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Seattle’s Best Hotels

Where to rest your head on your next weekend getaway to the Emerald City.

Ace Hotel 2423 First Avenue, 206-448-4721. acehotel.com/seattle
Standard rooms from $109; deluxe from $175

You need to understand this: I love hotels.

I appreciate doormen in epaulettes and chocolates on the pillow and heavy silverware with room service. A Thermos of fresh coffee and two newspapers outside my door. Advice from the concierge. Heck, as a kid I lived in a Hilton for six months. So yeah, I love old-school luxury hotels and I guess I like new-school boutiques . . . when they stay luxe but throw a little personality on top. Some cities manage both. Toronto’s fine. Chicago. San Francisco. But not Seattle, which is a drag, since it’s so near but has been, frankly, an accommodation no-hoper. What are its great hotels? The charmers and beguilers? You’ve got your iconic stalwart (the Fairmont Olympic), your luxury fail-safe (the Four Seasons) and your wild card (the Doubletree Arctic Club). All solid mehs.

Fifteen years ago, Seattle threw up a new concept. Begun by friends—two had started the Rudy’s Barbershop chain—in a dodgy strip of Belltown, the Ace was something new. Chic but not fussy. Vintage-looking but mixed with new and commissioned. Soulful and in no way ironic. It wasn’t luxury—the Glaser building (1909) had been a flophouse when Ace founder Alex Calderwood fixed it up, outfitting it with industrial finds, Boeing cast-offs and outsider art from area residents—but it sure felt smart.

I had never until that juncture thought that hotel stays could feel like an overnight in a friend’s loft, that the hostel/road trip phase of my life could be ennobled with handwoven blankets, in-room typewriters and whitewash. A lot of whitewash.

These days, the Ace has spread to Portland, Palm Springs and L.A., to New York, and now London. The vibe is no doubt different in each city—Calderwood believed in travellers experiencing the authentic in dicey/artsy neighbourhoods—and the Gen X meta-hotel has its hooks in everywhere. But the Belltown original stands as first among equals: low loft furniture and quirky paintings still make the rooms feel borrowed, not rented; communal space is a breakfast room in the basement and (unless you book way ahead) shared, lockable hallway bathrooms. It’s got more personality, and more generosity, than the rest of the city combined.

Other Great Places to Stay in Seattle

The Hotel Maxhas some of the Ace’s swagger—there’s an entire floor dedicated to Sub Pop where the rooms have record players and vinyl from the label—but it’s a few rungs up the luxury ladder. From $149, hotelmaxseattle.com

Hotel Murano If you find yourself in Tacoma, this ode to all things glass—that also happens to be a perennial resident on Condé Nast’s Gold List—is the only place to sleep. From $159, hotelmuranotacoma.com

The Arctic Club The hotel has stumbled badly since opening in 2007, but no amount of mismanagement can take away from its amazing beaux-arts interiors. From $389, thearcticclubseattle.com

Hotel Max Seattle
Hotel Max in Seattle

Ace Hotel Seattle

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