World-Record Hotels: The Biggest, Tallest, Oldest, and More
Hotels are for showing off. Owners figure that a good way to attract customers is to impress them by outdoing the competition with the biggest, the tallest, the most abundant, the most luxurious, and, in some cases, the strangest. We took a dive into the Guinness World Records to compile this superlative collection of currently unsurpassed hotel champs in categories ranging from the significant to the super-specific to the simply silly.
Pictured in foreground above: China's Jin Mao Tower, home of the Grand Hyatt Shanghai
Malaysia’s First World Hotel (pictured above) holds the record for largest hotel by number of rooms—it has 7,351 of them, spread across two gargantuan towers in the Genting Highlands resort complex. The place’s brightly colored Lego-block look probably doesn’t fit anybody’s definition of tasteful, but then, why would you expect classy understatement from a behemoth? The resort’s average room size just shy of 171 square feet is far from huge, though, and a far cry from the world’s biggest hotel suite: the Royal Residence at Grand Hills Hotel & Spa in Broumana, Lebanon. This six-story, art- and antiques-stuffed mansion measures a whopping 44,466 square feet, and that’s before you count the gardens and two swimming pools out back (nightly rates for the suite are given “upon request,” which probably means they could set some records of their own). Contrast these Goliaths with the world’s smallest hotel, the Eh’hausl in Amberg, Germany. Just 8 feet wide, the tiny 18th-century lodging squished between two larger buildings has no on-site staff and can only accommodate two guests at a time.
The record for longevity goes to Nisiyama Onsen Keiunkan in Yamanashi Prefecture southwest of Tokyo, Japan. The 35-room inn has been in continuous operation since 705 A.D.—that’s more than 30 years before the birth of Charlemagne. In the hotel’s 1,300-year history, visitors ranging from samurai warriors to modern-day tourists have sought its remote location at the foot of the Akaishi Mountains (the famous Mount Fuji is about 2.5 hours away by car) to sample the principal attraction: a series of hot springs that have fed the hotel’s pools from the beginning. Perhaps most incredibly of all, the inn has been in the same family for 52 generations.
Guinness makes a distinction between the tallest and highest hotels. Tallest is for skyscrapers that serve as hotels from top to bottom; highest is for those that sit at the apex of mixed-use buildings that might also contain residential and office space. The winner in the tall category is the JW Marriott Marquis in Dubai, a city that collects world records like a hipster collects vinyl ones. The luxury property’s twin 77-floor towers reach a height of 1,165.84 feet; fortunately, the elevators zip to the top at a speedy clip of 13 miles per hour. The highest designation, meanwhile, belongs to The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong, which occupies floors 102 to 118 of the city’s 1,588-foot International Commerce Centre building (pictured above). Sure, that’s lofty for a manmade structure, but it’s nothing compared to the elevation of the hotel with the highest altitude, the Hotel Everest View in Nepal. It's situated at a heady 13,000 feet, near the base camp of its namesake peak—a noted world record holder in its own right. The hotel's most attractive amenity is included in the name: Panoramas of the mountain are promised from each of the 12 rooms.
The façade of the Karelia Business Hotel in St. Petersburg, Russia, resembles a gigantic suitcase propped on its side and starting to open. At 168,800 square feet, it is the world’s largest three-dimensional painting and, presumably, the sort of thing that airport baggage handlers see in their nightmares. The interior of the hotel is no-frills, but the exterior adds a touch of architectural whimsy to a city better known for the sort of stately classical symmetry typified by the Winter Palace and the Hermitage Museum.
Many of the food-related world records set at hotels were onetime stunts, such as the cooking of the largest falafel (164.8 pounds, at the Landmark Amman Hotel & Conference Center in Jordan), the synchronization of the most people eating breakfast in bed (418, at the Sheraton Langfang Chaobai River Hotel in China), and the farthest squirting of milk (9 feet, 2 inches, achieved by Ilker Yilmaz from his eye at the Armada Hotel in Istanbul). But there are some culinary champs that hotel guests can still behold in person, including the tallest chocolate fountain (26 feet, 3 inches) at the Jean Philippe Patisserie inside the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, and the most expensive omelet, which can be yours at New York City’s Le Parker Meridien Hotel for the downright obscene price of $1,000. It comes with a pound of lobster and 10 ounces of the most expensive caviar on the market. For something you might actually order, head to Scotland’s Glenesk Hotel, where a collection of 1,031 varieties of whisky (pictured above) is the planet’s largest array of that Scottish specialty.
The Grand Hyatt Shanghai in China is set near the tip-top of the 88-floor Jin Mao Tower. Guests are treated to dazzling views of the city and, in the lobby, a soaring, 30-story circular atrium (pictured above) that seems designed to evoke awe and vertigo at the same time. But the world record the hotel holds is a behind-the-scenes feature: The laundry chute stretches all the way from the 87th floor to the basement of the tower—a total distance of more than 1,080 feet. That’s taller than D.C.’s Washington Monument, the Great Pyramid of Giza, and Shaquille O’Neal combined.
A single night in the Royal Penthouse Suite at the Hotel President Wilson in Geneva, Switzerland can cost up to $83,000 (hotel rates fluctuate; sometimes the ultra-luxe digs can be had for a paltry $65,000). For that astronomical sum, guests get the run of a palatial 18,000-square-foot suite with 12 bedrooms (each with its own bathroom), a Steinway grand piano, a billiards table, a wraparound terrace with picture-perfect views of Lake Geneva and the Swiss Alps, and a fireplace where overnighters can dispose of the cash they evidently have to burn. A butler, private chef, and security team are on hand to keep suitemates safe, fed, and, uh, butled? Among the billionaires, A-listers, and heads of state who have stayed here: Rihanna, Michael Jackson, Bill Gates, and Prince Albert II of Monaco.
Each winter, a million cubic feet of ice and snow from the Torne river in northern Sweden are sculpted into the Icehotel of Jukkasjärvi, a tiny village located about 120 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Though there are similar frozen lodgings in Quebec, Norway, and elsewhere, Sweden’s is the biggest ice structure of any kind, measuring a total of 59,200 square feet. And this isn’t any old igloo, either: Guests can make use of a subzero bar (where even the glasses are made of ice) or a hushed chapel before retiring to themed guest rooms filled with original ice sculptures. We can guarantee that the artwork is ultra-new—that’s one benefit of a hotel that melts every spring.
Talk about sleeping with the fishes. Jules’ Undersea Lodge sits at the bottom of the Emerald Lagoon in Key Largo, Florida. In 1986, the onetime research laboratory was converted to the world’s first completely underwater hotel. To reach it, PADI-certified guests have to scuba dive down about 30 feet and enter through a "moon pool" underneath the structure. Though a little cramped, the submerged hideaway isn’t without comforts, including air conditioning, hot showers, and pizza delivery, courtesy of a wetsuit-wearing room service attendant. The top draw, however, has to be the views of colorful marine life swimming by the aqua-cottage’s large windows.
My son and I had the opportunity to scuba dive earlier today to the Jules Undersea Lodge in Key Largo, formerly the La Chalupa research lab first built in 1972. Our 'mission' was unforgettable and having wifi available (not to mention pizza delivery, not kidding...) 5 fathoms below was something quite unforgettable. I took this picture of my son watching the occasional fish swim by as he was thinking about his dream of becoming a marine scientist someday. With the world's harsh and abusive treatment of our oceans and water, I can only hope that his dreams come true someday to make our world a better place. We can't wait to get back to J.U.L and visit the habitat and research lab again shortly! #julesundersealodge #iankoblick #savethesea #fathom #dream