They’ve made history, starred on the silver screen and, says Akash Arora, you should experience these classic hotels at least once in your lifetime.
Sophia Loren called it “the most romantic hotel in the world”, while Coco Chanel checked in here in 1934 and didn’t check out until her death in 1971. But the Ritz is not just about the grandeur of a bygone era. After careful restoration, the Paris institution reopened last year, revealing both timelessly glamorous guestrooms and a dash of modernity, including a retractable roof over the courtyard and a tunnel beneath the Place Vendôme (perfect for discreetly whisking high-profile guests from the car park to their rooms). As Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “When I dream of afterlife in heaven, the action always takes place in the Paris Ritz.”
Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur
When the Casanova of the East, Maharana Jagat Singh II, built a “pleasure palace” in the middle of a lake in 1746, little did he know that, a couple of centuries later, his private residence would become one of the world’s most staggeringly beautiful hotels and one of the locations of the 1983 James Bond film, Octopussy. Roam the property, which doubled as the Bond girl’s private lair, with its elaborate arches, domes, fountains and terraces. Or take a boat to shore to behold the gleaming white palace that seemingly floats on a placid blue lake.
Waldorf Astoria, New York
The original Waldorf Astoria hotel was demolished in 1929 and in its place rose one of New York’s most recognisable structures: the Empire State Building. But the subsequent Waldorf Astoria, which opened in 1931 at its current Park Avenue location, is no less iconic. The birthplace of the Waldorf salad, this 47-storey Art Deco landmark was the tallest hotel in the world until 1963 and, to this day, holds its own against other Manhattan skyscrapers.
When Raffles first opened in 1887, it was a beachside property. But the city-state expanded, land was reclaimed and the waters of Singapore Strait shrank away. Today, although the graceful white building with its colonial façade is dwarfed by high-rises, you’ll feel an overwhelming sense of old-world glamour as soon as you arrive. Our tip: avoid The Long Bar where famous Singapore Sling was invented; it’s where all the tourists go. Instead, check in to a room in the Palm Court wing – where James Michener once stayed – and enjoy the cocktail with garden views. raffles.com
As the Second World War raged on, many exiled heads of state sought refuge in London. Their address of choice? Claridge’s hotel. In fact, in 1945, on Churchill’s request, suite 212 was declared Yugoslavian territory so crown prince Alexander II Karađorđević could be born on Yugoslav soil. Discover similarly interesting anecdotes by checking in to this distinguished Mayfair hotel, with its grand red-brick façade, soaring lobby and gracefully decorated guestrooms.
Top image: Taj Lake Palace
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