8 Historic Hotels We’re (Still) Obsessed With
Many of the world’s historic hotels are pioneers not of design or technology, but of service and tradition—those that have perfected the art of hospitality and have set the standard for elegance and class. Here, eight old-world hotels that still steal our hearts.
The Carlyle, NYC
When it comes to historic hotels in New York, everyone knows about the Plaza and the Waldorf-Astoria—but, despite its formality, The Carlyle, a block from Central Park on Manhattan’s moneyed Upper East Side, never seems to feel stuffy—or show its age. Uniformed elevator attendants whisk guests upstairs, where each of the 191 posh rooms are 1930s glam: the Empire- and Art Deco-style décor courtesy of acclaimed interior decorator Dorothy Draper includes porcelain lamps and Audubon prints, while many suites come with their own terraces or grand pianos. (No wonder JFK chose to set up shop here throughout his political career.) Drinks and live jazz at Bemelmans Bar, surrounded by Bemelmans’ own murals (creator of Madeline) and a gold-leaf ceiling, are de rigueur.
The Ritz London
It doesn’t get more quintessentially English than the Ritz London, an institution in the heart of the city’s West End. Guests pass two green copper lions as they make their way inside, where everything is palatial yet refined, from the Louis XVI furniture and Ionic columns to the gilded statues and a restaurant awash in frescoes. Rooms vary between neoclassical and Art Deco, though if you’ve really come to soak in the glamour, the choice you want to make is the one that comes with Rolls-Royce airport transfers and a butler. When it comes to old-school glitz, The Ritz sets the standard in many ways, but perhaps none so much as its high tea. In the mirrored Palm Court salon, afternoon tea-takers take their pick among 18 loose-leaf varieties, served in bone china teacups and silver teapots alongside finger sandwiches and cakes, while being serenaded by a live pianist or harpist.
Talk about timeless: the Raffles first opened its doors to Singapore in 1887, and has since remained an icon of romance in the Far East. Its restored colonial architecture preserves that sense of its past—helped, of course, by the liveried Sikh doormen who usher in each guest; sophisticated suites with their period furniture and butlers; public spaces filled with rattan chairs, potted plants, and gold chandeliers; the world-famous Long Bar (where the Singapore Sling was invented); and the hotel’s never-ending list of storied guests, including Rudyard Kipling and Queen Elizabeth II.
Hotel Sacher Wien, Vienna
Decadence is the name of the game at Vienna's Hotel Sacher, built on the site of an old opera house. You’ll find it in the silks and original oil paintings—1,000, all told—hanging in its 152 guest rooms. You’ll see it in the hall of hanging portraits depicting famous past guests from JFK to the Bee Gees. And you’ll feel it in either of the opposing Rote or Blaue bars, respectively decked out in—you guessed it—deep red or blue velvet, from the couches to the walls and lamp shades. Did we mention this spot is the self-proclaimed inventor of the equally-as-decadent Sacher torte?
Hotel Alvear Palace, Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires’s most famous hotel proves its worth the moment you enter the lobby: picture Corinthian columns, crystal chandeliers, and trellised ceilings straight out of the Belle Époque era. This is Argentina’s answer to NYC’s Plaza Hotel, whose guest roster lists one famous name after another (emperors, presidents, and both movie and music royalty have all stayed here) and where sleeping in its classy Louis XIV- and XVI-style rooms earns just as many bragging rights. While La Bourgogne serves good—if forgettable—French cuisine, L’Orangerie is not to be missed for its breakfast buffet and afternoon tea.
The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai
Some say the Taj Mahal Palace (no, not that Taj Mahal) is the best stay in all of India, and we’re inclined to agree. The grand building, a multi-tier mashup of Moorish, Oriental, and Florentine architecture that somehow all works, became an instant landmark when it was unveiled in 1903. Inside is even more extravagant: think Italian marble floors, silk carpets, Belgian chandeliers, and hundreds of staff—outnumbered only by the thousands of antique works of art scattered throughout the property. Every room in the palace wing is serviced by a butler, while a private jet and luxury yacht are on hand for taking in the area in style. Too enamored to venture out? Head to its Harbour Bar to rub shoulders with the city’s elite.
Chateau Marmont, LA
It doesn’t get more legendary—or Old Hollywood—than “the Chateau,” a hotel that’s had a place in LA lore ever since it opened on the Strip in 1929. The dramatic exterior was modeled after a castle in France’s Loire Valley, and its interiors are just as memorable—frescoed and vaulted ceilings, carved wooden furniture, a warren of poolside bungalows and garden cottages, not to mention the many secret entrances used by Tinseltown’s most exclusive clientele. Stories abound about the exploits of past guests—Greta Garbo, Jim Morrison, Led Zeppelin—and, luckily, despite an acquisition in the 90s, every ounce of the hotel's old-world charms remain.
Badrutt's Palace Hotel, St. Moritz, Switzerland
The alpine village of St. Moritz has for decades been the holiday destination of choice for Europe’s most affluent travelers. Two Winter Olympic Games were hosted here, and enthusiasts still return year after year to ski, ice skate, and watch horse races on the iconic frozen lake. Lording over it all since 1896 is the towered-and-turreted Badrutt’s Palace, one of the world’s most glamorous mountain retreats. A few of its claims to fame: the hotel once surprised a guest on their birthday with an elephant in the lobby, and Alfred Hitchcock returned here more than 30 times after his honeymoon. (We can’t blame him: the attention to detail, like hot water bottles tucked beneath bedsheets every night, is unparalleled.) Whether you spend most of your time at the lauded spa, enjoying the après-ski scene at the Polo Bar, or dining through any combination of its whopping 11 restaurants, boredom here is not an option.
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