In today’s social media and crowd-sourcing era, it’s hard to know if certain properties are really worthy of the ratings they claim. What is a five-star hotel? What makes it different from a four-star hotel or a seven-star hotel? We’re answering these questions and more in our guide to 5-star hotels.
Explore the technical definition, what has changed in the hotel rating system, and some real-life examples of five-star hotels you can use to compare and contrast your own property or book for your next vacation.
What is a five-star hotel?
A five-star hotel is a luxury property with beautiful facilities, top notch services, and Instagram-worthy rooms. Five-star hotels should be run by people who are polite, accommodating, and discreet.
The hotel has a high staff to room ratio and a variety of staff members available at any time. These can include a butler, doorman, and 24-hour reception. Daily housekeeping is also provided upon request.
Other amenities include a fine dining restaurant or bar, a standalone lounge or restaurant, valet or parking options, and childcare options.
Guest rooms must be plush and welcoming at a five-star hotel. They should have high thread count sheets and a bed that is comfortable. The walls should be thick, so that you can get plenty of rest even when your neighbours are loud.
As more hotels aspire to five-star status, they are expected to improve their standards of luxury. Details such as strong Wi-Fi access throughout the hotel, complete control over room temperature, and upgraded coffeemakers are expected at this level of accommodation.
Knowing all of this, you may be surprised to find out that a five-star rating, which was previously considered the best rating a hotel could hold, is not necessarily the gold standard anymore. In fact, there are now seven-star hotels. However, seven-star hotels are few and far between, so five-star hotels are still the premium to most.
What does that mean for you? You can have a world class experience in any five-star hotel no matter where you are. Expect to indulge in an exceptional experience from booking to check out.
Ranking criteria has changed in recent years
Hotel ratings are used to describe the quality of a hotel. They were originally invented to describe the basic services a hotel offered; for example, a two-star hotel may offer food in addition to shelter. In modern times, star ratings have expanded into a more comprehensive concept, combining service options and quality.
Although there are some generally accepted qualities expected in each star category, ranking criteria is no longer standardised in the same way it once was.
Today, there are many different rating schemes used by various organisations. One of the most popular is the star rating system published by the Forbes Travel Guide. But the biggest movement towards global unification of the hotel star system comes from the World Hotel Rating project.
The objective of the World Hotel Rating project is to develop sustainable and quality hotel services. They also aim to promote celebration of all the world's cultures and heritage. As far as hotel star ratings go, the company plans to develop specialised labels to promote hotels with specific features. Past attempts at doing this were unsuccessful. However, this is one of the largest efforts to date and one that many are in support of.
While not universal, there are some systems that hotels strive to appeal to a base defined by location. In North America, AAA has a one-to-five-star rating. In Europe, the Hotel Union has a one-to-five-star rating.
The Auto Club bases its ratings on feedback from hotel guests. Each rating team's classifications are based on various factors such as guest satisfaction, safety, and cleanliness. For example, all Five Star Alliance hotels must meet specific requirements in order to gain ratings, including maintaining high satisfaction in the customer base.
Even though there is no universal classification system yet, we can make some assumptions about each hotel star rating. Here’s what people think of when they see a five-star rating on a hotel:
Is the hotel close to a tourist hotspot or within a walkable part of town? Or is it conveniently located by the airport or other public transportation? The less isolated a location is the higher the rating will be. You can expect a five-star rated hotel to be near the action without having to sacrifice a good night's rest.
Think valet services, gyms, and onsite restaurants. The fuller the hotel experience, the higher the rating. Five-star hotels may offer all of the above, plus dry cleaning, meeting rooms, and banquet halls depending on its size.
How updated are the rooms, hallways, bathrooms, and shared spaces? Do they incorporate technology or trending design styles? Are they cleaned regularly and freshly tidied? Five-star hotels are expected to go above and beyond in this department.
There are some exceptions to the rule. If the hotels are located somewhere like Catalina Island, CA, where access to construction equipment and even cars is extremely limited, you can expect to see more updates around decor than structure.
4. Room sizes
Five-star hotels should offer comfortable rooms with desks, seating areas, queen or king size beds, and mini fridges or even kitchenettes. In larger cities like New York, there might not be space for all of this despite the high rating. Keep in mind that ratings are relative when booking.
5. Customer service
All hotels strive to provide excellent customer service. So it may be hard to tell a one-star hotel apart from a five-star hotel in this category. Instead of focusing on quality, it’s better to think about access.
Is there always someone physically available at the front desk to help with check in or check out? What about a door person? Can you text the hotel team if you have requests or questions throughout the day?
All of these little things add up to a convenient level of support you should expect from a five-star hotel experience.
Our favourite five-star hotels
Here are some of the top five-star hotels in Europe according to Cvent. Keep reading to learn more about them and what makes them deserving of a top score.
W Barcelona is a boutique luxury hotel owned by Marriott Hotels. This upscale hotel has a stunning sea view on the Barceloneta boardwalk. Just 2 km from the Barceloneta metro stop and 4 km from the vibrant La Rambla, its chic rooms come equipped with free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, iPod docks, rainfall showerheads, and minibars.
Upgraded rooms and suites offer additional perks like sea views, separate living and dining areas, private terraces, whirlpool tubs, and kitchenettes. Dining options include three dynamic restaurants, with one set directly on the beachfront, complemented by a rooftop bar and a contemporary lounge. Guests can relax at the outdoor pool accompanied by a bar, indulge in the spa, or exercise at the 24-hour fitness centre. Room service ensures added convenience.
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Location: Lisbon, Portugal
Overlooking the Florestal de Monsanto park, this grand hotel is situated just 6 km from the 11th-century São Jorge Castle and a mere 2-minute stroll from Sete Rios train station. Its elegant rooms and suites boast complimentary Wi-Fi, Nespresso machines, designer toiletries, and captivating city or park views.
Upgraded rooms grant access to an exclusive lounge with complimentary refreshments. The hotel also offers free access to a round-the-clock gym, a heated indoor pool, and a breakfast buffet (some restrictions apply). Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant, bar, seasonal terrace, spa, and 24/7 room service. Children aged 11 and below stay free with an adult, and parking facilities are available.
Location: Lisbon, Portugal
Situated opposite the Parque Eduardo VII, this luxurious hotel is conveniently located a mere 5-minute walk from the Marquês de Pombal metro station and just 2 km from Rossio Square. Its opulent rooms and suites are equipped with complimentary Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, minibars, and designer toiletries. Many of these accommodations boast balconies offering sweeping views of the city.
Four Seasons Hotel Ritz provides room service; children up to 18 can stay without additional cost when accompanied by an adult. Guests can dine at the hotel's restaurant, enjoy the summer bar featuring a terrace, or relax at the cafe. Additional amenities include a fitness centre, a spa with an indoor pool, and parking facilities, though breakfast comes at an additional charge.
Location: Paris, France
Located just a stone's throw away from the Tuileries Garden, this grand hotel stands a brief 7-minute walk from Place de la Concorde and a 15-minute stroll from The Louvre. The elegant rooms are adorned with plush furnishings and are equipped with Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs. Some rooms boast views of the Eiffel Tower or The Louvre.
The suites come with separate living spaces, while the more lavish upgraded suites showcase intricate furnishings and chandeliers. Guests can benefit from a gym, a stylish brasserie, a luxurious bar, a refreshing Mediterranean-themed terrace graced with olive trees, and a fountain. The hotel also provides a business centre and boasts 2,000 sq m of meeting space, which includes three exquisite function rooms adorned with 19th-century frescoes.
Location: London, UK
Situated just a 3-minute walk from Hyde Park Corner tube station, this upscale hotel overlooks Green Park and is conveniently located a 10-minute walk from Buckingham Palace and a mile from Hyde Park. The refined rooms come with Wi-Fi (for a fee), satellite TV, desks, minibars, and tea and coffee-making facilities, complemented by 24/7 room service.
Guests in upgraded rooms and suites benefit from access to an exclusive lounge. Moreover, the suites boast separate living spaces, stunning skyline views, and round-the-clock butler service. The hotel features two restaurants and a cocktail lounge. The hotel also offers a spa, exercise room, and business centre.
Location: London, UK
Nestled in a grand building in the affluent Mayfair area, this distinguished hotel is a mere 12-minute walk from the renowned shopping district of Old Bond Street, a 13-minute amble from Hyde Park, and just 1.5 miles from Trafalgar Square. The stylish rooms come with minibars, luxurious marble bathrooms featuring soaking tubs, and Wi-Fi (at a charge).
Suites boast living areas, with select ones offering balconies and picturesque views of Hyde Park. Guests staying in club-level accommodations enjoy access to a lounge, where complimentary Wi-Fi, wine, continental breakfast, and afternoon tea are provided. The hotel ensures 24/7 in-room dining. For dining and leisure, guests can explore the hotel's upscale restaurant, steakhouse, tea room, coffee house, and two bars. Additionally, the property features a gym, a hair salon, and 5,417 sq. m. event spaces.
Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Located less than 2 km from the Rijksmuseum and just a 15-minute walk from Station RAI, Hotel Okura is a chic high-rise hotel with luxurious rooms, free Wi-Fi, Nespresso machines, and rainfall showers. Upgraded rooms add sitting areas and desks, while spacious suites boast living rooms, panoramic views, and palatial bathrooms.
Dining options include four acclaimed restaurants, a cocktail lounge, and a lobby bar. Additional amenities like an indoor pool, gym, spa, and cooking workshops ensure a luxurious stay. With its prime location, top-notch facilities, and elegant decor, this hotel is ideal for leisure and business travellers alike.
Next up, learn more about types of hotel rooms to book during your next stay at a five-star hotel!