While new hotels—bursting with cutting-edge design and boasting the latest technology—have undeniable appeal, there’s something to be said for properties with a past. Rich in history, the site of incredible architecture, and often the first choice of famous guests, these landmark hotels offer an enduring welcome and a real sense of place.
So, whether you’re dreaming of the crystal-clear waters of Croatia or are craving a taste of fine dining in France, we’ve rounded up seven of the world’s top historic hotels. All offer the ultimate in privacy and seclusion, prioritize guests’ health and safety, and are worth adding to your travel wish list today.
Constructed in 1483 as a cloistered sanctuary for quiet contemplation and healing, Lopud-1483 has just opened to guests after a 20-year renovation. What was once a monastery on the island of Lopud, seven miles (11 km) from Dubrovnik, has been lovingly restored by art lover Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza and is available for exclusive private takeover with a minimum three-day stay.
The complex features five suites, each filled with rare pieces from the private art collection of the Thyssen-Bornemisza family. Complete privacy and security is assured, as it’s surrounded by an impressive Renaissance fortress. Private chefs are on hand to create menus using Croatian ingredients such as oysters from nearby bays, Dalmatian ham, and locally caught fish and octopus. And, as a bonus, guests have direct access to the sea via a secret underground cave—once used by the monks to have a private swim away from the island’s beachgoers.
The central London address of 3-5 Great Scotland Yard is synonymous with the city’s first metropolitan police service and the Criminal Investigations Department—charged with seeking out of the most dangerous criminals of the 19th century. Today, thanks to a sensitive restoration by EPR architects, it houses 153 elegant guestrooms and a two-bedroom townhouse with a separate entrance.
Along with five-star accommodation, you’ll find The 40 Elephants bar. The sumptuous Art Deco-inspired decor and menu tell the story of a group of prolific female thieves who once ran amok in the city, stuffing jewelry up their sizeable Victorian dresses and terrorizing all who got in their way. Meanwhile, The Yard, the hotel’s modern British restaurant by acclaimed chef Robin Gill, offers a menu that combines top local ingredients with the odd Asian twist. And keep an eye out for whiskey bar Síbín, in a secret nook hidden behind a faux library door.
Following a four-year renovation of an old New Orleans church, rectory, convent, and schoolhouse, Hotel Peter & Paul opened to great acclaim in 2018. This ambitious project is the result of entrepreneur Nathalie Jordi’s vision, and it led to her collaborating with design studio ASH NYC.
“Each building has its own personality,” says ASH NYC’s chief creative officer, Will Cooper. “We essentially designed four narratives then tied them all into the mother brand, Hotel Peter & Paul. We had such incredible architecture to work with. The rectory guestrooms reflect a sort of papal palace, while the convent has a monastic feel.”
Keeping almost all historical elements intact, the design team fused each building’s heritage with all the modern amenities guests could desire. “The schoolhouse lobby will make your jaw drop,” Cooper enthuses. Not only does staying here give you access to opulent guestrooms and inviting restaurant The Elysian Bar, but it also places you in the heart of the city and local artists regularly display their works in the church.
Described as “a treasured icon reborn in the French capital of gastronomy,” it’s fitting that fine dining is at the heart of InterContinental Lyon, Hotel Dieu. Its restaurant, Epona, stretches all along the imposing façade of the building and has large windows that open onto the Cour Saint-Louis—part of the former Hôtel-Dieu hospital. Its wooded terrace, resembling a tranquil cloister, is actually a former medicinal garden. Chef Mathieu Charrois champions local flavors and revisits Lyonnais classics such as the quenelle, a regional dumpling speciality.
The hotel itself is elegantly elevated on the banks of the Rhône, and gives new life to the Hôtel-Dieu, which was first erected in medieval times. “The history of the building is at the heart of its transformation,” says architect Jean-Philippe Nuel, who oversaw the renovation. “The building carried from its conception a dichotomy. Its façade and dome were extremely grand and decorative, while the former hospital treatment rooms were very bare.” Based on this, the design aims for a sense of “humble luxury,” with suites featuring 23-foot-high (7 m) river-facing windows and the majestic structure that gives Le Dôme Bar its name.
Six Senses Fort Barwara, Rajasthan, India
One to keep an eye out for—currently slated to open in fall 2021—Six Senses’ new Indian site was once owned by the Rajasthani royal family. Located 80 miles (128 km) southeast of Jaipur, Fort Barwara was originally constructed in the 14th century by the (Indian Rajput caste) Chauhans. It was later conquered—in 1734—by the Rajawat Dynasty from the Hadas.
The fort is now being restored to its former glory by Six Senses in collaboration with the Espire Group and Panika, and will feature a 30,000-square-foot (2,800 sq m) spa, two swimming pools, and two temples. Dining options will include Mardana Mahal, private dining areas sited in a former observation tower, and the Speciality Restaurant, housed in the fort’s historic domes. The hotel can arrange cultural walks to nearby villages as well as cooking classes, picnics at Banas River, and safaris to Ranthambore National Park.
Six Senses Kocataş Mansions, Istanbul
Once owned by a former Turkish minister of justice, the 19th-century Kocataş Mansion and its neighbor Sait Paşa Mansion have been sympathetically restored after a fire ravaged the buildings 20 years ago. Today, the hotel’s 45 rooms and suites are spread across the two three-story properties, featuring interior design that blends traditional local style with historic architectural features. Think: 15-foot (4.6 m) ceilings and marble-tiled bathrooms designed to evoke a traditional Turkish hammam.
This Istanbul outpost of the Six Senses group is located in the prestigious Sariyer district of the city’s European side, with 6.5 acres (2.6 ha) of beautifully landscaped grounds offering guests far-reaching views over the Bosphorus river. The hotel has three dining options: Toro Latin Gastro Bar, designed by restaurateur Richard Sandoval, serving pan-Latin and Asian cuisines; all-day dining cafe Kahve, located in a Bohemian-style gilded hall; and Defne, which serves local dishes and is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The historic city center of Istanbul is a short boat ride away, and a private boat, moored in front of the hotel, is available to guests to enjoy bespoke tours and excursions.
Faro Punta Cumplida, La Palma, Spain
Imagine having an entire lighthouse to yourself. You can, thanks to the three-suite Faro Punta Cumplida hotel, which is available for exclusive use. Renovated by Tim Wittenbecher and Marc Nagel—the founders of hospitality brand Floatel—the 152-year-old landmark is now an exclusive hideaway on La Palma’s rugged coast.
“Lighthouses do not have the nautical importance they once had,” Wittenbecher says, explaining his thinking behind the project. “Lighthouse keepers do not have to carry petroleum barrels up the 156 steps anymore, and weights do not have to be wound up the inner tower to produce energy for the light.” And so Floatel’s vision is to give this lighthouse new life while giving guests the opportunity to become keeper for a while, albeit with none of those earlier responsibilities.
A 112-foot-high (34 m) viewing tower allows for incredible sea views, while the hotel’s minimalistic design lets its history shine through. You can watch whales and dolphins from the pool and see the waves rolling in from the comfort of your bed. As one of the lighthouse’s guests, you’ll know you’re in good company—a stay at the remote retreat was included in the gift bags at this year’s Oscars ceremony—and both Brad Pitt and George Clooney have stayed here. Floatel also has a hideaway in Hamburg—this one housed in a crane.
Banner image: The former monastery that houses Lopud-1483 can be viewed from across the island’s bay. Getty Images