Delhi: Imperial Hotel

Courtesy Imperial Hotel

The first of the grand colonial hotels known as the Four Maidens of the East (the others are Ragoon’s Strand, Singapore’s Raffles, and Calcutta’s Great Eastern & Oriental), the stunning Imperial sits rather aptly in the historic heart of Lutyens’ Delhi, between Connaught Place and the National Museum. Designed by F. B. Blomfield in 1934 and renovated since 2003, it incorporates Victorian, colonial, and Art Deco elements, but unlike many heritage properties, the 232-room Imperial wears its age well. Its tea lounges and pillared verandas feel elegant, not old; its hallways host one of India’s largest private collections of colonial art as well as fantastic Burmese teak and rosewood furniture; and the atmosphere is that of a relaxed museum. (That ambiance extends to the service, which can be slow. A veteran travel agent suggests confirming all reservations and asking for the bill well before checkout.) The new pool—a Gatsbyesque Deco masterpiece with a stunning mosaic-tiled bottom and a dramatic fountain—is emblematic of the care taken when modern amenities have been added. As with all heritage hotels, it’s best to request a room type. Although a third costlier than the standard Imperial and Heritage rooms, the Deco suites are much larger and offer opulent bathrooms, Bang & Olufsen electronics, and courtyard, terrace, or atrium views. Of the hotel’s four main restaurants (French, Italian, Pan-Asian, and Indian themes), the Spice Route—with its hand-painted Hindu and Buddhist murals and dishes from Kerala, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia—is best. From $475 to $4,650. At Janpath; 91-11/2334-1234;