High thread count sheets are nice, but for a luxury hotel to really impress us we want outrageous architecture, decadent decor, and edge-of-the-earth locations. It's a tall order, but with a search across the globe we've found the top hotels that shatter all expectation. So whether you're planning an escape for a few days or just want to take a virtual trip around the world, check out 11 hotels that bring the best in art, design, and adventure under one roof.
Barcelo Raval Hotel, Barcelona, Spain (above)
The sheer chance to chill in this lobby would be a vacation in and of itself. The flashy new Barcelo Raval in Barcelona is girly and enticing. In the lobby, the hot magenta seating dominates against the dazzling sparkles of the interior column and stark black and white. Rooms start at $139.
Commune by the Great Wall Kempinski, Beijing
Nestled in the Shuiguan Mountains and spread over eight square kilometers along the Great Wall of China, this collection of properties boasts some of the most creative and modern architecture in the area. Each of the 236 rooms and suites scattered across the commune offer views of the Great Wall. This one, the "See and Seen House" by architect , is a bona fide glass masterpiece. Rooms start at $366.
Ice Hotel, Jukkasjarvi, Sweden
What first opened in 1990 as an exhibit by a French ice artist has since become a magical and rather chilly chance for guests from around the world to experience the feeling of sleeping in an igloo. Crafted from ice and snow, each year Ice Hotel is rebuilt by visiting artists and creators. Though the temperature never drops below 23 degrees Fahrenheit, guests don thermal underwear and hats and slip into a sleeping bag atop blocks of ice, a thick mattress, and reindeer skins. Here, a magical chandelier hangs in one of last year's halls. Open December 10 to mid-April yearly. Rooms start at $303 per night.
Boscolo Hotel Exedra, Nice, France
Though the recently opened hotel in France has been built in the Belle Epoque style, the hotel's interiors are hardly antiquated. The bar, designed by , uses treelike sculptures and scattered lights across the walls and ceilings to create an organic yet futuristic feeling. Rooms start at $325.
Burj Al Arab, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Sitting on a man-made island located just off the shore, this modern and fanciful hotel has the effect of a sailboat drifting off to sea. At 321 meters high, this design stands as one of the world's tallest hotel buildings and has become an icon of the Dubai skyline. Rooms start at $1000.
Hotel Fox, Copenhagen, Denmark
Composed of 61 rooms designed and decorated by 21 artists and groups, Hotel Fox takes art, urban living, and personal expression to a whole new level. Some of our favorites are the blue-and-yellow-checked masterpiece by Miami designers ; the playful expanse of aqua walls crafted by France's ; the stark black-and-white words and statistics from of Denmark; and France's graphic space that literally commands guests to "SLEEP!" Rooms start at $165.
Poseidon Undersea Resort, Fiji
Nestled in the cerulean waters of a Fiji lagoon and accessible only by elevator are suites submerged a full 40 feet underwater. No oxygen required, it has all the luxuries of an aboveground getaway but with an unparalleled view. A weeklong stay (at the price of $15,000 per head) is split between the underwater suite and beach cabana accommodations so visitors can still fall asleep to the waves and the hotel can handle the high-demand for ocean immersion. Opens in early 2010. Reservations can be made beginning September 15.
La Purificadora, Puebla, Mexico
Mexican hotelier Carlos Couturier turned a former 19th-century water-purifying center in a colonial city into this minimalist and modern traveler's space. Here, the juxtaposition of purple modular furniture and an aquarium-esque pool against the traditional Iglesia de San Francisco is just one of the aspects that gives La Purificadora its old-meets-new charm. Rooms start at $155.
Les Cols Pavellones, Olot, Spain
With doors, walls, ceilings, and even floors made completely of green glass and black steel, this surreal space is futuristic, eerie, and intriguing all at once. But though it may seem stark, the glass construction welcomes the influence of nature and adds organic style. Here, a glass floor allows a visitor to view the raw earth beneath. Rooms start at $355.
Hyatt Capital Gate Tower, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Slated to open in the fall, this leaning hotel will have the greatest angle in the world. We are eagerly awaiting this curvaceous tower, which has passed its halfway mark and is designed not to be the largest or tallest building in the world, but one with the most breathtaking aesthetic.