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On the surface it looks like another run-of-the-mill list of reader-picked favorite hotels, resorts, cruise ships, and the like. But the Monday release of Condé Nast Traveler’s annual Reader’s Choice Awards offered up a true shocker to Boston’s luxury hotel world. Not only did an inexpensive hotel in the South End make the list — it topped it.

Readers of Condé Nast Traveler — an aspirational travel glossy from the publishers of Vogue — crowned the Revolution Hotel as their favorite in the city. This may not seem like much of a surprise at first. People enjoy the one-time YWCA on Berkeley Street that was transformed into a bargain hipster hotel. That’s swell.

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But glance back at previous lists of Condé Nast Traveler favorites, and you see that one of these things is not like the other. The annual list of Boston’s top 15 hotels is traditionally dripping with gilded lodging options. XV Beacon, filled with its warm leathery textures and rich chocolate and cafe con leche tones, is a frequent visitor to the top of the list. XV Beacon offers fireplaces in guest rooms. It has a bath salts menu, Frette sheets, heated towel racks, and a rooftop garden.

When I reviewed the hotel in 2015, I wrote “I was expecting to be intimidated, but the luxury enveloped me like a toasty pashmina.”

I also paid $490 a night for that slice of luxury. I was afraid I was going to be fired for submitting such an extravagant expense report.

A room in the XV Beacon Hotel in Boston
A room in the XV Beacon Hotel in BostonChristopher Muther/Globe Staff

In comparison, you can snag a room at the Revolution for $150 a night or less. However rooms at this rate offer 115 square feet and a shared bathroom — tactfully referred to as “bath down the hall.” Compared to rooms at XV Beacon, the rooms at the Revolution are downright spartan. The walls are primarily white with an occasional accent color or Donna Summer song lyric. Some rooms have bunk beds. The resulting look is something along the lines of a Boston-themed institutional dorm room with a few clever touches tossed in the mix. Although the suites, with their own bathrooms, feel less claustrophobic, calling them luxury would be akin to calling “Gigli” a cinematic masterpiece.

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The Revolution comes to life in common spaces with murals of famous Bostonians rendered in street art style. It’s one big Instagramable lobby. The hotel follows the now-common concept that has guests paying for postage stamp rooms with the intention that they’ll spend free time at the hotel in stylish common spaces.

(The Revolution is part of the Provenance chain of hotels. The founder and chairman of Provenance, Gordon Sondland, is a major donor to the Trump campaign and was named Ambassador to the European Union by Trump in 2018, despite having no diplomatic experience. Sondland was mentioned in the original whistleblower complaint and a key witness to the Trump-Ukraine dealings. On Tuesday, Sondland was ordered by the State Department not to testify in front of Congress as part of the ongoing impeachment inquiry. Sondland’s lawyer says he wants to cooperate, but the State Department has directed him not to appear before the House committee.)

More than 600,000 Condé Nast Traveler readers across the globe submitted responses rating their travel experiences to provide the lists of winners in multiple categories.

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The Revolution, with its Lilliputian rooms and shared baths, joins slightly more traditional 2019 reader’s choice winners such as the Fairmont Copley Plaza, the Boston Harbor Hotel, Taj Boston, and the Liberty. These are the crème de la crème of Boston’s hotels, often costing more than double the Revolution’s base rate. There are some other low-price options on list, such as two AC Marriott locations. However the Revolution Hotel at the top is a revolutionary shake-up in the Boston lodging scene.

The top 15 hotels in Boston, as chosen by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler magazine.

1. The Revolution Hotel

2. XV Beacon

3. Kimpton Marlowe Hotel

4. Fairmont Copley Plaza

5. Boston Harbor Hotel

6. Hotel Commonwealth

7. The Colonnade Hotel

8. The Envoy

9. AC Hotel Boston Cambridge

10. Taj Boston

11. The Charles Hotel

12. The Godfrey Hotel

13. The Boxer

14. AC Hotel Boston Downtown

15. The Liberty


Christopher Muther can be reached at muther@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther and on Instagram @Chris_Muther.