We're kicking off 2021 by highlighting the world's best new hotels, many of which opened under the shadow of a global pandemic. They did it against all odds (or to stick to long-held schedules), with full faith and fortitude. We applaud them and wish them all a long and healthy future, or at least once that's better than their inevitably rocky start. Also on this list are a few hotels that opened in late 2019 because — poor things! — they never got a fair shake once Covid reared its ugly head.
You may notice that we are calling attention to the special initiatives that the hotels are doing around sustainability, inclusivity, and community-building. If we've learned anything this year, it's that we all need to be more accountable for and thoughtful about our behavior. To that end, we commit to being more responsible in our reporting, with the dual goals of helping us all make better travel decisions and to support the companies that do what they can to have a positive impact on the world.
Don't miss all our picks for the World's Best New Hotels in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean. In the United States, we've broken down our favorite new hotels by region: the Northeast, the South, and the West.
Where: Lake Como, Italy
Why We're Excited: There's a new member in the impressive Lake Como luxury hotel club, whose members include Villa D'Este, Grand Hotel Tremezzo, Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, and Il Sereno. Mandarin Oriental is situated on the east side of the lake, guaranteeing that sunsets are only one of the stunners on the bucolic property. Villa Roccabruna, the main building that houses reception, the lounge, and the spa, was once the home of Guiditta Pasta, the 18th-century opera diva who was the J-Lo of her day — and clearly demanded sitting rooms and staircases that befit dramatic entrances. Elegantly appointed rooms and suites are divided among several buildings, incuding two stand-alone villas. The pool floats directly on the lake (you can get sea legs when you're lying still on your sun lounger), and the spa offers a full roster of wet and dry treatments (Kneipp hot- and cold-water circuit, Finnish sauna, Himalayan salt rooms). Of special note is the team, which includes a captain who tells great stories as he skippers tours on the house boat (always keeping a respectful distance from George Clooney's villa) and general manager Samuel Porreca, the super-cool host who treats everyone like dear friends, which they will quickly become.
Feel-Good Factor: The house car available for guest use is a Tesla, and a hybrid house boat is in development. A portion of restaurant proceeds benefit a non-profit focusing on sustainability projects on Lake Como.
Where: Milan, Italy
Why We're Excited: We're already fans of every one of the Vik Retreats in South America, in no small part for their gorgeous natural settings. Their first European (not to mention first urban) outpost ups the ante in a location overlooking the double arcade of Milan's Galleria Vittorio Emanuele ll, one of the world's great shopping arcades. As with every Vik hotel, art is central to the experience: With each of the 89 rooms and suites, as well as the hallways and restaurant designed by different contemporary artists, not to mention a robust artist-in-residence program, the aesthetics within the hotel are only just surpassed by those of the floor mosaics, the iron and glass dome, and the paintings of the galleria outside.
Where: Venice, Italy
Why We're Excited: The five connected palazzi (the oldest from the 17th century) that have been welcoming notable guests and artists since 188 (including the Brittania, Europa, and Regina hotels) are in their latest incarnation a St. Regis. The location is unbeatable: right on the Grand Canal, mere steps from Piazza San Marco. Every detail was carefully considered, with a goal of transforming an illustrious history into a pretty and cosseted present. In the rooms, the color palette was inspired by the water, walls, and skies of Venice (taupe, peach, grey-green, serene blue), the pattern on the curtains mirrors that on the pavement in San Marco, the headboard and chairs evoke gondolas. Should the city's charms fail to inspire (ha — what's wrong with you?), you can escape to the public areas on the ground floor for a discreet cocktail on the canal-facing terrace in the Arts Bar, a cozy chat in the Grand Salone under artwork commissioned by the hotel, or a snooze into your novel in Gio's Italianate Garden, which has been restored to what it looked like a century ago. If you've been looking for a way to put the Starwood/Marriott points you've been hoarding for years, they will go far here.
Where: Venice, Italy
Why We're Excited: The Paris-based Experimental Group, originally known for their cool cocktail bars and increasingly for their European hotels (all Fathom favorites!), opened their first Italian outpost in the former headquarters of the Adriatica navigation company. (It says so on the building facade.) Designer Dorothée Meilichzon’s filled the 32 cozy rooms and suites, as well as the pubic spaces, with whimsical nautical themes and local motifs — terrazzo floors, gondola pole stripes, theatrical masks on slippers and do not disturb signs, mullioned Venetian windows, anchor knockers on the doors. In-house Ristorante Adriatica focuses on regional coastal cuisine, a quiet garden in the back overlooks a residential canal, and the cocktail bar is, of course, a big draw. Adding to the appeal are the affordable rates and the off-the-beaten-path location in the quiet Dorsoduro neighborhood.
Where: Ostuni, Italy
Why We're Excited: The new Puglia hotel is easily locatable, as the only red building in a predominantly white city. Dating from the 1700, the structure has served as a convent, a palace, and a home before its current incarnation as an 11-room hotel with original frescoed walls; a massive central garden with a pool, an orange grove, and an outdoor screening area for 1950s and '60s Italian movies; a gourmet restaurant at the hands of a Michelin-trained chef; and a spa in the former palace cistern.
Where: Paris, France
Why We're Excited: The former European Consulate near Musée d'Orsay in the chic 7th arrondissement has been converted into the first J.K. hotel outside Italy. Of course it's stunning and stylish, a harmonious marriage of Italian hospitality (generosity and warmth) and decor (bespoke furniture that creates an at-home vibe) with a strong French accent (designer Michele Bonan sourced pieces from Paris flea markets).
Where: Paris, France
Why We're Excited: The feeling is one of pure joy at this smart little boutique hotel, which looks like it's all dressed up for a party with its bright colors, patterns, and fringe. Plus, designer Luke Edward Hall created the cutest gym environment we've ever seen.
Where: Paris, France
Why We're Excited: This is a two-part listing in honor of the fact that hotel group EVOK had been busy in Paris of late, opening Sinner in mid 2019 and Cour des Vosges in 2020. Sinner, as the name would suggest, is a study in naughty Catholic schoolgirl tropes and fantasies. Cour des Vosges, as befits its Place des Vosges location, is an elegant pied à terre that could double as the set of a Netflix drama about 17th-century French aristocrats who time traveled to a stylish 2021.
Read More on Fathom: Breaking the Rules at the Sinner in Paris
Where: Loire Valley, France
Why We're Excited: Because the thought of spending time in one of eighteen treehouse lodges created by contemporary artists in the middle of a forest within close distance of the Loire Valley’s best chateaux sounds like an exceptionelle French dream. Though they’re treehouses with terraces almost as big as the interiors, the accommodations are totally kitted out with all the amenities, including some fun extras, like a turntable in the cottage dedicated to Serge Gainsbourg. A converted farmhouse is home to the pool, restaurant, and lounge, and sculptures are scattered throughout the property.
Feel-Good Factors: Sensory walks led by "forest ambassadors" and sylvotherapists and intentional lack of TV and WiFi in the lodges means you’ll get the digital detox you so desperately need. (Yes, you do.)
Where: Cheverny, France
Why We’re Excited: If, on the other hand, your idea of a dreamy Loire Valley experience is staying in a chateau, you should request one of the rooms in the 18th-century Château du Breuil here. The rest are scattered around the property in cabins and farm buildings, but all rooms were furnished with pieces from antique markets for that maximum cozy French country vibe. The hotel proprietors also own Caudalie, the vine-based skincare line whose products feature heavily at the spa.
Feel-Good Factor: In-room water is filtered and served in re-used and sterilized glass bottles and bath amenities come in bottles made from corn-based, recycled plastic.
Where: Stari Grad, Croatia
Why We're Excited: "Mindful luxury" is the mantra at the new eco-minded Relais & Chateau island resort on Maslinica Bay. Although a mere15 minutes from the party scene of Hvar port, it feels a quiet and serene world away. The 52 spacious rooms, suites, and villas are decorated using natural elements like terracotta, stone, and wood (wood bathtubs!) and have balconies and unobstructed sea views.
Feel-Good Factor: Their garden provides most of the fruits, vegetables, and herbs for their two restaurants and "garden-to-skin" spa. There's no chlorine in the two pools. The energy-efficient buildings we designed to have low visual impact. Locally produced bathroom products are 99 percent organic. And not only are there no plastic bottles around, but the entire resort is almost entirely plastic-free. Excursions around the easy-to-explore island, many reachable by bike, espouse a leave-no-trace-behind ethos.
Where: Lapland, Sweden
Why We're Excited: It's nature at full throttle! Wild design — including a bird's nest-style spa and tiny cabins on land or water against a backdrop of snow — combined with a suite of wellness therapies (open-air cold baths) and activities (herb foraging, moose calling) does the body good.
Feel Good Factor: Given its remote location and link to nature, sustainability is on the menu at the restaurant (local, seasonal, healthy) and is present in all design decisions at this slow-travel destination.
Where: Copenhagen, Denmark
Why We're Excited: Guests will feel like they are living on the pages of Arch Digest when they stay at this very good-looking hotel, where it is clear every detail has been obsessed over (it's peak Scandi design). Creative types can retreat to the design library, though the cafe and concept shop may also get the good ideas going.
Why We're Excited: A team of five designers (three Danish, two English) collaborated on transforming the massive Central Post and Telegraph Head Office from 1912 into a warm and welcoming hotel with 390 rooms and suites, a glass-enclosed courtyard, three restaurants (serviced by an in-house bakery and a hidden roof garden), a wellness center, and a sustainable lap pool.
Feel Good Factor: Eco responsibility has been at the heart of their plans, UN Sustainable Development Goals serving as the cornerstone of their "conscious luxury" philosophy. They have the first sustainable suite in CPH, made entirely with organic or reused materials, and the pool is heated with excess heat from the cooling systems.
Where: Zurich, Switzerland
Why We're Excited: If you've ever stayed at one of the five La Réserve Hotels, you already know that any new entry is exciting, especially if you pride yourself on your refined aesthetics and taste. Hotelier Michel Reybier enlisted Philippe Stark to renovate a century-old hotel along Lake Zurich, and the designer took a yacht club as his inspiration in the decor of 40 rooms and suites and public spaces, including La Muña, the Peruvian-Japanese rooftop restaurant.