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Top 10 Hot European Hotels 2007

Those travelers who understand the ever-evolving hotel scene know that in order for a property to be hot, it doesn’t have to be hip, sleek, industrial or in any way resemble a W property. While the majority of new hotels are copycatting the standard Andre Balazs model, we're impressed by those taking the road less traveled. We like hotels that flirt with the boundaries of tradition, explore rather than automatically urbanize design, and never sacrifice style for the latest fad. Of course, we do have a few trendy places on our list. How else to include our picks in Amsterdam, Hamburg and Madrid? But the majority are hotels that are more than just hot now: They are sure to become classics in the long run. Be sure to also check out our current list.


Courthouse Hotel

So, Mick Jagger and John Lennon walk into a courthouse... while this sounds like the lead-in to a great joke, it is in fact part of the history of the Courthouse Hotel. Granted, the rock stars walked in at separate times — Jagger to fight pot possession charges and Lennon for an obscenity trial — but it is this fusion of pop culture and law enforcement pasts that give the hotel its pizzazz. A refined style is integrated into the building’s original architecture: Private dining booths are housed in former women’s cells, Silk restaurant is in the old Number One Court and the Lalique Suite was once inhabited by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner. Fortunately, the holding cells were torn down before a new wing of guestrooms was built — no bars on the windows here. Just lots of luxuries, like a full gym and private screening room. Please note: Courthouse Hotel London is now Courthouse Doubletree by Hilton London - Regent Street.


Hôtel Daniel

France posed a tough choice, with so many new hotels, from a bucolic Alain Ducasse property to a cluster of hipster haunts led by the gaudy-fun Hôtel du Petit Moulin, designed by Christian Lacroix. Ultimately, we were smitten with Hôtel Daniel. The Silk Road style is built on a foundation of antiques and curios gathered from travels around the world. Décor such as painted glass panels inlaid with exotic feathers and wallpaper hand-painted in China inspires a decadence that is lost in the sleekness of so many modern hotels. Among the 26 accommodations are sixth-floor junior suites, some with balconies and garret-like sloped ceilings. Charming La Lounge serves fresh baguettes in the mornings and gourmet meals at night. Among the strains of Kipling and Old Siam are plenty of conveniences, like wireless Internet, LCD TVs and a round-the-clock concierge.



The irony isn’t lost on us. An exuberantly spirited and trendy hotel named East in a country once divided, with the eastern half formerly being one of the drabbest places on earth. This hotel is anything but dreary. In fact, it’s so eclectic that it’s hard to pigeonhole. As you wander from East restaurant to Yakshi’s Bar to Colours & Smirnoff Lounge to guestrooms sized from Small to XX Large, you’ll find cavern-like spaces, wild stained glass, pod furnishings, bean bags and a subterranean glow. There’s a virtual reality putting green, and a surprisingly tasteful spa. Bottom line: This place is a real trip.



King George II Palace

The Brits may have skipped out of Greece with the Elgin Marbles, but they left their mark behind. Their influence lingers on, as is evidenced at the King George II Palace. While you may not consider this a fair trade, you must admit that this hotel on Syntagma Square is a lovely oasis in otherwise hot and gritty Athens. Originally built as an annex to the palace (now the parliament building), this property hosted King George II as one of its first (and regular) guests. A full renovation of the landmark revived its original élan. The glass-domed Tudor Hall boasts a British name, Mediterranean cuisine inspired by the Alain Ducasse culinary philosophy and gorgeous views of the Acropolis. Delicious raw silk and satin accents add flair to the traditional guestroom décor.


Belmond Hotel Caruso

Old is new again at Belmond Hotel Caruso. More than five years and $30 million went into the restoration of this gorgeous cliff-top property gazing over the Amalfi coastline. It was originally built as a palace in the eleventh century, and portions of the current structure date back to the 1600s. While close attention has been paid to modern comfort, the attraction here is the sense of history, enhanced by restored frescos, tile work, ceramics and features such as a portal believed to have belonged to the twelfth-century church of Saint Eustachio in Pontone. The 54 bedrooms are subdued without being stodgy. Along with spa services and a dazzling infinity pool, there is a picturesque dining terrace that feels like a promenade.


College Hotel

The word college can produce some unfortunate associations: cramped dorm rooms, crude fraternities and weak beer. Consider this place an education in redefining the college experience. A former 19th-century school building (how appropriate), this hotel operates on a cool concept: It is run as a training grounds for the Amsterdam Hotel Management School, Bakery and Tourism. Guests here reap the benefits of well-trained students, as well as a beautiful designer setting. Original elements such as high ceilings and enormous fireplaces are complemented by contemporary, sophisticated décor. Forty earth-toned guestrooms and suites are notably spacious. Housed in the old gymnasium, the restaurant uses a contemporary approach to classic Dutch cuisine. For ingenuity and comfort, we give this project an A+.


Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace

As the deprivations of Communism become almost distant memories in many once Eastern bloc countries, the arrival of a hotel as lavish as a Four Seasons is no surprise. Especially since such countries once boasted elegant architecture, now ripe to be restored and transformed into luxury lodgings. This early 1900s Art Nouveau landmark boasts eye-catching mosaics, a glass cupola, contemporary Italian cuisine and a top floor spa that uses Budapest’s spa heritage (with a little help from Clarins) as its source of inspiration. On the trivia front, Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace was never a palace. It was built to house an insurance company. These days, that legacy lives on as the hotel insures a sense of indulgence.


Hotel Metropole

Like the Ravello and King George on this list, the Hotel Monaco offers another restoration that brings an old hotel favorite into the new favorite fold. From its swimming pool area to its Regency bedrooms, it offers a classic Riviera atmosphere. You can easily imagine the F. Scott Fitzgerald crowd hanging out, or Bridget Bardot hiding away in one of the cabanas. But although it was built in 1886 in stunning Belle Époque style, this isn’t a place stuck in time. As well as high-speed Internet access and all the expected tech necessities, there is Joël Robuchon’s eponymous restaurant and the tri-level ESPA with VIP suites and a teak sundeck. For a magical experience, dine al fresco overlooking the rooftops of Monaco.


Hotel Urban

Not only does this hotel have a museum of ancient Egyptian art onsite, it is an art museum. Consider each guestroom its own gallery for a single work, which even includes curator’s notes. The objects belong to the private collection of owner Jordi Clos. In truth, this hotel would most likely blend with its counterparts were it not for the striking contrast of curvilinear furnishings and rudimentary Papua New Guinean totems in the lobby, or modern contours and 19th-century Hindu statues in the small, shades-of-leather bedrooms. (Prepare yourself for the glass, peek-a-boo showers). A tiny pool sits atop the roof, the al fresco restaurant offers great views and the clientele tends toward European business folk with panache.


Park Hyatt Zurich

The Park Hyatt Zurich’s exterior may be steel and glass, but the interior is surprisingly warm. On the site of a former car park in the center of the city, this hotel knows how to do contemporary without succumbing to the lure of futuristic chic. Throughout, this seems like the kind of place 007 or the Rat Pack would find acceptable, were they to bunk down in Switzerland in the new millennium. Decorator guestrooms blend smooth lines that hint at Swiss efficiency with cozy, den-like colors. Aluminum accents, leather wall panels and natural elements such as a lobby bamboo garden make distinctive impressions. Parkhuus restaurant features a show kitchen, two-story wine library and summer terrace. Because we like this hotel, we’ll forgive the aptly named Onyx Bar for being such a ridiculously trendy scene.


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