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9 Coolest Hotels in Houston | Luxe Living in Space City

From outdoor adventures in woodland acreage to renovated Art Deco buildings, treat yourself to spa days, high art, and luxury at nine of the coolest hotels in Houston.

If you’ve ever tried to climb the narrow, marbled stairwell of a completely refurbished art deco building in four-inch heels, you’ll understand the importance of slick black turn-of-the-last-century iron handrails.

Climbing my way to a second-floor ballroom, I knew I should’ve taken the elevator, but the side stairwell called out with its polished marble and original wrought iron detailing. It was hard to resist the urge to see “behind the scenes” in one of the first steel and concrete skyscrapers in the country–even on a night when I wasn’t exactly dressed for exploring.

Downtown Houston has some of the most eclectic and laid-back luxe hotels in Texas, several of them located in fully renovated or refurbished early 20th century skyscrapers. In a city that prides itself on award-winning cuisine, a culture of custom cocktails, an appreciation for high art, and acres of woodlands nearby, you’ve got a recipe for some of the best hotel experiences in the South. Yes, that’s a bold statement. And Houston is a bold city.

These are nine of the coolest hotels in Houston.

A Historic Houston Rehab

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Roughly $40 million has gone into refurbishing the 12-story, 1912 Union National Bank Building now known as Hotel ICON. Walking into the building, you’ll find yourself in a full-floor lobby featuring 30-foot high Doric columns and intricate ceiling moldings. At the rear of the lobby, the hotel desk sits in front of the original bank vault door which adds to the historic feel of this one-time banking institution.

Where the hotel really shines is in the attention to detail in the renovation. The elevators have the cozy yet elegant feel of compact, pre-war lifts. The ironwork has been meticulously restored and the rooms are decidedly modern while keeping with the historic tone of the building. This was one of the first high-rise buildings in the country, and you can experience it in all its refurbished glory.

For the high rollers, Hotel ICON sports the only multi-story penthouse in the city, and it includes a private terrace. For the rest of us, the spa offers multiple treatments, and the rooftop lounge and pool are home to some pretty great views of Downtown’s urbanity.

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Hotel Icon, Autograph Collection

Top rated
Houston, 0.3 miles to Alley Theatre
9.0 Excellent (2354 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.1 / 10
Hotel CTA

World-class Accommodations in Houston

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Another of Houston’s historic renovations is Magnolia Houston. Located in a 1926 historic landmark building, this hotel is one of the newer historic renovations downtown. Walking into the strikingly modern and subtly Texan lobby (think rich camel-colored leathers and a bit of Texas wall art), it’s easy to see why the Magnolia makes so many top hotel lists.

The Magnolia’s billiards and library-themed restaurant and bar, The Lounge, is a go-to meeting spot for locals and visitors. Featuring a full bar and contemporary American cuisine (try the 1926 Manhattan and they even serve the Impossible Burger), The Lounge has an upscale yet laid back vibe for meeting with clients or friends. The other main highlight is the rooftop pool. At night you get some great views of Minute Maid Park (especially if there’s an Astros home game) and the backside of the city, which looks more like a carpet of lights than the center of a major metropolis.

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Magnolia Hotel Houston

Top rated
Houston, 0.3 miles to Alley Theatre
8.7 Excellent (3817 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.1 / 10
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The Houston Hotel Theatre Experience

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Rounding out this trio of newly renovated buildings, The Lancaster Hotel is also housed in a historic building. Anchoring the Theater District, this building has been a continuously running hotel (under different names) since it was built in 1926. It’s the place to go for bright, European-inspired spaces and an eclectic collection of contemporary art displayed throughout the hotel. The Lancaster Collection contains around 200 pieces of art created by Texan artists, or artists with ties to Texas.

For theatre aficionados, the hotel is steps from all the downtown stages and the on-site restaurant has an outdoor dining area for pre- or post-show dinners. Sit outside on a cool, Texas evening and watch the lights come up around local theatres. Performers and crew members are known to stop by The Lancaster after performances, making it a great place to people watch.

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The Lancaster Hotel

Top rated
Houston, 0.1 miles to Alley Theatre
9.0 Excellent (2393 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.3 / 10
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High-end Houston Hotel Luxury

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Moving toward the Contemporary end of the spectrum, Hotel Alessandra takes European opulence and combines it with Houston’s pioneering spirit. This is the city that launched moon missions, after all.

From the minute you step inside the stark white and gold of the entrance, you know you’re in for high-end luxury. Want a Grey Goose cocktail martini cart delivered to your door? Done. Order it from your in-room tablet. Want to play golf at any number of courses in the area? The concierge can set that up for you. And the in-house spa offers seasonal and ongoing relaxation packages.

High rollers, this is another one for you. Rumor has it big spenders can call on complementary Maserati service to jet you around downtown. (Bike sharing and light rail are also available.)

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Hotel Alessandra

Top rated
Houston, 0.5 miles to Alley Theatre
9.2 Excellent (403 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.5 / 10
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Texas-sized Lazy River in Houston

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The final downtown hotel to make the list is Marriott Marquis Houston. Yes, the rooms are attractive and the front desk and expansive lobby areas that stretch the length of the building are classically contemporary with rich espresso woods and ribbons of gold accents in the ceiling. But what sets this hotel apart—what really makes it cool—is the world’s largest Texas-shaped lazy river on the hotel’s rooftop terrace. Yes, you can sit in an inner tube and float around the perimeter of Texas for the entire afternoon. What’s more relaxing than that?

If floating aimlessly in an inner tube isn’t your thing, you can always try the infinity pool or take advantage of the full-service, in-house spa. When you’re ready to dry out, the hotel is across the street from the convention center and Discovery Green park, so you’re only steps from taking advantage of any conference expos being hosted next door or one of the many outdoor events hosted at Discovery Green (think outdoor yoga and music in summer and ice skating in winter months).

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Marriott Marquis Houston

Top rated
Houston, 0.7 miles to Alley Theatre
8.8 Excellent (696 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.2 / 10
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Houston's Rock Star Rooms

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A few miles from downtown, the Museum District boasts 19 museums across four very walkable zones. In the heart of the district, Hotel ZaZa Houston Museum District (there are two Houston locations) provides some unforgettable suite experiences. This hotel screams upscale boutique experience, from the one-of-a-kind contemporary art displayed inside the hotel to the outdoor bar where bottle service is available and adult frozen treats are served by the pool. (Yes, frozen cocktail pops are as delicious as they sound.)

At roughly 900 square feet, the Magnificent Seven Suites are the largest themed suites and feature unique furnishings and art built around names like “Fatal Charms” and “It Happened One Night.” Think upscale furnishings and ultra-lux fabrics and materials. Next, are smaller concept suites like “Houston We Have a Problem” and “Villa Champagne.” Even standard guestrooms get the theme treatment with rich color pallets and high-end fabrics and furnishings.

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Hotel ZaZa

Top rated
Houston, 3 miles to Alley Theatre
8.9 Excellent (2380 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.2 / 10
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Sleeping in a Houston Mansion

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Also located in the Museum District, one of the world’s smallest luxury hotels sits quietly and unobtrusively next door to the famed Menil Collection. The Colombe d’Or Hotel was once the private home of the founder of Humble Oil. Built in 1923, this landmark mansion has been turned into a hotel with one-bedroom suites and larger, longer-term apartment suites. Entering this hotel is more like being a guest in a stately home where you’re welcomed with elegant furnishings and fine art. It almost makes you want to whisper like you’re in a library. The hotel contains a gallery featuring works by Picasso, Dali, Lapicque, and others. Feel free to ask staff questions about the collection; they’re extremely helpful and knowledgeable.

Venture next door to explore the 23-acre Menil campus and its 15,000 works of 20th-century paintings, prints, photographs, and drawings. After exploring the art world, head back to the hotel’s Restaurant CINQ for five distinct areas for dinner or drinks, including a library area and terrace table seating. This is the place to be for a quiet, art-filled neighborhood retreat.

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Hotel La Colombe D'Or

Houston, 2.1 miles to Alley Theatre
8.0 Very good (19 reviews)
Excellent Location 8.8 / 10
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Houston's Woodland Retreat

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If outdoor adventures are more your speed, The Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa is consistently named one of the top hotels in Houston (for good reason). Imagine acres of wooded land, going birding along nature trails, and running on a newly resurfaced jogging path that feeds into the 2.9-mile Memorial Park trail. And it’s located in the middle of Houston between downtown and the Galleria shopping area. That’s not even mentioning the interior yet.

While The Houstonian is known for its outdoor and sporting amenities, the hotel caters to many business travelers so the interior features upscale amenities like floor-to-ceiling windows and custom furniture in many rooms. In 2019, the hotel celebrated its 40th anniversary and announced a $45 million project to update the arrival area, guest rooms, and a terrace overlooking Buffalo Bayou. (Work will begin at the end of 2019 and is expected to wrap up by the end of 2020.) As the name states, a full spa is also available on site. It will also be expanded and updated during the renovation.

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The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa

Top rated
Houston, 5.6 miles to Alley Theatre
9.2 Excellent (2266 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.4 / 10
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Explore Italian Style in Houston

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Finally, for anyone dreaming of luxuriating in a grand Italian villa (in the heart of Houston), there’s Hotel Granduca. One of the most awarded luxury hotels in Houston, the inspiration behind its design is the 16th-century palazzo of Adalberto Malatesta, grand duke of Monfallito. But you don’t need to know the history behind the design to feel like you’ve entered a different world when you pull in the driveway. The old-world stone at the entrance and life-sized suits of armor on display in the lobby signal you’ve entered a different time and place.

The rich yellow and red color scheme is consistent from the hotel’s exterior to the rooms to the poolside umbrellas and plush loungers. One of the Granduca’s highlights is the English-inspired afternoon tea. Reservations are required, but it’s a favorite spot for locals looking for a traditional afternoon tea service. Enjoy a flute of champagne along with your tea, and maybe a few small scones or tarts, before making your way back out to the 21st century.

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Hotel Granduca Houston

Houston, 5.6 miles to Alley Theatre
9.3 Excellent (1011 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.3 / 10
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Feature photo courtesy of Visit Houston, Deb Smail