Hotels with History

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If you like a side of history with your travel, you'll get it at these inns and hotels that all have an intriguing past. Some are as tame as a former convent while others have scandalous previous lives like, say, serving as the den of iniquity for an infamous Colombian drug lord. Renovations have transformed them all into visitor-friendly places with comfortable rooms that may distract from some dubious beginnings. But you can't completely wipe away the fingerprints of criminals or the memories of a Titanic survivor. So go ahead and book a stay at these 10 hotels and be transported back to dreamy Victorian days or dark medieval nights.
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Hotels with History

If you like a side of history with your travel, you'll get it at these inns and hotels that all have an intriguing past. Some are as tame as a former convent while others have scandalous previous lives like, say, serving as the den of iniquity for an infamous Colombian drug lord. Renovations have transformed them all into visitor-friendly places with comfortable rooms that may distract from some dubious beginnings. But you can't completely wipe away the fingerprints of criminals or the memories of a Titanic survivor. So go ahead and book a stay at these 10 hotels and be transported back to dreamy Victorian days or dark medieval nights.

Hotels with History

There are nine narrow suites housed inside these 100-year old railway cars that went out of passenger service in 1929. Black-and-white pics of the old Yountville station cover the walls like a mini-museum dedicated to the time of 20th century railroad barons. The cars sit along actual train tracks, but fear not, the only movement you'll feel is the spinning after one two many glasses of Napa' best vintages. Rooms are narrow, but wide enough to hold a king bed as well as a private sitting area and an ample-sized bathroom. Flat-screen TVs and free Internet access provide the entertainment.

707-944-2000; www.napavalleyrailwayinn.com

Hotels with History

Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, amusingly-named one of Forbes' richest men in the world in 1989, was the owner of two three-story mansions on the coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. Conscious aside, the man had taste, and this was party central for celebrities and gangsters alike who flitted around the massive property with the reckless abandon that the 80s were known for. Escobar died in 1993 and the buildings were abandoned until 1996 when nearby hotelier Melissa Perlman, of the eco-chic Amansala, began transforming it into an eight-room haven for the boho crowd. The super spacious suites with names like King Pin and King Big Daddy give a gentle nod to the past, but are now outfitted in cool, calm colors while the helipad Escobar once used for quick getaways is used for yoga sessions. And as a precautionary measure to rid the mansion of bad mojo, Perlman summoned Tibetan monk Palden Gyatso to bless the site.

www.casamagnatulum.com

Hotels with History

Bostonians used to avoid this Beacon Hill building at all costs. That's because it was the Charles Street Jail, a lockup that held the city's most notorious criminals (Malcolm X was once a "guest"). But now it's the place to be seen since it was converted into the hottest spot for those in the know. Visitors check into one of the 298 former cells that were beautified with rose and taupe instead of dingy grey and have wrought-iron windows that let the light shine in. At night you can drink cocktails with names like Jesse James and Doing Thyme inside the brick walls of Alibi bar or order veal and ricotta sliders and striped bass at the Clink restaurant. But cute names aren't the only reference to the Liberty's beginnings. The jail's rotunda remains intact and is still lined with the catwalks formerly patrolled by officers. Unlike the past, service is top-notch. Ask for a nail file and no one will bat an eye.

617-224-4000; www.libertyhotel.com

Hotels with History

Built in the Conquistador era, this 1651 building was constructed as a sanctuary for the Carmelite Sisters in Old San Juan. The convent had been a holy residence for more then two centuries when the last nun left in 1903. The building was then a dance hall and even a homeless shelter. In 1962 there was a divine intervention that turned this hideaway from the sins of mankind into a hotel where celebs like Rita Hayworth and George Hamilton fancied a stay. Today it is a luxury property with 58 rooms and a recently opened tapas bar offering small bites for those who love to eat but take their vows against gluttony very seriously.

800-468-2779; www.elconvento.com

Hotels with History

Downtown Nashville's Union Station was considered a showpiece of Gothic Revival architecture when it opened in 1900 and drew the likes of Mae West and Al Capone to get a glimpse. The station's 65-foot vaulted lobby ceiling, Italian marble flooring, intricate Tiffany-style stained glass, and limestone fireplace are as impressive today as they were more than 100 years ago. The fifth-floor balcony offers a great view of the ornate lobby and guests can take a self-guided audio tour that details the station's history. And while the hiss of locomotives is long gone, the turn-of-the century elegance continues in the 137 rooms.

615-726-1001; www.unionstationhotelnashville.com

Hotels with History

The 101-room Augustine is a regal pressence near Prague Castle in the city's historic Malá Strana district. The seven 13th century cloistered buildings were once home to monks of the St. Thomas Monastery (several practicing friars still live in a separate part of the complex). You won't find basic, spare quarters, though. Guestrooms feature accessories inspired by early 20th century Czech cubism like timber chairs. The glass-roofed restaurant is surrounded by 19th-century Baroque frescoes, but the place isn't at all puritanical. So don't feel guilty about downing a Pilsner Urquell at the cellar Brewery Bar. Once upon a time, monks fermented beer there for profit, so we're sure they'd give you their blessing today.

888-667-9477; www.theaugustine.com

Hotels with History

Originally built in 1908 as the American Seaman's Friend Society Sailors' Home and Institute, this Georgian-style building was designed with cabin-like rooms, perhaps so the sailors would feel right at home. In 1912, the building was used to shelter Titanic survivors who lived there until the end of the investigation into the ship's sinking. The YMCA bought the hotel in 1944 and in the 80s and 90s it was a doss-house for the down-and-out. Restored in 2008, the revamped hotel is still a refuge, but now for smart travelers who appreciate the $99 and under rates. The 200 rooms duplicate ships quarters-space is sparse and calling the bed a berth wouldn't be an exaggeration. But the perks are big and include flat-screen TVs, free WiFi, and iPod docking stations, making up for the Jane's only drawback-communal bathrooms.

212-924-6700; www.thejanenyc.com

Hotels with History

Sleeping inside an airplane has never been as comfortable as at the Vliegtuigsuite, a modern luxury room inside a Cold War-ear East German government plane at Amsterdam's Teuge Airport. Unlike that seat in coach, there's more than enough space here for two, and it's been rehabbed into a mega-suite with a king-sized bed, sauna, and a media center with three flat-screen TVs, WiFi, and a Blu-Ray player. A hostess is at your beck and call 24-hours a day should you need a midnight snack or cocktail. The bonus: unlike today's flights, if you want to go and hang out in the cockpit, it's all yours. After all, you are the captain of this fantastic voyage.

011-31-30-2210568; www.hotelsuites.nl

Hotels with History

The ornate, 16th century private residence of Pope Julius II is set in the tranquil, olive-and-wine nirvana of Tuscany. From 1503 to 1513, this grandiose pope (the same one who commissioned Michaelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel) transformed his own residence into a decadent villa with paintings by Raphael. The home passed through various family ties and today Marquis Giuseppe Ricci Paracciani and his wife Princess Eleonora Massimo have made their home a country hotel filled with tapestries, canopied beds, and antique furniture. The simple décor is authentic to its medieval Middle Ages past, but the in-house spa offers hydromassage baths and local sea-salt scrubs that are in tune with 21st century pampering sensibilities.

011-39-0577-960300; www.lasuvera.it

Hotels with History

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