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 a major railway station, as they were often constructed to house railway travelers – or close to major outdoor attractions. For this article, we also include numerous mid-20th century hotels that are iconic and historically significant.
|“||I stayed in a really old hotel last night. They sent me a wake-up letter.||”|
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.
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 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.
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.
Grand old hotels tend to have a 4- or 5-star rating. Due to their legacy, they can cost more than similiarly-rated hotels.
Democratic Republic of Congo
- 2 Cecil Hotel (Alexandria).
- 3 Marriott Hotel (Cairo). originally the "Al Gezira Palace" built to house Napoleon's wife, Empress Eugenie of France
- 4 Mena House Oberoi (Giza).
- 5 Winter Palace (Sofitel Winter Palace) (Luxor). The discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb was first announced on their bulletin board.
- 6 Cataract Hotel (Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Aswan) (Aswan).
- 13 Hotel de La Poste (Saint-Louis). Made famous as a stopover for pilots from Aéropostale, France's colonial airmail company. French aviator Jean Mermoz spent his last night here before disappearing in the Atlantic on December 7, 1936.
- 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 high tea in Victorian splendor.
- 2 Beijing Hotel (Beijing, China).
- Shanghai has several fine hotels built in the Art Deco style in the city's glory days, the 1840s to the 1930s:
- 5 Astor Hotel (Tianjin, China).
- 6 Centre Hotel (Nanjing, China).
- 7 Westin Chosun (Seoul, South Korea).
- 8The 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.
- The following three are regarded as the Three Great Hotels (御三家 gosanke) of Postwar Tokyo, in reference to the three main branches of the ruling Tokugawa family of the Edo Period:
- 12 Tokyo Station Hotel (Tokyo, Japan).
- 13 Hotel New Grand (Yokohama, Japan).
- 14 Nara Hotel (Nara, Japan).
- 15 Hotel Palmyra (Baalbek, Lebanon).
- 16 American Colony Hotel (Jerusalem, Israel).
- 17 King David Hotel (Jerusalem, Israel).
- 18 Taj West End (Bangalore, Karnataka).
- 19 Taj Connemara (Chennai (Madras), Tamil Nadu).
- 20 The Great Eastern Hotel (Kolkata, West Bengal). built in 1841 and historically known as 'the jewel of the east'.
- 21 The Grand Hotel (Kolkata, West Bengal).
- 22 The Imperial Hotel (Delhi).
- 23 Maidens Hotel (Delhi).
- 24 The Taj Mahal Palace (Mumbai, Maharashtra).
- 25 The Cecil (Shimla, Himachal Pradesh).
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:
- 29Eastern & Oriental (George Town, Penang, Malaysia).
- 30Raffles (Singapore). With the bar where the Singapore sling was invented.
- 31Hotel Majapahit (Surabaya, Indonesia).
- 32Strand Hotel (Yangon (Rangoon) , Myanmar (Burma)).
Of course, there are some other very classy options as well:
- 33Savoy Homann (Bandung, Indonesia).
- 34The Oriental (Bangkok, Thailand).
- 35The Metropole (Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi) (Hanoi, Vietnam).
- 36Continental Hotel (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam). Cheap for this class of hotel.
- 37Majestic Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam).
- 38Morin Hotel (Hue, Vietnam).
- 39 Centara Grand Beach (Hua Hin, Thailand).
- 40Hotel Indonesia (Jakarta, Indonesia).
- 41Hotel Majestic (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia).
- 42 The Manila Hotel (Manila, Philippines).
- 43Le Royal (Raffles Le Royal) (Phnom Penh, Cambodia).
- 44Grand Hotel d'Angkor (Siem Reap (Angkor Wat), Cambodia).
- 45Goodwood Park Hotel (Singapore).
- 46Settha Palace Hotel (Vientiane, Laos).
- 19 Hotel D'Angleterre (Copenhagen, Denmark).
- 20 Rannahotell Pärnu (Pärnu, Estonia). Resort hotel built in 1937.
- 21 Hotel Kämp (Helsinki, Finland).
- 22 Kviknes Hotel (Balestrand, Norway).
- 23 Dalen Hotel (Dalen, Norway). Once a popular locale for European royalty, this is one of the largest wooden buildings in Norway and one of the best preserved hotels from the 1800s.
- 24 Grand Hotel (Oslo, Norway).
- 25 Hôtel Eggers (Gothenburg, Sweden). This location at the central station has hosted a hotel since 1861, and has had its current name and appearance since 1894.
- 26 Hotel Saltsjöbaden (Saltsjöbaden, Sweden). Famous for the 1938 "Saltsjöbaden agreement" (Saltsjöbadsavtalet) which has been the framework for the Swedish labour market for generations to come.
- 27 Grand Hôtel (Stockholm, Sweden). The preferred accommodation for state visits and Nobel laureates.
- 28 Hotel Knaust (Sundsvall, Sweden). Opened in 1891 following the 1888 fire that destroyed most of the city. Famous for its fan-shaped marble staircase.
- 29 Haparanda Stadshotell (Haparanda, Sweden). A hotspot during World War I, right at the northernmost border between the Russian Empire and Sweden. Spies, war profiteers and even Lenin himself stayed here.
- 30Hotel Metropole (Brussels, Belgium).
- 31Shelbourne Hotel (Dublin, Ireland).
- La Cardinale (Le Pouzin, France).
- 32Hôtel Ritz (Paris, France).
- 33Hôtel de Crillon (Paris, France).
- 34Le Grand Hôtel (Intercontinental Paris Le Grand) (Paris, France).
- 35 Hôtel Lutetia (Paris, France).
- 36Hôtel Negresco (Nice, France).
- 37 Amstel Hotel (Amsterdam, Netherlands).
- 38 Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky (Amsterdam, Netherlands). As central as anything could be, right on Dam Square.
- 39Kurhaus (Scheveningen, The Hague, Netherlands).
- 40Hotel des Indes (The Hague, Netherlands).
- 41Claridge's (London, UK).
- 42Savoy Hotel (London, UK).
- 43The Ritz (London, UK). Perhaps the most famous place in the world for high tea. Reservations are required many months in advance.
- 44The Langham (London, UK).
- 45St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel (London, UK).
- 46 Hyde Park Hotel (Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park London) (London, UK).
- 47The Midland (Manchester, UK).
- 48The Randolph (Macdonald Randolph Hotel) (Oxford, UK).
- 49 The Balmoral (Edinburgh, Scotland).
- 50 Hotel Imperial (Vienna, Austria).
- 51 Hotel Sacher (Vienna, Austria).
- 52 Grandhotel Pupp (Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic).
- 53 Hotel Imperial (Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic).
- 54 Hotel Paris (Prague, Czech Republic).
- 55 Art Nouveau Palace Hotel (Prague, Czech Republic).
- 56 Grand Hotel Bohemia (Prague, Czech Republic).
- 57 Hotel International (Prague, Czech Republic). The largest Stalinist building in Prague, inspired by the Seven Sisters of Moscow.
- 58 Hotel Adlon (Berlin, Germany).
- 59 Frankfurter Hof (Frankfurt, Germany).
- 60 Hotel Atlantic (Hotel Atlantic Kempinski) (Hamburg, Germany).
- 61 Grand Hotel Heiligendamm (Heiligendamm, Germany).
- 62 Bayerischer Hof (Munich, Germany).
- 63 Hotel Gellért (Budapest, Hungary).
- 64 Corinthia Hotel (Grand Hotel Royal) (Budapest, Hungary).
- 65 Grand Hotel (Krakow, Poland).
- 66 Hotel Europejski (Warsaw, Poland).
- 67 Hotel Monopol (Wroclaw, Poland).
- 68 Beau Rivage (Geneva, Switzerland).
- 69 Hotel Métropole (Geneva, Switzerland).
- 70 Grand Hotel National (Lucerne, Switzerland).
- 71 Badrutt's Palace Hotel (St. Moritz, Switzerland).
- 72 The Dolder Grand (Zurich, Switzerland).
- 73 Hotel Widder (Zurich, Switzerland).
- 74 Hotel Moskva (Belgrade, Serbia). Good prices for this class of hotel.
- 75Hotel Grande Bretagne (Athens, Greece).
- 76Royal Victoria Hotel (Pisa, Italy).
- 77Hôtel de Paris (Monaco).
- 78Hotel Phoenicia (Valletta, Malta).
- 79Reid's Palace (Funchal, Portugal). Has a Michelin starred restaurant.
- 80Pestana Palace Hotel (Lisbon, Portugal).
- 81Hotel Avenida Palace (Lisbon, Portugal).
- 82El Palace (Barcelona, Spain).
- 83 Hotel Ritz (Madrid, Spain).
- 84 The Westin Palace (Madrid, Spain).
- 85Hotel Alfonso XIII (Seville, Spain).
- 86Pera Palace (Istanbul, Turkey). Built in 1892 for the purpose of hosting the passengers of the Orient Express service.
- Splendid Palace (Büyükada (Princes' Islands), Turkey).
- 87 Grand Hotel Yerevan (Yerevan, Armenia). Opened in 1926 as the premier state-owned hotel of the former Soviet Armenia.
- 88Hotel National (Moscow, Russia).
- 89 Hotel Savoy (Moscow, Russia).
- 90 Hotel Ukraina (Moscow, Russia). This was the world's tallest hotel from its opening in 1957 until 1976, and is still Europe's tallest in 2022. One of the "Seven Sisters", a group of seven Stalinist skyscrapers in Moscow.
- 91 Hotel Leningradskaya (Moscow, Russia). Completed in 1954, and one of the "Seven Sisters", a group of seven Stalinist skyscrapers in Moscow.
- 92 Hotel Sovietsky (Moscow, Russia). Moscow's premier hotel during Soviet times, and today regarded as one of the finest surviving examples of Stalinist architecture.
- 93 Hotel Moskva (Moscow, Russia). Originally built in a Stalinist architectural style in 1935, it was demolished in 2004 and rebuilt in 2014, albeit with the facade being architecturally faithful to the original.
- 94 Hotel Metropol (Moscow, Russia).
- 95Grand Hotel Europe (Saint Petersburg, Russia).
- 96Hotel Astoria (Saint Petersburg, Russia).
- 97 Hotel d'Angleterre (Saint Petersburg, Russia).
- 98 Hotel George (Lviv, Ukraine).
- 99 Bristol Hotel (Odessa, Ukraine).
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.
Listed approximately east-to-west, they are:
- 1 Lord Nelson Hotel (Halifax, Nova Scotia).
- 2Hotel Nova Scotian (Halifax, Nova Scotia). Connected by walkways to both the Halifax railway station and Pier 21, the main dock for transatlantic ocean liners.
- 3The Pines (Digby, Nova Scotia). Popular as a golf resort.
- 4The Algonquin Resort (Saint Andrews, New Brunswick). An icon of the province with its Tudor-style architecture.
- 5Le Manoir Richelieu (La Malbaie, Quebec).
- 6Le Château Frontenac (Quebec City, Quebec). Tallest structure in "Vieux-Québec" (the old city) and the city's most easily-recognised landmark; arguably the most photographed hotel in the world.
- 7 Queen Elizabeth Hotel (Montreal, Quebec).
- 8Le Château Montebello (Montebello, Quebec). Claims to be "the world’s largest log cabin". Close to Ottawa, often used for federal or even international conferences.
- 9The Château Laurier (Ottawa, Ontario). One of Canada's Prime Ministers, R.B. Bennett, lived in this hotel, a block from Parliament, rather than in the mansion most PMs occupy. Well-known portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh also lived here; some of his photographs decorate the lobby.
- 10The Royal York (Fairmont Royal York) (Toronto, Ontario). Right across the street from Union Station, and connected by a tunnel. That station has trains for the Toronto subway, for GO (Government of Ontario) trains to suburbs and nearby towns, and for long-distance rail. The cross-country train The Canadian has its eastern terminus there.
- 11Fort Garry Hotel (Winnipeg, Manitoba).
- 12Hotel Saskatchewan (Regina, Saskatchewan).
- 13The Bessborough Hotel (Delta Bessborough) (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan).
- 14The Hotel MacDonald (Edmonton, Alberta).
- 15The Palliser Hotel (Calgary, Alberta).
- 16Banff Springs Hotel (Banff Springs Hotel National Historic Site) (Banff, Alberta).
- 17Chateau Lake Louise (Lake Louise, Alberta). In Banff National Park, on a beautiful glacier lake. Always expensive, painfully so in the summer high season.
- 18Jasper Park Lodge (Jasper, Alberta).
- 19The Hotel Vancouver (Vancouver, British Columbia).
- 20The Empress Hotel (Victoria, British Columbia).
Of course, there are some other very classy options as well:
- 23 The Gran Hotel Costa Rica (San José). 20th-century colonial-style landmark
- 24Hotel Grano de Oro (San José). Grand old hotel of Victorian design.
- 27Hacienda Chichen (Chichen Itza, Yucatan). 16th-century colonial landmark.
- 28Hotel Geneve (Mexico City).
- Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico (Mexico City).
There is a program called Historic Hotels of America with 200-odd hotels involved.
- Baton Rouge, Louisiana - Heidelberg Hotel
- Birmingham, Alabama - The Tutwiler Hotel
- Boston, Massachusetts - Parker House Hotel - Claims to be the oldest continuously operating hotel in the USA
- Boulder, Colorado - Hotel Boulderado
- Buffalo, New York - Hotel Lafayette
- Chicago, Illinois - Allerton Hotel
- Chicago, Illinois - The Blackstone
- Chicago, Illinois - Drake Hotel
- Chicago, Illinois - Hilton Chicago (formerly Stevens Hotel)
- Chicago, Illinois - Palmer House Hotel
- 29 The Cincinnatian (Cincinnati, Ohio).
- Grand Canyon, Arizona - El Tovar
- Honolulu, Hawaii - Moana Hotel
- Los Angeles, California - The Biltmore
- Mackinac Island, Michigan - The Grand Hotel
- Memphis, Tennessee - Peabody Hotel
- Milwaukee, Wisconsin - The Pfister Hotel
- Nashville, Tennessee - The Hermitage Hotel
- New Orleans, Louisiana - Hotel Monteleone
- New Orleans, Louisiana - Le Pavillon Hotel (formerly New Denechaud Hotel)
- New York, New York - Alongquin Hotel
- New York, New York - The Waldorf-Astoria - Where President Franklin Roosevelt stayed during his trips to New York during World War II. A secret train platform that Roosevelt used in an effort to hide his disability from the public survives underneath the hotel, though it is not accessible to the public.
- New York, New York - The Pierre
- New York, New York - The Plaza
- New York, New York - St. Regis Hotel
- Omaha, Nebraska - Kimpton Cottonwood Hotel (formerly Blackstone Hotel)
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - The William Penn
- San Diego, California - The Hotel Del Coronado
- San Francisco, California - Palace Hotel
- San Francisco, California - St. Francis Hotel
- Washington, D.C./West End - The Willard Intercontinental
- Yosemite National Park - The Ahwahnee Hotel
- 33 Gran Hotel Bolívar (Lima). - The cocktail Pisco Saur was invented here. Royalty stayed here, and the Rolling Stones had to leave for bad behavior.