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Roxy/Josefine Nightclub, Belo Horizonte, Brazil

By Conde Nast Traveler Friday, August 19 07:00 AM

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If there's one thing Brazilians have the lock on (aside from looking effortlessly sexy in swimwear), it's partying. And with more bars per capita than either Rio or São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, the cachaca-charged capital of central state Minas Gerais, is the place to shake your moneymaker--especially now that its famed Roxy/Josefine nightclub has been redesigned and reopened.

The four-year-old club's original architect Fred Mafra has transformed his former vision into a mind-bending array of hexagons and colored LED lighting, as if some honeybees set up shop on the Tron set. Two dance floors, three bars (in acoustically sheltered bays so bartenders can hear your order), and a smoking deck with a retractable roof all include prismatic trickery. In comparison, the beautiful people--straights on Wednesdays and Fridays (Roxy), gays on Thursdays and Saturdays (Josefine)--might as well be window dressing.

Photo: Courtesy of Jomar Bragança

Happy Magic Watercube Waterpark, Beijing

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, August 17 07:00 AM

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Ever since Michael Phelps left the building, the National Acquatics Center in Beijing seemed a bit like a fish out of water. But now, the Happy Magic Watercube Waterpark has opened in the translucent bubble-covered building to put the sparkle back in its splash.

Ribbons of color sail wavelike through schools of pink and blue jellyfish suspended from the ceiling, and a rainbow of slides twist their thrill-ride tentacles down into splash pools. Swimmers can seek out swells in a wave pool, float around a lazy river, or brave a near-vertical speed slide. Seems Mr. Phelps isn't the only one who knows how to live life in the fast lane.

Photo: Courtesy of Happy Magic Watercube Waterpark

Harpa, Reykjavík, Iceland

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, August 11 07:00 AM

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Would you expect that--from a country that produced Bjork, still believes in elves, and noshes on putrefied shark--the newest cultural endeavor would be a restrained affair? Iceland's World Architecture Community Award-winning Harpa concert hall in Reykjavik has a shimmering glass facade by Olafur Eliasson that refracts and reflects ever-changing light and weather conditions. Inside, the main hall is a 1,800-seat womb of rich scarlet and finely tuned acoustics.

At night, LEDs embedded in the building's crystalline skin give off a multicolored glow. A structural riff on the northern lights, it's an atonal visual symphony of form and function.

Photo: Courtesy of Bára Kristinsdóttir

They Draw & Travel

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, August 08 11:07 AM

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A journal, a sketch, scribbles on a napkin. HDSLR gizmos are great and all, but sometimes it takes putting pen to paper to truly capture the essence of a destination. And for that, brother-and-sister duo Nate Padavick and Salli Swindell launched They Draw & Travel, an online gallery of illustrated maps.

Artists submit maps of locations they have a personal connection to, adding local color, literally, via vibrant free-form cityscapes and sketches. For example, a quirky Antarctica map includes a clothesline of frozen laundry and a snorkeling seal, while a Kyoto map displays a huge bowl of noodles with a smiling face, indicating a tasty ramen stop-off. The site features more than 300 maps and is searchable by destination, style, and interest. Starting next month, you'll be able to order high-quality prints of the artwork (photographic prints from $63, canvas panels from $109; sizes range from 36 x 13 inches to 90 x 33 inches). Consider us drawn in.

Photo: Charleston map by Jessica Pollak, Williamsburg map by James Gulliver Hancock; courtesy of They Draw & Travel

Blakes Hotel, London

By Conde Nast Traveler Friday, August 05 07:00 AM

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Boutique before boutique was a thing on the hotel scene, Blakes opened in London in '78. It continues to warrant its place in the A-list firmament (check out comments by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Mickey Rourke on the hotel's Web site), especially now that it's undergoing a multimillion-dollar refurb.

All the decadent hallmarks of East-meets-West interiors by Lady Weinberg (née Anouska Hempel) have been maintained in the 47-room property. The billowy gossamer whites and French Provençal trompe l'oeil of the Corfu Suite is the stuff of dreams, and you could reenact scenes from Wuthering Heights in the dramatic Library Suite. Every room will be refreshed (half of them have been so far), and now you can take tea in The Courtyard, a Japan-inspired garden retreat lined with bay trees, and sweat off the crumpets later in a new top-of-the-line gym.

Like celebrities, true originals never go out of style--they just come back stronger after getting a little work done.

Photo: Courtesy of Design Hotels

Holey Books at The Hole, New York City

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, August 03 07:00 AM

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If your bookcase is begging to be adorned with a confetti-filled egg or a plastic breast--or you just want to do some arty gawking--get thee to the Hole, a spunky gallery and purveyor of oddball objets d'art that just soft-launched on the Bowery in NYC.

Founded by refugees from the former Pop art/fashion/party powerhouse Deitch Projects, the Holey Books store is like a museum shop stripped of pretense and injected with DIY downtown grit. The evolving collection of items currently includes rare zines and comics, art books, limited-edition hoodies by Dearraindrop, tees from Terence Koh, and a selection of Native Shoes (a fashionable Franken-sneaker that's part Top-Sider, part Croc).

Works by up-and-coming artists on display in the gallery don't come cheap, but all you need to bring home one of the 200 custom-commissioned posters from the likes of Harmony Korine and Assume Vivid Astro Focus is $75 burning a hole in your pocket.

Photo: Courtesy of The Hole

The Historic Park Inn Hotel, Mason City, Iowa

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, August 01 07:00 AM

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You've cruised around Oak Park, gotten misty at Fallingwater, and crisscrossed the country to both Taliesin east and West, but now there's a new box to check off on your Frank Lloyd Wright bucket list: The Historic Park Inn Hotel in Mason City, Iowa. After 30-odd years of decline, the last unicorn of Wright-designed hotels is reopening August 15.

And just what does an $18-million gut renovation get you? Prairie School genius. Gone are additions that parceled the 101-year-old building into offices; fixed are the cantilevered roofline, distinctive brickwork with multicolored terra-cotta detailing, and the lobby's art-glass skylight. The original hotel and a connected bank building (also by Wright) now house 27 suites appointed with dark wood, claw-foot tubs, and salvaged tiles. Furnishings and fixtures, some reproduced from other Wright structures such as Chicago's Robie House, sit pretty in subdued earth tones.

Short of winning the lottery or nodding off at the Guggenheim, this is your best chance to sleep in a Wright.

Photo: Courtesy of Wright on the Park

Hotel Lone, Rovinj, Croatia

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, July 28 07:00 AM

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On the scale of enjoyable to soul-crushing, the typical conference hotel ranks right up there with daylong PowerPoint presentations. Until now: The new Hotel Lone, Design Hotel's first property in Croatia, is a business hotel even leisure travelers can get into.

Five minutes on foot from the beach and a ten-minute walk to the Adriatic resort town of Rovinj, the Lone looks like a cruise ship, its Y-shaped white building rising out of the Zlatni Rt pine forests. Deck chairs and wood-paneled room terraces lend the property a resort vibe, and each of the 253 accommodations has views of the sparkling sea. Inside, it's airy and minimalist, with a light-drenched central atrium decked in sandy stone and sharp-angled settees. Even if you're not there for work, don't forget your suit: The in-house spa with pool and three saunas (Finnish, Swedish, salt) requested a meeting.

Photo: Courtesy of Design Hotels

The Nolitan, New York City

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, July 25 09:55 AM

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Soho, Noho, Tribeca, FiDi--New Yorkers define themselves by their neighborhoods. Now visitors can, too, as downtown creative pocket Nolita gets its first luxury hotel, the Nolitan.

The 55-room property aims for a full-service-apartment vibe. Before check-in, you can request a fridge full of organic spritzers, hypoallergenic pillows on the bed, or even a new outfit for Poochie. Rooms are decked out in light oak floors, floor-to-ceiling windows, and mod furnishings to create a warm, loftlike feel. When you're ready to roam (nearby Young Designer's Market and boutiques like John Varvatos and Selima Optique are offering neighborly discounts), a complimentary bike or skateboard will be waiting.

Down in the lobby salon, Phaidon has curated a library, and a 2,400-square-foot roof deck just begs for having friends over for cocktails. No worries if the party goes late: 2 pm checkout comes standard. Time to call U-Haul; move-in starts August 1.

Photo: Courtesy of the Nolitan

Maison Martin Margiela Hotel, Paris

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, July 18 12:23 PM

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Amid the hand-sewn baubles and boundary-bending styles of this month's Haute Couture Week in Paris, something sexy launched that we all can slip in to: the Maison Martin Margiela hotel.

The 17-room hotel near the Champs-Élysées dates back to 1864 as the homestead of Princess d'Essling--but under Margiela's postmodern eye, it has been elevated to the realm of stagecraft. White-on-white on grays and black, it's all sharp lines, furnishings faceted like diamonds, and elaborate trompe-l'oeil paintings. Think a little surreal, a little Kubrick 2001, and a whole lot of jaw-dropping cool. Style like this never goes out of season.

Photo: Courtesy of Martine Houghton / Maison Martin Margiela

David Citadel Hotel Playroom, Jerusalem

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, July 14 10:54 AM

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Kid-friendly hotels are like magnets: On the one hand, we're attracted, knowing we're welcome to tote our lil' jet-setters along, but on the other hand, we're discouraged imagining all the other children running wild through the corridors. Yet with the opening of a new activity space for children at the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem, it's all positive.

Bright and poppy and oh, so mod, this kid zone feels like the Pritzker Prize-winner of playrooms. With a wry playfulness, Israeli designer Sarit Shani Hay has deftly incorporated local iconography: a Jerusalem lion embedded on a cushy chaise, a windmill, a padded cave, the Mahane Yehuda Market with wooden fruit for mini hagglers. There's over 1,000 square feet of space for young explorers to expend excess energy, while flat-screens and computer stations keep older ones content.

Parents can stay or leave kids to play. Although with Mamilla Avenue shopping just a block away, we recommend the latter--let their inner Eloise roam.

Photo: Courtesy of Epoque Hotels 

25hours Hotel HafenCity, Hamburg, Germany

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, July 11 01:06 PM

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The Beatles were always ahead of the curve. But they were way ahead when they sailed for Hamburg. Half a century later, this once seedy city has morphed into a hip destination. And its latest opening, the 170-room 25hours Hotel (special opening rate from $140 per night through mid-August), is worthy of that reputation.

Located within HafenCity, the biggest urban renewal project in Europe, the arty hotel draws inspiration from the nearby docks. The check-in desk resembles wooden shipping crates. A tattoolike heart and anchor are etched into the glass showers. Plus, the walls are inked with graphic seafaring illustrations.

A vinyl lounge with an extensive collection of albums, including those of a certain floppy-haired foursome, anchors the hotel to Hamburg's musical past. Mop-tops and mariners may make for a motley crew, but we say ships ahoy.

Photo: Courtesy of 25hours Hotel

L'Opéra Restaurant, Paris

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, July 07 11:32 AM

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After 136 years on the drawing board and three near launches, L'Opéra Restaurant at Paris' legendary Palais Garnier finally opened to the public on Monday. And it's every bit as theatrical as you'd expect.

Starchitect Odile Decq's huge white-plaster shapes curve organically around the restaurant's columns, and deep ruby chairs and carpets add Puccini-esque drama. The food from chef Christophe Aribert of Grenoble's two-Michelin-starred Les Terrasses is equally showstopping. Star dishes include roasted guinea fowl, creamed artichoke and foie gras soup, and two versions of house-smoked salmon (classic, with blini and caviar, and contemporary, with brioche and a horseradish and mustard sorbet).

Our inner fat lady ain't singing here. She's eating.

Photo: Courtesy of L'Opéra Restaurant

Cité de l'Océan et du Surf, Biarritz, France

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, July 06 10:56 AM

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Something swell just hit the beach in Biarritz, France. The new Cité de l'Océan et du Surf is a museum dedicated to all things oceanic, including exhibitions on tides and currents and an outdoor kiosk catering to local surfers.

Architect and surfer Steven Holl collaborated with Brazilian artist Solange Fabião to create the building's arc, which seems to crest out of the landscape. The cobblestone exterior mimics the texture of the surrounding white-sand beaches, while the overall structure looks like a skateboard half-pipe. Land sharks won't be able to skate its curves, but they can show off their kickflips at the on-site skate pool. So whether you prefer to board by land or by sea, you'll never be bored.

Photo: Courtesy of Steven Holl

Hotel Pulitzer Buenos Aires, Argentina

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, June 27 10:03 AM

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If you're all about checking into a property that embodies the spirit of a destination, Buenos Aires--that sexy city of retro '50s gilt and modern porteno glamour--has finally met its match in the new Hotel Pulitzer.

The 104-room property in the Microcentro combines Art Deco and midcentury-modern style with touchy-feely textures (buttery Argentine leather on the headboards, cowhide rugs, tufted velvet chesterfields). Rooms have a sophisticated bachelor-pad vibe courtesy of bold graphic artwork, color schemes that pack a punch (such as midnight blue and bright orange), and steamy onyx-tile bathrooms. Blackout curtains stand at the ready should you require a midafternoon siesta after a night at the hotel's 13th-floor bar. See? The devil is in the details--that's why we think Pulitzer takes the prize.

Photo: Courtesy of Epoque Hotels

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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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