From erstwhile palaces showcasing exquisite
old masters to city hotels featuring striking contemporary abstracts, these are some of
the best hotels in the world for an aesthetically pleasing holiday.
BY NIVEDITA JAYARAM PAWAR
Whether it’s a Michelangelo-designed façade of a luxe resort or a painting by Picasso gracing the hallway of a lavish hotel, art has the power to transform one’s hotel experience into a magnificent journey to a land of exceptional beauty and wonder. And with amazing works within such easy access, one can avoid visits to crowded art galleries, and satiate their artistic cravings at their own pace within comfortable, luxurious environs. Here are seven properties offering an elegant mix of art and opulence for a soul-enriching vacation.
The Fife Arms, Scotland
This rustic and utterly romantic hotel is a passion project of international art dealers Iwan and Manuela Wirth, founders of the acclaimed Hauser & Wirth art gallery. The 19th-century structure, an erstwhile hunting lodge, is home to an impressive 16,000 antiques and 12,000 works of art by reputed masters! Some of the most significant pieces here include oils by Pablo Picasso, a watercolour impression of a stag’s head by Queen Victoria, two distinctive, stunning, stainless-steel chandeliers by Richard Jackson and Subodh Gupta, and a dazzlingly colourful ceiling by Chinese artist Zhang Enli. The rooms, fashioned by London-based interior designer Russell Sage, make beautiful use of sumptuous fabrics, curated art pieces, and fine oriental rugs. The gorgeous mountain views from each room are an added, blissful incentive.
Tip: Enjoy a guided walk across the Highlands during the day and end with a candlelit dinner overlooking a grouse moor. thefifearms.com
JOALI Maldives, Maldives
This glamorous, uniquely artistic resort, on Raa Atoll, blends
traditional Maldivian craftsmanship with contemporary art and
high-tech wizardry. Offering a spectacularly immersive art experience, quite literally from the moment you arrive, the property is home to remarkable installations and artwork designed to amaze. The arrival jetty itself, with its undulating roof, is a stunning work of art. And the theme continues throughout the resort. Expect plenty of patterns, colours, and striking artwork in each of the 73 lavish villas, as well as on the beaches. This includes imaginative creations by celebrated Cape Town-based artist Porky Hefer—don’t miss the heron-shaped suspended lounge chair in the pool area or the unique treehouse dining space resembling the fins of a manta ray! Captivating artwork by Turkish glassmaker Feleksan Onar and sculptor Seckin Pirim reinforces the art-meets-nature motif through the bungalows. And
it’s not just the land that is a treasure chest of art. Go scuba diving to witness an underwater coral reef sculpture by New York-based Misha Kahn!
Tip: Take a picture in the ‘heron chair,’ an ode to the birds of Maldives. joali.com
Cheval Blanc, Paris
Located close to the Louvre and a short stroll from the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, the Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned Cheval Blanc is the perfect perch for a Parisian vacation. This Art Déco gem, built almost a century ago, has been brought back to life by French architect Édouard François. And what a glorious rendition it is! The ambience here is reminiscent of the 1930s, with wrought iron balconies and a soaring, glass-ceilinged atrium. Brazilian artist Vik Muniz’s 12-feet-high photographic interpretations of the Eiffel Tower and a Frank Gehry horse sculpture set the artistic tone in the lobby, which leads to other impressive artwork through the property. An infinity swimming pool showcases animated illustrations of the Seine River on the digital panels lining the ceiling. A mesmerising vision! Contemporary art adorns the monochromatic rooms, featuring floor-to-ceiling windows with uninterrupted views of the river.
Tip: Check out the concierge services that offer tours of Montmartre, private visits with Parisian jewellers, and more. chevalblanc.com
The Leela Palace, New Delhi
From the walls draped with charming watercolours to the sculptures
in the hallway and the detailed carvings on the staircase—this breathtakingly beautiful property lives and breathes all things art.
Take a walk through the hotel to admire works by renowned artists like Satish Gujral, Paresh Maity, Satish Gupta, Laxma Goud, Seema Kohli, and Jayasri Burman, among others. Dazzling Murano chandeliers from Italy grace the ceiling while the corridors are lined with Turkish carpets, Bidri artwork from Uttar Pradesh, and Thikri mirror inlays from Mewar. The guestrooms and suites feature limited-edition lithographs embedded with gold leaf and semi-precious stones by photographer Rohan Shrestha. The entire experience is reminiscent of visiting an art museum!
Tip: Do visit The Library, home to over 1,000 vintage books on history. theleela.com
The Silo, Cape Town
While the initial draw to this property may be its panoramic views
of the spectacular Table Mountain, the interiors here are just as magnificent. It starts with the hotel’s distinctive and quirky, multi-faceted glass façade, designed by Heatherwick Studio. This eye-catching creation glistens like a diamond during the day and transforms into a glowing beacon for the surrounding harbour at night. A striking contemporary chandelier, by award-winning interior designer Haldane Martin, takes centre stage as it hangs from the double-height ceiling in the lobby. The walls feature the Zulu-themed Ditaola series of artworks by African artist Mohau Modisakeng and commissioned pieces by South African artist Jody Paulsen. It’s truly an African fiesta here! Moreover, each of the 28 rooms and suites, with their own unique colour scheme, are appointed with colourful silk fabrics, European and Asian antiques, African art, and handmade headboards showcasing attractive prints. There’s also a private art gallery, The Vault, in the basement.
Tip: Set aside a few hours for the rooftop swimming pool, fashioned like a glass-sided fish tank with 360-degree views of the city. theroyalportfolio.com
Belmond Villa San Michele, Florence
From the façade designed by Italian sculptor Michelangelo to the surrounding woodlands where Leonardo da Vinci first attempted to take flight aboard his flying machine, Belmond Villa San Michele is truly a work of art, inside and out. This 15th-century villa, perched on
a scenic hilltop, was once a Renaissance monastery and even served as Napoleon Bonaparte’s headquarters in Florence. Antique wooden doors, elegant chandeliers, and high windows still lend a medieval Italian charm to the property. Inside are treasures in every corner, including a Last Supper fresco from 1642 by Baroque artist Nicodemo Ferrucci, a painting by Santi di Tito, and a stone coffin bearing the insignia of Pope Eugene IV. Playful contemporary works by popular Italian street artist Blub are a recent addition here. Don’t miss his reproduction of Michelangelo’s David, wearing a scuba mask! The general manager’s friendly Labrador adds loads of charm to the property.
Tip: The immaculate gardens, overflowing with lemon trees and roses, are perfect for impromptu picnics. belmond.com
XVA Art Hotel, Dubai
This beautiful boutique hotel is a rare find in a country known for its glitzy skyscrapers and expansive shopping malls. The tranquil, 100-year-old property, located in the heart of the historic Al Fahidi quarter, is a popular retreat among artists, writers, and creative thinkers. Contemporary art juxtaposed against a backdrop of the traditional is the main draw here. This is reflected in the beautiful, quaint courtyards dotted with old trees decorated with modern trinkets, ceilings featuring avant-garde installations, and historical wind towers. All the 15 bespoke rooms are individually themed by artists like Egyptian designer Karim Rashid and Beirut-born Zayan Ghandour. Works by local artists and craftspeople are generously on display here. The property is also home to a gallery showcasing Middle Eastern art.
Tip: Their café serves some of the best vegan and vegetarian food in Dubai. The mint lemonade is a must-try. xvahotel.com