We all have an idea of what a home away from home should be like. For some, it’s all about fun; for others, luxury is key, or personalisation; still for others, it is all about location. Sometimes, however, the majority speaks – as has occurred once again in TripAdvisor’s Traveler Choice Awards.

The Aria Hotel Budapest by Library hotel Collection (Budapest)

It’s all about culture at The Aria Hotel Budapest, set in a restored 19th century building that was once a bank and celebrating the Hungarian and world musical heritage. The Hotel comprises four wings, each of which is inspired on a different musical genre: Classical, Opera, Contemporary and Jazz. Every room and suite pays homage to one composer or artist, with names including Béla Bartók, Bob Dylan and James Brown.
The jewel in the crown of the Aria is its High Note SkyBar rooftop garden. Boasting panoramic views of the city, it is home to an elegant lounge and a happening bar called Satchmo’s.

The hotel is ensconced beside no less than St. Stephen’s Basilica and is just a few steps away from a quaint pedestrian square featuring elegant boutiques, restaurants and cafés. Also within five minutes’ distance are the verdant Andrássy Avenue, the Budapest State Opera House and the romantic Chain Bridge.
This hotel is the idea choice for music lovers – it boasts its own onsite Music Director, who gives guests advice on cultural activities in the area. As the sun sets over the ‘City of Smiles’, head for the Music Garden Courtyard, with its tiled piano path and cosy seating areas, set within a transparent glass enclosure which envelops you in the delicate sound of tinkling ivory.

“Once in many moons do all the stars align where you get an amazing hotel, food along with a staff that you want to hug each one of them every time that you see them”  Bob R, TripAdvisor

Mandapa A Ritz-Carlton Reserve (Ubud, Bali)

The Mandapa is one of a handful of hotels in the prestigious Ritz-Carlton Reserve collection, dreamed up for only the most discerning travellers seeking the ultimate in personalised, meaningful escapes. The common areas are romantic and fragrant, thanks to the colour and bouquet of indigenous flowers. Butler service, a top-of-the-range spa experience and recreational opportunities will entertain and pamper you.

The Mandapa, named after the entrance to a traditional Hindu temple, is situated alongside the serene Ayung River, where it meets the wild jungle in Ubud (known as Bali’s spiritual heart). The resort aims to heal as well as please, as it offers individually tailored health, detox, wellness and spiritual programmes within a beautiful sanctuary. It is infused with natural materials that blend effortlessly into the lush surrounds.

The resort contains only 35 suites and 25 private pool villas, whose interiors have been designed by Jeffrey Wilkes of renowned Asian firm, DESIGNWILKES.
Access to nature is key at the Mandapa, with its traditional rice field. Here, guests can witness the intricate workings behind the planting and harvesting of this staple Asian product. Visitors can also take a walk to the educational Mandapa Camp and the organic garden, where they can enjoy exciting, nature-based activities.

A stay at Mandapa isn’t just about ‘returning to innocence’, of course; there are many hedonistic treats on offer at the resort’s four restaurants and at The Spa, which is based on five pillars – the Balinese Spa experience, detox and nutrition, alternative therapy, body therapy, and healing. The aim is for guests to leave the Hotel feeling relaxed, content, and spiritually enriched.

“Mandapa was recommended to me by a friend, but no recommendation can prepare you for the stunning beauty as you walk into this property” laurenluna2017

Hotel the Serras (Barcelona)

This elegant hotel is located in what is arguably Barcelona’s most mysterious spot – the Gothic quarter, with its stunning buildings and twisted metal sculptures, which instantly conjures up imagery from Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Cemetery of Forgotten Books tetralogy.

The Serras overlooks the Mediterranean Sea and the stunning Port Vell, home to luxury yachts from all over the world.

Its style is serious and chic, with natural colours and authentic wood abounding in rooms and common areas. The rooftop terrace, embedded into a wooden deck embellished with an elegant bonsai-shaped tree, is a beautiful spot in which to unwind and stretch your legs after a day’s shopping or sightseeing.

Enjoy innovative Catalonian cuisine at the Hotel’s restaurant, Informal, run by renowned Chef Marc Gascons; Informal was deemed one of the Best New Restaurants (2016) by CNN. Local produce gives rise to exquisite dishes such as honeyed gnocchi with black truffle or octopus salad.

The service is topnotch here too; the staff greet you by your name when you arrive and offer you Champagne, fresh orange juice and a moist towel to cool off while you check in.

“A pleasant surprise was the hotel offering a complimentary cell phone to be used throughout the city for maps and at no additional cost includes international calls to parts of Europe, Canada and the United States”
JDSoui, TripAdvisor

The Turin Palace Hotel (Turin)

Situated opposite Turin’s Porta Nuova railway station in a reformed 19th century building, this beautiful hotel stuns in terms of location, views and dining. It is five minutes away from the historical city centre, and 10 minutes by foot from Turin’s most renowned contemporary art gallery (the GAM).

The interiors are stately yet inviting, and some of the building’s original features have been preserved – including an early 20th century door in the breakfast room and a graceful wrought-iron staircase that winds up to the rooms.
Features such as soft velvet armchairs, hand-blown glass lighting installations and contemporary paintings in common areas add an inviting, aesthetic touch to the equation, while the restaurant, Les Petite Madeleines, famed for its creative cuisine, pays homage to traditional Piedmont recipes. One feature many reviewers mentioned on TripAdvisor was the breakfast – which includes a sizeable chocolate fountain that celebrates Italy’s love for fine chocolate.

The most romantic spot at the Turin Palace is undoubtedly the rooftop terrace – graced in colourful orange furniture, it offers unbeatable views of Turin’s historical centre, including the 15th century Cathedral and the Alps.

“The care and attention to detail that has gone into the restoration of this landmark building can be seen in every nook and cranny. We fell in love immediately with the décor and interior design which has successfully respected the grandeur of the original Grande Albergo Torino of 1872 with a modern flourish” livia073, TripAdvisor

BoHo Prague Hotel (Prague)

Located in Nove Mesto, Prague, the Hotel is just a short walk away from Prague’s most famous sites – including the Municipal House (and its famed concert venue, Smetana Hall), the Jindrisska Tower (built in the late Gothic era and offering a 360º view of the city centre) and Hybernia Theatre (a repertory theatre built within a 17th-century Irish Franciscan monastery). It is also close to Wenceslas Square, Charles Bridge, Prague Castle and a plethora of churches.

Complimentary wireless Internet, satellite TV and homemade brownies welcome you in your room, while bathrooms have complimentary luxury toiletries and hair dryers. The rooms are graced with natural light and are refreshingly modern and simple in design.

The BoHo is famed for its wellness facilities, which include a luxury spa and fitness centre. The massage pool is inviting and peaceful, dressed in dark wood and bold metallic hues.

The BoHo’s restaurant serves both traditional and innovative cuisine, while the bar has a bustling atmosphere and makes for a great pre- or post-dinner stop.

“I was here for a conference for five nights. It was a wonderful stay. The hotel is impeccably clean and beautifully decorated in a modern, clean yet chic style. A nice welcome amenity, a small plate of brownies, was in my room after I checked in” mespena, TripAdvisor

The Portrait Firenze (Florence)

What better way to take in the beauty of Florence than by staying at The Portrait Firenze, with its enviable location overlooking the Arno River and the Ponte Vecchio? Many TripAdvisor readers praised the meals they enjoyed on the balcony with views of the bridge, considered one of the most romantic in the world.

Rooms are simply yet beautifully decorated, with features such as vintage photographs of Florentine celebs from decades gone by.
The Hotel is wonderfully close to the city’s best restaurants, sites and boutiques and the staff is specialised in local tourism, so if you visit The Portrait, do ask for their advice on must-see places.

Dine bistro-style at the Caffè dell’Oro, the new Lungarno Collection restaurant bistro referred to a ‘salon with a kitchen’ – ultra warm and inviting and offering one of the most beautiful views of the Vecchio. If contemporary cuisine is your thing, head for the elegant Borgo San Jacopo (serving modern Italian dishes) or The Fusion Bar & Restaurant (delighting the senses with the zingy flavours of Oriental cuisine).

“Florence is a magical old city and Portrait Firenze is right in the middle of the action, less than a block from the Ponte Vecchio and a short walk from all the sights. If we could give it six stars, we would”
Mttravler624, TripAdvisor

Shinta Mani Resort (Siem Reap)

This boutique resort is located in the leafy French Quarter between The Royal Gardens and the Old Market and just 15 minutes from Angkor Wat. The rooms embrace a courtyard and bear mirrored walls, custom designed iron beds and handcrafted light fittings. The artistic blend of contemporary and traditional design features, with gorgeous art works on display, was designed by Bill Bensley, ‘King of exotic luxury resorts’ (Bensley has designed over 100 luxury hotels in 26 countries).

The Spa is a sanctuary of serenity, offering relaxing massages and nourishing facials.

The Resort boasts five restaurants, including the popular Bai Tong (offering all-day dining and serving international comfort and Khmer street food), Kroya (offering an authentic Khmer culinary experience) and Bensley’s Bar (famed for its colourful cocktails and sinful deserts).

“The hotel is an oasis of calm in an otherwise busy area. The attention to detail is stunning from little touches like an incense burner in the bathroom (which is refreshed every time the room is cleaned) to the lotus blossoms floating in urns along the central corridors”
SLS2907, TripAdvisor 

Hanoi La Siesta Hotel & Spa (Hanoi)

The newest member of the Hanoi Elegance Hotel Group aims to capture the spirit of luxury and the heart of a family home. Situated close to Hanoi’s serene Hoan Kiem Lake and the city’s major attractions, it is modern in design, its spacious rooms decorated with simplicity and a deference to the very finest materials and craftsmanship. Suites such as the two-level Club Duplex Premier are spacious and cosy, with cherry wood floors and handcrafted wooden bed boards. Features include luxurious tiled bathrooms with deep soaking tubs, walk-in wardrobes, a fully equipped kitchen and a guest powder area.

Enjoy the feast of a lifetime at Red Bean Restaurant, serving modern Vietnamese cuisine that stimulates the senses.

Don’t overbook in terms of activities; ensure you have enough time to wind down at Hanoi La Siesta Spa, with a bevy of treatments focusing on health and overall wellbeing.

“Fantastic location, really nice restaurant too. But what really made it was the service – every staff member that we dealt with was incredibly friendly, incredibly helpful, and really keen to give good service. The staff are clearly all very proud of the hotel group that they work for, and that pride shows in the service” YerManThere, TripAdvisor

Tulemar Bungalows & Villas (Costa rica)

Costa Rica is a hot spot among lovers of nature travel and venues like Tulemar Bungalows & Villas, set within 33 acres of untouched jungle, make it easy to see why. Embraced by verdant surrounds and boasting the ultimate in privacy and exclusivity, the bungalows and villas are also refreshingly close to Manuel Antonio Park and popular restaurants. The resort even has its own private beach, where you can sit back and relax while the staff bring you chairs and towels and take your drink order.
The staff is famed for their warmth and friendliness. They will make sure you make the most of your stay in Costa Rica, booking you ziplining adventures and massages, and going out of their way to ensure your stay is memorable. Some of the many fun activities you can enjoy include visiting the cute animals at The Sloth Institute Costa Rica (a non-profit organisation dedicated to the conservation of wild and captive sloths), paddle boarding, white water rafting, horseback riding, snorkelling and visiting the nearby Butterfly Garden at Fincas Naturales.

You could be forgiven for not venturing too far from your villa, of course – with a private pool, full kitchen and dining area, a day in sounds more appealing than ever.

The design varies in each bungalow and villa, though there is a general Balinese inspiration, and rustic-chic vibes hold sway.

“We broke up our Costa Rican vacation between La Fortuna and Manuel Antonio. I wish we had stayed here the entire week. The views were amazing, The rooms are air conditioned. I loved that Tulemar had its own private, quiet, uncrowded beach. We saw macaws, agoutis, monkeys, a huge iguana (lived right outside our front door), and a sloth. Oh, and I ate the fresh mangos that fell from the trees” LalaInTally, TripAdvisor

JA Manafaru (Manafaru Island, Maldives)

The Maldives have always been the ultimate getaway for discerning couples celebrating their honeymoon. The turquoise waters and clear blue skies undoubtedly stun the senses, but much of the magic has got to do with resorts the calibre of the JA Manafaru, comprising luxurious thatched villas ‘floating above the water’, for the ultimate spectacular holiday.

Highlights include having a personal host, who organises everything from couples massages to dolphin boat trips and all your restaurant bookings. Take a dip in your very own infinity pool and turn back the hands of time with a massage at the Calm Spa. One of the best things about your stay at the Manafaru is the seaplane ride, which takes you directly to your very own piece of paradise.
Despite being one of the most luxurious destinations in the world, the Manafaru boasts a friendly staff who are warm and helpful, and who go out of their way to ensure your stay is one-of-a-kind.

Gastronomes will also be impressed – the Resort boasts no less than seven restaurants, serving everything from Japanese cuisine to grilled seafood and light healthy snacks. Wine lovers should visit The Cellar, an elegant restaurant boasting its own ‘wine cave’, featuring an extensive selection of wines from around the world.

“During this week we made close friends with some staff who played cricket with my husband and invited us to watch their local sport, Bashi. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience” sissyc747, TripAdvisor

WORDS MARISA CUTILLAS