10 spectacular hotels decking their halls with holiday magic

Some of our favourite properties from New York to Venice are the most festive places to check into this holiday season.

By Amy Louise Bailey 11/12/2018

Home may be where the heart is during the holiday season, but that doesn’t mean our homes-away-from-home don’t get in on the holiday spirit. This time of year, the world’s most spectacular hotels deck the halls with elaborate decorations, festive events, and grand dining experiences. Whether you’re opting for a unique escape to get into the holiday spirit, or a classic destination to enjoy eggnog amidst carolers and twinkling lights, there are many elegant options for celebrating Christmas this year. Read on to discover 10 of our favourites—each of which is busting at the seams with holiday magic.


Claridge’s is an iconic London destination year-round, but it’s particularly special to visit during December. Since 2009, the grand dame has tapped prominent designers to create bespoke Christmas trees for the holiday season. Each year, the hotel’s elegant lobby is transformed into a festive gallery space featuring magnificent creations by fashion luminaries including Karl Lagerfeld, John Galliano, Dolce & Gabbana, and this year, Diane von Furstenberg. Last week, the American icon unveiled a glittering six-metre sculpture titled ‘The Tree of Love’, adorned with iridescent blue shimmer and decorated with over 8000 hand-painted silver leaves, glass spheres and hearts. Von Furstenberg says that the tree is intended to be a “symbol of strength, enlightenment and life,” – an optimistic vision to round out 2018.

The Little Nell

Nestled at the base of Aspen Mountain, the Little Nell looks like a scene from a holiday movie—think windows framed with snow, emerald pine trees, and glowing Christmas lights. Each December, the boutique hotel goes all-out with festive decorations and seasonal menus at its five-star restaurant, Element 47, and the more casual Ajax Tavern, which guests can practically ski right into. Even if you didn’t make it to the hotel’s annual tree lighting ceremony on December 9—complete with carolers, hot cocoa, ‘reindeer pups’ from the Aspen Animal Shelter, and, of course, Santa Claus—there will still be plenty of holiday spirit to go around, including decadent Christmas Eve dinners at both of the property’s restaurants. In addition to a guaranteed white Christmas, the Little Nell is also within walking distance of some of this season’s hottest new openings, including EMP Winter House and Betula—both of which are also sure to be decked out in festive finery.

The Plaza

Christmas in New York holds a special cachet: there’s ice-skating in Central Park, the tree at the Rockefeller Center, elaborate window displays at Bergdorf Goodman and Barney’s, and the Radio City Rockettes. Though many of the city’s top hotels join in on Manhattan’s holiday spirit, the city’s most festive hotel is undoubtedly the Plaza, which has been a seasonal icon since Home Alone 2 was filmed there in the early nineties. Naturally, the hotel offers a special Home Alone 2 package, with ice-cream sundae room service and gift vouchers for FAO Schwarz, where guests can go and dance on the piano (and skip the mile-long line for the checkout). The Plaza, of course, also offers many attractions for its adult guests, including eggnog and peppermint cocktails at the Rose Club, holiday high tea sessions at the eternally stunning Palm Court, and a grand Christmas dinner on December 25.

The Carlyle, a Rosewood Hotel

The Carlyle, a Rosewood Hotel is one of New York’s most revered institutions, and during the holidays, the Upper East Side hotel comes to life with a series of stylish celebrations. The vibe here is a little bit more refined than at the Plaza—though there is still plenty of festive spirit. A seasonal highlight is the Bemelmans Bar’s annual Madeline’s Tea series, offering storytelling and tea party treats for children (drawing in a vastly different crowd than the usual suited-up martini drinkers). Later this month, yuletide carolers will perform the songs of the season, and prix fixe menus will be on offer for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve at the famed Carlyle Restaurant.

Gurney’s Montauk Resort & Spa

The Hamptons is a storied summer destination, but it is still a beautiful getaway come winter, when the crowds disappear and the beaches are dusted in snow. The best place to check in during the holidays is Gurney’s Montauk Resort & Spa—besides being the only five-star hotel on the island open year-round, it is located right on the beach (perfect for brisk morning walks) and is known for its impressive seasonal spreads. It’s a particularly appealing destination for families seeking a memorable getaway since it offers a number of luxurious private residences, complete with open kitchens and dining rooms (a serious perk, as many of the island’s restaurants are closed during the off season) that are perfect for entertaining with stunning views of the Atlantic. Guests of the Residences have access to all of the hotel’s amenities and can pop over to Scarpetta Beach for a festive Christmas dinner and enjoy hot toddies and spiked hot chocolates at the bar.

Hotel d’Angleterre

The illumination of Hotel d’Angleterre’s Christmas façade is an annual spectacle, drawing in thousands of observers each year. The façade, which faces Copenhagen’s King’s Square, is something you would expect to see in a Broadway set, with figures assembled in festive, Nutcracker-like scenes. The fairytale atmosphere continues inside the grand landmark, where Christmas trees made of candy canes, holiday cookies, and sparkling decorations complement the already-ornate space. D’Angleterre is also home to Denmark’s oldest champagne bar, Balthazar, which offers its legendary Scandinavian gløgg cocktail (similar to mulled wine) each December.

The Ritz Paris

The City of Lights has no shortage of spectacular hotels to tuck in to for the holidays (including one that grants you over-the-top access to the ornate Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte), but the Ritz Paris has long been the most festive. Since opening in 1898, the grand dame has hosted many elegant Christmas events, and this season’s lineup of parties and events proves to be every bit as refined. As usual, the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, La Table de L’Espadon, will offer a six-course holiday menu, and the hotel’s seasonal Christmas Log will be available for purchase should you need something spectacular to bring to Christmas Eve. New for this year, the Ritz will also be unveiling a pop-up Christmas chalet on the Place Vendome, offering seasonal delicacies by Pastry Chef, Francois Perret.

The Merrion Hotel

The Merrion is widely considered to be the finest hotel in Dublin, with a stately setting, exceptional cuisine, and an incredible private art collection. And though it is a pleasure to check in to year-round, there is no better home-away-from home on the Emerald Isle during the holiday season. The hotel’s restaurant, the Garden Room, offers an exceptional take on Irish Christmas, with chef Ed Cooney serving up modern versions of national classics. There is also plenty of festive cheer for younger guests, who will have their gifts hand-delivered by Santa on Christmas Eve and can enjoy festive activities including face painting and storytelling. During December, the hotel’s top-notch concierges also become Christmas Coordinators, and can help arrange for nearly any holiday magic you can dream up.

Aman Venice

Venetians reclaim their tourist-packed city during the winter months, making it a highly appealing time to visit, as the piazzas are uncrowded and the gondolas can move freely throughout the misty canals. Christmas in Venice is particularly magical, especially if you choose to spend it at Aman, located in a 16th-century palazzo that is embellished with elegant holiday decorations each year. Throughout December, guests of the hotel can enjoy festive piano performances (performed on a piano once used by Chopin, no less) and seasonal menus at the hotel’s exceptional restaurant, Arva. For Christmas Day, between festive lunch and dinner spreads, guests will be invited to play board games and watch films in the palazzo’s Tiepelo Salon, and on the 26, they are invited join in on the Big Christmas Walk through the canals to the island of Sant’Elena.

Hassler Roma

Old-world charm defines the luxurious Hassler Roma. Overlooking the Spanish Steps, it’s a place where the polished mannerisms of the 20th Century remain and long-celebrated occasions like Christmas are particularly special. During the holiday season, guests can revel in the Roman festivities at the hotel’s famed Salone Eva and its Michelin-starred restaurant, Imàgo, both of which will be serving unique, multiple course dinners to celebrate both Christmas and New Year’s Eve.


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