Madrid

Fall is an ideal time to visit Spain, thanks to the season’s mild climate and reduced tourist crowds. (It’s still a popular time to go, but September and October aren’t nearly as busy as August, when most Europeans plan a vacation.) And visitors can avoid the hoards not just as the tourist sights, but within their hotels, too — provided they select an intimate boutique pick, like these five attractive options.

Abac Barcelona

Abac Barcelona

Abac Barcelona

This exclusive 15-room luxury boutique hotel embodies contemporary style at its best, fitting right in in a city that treasures design. Rooms are avant-garde, from the clean, white and beige decor, to the modern under lighting, to the remote-controlled blinds, to the Bang & Olufsen sound system. An amazing spa with Turkish baths shouldn’t be missed, and the hotel’s Michelin-starred on-site restaurant is a highlight. But the slightly out-of-the-way residential location is a drawback. Read More »

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Hurricane season is upon us, and weather experts are predicting that 2013 is going to be a doozy. But even if you can’t stop extreme weather from happening, at least you can protect yourself on your vacation — provided you pick a vacation destination that is reliably hurricane-free. Here are some top-notch options, as well as great places to stay while you’re there.

Lake Tahoe, California

Though Lake Tahoe may sometimes get serious snowstorms, the cold waters along the California coast mean that hurricanes almost never make landfall in the state (only two have hit in the last 100 years). When they do hit, it’s typically Southern California that is most affected instead. Lake Tahoe safely sits in northern California, where it has 300 days of sun a year and plenty of great year-round vacation activities — swimming, boating, and hiking in the summer, and skiing in the winter.

Lake Tahoe gets 300 days of sunshine a year.

Oyster.com Hotel Pick: Franciscan Lakeside Lodge

This cluster of cabins right on the lake makes a great value pick. While some rooms are tucked across the street from the lake in a darker, tree-covered area, the lakefront cottages have excellent views and open to the sandy beach and a private pier where guests can swim and play in privacy. Kitchenettes make dining in (and saving money) easy. And the heated outdoor pool (open seasonally) is said to be the largest in North Lake Tahoe.

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Ballnahinch Castle, one of Ireland's most beautiful historic stays, has played host to Pirate Queens, members of Parliament, and an Indian Maharaja.

Europe’s rich history is alive and well at these amazing hotels. Seeming to appear straight out of the history books, these castles, palaces, and monasteries have been the host to some of our world’s most interesting — and sometimes notorious — affairs. Pirate Queens, famous authors, scheming politicians, and celebrities of days past and present have walked through these corridors — and now you can, too, just by clicking through our slideshow.

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Legado Mitico is a charming, 11-room boutique in bustling Buenos AIres.

Finding a quiet boutique in a big city might seem like a challenge, but in reality, some of our most intimate stays are tucked into the corners of the world’s largest metropolises. Offering personalized service and charming details, these petite hotels – most have less than 20 rooms –  are some of our favorites. So if mega-metropolises such as Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, and Los Angeles might intimidate you, fear not. You can always retreat to these intimate boutiques for some quiet time amidst the bustle of the big city.

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The St. James's Hotel and Club is a top choice for business travelers in London.

Europe’s bustling capital cities always attract the suit-and-tie set, and the continent’s best business hotels cater to these travelers with great service, special features, and around-the-clock amenities. Whether you’re ironing out the details of a high stakes merger or need to be connected to all four corners of the globe at once, these impressive properties are equipped to help with your every need. Sealing the deal in Europe‘s capital cities has never been easier than at these top business hotels:

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We’ve all fantasized about a month-long trip to Europe — but the time to fulfill this dream is not always easy to come by. Fortunately, a ton of time isn’t necessarily required if you want to explore the other side of the pond. With just a few days, you can visit numerous areas of the continent and hit up top destinations, and there are a few attractions you just can’t miss. We’ve picked one in each of Europe’s most popular cities, and paired it with a nearby hotel so you can get the most out of your flash trip. These nine sights are all must-sees — don’t miss out!

Must-See #1: Tower Bridge, London

The Tower Bridge was designed by Sir Horace Jones in 1884.

The Tower Bridge was designed by Sir Horace Jones in 1884.

Some of you might say, “What about Big Ben (excuse us, the “Elizabeth Tower”)? And the British Museum?” Well, yes, those are top spots of course, but if there is one place that makes London recognizable, it is the Tower Bridge. Built in the late 19th century and painted blue in 1977 for Queen Elizabeth II’s silver jubilee, the bridge is crossed on foot, bike, car and double-decker bus by thousands of Londoners and visitors daily, making it one of the most visited places in all of London. On a rainy day, you can get great views of the bridge from the glass-enclosed City Hall, and on a sunny day, head to the Tower of London for the best vistas.

Stay: Apex City of London Hotel

Spacious rooms have warm lighting and free Wi-Fi.

Spacious rooms have warm lighting and free Wi-Fi.

The Apex City of London Hotel is a contemporary, mid-size chain property located just a 3-minute walk to the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge, and the tube. All 179 rooms have warm lighting, big flat-screen TVs, free Wi-Fi, and bathrooms with separate soaking tubs and walk-in showers. The sleek interior design continues in the lobby and in Addendum Restaurant, which serves seasonal fare and has outdoor seating. Small touches (such as a rubber ducky for the tub) make this property feel like more than a typical chain hotel.

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One Bal Harbour Resort bathrooms have some of the best views in the Miami.

Some people prefer to read a magazine in the restroom, but we’d much rather gaze out over a stunning view. There’s nothing we love more than exotic sights, no matter where we’re taking in the view — the shower, tub, or elsewhere. From Hong Kong to Miami, Boston to Barcelona, here are our favorite hotel views from the best seat in the house.

 

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Staying at a hotel is downright inspiring (unless it’s this hotel, of course). After all, being in a new environment can make you feel rejuvenated and relaxed, and the space can even give you ideas for sprucing up your home. Today we’re giving a photo tour of our favorite hotels that have that “bright and bold” vibe down pat. From crazy colorful murals to subtle pops of color, these hotels keep their spaces fun and light. Get inspired — and get the look!

W Atlanta – Buckhead

Lobby at the W Atlanta - Buckhead

Texture, pattern, color — the W in Buckhead has it all; in fact, it has it all right in the lobby! This design-focused, chic hotel offers a younger, funkier alternative to upscale hotels in Atlanta, and the contemporary style ranges from the antler-adorned chandeliers in the lobby to the uber-modern, minimalist decor in other common areas. But what we really covet are the cozy chairs in the rooms, where playful patterns and mismatched artwork create a whimsical vibe.

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There are plenty of different ways to travel in Europe – from shoestring-budget trips to over-the-top getaways worthy of the British royals. Here at Oyster we’ve been lucky enough to be able to do both (seriously, the budget hotels in Europe are pretty nice!), but the holidays are for wishing and dreaming, so we’re going to help you put together your own list of top places to get pampered in 2013. Keep reading and discover our favorite luxury hotels in Europe!

Hotel Plaza Athenee, Paris

These luxurious rooms have classic, elegant decor, but modern technologies.

These luxurious rooms have classic, elegant decor, but modern technologies.

The world-renowned luxury hotel Plaza Athenee — a part of the Dorchester Collection — is synonymous with Parisian elegance and good taste. Iconic red awnings and chestnut trees welcome guests to the historic setting, on the upscale Avenue Montaigne location with direct views of the Eiffel Tower. It’s all about luxury here, inside and out. The avenue is lined with high-end shops such as Christian Dior, Prada, and Chanel. And inside, the 146 rooms and 45 suites are decorated in classic Art Deco style with modern touches like flat-screen TVs and marble baths. With six distinct restaurants, a large fitness center, and a can’t-miss daily breakfast in a leafy garden, the Plaza Athenee doesn’t miss a beat.

  • Our favorite luxe amenity: Guests have access to the Dior Institute for a full range of quality beauty and spa treatments.

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Legalization supporters in the U.S. have been abuzz (excuse the pun) in recent weeks, ever since Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. So it’s safe to say that heading west is a good call these days if you’re planning on toking up. But heading east to our friends in Europe isn’t such a bad idea, either. For example, despite the recent tourist drug ban in the Netherlands, tourists and locals alike can continue to openly smoke in Amsterdam’s cafes. And numerous neighboring countries where weed is decriminalized have loose policies when it comes to the drug’s recreational use. So we’ve come up with a list — here are some of the best spots to smoke weed in Europe.

 

View from The Dylan Amsterdam

 Amsterdam, Netherlands

Though recent steps within government policies have made it seem like the Netherlands will become less tolerant towards marijuana use, Amsterdam’s mayor has promised that the city’s over 200 coffee shops will continue to serve locals and tourists. After all, many of the city’s 1.5 million tourists visit Amsterdam solely because of its lenient policies. Marijuana use is officially decriminalized in the Netherlands, and laws banning its use are rarely enforced.

Where to Stay: The Dylan Amsterdam

The Dylan is a stylish, upscale boutique centrally located in the Canal Ring. The 41 rooms are split into six different styles, ranging from lofts with cathedral ceilings to all-white rooms to Asian-inspired spaces. All rooms have high-end amenities including Bose sound systems, stocked minibars, and Zenology toiletries. A cozy lounge, two bars, a brasserie, and a lovely courtyard with heat lamps are all draws, but the real highlight here is the Michelin-star Vinkeles restaurant, which serves contemporary French cuisine in an exclusive space with just a handful of tables. Talk about a swanky spot to cure the munchies!

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