Sleeping in beauty: The 7 best design hotels

Experience the creative spirit of some of the world’s most stylish cities by booking a design hotel for your next getaway.

Image credit: Soho House Berlin.
Soho House in Berlin draws in visitors from around the world. Image credit: Soho House Berlin

If you’ve got a taste for the beautiful things in life, then staying a few nights at one of the world’s best design hotels is an excellent way of experiencing a city’s creative spirit. We’ve listed a few of our favorite design hotels in the world to book for your next vacation or business trip.

Soho House Berlin – contemporary Berlin cool with historical roots

Gritty, creative, and dripping with post-war industrial cool, Berlin is one of Europe’s most important centers of culture, with its thriving design and art scene. One of the best ways to experience the city’s vibe first-hand is by staying at Berlin design hotel Soho House.

Soho House is technically part of a chain, with design hotels and members clubs in 23 locations around the world. However, the Berlin location is particularly special, as its located within an eight-story restored 1920s Neues Bauen building designed by architects Georg Bauer and Siegfried Friedlander.

Image credit: Soho House Berlin.
The exterior of Soho House. Image credit: Soho House Berlin

The building has played a part in much of Berlin’s modern history, first as a Jewish-owned department store, then as the headquarters of the Reich Youth Leadership, and as the head of the Communist Party’s Central Committee. In 1989, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the building was returned to the descendants of its original Jewish owners and opened as Soho House in 2010 after sitting vacant for almost a decade.

The hotel’s interior carefully blends the buildings storied past with the aesthetic of a modern Berlin. Exposed concrete walls, imposing concrete pillars, and dark leather are softened with rich wood paneling, wicker furniture, and low-slung colored sofas in plush fabrics such as velvet and brocade. A large Damien Hirst hangs in the lobby, his signature shark crudely graffitied onto four conjoined panels.

The eclecticism of Soho House Berlin encapsulates the creative mood of the city, making it a must-stay for design aficionados.

Hôtel Plaza Athénée Paris – pure Parisian opulence on Avenue Montaigne

If you’re looking for over-the-top opulence done on true Parisian terms, then Hôtel Plaza Athénée is the Paris design hotel to book when in the French capital. It’s long been connected to the Paris fashion scene and was a favorite of Christian Dior, who built a boutique just a few doors down from the hotel on Paris’ premier fashion street, Avenue Montaigne.

The building’s facade is one of Paris’ most recognizable, with its signature scarlet awnings and bright red geraniums adorning every balcony. The rooms are tastefully palatial, and you have a choice of two different room styles when booking – Classic French or Art Deco. The public spaces are richly furnished and chandelier-heavy, with surprisingly futuristic touches, such as the sculptural wood and chrome seating domes in the Alain Ducasse restaurant, and a transparent resin bar with dreamlike blue fabric ceiling sculptures in the lobby bar.

Hôtel Plaza Athénée Paris has been operating as a hotel since 1911 and is consistently chic, soaking up a century’s worth of style in the process. Its intrinsic link to Christian Dior and its reputation as one of the world foremost fashion design hotels have made it a hard favorite of the design world glitterati.

Conservatorium Hotel Amsterdam – Italian design with a Dutch heart

Nestled within Amsterdam’s museum district, Conservatorium Hotel Amsterdam is a former 19th-century bank, fully redesigned as a hotel by Milanese architect and interior designer Pietro Lissoni.

The modern, full-height glass walls of the hotel’s atrium meet the building’s original masonry exterior, connected by a series of cubic steel staircases that extend through the brick facades’ arched windows. This stark contrast of old and new also informs the building interior, where brick walls, warm ambient light, and wood paneling are intersected by oversized steel beams and repetitive sharp lines.

Prior to its conversion into a unique design hotel in Amsterdam, the space was used as a music school. It’s former purpose is what gave the hotel its name, and there are references to the building’s former life throughout, including a chandelier of violins in the hotel’s entrance.

The rooms have an interesting division of space and many of the larger suites have cool loft-style sleeping spaces. The hotel’s uber-stylish Akasha spa also deserves a special mention. It’s well known as one of the best spas in Amsterdam, boasting an IG-worthy pool area that is ethereally lit in shades of soft pink and blue.

Downtown Mexico – industrial cool in Mexico City’s historical center

Downtown Mexico is an impressive design hotel about five minutes from Zócalo, Mexico City’s central square. The hotel is located within a 17th-century manor, with an interior that is quintessentially Mexican in design, while avoiding all the cliches. You’ll find no kitschy day-of-the-dead skulls, mariachi hats, or Frida Kahlo references here.

When in Mexico, be sure to visit this remarkable hotel. Image credit: Downtown Mexico
When in Mexico, be sure to visit this remarkable hotel. Image credit: Downtown Mexico

The clientele is a mixture of Mexico City elite, who frequent the popular restaurant and bar, mixed with design-savvy holidaymakers. Mexico City is home to an impressive number of large art museums, independent galleries, and architectural masterpieces, and Downtown Mexico is a well-placed base from which to explore them.

While the hotel maintains a healthy dose of 17th-century palatial grandeur, it is stripped back and modern, with glass, metal, and exposed concrete jive perfectly with traditional Mexican design elements. The star of the show is a large-scale 1944 mural by celebrated Mexican artist Manuel Rodriguez Lozano, which adorns the back wall of the entranceway and stairwell. The rooftop pool is one of the coolest spots in the city. Sip mezcal, swim, and relax poolside, with an incredible view of the historic central city.

Casa Bonay Barcelona – a chic, youthful blend of Catalan and NYC design

Barcelona’s Casa Bonay is a champion of contemporary Catalan design and one of the best design hotels on the market. The building’s colorful mosaic flooring and unique facade have been perfectly restored to compliment the hotel’s interiors, which are the result of collaborations with some of the region’s top creatives. In each room, you’ll find yak wool blankets by local nonprofit Teixidors and handcrafted wooden furniture pieces by local designer Marc Morro.

The hotel’s founder returned to her native Barcelona after years working within the New York hotel industry, to create spaces that are undeniably Mediterranean, but with a youthful, urban-NYC feel. The hotel’s palate is light and colorful, with vibrant public areas that have become popular meeting points for savvy Barcelona locals. The building’s lush rooftop terrace is a great place to relax after a day of sightseeing, while evenings are easily spent sampling natural wines at the lobby bar, Bar Brutal.

While the hotel has 67 beautiful rooms, the five large courtyard terrace rooms are the ones to book, with a private terrace and outdoor shower just for you.

Warehouse Hotel – a restored hotel on the banks of the Singapore River

Warehouse Hotel Singapore is located within an original 1985 warehouse, which has been elegantly converted into a small boutique design hotel. It’s minimalist and sophisticated design, with traditional Singaporean touches, is inspired by the local traders who originally built and worked within its walls.

The lobby and public spaces are furnished with pieces by local artisans, including handmade ceramics and custom wood panels. These soften the building’s naturally industrial masonry, to create large and airy spaces that feel surprisingly warm and comfortable. The rooms offer an escape from the buzzing metropolis that is Singapore, with earthy ikat bedding, soft ambient light, and careful touches of marble and gold.

Designer cocktails are on the menu at the lobby bar, which offers rustic infusions that will transport you to the heart of the old Singaporean spice trade. The Madame Butterfly is a must-try – an intoxicating mix of roselle tequila, watermelon shrub, rosé, kaffir lime salt, and soda. For more information on accommodation options in the city, check out our list of the best hotels in Singapore.

PUBLIC Hotel NYC – a hotel that brings cutting-edge design to the masses

Architects Herzog and de Meuron are democratizing luxury travel with Public Hotel NYC, one of the hippest new design hotels in New York City’s Lower East Side. The Ian Schrager hotel has done away with a lot of the extras that come with luxury hotel bookings such as room service, bellhops, and concierge services, to deliver accommodation that is both super stylish and affordable.

The lounge area at Public NYC. Image credit: Public NYC
The lounge area at Public NYC. Image credit: Public NYC

Rooms are small but meticulously thought out to maximize space, with distinct zones for sleeping, working, and relaxing. But it’s the little things that make the compact rooms function so well, such as concealed reading lights and perfectly-placed USB ports.

The rooms are stylish yet simply dressed using custom furniture by Benetti/Zozerski Studio, and furnishings by Milanese designers Molenti and C. The lobby restaurant/coffee shop also reflects Schrager’s “luxury for all” mantra, with simple yet high-quality fare at an affordable price.

For anyone with an interest in modern architecture or spacial design, PUBLIC Hotel NYC offers a great opportunity to experience a new city accommodation concept in motion.


Grace Catherine

Grace is a freelance writer and digital project manager from New Zealand currently based in Mexico City. She is an avid traveler who loves destinations with an eclectic history, a bike-sharing scheme, and plenty of cool animals.