This is our editors’ annual rhapsody on their forever-favorite hotels from around the globe. In this year’s incarnation, we went beyond places to stay, including a range of experiences we consider truly exceptional—cruises, flights, restaurants, bars, destinations—along with the deeply personal reasons why we love them. This was the stuff we daydreamed about in lockdown, and a few places we were actually able to visit—all that sustained us in a year of curtailed travel. Here, our favorite hotels and resorts in Europe and the U.K.

Read the complete Gold List here.

  • The Albatroz Cascais Portugal
    • Francisco de Almeida DiasHOTELThe Albatroz, Cascais, Portugal$ |  GOLD LIST 2021Although once a whitewashed fishing village, Cascais long ago swapped that simple existence for tangible glamour. Among imposing 19th-century villas where grand European families sought out a cool breeze to escape the hot summer lies the much loved Albatroz, a constant in a shifting seascape. Since opening as an inn in the 1960s, it has blossomed to become one of the first five-stars in town. Its buildings jut out on a rocky promontory, close enough for the sound of pounding waves to weave through any pillow talk, with Conceição Beach just steps away. Inside there is an enduring sense of elegance, a hint of mystery from the war era when spies filled the salons. A 21st-century freshness has been added by designer Gracinha Viterbo, who introduced hand-painted tiles, limestone, and palm-tree wallpaper, with a nod to the country’s maritime past in sea blue friezes where monkeys jostle with flamingos. Bedrooms are split between the old palace and a modern wing; there are also six hidden rooms in the House of the Yellow Ceilings, an Italianate jewel. The restaurant, buzzing with Lisboans devouring plump prawns, overlooks the sand, but the best seat is at the bar. To be here, glass of wine in hand, boats bobbing on the waves, is as near to perfection as it comes. Doubles from $180; —Mary LussianaMAKE A RESERVATIONPowered by Expedia
  • Grand Htel de Cala Rossa PortoVecchio Corsica
    • Moirenc CamilleHOTELGrand Hotel de Cala Rossa, Porto-Vecchio, Corsica$$ |  GOLD LIST 2021Corsicans get a bad rap for being inhospitable, especially compared to their island neighbors, but there are two sides to life here: the one locals enjoy—access to secret beaches and an enveloping sense of community—and the more polished, arms-length experience that visitors tend to encounter. What’s special about this place, near the glitzy coastal town of Porto-Vecchio, is that it offers both. Run by the Canarelli family since the late 1970s, it has the lively, everyone-knows-everyone vibe of a sprawling beachfront villa with white-stucco domed ceilings and plenty of inviting linen sofas to curl up on. Regulars and newcomers are embraced like long-lost pals by staff, many of whom have been here for decades. Such an air of comfort only adds to the thrill of the experience, which starts, of course, with the unbeatable location. The hotel has its own lick of sandy beach dotted with sunbeds and parasols, and its gardens hum with the sound of birds and insects in the summer months. The blue, blue bay is the focus of everything, as is the jetty, from which the catch of the day is delivered directly into the hands of chef Pascal Cayeux, who has plenty of home-grown produce to work with from the expansive kitchen garden. The latter is worth a visit. Heady with the scent of mimosa and native herbs, it was laid out masterfully by landscape architect Phillipe Niez. In the evenings, the mood at dinner is always festive—guests linger long after dessert is finished and star-gaze while listening to the guitar strum of local musicians. Old school and under the radar, just like the best hotels in the Mediterranean often are. Doubles from about $247; —Alice CavanaghMAKE A RESERVATIONPowered by Expedia
  • Alcuzcuz Andalucia Spain
    • Ricardo LabougleHOTELAlcuzcuz, Andalucia, Spain$$ |  GOLD LIST 2021An antidote to the hectic and brash flashiness of nearby Marbella, this 19th-century, red-ochre hillside farmhouse close to the Serranía de Ronda is special indeed. It has belonged to the aristocratic Parladé family for six generations, the most recent inhabitants being the interior designer Jaime Parladé and his wife Janetta, a watercolor artist from the U.K. A dreamy combination of his extravagant collectibles and her touches of elegance have resulted in the kind of tasteful, layered styling that can’t be faked—tapestries as wall hangings, eclectic paintings, ancient suzani textiles. The finca is now a boutique hotel, run by Parladé’s nephew, Andrés, where pan con tomate, jamón Ibérico, and freshly squeezed orange juice are served at breakfast on a traditional terracotta-tiled terrace, thick overhanging wisteria vines shading the tables and framing views of the Costa del Sol in the distance. A hidden, green-hued saltwater swimming pool surrounded by carob and olive trees overlooks the landscape that inspired Hemingway and Rilke during their stay in Ronda. The library has shelves stacked with well-thumbed novels and art books whose spines have started to crack. Before Moroccan-influenced Mediterranean meals at the next-door Alcuzcuz Gallery restaurant, guests can browse its gorgeous antique shop for custom wicker trunks, dhurries made in India, and jewel-colored lamps, all designed by Parladé. The six bedrooms in the main finca are equally striking, but the one that was formerly a chapel, La Capilla, with its domed ceiling and Moorish aesthetic, is particularly pretty. This is a place where interior designers vacation, scribbling and snapping away—just check out the guest book. Doubles from about $234; —Tania Karmeinsky
  • Tenuta di Murlo Umbria Italy
    Charlotte BlandHOTELTenuta di Murlo, Umbria, Italy$$$ |  GOLD LIST 2021The first thing you notice is the landscape. In every direction there are rolling hills of deep emerald—and almost nothing else. At this labor of love spanning thousands of acres, the great outdoors is the point. Alessio and Carlotta Carabba Tettamanti have spent the past 12 years converting parts of the estate, which has been in Alessio’s family for centuries, into a project celebrating everything that’s glorious about the green heart of Italy. Remarkably intact, the property looks much as it would have before World War II, when the workers who sustained its upkeep began their exodus to towns, leaving behind more than 55 ruins: farmhouses, barns, a water mill, a watchtower or two. The first to be restored was San Savino. This former parish church, whose reassuringly solid stone walls date from the 14th century, now has four bedrooms, a full cook’s kitchen, a deconsecrated chapel-turned-living-room, wide gardens framing a pretty pool, and, of course, full exposure to that timeless landscape. Accommodations range from B&B-style rooms and one-bedroom cottages to Castiglione Ugolino, a gorgeous castle that sleeps 20. Pantries can be filled with produce from the estate; chefs can be dispatched, too, if cooking isn’t on the schedule. Or just wander down the hill to feast at Murlo’s Il Caldaro restaurant; porcini and cinghiale in autumn, broad beans and sweet-succulent tomatoes in early summer, enjoyed amid a riot of hydrangeas and blissful silence. Doubles from about $180;
  • Portugal Lisbon Hotel Santa Clara 1728
    Sivan Askayo/Santa Clara 1728HOTELSanta Clara 1728, Lisbon, Portugal$$ |  GOLD LIST 2021  HOT LIST 2018Stop a local on the cobbled streets and ask for this address and you won’t necessarily have any luck with directions, because this tiny space remains strictly for the cognoscenti. It isn’t one of the imposing palatial edifices on grand Avenida da Liberdade where modern hotels have, not always seamlessly, been inserted into old brickwork. Nor is it a tiny, flat-roofed Moorish townhouse in the labyrinth of narrow streets that make up the Alfama. But this six-bedroom property in the old cultural quarter, atop one of Lisbon’s seven hills, removes the feeling of being a traveler in a foreign city, managing what so many promise but don’t deliver: to be a home away from home. The rose-hued, multi-storied house was one of the few that survived the devastating 1755 earthquake, its ancient, solid walls tangibly resonating with history. It’s part of the Silent Living family of properties (other siblings include sand-floored marvel Casa Na Areia in Comporta and minimalist temple Casa No Tempo in Evora), so the interiors are perfectly simple and sedate. Overhead lights dapple pools of warmth onto a long oak dining table by architect Manuel Aires Mateus; a richly textured oil painting on the wall adds color. This is where breakfasts of crushed avocado and dinners of fish of the day with market vegetables take place. Upstairs, the rooms are minimalist. Open the curtains, climb into the open-plan bathtub carved from one piece of limestone, and watch the moon rise above the National Pantheon, placing you right in the here and now. Doubles from about $480; —Mary LussianaMAKE A RESERVATIONPowered by Expedia
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    Courtesy Rocco Forte HotelsHOTELHotel Astoria, Hotel Astoria, A Rocco Forte Hotel, St. Petersburg, Russia$$$ |  GOLD LIST 2021  READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2019, 2020St. Isaac’s Square is one of the most spectacular urban spaces in the world. The cathedral rises up like a mountainous island in a granite sea. And the long façade of the Astoria, on the east side of the broad piazza, is like the hull of some Art Nouveau galleon moored offshore. It was built to house high-born guests of the tsar, invited to the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty in 1913, and has always had an aristocratic air. When it was acquired by hotelier Rocco Forte, his sister Olga Polizzi refreshed and restyled every inch of the interior, giving it back its tiara sparkle. The 21st-century version could not be more contemporary or refined—and the rooms are supremely comfortable. Ask for one with a view of the towering church to feel as if you could reach out of the window and touch its golden dome. This is a building steeped in culture and history. Isadora Duncan drank Champagne at the bar with her Russian husband, the poet Sergei Yesenin, who spoke not a word of his wife’s language. Mikhail Bulgakov reportedly worked on his magical novel The Master and Margarita in room 412. Rasputin is said to have conducted his affairs here, just beyond the baleful gaze of the tsaritsa in the Winter Palace. And the hotel is only a jeté and a cabriole from the Mariinsky Theatre: any lunchtime you might see the cygnets of the corps de ballet putting away bowls of borscht while on a break from Swan Lake. The ground-floor restaurant is a fabulous showcase of Russian cooking: Olivier potato salad with Kamchatka crab; Siberian pelmeni (like money bags filled with meat or mushrooms); ukha fish soup. Tchaikovsky himself would recognize practically everything on the menu. Doubles from about $254; —Jonathan BastableMAKE A RESERVATIONPowered by Expedia
  • Le Bristol Paris
    Claire Cocano/Courtesy Le Bristol ParisHOTELLe Bristol, Paris, France$$$ |  GOLD LIST 2018, 2020, 2021  READERS’ CHOICE AWARDS 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020Fresh off of a summer spruce-up, everyone’s favorite Parisian palace is in irrefutably fine shape. Despite being classified as worthy of having even more than five stars, the twinkling edifice manages to feel delightfully homely. Perhaps it’s something to do with the resident white Burmese cat, Fa-Raon, slinking along the carpeted corridors and purring atop the check-in desk. Or the fact that the doormen smile at everyone, not just guests, but any parcel-laden shoppers trotting down Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. The grandeur and the opulence—polished marble, Louis XV-style interiors, gilded furniture, swagged curtains, wall tapestries—is brought down to earth by a gentle familiarity. The gorgeous new look of the courtyard at the hands of Lady Arabella Lennox-Boyd may be filled with French flora but the climbing roses and trellised walls gently hark to an English country garden. The lovely big bedrooms are essays in green chintz, Colefax & Fowler, and Farrow & Ball. The deep bathtubs come with plump pillows. The fantastically elegant old-fashioned wooden elevator has its own little sofa, just like Claridge’s. The views from the suites take in the Eiffel Tower and Le Grand Palais. And the spa, which can whip years off your face with a La Prairie anti-aging facial, might just also offer the best massages in the whole city. While away the day in Café Antonia, just past the lobby. It’s the central hub for high-powered fashion folk and starry Hollywood actors who flock here all year round for power breakfasts of buttery scrambled eggs, minutely diced fruit salad, and the ultimate bread and pastry basket. Later on there’s Michelin-bedecked Epicure (three stars) and the brasserie 114 Faubourg (one star). And by evening Le Bar is exceptional, very dark, and very seductive. Work your way through the cocktail menu and then retreat upstairs for the most comfortable night’s sleep. Doubles from $2,003; —Martha WardMAKE A RESERVATION