The Palomar, Washington
Where is it? The new Hotel Palomar is located in the historic and fashionably hip Dupont Circle area of the US capital. Surrounded by 19th-century mansions and row houses in a variety of styles, from Renaissance to beaux arts, the hotel is a perfect spot at which to begin a self-guided architectural tour of old Washington. Art galleries, bookshops and cafes abound and one of the world's finest small museums, the Phillips Collection, is just a few minutes' walk from the hotel. Dupont Circle is a lovely circular park with a white marble fountain surrounded by benches - a perfect place for a picnic and to enjoy some of the quirkier residents of the area.
Who should visit? The Palomar's theme is 'Art in Motion' and in a city where politicians are kings, this is a hotel where artists and art lovers are emperors. The boutique hotel is already attracting the glam-politicos in town. They go, not to lobby the big shots in the White House, as is done regularly at the legendary Willard Hotel, but to see and be seen at the nightly reception, when local artists show their work and chat about the art scene.
Luxurious or basic? The Palomar redefines luxury. Everything about the hotel reflects a commitment to the arts, from its 1930s French Moderne design to its choice of chocolates. The smallest details are indicative of its aesthetic: the turn-down cards on patrons' pillows are miniature versions of paintings and the hotel's chocolates are hand-painted by local chocolatiers. Unlike some boutique hotels, whose frenetic grasping for 'cool' results in architectural aloofness, the Palomar is style with warmth. Rooms are full of tactile and visual surprises, including faux-fur throws, crimson marble and lamp bases made from masks. There is even a ballet-themed suite, with a barre and full-length mirrors.
What's on the menu? Adjacent to the Palomar is the Urbana Restaurant and Wine Bar, the newest destination for DC's fashion and arts crowd. With its white marble, dark oak and shades of green and brown, the visually striking restaurant manages to be both sleek and cosy. Urbana's Euro-cuisine includes homey dishes such as crispy pizzas and an elegant presentation of osso buco.
What else is there to do? In Washington, where the big ticket is usually a private tour of the White House, the Palomar goes against the government grain. Its Culture Concierge guarantees guests after-hour tours of local galleries and hard-to-score tickets to performances at the Kennedy Center. Washington is also a city of museums and memorials, from the Lincoln Memorial to the Hirschorn Museum and Sculpture Gardens to the Smithsonian.
What's the bottom line? Rooms start at US$350 a night, suites at US$500.
Hotel Palomar is at 2121 P Street NW, Washington, USA, tel: 1 202 448 1800. For more information, see www.hotelpalomar-dc.com.