It’s official. As of 2009, Baltimore has lost its unofficial nickname, Smalltimore, with the unveiling of its first luxury boutique hotel, the Four Diamond Luxury-awarded Hotel Monaco. Located in the heart of downtown, it occupies the top seven floors of the original Beaux Arts B&O Railroad headquarters building. And it isn’t just any luxury boutique hotel, either. It’s a Kimpton hotel. The Kimpton brand is known to locate only in tourist-cum-smart-biz spots, such as San Francisco, Miami, Chicago, NYC and Seattle, to name just a few.

What’s to like? Lots. Staying true to the brand, the hotel is eco-friendly (there’s even a recycle waste basket in each guest room); pet friendly (the entrance to the hotel has a doggie bowl filled with food and water; and for those who don’t travel with their pet, a complimentary gold fish is available for their stay); and just downright friendly, e.g., if there’s anything you need, just ask. But don’t be surprised if you don’t find yourself asking— this is a hotel that hasn’t forgotten anything.

Case in point is the mini-bar, which is loaded with a creative selection of goodies— some organic and healthy, some spot-on junk food. You can’t help but want to raid the Pop Chips, Bissinger’s Blueberry Acai Gummy Pandas, Altoids, Snickers bars and Peanut M&M’s, a 2007 Sonoma La Crema Pinot Noir and a 2005 Kendall-Jackson Merlot, Maker’s Mark bourbon, Bombay Sapphire dry gin, Coca-Cola (regular and diet) and Honest Tea’s Organic Honey Green Tea. You’ll also find a tinned first-aid kit, Pangea Organics Facial Mask (Japanese Matcha Tea with Acai & Goji Berry) and Lip Care (Italian Mandarin with Rose), Tom’s Natural Spearmint toothpaste, Alba Mango Vanilla Shave Cream— even a wooden train whistle to keep with the Hotel Monaco theme of “World Traveler.”

Hotel MonacoDallas-based Wilson Associates designed the hotel to recall the B&O’s past, and there is the feeling in the lobby that one is waiting for a train to go on a grand 1920s adventure. The front desk sits atop steamer trunk designs, which complement the steamer trunk bed stands in the guest rooms. The nightlight is an old sepia-toned B&O photo, blown up to fill a panel in the closet door, and backlit. The meeting rooms are named after world destinations: Athens, Vienna, Caracas, Tokyo. Leopard-, zebra- and giraffe- (for the taller guest) print robes hang in the closets of the rooms, which are decorated in bold colors and whimsical details— that blue! the carpet! the headboard! — which are everywhere.

The details are what make Kimpton hotels stand out from all the rest. The lobby’s trendy background music and edgy furniture in muted charcoals mixed with limes and fuchsia colors are placed invitingly around a 5-foot-long, double-sided glowing fireplace framed by gold-tinted marbled mirror tiles.This “living room” is the backdrop for a complimentary Wine Hour that takes place every afternoon, where the hotel guests can mingle.The beds in each of the 202 luxury rooms and suites are not only draped in Italian Frette linens, but some come extra-long for taller people, and all have Mount Everest-sized stacks of fluffy pillows. Bathrooms have glass-enclosed stalls with over-sized shower heads and deep, deep Jacuzzi baths with two opposing seats. Baths are stocked with L’Occitane amenities, including a mint pine rosemary effervescent revitalizing sugar cube, and very cool, stylish stainless steel soap dishes.

And then there are the in-room spa treatments. Probably none better than the 80-minute deep tissue massage, with Kerstin Florian lavender aromatherapy oils. Even the dogs can get massages here (along with walks and treats).
Hungry for something more than those treats in the mini-bar? Head downstairs to Hotel Monaco’s restaurant, the B&O American Brasserie, truly a destination in itself (see page 36).Chef E. Michael Reidt, a Food & Wine “Best New Chef,” amazes the palate with his repertoire of contemporary American classics.

So you can ditch the “Smalltimore.” With the Hotel Monaco in town, Baltimore ups its stature, sophistication and worldly grandeur. We’re still Charm City, of course, but with Kimpton as our newest resident, we’re that much cooler.

2 N. Charles St., 443-692-6170,

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