Embrace exoticism with a city break to one of these four hotels in Tokyo, Istanbul or Jaipur.
1. Aman Tokyo
It’s hard to fault Aman Tokyo. Occupying the top six floors of the sparkling Otemachi Tower in the business district, this is a flawlessly designed minimalist space which makes you gawp as soon as you whizz up in the ear-popping lift. It’s a seamless mix of Japanese tradition meets contemporary.
The 84 rooms and suites are inspired by Japanese ryokan inns and are a blonde wooden jigsaw of lines and angles. The bed (big enough for four people) faces the floor-to-ceiling windows that give way to a staggering vista over the city. Further excitements include a ‘talking loo’ and deep, square stone bath with aromatic bags of fresh yuzu (winter citrus fruit) at the ready.
The restaurant leaves you stuck for choice – don’t miss the Hokkaido scallops and sea urchins with Bottarga and organic greens. However, it’s the colossal 27,000 sq/ft spa that really makes you dance with joy. Name it, they’ve got it – and the Asian treatments are as delicious as you can get. Finish the bliss in the black, basalt-lined infinity pool with its wraparound glass walls and panoramic views.
2. Four Seasons Bosphorus, Istanbul
A converted 19th-century Ottoman palace on the European bank of the Bosphorus strait, this is the second Four Seasons outpost in the city. Spread across two wings, with copper roofs and stone and stucco exteriors, rooms come with hand-painted high ceilings, rich, opulent fabrics and traditional Ottoman Turkish design details (don’t worry, there are contemporary high-tech touches, such as Apple Macs and Bose iPod speakers too).
After a morning spent sightseeing at the Blue Mosque and haggling over carpets at the Grand Bazaar, zone out at the heavenly basement spa (book in for a scrub and foam massage in the hammam) or laze around the outdoor pool as you tuck into crispy grilled kebabs and octopus salad for lunch.
More traditional fare is served in the Yali lounge (think dumplings and pide, a type of pizza), while Italian restaurant Aqua is the place for delicious oven-baked fish, fresh from the market, or rack of lamb marinated with mint yoghurt. Bag a seat on the terrace overlooking the river at sunset and look out over Asia at the wooden mansions and glittering water beyond.
3. The PuLi, Shanghai
What a drop-dead thrilling city. Shanghai pulsates with a sense of power, pragmatism and possibility. The cool crowd – and the odd K-pop star – stay nearer the 19th-century French Concession, at Urban Resort’s super-elegant PuLi, drawn by its Aman-like cool calm and privacy; a haven of understated glamour, where the lobby is one long bar, floored in the same shiny black tiles used in the palaces of Beijing’s Forbidden City.
It’s tucked away next to a pristine little city park (Keep Off the Grass, or else), yards from the golden Jing An temple, the super-chicest shopping stretch of Nanjing Road West, and, highly conveniently, a Metro station. Rooms are extravagantly big, the glass-sided bathrooms delectable and the spa and pool places to linger before dinner (back on the Bund).
4. Samode Haveli, Jaipur
This 200-year-old mansion built for the royal family of Samode is a real oasis in the heart of the walled city, set in verdant, leafy gardens with charming inner courtyards and tinkling fountains. Inside, rooms are painted in jewel-like hues and furnished with antiques and four-poster beds. It also has a large, Moorish-style pool with cool blue water (perfect for a dip after exploring the chaotic streets of the Pink City), a Jacuzzi for unwinding (if you have little ones, they can splash about in the adjoining wading pool at the same time) and a stellar spa offering massages such as the energising ‘Urjyati’ or the ‘Varishtha’, a bespoke treatment where your therapist will focus on the areas where you’re holding stress and tension. It’s so pinpointed that you’ll literally feel your body unfurl and unwind.
In the evening, dress up for a traditional Rajasthani dinner in the spectacular dining room with floor-to-ceiling murals and gobstopper chandeliers, or, if the weather is warm, eat by candlelight in the central courtyard, with stars twinkling above.