Part of the joy of travelling is the chance to stay somewhere different – from beautiful provincial villas through funky boutique hotels to charming B&Bs. Then there are the Grand Hotels – properties with such a sense of history, and service so polished, that they are destinations in themselves. I love the grandeur, the marble, parquetry and chandeliers, the liveried doormen and discrete turndown service with a chocolate on my pillow and slippers beside my bed. I love the fact that, for just a few days, I can live like the royals, heads of state, famous and infamous who have called these grand hotels home over the years.
Le Montreux Palace, Montreux (Switzerland)
I love the sunny yellow awnings and the sweeping central staircase of this Belle Époque jewel. Built in 1906 alongside the older Hotel du Cygne, I love its presence along the lakefront of the Swiss Riviera’s most famous town. And I adore the views over Lake Geneva to the French Alps.
The Langham London, England (UK)
Opened in 1865, just a stone’s throw from relaxing Regent’s Park, this imposing brick building in London’s fashionable West End was the first purpose built grand European hotel. Extensive refurbishment means it’s more glamorous than ever, yet still manages to provide Langham’s signature warm, personal service.
The Gritti Palace, Venice (Italy)
This 15th century palazzo built on the Grand Canal for Doge Andrea Gritti is Venice’s grandest hotel. Original dark wood, marble, gilt, rich fabrics and sparkling Venetian glass set the scene, yet the staff ensures that it’s friendly and homey rather than stuffy. And it has the best breakfast buffet I’ve ever seen.
Mount Nelson Hotel, Cape Town (South Africa)
This grand old property opened in 1899 on the side of Table Mountain to cater for first-class steamship passengers from Europe. Its distinctive pink buildings, set in extensive manicured gardens, are a Cape Town landmark, and the afternoon tea buffet is deservedly famous.
Abbasi Hotel, Isfahan (Iran)
Billing itself as the world’s oldest hotel, this beautiful property in one of Iran’s most beautiful cities is built on the site of an old Silk Road caravanserai. Today it combines traditional woodwork, stained glass and tiles with spacious modern rooms set around a lush central courtyard of date palms, pomegranates and fountains.