Shimmering from the desert haze of Nevada like a latter-day El Dorado, Las Vegas is the most dynamic, spectacular city on earth. At the start of the twentieth century, it didn’t even exist; now it’s home to two million people.
For opulence: Bellagio
In 1998, casino magnate Steve Wynn unveiled Bellagio as his attempt to build the best hotel in world history. It is undeniably a breathtaking achievement, striving to be somehow more authentic than the original town on Lake Como. It’s perhaps not quite state-of-the-art anymore, but still at the top end of the Vegas spectrum. Plush European furnishings and marble bathrooms give the luxurious rooms a slightly retro feel; some face the fountains at the front, others the superb pool complex.
For ambience: Paris
Paris was the 1999 handiwork of the same designers as New York–New York. With a half-size Eiffel Tower straddling the Arc de Triomphe and the Opera, it’s a little compressed, but the attention to detail is a joy. Rooms, if not the absolute pinnacle of luxury, are still pretty good, and for location, views and ambience more than hold their own.
For pseudo-Roman splendour: Caesars Palace
Caesars Palace still encapsulates Las Vegas at its best, more than fifty years since it opened. Outside, ever more bars and restaurants fill extensive open-air patios, while the interior is a vast labyrinth of slots and green baize, peopled by strutting half-naked Roman centurions and Cleopatra-cropped waitresses. The older rooms in this epitome of 1960s luxury still burst with atmosphere, while those in the newer towers are more conventionally elegant.
For theming: New York–New York
This miniature Manhattan boasts a skyline featuring twelve separate skyscrapers and is fronted, of course, by the Statue of Liberty. Unusually, the interior too is carefully realized, with some nice Art-Deco flourishes and entertaining nightlife options in its Greenwich Village area. Sheer attention to detail makes this one of the most exuberantly enjoyable places to stay on the Strip – and it’s small enough that you’re not always shuffling down endless corridors.
For views: Luxor
Guarded by an impassive Sphinx, the 350-foot black-glass pyramid of Luxor remains an astonishing building. Stripped of most of its initial ancient Egyptian trappings, it’s been rebranded as the sort of “hip”, upscale casino resort that now dominates the Strip. All two thousand rooms here have tremendous views – and they’re much larger than usual.
For budget beds: Excalibur
A mock-up of a medieval castle, complete with drawbridge, crenellated towers, and a basement stuffed with fairground-style sideshows for the kids, Excalibur is usually packed with low-budget tour groups. Some of the 4000 rooms are very ordinary, so it’s worth paying a few dollars extra to get a renovated one, which are excellent value.
For high-end amenities: Aria
CityCenter’s centrepiece, the 4004-room Aria, flaunts a modernist aesthetic that makes its plush marble-clad predecessors seem suddenly old and tired. The chocolate-brown and gold-toned guest rooms feel subdued and somewhat anonymous by Las Vegas standards, but Aria can be a real bargain, especially if you have the time – and weather – to enjoy the fantastic pool complex.
For contemporary rooms: The Cosmopolitan
The glittering Cosmopolitan casino, which from the Strip sidewalk appears to be the main entrance to CityCenter, is actually nothing of the sort – it’s an entirely separate, independent entity. While far from cheap, it is on an unusually manageable scale, and offers smart, modern rooms in the very thick of things, plus great restaurants and nightlife.
For extravagance: The Venetian
Even the standard rooms at this upscale Strip giant are split-level suites, with antique-style canopied beds atop raised platforms, plus spacious living rooms, marble bathrooms, and a mind-blowing array of shops and restaurants at hand. The ludicrous re-creation of the Grand Canal, complete with gondolas and singing gondoliers, is quintessential Las Vegas, and as such utterly irresistible – it’s upstairs, for God’s sake.
For luxury: Wynn Las Vegas
Since the 1980s, Steve Wynn has repeatedly redefined Las Vegas’s highest standard of luxury. In a nutshell, the Wynn is the Bellagio re-imagined for a younger, hipper and even richer crowd, with a shift away from European elegance in favour of contemporary Asian design. The exceptionally large guest rooms boast wonderful beds with fabulous linens, and super-sized tubs in the bathrooms.
For an off-Strip alternative: Hard Rock Hotel
Over a mile east of the Strip, “the world’s only rock’n’roll casino” can’t match Las Vegas’s showcase giants for size or splendour. Instead, it’s a relatively intimate and even chic alternative, with above-average rooms, high-class restaurants and fabulous pools.
This feature contains affiliate links; you can find out more about why we’ve partnered with booking.com here. All recommendations are editorially independent and taken from the Rough Guide to Southwest USA.