This holiday, witness a winter wonderland at this trio of boutique bolt-holes, hand-picked by the hotel experts at Mr & Mrs Smith. Stay steps away from some of London’s best Christmas celebrations at Claridge’s, watch snow falling from your private onsen in the mountains of Japan at Beniya Mukayu or traverse the resplendent ranges of Bhutan in sumptuous style at Amankora.
Situated smack bang in the middle of London, Claridge’s is perfectly positioned for experiencing the best Christmas celebrations the city has to offer. Take advantage of your location by booking a one-bedroom Deluxe Mayfair suite, with art deco-style interiors by the royal furniture-maker, pretty period details and mirrored powder rooms. Floor-to-ceiling windows give guests direct views of the surrounding streets decorated in Christmas regalia.
After a busy day shopping on Oxford Street, relax with an in-room spa treatment featuring Sisley products. Book a Signature Package for a 60-minute massage and 60-minute facial, or give those feet a treat with a pedicure using Leighton Danny products.
Yuletide dinner comes courtesy of celebrated chef Simon Rogan and his team at Fera at Claridge’s. Championing creative takes on modern British cuisine, the menu changes as often as the seasons: sample dishes include suckling pig with roasted salsify, cauliflower fungus, rosemary and mead, and Cornish lamb with potatoes and onions, garlic chives and apple vinegar. Continue the celebrations at Claridge’s Bar, the hotel’s polished, old-school drinking den with red-leather upholstery and sparkling surfaces. Order a champagne cocktail or opt for one of the bar’s signature mixes: we love Arctic Clarity, a blend of Alpine liqueur, grapefruit bitters and Laphroaig, on a glacier of Silver Needle tea ice.
Beniya Mukayu, Kanazawa
Watch the snow falling from the comfort of your open-air onsen (hot spring bath – every room has one) at Beniya Mukayu, set in a small spa town just a 50-minute drive from Kanazawa. Executive Suites feature a serene bedroom and bamboo-floored sitting area with a traditional tatami (straw) mat and low table for taking tea. Book a Japanese Premier room for the same authentic experience for fewer yen. Begin each day with free yoga in the Horin, the symbolic ‘forest’, or spend a few hours wandering the gardens dotted with red pine, cherry, maple and camellia trees.
When you’ve walked up an appetite, traditional kaiseki cuisine is on the menu. Dinner is a 10-course affair: dishes include kuruma-ebi (konbu-flavoured prawn with sea urchin and avocado); flounder sashimi, local crab with amber jelly, steamed bamboo shoots, and duck meatballs served in a hot pot. The hotel’s proximity to the Sea of Japan and the calibre of the local seafood means there’s a fishy focus. Forget stressful holidays; you’ll be totally relaxed with a signature therapy at Entei Spa. The Yakushiyama treatment uses hot spring water and custom herbal blends in tailored-to-you massages and facials.
Have a truly white Christmas in the mountains of Bhutan at Amankora, five luxury lodges dotted throughout the country’s cloud-crowned, pine-lined ranges. Each retreat has its own dramatic natural backdrop: plunging valley views, rice-paddy panoramas and pine-forest vistas are just some of the jaw-plummeting backgrounds on offer. The five lodges are spread out over the Himalayas, from rustic Paro near the airport to nearby capital Thimphu and more remote retreats at Punakha, Gangtey and Bumthang.
Suites fall into two types: Paro-style, with an ultra-modern combination of wood and black steel, and Thimphu-style, whose walls, floor and ceiling are lined with toffee-coloured wooden panels. We love rooms 14, 15 and 16 at Thimphu, which offer guests the most privacy and the melody of a nearby stream as a soundtrack.
Trek through the bamboo-laden and snow-capped valleys before returning to Amankora Spa to relieve any aches and pains. Traditional plant and herb-based therapies are incorporated into each of the spa’s menus; Paro’s signature hot stone bath, Himalayan salt scrub and massage will melt muscle aches in an instant. Each lodge’s dining room serves a choice of two set menus, featuring either Bhutanese cuisine, or Western, Indian or Thai. Time your stay to enjoy a Christmas meal at Gangtey – its glass-enclosed space overlooking the valley serves up the most impressive views.