Against all odds, we’ve made it to Christmas and it’s good to see that some of the world’s best hotels are celebrating that fact in style. Whether it’s a sparkling jewel-laden tree by Garrard or elephant watching in Thailand from your own garland-strewn jungle pod, these retreats are offering their own unique take on the festive season this year.
Shangri-La at the Shard, London
The fun-loving Austrian General Manager of Shangri-La at the Shard, Kurt Macher, has transformed the hotel’s public spaces into the sort of alpine ski resort he grew up visiting. The hotel’s winter wonderland is a multi-sensory experience and begins at ground level, at Bar 31, where raclette and schnitzel is being served with gluhwein and hot toddies to people in little two-person ‘chalets’.
Here, you’ll also find the hotel’s five-metre Christmas tree, which echoes the structure of the building it inhabits. The installation was designed by Stables & Lucraft, a duo working from Makerversity, a platform of creators based in London’s Somerset House, and is made from recycled and recyclable materials.
Upstairs, the hotel’s 35th-floor reception area is clad in chalet-style wood panels, complete with a snow-covered mountain village made of gingerbread, a life-sized ski gondola for winter selfies and an impressively festive apres-ski afternoon tea at Ting Lounge & Restaurant.
The Mark, New York
Now an annual event, The Mark has installed a private ice skating rink on the terrace of the Penthouse Suite, just for guests of that room.
Why not opt for The Mark’s Penthouse Holiday Spectacular package, which includes a stay in the suite complete with its private skating rink, a Juilliard-trained pianist to serenade you on the suite’s grand piano and a set of family photographs by world-renowned fashion photographer Alexei Hay. If you have to ask how much it costs, you probably can’t afford it.
The Chesterfield Hotel, London
Nathan Hindmarsh, Executive Head Chef at The Chesterfield in Mayfair has once again created a show-stopping gingerbread masterpiece for Christmas. The edible model of the hotel is rendered in 30 kilos of gingerbread and 15 kilos of fondant, and sports a high level of detail.
Miniature crates of Lanson, tiny tattoos on the arms of one of the Chesterfield staff, a diminutive copy of ‘Out There’ magazine and a replica of the monochrome lobby floor tiles all nod to Chesterfield’s partners, adding life to the construction.
On the roof of the gingerbread house, a group of musicians play, mirroring the live performance by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s string quartet that will take place at the hotel’s New Year’s Eve dinner.
Hotel Kulm, St Moritz, Switzerland
In a design that has brought the outside in, Hotel Kulm’s winter wonderland theme for this year has seen the main hallway leading from the lobby to the Grand Restaurant transformed into a Narnia-like world. While the snowy forest design is filled with animals typically found in the Engadin valley, 1,596 glittery baubles are a reminder that this is still St Moritz.
The festive season celebrations also include homemade crêpes every afternoon in the hotel lobby from 22-29 December, a champagne Christmas Eve reception in the ballroom, and a chance for children to read poems to Father Christmas when he comes to visit them on Christmas Day.
Royal Mansour, Marrakech
The lavish Royal Mansour, which re-opened on 16 October, has always gone all-out on festive installations and decorations and this year is no exception. The theme for 2020 is ‘a return to nature’, with a forest of Christmas trees arranged around its grand central gold-leaf chandelier.
There’s also a whimsical forest with fairy figurines hidden within it, a ‘winter frost’ jewellery gallery filled with snow-covered trees, and decadently festive menus in the hotel restaurants. Be sure to try the tiramisu yule log by pastry chef Jean Lachenal.
Belmond Reid Palace, Madeira
Those in search of Christmas in warmer climes will be delighted to find holiday spirit thriving in the Madeira sun. Belmond Reid’s Palace promises to keep its guests busy with a host of Yuletide activities ranging from jazz evenings and extravagant banquets to Christmas cookie baking sessions and a carol service by the pool.
The hotel is also having fun with its decorations, which include a beautiful Christmas tree – the daily gathering spot for 4pm Christmas stories between 22 and 26 December – and a festively decorated car on the front porch.
Bovey Castle, Devon
On the 14th of December, a 25-foot Christmas tree will tower over the halls of Bovey Castle. Each year, the hotel team gets together to adorn the tree with red and gold decorations.
Located in the lush valleys of Devon’s Dartmoor National Park, the hotel has sourced its tree from a local business, Dartmoor Christmas Trees. In addition to providing the hotel with its fir, the company has also supplied wreaths to 10 Downing Street for the past 10 years, as well as the PM’s tree in 2019.
Cliveden House, Berkshire
Cliveden House looks festive year round but really comes into its own at Christmas. This year, it has joined forces with British jewellery house Garrard to design its Christmas experiences. A fitting collaboration, the hotel has hosted a long list of royals (from Queen Victoria to the Duchess of Sussex, the night before her wedding) and Garrard has designed many a tiara for the British monarchy, having been Crown Jeweller for 164 years.
Cliveden’s dazzling Christmas tree is strewn with geometric paper gemstones, miniature Garrard gift boxes and pearly baubles. Its a festive afternoon tea includes a slice of Garrard-designed chocolate cake. There’s also a Garrard Heritage Trunk, filled with replicas of some of the world’s most famous tiaras, for guests to try on.
So if you’ve ever wondered what the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara (a wedding gift to then-Princess Elizabeth from her grandmother, originally commissioned in 1893) would look like on you, this is your chance to find out. There’s even a pop-up Garrard boutique in the Great Hall, for all those last-minute Christmas gifts.
The Upper House, Hong Kong
The Upper House has helped reinvigorate Hong Kong’s revered but dwindling art of neon-sign making with this year’s Doodle Tree. Mr Wu Chi Kai, the artist responsible for it, designed the tree in partnership with Street Sign Hong Kong, a group dedicated to preserving the city’s remaining signboards and the cultural heritage they represent.
Unlike most neon artworks, the Doodle Tree is rendered in three dimensions. After displaying the tree, the hotel will hold an auction for the work, with a starting price of HK$40,000. All proceeds from the sale will go to ImpactHK, a local charity dedicated to helping the city’s homeless population.
Every year Claridge’s invites a glamorous creative to design its Christmas tree and it’s always spectacular. This year is no exception. Drawing inspiration from the hotel’s Art Deco interior and the roaring 20s, Kally Ellis, the founder of McQueens Flowers, has designed something quite unorthodox.
The 4.5-metre installation sits on a reflecting pool, which amplifies the effect of the thousands of jewels adorning it. Each of the tree’s branches is covered in over 10,000 crystals as well as glass pendants and garlands. It mirrors the wintry effect of the hotel’s exterior, where you’ll find leaping reindeer by designer Basil Ionides and yet more Christmas trees.
Mandarin Oriental Jumeira, Dubai
Mandarin Oriental’s first foray into the United Arab Emirates, Mandarin Oriental Jumeira, which opened in 2019, has been a welcome addition to the luxury hotel scene. This Christmas, it has partnered with Swiss jeweller Piaget, to design a tree for its lofty glass lobby.
Known for its exuberant gold creations, Piaget’s tree is unapologetically just that and beautifully framed by the lobby’s canopy of tree lights. Gold 3D stars are also scattered in its path. It couldn’t feel more celebratory – just what we need this Christmas.
Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort, Northern Thailand
In the jungly hills of Northern Thailand, Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort offers guests the unique opportunity to watch elephants in their natural habitat. For something even more special, you could book a night in one of two fully air-conditioned jungle bubbles, each festively adorned with its own tree and decorations for Christmas.
With their transparent domes, you can watch elephants ambling by at sunset and sunrise, and stargaze your way through the night in between. What an excellent way to celebrate Christmas.
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