Hotels with wondrous historical backgrounds appeal to visitors for a number of reasons. If only the walls could talk, who wouldn’t want to hear the stories of history’s most pivotal moments as well as the zeitgeisty gossip about some of the past’s most-prominent public figures? Well, for all the history buffs out there, we’ve rounded up a clutch of the world’s oldest hotels with fascinating background stories.
Marbella Club (Marbella, Spain)
5 Stars | Website | Malaga Airport (AGP)
130 | 2 swimming pools; Beachfront; Spa; Fitness center | 5
Casablanca Beach; Río Verde Beach; Plaza de Monseñor Rodrigo Bocanegra
Famed for hosting old-age stars from Liza Minelli to Bridgette Bardot, Marbella Club began as an Andalusian vacation bungalow before Prince Alfonso von Hohenloe decided to turn it into a world-class luxury resort. The elegant beachfront hideaway’s original 20 guest rooms provided refuge from the spotlight for Hollywood celebrities and European royalty alike. In 1954, the place to be was the on-site exclusive beach club, where guests could leisurely enjoy their days beneath vibrant coral-colored umbrellas, basking under the sun.
The Lygon Arms (Cotswolds, UK)
4 Stars | Website | Gloucestershire Airport
86 | 1 swimming pool; Spa; Free WiFi | 2
Broadway Tower; Hidcote Manor Garden; Sudeley Castle; Anne Hathaways Cottage
Set in Broadway, England, in the charming Cotswolds, The Lygon Arms sits in an exquisite 14th-century inn, where it has garnered one of the world’s most glamorous guest books (Rumor has it that Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton stayed at the hotel during the height of their affair in 1963). Replete with historical vestiges from the moment guests step inside, the hotel’s design takes inspiration from its countryside surroundings. Notice antique trappings such as a 16th-century barreled ceiling in The Lygon Bar & Grill as well as timeless stone fireplaces, dark-wood interiors, and old-age paintings.
Riggs Washington D.C. (Washington, D.C., U.S.)
5 Stars | Website | Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA)
181 | Fitness center; Spa; Room service | 2
Smithsonian American Art Museum; National Gallery of Art; The National Mall
Situated in the capital’s Penn Quarter neighborhood, Riggs Washington D.C. sits in the same building as the former Riggs National Bank — a storied bank that was once referred to as the “Bank of Presidents,” with it being the place of shelter for 23 U.S. presidents’ financial records (Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant and Richard Nixon to name a few). As one of the last standing Richardsonian-Romanesque style buildings in the city, the hotel holds a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. Expect intricate-detailed grand ceilings, Corinthian columns and refined furnishings at this treasured stay.
Ritz Paris (Paris, France)
5 Stars | Website | Paris – Le Bourget Airport
142 | 1 swimming pool; Spa; Room service; Bar | 1
Louvre Museum; Luxembourg Gardens; Arc de Triomphe; Eiffel Tower
The state-of-the-art Ritz Hotel Paris’ story begins with founder César Ritz in 1898. Hosted in the former residence building of the Duke of Lauzun and the Duke of Gramont, the elegant hotel welcomed a number of public figures over the years, including French designer Coco Chanel and American novelist Scott Fitzgerald. After an extensive four-year renovation, the Ritz Paris was elevated to a new level of luxury; however, it consciously preserved original details from the old-fashioned keys to the peach-colored bathrobes. Its pièce de résistance, however, is the hotel’s Suite Impérial: A Palace de Versailles-inspired replica of Marie Antoinette’s boudoir with a nightly rate of $30,000.
The Read House (Chattanooga, Tennessee, U.S.)
4 Stars | Website | Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport (CHA)
235 | 1 swimming pool; Pet friendly; Fitness center | 1
Chattanooga Riverfront; Ruby Falls; Downtown Chattanooga
Celebrating 150 years as the oldest operating hotel in the Southeast, The Read House has endured it all — tragic floods, The Civil War, epidemics, and even The Great Depression. This Jazz-era gem set in downtown Chattanooga boasts 1920s-inspired interiors including open-air lobbies, exquisite chandeliers, and wood-clad walls. To top it off, staff attire sees bellmen in top hats and servers in stylish flapper-style accoutrements for an authentic Gatsby-esque experience. With a wealth of history dating back to its construction in 1840, The Read House has welcomed several famous guests from Winston Churchill to Oprah Winfrey over the years.
The Jaffa, A Luxury Collection Hotel (Tel Aviv)
5 Stars | Website | Ben Gurion Airport
120 | 1 swimming pool; Spa; Fitness center; Bar | 1
Independence Hall Museum; Alma Beach; Mediterranean Sea
Founded by François Guinet — a wealthy businessman from Lyon, France — The Jaffa Hotel originally began as The Saint Louis V Hospital, a medical unit built for pilgrims making their way to Jerusalem in the late 1800s. The illustrious French hospital eventually turned into a Neo-Renaissance-style hotel, which saw designers thoughtfully preserve classic Arabic details through-and-through during renovations, all the while imbuing cutting-edge art and design all around. Take the Chapel Bar: a place where nuns once worshiped, it’s now a swanky Tel Aviv cocktail bar with stained glass windows and intricately carved ceilings that still give it a full-on chapel look.
Hotel Café Royal (London, UK)
5 Stars | Website | London City Airport
159 | 1 swimming pool; Spa; Fitness center; Bar | 3
Banqueting House; Churchill War Rooms; Buckingham Palace
Rooted in the classic narrative of going from rags to riches, bankrupt French wine merchant Daniel Nicholas Thévenon, and wife Celestine began Hotel Café Royal with a grand wine cellar and fine-dining room in 1863. Set between London’s design-centric Soho neighborhood and sophisticated Mayfair district, the stay quickly became a regular spot for the city’s elite socialite scene. Back in the day, one could find Muhammad Alli, David Bowie and Princess Diana at the place either hosting extravagant celebrations or simply dining-in for an afternoon lunch.
The Gritti Palace (Venice, Italy)
5 Stars | Website | Venice Marco Polo Airport
82 | Spa; Free WiFi; Outdoor terrace; Room service | 1
The Bridge of Sighs; San Polo; San Polo; Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Overlooking Venice’s Grand Canal, The Gritti Palace is an heirloom-quality stay that boasts one of the most entrancing views in the city. First owned by the Pisani family — a noble Venetian family who resided at the palazzo — then transferred to the private residence of Andrea Gritti — the Doge of the Venetian Republic — the palace has been helmed by several fortune-heavy members. Design-wise, guests will find a remarkable selection of artworks, antique furnishings, and terra-cotta hues throughout that instills the feeling of Italian royalty.
The DeBruce (Livingston Manor, NY, U.S.)
4 Stars | Website | Stewart International Airport (SWF)
12 | 1 swimming pool; Pet friendly; Free WiFi | 1
Willowemoc Wild Forest; Catskill Fly Fishing Center & Museum; Balsam Lake Mountain
As one of the oldest hotels in the Catskills, The DeBruce has welcomed East Coasters escaping the hustle and bustle of the city since the early 1900s. Located in the Willowemoc Valley, the 12-key guest house spans over three floors, each room exquisitely decorated to reflect its countryside roots with maple wood floors, white acrylic bathtubs and a neutral color palette throughout.
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