If you like to enjoy the finer things in life when you’re on holiday, you’ll know an excellent hotel when you see it. But while the thought of staying in five-star accommodation with outstanding facilities and service is sure to put a smile on your face, there’s a superior group of hotels that’ll take your enthusiasm to a whole new level. Of course, I’m talking about the world-famous Grand Dame Hotels, many of which Prestige Holidays is proud to feature in its portfolio.
If the hustle and bustle of work and everyday responsibilities have got you down, there’s nothing quite like going on a luxury holiday to recharge your batteries. But, instead of booking a stay in any five-star hotel like you always do, why not take the leap from ‘deluxe’ to ‘ultra-deluxe’ this year? You may not think that there’s much of a difference between these two categories, but believe me: a relaxing retreat in a Grand Dame Hotel, the epitome of opulence and sophistication, is sure to convince you otherwise. Let me tell you about these magnificent holiday havens in reference to three of our team’s favourite properties.
The Charm of Croatia – Hotel Esplanade
History and Reputation
What are the common characteristics of a Grand Dame Hotel, you ask? Let’s start with the two most important ones. For one thing, a property of this calibre always has a longstanding history, surviving and thriving through the decades – or, in many cases, even centuries. Secondly, it’s the most famous accommodation in sight; no others in the surrounding area even come close to challenging its outstanding reputation.
Hotel Esplanade, situated in the historic Croatian city of Zagreb, easily ticks both of these boxes: it’s made an exceptional name for itself over the past 92 years. Although it initially put up Orient Express travellers, it has expanded its clientele in past decades, becoming one of the city’s finest landmarks. Along with winning a series of prestigious prizes, such as a World Luxury Hotel Award, it continually attracts some of the biggest and best celebrities, such as U2, the King and Queen of Sweden and David Beckham. Who knows who you’ll meet in the hotel’s hallowed halls?
Even if you’re not a famed superstar, one thing’s for sure: you’ll definitely feel like one during your stay. Like all glamorous Grand Dame Hotels, Zagreb’s finest accommodation will pamper you from head to toe.
Of course, no luxury holiday in Croatia is complete without a fine dining experience. In accordance with its stupendous reputation, the on-side restaurant – Zinfandel – will exceed your highest expectations. Thanks to its prodigious chef and vast selection of Croatian and French specialties, the restaurant has received high kudos in Fodor’s Choice, and is one of our team’s all-time favourites. If its delectable dishes don’t leave you licking your lips and wanting more, nothing will!
A Moroccan Miracle – La Mamounia
History and Reputation
If you’re looking for an exotic holiday, prepare to be wowed by the thought of taking a luxury holiday in Morocco. Situated in Marrakech, a cultural epicentre of The Western Kingdom, La Mamounia officially opened its bejewelled doors to guests in the twentieth century, but its beginnings – and, most notably, its beautiful gardens – date back to the twelfth century. The land that now belongs to this elegant edifice was owned by Prince Al Mamoun in the eighteenth century, but it became the beloved hotel that we know today in 1923, boasting an elegant mix of art deco and Arabic-Andalusian architecture.
In accordance with the extraordinary standards of a Grand Dame Hotel, La Mamounia has won a whopping nine awards, including the World’s Leading Hotel Award in 2015. Naturally, then, it has accommodated a vast array of famous figures, such as Winston Churchill, who – despite being notoriously critical – couldn’t stop raving about his stay!
While the difficulty in selecting spa treatments often indicates that there are not enough to tickle your fancy, you’ll have the opposite problem at La Mamounia. From facials to hot-stone or Argan oil massages, there are so many treatments on offer that you’ll definitely want to book more than one appointment. What’s more, there’s not one, but three mosaic-covered Turkish baths that are guaranteed to calm your senses.
To complete a day of utter tranquillity on the highest possible note, slipping into your best outfit and dining at one of the hotel’s three restaurants is a must. Why not stop by the esteemed Le Marocain, which is sure to give you an authentic – not to mention delicious – introduction to Moroccan gastronomy? Or if you’re in the mood for French or Italian cuisine, you also won’t be disappointed: while the French and Italian restaurants are both top-notch, my team is particularly fond of the latter, as its chef has received two Michelin stars for his modern take on Italian classics.
The Marvel of Malta – Hotel Phoenicia
History and Reputation
Let’s talk about my favourite kind of holiday: an island retreat. If this sounds like your cup of tea, I highly recommend jetting off to Malta for some Mediterranean-style magnificence. In addition to soaking up some much-needed Vitamin D, you’re sure to make some unforgettable memories when you opt for a stay in Malta’s very own Grand Dame Hotel.
Since 1939, this majestic venue has left all potential competitors sprawling in the dust – after all, who could possibly compete with its grandeur and superlative standards of service and comfort? Like all of the very best Grand Dame Hotels, the hotel prides itself on a spectacular view, featuring the Grand Harbour of Valletta.
However, beholding the splendour of Hotel Phoenicia itself is well worth your time, too: thanks to its iconic Maltese architecture, it’s classified as one of the island’s most stunning sights, attracting thousands of tourists each year – even Queen Elizabeth II is said to have danced the night away in the hotel’s ballroom. It should come as no surprise, then, that this holiday haven has been honoured with several prestigious prizes, including the Traveller’s Choice Award on TripAdvisor.
In addition to strolling through its 7.5 acres of luscious gardens, I very much enjoyed swimming in Phoenicia’s outdoor pool during my stay. This pool not only offers panoramic views of the Grand Harbour, but is also heated in the winter, allowing you to take a comfortable dip at any time of year. Alternatively, you can always bring a book and immerse yourself in the balmy bubbles of the on-site hot tub.
If you’re a golfer like me, you’ll love perfecting your putt on the mini-golf course. For a truly idyllic afternoon, follow up a successful session with some afternoon tea, which is served in the art-deco-style lounge. Along with taking part in this daily ritual, I fondly remember my gastronomic experiences in the hotel’s restaurants: the Phoenix Restaurant, which serves a scrumptious breakfast and table d’hôte dinner, was my go-to, thanks to its wide selection of delicious dishes and its scenic sun terrace. For an authentically Mediterranean meal, I recommend The Pegasus, whose Sunday lunch is particularly swanky. And, after an evening of pure indulgence, why not go all out and order one of the Club Bar’s specialty drinks? You won’t regret it – I promise!