From a palace fit for a king (or an Indian Maharaja) to a Downton Abbey-style Scottish estate, hotels all over the world offer more than just luxurious environs. With historical significance and regal pedigrees, each of these storied properties transports guests to a time gone by, without sacrificing the modern conveniences that their prior tenants had to live without. Here, Indagare rounds up some of our favorite palatial properties.
For aspiring royalty, there is no better accommodation in Vienna than the suite at the Schönnbrunn Palace. While the city’s top luxury hotels can claim to be palatial and opulent, a stay at the royal family’s former summer residence—an actual palace with over 1,400 rooms—is as authentic as it gets. The nearly 1,800-square-foot two-bedroom suite—complete with a salon, living room and kitchenette—offers truly sumptuous quarters outfitted with Maria-Theresa chandeliers, stucco detailing and imperial damask linens. The accommodation’s star attribute are its views; the suite looks out on the extensive formal gardens and the nearly 400-acre Schlosspark.
Built from 1928 to 1943 by the Maharaja of Jodhpur, this grand palace, with its 374 rooms, was once the largest private residence in the world. Even though the royal family still lives here, the palace has since been converted into a hotel. (The family lives in one wing; guests in another.) The quirky historic charm and Art Deco style of the property (family portraits and stuffed animal heads in the bar and peacocks patrolling the gardens) is on display in each of the 74 guest rooms, which range from basic rooms to historic suites.
The tale of this whitewashed palace hotel in the middle of Lake Pichola begins with then-prince Maharana Jagat Singh II. The young prince had been enjoying the company of ladies on the lake island palace of Jag Mandir until his father got word of what his heir was up to. As it goes in royal families, the prince then decided to build his own pleasure palace, which became the Taj Lake Palace in 1971. Just as the prince did, you can while away the afternoon on lounge chair on the terrace, meander through corridors and watch the lake lapping three feet below as you have lunch in an outdoor nook in the restaurant.
Within the walls of one of China’s greatest monuments, Aman has fashioned a supremely special, Imperial Chinese–style hotel. The Summer Palace, which sits on 293 hectares and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was built as the summer retreat for the imperial family. The Palace in its current form (the original was destroyed in 1860) was the fantastical project of Empress Dowager Cixi, and Aman managed to win the right to transform buildings annexed to the palace, some of which were once used as diplomatic waiting rooms, into a luxury hotel. So while tourists stream into the main gates of the Summer Palace through ticket turn styles, guests at the Aman arrive to a private courtyard adjacent to the East Gate where valets await to whisk them into a restored 19th-century Ming dynasty building where dignitaries once waited for their audience with the Empress.
With its fifteen highly civilized accommodations, in quite possibly the finest Regency mansion ever built in Ireland, Ballyfin is a wow of a property from the inside and out. The sprawling estate, located in the Irish midlands in Co. Laois, just over an hour southwest of Dublin’s airport, was built for 20,000 pounds in the 1820s, sold for just half that in the 1920s and in 2011, was restored for a reported $20 million when it transitioned into a hotel, and it is once again what it was originally meant to be: a statement-making stately home embodying the taste and buying power of a landed family in the 1820s.
Set on 500 acres of private woodlands and gardens, the lavish, five-star Aldourie Castle is perhaps the closest one can get to medieval 17th-century Scotland. With a record dating back to 1636, the estate is the only habitable castle on Loch Ness, and after a €10 million refurbishment, the immaculate residence won the Historic Houses Association/Sotheby’s award for best restoration in 2011. Despite its location just five miles from Inverness, Aldourie’s endless on property activities—the estate features its own private pier and marina for exploring the lake—give little reason to ever venture elsewhere. Available for private hire only.
The waterfront Çiragan Palace Kempinski is one of Istanbul’s most striking landmarks, able to compete with revered sites like the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque because of its opulent façade. Commissioned by Sultan Abdülâziz in 1863, the Ottoman palace served as his home and then as a meeting place for Parliament. In 1910, a fire destroyed all but the outer marble walls, but careful reconstruction (the landmark was turned into a hotel in 1989) has made the property a top choice for those who desire a grand resort–like atmosphere right on the water. The luxury suites are the only accommodations in the original building, while the rest of the rooms are in a modern building next door.
The 17th-century villa that J. Paul Getty called his “serene and heavenly home” is today owned by the Scio family, and located a forty-five minute drive from Rome. Built above a black sand beach and ringed by lovingly landscaped formal gardens, the villa retains much of the art and furniture that Getty amassed for it. Each of the nineteen rooms and suites is different, but all bear museum-quality touches, such as coffered ceilings, antique carved-wood doors, medieval tapestries and canopy beds built for royalty. There’s even a museum of Etruscan treasures, discovered during a recent renovation.
Tucked into the Provençal hills, Chateau St. Martin is a grand property that seems right out of a fairytale. The 30-acre property was once a 12th-century knights’ stronghold and the grand main structure that stands on its ruins now houses most of the forty-six guestrooms as well as a two-Michelin-starred restaurant and wood-paneled salons complete with chandeliers, antiques and Gobelins tapestries.
The Four Seasons Lion Palace, located directly on St. Isaac’s Square, is housed in an extraordinarily beautiful, early-19th century building that has been painstakingly renovated to its former glory. Prince Lobonov-Rostovsky commissioned the building in 1920, and the repurposed palace opened as the first Four Seasons in Russia in 2013. While much of the hotel is restored (original features like the grand façade, columned lobby and magnificent marble staircase were renovated to landmark specifications), the building has been fully retrofitted to accommodate the most discerning 21st-century guests.
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