armathwaite 1Armathwaite Hall

A hotel lobby is not simply for checking in and checking out. At this time of year they are canvases for the Christmas imagination, as stunning yuletide creative concepts burst to life…


Hawaii, USA
sheraton princess kaiulaniSheraton Princess Kaiulani

It began as a replica of a quaint German village, but it has gradually grown to become a glorious mix of cultures and landmarks. The Sheraton Princess Kaiulani in Oahu is once again inviting guests to visit the incredible ‘Santa’s Gingerbread Village’, which was created by executive chef Ralf Bauer.

New structures are added every year and the village includes not only the original German village, but also a Swiss chalet, medieval churches, Moana Surfrider and Kawaiahao Mission Church.

The village is a technical challenge as well as a creative one. The hotel’s head chefs work with the engineering department to build this incredible art piece, which is four-and-a-half metres high and more than eight metres long. It’s also delicious, having been constructed with 100 sheets of gingerbread, 200 pounds of dark and white chocolate and 320 gallons of icing.

California, USA

fairmont san franFairmont San Francisco
It must be elves at work; who else could build a two-story Victorian house made entirely of gingerbread?  The culinary team at Fairmont San Francisco will likely tell you that executive chef Chad Blunston led a merry team of spritely helpers to build this majestic house that stands in the lobby next to the equally gorgeous Christmas tree.

The almost seven metre high structure is made from thousands of gingerbread bricks that are baked at the hotel and held together with 1,200 pounds of icing.  The finishing touches are provided with almost 300 kilograms of chocolate and candy.

Florida, USA
ritz carlton naplesRitz Carlton Naples

The kitchen staff at the Ritz-Carlton in Naples spend hundreds of hours constructing their gingerbread house in the lobby of the hotel.  The house is built of 1,200 gingerbread bricks and finished with hand baked shingles attached with over 200 kilograms of frosting.  Gumdrop garlands line the windows and chocolate drops add texture to the sides.  A frosty, frosting layer on the roof completes the winter setting.  The two-story structure is nicely complemented by the numerous Christmas trees in the lobby. 

Washington, USA

Every year the Seattle Sheraton invites local architecture firms to design gingerbread buildings according to a theme.  They then work with the culinary team at the Sheraton to bake and build the structures. 

This year six firms participated, and the Sheraton teams led by five chefs created a village designed around favourite fairy tale themes. Hundreds of hours are donated towards making the village, which is set up in the lobby.  Visitors are invited to vote for their favourites, and perhaps leave a donation for the JDRF Northwest Chapter.


Nevada, USA

bellagio 1Bellagio

The Bellagio in Las Vegas does its best to create a holiday atmosphere in its conservatory. More than 45,000 poinsettias surround you as you view the spectacular 13-metre-high tree; a life-sized snow globe hides a sprig of mistletoe for that special Christmas kiss; and a polar bear family of topiary and carnations play in the poinsettias and float on the frigid pond.

Thousands of lights, life-sized toys and Christmas ornaments the size of a small vehicle all combine to make a walk through the hotel a delightful and unforgettable experience.

Pennsylvania, USA

The Omni Bedford Springs Resort will once again deck the halls with... nutcrackers!  Finding your favourite in the more than 600 figures will take some time, especially since each nutcracker is unique. 

Some are costumed to represent European and Asian countries, while others celebrate sports and games.  There are even whimsical figurines dressed as sailors or jesters.  The display is on loan from local collector Gary Bartik, who willingly shares a portion of his nutcracker collection every year. The nutcrackers are placed everywhere around the resort, peeking through branches or posing as guards near the pool. 

Hampshire, UK

Every room in the luxurious Chewton Glen Hotel is elegantly decorated with lighted trees, garlands and bright red poinsettias. The building itself is fairytale-like in a beautiful setting, and tastefully twinkling trees welcome you in to the lovely and restful interior. The crackling fire and stately candles are enough to remind you of how graceful the holidays can be, once you’ve left behind the neon and noise of the big city. 

London, UK

The holiday spirit at The Stafford starts before you even walk in the door. Try to arrive just before dark to take in the garland-wrapped exterior columns and decorated greenery. The lobby is gorgeous and green with plump little trees covered in tasteful golden ornaments. Red bows on the evergreen wreaths are the perfect finishing touch.

Take a few minutes to warm up by the fire before heading back outside into the chilly evening. Be sure to turn around to see the entrance that now glows warmly twinkling with lights that are tucked in to the garlands and trees.

Alternatively, the Dorchester varies its decorations annually, but never strays from elegance and beauty. This year a giant gingerbread replica of the hotel dominates the lobby. In true Dorchester fashion, the structure appears simply designed, but the incredible detail of the decorations shows how much careful thought and design went in to creating the building. With all the subtly spectacular flower arrangements and other displays, it may take you a while to even notice the decorated trees that line the walls of the lobby.

Keswick, UK
armathwaite hall 1Armathwaite Hall

If you had a large staff, and an even larger budget, your house would likely look like Armathwaite Hall in the Lake District this Christmas. Red and gold bedecked trees sit on either side of the open fire, beautifully enhancing the rich dark wood of the lobby. Lit wreaths and bowls of gleaming ornaments add more touches of colour. In fact each sitting room and dining area has a unique colour scheme that adds to the décor of the area rather than overwhelming it. The feeling is one of peace and comfort – just what a weary traveller needs.

New York, US
new york palaceNew York Palace

As soon as you walk into the courtyard of the New York Palace Hotel, you know you’re in for something special. Trees, windows and even topiary glitter and gleam with gold lights, create the ambience of a golden palace. The hotel is always at the top of the best-decorated buildings in the city, and this year is no exception. As an added bonus, the Palace is in the heart of New York City and all the amazing light displays set up there.

Dublin, Ireland

the merrionThe Merrion

The city of Dublin does Christmas well, and the Merrion Hotel does its very best to outshine the other hotels. The entryway is done up in wreaths and garlands, while the lobby features a tasteful Georgian Christmas theme. Toys are tucked into garlands along benches and mantelpieces and St Nick is dressed in the height of fashion from the 1800s. Sip a glass of Champagne by the open fire under the watchful eye of a golden cherub.


London, UK

Well known for its amazing Christmas tree each year, this year Claridge’s is offering up an amazing display designed by Dolce and Gabbana. The designer has brought a taste of Italy to London with its hand-painted Italian baubles and an incredible luminarie framework from southern Italy. The finishing touches are the delightful, hand-crafted Sicilian puppets that complete the Italian motif in this very traditional London hotel.

London, UK
browns 1Brown's Hotel

A more British looking tree can be found at Brown’s Hotel, where fashion accessory designer Lulu Guinness has created a whimsical tree bedecked with iconic, Lulu Guinness lips. Pretty, sparkly kisses adorn the tree, complete with a ruby-red smooch at the top. Wander through the hotel to find other decorative touches kissed by the British designer. The best part of the display? The decorations are real coin purses and can be purchased at the hotel.

Paris, France

Not to be outdone, the InterContinental Paris Le Grand has the largest macaron Christmas tree in the world. This four-metre-tall tree is made of 8,000 Ladurée macarons of different colours. Using inspirations from the Paris Carnival, the Harlequin colours of red, yellow, blue and green are set off by finishing highlights of silver. An Elizabethan ruffled colour completes the Harlequin impersonation. Throughout the hotel, smaller macaron trees of rose, lavender and orange cookies create the delightful feeling of being in a candy forest.

Rome, Italy

All through the Hotel de Russie, Roman designer FENDI has tucked away fanciful ‘Bag Buggies’ to turn the hotel into a magical secret Garden for holiday guests. Front and centre is the five-metre Christmas tree covered with Plexiglas replicas of the fuzzy handbag accessories. The decorations are lit from within and sparkle in bright colors to create a delightful twist to ordinary Christmas decorations.