In the World’s Buzziest Cities, Find Calm Amid the Storm

Looking for an elegant urban oasis in some of the world’s most exhilarating cities? These hotels fit the bill.

Article by Ute Junker

Zen Hotels_1The maximalist Drawing Room at The Glenburn Penthouse, Kolkata.

Exploring a vibrant new city can be a grand adventure: strolling along unfamiliar streets, wandering through galleries and museums, letting the bright lights lure you out for after-dinner explorations. You can, however, have too much of a good thing, which is why the best city breaks include a tranquil place to sleep.

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The rooftop pool at The Glenburn Penthouse, Kolkata.

Kolkata: The Glenburn Penthouse

With their chaotic street life and colourful celebrations, snarled traffic and slums, India’s cities are not particularly relaxing places. Unless, of course, you check into the sky-high retreat that is The Glenburn Penthouse. The hotel, which has just nine rooms, sits high above the bustling streets of central Kolkata, with views across the sprawling parklands of the Maidan as well as the monumental Victoria Memorial. The talented kitchen team prepares afternoon teas as well as breakfasts and dinners (which can be served on the roof terrace), but the heart of the hotel is the lounge area, decorated with a delightfully unpredictable tropical flair: think wicker-back armchairs, parrot-print fabrics and extraordinary frescoes.

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Aman Spa’s retail space.

New York: Aman New York

Fifth Avenue is known for many things, but tranquillity is not one of them. That has changed with the recent opening of Aman New York. Tucked into a glorious Beaux-Arts building, this all-suites retreat delivers an experience unlike any other Manhattan hotel, starting with lashings of space (love that ceiling height) and continuing with fireplaces in every suite, a sprawling green terrace and soundproofing that screens out the noise of the city. The sleekly minimalist interiors — drawing on Aman’s Asian pedigree, they feature design elements inspired by tatami mats and shoji screens — have a distinctly Zen vibe, while a visit to the three-storey spa, which has its own medi-wellness program, turbocharges the sense of release. Price no object? Then book yourself into one of the spa suites for a half- or full-day experience. Each comes complete with a double treatment room, a living/dining area with day bed and either a Moroccan-style hammam or east European-style banya.

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The entrance at Hoshinoya Tokyo, which aims to update the classic ryokan.

Tokyo: Hoshinoya Tokyo

Shoes off, kimono on. That’s the dress code at Hoshinoya Tokyo, which offers a contemporary interpretation of a traditional ryokan, or Japanese inn, in the heart of the country’s most vibrant city. The rooms may be located in a high-rise tower next to Tokyo Station, but within this haven of old-school hospitality, ancient customs are given a modern twist. Rooms feature Western beds as well as tatami matting and bamboo cupboards; jersey kimonos are provided for guests to wear as they relax in their lofty haven. Try one of the cultural experiences on offer, from calligraphy to ikebana or a tea ceremony, for a deep dive into mindfulness. The imperial gardens across the road are the perfect place for an early-morning walk; round off the day with a soak in the rooftop onsen and watch the lights of Tokyo glitter before you.

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The Top of the Town penthouse at The Mandala Hotel.

Berlin: The Mandala Hotel

Don’t let the location fool you. The Mandala Hotel may be located right on bustling Potsdamer Platz, an easy walk from attractions including the Reichstag, the Brandenburg Gate and the Philharmonie concert hall, but everything about this hotel has been designed to create a cocoon of calm, from the decor — think soft shades of grey and taupe — to the generously-sized apartment-style accommodations. Guests are welcome to use the sauna or steam room at the onsite ONO spa — why not treat yourself to a massage, too? — but perhaps the most relaxing corner of the hotel is its restaurant. The two-Michelin-starred Facil, which has floor-to-ceiling windows and is surrounded by swathes of greenery, does double duty as the hotel’s breakfast room and is a wonderfully serene place to start the day.

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La Teraza suite — with alfresco bed — at La Valise.

Mexico City: La Valise

Sometimes it pays to think small. If you are looking for somewhere in the buzzing megalopolis of Mexico City where you can relax and exhale, a tiny boutique hotel on a tree-lined street in the hip Roma neighbourhood — home to some of the city’s best galleries, boutiques and bars — is the place to go. Tucked into a townhouse made of sculpted stone, La Valise has just three stylish, generously-sized rooms, but each one is an inviting retreat with its own signature feature: El Patio has a hammock and a swing, while the bed in La Terraza can be rolled out onto your terrace for a sleep beneath the stars. As you would expect from a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, the staff go the extra mile, and room service is sourced from nearby Rosetta, one of the city’s best restaurants.