Our Favorite ‘Small Luxury Hotels’ In Europe

Point Me To The Plane Contributors David Ghorbanpoor and Sarah Johnson collaborated on this report.

Last week World of Hyatt announced a partnership with Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH), a group of 500 plus independent boutique properties scattered across the globe. It’s no secret that Hyatt, with just over 700 properties worldwide, lacks a broad international footprint relative to its competitors.

The majority of SLH’s properties are outside the U.S., balancing out Hyatt’s portfolio nicely. In an earlier post, we highlighted some of Small Luxury Hotels’ most distinctive and unique global properties. In this post, we dive into SLH’s European portfolio, which makes up more than half of the group’s global hotels.

Small Luxury Hotels Now Count Toward Hyatt Status

Under the agreement, World of Hyatt members will be able to count qualifying nights toward elite status as well as earn and redeem points at some SLH hotels.

Hyatt isn’t telling us which properties count until later this year, before the partnership officially launches.

It remains to be seen whether SLH free night redemptions will fall into the existing World of Hyatt award chart, but if they do, scoring a standard room for a maximum of 30,000 points will be a great value for many hotels in the SLH portfolio. The best World of Hyatt Credit Card bonus we’ve seen could cover two nights at many of these properties.

Hyatt has set a precedent with its Miraval partnership, and so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a separate SLH award chart for points redemption.

Europe

Our list picks from among some of Europe’s hottest destinations, Portugal for instance, and popular tourist draws where loyalty brand hotels are in short supply, such as Italy’s Ligurian coast, Iceland and areas in southern France. We also highlight an SLH property in Istanbul.

CastaDiva Resort & Spa, Lake Como, Italy

Small Luxury Hotels Lake Como

SLH Member Hotel CastDiva Resort & Spa. Image by David Ghorbanpoor | Point Me To The Plane.

Lake Como, the glittering gem in Italy’s northern Lake District, is no stranger to luxury hotels and villas. It is, after all, a playground for the rich and famous. Surrounded by mountains, yet within striking distance of the fashion capital, Milan, Lake Como is enchanting (with prices to match).

Hotels here run the gamut from budget to ultra-luxury. Grande Dames Grand Hotel Tremezzo (a Virtuoso property),  Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, Villa D’Este and Il Sereno set the bar high, but none of the five-star lake resorts fall below it. Small Luxury Hotels’ CastaDiva, a five-star resort and spa housed in an 18th-century villa, is one of the best.

Lake Como is a popular playground for the rich and famous. Set in Italy's northern Lakes District, it's home to numerous luxury hotels and jaw-dropping scenery. Image by Shutterstock.

Lake Como is a popular playground for the rich and famous. Set in Italy’s northern Lakes District, it’s home to numerous luxury hotels and jaw-dropping scenery. Image by Shutterstock.

Located north of Como and across from Cernobbio, in Blevio, CastaDiva is easily accessible to town by car – not that you’ll want to go. With just 73 rooms (58 of which are suites!), the Virtuoso and American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property is intimate, relaxing and welcoming.

Small Luxury Hotel Lake Como

SLH Member Hotel CastaDiva Resort & Spa. Image by PJ Brown | Life In Rewind.

Guests choose the CastaDiva for its dramatic floating pool, historic Italian charm, luxury service and 14,000 square foot spa. With nightly rates starting around $840, free nights via World of Hyatt would open up an aspirational points redemption opportunity in the Lake District which doesn’t currently exist (the Sheraton Lake Como is set back from the lake in a nondescript conference hotel building).

Mandarin Oriental’s recently announced CastaDiva ownership takeover and 2019 rebranding does raise questions whether the property will remain under the Small Luxury Hotels umbrella for the long term. CastaDiva will be Mandarin Oriental’s first European resort hotel. 

The Storfjord Hotel, Skodje, Norway

Small Luxury Hotel Norway Storfjord

SLH Member Hotel Storfjord Hotel. Image by Christiann Koepke | Storfjord Hotel.

Norway beckons travelers with epic landscapes and Instagram-worthy backdrops. Glittering fjords meander through towering mountains covered in verdant foliage. The Storfjord Hotel, one of just two properties in the Small Luxury Hotels Norwegian portfolio, is located near Skodje, in western Norway’s fjords. It’s a beautiful country house whose location is ideal for fly-fishing, sailing, hiking, kayaking or skiing.

Alesund, Norway, is the nearest city to the remote Storfjord Hotel in the western Norwegian fjords.

Alesund, Norway, is the nearest city to the remote Storfjord Hotel in the western Norwegian fjords. Image by Shutterstock.

With limited luxury hotels out in this UNESCO protected wilderness, The 32 room Storfjord Hotel is a true retreat. It feels like a private home, filled with traditional Scandinavian furnishings, fur blankets and flickering fireplaces. The house was completely handcrafted from Norwegian timber in 2006 and features both modern amenities and “Scandi-chic” design. Its dark exterior makes way for light, meticulously designed, Norwegian interiors.

The award-winning restaurant serves dishes made with local ingredients and a Norwegian ale brewed and sold only on property. In the summer, bed and breakfast rates begin at $495, dropping to just under $300 in the winter.

Tower Suites, Reykjavik, Iceland

Small Luxury Hotel Reykjavik

SLH Member Hotel Tower Suites. Image by Tower Suites.

Iceland has recovered impressively from the mid-2000s banking crisis which left the country scrambling to recover its economy. Tourism is now at an all-time high. In 2017 the number of visitors was six times that of the Icelandic population. 2018’s numbers are anticipated to exceed two million (in part due to Icelandair and WOW Airlines promoting Iceland as a stopover destination, with no hidden fees for taking a multi-day layover.)

Finding proper accommodation in Reykjavik can be difficult, especially in the summer, when the long days mean ample time to explore the Golden Circle or visit the Blue Lagoon. Luxury accommodation is even scarcer; bed and breakfasts or guesthouses abound but true four and five-star hotels are limited.

Reykjavik Waterfront. Image by Shutterstock.

In addition to Hilton, which has two Reykjavik properties – a Canopy branded hotel and a four-star Hilton outside of the city center – a pair of Radisson Blu hotels and a pair of Design Hotels are pretty much it for travelers looking to redeem points for free nights in the pricey Icelandic capital.

Small Luxury Hotels’ Iceland portfolio comprises just three hotels, two of which are in Reykjavik. Tower Suites, located adjacent to the waterfront on the 20th floor of one of the country’s tallest buildings, is an exclusive eight-room hotel offering guests unobstructed panoramic views from each suite.

Iceland has long been an expensive destination for travelers given its isolation in the North Atlantic as well as its reluctance to join the Eurozone, and so the cost of accommodation can be eye-popping for first-time visitors. Rates for one night at the Tower Suites begin at $1,600 for August and bottom out for the year at around $900 in December.

La Peschiera, Puglia, Italy

Small Luxury Hotel Italy

SLH Member Hotel La Peschiera. Image by La Peschiera.

Puglia, Italy (Apulia in Italian) flew under the radar for a long time, but in the past few years, the region has skyrocketed to the top of the “must-see” lists. Bari, the capital, is a bustling harbor town with several historic buildings. Matera, in nearby Basilicata, is one of the world’s longest-continually-inhabited regions. It’s famous for its Sassi caves, some now home to luxury hotels and ravine-studded towns.

Matera, in Italy's souther Puglia region, is known for Matera and it's Sassi caves.

Matera, in Italy’s southern Puglia region, is known for it’s Sassi caves. Image by Shutterstock.

La Peschiera is located about a 45 minutes drive south of Bari on the Adriatic coast. It is a stunning seaside hotel built from a former fish hatchery. Its natural stone walls, simple materials and earth tones blend seamlessly into its private beach and complement the cerulean waters.

There are no less than seven pools to choose from here – and only 13 rooms. The award-winning restaurant sits at the water’s edge and serves fresh seafood “on a lantern-lit terrace.” If exclusivity and privacy are what you’re after, this is the hotel for you. La Peschiera is perfect for honeymooners as children under ten are not allowed.

Nightly room rates vary widely from $200 in October’s low season to over $1,400 in high season; they close each winter.

Eight Hotel Portofino, Portofino, Italy

Small Luxury Hotel Italy

SLH Member Hotel Eight Hotel Portofino. Image by Eight Hotel Portofino.

Eight Hotel, in Portofino, is the closest we could get within the SLH portfolio to the popular Cinque Terre region on Italy’s Ligurian coast. While there’s definitely a dearth of loyalty brand hotels in this area, Cinque Terre has plenty of pensiones, bed & breakfasts and small, three to four-star properties. Luxury, though, is lacking in the famous hill towns, and Florence is too far for a day trip.

Portofino's colorful town center is an easy boat ride from the famous Cinque Terre on Italy's Ligurian coast.

Portofino’s colorful town center is an easy boat ride from the famous Cinque Terre on Italy’s Ligurian coast. Image by Shutterstock.

Portofino is located north of the Cinque Terre region by about a  90-minute drive. There are regional trains from nearby Rapallo to Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. These take anywhere from an hour and a half to three hours and in the summer will be chaotically busy and very hot. A better, more unique option, however, is to go by ferry, although in high season these too can be overwhelmingly crowded.

Luckily, Eight Hotel Portofino has a private cruise boat with which guests can explore the Italian Riviera (at an additional cost). Hire it – and the crew – for a day to visit some of the inaccessible-by-land beaches and witness the colorful villages from a different perspective. Afterward, soak in Eight Hotel’s garden Jacuzzi, sway gently in a hammock or partake in a passeggiata (stroll) through Portofino’s Piazzetta. (Say that three times fast!)

With just 18 rooms and suites, Eight Hotel is a welcoming retreat from the bustle of the Ligurian coastal towns. In high season, expect rates into the $1,200 range per night, while in the low season, rates drop to about $600 to $700 per night.

Les Sources De Caudalie, Bordeaux, France

Small Luxury Hotel Bordeaux

SLH Member Hotel Les Sources De Caudalie. Image by Les Sources De Caudalie.

Bordeaux, located in the southwest of France, is the country’s sixth largest city and is known as the wine capital of the world, raking in over $15 billion annually into the local economy from its most famous export.

St Emillion, Bordeaux, France. Image by Shutterstock.

It comes as no surprise then, that one of the two SLH properties in the region (48 total in France) is located on the grounds of a wine estate, the Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, 20 minutes south of the Bordeaux city center. Les Sources De Caudalie, a 61 room hotel named after the Caudalie skincare company deriving products from grape-seeds originating from the on-site vineyard, is a tastefully appointed retreat situated between a lake on one side and grape vines on the other.

Small Luxury Hotel France

SLH Member Hotel Les Sources De Caudalie. Image by Les Sources De Caudalie.

The hotel’s tranquil grounds feature a greenhouse covered indoor pool, a barrel bath outdoor jacuzzi, an outdoor lap pool and a vinotherapy spa offering unique treatments combining water pumped from a hot spring 500 meters underground with vine and grape extracts.

Activity seekers can choose amongst cooking classes, wine tastings, tennis and nature hikes/bikes. For travelers still unconvinced, the property’s flagship restaurant, La Grand’Vine, is located in a former greenhouse and has garnered two stars from the fine folks at Michelin. Base nightly room rates vary between $300 and $400.

Muse Saint Tropez, France

Small Luxury Hotel French Riviera

SLH Member Hotel Muse Saint Tropez. Image by Muse Saint Tropez.

Relative to its French Riviera counterparts Nice and Cannes further up the coast, Saint Tropez is a smaller, more exclusive, former fishing village hideaway turned yacht harbor and beach town. Other than a few Accor hotels, accommodation in the area is limited to a smattering of boutiques, and the local Design Hotel property does not participate in Marriott Rewards.

St. Tropez. Image by Shutterstock.

Muse Saint Tropez is tucked away in a country house in the hills above town. The 15 room property emphasizes its elegant accommodations, which feature clean lines and neutral colors, its three-acre garden, designed by an acclaimed landscape architect behind the Bulgari hotel garden in Milan and its pool, which is located within the ecological garden to promote a relaxing ambience for guests.

For visitors wanting to spend time in town or on the beach, the Muse Saint Tropez offers sunglasses and towels in a complimentary beach bag as well as complimentary shuttle transportation down to the coast. Bicycles are also available for guests to ride through the Riviera countryside. Saint Tropez is not cheap, and this hotel is no exception. Base nightly room rates start just under $600 and exceed $900 during the busy summer season.

Hotel Cap Rocat, Mallorca, Spain

Small Luxury Hotel Mallorca

SLH Member Hotel Hotel Cap Rocat. Image by Hotel Cap Rocat.

Located south of Barcelona and east of Valencia in the Mediterranean Sea, the island of Mallorca is a classic European Vacation destination. Unlike other island destinations where there isn’t much else to do outside of beach, pool and resort dining, Mallorca offers quite a bit of cultural value and diversity of activities in an area larger than the state of Rhode Island. Its historic main city, Palma, counts over 400,000 inhabitants and is a hotspot for galleries, restaurants and bars.

Mallorca, Spain. Image by Shutterstock.

Cap Rocat, once a former military fortress, blends into its hilltop landscape over a one plus mile long secluded stretch of the Bay of Palma. With no nearby properties, though still only a 25 minute drive into the city, Cap Rocat achieves quiet serenity for its guests without isolating them. The hotel’s unique accents, including a drawbridge, giant gates and bullet doorknob handles remind visitors of the property’s past.

Simple luxury defines service and accommodation at the adults only resort. Neutral tones complement the natural stone and marble architecture found in the 29 guest rooms, most of which have their own private patios with sea views. A saltwater infinity pool offering panoramic vistas of the bay rests on top of a fortress wall, and for visitors more inclined to take a dip into the Mediterranean, the hotel has carved out a sandy rock cliff beach with direct access into the sea.

Base rooms, of which there are only a few, tend to vary nightly between $300 and $700 depending upon the season.

Sao Lourenço do Barrocal, Portugal

Small Luxury Hotel Portugal

SLH Member Hotel San Laurenco Do Barrocal. Image by San Laurenco Do Barrocal.

Sao Lourenço do Barrocal bills itself as a “Farmscape Hotel & Retreat.” A two hours drive from Lisbon along the western Spanish border, the property is, without a doubt, a farm first. The estate, which covers 3 square miles, has been in the same family for over 200 years and produces grapes, olives and oats by the hundreds of thousands of pounds annually. There are also over 200 cows. However, as a Virtuoso property and member of Conde Nast Traveler’s 2018 Gold List, Sao Lourenço do Barrocal is no ordinary farm.

Lisbon, Portugal. San Laurenco Do Barrocal is located about two hours by car from the Portuguese capital. Image by Shutterstock.

The hotel’s 40 whitewashed rooms are designed with a rustic elegance and come equipped with all of the luxuries anticipated from a five-star resort.

Though the pool and spa are full service and are deserving of praise in their own rights, the true allure of a stay here is the array of available family activities, which include not only hikes, bike tours and guided vineyard walks, but also horse riding, picnics, pottery workshops and even hot air balloon rides. Children have their own playroom and may also sign up for activities such as guided treasure hunts.

Rates include daily breakfast, which comes with artisanal bread, local delicacies and organic ingredients, and vary between  $200 during the low season and over $600 in the summer months for base rooms.

Crans Ambassador, Switzerland

Small Luxury Hotels Switzerland

SLH Member Hotel Crans Ambassador. Image by Ronald Zumbuehl | Wikimedia Commons.

The Crans Montana region in the heart of the Swiss Alps is located within the French-speaking part of the canton of Valais and is known for golf and bicycle racing in addition to its obvious draw of downhill skiing and snowboarding.

Small Luxury Hotels Ski-in Ski-out Swiss Alps

Swiss Alps. Image by Shutterstock.

The Crans Ambassador, a 56 room newly minted SLH property, is the only ski-in/ski-out resort in the region and comes equipped with an on-site ski shop for renting, purchasing and storing gear. During the summertime, conditions are ripe for picturesque hikes and mountain bike rides through the many trails in the area.

Four championship golf courses dot the nearby landscape including the Crans-Sur-Sierre Golf Club, considered to be one of the most beautiful courses in the world. The course was designed by the late Spanish golf pro Seve Ballesteros and hosts the European Masters every year.

Crans-Sur-Sierre Golf Club. Image by Tinu77 | Flickr.

When not engaged in outdoor activities, the name of the game for guests here is wellness and relaxation. The 14,000-square-foot spa — complete with a fitness center, indoor lap pool, sauna, steam room and solarium — is designed to rejuvenate and relax.

Guest rooms feature alpine views and are appointed with warm hues and contemporary luxuries for maximum comfort. Three restaurants along with an outdoor terrace allow visitors to indulge with a view.

Base nightly room rates start around $300 in the offseason and climb to over $700 during peak winter dates.

The Nare Hotel, Cornwall, United Kingdom

Small Luxury Hotel England

SLH Member Hotel The Nare Hotel. Image by The Nare Hotel.

Cornwall forms the tip of the southwest peninsula of Great Britain. The northern coast of the peninsula features rock formations and cliffs due to the prevailing Atlantic Ocean winds, while the protected southern coast is more sheltered and low lying.

Cornwall, England. Image by Shutterstock.

The Nare, an unapologetically quintessential English country house resort by the sea, was built on the southern coast as a hotel in 1929, and though it has changed ownership hands over the years, it has always welcomed guests except for a short period of time when the property was requisitioned by the British Army defending the area from invasion during World War II. Its superb beach location along the bay provides guests with a jumping off point to further explore the coast.

For those seeking contemporary design and comforts, they will not find them at The Nare. Instead, classically styled decor, antique furnishings, pastel colors and artwork (even one piece by Prince Charles) fill the 37 room resort. That said, the hotel is not light on amenities, with two pools, one indoor and one outdoor, a spa, a sauna, a steam room and a covered outdoor hot tub available for guest use. On-site tennis courts and a croquet lawn provide options for guests to remain active.

Small Luxury Hotel United Kingdom

SLH Member Hotel The Nare Hotel. Image by The Nare Hotel.

What really sets this property apart, however, is the traditional English hospitality and service from the refined staff. Those arriving via train or plane are met by The Nare’s driver and brought to the resort free of charge.

Housekeeping offers to unpack guest luggage upon arrival and complimentary afternoon tea is served daily. Room service is available 24 hours.

Base nightly room rates at The Nare start at around $375 for low season double occupancy and increase to about $500 during the summer season.

Hotel Les Ottomans, Istanbul, Turkey

Small Luxury Hotel Istanbul

SLH Member Hotel Hotel Les Ottomans. Image by Hotel Les Ottomans.

Istanbul, the crossroads of the modern world, was a very popular destination up until the Arab Spring. Tack on the recent US-Turkish skirmish over visas and the ongoing demonstrations, and it’s sadly been a (somewhat) unsafe destination, at least if you listen to the media and/or State Department! However, over the last few months, things seem to be changing.  

Hotel Les Ottomans is a 10-room boutique hotel on the Bosphorus Strait. It’s located within an 18th-century Ottoman palace like so many of the other buildings on the Bosphorus and is a delightful oasis among the bustle of the city.

Istanbul enjoys the distinction of being the only world capital straddling two continents and both Eastern and Western cultures.

Istanbul enjoys the distinction of being the only world capital straddling two continents and both Eastern and Western cultures. Image by Shutterstock.

The hotel’s glory days ended in the early 1930s when the family moved and the property was rented out as a coal, and then sand, warehouse. A fire destroyed some of the building as well; the current owners took over in the 1980s and poured both money and love into the hotel.

Feng Shui governs much of the layout and design, as does a slightly theatrical element. From whimsical to elegant, the hotel is full of surprises. Do not miss the vinotherapy spa, operated by Caudalie Vinothérapie Spa, where guests can indulge in Barrel Baths, Pulp Friction Sculpting Treatment or traditional Turkish hammams.

Room rates range from $440 USD in low season to nearly $900 in high season.

Upshot

Small Luxury Hotels boasts some truly unique and distinctive boutique properties throughout Europe. For travelers focusing the majority of their attention on loyalty branded hotels, the potential addition of the aforementioned SLH properties and others to the World of Hyatt program would open up an entirely new segment of accommodation previously unavailable through large hotel loyalty programs.

We wait in anticipation for World of Hyatt and Small Luxury Hotels to announce which SLH properties will participate in World of Hyatt, and for those that make the cut, how valuable points redemption options will be for redeeming free nights.

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Comments

  1. These are all so much more than the “normal” Hyatt. Like you, I am looking forward to making some of them my favorites. I’m anxious to see the new program launch.

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