The World’s Best Historic Hotels

We love these historic stays around the globe, from a former monastery in Cusco, Peru, to a South African hotel where Nelson Mandela penned his autobiography. For travelers looking to revisit former times in present travels, these landmark hotels are worth checking out—even if you’re not checking in.

15 Phố Ngô Quyền, Tràng Tiền, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội 010000, Vietnam
A 1901 landmark in Hanoi’s French Quarter, the colonial-style Sofitel Legend Metropole has long been a celebrity magnet, welcoming presidents, ambassadors, and literary and cinematic royalty into its marble lobby. Somerset Maugham and Graham Greene both wrote books here (The Gentleman in the Parlour and The Quiet American, respectively); Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard celebrated their honeymoon at the property; and Jane Fonda and Joan Baez took to the bomb shelter beneath the hotel during air raids (book the complementary Path of History Tour, held every day at 5 and 6 p.m., for a chance to see where they hid out).

The 364 guest rooms are divided between two wings: The historic Metropole section has decor shaped by French architecture and Vietnamese culture (think wood floors, louver windows, bird-cage lampshades, and porcelain light fixtures); the newer wing, opened in 1996 just across the traffic circle from the Opera House, has a strong Neoclassical edge with rooms in dramatic red, black, and white. With its green awning, filigree ironwork, and outdoor wood-deck seating, La Terrasse has the feel of a Parisian café, while Le Beaulieu restaurant serves classic French fare and a decadent Sunday brunch. Spices Garden showcases Vietnamese flavors, and three drinking dens—sleek Angelina, gentlemanly Le Club Bar, and poolside Bamboo Bar—appeal to every kind of spirits lover. Between the central courtyard garden and the pool sit the SoFit gym and Le Spa, with eight rooms for soothing East-meets-West treatments.
Strand, London WC2R 0EZ, UK
Having built the Savoy Theatre, English agent Richard D’Oyly Carte opened a nearby hotel in 1889 to accommodate the wealthy American patrons who came to see the celebrated Gilbert & Sullivan operas. In the years following, the hotel welcomed such regulars as Winston Churchill, Coco Chanel, Frank Sinatra, Charlie Chaplin, Mel Brooks, and Katherine Hepburn; some of these famous former guests are now celebrated in the menu of theatrical Character Cocktails served at the hotel’s decadent Beaufort Bar, while others have inspired the nine elegant Personality Suites. Anecdotes abound at The Savoy, including the time Marilyn Monroe stopped by for a press conference in 1956 to promote The Prince and the Showgirl with costar Laurence Olivier and caused a media frenzy when she appeared in a black dress that, tantalizingly, revealed her midriff.

But The Savoy, now managed by Fairmont, is not one to languish in the past. The hotel completed an ambitious $350 million renovation in 2010—in time to celebrate its 125-year anniversary—and now features timeless spaces with every modern convenience. The 267 rooms and suites include Art Deco or Edwardian décor, custom-made furnishings, bespoke rainfall showerheads, and Penhaligon’s amenities; many of the higher category options look out over the Thames or city landmarks, and have extras like claw-foot tubs or, in Deluxe Junior Partial Riverview Suites and above, the legendary Savoy Butler service. Rotating programming—from arts and culture events to a writer-in-residence series and expert-led masterclasses—keep guests engaged, while the six dining and drinking outlets include Simpson’s In the Strand (beloved for its Sunday roast), Gordon Ramsay’s Savoy Grill, and the Thames Foyer for the iconic Afternoon Tea.
Av. Alvear 1891, C1129 CABA, Argentina
The Alvear Palace is a Buenos Aires landmark. Dreamed up by businessman and socialite Dr. Rafael de Miero, who wanted to bring back 1920s Paris grandeur to his hometown, the hotel was erected in 1932 on the corner of Avenida Alvear and Ayacucho after a decade of on-and-off construction. Then after much fanfare, it expanded in 1940, taking over an old mansion next door. For several decades, Alvear Palace was owned by the Duke of Hornes, a cousin of King Juan Carlos I, though Argentina’s economic situation saw the hotel’s reputation steadily decline. Since Anglo-Argentine developer David Sutton Dabbah (also co-owner of Patagonia’s Llao Llao Hotel & Resort) purchased the property in 1984, the Palace has been renovated and renovated again, top-to-bottom in 2011, which lowered the room count and revived the lavish Louis XV furnishings, and most recently in 2016, with the debut of sleek rooftop suites, an indoor pool, solarium, and a rooftop bar. Bathroom amenities are custom-made by Hermès. The lobby bar exudes Belle Epoque elegance, and many of the rooms, while still as picture-perfect as ever, could be mistaken for another century. There are touches of modern luxury in the spa, but over-the-top opulence is still the dominant theme running through the signature French restaurant and afternoon tea, as high society lingers.
Philharmoniker Str. 4, 1010 Wien, Austria
Sacher is synonymous with luxury in Vienna. It’s the name of not just the hotel, but also Austria’s most famous cake, the delectable Sacher-Torte. Eduard, son of Sacher-Torte creator Franz Sacher, opened the hotel in 1876, though it was his young widow Anna who really established the property after he died. In 1934, a few years after her death, the Gürtler family took over the hotel—and continues to maintain it to this day.

Notable personalities like John F. Kennedy and Queen Elizabeth II have walked the halls of this Vienna institution. It was also here that John Lennon and Yoko Ono introduced “Bagism” to the press while inside a giant bag, an event chronicled in the Beatles’ Ballad of John and Yoko. The Belle Epoque–influenced rooms are a symbol of elegance and comfort, while the two restaurants, two bars, and illustrious Café Sacher make it possible to enjoy the hotel’s timeless charm without even being a guest. Be sure to try the famous torte—it’s an essential Vienna treat.
Piazza della Trinità dei Monti, 6, 00187 Roma RM, Italy
Since its founding in 1893, the Hassler has been a pillar of luxury accommodation in Rome. This five-star hotel is perched theatrically atop Trinità dei Monti, the hill at the apex of the Spanish Steps, providing dazzling vistas over Rome’s rooftop terraces and church domes. More than a century after opening, the hotel remains privately owned. Generations dedicated to carefully cultivating a loyal clientele have made the Hassler the destination of choice for many royal and celebrity visitors to Rome. Accordingly, the staff is well-equipped to fulfill every imaginable whim and desire, regardless of how outlandish.

The formal service and decor hark back to the last days of the Grand Tour when European and American elite converged on Rome for its cultural—and couture—offerings, a tradition that still thrives in places like this. The Hassler oozes Old World charm, and its nearly 100 rooms are clad in marble, embellished with antiques, and accented with gilded furnishings, a reminder of the city’s late 19th-century splendor. The common areas are similarly lavish and offer palatial settings for meetings, cocktails, and lounging.

Just across the Piazza Trinità dei Monti, the Hassler’s second property, Il Palazzetto, offers accommodations with a lot less gilding but no less class.
31 Avenue George V, 75008 Paris, France
With the smallest room a sprawling 400 square feet, and suites and public spaces filled with original 18th- and 19th-century art and antiques, the George V, flagship of the Four Seasons chain, lives up to its billing as a palace, an official tourism category introduced in 2010 requiring establishments to “embody French standards of excellence and contribute to enhancing the image of France throughout the world.” Set in a 1928 art deco building, the Four Seasons Hotel George V boasts a regular clientele of bona fide royals, including Saudi princes who rent entire floors for six weeks at a stretch. The staff includes a team of flower designers led by an art director who worked on Chelsea Clinton’s wedding. There’s also a dedicated concierge for children ordering up pint-sized bathrobes and private pastry-making lessons in the Michelin-starred kitchen.
1228 Sherbrooke St W, Montreal, Quebec H3G 1H6, Canada
This hotel is on our list of The 10 Best Hotels in Canada.

First opened for business in 1912, the iconic Ritz-Carlton Montreal—known as “the grande dame of Sherbrooke Street"—began a $200 million facelift in 2008, opening its doors again in 2012. Quebec’s most luxurious and historic hotel could tell endless celebrity secrets but is, of course, far too discreet to utter a word. It’s no secret, though, that Elizabeth Taylor married Richard Burton here, that the Rolling Stones rented the entire sixth floor in 1972, and that a who’s who of world leaders, movie stars, and royalty are still regular guests. Situated in the downtown culture and shopping hub that is the Golden Square Mile, the hotel oozes money-is-no-object luxury from every pore: from the ornate duck pond and immaculately manicured garden and terrace to the 100-year-old chandeliers, the sweeping staircases, and the belle époque golden glow of the lobby and palm court. Rooms have a white-and-gray minimalist palette with splashes of signature purple. Antiques and original features blend with ultra high-tech design such as Japanese Toto toilets in all bathrooms, heated floors, and motion-sensor lighting.
22 Salisbury Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Built in 1928 by Asia’s oldest hotel brand, the Peninsula Hong Kong is one of the most historic properties on the Kowloon Peninsula, just across Victoria Harbour from Hong Kong Island. Designed originally as an upscale accommodation for passengers riding the adjacent Kowloon-Canton railway, the Peninsula has been a fixture of Hong Kong society throughout the region’s history. It was a magnet for Hollywood stars and dignitaries, the site of Hong Kong’s surrender to Japanese forces at the start of World War II, and temporary housing for residents following the war.

In 1994, a 30-story tower was added to house 135 additional rooms and suites as well as shops, a spa, a fitness center, twin rooftop helipads, and Felix—the hotel’s 28th-floor fine-dining restaurant, designed by Philippe Starck. The entire property was renovated in 2013 to update rooms with creamy colors, polished wood, and stitched leather and introduce high-tech extras that include a bedside control panel allowing guests to adjust the room’s light, sound, and temperature without getting out from under the covers. Today, the hotel is sleek and modern, but historic relics evoke the glory days that established the Peninsula as the “Grande Dame of the Far East.”
330 E Main St, Aspen, CO 81611, USA
When it opened in 1889, the Jerome lured New York City socialites and European aristocrats with its mix of rough-and-tumble mountain swagger and “modern” amenities (plumbing and electricity). In December 2012, the 94-room property emerged from a five-month renovation overseen by designer Todd-Avery Lenahan. The original front desk remains, and the tile floors have patterns inspired by Ute Indian weavings. The new lobby bar, the Living Room, serves craft cocktails amid mounted deer heads, mining artifacts, and a framed antique American flag. The rooms and common spaces feel inspired by a Ralph Lauren men’s collection, with lots of plaid, leather, and rich fabrics. Even the elevators are lined with old leather belts. Minibars are stocked with complimentary snacks such as organic chocolate peanut butter cups, and downstairs, guests can dine in the Living Room, the signature restaurant Prospect, or the legendary J Bar, which once poured pints for 10th Mountain Division soldiers and Hunter S. Thompson. The new Jerome proves that a hotel can step into the future while completely respecting the past. This grande dame remains the epitome of mountain town luxury.
800 16th St NW, Washington, DC 20006, USA
Not everyone gets to live across the street from the White House. Before the current Italian-Renaissance hotel was constructed in 1927, the prime real estate was occupied by the homes of two little-known American icons: John Hay—personal secretary to Abraham Lincoln, ambassador to the United Kingdom, and Secretary of State under both William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt—and Henry Adams, Harvard professor and great-grandson of John Adams. Their houses were hubs of D.C. culture for decades at the turn of the last century, and so, when the Hay-Adams opened, it was only logical that the hotel would continue that tradition. Washingtonians play at the sultry bar scene, everyone from Amelia Earhart to the Obamas has stayed in its elegantly Old World rooms overlooking historic Lafayette Square and the White House beyond, and the hotel is known for its discreet and comprehensive, no-questions-asked service. Should guests need a ride to one of the District’s many important meetings, the house Mercedes drops off anywhere downtown, guaranteeing a first impression worthy of a luminary. Though if you insisted on the meeting coming to you, no Beltway insider would mind.
2259 Kalakaua Ave Honolulu, HI 96815
Built in the Roaring Twenties, the Royal Hawaiian ushered in the glam age of Waikiki Beach. The so-called Pink Palace, a Spanish Moorish–style confection set on bright-green lawns was, at the time, the priciest hotel project in the Pacific and a fast favorite of Hollywood royalty and East Coast blue bloods (who, in those early years, arrived by steamship, along with their piles of trunks and chauffeured cars). For those first few decades, anyone who was anyone, it seemed, stayed at the Royal Hawaiian; on any given day, you might see the likes of Spencer Tracy autographing a coconut or Joe DiMaggio surfing off the hotel’s beach. Once other luxury hotels sprouted up on Oahu, the Royal Hawaiian’s star faded some, but after a massive renovation in 2008, it became a member of Starwood’s Luxury Hotel Collection and, once again, one of the top spots on the island. The makeover managed to keep those graceful old bones and art deco flourishes (miles of tile, sweeping arches), while giving the whole place a long overdue upgrade. Genteel surroundings aside, the hotel is as lively as ever. But at night, when the oceanfront Mai Tar bar is rocking, guests can still scope out quiet corners. Retreat to the gracious portico lined with rocking chairs or the garden pathways dreamily lit by torches, and you’ll discover that the romance of old Waikiki lives on.
116 Broad St. Charleston, South Carolina
John Rutledge was an active player in early American politics, signing the Constitution and serving as South Carolina’s first governor. But his townhouse on Broad Street, now the John Rutledge Inn, was built before he even attended his first Continental Congress. The house was embellished and expanded over the years, including the addition of elaborate lacelike ironwork that still stops passersby in their tracks. The inn comprises the main building and two carriage houses. In the 1980s, a major renovation prepared it for its new life as an inn, restoring the parquet floors, marble fireplaces, and crown molding to fully honor the property’s past.

Rooms in the main house evoke the property’s Colonial Era origins, with canopy beds and brass fireplace screens. All rooms have Tempur-Pedic mattresses, property-wide Wi-Fi, and flat-screen TVs help guests remember that they’re still in the 21st century. Around the property, visit the sumptuous ballroom for evening sherry, or stroll the lush, secluded courtyard.
801 W Georgia St, Vancouver, BC V6C 1P7, Canada
This hotel is on our list of The 10 Best Hotels in Canada.

Originally opened in 1927, Vancouver‘s Hotel Georgia was the celebrity haunt of everyone from Elvis and the Rat Pack to Errol Flynn and Katharine Hepburn. The hotel closed in 2006 for a multimillion-dollar restoration project and reopened as the Rosewood Hotel Georgia in 2011. Elvis may have left the building, but the old-school glamour remains—with a modern twist. The spacious rooms glow with a soft palette of warm gold, vanilla, and cocoa. Rain showers, heated marble floors in the bathrooms, and fine linens add to the hotel’s luxury appeal. The wood-paneled lobby buzzes with guests and locals en route to the acclaimed Hawksworth restaurant. The hotel has a large private art collection and there are pieces on display from founders of Canada’s modern art movement and famous international artists; the reverse-perspective Patrick Hughes piece opposite the reception desk is fantastic—walk back and forth to see the painting “move.” At the gleaming bar, guests can try the Hotel Georgia cocktail—a modern take on the original Prohibition-era recipe.
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