In modern times, glass and steel has become all the fashion. Soulless glass skyscraper hotels rise tall above the ground, cocooning the hotel guest to look out past the transparent facade and wish they were outside instead! Personally, I’m a sucker for classic hotels – palaces, castles, Renaissance and Art Noveau structures with opulent exteriors and ornate interiors. Classic hotels, primarily in cities or regions with a history stretching long and deep, can allow you to engage yourself in the grandeur of the past, while experiencing a slice of history.
Many of Europe’s classical buildings have been converted to hotels. Some were found in a dilapidated form before the hotel groups took over, working to delicately restore the exteriors and interiors to their former glory; others were well preserved and just needed finishing touches.
The five hotels below are among the grandest structures in which you could reside, both of their time, and currently following restoration, and are now open to the public to stay in – for a hefty price, of course!
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Unlike other entries in this list, the current structure at Gresham Palace had no royal links (although a palace once stood on the grounds). The construction of this magnificent Art Noveau exterior was commissioned by the Gresham Life Assurance Company as an investment platform in 1906. Having been left in a decrepit state post-World War II, the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts oversaw the restoration of the palace in a partnership with Gresco Investments Limited, who helped raise the US$85m required for renovations. The palace opened as a Four Seasons luxury hotel in 2004.
Some Europeans travel half way around the world to live in The Venetian at Las Vegas or Macau. But why bother when you can experience the real splendor of Venice in its heyday in your very own backyard? Hotel Danieli comprises of three palaces, the oldest of which dates to the early 15th century.
A water taxi in the form of a gondola escorts you to the private water entrance before unleashing the wonders of Venetian resplendence. The exterior of the Palazzo Dandolo is distinctly Venetian Gothic, with hues of red. The interiors are adorned with the finest marble and linen. The balconies of the hotel look out onto the Riva degli Schiavoni, from where you can bask in the unique chaos that is Venice below.
This countryside manor was once the home of Nancy Astor, the first woman to sit as a Member of Parliament in the British House of Commons. The current Grade-1 listed structure was built in 1851, following the previous two structures, the first of which was built in 1666, and both of which burnt down. The Italiante architecture is evident throughout, and the manor’s and the ground’s grandness evokes feelings of mansions such as Pemberley in the classic romance novel Pride and Prejudice.
Over the years (or centuries!) Cliveden has been home to an Earl, three Countesses, two Dukes and a Prince of Wales. The estate is still popular today as a wedding location among royalty and celebrity alike, with England and Liverpool footballer Steven Gerrard exchanging wedding vows with childhood sweetheart Alex Curran at Cliveden House.
With the Ottoman Empire lasting over six centuries, and ruling the better half of Europe for a sizeable part of that period, you would expect this powerful reign to have left plenty of glamorous relics. The Ciragan Palace, originally constructed in 1867 and restored in 1991, is one such relic. The inner walls were made of wood, while the exterior was made of colourful marble. A high garden wall protects the palace from the sides, while the front faces out onto the calming Bosphorus.
Now a Kempinski Hotel, the palaces oozes Ottoman extravagance – and the Ottomans were an empire that enjoyed the finer things in life! The Sultan Suite, at over US$15,000 per night according to rates in late-2012, appears regularly on the lists of the world’s most expensive hotel suites.
Chateau Les Crayeres is a gourmet dining lover’s paradise. While the chateau itself provides luxury accommodation, it is the lovers of fine food and champagne that the visitors come for. After all, where else would you drink champagne but in Champagne?
The Chateau Les Crayeres has food tourism down to a tee, but it is now the renovated chateau providing elegant accommodation that is drawing all the attention. The upscale maison bourgeouis, built in 1903, is surrounded by a 14-acre park. The well appointed 20 guest rooms, including 4 suites, in the chateau and surrounding cottage houses, are lavishly decorated in the classical French provincial style.