When it comes to grandeur, period buildings are in a class of their own. So we’ve done our history homework and curated the very best of these heirloom buildings, each re-imagined as hotels for 21st-century style hunters.
There’s a monumental rework of a City of London banking stalwart, complete with all-day cocktails in the original vault. Built in 1728, the low-key hideaway in Lisbon’s culture-rich city centre may be the most advanced in years, but passé it definitely is not. Cross the Atlantic and grab yourself some Southern comfort at a handsome New Orleans townhouse – the perfect Big Easy retreat. Then there’s a belle époque dream on Vienna’s Ringstraße, steeped in both history and champagne. Finally, step back in time at an Indian hilltop fort palace, a feast for every one of the senses…
The lowdown A captivating heritage/modernism mash-up.
Best for Glamorous luxury saturated with Indian authenticity.
This magnificent hilltop fort palace, dating back to 1760, was restored in the Nineties after being derelict for 20 years, with extraordinary original woodwork and wall paintings conservedto be glimpsed throughout the building.
The imposing façade, complete with ramparts and balconies, recalls a bygone era, but step inside and architect Rajiv’s Saini’s stunning minimalist design will seduce you with its modernity – all marble floors with dashes of grey slate or ochre Jaisalmer stone – a masterful balance of old and new. The palace and its 39 suites (each with a different design theme and layout) are like a magical labyrinth, ready to engulf you in Raas Devigarh’s rich history.
If you can tear your eyes from the views of the surrounding Aravalli hills, there are myriad gardens and courtyards to explore. Plus, there’s the green marble pool and the Ila holistic spa – with its hand-carved Himalayan salt cave and outdoor hot tub perched on one of the palace’s turrets, it offers a wellness experience that’s not to be missed. If you go to Indiato find yourself, this is definitely the place to do it.
THE CITY, LONDON, UK
The lowdown No-expense-spared luxury in a Deco wonderland.
Best for Living the high life at London’s hottest of hot spots.
Set in a Grade I-listed former Midland Bank building designed in 1924 by Sir Edwin ‘Ned’ Lutyens, the place had lain empty for eight years before attracting the attention of Soho House’s founder Nick Jones. So began a collaboration with New York’s Sydell Group to turn it into a 252-room hotel with a distinctly other-worldly vibe.
Rooms channel the Twenties and Thirties, with mahogany and brass furniture, richly patterned furnishings and chandeliers on point for a heady rush of Deco glamour.
Feeling peckish? No less than eight restaurants jostle to meet your needs in the vast Grand Banking Hall, from modern Italian at Cecconi’s to NY deli-worthy sandwiches and matzo ball soup at Zobler’s. Step through the 20-tonne, two-metre wide circular door into the bank’s original strongroom on the bottom two floors, now an all-hours cocktail lounge…
Livingetc loved the Nedgroni, The Ned’s signature tipple. Also to be found in this temple of excess is a Cowshed spa, Cheeky nail bar and Ned’s Barbershop. Ned’s Club Upstairs is a rooftop retreat, complete with infinity pool, restaurant and epic views of the City. Who knew a trip to the bank could be this much fun?
Book itCosy rooms start at £250.
SANTA CLARA 1728
The lowdown A welcoming cocoon in the Portuguese capital.
Best for Feeling so at ease, you’ll forget you’re in a city-centre hotel.
There’s an overriding sense of calm at this family hotel in a beautiful 18th-century Lisbon townhouse. With six spacious suites, this is an intimate sanctuary set in the Alfama district – the heart of the city’s old cultural quarter.
Santa Clara 1728 is a considered home-from-home – its owners Joao and Andrea Rodrigues live on the top two floors and guests gather at the 6m-long oak table for breakfast and light lunches.
The building has been sympathetically renovated by architect Manuel Aires Mateus using traditional building methods, with local materials such as Lioz limestone – used to carve the stunning bathtubs and basins – plus pine wood floors and handmade tiles.
The hotel offers peace and tranquillity both inside and out, with a secluded garden that makes the perfect reading spot. Suites are light and airy, with inviting Antonio Citterio beds, cotton mattresses from Spain and pillows and blankets from Portugal, and all offer spectacular views of the river Tagus and Pantheon. Despite being surrounded by the Feira da Ladra flea market and historic monuments, Santa Clara 1728 is a quiet, seductive hideaway.
The lowdown The height of Austrian elegance on the famed Ringstraße.
Best for Sipping champagne while taking in the views of Vienna.
Every detail of this opulent hotel has been selected to celebrate beauty, from the glittering Lobmeyr chandeliers (the one in the lobby gets cranked down by hand to light the real, flickering candles), right down to the ceramic light switches. And, as soon as you come face-to-face with the majestic taxidermied horse in the lobby, you’ll get a sense of the hotel’s unique character.
On Vienna’s renowned Ringstraße, the latest in the Weitzer Hotel portfolio boasts 188 rooms behind the restored listed façade, all furnished with an elegant touch, with timeless classics such as Thonet chairs and Flos Arco lamps.
Upgrade to a stay in one of the suites for seventh-floor (read seventh heaven) views of Vienna and freestanding Art Nouveau bathtubs. For the ultimate in luxury, the Grande Suite has direct access to the hotel’s rooftop pool and members-only club, the Grand Étage, a private salon for the 21st century.
We can wholeheartedly get behind Grand Ferdinand’s proclamation that one can never have enough champagne – Livingetc’s room had its own champagne bar stocked with Mumm and it goes without saying that bubbly is always on the menu at all three hotel restaurants. Simply grand…
HENRY HOWARD HOTEL
NEW ORLEANS, USA
The lowdown Southern hospitality with a touch of quirky elegance.
Best for Jazz buffs and boho revellers in need of some R&R.
This double gallery townhouse (a two-storey, Greek-revival building with covered galleries framed by Corinthian columns supporting architrave, frieze and cornice, since you asked) in the city’s hip and lively Garden District offers old-world elegance with a generous dash of New Orleans soul.
The 1860s property, originally designed by architect Henry Howard, is now an 18-bedroom boutique hotel combining traditional elements with modern creature comforts and plenty of Louisiana eccentricity.
From the curated mix of vintage and custom-made furniture to the New Orleans-inspired toile wallpaper (motifs to spot include the city’s famous streetcars and steamboat, plus a cheeky ’gator), the rooms are a modern-day version of a guest room in a grand ol’ Southern home, designed to be a calm oasis amid the decadent and dynamic cultural melting pot right on its doorstep.
Knock back a glass of Sazerac with a po’boy in The Parlor bar before diving back, fully revived, into the sassy, jazz-infused streets of The Big Easy. Laissez les bon temps rouler…
Book itDouble rooms from approx £148.