As more and more new-build hotels go up in this country and around the world, it can be easy to forget the joy of staying in a hotel whose building has a storied and historic past. And I’ve had the pleasure of staying in some marvellous examples of the latter. Here I select my favourite ‘historical conversion’ properties at home and abroad — chosen for the romance of their history but also their cutting-edge design and interiors…
Park Bosphorus Hotel, Istanbul
Dating back to 1890, this building started life as a mansion built by Italian ambassador Baron Blanc as his home while he oversaw great political change in the Ottoman Empire. The stunning views of the river from which it takes its name are something to behold and the hotel has been the place to be seen by the great and the powerful of yesteryear — including a visit from King Edward VIII.
Its recently renovated architecture and design maintain the historical, cultural and political significance of the district of Istanbul in which it resides and has some of the most beautifully appointed rooms in the city.
The Fullerton Hotel, Singapore
Once a post office during British rule of the port city, this spectacular building oozes colonial character with its neo-classical architecture and design. Commissioned in 1919 for the colony’s centennial celebrations and built in 1928, the building is named after Robert Fullerton – the first Governor of the Straits Settlements (1826–1829).
The interior keeps the colonial theme running, with its high ceilings, Doric columns and verandas. But despite the rich colours and traditionalist décor, the Fullerton still incorporates modern luxury to make this my favourite hotel in one of the best cities in the world.
The Conservatorium, Amsterdam
The building was originally designed by the famous Dutch architect Daniel Knuttel as the Rijkspostspaarbank and sparked the regeneration of the previously derelict Museum Quarter at the end of the 19th century. It was abandoned in 1978, became a conservatory which housed 3 musical institutions until 2008 and was then lovingly restored onwards.
With stunning interiors from Italian designer Piero Lissoni, the conversion of this building into a hotel has been a remarkable success and brings a touch of elegance and luxury to this most cosmopolitan of destinations.
Mandarin Oriental, Prague
No other hotel does blending contemporary design with period features quite like this Mandarin Oriental property in the Czech capital. Sitting on the site of a 14th century monastery, this is one of the finest hotels in the city — from the room’s vaulted ceilings offering a glimpse into the building’s past to the ultra-modern spa facilities.
Although part of a chain, there’s something uniquely special about this hotel which offers the perfect combination of both worlds old and new.
No Man’s Fort, Portsmouth
The original sleeping arrangements of these remarkable structures out in the Solent required gunners to swing from hammocks hooked into the ceiling. Thankfully, the modern incarnation of these former military protective forts is all about luxury and excellent service.
Each room is fitted out with chic furniture, all with a depth of design, quintessential British style and teeming with quirky historical touches — plus you won’t get many places with better sea views…
Tuddenham Mill, Newmarket
I have a strong personal affiliation with East Anglia, and this beautiful reworking of a traditional watermill mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 on the Suffolk-Cambridgeshire border is one of its best spots for me personally.
Obvious history but also clean, subtle interiors define this hotel-cum-event space. Highlights include the original exposed beams, the glorious double-ended baths and the countryside surrounding this gem of a property. Definitely recommended if venturing onto the flats of eastern England…