- 1 Ritz Paris
- 2 Plaza Hotel, New York City
- 3 Burj al Arab, Dubai
- 4 Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
- 5 Chateau Marmont, LA
- 6 Claridge's, London
- 7 Icehotel, Sweden
- 8 Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur
- 9 Le Sirenuse, Positano
- 10 La Mamounia, Marrakech
- 11 Copacabana Palace, Rio de Janeiro
- 12 Victoria Falls Hotel, Zimbabwe
- 13 Gritti Palace, Venice
- 14 Amangiri, Utah
- 15 Jade Mountain, St. Lucia
15 Iconic Hotels Worth Checking Off That Bucket List
We all have one—a list of places we want need to check off during our lifetime. Maybe yours includes Paris, the Great Barrier Reef, and eating at the best restaurant in the world. However, if checking into one of these iconic hotels hasn't made the cut yet, you might want to consider a revise. Below, 15 legendary stays people build itineraries around just to experience.
Coco Chanel holed up here for 34 years. Pablo Picasso and F. Scott Fitzgerald were regulars at its saloon. Sophia Lauren once described it as “the most romantic hotel in the world.” If that doesn’t sell you on the mythic, five-star Ritz Paris, nothing will. We're especially jazzed about the recent additions (thanks to a $200 million overhaul) including a Versailles-style garden, a subterranean ballroom, and the world’s first Chanel spa. Thankfully, much of the romance this legend once possessed—the red-carpet entrance, original furniture, the iconic Bar Hemingway—remains almost untouched, ensuring its glamorous, spirited past lives on.
Plaza Hotel, New York City
What is it about The Plaza that makes it such a universal symbol of hotel luxury? With its chateau-like tower that rises high above Central Park’s southeast corner, it's become New York’s ultimate grande dame—one that, over the past century, has hosted anyone who was and is anyone. Inside, 282 rooms feature Louis XVI-style interiors, wainscoted walls, and views of Fifth Avenue or Central Park. You'll also find a Todd English food hall, a Caudalie Spa, a Warren Tricomi Salon, and a famous Palm Court, whose afternoon tea service is one of the city’s top must-dos.
Burj al Arab, Dubai
If any hotel can self-describe itself as “seven-star,” it's the Burj Al Arab. The hotel’s sail-like façade—now an icon of the city itself—has become a symbol of the no-holds-barred level of luxury Dubai has come to embody. Inside, 202 duplex suites are visions of marble and gold; one of the 11 restaurants, bars, and lounges is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling aquariums; and, at the Talise Spa, guests float between pampering treatments and a Roman-inspired amphitheater serving drinks and snacks. If you dream it up, Burj will deliver; if not, their fleet of Rolls Royces are on hand for taking you wherever it is you need to get it.
Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
From the moment it opened in 2010, Marina Bay Sands became one of the world's most famous hotels. The star attraction: a surfboard-like rooftop infinity pool and "skypark" that tops out the futuristic 57-story hotel. Getting a snap by water's edge against the Singaporean skyline is now a bucket-list entry on many a traveler's itinerary. FYI: the pool is only open to hotel guests, so book yourself a night’s stay and time your swim for sunrise (or check-out), when visitors are at a minimum.
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—we're talking frescoed and vaulted ceilings, carved wooden furniture, and 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, and Led Zeppelin among them) while LA’s cool “new” kids (Leonardo DiCaprio, Emma Stone, Justin Timberlake) are also known to kick around.
Nowhere in London lets you play dress up quite like Claridge’s, a ritzy Mayfair sleep that's hosted the likes of Audrey Hepburn and Winston Churchill and whose next-level service, luxuriously spacious rooms and suites, and beautiful Art Deco décor take you right back to the Roaring Twenties. The 203 oversized rooms are split between Art Deco and Victorian décor but all have marble baths stocked with locally sourced Cowshed products. A treatment at the top-floor spa is a must, as is their award-winning Afternoon Tea—though whether you choose to take it in the chandelier-lit Foyer or the cozy Reading Room is entirely up to you.
Long before palace-like ice hotels sprung up in places as far-reaching as Romania, there was Sweden’s Icehotel, the first of its kind. Every year since 1990, artists have made the pilgrimage to the tiny village of Jukkasjärvi, above the Arctic Circle in Swedish Lapland, to design and carve a new hotel out of snow and ice cut from the nearby Torne River. The experience, which only runs from December to April, is as magical as you’d expect: guests are transported here by dogsled or snowmobile, and spend their time dining off ice-block plates in the restaurant, drinking from all-ice glasses in the bar, and bedding down in one of 65 individually designed rooms. (Yours might feature Moorish archways and glistening chandeliers or an all-ice bed frame shaped like palm fronds, centered by a nest of reindeer pelts.)
Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur
Many don’t realize Lake Pichola, a serene escape in the middle of Udaipur, is actually man-made, first built in 1362 as an easier means of transporting grain across the city. The best way to take in the lake—and the city’s Mediterranean-esque waterfront—is from afar at the floating Taj Lake Palace hotel. Built in 1746 for Prince Jagat Singh II, the property is a sight to behold—a gleaming white-marble oasis in the lake's center, which you have to cross by boat to reach. (Psst: you might recognize it from the 1983 James Bond film Octopussy.) Fork over a cool $23,000 and you can live like a raja for a night inside the presidential suite, which is decked out with rare paintings, crystal chandeliers, a library, and a private balcony.
Le Sirenuse, Positano
Steinbeck was staying at Le Sirenuse, only two years after it first opened in 1953, when he wrote that Positano was “a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.” Half a century later, the 58-room family-run palazzo hasn't lost its luster, and still attracts its fair share of movie stars and high flyers who come for the opulent guest rooms (we're talking colorful handmade tile floors, curated antiques, and Tyrrhenian Sea balcony views) and gorgeous candlelit restaurant, where air kissing and champagne sipping is still de rigueur. If you can find it in you to tear yourself away, the hotel's vintage wooden boat is at the ready to sail guests up and down the coast.
La Mamounia, Marrakech
One step inside La Mamounia and you'll understand why it's considered one of Marrakech's most famous hotels. The dreamy Moroccan décor and lush, sprawling gardens make you feel like you’re living in a faraway estate. No detail has been overlooked, either: guests are greeted with a plate of dates and a glass of almond milk upon arrival, while convenient switchboards in all 209 rooms mean you can dim the lights with the press of one button. Headed out for the evening? Use their on-site hairdresser for the perfect up-do or blowout to perfect your evening look.
Copacabana Palace, Rio de Janeiro
If you never stepped foot off property during a stay at the Belmond Copacabana Palace, we wouldn’t blame you. This Belle Époque beauty, modeled after hotels along the French Riviera, is where everyone that’s anyone—Hollywood royalty, actual royalty, dignitaries—comes to while away their days in Rio, be it digging into Michelin-starred meals at Pan-Asian hot spot MEE, sunning by the semi-Olympic-size pool, or socializing at the piano bar after an afternoon at legendary Copacabana Beach, just steps away. Guest rooms have been renovated for modern times but still retain their high-ceilinged, Art Deco air (some even have their own balconies, which get you that much closer to the sea).
Victoria Falls Hotel, Zimbabwe
As one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Victoria Falls is right up there alongside Everest, the Great Barrier Reef, and the Grand Canyon. For a postcard view, visit the Victoria Falls National Park in Zimbabwe, which has paths overlooking the main falls, Horseshoe Falls, and Rainbow Falls, as well as one of the continent's most iconic sleeps—the Victoria Falls Hotel. The 1904 Edwardian landmark sits so close to the edge of Batoka Gorge, you can actually see the spray from the falls right from the property. All 161 rooms retain their colonial charm—four-poster beds; floral curtains—though the posh Livingstone Room's tasting menu, the picturesque pool, and the private viewing platform are reason enough to stay here.
Gritti Palace, Venice
You’ll feel like Venetian royalty at this five-star palace hotel, once the 15th-century private home of Duke Andrea Gritti. An opulent jewel box overlooking the Grand Canal, it imparts a palpable sense of history from you moment you step inside, thanks to gold-trimmed ceilings, period antiques, Murano glass chandeliers, and a covetable hand-painted grand piano. Stays here were meant for living it up: take your morning cappuccino or afternoon Aperol Spritz on the canal-side terrace like Peggy Guggenheim (a former guest) surely did, then go for a spin to the lagoon's outer islands aboard the hotel’s private Riva speedboat.
For couples, privacy is gold—which might help explain the steep (but oh-so-worth-it) price-tag for a stay at Amangiri. Its 34 hyper-modern cement suites are set within a desolate 600-acre swath of Utah desert, complete with twin rain showers, soaking tubs, and glass doors that open onto outdoor lounges with their own fireplace and sweeping views. The central pool is its own architectural marvel, built right into the base of a mesa. You can find “better” views during a hot-air balloon ride over the windswept landscape, or stay on terra firma and opt for a Navajo-inspired spa treatment followed by a taste of the hotel restaurant's wood-fired cuisine.
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Jade Mountain, St. Lucia
Does anything scream “this is paradise” more than an open-air hotel room? One glance at this cliffside aerie in the cliffs of St. Lucia and you’ll see why it’s been voted one of the world’s best honeymoon hotels year in and year out. Each "sanctuary" features an open fourth wall where guests can soak in the sweeping view of the island's iconic Pitons—whether it’s from their whirlpool bathroom tub or private infinity pool. When you're not taking in those panoramic vistas, head to the restaurant for multi-course menus on request, or get your blood pumping by mountain biking in the nearby hills or diving at the resort’s five-star scuba center.
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