World travel

These 17 Historic Hotels Have Incredible Stories to Tell

Historic hotels promise a different kind of vacation. From time-shrouded taverns to fairytale castles, each has its own storied past just waiting to be revealed. Some lived previous lives as the residences of ancient aristocratic families. Others emerged in the 19th century, when long leisurely tours became a distinctive standard among Europe’s wealthiest upper classes. Still others are so long-lived that their recorded existence disappears deep into the dark ages. The only thing they have in common is that each of these grand old lodgings has its own historical tale to tell.

With 400 million annual visitors to HotelsCombined, we’ve searched our annals for 17 historic hotels that will make you wish you paid more attention in history class. From lovingly restored former fortresses to colonial pleasure palaces, these storied gems feature time-honored hospitality and the kind of dignified luxury that they just don’t make anymore.

Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, Canada (1893)

Chateau Frontenac, historic hotel in Quebec
Photo| Chateau Frontenac| GETTYIMAGES – DENISTANGNEYJR
Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, Canada (1893)
Photo|Fairmont le Chateau Frontenac|Provided by ICE PORTAL

Fairmont Le Château is another of the world’s grand old relics from the golden-age of railway travel. Named after a flamboyant former governor, Le Chateau Frontenac was constructed opposite the former French colonial government. New York architect Bruce Price took inspiration from the castle design of the Renaissance, which can be seen in the grand old building’s turrets and fairytale keep that still feature prominently in Quebec City’s 17th century cityscape.

Attractions Nearby:

  • Place Royale, quaint historical site (600 meters)
  • Café La Maison Smith Notre-Dame (450 meters)
  • Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral (800 meters)

Star Rating: 4*
Price: USD 361 – USD 776
Guest Rating: 9.0
Address: 1 rue des Carrieres, Québec City, QC G1R 4P5, Canada

Alfiz Hotel, Colombia (1600s)

Alfiz Hotel, Colombia (1600s), hitoric hotel in Colombia
Photo|Alfiz Hotel|Provided by ICE PORTAL

As the former center of trade between imperial Spain and its New World colonies, Cartagena is quilted with historic quarters that each have their own vibrant story to tell (read about them here). Housed in a 17th-century manor house, the Afiz Hotel transports you back in the city’s colorful history. Four-poster beds, stucco walls, and gorgeous cloistered gardens recreate the decadent lifestyles of the city’s Spanish founders. Meanwhile, the region’s rich indigenous heritage and storied republican era are reflected in the decor of select themed suites, each of which remembers a different moment in Cartagenan history.

Attractions Nearby:

  • Palace of the Inquisition Cartagena Historical Museum (190 meters)
  • Plaza Santa Teresa, historical site (450 meters)
  • Café del Mar Ltda., beautiful seaside frill (550 meters)

Star Rating: 4*
Price: USD 118 – USD 230
Guest Rating: 9.4
Address: Calle Cochera del Gobernador # 33-28, Cartagena, Colombia

Beijing Hotel NUO, China (1917)

Beijing Hotel NUO, China (1917)
Photo|Beijing Hotel NUO|Provided by ICE PORTAL

Glittering chandeliers and magnificent marble staircase aside, there’s something unintentionally significant about the Beijing Hotel NUO. Built on the doorstep of the Forbidden City just six years after the fall of China’s last imperial rulers, its French-orient architecture reflected the massive cultural changes that were taking place at the time.

Today, the Beijing Hotel Nuo remains a snapshot of life at the top during China’s republican era. Think elegant four-poster beds, extravagant banquet halls, and a  writer’s bar torn straight from the pages of a Hemmingway novel.

Attractions Nearby:

  • Wangfujing Pedestrian Street, scenic area (550 meters)
  • Tiananmen Square (1.1 kilometers)
  • Forbidden City Palace Museum (2 kilometers)

Star Rating: 5*
Price: USD 172 – USD 1,153
Guest Rating: 8.9
Address: 33 Chang An Avenue, Dongcheng District, Beijing 100004, China

Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, Vietnam (1901)

Sofitel Metropole Legend Hotel, Hanoi, Vietnam, historic hotel in Vietnam
Photo|Sofitel Metropole Legend Hotel|GETTYIMAGES – JON ARNOLD
Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, Vietnam (1901)
Photo|Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi|Provided by ICE PORTAL

The French connection is all too apparent at this exquisite colonial hotel in Hanoi’s historic quarter. Nearing its 120th birthday, the Metropole Hanoi has led a storied existence, having hosted the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Graham Greene, who wrote his 1955 novel The Quiet American while staying in the Heritage Wing. Remarkably, none of this prestige has faded over the decades. Onsite lounges like Le Club Bar main distinguished spots to linger over a cocktail. And at Le Beaulieu — Hanoi’s first French restaurant — you can still savor the reasons why this is widely considered to be one of the city’s finest historic hotels.

Attractions Nearby:

  • Press Club Hanoi, restaurant (63 meters)
  • Hanoi Opera House (160 meters)
  • Vietnamese Women’s Museum (900 meters)

Star Rating: 5*
Price: USD 232 – USD 5,672
Guest Rating: 9.2
Address: 15 Ngo Quyen Street, Hanoi, Vietnam

Pera Palace Hotel, Turkey (1892)

Pera Palace Hotel, Turkey (1892), historic hotel in Turkey
Photo|Pera Palace Hotel|Provided by BOOKING.COM

One of Istanbul’s most glamorous historic hotels, the Pera Palace Hotel was opened in 1895 to host the elite passengers of the newly opened Orient Express. Blending French and Turkish design, it quickly garnered a reputation as one of Europe’s most fashionable and innovative hotels. It was the first and only commercial building in Istanbul to have hot water or electricity and for decades was the site of extravagant balls and soirées. Perhaps the greatest testimony to this opulent resort’s international reputation is its star-studded list of former guests. This includes King Edward the VIII, Queen Elizabeth II, Alfred Hitchcock, Jackie Kennedy, and yes: Agatha Christie — supposedly to write her bestselling whodunnit Murder on the Orient Express.

Attractions Nearby:

  • Istanbul Museum of Modern Art (120 meters)
  • Pera Museum (160 meters)
  • Fransız Sarayı, historical landmark (450 meters)

Star Rating: 5*
Price: USD 176 – USD 1,638
Guest Rating: 9.2
Address: Mesrutiyet Cad. No. 52, Istanbul 34430, Turkey

Belmond Grand Hotel Europe, Russia (1875)

Belmond Grand Hotel Europe, Russia (1875), historic hotel in St. Petersburg Russia
Photo|Belmond Grand Hotel Europe| Provided by BELMOND GRAND HOTEL EUROPE
Belmond Grand Hotel Europe, Russia (1875)
Photo|Belmond Grand Hotel Europe| Provided by BELMOND GRAND HOTEL EUROPE

Having hosted the likes of Anna Pavlova, Rasputin, and the last of the Russian Tsars, Belmond was at the pinnacle of Russian high society around the turn of the century. Like many of Russia’s historic hotels, it languished following the rise of communism, being repurposed as a hospital and orphanage. Thankfully, the luster was returned in the 1990s, and today, the Belmond transports visitors back to the golden age of travel with its art nouveau décor, antique furnishings, and excessive luxury.

Attractions Nearby:

  • Russian Museum (300 meters)
  • The Benois Wing, art gallery (500 meters)
  • Saint Michael’s Castle, historic site (800 meters)

Star Rating: 5*
Price: USD 271 – USD 3,016
Guest Rating: 9.4
Address: 1/7 Mikhailovskaya Street, 191186 Saint Petersburg, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia

Parador de Santiago – Hostal Reis Catolicos, Spain (1499)

Parador de Santiago - Hostal Reis Catolicos, Spain (1499), historic hotel in Spain
Photo|Parador de Santiago – Hostal Reis Catolicos| Provided by BELMOND GRAND HOTEL EUROPE

Perhaps the oldest continually operating hotel in the world, the Parador de Santiago’s emerged from royal beginnings. A few years before, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabelle visited the area as part of a religious pilgrimage to the nearby Santiago Cathedral. Seeing that the route had fallen into disrepair, they ordered for improvements to be made to its infrastructure. This included a hostel for weary pilgrims to recover at the end of their journey.

Over 500 years later, Hostal Reis Catolicos still respects this religious purpose by providing a free meal to the first ten pilgrims that cross its threshold each day. Even if you don’t make the cut-off, be sure to stop by at Restaurante dos Reis or Enxebre. Both serve exquisite regional fare and a bold selection of excellent Galician wines.

Attractions Nearby:

  • Restaurante Carretas, regional restaurant (190 meters)
  • Pazo of Fonseca, historical site (200 meters)
  • Museum of Pilgrimage and Santiago (250 meters)

Star Rating: 5*
Price: USD 221 – USD 427
Guest Rating: 9.1
Address: Plaza Do Obradoiro 1, 15705 Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain

Pulitzer Amsterdam, The Netherlands (1600s)

Pulitzer Amsterdam, The Netherlands (1600s)
Photo|Pulitzer Amsterdam|Provided by ICE PORTAL

The 1600s were a big century for The Netherlands. The Dutch were expanding their horizons, founding new colonies in the new world and digging deep into the global spice trade. New money was pouring into Amsterdam, creating a new class of savvy entrepreneurs. These movers and shakers set up shop along the city’s waterways. Their canal houses became synonymous with the Dutch capital and later developed into many of its historic hotels.

But Pulitzer Amsterdam isn’t one canal house—it’s 25. Since the 1960s, these heritage buildings have been lovingly restored into beautiful contemporary lodgings that work seamlessly with their original 17th-century architecture. The suites, in particular, make marvelous use of vaulted ceilings to give guests abundant space and natural light, not to mention simply idyllic views of the canals themselves.

Attractions Nearby:

  • The 9 Streets, cozy shopping area (130 meters)
  • Homomonument, memorial to persecuted gays and lesbians (270 meters)
  • Electric Ladyland – Museum of Fluorescent Art, museum of florescent art (500 meters)

Star Rating: 5*
Price: USD 408 – USD 1,891
Guest Rating: 9.6
Address: Prinsengracht 315-331, 1016 GZ Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands

La Bagnaia Golf & Spa Resort Siena – Curio A Collection by Hilton, Italy (Before 1081)

La Bagnaia Golf & Spa Resort Siena - Curio A Collection by Hilton, Siena, Italy (Before 1081), historic hotel in Italy
Photo|La Bagnaia Golf & Spa Resort Siena|Provided by ICE PORTAL

Time has obscured the origins of this picturesque former village, which was first mentioned in an 11th-century document. We know that La Bagnaia prospered early on: a couple of 12th-century popes even mention it in writing. However, plague, pestilence, and the general living hell that was the Middle Ages drained its population. Eventually, the entire area (presumably deserted) was purchased by local nobility who maintained the ancient buildings over the centuries. Incredibly, some of the original 11th-century structures still stand, now functioning as the picturesque setting of a 18-hole golf course and spa.

Under its current ownership, La Bagnaia’s rooms have retained the rustic style you’ll see throughout the Siena area. Beautifully tiled terracotta floors, warmly color-washed walls, and original ceiling beams give these historic lodgings a truly Tuscan feel. Meanwhile, time-honored regional recipes are up for orders at La Voliera Restaurant and Antica Posta Filleta, two truly romantic settings for a candle-lit dinner in this beautiful backwater resort.

Why you’ll love this property:

  • The unspoilt Tuscan countryside
  • The fantastic onsite spa by Agricola Merse
  • The beautiful local wines

Star Rating: 5*
Price: USD 199 – USD 496
Guest Rating: 8.3
Address: Strada Statale, 223 km 56, 53016 Siena, Tuscany, Italy

Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort & Spa, Scotland (1400s)

Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort & Spa, Scotland (1400s)
Photo|Old Course Hotel Golf Resort & Spa|Provided by ICE PORTAL

While the Old Course Hotel may have been built in 1968, it’s location on the world’s original golf course qualifies it as one of Scotland’s most historic hotels. In use since at least the early 15th century, the Old Course was the grounds on which golf developed into Scotland’s national sport. The hotel pays its dues to this noble backstory with classic clubhouse architecture that blends in beautifully with the medieval university town of St Andrews. After a full, satisfying round, there’s exquisite local fare at the Road Hole Restaurant and cozy pub dining The Jigger Inn, “the town’s best 19th hole.”

Attractions Nearby:

  • Swilcan Bridge (400 meters)
  • St Andrews Museum (800 meters)
  • West Sands Beach (1.0 kilometers)

Star Rating: 5*
Price: USD 281 – USD 812
Guest Rating: 9.3
Address: Old Station Road, St. Andrews, KY16 9SP, United Kingdom

Hotel Schweizerhof Luzern, Switzerland  (1845)

Hotel Schweizerhof at the Lake Lucerne, Switzerland, Europe
Photo|Hotel Schweizerhof by the River Lucerne|GETTYIMAGES – MEINRAD RIEDO
Hotel Schweizerhof Luzern, Switzerland (1845), historic hotel in Switzerland
Photo|Hotel Schweirzerhof Luzern|Provided by ICE PORTAL

This spellbinding lakeside resort has the full storybook set up. We’re talking captivating mountain views, extravagant 19th–century architecture, and beautiful baroque ballrooms that will sweep you off your feet.

Hotel Schweizerhof Luzern has been catering to Europe’s upper echelons since the mid-19th century. Emperors and empresses, kings and queens, and revolutionary writers have all graced its doors. Mark Twain stayed at the hotel while on his European tour and featured it in his travel work A Tramp Abroad. Schweizerhof is one of Europe’s few historic hotels that is significant from an art history perspective, as the building has retained all of its original features.

Attractions Nearby:

  • Barbatti, Italian restaurant (210 meters)
  • Stadtkeller, Swiss restaurant (300 meters)
  • Zytturm, pretty Medieval clock tower (600 meters)

Star Rating: 5*
Price: USD 344 – 1,338
Guest Rating: 9.4
Address: Schweizerhofquai, 6000 Lucerne, Luzern, Switzerland

Barberstown Castle, Ireland (1288)

Barberstown Castle, Ireland (1288), historic hotel in Ireland
Photo|Barberstwon Castle|Provided by ICE PORTAL

Barberstown Caste’s history is an epic for the ages. It’s immaculately preserved keep was constructed in the 1300s and passed through the hands of several noble families. Though additional buildings were added to the estate over successive centuries, the building’s appearance has remained unaltered since 1830. To top it all off, it was the home of Eric Clapton for much of his solo career. Yep, Barberstown Castle’s historical pedigree will surely lure you in, but its the ivy-blanketed masonry, romantic landscaped gardens, and candle-lit hallways that will stay with you long after you leave.

Attractions Nearby:

  • Straffan Inn, restaurant (1.1 kilometers)
  • Friel’s of Straffan, country pub (1.5 kilometers)
  • The Palmer Ryder Cup Course (3.5 kilometeres)

Star Rating: 4*
Price: USD 176 – USD 309
Guest Rating: 8.9
Address: Straffan, Co Kildare, Straffan, Ireland

Boston Omni Parker House Hotel, USA (1855)

Boston Omni Parker House Hotel, USA (1855), one of the Historic hotel in Boston
Photo|Boston Omni Parker House Hotel|Provided by BOOKING.COM
image 2 Boston Omni Parker House Hotel, USA (1855)
Photo|Boston Omni Parker House Hotel|Provided by BOOKING.COM

The Omni Parker House’s story is a real rags-to-riches epic that started before hotels were even a thing in the United States. It was opened in 1855 by TK, a farm hand who had jumped ship in Boston aged 20 with just $1 in his pocket. The original marble-fronted building was an instant hit with the welltodo of the city. From the mid-19th century, it was the location of a prestigious writers club that hosted Charles Dickens from 1867 to 1868. As if that didn’t already make it one of the country’s most historic hotels, Parker House would later hire both Ho Chi Minh and Malcom X to work in its kitchens as young men. The hotel’s main building was reconstructed in the 1920s to keep with the trends of the era. But as its 10 story annex remained open during this time, Parker House holds the title as the oldest US hotel to never shutter its doors.

Attractions Nearby:

  • Boston Athenæum, historical landmark (160 meters)
  • John Adams Courthouse, historic site (160 meters)
  • Orpheum Theater (240 meters)

Star Rating: 4*
Price: USD 317 – USD 1,011
Guest Rating: 8.2
Address: 60 School Street, Boston, MA 02108, United States

Rambagh Palace, Jaipur, India (1835)

Rambagh Palace Jaipur, Historic hotel in Jaipur
Photo|Rambagh Palace Jaipur| GETTYIMAGES- TRAVEL BUG
Tourist sitting on couch by bay window of a historical suit in Taj Rambagh Palace Hotel in Jaipur, part of the Taj Hotel Group. India. (MR)
Photo|Tourist sitting on couch by the window of a historical suit in Rambagh Palace Hotel in Jaipur|GETTYIMAGES – MARTIN HARVEY

Built as a gift from the Queen of Jaipur to her favorite handmaiden, Rambagh Palace is a testament to the unbridled extravagance and culture of the city’s former ruling family. Numerous turrets, terraced gardens, and seemingly endless balconied corridors comprise this spacious estate. It later became an official residence of the maharaja’s themselves.

Jaipur’s last monarch converted Rambagh Palace into a plush resort, keeping all of its imposing luxury. Today, you can still feast in the palace’s sumptuous Suvarna Mahal, a former ballroom that retains all its former splendor under the glitter of enormous crystal chandeliers. Meanwhile, the Polo Bar radiates sophisticated charm with its decoration of trophies and memorabilia of the Jaipur polo team on display.

Attractions Nearby:

  • Steam, stunning riverside restaurant (120 meters)
  • Rajasthan Polo Club (1.1 kilometers)
  • Moti Dungri Ganesh Ji Temple (1.2 kilometers)

Star Rating: 5*
Price: USD 247 – USD 6,255
Guest Rating:  9.5
Address: Bhawani Singh Road, Jaipur 302 005, India

Pousada Castelo de Palmela, Palmela, Portugal (10th century)

Castelo de Palmela
Photo|Castelo de Palmela|GETTYIMAGES – SOFIA PEREIRA
Pousada Castelo de Palmela, Palmela, Portugal (10th century), historic hotel in Protugal
Photo|Pousada Castelo de Palmela|Provided by BOOKING.COM

Occupying a strategic hilltop location between two major important rivers, Pousada Castelo de Palmela reveals layers upon layers of local history. The ancient structure first served as a Moorish fortress during the 10th century and was expanded considerably following the Christian Reconquest of Portugal. A convent was added to the site during the Renaissance, though religious turmoil in the 1800s saw the entire complex fall into disrepair.

In the 1970s, Castelo de Palmela was miraculously revitalised as a hotel without disturbing any of its original architecture. Its 500-year old old refectory is now a storybook setting to experience exquisite local fare, while the original cloistered courtyard is the perfect spot for a late-afternoon glass of white. The best of a stay at the Pousada Castelo de Palmela, however, is its heritage rooms, which look out across rolling vineyards, medieval villages, and the distant haze of the Atlantic Ocean.

Attractions Nearby:

  • Casa Horacio Simoes, winery (600 meters)
  • Restaurante Alcanena (700 meters)
  • Love Wine Palmela, winery (3.5 kilometers)

Star Rating: 4*
Price: USD 112 – USD 294
Guest Rating: 8.9
Address: Castelo de Palmela, 2950-317 Palmela, Setubal, Portugal

Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia (1932)

Raffles Grand Hotel D'Angkor view from Royal Independence Gardens, historic hotel in Cambodia
Photo|Raffles Grand Hotel D’Angkor view from Royal Independence Gardens| GETTYIMAGES – ALEXEYPELIKH
Raffles Grand Hotel d'Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia (1932)
Photo|Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor|Provided by ICE PORTAL

In many ways, tourism to Southeast Asia really kicked off with the rise of the Grand Hotel d’Angkor. In the early 19th century, Europeans were fascinated with the expansive temple complex that had recently been “discovered” by the French in Cambodia. Looking to capitalize on this, local entrepreneurs decided to open a luxurious world-class resort that could properly cater to the caliber of tourist that was flocking to the romantic ruins. Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor has retained all of its colonial charm, featuring period architecture with intricate Khmer overtones. Be sure to treat yourself to a regal dining experience at Restaurant Le Grand, which champions time-honored recipes passed down to it from the chefs of the royal palace in Phnom Penh.

Attractions Nearby:

  • Amansara, boutique spa (180 meters)
  • Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor (350 meters)
  • Miniature Replicas of Angkor’s Temples (500 meters)

Star Rating: 5*
Price: USD 313 – USD 901
Guest Rating: 9.3
Address: 1 Vithei Charles de Gaulle, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Hotel Napoleon, Paris, France (1928)

Hotel Napoleon, Paris, France (1928)
Photo|Hotel Napoleon|Provided by ICE PORTAL

Arguably France’s first boutique hotel, the Hotel Napoleon was an immediate hit with Paris’s literary community upon opening. Proximity to the Arc de Triomphe, which was just around the corner, led this historic hotel’s owners to give it its current name a few years later. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, it featured prominently in French cinema. You can still feel this golden-era flair in the distinguished decor of its period-inspired rooms and suites, as well as onsite restaurant Le Bivouac which specializes in Parisian classics in an intimate lounge-like setting.

Attractions Nearby:

  • Arc de Triomphe (350 meters)
  • Kanon, cocktail bar (500 meters)
  • Restaurant La Scène (1.3 kilometers)

Star Rating: 5*
Price: USD 523 – USD 1,652
Guest Rating: 8.8
Address: 40 Avenue de Friedland, 75008 Paris, France

Rediscover the Past with These Historic Hotels

Feeling the urge to turn back the clock on your next vacation. So why fight it? A stay at these illustrious lodgings offers more than just a window into the bygone glitz of golden-age travel. It’s an opportunity to revive the outrageous luxury of old aristocratic families and retrace the footsteps of some of the world’s most brilliant literary minds. You may not be able to travel back in time, but with these historic hotels, you can revisit history.

Which of our historic hotels do you want to visit most? Let us know in the comments below!

Author: Sebastian Morgan

I’m a blogger, history buff, and serious over packer, currently based in Taiwan. Eats, drinks, and destinations are my thing. When I’m not writing about those, I’m either hitting up the local hot springs or slurping down a bowl of sesame noodles. I hope to one day do both at the same time.

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