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Glossy hotels and flashy resorts are nice, but there’s something to be said about an undercover getaway that keeps things totally clandestine. Featuring nondescript entrances and hidden in plain sight, these ultra-luxurious yet incognito hotels offer guests a secret retreat, where privacy is paramount and exclusivity reigns supreme.
1. Palacio Belmonte, Lisbon, Portugal
Sitting quietly behind a red wooden doorway of what appears to be a private home is Palacio Belmonte, a royal residence turned hotel perched at the highest point in Lisbon. Inside, only guests can wander the vast property, which was built in 1449 and retains much of its original Roman and Moorish architecture, as well as 3,800 authentic Portuguese tiles. Recently refurbished, the hotel features 12 stylish suites with diverse furnishings, seven terraces that offer jaw-dropping views of the city below, and a swimming pool surrounded by gardens. Equally hidden away is Leopold, a highly regarded restaurant tucked away just across the street from the hotel.
2. 11 Cadogan Gardens, London, UK
Situated along one of the most exclusive streets in London, the tastefully discreet 11 Cadogan Gardens was built in the late 19th century as four townhouses interconnected by staircases and hallways by Lord Chelsea. Today, this boutique hotel’s Victorian façade perfectly matches the surrounding row of homes, with subtle signage serving as the only indicator of the property’s true identity. The historic townhouses comprise nearly 60 eclectic guest rooms and suites, each showcasing unique and memorable designs accented with vibrant bursts of colour. The property also features a cosy library with an antique book collection, an outdoor terrace, a stylish bar and a gourmet restaurant.
3. Villa Casa Casuarina, Miami, USA
Formerly the Versace Mansion, today the upscale Villa Casa Casuarina is a 10-suite luxury boutique hotel hidden in plain sight in the centre of Miami’s famed Ocean Drive. The opulent property was originally constructed in 1930 as an homage to the Dominican Republic’s Alcazar de Colon residence. When legendary fashion designer Gianni Versace purchased the villa in the 1990s, he refurbished the interiors and added a new wing, expansive gardens with dotted with sculptures, and an over-the-top 54-foot gold-tiled mosaic swimming pool. Versace resided at the mansion until his untimely death in 1997, and traces of his flashy décor are still present in the villa today. The lavish landmark, which is only open to overnight guests, also features an onsite restaurant, a tranquil interior courtyard and a rooftop terrace.
4. Chateau Eza, Eze, France
With panoramic views of the French Riviera, Chateau Eza is an exclusive retreat where celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Serena Williams go to unwind. The low-key luxury property features 14 distinctively designed rooms and suites, half of which are perched in a 400-year old castle boasting panoramic views of the coastline. The other half are discreetly dotted along the charming hilltop village of Eze, offering guests the utmost privacy. The main chateau also features a fine dining restaurant, where guests can enjoy fresh fish while overlooking the sparkling blue waters below.
5. Dylan Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Blink and you might miss the logoed flags that flap in the breeze in front of the Dylan Amsterdam’s regal front gates. Set along the narrow streets that line the Keizergracht canal, the hotel claims the site of an ancient stone theatre, built during the 1600s. Following extensive renovations to the building, the Dylan opened as one of Amsterdam’s most discreet luxury hotels in 1999. It is also one of the city’s the most prestigious properties, featuring 40 rooms and suites, the Michelin-starred Restaurant Vinkeles, and the casually elegant Bar Brasserie Occo.
6. Sunset Marquis, West Hollywood, California, USA
The Sunset Marquis has been a hip hangout for rock stars and Hollywood elite for decades. Hidden away on a narrow residential street near Los Angeles’s famed Sunset Strip, this hotel blends seamlessly with the neighbouring low-rise buildings, making its entrance easy to miss. The 3.5-acre Mediterranean-style oasis within features pathways that wind through a park-like setting where 152 suites and villas are interspersed among two swimming pools, a spa, a restaurant, fountains and sculptures. Bruce Springsteen, Steven Tyler, Pharrell Williams and Rachel Ray are just a few of the many celebrities that have taken refuge at this ultra-posh hideaway.