Small Wonders: the best boutique hotels on the planet
In search of a private luxury break away from big-name brands? Tempus takes a look at the best boutique hotels on the planet
A cosy atmosphere replete with artistic creativity. A small number of rooms offering an air of exclusivity. A distinct design and inventory-led interior theme… These are the hallmarks of a fine boutique hotel, and with luxurious summer holidays now firmly at the fore, Tempus has scoured the globe in search of the finest hotels to luxuriate in while exploring blissfully sunny climes.
L’ALBERETA RELAIS & CHÂTEAUX | LOMBARDY, ITALY
A spiritual oenological sibling to France’s Champagne, Franciacorta is one of Italy’s most celebrated sparkling wine grapes and, nestled within the vineyards where it grows, stands L’Albereta: a splendid, ivy-covered villa housing a world-class boutique hotel. Phenomenal wine offerings aside, this is a must-visit for anyone heading to Italy’s far north, featuring a cutting-edge spa and stylish-yet-rustic farmhouse-style rooms. Furthermore, with rolling hills, mountain ridges and spectacular Lake Iseo all within cycling distance, L’Albereta serves as the ultimate luxury gateway to the great outdoors.
SB WINEMAKER’S HOUSE & SPA SUITES | MENDOZA, ARGENTINA
To the Southern Hemisphere and another fine wine region, Argentina’s lauded Mendoza Province, responsible for two-thirds of the country’s significant wine production. SB Winemaker’s House & Spa Suites, on the outskirts of the city of Mendoza, is a secluded complex featuring a prestigious winery and a unique luxury hotel. The latter was opened in 2022 by owner Susana Balbo – Argentina’s first female winemaker – and her daughter Ana, and contains seven individually designed spa suites, all featuring their own living room, terrace, and curated wine fridge. The hotel’s turn-down service, meanwhile, includes a course of aromatherapy prepared in the in-suite tub. With the hotel perched at the edge of the mighty Andes, the resort’s more intrepid guests can venture into the mountains for some of the finest hiking and stargazing to be found anywhere on the planet.
HOSHINOYA TOKYO | TOKYO, JAPAN
From street level, there’s something intimidating yet fascinating about the Hoshinoya Tokyo, one of hotel group Hoshino Resorts’ many luxe offerings dotted across Japan. Where most branches of this super-indulgent range of hotels usually resemble a traditional Japanese ryokan, complete with sliding shoji doors and pagoda-style roofs, the brand’s Tokyo offering towers above the Ōtemachi district, its windows hidden by an ornate black metallic lattice, giving the building a beguiling monolithic look. But where the outside may appear almost alien in its ultra-modern elegance, the inside is anything but.
Warm, welcoming and exceptionally opulent, the Hoshinoya Tokyo is the gold standard for aesthetics-driven luxury hotels, while also being a beautiful example of how five-star norms can be subverted for a unique customer experience. For example, guests enter the hotel not by a standard lobby, but rather by a cypress-wood-bedecked antechamber featuring a shoe locker (no footwear is allowed in the hotel), tatami mats and elevators to take guests up to their floor, each of which serves as its own ryokan, complete with an ochanoma, a private living room area – the ultimate in understated opulence.
THE EMPORIUM PLOVDIV | PLOVDIV, BULGARIA
A little further off the beaten track for most summer holidaymakers is The Emporium Plovdiv, a stunning new boutique hotel in Bulgaria’s second city. Though perhaps little known to all but the most well-travelled, Plovdiv packs a hefty historical punch – thought to be the oldest continually inhabited town in Europe. The hotel, designed by the world-renowned Sundukovy Sisters studio in Moscow, is part of Accor Hotels’ new MGallery boutique range dedicated to artistic expression, each room featuring a range of chic design pieces and a wealth of smart technology to help guests feel at home. The Emporium is both electric and serene, playing host to nightlife staples including a high-end restaurant and champagne bar, as well as relaxation spaces such as the wellness centre in which guests can pamper themselves with indulgent spa treatments – just the thing after a day of exploring this beguiling Byzantine city.
THE XARA PALACE | MDINA, MALTA
Even the most well-travelled among us may be unaware that one of the most beautiful settlements in Europe lies on the tiny, often overlooked island nation of Malta. But the small town of Mdina, a hilltop citadel whose fortifications date back more than 1,000 years, has slowly built a reputation among luxury travellers for its exclusive accommodation – set in gorgeous pink sandstone buildings and atmospheric, winding cobbled streets, all best exemplified by The Xara Palace Relais & Châteaux. Hidden down a secluded cul-de-sac within the Old Town walls, the hotel is housed in a remarkable restored baroque palace, offering guests a historic, elegant hideaway in this unique and under-visited city. And if the ornate rooms aren’t enough, haute cuisine awaits in the superb restaurant, perched on the rooftop and offering eye-popping views all the way to the ocean.
STRANDLOPER OCEAN BOUTIQUE HOTEL | WESTERN CAPE, SOUTH AFRICA
To the north-west of the intense bustle of Cape Town lies West Coast Peninsula, a stretch of sandy, mostly uninhabited wilderness characterised by blue skies, wide open fields and gentle sea breezes. Here, travellers will find the coastal village of Paternoster, home to the five-star Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel, named for the nomadic indigenous people who once roamed the area.
According to the hotel website, the establishment is “designed to blur the lines between outdoors and indoors” by harnessing in its airy, spacious suites the stunning natural light. Some of these feature an adjacent private terrace with views of the endless Atlantic, and guests with a more adventurous streak can take advantage of the outdoor showers fitted in a handful of the rooms. Secluded and stylish, this is beachfront accommodation at its peaceful, luxurious best.