The world’s oldest hotels will indulge almost anyone’s curiosity. And that’s for good reason: Most jet-setters enjoy staying in places steeped in history. Certainly, while few openings are as highly anticipated as new hotels. there’s something nostalgic about a resort, inn, or B&B that’s been open for so many years. It’s the idea of staying in a place that’s witnessed everything from life-changing inventions in their infancy to empires growing and crumbling right on their doorstep. What’s more, centuries-old hotels have played host to more than a few of the world’s most recognized names, including dignitaries, artists, and movie stars.
Though the decor may have changed a few times over the decades, the world’s oldest hotels tend to be some of the most stunning. After all, no matter how many antiques or reclaimed materials a new hotel is filled with, it can’t replicate the history that has walked across Gritti Palace’s 15th-century palazzo floors or glided through the waters in front of the Grand Hotel Tremezzo. Here, we traverse the globe in pursuit of the oldest hotels with dapper interiors.
The Lygon Arms (Worcestershire, U.K.)
England’s Cotswolds is easily one of the most quaint regions in the United Kingdom. And it’s chock-full of historic structures that only add to the region’s charm. Case in point: the Lygon Arms, a 14th-century inn that, as of 1377, has welcomed guests to its hallowed rooms. Though, back then, it was a modest coaching inn and has developed considerably over the ensuing centuries. As a result, the Lygon Arms has remained one of the Cotswolds’ most historically significant former inns, hosting members of the royal family, American celebrities, and English Civil War heroes. If these walls could talk, we can only imagine they would have quite the stories to tell.
Chatham Inn (Cape Cod, Massachusetts)
Built in 1830 by an English couple who bought the property shortly after arriving on Massachusetts’s most eastern point, Chatham Inn is the oldest continuously operating inn on Cape Cod. For the next century or so, the inn changed hands (and names) four times, but it wasn’t until 1936 when the charming outpost adjusted to the times in a big way: Carl and Doris Chandler, who owned the inn for nearly two decades, built the first in-house restaurant, which still stands today. In 2019, husband and wife Jeff and Kayla Ippoliti, the owners since 2014, transformed what is now Chatham Inn into a culinary destination set within a boutique hotel and joined the prestigious Relais & Châteaux association.
Grand Hotel Tremezzo (Tremezzina, Italy)
From the eastern shores of Lake Como, it’s hard to miss the massive Art Nouveau marvel known as the Grand Hotel Tremezzo —even with the eye-catching Grigne mountains nearby. The hotel, built and designed for Europe’s elite social set, has been standing since 1910. And with its three pools, private lakeside beach, and lavish private park, it’s provided guests with ample reasons to come back.
So many homes and hotels across the world—especially throughout Europe—boast interiors that honor the Belle Époque, one of the continent’s most economic and artistically prosperous times. In fact, this period, which lasted from 1870 until the outbreak of the First World War, was considered Europe’s Golden Age, and the Grand Hotel Tremezzo is one shining example of the architectural feats of this time.
Post House Inn (Mount Pleasant, South Carolina)
Situated within one of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina’s, oldest waterfront communities, the three-story, seven-room Post House Inn has been a beloved social hub for locals since its inception in 1896. After local philanthropist and builder Captain Samuel Guilds bought the building in 1915, it was an informational town center, hardware store, and even a small academy. It didn’t become the beloved inn it is today until Captain Sam’s descendants, Guilds Hollowell and his wife Joyce, transformed the multifunctional building into the Guilds Inn and Supper at Seven, a six-room hotel with a resident restaurant.
Like so many small hotels are, the Guilds Inn was eventually sold (several times), but the current owners, Basic Projects, kept as many of the original 20th-century details as possible. They began their work on the storied inn during the summer of 2018 with an extensive renovation and opened the newly restored Post House Inn in August of 2020.
The Blackstone (Chicago)
Like so many of the world’s oldest hotels, Chicago’s The Blackstone began as a private residence. It was built in the late 19th century for its namesake, Timothy Blackstone, the president of the Union Stock Yards and the Chicago & Alton Railroad. However, he passed away shortly after moving in, and his wife sold their family mansion on the corner of South Michigan Avenue and Hubbard Court (now Balbo Street). The buyers, hoteliers John and Tracy Drake, enlisted famed Chicago architects Marshall & Fox to demolish the home and build a new hotel inspired by the landmarks in Paris. And in April of 1910, The Blackstone opened, with opera singer Enrico Caruso christening the new hotel with a song.
In its decades as one of the city’s most frequented hotels, The Blackstone has hosted quite a few legendary events, including Charles “Lucky” Luciano hosting the first-ever Crime Convention in the Crystal Ballroom, Eisenhower watching his nomination for president in the Suite of Presidents, and the duke and duchess of Windsor booking a guest suite.
Gritti Palace (Venice)
The Gritti Palace, which opened as a hotel in 1895, has been sitting prominently on the edge of Venice’s Grand Canal since it was erected in the late 15th century, and it is one of the few surviving palazzos that still radiates a sense of authentic regality. Acquired in 1525 by the doge of Venice, Andrea Gritti, the palazzo, with its sumptuous interiors and original Murano glass fixtures, is as much a palace today as it was when the Vatican ambassadors to Venice called it home several centuries ago. From the terra-cotta-colored original architecture to the sweeping interiors that serve as a glamorous homage to maximalist splendor, the Gritti Palace has endured like few other Venetian hotels have.
Though every space, whether it’s the elegantly moody dining room or the oxblood-colored library, is exquisite in its own right, the Patron Canal Suites are perhaps the most striking rooms in the hotel. Named after significant patrons of the arts, including John Ruskin and Angelo Donghia, as well as Punta della Dogana, the high-ceiling suites with views of the city’s widest canal, are interior design and architectural masterpieces.
The DeBruce (Livingston Manor, New York)
The Catskills is one of those rugged, quiet places that have and will always be a coveted destination—especially for New Yorkers who don’t want to journey too far from home. Back when the sprawling region was one of the most popular destinations in the country (throughout much of the 19th century and into the mid-20th century), there were 20 hotels and boarding houses in the Willowemoc Valley alone. Now, however, there’s only one surviving 19th-century locale that still welcomes visitors: The DeBruce, formerly The Maple, St. Brendan’s, The Willowemoc, The Ararat, and most recently, The Debruce Country Inn.
With 12 guest rooms across 3 floors, The DeBruce captures the charisma of the past while harnessing the feel of the current landscape. Time may go on, but the surrounding Willowemoc Valley, river, and mountains never get old.
The Dorchester (London)
Among a variety of cultural gems, England is famous for its collection of stunning historic residences, both in the countryside and the heart of London, and The Dorchester is hardly an exception. Of course, today, the iconic Mayfair structure is a luxury hotel, but back in 1792, when it was built for the earl of Dorchester, Joseph Damer, it was a private home. In 1853, however, famed art collector Robert Holford knocked down the earl’s manor house and replaced it with an Italian palazzo-style residence. He did, however, keep the original name: The Dorchester. Almost a century later—on April 20, 1931—Sir Robert McAlpine opened The Dorchester, a luxurious hotel, the first to be constructed from reinforced concrete, which ensured it would last forever. And after achieving Grade II–listed status in 1981, The Dorchester (affectionately called The Dorch by locals) and its legacy will certainly endure for as long as Sir Robert McAlpine intended.
Mohonk Mountain House (New Paltz, New York)
Mohonk Mountain House offers a whole new meaning to the concept of a family-run business. Founded by Albert Smiley in 1869, the former Hudson Valley 10-room inn on its namesake lake is still operated by the same family, though now it’s much more than a small inn upstate. Shortly after it changed ownership, the inn underwent a year-long renovation that not only restored the architectural elements in need of some attention, but also added enough space for up to 40 guests.
Since the Smiley patriarch signed the deed in the late 19th century, the Mohonk Mountain House has transformed into a massive lakeside hotel with 259 guest rooms. Though it’s grown considerably, quite a few of the original rooms, including the 1893 dining room, are still there.
San Ysidro Ranch (Montecito, California)
Known today as a natural haven where celebrities relax within one of the 38 individual cottages, the quietly luxurious hotel’s history makes the property much more than just a place to sleep. Formerly a citrus farm that dates back to the earliest days of Santa Barbara, San Ysidro Ranch has operated as a boutique resort since 1893. It may have changed quite a bit over the ensuing century or so, but each of the cottages’ antique-filled interiors serves as subtle reminders that this lush oasis in a sleepy California city goes back years. Some of the contemporary additions to the charming outpost include a heated swimming pool, a pool bar, a spa, access to 17 miles of hiking trails, and two dining concepts.
Copacabana Palace (Rio de Janeiro)
Like so many buildings—residences, restaurants, and hotels—erected during the heyday of Art Deco, Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana Palace is a landmark whose every detail is a monument to the hallowed design movement. Open since 1923, the 239-room hotel has been privy to quite a few changes, including the addition of the Michelin-starred eatery and a half-Olympic-size swimming pool. The coveted South American glamor is very much still a hallmark of the hotel that’s hosted countless A-listers, from movie stars to American presidents. The guest book, arguably the hotel’s most valuable asset, is kept locked away in a safe.
The Wigwam (Litchfield Park, Arizona)
Originally built in 1918 for the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company’s traveling sales executives, Litchfield Park’s The Wigwam officially opened its doors as a resort in 1929. Goodyear realized how beloved the locale was amongst its employees, so the company decided to share it with the world—a few dozen guests at a time. However, as was expected, the small inn continued to impress travelers, bringing more people to its front doors until the structure was practically overflowing with people. Over the last nine decades, The Wigwam has grown enough to accommodate 331 well-appointed guest rooms, three swimming pools, and two Robert Trent Jones Sr.–designed golf courses. While it’s changed and expanded quite a bit throughout its lifetime, The Wigwam’s original lodge is still an active and adored building from the early 20th century.
Londolozi Game Reserve (Skukuza, South Africa)
Spread across nearly 60 square miles, the Londolozi Game Reserve, which opened in 1926 and is now part of the Relais & Châteaux association, sits on the western border of Kruger National Park in South Africa. Though there are several reserves and parks nearby, Londolozi is special because the wildlife within its borders includes the Big Five: lions, leopards, black rhinoceros, African bush elephants, and African buffalo.
Until 1971, though, the land on which the prized reserve sits was a hunting farm where visitors would kill the animals for sport. That year, brothers Dave and John Varty banned hunting and shifted the focus of the property to photographic safaris that don’t only celebrate the magnificent animals but also protect them. In fact, when they took over, they renamed the reserve Londolozi, which means “protector of all living things” in Zulu.
Grand Hotel (Mackinac Island, Michigan)
On Lake Huron, between Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas, Mackinac Island is a little slice of paradise home to the Grand Hotel, which opened its doors to guests in 1887. Its impressive age isn’t even the hotel’s coolest selling point: It boasts the world’s longest porch—660 feet long, to be exact. So rest assured there are plenty of places to enjoy an alfresco glass of wine and watch the sun go down.
The charming spot has remained a gentle beckoning to a bygone era when old-world glamour reigned. That’s why cars have been banned on the island for the last 121 years, and the only way to get around is by horse and carriage.
Palacio del Inka (Cusco, Peru)
Nestled within the capital of the Inca empire, which ruled Peru between 1438 and 1533, Palacio del Inka is a 16th-century former mansion that was given to conquistador Gonzalo Pizarro when the Spanish arrived. Centuries later, in the mid-20th century, the famed palace became a museum and, finally, in 1976, a hotel, featuring both artwork and relics from the Incan and Colonial eras. It’s an old structure with historic bones that now houses a contemporary sanctuary within an ancient city. One of the newer highlights of the hotel, for instance, is the Andes Spirit Spa, which features a hydrotherapy pool, various types of treatment rooms, and a fitness center.
American novelist Ernest Hemingway once admitted, “When I dream of an afterlife in heaven, the action always takes place at the Ritz Paris .” And though the whimsical hotel boasts the same name as another famed hospitality brand, The Ritz-Carlton, there’s no connection between the 19th-century architectural gem on Place Vendôme and the collection of resorts around the world. The name of the Paris landmark comes from its founder, Swiss businessman César Ritz. He was born to a peasant family, but in 1898, after opening the world’s most luxurious hotel, where such influential luminaries as Marcel Proust and Coco Chanel were residents, Ritz became known as the “king of hoteliers.”
In 2012, The Ritz closed for a four-year multimillion-dollar renovation that elevated the hotel even further, with rooms starting at $1,500 per night. The Imperial Suite can go for more than $30,000, which makes sense considering it’s registered as a national monument.
Raffles Hotel Singapore
Named after the founder of modern Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles, the historic grande dame hotel opened in 1887 but wore several different hats before it became declared the national monument it is today. The Colonial-style bright white building was erected in the 1830s as a private beach house until Dr. Charles Emerson leased it in 1878 and transformed it into Emerson’s Hotel. It boasted a fair amount of success until its namesake passed away five years later.
Almost immediately after Dr. Emerson’s death, the hotel closed, and the Raffles Institution moved into the building, using it as a boarding house until the doctor’s lease expired. At that point, the Sarkies Brothers leased the property from the original owner, Syed Mohamed Alsagoff, and turned it into a cosmopolitan hotel, dubbed Raffles Hotel. Because of the hotel’s proximity to the beach and its unparalleled interiors and service, Raffles was met with immediate success, becoming the go-to spot for the international elite, including Michael Jackson and Queen Elizabeth II.