Where to hole up when your palace is under renovation? A few ideas, from Vienna to Vegas.
Check out Conde Nast Traveller’s favourite suites from around the world.
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Price: About $US3,600 per night
The Layout: A spacious, masculine one-bedroom that sprawls like an aristocratic residence. It has two bathrooms and grand Empire furnishings peppered with what Sotheby's would call 'important pieces.'
Service: Old school.
Bragging Rights: U.S. Army HQ for a decade after World War II; host to royalty (Edward VIII stayed here in 1936 while he was briefly the King of England) and movie stars (see Deneuve, Catherine).
Favourite Things: The airport pickup in a fancy Mercedes, the frequent replenishment of bottles of Romerquelle mineral water and vases of yellow roses, the chilled Laurent-Perrier on arrival, and the proximity of the State Opera house -- so close you can almost hear the swish of the conductor's baton.
Splitting Hairs: The TV in the suite's well-equipped mini-gym was not a flat-screen.
Price: About $US3,800 per night
The Layout: Gargantuan chandeliers hang from stratospheric ceilings in rooms decorated in a regal white, gold, and navy-blue palette. The living room is big enough for two sitting areas, a desk, and a dining table -- all on a parquet floor with intricate marquetry. The three-bedroom suite brings to mind string quartets, coronation gowns, and fainting spells on the brocade settees.
Service: Formal and graceful.
Bragging Rights: Has hosted countless luminaries -- from Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton to Lady Gaga, with Brad and Angie in between; its interior is protected under historic-preservation laws.
Favourite Things: The vases holding dozens of pink roses and the sunlight that streams in great glorious shafts across these vast rooms at dawn.
Splitting Hairs: The commode is in a little closet-size cubby.
Price: $US18,000 per night
The Layout: This four-bedroom, six-bathroom, two -- dining room suite takes up the entire sixtieth floor and is so opulent that your eyes pop out on stalks -- from the mounds of dates, cookies, and petit fours to the raised green marble tub in one of the bathrooms.
Service: Charming, capable, and proud.
Bragging Rights: The suite has been occupied so little since the marble-lined private elevator first opened into these filthy rich rooms that there's barely a fingerprint on the many iPads that you can use to close the sheers or summon the butler.
Favourite Things: The Audi A6 airport pickup, the copious Hermès toiletries, and the views.
Splitting Hairs: The thumpa-thump of club music from the place-to-be-seen bar higher up in the tower comes right into the room late into the night.
Price: $US4,000 per night
The Layout: The one-bedroom Palace Suite (there are 48 of them) has soaring ceilings that inspire a feeling of privilege. The entry and sitting room are both marked by marble columns; two Doric columns also frame the lush bed. The bathroom -- with white marble, gold fixtures, a dinner plate of a showerhead, a potted tree, and a kind of Jacuzzi on a throne -- is bigger than a studio apartment.
Service: Eager but a bit slow on the uptake.
Bragging Rights: The suite can be combined with one or two others to create a self-contained complex.
Favourite Things: The mountain of fruit on the coffee table accompanied by finger bowls.
Splitting Hairs: The matte-gold finishes and the rhinestone embedded in the handle of the pocket door contribute to the slightly ersatz feel of the place.
Price: $US3,500 a night during the week; $US7,500 on weekends
The Layout: This suite with two bedrooms (mirrored ceilings in both, of course) is designed as a palace in which to indulge the lower urges -- and it's a riot. You are greeted upon entry by black-vinyl walls and an S&M table. A dark anteroom between the foyer and the master bath features a cage big enough to hold a full-grown man and a set of manacles on chains (but no way to fasten them). The living room has an inlaid carpet made of old black-leather belts.
Service: Pleasant but ever-so-slightly rushed.
Bragging Rights: The rumour last June was that Duran Duran had recently checked in.
Favourite Things: A tiled hot tub on a terrace, and planes flying by so close that they look like toys you could pluck from the sky.
Splitting Hairs: In the little kitchen with a bar and two faux-leather stools, the fridge was empty and the cupboards were bare.
Price: $US7,500 per night
The Layout: This duplex with a golden curving staircase has three bedrooms, each with his-and-her bathrooms, 36-foot ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, an iMac, a kitchen stocked with waters and juices, a gym with a steam room, and not so much space as acreage. The decor is exquisite and tasteful. Two full-time butlers will do everything from unpack your bags to rack up the balls on the Olhausen pool table.
Bragging Rights: Popular with Chinese billionaires and Middle Eastern royalty. (A princess from Oman -- with three daughters in tow -- took up residence last spring for a week. All four had their hair done in the suite's salon every day, to the tune of $US220 a blowout.)
Favourite Things: The high-tech toilet that does everything but tie your shoes.
Splitting Hairs: The internal elevator is a bit slow.
Price: $US15,000 per night
The Layout: A duplex with a spiral staircase, cashmere walls, and killer views of Central Park. One turn of the key gives you the kind of entrée to high-society New York that money usually takes a lot longer to buy.
Bragging Rights: The suite was designed by Thierry Despont, who is currently in charge of the renovation of the Ritz Paris.
Favourite Things: The black- and-white photo gallery organised by the curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's photo department, the chic floral arrangements, the pillowcase monogrammed with the guest's initials, and -- even for a longtime New Yorker -- the moonset and sunrise over Central Park. Priceless.
Splitting Hairs: Nail clippings on the carpet, a $US29 hamburger from room service that arrived far from hot, and a $US15-a-day charge for Wi-Fi.
Price: Starts at $US10,000 per night
The Layout: It's like staying in a small wing of the Smithsonian. There's the small, wooden rocking chair given as a gift by John F. Kennedy, between the fireplace and Eisenhower's desk. In the bedroom -- modest in size and somber in décor -- you can draft a speech at General MacArthur's desk, which dates back to the years when he lived at the Waldorf with his wife. Strangely, the windows, that look out onto unremarkable midtown scenes, are not state-of-the-art bullet-proof. The suite contains four bedrooms total, each with a separate key (the number of guests and rooms used increases the nightly rate).
Service: Military. Before POTUS takes up residence, the place is transformed into a fortress.
Bragging Rights: There are so-called presidential suites all over the globe, but this is the only one where every US president since Herbert Hoover has spent the night.
Favourite Things: The interior looks not unlike the Oval Office, decorated in creams and golds and blues, following the presidential seal -- which you'll find on plates in the dining room's breakfront and etched into glass on the sconces in the living room.
Splitting Hairs: The hyper-selective booking process. The hotel will obtain background information on new guests to ensure that he or she is 'well-known' through either frequency of previous stays and/or fame, and will treat the priceless property with respect. Those who've passed muster: J. K. Rowling, whose seven-volume Harry Potter series sits alongside works by Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon; a Chinese man of means who is obsessed with US history; and special friends of the Waldorf.
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