Illustration by Henry Rivers

Curious about the high-flying habits of the jet set? It often involves a private jet, a butler for becks and calls, a bodyguard for protection, and a nanny to mind the children. It might also require a personal helicopter, like the $1.6-million chopper Angelina Jolie bought for then-fiancé Brad Pitt. And why not? Their chateau in the South of France already had a helipad, so it seemed like a fun surprise.

The well-to-do certainly have their own way of traveling. You can be sure the accommodations are outrageously extravagant, to the tune of $20,000 a night for a suite favored by Beyoncé and Jay-Z. And if one’s between homes — or spouses? Why, moving into a hotel suite is perfectly suitable, especially if it’s at Hotel Bel-Air.

From an English estate fit for Meghan Markle to a Swiss palace once home to Coco Chanel, here’s where the rich and famous like to stay while on vacay.


Photography by Romeo Balancourt

The Brando

Tetiaroa, French Polynesia
Guest List: Barack and Michelle Obama, Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi, Pippa Middleton, Margot Robbie  

This ultra-exclusive resort lies 30 miles north of Tahiti on the private atoll of Tetiaroa. First beloved by Tahitian royalty, it was later discovered by Marlon Brando, who came to the island while filming Mutiny on the Bounty and purchased the property in 1967 to host a slew of celebrity friends. While it’s still owned by Brando’s estate, hotelier Richard Bailey has created a sustainably chic resort that’s a favorite among the affluent. In 2017, for example, Margot Robbie honeymooned while Ellen and Portia vacationed while Obama spent a month writing his book. They were here for the beach-facing villas, the private pools and the utmost privacy, all for just $10,000 a night. (Interestingly enough, they all met in the gym.)


Photography provided by Cliveden House

Cliveden House

Taplow, England
Guest List: Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth II, Sir Winston Churchill, Meghan Markle, Gwyneth Paltrow  

Situated near the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead, this privately owned estate has seen multiple owners throughout its history, including the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Buckingham, and Lord and Lady Astor. Today, it’s a five-star hotel set upon 376 acres of National Trust ground. The standalone three-bedroom Spring Cottage boasts the largest and most secluded accommodations, with rates starting at £2,055 a night. Featuring two open fireplaces, a country kitchen and a private garden overlooking the River Thames, it’s where Queen Victoria took afternoon tea with her good friend the Duchess of Sutherland. Most recently, Cliveden House made headlines when Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Sussex (AKA Meghan Markle) stayed here on the eve of her wedding to Prince Harry.


Photography provided by La Mamounia

La Mamounia

Marrakech, Morocco
Guest List: Princess Caroline of Monaco, Alfred Hitchcock, The Rolling Stones, Yves Saint Laurent, Tom Cruise, Kate Winslet

Last year, La Mamounia was dubbed the best hotel in the world in Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards. But long before that, in 1943 to be exact, Sir Winston Churchill called it “the most lovely spot in the whole world” when inviting President Franklin D. Roosevelt for a visit. The prime minister spent so much time here that today he has a suite named after him, complete with his sculpture and hat. What draws the well-to-do to this posh property? Perhaps it’s the thousands of rose bushes comprising the garden, or maybe it’s the green-tiled pavilion next to the palatial Italian marble pool. Either way, they’re willing to shell out $10,000 a night for a stay here.


Photography provided by Hotel Adlon Kempinski

Hotel Adlon Kempinski

Berlin
Guest List: Sophia Loren, Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Bono, Naomi Campbell, Gisele Bündchen  

Remember back in 2002 when Michael Jackson dangled his son Blanket (Prince Michael II) from a hotel balcony? It all happened at this inn’s €22,000-a-night Presidential Suite. Perfectly placed in Berlin’s city center, this German getaway has hosted an impressive roster of celebs, many of whom opt to stay in the Royal Suite (€26,000 a night) or the aforementioned Presidential Suite. The most privileged guests have their every need met by Dirk Ricardo Dürner. Donning a morning coat by day and tails come evening, the beloved butler is on round-the-clock duty to prepare afternoon tea, mix a martini or even iron the pages of the daily newspaper. Some of the more unusual requests he’s received? Filling in when a Hollywood star’s translator didn’t show up, mapping out the best walking route in a venue ahead of a president’s speech and bringing an Adlon chair to any restaurant in town at which an especially particular guest opted to dine.


Photography provided by the Peninsula

The Peninsula Hong Kong

Hong Kong
Guest List: Clark Gable, Frank Sinatra, Roger Moore, Maud Adams  

Nicknamed the Grand Dame of the Far East, the Peninsula Hong Kong has long held ties to the Bond franchise. The Man with the Golden Gun was shot here in the seventies, and the cast and crew — including then-Bond Roger Moore — were guests during filming. Two-time Bond girl Maud Adams called the Peninsula “the best hotel in Hong Kong,” adding, “We were met by Rolls-Royces, which they’re famous for. Each of our suites had its own private valet. We were really treated royally.” Those famed green cars aren’t just for Bond girls; today a fleet of Phantoms is available to escort guests to and fro. The accommodations of choice? The 4,111-square-foot Peninsula Suite, which comes with a media room, dining room, kitchen and terrace and starts at just $21,500 a night.


Photography provided by the Beau-Rivage Palace

The Beau-Rivage Palace

Lausanne, Switzerland
Guest List: Jimmy Stewart, Ginger Rogers, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Nelson Mandela, Ron Howard  

Overlooking the pinch-me blue waters of Lake Geneva, the Beau-Rivage Palace dates back to 1861 and is still considered the finest stay in Switzerland. The resplendent gardens, indoor-outdoor swimming pool and belle époque interiors feel as if you’re staying at a European spa, and the entire place evokes an if-these-walls-could-talk vibe. Likely because the Beau-Rivage has played host to several historic international meetings, including the signing of the Treaty of Ouchy in 1912 (ending the Italo-Turkish War) and the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. Those pastoral gardens were a place of respite for Coco Chanel, who took up residence in Junior Suite No. 450 in the forties and in Junior Suite No. 460 in the fifties. Today, high-profile guests prefer the Spa Suite, which boasts a private spa area as well as spectacular lake and mountain views from its sixth floor locale, all for a cool 4,500 CHF a night.


Photography provided by Crown Towers Melbourne

Crown Towers

Melbourne, Australia
Guest List: Beyoncé and Jay-Z, Bill Gates, Sir Elton John, George Clooney

A room so opulent, it’s only available upon request. Costing a reported $20,000 a night, the 10,800-square-foot Chairman’s Villa at Crown Towers Melbourne is among the most expensive and most exclusive in Australia. Here, there’s no need to leave or to lift a finger. Included in the grand penthouse are four bedrooms, a two-story living room, a private gym, a massage parlor, a study, a pool table and of course a grand piano — perhaps played by past guest Sir Elton John.


Photography provided by the Dorchester Collection

Hotel Bel-Air

Los Angeles
Guest List: John Wayne, Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, Oprah Winfrey, Julia Roberts  

If there were ever a property known for its exclusivity, it would be Hotel Bel-Air. The property’s 103 guest rooms — including the famed Presidential Suite that starts at $11,000 a night — are so well-hidden among the 12 acres of verdant gardens that three members of the Beatles (Paul, George and Ringo) all stayed here at the same time without realizing that the others were here. 

This celebrity clubhouse has served as not only a refuge for the rich and famous but also a home to many. When Marilyn Monroe lived here, she was so shy that she snuck in and out of the hotel in a dark veil and never came to the desk for her mail. (Fun fact: She also packed her suite’s walk-in closet with 558+ pairs of shoes.) Judy Garland’s favorite room was 118 (now 132), while Doris Day preferred the Chalon Suite. And Tony Curtis, who lived here in the fifties, called the hotel “the best wife” he ever had. “If I could, I would marry Hotel Bel-Air tomorrow,” he said. “She doesn’t ask me where I’ve been all night. She doesn’t mind if I bring a girl home. She makes my bed every day, feeds me regularly, takes my messages faithfully and puts my laundry in little boxes tied up with a ribbon.” 

Read this article as it appears in the magazine.