South Congress Hotel's hipness helped earn its status as one of the best hotels in the world.
Hotel Emma’s library stocks more than 3,700 volumes from the collection of cultural historian Sherry Kafka Wagner.
One of Hotel Emma’s 146 rooms, this one with a glazed black bed inspired by the artistry of the Herter Brothers.
Hotel Emma’s guest bathrooms feature custom blue-and-cream tile with a rustic surface developed by Roman and Williams design firm.
When one thinks of truly great hotels, cities like Paris, New York and London come to mind. Texas doesn’t tend to enter the equation. Houston stood so short on upscale hotels that it went on something of a mad building rush to get more open before this Super Bowl week.
But two new Texas hotels are raising eyebrows, and perhaps changing the perception of the state’s luxury lodging.
They’re not in Houston or Dallas — and that may be saying something, too, and only helping their aura. Austin’s South Congress Hotel and San Antonio’s Hotel Emma have been named two of the Best New Hotels on the Planet by Travel + Leisure magazine.
It’s not just priceless promotion for the two hotels, it’s a big win for Texas. California is the only state with more hotels in the travel bible’s U.S. Top 10. On the larger list, Batty Langley’s in London — a 29-room gem that purposefully invokes a Downton Abbey-era vibe — and a chateau hotel in the French countryside are some of the Texas hotspots’ lofty competition.
In years past, some may have considered it comical to place Texas hotels in this company. Not coincidently, this year’s breakthrough Lone Star State hotels are like few the region has seen before.
Hotel Emma — a stylish 146-room San Antonio retreat — shuns the tourist-overrun Riverwalk for The Pearl, the district that’s the talk of the city’s hipsters. Or at least it would be, if they’re weren’t so many in-the-know visitors hitting its streets now. This place used to be a brewery, and the old-time ice chests in each room give a nod to that history.
But if Hotel Emma’s converted building dates back to 1894, its comforts and prices are very modern. Its rates start at $275 per night, and there’s a $10,000 per night luxury suite for the true high roller. PaperCity‘s own Linden Wilson wrote about Hotel Emma last month, raving about its 3,7000-volume library open only to hotel guests.
While Hotel Emma wows with history, its Austin counterpart tries to be the coolest kid on the block. And the entire city. Remember, this is Austin — the land of Texas cool. But by most accounts, South Congress Hotel succeeds.
Travel + Leisure paints it as a near godsend. “Austin has cool kids in spades — but it’s in strangely short supply of cool hotels,” the magazine writes, setting up South Congress as the first legitimately cool hotel in Austin. You no longer have to Airbnb, Beyonce!
The 83-room South Congress Hotel pushes the design envelope by using materials like denim to accent its rooms. The days of cookie-cutter Texas hotels may not be over, but at least a few more rebels are showing there can be a different way.
Are you listening, Houston and Dallas?