World’s Greatest Hotels: The Imperial


Our series on iconic hotels around the world continues with New Delhi’s historic Imperial Hotel.

Imagined in 1934 by Reginald Blomfield, an Edwin Lutyens associate, and inaugurated by Lord Willingdon in 1936, The Imperial Hotel New Delhi in India was built and run by SBS Ranjit Singh. Lutyens designed the New Delhi road scheme, the Viceroy’s House and the magnificent Connaught Place, all of which are echoed in the hotel.

The Imperial was created to celebrate the very best of British and Indian tradition during the Raj period. The 24 palm trees that lead to The Imperial’s porch, planted by Lady Willingdon herself, witnessed the creation of New Delhi.

To stay at The Imperial, with its historical connection and museum-class collection of art and furniture pieces, is to stay in Delhi’s most iconic hotel. Pandit Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Lord Mountbatten would meet here to discuss the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan.

Seven acres of lawns and greenery surround the hotel, and the blossom-scented air inside is a refuge from the hubbub of the city. And after the major renovation in the 2000s, the space is more luxurious today than it has ever been.

New additions

A recent and welcome addition is the Eliza corridor of rooms, intended for solo women travellers who appreciate being made to feel special and looked-after in a women’s-only area of the hotel.

The Royal Ballroom, which today can accommodate up to 400 guests, was opened in 1936 and continues to host high-society events. It may well be the only authentically sprung-floor ballroom remaining in India.

Lobby Corridor- at the Imperial Hotel
Lobby Corridor at the Imperial Hotel in New Delhi

When not rubbing shoulders with royalty such as the King of Morocco or the royal family of the Netherlands, you might spy Kate Winslet, Brad Pitt or James Cameron, who are regular guests.

New Delhi’s shopping areas are within each reach, as is the walled Old Delhi and its character-filled cobbled streets and markets. If you’re in India on business, One Imperial Place – the first stand-alone business centre linked to a five-star luxury hotel – has meeting rooms and support services available.

The Spice Route

The Spice Route, which is The Imperial’s acclaimed south-east Asian restaurant, is almost as recognisable as the hotel’s white facade. With dramatic, textured interiors and richly painted wall panels, the Spice Route ensures that a visit to this hotel not only takes you back to the high elegance of the Raj but also transports you into a sacred temple in Yangon or a Thai palace for a service and cuisine experience you will never forget.

The Spice Route restaurant at the Imperial Hotel in New Delhi
The Spice Route restaurant at the Imperial Hotel in New Delhi

And if the designs of New Delhi seem wonderfully familiar, it is because Sir Herbert Baker, who designed the Union Buildings in Pretoria, Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town and many other South African landmarks, worked with Lutyens on the Viceroy’s House and others.


  • The Imperial’s building structure forms a # shape – you can see it in aerial shots and on Google Maps.
  • The Imperial Spa, designed exclusively for the use of the hotel guests, covers 16 000 square feet, making it the largest spa in the capital.
  • The artisans involved in painting the murals at The Spice Route restaurant were especially commissioned from Guruvayur Sri Krishna Temple of Kerala.
  • “The Universe” – Sir Edwin Lutyens’s 800-segment marble masterpiece in the hotel foyer – was inspired by a design similar to that of the BP logo.
  • The four-poster bed in the Royal Imperial Suite was crafted especially for the suite. It is 100 years old.

Words Brian Berkman



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