The Gold List Goes Platinum: Conde Nast’s Annual Awards

We promised you the readers’ choice CNT Gold List was coming soon, and it’s finally been released—8 million people voted to come up with just over 500 properties worthy of inclusion. And of those, 214 were pulled out for the “Platinum Circle,” a list of properties that have been chosen all of the last five years, to mark the magazine’s 25th year. Grade inflation? As long as your tastes run to the traditionally elegant luxury in the Northern Hemisphere (including the Dorchester in London, the St. Regis in New York, and One & Only Palmilla in Cabo), high romance in the Caribbean (like the Nisbet Plantation Beach Club on Nevis), and giant modern palaces in Asia (think the InterContinental Hong Kong) then these are absolutely the crème de la crème.

Other notable picks include quirkier properties, like the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, and Las Ventanas al Paraiso on the Riviera Maya, as well as a healthy selection of properties in farther-flung destinations, including African safari lodges and an ever-growing list of properties in Australia and New Zealand, who are stepping up their luxury hotel game. 

InterContinental Hotels Returns To Russia

After a decade in exile, the InterContinental has returned to the former Soviet Union. The InterContinental Moscow Tverskaya opened yesterday, and is centrally located on Russia’s most famous street, minutes from the Kremlin and Red Square (as well as the Bolshoi Theater and TSUM, for the shoppers among us), making it an ideal base for both business and leisure travelers.

InterContinental Moscow Tverskaya features 184 brand new rooms, with bespoke furniture, luxurious fabrics, and a striking glass wall divding the bathroom and bedroom. The hotel’s 19 stunning specialty suites include three penthouses named after famous Russian ballet dancers Galina Ulanova, Isadora Duncanand, Vaslav Nijinsky, with views overlooking the center of Moscow.

Fully equipped for business, the hotel is also designed for plenty of pleasure. The 126-seat Chekhonte restaurant presents a contemporary take on traditional Russian cuisine in the context of family traditions and original recipes, while a lobby lounge and bar called P-Square transforms during the day into a center of ‘’all things chocolate,’’ with fresh truffles available for takeaway. The Elemis spa and health club are set to open early next year.

The concierge is always on hand to recommend activities and experiences for guests to share in local culture, history, and attractions, says general manager Oliver Horn. “We’re in the heart of Moscow, which is the perfect location for our guests because they can take in the local sights and sounds as the locals do.” So if you like to be the first to check out hot new properties, make sure to add this one to your list—the Winter Festival starts mid-December, and the firework-spangled New Year’s celebrations in Red Square almost put Times Square to shame.

Steal This Bathrobe: The Best Hotel Products to Swipe (& Buy)

You’re wrapped in a plush terry robe, reposing on thousand-thread-count sheets, listening to a custom-programmed iPod on the dock next to your bed, and feeling as though this is nothing more than the lifestyle you deserve. So who could blame you for wanting to take some of the accoutrements of your newfound bliss home from your luxury hotel? These are top three souvenirs we recommend you swipe.

Toiletries: These are always a safe bet, since they’re there for you to use anyway. We love the Remede toiletry kits given out by the St. Regis, the Malin + Goetz soaps used by the Morgans Hotel Group properties (including the Delano in Miami and the Mondrian in Los Angeles) and the exclusive Hermès bath products at all Sofitel locations.

Slippers: Hotels actually get a certain amount of free advertising from branded products escaping the confines of their hotel, and even the non-branded versions still provide travelers with fond memories of their trip. Our favorites come from the amenity-packed Asian hotels, including fuzzy slippers at the Mandarin Oriental’s multiple locations, and the Havianas at the InterContinental Hong Kong.

Personalized Stationery: Once a standard part of luxury hotel service, personalized stationery is a pleasant enough surprise that these days, you might be inspired enough to actually write a letter. While hotel stationery and pens are always fair game, no one can complain about something personalized going home with you, and you can find it at a surprising number of places, including the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, the Trump SoHo in New York , the Stafford London, Chicago’s Talbott, and the New World Shanghai.

That said, not all of us want to steal from our favorite hotels (who wants that on their guest profile?) and hotels have of course developed procedures to address this—many sticky-fingered guests will now find their more outrageous grift charged to their room bill. So why not shop their style the legal way? Many hip hotels have added online shops full of items that either appear on property or embody their style, like these three:

The W Store: W Hotels is happy to sell you everything from the bed you slept in to the music in the air, as well as apparel from brands like John Varvatos and Mara Hoffman. We particularly love their collection of statement jewelry and their eclectic blend of home accessories.

Shutters Beach Style: This Santa Monica hotel is one of a handful that are right on the beach, but the interiors are as striking as the views. Known for its impressive contemporary art collection which belongs to the hotel’s owners, their online store has drawings by Frank Gehry and Ellsworth Kelly, as well as stunning homewares like their signature rug and pewter table accessories.

Shop The Standard: They’re on the cutting edge of urban hotel style, so it’s no wonder that they’d have a quality online presence. The covetable goods include everything from RK Ripper fixed-gear bicycles to limited-edition art prints to the kissing puppy salt-and-pepper shakers on the table at the Standard Grill—so stealable that they’re listed for purchase right on the menu.

Intercontinental Hong Kong Gets Michelin Crowned, Twice

I’m a sucker for a good view. So when I stayed at Intercontinental Hong Kong a few years ago, I was extra pleased with the views of the harbor I had from both my window and the outdoor terrace, which also included two jacuzzis, palms, and a heated pool, and made me feel like I was at a tropical resort rather than a bustling Asian city. The hotel was full of other surprises, like rooms with sundecks (which virtually don’t exist here), and, surprisingly, restaurants that actually rival some of the best Hong Kong has to offer. Now, it looks like Intercontinental’s restaurants just got even more enticing – two were recently awarded Michelin stars.

Yan Toh Heen, the hotel’s acclaimed Cantonese restaurant, received a Michelin star for the second consecutive year, and SPOON by Alain Ducasse just received its first Michelin star, both in the 3rd Annual Michelin Guide to Hong Kong and Macau. In addition to terrific culinary experiences, the two restaurants offer amazing views of the harbor via floor-to-ceiling glass walls. I guess the hotel’s as crazy about views as I am.

Drinking with a View in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a place that’s been uninterruptedly, incredibly wealthy since World War II. As such, it’s somewhat of a Disneyland for adults. For generations, people from around the world have migrated to this city of roughly seven million with two simple goals: to make money and to spend it. We’re here to help.

It doesn’t take long to track down hedonism, which mostly comes in the form of after-hours spots crammed with locals throwing around their dollar bills. On his first night in the city, one BlackBook informant was taken to Rick’s Café, a pub with an international crowd. Upon noting the beauty of the waitresses, he was told they could be his for a price, and was then handed a baggie of cocaine.

In case anyone is unduly worried that stories such as this might become endangered as China exerts more power over its prized Special Administrative Region, rest assured that the erstwhile Communist country has no intention of getting all up in Hong Kong’s capitalist grill. As the number of mainland Chinese millionaires grows, so does the number Yuan they spend with abandon across the border.

Luxury apartments—purchased by mainlanders as status symbols but never actually used—stand empty on both sides of Victoria Harbour. The Peninsula hotel’s own hospitality team advised us to visit a mall as an afternoon diversion “to watch Chinese people shop.” Truly.

After dark, the fruits of those infamous shopping sprees can be seen across the city in Hong Kong’s many clubs. There are three main party sectors in town, corresponding roughly to, well, the three main sectors in town, period. Wanchai is where soldiers have always gone for R&R, and it still maintains the sort of slouchy, tropical, mildly seedy colonial vibe typical of such a place. Still, some big-name bars line the outskirts, like Propaganda, Hong Kong’s classic gay bar that, in keeping with the city’s party ethos, is most popular on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

For more obvious glitz, head to LanKwai Fong, also on Hong Kong island, or across the harbor to TsimShaTsui on the Kowloon side. Since most of Hong Kong’s high finance offices are on the island, its clubs often have a restaurant element to cater to the after-work crowd. Azure takes up the top two floors of a skyscraper, with one level devoted to dining and the other to drinking. Almost-neighboring Sevva is also ostensibly a restaurant, but the food and service is so bad that it’s become an infamous symbol of the “only in Hong Kong” trope: only such a wealthy city would allow such bad restaurants to thrive. But it’s pretty and all the right people are there, taking in the view of the city lights and each other.

Hong Kong is indeed a food city, but it almost seems like the more you spend, the less quality you get. One exception is FINDS, which doesn’t have a view, but does offer interesting Scandinavian food.

A short and lovely ferry ride takes you to Kowloon, where Aqua Spirit is the hottest rooftop bar at the moment. But sometimes classic makes for a better choice than trendy, which is why the lobby bar at the InterContinental is our top locale at which to imbibe. It isn’t a rooftop, but it has unobstructed views of the waterfront, and is the best place in the city to catch the nightly light show. The bartenders’ heavy pours here make the experience all the more lovely. It’s crowded, though, so if privacy is in order, The China Clipper on the top floor of the Peninsula is available for discreet encounters. The only way in is to rent out the whole floor, or charter the house helicopter.

Whether you prefer elite or populist, the key to nightlife here is the view of the gorgeous, twinkling city, and its myriad of people, spending and sipping.

14 Sexy Penthouses Around the World

For that desirable combination of unbeatable luxury and city access, you can’t top the penthouse. What better way to enjoy panoramic skyline views, concierge service, and lush interiors fit for a mansion? From the retro chic to the ultra modern, from bustling metropolises to the serene tropics, we’ve compiled a list of some of the sexiest penthouses in the world.

1. Presidential Suite, Intercontinental, Hong Kong: One of Asia’s most spectacular penthouses, this 7,000-square-foot dream space boasts five luxurious bedrooms, a 2,500-square-foot terrace with an infinity swimming pool overlooking Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong, and all-glass walls that enable you to enjoy the skyline no matter where you’re sitting. For the detail-oriented, the bathroom sinks were carved from single slabs of Fujian marble and the television cabinet is solid mother-of-pearl. Sure, it’s $11,215 per night. But it could be money well spent for one hell of a swank party.


2. Skylofts, MGM Grand, Las Vegas: The 6,040-square-foot Skylofts in MGM Grand, designed by world-renowned architect and designer Tony Chi, are bringing some much-deserved attention to this classic Vegas hotel. For $10,000 a night, you can bask in the sleek, ultra-modern bachelor pad, and enjoy an unbeatable view of the Vegas skyline. Before you retreat to one of the three decked-out bedrooms, check out the Infinity Edge spa tub with “champagne bubbles” technology and the capacious “immersion chamber” steam shower.


3. Royal Suite, The Carlyle, New York City: This classic, elegant duplex, designed by Alexandra Champalimaud, captures the essence of New York style for about $6,000 a night. The original hardwood floors, luxurious fabrics, inspiring artwork, and Steinway piano will place you at the pinnacle of city sophistication. Don’t forget to admire the city that never sleeps with an inimitable view of Central Park and that famously picturesque NYC skyline.


4. Apogee Penthouse, Miami: As its name suggests, Apogee is the self-proclaimed top dog of Miami penthouses. The 6,583-square-foot space lets you to enjoy all the splendor of the Miami sunshine with over 11,000 square feet of outdoor living space. If you are even a little deterred by the $22 million price tag, check out the private pool on the roof, with its 360-degree view of South Beach.


5. Perivolas Suite, Perivolas, Santorini, Greece: You’ve probably never seen anything like this before. The 1,500-square-foot Grecian grotto is nestled cozily in the cliffs of Santorini. Featuring sleek white-washed walls and arched interiors, this cavernous hideaway exudes Mediterranean elegance. Don’t be fooled by the idyllic decor, though. This $1,586-a-night pad is stocked with fine amenities: the steam room, hydrotherapy massage tub, and indoor-outdoor swimming pool should be more than enough to keep you busy.


6. One Hyde Park Penthouse, London: This penthouse has yet to be completed, but it’s already one of the sexiest in the world. In fact, at 100 million pounds, the One Hyde Park penthouse, slated for completion later this year, is the most expensive in the world. The coveted property will boast bullet-proof windows, purified air systems and…panic rooms? Here’s to hoping you don’t need to spend much time in those on your honeymoon. Instead, be sure to stop by the communal spas, squash courts and private wine-tasting facilities. And just who can afford this record-breaking price tag? Why, the A-list stars, oil barons, Saudi princes, and Russian oligarchs who have already claimed their own One Hyde Park flats, of course.


7. Hugh Hefner Sky Villa, The Palms, Las Vegas: Anything with Hefner’s name on it is sexy (with the exception of…Hugh Hefner) and his one-of-a-kind penthouse fits the bill. What could be more Playboy than relaxing in an outdoor, cantilevered hot tub overlooking the Vegas strip? In addition to amenities like a media room, gym with sauna, and a spa-style treatment room, the Sky Villa features a glass elevator, a huge show tub, pop-up plasma TV, sunbathing areas, and, of course, a round, rotating bed. If ever there were a proper place to charm the pants off a damsel to the tune of $40,000 a night, Vegas is it.


8. Penthouse Suite, Cavalieri Hilton, Rome: If you’re tired of gazing at skyscrapers, check out this penthouse in Rome, where you can bask in the glory of St. Peter’s Basilica from the comfort of your own rooftop hot tub. Don’t forget to consummate the evening with a visit to the custom-stocked cigar humidor and wine cellar. And if security is of concern, take solace in the fact that this 7,000-square-foot luxury fortress features bulletproof glass and an elaborate fleet of surveillance cameras. For $8,998 a night, you can soak in all the beauty that old Rome has to offer—with nary a worry of a gladiator ambush.


9. The Gray, Milan: This unforgettable penthouse embodies all the lively eccentricities of a Milan fashion show. The lobby greets you with a pink velvet objet d’art (too bad they didn’t include one in the suite), the rooms are decked out in ostrich leather and crocodile, beds are suspended from the ceiling, and one of the staircases consists of cantilevered platforms rising up the wall. At 450 square feet, this penthouse may not be the largest of its kind, but you’d be hard-pressed to find an even remotely similar experience elsewhere. Oh, and at “only” $1,000 a night, it’s the most affordable penthouse on this list.


10. Luxuria Penthouse, Boca Raton, Florida: For $12.5 million, you can enjoy the Boca Raton coastline in style. Even before you enter the suite, the lobby showcases twin golden staircases and a floor-to-ceiling water wall. For the penthouse that already has everything you need, you’ll have access to a 24-hour valet service and on-site concierge. And, to keep you and your belongings safe, the penthouse boasts a state-of-the-art security system with thumb-print recognition and resident-only lobbies.


11. Endeavor Penthouse, Seabrook, Texas: The $3.6 million Endeavor Penthouse combines the comfort and security of indoor space with the charms of an outdoor setting. Make sure you check out the 500-square-foot balcony and the 1,200-square-foot rooftop terrace, where you can bask in the breeze while overlooking the still waters of Clear Lake. This majestic lake isn’t the only perk for water lovers: the space features features a hot tub, an infinity pool, and a resistance pool for fitness enthusiasts.


12. Penthouse Suite, Raleigh Hotel, Miami Beach: This classic penthouse personifies the suave sophistication of 1940s noir. Built in 1940 and overhauled in 2002, the Penthouse Suite at the Raleigh features an attractive combination of modern and retro tastes: low-slung sofas and floor-to-ceiling windows complement the nostalgia of the wood-paneled bar downstairs. Though it’s easy to get lost in the charm of the interiors, 2,000 square feet of this 6,000-square-foot beauty are devoted to the terrace, where a pool overlooks Miami Beach. The price tag, however, is anything but retro: $5K a night.


13. 2999 Kalakaua ave Penthouse, Honolulu, Hawaii: At $5.2 million, you can luxuriously soak in all the natural splendor—crystal-clear waters, verdant vegetation, blue skies—that Hawaii has to offer. This penthouse is renowned for its panoramic views of the surrounding tropical paradise. Newly renovated, the 3,445-square-foot space overlooks the Pacific Ocean and Diamond Head State Monument. A uniquely Hawaiian spectacle.


14.Central Park West Penthouse, New York City: We all know that living in New York is not cheap, but in this case, you may just get what your $47.5 million pays for. This lavish penthouse features 14-foot ceilings and over 5,200 square feet of space, not to mention a stellar view of Central Park. And what’s a lofty price tag without some sort of bonus? In addition to the penthouse, you’ll get a 1,222-square-foot ground-floor suite with private street access.