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.
The 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.
A 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.