For some, a hotel is more than just a place to board in a foreign land; while creature comforts are first priority, walking in the hallways of history-rich properties (that have survived a world war or two) give a layer of experience unmatched by generic luxury.
The Beverly Hills Hotel, California
From Rudolph Valentino to the scandal-ready Lindsay Lohan, The Beverly Hills Hotel has cemented itself as the happy haunting ground of Hollywood stars since it opened in 1912. Set in one of America’s most prosperous addresses, the famous pink retro hotel is the first historical landmark of Beverly Hills (opened at the same time the city was established). The hotel still retains its grand décor and impeccably landscaped grounds, and in each room of subdued pinks, greens, apricots and yellows, boasts everything you’d expect from a luxury hotel: private patio, Jacuzzi, kitchen, fireplace and a dining room. If you’re looking to add a little celebrity sightseeing to your trip, the booth (table no. 6) in the hotel’s Polo Lounge gives a perfect vantage point for discreet look-see.
9641 Sunset Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90210, United States, www.dorchestercollection.com/BHH
The Peninsula Hong Kong, Kowloon
85 years on and the Peninsula Hong Kong’s colonial past is still alive and well: high-ceilings, grand hallways, bas relief, marble floors and the who’s who of socialites flocking to its lobby for its high teas. It remains today the very definition of a luxurious hotel experience this side of the Pacific Ocean; and if you hadn’t realised, the fleet of customised Rolls Royce Phantoms (coated in signature Peninsula green) is a quick reminder of its status. Modernists might find the Peninsula a tad too Old World compared to the funky off-kilter design hotels out there, but for those with a romantic streak, the historic charm of this property more than fulfils expectations. Not to be outdone by the new kids on the block, the stalwart is as tech-savvy as they come. It has its own technology research and development lab builds its own phones, remotes and wall switches – for instance the modified remotes that automatically mute the television sets upon detecting phone rings. And if arriving in a Rolls-Royce won’t do for a dramatic arrival, it has a rooftop helipad (the only one in the area) that can fly you in from the airport in a mere seven minutes.
Salisbury Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong, www.peninsula.com/Hong_Kong/en/default.aspx
Le Royal Monceau-Raffles Hotel, Paris
Located at the prestigious Avenue Hoche (steps away from Champs-Elysees and Arc de Triomphe), pop culture junkies may recognise this hotel from the finale of Sex and the City. But beyond the realm of mainstream entertainment, Le Royal Monceau-Raffles has long gone down in modern politics as being the venue where the Fontainebleau Conference took place to establish links between France and Vietnam; it also witnessed the signing of Israeli Declaration of Independence by David Ben Gurion and Golda Meir in its lounge. Beyond its stately history, the glamorous hotel built in the roaring twenties recently underwent a two-year transformation by design maestro Philippe Starck and now comes complete with an all-white spa with the biggest pool in paris – complete with a hammam, iaconium room and sauna for those seeking a luxurious spa escape. And if Paris is not enough, the hotel can arrange a private jet to St Tropez at the drop of a hat.
37 Avenue Hoche, 75008 Paris, France, www.leroyalmonceau.com
Taj Rambagh Palace, Jaipur
Fancy having the life of a maharajah? Rambagh Palace is the blueblood of heritage properties and was once the resident of Jaipur’s aristrocrats and the epicentre of Rajasthani royalty. While the princes have moved on, this hotel is now the home away from home for new breed of royalties: Bollywood stars and the international jet-set. Built in 1835 as a royal guesthouse for the queen’s favourite handmaiden, the palace is restored to its glorious heyday complete with 47 acres of landscaped peacock gardens, marbled corridors, carved pillars and soaring domes. Recent additions to the property include the Jiva Grande Spa that’s housed in tasselled tents and embellished with wooden floors and sparkling chandeliers.
Bhawani Singh Rd, Rambagh, Jaipur, Rajasthan 302005, India, www.tajhotels.com/Rambagh_Palace
Hotel Majestic Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City
Its history is riddled with international espionage, double agents and operation honeypot and if these aren’t enough reasons to interest you in visiting Hotel Majestic Saigon, the Viet-Franco building is a historic state-owned hotel built in 1925 and has weathered Vietnam’s many political storms over the decades. Almost unscathed, it retains its Art Deco structure which stands by the picturesque riverside corner of Dong Khoi Street. There’s a certain period charm to the property, with its high ceilings, original wood floors, retro fixtures, a nod to its French influence from when it first opened. Despite its heritage status, it remains an accessibly priced hotel compared to other properties that shares its lineage, so take a flight there to experience it yourself. When you walk past its elegant columned entrance and glorious archways (a stamp of the French golden age of architecture right here in Southeast Asia), you’ll know why even our very own prime minister calls this his favourite hotel in Vietnam.
1 Dong Khoi Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, www.majesticsaigon.com.vn
Astor House Hotel (Pujiang Hotel), Shanghai
This august establishment is known for its many firsts in China: It’s the first building with running water, its own electrical lights, telephone service and the venue where motion pictures were screened as the country opened up to Western influences. Widely regarded as the first modern hotel in China, it stands at the brink of two eras – the end of Qing Dynasty and the pre-modern China – making it an interesting relic that symbolises China’s first step towards Westernisation. Empress Cixi even celebrated her 60th birthday here – in an indulgent, grand dancing party, no less. The Victorian architectural landmark is situated just off the top of the bund. Celebrities walking its halls run the gamut from entertainment\ stars to the scientific community (from Charlie Chaplin to Albert Einstein).
5 Huangpu Road, Hongkou, Shanghai, China, www.astorhousehotel.com
Windamere Heritage Hotel, Darjeeling
Originally founded as a boarding house for bachelor tea planters in the late 1880s, this wonderful colonial property is known as the Original Heritage Hotel of the Himalayas. Like the mythical Shangri-La, you get the feeling of entering into a warp where time stood still and everyone seems content – the sensibility of late 19th century. Everything seems to retain its original form: claw-foot baths, frilly bed covers, dark timbre lounge suites clothed in pink paisleys, vintage phones, even the toilet seems to be untouched since it was first installed. The hotel – which is a cluster of bungalows – is very un-hotel like; made to resemble cosy hearths, it leaves guests with the impression of staying over at a rich relative’s house, filled with heirloom objects and charming antiques. Not for the modernists, its appeal lies in its old fashioned charm. One can’t escape its rich history, the property is surrounded by books, photographs of expeditions, and letters by notable guests – keep a lookout for a Jan Morris poem in the tea room. And before you get caught up by its heritage breathtaking cosiness, remember to grab a bag of Darjeeling tea that the region is famous for.
Observatory Hill, Darjeeling, West Bengal, 734101, India, www.windamerehotel.com