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Tiger & Turtle, Magic Mountain, Duisburg, Germany

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, December 19 01:31 PM

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Step right up! Ladies and gents, we present Tiger & Turtle--Magic Mountain, now open on a hill a half hour north of Düsseldorf, Germany. Standing at 148 feet tall with nearly 1,000 feet of zinc-plated steel track, it is the world's first roller-coaster for the acceleration-averse, with speeds of up to two miles per hour.

Built by artists Heike Mutter and Ulrich Genth, the walkable sculpture has paths and stairs that careen and curve, plus views of the Rhine from the top. Unlike a typical roller-coaster, this one offers a climb that will get your heart pumping with effort rather than adrenaline. Gotta love art that keeps you in the loop.

Photo: Courtesy of Heike Mutter and Ulrich Genth

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

Boxpark, London

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, November 28 12:34 PM

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Ah, holiday shopping: those glaring fluorescent lights, the high-stakes fight for parking, the gratingly cheerful soundtracks. It's enough to make you want to flee the country. May we suggest London?

Our cross-pond neighbors are rethinking the mall experience with the new Boxpark. Made from 60 repurposed shipping containers, the shopping complex in the hip East End neighborhood of Shoreditch will peddle funky jewelry, streetwear, books, and bikes from a mix of up-and-coming and established brands. Add to that some coffee shops and cafés and an art gallery or two, and you've got a happy holiday. Our excitement cannot be contained.

Photo: Courtesy of Boxpark

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

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

The French Laundry at Harrods, London

By Conde Nast Traveler Friday, September 30 07:00 AM

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Mall food is pretty much the last thing on our culinary wish list, at home or abroad. But what if that food was prepared by Thomas Keller? And what if that mall was the gilded glamour-dome of Harrods, in London? Gourmands of the world, prepare yourselves. Starting tomorrow, the French Laundry is taking a ten-day vacation to merry old England.

Through October 10, Keller and his team will be serving up a mix of iconic dishes such as sesame cones of salmon tartare and red onion crème fraîche alongside only-for-Harrods creations in nine-course lunch and dinner tasting menus. The setting will be an exact replica--from trellises to stone, cutlery to crystal--of the Napa Valley original. Take that, Panda Express.

Photo: Courtesy of Harrods

Hotel J, Stockholm, Sweden

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, September 20 12:02 PM

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Americans don't always have the best reputation in Europe (who among us hasn't considered renouncing our citizenship when queried about exports like Snooki?). But there's one place that's unabashedly rolling out the red, white, and blue welcome mat with style: Stockholm's newly expanded Hotel J.

Set on the water's edge at Nacka Strand, Sweden's answer to Newport, Rhode Island, the hotel has 158 guest rooms--113 of them a Nordic homage to nautical New England, with stars-and-stripes bedding, blond wood furniture, and whitewashed moldings. The sweeping views of the Royal Djurgården, the leafy island of Lidingö, and the boats on Saltsjön bay are pure Sweden. But the friendly service extends to those of us as American as apple pie (which is served à la mode in the hotel restaurant).

Photo: Courtesy of Design Hotels

45 Park Lane, London

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, August 30 07:00 AM

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Travel can be tricky these days, particularly if you have to leave your butler at home. Fortunately for the service-minded traveler, the Dorchester Collection's latest property, 45 Park Lane, opens in London on September 1. Although it will be the first completely new hotel to open in Mayfair in the past 100 years, it's pulling a trick straight out of the Gosford Park playbook: Every guest gets their own host.

Part personal assistant, part butler, part concierge, hosts will be assigned to each of the property's 45 rooms and suites. They'll greet you, escort you to your room for a private check-in, and arrange everything just so (expect a call prior to arrival). The overall effect is like staying at a well-located private residence, one replete with screening room, Wolfgang Puck in the kitchen (the in-house Cut restaurant is his first European venture), and rich Deco-inspired contemporary interiors by Thierry Despont. Capital holiday, old chaps.

Photo: Courtesy of the Dorchester Collection

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

Villa Godthem, Stockholm, Sweden

By Conde Nast Traveler Friday, July 15 10:17 AM

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Most refurbs don't get the royal seal of approval, but when Villa Godthem in Stockholm revealed a makeover that breathed fresh life and new flavors into a once-fading 114-year-old landmark, the Swedish king and queen came a-calling.

Built in 1894, the ornate wooden structure was originally an opera singer's residence but was converted into a restaurant 23 years later. The Michelin-starred folks behind Grill and Kungsholmen have masterminded the most recent redo. Now the veranda is enclosed in windows and acts as a main dining room, with outdoor dining on an expansive and leafy patio that fronts Djurgården's idyllic Brunnsviken bay.

Signature dishes include steak or Baltic seafood served up on a wooden plank, while the rest of the menu leans toward Swedish traditional tweaked for contemporary palates: lighter, healthier, and of course, locally sourced and organic. Even if you aren't a king, you deserve to eat like one.

Photo: Courtesy of Stefan Anderson

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

Cox & Kings' Wonders of Georgia

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, June 28 07:00 AM

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You've done Paris, Rome, and London, but where next on your grand tour? We suggest it's time to venture off the beaten track to the crossroads of Europe and Asia. The folks at travel company Cox & Kings have launched a tour of Georgia as part of a new package of undiscovered destinations across the pond.

The eight-day trip goes from a fourth-century fortress in Tbilisi to the birthplace of Stalin to the underground monasteries of Davit Gareja and the famed vineyards of Kakheti, the oldest wine-producing region in the world. Medieval churches, Soviet-era history, and ancient booze? That's enough to get Georgia on anyone's mind.

Cox & Kings' Wonders of Georgia tour, from $1,735. 2011 departures: July 17, September 4, October 2.

Photo: Courtesy of Michael Runkel / Robert Harding World Imagery / Getty Images

Avalon Hotel, Göteborg, Sweden

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, June 01 07:00 AM

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Design exhibitions can be a bit frustrating, especially when the works on show--say, an Eames lounge chair just pleading to be sat on--are behind glass. But now that the fashion-, design-, and decorative arts-focused Röhsska Museum has paired up with Sweden's Avalon Hotel, you can look, touch, and swivel with verve.

In conjunction with the museum's Past-Present-Future exhibition (through September 30), design covetables from the collection have been replicated in the hotel's public areas and key guest rooms. Our faves include a tangerine Verner Panton Cone chair, a classic of late 1950s Scandinavian modernism; the full-size Horse lamp and Pig tray tables, quirks of design stars Moooi; and a DVD of Swedish FRONT design group's Blow Away Vase, showing in the elevators. Free workshops and design tours are offered for the truly obsessed. How novel: design that's actually within reach--at least for a night.

Photo: Courtesy of the Avalon Hotel

See! Colour! Jarna, Sweden

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, May 05 12:31 PM

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Sweden is tripping the light fantastic this year with a contemporary art exhibit called See! Colour! (May 15 through October 2). Set near a fjord south of Stockholm in the town of Järna, the indoor/outdoor exhibition explores ideas of light, color, and space in bold installations and art works spread over the Kulturforum campus. Featured are the noted American artist James Turrell and, representing Europe, the late Hilma af Klint and Rudolf Steiner.

Viewers tap into Technicolor experiences via interactive exhibits such as Turrell's Skyspace, a room open to the air whose light sources morph colors in conversation with the sky. Or you can sit inside Turrell's one-person spherical chamber for a color-and-light show, your own personal rainbow connection.

Photo: Bridget's Bardo, (Ganzfeld Piece), James Turrell

Divino Tuscany, Florence, Italy

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, April 26 04:27 PM

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There are wine trips and there are wine trips. And Divino Tuscany's inaugural excursion makes all others look like a box of Franzia Chablis.

So what makes this the best of booze vacations? Your guide for the four-day tour, starting June 2 in Florence, is James Suckling, former European bureau chief of Wine Spectator. There's a gala dinner on the banks of the Arno River cooked up by the folks behind the three-Michelin-starred Enoteca Pinchiorri restaurant. And some of Tuscany's most famous wine families have invited you over to their palazzi for dinner. Tastings run through the region's best brunellos and merlots, and the whole thing ends with a boar roast at Sting's Florentine villa. How's that for a smooth finish?

Photo: Courtesy of Divino Tuscany

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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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