Design Architecture

Step Inside 12 Hotels That Take You Back in Time

Across the world, countless historic structures have been converted into hotels whose old-world architecture and antique decor transport guests back to another era. Join us on a virtual visit to 12 of these magnificent properties, and bask in the lore and legend of centuries past.
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Hartwell House in Buckinghamshire, England

Built in the early 17th century, the luxe property now known as Hartwell House & Spa has an incredibly rich history. Home to nobles, knights, and politicians, it also welcomed exiled King Louis XVIII of France, and functioned as a training ground for World War II soldiers, as well as a finishing school. The magnificently restored building opened its doors to travelers in 1989 and still retains an ornate decor with both Jacobean and Georgian features.

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The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai, India

The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, which opened in 1903, is a Mumbai landmark that overlooks the Gateway of India and the Arabian Sea. Dignitaries, political leaders, and celebrities have stayed at the five-star architectural wonder, which boasts beautiful carpets and alabaster ceilings. Today, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel prides itself on offering guests gracious hospitality blended with all the modern amenities sophisticated travelers have come to expect.

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Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul, Turkey

Possibly the oldest European-style hotel in Turkey, the Pera Palace began offering lodging to the weary passengers of the Orient Express in 1892. Since then, the hotel has hosted a wide range of distinguished guests, including Agatha Christie, Ernest Hemingway, and Alfred Hitchcock. Closed for renovation from 2006 to 2010, the Pera Palace still retains its stately neoclassical architecture and jaw-dropping Oriental and Art Nouveau interiors.

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The Belmond Grand Hotel Europe in St. Petersburg, Russia

The Belmond Grand Hotel Europe first opened for business in 1875 under the name “Hotel de l’Europe.” In later years, it served as an orphanage, a wartime hospital, and a government office building before undergoing renovation in the late 1900s. A landmark in St. Petersburg, the Belmond Grand embraces its original Neo-Baroque elegance and offers historic accommodations as well as indulgent hospitality.

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Hotel Gotisches Haus in Rothenburg, Germany

Built in the 13th century as a bread house for Franciscan monks, the fully restored Hotel Gotisches Haus (Gothic House) in Rothenburg, Germany, opened to the public in 2003. Guests staying in one of the 11 unique rooms can experience both the romance of the Middle Ages and modern-day comforts. While the hotel retains its original 700-year-old framing, it offers the four-star amenities today’s travelers demand.

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Hôtel Ritz in Paris, France

With posh accommodations and stunning architectural details that date back to the early 1700s, the Hôtel Ritz welcomed its first guests in 1898. The famously luxurious hotel, which reopened in June 2016 after extensive renovations, has a long and varied history that includes use as the local headquarters of the German Luftwaffe during the Second World War. Many distinguished guests have stayed at the Hôtel Ritz, including Coco Chanel and Charlie Chaplin. More recently, Princess Diana dined in the hotel’s Imperial Suite hours before her fatal car crash in 1997.

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Hotel Gellért in Budapest, Hungary

On the banks of the Danube in Budapest, the Hotel Gellért dazzles with its extraordinary display of Art Nouveau architecture. The famous 1918 structure has hosted many illustrious guests, including the Dalai Lama, Richard Nixon, Jane Fonda, and a bevy of musical virtuosos. Guests can refresh and revitalize in the thermal baths of the renowned Gellért Spa—baths once reserved for Turkish royalty.

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Hotel Danieli in Venice, Italy

Erected by a family of Venetian nobles in the 14th century, the structure that is now the Hotel Danieli changed hands several times until it officially opened as a hotel in 1824. The grand building features Byzantine Gothic arches and a gilded staircase, and is decorated with furniture and artwork from the 18th century. The opulent Hotel Danieli was a backdrop for the 2010 film “The Tourist,” starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie.

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The Westin Palace in Madrid, Spain

When the Westin Palace in Madrid was erected in 1912, it was the largest hotel in Europe. Today, the structure is known for its elegant facilities and classically glamorous details. Guests can enjoy world-class cuisine in La Rotonda, a restaurant with an elegant domed stained-glass ceiling.

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The Olde Bell in Berkshire, United Kingdom

The Olde Bell Inn opened in 1135—more than 880 years ago—to accommodate travelers visiting the nearby Benedictine Priory. The name probably derives from the custom of ringing a bell at the inn to alert the monks that visitors had arrived. As one of the oldest guesthouses in the world, the Olde Bell Inn offers patrons a glance back at a vanished past with its claw-foot bathtubs and homey decor. Notable guests include Winston Churchill and Dwight D. Eisenhower, who conducted meetings there during the Second World War.

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Hotel Interlaken in Interlaken, Switzerland

Founded in 1323, the cloister guesthouse that evolved into Hotel Interlaken was run by monks and nuns who tended to the needs of wayfarers. The beautiful building has had various other functions throughout the centuries, at one point serving as a criminal court. Today, guests enjoy the charming hospitality of yesteryear amid modern amenities and services.

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Ballynahinch Castle Hotel in Galway, Ireland

Set against a backdrop of rolling hills and evergreens, Ballynahinch Castle has protected travelers within its formidable walls since 1756. The castle—a magnificent countryside manor overlooking the Owenmore River—offers secluded respite for those seeking a relaxing getaway. Ballynahinch Castle is a testament to historic Irish hospitality, with open fireplaces, tennis courts, and acres of woodland trails.

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