A guide to the top 10 hotels, according to World’s 50 Best

Inaugural list includes properties from 35 cities, including Dubai

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Hospitality leaders from across the world congregated at London's historic Guildhall on Tuesday night to celebrate the launch of the inaugural World's 50 Best Hotels list.

This included properties from 35 locations across six continents, with 21 in Europe, 18 in Asia and the others across the Americas and Africa.

Three hail from the Middle East with the Atlantis The Royal in Dubai placed 44th, and two in Morocco.

Here's a guide to what The World's 50 Best Hotels Academy deem as the 10 finest hotels on the planet.

10. Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok

While the Mandarin Oriental hotel group may have only been around for 50 years, its Bangkok property, formerly known as The Oriental, first opened almost 150 years ago.

This storied property, which sits on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, started out as a rest house for foreign seafarers and has since become one of the world's most famous five-star hotels, having expanded from only 12 rooms to 393.

It was where King Chulalongkorn, the fifth monarch of what was then known as Siam, hosted royal visitors. Graham Greene has a suite named after him and other famous guests have included Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando and King Charles III.

Today, it gives a sense of nostalgia with Thai-influenced style, and has a service ethos (including dedicated butlers for every room) that's firmly rooted in the present in one of the world's most exciting metropolises.

9. Four Seasons Firenze, Florence

In a city known for its lavishness and opulent architecture, Four Seasons Firenze stands out. This art-filled Renaissance palazzo, a restored 15th-century Medici palace, is set amid 11 acres of private garden, complete with ornate statues and fountains, and centuries-old trees.

The grand lobby, filled with natural light, features bas-reliefs telling stories of mythological creatures alongside huge floral displays. Its 116 rooms are classically decorated, featuring antique furniture, velvets, brocades and marble bathrooms, and some also retain original architectural elements with frescoes lining the walls.

While the sense of history is tangible, Il Palagio, the property's Michelin-starred restaurant, brings guests back to the present with a contemporary menu of reinvented regional dishes. As does the 10-treatment-room spa with its 24k gold facial, steam room, gym and garden-based yoga classes.

8. One&Only Mandarina, Puerto Vallarta

Recipient of The Best Hotel in North America 2023 award, the One&Only Mandarina has set new standards for luxury Mexican hotels, says World's 50 Best. The 88-acre property is set within the jungles of the Sierra de Vallejo biosphere reserve, surrounded by rainforest, white-sand beaches and swimmable seas.

It has 105 villas that are either built into the treetops or perched on cliffsides and each comes with 24-hour butler service, a private plunge pool and open-air living area, plus floor-to-ceiling glass walls that offer unmatched views of the natural surroundings.

Other highlights include a spa that offers wellness rituals inspired by indigenous and pre-Hispanic techniques, all delivered by Curanderas (traditional healers) using local plants, herbs and spiritual ceremonies.

Elsewhere, Curao, its restaurant that's suspended on a cliff and surrounded by greenery, is headed by chef Enrique Olvera of Pujol fame (No 9 on The World's 50 Best Restaurants list in 2023), who serves modern coastal cuisine.

7. Soneva Fushi, Maldives

In a country known for its luxurious resorts, it could be hard to make a mark, but Soneva Fushi has managed to raise the bar for exceptional service, bagging seventh place on the list alongside the Lost Explorer Best Beach Hotel Award 2023.

It's the resort's mantra of "no news, no shoes" that truly impresses guests. "Every element of Soneva Fushi is focused on pure relaxation and detachment to create an environment that feels worlds apart from day-to-day life," writes World's 50 Best.

Opened in 1995, Soneva Fushi is set on the Baa Atoll, a Unesco-protected biosphere reserve and one of the largest islands in the Maldives. Its 52 private-island villas are surrounded by jungle and most come with their own pools, as well as direct access to the beach. The hotel pioneered the outdoor shower experience, as well as sustainability concepts such as marine conservation, coral rehabilitation, waste minimisation and community outreach. It also has its own cultivation area for fresh produce, a recycling centre and solar power plant.

Hoteliers Sonu Shivdasani and Eva Malmstrom Shivdasani are behind both Soneva and Six Senses Resorts & Spas. Sonu is so well regarded in the hospitality business that World's 50 Best also named him as the recipient of the SevenRooms Icon Award, its only accolade for an individual. Their other Maldives resort, Soneva Jani, came in at No 36.

6. La Mamounia, Marrakesh

"A paragon of palatial luxury redesigned for the future" and The Best Hotel in Africa 2023 is how World's 50 Best defines this Marrakesh stalwart, which has many claims to fame.

Winston Churchill decided “Marrakesh is simply the nicest place on Earth to spend an afternoon” while spending his winters at La Mamounia, which now has a suite named after the former British prime minister. It also featured in Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much.

The hotel was opened in 1929, but the property dates back to the 18th century and was where the son of Sultan Mohammed Ben Abdallah held lavish garden parties amid the cacti, palm trees and bougainvillea. Today, its gardens flourish with rose blossoms and ancient olive groves, as well as a vegetable garden utilised by the four restaurant kitchens, which include two helmed by chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

Meanwhile, its interiors retain a stamp of timelessness and Moorish elegance, but a recent renovation has thrust it into the 2020s and infused it with Art Deco features. A 21-seat cinema, underground wine bar and rooftop DJ lounge also bring it back to modernity, while the picture-perfect, Moroccan-style spa with its several hammams preserve a strong sense of the country's traditions and culture.

5. Aman Tokyo

Ryokan-style rooms, washi paper doors and ikebana displays infuse Japanese design and tradition into this downtown tower that's been a haven of serenity in one of the world's most dynamic cities since 2014. Aman Tokyo is the brand's first urban outpost and spans the top six floors of the 38-storey Otemachi Tower in the busy financial district.

The minimalistic, uncluttered rooms are a stark juxtaposition to the chaos among the skyscrapers seen beyond the large windows. High ceilings and neutral tones give a sense of space in each suite, which also feature shoji sliding doors and window-side traditional stone furo baths where guests can soak in the view.

True escapism is available in Aman Spa, which is set across two floors with onsen-style hot baths, steam rooms, a 30-metre pool, gym, and yoga and Pilates studios. Treatments draw on Japan's tradition of kampo herbal healing, a seventh-century practice derived from Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Food-wise, naturally no stay can go without a visit to Musashi, an eight-seat omakase sushi restaurant where the eponymous master chef prepares his selection in front of diners sat at the Hinoki cypress-wood counter.

4. The Upper House, Hong Kong

One of two Hong Kong properties on the list, The Upper House, the brainchild of famed interior architect Andre Fu, is a beacon of pared-back luxury informed by minimalistic Japanese design.

The hotel is sat above the Pacific Place mall, making it a popular pit stop for shoppers seeking upscale designer boutiques. Its brutalist facade, by British designer Thomas Heatherwick, belies the overall sense of calm that permeates the property within, but certainly underpins its commitment to style.

More than 400 pieces of carefully curated artwork also demonstrate the team's intimate attention to detail. Marble, sandstone and bronze sculptures are dotted through and the piece de resistance is the 10-storey, water-inspired metal installation by Japanese artist Hiroshiwata Sawada in the inner atrium.

There's no spa, but instead private in-room treatments, plus fitness facilities, classes and meditation sessions. Elsewhere, on the 49th floor, Mediterranean Salisterra is a refined yet social spot with a bistro feel and panoramic views of Victoria Harbour.

3. Four Seasons Bangkok at Chao Phraya River

Bangkok's Chao Phraya River makes a second appearance on this list, as does the Four Seasons brand, which is behind this riverside retreat that's a masterclass in fusing hyper-modern design and dynamism with an atmosphere of relaxation.

It sits in the middle of the city's up-and-coming creative hub, surrounded by antique shops, galleries and indie stores. Despite its energy, solace can be found at every turn, whether it's in the numerous green courtyards, within the spa inspired by ancient Thai rituals, while doing laps in the infinity pool overlooking the river, or in one of the 299 rooms, with their clean lines and muted, neutral tones.

As for the food, on-site is Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant Yin Ting Yuan, alongside French spot Brasserie Palmier and modern Italian dining in Riva Del Fiume. Buenos Aires-inspired BKK Social Club – No 3 on Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2023 list – is also a popular hangout.

2. Rosewood Hong Kong

This year's accolade for Best Hotel in Asia goes to this four-year-old, 65-storey property that towers over Kowloon's waterfront and the Victoria Dockside arts and design district.

The backdrop of Victoria Harbour sets this space apart, alongside Taiwanese-born designer Tony Chi's modern yet opulent interiors that interweave octagonal designs as an homage to the auspiciousness of the number eight in Chinese tradition. Chi's keen sense of design also includes contemporary artworks by Damien Hirst and the 19th-century British sculpture artist Henry Moore.

The 413 rooms either feature views of the harbour or Kowloon's cityscape with its mountainous backdrop, with neutral tones and wooden accents. The palatial marble bathrooms, meanwhile, take centre stage (after the views).

Its dining scene is extensive, with 11 restaurants and bars throughout the property, including Indian spot Chaat, which was included in Hong Kong's 2023 Michelin Guide, plus Darkside, one of Asia's 50 Best Bars. Guests can also find Italian, American, Spanish, Cantonese and Mediterranean cuisines, as well as a patisserie.

1. Passalacqua, Moltrasio

This is it, the best hotel in the world according to the World's 50 Best. Passalacqua offers 24 waterside suites at the edge of Italy's Lake Como, set in an 18th-century private villa that was once the home of composer Vincenzo Bellini. It's the creation of the De Santis family and the little sister of Grand Hotel Tremezzo.

Fine Italian craftsmanship comes together with the elegance of the Baroque era in ornate antique furniture, original frescoes, 19th-century portraits and Murano chandeliers. Outside, there's a pool terrace reachable through gardens spread over seven acres blooming with olive groves, roses and magnolia, as well as pathways lined by centuries-old Lebanese cedars.

Guests can also relax in the sauna and steam bath, which can be found in a hidden subterranean passageway excavated in the 18th century in the Palazz, housed in the former stables. Elsewhere, complimentary activities include flower arranging, a walking tour, gelato making and cheese tasting. Hire a boatman for a sunset cruise, have a game of tennis on the clay court or enjoy classic movies at the open-air cinema.

Despite the extravagance and attention to the minutiae, Passalacqua still has the feel of a private home. This is emphasised by the unfussy food, made in the open kitchen using local and seasonal ingredients, and which guests can eat anywhere on the property.

Updated: September 20, 2023, 4:01 PM