Boulangerie-Patisserie shopfront on Rue des Francs Bourgeois in the Marais. Photo: Frank Wing
As a traveller, you get used to making snap judgements. Which passport queue is moving faster? Which street stall has the freshest food? Will this swirling traffic stop if I just step into the road? One of the easiest judgements, I find, is evaluating how stylish a place is. You don't even need to set foot outside the airport. A quick look at the crowds waiting to board will tell you all you need to know.
In Italy, for instance, you will see linen and cashmere and colour-co-ordinated accessories. In Australia, it is more likely to be, well, travel pillows firmly clamped around the neck. Historically, Australians have fared poorly in the style stakes. One could argue we didn't even discover the notion of design until the Sydney Opera House was built – and look what a controversy that caused.
However, during recent years, we have developed an appreciation for the importance of style, particularly when we are travelling, and as result of our embrace of travel. But style is not the same as fashion. Style is about making a statement, an external reflection of internal qualities. Style is about character rather than cool, attitude rather than ambition.
The Aqua Amazon Cruiser.
Whether we are talking about hotels or neighbourhoods, a stylish place doesn't just look good: it gives us an insight into the culture or the people behind it. So, from a boho Brazilian beach retreat to a sleek, minimalist river cruiser, our pick of some of the most stylish travel experiences around is an eclectic selection. What they share is a sense of self, an individual identity that offers you an experience you won't get anywhere else. And isn't that what travel is all about?
LOCAL HEROES: NEIGHBOURHOODS
The Ngorongoro Crater lodge in Tanzania. Photo: Alamy
WHY WE LOVE IT Cutting-edge cool
THE LOWDOWN These gritty neighbourhoods on either side of the river Spree are not everyone's cup of tea, but there is no denying this is Berlin's most creative district. Studio spaces sit cheek by jowl with Turkish diners, and graffiti covers every surface. The best-known attraction is the Eastside Gallery, a stretch of the old Berlin Wall covered with art. To really catch the area's inventive spirit, however, explore its creatively-repurposed spaces, such as the Aufbau Haus, a former factory housing workshops, galleries and cafes, and the Tempelhofer Freiheit. The former Tempelhof Airfield has been reborn as open space designed for barbecues, picnics and exploring. See visitberlin.de.
The Paltrow suite at the Capri Palace.
Le Plateau, Montreal
WHY WE LOVE IT Urban buzz at its best
THE LOWDOWN Those distinctive two-storey houses with their wrought-iron staircases are wonderfully old-fashioned, but everything else in Montreal's most happening neighbourhood is so very right-now. Each pocket of this district has its own attractions, from the chic boutiques and homewares stores of Avenue Laurier to the hipster diners on Boulevard Saint-Laurent. With cutting-edge art galleries, cafes and theatres tucked between pocket parks, this area is the best place to hang in town. See tourisme-montreal.org.
The pool attached to the Magritte suite at Capri Palace.
Le Marais, Paris
WHY WE LOVE IT Pure French chic
THE LOWDOWN This medieval neighbourhood at the heart of Paris is adored by locals and visitors alike. Everything that you love about Paris – the elegant town houses, the charming squares, the old-school bakeries, the stylish boutiques – can be found in this compact district, where centuries-old buildings have been converted into the studios and boutiques of the city's creative community. When you tire of exploring the labyrinthine alleys, take a rest in one of its lovely public spaces, such as the glamorous Place des Vosges or the more laid-back Place du Marche Sainte Catherine. See en.parisinfo.com.
The Southern Ocean Lodge at Kangaroo Island, South Australia. Photo: Alamy
FLOATING PALACES: CRUISE SHIPS
Aquavit Terrace Bar on the viking Star cruise ship. Photo: Anthony Weller
WHY WE LOVE IT City chic hits the jungle
THE LOWDOWN Less a cruise ship, more of a houseboat on steroids, this is one of a fleet of three ships working the Amazon and the Mekong in style. Taking its inspiration from boutique hotels rather than conventional cruise decor, the laid-back luxe fit-out includes hardwood floors, slate walls and furnishings featuring natural fibres. The nicest touch of all: those floor-to-ceiling windows, so you can watch life on the river unfold from the comfort of your bed. From $4245 a person twin share. See aquaexpeditions.com.
The Henry Jones Art Hotel in Hobart, Tasmania. Photo: Pure Tasmania
WHY WE LOVE IT Fit for royalty
THE LOWDOWN There are yachts, and then there is the Sea Cloud, the magnificent tall ship once owned by heiress and businesswoman Marjorie Merriweather Post. To decorate the yacht, Post famously rented a warehouse, marked it out with the yacht's floor plan and chose where each piece of furniture would go. Her taste for old-school elegance is still in evidence aboard: the antique furniture, marble fireplaces and gold taps all recall the days when royalty regularly travelled aboard. From $5000 a person twin share. See seacloud.com.
Hotel Hotel in Canberra. Photo: Ross Honeysett
WHY WE LOVE IT Scandi style takes to the seas
THE LOWDOWN When river cruising company Viking Cruises decided to hit the high seas, they did it in style. Their newly launched Viking Star, inspired by Scandinavian chic, features blond wood and airy spaces. Every cabin has a balcony, and the coffee tables in the lounge have interactive tabletops. However, what really has people talking is features such as the glass-walled pool cantilevered off the stern, not to mention the elegant spa that has its own snow grotto. From $3099 a person twin share. See vikingcruises.com.
Eastside Gallery on what's left of the Berlin Wall at Muhlenstrasse in Berlin. Photo: Alamy
REMOTE CONTROL: FAR-FLUNG RESORTS
Altapura, Val Thorens, France
WHY WE LOVE IT Tongue in chic
The swimming pool at Amangiri resort in Canyon Point, Southern Utah curves around rocks. Photo: Alamy
THE LOWDOWN Let's face it: the ski lodge look is desperately in need of a redesign. Yes, it should be cosy, but in the 21st century, do we really want to see a stuffed animal head hanging on the wall? Not at Altapura, we don't. The only animal heads here are made out of wood, a clue to the fun, funky way they have updated the traditional ski lodge decor. What we love most: those freestanding fireplaces, the textured wooden walls and the shaggy furniture. From $470 a person twin share. See en.altapura.fr
Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, Tanzania
WHY WE LOVE IT High drama on safari
Travel in luxury on Sea Cloud.
THE LOWDOWN With a setting this dramatic - perched at the top of a vast volcanic crater that happens to be filled with wildlife – it is not surprising to find that this gorgeous lodge has turned the special effects dial up to 11. The thatched suites appear simple from the outside, but the interiors have an operatic Victorian feel, with crystal chandeliers, raw silk draperies and velvet sofas. Even your freshly-washed laundry is delivered wrapped in red satin. From $1400 a person twin share. See andbeyond.com
WHY WE LOVE IT Straight with a twist
THE LOWDOWN There is a reason this Aman resort is full of straight lines: all the better to frame that magnificent desert landscape. The low-slung resort is designed as a series of geometric planes, framing unexpected vistas of the great outdoors, with its rugged plateaus and mighty canyons. The pared-back colour palette let you focus on the entrancing details, from the light bouncing off the brass lamps to the way the swimming pool wraps around a rocky outcrop. From $1600 a room. See amanresorts.com.
MAKING WAVES: SEASIDE RETREATS
Uxua Casa Hotel, Trancoso, Brazil
WHY WE LOVE IT Barefoot chic for the style set
THE LOWDOWN How did this isolated fishing village turn into a jet-set haven? Blame this hotel, the brainchild of the creative director of the Diesel fashion label. Visiting stylistas love the 10 freestanding casas, or houses, for the privacy they offer as well as for the inviting decor: think gardens with ferns and hammocks, plump piles of cushions and swathes of muslin. Down at the hotel's private beach club, the sink-into daybeds are equally inviting. From $470 a night. See uxua.com.
Capri Palace Resort and Spa, Anacapri, Italy
WHY WE LOVE IT Low-key luxury
THE LOWDOWN Let's be honest, Capri isn't a great place for a summer holiday. Not enough beaches, too many day trippers. We're happy to go anyway, as long as we can stay at this luxurious retreat. Its winning combination of low-key style and high-end service draws the first-name brigade (past guests include Oprah, Julia, and Gwyneth, who had a suite named after her), and it is not hard to see why. The lobby-slash-lounge is as welcoming as your own lounge room; in the Michelin-starred restaurant, you can sit on cosy sofas instead of chairs; and each of the suites has its own signature style. From $540 a night. See capripalace.com.
Kangaroo Island: Southern Ocean Lodge, Australia
WHY WE LOVE IT Rooms with a view
THE LOWDOWN On a wild, storm-tossed winter day, this lodge is the place to be. Southern Ocean Lodge floats above Kangaroo Island's dramatic southern coastline, which is perfectly framed through the panoramic windows of the Great Room. Lounge away the afternoon in the Great Room, savouring a warming red wine while you watch the pounding breakers from beneath a cashmere blanket, or retreat to your suite, which features sunken lounges, floor-to-ceiling windows, limestone walls and sand blasted floors. From $1100 a person twin share (two-night minimum). See southernoceanlodge.com.
METRO MARVELS: CITIES
WHY WE LOVE IT Time to play
THE LOWDOWN Tokyo is famous for its cosplay kids, those cartoonish young folk who haunt Harajuku, clad as their favourite anime characters. Some, however, would argue that they are not the only ones in Tokyo playing dress-ups: it is just that most of the population favours costumes of a different type. From Ginza fashionistas in head-to-toe labels to well turned-out gents in cashmere coats and polished wingtips, dressing the part seems to be Tokyo's favourite past time. See gotokyo.org/en.
WHY WE LOVE IT Take it easy
THE LOWDOWN Catalonia is not Spain, the locals proudly proclaim, and one of the areas where that is most evident is in their sense of style. In contrast to their counterparts in Madrid and Seville, who love to dress to the nines, the good folk in the Catalan capital keep it casual. The town's homegrown design talent has a way with the cool casual look, whether that is comfy footwear courtesy of Camper, brightly-patterned separates from Desigual, or eco-friendly chic from companies such as Rebel Root and Pinza't. A sense of fun, and the ability not to take yourself too seriously: what's not to love about that? See barcelonaturisme.com
WHY WE LOVE IT Experimental edge
THE LOWDOWN Ever since the avant-garde designers known as the Antwerp Six hit the headlines in the 1980s, Antwerp has been Belgium's acknowledged style hotspot. The well turned-out locals strolling through the city centre are ample proof of that, but Antwerp's sense of style extends beyond the boutiques of Kammenstraat and Lombardenvest. Design is part of the city's DNA. From the stacked-box aesthetic of the vividly-hued Museum aan de Stroom to the opulent interiors of the city's most remarkable hotel, De Witte Lelie, this is a city that embraces influences of all kinds. See visitantwerpen.be
THE STYLE COUNSEL
Five of Australia's top stylesetters reveal their favourite destinations as well as their tips how to stay stylish on the road.
Alexandra Smart, fashion designer, Ginger & Smart
FAVOURITE STYLE DESTINATION Copenhagen. It's amazing, like walking into Wallpaper* magazine. I love the combination of beautiful traditional buildings with a modern aesthetic. The furniture is beautiful, the stores are beautiful, even the people are beautiful.
TRAVELLING WITH STYLE TIPS Pack clothes that can take you from day into night. Adding a beautiful tailored jacket can transform virtually any outfit. Our first collection had a cotton cashmere blend travel wrap that's still in the collection 14 years on. I take one every time I travel: it's lightweight and versatile. See gingerandsmart.com
Jayson Brunsdon, fashion designer
FAVOURITE STYLE DESTINATION Paris. It's a cliche, but it's so beautiful: the architecture, the light, the lifestyle, the people. I love sitting in the Tuileries Gardens, watching the children playing with their boats.
TRAVELLING WITH STYLE TIPS Take items that you can mix and match. It is easier if you keep everything in black, white and neutrals. Lay it all out a few days before you pack, so you can think about it. Don't pack too much. You want to leave room to buy something: it is part of the experience. See jaysonbrunsdon.com.
Nerida Winter, milliner
FAVOURITE STYLE DESTINATION London. It's always been a huge source of inspiration for me. I love the contradictions between tradition and rebellion and their fearless sense of fashion.
TRAVELLING WITH STYLE TIPS Always take a hat. Apart from saving all sorts of hair dramas, they look fabulous. Boarding a plane in summer and coming out the other side in winter can be a challenge, so layers are your best friends. See neridawinter.com.
Christian Kimber, shoe designer
FAVOURITE STYLE DESTINATION Sri Lanka. When we were there, there were a lot of weddings taking place, where women were wearing these extraordinary beautiful silk saris. It is a wonderful culture of expressing yourself through colour.
TRAVELLING IN STYLE TIPS Invest in good luggage. I'm obsessed with Rimowa. It's amazingly versatile and moves easily. For a long-haul flight, I'll wear chinos, a shirt and blazer, but as soon as I'm on board, I change into a cotton tracksuit. It's so much more comfortable. Then an hour before landing, I'll freshen up and get changed again. See christiankimber.com.
Amber Sceats, jewellery designer
FAVOURITE STYLE DESTINATION Santorini, Greece. I had a major creative block, and I recently had a lightbulb moment in Santorini, lying on my balcony. Those whitewashed houses with the scattered blue shutters gave me inspiration for where to go with my new collection.
TRAVELLING WITH STYLE TIPS It's all about being comfortable. I could live in cigarette pants and a loose men's shirt or a beautiful knit. I take two pairs of heels at most: I pack really great flats, brogues and strappy sandals. Jewellery can lift your look. Pack lots of mix and match staples, then liven up the outfit with jewellery. See ambersceats.com
DOING IT DOWN UNDER
What does Australian style look like? A little like this.
Hotel Hotel, Canberra
A stay in this delightfully unpredictable hotel could double as a crash course in local design, with diamond-pattern tables from Adam Goodrum and recycled glass carafes by Amos Enders-Moje among the items you will be tempted to sneak into your hand luggage. See hotel-hotel.com.au.
Despite its relentlessly modern feel, there's something retro about QT: a gaudy, Great Gatsby-style joie de vivre leavened by a heavy dose of whimsy. From the greeters in their flaming red wigs to displays made of white and gold televisions, this hotel loves flashing its bad-girl style. See qthotels.com.au.
Hotel Lindrum, Melbourne
The good folk at the Lindrum offer you a cup of tea on arrival but, if they could get away with it, you suspect they would bring out a tumbler of whisky and possibly a pipe. There's a slight tinge of gentleman's club to this place: not enough to be stuffy, just enough to get you in a relaxed retro mood. See hotellindrum.com.au.
Henry Jones Art Hotel, Hobart
The warehouse facade gives nothing away, but behind that stern exterior lies a playground for grown-ups. Sandstone walls and ancient timber beams contrast with sexy modern furniture and an ever changing array of artworks. See thehenryjones.com.
The New Inchcolm Hotel & Suites, Brisbane
Opulence. It's not a very Australian word, but this newly refurbished Brisbane art deco hotel has nailed the feel, with free-standing bath tubs, textured fabrics, gorgeous original features such as the metal-meshed lift, and a burnished colour scheme of pewter and black, grey and gold. See inchcolm.com.au.