NH Palazzo Barocci, Venice

LOCATION: It should be compulsory for any guest at the NH Palazzo Barocci to arrive by water taxi. The hotel's location, right on the Grand Canal, half-way between the Rialto bridge and where the waterway curves around the San Marco neighbourhood, makes drawing up to the red-and-white-striped jetty in a handsome motor launch more satisfying than ever.

 FIRST IMPRESSIONS: From the outside, the hotel preserves Venice's architectural uniformity - a traditional, square terracotta facade punctuated by pale stone balconies. Step inside, however, and there's a refreshing touch of modernity in this city where many hotels look like museum pieces. Originally built as one of Venice's seven classic theatres, after being closed in 1800 by Napoleon it became a family home and then a hotel. The building's dramatic background has been referenced but updated - a bespoke Swarovski curtain of crystal hangs beneath the embossed lobby ceiling, and the reception desk is backed by the sweep of a vivid red velvet curtain.

 THE FACTS: NH Hotels chose this property to become an early member of its new, deluxe NH Collection, and after a top-to-toe, six-month redevelopment (the hotel was formerly known as NH Manin), it's undoubtedly a stunner. Behind the lobby there's a light, bright bar and a breakfast room, but there are also tables set in the gorgeous walled courtyard, beyond which a second building is home to 19 of the hotel's rooms. The other 40 are in the main building, and this is where you'll find the rooms with a coveted Grand Canal view; 10 of the executive rooms, and five of the junior suites. If clients can stretch to EUR700 a night, then choose room 303, the top floor suite, where a private terrace overlooking the canal runs along the entire front of the building. Inside, rooms continue the contemporary classic feel, in tones of mushroom and gold, with luxury touches including quality linens, espresso machines, and sumptuous bathrobes. Bathrooms are ultra-modern, with rainshowers and professional quality hairdryers.

A GOOD BASE FOR: The location is great for exploring, in the heart of San Marco but not too close to the square and the streets surrounding it that throng uncomfortably with hordes of tourists during the day. Most city highlights are walkable, but for anything further afield - or if clients are elderly or simply prefer to let a boat do the work - the hotel is right by the Sant'Angelo Vaporetto stop.

WOW: In my book, the best bang for your buck is room 305. It doesn't overlook the canal and so is classed, and priced, as a junior suite rather than a junior suite with special view - saving clients EUR150-200. However, this suite has a hidden gem - open what at first glance you expect to be a wardrobe door, and find the Venetian equivalent of Narnia - a secret passage that leads you up a flight of steps to a private roof terrace with a view south and west over the Venetian rooftops. Watching the sunset in this peaceful spot feels simply magical.

HOW MUCH: Rooms start from £174

 nh-hotels.com

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