Barcelona

During the summer, it’s almost impossible to stay indoors come happy hour. While the cooler months — spent with friends crowding in cozy bars and huddling by the fire — are fast approaching, there’s still time for some rooftop boozin’ — and fortunately, enjoying the sun and stars with a drink in hand is made easy at some of our favorite hotels. Offering stunning vistas and delicious cocktails, these rooftop bars are destinations unto to themselves in cities far and wide.

1. Refinery Rooftop at The Refinery Hotel, New York City 

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The Refinery Hotel is a stylish urban boutique in New York‘s Garment District, located in a historic building that was once a tea salon and hat factory. The property’s past inspired its present industrial-chic design, and small details such as decorative milliner’s tools pay homage to the building’s former function. The property’s cool rooftop bar — aptly named Refinery Rooftop — offers gorgeous views of the Empire State Building and a rotating menu of seasonal cocktails designed by Alex Ott. Reservations are recommended at this swanky spot where DJs are known to perform on Thursday and Friday nights — but guests of the hotel may have a leg up on getting through the door.  Read More »

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For travelers on a budget, a jaunt to the Mediterranean might seem off limits. Known for its gorgeous scenery, temperate climate, sumptuous cuisine, and sky-high price tags, the area is often thought of as a playground exclusively for the rich and famous. But we believe everyone deserves a fabulous vacation and a trip to the Mediterranean is, well, fabulous! So our team of Oyster investigators has searched high and low to find hotels across the Mediterranean that are a little more wallet-friendly  than you’d expect. (We don’t expect any thanks and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves but, sure — you’re welcome). Here are 11 of our favorites.

Villaggio Colostrai, Sardinia

Villaggio Colostrai

Villaggio Colostrai is a budget traveler’s best bet in Sardinia. The hotel offers a free breakfast buffet, nightly activities for adults and children, and free parking. Rooms are pretty basic, and the hotel doesn’t offer Wi-Fi, but its manicured grounds and incredible pool, with sweeping views of the Mediterranean, will certainly make up for any shortcomings.

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How is it already August?! This summer may be swimming by — we have some pretty hardcore party scars to prove it — but it’s not over yet. The sun is still shining, so in our book that means that there’s still time for clear booze and colorful sundowner cocktails. And, since there are only a few more summer Fridays to squeeze in before the school year starts, here’s a list of hotels that won’t throw salt in your summer party game (but they just might throw it in your margarita!). So, Cheers! Salud! Skål! Proost! Party like the summer’s almost over because, well, we hate to break it to you — but it is.

Hard Rock Hotel, Las Vegas

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The swank Hard Rock is off the Strip, but it knows how to throw a party, particularly at the pool. Home of Rehab (arguably Vegas’ best pool party), go-go dancers in the casino, live music at The Joint, partying at Vanity nightclub, and stylish cuisine at Nobu or Ago, this sinful Strip property has earned lots of Oyster Awards for partying. Arguably even more so than the Palms, Hard Rock is one of the most unapologetically hedonistic hotels in Las Vegas. It’s a place where wanna-be rock stars and, well, real rock stars come to party, gamble, and trash their hotel rooms. Of course doing so will cost you, or your record company, a fortune.

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There’s something undeniably sexy about the Mediterranean: The sea breezes, the storied history, the beautiful architecture, the friendly people, the delicious cuisine, and — without a doubt — the sweeping views, of both city and sea, certainly don’t hurt either. We’ve made our way along the winding coast, from Spain’s Costa del Sol to the Greek island of Mykonos, and have found that the Mediterranean can certainly set the scene for romance — as can many of its luxury hotels. Here are a dozen beautiful, romantic properties in the Mediterranean that are perfect for a sexy escape.

Myconian Ambassador Hotel & Thalasso Spa Center, Mykonos

Myconian Ambassador

Myconian Ambassador Hotel & Thalasso Spa Center is a luxury hotel (it’s part of the Relais & Chateaux chain) with 70 rooms overlooking Platis Gialos. Guests seem to love the hotel’s little extras, such as juice at check-in and ice pops by the pool. Guest rooms are chic, white, and airy, and offer ocean views. The hotel has an infinity-edge outdoor pool, and a restaurant serving Mediterranean, Greek, and Mykonos dishes. The indoor spa offers guests a free, daily thalassotherapy session, and the hotel has a fitness center with several weight and cardio machines. Free shuttle service to the airport is available. It’s a short walk to the beautiful Platis Gialos Beach, and Mykonos Town is a 12-minute drive from the hotel.

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Forget no-frills lodging; today’s new brand of hostels offers cool decor and plenty of perks. Sounds too good to be true? Well, we’ve got the scoop on hostels that pack a wow factor with upscale amenities, contemporary comforts, prime locations, and good food. Plus, with fun social scenes and affordable rates, they have all the ingredients for a pleasant stay without breaking the bank. Join us as we step into the (little-known) world of modern hostels.

Hostelling International – New York

hostelling_intl_nyWithin walking distance of Central Park and numerous subway lines, Hostelling International in New York City offers an affordable stay on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. This well-run property has both private and shared rooms, free Wi-Fi, a theater room, game room, café, several lounges and a private patio/garden. To keep guests (mostly in their 20s and 30s) entertained, the hostel organizes daily events like city tours, pub crawls, and in-house comedy shows.

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Beyonce isn’t the only one with a message for all the single ladies out there — a growing number of hotels, in an effort to target single female travelers, are offering women’s-only rooms and floors. These range all the way from shared hostel accommodations to entire floors of upscale business hotels. So for the hostel dorm rooms we’re pretty much on board – we know we wouldn’t love having to possibly change in front of strange dudes — but we’re a bit conflicted about having women’s-only rooms and floors in nicer hotels, where it’s less a matter of practicality and more of a marketing gimmick. These properties are targeting well-heeled businesswomen with female-oriented amenities such as curling irons and glossy fashion mags; some may find it convenient, others a bit insulting.

We can see that it might be nice to leave the yoga mat and nail file at home for those who often pack up all their supplies for just a short weekend getaway — but other women may find the selection of amenities discriminatory (after all, I’ll take the standard NYTimes over Cosmo any day). Also, for hotels with women-only floors (rather than select rooms), there’s an implied security element — it’s as if the hotel is promoting a way for women to stay safe and non-sexed on their next business trip. (Kind of like, er, staying in a convent.) What do you think — are women’s-only floors convenient or anti-feminist?

To help you decide, we’ve rounded up nine properties around the world with dedicated dude-free accommodations.

The Georgian Court Hotel, Vancouver

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The women’s-only Orchid Floor has 18 rooms, all equipped with extra amenities for women, including flatirons, curling irons, yoga mats, ladies emergency kits, and lifestyle magazines. The upscale hotel is on the edge of Downtown Vancouver, within walking distance of numerous Vancouver attractions.

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Barcelona is a city steeped in culture and rich in history. Art is more than just a scene here: It’s a heritage, which comes as no surprise since this city is where Salvador Dali and Picasso would meet for lunch and forever cement their friendship. Okay, so now we’ve covered the cultural bases — onto the shopping! When it comes to a European shopping expedition, Barcelona delivers without a doubt. Check out our shopping guide to Barcelona below before flexing that plastic!

Where to Shop for Luxe Goods: Passeig de Gracia 

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Paris has the Champs-Elysees — and Barcelona has Passeig de Gracia. Along this shop-lined street, you’ll find all the usual suspects of international luxury shopping such as Chanel and Gucci, but there are plenty of brands and stores that are unique and distinctly Spanish. International brand Zara has plenty of stateside locations, but none compare to the huge flagship Barcelona store. Not only does it have the hip fashion you would expect, there’s also housewares. It also offers affordable shopping compared to its high ticket neighbors, but everyone can afford to drool over the spectacular turn-of-the-20th-century architecture that populates the iconic Passeig de Gracia.

Where to Stay: El Palace Hotel

The Palace oozes elegance and old-world charm. Housed in an early 20th-century building a few blocks from the Gothic Quarter, the hotel is popular among well-heeled families, couples, and business travelers. The property boasts a Michelin-starred restaurant, Caelis; car service to the airport and major attractions; and a small but modern fitness center. The exclusive spa features the only Temazcal sauna in Spain, Anne Semonin products, and traditional treatments. 

Budget-Friendly Option: Petit Palace Museum

This 61-room hotel, part of the tech-savvy Petit brand, is a no-frills but contemporary choice located in Barcelona’s city center, a few blocks from Plaza Catalunya. There isn’t much to the property (it lacks any outdoor space — a rarity for Barcelona) but it’s a good value, especially for families. Rooms are starting to show wear and tear, but high-tech amenities such as flat-screen TVsiPod docks and laptops help compensate. 

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What’s not to love about Barcelona? It goes nearly undisputed that the Catalonia capital is Spain’s coolest and most modern city. And it’s arguably one of the top party spots in Europe. Oh, and if that’s not enough, it’s replete with excellent restaurants, beautiful Gothic and Modernist architecture, calming sea breezes, great shopping, and — most importantly to us — gorgeous hotels. Barcelona is home to some of the top European luxury hotels, and considering the city’s focus on design, these spots feature cool, modern decor — as well as beautifully maintained historic details. Below we bring you 13 of the best luxury hotels in Barcelona, new on Oyster since our recent visit!

1. Hotel Espana

Hotel Espana

Located on a quiet side street off Barcelona’s main tourist thoroughfare La Rambla, this 1859 building was redesigned as a hotel in the early 20th century by celebrated Modernist architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner. A restoration in 2010 kept many of the historic and design features, including a stunning carved stone fireplace in the bar. The striking, contemporary decor gives the hotel a very stylish flair, from the dramatic light fixtures in the common areas to the staircase that snakes up the property. There is also a great food program on the property including a restaurant by Michelin-starred chef Martín Berasategui. A rooftop pool and bar is open in the warmer months. Some nearby hotels have lower rates, but don’t offer the same history or style.

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Some hotels just can’t keep their naughty parts to themselves — in fact, they flaunt them. When it comes to decor, we’ve seen everything from the strange, to the racy, to the almost pornographic on our travels. Sometimes hotels just have a style sense that’s — let’s say broad-minded? Other times, like at the Hotel Amour in Paris and the Desire Resort and Spa in Riviera Maya, they’re deliberately trying to get guests in the mood. No judgement here; if you’re the type of traveler that gets a kick out of lounging on a phallic chair, more power to you. We rounded up seven naughty hotels that can’t help themselves when it comes to being a little nude-y. Check out the risque hotel decor below — and just wait until you see number five on this list.

1. The Morgan, Dublin

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Hardly ladylike, Mona! But we have to say, a mural of Mona Lisa mooning guests is pretty creative — it’s not quite what you’ll see in the Louvre. Read More »

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A city with a vibrant artistic community can mean lots of fun with great live music, terrific street fairs, and a laid-back vibe.  After all, the art scene of a city can define its very culture – and can make for a great getaway. You can stock up on one-of-a-kind artisanal goods by day and take in a different show every night. Or crawl through pubs and rock out to local bands after dark, while gallery-hopping during the day. We picked out our five favorite artsy cities, home to creative communities that deliver a unique flavor. And of course, we tell you where to stay in each!

1. New Orleans

Photo Credit: Katie Harbath, Flickr Photo Credit: Katie Harbath, Flickr

 

New Orleans has always been a cultural mish-mash with Latin, French, African, and Caribbean influences. The bright colors of Mardi Gras only scratch the surface of what this city has to offer. There’s plenty of experimental theater, live music (jazz!!!), and great artistry, as well. Visitors would be remiss if they didn’t check out the art galleries of St. Claude Avenue, especially on Second Saturdays when many galleries showcase their newest and boldest exhibits. If you’re looking to shop or take in some live music, start at the Frenchmen Art Market to pick up some one-of-a-kind jewelry or spectacular wall art and then drift over to Frenchmen Street for a show.

Where to Stay: Royal Sonesta Hotel

After a long day of artistic revelry, relax in some of Bourbon Street’s swankiest hotel digs.  This hotel is home to a hopping pool scene complete with a cabana bar, and live jazz is performed on the premises. You can also do plenty of people watching from a balcony room.

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