When booking travel, I like to recall a quote from one of my favorite artists, Alicia Keys, just as a sort of guiding light to steer me in the direction of relaxation and to ensure I don’t end up in a dump next to the airport freeway. As Ms. Keys so eloquently put it:
“If I want to be alone, some place I can write, I can read, I can pray, I can cry, I can do whatever I want — I go to the bathroom.”
What puts the “luxury” in a luxury hotel room? For me, it’s definitely the bathroom. The latrine. The washroom. Whatever you want to call it, this is the most important thing to consider when booking a luxury hotel room. During waking hours, the bathroom is where hotel guests spend more than half of their in-room time. This is a statistic that, believe it or not, crosses gender lines. Whether it’s a lavish tub that overlooks the ocean or a treehouse shower in the jungle, hotel bathrooms influence where travelers rest their heads, whether they realize it or not. Few things about a hotel stay are harder to forget than a crappy bathroom, after all.
But rather than just browsing TripAdvisor photos to confirm a bathroom isn’t disgusting, you should choose your hotels around their bathroom offerings. When it comes down to final decision-making, it’s the right blend of design, amenities, ambiance, comfort, relaxation, and a bit of opulence that can make the difference between a good experience and a great one. Here are some of our favorite hotel bathrooms around the world that exemplify these qualities.
1. The Setai — Miami Beach, Florida
There’s nothing worse than paying a lot of money for a hotel room, only to immediately walk in the door to a bathroom that’s so small the door hits the toilet. Space is a major issue, and one that luxury brands have capitalized on as their rooms generally aren’t as constrained by property lines or a need to squeeze as many cookie-cutter rooms into a building as possible. When two people can’t wash up at the same time, and there is no place for your vanity kit, your day is bound to start behind schedule.
At The Setai, just blocks from Miami Beach, you definitely won’t have to worry about size. Its design vision combines the Art Deco style and charm of Miami’s past while seamlessly blending Asian traditions of simplicity and grace, and in the bathroom, you might actually feel as though you’re in some ultra-modern version of a Japanese ryokan. The black granite bathtub is placed in the center of the hotel room, emphasizing light, natural materials, and open space, and essentially extends the bathroom experience throughout the entire room. Some studio suites are adorned with jade pieces, and louvered window coverings set a darker mood from the daylight.
The shower controls are an intricate European system, actually allowing for changes in water temperature that often feel so restricted in most hotels. I loved the fact that there are instructions on the sink for the intricate shower’s use — no other place I’ve ever seen does that, and while it can seem a bit condescending at first glance, it can also be taken as a sign that the designers put a lot of thought into making this sink all it could be. At least they’re trying to be helpful. One is always left to their own devices to figure it out, sometimes with messy consequences, but not at The Setai. Bathroom products are Rosa, specifically formulated for the hotel.
2. Mandarin Oriental — Marrakech, Morocco
After a hectic day of sightseeing, the bathroom should feel like a step away from it all, and have enough amenities within it that you don’t have to keep tiptoeing in a towel back to the main room to grab something. The best example I’ve seen of this is the bathroom at the Mandarin Oriental in Marrakech, located just outside its old town with the Atlas Mountains as a backdrop. Using the Mandarin Oriental’s signature palette of cream and dark mahogany throughout, the large and elegant marble bathrooms have massive double sinks, a make-up area, and a large walk-in closet.
There’s also a lounge area in the restroom itself, because with the amenities on offer you might need to relax for a minute and plan your method of attack. The luxurious soaking tubs and steam showers are both big enough for two. Outside the wet zone, cloth laundry bags, sewing kits, fancy pens, comfy robes, daily newspapers, and fragrant products from a local paraben-free brand called Nectarome are available. It’s almost as though you have a market right in your bathroom. There’s body soap, shampoo, conditioner, and more — I brought some of the delicious scent home with me, along with the babouche slippers.
3. Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris — Paris, France
The bathroom puts us in our most vulnerable state. We’re naked and exposed. If the environment doesn’t feel private, protected, safe, and a true place of comfort, then really, what’s the point? You want to feel comfortable dropping the towel and taking a quick twirl, and in the center of Paris, near the Champs-Elysées, Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris is a prime example of where you’ll have no qualms over doing so. It’s in the Art Deco style on the outside but the bathrooms are surrounded by reflective surfaces of steel and mirrors, works of art within themselves. With all of that silver, the freestanding white soaking tub is the focal point of the room. Maybe no other hotel has tried such a washroom because these gleaming bathrooms require a team of cleaners whose only job is to keep those mirrored surfaces spotless. As the bathroom frolicker, your only worry is honing those dance moves before you check-in, because you’re sure to see every off-balance move in full detail.
4. Hotel Grande Bretagne — Athens, Greece
The Hotel Grande Bretagne, located in Athens’ city center, is a historical landmark that was originally a businessman’s private residence. It hosted the first modern Olympic organizers in 1896, and designers from Hirsch Bedner Associates renovated the hotel’s interiors and bathrooms to match the hotel’s history. The result is a setting that’s as Athens, and as over-the-top, as a bathroom could be. The Royal Suite is the owner’s personal paradise. The decadent bathroom is massive — a private sanctuary, for lack of a better term — with two walk-in closets, a massage table, and a gym.
A luxurious antique chandelier lights this rare blue marble bathroom, a not-so-subtle complement to the massage table and jetted tub which sits regally in the middle of the room surrounded by a chaise lounge, two ottomans, a double sink marble vanity, and an ornate full-length mirror. There’s also a glass-enclosed steam shower with three rain showerheads and a marble chaise in it so you can relax under the running water while watching the flat-screen TV. Molton Brown bath amenities round out the palatial experience. In all honesty, this hotel room doesn’t need a bed because it’ll take everything you have not fall asleep in the bathroom.