Hotel History and Culture

Ever dreamed of being king or queen of a castle? Lord or lady of the manor? Well, you’re not the only one — and plenty of hotels around the world can make that dream come true. We scouted out nine luxury hotels that were formerly the elaborate private homes of blue bloods, aristocrats, and royals, from an Irish castle to a Gatsby-era Gold Coast mansion. Feelin’ fancy? Then check these out.

Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, Ireland

Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, Ireland

Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, Ireland

This charming stone manor house dates to the 18th century and the 450-acre country estate embodies the sort of wild country beauty that Connemara is famous for. Past owners of the lands have included the O’Flaherty clan (the 16th century “Pirate Queen,” Grace O’Malley, married into the clan and was one of its more noteworthy members); Richard Martin (a member of Parliament nicknamed Humanity Dick for founding the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals); and the Indian Maharaja, Ranji, who bought the estate in 1922. Read More »

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Some hotels are more than just hotels — they are former castles, royal residences, or Gatsby-esque mansions. Or they opened their doors many years ago to offer accommodations of unsurpassed luxury, attracting royalty and famous names. These grand dames around the world have drawn on their rich pasts in order to offer present-day magnificence.

Grand Hotel Baglioni, Florence

Grand Hotel Baglioni, Florence

Grand Hotel Baglioni, Florence

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. Read More »

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Hotel Ella, Austin, Texas

Hotel Ella, Austin, Texas

If there’s one word that can describe the ethereal beauty and warm ambiance of the South, it’s charming. And what better way to celebrate this corner of the United States than by reveling in a little bit of history during your visit? These mansions — most of them dating back to the 1800s — represent the epitome of Southern charm. So pack your bags and head for the Mason-Dixon Line: It’s time for some proper front porch sittin’.

 

 

 

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The term “boutique hotel” can be applied to a host of very different properties — whether quaint or trendy, traditional or avant-garde. But they all have at least one thing in common: They’re intimate, and fewer rooms means fewer guests get to experience them, so staying at one can feel like discovering a secret hideaway. But secrets are no fun if you don’t get share them — so we’re spilling the beans on 11 of our favorite boutiques across Europe.

Draycott Hotel, London

Draycott Hotel, London

Draycott Hotel, London

This 35-room combo of Edwardian townhouses is warm and intimate with a country home feel, and in a great location for exclusive West End shopping. With wonderful boutique perks such as the free English afternoon tea (guests at other hotels will have to pay at least a £15 premium to enjoy such a tradition), free pre-dinner champagne, and free hot chocolate before bed, it’s hard to find much at the Draycott to complain about. Unless, of course, your priorities are a pool and fitness center, both of which the hotel lacks. Read More »

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In honor of the 4th of July tomorrow, we thought it only appropriate to share some lovely fireworks with you. We caught this fireworks show on the road, in a Spanish-speaking country that was ruled for a year in the 19th century by an American from Tennessee. (He was forced out by armies from neighboring countries.) Isn’t history fun? Click to find out the name of the country, or submit your guesses in the comments section!

Fireworks! Happy 4th of July

Fireworks! Happy 4th of July

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The Jefferson in D.C. plays homage to its namesake throughout the hotel.

The Jefferson in D.C. plays homage to its namesake throughout the hotel.

It’s almost Independence Day! And what better way to celebrate our nation than brushing up on some fascinating presidential trivia? Given how much time presidents spend on the road, it’s no surprise how many noteworthy events — famous and infamous both — have taken place at hotels. We’ve come up with a list of hotels that not only come with the presidential seal of approval, but also are rich with presidential history — secret entrances, assassination attempts, and the occasional scandal. After all, you can never be sure what’s going on in the room next door…

Check out our list of presidential hotels and the events that went down in them here.

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Conservatorium Hotel, Amsterdam

Conservatorium Hotel, Amsterdam

Amsterdam may be famous for its red light district and its friendly stance on marijuana, but the capital of the Netherlands has much more to offer. A city steeped in history, Amsterdam is home to beautiful historic buildings, numerous parks, fields of tulips that bloom in the spring, about 40 museums, and a system of canals and bridges that rivals (and in fact, is larger than) the one in Venice. Many of the city’s hotels give visitors a taste of the city’s rich past, such as properties housed in former monasteries or former schools.

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Yamm restaurant shows off the hotel's futuristic design style.

Edward Snowden — the former CIA employee who leaked information about the National Security Agency’s surveillance methods last week — has reportedly been hiding out at The Mira Hong Kong since his whistle-blowing shocked people across the globe — but no longer. The Daily Telegraph has reported that a man who called himself Edward Snowden checked out of the The Mira today. Many have their doubts about whether or not this is the Edward Snowden: After all, the 29-year-old has been very secretive since the big reveal, even admitting to feeling extremely fearful of being spied on. In fact, reports claim that Snowden left his hotel in Hong Kong just three times during his stay — despite being in the city for three weeks — for fear of being located by the NSA.

There are certainly worse places to lay low: The Mira is one of Hong Kong’s most luxurious, high-design properties. The hotel boasts a central location in Tsim Sha Tsui, futuristic design touches, seven outstanding restaurants and bars, and an excellent fitness center. If Snowden was hiding out at the chic hotel, we can only assume he is sad to leave it now. Whether he will stay in Asia or seek asylum elsewhere – many speculate he may travel to Iceland for that reason — saying goodbye to The Mira could not have been easy. See more photos of The Mira after the jump »

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Whether they’re on business or leisure, with the family or solo, almost all travelers consider a book (or a Kindle, whatever) a must-have while on a trip. Personally, we love curling up with a good read while we’re jaunting from city to city. But — taking it one step further — we really love enjoying a novel in the exact same place where the author once roamed There’s just something in the air — and p.s. these wordsmiths usually stayed in some pretty nice digs. So we rounded up the literary hotels where famous authors have partied, waited arrest, you name it. Hey, some even wrote while they were shacked up in their hotel rooms. Check out nine spots where famous writers have spent some time.

Cadogan Hotel, London

The Entrance to the Cadogan Hotel

Built in 1887, the Cadogan Hotel has seen its fair share of history within the walls of the stately Edwardian townhouse. In the realm of literary history, Oscar Wilde was a frequent guest, and he caused quite a scandal when he was arrested at the hotel in 1895 (though friends encouraged him to flee the country, Wilde refused).  Poet laureate John Betjeman commemorated the arrest in his poem The Arrest of Oscar Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel, and the hotel has renamed the room where the handcuffing went down as the Oscar Wilde Room. At the time of the arrest, it was simply room no. 118.
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It's a pink explosion in the Barbie Suite at the Palms!

Hotels often incorporate themes into their rooms, but these so-called themes are usually “classic elegance,” “boho chic,” or “understated luxury.” In the case of the rooms in this slideshow, however, the themes are a bit more specific — and over-the-top. From a suite that Barbie would approve of, to a room dedicated to David Beckham (and, in particular, his abs), we’ve found some amazing themed rooms and suites that are worth a visit (or at least a look).

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