Fancy sleeping where rulers, writers and royals have laid their heads? We’ve picked ten hotels from around the KQ network with fascinating pasts
Hôtel Lutetia, Paris, France
The Belle Époque gem on the Left Bank
When Opened 1910
Then… In 1907 the owners of the Bon Marché department store commissioned a pair of renowned architects, Louis Hippolyte Boileau and Henri Tauzin, to create a grand hotel in Paris’ Saint-Germain-des-Prés district. The result was a sensation: the facade – an art nouveau masterpiece by sculptor Léon Binet – pre-empted art deco style, and the hotel’s lounges were a hit among the high-living society types of the roaring twenties.
And now The Lutetia’s 231 rooms – including 60 art deco suites – and public spaces are dotted with hundreds of artworks, while the ‘Paris’ restaurant has garnered a Michelin star.
Famous guests Artists, writers and performers have long been drawn to the Lutetia, including Pablo Picasso, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Jean-Paul Sartre, Marcel Proust, Henri Matisse, Catherine Deneuve and Josephine Baker. James Joyce wrote part of Ulysses here.
The lowdown Rooms from €550.
KQ flies: Paris, six times/week
Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, Thailand|
The literary inspiration
When Built in 1876.
Then… When the Oriental opened its doors over 130 years ago, it wasn’t just Thailand’s first luxury hotel, it was also one of the first in Asia – and among the finest. The oldest part of the current hotel, the Author’s Wing, had 40 rooms and attracted the greats of literature.
…And now With the addition of newer River and Garden Wings, the Oriental now comprises 393 luxurious rooms and suites, as well as eleven restaurants and bars, two outdoor pools, spa and a Thai cooking school.
Famous guests The Oriental is particularly noted for its literary guests, who have included Graham Greene, W Somerset Maugham, Noël Coward and John Le Carré. Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson and Crown Price Nicholas (later Tsar) of Russia have also visited.
The lowdown Doubles from 16,150 Baht.
KQ flies: To Bangkok daily.
Fairmont The Norfolk, Nairobi, Kenya
The hotel Nairobi was born
When Opened 1904
Then… When Major CGR Ringer first opened the doors in the mock-tudor façade of his new hotel on Christmas Day 1904, a mere five years after Nairobi was established, it was truly in the middle of the African bush. The Norfolk provided an increasingly luxurious retreat from the heat and dust, with hunters, businessmen and politicians joined by ever more eminent guests.
… And now The Norfolk now offers 170 elegant rooms and suites, along with a heated pool set in beautifully landscaped tropical gardens. Five restaurants offer a range of cuisines, plus a wine bar with an impressive selection of vintages. The Lord Delamere Terrace lounge bar is arguably Nairobi’s most atmospheric spot for a sundowner.
Famous guests Neville Chamberlain and Winston Churchill were among early visitors, while ex-US-president Theodore Roosevelt arrived here in 1909 on his extravagant Smithsonian African Expedition.
The lowdown Doubles from US$259.
St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, London, UK
The reborn Gothic Revival masterpiece
When First opened 1873; reopened 2011
Then… George Gilbert Scott’s fantastical Gothic Revival design for the Midland Grand Hotel conjured up a 300-room red-brick confection of unrivalled grandeur. It was packed with romantic features – not least the Panel of the Eight Virtues, a fairytale fresco that still adorns the vaulted ceiling at the top of the Grand Staircase. Construction took five years and cost £438,000 – the equivalent of some £600 million today.
… And now The Midland Grand Hotel closed in 1935 but, saved from demolition thanks to a campaign spearheaded by poet John Betjeman, the St Pancras Renaissance was restored and re-opened in 2011. Featuring 38 rooms and suites in Chambers, the original section, plus Barlow, which is the hotel’s modern extension. There’s also a fabulous tiled Victorian pool, spa and Gilbert Scott Brasserie run by celebrated chef Marcus Wareing.
Famous guests Railway and shipping magnate Cornelius ‘Commodore’ Vanderbilt; George Pullman, creator of the luxurious sleeping car.
The lowdown Doubles from £250 in Barlow, £400 in Chambers.
KQ flies: Daily to London Heathrow.
Amstel Intercontinental, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Grand palace on the river
When Opened 1867.
Then… Inspired by the French renaissance style of the 16th and 17th centuries, the hotel’s riverfront facade recalls the chateaux of the Loire – truly a ‘palace on the river’.
… And now Reopened in 1992 after extensive renovations, the hotel’s 79 rooms and suites are graced with Dutch period furniture and charming patterned wallpaper. Restaurants and bars include Michelin-starred ‘La Rive’.
Famous guests The coronation of Queen Juliana was celebrated here, as was the wedding of the current king and queen.
The lowdown Rooms from €385.
KQ flies: Amsterdam daily.
Mena House, Cairo, Egypt
The historic views of world wonders
When Opened as a hotel in 1886.
Then… Originally the hunting lodge of Khedive (governor) Ismail Pasha, in 1885 the house came into the hands of the wealthy English Locke-Kings. The hotel they developed opened in 1886 with 80 rooms. Over the next three decades the hotel hosted key figures from European high society.
… And now With spectacular views of the Pyramids of Giza, Mena House offers luxurious rooms and suites in the Palace (old) wing and Garden (modern) wing, studded with antiques and featuring beautiful mosaics, intricate panelling and textiles. The hotel boasts 40 acres of lush gardens.
Famous guests Charlie Chaplin, Omar Sharif, Cecil B DeMille, Frank Sinatra, Bill Gates, Henry Kissinger and Agatha Christie, plus dozens of kings, queens, princes and presidents.|
The lowdown Doubles from US$205.
KQ flies: To Cairo five times weekly.
Polana Serena Hotel, Maputo, Mozambique
The Grand Dame with the Indian Ocean views
When Opened 1922.
Then… English architect Sir Herbert Baker designed the ‘palace style’ Polana to host the boom in trade and leisure visitors in the early 20th century. With its pillared portico and fountain-strewn frontage, perfect for this spot facing the Indian Ocean, it became known as the ‘Grand Dame of Mozambique’.
… And now The Polana’s 142 luxurious rooms and suites marry African, Portuguese and Oriental elements. Facilities include indoor and outdoor pools, Maisha Spa and a well-equipped gym, plus a range of restaurants and bars.
Famous guests Marshall Óscar Carmona, president of Portugal, was the first head of state to visit Mozambique, hosted at the Polana in 1939. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton are among numerous others to have stayed since.
The lowdown Doubles from US$455.
KQ flies: To Maputo six times weekly.
Africa House Hotel, Zanzibar, Tanzania
slave-trader’s home that became a sultan’s retreat
When Originally occupied in the mid-19th century
Then… Built some 150 years ago by Ibn Ismail, a flamboyant Omani slave-trader, the house was then given to the Sultan of Zanzibar before, in 1888, becoming the English Club – complete with bar, library and billiard room. Privatised after independence in 1964, it gradually decayed.
… And now The hotel was lovingly restored and refurbished in 2003 with carpets from Persia, lamps from Morocco, marble from Italy, silk and velvet from China and bar decor from England, introducing antique four-poster beds from Zanzibar into the 15 distinctive and stylish rooms. The sea-view terrace of the Sunset Bar is the perfect spot for a drink on a warm evening.
Famous guests Majid, the sultan’s son, reputedly used the house for secret trysts with a beautiful slave girl, Ayasha.
The lowdown Doubles from US$135.
KQ flies: Daily to Dar es Saalam with codeshare connection to Zanzibar.
Victoria Falls Hotel, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
The ‘grand old lady of the falls’
When Initial building began in 1904
Then… After the railway reached the cascades in 1904, demand for tourist accommodation boomed – and the first Victoria Falls Hotel, a simple iron structure, was built. A decade later it was superseded by the more sophisticated Edwardian-style edifice seen today, with a dramatic view of the second gorge of the Zambezi below the falls.
… And now Retaining its period charm, the 180 rooms and suites of this 5-star hotel have been sensitively updated, while the delightfully peaceful (apart from the roar of the falls!) grounds are wonderful for an evening stroll. The hotel even has its own chapel, added in 1932.
Famous guests King George VI of England stayed here with Princess (now Queen) Elizabeth during his 1947 visit. Star guests have included Grace Kelly, Deborah Kerr and Peter Sellers.
The lowdowns Doubles from US$380.
KQ flies: To Victoria Falls daily via Johannesburg or Harare. Also to Livingstone in Zambia three times a week.
The Imperial, New Delhi, India
The art deco jewel in the heart of India’s capital
When Opened 1936
Then… Embedded in the heart of Lutyens’ New Delhi and designed by his associate DJ Blomfield, the Imperial incorporated elements of Victorian and colonial Indian architecture into a cool, sleek art deco style. When it was inaugurated by viceroy Lord Willingdon in 1936 it was considered one of the ‘Four Maidens of the East’ – Asia’s finest hotels – and the place to meet in Delhi. Indeed, Gandhi, Nehru, Jinnah and Mountbatten discussed independence and partition here.
… And now Extensively refurbished in 2006 and restored to their original grandeur, the Imperial’s 235 luxurious rooms and suites are set among peaceful gardens. It boasts an acclaimed spa and displays possibly the finest collection of Anglo-Indian art in the country, including works dating from the 17th and 18th centuries.
Famous guests Bill Clinton, novelist Frederick Forsyth, Kate Winslet, the Queen of the Netherlands and Sting.
The lowdown Doubles from RS14,000 plus taxes.
KQ flies: Delhi, four times/week.