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These are the hotels that you’ve seen in the movies and heard about in stories. They’ve played host to some of the most famous, beautiful, powerful and notorious people in history.
1. The Plaza, New York City
This fabled Art Deco behemoth that sits at the prestigious corner of 5th Avenue and Central Park has played host to some of the most legendary lodgers imaginable making it – arguably – the most iconic hotel in the world.
How it achieves Icon Status: F. Scott Fitzgerald lived at the Plaza for a time, and he and wife Zelda once famously took a late night dip in the hotel’s Pulitzer fountain. Definitive American architect Frank Lloyd Wright also once called it home. Miles Davis recorded a live album there. Visitors throughout the ages include presidents, kings, queens, stars of stage, screen and everything in between. The Plaza’s hallowed halls have made several cinematic cameos appearing in everything from Hitchcock’s North by Northwest to The Way We Were to Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. A bone fide star of the hotel world.
2. The Savoy, London
London’s The Savoy does not only have a reputation for the buoyantly elegant, but it’s locale in relation to the Thames is such that it’s practically floating, rubbing shoulders with Covent Garden and within a stone’s throw from the National Portrait Gallery and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.
How it achieves Icon Status: The Savoy was the first luxury hotel to be built in Britain so comes with an ongoing history chapter. The American Bar was headed up by legendary bartender Harry Craddock, who wrote the first edition of definitive cocktail compendium The Savoy Cocktail Book. The original chef of the Savoy Room (now Savoy Grill) Auguste Escoffier was inspired to create the Peach Melba and Melba Toast for Australian opera star Nellie Melba. Monet painted views of The Thames from his room as the hotel’s first artist-in-residence in the early 1900s and Oscar Wilde was a tenant during his obscenity trial. The hotel’s Lancaster room featured in the movie Notting Hill for the scene where Hugh Grant’s character interrupts a press conference to declare his love for Julia Roberts’ movie star.
Christian Dior presenting a collection at The Savoy in 1950.
3. The Beverly Hills Hotel, LA
In its distinctive Mediterranean revivalist style the ‘Pink Palace’ and the curling typography on its façade are one of the most noteworthy sites along the legendary Sunset Boulevard strip.
How it achieves Icon Status: In addition to its famously accommodating hospitality (the concierge can reportedly procure tickets to “anything” happening in LA for its paying customers) and its greenery-ensconced private bungalows being exceptionally maintained, the Beverly Hills Hotel has hosted a revolving string of showbiz legends from Marilyn Monroe to John Lennon and Yoko Ono, to Steven Spielberg and various members of the Kardashian family. The hotel starred on the cover of The Eagles’ most famous ode to hedonism “Hotel California”, further adding to its mystique.
4. Raffles, Singapore
Hands down the most iconic building – let alone hotel – in Singapore.
How it achieves Icon Status: Raffles’ institution, Long Bar, is the home of the Singapore Sling, a favourite cocktail of great literati including Ernest Hemingway, Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad and Somerset Maugham. Postmodernist Japanese writer Ryu Murakami was inspired to write a novel named after the hotel concerning a love affair between a photographer and famous actress that takes place within its colonial-style beams.
5. The Waldorf Astoria, New York City
An enduring icon of grand Art Deco design with a style and service that still smacks of old-school New York.
How it achieves Icon Status: Ever had Eggs Benedict at brunch? It’s said to have been invented at the Waldorf by famed maitre d’ Oscar Tschirky, who’s also credited with creating the Waldorf salad (later referenced by jazz composer Cole Porter in “You’re The Top”). Marilyn Monroe lived in the Waldorf’s Suite after leaving Hollywood, and Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra and US president Herbert Hoover were all full-time tenants once upon a time.
6. The Bellagio, Las Vegas
This behemoth of the Strip has maintained a balance of over-the-top opulence and spectacle with taste – a rarity for Vegas hotels, particularly among the other mainstay resorts along the Strip.
How it achieves Icon Status: It was cast as a star in 2001 heist movie Ocean’s Eleven including cameos by the property’s Gallery of Fine Art (that’s where Julia Roberts spends her day gazing at masterpieces) and the Fountains of Bellagio where the Ocean’s ensemble reconvenes to watch the symphonic fountain dance spectacularly to Debussy’s Clair de Lune.
7. Sunset Marquis, Los Angeles
The rock and roll answer that adds some requisite edge to the class and luxury of all the above, the Sunset Marquis might have seen better days but like any ageing rocker worth their salt, it’s got better stories than anyone else.
How it achieves Icon Status: The hotel, once a haven to rock stars, supermodels, fashion designers and astroturf is comes complete with a recording studio where the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Aerosmith, Slash and Jeff Beck have recorded material. The Clash, the Ramones and Blondie were patrons in their hey days. Rockers Courtney Love and Nine Inch Nail’s frontman Trent Reznor engaged in an ill-fated affair. Keith Moon drove a motorcycle through the lobby. If those walls could talk…