With the euro zone in crisis and the U.S. economy sluggish at best, luxury breaks in some of the world's best hotels might not be at the top of everyone's priority list, but premium hotels are doing surprisingly well, according to research by American Express Business Insights.
Looking at hotel sector trends in Europe from the 2008 downturn to the first quarter of 2011, Sujata Bhatia, vice president of AMEX Business Insights for Europe and Asia, found that luxury accommodation is rebounding more quickly than premium or mid-range hotels, and visitors from the U.S. and BRIC nations — Brazil, Russia, India, and China — are driving the growth.
"Luxury spending is back," Bhatia said. "If you talk to people in the industry, they're really starting to feel that there are a lot of people from outside Europe coming in and holding up their recovery."
So where are the best places to stay for a discerning luxury traveler willing to spend eye-popping amounts of money on some of the best hotel rooms in the world? We consulted Christine Gray, editor-in-chief of Luxury Travel Magazine, for her pick of Europe's best, while Travel + Leisure magazine singled out some of the newest European luxury lodgings offering everything from modern alternatives to old-school opulence. Click ahead to find out. — Antonya Allen