By LISA KLEIN
Luxury travel lodging is known for its opulence, style and impeccable hospitality. But there is a class of iconic hotels all to itself that attracts the elite with storied histories, service at any cost and the know-how to show guests the best of times. Here are some of our favorites.
Copacabana Palace – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Pictured above, this art deco masterpiece opened in 1923 across Rio’s famous black-and-white mosaic walkway from the sprawling beach of the same name.
Visited by royalty and the rich-and-famous from the start, the hotel really took off after a latin salon opened in the 1930s, showcasing the best musical talent from around the world. Its shows became such a draw that they inspired the Barry Manilow tune Copacabana (At the Copa).
The Copacabana still hosts a revered New Year’s Eve party and the kickoff party for Rio’s Carnaval celebration.
Claridge’s – London, England, U.K.
Built in 1856, this red-brick retreat started off as a hotel run in a single house by William and Marianne Claridge, who bought five adjacent buildings a few years later and combined them.
The hotel soon became a favorite of royalty and celebrities alike, hosting Jazz Age parties in its grand ballroom, foreign dignitaries in the 1940s and Golden Age Hollywood stars in the ‘50s.
Claridge’s continues to be a meeting place for movie stars, models, designers and socialites today.
Badrutt’s Palace Hotel – St. Moritz, Switzerland
Badrutt’s Palace Hotel has been operated by generations of the same family since it opened in 1896 in what is now one of the most exclusive ski towns in the Swiss Alps.
Much more than just a ski resort, the palace has maintained its chic reputation from the era of the Grand European Tour to the jet-set 1960s and ‘70s through today.
Known for its over-the-top parties, indoor infinity and outdoor heated pools overlooking the mountains and wonderland vibes in winter or summer.
The Plaza – New York, New York, U.S.
Called “the greatest hotel in the world” when it opened in 1907, New York’s Plaza hotel overlooking Central Park is where the who’s who of the world comes to see and be seen.
Architect Frank Lloyd Wright lived there for six years while designing the Guggenheim Museum in the 1950s, Truman Capote hosted his infamous Black and White Ball there in 1966, and countless big-name guests have slept there, from the Beatles to the Kennedys.
Scenes from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby take place at the hotel, where the author was a regular, as does the beloved Eloise book series by Kay Thompson.
The Ritz – Paris, France
Cesar Ritz opened his namesake hotel in 1898 – the world’s first to have a telephone, bathtub and electricity in every room.
The star regulars at the Ritz are endless, from literary elites such as Marcel Proust and Ernest Hemingway, who frequented the Petit Bar so much it is now named after him, to European royalty. Princess Diana famously ate her final meal in a suite there. Fashion icon Coco Chanel lived there for 34 years, with her atelier across the street.
The hotel’s first executive chef was none other than Auguste Escoffier, the founder of modern haute cuisine, who has a culinary school on the hotel’s grounds named after him.
The Beverly Hills Hotel – Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
A true Hollywood fixture, the Beverly Hills hotel was built in 1912, two years before the town itself was incorporated, and has attracted movie stars since it opened its doors – its red-carpet entrance and pink-and-green color scheme, a redesign from the ‘40s, now a Tinseltown symbol.
Charlie Chaplin, Howard Hughes and Marilyn Monroe all lived for a time in the hotel’s famous stand-alone bungalows – also a favorite of Elizabeth Taylor, who spent six of her eight honeymoons there.
Stars can still be found at the pool or in the Polo Lounge, which Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack were known to stay until closing regularly.
Raffles – Singapore
Named for Sir Stamford Raffles, a British diplomat credited with the founding of modern Singapore, the Raffles hotel has always been synonymous with exploration in East Asia.
Opened in 1887, with its main building added in 1899, Raffles’ Bar & Billiard room has seen firsts and lasts: The Singapore Sling cocktail was invented there, the last tiger on the island was shot inside the bar in 1902.
A favorite of prominent 19th-century writers such as Joseph Conrad and Rudyard Kipling, the hotel also often hosted their 20th-century counterparts Somerset Maugham and James Michener.