Around the World in 80 Hotels
Afternoon Tea at the Mena House, Cairo, Egypt
Around the world in 80 famous hotels
by Andreas Augustin
'Wherever you go, try to stay at the most famous hotel - even if you can only afford the smallest room!' (A. Onassis).
In 30 years the author of these lines has researched the history of about 500 of The Most Famous Hotels in the World, and has written over 50 history books about them.
A journey around the world can take – as we have all learnt – 79+1 days, but it can also take you to 80 different hotels. Speed is only a virtue if you are racing. Many believe that your far-travelled Louis Vuitton luggage set or your Palladium and Centurion Cards are the standard-bearers, but trust me: time is the true sign of wealth.
My journey follows the list of The Most Famous Hotels in the World. I start in London, the city, where in 1986 – simultaneously with Singapore – this organisation was founded.
I have lived at The Savoy, researching the history of London, digging into the archives of the hotel and writing – together with my friend Andy Williamson, the English historian – the book Savoy London. Because it has set so many standards in the UK, I am telling you a little bit more about this hotel than I will about most of the others.
The hotel was opened in 1889 by theatre impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte, the man behind the Gilbert&Sullivan operettas. D'Oyly Carte, a man with extensive experience of staging operettas, knew that he needs a star for the leading part in this hotel. So he engaged a young hotelier on the rise, somebody who had shown his talents in various hotels on the continent. His name was César Ritz. He became the Savoy’s first general manager, who understood that a grand hotel is a perfect opportunity to stage this play called “Grand Hotel”.
The other thing he was aware of was that fine food is the second most important thing. And, that London wasn’t the cradle of fine food. Hundreds of Britons left the island every year starving for the cuisine of France and the rest of the continent (well, it wasn't only for the food. Let’s call it ‘cultural diversion’). Lead by the Prince of Wales, Albert Edward, who had little to do as his mother, Queen Victoria, had no intention to give up her post until she died after 63 years of reign, the landed gentry and its entourage spent more time on vacation in spas abroad than on their own island. They went to locations that had the three characters B A D as part of its name. There was Wiesbaden, Bad Homburg, Baden Baden. Here he had met again César Ritz (‘Your Royal Highness remembers me? I had the pleasure of lighting your cigar at the Troi Frères Provençaux at the World Exhibition in Vienna?” The prince nodded friendly. No, he had no reminiscence about this little Swiss chap who spoke English remarkably well. But from now on he would remember him).
So Ritz lured Auguste Escoffier to London; the chef who established the modern restaurant kitchen as we know it today. Escoffier came, cooked and conquered Britain. But he refused to learn English: ‘If I learn to speak as they do, I will start cooking as they do,” he said.
When I cross a street in London, it is most likely that I stand in front of one of The Most Famous Hotels in the World. Here we list 17 out of 20 hotels of England, among them the Dorchester, Claridges, Berkely, Connaught, Hyde Park, Ritz, the private Goring, the city’s oldest, Browns Hotel (1837), and more recently, the London Hilton on Park Lane, which turned 50 in 2013 (50 = one of the benchmarks of being considered by the jury of The Most Famous Hotels in the World).
I am boarding the Royal Scotsman, a superb little train with overnight compartments and a restaurant car. It takes me into the capital of Scotland. Edinburgh boasts two railway hotels; one, The Caledonian, became my home for some while when I wrote its history. In fact, it was the Scottish author Roddey Martine who wrote most of it, while I enjoyed Edinburgh. I went out to explore the hidden layers of the ancient city, strolled through the streets and parks and finally fell in love with a Reverend, a certain Robert Walker, Skating on Duddingston Loch. He is better known as The Skating Minister, and it is an oil painting by Sir Henry Raeburn in the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh. The gallery is in a park ideally situated between the Caledonian and the other grand hotel of the Scottish capital, The Balmoral. We also list, of course, all the legendary golf hotels of the rest of Scotland.
On our tour around the globe, which will take you, dear reader, only a few minutes and which has taken me so far 40 years of my writer’s life, we have reached the continent. In Paris, we currently feature 16 hotels, among them of course, Monsieur Meurice’s establishment. His story is reminiscent of so many entrepreneurial tales of the early days of hospitality. The year was 1771: In those days many of the British upper class would travel to Paris (and we all know why!). In Calais, the town where the British arrived after crossing the Straits of Dover, an enterprising postmaster by the name of Charles-Augustin Meurice (1739-1820) decided he could make some money out of them. He started putting them up in his local coaching inn and escorting them to Paris with his coach service. In those days it was a 36-hour trip. Some four decades later, in 1817, Meurice built a second coaching inn in Paris. Well, the rest is history.
Of course we also feature the Crillon, the George V., The Ritz, The Plaza Athenee, ... France, all together, has over 25 famous hotels, from the palaces at the Cote d'Azur to the fabled Du Palais in Biarritz. In Monte Carlo we always visit the Hotels de Paris, Hermitage and Metropole.
In Germany, we find over 20 historical hotels like the Elephant in Weimar (1696), the Bayrischer Hof Munich, the Atlantic and Vier Jahreszeiten, both in Hamburg. We have spent a wonderful time at the Vier Jahreszeiten, then under general manager Gert Prantner, who told us so much about its history. The rest – for our book Vier Jahreszeiten Hamburg, we found out via our author Kurt Grobecker, a local historian.
The Nassauer Hof in Wiesbaden is another of our haunts, but in fact I try to be at the Frankfurter Hof in the metropolis at the Rhine, not bar away, in October. During the Book Fair the hotel goes through its busiest but also best of times. Reservation is key, otherwise you will find yourself sleeping in one of the cosy armchairs of the Author's Bar! I have lived at the hotel for some time, in search of its history. Here, again, I have come across the traces of César Ritz, by now a familiar face. He was the general manager of this establishment around 1900, after he had left London. My book Frankfurter Hof is one of my personal favourites.
A series of castles and villas are successfully operated as hotels – For example, Villa Königstein near Frankfurt, opened in 1956 and is among the top rated hotels. I have written a small paperback about it. It is, however, too small to be an Select Member of The Most Famous Hotels in the World (minimum of 50 rooms).
Switzerland (22 Select Member Hotels) is the home of great hotels and hoteliers. The Palaces in Gstaad and St Moritz as well as all the great resort hotels in the mountains and at the lakes are Select Members of our organisation.
In Davos stands the Grand Hotel Belvédère, , where – since 1876 – guests has been entertained by a meticulous timetable of diversion. I’d like to point out that the famoushotels team has spent a most productive time researching there. I have written a book about the history of Davos and this legendary and largest palatial hotel construction in the Alps. Here we have met the fabulous archivist Timothy Nelson, who also became the recipient of the first ‘Keeper of the Archives’ award in 2015.
In Davos I discovered that within one decade the grand authors John A. Symonds, Robert Louis Stevenson, J.E. Preston Muddock and Sherlock Holmes inventor Arthur Conan Doyle had spent many months there during the 1880s-1890s.
Empress Elisabeth was a great traveller. The Austrian Empress made Reid's Hotel on Madeira her temporary home on the island and was stabbed to death in front of Geneva's Beau Rivage (Switzerland).
Zurich is the only city where money is lavishly used to display understatement.
The hotels along Lake Geneva are legendary (Montreux Palace, Beau Rivage Lausanne, etc.). In front of Geneva's Beau Rivage, where she stayed, Austria's Empress Elisabeth 'Sisi' was stabbed to death. Zurich is famous for the hotel that was opened by a certain Mr Baur at the lake, the Baur au Lac. It is our hub in the only city in the world where money is lavishly used to display understatement.
Why not hop on a train and travel to Lucerne? The grand hotels there were once homes to the wealthy aristocracy and famous artists of Europe. Today they are occupied by wealthy Arabs and their entourages. The Schweizer Hof is privately operated by its owning family, a concept that proves to be still one of the working formulas of this trade.
From Lucerne I took the historic steamboat and travelled to Vitznau, at the northern shore of this huge lake. I checked into the historic Park Hotel, renovated by Austrian millionaire Peter Pühringer and produced our first large coffee table book about the history of tourism of the entire region and that fairy-tale-dream castle called Park Hotel Vitznau. English photographer Michelle Chaplow took the stunning photographs.
Archduke Otto, the father of the last Emperor of Austria, dines at the Hotel Sacher in Vienna with his brother. Famous hotels are places were history is made.
Crossing the border into Austria (where we list seven hotels), I have written six books about these hotels, all of them very different approaches of the history of this country steeped in history. Vienna's Imperial was built as a palace for the Prince of Wuerttemberg and in 1873 converted into a hotel, immediately becoming the official residence of all state visits. Within half a mile stands the Grand Hotel from 1870, the first of the continent, the rather ‘modern’ Bristol of American standards (in 1892!), and the legendary Hotel Sacher of chocolate-cake fame (Graham Greene wrote The Third Man there).
Viennese Eduard Sacher, a Ritz contemporary, has his name today not only on two Austrian hotels, but on almost every chocolate cake around the world.
The Viennese gastronomers dynasty Sacher has its name today not only on two Austrian hotels, but on almost every chocolate cake around the world. The cake was invented in the 1830s. Today the hotel has been saved and is operated by the Gürtlers, who is exercising family business at the highest level of service. My books Sacher and The Sacher Treasury are on sale there.
In Salzburg we find one of the oldest inns of the western world, today a luxurious hotel: the Goldener Hirsch (Golden Stag), dating back to 1407. It's touching to imagine that Mozart might have walked through its doors. I have written the book Goldener Hirsch, and fondly recall the cooperation with Count Johannes Walderdorff.
In the south of the country, we list the Schlosshotel Velden, with a confirmed history as a castle dating back to 1600, while the hotel started operating in 1892. After a year of visits to this lovely spot at Lake Wörth, following the invitation of Willi Kollmann and Henning Reichel, I have written its history, too.
Cesar Ritz (picture) built his hotel in Paris, ran one of the first hotel chains in the world, had his name associated with over one dozen of Europes best hotels and eventually inspiring a chain (Ritz Carlton: his wife practically sold the family name, after his death). His name grew into a synonym for luxury.
Italy, as a classic tourist destination, is home to many grand hotels (43); from Venice's Danieli to Florence, where I stayed at the Grand Hotel while writing its history for my book Grand Hotel Florence, co-authored by my friend, English historian Thomas Cane. The Uffici gallery wasn’t far away, the Bistecca alla fiorentina en route, and it is the heart of Chianti. What else can one ask for? Austrian artist Peter Baldinger painted the cover of the book.
Further south, to Rome (7 hotels). We first stayed at the Hassler, the modest but nevertheless terribly sophisticated hotel atop the Spanish Steps where we began to research its history. The book has yet to be written.
Years later I lived with my family at The Exclesior during a beautiful summer. This great hotel in the heart of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita-mile, near the gardens of the Villa Borghese, inspired me to write The Excelsior Rome. All this wouldn’t have been so easy without the help of my team of excellent Italian researchers and, again, the English historian Thomas Cane. Walter Ferrari was head concierge at the time. I mention him because he was one of the grand masters of the business. But the true star was Gastone Pizzoli, who was at the door of the Excelsior for 36 years. He, and Ferrari, inspired me to a series of photographs. Ferrari, at his desk, in action, and Pizzoli, sitting on the floor in a bed of photographs showing himself with the greatest stars of showbiz, from Grace Kelly to Garry Grant. I climbed a ladder and shot him from the ceiling. The book’s cover was painted by Manfred Markowski. Stunning photographs came from Austrian photographer Wolfgang Kalny.
The next year I have chosen the Grand Hotel (opened by César Ritz in 1894 — by now an old friend). I have spent a few weeks there, browsed thousands of articles in historic archives, and – yes – written a book about it. In 1931, King Alfonso XIII of Spain had made it his home, where he died 10 years later. For years the hotel has been the court of the Spanish kings in exile. The dress code in the evening was, without exception, black tie. It was completely unthinkable to appear underdressed. You were, after all, in the presence of a King.
From the grand hotels of Naples to the relatively young holiday resort of Cala di Volpe on the Costa Smeralda, built by the Aga Khan, it's all in the list of The Most Famous Hotels in the World. After a few weeks at the Cala di Volpe we produced the history book of this designer-made hotel. Its refined architecture gives you the impression you live in a small fisher village. In fact, it’s brand new.
In Milan, we researched the history of the Diana Majestic, where the largest swimming pool of Northern Italy once stood , and the Grand Hotel, where Giuseppe Verdi breathed his last. The Diana inspired the first ‘designer-book’ in our library. It is, after all, the Milanese hub of fashion, music and photography. It was there that Simply Red and its lead singer Mick Hucknall worked on their ‘Picture Book’, Rosita and Tai Missoni held their first Milanese shows, and the tsar of fashion, Nino Cerrutti himself, lived at the Diana Majestic for decades. I shall never forget the moment, when he apologised to my then 13-years old son Florian for having retired: ‘I am sorry that I will not be your dresser, young man.’
We travelled to Spain. The Ritz, in Madrid is one of Europe’s last remaining truly charming grand hotels. I have spent weeks there researching its history. What can I say; it is the next-door neighbour of the Prado, the national gallery of Spain. Goya, Durer, Velázquez. And in walking distance of the Thyssen Foundation.
Again understatement is key, the Ritz is the unofficial court of the Spanish Royal family, its lobby the centre of the Spanish business world. The historic wooden desk of the front office radiates the atmosphere of a hundred years of traditional hotel keeping. We loved our little room under the roof, one of those with a rooftop balcony, overlooking the gardens of the Prado.
At the Southern end of Europe stands, firm as a rock, the Rock Hotel in Gibraltar. From here we travel to Portugal, to the Palace in Estoril on the outskirts of Lisbon. I fondly recall it. An hour flight away, on the lovely flower island of Madeira off the north-western coast of Africa, a certain Mr Reid was kind enough to leave us his Reid's Hotel in 1891. The Irish dramatist George Bernhard Shaw wasn’t the first to enjoy it in 1924, but he left us a note that everybody likes to quote. Shaw learned to tango and autographed a photograph for his dancing instructor with the words: 'To the only man who ever taught me anything'.
We have been there for a month to establish its history. Built to welcome long staying tourists as well as birds of passage from the ocean liners on their way to the outposts of the British Empire (Europe–Cape), Reid's Palace is more beautiful today than ever. It is to-date one of our favourite haunts in Europe.
If you'd care to accompany me to the North of the European continent, up to Denmark, we’ll discover the Angleterre in the royal city of Copenhagen, dating back to 1755. It has an eventful history. I still remember the call of its general manager, who wanted to commission me to write its history. ‘Mr Augustin,’ he said, ‘ I am sorry to tell you that this hotel’s company has just ceased to exist.’ That was many years ago; in the meanwhile the hotel has reopened under a new owner and management and is – again – one of the oldest and most famous hotels in the world. Not far from it, we also find one of the first designer hotels of the post war era. Architect Arne Jacobsen had created The Royal there, in 1960. I love the view from the upper floors; all rooms have windows from floor to ceiling. And what a great restaurant they have on the top floor.
Further north we may visit Finland's capital Helsinki (Hotel Kaemp, where composer Jean Sibelius is rumoured to have spent three days and nights drinking) and - across the border, in the former Russian capital St Petersburg - we enjoy a spoon of caviar and Boef Stroganoff at the Grand Hotel Europe, where Peter Tchaikovsky spent his honeymoon. I have written books on both hotels. Kaemp with the assistance of local historian Laura Kolbe, Grand Hotel Europe with the help of Larissa Gavrova.
Europe's largest country, Ukraine, was still part of the Russian empire when the Palace Hotel in the capital Kiev (the ‘mother of all Russian cities’) opened its doors in 1912. Today it is the new republic’s celebrated five star hotel, under the name Premier Palace. In 2010 I have launched my book about it.
We visit Budapest. This beautiful city hasn’t been destroyed by the bombs of World War 2, but by neglect of decades of a communist regime. Today it has emerged as a beauty among the grand cities along the river Danube. Her Grand Hotel Royal was closed for a decade before Alfred Pisani and his Corinthia Group from Malta arrived to give it a new lease of life in 2002. I am proud that we were called in before its reopening to establish a well researched history. Our book Grand Hotel Royal Budapest appeared in English and in Hungarian, thanks to my local co-author Sally Noemi.
Travelling south into Greek, after passing through Athens’s restored flagship Grand Bretagne, we reach Istanbul in Turkey, where the Pera Palace welcomes us. Rumour has it , that this is the place where author Agatha Christie once vanished for eleven days. I was able to confirm this. It’s rumour. Other stories state that the grand dame of crime had written Murder on the Orient Express there. Negative, again. Sometimes my research destroys myths. Every Christie biography explains that she had written it back home, in England. However, the hotel has so many legendary stories that I managed to fill an entire book with them. I trust that general manager Pinar Timer Kartal has forgiven me. Kemal Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey, had his permanent suite there. The entire espionage of both World Wars has taken place there. The affaire Cicero, Mata Hari, swapping of German U-Boot drawings and secret anchor-places — that was really exciting research, and what an interesting experience to write this history from the days of the Ottoman Empire to modern Turkey!
South we go. Oh my God, Syria. In 1911, The Hotel Baron in Aleppo, Syria, was the most modern hotel in the city. The likes of Lawrence of Arabia, and Agatha Christie immortalised it. Today we worry daily if it will still stand! In Lebanon, The Saint Georges in Beirut is a ruin after decades of civil war. The Phoenician still stands strong in a seemingly never- ending civil war. In the Holy Land, the King David was my haunt in Jerusalem.
Ever since my first journey to Egypt in 1981, I stayed at the Mena House, gazing in amazement at the Great Pyramids. I returned over 20 years later, in 2004 and stayed for two months right her, at the edge of the great desert Sahara. During these two months, in view of these gigantic monuments (All things fear Time, but Time fears the Pyramids) from the balcony of my Palace Room, I wrote The Mena House Treasury. A little book, I am proud of, as it contains a lot of informative stuff. There is the true story of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Aida (which he wrote for the opening of the Suez Canal), the Pyramids and of course the history of the hotel itself. Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes fame arrived here in 1895, after he had left the Grand Hotel Belvedere in Davos. My little story continues.
In the footsteps of detective Hercule Poirot and the dramatic ‘Death on the Nile’, we can visit Aswan and savour a drink on the terrace of the Old Cataract Hotel. I love to sit there and overlook the Nile and Elephantine Island (it looks as if a herd of elephants bathes in the river) In Luxor, let’s stop for a night tea at the Winter Palace.
North Africa is home to many tales of oriental hospitality: Names like Marrakech automatically bring up the hotel La Mamounia, Tunis stands for Majestic, the hotels El Djazair for Alger and Minzah for Tangier. The rest of Africa holds a selection of former colonial hotels, from the romantic Victoria Falls, to the traditional Mount Nelson in Cape Town. Here our desire to take tea lead to a prolonged stay and eventually to a book ‘I Had Tea at the Nellie’.
Most African capitals have lost interest in their historic hotels, but in Nairobi you can still enjoy the Norfolk's (1904) cordial welcome. It required the private initiative of a Spanish honorary consul to revive the legendary Castle Hotel (1927) in Mombasa.
East of Suez, on the shipping route from Europe to Asia, we searched in vain for the remains of the great hotels in Port Said and Suez itself. In Aden, the Crescent stands as an icon of a distant past, left by the British in 1967. After Esfahan and Karachi, we reach Mumbai's Gate of India, where the majestic Taj Mahal hotel welcomes us.
The Imperial in New Delhi sports a strict art-deco architecture. It is here that Muhammad Ali Jinnah founded Pakistan. Since its total renovation, it became The haunt of all discerning travellers and represents a true luxury hotel of international standards. As the owners decided to exhibit their vast collection of over 2,000 prints, paintings, illustrations and artefacts, they employed a dedicated manager of art and history. It may be the only hotel, which also functions as a museum. Our book about it is available at the hotel, of course.
Some miles removed – in (old) Delhi – slumbers the good old Maidens Hotel. In Calcutta, we list the Grand (1890). We have taken note of the palaces, which were only recently converted, into hotels, namely the Rambagh, Umaid Bhawan and Lake Palace.
The Sarkies brothers were not trained but talented hoteliers, with a sense for great locations and big names: "Raffles", "Eastern and Oriental Hotel", "The Strand", to name but few of their hotels, all founded in Asia; an enduring legacy. With their Raffles Hotel in Singapore, The Sarkies brothers brought a standard to Asia that earned the hotel the moniker, 'The Savoy of the East'.
South of the sub-continent is the ‘tear of India’, Sri Lanka, the former Ceylon. From the charming Mount Lavinia to the very private Hill Club, the garden island offers a full assortment of historic lodging places. The Galle Face offers a brand new wing. I recall the late Cyril Gardiner, whose son Cyril today is at the helm of the legendary hotel. He used to reprimand us to walk the stairs rather than to use the lift. Was he concerned about our health and fitness or about his ancient lift?
It all started at Raffles in Singapore, where I lived from 1986–1989. Here I wrote my first couple of books, two about Raffles. I can say that I was part of the Raffles renovation project, because I found the original plans of the hotel, commissioned by the Sarkies brothers, from 1887, hidden in secret archives for over 100 years. It was very exciting. The Straits Times made it a cover story. Over night the hotel was declared a National Monument, and the plans of some directors to bring it down and replace it by a modern shopping complex were once and for all history.
The Eastern & Orient Express leaves for Bangkok, but we make it our duty to stop over in Penang in Malaysia where we enjoy the view from the terrace of the E&O Hotel, another of the Sarkies enterprises. Thailand's seaside resort Hua Hin, to pay a visit to the newly restored Railway Hotel.
We spend a few days at The Oriental in Bangkok (1876) – for many, simply the best hotel in the world. My book about its history is updated almost every year, which brings us back to the City of Angels every season. At The Strand in Yangon, we complete the visit of this former chain of hotels all built by the Sarkies Brothers between 1884 and 1901 (Raffles, E&O, Strand). My book Strand Yangon is a result of a prolonged stay there in the early 2000s.
A short detour takes us to Siem Reap, where the former Grand Hotel is today managed by the Raffles chain. It is practically located close to the famous temples of Angkor Wat and seems to be there for that purpose only.
In Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City to be precise, we visit The Continental and The Majestic and continue our journey to Hanoi, where the Metropole – another of Graham Greene's haunts – has proudly stood since 1901. At the Metropole, we established not only the history of the house (manifested in a book), but also uncovered a fine exhibition, visited by thousands of guests each year.
Hong Kong's oldest hotel is relatively young (The Peninsula, 1928), but is undoubtedly on top, and so are you! – in particular when you disembark from your helicopter onto its roof. My book about the history of it is a constant seller since 1987! I fondly remember Urs Aeby asking me to write it, and Max Bieger, the grand and elegant hotelier, to support us. I had the pleasure of meeting both senior Kadoories, one the father, the other the uncle of Michael Kadoorie, todays chairman.
In Beijing, we visit the Grand Hotel (des Wagons-Lits), and in Shanghai we fox-trot to the sounds of the jazz band at the Peace Hotel.
Today no tour of China is complete without a visit to Xi'an, the first imperial capital of united China. There, we see the unearthed Terracotta Army of the first Emperor and stay at the People's Grand Hotel, a comparatively young Select Member of The Most Famous Hotels in the World. Originally opened in 1951, it was closed for renovations until recently reopening its doors as a Sofitel Legend and, with 72 suites and exclusive butler service, is more glamorous than ever. So appears our book about it. Bill Lorenz took the photographs.
Further on we go to the Philippines’ Manila Hotel, (1911), and in Tokyo we pay our respects to the all time classic Imperial (the original hotel was opened in 1890). By 1923, the hotel had a spectacular new building added, designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, which survived the devastating earthquake on its opening day.
A detour to Australia takes us to The Windsor in Melbourne (1883), Australia's only hotel of historical importance.
In the Pacific, the Aggie Gray’s on Western Samoa is also part of the collection. When we board a steamer to the United States, the next stop is Hawaii with its Halekulani and Moana. Later we arrive in San Francisco, where another earthquake made the Fairmont on San Francisco's Nob Hill an institution. The setting for the TV series Hotel, based on Arthur Hailey's bestseller is a symbol of San Francisco. The hotel dates back to 1906, when the Great Fire following an earthquake, destroyed most of the city. The Fairmont stood – Parthenon-like – at the top of the hill, whilst all around there was devastation and rubble. We spent only one week at the hotel, not enough to research its history.
Crossing the US from West to East you have an armada of legendary hotels (85). Let me drop some names: Beverly Hills, various Plazas, Breakers, Biltmore, Don Cesar, St Regis, Mayfair, Brown Palace, Jefferson, Pfister, Lenox, Poca Raton. We spent interesting days at Washington’s Hay Adams and researched at the Library of Congress.
The Waldorf-Astoria in its new location.
Built in less than two years.
New York hosts the legendary Waldorf-Astoria (opened in 1931 with 1,410 rooms it is the largest hotel in the world), where gatherings of celebrities are on the daily schedule. Conrad Hilton acquired it after dreaming of it as the 'greatest of them all'. We stayed at the Waldorf Towers in a gigantic president’s suite. Many years later our research team produced a you-tube-hit about building the hotel in less than two years.
Canada offers a unique series of wonderful hotels, notably a collection of fairy tale castles, such as the Chateaux Frontenac, Lake Louise and Laurier.
Down south, the Bahamas and the Caribbean have their splendid spots. In Cuba a handful of famous hotels doze in the streets of Habana, among them the Ambos Mundos, cultivating faded memories of past grandeur.
In Brazil we swing to Samba at the 1923 Copacabana Palace while Argentina welcomes us at the Alvear Palace (1932) and the Plaza (1909). In Santiago de Chile we visit the Hotel Carrera and the classic ski resort of Portillo nearby.
On our way back to Europe we stop at Jamaica's legendary Half Moon resort. It offers 3 kilometres of undisturbed private coast, with beaches, horse riding, dolphin watching and that luxury called tranquillity. We explore the island, once the first of all discovered by Christopher Columbus. On Jamaica Ian Fleming had written each of his James Bond novels, English artist Noel Coward had his villa there. It seems to be a good place for writers.
Returning to Europe, we moor at Ireland's west coast to enjoy the hospitality of the romantically situated Ashford Castel, which became a hotel in 1939. The Shelbourne in Dublin, the capital of the green island, dating back to 1824, was home to John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, in 1958.
We are crossing the sea to England and here we are, back to the start of our trip. I must confess that there were now more than 80 hotels in this story. Sorry I got carried away.
The complete list of The Most Famous Hotels in the World can be found under HOTELS (famoushotels.org/hotels). Should you fancy a new round trip around the globe, I can only recommend our complete list of hotels, or the timeline of their openings. Both provide you with your very personal trip down memory lane. Have a great journey, and let me know, when you have arrived at one of our famous hotels.
* Andreas Augustin is a writer and traveler, who is the honorable president of The Most Famous Hotels in the World, an organisation founded to safeguard the history and cultural heritage of all legendary hotels around the world. The result so far are over 35 different hotel books, and over 50 titles in total.
Hotels are listed independently, regardless of their geographical location, their political environment and their commercial success.