Savannah’s New Hotel Bardo Makes a Splash

The city is buzzing about this postcard-worthy pool paradise inspired by coastal Italy

A hotel pool piazza with pink umbrellas, lounge chairs, and striped floor detailing

Photo: courtesy of hotel bardo

The pool at Hotel Bardo.

The luxe new Hotel Bardo Savannah has declared itself a place for locals and visitors alike—a tricky balance to strike, but it may be working. In the past three years, a new wave of upscale hotels has hit the scene here, and even Ritz-Carlton has plans for downtown. Forward-thinking Bardo continues the same trend, but with attitude: It includes a members-only element.

The turreted, red-brick mansion on Forsyth Park has lived several lives since its 1888 construction—as the estate of a marine insurance magnate and, for decades, as Fox & Weeks funeral home. In 2005 it opened as 700 Drayton, the restaurant for the Mansion on Forsyth, a hotel remembered by Savannahians for its chartreuse furniture, ubiquitous crystal, and leopard print. At the time, one reviewer noted, locals would refer back to the funeral-home era when being escorted to their tables: “Oh, that’s where Mama was. Can we sit somewhere else?”

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An art-deco green wrought-iron courtyard with vines, plants, and seating.

Photo: courtesy of hotel bardo

In the courtyard, Bardo’s wrought-iron, art deco “winter garden” is at once nostalgic for a lost era of glamor and clean and new, its vines only just beginning to creep up its glistening trellises.

Now, the house at 700 Drayton and the hotel building next door have been reborn again. Hotel Bardo and its fine-dining “coastal Italian” restaurant, Saint Bibiana, trace the evolution of luxury in Savannah—and they’re causing quite a stir. The 149 spacious rooms and aspirational living-space-like lobby are vaguely midcentury modern and full of eye candy: lush tone-on-tone color palettes, sultry lighting, and coffee table books about St. Moritz, diamonds, and yachts.


A soft pink bathroom with checkered shower tile.

Photo: courtesy of hotel bardo

A green suite with a window looking out to branches of an oak tree;

Photo: courtesy of hotel bardo

A suite and bathroom.

But the design piece de resistance is the backyard oasis. Pink-striped umbrellas and two-story-tall palms flank multiple pools. Bar Bibi invites day drinking and Instagram photo shoots with its retro array of pinks, peaches, lemon yellow, and rattan. Three years ago, this paradise was a parking lot. Now, it’s a postcard scene that could as soon be early-2000s South Beach as Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Positano in The Talented Mr. Ripley.

A bright coral and lemon space of an outside bar with curtains and high chairs

Photo: courtesy of hotel bardo

Bright coral curtains and curved details at Bar Bibi.

An aerial of the pool and its striped umbrellas.

Photo: courtesy of hotel bardo

Palm trees, striped umbrellas, and lounge chairs encircle the pool.

Bardo creative partner Phillip Pond drew inspiration from historic Savannah homes, where high walls hide secret gardens. “These little oases,” he says, “we just made that happen at a hotel scale.” The Savannah references, for the most part, stop there. The rest is a beauty cocktail, pulling design notes from other hotels on the French Riviera, Lake Como, and the Tuscan coast as well as from Miami’s art deco icon The Raleigh.  

The hoteliers had otherworldly inspirations, too. Jessica Berkin, the chief brand officer of Bardo’s developer-manager group Left Lane, says “bardo” is the Tibetan concept of an in-between place. For her purposes, it’s one straddling fantasy and daily life. But often, it’s the space connecting earthly life and afterlife—a purgatory—which feels a bit on the nose for cemetery-strewn Savannah, and 700 Drayton with all its incarnations.

The circle-shaped bar of the Green Room, which nods to midcentury-modern design, is a dimly lit lounge with upholstered banquettes in slate and sage tones and handsome leather bar seats.

Photo: courtesy of hotel bardo

The circle-shaped bar of the Green Room, which nods to midcentury-modern design, is a dimly lit lounge with upholstered banquettes in slate and sage tones and handsome leather bar seats.

The brand’s mission, she says, is to make Bardo not just a tourist favorite but a community one. Their approach: finding that middle place between traditional social clubs and the post-pandemic resurgence of members-only hospitality experiences. In Savannah and across the South, private clubs—whether dining, hunting, or golf—are steeped in exclusivity. Newcomers often find themselves on the outside looking in. And increasingly, Savannah is welcoming a lot of newcomers.

Cue Club Bardo, where anyone can apply. Applicants, Berkin says, are chosen according to what they can contribute to the scene, i.e., “culture,” “dynamism,” and a $4,800 one-time initiation fee ($3,800 if you’re under forty), plus a couple hundred in monthly dues and $200 minimum monthly resort spend.

Photo: courtesy of hotel bardo

The rooms in the Club Bardo space, upstairs from Saint Bibiana, are for guests and members only.

The club’s proven popular: The ability to transport one’s workday or workout to Tuscany, South Beach, or the inside of any future Hotel Bardo, for that matter (the brand has big expansion plans), isn’t the only draw. Members get basic perks like pool and private lounge access, complimentary valet, and discounts at the excellent Saltgrass Spa, as well as access to fitness facilities, personal training, even childcare.

Locals who opted not to join say they like the format too: The members-only concept means Savannahians know just whom they can expect to run into at a Saint Bibiana dinner or at the lobby bar, one local told me when I recently visited. “Maybe let’s just go across the street,” another friend suggested as we planned where to meet for coffee. “The Bardo is a whole thing.”

Photo: courtesy of hotel bardo

Saint Bibiana, Bardo’s coastal Italian–inspired restaurant.

After all, this isn’t just any town. It’s Savannah: big enough for a new private club, and small enough that everyone knows who’s in and who’s out. 

They’ll plan accordingly. But if naysayers change their minds, they may be out of luck: The membership roster is currently at capacity—and there’s a waitlist. They’ll just have to book a room.