Heritage hotels



Jet-setters in search of memorable accommodations are wise to seek out a lovingly restored heritage hotel that combines modern luxuries and fine service with a historic atmosphere. Some heritage hotels operate as independent properties, while others are backed by global hotel brands. Here’s a look at some of the most notable ones around.


In early 2019, the Cadogan Hotel—the former pied-à-terre of Oscar Wilde—reopened as the Belmond Cadogan after a four-year, US$48-million renovation. First opened in 1887, the hotel retains its original Queen Anne design (wood-paneled walls, stained-glass windows, mosaic floors), but has been updated with contemporary art and furniture.

Another high-profile newcomer to London’s hotel scene is The Dixon, Tower Bridge, Autograph Collection, which recently opened in the former home of the Tower Bridge Magistrate’s Court & Police Station. The property offers a stylish yet edgy take on its surroundings, as evidenced by the jail cells in the Provisioners restaurant and the Courtroom Bar’s judge’s bench and Edwardian oak paneling.

The Hotel Café Royal used to be a social club in the mid-19th century, a favorite for afternoon tea. After an extensive, multiyear restoration, the original Grade II-listed building—formerly a fire station on one side, a bank on the other—reopened in 2012 and is now one of London’s most in-demand hotels. Notable additions include Cakes & Bubbles, a dessert-only restaurant from Albert Adria, and Laurent at Café Royal, a fine-dining spot from Laurent Tourondel.


The only palatial hotel on the Left Bank of Paris, Hôtel Lutetia reopened in 2018 after a four-year, US$233 million refurbishment. The property, built in 1910 by the same family who opened Le Bon Marche department store, once hosted Picasso, Matisse, Charlie Chaplin, and James Joyce, who wrote part of Ulysses there.

The structure that houses Hôtel de Crillon, a Rosewood Hotel, dates to 1758, when King Louis XV commissioned the greatest architect of the time, Ange-Jacques Gabriel, to create a grand structure on the Place de la Concorde. The opulent grounds, which reopened in 2017, include 40 different types of marble and a pool filled with some 17,600 gold accents.

United Arab Emirates

Al Bait Sharjah, which opened in December 2018, is a luxury hideaway in the heart of Sharjah, a major cultural-heritage hub a short drive from Dubai. The resort is the result of an ambitious preservation project in which a collection of historic manor houses were converted into top-tier accommodations packed with modern amenities.


Since 1872, the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz has been recognized as one of the most prominent spa destinations in the world. In 2019, the resort is celebrating its 150th anniversary with a US$45 million renovation to its flagship complex, the Grand Hotel Quellenhof. Guests enjoy modern spa suites, some of which contain a private whirlpool, sauna, and steam shower with a thermal spa water supply from the famous Tamina Gorge.


Capella Shanghai Jian Ye Li, which opened in 2017, is an all-villa, all-suite sanctuary nestled in the Xuhui District’s last remaining cluster of traditional shikumen townhouses. The luxe property features stylish French and Chinese design elements that reflect the neighborhood’s golden era during the 1930s.

Set amid imposing karst mountains in Guangxi province, Alila Yangshuo’s 117 rooms are in a renovated 1960s sugar mill. The modern facilities, which opened in 2017, stand in contrast to surrounding green hills and winding rivers.

Alila Yangshuo is set inside a former sugar mill in China, among green hills and winding rivers.
Alila Yangshuo is set inside a former sugar mill in China, among green hills and winding rivers.

Credits: Alila Yangshuo


One of India’s most extravagant new hotels, Alila Fort Bishangarh is housed in an 18th-century warrior fortress, set high among the peaks of the ancient Aravalli Range. Original 10-foot walls and towering turrets—once used to combat Mughal invaders—stand in sharp contrast to the 59 lavish suites, three restaurants, and a luxurious spa.

Taj Connemara, which dates to 1854 (making it South India’s oldest hotel), reopened in 2018 after an extensive, multiyear renovation and redesign. With architectural styles ranging from classic colonial and art deco to tropical modernism, the complex houses 147 rooms and suites, as well as 4.5 acres of landscaped gardens and atrium gardens.


Situated along the Mendocino Coast and surrounded by old-growth redwoods, the Harbor House Inn—built in 1916 by Goodyear Redwood—reopened in May 2018 after an eight-year restoration. Guests enjoy activities such as whale watching, hiking to a black-sand beach and waterfall, or foraging for seaweed and sea urchins with the inn’s chefs.

The Ackerman Heritage House, opened to the public in 2017, offers some of the most distinctive lodging in Napa. Located in an 1888 Queen Anne Victorian home in downtown Napa, the property thrills oenophiles with its stylish aviary, a wine-tasting room where visitors enjoy Ackerman Family Vineyard’s organic wines.

The Francis House in Calistoga, which opened in September 2018 after an extensive three-year renovation, is housed in an 1886 landmark building listed in the National Register of Historic Places. After careful restoration, the former home of the Calistoga Hospital emerged as a luxurious five-room inn.


The Fife Arms opened in the Scottish Highlands village of Braemar in January 2019 after an intensive restoration by Iwan and Manuela Wirth, the Swiss founders of the influential Hauser and Wirth art gallery. Originally a 19th-century Victorian coaching inn, each of the 46 guest rooms pays homage to a different place, person, event, or custom integral to local history, and the property features more than 12,000 works of art.


The Exchange Hotel in Cardiff is housed in one of Wales’ most significant buildings, a Grade II-listed complex dating to 1888 that was once home to the Cardiff Coal Exchange. After a £40 million restoration in 2017, the 200-room property is now one of the Welsh capital’s most in-demand hotels.

Exclusive use of the Roch Castle Hotel—a romantic, six-bedroom Norman castle in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park—fulfills a dream for anyone who has ever wanted to have their own key to a historic castle. (Built in 1280, Roch was the home and birthplace of Lucy Walter, mistress to King Charles II and mother of his child, the Duke of Monmouth.) From its perch, the luxurious, art-filled property offers panoramic views over the handsome Welsh landscape.

The Roch Castle Hotel in Wales allows guests to feel like actual monarchs.

Credits: Roch Castle/Visit Wales
The Roch Castle Hotel in Wales allows guests to feel like actual monarchs.


In early 2019, hotelier Adrian Zecha opened Azerai La Residence, Hue, a 122-room boutique hotel on the former imperial capital’s Perfume River. The historic mansion, built in the 1930s and once serving as a guesthouse for provincial authorities, combines art deco touches with modern flair.

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