It’s impossible to see all of Los Angeles in a single trip—all 466 sprawling square miles of it—but it’s difficult to miss The Beverly Hills Hotel. A stunning pink palace built in 1912, the 12-acre property on Sunset Boulevard continues to command attention in the heart of the city. Even after its latest three-year renovation, notable elements, like the Martinique banana leaf hallway wallpaper, the deep-green leather booths, and the dark wood of the Polo Lounge, remain just as glamorous as architect Paul Williams’ original 1949 design. A total of 210 guest accommodations, including 23 bungalows, ramble across the property, showcasing a neutral palette of cream and taupe shades mixed with rich walnut, parchment, and leather. When the property emerged from its renewal in 2015, careful preservation of its Mission Revival–style architecture blended with Old Hollywood flash ensured it kept its status as the first historic landmark in Beverly Hills.
A clever complement to this longstanding property lies but two miles away at one of the city’s other central intersections at Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevard. Designed by Gensler to mimic the curve of this prime corner, the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills opened in 2017 and immediately charmed locals and guests alike with its streamlined architecture and unmatched views of the city. The 12th-floor rooftop bar and restaurant offers the best vantage point from which to gaze at the boulevard and the area’s impressive mansions. On the other side of the rooftop and exclusively for hotel guests, is the pool, complete with fully-outfitted cabanas. Interiors at the property are decidedly ornate, in line with designer Pierre Yves Rochon’s signature aesthetic. The light stone, gold accents, pale wood, and plush carpets all nod to classic luxury, while the latest technology, including in-room iPads, keep the experience decidedly contemporary.
In a country known for understated elegance, it’s worth noting how Japan’s newer hotels balance tradition with everything futuristic. Palace Hotel Tokyo opened in 2012 across from the Imperial Palace Gardens on a site previously held by two hotels since 1947. Architectural firm Mitsubishi Jisho Sekkei gave the 23-story structure an asymmetrical shape that maximizes views from every angle, while the interiors feature warm tones and decadent materials such as hand-tufted rugs, 300–thread count bedspreads, silky throw pillows, and sleek, open-style bathrooms. Public spaces maximize the garden views with double-height floor-to-ceiling windows and complementary dark wood and shades of fresh grass, resulting in the perfect mix of modern design and the site’s history.
The modern Park Hyatt Tokyo became an instant landmark after its starring role in Sofia Coppola’s film Lost in Translation, from the skyline views from the rooftop bar and pool to the minimal guest rooms with crisp white linens and marble bathrooms. The hotel, in fact, precedes the Palace Hotel Tokyo, debuting in 1994, but is decidedly forward-thinking in style. Architect Kenzo Tange created the 770-foot structure as a trio of pyramidal towers rising 41, 47, and 52 stories tall, respectively, with the Park Hyatt taking residence on the highest 14 floors of all three. Prime space at the top of each is occupied by a bamboo garden on the 41st floor, a lap pool on the 47th floor, and the New York Grill restaurant on the 52nd. Hong Kong–based interior designer John Morford outfitted the interiors with minimal furnishings, reminiscent of a private home, giving the stunning art collection center stage. Look for standout pieces such as the handmade Japanese mask from local artist Mieko Yuki anchoring the hotel’s entry, works by 1960s Britpop painter/sculptor Antony Donaldson, and the more subdued paintings of Yoshitaka Echizenya, seen throughout the library and guest rooms.
For a city that wasn’t developed until 1966 when oil was first discovered there, it’s difficult to define an architectural “classic style.” If one exists, it would be the desert oasis that is the Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort and Spa. Located approximately 45 minutes outside of Dubai, the property debuted in 1999 with a traditional Bedouin style that could have been lifted straight out of Lawrence of Arabia. Authentic and appropriate for its remote landscape, the property contrasts starkly with the city’s sky-scraping palaces—the hotel’s 42 suites are spread out on a single level—and holds its own with more than 2,000 regional artifacts comprising the largest private art collection in the Middle East. And while its local art and furnishings are surely on display to be appreciated, the true scene-stealer here is the surrounding wildlife sanctuary with its resident indigenous mammals, reptiles, birds, and the rare Arabian oryx.
In contrast, in that same pre-millennium year, the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah was part of the new wave of spectacular hotels that would furnish the sky in the years to come. Standing more than 1,000 feet tall, the sail-shaped hotel was among the first to be constructed on one of the region’s man-made islands, wowing guests with its 202 spacious rooms that start at a whopping 1,800 square feet. Its nearly 20,000 square feet of gold leaf, 500,000 square feet of glass windows, 10 million blue and gold mosaic tiles that line the Terrace’s pool, and 30 different types of Statuario marble continue to stun and awe guests decades on.
When The Savoy opened its doors in 1889, it was the first high-end hotel in England, complete with unheard-of amenities, such as electric lights and elevators. Today, the historic property continues to dazzle with its classic glamour and English charms. Entering through the ornate lobby lounge, visitors encounter the American Bar, a stalwart since the hotel’s opening, featuring nail-head bar stools and navy leather club chairs. Rooms are pleasantly outfitted in subdued furnishings of Art Deco or Edwardian influences, but the highlight is in what you don’t see. Many of the suites feature mattresses from Savoir, the century-old company that has been providing the property’s mattresses since 1905. (The brand now sells the same handmade mattresses for as much as $175,000 a piece.)
An eccentric example of how English design has evolved over the years, the Ham Yard Hotel opened in 2014 with 91 rooms and 24 apartments designed by acclaimed British designers/hoteliers Tim and Kit Kemp, whose signature style is an eclectic mix of color and pattern (think graphic cushions, Indian carvings, and floral padded headboards). The Kemps give visitors a cheeky wink in public spaces: ribbed glass and alabaster chandeliers from India hang in the library, and a custom monolithic bronze sculpture by Tony Cragg sits in the courtyard entrance. Meanwhile, guest amenities, such as the 1950s four-lane bowling alley imported from Texas and the 190-seat theater are decorated with vibrant colors, energizing the thriving retreat that breezily reflects the atmosphere of Soho.