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Sometimes a hotel’s historical past is one of the reasons to stay in a hotel or another. Imagine staying at the same rooms where historical personalities stayed and reliving moments that marked a milestone in the political trajectory of a country. Here are some of the most iconic historic hotels in the world. They are not historic buildings that were converted into hotels, all of them are hotels that were conceived as a hotel from minute one.
Get ready for a trip to the past!
1. Hotel Savoy, London (Great Britain)
Opened in 1889, the Savoy Hotel was the first luxury hotel in London. It became a benchmark and set the guidelines to follow in terms of luxury, comfort and service standards in the hospitality industry. In fact, it was the first hotel in the country to have electricity and hot water in the rooms and elevators to access all floors.
The innovations incorporated by the Hotel Savoy were a great attraction for personalities from different eras and different fields. Film artists such as Sarah Bernhardt, Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, John Wayne, Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra, the Marx brothers, Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren and a large list of famous guests stayed at Savoy Hotel. But the claim also extended to other artistic disciplines such as music: Giacomo Puccini, Maria Callas, Bob Dylan and more recently Rihanna, Duran Duran and Taylor Swift.
In addition to celebrities, there are two names linked to the history of the Hotel Savoy that marked a before and an after in the hospitality industry:
- Cesar Ritz, the hotelier who became the first famous general manager of the Savoy Hotel.
- Chef Auguste Escoffier, who joined the Savoy as maître and reorganized the kitchen into areas, a revolution in the British restaurant industry that remains today in most large kitchens.
+ info: Hotel Savoy
2. Belmond Copacabana Palace, Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)
It’s not only the most luxurious hotel in Rio de Janeiro, but also its stunning white marble façade has made it an icon of Copacabana Beach.
The Belmond Copacabana Palace was built inspired by the Negresco Hotel in Nice and the Carlton Hotel in Cannes (France). This art deco building was inaugurated in 1923 and some of its first guests were the scientist Albert Einstein, the architect Frank Lloyd Wright and the Princes of England, among others. Like many other historic hotels, since its creation and for nearly 100 years of history, the hotel has hosted famous and well-known guests: politicians, film artists, musicians, members of royalty and celebrities from all over the world.
In 1989, this hotel with nearly 250 rooms, several restaurants – some recognized by the Michelin Guide – and an iconic swimming pool, was declared a National Historic Heritage Site.
+ info: Belmond Copacabana Palace
3. Raffles, Singapur
It’s probably the only hotel in the world that has a historian on staff: it’s Leslie Danker. Guests can visit the history behind every corner of Singapore’s Raffles Hotel.
This colonial-style building was opened in 1887 when the island was occupied by the British and is, even today, a symbol of luxury on the Asian continent.
For more than 130 years of history, it has been a point of interest for public figures such as English writers S. Maugham or R. Kipling and the actresses Ava Gardner and Elizabeth Taylor.
A fact not to forget: its Long Bar has been the birthplace of Singapore Slings, the famous cocktail created from gin with pineapple and lemon juice, curazao, grenadine liqueur and cherry, among other ingredients.
+ info: Raffles Singapur
4. Hotel de Crillon, Paris (France)
its construction was commissioned by King Louis XV and is located in the Place de la Concorde, one of the most emblematic places in the city of Paris. Built in 1758, its more than 100 rooms and suites have been a place of pilgrimage for monarchs, politicians, artists and celebrities from around the world.
After being rehabilitated, in 2017 the Hotel de Crillon reopened its doors with a new image that highlighted all the architectural details of this 18th century building to continue to be, not only one of the oldest hotels in the world, but also one of the most luxurious historic hotels.
+ info: Hotel de Crillon
5. The Imperial New Delhi (India)
After 24 palm trees you arrive at the porch of this hotel, opened in 1936 and architecturally featuring a combination of Victorian, antique colonial and art deco styles. In fact, The Imperial is one of the witnesses of the creation of the city of New Delhi.
If the walls of The Imperial New Delhi Hotel could speak, they would tell us many episodes of the history of India. For example, it was at The Imperial where Pandit Nehru, Mahatama Gandhi, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Lord Mountbatten met to discuss the division of India and the creation of Pakistan.
The hotel currently has the largest collection of colonial and postcolonial art in Delhi and has a museum and art gallery.
+ info: The Imperial New Delhi
6. The Peninsula, Hong Kong
The Hong Kong Peninsula Hotel was built with the idea of being the best hotel in East Suez. The hotel opened its doors in 1928 and today, in addition to being a historic and iconic hotel in the city of Hong Kong, it’s known for the Rolls-Royce fleet that are parked in its entrance. Painted in green, the so-called “green peninsula” are one of the flagship and distinctive elements of this hotel, which also has a heliport on the upper floors.
Like many of the historic hotels, The Peninsula has also written pages of Hong Kong history. For example, in 1941 the English governor Sir Mark Aitchison was arrested in one of the hotel suites as a result of the end of the “Battle of Hong Kong” which caused the island to be ruled by Japanese forces.
+ info: The Peninsula Hong Kong
7. Waldorf-Astoria, New York (USA)
It was at the time of its construction and for a few years the highest and largest hotel in the world. Nowadays, the Waldorf-Astoria is closed for a refurbishment that will turn it into luxury apartments. The reopening is scheduled for 2023 and will maintain the art deco style and the most iconic elements of this 47-story skyscraper that is, at the same time, one of the icons of New York City.
Located on Park Avenue in Manhattan, it has been the benchmark hotel that has hosted many U.S. presidents and celebrities when they visited New York City. Former US President Herbert Hoover, General Douglas MacArthur; Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, Britney Spears and a large list of famous people. Even President Bill Clinton celebrated his 50th birthday dinner at this hotel.
Among the curiosities associated with this hotel with more than 120 years of history there is the invention of the Waldorf salad in 1890.
8. Ritz Hotel, Paris (France)
From the Savoy Hotel in London to the Ritz Hotel in Paris. This was the fate of Swiss hotelier César Ritz, who was director of the London hotel, and chef Auguste Escoffier, who was the maître at the same hotel. After being fired, in 1898 César Ritz opened his own hotel in the French capital.
With an innovative mind and as he did at the Savoy Hotel, César Ritz set luxury standards in his hotel and made it the first in Europe to have individual bathrooms in each room. Ritz invented the king-size bed, indirect lighting, and cabinets with lights that activate when you open them.
This was a claim for high society in Europe and around the world: Ernest Hemingway, Marcel Proust, the Shah of Persia and Edward VII were some of the most regular customers. Even fashion designer Coco Chanel set up her residence in one of the suites at the Ritz Hotel in Paris.
In fact, some of the hotel’s suites are now named F. Scott Fitzgerald, Marcel Proust or Coco Chanel, people who considered the Ritz as a second home.
+ info: Hotel Ritz París
9. Grand Hotel Europa, Saint Petersburg (Russia)
During its more than 140 years of history, the Grand Hotel Europa has played a central role in the city of Saint Petersburg (Russia). It is located on the famous “Nevsky Prospekt” avenue, very close to the main cultural buildings of the city, and is considered one of the most glamorous buildings in Saint Petersburg.
Its halls have hosted the tsars of Greater Russia for years, and have witnessed the revolution, the Soviet era, the times of Stalin and Lenin, the two world wars and the other historical events that Russia has experienced.
The writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky, the composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and members of the Romanov imperial family are some of the illustrious guests who have welcomed this hotel, now part of Belmond Hotels.
+ info: Grand Hotel Europa
5 historic hotels to relive Spain’s history
Spain also has different hotels that have been testimonies of historical events. Here you’ll find some of them.
1. Hostal de los Reyes Católicos, Santiago de Compostela (Spain)
It’s one of the oldest historic hotels in Spain: it was built in the early 16th century by order of the Catholic kings, Isabel and Ferdinand, as a hospital and hostel for pilgrims. That’s the reason of its name: Hostal de los Reyes Católicos.
After nearly five centuries of bein opened, it was remodeled and reopened in 1954 as a luxury five-star hotel. It’s located in the Plaza de Obradoiro in Santiago de Compostela, the capital of Galicia (Spain), and its architecture has a mixture of styles: from the original Gothic to Renaissance elements on the facade and Baroque in the cloisters.
Among the most illustrious guests of the Hostal de los Reyes Católicos is Pope John XXIII who attended the hotel coinciding with the reopening and the “Año Compostelano”. It was in his pre-papacy stage, when he was still known as Cardinal Giuseppe Roncalli. For this reason, today suite number 329 where he stayed is known as the Cardinal Suite.
+ info: Hostal de los Reyes Católicos
2. Alfonso XIII, Sevilla (Spain)
Commissioned by the King of Spain to house international dignitaries during the 1929 exhibition, the Hotel Alfonso XIII remains an emblematic place of cultural interest, located in the historic center of Seville, next to the Royal Palaces and the Cathedral.
It was inaugurated in 1928 by King Alfonso XIII and its architecture includes details and decorations that follow the Castilian, Moorish and Andalusian style.
The connection of this hotel with the royalty is not limited only to its name, but in the rooms of the Hotel Alfonso XIII have been housed numerous monarchs, including Prince Rainier and Grace of Monaco, Prince Charles of ‘England and Princess Diana, the Kings of Sweden, Norway, Morocco, Nepal, Denmark, Jordan, Belgium, Holland, Greece, Spain and many more.
It has also been the destination of international personalities such as Ernest Hemingway, Eva Perón, Orson Welles, Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy, Plácido Domingo, Josep Carreras, Brad Pitt, Mikhail Gorbachov and Shakira.
+ info: Hotel Alfonso XIII
3. Hotel Ritz, Madrid (Madrid)
The Ritz Hotel was inaugurated in 1910 in one of the most elegant areas of the city: the Plaza de la Lealtad, on a site that used to be the Tivoli Theater and the Hippodrome Circus. Today, it’s close to the Prado and Thyssen museums, and next to the Retiro Park and the Madrid Stock Exchange.
King Alfonso XIII was the one who contributed the capital and inaugurated the hotel, designed under the supervision of the hotelier César Ritz. In its six floors, it has 100 rooms and 53 suites; and five gastronomic spaces led and supervised by the Spanish chef Quique Dacosta.
Currently, the five-star Ritz Hotel in Madrid is managed by the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group.
+ info: Hotel Ritz Madrid
4. El Palace, Barcelona (Catalonia)
The Palace Barcelona is the oldest luxury hotel in the city. Inaugurated in 1919, it has been testimony to different historical events that have taken place in Barcelona: the Universal Exhibition of 1919, the Spanish Civil War – its basements were converted into an air raid shelter -, the 1992 Olympic Games, etc.
César Ritz, the father of modern luxury hotels, is also the father of El Palace de Barcelona.
Throughout its existence, El Palace has hosted numerous artists from all walks of life. Among them, Salvador Dalí, one of the most famous surrealist artists, lived at El Palace Barcelona, or Joan Miró, who visited the hotel on more than one occasion. Along with them, writers, international musicians, film artists and a long list of personalities have stayed at this Barcelona hotel with more than 100 years of history.
+ info: El Palace
5. Hotel Maria Cristina, San Sebastián (Basque Country)
Queen Maria Cristina, regent of Spain, was the first person to enter the hotel, which was inaugurated in 1912. Due to this first visit, the hotel was called Maria Cristina.
The Hotel Maria Cristina was designed by the same architect who built the Ritz hotels in Madrid and Paris, Charles Mewes; at a time when the city of San Sebastián had become one of the favorite destinations of international high society that was going to enjoy the sea and the sun.
Years later, with the beginning of the San Sebastián Film Festival (1953), the hotel continued to host famous people. Woody Allen, Sophia Loren, Al Pacino, Michael Douglas, Elizabeth Taylor, Robert de Niro, Brad Pitt, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson and Pedro Almodóvar are just some of the film artists who have stayed at this hotel in the Basque Country.
+ info: Hotel Maria Cristina