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The Most Interesting Hotels in the World

We love a shiny new hotel as much as anyone, but there’s no substitute for the heart and soul of an eclectic old hotel, the sort of place that’s lived a full and varied life. It stands to reason: any space that plays host to a steady stream of statesmen, philosophers, and composers can’t help but pick up an enthralling yarn here or there over the years. Pull up a chair…

Hôtel Da Vinci
Paris
Hôtel Da Vinci

We’ll start with the story of Vincenzo Peruggia, onetime Louvre employee and perpetrator of perhaps the most daring art crime of the 20th century — in 1911, he filched the Mona Lisa and hid out for a few days in what’s now this hotel’s Adorateur room. Accordingly, guests in the know will pick up on an Italian influence throughout the public spaces: Murano lamps, the Venetian café, and an homage to Leonardo in the mosaic-lined pool.

Chicago Athletic Association
Chicago
Chicago Athletic Association

An archetypical boy’s club if we’ve ever seen one — once upon a time, Chicago’s inner circle took their ease in this solemn Venetian Gothic masterwork, all leaded glass, veined marble, and intricate woodcarving. A natural fit for Roman and Williams, if we do say so ourselves, and easily one of the best spots in the Windy City to sip a fine scotch and get down to brass tacks.

Dunton Hot Springs
Colorado
Dunton Hot Springs

Nothing says American entrepreneurial spirit like a repurposed ghost town: welcome to Dunton, Colorado, a century removed from its ore-mining heyday. The boom may be over, but folks still get the urge to go west — the present-day proprietors took it upon themselves to renovate the entire (tiny) town, transforming the old Pony Express depot into a fitness center and the saloon into a respectable locavore restaurant with an open kitchen. And yes, the hot springs still flow.

Metropole Hotel Venice
Venice
Metropole Hotel Venice

What hasn’t this hotel been is the real question: orphanage church, Vivaldi’s classroom, a military hospital during the Second World War…. With 30 years of proprietorship under their belts, the Beggiato family doubtless has plans to uphold that signal legacy. In the meantime, their sizable collection of antique instruments and household goods should make for scintillating conversation.

Crosby Street
Los Angeles
Chateau Marmont

Sometimes the actual guest list beats you to the punch. How to summarize a hotel that’s writ large in the lives of — to be criminally brief — Jim Morrison, Dorothy Parker, Charles Bukowski, Howard Hughes, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tim Burton, and Greta Garbo? Or, forgive us, the death of Belushi? Well, there’s the frisky resident ghost, for one thing. Or the exactitude with which they recreated its inspiration, the kingly Château d’Amboise. Point is, it isn’t just stories at the Chateau; it’s legends.

L’Hôtel
Paris
L’Hôtel

Oscar Wilde spent his final days here, and true to form to his last breath, allegedly proclaimed “my wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One of us has got go.” His namesake suite joins 19 others, though they’re so radically different in theme and execution that they practically insist on a return trip. It’s well worth it — they don’t make this kind of Seineside character anymore.

The Rookery
London
The Rookery

“Rookery,” for you logophiles, is a quintessentially English period term for London’s Victorian slums: filthy, crooked alleys and tenements housing gin-soaked characters of various unsavory persuasions. By convoluted Clerkenwell logic, that equates to a badge of honor for this latter-day establishment, a vision in antiques and rich carpetry. Go out carousing with the Dickensian urchins; you’ll have a clean and comfortable bolthole to come back to.

Park Hyatt Dubai
Amsterdam
Lloyd Hotel

The Lloyd’s worn many a hat — initially a staging ground for immigrant processing, it’s since gone through stages as a refugee center, prison, and artist studio complex. These days you can come and go as you please, though remnants of its former incarnations persist; public spaces heavily encourage serendipitous conversations, and the A-game Dutch furnishings are the talk of every room.

Hullet House
Hong Kong
Hullet House

Old Hong Kong lives, decadently bedecked in chinoiserie on the site of the former Marine Police headquarters. Mariners’ Rest, the gastropub, explicitly acknowledges those origins with original jail cells as bar seating. Not to worry, though — what with ultra-luxe trappings and manicured gardens, you’ll feel more like a visiting ambassador than an inmate.

Taj Lake Palace
Udaipur
Taj Lake Palace

Astute Bond snobs will recognize this floating palace right away — Roger Moore infiltrated it in Octopussy in his quest to get to the bottom of a faux Fabergé egg. All of which is to say: the cinematic grandeur can’t be overstated at this 18th-century summer palace, especially taking Taj’s renowned service into consideration.

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