Photograph by Hunter Kerhart
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The historic Commerical Exchange builing is the home to the Freehand Los Angeles.
Photograph by Hunter Kerhart
TravelFar & Away

A Sleeper Hit in Los Angeles?

The city’s formerly rundown downtown has seen an influx of high-end housing, shops, restaurants and bars. Enter, the hotels.

ABOUT TWO DECADES ago, downtown Los Angeles was gritty and worn out. But between 1999 and 2015, $24 billion was invested in the neighborhood, and the area blossomed: More than 700 businesses moved in, the Arts District came alive and a luxury housing construction boom followed. Now the trendy hotels are arriving.

Take the four-month-old NoMad Los Angeles (rooms from $335; thenomadhotel.com), from the Sydell Group. Located on the corner of 7thand Olive streets, the second offshoot of the New York flagship is housed in Giannini Place—formerly the Bank of Italy—with Italian-inspired interiors by Frenchman Jacques Garcia. The property has 241 rooms and suites, a library, a rooftop pool and a food-and- beverage program by chef Daniel Humm and restaurateur Will Guidara (their first venture outside of New York, where they run Eleven Madison Park, among other culinary venues).

Rudolph’s Bar and Tea, at the Freehand Los Angeles, located in the historic Commercial Exchange building.

Meanwhile, on South Santa Fe Avenue and Bay Street, the Soho Warehouse (sohohouse.com), an outpost of the Soho House club that was still under construction at press time, will also have guest rooms. These two follow in the footsteps of such hipster hotels as downtown pioneer the Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles (rooms from $241; acehotel.com), which opened in 2014, and another Sydell Group property, the year-old Freehand Los Angeles (rooms from $209; freehandhotels.com).

But will people choose to stay downtown, especially when L.A.’s hotel scene is upping the ante elsewhere? The Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills (rooms from $675; waldorfastoriabeverlyhills.com), for example, debuted in June with 170 rooms and suites at the perfectly positioned intersection of Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards. Plus, its rooftop bar, with a menu by chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten is a hit.

Expect a downtown migration—at least to the NoMad. Because the hotel has a card to play that trumps the adage location, location, location: It recruited Philip Pavel, the Chateau Marmont Hotel’s managing director of 21 years, to run the property. He’s brought with him a loyal following, therefore surely proving the other saying that it’s not about what you know but who you know—which rings particularly true in L.A.

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Town and Country

Luxury hotels are having an identity crisis: Those known for their far-flung settings are edging into business hubs, and those that pride themselves on their city-centric locations are creeping into remote destinations.

Aman junkies no longer have to go the ends of the earth to experience the brand’s tranquil oases traditionally found in places such as Bhutan. Following its first urban Aman in 2014, in Tokyo, Amanyangyun opened this winter in Shanghai’s Minhang district near downtown. Next up: A New York Aman, in 2020.

Meanwhile, Six Senses— think the Maldives and Seychelles—is eyeing a 2019 New York opening. Then there’s the Park Hyatt, with locations in finance capitals such as Beijing. It recently unveiled its first Caribbean island hotel, on St. Kitts. One&Only, in business beach towns like Dubai and Cape Town, has launched a nature brand (think Rwanda and the Australian wilderness). Not to be outdone, the Ritz-Carlton, which already has Ritz-Carlton Reserve resorts in places like Bali—is extending from on-land to at-sea, with cruises via a 149-suite yacht coming in 2019.

A villa at Amanyangyun, in Shanghai. Saved from demolition, these Ming- and Qing-dynasty era dwellings have been reassembled, brick by ancient brick.

Hard Hotel Cities Step It Up

Some business locations have so many workable places to stay that it’s impossible to pick what to book. Others cities, not so much. Here, three cities that are upping their hotel games.

Rome has plenty of boutique hotels (J.K. Place Roma, D.O.M. Hotel) and apartment- like stays (Fendi Private Suites, the Portrait Roma, PiazzadiSpagna9), but Rome’s grand dames needed facelifts. First came last year’s renovation of Dorchester Collection’s iconic Hotel Eden, which has been a high-end Roman retreat since 1889. Now the St. Regis Rome, in a historic 1894 palazzo, is undergoing a full renovation to be finished this year.

Barcelona’s upscale game has long been dominated by big hotels—the Majestic Hotel & Spa, the Hotel Arts and the Mandarin Oriental—though a crop of smaller offerings has opened more recently, including the Serras Hotel and Cotton House. A very recent addition to the latter group, the Almanac Barcelona, is where to stay now. It opened late last year steps from the Passeig de Gràcia. Opt for a room with a terrace.

Nashville has never had great places to stay. Up to now, the top choice was downtown’s boutique 21C Museum Hotel—which opened last spring. This summer, the JW Marriott Nashville will bring elegance to the SoBro neighborhood with 533 guestrooms, a 10,000 square-foot outdoor pool and, on the 33rd floor rooftop overlooking the city, an outpost of chef Michael Mina’s award-winning Bourbon Steak restaurant.

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