These aren’t just any hotels: these gilt-dipped palaces, Georgian townhouses and Art Deco masterpieces once hosted royalty and aristocrats.
There’s something special about staying in a hotel with history. Perhaps it’s the one-of-a-kind architecture, the marriage of past with present, or the whispers of the tales the walls surely have to tell. It’s an invitation into another era and an authentic connection to the backstory of a destination.
Medieval castles, French chateaux, crumbling convents, Venetian palazzos and old coaching inns set the stage for these unique stays, whose heritage features are seamlessly integrated with contemporary luxury.
Here’s our pick of the best.
Hotel Maria Cristina, a Luxury Collection Hotel, San Sebastian, Spain
This grand waterfront hotel is just one architectural jewel of San Sebastian, whose cobblestone Old Town streets have long lured high society with the promise of resort town enchantment. Interest in this Bay of Biscay fishing village grew with the popularity of sea bathing in the 19th century, bringing a bevy of well-heeled travellers demanding a hotel that matched their high-brow tastes. The result? Hotel Maria Cristina, which has been the pinnacle of luxury in the town from 1912 to this day. And it’s no surprise, considering it was designed by Charles Mewes, the prolific architect behind the Ritz Paris.
The Gritti Palace, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Venice, Italy
This Venetian palazzo has stood in the same canal side spot since 1475, never wavering in its enduring resplendence. Venice is synonymous with old-world romance and there’s nowhere that epitomises it better than this iconic hotel; where lustrous Italian fabrics, Murano glass chandeliers, antique furniture and traditional oil paintings are tastefully luxurious rather than gauche. Throughout history, it’s been the private residence of noble families and hosted literary legends like Ernest Hemingway and William Somerset Maugham.
The Lygon Arms, an Iconic Luxury Hotel, Cotswolds, England
England is a veritable treasure trove of heritage hotels, and this 14th-century coaching inn is undeniably one of its most sparkling. All higgledy-piggledy charm amid the Cotswold cottages of Broadway, this honey-stone building is a piece of history. It is where King Charles I united with his supporters, Oliver Cromwell lodged before the Battle of Worcester, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton sheltered amid their affair scandal, and Sophia Loren, Cary Grant and Vivien Leigh took respite from the bright lights of Hollywood. To this day, the crackling log fires and timber-beamed walls offer the same, all-enveloping sense of security and cosiness as always.
Any roundup of heritage hotels would be amiss without this grand dame of Singapore, a legend among globetrotters since its 1887 inception. A recent renovation has restored the hotel to its original, colonial-style glory: its iconic white facade hides palm-fringed courtyards, the plantation-esque Long Bar (the birthplace of the Singapore Sling), butler-serviced suites and colourful tales of its illustrious guests. Those who’ve graced the hotel’s halls include Rudyard Kipling, Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor and Noel Coward, along with, if legend is to be believed, a tiger in the Bar & Billiard Room.
Gstaad Palace, Switzerland
Fairytale castle or luxury hotel? Gstaad Palace is both. Royalty, Hollywood stars and high-profile politicians have long been enchanted by this storybook-style stay in the shadows of the Swiss Alps (rumour has it, Michael Jackson once sought to buy it). From the moment it opened its doors in 1913 as the very first hotel in Gstaad, it was destined for greatness – even with the tribulations of two world wars. Through the snow-dusted winters and emerald-green summers, it’s been a pinnacle of Alpine glamour, turning the tiny hamlet of Gstaad into one of the Swiss Alps’ most sought-after resorts. Visitors today are welcomed for equal measures of adventure and respite, with a 1,800sqm spa on-hand for weary skiers, an Olympic-sized pool, a renovated 1783 ski hut where fondue is served beside the fire, and a fromagerie set in a former bunker that serves Swiss raclette.
Ritz Paris, France
Oscar Wilde, Sophia Loren, Audrey Hepburn, Ernest Hemingway, Princess Diana: the A-list pedigree of this legendary Paris hotel is unrivalled. Hemingway even once said, “When I dream of an afterlife in heaven, the action always takes place at the Ritz Paris.” Standing proudly on Pl. Vendôme since 1898, the Ritz Paris’ corridors echo with stories of the past; some glamorous, some tinged with darkness. Coco Chanel passed away here in 1971, and the hotel was chosen as headquarters for the Nazis during the German occupation of Paris in WWII. This rich tapestry of moments makes the hotel what it is today, ever unwavering in its reputation for timeless elegance.
Ready to escape? Browse our Ultra Lux collection, handpicked for their exquisite settings and stories.
Looking for more inspiration? Discover Through the Keyhole: The Interlude, a Melbourne Prison-Turned-Luxury-Hotel.