July 2020 The World’s Most Beautiful Hotel Gardens

The World’s Most Beautiful Hotel Gardens

A citrus garden at Morocco’s Royal Mansour.
A citrus garden at Morocco’s Royal Mansour.
Photo by Samantha Falewée
From Morocco to New Zealand, these leafy hotel hideaways bring the green space.

Behind pink clay walls in the western pocket of Marrakech’s medina, within walking distance of the city’s historic Jemaa el-Fna market square, a quiet garden blooms with the fragrance of gardenias, citrus, and tropical jessamine. A gnarled olive tree shades poolside lounge chairs. Out of sight, a hoopoe bird trills.
 
The Royal Mansour hotel lays claim to 12 enclosed acres of paradise and, within that, 53 riads (traditional guesthouses) and green space aplenty. Hotel gardens have always exerted a quiet pull – to start, there’s usually a terrace for cocktails nearby. Right now, though, their calming green vistas and the chance to connect with nature carry extra appeal.
 
In the same city that’s home to Yves Saint Laurent’s revered Jardin Majorelle, the Royal Mansour, opened in 2010, is owned by the Moroccan royal family. Some 1,500 artisans built the royal-commissioned hotel and gardens, from the arched cedarwood doorways and hand-laid zellige tiles to the brick pathways. In the three-story riads, white-gloved attendants welcome privacy-seeking guests who swim in rooftop plunge pools and take breakfast in their enclosed courtyards.

A lush courtyard at the Royal Mansour.
A lush courtyard at the Royal Mansour.

The hotel complex is a good place to hide away – traditional Moroccan garden design values creating respite from the bustle of daily life. “Every garden belongs to its location’s culture and history,” says Spanish landscape architect Luis Vallejo, who designed the Royal Mansour’s grounds. “Within the medina, with its dense and winding spaces, we strove to achieve an extraordinary space for the hotel guests.” Vallejo’s green thumb has touched projects from private estates in Morocco, Spain, Israel, and the Middle East to the Santander Group’s massive Madrid headquarters.
 
He brought the Royal Mansour grounds to life with inspiration from Moroccan agrarian terrain, traditional Arabic courtyards, and Andalusian garden culture. Here, the surroundings engage all five senses – and that, of course, is by design. “A garden should have a sense of a relationship between time, color, volume, scent, and sound,” Vallejo says. Walkways skirt 400-year-old olive trees and splashing fountains, pass the hotel’s spa, and lead to breakfasts of fruit juice, cinnamon-dusted orange slices, and almond-and-argan-oil butter at La Table. Meandering the grounds, guests can spy at least seven citrus species, including tangerine, calamondin, kumquat, bitter orange, and grapefruit.
 
Travelers love the hotel and grounds for their hand-designed craftsmanship and horticulture – not to mention the gracious staff and two Michelin-starred chefs – but a deeper allure comes into play amid the stillness of date palm and fiddlewood trees. “The Royal Mansour estate is meant to be an oasis, literally and figuratively,” Vallejo says. Above all, it’s a place to rest – and dream. “A garden should always encourage the visitor’s imagination,” he adds. Royal Mansour is in good company with these six other hotels where lush landscapes draw travelers outside. 

Otahuna Lodge, New Zealand

In September, the fields of Otahuna Lodge explode with yellow daffodils. The seven-suite estate outside Christchurch on New Zealand’s South Island has a 125-year-old park with a great lawn, a Dutch garden filled with the bouquet of lemonwood and viburnum, and a potager orchard that’s home to hazelnut trees and five species of pumpkin. Virtuoso guests receive breakfast daily and a lunch or picnic basket with a bottle of local wine.

A Hotel Bel-Air resident.
A Hotel Bel-Air resident.

Hotel Bel-Air, Beverly Hills, California

At the 103-room Hotel Bel-Air, jet-set travelers (and resident swans Chloe, Athena, Odette, and Hercules) preen amid 12 garden acres. Set in the hills above L.A. just a mile from Beverly Hills, this Spanish-colonial-style retreat brings guests outside with an iconic oval swimming pool, 483 species of trees, the swans’ lake, and rooms with French doors that open to patios. Guests can practice their best Grace Kelly (once a regular lodger here) during alfresco picnics on the grounds. Virtuoso guests receive a $75 breakfast credit daily and a $100 spa credit.

Oberoi Rajvilas, Jaipur, India 

The 71-room Oberoi Rajvilas, Jaipur sits like a castle in the center of 32 acres of walled foliage, complete with “moats” featuring floating lilies and lotus plants. The collection of reflection pools, fountains, climbing bougainvillea, golden rain trees, and desert palms seems worlds away from Jaipur’s city center, just five miles west. Weddings – as well as meditation and yoga sessions – take place in an eighteenth-century Shiva temple. Virtuoso guests receive breakfast daily and a complimentary lunch or dinner for two.
The Della Gherardesca garden at Four Seasons Hotel Firenze.
The Della Gherardesca garden at Four Seasons Hotel Firenze.

Four Seasons Hotel Firenze, Florence, Italy

Building an 11-acre garden in the middle of Florence required equal measures skill and creativity. To create grassy mounds reminiscent of the hills of Chianti’s countryside, the creators of the 116-room Four Seasons Hotel Firenze brought in stones from Florentine walls dating to the 1860s. Other highlights: the Italian, grotto-style Conventino space, filled with flowers, and the larger, English-style Della Gherardesca plot of holm oaks, giant cedars, and weeping beech trees. Virtuoso guests receive a welcome amenity, breakfast daily, and a $100 spa credit. 

Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Oxford, England

Set in the Oxfordshire countryside, the Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons offers botany classes through its Raymond Blanc Gardening School, the namesake of the 32-room hotel’s renowned French chef. Summer activities include exploring the grounds to identify (and taste) edible flowers and microgreens, learning about the history of apples from Royal Horticultural Society experts, and lunching at the Hartley Botanic greenhouse. Daily tours of the estate’s 11 plots showcase orchards and a “mushroom valley.” Virtuoso guests receive breakfast daily and a $100 dining credit.

Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa, Johannesburg, South Africa

At the 53-room Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa, set in the calm Johannesburg suburb of Sandhurst, an expansive infinity pool and a low-rolling, manicured lawn greet guests. The tiled terrace (next to the koi pond) beckons with sundowners accented by mint and other leafy flourishes from the hotel’s herb and vegetable nursery. Virtuoso guests receive a welcome bottle of sparkling wine, breakfast daily, and a traditional Arabian rasul spa treatment.

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