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The Design Train blogs are a series of articles researched and written by Andrew Knapp for submission to various publications and sites. The articles cover a wide range of topics and can be adapted and edited for use in various styles of media application.

  • Andrew Knapp

7 New Boutique Hotels for the Discerning Traveller

Updated: Apr 21, 2021


Many seasoned travellers who value style and privacy prefer staying at an independent luxury boutique hotel, rather than top chains or resorts. This compilation of unique hotels from around the globe will appeal to the most discerning of tourist.

Whether an eco-resort in San-Sebastian, ex-hunting lodge near Windsor or Zen-hideaway in the Chinese Wetlands resonates with you; we can oblige. Maybe skiing the French Alps in Méribel before jetting to a private hill retreat in Bali? We’ve got your style covered!

Le Coucou Meribel, Meribel, France

55 rooms from £497 per night including breakfast

Opens: 12th December 2019

Photo: Maisons Pariente

When the founders of renowned fashion brand, Naf Naf, grace the boutique hotel sector with their particular touch of class, expect the unexpected. Le Coucou Meribel is part of a new collection of luxury boutique hotels owned by the stylish and entrepreneurial Pariente family.

This 12,000 square meter chalet-style hotel set on the slopes of Meribel rubs shoulders with the snow-capped summits of the French Alps. Renowned interior designer, Pierre Yovanovitch, has ensured that every vista encompasses stunning views. Being close to Le Rond-Point es Pistes, Le Cucal Meribel offers a ski-in/ski-out experience.

Younger family members are well-catered for with a program of events at the Petit VIP Kids Club and Teens Lab where imaginations run wild with fun, creative workshops, giving parents’ quality time to relax with one of the many treatments offered at the Wellness Centre, or hit the pristine slopes.

There are various chalet options, the largest offering a private kitchen, TV room & games corner, private pool, and handy ski-in/ski-out room.

Palacio Solecio, Malaga, Spain

68 rooms from £133 per night including breakfast

Opens 2nd December 2019

Photo: Palacio Solecio website

Palacio Solecio, situated in the Old Town district of Malaga on the Costa del Sol, is a former 18th-century palace beautifully restored by architect Antonio Obrador. His innovative and sympathetic design ethic retains the history and tradition of this classic building’s architecture while fusing a contemporary Andalusian twist to the modern decor of the luxurious rooms, generous suites and adaptable function areas.

You can enjoy the ever-changing play of light while nibbling on Tappas in the hotel’s beautiful glass-ceilinged patio by day. In the evenings, relax in the cool under the ornate cloisters, or settle around the fountain with a cocktail or two before dinner. Michelin Star chef, Jose Carlos Garcia, brings his avant-garde magic to the Palacio Solecio’s restaurant with reinterpretations of classic dishes from Southern Spain’s traditional cuisine, guaranteeing a meal to be remembered.

Before leaving make sure to see the Alcazaba Fortress. Constructed in the 11th century, it is the best-preserved Alcabaza (citadel) in Spain and boasts beautiful gardens, courtyards and spectacular vistas of Malaga.

Le Refuge de la Traye, Meribel, France

8 rooms from £237 per night for a standard room

(Mazots start from £142 per night)

Opening 14th December 2019

Photo: Le Refuge de la Traye website

Having just undergone a complete restoration and expansion, Refuge de la Traye, with its eight eco-luxury rooms and suites, is perfectly positioned between lake and mountain. Every aspect of this hotel-hamlet harmonizes with the landscape, offering guests a fully-immersive eco-experience.

Accommodation options available range from an intimate and cosy Alpine Mazot, to the 80m2 Chalet Edelweiss, ideal for families and featuring comfortable furnishings, log fires and never-ending vistas of nature at its best.

The beautifully appointed spa with its extensive menu of treatments will help revitalise the weariest of guests. Amongst some of the more unusual offerings is a Milk Bath and Iyashi Dome Sauna. Or maybe try a Hay Bed session followed by a water massage?

Summer lets younger guests play on our farm where they can learn about the rural traditions in the mountains. Winter is time to discover the 166 ski-lifts and 600km of pristine slopes that the three surrounding valleys offer.

As an unusual and romantic wedding venue with a difference, why not book the Saint-Bernard’s Chapel, named for the patron Saint of mountain-people and climbers. (180 words)

Hidden Hills Villas, Uluwatu, Bali, Indonesia

7 rooms from £223 per night including breakfast


The Hidden Hills Villas in Bali have been cleverly designed to provide guests with the ultimate in luxury, discretion and personal service, with everything you could possibly require offered in your personal villa. From freshly prepared meals cooked by highly-trained chefs and served by your personal butler, to a tantalizing menu of Mixologist cocktails served whenever and wherever you dictate, the choices are limitless, and the service world-class.

Situated in the beautiful Uluwatu hills, the seven villas offer accommodation ranging from one to five bedrooms, each individually designed, taking inspiration from different world-cultures so ensuring a unique and different experience on every visit.

A ‘must’ is the breathtaking sunset trip to the world-famous Uluwatu Temple. This, and other excursions can be arranged by your butler.

Arima Hotel, San Sebastián, Basque Country, Spain

69 rooms from £127 per night including breakfast

Photo: Arima Hotel website

Eco-friendly doesn’t come any better than the Arima Hotel, nestling in the Basque country's Miramon Forest. Every aspect of this hotel exudes its eco-friendly ethic. All rooms have state-of-the-art sound insulation, temperature, humidity and CO2 controls. Furnishings are crafted from natural materials, and sulphate-free toiletries are provided.

Full-length windows augment the Scandi/Zen interior perfectly with a light and airy feel, while indie music plays softly in the background of public and linkage areas. The Misura Restaurant offers a vegetable-based fine-dining experience crafted from locally produced ingredients.

The hotel is perfectly located for day visitors to discover the sights and cities of the region. Historic Bilboa with its world-famous Guggenheim Museum, and Pamplona, known for the annual Bull Run, are within an hour’s easy journey.

The stunning rooftop infinity pool has breathtaking views of the Miramon forest. Hikers and cyclists will be in their element year-round, while foodies can book at one of San Sebastion’s many Michelin-starred restaurants, or experience local cuisine at one of the local Pintxoz bars.

Muh Shoou Xixi Hotel, Hangzhou, China

43 rooms from £310 per night including breakfast


Integrating elements of natural wetland scenery and Chinese landscape paintings, the Muh Shoon Xixi Hotel blends into its surroundings in the Xixi National Wetland Park perfectly. This masterpiece of natural open-architectural design comprises of five distinct areas that harmonise perfectly with their surroundings.

The brainchild of China’s renowned GOA Architects, a palette of recycled wood, weathered steel and water-faced marble combine to underpin the ecological design principle of the buildings. The 200 trees, endemic to the area, including a prized 100-year-old Persimmon tree that enclose the hotel and are perfectly off-set by the hotel’s innovative design.

Every aspect, from the beautifully appointed rooms to the relaxing restaurant serving organic, locally cultivated foods, is redolent with light from the glass walls that create tableaus of nature at each turn.

You can request a professional instructor from the nearby Taiji temple for a mind and body exercise session. This timeless retreat is for those needing a break from the pressures of modern life.

Great Fosters, Berkshire, United Kingdom

42 rooms from £325 per night including breakfast

Photo: The Telegraph UK

Great Fosters is a Grade-One listed, stately home, which during its history has played host to luminaries such as Queen Elizbeth I, Henrey VIII and Charlie Chaplin. Built as a hunting lodge in the 16th-century and set in 50 acres of landscaped gardens and parkland, it is the perfect unwind destination.

The modern comforts which provide guests with all the conveniences of a modern hotel have not detracted from the building’s unique heritage. Historic rooms and suites are available for special occasions, each styled with their own distinct opulence. The Tapestry Suite with its beautiful 17th-century Flemish tapestries is a romantic fantasy, while the Italian Room, with ornate Rococo furnishings and oversize bath, will transport you to a different time.

Picnic in the gardens after a game of croquet, or take a dip in the heated outdoor pool, complete with 1920’s bathing boxes. Cooler weather invites long rambles around the estate to breathe the crisp air in a pristine environment.

Executive Chef, Tony Parkin, heads the Michelin Star and 4AA Rosette awarded Tudor Room restaurant. Here you can experience world-class dining while sipping the estate’s own Great Forsters’ Gin.

Dog lovers will be happy to know that their fur-kids are welcome, and there is a Dog Guide in your room of the best pet-friendly places to visit in the area


Article compiled and written for Red Flower-UK

© Andrew Knapp – The Design Train

NOTE: The author does not own the copyright of photos and images used within this article and credits have been given where possible

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