Eric Stoen of Travel Babbo has traveled to 90 countries and stayed in a lot of big city hotels. We asked him which hotel stays were his absolute favorites.
Earlier this year I wrote about my eight favorite destination hotels — the places that entire vacations could, and should, be based around. This post is the opposite. You’re heading to a big city. Maybe it’s for vacation with your kids. Maybe it’s for work. But at the end of the day, it’s great to step off the sidewalk into a perfect hotel, in a perfect location, ideally with a perfect view, where nothing is chaotic and you can rest and relax while making plans for the next day.
These are my 11 favorite big city hotels around the world, listed alphabetically by city. I tried to trim the list to 10 but I couldn’t! All are well-located, with food and activities close by. And a note about our traveling style: we always look for the best hotels. Rarely does that mean the most-expensive or fanciest hotels. But they’re the best hotels for us, based on location and comfort and family-friendliness, and I have a soft spot for iconic hotels — the ones that have been there forever and are local institutions.
The Peninsula Bangkok
The Peninsula Bangkok is perfectly-located, right on the Chao Phraya river and only a short boat ride to the Grand Palace and Wat Pho, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. And it’s just across the river from a Skytrain stop. I love it for its perfect breakfasts next to the river, the views overlooking Bangkok, the service, the amazing pool, and its iconic boats that will shuttle you across the river.
Aria Hotel Budapest
The Aria Hotel Budapest is located next to St. Stephen’s Basilica and is right in the middle of where you want to be. The hotel and rooms have a fun music theme (similar to the Aria Hotel Prague), and the rooftop patio is a perfect place to have a drink and watch the sunset. There are excellent connecting room setups for families.
I’m pretty sure the Rosewood London is the only hotel on this list with a resident pooch? My kids loved interacting with Pearl, the hotel’s lobby-based retriever. The location of the hotel is great as well, roughly 15 minutes to Covent Garden and the West End theaters, and close to the Holborn Tube station. Our two-room connecting setup worked perfectly — a great place to return to after a long day of walking.
Mexico City, Mexico
Sitting in Las Alcobas, either in your room or in a public space, you would have no idea that the world’s 8th-largest city is just outside. I love everything about this boutique hotel, including the iconic staircase (just try not to take a picture looking down from an upper floor), breakfasts, and the location, not far from the National Museum of Anthropology (one of my favorite museums in the world) and Chapultepec Park.
Taj Mahal Palace
Mumbai is brilliantly chaotic. The Taj Mahal Palace isn’t. The hotel is iconic, the pool is a perfect spot to relax in the afternoon, and breakfasts at the Sea Lounge are excellent, with full colonial charm. And right outside the hotel are the Gateway of India and the Colaba neighborhood, with a wide assortment of places to dine. Our last stay our room attendant came by and set up foot baths with rose pedals for my son and me. I’ve never had that experience anywhere else!
New York, New York
New York City is full of amazing hotels. In two dozen visits over the past 30 years, I’ve probably only had one or two bad stays. For this list I chose The Pierre because we loved the location, near Central Park, the view overlooking the park, and the two-room setup which worked great for the five of us. If you want to be further south, I’d go for the Library Hotel on 41st, or the Hotel Giraffe on 26th.
We’ve stayed at Casa Gangotena three times. The location, next to the Iglesia de San Francisco, is perfect for exploring Quito’s old town, and the service is perfect. The staff even tracked down some boots my wife was looking for, and took our postcards to the post office.
Albergo del Senato
We always see Rome by walking, and the Albergo del Senato is right in the middle of everywhere we want to go. Plus it’s next to the Pantheon, which is my single favorite site in Rome. And breakfast is included! Easily my favorite hotel in the city of 2.8 million.
Shangri-La Hotel Sydney
I’ve stayed at a lot of hotels near The Rocks and Circular Quay in Sydney, and if I haven’t had an Opera House view from my room, I’ve missed it! The Shangri-La is a great hotel to base out of for Sydney exploration, only minutes from ferries and buses. And yes, this is my favorite Sydney room view ever.
The Fullerton Bay Hotel
Singapore is small and public transportation is excellent, so you can base anywhere and be just fine. I’m partial to the Marina area simply because most of the activities we like to do are walking distance from there, and I’m partial to the Fullerton Bay Hotel because of the view — and this pool with a view! The nearby iconic Fullerton Hotel is excellent as well, and the Shangri-La Hotel, near Orchard Road, is a family-friendly oasis.
Park Hyatt Tokyo
The Park Hyatt Tokyo, straight out of Lost in Translation (which was filmed there), is simply perfect. We love the service, the breakfasts, the famous views overlooking Tokyo, the New York Bar and the New York Grill up top, the 47th floor pool, and the playgrounds at Shinjuku Chuo Park across the street. And it’s less than 15 minutes to Shinjuku Station, the busiest railway station in the world, and to the grounds of Meiji Jingu Shrine. One of our favorite hotels anywhere.
I’d love to hear from you too! What’s your favorite big city hotel?
Eric Stoen of Travel Babbo is an official Travelocity Gnational Gnomad. Gnational Gnomads is an exclusive group of high-profile travel and lifestyle experts who offer tips and inspiration on behalf of Travelocity.
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