It’s hard for the imagination to resist a palace. The word conjures images of gleaming marble, canopy beds and terraces festooned with archways, and rightly so.
Palaces were historically constructed as the abodes of royalty, and today their lavish excesses astound us… Yet we can’t help imagining what it would be like to live with such extravagance. The following palace hotels invite you to experience life in surrounds that were designed for total indulgence. Let the personality of each ruler and era envelop you at these ravishing palatial hotels.
Rambagh Palace, Jaipur, India
These days the Rambagh is also considered a hotel, but you could never mistake it for anything but a palace. The first building on the site was constructed in 1835 for a favoured royal handmaiden, but it gradually increased in size and grandeur until it became worthy of the residence of Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II. Strutting peacocks, serene pools and marble latticework enhance the imperial ambience, which continues inside to the velvet-draped guest rooms. Impeccable taste and historic style have combined to offer spaces embellished to perfection.
Of course, no stay in an Indian palace would be complete without a feast to write home about. Your perceptions of Indian cuisine will be completely redefined at Suvarna Mahal, a fine-dining restaurant housed in an 18th century French ballroom complete with crystal chandeliers.
Gritti Palace, Venice, Italy
Gritti Palace has been a treasure trove of cultural splendour since its beginnings in the 1400s. Its rooms are still rich with priceless antiques and works of art, presented in a way that can only be described as sumptuous. Originally commissioned by Venetian doge Andrea Gritti, the palace has been home to a succession of noble families and later served as the residence of Vatican ambassadors to Venice.
Since being converted into a hotel in 1895, the Gritti Palace has amassed a star-studded guest list, which includes Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill, Ivor Stravinsky and Elizabeth Taylor. The Gritti delivers everything you could ask for from a Venetian palace, from frescoed floors and Rubelli covered walls to Murano chandeliers and plush velvet sofas. Its poetically arched windows offer views over the Canal Grande towards the Basilica di Santa Maria, one of the city’s most stunning churches.
Cıragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul, Turkey
If you’ve ever fancied yourself luxuriating within the marble walls of a sultan’s abode, steer your magic carpet towards the Cıragan Palace. The palace was completed in 1871 under the direction of Sultan Abdülaziz. He named it Cıragan, or ‘light spreading’, in honour of the torchlit garden festivities relished by the locals. This magnificent vestige of the Ottoman Empire commands views of the shimmering Bosporus Strait over manicured gardens.
The waterfront infinity pool is heated during winter, so you can enjoy the sensation of floating into one of Istanbul’s most coveted views during all seasons. Guest rooms offer a blend of old-world charm and modern convenience that will delight lovers of the authentic, and the immersion continues at the traditional marbled hammam. A good steam and scrub will have you literally tickled pink.
Aman Summer Palace, Beijing, China
Built in 1750, this exquisite complex was designed as a series of residences for officials awaiting audience with the omnipotent Empress Dowager Cixi. Rooms and suites are set apart by serene courtyards and paved pathways, areas that have been kept to the meticulous standards set centuries ago. Each room is a haven of traditional Chinese decor, with wooden lattices and furniture that offers a timeless, minimalist beauty.
Further opportunities to sink into fascinating Chinese culture include a daily tea ceremony and regular workshops in the ancient arts. Beneath the historic façade lies a subterranean spa complex that will fulfil every wish for pampering, but the true highlight of the hotel is the access it offers to the Summer Palace itself. Guests can enter through a secret door that allows them to explore the splendid grounds in the peace outside of rush hour.
Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur, India
You may recognise this lake-locked beauty as a James Bond villain’s lair, but it originated as a pleasure palace for Maharana Jagat Singh II of Udaipur. Popular legend has it that Prince Jagat Singh was fond of hosting moonlight picnics for the ladies of his court, but his almighty father did not approve. Jagat Singh’s solution was to construct a lavish island palace of his own, ensuring a splendid backdrop for his uninterrupted midnight frolics.
Today, Taj Lake Palace offers guests an experience that rivals the lifestyles of the 1700s Maharanas. Each room is designed to capture a distinct moment in time, with decor ranging from classic Indian opulence through to a magnificent blend of Rajasthani and Raj-era European grandeur. Lose yourself in the marble terraces, explore the history-ridden nooks on a guided Heritage Walk or enjoy an intimate dinner in a private palace turret.