10 Revamped Historic Hotels Reopening in 2019

This year will see another bumper crop of sleek and trendy new properties popping up across the globe in major gateway cities and burgeoning urban destinations, as hotel chains clamor for new product and developers push the envelope on design. However, 2019 also will see a number of historic hotels reborn with all their former -- and some new -- glory, thanks to a series of multimillion-dollar revamps. Here are 10 that are poised to welcome guests again.

• The 103-room Raffles Singapore, above, is a true landmark in this Asian island nation. Now managed by Paris-based AccorHotels, this 131-year-old dowager is where the Singapore Sling cocktail was invented by bartender Ngiam Tong Boom in 1915. The hotel has been closed since December 2017 for a major down-to-the-bones overhaul. When it reopens in August, the revitalized Raffles will feature all the bells and whistles of modern hospitality, from a lobby transformed into a social hub to new soundproof windows, improved lighting and multiple electrical outlets in guest rooms. Also look for new restaurant concepts by celebrity French chefs Alain Ducasse and Anne-Sophie Pic.


• Built in 1897, the 257-room Britannia Hotel in Norway's central city of Trondheim will reopen in April 2019 as a new member of Leading Hotels of the World, following a three-year, top-down, US$150 million renovation. This iconic property, which has played host to politicians, members of Britain's royal family and stars of the silver screen, will feature six restaurants and lounges, including a wine bar with a cellar housing several thousand bottles handpicked by Norway's three-time wine-sommelier champion, Henrik Dahl Jahnsen. Rounding out the amenities are a full-service spa, a gym, an indoor pool and meeting facilities for up to 300 attendees.

• In June 2018, the 181-room Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London, reopened following the most extensive renovation in the 115-year old hotel's history. Just one week later, a fire tore through the property, shuttering it again. This grande dame, however, is determined to rise again. This past December, the hotel's flagship restaurant, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, along with three bars, the spa and almost 8,000 square feet of meeting space, reopened; all the guest rooms will come back online this spring.

• When Tokyo's vintage 1960s Hotel Okura was partially demolished in 2015, an outcry of disappointment rippled through architecture and design circles. That hit a chord with the building's new investors and developers, who took to the drawing board to recreate some of the property's post-modern signature rooms, but with a more edgy flair. Scheduled to reopen in September, in time to make a splash before the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, the 508-room Okura Tokyo will be earthquake-proof and sport 100 more guest rooms than its previous incarnation. Japanese architect Yoshio Taniguchi -- whose father, Yoshiro Taniguchi, helped design the original hotel -- is leading the interior design, which will include vintage décor that helped make the Okura a vivid setting in the 1964 James Bond novel, You Only Live Twice, by Ian Fleming (and where scenes were shot for the 1967 movie starring Sean Connery).

• Not far from the Champs-Élysées in the middle of Paris' storied Golden Triangle neighborhood, the 50-room Grand Powers, a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, reopened on Jan. 4 following a more than yearlong renovation to celebrate its 100th anniversary. This elegant boutique property's original moldings and marble fireplaces have been carefully interwoven with new design elements to create a striking contrast under high ceilings. Some guest rooms include balconies with views of the Eiffel Tower, and offerings include a full-service spa, and Café 52, a lounge-style bar and restaurant.
• On the campus of Yale University in New Haven, Conn., the former Hotel Duncan has spent the last few decades as a residence, but all that is about to change. The venerable property, built in 1894, was sold in September 2018 for a mere $8 million to Chicago-based AJ Capital Partners and is now undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation before reopening later this year as the Graduate New Haven, adding to Graduate Hotels' growing campus-based portfolio. The five-story property will have 72 guest rooms, a redesigned lobby with a coffee shop, a subterranean restaurant and, among the historic holdovers, the original manually operated elevator, said to be the oldest in the state.

• In Spain, the 167-room Hotel Ritz Madrid, which first opened its doors in 1910, closed them on Feb. 28, 2018, for a US$121 million restoration project. Directly opposite the Museo del Prado and managed by Mandarin Oriental, the property will reopen at the end of this year. Spanish architect Rafael de La-Hoz and his restoration team will work on maintaining the Belle Époque style of the original building, while the French firm Gilles & Boissier will oversee the redesign of the interiors, including the Royal Suite, which will offer views of the museum. New additions include a fitness center with an indoor pool, and a bar that Mandarin hopes will become a major community draw. In a nod to the building's original design, plans include restoring the glass roof over the lounge and returning the main full-service restaurant to its original location with direct access to the hotel's terrace, which for decades was one of the city's most sought-after outdoor dining spaces.


• Built in 1867 as a palace, the former Grand Hotel du Boulevard in the heart of Bucharest, Romania, sat empty for a decade until Malta-based Corinthia Hotels swept in with plans to restore the place to its former opulent glory. Upon reopening on Dec. 1, the 50-room Corinthia Bucharest will once again delight guests with its luxe rooms and suites, a sumptuous lobby of marble columns, ornately carved walls and a glass skylight, along with a grand ballroom and multiple dining options.
• Details are still slim on New York City's famed Chelsea Hotel on West 23rd Street, which is in the middle of a comprehensive overhaul and remains covered in scaffolding after being bought for $250 million in 2016. Management, amenities, even the new room count (somewhere around 125) have yet to be announced, but this 1880s landmark, known for the many artists, musicians and writers who lived or hung out there, is poised for a major comeback since closing in 2011. In April 2018, 50 of its original guest-room doors went up for auction and were snatched up in mere hours for hefty prices. When the wraps come off later this year, there is no doubt avid travelers will be flocking through its halls as the likes of Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Arthur Miller, Jimi Hendrix and Leonard Cohen once did.

• In the heart of Los Angeles' Century City, the 19-story Century Plaza Hotel has been undergoing a nearly three-year renovation, leading to the property's reopening later this year as the 400-room Fairmont Century Plaza. Part of a $2.5 billion mixed-used development project that includes 63 branded residences within the original iconic building, along with two new 46-story luxury residential towers and multiple retail outlets, the revamped 1966 landmark will feature more than 23,000 square feet of meeting space, featuring a 13,000-square-foot ballroom that can seat 1,500. In addition, a new arrival area will be dedicated exclusively to events and include a 120-foot LED digital media wall displaying everything from event information to breathtaking videos. Other amenities will include a 14,000-square-foot spa, a rooftop swimming pool, a 24-hour fitness center and several dining outlets, including a rooftop bar, a gourmet café and an American brasserie.