11 Storied Hotel Spas With Unique Connections to Culture Icons

by Sarah Dinetz
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Going to the spa is always luxurious, but how about going to a spa in a location with some history behind it? Few things are more exciting than staying at a hotel with a connection to pop culture or history. These are hotels that not only have interesting and exciting backgrounds but also have renowned hotel spas to make for a relaxing vacation.

1. Hotel Monteleone – Louisiana, United States

One of the most recognizable hotels in New Orleans, Hotel Monteleone prides itself on luxury. The hotel was built in 1886 and stands out as one of the last remaining family-owned and operated hotels in the Big Easy. Five generations of Monteleones have helped run the hotel, which has been a haven for acclaimed Southern authors for over one hundred years. Notable guests of the hotel include Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and Tennessee Williams. The hotel even has literary suites dedicated to and inspired by the authors who have made Hotel Monteleone their home, including Truman Capote and Eudora Welty.

Hotel Monteleone has also been a filming location for quite a few Hollywood movies, including Glory Road, The Last Time, and, most recently, Girls Trip. The hotel’s Carousel Bar & Lounge, which does, in fact, have a real, fully-functioning carousel, is known as one of the best bars in the world.

When it’s time to relax and be pampered, the cozy hotel spa, Spa Aria, is located in a secluded section of the hotel to offer guests privacy. The spa is highly-acclaimed, with a strong focus on rejuvenation. Hotel spa offerings include full body scrubs, hot stone massages, vitamin-rich masks, and more.

2. Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel – Cape Town, South Africa

When the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel, referred to by locals as “The Nellie”, first opened its doors in 1899, it was the first hotel in South Africa with both hot and cold running water. The Second Boer War broke out that same year, and the hotel became a British military headquarters. Amongst the war correspondents staying at the hotel was a young Winston Churchill. This is just a small portion of the hotel’s historical significance.

The Belmond Mount Nelson became a haven for cruise ship passengers and gained recognition for its exquisite design and architecture, as well as its sprawling gardens. Notable guests of the hotel have the Prince of Wales, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes novels, and John Lennon, who is said to have led meditation while there.

Librisa Spa, the hotel’s acclaimed spa, offers body and spa treatments unique to their facilities. Popular options include the African Goddess Facial, Africology Skin Adoration Wrap, and Indoceane Mindful Ritual. They also use blended local botanicals for a true one-of-a-kind experience.

3. The Spa at Norwich Inn – Connecticut, United States

This quaint and luxurious inn in Norwich, Connecticut has both history and relaxation at its core. It is designed in a Georgian Colonial structure that exudes charm and was frequented by the likes of Frank Sinatra and George Bernard Shaw. During World War II, the basement of the inn was used as a holding place for overflow prisoners from the local police station.

Celebrities and socialites flocked to the inn during its early years, with its proximity to both New York and Boston making it a convenient choice for a getaway. Today, the hotel spa has a myriad of options, including traditional services like facials, nail care, massages, and cosmetics, as well as fitness programs, tarot readings, and angel lessons.

4. Mandarin Oriental Hotel Bangkok – Bangkok, Thailand

This five-star hotel puts elegance at the forefront. From the lobby to the author’s lounge, the atmosphere is simply incomparable, and the history serves to add to the ambiance. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Bangkok is the oldest hotel in Thailand, having been built in 1879. It was first built as a rest house for travelers in what was then known as Siam and has undergone extensive renovations over the course of the last centuries. Cultural icons such as Princess Diana and Audrey Hepburn have stayed at the hotel, and Michael Jackson called the hotel home for the summer of 1993.

With ten bars and restaurants, all uniquely themed and carefully decorated, this hotel is arguably the most known and beloved hotel in the country. The Bamboo Bar has a décor that is timeless and inviting, while The Verandah has views that one can only dream of or see in the movies.

The Oriental Spa, a small boat ride away from the hotel, is centered on serenity and combines modern spa luxuries with ancient techniques. In addition to offering ten treatment rooms, there are also five specialty suites, most of which include their own private vitality pools. Visitors can indulge in Oriental Harmony therapy, treat themselves to Thai herbal compress, or engage in Muay Thai Boxing. Tranquility is key at this storied hotel spa.

5. Grand Hotel – Michigan, United States

The Grand Hotel on Mackinack Island is a world-renowned hotel with some incredible history. The property began as a summer retreat for vacationers in 1887. Back in those days, rooms ranged from three to five dollars a night. Over the next decade, the hotel became a meeting places for the entire island, and a lecture from Mark Twain put the hotel on the map.

The hotel has maintained the charm that initially drew guests from around the world and continues to have afternoon tea, formal dinners, and nightly orchestra concerts. Over the past century, five United States presidents have visited the property, including John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton. In 1980, Somewhere in Time, starring Christopher Reeve, Christopher Plummer, and Jane Seymour, was filmed at the hotel.

Other notable guests of the hotel have included James Earl Jones, Madonna, Robert De Niro, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Arnold Palmer, Joe Biden. The Grand Hotel also has several suites named after First Ladies who have visited the property, including the Jacqueline Kennedy suite and Lady Bird Johnson suite.

In between horse and carriage tours, playing golf, and exploring the island, guests can relax at the Grand Hotel’s in-house salon, Astor’s Salon & Spa, a full-service Aveda salon. The hotel spa has a wide menu that covers everything from haircuts to hot stone massages. Their favorite body treatment, aptly named “Our Favorite”, involves head to toe exfoliation, wrapping, and smoothing, as well as a scalp and foot massage. History and rejuvenated skin—what’s not to love?

6. Casali di Casole – Siena, Italy

This stunning estate sprawls for over four thousand acres and takes guests right into the heart of Tuscany. The central castle was first built in the 10th century, making it one-thousand years old, and later developed as an estate in the 1800s. During the 1900s, Luchino Visconti, an acclaimed Italian film director, owned the property and used it to entertain top European and Hollywood actors.

The traditional style of Casali di Casole, including reclaimed wood beams and terracotta, adds to the ambiance. The estate is representative of simple life in Tuscany, offering hikes, art classes, and cooking classes and offers private rooms and villas as options for guests.

The property’s hotel spa, Essere Spa, is known as much for its dramatic architecture as it is for its soothing spa treatments. Their offerings are centered on local ingredients, including olive oil, rosemary, and grapes, and they rely on leading European wellness experts to provide top-notch treatment. The spa creates their own organic beauty products and offers a private garden for relaxation.

7. Hermitage Hotel – Tennessee, United States

This classic Nashville hotel, named after President Andrew Jackson’s nearby estate, combines history, pop culture, and relaxation. Built from 1908 to 1910, the hotel was designed in Beaux-Arts style, combining both French Renaissance and classic Italian components. It was the first million-dollar hotel in Nashville and made a name for itself as a meeting place for the rich and famous.

The hotel serviced as a headquarters during the woman’s suffrage movement in the 1920s, and the Country Music Association was formed in a meeting room at The Hermitage Hotel. Over the years, United States presidents Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, John F. Kennedy, and Jimmy Carter, among others, visited the property. Country music royalty, including Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, and Hank Williams, have frequented the hotel, as well.

The rich architecture and history of the hotel are carried into their Nashville Spa. The hotel spa offers stone therapy, full body scrubs, body wraps, and more. They focus on aromatherapy and provide unique massages based on each guest’s problem areas. Everything from the grand lobby to the colorful bathrooms is simply stunning in this historic hotel.

8. Dromoland Castle – Clare, Ireland

One of the most notable castles in Ireland, Dromoland Castle dates back to the sixteenth century. It has been the home of many royal families, sitting on a 450-acre estate, and was converted into a luxury hotel in 1962. The integrity of the castle has largely remained, with a recognizable Gothic Revival style.

Christmas at the Castle and afternoon tea are two of the many options that keep guests flocking to the Dromoland Castle. The hotel keeps Irish charm at the forefront, offering horseback riding, clay shooting, and golf, as well. Notable guests of the hotel have included Nelson Mandela, Muhammad Ali, John Travolta, and President George W. Bush

For a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience, guests can visit the castle’s luxurious hotel spa. The spa contains several treatment rooms, as well as a covered outdoor jacuzzi. Dozens of unique treatments, including an eye treatment, Indian head massage, and post-facial makeup application, leave no stone unturned. Other offerings include fitness retreats and well-being escapes.

9. La Residence Hue – Hue, Vietnam

Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its rich history, La Residence Hue is one of the most acclaimed and recognizable hotels in all of Vietnam. The hotel was first opened in 1930 as a mansion for the Resident Minister of France. Designed in an art-deco style, La Residence Hue overlooks the Perfume River and was converted into a luxury hotel in 2005.

With its eclectically-decorated treatment rooms and focus on rejuvenation, Le Spa, the on-site hotel spa, has received equally impressive accolades. Favorite offerings include Vietnamese Brandy Ginger Bath, Vietnamese Imperial Cupping, and Foot Acupressure. Guests can finish off their visit in the herbal steam room or miniature jacuzzi.

10. Mission Inn Hotel & Spa – California, United States

The Mission Inn offers a rare combination of vintage architecture, rich history, and top-notch European spa treatments. Built-in Spanish-style architecture, the hotel has maintained its charm and luxurious feel over the years since it was first built in 1876. Starting off as a boarding house, it became a fully-functioning hotel in the early 1900s. It is also home to the oldest known bell in the Christian world, estimated at over seven hundred years old.

Both Idiot’s Delight, starring Clark Gable and Norma Shearer, and Man in the Iron Mask, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, were filmed at the hotel. Several of the many notable guests who have made their stay at Mission Inn include Amelia Earhart, Albert Einstein, Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland, and Tom Hanks.

Kelly’s Spa at the Mission Inn is a getaway in itself. Having been awarded numerous accolades, the hotel spa focuses on Old Word-style treatments, which fits perfectly into their Tuscan theme. Offerings range from traditional manicures, pedicures, and waxing, to custom Shiatsu massages, a Hollywood Glow Oxygen Treatment, and a Hydrating Marine Wrap.

11. Le Meurice – Paris, France

Le Meurice, given the distinction of “palace” by the French government, began as a coach inn in the 1700s. Located in the heart of Paris, the hotel became the headquarters of the military governor of Paris during World War II before being converted back into a hotel. Famous visitors have included Elizabeth Taylor, Charles Dickens, and Liza Minnelli, as well as numerous royal families from across the world.

Over the years, notable artists such as Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali have called La Meurice home, and Pablo Picasso even wedded Olga Khokhlova in the extravagant ballroom. The hotel has kept its 18th-century charm and, with crystal chandeliers and intricate décor adorning each room, considers each room to be a piece of art.

Spa Valmont pour Le Meurice centers on scientifically-proven products and uncovering radiance. In addition to dozens of regularly-offered treatments, ranging from a bust-firming treatment to a signature men’s facial, the hotel spa offers a Treatment of the Month each month, with October’s being the Massage with Aromatic Thai Herb Bags. Complete with a fitness center, personal training, and a private terrace, this spa is the cherry on top of a luxurious cake.

These are just some of the many storied spa hotels that offer a combination of rich culture and relaxation. Live the life of luxury while having the means to learn about decades and centuries of history right at your fingertips.

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