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Inside the world’s most magical festive hotel displays

‘Tis the season to be jolly – and that’s exactly the sentiment that many of the world’s leading hotels are spreading through their magical festive displays. With restrictions impacting the hospitality industry last year, it seems that hotels have embraced the holiday spirit with renewed vitality to make up for lost time. Feel the Christmas cheer as we uncover the most impressive festive hotel displays across the globe for the 2021 holiday season.

Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia

Leading American designer – and Four Seasons artistic director – Jeff Leatham has put his imagination to the test with his take of a ‘Stylised Arctic’ at Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia at Comcast Center. Showcasing his interpretation of an Arctic holiday, the display revolves around a large mirrored polar bear flanked by custom-made ornament trees and giant silver and white baubles. As you explore the hotel, snow-themed florals, life-size reindeer and reflective trees continue the magical theme.

‘Stylised Arctic’ is what artistic director Jeff Leatham took as his cue for these stunning hotel displays at Philadelphia’s Four Seasons Hotel

“Jeff Leatham has created an artic wonderland at Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia,” says hotel manager Charles Lasvigne. “This year, the decor features an oversize polar bear made in Paris with hundreds of pieces of sparkling mirrors. Team Leatham created a cascade of snow made of white hydrangeas surrounding flocked pine trees. Oversized silver ornaments adorn the entire display. It is a magical site above the clouds.”

Shangri-La The Shard, London

With travel restricted for many this festive season, Shangri-La The Shard, London brings the Alpine winter wonderland to the British capital. The five-star hotel, which occupies 18 floors of London’s tallest and most iconic building, The Shard, has gone all-out this year, transforming public spaces into a charming Austrian village. The only thing that’s missing is real snow.

“The inspiration for Shangri-La The Shard, London’s Alpine Escape this festive season is drawn from a small village in Austria, where I was born,” says the hotel’s general manager, Kurt Macher. “I have been skiing since the age of four and wanted to replicate the feeling of a ski resort within the hotel. We provide the charming, warm and fuzzy service along with culinary delights, including an Alpine Afternoon Tea. In doing so, guests are able to escape to a cosy Alpine wonderland, especially those who are not able to travel further abroad for their ski holidays this season.”

READ: 6 mountain lodges + ski chalets with must-see interiors

Fairmont San Francisco

Fairmont San Francisco prides itself on its extravagant festive displays, and this year is no different. In time for the holidays, the hotel has transformed its main lobby into an enchanting grotto, with a ceiling-scraping 23-foot-tall Christmas tree and colourful decorations including the Molinari Family Nutcracker Collection. The centrepiece of the exhibit is a giant gingerbread house measuring a staggering 22 feet high by 23 feet wide – around the height of a two-story building. The brainchild of executive chef Michael Quigley, the house features a completely edible exterior, made from thousands of home-baked gingerbread bricks and more than a ton of royal icing and candy decor.

“We are delighted to once again celebrate the holiday season in true Fairmont style,” says Fairmont’s general manager Markus Treppenhauer. “The unmatched Victorian Gingerbread House, resplendent in See’s Candies, the festive Moët Champagne Bar, and the ever-popular traditional holiday tea offerings truly define the magic of the holiday season in San Francisco.”

The Peninsula New York

For its 2021 festive display, the Peninsula New York looks back in time to the stories that best showcase the magic of the season. Throughout the iconic Manhattan property, located just a stone’s throw from Fifth Avenue and Central Park, traditional festive creatures like the Red Robin, the Nutcracker, the Gingerbread Man and reindeer have been re-imagined in a modern way.

“The inspiration for our decor at the Peninsula New York, and for all the Peninsula hotels around the world, was our bespoke ‘Stories from the Tree’ concept, which focuses on original Christmas characters that have come to life,” says Jonathan Crook, the hotel’s general manager. “Throughout the hotel, the design vision is applied with lavish attention to detail. The lively ‘Stories’ characters are seen in printed books, translated into cookies and cakes, and in our holiday-themed floral arrangements which glitter with sparkling lights. Suites each have decorated Christmas trees and we have adorable Gingerbread playhouses for little ones with festive snacks delivered on custom-made sleds.”

Visitors will also discover a giant Christmas tree in the lobby, decorated with tailor-made green, red and gold ornaments, and a Chalet de Ning festive igloo on the rooftop serving hot chocolate – liquor optional. So far, it’s gone down a treat with visitors. “It’s so wonderful to see that both NYC locals and guests from further coming in daily to enjoy the festive atmosphere and to take photos of the Christmas decorations,” says Crook. “Each Friday and Saturday we have Victorian carolers singing and lots of complimentary treats daily at The Peninsula Sweet Shoppe – so families absolutely love it. We even had one man who proposed to his girlfriend here, which was truly special.”

The Beverly Hills Hotel

Fondly known as the Pink Palace, the Beverly Hills Hotel sure knows how to make an entrance, especially during the festive season. Visitors to the pink-themed hotel on LA’s famous Sunset Boulevard are greeted by life-size, pink-suited nutcrackers lining a red-carpet leading to the grand lobby. Once inside, guests can admire sparkling oversized ornaments cascading from the ceiling and a small forest of giant Christmas trees laden with decorations and presents – just one tree is not enough for this landmark property.

The Beverly Hills Hotel – or Pink Palace – created a magical Nutcracker-themed entrance to its Sunset Boulevard home (Image credit: Beverly Hills Conference & Visitors Bureau)

“The holidays are truly the most wonderful time of the year at the Pink Palace,” says Zachary Lapidus, Hotel Manager. “We work closely with our florist, the Hidden Garden, to design the holiday decor each year. It’s important for us to create a setting that captures the spirit of the season while also staying true to the hotel’s iconic design. For example, we created custom pink and green nutcrackers that greet our guests as they arrive on the red carpet, and most of our ornaments throughout the hotel are shades of pink and green.”

The Lanesborough London

One of London’s most prestigious hotels, the Lanesborough is particularly special during the festive period. Part of the prestigious Oetker Collection, the property, which overlooks Hyde Park, is renowned for its visual displays. This year, decorators have thrown everything they’ve got into creating a magical festive feel. From the lobby to the Library Bar and Céleste restaurant, guests are greeted with thousands of crystals and giant silver baubles cascading up the walls and circling the Christmas trees. This year’s exhibit was designed by renowned event imagineer Tony Marklew, who aims to bring a touch of sparkle to the capital.

“The Lanesborough is once again set to fill Londoners with Christmas hope and cheer with a festive display titled ‘Be Bright & Sparkle!’” says Antoinette Lettieri, the hotel’s Head of Events. “This year’s seasonal decorations have been designed to reflect Christmas traditions of years gone by while looking ahead to a more hopeful and brighter future for all. Inspired by the sparkling qualities of precious stones, the hotel has been decorated with thousands of faceted crystals and reflective silver orbs.”

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