Top boutique hotels
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Talk about luxury hotels and you might think of lavish sprawling accommodations. But great things can also come in small packages. Just ask Small Luxury Hotels of the World, an organisation that matches guests who are ready to splash some cash with independent boutique hotels around the world. There are more than 110 SLH hotels in the world and each of these — from architectural designer hotels to sanctuaries in the heart of the city to historic buildings to country mansions to even remote private islands — offer accommodation experiences like none other.

Most hotels offer hundreds of rooms and staff to maintain top-notch service, but boutique hotels can provide even more tailored and intimate service. If you’re looking for a quiet accommodation to rest and recharge in the lap of luxury, check out these few small luxury hotels.

1. The Bank Hotel, Stockholm, Sweden

Before it became The Bank Hotel, this early 20th-century building was once a financial institution. The 115-room hotel serves up some old-school glamour with majestic stucco columns, black and white marble floors, and sparkling chandeliers overhead. It’s also a stone’s throw away from the Kungsträdgården park and the Royal Palace, and a short drive from the island of Djurgården, where Gröna Lund Amusement Park is located.

Menus focus on contemporary food from around the world, from classic French dishes such as steak tartare to handmade pasta dishes that bring you a taste of Tuscany. After hours, visit the elegant Papillon Bar, where the design is inspired by the old Bank Director’s personal office, with mahogany panelling. Order a money-themed cocktail, such as the “Dirty Money” (made of Charanda Pisco, ginger, apple and lemon), or the “Red Vault” (made of Hernö Old Tom Gin, Cointreau Blood Orange, Lingonberry and yuzu).


2. Twinpalms MontAzure, Kamala Beach, Thailand

Set on the golden sands of Kamala Beach in the west coast of Phuket, the newly opened Twinpalms MontAzure offers suites, penthouses and private pool suites ranging from 70sqm up to an expansive 300sqm. Starting at S$580 per night, guests can enjoy any of the facilities, including the two communal pools — one for laps and the other a beach-level infinity pool — and enjoy panoramic views of the sea from the rooftops.

Twinpalms MontAzure boasts strong eco-credentials, having launched a strict “no single-use plastic” policy by replacing plastic items with bamboo, ceramic and recycled paper. The 250-metre beachfront also leads to a 200-year old untouched tropical forest.

For a leisurely culinary experience, head to the beachside boutique hotel’s restaurant, Shimmer Beachfront Restaurant, which serves Asian cuisine paired with an extensive wine list, as well as a special Saturday brunch menu.

If Phuket’s shores are calling, the hotel’s beach shuttle can take guests to Twinpalms Phuket near Surin Beach – the sister resort – as well as Palm Seaside, Catch Beach Club and Catch Junior on Bang Tao Beach or HQ Beach Lounge on Kamala Beach.


3. Dinamo Hotel Baku, Baku, Azerbaijan

Established as the home of the Dinamo sports society (which trained athletes representing Azerbaijan at the Olympic games and other sport competitions worldwide), the elegant city building with geometrical architecture was built in the 1930s in Baku, and was only transformed into a hotel almost a century later.

The hotel’s interior design — which includes decorative sculptures and incorporates traditional rug patterns on stone mosaic floors — was inspired by the history of the building and Azerbaijan culture. It’s small — with just 28 rooms from S$324 per night including breakfast — but stands out, thanks to its eye-catching furnishings.

For meals, the aptly named Olympia Restaurant dishes whips up international dishes from an open kitchen. The spa is a luxury health club equipped with a fitness center and swimming pool, and offers a selection of exclusive signature treatments and beauty services including a Nail Bar. Beyond the hotel doors, the city of Baku is a melting pot of cultures, a combination of European, Asian and Middle Eastern influences that make this city a fascinating place to wander – from the cobblestoned Old City to the ultra-modern Heydar Aliyev’ art complex.


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4. Palacio Solecio, Malaga, Spain

Located at the heart of Málaga’s old town, Palacio Solecio is a former palace from the 18th century that has been restored by Antonio Obrador’s Architecture Studio into a modern hotel with an Andalusian touch.

With rates starting at S$238 per night (including breakfast), Palacio Solecio will open its doors in December.

The hotel combines its storied history with contemporary comfort by preserving its original architecture but updating it with modern amenities. At the restaurant, you can find traditional and avant-garde Andalusian cuisine prepared by Michelin chef Jose Carlos Garcia. By day, you can relax in the hotel’s glass-ceilinged patio and soak up the sun while enjoying tapas and drinks. By night, gather your friends and chill by the indoor fountain over evening cocktails.

Take a stroll around the vicinity and you’ll find that Málaga’s past and present are celebrated everywhere – from the magnificent Catedral de la Encarnación de Málaga to traditional Arabic baths and Flamenco restaurants. The must-see Alcazaba Fortress is also a short walk from the hotel, and you can wander through the courtyards and gardens before climbing the slope for a spectacular view of the city.


5. Alex Lake Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

On the Western Shore of Lake Zürich, just between Zürich and Zug, is Alex Lake Zürich, a contemporary boutique hotel with a private marina and boat-loads of style. Perched on the water’s edge and set across five floors with a special architectural design of stone and glass, the newly opened hotel’s 44 rooms and suites all offer glorious lake views, terraces and kitchens. Prices start at S$404 per night, including breakfast.

The hotel’s all-day restaurant and bar, The Boathouse, serves international dishes made with Swiss-sourced produce as well as regional wines. A stroll along the waterfront terrace provides spectacular views of the lake, and guests have access to all the features in the wellness area, which includes a sauna, steam room, relaxation area, fitness room, plunge pool, spa treatment room and even direct access to the lake if you feel like taking a dip in those clear waters. You can also use the hotel yacht, do water sports on the lake, ride their bicycles around town and more.

One of the highlights of Lake Zurich is the leisurely boat trip to the picturesque town of Rapperswil, famous for its rose gardens, medieval castle and the longest wooden bridge in Switzerland.


6. Helena Bay Lodge, New Zealand

Tucked away in the northeast corner of New Zealand’s north island, the recently-opened Helena Bay Lodge features four private beaches on 800 acres of land, all explorable by buggy, kayak, or even paddle board. Accessible via a 50-minute flight north of Auckland to Wharerangi, and then a 40-minute drive from the airport along scenic winding roads, the lodge is a peaceful hideout for urbanites. Regular guests can request for a driver to pick you up in a Range Rover, while VIP guests can helicopter in directly from Auckland.

There are only five rooms on site, two villa suites and three junior suites, but if you’re travelling with an entourage of nannies, bodyguards or personal trainers, there are 10 extra rooms in the main house, which also features a gym, sauna, massage room, heated swimming pool, library, wine cellar (housing a curated collection of more than 1,000 bottles of New Zealand and international wines), several lounge areas, on outdoor fire pit and the lodge’s restaurant, created by Italy’s Michelin-starred Ristorante Don Alfonso 1890.

Don’t miss the six-course degustation dinner, served outside on the terrace by the lodge’s tux-clad maitre d.


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7. Praia Art Resort, Calabria, Italy

This beachfront boutique resort celebrates the region’s ancient history and vibrant yet laidback Mediterranean spirit. Set against the shimmering Ionian Sea amongst pine trees and sculpted gardens, this tranquil retreat is built for rest and relaxation. For upwards of S$498 per night (including breakfast), you can recharge at the beach or enjoy personalised service from the friendly staff whether you’re chilling by the outdoor pool, enjoying a massage in the just-for-one spa or cooling off with a cocktail at the Food Café bar.

When you want to feel the sand between your toes, a short stroll brings you to the beach. Beyond the hotel, the nearby town of Crotone is where you can get your fill of Calabrian culture and heritage. Visit the historic castles and fortresses or the National Archaeological Museum of Reggio Calabria (one of the most prestigious archaeological museums in Italy) to learn about Calabria’s storied history as a Greek colony in the eighth century B.C. Then, check out the historic landmark of Capo Colonna, a temple dedicated to Hera, mother to the Greek Gods. In the summer and autumn months, you can go hiking amongst pine and maple trees at Sila National Park, or grab your swimsuit or picnic basket and explore the hidden coves and inlets of the Calabrian coast.


8. Heidelberg Suites, Heidelberg, Germany

Originally constructed at the turn of the 20th century on the banks of River Neckar, Heidelberg Suites combines Italian architecture and German romanticism, with elegant interiors designed by internationally renowned Florentine architect and designer, Michele Bonan.

With a wellness spa featuring a sauna and steam bath and a tranquil garden with a Jacuzzi, this hotel is an ideal retreat in the city. The rooms and suites are all equipped with modern amenities to ensure a comfortable stay. Most offer a view of the Old Bridge and Heidelberg Castle, which are just a short walk away from the hotel.

Begin your day with complimentary breakfast at the breakfast lounge and then embark on the Philosophers Walk, a path along the northern banks of the Neckar River that offers scenic views and a glimpse of life in this historic town. There are also plenty of boutiques and cafes all around the Old Town if you’re in the mood for shopping. Architecture buffs will appreciate a tour around Neuenheim, home to the 14th-century Heidelberg University, with its sprawling campus, age-old ornate halls and the Botanical Garden.

For dinner, enjoy the specialties of Heidelberg Suites’ in-house Scharff’s Restaurant, located on a ship overlooking the river.


9. The Raj Palace, Jaipur, India

A magnificent palace located in the heart of Jaipur, The Raj Palace is a former royal residence and palace built in 1727 and converted into a luxury hotel in 1996. This multi award-winning hotel is the first museum hotel that features a stately mansion with restaurants, spa and pool, an exclusive cinema, manicured gardens and courtyards. Located on the main road but tucked behind fortified walls, it is within walking distance of major sightseeing destinations and shopping areas.

For S$380 per night, you get a taste of opulence at The Raj Palace. From 24-carat gold fittings, stucco, brocades, mirror work, hand-painted frescoes, massive crystal chandeliers, antiques and priceless artefacts to royal architecture, gardens and lush courtyards, this Pink City palace blends Old World charm with contemporary comforts.

The choice of cuisine at the hotel is also extensive, from international feasts in the restaurant, kebabs on an outdoor grill to traditional afternoon tea. For entertainment, watch some marionette theatre or a film and browse the various museum collections, or relax at the spa and shop at the onsite Princess Boutique.


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