A hotel lobby sets the tone for your visit. It’s the gateway for a hotel stay, a meal at the restaurant or pampering at the spa.
Over the years, these spaces have started to function as more than mere entryways. Flush with terraces, bars, libraries and more, many lobbies form the heart of a property, providing more than a convenient location to ask questions at the front desk or concierge.
Forbes Travel Guide scoured locales from Vietnam to Vegas to catalog the hotel lobbies that leave a lasting impression.
Upon entering the open-air lobby of the St. Martin hotel, you are greeted with piercing blue skies and the endless turquoise Caribbean Sea. Framing the mesmerizing (and easily Instagrammable) setting is a small pool flanked by lanterns and thick whitewashed pillars, which add a Mediterranean flair.
The soaring lobby conjures up the lost city of Atlantis with a $3 million sea-inspired sculpture, glass master Dale Chihuly’s first Middle East installation. Made of more than 3,000 blown-glass pieces, the 33-foot artwork is surrounded by a reflection pool, eight fish columns and murals by Spanish artist Albino Gonzalez, a leading interpreter of ancient mythology.
In the middle of the tropical two-story, alfresco hotel lobby, a majestic ficus maxima (a Caribbean cousin to the hotel’s namesake banyan — both are fig trees) seems to float above the canals that run through the gated Mayakoba community. Watch for dozens of endemic fish, crocodiles and bird species that flock in and around these waters.
Each month, about 12,000 flowers are delivered to this Paris institution, where celebrity florist Jeff Leatham transforms them into elaborate works of art. No arrangement is ever the same, making this lobby well worth repeat visits.
Look past the bountiful blooms to discover a copy of Nicolas Poussin’s painting, Landscape with Diogenes, behind reception and the Louis XIV-era tapestry, Allegory of War and Peace, behind the concierge desk.
The Reverie Saigon, Vietnam
This Baroque-meets-Rococo seventh-floor lobby envelops you in opulence. Bold pieces abound, like a chandelier of arabesque eggs, a 16-foot-long purple ostrich leather sofa with shiny gilded trim and an amethyst stone, matching purple throne chairs with bronze patina and 22-karat gold-leaf detailing (a selfie favorite) and a 10-foot-tall malachite clock with hand-chiseled lead crystal and 24-karat gold accents.
Nizuc Resort & Spa, Cancun
In this sleek escape’s low-lit lobby, your eyes gravitate toward the wooden shutter walls, which swing open to let in cool breezes, filter the light and provide glimpses of the infinity pool and the ocean beyond. Elsewhere, the Asian-influenced minimalist lobby incorporates stone, wood and replicated Mayan hieroglyphs in a nod to its heritage.
The sky-high 38th-story lobby affords incredible views of Tokyo’s skyline. You’ll want to linger in the tranquil wood-filled space to gaze at Tokyo Skytree and Mount Fuji through the wall-sized windows. Enticing you to stay longer are the luxury hotel’s restaurants that encircle the space.
Art deco decadence permeates this Mayfair hotel. The 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris inspired decorator Basil Ionides to introduce the new art deco style into Claridge’s redesign between 1926 and 1931. Ionides’ vision remains intact in the sunny lobby, which offers art deco touches like the checkered flooring, and a foyer with shimmering mirrors and metalwork.
Old World Venice is the clear inspiration for this famed lobby. In its center is a golden sculpture of an armillary sphere, once used by astronomers in Renaissance Venice to study the celestial system. Trailing to the casino, the Grand Colonnade impresses with hand-painted ceiling frescoes illustrating Venetian paintings, 25-foot-high columns of Botticino marble and graphic marble flooring.
The NYC hotel enlivens its cavernous lobby with carefully curated contemporary art. Sol LeWitt’s 15-story Loopy Doopy mural shines blue onto Monica Ponce de Leon’s hanging Veils. The latter comprises suspended tubular triangles and rectangles on a veil of strings, which distort the dangling shapes into curving lines.
The Macau hotel lobby looks like it was plucked from the future. Morpheus’ unique exoskeleton architecture is mimicked inside the 115-foot-tall lobby, which is large enough to house a double Ferris wheel. Oversized geometric shapes house a tea lounge and patisserie and also cover some walls. The amorphous seating throughout resembles pieces of art.
The Rotunda lobby is resplendent with towering columns, a stained-glass ceiling, the original marble floors and ornate plaster features. Its most distinctive attribute is its staircase. The 36 steps have provided a grand entrance for newlyweds, dignitaries and many notables since the hotel’s 1895 opening, and they are rumored to have been the inspiration for the stairs in Gone with the Wind.
Southern hospitality meets Spanish-colonial elegance in this grand lobby. Three stories high, it forms the centerpiece of the property and has arches, clerestory windows and French doors that open onto the terrace. Dubbed the Colonial Lounge, the area provides an inviting place to relax with some freshly made sweet tea.
One&Only Le Saint Géran, Mauritius
Hulking wooden doors open to reveal a bright reception area with direct views of the hotel’s private beach. The high-ceilinged stone and wood space features dome-shaped windows that let in light and air. Starfish art on the wall celebrates Mauritian marine life while silver travertine and whitewashed walls echo the ripples of the sea.
The sophisticated new lobby, bathed in Italian marble, debuted in March 2020. Its beige and navy furniture is refined and modern, vivid paintings bring vibrancy, oversized windows let in plenty of light and a 4,000-piece crystal chandelier provides a dose of lavishness. The adjacent aquamarine-and-white lounge is where you’ll find breakfast, French pastries, coffee, afternoon tea and evening drinks.
A forest has sprouted up inside this nearly 40-foot-tall hotel lobby. These olive trees, a symbol of heritage in the Middle East, are more than 200 years old and hail from Lebanon. The trees are fossilized with hand-painted leaves made of silk, providing a memorable display.
The lobby also offers murals and motifs featuring flamingos — the pink birds migrate annually to Bahrain.
Transport yourself to Morocco in this boutique hotel. Designed by Martyn Lawrence Bullard, the lobby flaunts a Moroccan look with bold patterned tiles, rich colors and textures, keyhole-shaped arches and gold lanterns. The adjacent Djinn (Arabic for “genie”) serves as a library during the day and as a lounge at night.
Inside this 13th-century castle, a handsome, extravagant lobby and adjoining public spaces exhibit antiques like a 19th-century suit of armor, an intricate 24-light Belgian Val Saint Lambert chandelier, a wooden fireplace engraved with Irish folklore sculptures and a 1,043-piece, silver-gilt dinner service set from 1899 that’s worth seven figures.
The lobby used to accommodate the horses and carriages for those in the royal apartments upstairs. Today, it’s a hub for jetsetters with its stately marble columns, domed ceilings, arched doorways and windows, customized moquette and lake-facing terrace. The Italian marble staircases have been graced by the likes of Rita Hayworth, Orson Welles, Naomi Campbell and Bruce Springsteen.
A haven of understated tropical chic, the monochrome lobby sports white marble floors, polished white pearl Venetian plaster walls and white furnishings along with pops of variegated gold tones and green from the plentiful potted palms. At night, clusters of floor lanterns and candles lend the lobby an inviting and sultry vibe.
Perched above the Southern California coast, Terranea lures you in with sweeping panoramas of the Pacific Ocean. The Mediterranean-inspired lobby has a wall of windows that open onto a spectacular terrace, where you can go to feel the fresh breeze, hear the crashing waves and glimpse dolphins, sea lions and whales.
This fashionable hotel knows that one statement piece can make a look. In the lobby, the statement maker is the dizzying black-and-white marble striped floors. Designer Jacques Grange, whose clients have included Valentino and Karl Lagerfeld, also added a spherical chandelier that looks like it’s peeling away and artwork from Rachel Howard.
You’ll feel as though you’re strutting the catwalk on the Barcelona hotel’s atrium ramp, which leads to the stylish hotel’s entrance. Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola’s modernist aesthetic continues in the lobby, where the white furniture and walls are punctuated by gold screens and glimpses of Blanc restaurant below.
The 1893 property’s lobby continues to impress with its original grandeur. Stroll through the long marigold hall, lined with sparkling crystal chandeliers, mosaic flooring and gilded pillars, to reach the legendary Sazerac Bar, where the namesake cocktail was invented. Don’t miss the lobby during the holidays, when it’s decked out with hundreds of thousands of lights.
Enter the Great House lobby, which rises 17 feet above high tide, for unobstructed ocean vistas. The blue expanse is accompanied by white shutters, colorful accents, hand-woven light fixtures, rattan and wood furniture and vintage family photographs from the owners’ archives. Murals recall Caribbean life in the style of Michael Lester, a painter who found fame on the island.
Find a piece of Italy in this inviting dark marble Shanghai lobby with double-height windows that overlook a garden. Inside, the scene is set with glowing glass and bronze Pantheon mesh (a pattern used in many Bulgari boutiques and hotels) screens, a fireplace wrapped with an illuminated metal case and black-and-white Dolce Vita-era photographs.
This 1906 building is heralded for its art nouveau design. When the lobby debuted its new look in October 2020, it retained the same striking aesthetic but added Múzsa, a social hub with a peacock-blue lobby lounge (including a circular bar and banquette seating), concierge library, private meeting room and tasting room.
Under the 200-foot-long lobby’s vaulted, hand-painted ceiling, the historic hotel has added contemporary touches. During a 2019 revamp, Tihany Design conceived a garden of lilies, amaranths, irises and other South Florida blooms for a new carpet pattern. The resulting 1,500-pound, single-piece rug was crafted by 35 weavers, and the updated lobby furniture borrows hues from the colorful carpeting.
This lobby reflects its local history and natural setting. The palette draws from the works of Jean-Baptiste Debret, the French artist best known for his depictions of Brazil. Laura Vinci’s ceiling installation, Papéis Avulsos, borrows its symbols from the gold extracted in Brazilian mines and the leaves found in the adjacent Burle Marx Park.
Next to the Palace of Versailles, the hotel’s lobby has a 20-foot-high gallery that fills with natural light. The palatial space keeps pace with its vaunted neighbor with domed ceilings and gleaming chandeliers. However, it maintains a modern look with a black-and-white color scheme sprinkled with green flourishes that recall the greenery surrounding the hotel.
Two settee swings draped in white cotton flank the lobby entrance. Inside, details like nautical knot displays, lamp fittings that resemble compass points and metal lanterns that mimic woven baskets remind visitors of St. Thomas’ history as a regional seaside trading post. The sea still beckons many travelers, especially with the turquoise waters peeking through the lobby’s windows.
A bronze façade encases the second-floor lobby doors, whose handles bear the hotel’s seal. The elegant lobby showcases vaulted limestone walls, marble floors and a window overlooking an ornamental bonsai tree and Victoria Harbour. Don’t miss the museum-worthy art, including two contemporary works by American artist Joe Bradley and a sculpture of an elephant slumped on the ground by Indian artist Bharti Kerr.