Six of the best: Literary hotels


Royals and Bolsheviks, socialists and socialites have rotated through the Art Nouveau portals of the Grand Hotel Europe since 1875. Writers too, including Turgenev, Gorky, H.G Wells and George Bernard Shaw.  Dostoyevsky was a regular and is honoured with a named, corner suite. (Like one of his characters, it seems the author of Crime and Punishment preferred a corner position from where to better observe the world — or whoever might be following?) This truly grand establishment, with 266 rooms and, naturally, a caviar bar, sits on famed Nevsky Prospect. Take a short stroll on it to  Literaturnoe Café where the poet Alexander Pushkin supped his last in 1837 before setting out for a fateful pistol duel.

From $394 a night. See


Somewhere there is a photo, circa 1889, of Rudyard Kipling writing in the sea-front grounds of the Eastern & Oriental, one of the Sarkies Brothers' grand Far Eastern retreats. Today the Writers Suite doffs its pith helmet to the E&O's former author guests, Kipling, Hermann Hesse (who stayed here in 1911 while researching his novel Siddhartha) and those recurrent colonial eavesdroppers, W. Somerset Maugham and Noel Coward. (A post-colonial wag might propose a Harry Flashman Suite, into which room maids surely would tremble to enter). During a period of post-war decline jokers sometimes reckoned that E&O stood for "Expensive and 'Orrible". No one has said anything like that since a brilliant restoration in 2001 and continuing enhancements.

From $392 a night. See


Above the entrance to L'Hotel, the smallest five-star hotel in Paris, are two discrete yet telling plaques. One records that Argentine immortal, Jorge Luis Borges was a frequent guest between 1977 and 1984, and the other that Oscar Wilde died here. The great Irish playwright and wit is honoured with a named suite (— which is not the small room where he expired miserably in November 1900. Nor is the Wilde Suite's lavish wallpaper the one that prompted his oft-quote quip, "Either it goes or I do." The 20-room hotel's register notes more celebs than writers (Jim Morrison ticked both boxes) but walk its Left Bank neighbourhood and you trip over author name-drops everywhere from Rue Guillaume Apollinaire to Place Sartre-Beauvoir and Café Les Deux Magots.

From $442 a night. See


Bangkok's first hotel, and still its most famous, "the Oriental" dined out for a century on a killer literary guest list starring names like Conrad, Naipaul, Mailer, Theroux and Jung Chang, not to mention the more demotic quills of Cartland, Archer and Forsythe. Its River Wing, with fine views of the Chao Phraya, has Author Suites named for guests Gore Vidal, John le Carré and Graham Greene. The Authors Wing in the original 1876 building previously offered sumptuous suites honouring Conrad, Maugham, Coward and Michener. A recent grand renovation edited these doughty scribes and their suites to archival footnotes although their fading fames echo on in four, named salons in the Oriental's revamped Authors Lounge.

From $669 a night, see


Kerouac wrote On the Road here, Arthur C. Clark penned 2001: A Space Odyssey and Dee Dee Ramone hammered out a punk novel, Chelsea Horror Hotel. If the walls of this rambling building on 23rd Street could write they would score a Nobel gong or three, if not multiple Grammys. An entrance plaque commemorates Dylan Thomas, "who lived and laboured here last ... and from here sailed out to die." A decade late, Dylan the younger was "staying up for days in the Chelsea Hotel, writing 'Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands' for you." The Chelsea's list of writerly guests alone is staggering: Twain, Burroughs, Miller, Vidal, Ginsberg, Behan, de Beauvoir, Sartre, Cohen and Bukowski, to mention but a few. Equally formidable is the muster of painters and musicians.


Currently closed for renovations. See


Starting with Joseph Conrad in 1887, a sojourn at the Raffles was de rigueur during colonial times for writers travelling in "the Far East." The usual brilliant suspects left a trail of quips and bar chits through the Tiffin Room and Raffles eponymous Writers Bar. Among them were the inevitable N. Coward and W. Somerset Maugham, who have suites named after them. (Maugham endorsed the hotel in an advertisement, declaring lushly that Raffles "stands for all the fables of the exotic East".) Name-checked too with memorial suites are luminary guests Conrad, Neruda, Kipling, Michener, Malraux … and John Wayne. The legendary hotel celebrates its 130th anniversary this year and has commenced extensive renovations.

From $824 a night. See

John Borthwick stayed courtesy of L'Hotel, Eastern & Oriental, Mandarin Oriental Bangkok and Grand Hotel Europe.