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Iconic Sleeps: Stay in the World’s Most Historic Hotels

Next time you jet around the world, check into one of these iconic hotels for a stay you won’t readily forget. 

By Fabienne Lang
June 17, 2022

No matter how many times you do it, there’s always something decadent about staying in a hotel. Crisp, fresh sheets under plush duvet covers you melt into; elegant design that you only dream of; golden starred service where nothing is impossible. There’s no beating a stay in a five-star hotel. And, of course, there are certain hotels that hit it out of the ballpark when it comes down to luxury, opulence, and service. Blend that with historic touches from bygone eras and you find yourself as the main character in a Hollywood movie or an award-winning novel.  

And nothing quite compares to the grande dames of the world: the pocketful of century-old establishments that have shaped worldwide standards for luxury and hospitality. These iconic hotels are the stuff of legends, inspiring film producers and authors around the world, and forging the mould of hospitality history.  

Best of all, there is a smorgasbord of options when it comes to the style, design, and service of these historic hotels. From the 124-year-old Hotel Ritz in Paris to the Hollywood institution that is The Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles, here are the world’s most iconic hotels. 



Hemingway Bar in the Ritz | Photo: Pablo Sanchez Martin/Flickr

The pinnacle of French elegance since it opened its doors in 1898, the Hotel Ritz in Paris is a bastion for old-world luxury, for good reason. From its early days as the first hotel in the world with a phone, electricity, and bathtub in every room to its recent $450 million renovation that only glitzes the hotel up to impossible heights, the Ritz has been a long-loved institution for centuries. Coco Chanel lived here for 34 years, and legend has it that a gun-toting Ernest Hemingway famously “liberated” the hotel bar during WWII, swiftly ordering champagne for everyone and lending his name to the gin joint ever since. And it doesn’t end there, the Imperial Suite’s bathroom is modelled after Marie Antoinette’s at Versailles and is registered as a historic monument in France. If any of these legendary connections aren’t enough to entice you to book your stay at the Ritz, we’re not sure what will.  

See also: A Moveable Feast: Travelling Like Ernest Hemingway



Photo: Claridge’s London

Just across the Channel sit London’s “first” hotel, Claridge’s, which officially opened its doors a few decades before the Ritz in 1856. After Queen Victoria and Prince Albert famously visited the hotel in 1960, this Mayfair institution soared into its long-lasting luxury status as the top choice for heads of state and royalty throughout Europe. Since then, this art-deco beauty has served as a London crash pad for stars including Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, and Yul Brynner. And during WWII, it was the haven for numerous heads of state—even declaring Suite 212 Yugoslavian territory in June 1945 so that Crown Prince Alexander could be born on his own country’s soil. To this day, its afternoon tea is a refined white-table clothed affair with impeccable finger sandwiches, delectable pastries, and 24 varieties of loose-leaf tea—an experience not to be missed. 



Photo: The Beverly Hills Hotel LA

From esteemed London grandeur to Hollywood glamour on Sunset Boulevard, The Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles is as star-studded as its A-list clientele. This is the spot where the stars come to catch their beauty sleep when they are filming. Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, and Richard Burton have all graced the “Pink Palace’s” historic rosy facade over the years. Rumour has it The Eagles even based their Hotel California album on it. While the marble bathrooms and breezy rooms certainly capture your attention, it’s the outdoor oasis and open spaces that truly make your heart and imagination sing. The pastel colours of the poolside sun loungers, quaint parasols, and charming cabanas on the terrace interspersed beneath LA’s iconic palm trees and the hotel’s fuchsia bougainvillea are nothing short of a Hollywood movie set.   



Photo: Fairmont Le Château Frontenac Quebec

Shifting from the “Pink Palace” to an actual castle, Fairmont Le Château Frontenac majestically towers over Old Quebec City and the St. Lawrence River, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, no less. Complete with turrets, ornate gables, and courtyards, this striking establishment has seen a fair amount of history pass through its front doors since its inauguration in 1893. From royal visits by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1939 to hosting Allied heads of state during the Quebec Conferences of WWII in 1943 and 1944; transformed into a movie set in 1952 for Alfred Hitchcock’s I Confess movie, and still welcoming A-listers today including Paul McCartney and Steven Spielberg, this luxury hotel’s 18 floors have truly seen it all. And it continues to raise the standards of decadence by housing a luxury boutique hotel within the main hotel: Fairmont Gold. 



Photo: The Plaza New York by Domenico Convertini/Flickr

From UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Canada to an American official landmark, the Plaza New York is arguably one of—if not the—most famous hotel in the Big Apple. In fact, some might call it a New York legacy. Located on swanky Fifth Avenue and Central Park South, the 20-story building has firmly stood its ground among the rapidly rising plethora of high-rises in the city since it opened in 1907. It’s also been the backdrop for several classic films such as Funny Girl, The Great Gatsby, and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. As a New York institution, it’s also hosted its fair share of celebrities, including Liza Minnelli, Eleanor Roosevelt, Miles Davis, and The Beatles. If only walls could talk. 



Photo: Raffles Singapore by Francisco Anzola/Flickr

Now making our way to Asia’s arguably most famous hotel, Raffles Hotel Singapore lavishes its guests in its opulent, colonial-style décor, gaining itself the title of national monument. But it wasn’t always so prestigious. In fact, its beginnings in 1887 were humble as it was originally built as a cosy, 10-room bungalow. Long gone are its unassuming days as it is now billed as “the most fabled hotel in the Far East” and has hosted literati such as Ernest Hemingway, Alfred Hitchcock, and Rudyard Kipling. The latter even penned The Jungle Book while staying in one of its suites. And let’s not forget to mention Raffles as the birthplace of the famed Singapore Sling cocktail, which has adorned cocktail menus around the world since 1915. 

See also: Creative Juice: Drink Like a Writer at these Literary Bars