Hotels that feel like home

Anna Hart

Travel editor and writer

Even as a jet-setting citizen of the world, you can feel at home anywhere on the planet this winter if you check in to the right hotel. Travel writer Anna Hart celebrates the city hotels that feel even better than home…

There’s a little bit of magic in the recipe of any truly successful hotel. As a travel writer it’s my job to assess the warmth of the lighting, the appropriateness of the art on the walls, the perkiness of the service, the irritating-or-otherwise positioning of bathroom light switches, and a long list of other ingredients. But a homely hotel is more than the sum of its parts, and travellers sense it the moment we step into the lobby; we feel enveloped in hospitality, gently coaxed into relaxing and nudged in the direction of a wonderful time. Even travelling alone and in the core of an unfamiliar city, these hotels draw you straight to their heart.


The Betsy Hotel Miami Florida

With Cuban cuisine, beach clubs and sleek art deco hotels, this unashamedly glitzy and glamorous global hub has always known how to make visitors feel welcome. And with such an engaging dining, drinking and cultural scene, the perfect Miami hotel puts you right at the centre of things, yet also offers a tranquil refuge when you need an (air-conditioned) breather. Back in the 1990s, The Delano transformed South Beach into a playground for the rich and famous, when supermodels like Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell could be spotted lounging on the white sofas in the lobby alongside the likes of Prince and Madonna. This minimalistic, chic Philippe Starck-designed boutique hotel is now a South Beach icon – still no less of a hotspot ­– and remains just as welcoming and determined to show guests a good time. From the poolside cabanas to the permanently buzzy lobby to the Beach Club, at the Delano, you’re always where it’s at.

Further down Ocean Drive, The Betsy (pictured above) is an old-world but young-at-heart colonial-style hotel smack in the heart of Art Deco South Beach, with plantation-style shutters and gleaming white interiors. The Betsy’s genteel nature extends beyond aesthetics to hipster-baiting jazz evenings, literary gatherings and writer’s retreats; this is a beach hotel with a creative soul, and while the hotel’s looks sure help, it’s what’s inside that keeps guests coming back for more. With an expansion in the works, The Betsy will soon be larger and better than ever, featuring their original “colonial wing” plus the new “art deco wing” (formerly the Carlton Hotel), redesigned to mesh with The Betsy’s cool-comfort beach vibe. But the luxe comfort doesn’t end with you – dogs are welcome, and shamelessly Instagrammed, at The Betsy too. Go ahead and sign up for that doggy-and-me couple’s massage and sink into this homely hotel a little more. You’ll be hard-pressed to leave when your departure date rolls around.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Along with its ASEAN neighbour, Singapore, Hong Kong pretty much perfected the art of the modern luxury city hotel, setting the bar for urban Asian hospitality. But as the city emerges as a cultural heavyweight as well as a business powerhouse, Hong Kong’s hotel scene is undergoing a similar evolution, with hotels increasingly offering warmth, intimacy and personalised service as well as slick and businesslike facilities. The Peninsula – or “The Pen” as it’s coolly referred – was established in 1928, but despite its colonial facade and fleet of Rolls-Royces, there’s nothing remotely fusty or fussily formal about this grande dame, just well-trained and welcoming staff (more than 30% of staff have 10+ years experience at the hotel!) and that classic, reassuringly familiar vista over Hong Kong harbour.

If it’s tranquility you seek, you’ll find your perfect home-from-home at The InterContinental (pictured above), where an admittedly unprepossessing exterior belies the hotel’s beautiful Feng Shui-informed internal layout. Attentive design details make it feel more like a futuristic clubhouse than a city centre hotel; prepare to wander the lobby taking design notes for your own dream home of the future. Around two thirds of the luxurious bedrooms have harbour views, and the glass-fronted lobby extends the view to three storeys, putting the jaw-dropping vista centre stage. Even on a short stay, the views leave you intimately acquainted with, and utterly seduced by Hong Kong.


QT Sydney Sydney Australia

Sydney has long been unfairly dismissed as the prettier but shallower sister to cultural heavyweight Melbourne. But the Harbour City that Sydney locals know possesses real depth, and choosing the right hotel immediately immerses travellers in an under-the-radar creative quarter or emergent dining scene. Sydney isn’t just a pretty face; this is one of the most liveable cities on the planet, and the rewards of getting well-acquainted with the city are abundant.

Next to the State Theatre, the playful boutique hotel QT Sydney (pictured above) raised the bar for the city’s design hotels, crammed with homely details and quirky touches that are as far from a run-of-the-mill city hotel as you can get. Hotel staff members are friendly rather than formal (and can direct you to the food truck or dive bar of the moment) and the mishmash of mid-century Modernist furniture and edgy artwork make you feel like you’re bedding down at the home of a fabulously fashionable friend.

At the Ovolo 1888 Darling Harbour every room feels like the urbane loft apartment of your dreams, and the hip and friendly young staff add to the sense that everyone in this converted wool warehouse is onto a seriously good thing. Even if you book into the minimalist and cosy “Shoebox” room, the public spaces are made for lingering in. It’s a self-proclaimed Instagrammer’s haven, so snap-happy social travellers will quickly have friends and families wishing they had a hip backdrop too.

And elsewhere...

And elsewhere

Nobody does old-school hospitality quite like Claridges in London’s Mayfair, while The Roxy in New York has the warm glow of a hip jazz club as soon as you step through the door. In Edinburgh, G&V Royal Mile (lead photo) combines neon flourishes and serious style with a classic Scottish welcome in the heart of the city. And the Sofitel So brings an air of Parisian playfulness to downtown Singapore (pictured above).

If you’ve gotten comfortable imagining yourself in one of these homely hotels, select your travel dates and be on your way!

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