Why are historic hotels attractive? Are guests drawn to the timeless surroundings or do they simply want to indulge their imaginations, daydreaming about living in a more romantic era?
Whatever the reason, the world's best historic hotels are still in high demand, and the best of them have similar traits: a certain mood, an attractive setting, a sense of romance and a colorful past. They also provide plenty of inspiration for your imagination.
Here are some amazing old hotels that have only gotten better with age.
1. Beekman Arms
The Beekman Arms was the site of many toasts (and many arguments) during the Revolutionary War. (Photo: Adam Jones/flickr)
The Beekman Arms is a 23-room inn in Rhinebeck, New York. First opened in 1766, it claims to be the oldest continuously operating inn in the country. Some other hotels dispute this, but there are no arguments about its attractive historic atmosphere or the colorful past.
The Beekman had a front-row seat to the Revolutionary War. Also, the confrontation that eventually led to the infamous duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton (who was a regular guest) began with the two men trading insults at the inn's tavern. More than a century after that, the Beekman became a favorite of Franklin Roosevelt. These days, the grounds, the period architecture and the proximity to New York City make this property a popular option for weddings and other special events.
2. Hotel Inglaterra
First opened in 1875, the Hotel Inglaterra is Havana's oldest inn. While it was exceedingly popular between the late 19th century and the 1950s, it's regaining popularity today thanks to its atmospheric architecture, a charming cafe and its prime location in the heart of Havana's famous Old Town.
The in-house bistro, the Gran Café el Louvre, is even older than the hotel. It was a meeting place for Cuban nationalists during Spanish colonial times, and it has hosted some of the world's most famous musicians and literary figures over the years. Like many other venues in Havana, the Inglaterra shows its age, but the cafe and the airy neoclassical interiors give it a tangible sense of history.
3. Hotel el Convento
Hotel el Convento sits in the historic heart of San Juan, Puerto Rico. It's right across from the San Juan Cathedral, which is the oldest cathedral in the Western Hemisphere. El Convento did not become a hotel until the 1960s, but the building dates back to 1651. For most of its life, as its name suggests, the property served as a convent for Carmelite nuns.
Despite its religious origins, the hotel had a colorful history. After the nuns left in 1903, it served as a flophouse, a dance hall and a store. Now, despite the fact that it retains a lot of its "old world" appeal, el Convento is considered a luxury hotel.
4. Hotel del Coronado
Hotel del Coronado is the second largest wooden structure in the United States. (Photo: SD Dirk/flickr)
San Diego's Hotel del Coronado is one of the only remaining examples of the wooden Victorian beach resorts that were once the definition of glamour and leisure in America. When it first opened in 1888, the Coronado was considered the largest beach resort hotel in the world. During the Roaring '20s, the property hosted parties attended by the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable and Errol Flynn. Apparently, the Del — as it is also known — was adept at getting around Prohibition-era liquor laws.
The hotel has retained its classic Victorian feel. Today, it's a luxury hotel with a four diamond rating from AAA. The private beachfront is popular with families, and the timeless vibe draws weddings and other special events.
5. Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan
According to Guinness, Keiunkan is currently the oldest hotel in the world. It maintains a number of its original sensibilities, despite having been updated over the centuries. (Photo: 663highland/Wikimedia Commons)
In Japan, there's a completely different definition of "historic" than what we've seen so far on this list. By the time the Beekman Arms opened in New York, Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan had already celebrated its 1,000th birthday. Located in a hot spring destination near the city of Kyoto, Keiunkan saw its first guest in 705, making it 1,311 years old this year. Despite being upgraded and expanded over the centuries, the onsen (roughly translated as "hot springs spa") has retained much of its traditional appeal.
Apparently, there is evidence to support Keiunkan’s claim to the "world's oldest" title. After conducting research into the inn, the Guinness Book of World Records gave the venue the title of oldest hotel on Earth that's still in operation. It took the crown from another Japanese hotel, the Hoshi Ryokan.
6. Hoshi Ryokan
Founded in 718, the Hoshi Ryokan was long considered the oldest hotel in the world. Recent research put the opening date of another Japanese inn, the aforementioned Keiunkan Onsen, about a decade earlier than Hoshi’s.
Hoshi, which has been run by the same family for 46 generations, has 100 guest rooms and a hot spring spa. It features a Japanese-style layout and traditional cuisine. Nightly rates run about $600. It seems the experience of staying in one of the world's oldest inns comes at a steep price, but at least the meals are included.
7. Hotel Bären
Hotel Bären is in the historic center of Freiburg where it welcomed its first guest in the 12th century (Photo: F Delventhal/flickr)
Officially known as Zum Roten Bären (the Red Bear), this inn in Freiburg is the oldest hotel still in operation in Germany. It reportedly welcomed its first guest in 1311. The building that houses the hotel dates back even further than 1311; its foundation was laid in the 12th century.
Freiburg is a small university town, but it has become popular with tourists because many of the buildings in the historic Old Town date back to the Middle Ages. One of the city's most sought-after sights, the Schwabentor Gate, is located near the hotel.
8. Olde Bell Hotel
The Olde Bell first opened its doors in 1135. In these early years, it served as a guesthouse for people visiting a nearby monastery. The inn got its name from a bell that would ring to let the monks who lived in the monastery know that someone important was visiting. Later on, the inn, which is located in the town of Hurley in Berkshire, was an important stopping point for people traveling the road between London and Oxford.
The Olde Bell is a shining example of the reemergence of traditional inns on the modern hotel scene in England. The Bell has four room types and an in-house restaurant that serves dishes that offer a modern take on traditional rustic English cooking. The inn also hosts weddings and special events.
9. Galle Face Hotel
Galle Face sits on Colombo's waterfront, making it a popular destination spot. (Photo: Bernard Gagnon/Wikimedia Commons)
Galle Face Hotel dates back to Sri Lanka's colonial era. The building, which sits right on the waterfront in Colombo, began its life as a Dutch villa that served as a gathering place for colonial elites. British entrepreneurs converted it into a hotel in the 1860s. Soon after, travelers began to refer to Galle Face as "the best hotel east of Suez."
The hotel gets its name from the surrounding Galle Face Green, which stretches along the waterfront for more than a half mile. The hotel reached its current size in the early 1900s after several major expansions. Recently, it has been refurbished and is a popular accommodation option once again now that Colombo has entered an era of peace and prosperity after the end of decades of civil war.
10. Kilkea Castle Hotel
Kilkea Castle is in Kildare, about an hour outside of Dublin. (Photo: dougf/geograph)
Kilkea is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Ireland after being built for a Norman nobleman in the 12th century. The castle has been repaired and renovated several times during its life. It's also allegedly haunted by the specter of a former resident. Earl Gerald FitzGerald, who was interested in magic and the supernatural, reportedly visits the property often — even though he died in the 16th century.
These days Kilkea isn't short on luxury. It has a huge formal dining room that runs almost the length of the castle. There's also an 18-hole golf course on the grounds and a fully-equipped entertainment and leisure center inside the castle. Each of the 35 guest rooms are individually decorated and furnished, so guests can have a unique experience each time they stay at the castle.