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Santa's Resort Kakslauttanen, Finland

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, December 22 04:35 PM

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This Christmas, Santa isn't so much coming to town as inviting you to his town. At the newly minted Santa's Resort Kakslauttanen, close to the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland, guests are greeted by the big man himself and plied with hot beverages and gingerbread (served by elves, natch). Accommodations in this winter wonderland include 40 log cabins, a snow igloo, and--our personal favorite--20 glass igloos (another 33 are coming in 2012) specially designed for viewing the northern lights while you're snuggled up all toasty in bed.

If you can drag yourself away, there's also the chance to steam in the world's largest smoke sauna, hitch a ride on a reindeer-drawn sleigh, or kick back with eggnog in the Glass Kota, a traditional Lapland tepee. Lead the way, Donner and Blitzen.

Photo: Courtesy of Santa's Resort Kakslauttanen

The Beer Moth, Inverness-shire, Scotland

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, December 20 01:19 PM

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Sure, you don't mind roughing it. But you still like your mattress soft and your hearth warm. May we introduce you to the Beer Moth? Crafted from a 1956 fire truck, this flatbed B&B sits on the verdant grounds of Inshriach House in the shadow of the Monadhliath Mountains in the Scottish Highlands.

You'll lay yourself to sleep on an antique Victorian brass bed in the back of the truck, which is outfitted with oak parquet floors salvaged from a Tudor mansion. You'll warm yourself by a hearth made from an old snooker table. And you'll descend to hike the grounds via a fire escape staircase. Part truck stop, part glamper, the Beer Moth is a tall draft of personality. Bottoms up!

Photo: Courtesy of Canopy & Stars

Rocco Forte Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, December 14 12:38 PM

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Hoteliers in the United Arab Emirates love a game of one-upmanship. If it's not bigger, shinier, and crammed with more decadent amenities, why bother? The owners of the new Rocco Forte Hotel in Abu Dhabi definitely got the memo.

Not only is the Rocco Forte situated at the heart of the emirate-of-the-moment, it's also a total showstopper, fashioned entirely from curved blue and green glass panels that mimic the Persian Gulf in a wavy mosaic. The hotel's 281 rooms and suites, designed by Olga Polizzi, combine rich colors, textures, and one-off pieces by artists from the region. The hotel's Blue cocktail bar appears to float in midair in the 11-story glass atrium--an ideal vantage point for surveying the spectacle of the glittering city below. Your move, Dubai.

Photo: Courtesy of Rocco Forte

Nira Alpina Design Hotel, Switzerland

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, December 12 12:59 PM

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When does a ski trip become a winter escape? At the newly opened, 70-room Nira Alpina in Silvaplana, Switzerland, it's the moment you arrive at the firelit lounge, sink into a comfy cowhide sofa--hot toddy in hand, of course--and watch the Alpenglow fade through panoramic windows.

Interiors are all restrained Swissness, full of natural materials such as spruce, suede, and granite. As the area's only ski-in/ski-out retreat, Nira Alpina provides powderhounds easy access to the 75 miles of pistes via a private glassed-in walkway to the Corvatsch cable car. And with private terraces and walls of windows, even lodge lizards can enjoy the great outdoors while waiting for their spa appointment.

Photo: Courtesy Design Hotels

Washington School House, Park City, Utah

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, December 08 12:53 PM

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This winter, Park City is going back to school. And we're not talking ski school. Class, let us introduce you to the new kid in town, the Washington School House hotel.

The 19th-century schoolhouse has graduated from the kid stuff to the big leagues just in time for Sundance next month, courtesy of an eight-month renovation. Reclaimed barn-wood floors, Swedish antiques, and roaring fireplaces add a rustic warmth to the modern snow-white palette and contemporary art collection in the 12 rooms. Ski to the back door of the hotel, where a valet takes care of your gear, leaving you free to cozy up by the fire or head to a heated pool tucked in a grove of trees beside the mountain. The school of hard knocks this is not.

Photo: Courtesy of Washington School House

Andaz Shanghai, China

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, December 06 01:32 PM

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The new Andaz in Shanghai wants you to make yourself at home. But in this case, home is a Jetsons-style, curving latticelike building in the Xintiandi neighborhood.

The floor-to-ceiling rounded windows give the place a certain Sixties hipness, inside and out. There's no front desk--an all-in-one concierge/doorman/bellboy/receptionist checks you in on a tablet over wine in the lounge or in the elevator. The 307 rooms have wood floors, walls covered in traditionally patterned red fabric, and glowing translucent tubs in the bathrooms, as well as adjustable multicolored LEDs. Overall, the feel is softened space age. We see jet-set membership in your future.

Photo: Courtesy of Andaz

The Shelborne, Miami Beach

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, November 29 01:27 PM

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It's all about grand entrances in Miami. And tomorrow's unveiling of the Shelborne South Beach, a 70-year-old Art Deco/MiMo masterpiece reimagined to the tune of $20 million, is no exception.

The big reveal starts when you drive up to the Morris Lapidus-inspired floating porte cochere (the robotic garage will take it from there). Check into one of the 200 beachy-pink guest rooms, then sashay down a glass-railed catwalk from the infinity pool to a new elevated sundeck. The approach from the beach is just as stylish, in a more laid-back way: Grab a taco and tequila at Lucy's Cantina Royale before settling in for some sandy people-watching. In a place as over-the-top as South Beach, sometimes simplicity is the grandest gesture of all.

Photo: Courtesy of Add Inc.

Hotel Williamsburg, Brooklyn

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, November 22 02:08 PM

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As if Brooklyn needed any more feathers in its hipness cap, the Hotel Williamsburg has just opened, promising a bed for luxe-seeking scenesters. Think panoramic rooftop bar, buzzy restaurant, and a lot of tattoos and facial hair digging the summertime swim club.

Half of the 64 rooms have Manhattan skyline views, and all pop with a mod-meets-vintage decor of orange leather against woodsy wallpaper. Rooms also feature free vinyl to play on Crosley record players. And like a good Brooklynite, the borough's first full-service luxury boutique hotel is thinking local: uniforms are by Brooklyn Industries, and there's a signature suds on tap, brewed by Brooklyn Brewery just around the corner. Even the coffee, delivered 24/7 in retro green Stanley thermoses, is roasted by the oldest family-owned shop in New York.

Photo: Courtesy of Hotel Williamsburg

St. Regis Tianjin, China

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, November 16 12:51 PM

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A luxury hotel opening in China is about as newsworthy these days as a celebrity marriage meltdown. But the newly unveiled St. Regis Tianjin is hard to ignore. The 18-story hollowed-out cube dominates the banks of Tianjin's Hai River like a portal to another world. And in some ways it is.

After passing through the reflective Blade Runner exterior, you find yourself transported to the early 1900s, the heyday of this port city 80 miles south of Beijing. Art Deco-style touches--black-and-white checkerboard floors, crystal chandeliers, geometric French mirrors--abound in some of the public spaces as well as in the 274 guest rooms. And the grand lobby features a mural created by acclaimed ceramicist Zhu Legeng from hundreds of handcrafted tiles. That's what we call future perfect.

Photo: Courtesy of Starwood Hotels

Saint James Paris, France

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, November 14 01:24 PM

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You like your vacations to be a little bit country and a little bit rock 'n' roll. Well, it just so happens that the hottest number in Paris these days also happens to be its most sylvan: The freshly refurbished Saint James is a little slice of Loire château life in the City of Lights.

Set on the site of the world's first hot-air balloon launch, in 1783, this 19th-century property is all high-flying whimsy, thanks to boho goddess Bambi Sloan's redesign. A riot of patterns--toile and stripes, brocade and herringbone--lends a playful decadence to the 48 rooms. As a hotel guest, you can rub elbows with tony locals at the Saint James's private social club, or visit the luxurious spa that has gemstones as its theme. And after an exhausting day of shopping and Champagne sipping, where better to escape the flurry of Paris than the hotel's perfectly manicured gardens, hidden away behind mature trees?

Photo: Davide Lovatti courtesy of Saint James Paris

Hotel Bel-Air, Los Angeles

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, November 09 11:34 AM

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The '60s have Mad Men, and the '20s have Boardwalk Empire. But what about the golden intervening years? Mr. Sorkin, do we have a pitch for you: a drama based at the 103-room Hotel Bel-Air, that glam hideaway of Hollywood stars of the '40s, '50s, and today. Fresh from a two-year restoration, the French Deco-meets-Spanish Colonial set is ready, Wolfgang Puck is on craft services, and the extras are already boldface.

New additions to the lush 12-acre property include a La Prairie spa and fitness studio, seven open-plan suites (some with grand pianos and private pools), and 12 loftlike hillside accommodations with canyon views and outdoor fireplaces on spacious decks. Like the hotel's signature swans, the faultless service remains the same. It's a wrap.

Photo: Courtesy of Hotel Bel-Air

Sea Temple Surfers Paradise, Australia

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, November 07 01:13 PM

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Glitzy high-rises. Minuscule swimsuits. Endless sunshine. Australia's answer to South Beach, Surfers Paradise is a dazzling strip of beachfront populated by hunky surfers and aspiring models and laced with a distinctly laid-back Aussie flavor. The only flaw, until now, has been the stuck-in-the-'80s hotel landscape. But a boutique hotel newcomer, Sea Temple, is set to shake things up.

Spread across levels 4 through 39 of the skyscraping Soul Tower, the two- and three-bedroom suites feel like swanky private apartments, complete with high-tech gadgets, full kitchens, Miami-esque white-on-white decor, and balconies that catch ocean breezes. Both the poolside cocktail bar and the restaurant, with its panoramic views and pan-Asian menu, are sure to be the town's most preen-worthy hot spots. Finally, a scene that lives up to the scenery.

Photo: Courtesy of Sea Temple Surfers Paradise 

Singular Patagonia, Chile

By Conde Nast Traveler Friday, November 04 11:35 AM

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The dramatic landscape of Patagonia can feel like the final frontier. And if you want to explore the region, the new Singular Patagonia hotel, near Puerto Natales, Chile, is ready to indulge your intrepid side. Fourth-generation descendants of European settlers to the area spent ten years restoring this 1915 sheep-farming building. The industrial-chic result offers five-star room and board, plus primo expeditions, wrapped in nearly 100 years of history.

Days are spent trekking, condor watching, visiting caves on horseback, kayaking past glaciers, or just relaxing in the spa. Evenings call for red wine, king crab, and Magellan lamb in the brick warehouse turned dining room. The 57 guest rooms beckon in a new wing outfitted with soaking tubs and a distinctly masculine mix of concrete, brass, marble, and polished wood. And the in-bed views out to the Fjord of Last Hope? Well, you'll understand why the owners' ancestors settled here.

Photo: Courtesy of Singular Patagonia

The Conservatorium Hotel, Amsterdam

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, October 31 01:50 PM

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If well-executed design is music to your ears, tune in to Amsterdam's latest triumphal symphony of style: the Conservatorium Hotel's transformation of a 19th-century bank-turned-music conservatory into a five-star modernist escape. Soft-opening on the Museumplein opposite the Royal Concertgebouw and near the tony P.C. Hooftstraat shopping strip in mid November, it'll reach a galloping allegro by December. The hotel's most harmonious note? Over half its 129 rooms are double-height duplexes.

Italian design maestro Piero Lissoni has combined vintage decorative elements (Asian rugs, tribal masks, Delft plates) with exposed beams, wood floors, and oversize windows to create a homey, loftlike feel. Common areas are equally lively. A glass ceiling tops an eight-story atrium lobby with a cocktail bar and restaurants by Dutch chef Schilo van Coevorden. There's also a 10,000-square-foot holistic spa (Watsu pool included). Apropos of everything, classical music echoes throughout. We think that deserves a standing ovation.

Photo: Courtesy of Design Hotels

Shore Hotel, Santa Monica, California

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, October 24 09:10 AM

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You drove your Prius to the airport, bought carbon offset credits for your flight, even saved your leftover pretzels to compost back home. And now you have a place to lay your head guilt-free, thanks to Santa Monica's new Shore Hotel, the only LEED Silver-certified property in the city.

Half of the building materials were "upcycled," the pool is solar-heated, a Green Concierge directs guests to nearby eco-friendly businesses. And the building itself, designed by L.A. firm Gensler Architects, is quite the looker. The 164 rooms have bright poppy- and turquoise-accented interiors, custom teak furnishings, and balconies that overlook the Pacific. Hotels of green, skies of blue, what a wonderful world.

Photo: Courtesy of Skott Snider

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Prices and other information were accurate at press time, but are subject to change. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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