Are they hotels – or time machines?
Here we present seven hotels around the world, from the Yorkshire coast to sunny Palm Springs, that transport guests back to unique periods of history through their antique decor, themed entertainment and theatrical displays from staff in period costumes.
In some cases, the buildings the hotels are housed within are rooted in history too – one Victorian-themed hotel has hosted acclaimed writer Lewis Carroll, while another 1920s-style property in Berlin was once the home of a famous silent film star.
Make your next holiday a trip through time and book a night in one of these retro retreats…
THE 1920s – COTTAR’S 1920S CAMP, NAIROBI, KENYA
Cottar’s 1920s Camp in the private Olderkesi Conservancy in Kenya harks back to the ‘bygone era of the twenties’
Furnishings in the Cottar’s 1920s Camp were sourced from antique auctions
This safari camp – designed in the style of the ‘bygone era of the twenties’ – lies in the private Olderkesi Conservancy in Kenya, offering access for day and night game drives to the Masai Mara game reserve.
Among the camp’s cream canvas tents, there’s ‘The Mess’ tent, which holds an Art Nouveau bar, a Victorian-era inspired dining area and a ‘vintage’ lounging area. Objects dotted throughout the tent – snapped up in antique auctions – include first edition Africana books [a rare collection of books], working gramophones and ‘authentic’ explorer equipment such as binoculars and telescopes.
Inside the ‘Honeymoon’ tent, meanwhile, guests will find matching Bauhaus-inspired 1920s walnut wardrobes and a four-poster bed.
Private afternoon teas are served to guests from vintage travelling trunks that contain Victorian silver service tea sets. A night in one of the safari tents is priced from £866 ($1,041) per night, per person sharing. Visit cottars.com/1920s-camp.
TUDOR PERIOD – THORNBURY CASTLE, GLOUCESTERSHIRE
History buffs will be particularly enamoured by the Henry VIII Suite (above) at Thornbury Castle, which is where King Henry VIII stayed with Anne Boleyn in 1535
Immerse yourself in ‘1530s grandeur and 2020s splendour all at once’ with a stay in Thornbury Castle, which was once the country retreat of King Henry VIII.
The king stayed there with Anne Boleyn – his ill-fated second wife – when he was touring his kingdom in 1535, with a plague in nearby Bristol extending the time they spent at the castle.
History aficionados will be particularly enamoured by the Henry VIII Suite, which is where the pair stayed during the sojourn. There’s also a suite named after Catherine of Aragon, the king’s first wife, and Jane Seymour, who was his third.
The hotel promises that guests will ‘experience Tudor opulence at its most intimate’ as they spend a night amongst the ‘historical fineries and contemporary luxuries that lie behind the heavy wooden doors’ of these grand guest rooms.
‘The castle is full of history and I tried to imagine King Henry VIII walking around in the rooms,’ wrote Tripadvisor reviewer ‘Anna-Carin L’. Rooms are priced from £220 per night. Visit www.thornburycastle.co.uk.
THE MEDIEVAL PERIOD – MEDIEVAL HOTEL DETENICE, CZECHIA
As its name suggests, Medieval Hotel Detenice in Czechia is inspired by the Medieval period. In the hotel’s tavern, diners feast on meat that has been roasted on an open fire while performers dance to the Medieval music around them
Cross the threshold of this unique Czech hotel and you’ll be ‘transported from the 21st century back to the Middle Ages’.
The hotel, which lies around an hour’s drive from Prague in the country’s Hradec Kralove Region, opened its doors in 2019. Bedrooms are rustically furnished with furs and heavy wooden four-poster beds, with vaulted ceilings, stone walls and beams.
Staff dress in a Medieval fashion and adopt an olde worlde style of speak, particularly in the hotel’s restaurant – Tavern By Two Witches – where it’s said that ‘each sentence shouted out by the clamorous staff and tones of medieval songs will make you feel as [people] did in yesteryear’.
Here, diners feast on meat that has been roasted on an open fire while performers dance to the Medieval music that’s played by the tavern’s live band.
The brewery next to the hotel brews both light and dark beers, which are served in mugs. ‘Sit down on a wooden bench at a stone table and forget your everyday worries and become part of the Middle Ages,’ says the hotel. After a night of beer and revelry, you can soothe your aching head the following morning with a ‘lavish Medieval breakfast’.
Rooms are priced from £204 per night. Visit www.stredovekyhotel.cz.
BACK TO 18TH-CENTURY FRANCE – LE GRAND CONTROLE AT THE PALACE OF VERSAILLES, FRANCE
Le Grand Controle, a hotel set in the complex of the Palace of Versailles, takes guests back to the time of Louis XIV’s reign
Channel your inner Marie Antoinette with a stay at Le Grand Controle, an opulent hotel in the Palace of Versailles grounds. The building that houses it used to be a functioning part of the palace, built in 1681 by former resident King Louis XIV’s favourite architect, Jules Hardouin-Mansart, and used from Louis XV to Louis XVI’s reign as the equivalent of today’s Ministry of Finance.
In decorating the hotel, architect and interior designer Christophe Tollemer and palace historians faithfully reproduced the lavish interiors of Le Grand Controle as it would have been in 1788, the year of its last inventory. Unique antiques and art were sourced and where possible original items were restored.
When MailOnline Travel Editor Ted Thornhill stayed at the hotel, he got a ‘royal wake-up’ at 7am from a staff member dressed as a Louis XVI courtier who played him ‘soothing harpsichord music’.
Ted notes that the hotel’s Michelin-starred dining experience by chef Alain Ducasse takes guests ‘back to the time of Louis XIV’s reign, with dishes inspired by meals he ate and wonderful theatrics by staff in flowery period outfits’.
As a regal added bonus, those staying at the hotel are treated to a complimentary after-hours VIP tour of the palace and have unlimited access to the magnificent Gardens of Versailles. Rooms are priced from around £1,600 (1,820 euros/$1,775) a night. Visit chateauversailles.fr.
VICTORIAN ERA – LA ROSA, WHITBY, NORTH YORKSHIRE
The Victorian-themed La Rosa hotel in Whitby, Yorkshire, counts Lewis Carroll, the Victorian-era author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, among its former guests
Perched in the picturesque Yorkshire town of Whitby, this time-capsule establishment dates back to the 1850s and has always functioned as either a boarding house or hotel.
It counts Lewis Carroll, the Victorian-era author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, among its former guests. Fans of the author’s work might want to check into the ‘Lewis’ room, which is a reimagining of Carroll’s study. There’s also a ‘Stoker’ room, named after the Dracula author Bram Stoker. Through the room’s window, guests can admire a view of the ruins of Whitby Abbey, the haunting monument that is said to have inspired the author’s work.
Across the board, guests’ rooms are embellished with Victorian maximalist decor, comprised of thrift shop finds and carefully sourced antique Victorian items.
Helen and Rob, who have been custodians of the hotel since 2019, say: ‘You won’t find TVs or telephones in our rooms… La Rosa is a place to unwind and get away from it all. However, we do have a great selection of books and vintage records available in our “Cocktail Library”.’
‘It’s so quirky, elegant and fascinating, and rammed full of Victorian curiosity,’ wrote Tripadvisor user Andy Done-Johnson. Rooms are priced from £105. For more information, visit www.larosa.co.uk.
THE 1950s – ORBIT IN, PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA
The Orbit In, set in Palm Springs, takes guests on a ‘journey back to an era marked by extreme optimism, leisure and style’ – the 1950s. Bedrooms at the hotel have names like ‘Rat Pack’ and ‘Atomic Paradise’
The Orbit In is housed within an original hotel from 1955 and today it still features many of its original interiors, such as its candy-pink tiled bathrooms
This Palm Springs institution describes itself as a ‘1950s retro hotel experience’.
It’s housed within an original hotel from 1955, a building that opened as the ‘Village Manor Apartment Hotel’. Inviting guests to ‘journey back to an era marked by extreme optimism, leisure and style’, today it still features many of its original interiors, such as its candy-pink tiled bathrooms.
The hotel’s website states: ‘Breathtaking mountain views, cruiser bikes and cocktails are all served up at a small boutique hotel where vintage modernism meets the 21st century.’
It adds: ‘You’ll dig the Orbit In’s cool retro vibe with its Boomerang bar, gated hot tub with fire pit and private rear patios.’
Bedrooms have names like ‘Rat Pack’ and ‘Atomic Paradise’ and guests can enjoy a tipple at the orbitini cocktail hour or flip through the hotel’s vintage vinyl collection. Rooms are priced from £202/$242. Visit www.orbitin.com.
WEIMAR ERA GERMANY – HOTEL-PENSION FUNK, BERLIN
Berlin’s Hotel-Pension Funk (pictured) – which was once the home of the Danish silent film star Asta Nielsen – takes guests back in time to Weimar Era Germany
Hotel-Pension Funk retains many of the 19th-century building’s original features
Transport yourself back to Weimar Era Germany with a stay at Hotel-Pension Funk, a hideaway with ‘a classic, 1920s-era ambience with the feel of an elegant private home’.
Tucked on one of the side streets along Berlin’s famous Kurfurstendamm boulevard, the hotel is housed in a late 19th-century tenement house.
The building itself has a glamorous history – it was once the home of the Danish silent film star Asta Nielsen, who appeared in 74 films over the course of her glittering career.
The hotel retains many of the building’s original features, from its decorative ceilings to its detailed Art Nouveau windows. Charmed by the hotel, Tripadvisor user Jonathan R wrote: ‘The Hotel Pension Funk is an amazing hotel: authentic 1920s style and elegance with comfort!’
A double ensuite is priced from £72 (82 euros). Visit www.hotel-pensionfunk.de.
*Prices correct at the time of writing.