Sometimes the best hotels are characterised and made famous for more than their rooms, their services, or their free parking. For many of the grandest and most famous, their prestige comes not so much for their function as a hotel but their story as a hotel. And indeed, you’ll find that the sites known widely by name tend to have very rich and extensive histories.
For many that’s part of the joy of staying there – to make oneself a part of this emerging narrative behind the building, and to stay in the same rooms as successive generations of guests both great and humble.
The following hotels have been chosen because they’re in some way historically significant, or else just retain some timeless classical charm in their architecture and presentation. Make your own part in history the next time you’re planning a holiday.
Ashford Castle, Ireland
An ancient Anglo-Norman castle built during the initial wave of English conquest under Henry II, Ashford Castle is truly a grand sight to behold. Its medieval majesty is only surpassed by the grandeur of their rooms and suites. Formerly the stately manse of the rich, the powerful and the good, it is now a luxury hotel open to all who wish to experience the life of the nobility.
Each room is decorated to properly capture the sort of regal finery you’d expect from a stay at a castle, whether you want a four poster velvet bed in the Regan Presidential suite, or something a little homely, secluded and rustic in the Hideaway Cottage.
Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur
Found quite literally in the middle of Lake Pichola in the Indian state of Rajasthan, the Taj Lake Palace was built by local royalty as a whimsical luxury get away. While it was largely intended for pleasure, the Palace also saw use as a sanctuary for European residents during the Sepoy Mutiny. Restored to its original glory, the hotel is now one of the most glamorous accommodations in India, famous for its role in the 1969 Bond film Octopussy.
Luxuriously decorated with soft coloured marbles and elegant furniture, the Taj Lake Palace provides only the best in fairy tale getaways in which you’re most generously pampered by the dedicated hotel staff. Rooms are provided with their own butler, and the Taj Lake Palace also offers guided tours of the surrounding city of Udaipur.
The Ned, London
Formerly the abandoned building of the Midlands Bank, the structure that would come to be the Ned was snapped up by Soho House & Co. who at once saw the potential in this magnificent structure. Refitted and repurposed in 2012, the Ned opened to much fanfare and is now one of London’s most glamorous hotels despite its relative youth.
The interior of the hotel is awash with the elegant opulence of the 19th century, with its gorgeous green pillars, chequered tile floors, and a bar in the former bank vaults. The hotel boasts no less than nine restaurants and cafes, its own spa, and a live swing band that plays in the lobby. The rooms meanwhile all come with access to the gym and the spa and range from the comfortable to the decadent.
The Château Frontenac, Quebec City
Undoubtedly the most iconic building in French Canada, the Chateau Frontenac dominates the skyline of Quebec City as it has done since it was first built in 1893. Constructed in a French gothic style, its distinctive silhouette has become somewhat iconic to Quebec City.
Being at the heart of Quebec, both the city and the province, it’s ideally located for anyone seeking the best experience of Francophone Canada. Furthermore, as well as historic tours of the city, the Chateaux also offers the luxury experience of spas, heated indoor pools, and fine dining.
Hotel Regina Louvre, Paris
Keeping the Francophile theme, we cross the Atlantic to gay Paris and the Hotel Regina Louvre. Just opposite the museum of the same name, situated amongst the beautiful tree-lined boulevards of Paris and in clear sight of the Eiffel Tower, it boasts 99 tasteful rooms and 32 suites.
Established in 1898, the Hotel Regina Louvre continues its proud tradition of giving its guests an authentically Parisian experience during their stay. Encapsulating the heights of French culture and fashion, the Regina Louvre provides the best access to Paris’s best sights, the best examples of French cuisine, and some of the most romantic experiences of French scenery.
The Liberty Hotel, Boston
Perhaps the most ironically named of this list; the Liberty Hotel in Boston started off initially as the city jail and this history shows most clearly in its central lobby where the bare brick walls and iron walkways are stylishly complemented with a modern minimalist décor.
If you’re worried about the rooms being as spartan as prison cells, don’t be. All the rooms are modern refurbishments and offer the absolute best in hotel comforts. Bright, airy and exceedingly restful, many rooms also offer unrivalled views of the Boston skyline. The food is definitely not prison slop either – situated in the former cells, catwalks and yards of the prison, six restaurants and cafes offer only the choicest dishes in a celebration of Bostonian cuisine.
The Savoy, London
The Savoy claims the title of being the first purpose-built luxury hotel in the City, founded by theatrical mastermind Richard D’Oyly Carte in 1889. The thespian heritage runs through the presentation of the Savoy itself, which is purposefully designed to wow any who step through its doors. Further it was cutting age in its day, featuring many innovations in its layout that would soon come to be common practice in hotels across the world.
Counting royalty, celebrities, presidents and millionaires among its guests, the Savoy has a proud heritage of being one of London’s finest establishments. As such you can expect only the finest of services and rooms at the Savoy, offering everything from spas and gyms, butler services, exquisite dining, and exciting city breaks.
Kikokuso Ryokan, Kyoto
The traditional Japanese ryokan is an experience never to be missed if you’re ever visiting the country. There’s a lot that’s been said about seeing the “real Japan”, but perhaps a stay at a ryokan is one of the top contenders for truly getting a feel of an authentic Japanese spirit. Ryokan are laid out in a traditional manner, with guests staying in small rooms with tatami floors and sliding doors, futon beddings, and often a Japanese onsen – a rockpool bath traditionally heated by a natural spring. Cuisine is likewise traditional with Japanese breakfasts consisting of rice, miso soup and a meat dish, often fried fish.
The Kikokuso Ryokan in the cultural capital of Kyoto has been in operation for nearly 150 years and has been owned by the same family throughout that time. As well as offering a quick glimpse into the timeless culture of Japan, the current owners also present a much personable and warm experience in comparison to other entries laid out here. Kyoto is for many a more reflective and historical look at the nation, and Kikokuso perfectly accompanies any holiday makers looking for a tour of a Japan that existed before the bright lights and hectic activity of more modern cities like Tokyo or Osaka.
We may be in lockdown right now but it won’t last forever – which of these amazing city hotels will you swing by on your next city-bound holiday?