Eleven hotels that get the royal stamp of approval
Most luxury hotels promise to treat guests like kings and queens — but only a select few cater for the real deal.
Most luxury hotels promise to treat their guests like kings and queens — but a select few actually have any experience with the real deal.
From a Canadian icon that hosted a prince's legendary dance party to hotels in England, France, and Italy that served as headquarters for royalty in exile, these 11 five-star spots know how to cater to the crown-wearing set — and those of us who might be just as discreet and discerning.
Hôtel de Crillon, a Rosewood Hotel
Recently re-opened following a four-year renovation, Hôtel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel has deep ties to royalty. In 1758, four years after commissioning the Place de la Concord, King Louis XV called for the construction of two identical stone palaces on the east and north sides of the square.
A few decades later, the palace that now houses the hotel was converted into the private mansion of the Duke d'Aumont, who often hosted other elite guests in his elegant home — including Marie Antionette, who took music lessons in the salon that now bears her name.
In 1788, the Duke de Crillon acquired the mansion, and it remained in his family until the early-20th-century, save for a brief period after the French Revolution, when it was confiscated by the French government.
The residence was transformed into a luxury hotel in 1907, and has continued to host illustrious guests of all kinds, from princes and princesses to politicians and celebrities.
Originally built in 1568 as a summer residence for Cardinal Tolomeo Gallio, the lush Villa d'Este (known then as Villa Garrovo) became so world-renowned for its beauty that in 1614, the Sultan of Morocco arrived — complete with retinue — just to see the place for himself.
In the late-1700's, the villa had come under the ownership of a marquis and his ballerina wife, who expanded the mansion and its grounds (just in time, as the nobleman soon squandered away his fortune on wine and women).
Caroline of Brunswick, Princess of Wales and future Queen of England, purchased the property in 1815, and gave the estate its current name while spending the happiest days of her short, troubled life living in exile there. If you stop by today, be sure to check out the Queen's Pavilion, which was named in her honour
Other royals who've relaxed at the villa include Empress Maria Feodorowna , wife of the Russian Czar — who rented the estate for two months, and ended up staying for two years. And the first ever photo of Edward, Prince of Wales, and his mistress, Wallis Simpson, was taken at Villa D'Este in 1936 — making the hotel once again famous around the world.
When it comes to royal visits, London hotels have a home-field advantage, with many — including the Goring, the Ritz, and the Dorchester — enjoying long-standing relationships with the residents of Buckingham Palace.
Claridge's historic ties to the British Crown date back to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's first visit in 1860. The Queen Mother's favourite table in the restaurant is still always dressed with sweet peas in her honour.
But some of the hotel's standout regal stories are foreign in nature. During World War II, the hotel served as a refuge for the kings of Greece, Norway, and Yugoslavia — all in exile from their own countries.
As legend has it, on July 17, 1945, Winston Churchill officially ceded Claridge's Suite 212 to Yugoslavia for the day so that the wife of King Peter II, Alexandra of Greece and Denmark, could give birth to their son on Yugoslavian "land." That baby, Crown Prince Alexander, still enjoys a close relationship with England today (as well as with his third cousin, Queen Elizabeth II), and often visits Claridge's with his own children.
The St Regis Princeville
The St. Regis Princeville resort's royal connection was born of pride, and cemented in tragedy. In 1860 Scotsman Robert Crichton Wylie, who served as Minister of Foreign Affairs to the Royal Court of Hawaii, hosted King Kamehameha IV, Queen Emma, and their two-year-old son, crown Prince Albert Edward Kauikeauoli Leiopapaakamehameha at his large plantation on Kauai's north shore.
In honour of this young royal — who was the heir to the Hawaiian throne and godson to Britain's Queen Victoria — Wylie renamed his estate "the barony of Princeville." While Prince Albert never fulfilled his destiny to rule Hawaii, sadly passing away at the age of four, the St. Regis Princeville's grounds and history remain a grand tribute to the young prince and his family.
Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo and Monte-Carlo Beach
In the tiny principality of Monaco, the most luxurious and historic hotels — as well as the famous opera house, casino, and several notable restaurants — belong to Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer, a company owned in part by the local government — so it's no surprise that the reigning House of Grimaldi, overseen today by Albert II, has long-frequented these properties.
Many of the best stories date back to the days of American actress Grace Kelly, who brought a touch of Hollywood glamour to Monaco when she married Prince Rainier in 1952. The majestic Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, which recently re-opened following a complete renovation, was a particular favourite of Princess Grace, who once set up an intimate anniversary dinner in the hotel's fabled wine cellar.
In the early 1960s, the princess taught her young children how to swim in the pool of the Monte-Carlo Beach, a 1930s-era seaside hotel that now boasts a chic, modern style.
The roots of the stately Clivden House go back to the 1660s, when the Second Duke of Buckingham built the original main hunting lodge as a place to entertain his mistress and friends. Since then, the Berkshire estate has hosted a long list of regal guests, including nearly every reigning monarch since George I.
Queen Victoria loved to indulge in afternoon tea in the Spring Cottage, a stand-alone house set on the banks of the River Thames. Today the cottage has been transformed into a three-bedroom suite with perks like a full kitchen, a fireplace, and a private garden that still boasts the original "Queen Steps" pathway to the river (constructed so that the monarch wouldn't get her feet dirty).
The current Queen Elizabeth has also visited many times throughout her life, and suites with names like Prince of Wales and Lady Astor pay homage to other blue-blooded regulars.
The gilded 19th-century Le Meurice on Paris's Rue de Rivoli is often called the "Hotel of Kings" — and with good reason, as it has both hosted and housed many a titled guest.
Most notably, King Alfonso XIII of Spain set up his government-in-exile at Le Meurice in the 1930s, occupying rooms 106 and 108, which were later combined and dubbed the Royal Suite in his honour. (Artist Salvador Dalí later also favoured these rooms, spending one month a year there for nearly 30 years.)
Following the residence of the Spanish monarch, fellow royals like King Paul and Queen Frederica of Greece, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, King Niola I of Montenegro, the Shah of Iran, the Maharaja of Jaipur and the King of Belgium all spent extended periods within these hallowed walls.
This grand dame overlooking Victoria's harbour may have just emerged from a full face-lift, but the historic heart of the Fairmont Empress is still very much intact.
Built in 1908 as a terminus hotel for the Canadian Pacific Railway, the Edwardian-era gem has hosted countless boldfaced names, from Rita Hayworth and Douglas Fairbanks to the Emperor and Empress of Japan, and several members of the current British royal family, including Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, and Prince Charles.
In 1939, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth stayed at the hotel during their cross-country tour of Canada — marking the first-ever visit to Victoria by reigning monarchs. But perhaps the liveliest royal visit took place decades before, in 1919, when Edward, Prince of Wales, waltzed the night away in the Crystal Ballroom.
The event became so legendary among locals that a half-century later, obituaries of elderly ladies would mention that they had been "singled out" by the prince for a dance that night.
Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace
Taj Hotels' properties in India stand out both for the impeccable luxury experience they provide, and for the fact that many are actual royal residences — some even to this day. Set in the "Blue City" of Jodhpur, Umaid Bhawan Palace is one such example, serving as both a five-star hotel (that has hosted all manner of celebs and VIPs) and the home of Jodhpur's former royal family — a distinction that has earned the structure the ranking of sixth largest private residence in the world.
Though the family enjoy hidden-away private quarters, guests may spot the maharaja in the hotel lounge or restaurant, and, if they are lucky, get to chat with him over a glass of bubbles. A guided Heritage Walk and small, on-site museum allow guests to learn more about the family, as well the building's opulent design and décor.
Though France's belle-époque Hôtel Royal was named in honour of King Edward VII of Great Britain, the king himself passed away before he was able to see his namesake property completed. Luckily, many other royal guests have helped the Evian-les-Bains hotel live up to its name, from Queen Amelie of Portugal to India's Maharaja of Kapurthala.
Prince Mohamed Shah Aga Khan — known as The Aga Khan — first checked-in in 1918, and was a regular guest for many years after; the relaxation room at the Spa Evian Source is named in his honour, and the hotel still owns a set of Christofle vermeil cutlery that was specially-designed for the Prince. In 1991, Queen Elizabeth II of England stayed for three nights in Suite 529 — which has since been renovated and renamed — what else? — the Suite Royal.
Aman Sveti Stefan
Midway along Montenegro's glittering Adriatic coastline lies the tiny island of Sveti Stefan, a former fortress and 15th-century fishing village now connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus.
Opened in 2008, the five-star Aman Sveti Stefan is made up of both this island — which is home to the main resort — and two elegant structures across the water: the minimalist Aman Spa, and the 1930's-era Villa Miločer, once the summer residence of Queen Marija Karađorđević of Yugoslavia.
Fronting the beach, and surrounded by dense cedar and pine forests and a grove of more than 800 olive trees, the stately stone villa features several guest suites, as well as shared spaces like an airy lounge and cosy library. Check into the ultra-private Queen Marija Miločer Suite to enjoy a separate living area with a fireplace and serene garden views.