Gleaming glass and steel hotels are rapidly springing up across Asia, but many century-old jewels of hospitality continue to sparkle in magnificent settings, living reminders of an earlier era. Here we present eight landmark favorites.
GOODWOOD PARK HOTEL, SINGAPORE
Construction Year 1900
Why Stay? Goodwood Park may not receive the same hype as the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, but it is a quality heritage property that boasts an unbeatable location.
History The five-star heritage building started off as the Teutonia Club – an elite enclave for German expatriates in Singapore. In 1918, it was purchased and renamed as Goodwood Hall, and in 1922 it was registered as a restaurant-café-entertainment establishment, with performances by world renowned ballerina Anna Pavlova. The building became a hotel in 1929, a status it regained following a brief stint as a military residence during World War II.
Design Originally designed by R.A.J. Bidwell of Swan and Maclaren – one of Singapore’s oldest architectural firms – the Goodwood Park Hotel has a striking Victorian look, complete with a turret. It was also the first hotel in Singapore to have a swimming pool.
Unique Features Unlike many heritage hotels that are situated off the beaten path, Goodwood Park Hotel is located in the city center. However, it is surrounded by lush landscaped gardens, which evoke the feeling of a quiet retreat.
Facilities Complimentary wired and wireless Internet access, two outdoor swimming pools, a fitness center, spa services, five restaurants, a bar, a deli, and banquet and meeting venues.
Location Along Scotts Road in Singapore, close to the popular shopping district of Orchard Road and a 10-minute drive to the central business district.
Number of Rooms 233
HULLETT HOUSE, HONG KONG
Construction Year 1881
Why Stay? Hullett House is one of the few remaining colonial buildings in Hong Kong, and boasts some of the most interesting and distinctively designed rooms that we have ever seen.
History Hullett House dates back to 1881, when it was part of the former Marine Police Headquarters. The hotel is one of the four oldest surviving government buildings in the city. Named after celebrated 19th century English scholar and botanist Richmond William Hullett, who is credited with discovering the Hong Kong bauhinia, Hullett House is a living reminder of the city’s rich cultural history.
Design The building’s colonial exterior provides a sharp contrast to the suites’ colorful and eclectic designs.
Unique Features Each of the ten suites is named after one of Hong Kong’s numerous bays, and sport entirely different designs. From the larger-than-life Deep Water Bay Suite that features pop-art paintings of Chairman Mao Zedong to the bold and brooding Kat O Suite, with its deep, dark hardwood floors, repeat guests are guaranteed a completely new experience.
Facilities Landscaped gardens, 24-hour reception and concierge service, five F&B outlets, souvenir store, and meeting and event facilities with audio-visual conference equipment. The romantic Champagne Gallery is popular with locals have their weddings there.
Location Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Number of Rooms 10
HOTEL CONTINENTAL SAIGON, HO CHI MINH CITY
Construction Year 1880
Why Stay? The oldest hotel in Vietnam, Hotel Continental Saigon has a colorful history that has inspired literary and film classics, with a number of high-profile guests to boot.
History The property has seen numerous owners in its time, including Corsican gangster Mathier Francini who ran the hotel for 45 years until 1975. During that time, the hotel hosted several literary heroes, including Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore. English novelist Graham Greene was also a long-term guest in room 214, and many scenes in his book The Quiet American feature the Hotel Continental Saigon. The hotel has also been immortalized as the central locale of the movie Indochine, winner of two Academy Awards and one Golden Globe.
Design When Pierre Cazeau decided to build the Hotel Continental, he did so with the intention of creating accommodation for French travelers that would be reminiscent of their homeland. The hotel’s façade therefore reflects French architecture, while its interior has an emphasis on wood and rich, subdued colors.
Unique Features The hotel’s five dining outlets retain a classic look and transport diners back in time. Back to the 21st century, the hotel is also an environmentally friendly accredited hotel.
Facilities Two meeting rooms, five restaurants, three banquet spaces, a business center, spa, gymnasium, laundry service and several boutique shops.
Location Dong Khoi, one of the oldest and most central streets in Saigon.
Number of Rooms 80
HOTEL WINDSOR, MELBOURNE
Construction Year 1883
Why Stay? It has hosted royalty, prime ministers and movie stars, and is one of the oldest Victorian-era hotels still in operation. The Hotel Windsor predates many of the world’s grand hotels, including Raffles, Singapore (1887), The Savoy, London (1889) and The Waldorf Astoria, New York (1894) and is due for a new lease on life.
History The hotel was built by shipping magnate George Nipper, who commissioned eminent architect Charles Webb to design the building, before selling the property three years later, in 1886. New owner James Munro burnt the hotel’s liquor license and changed its name to the Grand Coffee Palace. The experiment failed and in 1897 the hotel began selling alcohol again. In 1923, the hotel became known as “The Windsor” in honor of a visit by the then Prince of Wales. Threatened with demolition in 1976, the hotel was bought by the Victoria Government and was sold to Indonesia’s Halim Group in 2005.
Design Its flamboyant architecture mirrors the social atmosphere, buoyancy and optimism of “marvelous Melbourne” in the 1880s. As the largest and grandest of Australia’s surviving hotels of the period, it is of considerable aesthetic importance. Rooms are designed with high ceilings and have marble bathrooms.
Unique Features Former guests include former Australian Prime Ministers John Howard, Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser, sporting greats such as Muhammad Ali, the Australian and English Cricket teams, and Dame Nellie Melba, Kylie Minogue, Lauren Bacall and Sir Laurence Olivier.
Facilities Business center, fitness center, six private function rooms and a ballroom.
Location Located in Melbourne’s central business district, opposite Victoria’s Parliament House and the Old Treasury Building. The property is within walking distance of The Arts Center, State Library, National Gallery of Victoria and the Melbourne Museum. It is situated 12 miles from the city’s airport.
Number of Rooms 160 rooms and 20 suites
THE HERMITAGE HOTEL MENTENG, JAKARTA
Construction Year 1923
Why Stay? The building itself was constructed in 1923, but only opened its doors as a hotel in June 2014. The property recently joined Starwood’s Tribute Collection.
History Originally built as a Dutch Telecommunications office, following independence of the Republic of Indonesia in 1945, the building has served several different functions. From 1945 to 1950, it was used by the National Committee Indonesia Centre and the Department of Education; it was occupied by the Directorate General of the Ministry of Culture and Education until 1966; and was subsequently uninhabited for some time before the University of Brung Karno took it over.
Design Inside the Art Deco building, each of the rooms and suites are finished in subtle colors and natural materials such as marble flooring. There are two styles of presidential suites – including the Batavia, an Indonesian high-colonial style design with myriad gem-like batik fabrics, ornate wood furniture and precious veneers; and the Dutch, a synthesis of classic European decorative arts spanning three centuries.
Unique Features There is a panoramic rooftop bar, La Vue, on the ninth floor. The venue is designed with whitewashed wooden panels, lots of glass, glistening tiles and subtle fabrics, lending beachside touches to the casual space.
Facilities Rooftop swimming pool, fitness center, meeting rooms, business center.
Location Situated in the historical district of Menteng in Central Jakarta, a quarter mile from Adam Malik Museum and 3 miles from the National Monument and Jakarta Cathedral. The airport is a 45-minute drive.
Number of Rooms 90 rooms and suites
POUSADA DE SÃO TIAGO, MACAU
Construction Year 1629
Why Stay? The hotel occupies an important building in Macau. It was constructed as a fortress by the Portuguese in the early 17th century to defend the colony against hostile European nations and local pirates.
History In the early 17th century, the city’s governor ordered a series of forts to be built to defend the harbor from seaward approaches. Named the Fortaleza de Barra, work began in 1616 and the building was completed in 1629. It comprised 51,000 square feet for the army captain and 60 men, cannon emplacements, a cistern holding 3,000 tons of water, munitions, food supplies, and a guardroom. In 1978 it was decided to transform the ruins into a hotel, which subsequently opened in 1981.
Design The Pousada was constructed on five split levels, connected by winding stairs, and stone steps from the terrace to the swimming pool and special function room.
Both exteriors and interiors reveal the building’s Iberian heritage. The windows of the restaurants and central building are shaped like high arches, and the 12 suites look out through glass doors under eyebrow arches to balconies and surrounding seascape.
Unique Features Among these buildings is the small chapel built in the Barra Fort in 1740, and dedicated to St. James, the saint adopted by the Portuguese army at that time. According to legend, the statue of St. James was believed to patrol the grounds at night. In the morning, soldiers would discover mud on the statue’s boots, and so a soldier was assigned to polish them every day. It is said that the saint would hit lazy soldiers on the head, and to this day, this myth is still celebrated at the Chapel on July 25 every year.
The chapel was renovated 1978 and has since become an important landmark. It adjoins Pousada de São Tiago’s reception area and cocktail lounge.
Facilities Conference rooms, outdoor swimming pool, outdoor terrace, on-site chapel, four dining options, free WiFi.
Location It is situated at the tip of the Macau Peninsula along the tree-lined Praia Grande Bay. The property is only five minutes away from the historic A-Ma Temple, Maritime Museum and Chapel of Our Lady of Penha.
Number of Rooms 12 Suites
INTERCONTINENTAL SHANGHAI RUIJIN HOTEL, SHANGHAI
Construction Year 1917
Why Stay? Formerly the State Guest House of Shanghai, the building was used by Chinese historical figures, such as Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai. During the War of Liberation, it was also the headquarters of the Communist Party in the city. In March this year, Great Britain’s Prince William attended the inauguration of the hotel’s Villa One of the Morris Residence.
History Built in 1917, the heritage covers over 13 acres of traditional British style gardens and was formerly a private estate of the Morris family. In 1928, the Morris family leased the land to French businessman Shao Lu, who converted it into the Canidrome, which became one of the most popular entertainment places at that time. When Shanghai was liberated, it came under state ownership. In 1953, it was converted into a General Assembly that could hold 5,000 people, and was renamed The Shanghai Cultural Plaza. In 1958, it became the Shanghai State Guest House and in 2013, it was named as the InterContinental Shanghai Ruijin.
Design The hotel comprises four villas. The oldest and most well-known is Villa One. The L-shaped building is 14,000 square feet, and constructed of bricks. It references the royal architecture from the reigns of French kings Louis XIV and XVI. The interior is in classical British style, and includes paneled walls, marble floor and pillars, and crystal chandeliers.
Unique Features Many leaders have stayed in the heritage, including Deng Xiaoping, Deng Zihui and Chen Yi; foreign dignitaries include Ho Chi Minh, Kim Il-Sung and Richard Nixon. Forty movies have been filmed here, including To Deal With the Devil (1980), Farewell My Concubine (1993), Nanjing! Nanjing! (2009) and Xinhai Revolution (2011).
Facilities Business center, fitness center, spa, indoor swimming pool, ballroom, and meeting rooms.
Location The hotel is located along tranquil Ruijin Er Road, close to Huaihai Road’s luxury retail district, the quaint shops at Tianzifang, and the trendsetting Xintiandi bars and restaurants.
Number of Rooms 238 rooms and suites
THE TAJ MAHAL PALACE, MUMBAI
Construction Year 1903
Why Stay? Jamsetji N. Tata, Indian pioneer industrialist and founder of the Tata Group, built this hotel, the first in India to have electricity, in 1903. The hotel’s two buildings, the Tower and the Taj Mahal Palace, were built in different styles and at different times.
History In the 19th century, the only decent hotel in Mumbai was Watson’s Esplanade Hotel. In the late 1890s, Tata announced he would build a grand hotel, aiming to restore the image of the city and attract visitors from around the world.
The hotel opened in 1903, and was considered the second home of the Maharajas. In 1947, the Palace hosted the legends and architects of Independence. The 20-story Tower wing was constructed in 1973. The hotel was renovated for its 100th anniversary.
Design Following a terrorist attack in 2008, the hotel was refurbished. The Moorish, Oriental and Florentine styles remain and the rooms’ original artworks and period furniture continue to exude a trademark old-world charm, meaning guests can experience what it was like to live as a Maharajah.
Unique Features The hotel is home to the Art Walk program – a tour that takes in the establishment’s diverse collection of paintings and art works. There is also an in-house vedic astrologer, Padmaraj Kanna, who answers guests’ questions about their future. The Taj also operates a private jet and yacht.
Facilities Outdoor swimming pool, spa, reference library, meeting rooms, executive rooms, private offices, ballroom and business center.
Location The hotel is located near the Gateway of India and the Mumbai harbor. It is 20 miles from the international airport and 18 miles from the domestic one. Set in the heart of south Mumbai, the property is just minutes away from the city’s banking, commercial, culture and shopping centers.
Number of Rooms 560 rooms and suites