Mark Twain stayed here. So did Haile Selassie, Princess Helena of Greece, and Theodore Roosevelt. Even Josephine Baker and Mick Jagger spent the night. But not one of these luminaries would recognize Vienna's century-old Ambassador Hotel as it stands now, after an extensive seven-month renovation. In place of the worn Persian carpets, dark oiled canvases in gilded frames, and potted palms, today's guests will find acres of marble and steel, bright contemporary paintings, and artfully mounded lemons in glass beakers.
What saves the Ambassador from looking like just another overly slick, 21st-century boutique hotel is that the owners have chosen to embrace the venue's venerable past. Over 1,400 hours of handiwork went into refurbishing many of the 19th-century details. Hundreds of Lobmeyer crystal chandeliers were repaired and cleaned, the pale parquet floors refinished. The guestrooms are graced with carefully restored (or, occasionally, reproduced) antique inlaid furniture. This makes the Ambassador a rare find indeed: a successful, even beautiful melding of classic Viennese style and modern, business-traveler-savvy services. While Mark Twain might not have known what to make of the Web TV or fax machine in his room, he would have felt perfectly at home penning a story at one of the restored Biedermeier desks. $3,300-$5,270. Neuer Markt 5, A-1010 Vienna, Austria; 43-1-961-610; www.ambassador.at.