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Some hotels have a heritage from the golden age of steam railways and ocean liners, before the Second World War, in the 19th or early 20th centuries. These hotels were where the rich and the famous of the day would stay. They have an appeal all their own: old fashioned fittings, the lack of the latest amenities, and a certain graceful agedness. They are often in superb locations, either smack in the middle of cities – very often being next to a major railway station, as they were often constructed to house railway travelers – or close to major outdoor attractions. For this article, we also include numerous mid-20th century hotels that are iconic and historically significant.


Map of Grand old hotels

Even today such places generally offer fine accommodation and are usually not cheap, though more modern high-end places may be even more luxurious and are often more expensive.

  • The Leading Hotels of the World. This is an association, primarily for marketing, with over 400 member hotels in many countries. It includes many of the grand old hotels, but also many newer luxury hotels.  

A traveller with piles of money might consider a round the world flight, broken up with stays in many of these hotels. Travelling around the world overland, on routes such as the one taken in Around the World in Eighty Days, would give a more authentic experience of pre-flight travel.

While the grand old hotels are usually privately owned, they sometimes accommodate visiting heads of state and other dignitaries.


You need not stay in such hotels to enjoy some of their services. Many have fine dining, live music and nightlife, as they had in the days of yore, and gambling if local law allows. A visitor to Singapore, for example, might go to Raffles just for a Singapore Sling at the Long Bar where it was invented, and where Rudyard Kipling and Noel Coward once drank, and check out the Billiard Room where Singapore's last tiger was shot.

As the buildings are old, they might be less accessible for travellers with disabilities. In most cases, the staff will be helpful for guests who need assistance.


Grand old hotels tend to have a 4- or 5-star rating. Due to their legacy, they can cost more than newer hotels with similar amenities.


Democratic Republic of CongoEdit


Winter Palace, seen from the Nile




South AfricaEdit





East AsiaEdit

The Peninsula, Hong Kong.
The Grand Hotel, Taipei
  • 8The Grand Hotel (Taipei, Taiwan). Built in the early 1950s, mainly so that Chiang Kai Shek's government would have a suitable place to accommodate visiting dignitaries.    
  • The following three are regarded as the Three Great Hotels (御三家 gosanke) of Tokyo, in reference to the three main branches of the ruling Tokugawa family of the Edo Period:
    • 9 The Imperial Hotel (Tokyo, Japan). The oldest of the three, tracing its history to 1890 during the Meiji era, though the current building is a modern one completed in 1970.    
    • 10 Hotel Okura (Tokyo, Japan). Opened in 1962 and a symbol of Japan's Postwar economic boom, the original building was demolished in 2015, and the current building completed in 2019, though its interior still very much preserves the feel of the original.    
    • 11 Hotel New Otani (Tokyo, Japan).    
  • 12 Tokyo Station Hotel (Tokyo, Japan).  
  • 13 Hotel New Grand (Yokohama, Japan).    
  • 14 Nara Hotel (Nara, Japan).    

Middle EastEdit

South AsiaEdit


Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai


Sri LankaEdit

Southeast AsiaEdit

Raffles, Singapore

Several of Southeast Asia's grand old hotels can be credited to a single family, the remarkable Sarkies brothers from Armenia, who founded all of the following icons:

Of course, there are some other very classy options as well:

Savoy Homann, Bandung


Northern EuropeEdit

Western EuropeEdit

Amstel Hotel, Amsterdam
Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh, Scotland

Central EuropeEdit

During the century and a half of its existence, leaders have died and Czechoslovakia was "born" at Beau-Rivage in Geneva

Southern EuropeEdit

Hotel de Paris, Monaco

Eastern EuropeEdit

Hotel Ukraina

North AmericaEdit


The grand old hotels in Canada, also referred to as railway hotels, have a unique place in Canadian history. Most of them were built during the first quarter of the 20th century by the Canadian Pacific Railway or Grand Trunk Railway to provide elegant accommodation while viewing the natural beauty along the rail line. Canadian Pacific, which purchased the former Grand Trunk (Canadian National) hotels in 1988, spun off all non-rail subsidiaries (including Fairmont, its hotel group) in 2001.

These hotels are popular with tourists and locals alike and though overnight stays are expensive; they represent a fine piece of Canadiana worth visiting even if you only have time for a walk through the lobby. Three – Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper- are major tourist resorts in their own right, located amid stunning Rocky Mountain scenery.

Le Château Frontenac, Quebec City

Listed approximately east-to-west, they are:

Of course, there are some other very classy options as well:

Costa RicaEdit

The Gran Hotel Costa Rica




United StatesEdit

There is a program called Historic Hotels of America with 200-odd hotels involved.

The Cincinnatian Hotel.

South AmericaEdit




  • 33 Gran Hotel Bolívar (Lima).     – The cocktail Pisco Saur was invented here. Royalty stayed here, and the Rolling Stones had to leave for bad behavior.


Hotel Windsor, Melbourne



New ZealandEdit

See alsoEdit

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