Plus: a zeitgeisty hotel in Berlin, a secluded estate on the Great Barrier Reef and more recommendations from T Magazine.
Welcome to T Wanderlust, a new travel newsletter from the editors of T Magazine. Twice a month, we’ll recommend global destinations and hotels worth visiting. Sign up here to find us in your inbox every other Friday, along with our T List newsletter each Wednesday. And you can always reach us at [email protected].
A Hushed Retreat in the Heart of New York City
What does a metropolitan escape look like in the 21st century? For Aman — the Switzerland-based group that made its name with privacy-obsessed resorts before welcoming its #amanjunkies to cities like Tokyo, Venice and, as of this month, New York — the answer has less to do with glitz and flash than with more elusive city qualities: quiet, serenity, a bit of coddling. This is true even on 57th and Fifth, one of Manhattan’s busiest corners, where it moved into the iconic Crown Building (c. 1921) and spent several years renovating, regilding its gleaming, gold-detailed facade and keeping much of the Beaux-Arts architecture intact while updating the interiors with Aman’s calming East-meets-West neutrals. This time, the materials — whether textured chocolate-brown marble, blackened steel or handsome oak and walnut — are customized throughout to create 83 suites replete with pivoting louvered doors and rice-paper lighting, conjuring the sensation of staying inside a lantern that happens to be strung two blocks south of Central Park. Every soundproof suite has its own fireplace, though urbanites will no doubt be drawn to the soaring 14th-floor lobby, which features a recently installed 7,000-square-foot all-season terrace — there’s a retractable roof — and houses both Arva, an Italian trattoria serving Mediterranean dishes like salt-encrusted black sea bass and freshly made fusilli, and Nama, a smaller restaurant dedicated to Japanese raw preparations and the country’s elemental washoku cuisine. The other major attraction is the three-story, 25,000-square-foot spa, where two dedicated “spa houses” (outfitted with hotel beds, terraces, plunge pools and treatment rooms) offer half- or full-day experiences centered on either a Russian banya or Turkish hammam. For a brief period, from 1929 to 1932, this building was the original home of New York’s Museum of Modern Art; touring it now, one’s left with the sense that it’s welcomed another sort of institution that will draw people inward for years to come. Rooms from $3,200; aman.com.
A Fantastical Art Deco Revival in Oslo
Plush pan-Nordic is the look at Sommerro, Oslo’s newest luxury hotel, set to open in early September. The 231-room hostelry, which greets its visitors with a proto-modern red brick facade, incorporates everything from Norwegian folklore motifs at the entrance — carved into the stone bas-reliefs — to Scandinavian Art Deco touches within. Located in Frogner, the quaint-but-swanky district on the city’s west side, Sommerro is a reimagining of a 1930s office building that once housed the city’s electrical company. The project is the creation of the billionaire hotel and real estate developer Petter Stordalen and GrecoDeco, a young New York design studio. Sommerro intends to be a hotel for all seasons, says Stordalen, noting the heated rooftop pool, which invites afternoon stargazing in Oslo’s long winters and late-night fjord viewing in the brief, bright summers. The edifice itself is a national landmark, known for its colorful murals by the Norwegian artist Per Krohg (who went on to decorate New York’s United Nations Security Council Chamber) and the original tilework in what will eventually be the spa area. The undertaking is not meant to be a “museum-level restoration,” says the GrecoDeco principal Adam Greco, whose sources of inspiration for the custom-designed furnishings include the Norwegian Arts and Crafts painter Gerhard Munthe and the French Art Deco minimalist Jean-Michel Frank. “It’s more like a fantasy.” Rooms from around $270; sommerrohouse.com.
An Intimate B&B, Shop and Gallery Space in Amsterdam
In April 2021, the Lebanese Dutch stylist and creative strategist Carmen Atiyah de Baets opened Carmen, an online or by-appointment-only boutique, in a canal house that her husband, Joris ter Meulen Swijtink, inherited from his late grandmother. Selling an assortment of cult-favorite brands such as Maryam Nassir Zadeh, Baserange and Eckhaus Latta, the shop was merely a teaser for the multipurpose space to come. While Atiyah de Baets’s expertise lies in design and fashion, food is what drives ter Meulen Swijtink, a former cook at the Michelin-starred St. John in London and a co-owner of the natural wine bar Café Twee Prinsen in Amsterdam. “We love serving people and showing them a good time,” says Atiyah de Baets. Expanding Carmen from a store into a guesthouse, therefore, felt like a natural progression. The couple opened the inn this summer with two cozy en suite bedrooms kitted out with Tekla robes and Aesop bath amenities; ter Meulen Swijtink serves visitors home-cooked breakfasts each morning. After gaining access to the adjoining canal house, which connects through the back garden and is accessible only to guesthouse patrons, Atiyah de Baets and ter Meulen Swijtink are developing the concept further this fall: With the help of the British designer Elliot Barnes, they will unveil an updated boutique with clothing, home goods and books; an exhibition space to host film screenings and art shows; and a third guest room, complete with dedicated lounge and private balcony. Also in the works: a cafe helmed by ter Meulen Swijtink, where the breakfast and lunch menus will be inspired by, as Atiyah de Baets puts it, “the food we love to eat — memories from our youth, travels, food that is made with love.” Rooms from around $255; carmenamsterdam.com.
An Arty Hotel Made for Berliners
Despite Berlin’s reputation for being one of Europe’s most vibrant creative capitals, it doesn’t have a hotel that has properly captured its zeitgeist — a place like the Mercer in New York City or Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles. That is, until the long-anticipated Château Royal opens its doors next month. A passion project from Stephan Landwehr, a co-founder of the meat-forward art-world haunt Grill Royal; his frequent managing partner Moritz Estermann; and the Icelandic chef Victoria Eliasdottir, the 93-room property, located in a trio of buildings near the Brandenburg Gate, is all about its artful collaborations. The British architect David Chipperfield, who just completed a renovation of the city’s Ludwig Mies van der Rohe-designed Neue Nationalgalerie, oversaw the revamp, which included a rooftop extension and a new construction that complements the two heritage buildings. The chic and timeless interiors (think marble and oak surfaces and tiles, bespoke ceramic lamps with low-slung modernist lounge chairs and sofas from Studio Christian Haas) were conceived by Berlin designer Irina Kromayer. Eliasdottir — who worked previously in the studio kitchen of her brother, the renowned artist Olafur Eliasson, and ran the hometown-favorite restaurant Dottir — will, with the help of the chef Elena Müller, oversee the hotel’s food. But what truly gives the establishment its most impressive sense of place is the art, co-curated by the former gallerist Kirsten Landwehr and Krist Gruijthuijsen, the director of Berlin’s KW Institute for Contemporary Art. More than 100 works, many of them site-specific, will be scattered throughout the premises. The lineup includes a sound piece by the Welsh video and installation artist James Richards in the winter garden courtyard, curtains by the German sculptor and performance artist John Bock, wallpaper by the German artist Thomas Demand and sculptures from the Polish German conceptual artist Alicja Kwade. “We designed the public spaces for locals and our regulars,” says Estermann. And, of course, that crowd is what will make the scene. Rooms from around $200; chateauroyalberlin.com/en.
A Spiritual Sanctuary in the Goto Islands
When Japan banned Christianity in the 17th century, some devotees sought refuge in the far-flung Goto Islands, nicknamed the Islands of Prayer and located off of Kyushu in Nagasaki Prefecture. Fukue, the largest of the 100-plus islands, the majority of which are uninhabited, is more than 60 miles from the city of Nagasaki and now home to the newly opened Okcs Retreat Goto Ray. The subdued trilevel structure has 26 rooms, each with its own open-air onsen and floor-to-ceiling windows that bring the cerulean sea, sky and subtropical coastal scrub inside. The Japanese hospitality brand behind the opening is Okcs — shorthand for onkochishin, meaning “new ideas from visiting the past.” Paying homage to the island’s heritage, the group wanted to create a place of prayer and lightness, a task poetically executed by the late interior designer Yukio Hashimoto, who let natural light flood the rooms and relied on simple touches like basalt, vaulted wood ceilings and moon-shaped lanterns to channel that peacefulness. A stay includes nightly kaiseki-style meals featuring seasonal specialties such as Goto Wagyu beef, sourced from cows raised on sea-sprayed grasses, and steamed fish with winter melon. Even the spa, which offers treatments using local camellia as well as Vichy hydrotherapy sessions, echoes the island’s pluralist past. Rooms from $355 per person, including two meals per person; goto-ray.com/en/.
A Serene Beachfront Stay in Sumba
It wasn’t long ago that the secluded beaches and legendary surf breaks of Sumba, a 50-minute flight east of Bali, were almost synonymous with Christopher Burch’s high-flyer hideaway NIHI Sumba. But over the past few years, a new crop of hotels has sprung up on this sparsely populated island, where Sandalwood ponies seemingly outnumber cars and locals still practice megalithic burials. The latest arrival is the Sanubari, a six-villa hotel pitched on the palm-tufted sands of Dassang beach in the rugged southwest. The villas range from a breezy studio to a two-bedroomed pad, and all but one open onto powder-blue pools embedded in patios hemming the beach. In addition to roofs made from thatched alang-alang, a local grass, they’ve been purposefully pared down, with sandblasted walls and large teak-framed windows to let their surroundings do the speaking. To keep it that way, the hotel has retained a 247-acre reserve around it, banning the practice of slash-and-burn farming and planting more than 5,000 native trees. Soon, the resort will begin operating a farm to supply it with produce and also function as a training facility to support agriculture in the surrounding villages. “Many peoples’ lives are so cluttered these days,” says the hotel’s British managing partner Hopi Burn. “There’s a sense of peace, space, calmness and clarity that people tend to find here.” Rooms from $305; thesanubari.com.
A Private Estate on the Great Barrier Reef
Roughly 17 miles off the coast of northern Queensland, Lizard Island National Park is still an unspoiled paradise on the Great Barrier Reef. Lizard Island itself, rugged and pristine, a nearly four-square-mile oasis swathed in verdant grasslands and one of six islands that make up the park, rises more than 1,000 feet above sea level. On a remote headland on the island’s western coast, a eucalyptus and acacia woodland flourishes near the House at Lizard, an estate co-owned by the Brisbane-based businessman Steve Wilson and his wife, Dr. Jane Wilson. After an approval process that took nearly 25 years to finalize, the prominent Queensland-based architect James Davidson of the climate-resilience-focused architecture firm JDA Co. realized both the house and a rosewood cottage; together, the structures can accommodate up to eight guests. “The design concept was to not only touch the earth lightly but to recede into the landscape, hugging the slope of the hill so that the physical presence of the house becomes hidden in its surroundings,” says Davidson. Reflecting the rough-hewn nature of the area, the main building — a three-story, three-bedroom structure — is clad in concrete and copper to blend with the nearby granite rock formations. It features outdoor baths, a private swimming pool and an adjoining yoga deck and rooftop spa. The interiors, done by the designer Sophie Hart, exude a warmer appeal: Soft, soothing timbers and natural stone materials rest near artworks by Indigenous female artists, while a central, curved stairwell acts as the heart of the home. (If guests gaze skyward as they climb the stairs, they’ll spy an oculus for tracking the patterns of the sun and moon.) Visitors’ meals can be catered by a private chef, and they also receive a custom itinerary created by an on-site host; this can include outings to the island’s 20-plus beaches, as well as priority access to reef excursions aboard a 56-foot yacht. Rooms from $11,000 per night, three-night minimum; thehouseatlizard.com.