This month we’ve teamed up with the Future Laboratory to produce a report that gets under the covers of the next decade of romantic travel, looking at how heart-eyed hospitality will be shaped by everything from sustainability to stimulants. But if you can’t wait until 2030 to sample some cutting-edge escapes, here are some hotels that already sit comfortably ahead of the curve…
The cultural incubator
Stamba, Tbilisi, Georgia
Tbilisi is officially Europe’s coolest city-break destination and Stamba is essentially a fully formed cultural expo in hotel form. It is built around the skeleton of an old Soviet printing press, with new life breathed into its industrial innards – quite literally: trees grow through the lobby floor and vines snake up the atrium. In turn, the hotel has stimulated the city’s creative growth, serving as a centrepiece for Georgian arts (even playing host to Tbilisi’s Photo and Multimedia Museum). A good example of how a hotel – and, as an extension, tourism – can be at the very beating heart of an area’s cultural regeneration.
The next-gen guesthouse
Casa Fortunato, Lisbon, Portugal
“The hotel so good the owners moved in” as The New York Times put it. Our hotel of the year, as we put it. It’s a place where passion, precision, pride and, well, parenthood combine. Husband and wife, Antonio and Filipa, met as architecture students and, later, while they were running their own practice, they imagined one day opening a hotel once the kids had left home. But the brainwave struck that they could transform their office into a nine-room, next-level design den now – and the result is more lovingly curated than most museums. Their pride in doing things their way and their own clear self-fulfilment is palpable. Granted, there are a million B&Bs where you’ll meet the owners, but none as quietly luxurious and forward-thinking as this.
The superior spa-cation
Euphoria, Mystras, Greece
Rather than a hotel with a spa, you could call this a spa with (spectacular) rooms. After overcoming cancer in her 20s, the retreat’s founder, Marina Efraimoglou, visited destination spas around the world and dove into Chinese medicine and holistic healing. She used those experiences to create Euphoria Retreat, a 31-room hotel built into the Peloponnesian mountainside and centred around personalised wellness programmes. It’s far from some sterile medical retreat, though: spread across four floors, there’s a Byzantine hammam, Roman-esque tepidarium, Finnish sauna, hot tub, salt therapy room, infrared saunas, sensory deprivation pools, a yoga hall, meditation room and – why not – a labyrinth.
For self-care secondments
The Dutchess, Upstate New York, USA
Remember delayed gratification? It’s present at The Dutchess in its barely there website, lack of social media presence and general hush-hush demeanour. It’s present in the set mealtimes and slow, seasonal food. It’s not a place where you can have whatever you want, whenever you want it… and it’s all the better for it. In their own words, “those willing to take a chance on an unknown quantity are also the people who will get the most out of it”. The whole estate – set just beyond your comfort zone in Upstate New York – radiates a relaxed rusticity but, settle into one of its inviting bedrooms and you’ll recognise it as that stealthy kind of luxury that doesn’t rush to reveal its worth: full-sized Aesop bottles, fluffy Frette robes, unspeakably soft grey linen sheets… The art of pressing pause has been perfected here.
For immersive gourmet getaways
Ergon House, Athens, Greece, and Santiago Hotel, Alentejo, Portugal
Ergon House has added boutique bedrooms to its seriously successful food market: an innovative twist on the “restaurant with rooms” concept. Here, every morsel has been hand-selected to represent Greece’s very finest produce and keen cooks can take their bounty upstairs and whip up dishes in the hotel’s communal kitchens (or just take a seat in the light-filled atrium and leave the preparation to the pros) before retiring, sated, to stylishly sophisticated suites. At Santiago Hotel, it’s all about getting out of your room and plugged into the local experiences, specifically the food-related ones; you’ll find a “cooking kit” in your room, complete with apron and utensils, which practically dares you to wander downstairs and start stirring something. Roam further, and you can explore abundant local markets, sustainable farms, distilleries and vineyards, too.
For bio-positive breaks
Salt of Palmar, Mauritius
Camille Walala’s primary colours and bold zebra-print interiors reflect Salt of Palmar’s refreshing take on the beachside stay. It’s the first eco-hotel on Mauritius and its inventive roll-call of locally inspired activities put your average resort to shame: engage in a skills swap experience by sharing your expertise with a local (and vice versa); attend a rehearsal of the village’s Hindu wedding singers; join sunrise run club and more. It’s a philosophy so heart-warming we’re still beaming.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, so Mr & Mrs Smith is encouraging us all to be more absent this year. Find out more at mrandmrssmith.com.