When Hotels were Truly Grand

You step into the lobby, and back into time. The marble floors, the stained glass dome ceiling, the brass elevators—even the Model T Ford on display—so much of Lima’s Gran Hotel Bolivar harkens back to a more elegant time.

Opened in 1924, the Gran Hotel Bolivar was built at the request of the Peruvian government as a suitably grand haven for visiting dignitaries. And the dignitaries did visit.

Charles de Gaulle, Richard Nixon and Bobby Kennedy have all stayed here. Ava Gardner is rumored to have had one too many of the hotel bar’s renowned pisco sours, and had to be escorted back to her room by John Wayne. The Rolling Stones fared little better, reportedly have been shown the door for rowdy behavior here.

The Gran Hotel Bolivar was declared a national monument in 1972. It’s located on San Martin Plaza, a short walk from the Plaza d’Armas, and is considered Peru’s first modern hotel—though some elements of the past reputedly live on.

There is considerable speculation that the hotel has some guests who simply refuse to leave—as in, ghosts. The top two floors of the hotel have been closed for renovation for over a decade, prompting some to believe that this “renovation” is really just the hotel not wanting to subject its living guests to specters defending their turf.

Whether you want to explore the paranormal, or simply immerse yourself in an elegance of days gone by, the Gran Hotel Bolivar should be on your must-see list.