Many hotels will claim that the treat guests like royalty — but some (at least their edifices) have more proof than others to back that up.
Today we’re bringing you on a tour of 19 stunning hotels and resorts that the world’s top royals and politicians once called home.
Belmond Governor's Residence is one of Yangon's premier luxury hotels. The 49-room property sits at the western end of Yangon on beautiful grounds, with a beautiful swimming pool providing a relaxing escape from the city's noise and heat. This historic 1920s building was once the mansion of a governor of one of the Burmese states, and is a colonial gem with open-air restaurants from a bygone era. Rooms are spacious and classy, with modern amenities like flat-screen TVs and free minibars that are restocked daily. Though it's close to several restaurants, the hotel is not within walking distance of the downtown area, but free bikes are provided.
The Hotel de la Paix is a historic luxury hotel located in central Luang Prabang. The former French governor's mansion is comprised of several beautiful colonial buildings set around garden courtyards with ground-level suites. All of the suites here are extremely spacious, with features like giant flat-screen TVs, huge backyard patios, and outdoor bathtubs in some. The resort has a large swimming pool, which is a rarity in Luang Prabang, a spa housed in a restored old building, and an atmospheric restaurant filled with books (appropriately named The Library) serving local Lao dishes. There are free bicycles for guests, and the hotel feels extremely private, sophisticated, and exclusive.
Formerly the palace of an Ottoman Sultan, the Ciragan Palace Kempinski is the grand dame of Istanbul. It wows guests at every turn, from the sprawling, manicured grounds, to the heated infinity pool right on the Bosphorus, to the refined suites. The dining options are extensive and exceptional; the spa is lovely; and the meeting space housed in the original palace building makes an ornate setting for a business function or wedding. It's arguably the city's top luxury option, but it's far from the popular tourist sights in Sultanahmet.
Unlike most hotels in the cliffside town of Positano that require a steep walk to reach the beach and town center, the Palazzo Murat is located smack in the town center's pedestrian zone. It dates back to the 17th century, and for a while it was the extravagant summer home of Napoleon's brother-in-law and King of Naples, Gioacchino Murat. Its historic opulence is evidenced by intricately cut stone doors and window frames, refurbished tile mosaics, and wooden furniture. With a pristine pool and some nice freebies, Palazzo Murat is ideal for travellers who want to stay in historic lodgings in the heart of the action -- but it lacks the gorgeous ocean views of nearby cliffside hotels.
The 24-room Maison Souvannaphoum Hotel is a small luxury property that used to be the residence of Prime Minister Prince Souvanna Phouma, and now is one of Luang Prabang's premier hotels, close to restaurants and shops. Rooms are spacious, bright, and furnished with modern amenities including flat-screen TVs. Several have large clawfoot tubs, and there are terraces looking out at the lovely garden. It has a swimming pool, a spa, and an upscale Lao and Indochinese restaurant, the Elephant Blanc. Despite being fronted by a busy road, the hotel feels private and tranquil, and compared to nearby upscale properties like the 3 Nagas or Victoria Xiengthong Palace, rooms here are far bigger, brighter, and feel more inviting for the same price or less.
Hotel Dukes' Palace is one of the top luxury hotels in Bruges, and offers a luxurious experience throughout, from the doormen service to the tasty breakfast buffet (which is a highlight). Using 'palace' in the name is not hyperbole; the hotel is housed in a former residence of the Burgundian aristocracy, dating to the 15th century.The 110 rooms are classic in style with features such as beautiful paintings, dramatic curtains, and chandeliers -- though double beds are made up of two beds pushed together, and not every room has coffee facilities. Features include a fitness center, spa with sauna, a fine dining restaurant, and a stylish lounge.
The historic Swift House Inn is located within walking distance of downtown Middlebury. The hotel's 20 rooms are spread throughout the Main House (formerly a Governor's Mansion), the Carriage House, and the Gate House. The Gate House rooms -- located a half-block from the Main House -- are the least expensive, in part due to traffic noise from Route 7. Room decorvaries, allowing guests to choose a room depending on personal style. Some rooms offer a classic New England B&B vibe with floral wallpaper, fireplaces, and four-poster beds, while others are more understated, with soft-toned walls and tasteful furniture. One of the inn's highlights is its delicious and free breakfast, and an on-site restaurant, Jessica's, is a popular destination for both guests and locals.
The Fresco is a collection of restored mansions that served as opulent residences during the Ottoman period; the first mayor of Urgup built the first mansion here at the end of the 18th century and it's been added to by successive owners.Some rooms are traditional and brightly decorated with original frescoes, but with three stories and no elevator, some travellers may find that it's a hassle to reach a few of them. Most of the rooms however are true cave rooms, hewn from the rock deeper within the buildings. And, unlike many others in the area, they're air-conditioned.
Ashford Castle embodies the fantasy of the Irish castle hotel, featuring a massive historic stone facade, complete with towers and turrets; gorgeous, manicured grounds; a stunning setting on a huge lake; and common spaces that are truly grand, with rich wood paneling, chandeliers, and antique furniture. As any true castle hotel should, Ashford Castle has a rich history. The Anglo-Norman de Burgo family first built a castle here in 1228, and then lost it after being defeated by the O'Connors in the 16th century. The castle passed hands many more times over the following centuries and the building went through a number of incarnations -- receiving the addition of a French-style chateau in 1715 and two Victorian wings in 1852 -- before evolving into the hotel it is today.
The former estate of an Italian duchess, the ultra-luxurious Esencia oozes Mediterranean elegance and style. With just 29 rooms spread over 50 acres, the property feels intimate and exclusive, and shows a thorough attention to detail in everything from the services to the decor. Upscale, contemporary rooms are housed in two-story buildings set amid lush tropical grounds, and feature lots of high-end amenities, including pre-loaded iPods, Molton Brown toiletries, and in some, even private plunge pools. The gorgeous spa, excellent restaurant, and relaxing pools with ocean views are highlights.
The four-pearl White Mansion Boutique Hotel is one of Phnom Penh's nicest upscale options. Housed in the former U.S. Embassy, the hotel's interiors are stately and stylish. Teak staircases lead to 30 large and airy rooms that employ a contemporary Khmer minimalism, with granite floors, carved wooden panels, and flat-screen TVs. Some Deluxe Rooms have terraces with city views. There's a narrow outdoor pool and the hotel also has a small spa. The hotel houses a branch of the French Le Cafe Eric Kayser -- it serves a free breakfast, and is open for all-day dining and drinks. Travellers should also consider The Pavilion, an adults-only retreat that offers more colourful rooms at lower rates.
Built in the early 18th century for the noble Villapanes family in the traditional Sevilian baroque style, this gorgeous palace now houses a luxury boutique. Its 50 rooms are all elegant and stylish, with a few original architectural details -- including wall moldings and, in some, intricate coffered ceilings -- and high-end amenities, such as flat-screen TVs, free minibar items, and free Wi-Fi. The small spa, lovely courtyards, intimate restaurant, and rooftop plunge pool offering panoramic city views are all great perks. The location, in a quiet area of the historic center, is ideal for those looking to see Seville's main attractions.
The Culloden Estate is a popular spot among couples and honeymooners and it's not surprising; this luxurious historic property was once a palace for ruling Irish families, and it still sits on over 12 lush acres today. But instead of days filled with royal duties, guests here enjoy days filled with rest and relaxation, whether they're spent at the gorgeous spa, in the fine-dining establishments, or in the attractive rooms which come complete with free water and welcome trays. Bathrooms are small and there are few amenities for children, but otherwise it's hard to find fault with this Irish property.
The 31-room Satri House is an upscale boutique heritage hotel that was the former residence of Prince Souphanouvong and has been restored and extended into one of the most charming properties in Luang Prabang, about a 10-minutes walk to the night market and start of the historic district.The entire hotel is furnished with fine crafted wood furniture, art pieces, and turn of the century antiques, and the Colonial buildings are surrounded by gardens and swimming pools. All of the spacious rooms contain four-poster beds and rain showers; large separate bathtubs are in the higher category suites. Satri House restaurant serves Lao and French cuisine, and there's an elegant spa. Compared to other high end properties in towns like Luang Say Residence, the Satri House is priced far more affordably.
Once the home of the king of Naples, the Palazzo Caracciolo now houses an upscale boutique that is part of the MGallery Collection of Accor Hotels. The stylish, contemporary interiors are a striking counterpoint to the historic architecture. The 139 rooms feature all-white decor with silver accents, modern bathrooms with black and cream tiling, and solid amenities, such as flat-screen TVs, stocked minibars, and free Wi-Fi. The lovely cloister is a favourite among guests for a quiet drink at night, and the Mediterranean restaurant is a solid pick for those who wish to sample regional cuisine. But the fitness center is off-site, and guests have to pay a fee to use the facilities. While its central location offers easy access to the historic parts of Naples, the hotel's immediate neighbourhood is somewhat dilapidated and feels dangerous to some.
The three-pearl Casa Beleza offers a tropical hideaway from the sometimes overwhelming and crowded beach scene of Copacabana and Ipanema. It's located in the bohemian Art District of Santa Teresa, often called the Montmarte of Rio. The mansion was built in the 1930s and was once a former residence of the governor of Rio de Janeiro. Today, the guesthouse offers four well-decorated guest rooms. The owners live at the main building and they are helpful and knowledgeable about the local tourist, music, and art scene. The house is surrounded by a lush tropical garden with occasional parrots, toucans, and monkeys passing by the outdoor swimming pool. Free breakfast and Wi-Fi helps to keep costs low.
Housed in the former residences of the Bertolini princes, the Grand Hotel Baglioni lives up to the grand image painted by Florence's past. The hotel is filled with heavy-handed regal touches and ornate decor from top to bottom. The 193 rooms are very spacious (not often the case in a historic building), and feel luxurious, decked out with classic Italian furnishings, large leaded windows, gorgeous dark wood (the ceilings, floors, and furniture), and equally spacious dazzling white bathrooms. Both the rooftop garden and Terrazza Brunelleschi restaurant offer stunning views of Florence. All of this comes with a hefty price tag, of course, but the convenient location and rich design make the splurge worth it for some.
Wrought iron gates, potted plants, and a lion's head fountain adorn the entrance to this hotel. This former United States Embassy building, built in the early 20th century, holds a small, welcoming lobby filled with marble floors, Murano glass lamps, classic art, and antique furniture. The three-pearl Hotel Villa Pinciana is located in Rome's Ludovisi neighbourhood near Via Veneto and the Spanish Steps. Twenty-five rooms are traditionally elegant and feature air-conditioning and flat-screen TVs; some have large terraces as well.
The Victoria Xiengthong Palace is a boutique heritage hotel set in the old town of Luang Prabang. The resort is small, with only 26 rooms located by the Mekong River and Wat Xiengthong temple, and is the former residence of the Lao royal family; in fact, it used to be the Royal Palace, and has lovely teak floored rooms in traditional buildings. Rooms have plenty of old charm, as well as modern conveniences like iPod docks, flat-screen TVs, and Wi-Fi. There is no pool or fitness center, but there is a spa, and the excellent Kitchen by the Mekong restaurant which serves fine Lao and European cuisine. It's one of the quietest areas of Luang Prabang, and perfect for those who like walking and enjoying the riverside haunts. It is, however, one of Luang Prabang's most expensive properties -- and some find it doesn't give the views or overall luxuries to merit the price tag.
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