bedroom serves as its own mini retreat with yoga mats, local herbal teas and bath soaks. There are heart-stopping, floor-to-ceiling views high over Bhutan’s main river: the sedate, meandering Mo Chhu, flowing below terraced rice paddies and forests of pine. The decor is minimalist and sober, so as not to detract from the wild natural canvas in all its lush shades of green. The warmth comes from the texture of wood and stone, which is also the star of one of the signature treatments in the small spa: a bath, heated by fire-baked river stones that crack when they hit the water and release restorative minerals. The elemental theme continues in the restaurant, where a fire blazes in the wood-burning stove, acting as a cosy backdrop for warming dishes that headline local produce—from the buckwheat that goes into delicious pancakes and noodles to some of the nation’s many species of wild mushroom. From $730. —Catherine Fairweather

The Best Hotels and Resorts in the World The Gold List 2024

Hotel the Mitsui

Hotel the Mitsui — Kyoto

It’s a bold move to open a design-forward property in a city that has fully tied its identity to the past. Even bolder to build it on the exact site where the long-prominent Mitsui family had a residence from the late 1600s to the 1940s. But once you hear the storybook ending—how in 2015 the Mitsui corporation’s real estate arm bought back this beloved parcel of land—it makes sense. While the sleek André Fu–designed spaces break from Kyoto’s usual decor tropes, the past is everywhere. See, for instance, the 300-year-old wooden gate that once demarcated the original estate. There are subtle signifiers too: a long corridor with blond wood arches that echo the maze of torii gates at Kyoto’s famed Fushimi Inari shrine, a ceiling installation inspired by kimono fabric. But it’s the practical yet cosseting touches—the neatly folded pajama set that appears at turndown, the sprawling underground onsen—that will shape this next chapter of the Mitsui legacy. From $1,359. —Rebecca Misner

The Best Hotels and Resorts in the World The Gold List 2024

Josun Palace

Josun Palace – Seoul

In the past few months, a moody, romantic, retro aesthetic has swept TikTok, inspired by Wong Kar-wai’s 2000 film In the Mood for Love. An enterprising influencer could easily create a viral sensation in this vein by shooting at Josun Palace, a Luxury Collection Hotel. Unlike the movie, which is set in Hong Kong in the 1960s, it is in Seoul and opened just a few years ago. But the hotel, set in a 36-story tower in Gangnam, has the same kind of stylized, cinematic glamour. I was there with my family, but as I moved through the gilt-and-green Korean and midcentury-modern-inspired interiors, taking in the sweeping city views, it was easy to imagine myself playing a role in a noirish story of star-crossed lovers or a twisty tale of international intrigue. Elevators whisked us to the 25th floor reception, where a phalanx of hotel staff was ready to address our every question and need, from how to get to the T Galleria department store to scoring a reservation at a nearby restaurant and a babysitter to watch the kids. Our room, though not enormous, was space enough for the four of us, with tasteful decor and an incredible bathroom. Day or night, the city vistas were riveting, the new Lotte World Tower looming on the horizon from rooms on the east side of the hotel. The sensation of hushed, cinematic romance gets turned up to 11 in Eatanic Garden, the hotel’s own Michelin-starred progressive Korean restaurant. Over the evening, a parade of delightful surprises by chef Son Jong-won emerged, like the kettle of barley tea nestled in a bouquet of flowers and the trio of playful bites atop colorful pedestals. Each dish came with a card that told its story. As we completed the meal, we felt we’d reached the end of a journey—just as when we checked out of the hotel, when it felt like the credits were rolling on this beautiful visit to Seoul. From $380. —Jesse Ashlock

The Best Hotels and Resorts in the World The Gold List 2024


The Best Hotels and Resorts in the World The Gold List 2024


Lunuganga – Sri Lanka

The late, great architect Geoffrey Bawa’s jungle home is reveling in a glossy new dawn. While this otherworldly estate on Sri Lanka’s southwest coast remains packed to the rafters with history, it’s now embracing modern comforts thanks to the home-grown Teardrop Hotels collection (also behind the Fort Bazaar in Galle Fort), which manages the property with the Geoffrey Bawa Trust. The meticulous work of the father of tropical modernism shines from every corner, with almost everything as he left it. Bawa spent 50 years curating this wonderland, originally an abandoned rubber plantation, creating his inside-outside spaces and furnishing them with Burgher antiques and objets from his travels. The jewel in the crown is the show-stopping garden, with emerald rice paddies alongside butterfly-shaped ponds and moss-covered Ming pots on manicured lawns. Spread across the house and garden, the 10 spacious bedrooms are unique and sublime: one a glass-walled pavilion framed by trees, another a former cowshed turned gallery. Teardrop’s Midas touch extends to the kitchen, marrying Sri Lankan plates with international dishes made from local produce: egg hoppers for breakfast, grilled fish for lunch and coconut and mustard fish curry for dinner. There’s a breezy veranda restaurant, but Bawa’s preferred lunch spot was under a jackfruit tree, with a salvaged temple bell dangling above. After opening batik artist Ena de Silva’s three-bedroom villa (another Bawa triumph) on the edge of the estate, the Geoffrey Bawa Trust has added a hilltop pool and unsealed the architect’s own bedroom, perhaps the biggest treat of all. From $387.Harriet Compston

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Courtesy The Ritz-Carlton

Mandapa Ritz-Carlton Reserve – Bali

When the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company bought an area of untamed land more than 10 years ago, it purchased twice the amount it needed to add another jewel to Bali’s hospitality crown. The result is a sprawling hotel footprint across 25 acres surrounded by lush rainforest and rice paddies that dramatically cascade down hillsides. Luminous dragonflies buzz, butterflies flit their kaleidoscopic wings and doe-eyed frogs croak in the distance—rather than interfering with their surroundings, this property honors them. Forget rooms, there are 60 suites and villas here, ranging in size from substantial to palatial. Bathtubs for two are wrapped in rattan and scented with ginger-lily salts, large balconies offer panoramic views of the sunset-facing valley and villas have infinity pools. Days start with breakfasts of jewel-colored fruits and steaming Javanese coffee. Supper is served in Japanese Ambar Ubud Bar and Kubu at Mandapa, where Eka Sunarya delights diners over eight- and 10-course tasting menus that utilize all the landscape has to offer. Families are welcome, and little ones are catered for in the kids’ club, which favors activities in the open air over technological distractions. It’s just as well, as missing out on a treatment in the riverside spa would be nothing short of a crime. From $1,249.Lee Cobaj

Mandarin Oriental Tokyo Japan

Courtesy Mandarin Oriental

Mandarin Oriental Tokyo

Photos don’t do Tokyo’s Mandarin Oriental much justice. Rising to the upper floors of the Nihonbashi Mitsui Tower, the 38th-floor lobby is like a gallery to the capital’s best angles. It’s the same in the rooms: No matter the category, the view is paramount from your tranquil retreat in the sky, as the frenetic financial district eases down below and, on cloudless days, Mount Fuji glistens in the distance. Comfort is prime here too. Beds are as supple as the sheets are slippery. And if you can’t find a perfect pillow on the extensive “pillow menu,” it’s not the pillow—it’s you. Room service can get expensive, but the menu itself is so long and varied (from macaroni and cheese to okayo don) that it’s worth a look. And yet, there are so many dining options on the property—from an actual pizza bar to haute Cantonese to a silver-lined French restaurant—that every in-house venue deserves a gander. For example, Sushi Shin by Miyakawa is perhaps the city’s most atmospheric sushi restaurant: A nine-seat L-shaped counter, made from a 350-year-old cypress tree, sits next to a floor-to-ceiling window that perfectly frames Tokyo Skytree. Dip sushi as the sun dips, too, and the city lights up by nightfall. If you care to step outside, the location is convenient. It’s just around the corner from famous kimono shops and hallmark department stores; and Ginza is a short stroll away. From $800. —Keith Flanagan

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Peninsula Shanghai

This Art Deco landmark puts you right in the heart of China’s most fascinating city, and it’s a gorgeous embodiment of what Shanghai has always been about—a unique fusion of East and West, old and new, silken elegance and wild energy. The vibe in the rooms can be summed up as “stealth luxe”—subdued, though never dull; approximately 1920s in feel, though without a hint of pastiche. If you have the privilege of choice, aim for the best possible view of the skyscrapers of Pudong, on the opposite side of the river, which are lit up at night like a gigantic jukebox, pulsating with all the can-do energy of modern China. As for the hotel’s food and drink, its Michelin-starred Yi Long Court is widely held to be among the best Cantonese restaurants in the city. Sir Elly’s Terrace, on the 14th floor, has some of the finest views of any rooftop bar in the city. The Pen occupies a prime spot at the far end of The Bund, a mere eyelash of a street on the western bank of the Huangpu River and one of the most fascinating, glamorous, and confounding roads in the world. All of Shanghai is here and in the adjoining alleys. It is true that there are other hotels on The Bund and in the city, but the Pen is the Pen—and I brook no further argument. From $359. —Steve King

The hotel is unassuming, but not devoid of spectacle. At Al Hadheerah, a colossal open-air restaurant, nightly performances accompany the Arabian classic dishes: a belly dancer, whirling dervish, musicians, singers and even a re-enactment of a Bedouin caravan with camels and horses crisscrossing a bordering desert plateau. Cooking stations serve lamb salona and chicken biryani,…

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