From new hotel openings bringing fresh verve to European cities to cultural festivals and scenic train rides, enjoy a shot of travel inspiration for the months ahead
Whether you are yet to plan a 2023 holiday and seeking some cultural inspiration, or your latest trip already feels like a distant memory, this line-up of new hotels, music festivals and art and design happenings around the world should prove the push you need to dust down your suitcase.
Discover where to book right now and why, from European city breaks to a new urban landscape in Tokyo.
Where to travel in Europe
Why: Two new boutique hotel openings are creating a buzz in Brussels right now
The unofficial capital of Europe, Brussels combines art nouveau architecture, decorative UNESCO-listed squares, lambic beer, brilliant restaurants and independent boutiques. Until this year, however, it notably lacked a modern boutique hotel. Now it has two: The Hoxton has transformed a brutalist skyscraper into a buzzy base for business and leisure travellers, with a soaring, open-plan lobby, bar and restaurant. Bedrooms begin on the 14th floor, overlooking the botanical gardens below, suffused with The Hoxton’s signature retro flair. There is also a rooftop bar and a Working From_ members’ only co-working space is set to open soon. The Hoxton is currently enjoying a period of rapid expansion, with further new openings in Berlin and Amsterdam, and Edinburgh set to follow later this year.
Across town, Mix Brussels is a striking ode to Belgian design. Architect Lionel Jadot has filled the hotel using only custom-made furniture and objects, created in collaboration with Zaventem Ateliers, a hub for artists and artisans that he founded in 2018, based on the outskirts of the city. He worked strictly with local Belgian designers, who shared his ethos for responsible production and recycled materials. In a bid to reduce waste, offcuts were also repurposed in other areas of the building. Standout design elements include the sculptural brass reception desk by Maison Jonckers and diaphanous printed curtains by KRJST Studio.
The hotel is surrounded by water ponds, with verdant beech forest views, for a serene base in the city. There are three restaurants, a food market, a co-working space and a stellar health club, with a gym, studios and treatment rooms.
Where: Menorca, Spain
Why: Hauser & Wirth has reopened for the summer, a new eco-retreat hotel
Menorca’s rocky coves and unspoilt, sugar-white beaches are a blissful alternative to its noisier Balearic neighbours, Ibiza and Mallorca. Hauser & Wirth’s Menorcan gallery has reopened for the summer, with a new exhibition by Los Angeles-based painter Christina Quarles. Coined Come In From An Endless Place, it presents her captivating figurative work, featuring abstract, intertwining forms that explore themes of race, gender and sexuality. The building is a work of art in itself, with a garden designed by Piet Oudolf and sculptures by European artists including Louise Bourgeois, Joan Miró and Franz West. The gallery sits on Illa del Rei, a remote island accessible by boat from Mahon harbour.
Stay at Son Blanc Farmhouse, a new eco-retreat resting between the towns of Alaior and Es Migjorn Gran, about a 30-minute drive from Hauser & Wirth. Owners Benedicta Linares Pierce and Benoît Pellegrini spent seven years renovating the derelict 19th-century farmhouse, with a focus on local, natural materials, artisanal craftsmanship and as low an environmental impact as possible. A palette of stone, olive wood and clay is softened by Spanish textiles, including upholstered and handcrafted macrame headboards and curvaceous boucle seating.
Both a hotel and a working farmstead, the property is surrounded by olive trees, wild pines, grazing sheep and sea views, with a focus on regenerative agricultural principles. Produce is grown in the 320-acre farm, medicinal garden and fruit orchard, informing a menu of fresh, seasonal cuisine and charcoal fire cooking. Guests are encouraged to slow down and reconnect with nature, or participate in activities including pottery, yoga and dance workshops.
Alternatively, Menorca Experimental is another farmhouse-turned-boutique stay, set in the Menorcan countryside amongst wildflowers and juniper groves. There are 43 rooms – nine of which have a private swimming pool – peppered with artisanal crafts and contemporary art. The beach is a 15-minute meander away, and chef Sylvain Roucayrol cooks Catalan cuisine in the kitchen, with many ingredients grown in the onsite garden. The hotel takes conservation seriously, and looks to educate guests on local ecosystems and history.
Where: Ibiza, Spain
Why: Experimental Group’s first Ibizan property, Montesol Experimental, opened this summer
Fans of Experimental Group’s Menorca destination will be familiar with the hotel group’s track record for living it up in the Balearics. Summer 2023 marks the reopening of Cafe Montesol in Ibiza town as the new Montesol Experimental, following a two-year renovation of the historic 1930s hotel. Designer Dorothée Meilichzon designed the bedrooms with cool, calming colours and a warm material palette evocative of bohemian Ibiza, and original pieces like masks by Anna Alexandra of Mallorca and playdough stools by French designer Diego Faivre decorate the rooms.
The restaurant, Cafe Montesol, is led by chef Alex Larrea and is dedicated to traditional Spanish dining – think tapas, cold cerveza, and Spanish wines. But first, grab a drink at the rooftop cocktail bar, with views across Dalt Villa (Experimental Group’s first project was a cutting-edge cocktail bar in Paris, and it hasn’t forgotten its heritage here.)
If you needed any more reason to visit Ibiza this summer, this is it. The building’s storied history is set for a whole new chapter.
Where: Engadin Valley, Switzerland
Why: Alpine bliss, the first full summer season at Krone Säumerei am Inn
Engadin Valley is well-known for housing glitzy ski town St Moritz. In summer, however, it is a delightful and lesser-known, laidback destination for hiking, biking and endless alpine cuisine, with no shortage of lovely hotels. In the small village of La Punt Chamues-ch, a 16th-century building has been renovated to create Krone Säumerei am Inn – what the team describes as a restaurant with rooms. The manager and chef de cuisine James Baron has worked in and led Michelin-starred establishments in the UK, Austria and the Landmark Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong, whose Amber restaurant was named one of the top 50 in the world. He brings all this experience to La Chavallera, Krone’s six to eight-course tasting menu restaurant. This is the centrepiece of a stay here: the restaurant is housed in a glass pavilion extension, with views over the fast-flowing River Inn. The dishes are paired with local wine suggestions and each dish is hugely inventive, balanced and deep with layers of flavour.
There is also an à la carte restaurant that’s spread across multiple rooms in the historic side of the building, furnished with traditional wood panelling and bench seating in a stübli style. Upstairs, 17 bedrooms are fully clad in untreated zirbe wood (Swiss stone pine), with zirbe beds, wardrobes and benches, while ensuite bathrooms are clad in muted clay. The wood’s scent has been proven to reduce one’s heart rate, and the rooms certainly emit a palpable calmness.
Baron and his team were awarded a Michelin star three months after opening Krone in summer 2022. With their first entire summer season in full swing in 2023, now is a wonderful time to visit. All the Engadin’s main draws, from world class galleries and mountain trails for hiking, cycling and lake swimming, are easily accessible (you can borrow the hotel’s e-bikes to explore the valley).
Where: Thessaloniki, Greece
Why: the Gourmet Food Festival at Sani Resorts
The second-largest city in Greece, Thessaloniki has been creating a buzz as an alternative to Athens for digital nomads. An hour’s drive from the city is Sani Resort, a leading family holiday destination, which is also noted for its commitment to sustainable tourism. Throughout July and August, it acts as a cultural hub for Greek locals and visitors, hosting an eclectic programme of international live music and culinary events. The Gourmet Food Festival welcomes a global line-up of epicurean talent, including Korean-born Chef Akira Back and Hélène Darroze, with restaurants in London, Paris and Provence. There is also live music from British singer-songwriter Tom Odell, American jazz singer Dianne Reeves and Greek composer Stavros Xarchakos. Sani Resort is a world leader in sustainability and became the first carbon neutral resort in Greece in 2020.
Where to travel in Asia
Where: Tokyo, Japan
Why: A newly built, verdant urban village is transforming the cityscape
Tokyo tourism is back in full swing, with countless new attractions, hotels and activities to beckon visitors. Among them is Azabudai Hills, a newly built ‘city in a city’ in the Toranomon business district, which is set to house 14,000 residences, 150 retail and dining outlets, a school and temple, alongside swathes of lush greenery. The ambitious project is three decades in the making by Mori Building Company, with a heavyweight line-up of creative collaborators including architectural contributions by Heatherwick Studio and Sou Fujimoto. International collective TeamLab has also relocated its Borderless digital art museum from Odaiba to Azabudai Hills, with works encouraging visitors to “wander, explore, discover in one borderless world.”
It will also be home to the first Janu hotel from Aman Resorts. Janu mirrors Aman’s commitment to quiet, conscious luxury, with a focus on ‘community and wellbeing’. Expect lively social spaces and a sprawling Wellness Centre, which is the largest of its kind within any luxury hotel in Science-driven treatments and state-of-the-art fitness facilities are met by traditional Japanese bathing and rituals, alongside a 25-metre swimming pool.
Elsewhere, the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo celebrates its twentieth anniversary in 2023. A significant new exhibition, Our Ecology, opens in September, exploring urgent themes relating to the environmental crisis, the role of art within this, and questioning to whom earth’s environment belongs. Visit Tokyo between mid-November and early December to see the city’s vibrant autumn foliage.
Where: Nepal, South Asia
Why: The much-anticipated opening of Shinta Mani Mustang – A Bensley Collection
Shinta Mani Mustang – A Bensley Collection is the highly awaited opening from Bill Bensley, the hotelier noted for blending flamboyant interiors with responsible and regenerative tourism. The all-suite property is hidden high above the town of Jomsom at the gateway of Mustang, one of Nepal’s most unique, previously off-limit regions. It was originally due to open in March, but the complicated logistics of building in such a remote area set the opening back until August. Guests can trek through deep valleys and dramatic, spellbinding landscapes, explore Buddhist monasteries and try Tibetan wellness experiences, set against expansive mountain views.
Where: Bhutan, South Asia
Why: Sustainability-driven serenity like nowhere else on earth
The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has been a talking point since it reopened its borders in 2022 with a hefty tourist tax of 200 USD per day, which funds its continued sustainability efforts (Bhutan is the world’s only carbon-negative country). It has since been announced that from June until the end of 2024, those staying for four days can stay for an additional four days without paying further fees, and those who stay for 12 days can remain there for a full month at no extra cost. This means it will cost travellers 800 USD to stay for eight days, and 2,400 USD for one month – not exactly small change, but neither are its hotels.
Amankora Bhutan, owned by Aman Resorts, comprises five lodges in the valleys of Paro, Thimpu, Punakha, Gangtey and Bumthang. Six Senses offers a similar model, with suites and villas hidden between Bhutan’s rugged folds and mountains. As sybaritic as it is spiritual, guests can spend their days hiking and visiting the nearby monasteries, where you can experience local ceremonial rituals.
Luxury travel company &Beyond also unveils its first Asian outpost in Bhutan this September. Perched on the banks of the Mo Chu River in the Punakha Valley, the lodge has six tented suites, alongside two luxury villas.
Where to travel in North Africa
Where: Dakhla, Western Sahara / Morocco
Why: The unique setting of where the desert meets a vast ocean lagoon, and a newly opened property
Unless you’re a kite surfer, chances are you haven’t heard of Dakhla. Set on a small peninsula on the edge of the Sahara, jutting out into the Atlantic and sheltering a vast sandy lagoon, the landscapes are otherworldly and breathtaking. The particular geography here makes Dakhla a kitesurfing paradise, with consistent northerly winds, warm weather and year-round sun. There’s also great surfing on the Atlantic coast, and dune buggy rides through the desert dunes.
But you can also now easily visit Dakhla with the sole activity in mind of lounging in a cool, bohemian setting for a few days while indulging in local cuisine. Caravan Dakhla by Habitas opened in 2023 facing a sheltered stretch of Dakhla lagoon. The design is sensitively in keeping with the desert setting: only arid local species have been planted, and the dunes stretch right up to reception, where the sand is raked underfoot in enchanting patterns. The rooms are either found in their own self-contained buildings facing the lagoon or arranged around a riad-style courtyard, where pink plastered walls, Berber carpets, woven light shades, tadelakt bathrooms and terracotta ceramics lend a warm, inviting tactility to the stay.
A bar, lounge and cabanas are dotted around a pool, and a restaurant is found beneath a soaring wood-beamed ceiling, where little birds flitter in and out during breakfasts. The food here is outrageously good: seafood is the real highlight, especially the local oysters, which Dakhla is known for. Plates are put together with a unifying Mexican and South American twist, such as ceviche with octopus, crispy fish tacos, or a Venezuelan arepa.
If you are visiting Dakhla for the wind and the waves, kitesurfing brand Naish has partnered with the hotel and opened a kitesurf school there, where instructors run lessons on the lagoon, from complete beginners to experts.
Where to travel in Mexico
Where: Mexico City
Why: Hotel San Fernando joins Mexico City’s boutique hotel scene
It’s no secret that Mexico City is one of the best destinations in the world for a creative break, with beautiful restaurants, shopping and art galleries. The unveiling of Hotel San Fernando provides another perfect excuse to visit in the hip Condesa neighbourhood. There are just 19 rooms with balconies overlooking Parque México, accompanied by a lively lobby bar and rooftop terrace. Punchy peach and lavender tones complement the building’s art deco past, while spaces are flourished commissioned artwork and bespoke furniture by local artists. Hotel San Fernando is part of the Bunkhouse Hotels group, noted for its laidback boutique stays.
Where: All across the Yucatán Peninsula
Why: A new train route will connect historic Mayan cities and beach resorts in Yucatán for the first time
Mexico is synonymous with many things, but not often rail travel. Launching this December, the long-awaited Tren Maya will connect the Yucatán Peninsula by rail. The largest infrastructure project of the past decade, air-conditioned trains will link five Mexican states: Tabasco, Chiapas, Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo. It will run from Palenque and Chichen Itza (noted for their Mayan ruins) to the Yucatán capital of Mérida, and to the beaches of Cancún. Further plans will extend the route to cover Playa del Carmen and the temples of Talum. Tickets will be available to purchase online, through the Tren Maya app, or at one of 34 stations.
Elsewhere, Ferrocarril Chihuahua Pacífico (Copper Canyon Railway) is unequivocally one of the most extraordinary train journeys on earth, travelling from the inland city of Chihuahua to the coastal city of Los Mochis, by way of alpine forests, desert terrain and jaw-droppingly dramatic vistas. The journey takes around four hours, or you can make a journey of it by hopping on and off overnight.
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