Owned by the Orient Express group, this breathtaking hotel easily deserves its first-class reputation. Set in tropical gardens with towering ficus trees, waterfalls and a heated swimming pool, the 19th-century palace was once home to the Count of Valencia. Now a listed building, all architectural extensions have been made according to a strict set of guidelines. \r\n \r\nThe interior consists of brightly polished marble floors, floral drapes and aristocratic furnishings. Rooms range from pleasing to the truly magnificent, each with a balcony or terrace. Famous actors and rock stars opt for rooms on the 7th floor, where each has been designed according to a different theme. If you're feeling really flush, ask for room 701, which has its very own turret where you can have a champagne breakfast. Service is charming and always attentive. Fine Italian cuisine is served at the Cipriani restaurant and the generous buffet breakfast is not to be missed. \r\n \r\nA range of aromatherapy and beauty therapies is available, all using La Prairie products. A trained MAC make-up artist can also be booked for appointments. The hotel enjoys a quiet location and very little passing traffic, although this does mean guests rely heavily on the hotel's over-inflated taxi service. But that's a small price to pay when you're in the Lapa luxury.