Inverlonan Bothy Experience, Scotland
Torre de Palma Wine Hotel, Portugal (Design Hotels™)
Text by Mirjana Bernstorf
It’s always worth taking an unknown route to make new discoveries. This applies to the planning of your next trip as well. We got to know three unusual lodgings and their founders: Aleksi and Milla bought a Finnish island to introduce guests to the beauty of the archipelago. Lupi built ecological cabins in the wilderness of Scotland with views over the mystical Loch Nell. Ana and Paulo took on a historical building in the Portuguese region Alentejo to grow wine and welcome guests in a boutique hotel. What they all have in common is a love for nature and an appreciation for their regions off the mainstream tourist paths.
Project Ö, Finland. Photo: Aleksi Hautamäki
Ō Island Hideaway
In the middle of the Finnish Archipelago National Park lies the small rocky island of Skjulskäret. The designer duo Aleksi Hautamäki and Milla Selkimäki from Helsinki fell in love with the area on a boating trip here six years ago – and the idea to build a house for their family and guests in the heart of the untouched Finnish nature was born. Before their private island project could get started, a few obstacles needed to be overcome – but looking back, Aleksi would do it all over again: “There are small details that we could have done differently. But we are very happy with the most important things: the positioning of the houses and the piers, the paths around the island, the materials, the furniture, the atmosphere as a whole.” He loves the idea that the island is never finished. “There is always something that needs to be planned out and put up. It thrills me to be able to work with my hands and make designs come to life.”
The couple rents out the private island via the Off Grid Hideaways booking platform. Those arriving by boat via Helsinki can expect an authentic nature experience complete with Scandinavian interior design and regional cuisine.
Every morning a boat chugs across to the guests with the fine-smelling fragrance of breakfast and lunch picnic wafting from board. Ellen and William from the Källarvinden restaurant provide culinary lessons for those interested, exploring regional wild herbs, smoking fish or fermenting the vegetables from neighbouring farms. The host speaks about his day-to-day life on Skjulskäret with shining eyes: “The sauna with the natural whirlpool and the dive into the sea are part of our daily routine. I hope that the guests will love it as much as we do.”
Inverlonan Bothy Experience
The Inverlonan bothies are hidden away behind verdant ferns and ancient oak trees. From here, you have a breathtaking view of the Loch Nell lake, which nourishes numerous Scottish legends. Lupi Moll resides behind the three minimalist huts amid the wilderness. Already as a twelve-year-old he camped with the scouts in the West Highlands, the spot where the cabins are located today. You can observe golden eagles here and watch deer. “I remember even then being overwhelmed by the beauty of the knobby old oak trees, the complete immersion in nature and the allure of the water. Ever since that period, I wanted to be able to share this experience with others. With the bothies we’ve now managed to do so.”
As for generations the land had belonged to his family, Lupi decided to create a site for slowing down there. True to this tune, his welcoming words to his guest are: “We hope that you’re able to relax during your stay with us, to immerse yourself in the wilderness and focus on the essentials. If you surrender to the slow life, the bothy experience will be an eye-opener that is gratifying to the soul. It takes time to ignite the fire, to boil the water in the kettle and to grind the coffee by hand. Embrace the pace! The coffee prepared with your thoughts, your effort and your time will taste all the better for it.” The host knows the simple life comes with its own set of frustrations, like when your morning shower turns out to be too short. The surroundings, the peace and the view compensate for this. All bothies come with a terrace, a fireplace and a wood-burning oven to bake pizza. The adventure seekers can go kayaking, swim in the Loch Nell or retreat to the hidden sauna by the lake. Ecological luxury at its best!
Torre de Palma Wine Hotel, Design Hotels™
Not only excellent wine, olive oil and Lusitano horses are to be found in Alentejo, but also the clearest sky in Europe with an unobstructed view of the Milky Way, says owner Ana Isabel Rebelo enthusiastically. And time is a valuable commodity in Alentejo. “We want to enjoy life slowly.” When she and her husband Paulo Barradas Rebelo discovered the historical property dating back to the year 1338, the region was still completely unknown territory, new even for Portuguese guests. After the death of Paulo’s mother, the couple were actually looking for a weekend bungalow to return to the region he had grown up in. Then they heard of an abandoned property called “Torre de Palma”, which was for sale. It had nothing in common with what they had actually been looking for, but it was love at first sight. Both gave up their jobs in the pharmaceutical industry and without any experience devoted themselves to their new pet project, the hotel business. “The greatest challenge was to figure out how we could attract guests to such a remote region,” says Ana about the early days. The founders demonstrated creativity and tenacity and opened the boutique hotel with its own spa and winery in 2014. For over 500 years, the house belonged to the Portuguese royal family and was later the first collective farm in Portugal. This history posed some challenges. “When we developed the project, we didn’t want to put up any new buildings, but instead convert the existing structure with the architect João Mendes Ribeiro.
This is why we only had space for 19 rooms. Today, we see this as an advantage. The manageable size allows us the opportunity to offer more personal service and get to know our guests.” Rosarinho Gabriel from Coisas
da Terra worked out the interior decoration. The designer weaved the entire history of the property into the interior, from the Romans who lived here to the royal family through to the farmers. The rooms are individually fitted out with elegant furniture and rustic materials. The slow-paced lifestyle in Alentejo is best celebrated in the restaurant Palma with the chef Miguel Laffan (one Michelin star) and a bottle of the restaurant’s own wine, still carefully produced by hand. “The processes in the winery are traditional with marble slabs for the footwork. We are very strict when it comes to which grapes we select, and all grapes are picked by hand.
The lighter side of Europe
Vila Planinka, Slovenia
Text by Chloe Sachdev
Europe has long captured the world’s imagination and its blockbuster destinations like France, England, and Italy need no introduction. But lately, we’ve been looking to the other side of Europe. The lighter side. The Europe with a green heart, leading the way in low-impact tourism. The beautiful, almost fantasy lands, where lush landscapes, clean fresh air and local traditions are the main attractions. From Slovenia to Scandinavia and our home country, Germany, we’re breathing in this new way of travel as a force for good.
Octola Private Wilderness, Finland
Slovenia, with its ancient emerald forests, gin-clear waters, and stunning biodiversity, is a land of fairytale beauty. Where else in the world can you climb a mountain in the morning, swim in the sea in the afternoon and sleep in a castle at night? It’s no wonder the nation is on a mission to preserve its stunning landscape and cultural treasures. Having won Europe’s Greenest Capital (Ljubljana) in 2016, cementing the country’s sustainable reputation, this Balkan country wants visitors to tread lightly. Making things easy, the tourist board has established a Green Scheme brand. Simply follow the Slovenia Green Label to explore the nation’s most sustainable accommodation, parks, attractions, restaurants and beaches. Check into Vila Planinka, an hour’s drive from Ljubljana in the cute-as-a-button mountain town Jezersk. This hotel mixes stylish design digs with sustainability principles – it even switches off all lights at 11pm.
Scandinavian eco superheroes – Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland – have long been the green standard for sustainable destinations. In Scandinavia, luxury means connection to local people, local culture, food and ingredients, and the freshest air in the world. These countries literally give more than they take, with their reliance on renewable energy and dedication to low-impact tourism. There are hundreds of resorts, luxury hotels, campsites and lodges across Scandinavia that are dedicated to lightening our carbon footprint. For example, Iceland is 100 percent powered by renewables and, in Finland, which is 80 percent forested, you’re guaranteed lungfuls of clean living. Thanks to its tourist board and the heavily promoted Sustainable Finland programme, you can not only visit Finland with a good conscience, but also leave a positive impact on this pristine country. Go to the belly of the beast by visiting the Finnish Arctic Circle and staying at Octola Private Wilderness, a low-lying, locally built timber lodge and retreat on hundreds of hectares of untouched Lapland Forest. Boasting a negative carbon footprint, using only wind/green energy for electricity, a stay here makes it easy being green.
Holidaying in your home country is often overlooked, but Germany reigns supreme when it comes to green-soaked vacations. Why fly when you can catch a train? Especially in Germany, where all long-distance trains run on 100 per cent green electricity. Plus, if you’re looking for rest and relaxation, Germany is the ultimate wellness destination with literally hundreds of historic spa towns, like Bad Herrenalb in the Black Forest or the climatic spa town Bayrischzell in the Bavarian Alps. Stay at the sustainably-minded wellness hotel Tannerhof, a family business in its fourth generation. Founded in 1905 as a naturopathic center, it now has everything from yoga and fasting regimes to body treatments and regional organic food (partly from the own vegetable garden). There’s also a spa area so you can flit between the pool, sauna (located in a wooden cabin from 1936!) and steam baths. Opt for one of the modern “Hüttentürme” rooms and enjoy the mountain views.
Pellicano Hotel, Tuscany
Nobu Hotel, Warsaw
Text by Mirjana Bernstorf
Welcome to our battle of the holiday hotspots! We’re pitching classic European holiday destinations like Saint-Tropez, Tuscany and Mallorca against new, upstart places. Warsaw, Athens or Vilnius have heaps of architectural and design hotel highlights to tempt the discerning traveller. We can reveal this much: Europe’s coasts and cities have an incredible choice of exciting restaurants and brilliant hotels in all categories. This may be the perfect moment to (re)discover new and old favourite spots.
ÖÖD Hotels, Estonia
Lou Pinet – Saint-Tropez
A tantalising smell of freshly sliced truffles, lobster and pine trees wafts under the wooden pergola, and a glass of Hotel Lou Pinet’s ice-cold house rose signals the start of a holiday in Saint-Tropez. Bienvenue in the former fishing village in the south of France, where Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg once frolicked. The vintage spirit of the 60s and 70s still seems close enough to touch at Hotel Lou Pinet. The eclectic design of the rooms and suites with their own gardens come courtesy of architect and interior designer Charles Zana. His ideas were inspired by artists such as Matisse, Calder and Picasso and they incorporate elements of the decorative art of Provence. Instead of a key card, guests here are given a golden key. This small detail is emblematic of the style of the hotel, which provides moments of authentic luxury rather than the Saint-Tropez party glitz and the booming bass from the town’s clubs. Instead, kick back and enjoy the soothing chirrups of the cicadas. Trés provençal!
Santa Clara 1728 – Lisbon
Tranquil natural shades, linen, wood and marble from Lisbon dominate in the magnificent 18th century building. The family-run hotel Santa Clara 1728 offers an incredibly soothing and inviting setting, with a secluded garden promising moments of relaxation despite the villa being situated in the lively Alfama quarter, where the legendary “Feira da Ladra” flea market takes place and Fado songs echo through the narrow lanes. The venerable house has six suites, some providing a breath-taking view of the River Tejo and the rooftops of the old city centre. Owners Joao and Andrea Rodrigues live with their family on the top floors, which instantly gives one the feeling of staying with friends. Architect Manuel Aires Mateus restored the building with great sensitivity for its history and has created an oasis of peace. Breakfast at Santa Clara is taken at a communal table, where you can enjoy freshy squeezed orange juice and home-made granola as you make your plans for the day. This hotel is the perfect place to experience Lisbon’s morbid beauty in a modern setting.
Finca Maris - Mallorca
Nestling between cacti, olive trees and citrus groves lies the charmingly modern Finca Maris, a hideaway in the southern part of the island which is as far as you can get from the tourist clichés. Everything about the finca is eco-conscious, and the reduction to the absolute essentials is reflected in the timeless design and the values of owners Maris and Patrick Schmidt-Dold, who are committed to a holistic approach and slow living. Book this minimalist villa near Ses Salines with friends or family and you can encounter Mallorca’s authentic side and feel like a local – albeit a fairly affluent local! The villa with its four bedrooms, pool and outdoor BBQ is furnished and equipped with great taste and incredible attention to detail. The floors are made of rugged stone, and you dine from pottery handmade by local artisans. The interior and outside flow into each other, with natural light and shade flooding through the large panorama windows. Throughout the renovation, the owners deliberately chose natural materials and sustainable sources. The water is drawn to a large extent from the finca’s own well and the aim is to leave the smallest possible ecological footprint. One of the island’s most beautiful natural beaches (Es Trenc) is close by. Home away from home, sustainable and very stylish!
Hotel Pellicano – Tuscany
What the Italians call sprezzatura refers to a stylish nonchalance that conceals the effort it takes to pull off. It’s an art that the staff at Hotel Pellicano have down to a T. The legendary hotel, situated between Rome and Pisa, spills down to an azure private bay with a stunning view of Monte Argentario, close to the yacht harbour of Porto Ercole. In the 1960, the cove with its dramatic cliffs became the romantic hideaway for an American socialite and a British aviator. The house attracted a glamourous, international set of guests who came to party in the moonlight. In 1979, Roberto Sciò bought the property, and his daughter Marie-Louise, the Creative Director, keeps the Pellicano style up to date with a combination of freewheeling spirit, tradition and discreet luxury. She also personally picks the entertainment programme, from music to excursions. For the in-house boutique, she curates special fashion pieces and develops brand cooperations, including with Birkenstock, to ensure that guests can take the unmistakable Pellicano style home with them. Anyone who has ever lounged on the yellow-and-white striped towels will want to return and experience la dolce vita at its best.
The Foundry Urban Luxury Suites – Athens
If you’re on the lookout for new perspectives, then we recommend you take yourself off to Athens, book a stay at The Foundry Urban Luxury Suites and head up to the lush, wild rooftop garden. From here, you have a fabulous view across the historic neighbourhood of Psris all the way to the Acropolis. Plan your day in Athens as you sip on a Verve Revive Green drink. The hotel offers plenty of space, not only in the picnic garden, but also in the suites. The building, dating back to 1930, is a former font foundry and in the past was used as a culture centre and theatre. These influences can be felt in the industrial design and style of the rooms. Rugged materials such as wood, concrete and steel contrast pleasingly with patterned wallpapers, terrazzo and vintage furniture picks. The owners love sharing insider tips. We can also warmly recommend afternoon drinks at Philos Athens.
ÖÖD Hotels – Estonia
An appetite for adventure is a must when you book into one of the mirrored ÖÖD Cabins, because these tiny-house hotels in the forests of Estonia are surrounded by untouched, pristine nature. The idea for the hotels came to brothers Andreas and Jaak Tiik when they went on a weekend hike but couldn’t find a small, but stylish place to stay. So they set out to develop their own concept, which they now market all around the world. In Estonia, you can rent an ÖÖD tiny house in 13 different locations – and the more beautiful the setting, the more stunning the cabin as every ÖÖD reflects its surroundings. We fell in love with the tiny house in Rooslepa, which is situated in a wonderful pine forest and is the perfect destination for nature-lovers and surfers. The 18-square-metre cabin contains everything you need; the interiors are modern but deliberately simple, because the real attraction is the wildlife outside. One of the country’s most famous surf areas is very close by: Roosta Beach. After surfing in the Baltic you can enjoy the tranquil forest panorama from the cabin’s sauna. Incidentally, the name “ööd” means nights – and they’re bound to be wild and romantic here!
Nobu Hotel – Warsaw
Ever considered a weekend trip to Warsaw? Oh, but you should, as Poland’s capital is packed with exciting contrasts and boasts a vibrant art, foodie and design scene. The sense of renaissance and modernity is palpable and sits comfortably alongside tradition and folklore. Socialist classicism, skyscrapers and a rebuilt old centre (UNESCO World Heritage) all in one bustling capital city. And if you haven’t had your fill of contrasts yet, then check in to the Nobu Hotel Warsaw. The design hotel opened in 2020 and marries an old Art-Déco building from the 1920s with a new, modern wing and crisp Japanese influences. From the high-ceilinged modern suites, you can gaze over Warsaw’s skyline. The look and feel is characterised by concrete walls, wooden elements and selected Polish artworks from the Jankilevitsch Collection. Art galleries like Raster Gallery are around the corner, and if you’re after modern Polish cuisine then book a table at the popular Opasly Tom restaurant. Soon you’ll also be able to enjoy a drink at the hotel’s brand-new Sake Bar by Nobu (the first in Poland!) as you unwind after a rewarding day and process all those contrasts.
Hotel Pacai – Vilnius
Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, feels ever so slightly like the Rome of the north: the city’s face is characterised by Baroque church spires, mysterious courtyards and medieval streets. The luxury hotel Pacai is located at the heart of the old centre. With incredible respect for the building’s history, an ambitious team of local architects headed by Saulius Mikštas transformed this magnificent mansion into a modern hotel. The classical façade was restored and historic elements such as frescoes and murals in the rooms were combined with modern design. The centrepiece and heart of the hotel is the open courtyard, where guests can dine until late into the night. Meals can also be taken in the hotel’s elegant restaurant, the Muros Restaurant and Bar, inspired by the world’s best steakhouses. In the spa, Lithuanian culture is celebrated with infusions made with local herbs. As you wander round the city, you’ll realise that transformation and preservation of historical heritage are reflected both in this stunning hotel and the fast-emerging Baltic capital.
Places for lovers
Villa Fluggi, Meran
Hotel Frantz, Stockholm
Text by Mirjana Bernstorf
There are hotels that sear themselves into our minds and leave an indelible mark. That first kiss in the lift of Hotel Amour, those walks along the beach at Saint-Briac-sur-Mer or the lavish bed at Il Palazzo Experimental in Venice. Whether you’ve just fallen in love, are travelling with your best friends or are enjoying some me time as a single – hotels can provide a very special stage. Some hotels will be the setting for legendary nights, while others may be a location for a blazing row – and a passionate reconciliation. We pick six exceptional hotels that are perfect for all types of love and lovers. More amore included!
Hotel Amour, Paris
Hotel Amour – A love affair in Paris
Bonjour Paris! At the Hotel Amour the passion starts the moment you enter the lift, which is so small that bodily contact is simply unavoidable. The interior of the former pay-by-the-hour establishment, located between Pigalle and Montmartre is a sexy, rock’n’roll blend of art, erotic black-and-white photos and retro finds. Each of the 29 rooms has an individual décor: one is mirrored, another has ceiling-high bookcases, or a marble bath complete with Byredo toiletries. The courtyard is packed with exotic plants and is the ideal place to look deeply into your partner’s eyes over Tartare de Boeuf and Salade Amour. Or jump straight in with the Lovers Package and celebrate love in your suite with champagne and fruit salad. If you really want to make an impression, organise a picnic on the steps of Sacré-Cœur cathedral with a view over Paris. Stock up on treats at the Rose Bakery or one of the many delicatessens in the rue de Martyrs. Remember, though, with an itinerary like this, a fling could quickly turn into something serious. Attention, chers amants!
Il Palazzo Experimental – Love by the canal in Venice
Venice is a destination that invariably conjures up a cloud of theatrical romantic clichés. But off the beaten tourist track, the city by the lagoon has a very special charm, one which emerges fully once the singing gondoliers have dropped off the last day-trippers. Knock your paramour off their feet by booking an off-season stay at the Il Palazzo Experimental in the students’ quarter Dorsoduro. The opulent palazzo with its 32 bedrooms and suites was designed by Dorothée Meilichzon and was inspired by typical Venetian style. Terrazzo floors, marble accents and hand-glazed tiles all feature in the beautiful interior concept. In the evening, enjoy a Negroni Dell’Alpino in the secret garden, which overlooks the Canale della Giudecca. During the daytime, pop into the Peggy Guggenheim Collection or take a boat trip to Burano, the island of colours.
Le Nessay Peninsula – New lovers in Saint-Briac-sur-Mer
Looking for the perfect spot to hide away with your latest flame? May we suggest the Le Nessay Peninsula in Saint-Briac-sur-Mer in Brittany? From the windows of this brick chateau you gaze over a sandy beach bordered by charming white bathing huts to the sea, where yachts bob serenely on the waves. Here, on the Atlantic coast, time seems to have stood still. It’s the ideal place to relax together. Start the day with a gourmet breakfast, freshly-baked pains aux chocolat or financiers from the Pâtisserie du Nessay. Then stroll along the promenade and breathe in the bracing Atlantic air, followed by a session at the hotel’s spa with products from nearby Saint-Malo and perhaps even a private sauna slot. Pick dinner from a seasonal menu with ingredients from local producers. The vegetables are supplied by the Tréméreuc farm, and the bio-dynamic wines come from Oenoplaisir. And, perhaps, when that first flame of passion has transformed into a more slow-burning glow, and you return to Saint-Briac with children and friends, book the separate La Maison du Nessay – with space for 12 adults, three children and two babies…
Hotel Frantz – Single nights in Stockholm
Cheers to me! At the Hotel Frantz in Stockholm you can pour yourself a glass of red wine in real style while soaking in the free-standing bath, or spend hours lounging in bed between crisp white sheets, reading the papers. Then treat yourself to one of the fantastic desserts – meringue with Swedish plums and white chocolate cream, anyone? – in the hotel’s own restaurant. This is me time at its very best. The family-run boutique hotel is located in one of the oldest buildings in Stockholm and was formerly used as the studio of the master tailor Frantz Bock, after whom the hotel is named. He even keeps a watchful eye on proceedings in the logo and was the inspiration for the cosmopolitan concept of sisters Ellen and Tea Petterson. The beautiful building, which dates back to 1647, is ideally situated between the hip district of Södermalm and the old city centre. The best way to explore Stockholm is to rent a bike or book a boat trip to see the gardens on the city’s many islands. Highlights include a visit to the art museum Atipelag and Bonniers Kunsthall. And, should you encounter a personable Swede, non-residents are permitted to join you for the highly Instagramable breakfast. The doors are open for all, just like Frantz Bock’s studio in former times.
Villa Fluggi – A family & friends place in Merano
The quality time we get to spend with family and friends is usually way too short. So why not rent a 1960s villa in Merano for a few days and celebrate a get-together? The climate is mild, palm trees grow in the garden and there’s a fabulous view of the Dolomite mountains. The Villa Fluggi has space for up to 10 people on three floors, and you’ll feel utterly and very stylishly at home in the mid-century ambiance combined with Nordic design. Plus, there’s no bickering about the chores: the villa has its own chef, a wine cellar, beer on tap, and an outdoor Finnish sauna. The kids get their own playroom, can romp in the garden or explore the herb garden. The creative minds behind this individually designed villa are Carmen Kruselburger Alber and Klaus Alber of the Miramonti Boutique Hotel, who wanted to offer guests a retreat that would have “space for encounters, thoughts, body and mind”. It really is a place for wonderful Family & Friends parties and long chats with your best friends.
Places with new perspectives
Casa na Terra, Portugal, Image by Nelson Garrido
The Arctic Hideaway, Norway, Image by Kathrine Sørgård
Text by Mirjana Bernstorf
We set off in search of special places around the world with unique architecture and interiors that open up new perspectives and views of the surrounding landscapes or which can even change your mindset. Join us on a whirlwind trip to see a wonderful hotel village in Norway, where the gaze is cleverly directed to won-derful views over Arctic islands. Or a hybrid concept in Brazil that promises to channel the gaze in the other direction, inside for complete mindfulness. As Martin Gruber, the architect of the Freiform guesthouse in Italy says: “It doesn’t take much to be happy. Just the courage to do it.”
Sacromonte, Uruguay, Image by Tali Kimelman
The Arctic Hideaway, Norway
This tiny hotel in the northern Arctic circle is the perfect refuge on the equally tiny island of Fleinvær. Surrounded by the small Arctic islands, ten mono-functional wooden houses sit on the rocks of the small archipelago, overlooking the rugged Arctic landscape. The idea for this unusual village came from the composer and jazz musician Håvard Lund. He wanted to create a sustainable place for artists, musicians and travellers. In essence, it is the world’s most beautiful working space. The resulting village is a place where you can connect with nature and well and truly unwind. As well as the four sleeping huts in the creative village, life revolves around the communal huts, such as the crab shack, the bath hut or the sauna. For a limited time every year, individual huts can be rented through Airbnb. The founder describes the spirit as follows: “You never know who you meet, just note that the level is deep, the sleep is long and the saunas life-extending.”
“I sat down on the construction site, on a summer day just after a thunderstorm. I leaned back, wrapped my arms around my knees.” This is how Martin Gruber poetically describes finding the spot for the sculptural guest-house which now occupies a very special place on his family’s or-ganic farm. The glass stand-alone building is a hybrid between a nature station and a holiday cottage, and its mood and sense of space changes constantly, depending on the weather. The geometrical building is naturally embedded in the mountainside, and its green roof makes it one with the surrounding landscape. Gruber’s design focuses almost entirely on three materials: exposed concrete, oak wood and local loden fabric. Despite the reduction and the clean design, South Tyrolean cosiness does not have to be renounced. The hosts fill the refrigerator with a marende (snack) and matching regional red or white wine. In addition, the 360-degree rotating fireplace crackles in the evening.
Casa na Terra, Portugal
The Casa na Terra near Monsaraz in the Alentejo region, resembles a concrete UFO, squatting in the long grass. Its purpose is to help guests become one with nature. Rough-cast concrete walls swoop around a central patio, the ceiling is pierced with round holes, and deliberate visual axes centre on the stunning view across Lake Alqueva. The complex was designed by the Portuguese architect Manuel Aires Mateus. Over lunch, he offered to let his friends at Silent Living, an agency for Slow Travel Places, put this unusual house on their rental books. Now, you can reside here in this spectacular setting with family and friends and enjoy the starry night sky through the futuristic concrete ceiling.
Dois Trópicos Shop São Paulo, Brazil
The selfcare temple Dois Trópicos is devoted to celebrating a “homelike hosting experience”. The minimalist concept space includes a wellness area, a botanical shop, a restaurant and a yoga studio, and was founded by the visionary couple Carolina (chef) and Fernando (plant lover). The design for the holistic architecture project came from the interdisciplinary practice MNMA Studios. The furniture and all the floors are made of handcrafted clay tiles in a variety of colours, all produced by local craftsmen. The idea behind Dois Trópicos is to use design to engage with old and new practices that could be used to build a better world.
Sacromonte Landscape Hotel, Uruguay
The glass fronts of the Sacromonte Shelters reflect the clouds and vineyards of Uruguay, channelling them to create an ever-moving work of art. The architectural firm MAPA prefabricated 13 steel-framed bungalows in the capital Montevideo, 15 kilometres away, and set them down in the Sacromonte vineyards. With a view of the wide, rolling landscape, you can enjoy the regional wines, grown on French vines from Avignon, or book a weekend lunch with vegetables from the hotel’s own garden.
Transylvania, Romania, Image by Philip Vile
Eco Hotel Can Martí, Ibiza
Text by Mirjana Bernstorf
A mysterious rocky island, 13 chattering geese in ancient cloisters, a tarot garden and mystical tales of Icelandic elves. We set off in search of magical places and unusual places to stay – and discover places that glow with a special energy. Eyes open and senses at the ready! The world is full of magical places – and you don’t even have to go to the ends of the earth to find them. Join us as we add some magical moments to our lives…
Kleif Farm, Island
Barcelona, Catedral de la Santa Cruz y Santa Eulalia
Possibly the best time to visit this magnificent Gothic cathedral is early in the morning, when the sunbeams tumble in through the high windows and the air is heavy with the scent of incense. Barcelona’s cathedral also has another, more unusual attraction: 13 geese, which waddle around the cloisters, gaggling excitedly. Legend has it that when the cathedral was being built in the 14th century, the geese prevented a theft with their hissing and screeching. The number 13 symbolises the age of Saint Eulalia when she was martyred by the Romans for refusing to renounce her Christian faith. Oppo-sites attract, and if you’re in need of a refreshment after visiting the Gothic monument, may we suggest a break at Satan’s Coffee? The café, located in Hotel Casa Bonay, is reputed to serve the best coffee in the city.
Barcelona, Casa Bonay
Casa Bonay is the brainchild of a whole bunch of creative minds, who teamed up to design an eclectic space that is instantly engaging and radiates a cheerful energy. We guarantee that you’ll feel like you’re staying with friends. The neo-classicist building, which dates back to 1869, was reinterpreted by Studio Tack and furnished with umpteen plants and local designer furniture by Marc Morro of AOO. Casa Bonay’s two rooftop terraces are the perfect spots to lounge late into the night, sampling the great wines on the hotel’s natural wine menu.
Iceland, A stroll with elves
It is said that half of the inhabitants of Iceland believe in elves and trolls. These skittish little creatures are reputed to be most active in and around the harbour town of Hafnarfjörður. Numerous piles of lava rocks have been built to protect the mythical beings. In fact, as you immerse yourself in the magical landscapes of Iceland, crossing moss-covered plains and hiking past geysers and waterfalls, you’ll understand fully why fables play such a central role in Iceland’s culture and traditions. There’s even an elf school in Reykjavík, where you can graduate with a diploma. Should you feel in need of some sustenance after walking with the elves, we highly recommend booking a table at Matur Og Drykkur and treating your-self to cod head in chicken broth. Replete with Icelandic specialities, Kleif Farm – only 35 minutes from the restaurant – is the perfect place to rest your head for the night.
Iceland, Kleif Farm
One of the nicest places at Kleif Farm is the cosy sheepskins in front of the giant panorama window – the perfect place for a spot of relaxing meditation as you gaze out at the sheep and Icelandic ponies grazing on the endless grasslands. Enjoy the direct view of the stunning mountains as you immerse yourself in the wild, breathtaking Icelandic countryside. The Summerhouse was recently beautifully renovated and is now a luxurious hideaway for families and friends with space for up to 10 people. Make sure you drag yourself away from those sheepskins for long enough to soak in the hot tub!
Ibiza, Es Vedrà
Admittedly, the rocky islands of Es Vedrà and the smaller island of Es Vedranell off the west coast of Ibiza are no longer the insider tips they once were, but their rising popularity in no way detracts from their exceptional beauty. The rugged rocky outcrops jut up from the deep-blue Mediterranean, glowing in the evening sun. Two of the best spots from which to admire these unique nature reserves are Torre des Savinar and Cala d’Hort bay. You can also sail around the island – provided you’re not afraid of your compass needle going crazy, as the island is said to have an unusually strong magnetic field. Some even believe that it is part of the lost island of Atlantis or even a secret UFO base. After your outing, we recommend popping into the Ses Boques restaurant, which serves the most delicious fish in salt crust. Afterwards, head off north to Can Martí country hotel.
Ibiza, Finca Can Marti
The whitewashed finca nestles in the green Can Martí Valley, surrounded by pines and olive trees. Organic farming and tourism have been harmoniously combined in this eco hotel. The people behind the idea are the Brantschens, a Swiss couple who bought the old farmhouse in 1994 and gradually converted it into a charming eco hotel. The suites and casitas have been finished with all-natural materials and furnished in a rustic bohemian style. Guests can enjoy yoga sessions around the natural pool, dine on grilled summer veggies under the starry sky or enjoy the simple pleasure of petting the donkeys.
Tuscany, Il Giardino dei Tarocchi
The gigantic, absurd, and brightly coloured 22 tarot figures created by the artist Niki de Saint Phalle are scattered around the Giardino dei Tarocchi park in Tuscany. Made with mirror shards, glass, ceramic and mosaics, the sculptures – some of which are large enough to walk through – are an arresting group in a truly opulent setting.
To visit Transylvania is akin to travelling back in time. Central Romania is simply studded with Dracula curiosities, medieval towns and haunted castles. The region also boasts breathtaking wilderness, pristine nature and dense forests, home to more brown bears than anywhere else in Europe, as well as wolves and lynxes. For a perfect night in suitably historic surroundings, the lovingly restored guesthouses at Bethlen Estates are the ideal choice.
England, Hampton Court Maze
A stroll around the oldest hedge maze in Britain can soon turn into a lengthy and possibly perplexing undertaking. You may not find your way out of this historic maze, but you’ll enjoy every moment of trying to escape. While you’re there, you can soak up some Bridgerton flair: in the Netflix series, the queen resides at Hampton Court.
Time to learn something new
Østergro Organic Farming, Copenhagen
Text by Mirjana Bernstorf
Learning something new can be an incredibly joyful experience. Particularly after months of bingeing on Netflix interspersed with long lockdown walks along the same trails. How about something truly unexpected and new? Like dyeing with indigo in Gothenburg, weeding a rooftop bed in Copenhagen or collecting wild herbs on a Greek island? The prospect of these workshops in these special places and broadening our horizons with creative experiences fills us with a thrill of anticipation. Most people would agree that if lockdown has had one effect, it’s a longing for authentic encounters and the opportunity to make something with their own hands – as a respite from the digital world. The pandemic has really made digitalisation take off, with the benefits including online tutorials on all kinds of subjects, from digital wine tasting sessions to online book clubs and meditation and yoga workshops. But despite the wealth of inspiring content, staring at a screen can get tiring. That’s why we cast out our nets and found some real-life suggestions for learning something new once lockdown ends. We’re not talking about upskilling to make you even more efficient at work, but about developing your mind and your senses. Perhaps there’s a new hobby waiting for you out there!
Kleif Farm, Island
Andros, Mèlisses Floral Design & Cooking Class
On the Greek island of Andros, spring brings a veritable explosion of wild flowers and herbs. The air is scented with the smell of thyme, the sea air and lemon blossom. It is the best possible time to explore the island with the floral designer Taylor Patterson from Brooklyn and learn the basics of making bouquets. Every year, the charming guesthouse Mèlisses offers exclusive gatherings and retreat workshops with creative hosts from all around the world. It even has a dedicated workshop manager. Italian native Allegra Pomilio has organised workshops with the French food blogger Mimi Thorisson and studied at the Alain Ducasse Academy. She is an expert at creating relaxed, inviting settings that transcend the ordinary. In her cookery classes she shows how to incorporate herbs and wild flowers in tasty dishes. The stone house overlooking Paleopoli Bay is the perfect place to immerse yourself for a few days and enjoy the company and expertise of fellow foodies.
Copenhagen, Østergro Organic Farming
Pick lettuce leaves while you gaze over the rooftops of Copenhagen. What sounds like an unlikely combination is actually a description of Denmark’s very first rooftop farm. ØsterGro was opened in 2014 by Sofie Brincker, Livia Urban Swart Haaland and Kristian Skaarup on the roof of an old car dealership and has since spread to cover a green area of 600 m2. The beds are filled with tomatoes, edible flowers, herbs and vegetables. Naturally, everything is grown organically and is showered with love by the local community and volunteers. As well as the vegetable beds there is also a greenhouse, a chicken pen, beehives and even a restaurant called “Gro Spiseri”. Anyone wanting to learn more about urban agriculture can help out as a volunteer every Wednesday between April until mid-December. Additionally, there are workshops on topics like organic farming, food production and farm-to-table activities. You can learn how to make your own apple juice or discover how honey is harvested. For school children there is a free educational programme that includes topics such as sustainable vegetable growing. Check the website for new workshop dates.
Johan from Gothenburg has a mission: to introduce the participants of his workshops to the magical world of dyeing with indigo and the Japanese stitching techniques sashiko. In his workshops you can learn traditional methods and tools for repairing and revitalising textiles – and in doing so learn to take a more sustainable approach to clothes. After nearly 20 years in the fashion industry, Johan opened his shop “Göteborg Vintage” in 2013. Gradually, his interest in textile crafts grew and he repurposed his shop as an indigo studio. “I found my answer to how I could express myself and my lifelong interest: indigo“, he explains. Now, the avid collector has accumulated a whole universe of objects and textiles in the most expressive shades of blue. His workshops, which are very popular and usually fully booked, range from two-hour experiences to full-day classes.
De Petrus Library, Vught
Fontevraud Hotel, Image by N. Matheus
Text by Jasmin Pearson-Behr
Whether it be a former church or monastery, combining the very unique and distinct architecture of historic buildings with contemporary design creates something very special and inimitable. Have a look at our selection of hotels, restaurants and even a climbing centre that are all housed in beautifully restored buildings, giving them new life and new meaning.
The Jane, Antwerp
The Netherlands, Vught, De Petrus Library
What a place to while away the hours and browse through countless books. This stunning former church now doesn’t only host a library, it’s also home to a museum, a bar and some shops. The bookshelves are all placed on a rail system so they can be pushed to the sides making room to host events big and small. Libraries, like churches, are much more than their primary function, they build communities and provide shelter, they educate and make you think, making this a particularly fitting reinvention of the former church building.
France, Loire Valley, Fontevraud l’Hotel
This 12th century monastery in the winelands of Anjou and Saumur has been renovated to host a 54room boutique hotel that beautifully combines the historic building with contemporary style. Not only will you sleep in a UNESCO World Heritage Site once inhabited by nuns, the chef on site, Thibaut Ruggeri, has a Michelin star earned for his exciting and inventive dishes. The long history of the abbey is fascinating, founded by Breton priest Robert d’Arbrissel in 1101, it was once a minicity comprising a com munity of abbeys and monasteries. The church still contains the tombs of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard the Lionheart, Henry II and King John’s wife Isabelle de Angoulême. Louis XV’s four youngest daughters were educated there and, after the Revolution, Napoleon turned it into a prison that was only wound down in the 1960s.
Belgium, Antwerp, The Jane
This spectacular restaurant with two Michelin stars is a striking former chapel that has been turned into a trendsetting and unique destination. “Chef Nick Bril can be relied upon to introduce diners to mind blowing flavours. His food is both sophisticated and simple, steeped in powerful flavours and yet amazingly harmonious.” (The Michelin Guide) The kitchen, embraced by glass like a modern shrine, is located where the altar was once found, which makes perfect sense when you hear that to Bril, food is his religion. The stunning eatery is located in the old chapel of a former military hospital. The newly designed windows are a contemporary take on the old stainedglass windows and full of little surprises, inspired by the former function of the chapel.
Germany, Mönchengladbach, Kletterkirche
This church, built in 1932, might not be as picturesque as the other examples of repurposed buildings shown here – but it is pretty cool inside. The St. Peter church was turned into a climber’s paradise with wall heights of 13 meters and dedicated areas for all skill levels, from beginners to experts. There’s even an outside part and inside, many of the original features were kept. Ap parently it even still smells like a church. Getting the church built in the first place was not an easy feat. Inhabitants of the area Waldhausen in Mönchengladbach collected money for the church to be built for almost 20 years between 1895 and the start of the First World War in 1914. Just before the war broke out, the land was bought to build the church on and once it was finally fini shed in 1933, it served the community for 50 years until 1983.