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Some hotels have a heritage from the golden age of steam railways and ocean liners, before the Second World War, in the 19th or early 20th centuries. These hotels were where the rich and the famous of the day would stay. They have an appeal all their own: old fashioned fittings, the lack of the latest amenities, and a certain graceful agedness. They are often in superb locations, either smack in the middle of cities – very often being next to or part of a major railway station, as they were often constructed to house railway travelers – or close to major outdoor attractions. Some were also located next to sea ports to serve steamship passengers. They are likely to neighbor a legacy department store or a legacy food market from the same era. For this article, we also include numerous mid-20th century hotels that are iconic and historically significant.

New York City, London, Paris and the Los Angeles area are known for having a particularly high concentration of such hotels.


Map of Grand old hotels

Even today such places generally offer fine accommodation and are usually not cheap, though more modern high-end places may be even more luxurious and are often more expensive.

  • The Leading Hotels of the World. This is an association, primarily for marketing, with over 400 member hotels in many countries. It includes many of the grand old hotels, but also many newer luxury hotels. The Leading Hotels of the World on Wikipedia

A traveller with piles of money might consider a round the world flight, broken up with stays in many of these hotels. Travelling around the world overland, on routes such as the one taken in Around the World in Eighty Days, would give a more authentic experience of pre-flight travel.

While the grand old hotels are usually privately owned, they sometimes accommodate visiting heads of state and other dignitaries.


You need not stay in such hotels to enjoy some of their services. Many have fine dining, live music and nightlife, as they had in the days of yore, and gambling if local law allows. A visitor to Singapore, for example, might go to Raffles just for a Singapore Sling at the Long Bar where it was invented, and where Rudyard Kipling and Noel Coward once drank, and check out the Billiard Room where Singapore's last tiger was shot.


Le Grand Hôtel in Paris

Grand old hotels tend to have a 4- or 5-star rating. Due to their legacy and premium location, they can cost more than newer hotels with similar amenities.


As the buildings are old, they might be less accessible for travellers with disabilities. In most cases, the staff will be helpful for guests who need assistance.


Democratic Republic of Congo[edit]


Winter Palace, seen from the Nile





Swakopmund Hotel in Swakopmund, Namibia

South Africa[edit]





East Asia[edit]

The Peninsula, Hong Kong
The Grand Hotel, Taipei
  • 1 The Peninsula (Hong Kong, China). Kowloon side, by the ferry dock and right at the foot of Nathan Road, a major tourist street. Famous for serving traditional English afternoon tea in Victorian splendor. The Peninsula Hong Kong (Q1757744) on Wikidata The Peninsula Hong Kong on Wikipedia
  • 2 Westin Chosun (Seoul, South Korea). Josun Hotels & Resorts (Q567458) on Wikidata
  • 3 The Grand Hotel (Taipei, Taiwan). Built in the early 1950s, mainly so that Chiang Kai Shek's government would have a suitable place to accommodate visiting dignitaries. Grand Hotel (Q712865) on Wikidata Grand Hotel (Taipei) on Wikipedia



The following three are regarded as the Three Great Hotels (御三家 gosanke) of Tokyo, in reference to the three main branches of the ruling Tokugawa family of the Edo Period:

  • 11 The Imperial Hotel (Tokyo, Japan). The oldest of the three, tracing its history to 1890 during the Meiji era, though the current building is a modern one completed in 1970. The entrance courtyard and the main lobby of the 1923 Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building was moved to the Meiji-Mura Museum in Nagoya, where it can be viewed today. Imperial Hotel (Q712476) on Wikidata Imperial Hotel, Tokyo on Wikipedia
  • 12 Hotel Okura (Tokyo, Japan). Opened in 1962 and a symbol of Japan's Postwar economic boom, the original building was demolished in 2015, and the current building completed in 2019, though its interior still very much preserves the feel of the original. The Okura Museum of Art, the first private museum in Japan in a building dating back to 1927, is located on its grounds. The Okura Tokyo (Q11337851) on Wikidata Hotel Okura Tokyo on Wikipedia
  • 13 Hotel New Otani (Tokyo, Japan). Completed in 1964, just in time for the Tokyo Olympics, it was the tallest building in Tokyo at that time. The New Otani was built on the grounds of an Imperial prince's residence and preserves its classical Japanese gardens, which date back to the 1600s. The only one of the three to still keep its original building. Hotel New Otani Tokyo (Q11337880) on Wikidata Hotel New Otani Tokyo on Wikipedia

There are some other grand old hotels to be found:

Middle East[edit]

Egypt is listed under Africa above.

South Asia[edit]


Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai


  • 31 Faletti's Hotel (Lahore, Punjab). built in late 18th century by an Italian, and now renovated. Faletti's Hotel, Lahore (Q5431864) on Wikidata Faletti's Hotel on Wikipedia

Sri Lanka[edit]

Southeast Asia[edit]

Raffles, Singapore

Several of Southeast Asia's grand old hotels can be credited to a single family, the remarkable Sarkies brothers from Armenia, who founded all of the following icons:

Of course, there are some other very classy options as well:

Savoy Homann, Bandung


Northern Europe[edit]

Nordic countries[edit]

Hotel Kämp in Helsinki, Finland

Baltic countries[edit]

Western Europe[edit]

Amstel Hotel, Amsterdam
Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh, Scotland

Central Europe[edit]

During the century and a half of its existence, leaders have died and Czechoslovakia was "born" at Beau-Rivage in Geneva

Southern Europe[edit]

Hotel de Paris, Monaco

Eastern Europe[edit]

Hotel Ukraina

North America[edit]


The grand old hotels in Canada, also referred to as railway hotels, have a unique place in Canadian history. Most of them were built during the first quarter of the 20th century by the Canadian Pacific Railway or Grand Trunk Railway to provide elegant accommodation while viewing the natural beauty along the rail line. Canadian Pacific, which purchased the former Grand Trunk (Canadian National) hotels in 1988, spun off all non-rail subsidiaries (including Fairmont, its hotel group) in 2001.

These hotels are popular with tourists and locals alike and though overnight stays are expensive; they represent a fine piece of Canadiana worth visiting even if you only have time for a walk through the lobby. Three – Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper- are major tourist resorts in their own right, located amid stunning Rocky Mountain scenery.

Le Château Frontenac, Quebec City

Listed approximately east-to-west, they are:

Of course, there are some other very classy options as well:

Costa Rica[edit]

The Gran Hotel Costa Rica




United States[edit]

There is a program called Historic Hotels of America with 260-odd hotels involved as of 2015. Each of these hotels is over 50 years old and is (or is eligible to be) a historic landmark.

The Cincinnatian Hotel.

South America[edit]




  • 86 Gran Hotel Bolívar (Lima). Gran Hotel Bolivar Lima (Q20995355) on Wikidata Gran Hotel Bolívar on Wikipedia – The cocktail Pisco Saur was invented here. Royalty stayed here, and the Rolling Stones had to leave for bad behavior.


Hotel Windsor, Melbourne


  • 52 Canberra Hotel (Canberra). What was once "Hostel No. 1" originally opened in 1924 to house politicians visiting Parliament. After extensive renovations and extensions, it became Canberra's first five-star hotel when Hyatt adopted it into its flagship Park Hyatt collection in 1988. Low-rise and diminutive from the outside, it's surprisingly grand inside, with 1920s Art Deco style throughout. Hotel Canberra (Q10930619) on Wikidata Hotel Canberra on Wikipedia
  • 53 The Carrington Hotel (Katoomba). The Carrington Hotel, Katoomba (Q48796718) on Wikidata Carrington Hotel, Katoomba on Wikipedia
  • 54 Hotel Windsor (Melbourne). Hotel Windsor (Q12060553) on Wikidata Hotel Windsor, Melbourne on Wikipedia


New Zealand[edit]

See also[edit]

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