8 Storied Hotels With Pools Full of Personalities of Their Own

1. Joule Hotel, Dallas, Texas, Dallas

The Joule Hotel resides in the heart of Dallas’ central business district in a 1920s neo-Gothic landmark building that was formerly the Dallas National Bank. Part of the vibrant Dallas Arts District, the hotel is perfectly positioned for guests interested in exploring Dallas’s arts and culture. With a museum-quality art collection and one of a few full Taschen art libraries in the world, guests need not look outside the hotel for their first taste of the Dallas arts scene. The collection includes a seamless combination of contemporary art with the classical elements with works by Sam Moyer,  Richard Phillips, Tony Cragg, Andy Warhol, and Millard Sheets. Most striking is the colossal eyeball sculpture installation by Tony Tasset, which peers into the hotel brasserie from the gardens.

The focal point of the building’s design is an extraordinary eight foot cantilevered rooftop pool with a glass wall designed by Adam D. Tihany. The hotel pool gives swimmers the sensation of floating out beyond the hotel’s edge and provides stunning views of the city below. The expression “hanging out by the pool” takes on a whole new meaning at the Joule.

2. Gora Kadan Hakone, Japan

The only thing better than a hotel with two gorgeous pools is a hotel with two gorgeous pools plus personal open-air baths and mesmerizing views. Once the summer residence of the Imperial family, Gora Kadan is undeniably one of the most famous ryokan, Japanese-style inns, in Japan, providing an experience of traditional Japanese hospitality and luxury. Part of Japan’s travel culture as early as the 8th century, a ryokan-stay typically entails nothing but total relaxation to recenter focus on one’s personal well-being.

Guests don yukata, a casual kimono for lounging, and spend their days soaking in mineral-rich, naturally heated onsen open-air baths. The natural hot springs in Hakone are heated by the sulfur vents and geothermal activity in the Ōwakudani valley as a result of a volcano explosion over three-thousand years ago. Gora Kadan guest have numerous options to immerse themselves in Japanese heritage between an indoor and outdoor pool as well as both communal and private onsen. Another central feature to a ryokan stay is kaiseki, multi-course meals consisting of fresh and seasonal dishes served in the comfort of your own room. While in Hakone, it is imperative to try a kuro-tamago, black eggs boiled in the sulfuric hot springs, said to add seven years to one’s life.

3. The Saxon Hotel, Johannesburg, South Africa

The Saxon Hotel is a luxury retreat steeped in the cultural and political history of South Africa. A sanctuary located within the confines of Johannesburg, it is the perfect place to find peace and tranquility after a long day of immersion in the city’s rich culture. The central point of the hotel is its awe-striking infinity hotel pool but it is also the location where Nobel Peace Prize-winning activist and South African President Nelson Mandela found the necessary tranquility after twenty-seven years in prison in order to finish his memoir, A Long Walk to Freedom (1994), and to promote peace on a local and global scale.

Throughout his later years, Mandela hosted numerous celebrities and world leaders, from Michael Jackson to Queen Elizabeth, and felt that his sanctuary provided ample opportunity for deep, meaningful conversations. The hotel’s sister property, Shambala Private Game Reserve, also houses the Nelson Mandela Centre for Reconciliation, where guests have the opportunity to experience Mandela’s former private residence firsthand. Both locations also feature impressive art collections, which celebrate South Africa’s emerging international artists and cultural heritage.

4. Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

The Aman Sveti Stefan is located on a historic island attached to the Montenegro coastline by a narrow isthmus. The hotel is situated in a restored fortified village dating back to the 15th century, which was the former summer residence of Queen Marija Karađorđević of Yugoslavia. Neighboring walled towns and Unesco World Heritage sites Budva and Kotor provide greater opportunity to step back into the locale’s two-thousand-year history connected to the Greek, Roman and Byzantine Empires. Sveti Stefan features unique cottages with 600-year-old red-tiled roofs are accessible by cobblestone footpaths amid lush pine and cedar forests as well as numerous olive trees.

The undeniable highlight of property, however, are its three swimming pools: an adults-only, dramatically tiled infinity pool tucked into the hillside overlooking the Adriatic sea; a family-friendly hotel pool that stretches from indoor to outdoor; and an indoor, heated, adults-only plunge pool part of the spa. A private infinity pool is also available in the top suite ensconced by ancient castle walls.

5. Molitor Hotel, Paris, France

The Molitor Hotel was a mainstay of the avant-garde arts and fashion scene in Paris and has been the location of numerous galas, fashion, shows, and performances. Designed in 1929 to resemble an ocean liner with art deco elements by Lucien Pollet, the public indoor and outdoor hotel pools at Piscine Molitor quickly became a chic watering hole for Paris artists, designers, and fashionistas. The grand opening included was celebrated with a slew of Olympic swimmers, including gold-medalist Johnny Weissmuller, perhaps best known for his Hollywood career as tree-swinging hero Tarzan. It was also where the first bikini, designed by Louis Réard, was unveiled on July 5, 1946. Although the hotel pools were closed in 1989, the location continued to be frequented by the underground arts and music scene in the city.

In the early 2000s, a group of design firms were commissioned to reconceive the historic site as the Molitor hotel. During the grand re-opening in 2014, stars of the Parisian art scene were invited to create permanent installations for the indoor pool changing rooms, which is now the most extensive collection of art decorating a swimming pool. There are over 40 artists on view throughout the hotel today. The architecture itself continues to draw a melange of fashionable creatives and inspire new work. There is nowhere with more flair in the city of lights.

6. Borgo Pignano, Tuscany, Italy

The first official record of Borgo Pignano is from 1139 just before work began on the hamlet’s Romanesque Parish Church, San Bartolomeo Apostolo but the foundations of the church, villa and outer walls are nearly 2,500 years-old. The property was acquired by the Incontri family in the late 17th Century and was transformed from a simple country homestead into a stately villa by the second Lord Incontri, the Marchese Ludovico. It is the Marchese’s grand estate that was transformed into the Borgo Pignano hotel and farm.

Swim in the very ancient quarry where the limestone for Borgo Pignano’s buildings was sourced. This stunning infinity hotel pool is etched into the quarry, nestled on a hill beneath the villa and offers expansive views of the olive groves, vineyards, the Tuscan countryside. It is the perfect location to enjoy an afternoon with a negroni or local wine from the adjoining MonteRosola winery and snacks produced onsite from the hotel’s organic farm. A separate courtyard swimming pool, built specially for children, is also available.

7. Hacienda Uayamon, Uayamonu, Mexico

Soak in the romance of Mexico’s Belle Epoque at Hacienda Uayamon, an 18th-century Hacienda colonial-style home located near numerous remarkable archaeological sites. The ruins of a room from the original estate have been preserved and then flooded to create this atmospheric pool area. The crumbling, roofless stone walls and pillars give the impression that you are swimming among the overgrown, ancient ruins.

The hotel restaurant is also one of the rare locations that offer authentic Yucatecan Cuisine, which fuses European flair with ingredients indigenous to the Yucatan peninsula.

The hacienda is also within easy driving distance of several significant Unesco World Heritage sites, such as the ancient Mayan ruins of Edzna, Balamkú, and Calakmul, as well as the city of Campeche itself, which was founded in 1540.

8. Oberoi Udavillas, Udaipur, India

Once the palace of the Maharana of Mewar, the opulent experience at the Oberoi Udavillas takes visitors on a trip back in time. Founded in the 16th century and once the capital of the Rajasthan state of Mewar, Udaipur has a vibrant heritage of sumptuous architecture and design. Its rulers—the maharana—are lauded as some of the greatest warrior kings in history for keeping the impinging Mughal empire at bay but they also became master patrons of the arts. Oberoi Udavillas retains much of the original intricate detailing and design that expressed the Maharanas’ status and power.

Nestled amidst the backdrop of the Aravalli mountains and on the shore of Lake Pichola, the breathtaking views from checker-tiled and infinity pools surrounded by verdant gardens at Oberoi Udavillas are enough to make you feel like Indian royalty. The labyrinth of interconnecting sun-kissed, open-air domes and corridors in the old Palace reflect the layout of the city of Udaipur itself, whose seven lakes are linked by canals and offer a unique experience like no other.

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