Thousands of years of history, iconic attractions, hotels that set the standards for service and glamour — these are the hallmarks of classic cities, those destinations that appear perennially on attendees' wish lists.
But a long history is just the first criterion for a destination to become a classic. Cities with true staying power also ensure that they are contemporary and relevant. In London, for example, the 2012 Olympics have been the impetus for citywide enhancements, from new and updated hotels and convention centers to attractions designed to endure well after the last event is over.
In Paris, themes are going to a whole new level with the debut of boutique “concept” hotels such as l'Apostrophe, the first “poem hotel,” dedicated to poetry and all forms of literature, or Lumen, where crystal chandeliers and faceted mirrors reflect the city's “light” theme. And these days, European classics in particular hold an added attraction for meetings, as the U.S. dollar has become significantly stronger against the euro and the British pound, and venues are increasingly willing to negotiate.
The exhibit and convention venue ExCeL London is increasing event space by 50 percent, including the addition of a 5,000-seat auditorium. The center currently has 45 meeting rooms and 700,000 square feet of exhibit space.
Radisson Edwardian Bloomsbury Street Hotel
After a top-to-bottom $36 million transformation, the Marlborough Hotel became the Radisson Edwardian Bloomsbury Street Hotel in January. The 174-room hotel, adjacent to the British Museum, added seven meeting rooms.
The Royal Horseguards
After a $30 million renovation and conversion to a Guoman Hotel, this grand Victorian hotel reopened this year with 280 modern guest rooms. The hotel incorporates the 15 elegant meeting rooms of the historic One Whitehall Place.
The landmark hotel, managed by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, closed in December 2007 for a $150 million restoration, one of the largest ever in England. Reopening this fall, the 268-room hotel will feature art deco and Edwardian touches.
The Convention Centre, Dublin
On track for a 2010 opening, this center on the River Liffey will offer 48,000 square feet of exhibit space and 22 meeting rooms.
The Belfast Waterfront Hall
Seating up to 2,223 in its main auditorium, the hall also offers 14 meeting rooms.
The Doyle Collection
The Jurys Doyle Hotel Group has announced its rebranding as The Doyle Collection, a portfolio of 11 hotels including The Westbury and The Croke Park Hotel, both in Dublin. The relaunch follows a capital investment designed to bring the collection to a five-star standard.
Aberdeen Exhibition & Conference Centre
Set on the North Sea, this modern center offers 75,000 square feet of exhibition space, a 440-seat auditorium, and 20 breakouts.
Scottish Exhibition & Conference Centre, Glasgow
Near 6,000 hotel rooms, the center offers the 3,000-seat Clyde Auditorium and meeting rooms; the Loch Suite's 624-seat auditorium and breakout rooms; and 239,000 square feet of exhibit space.
Edinburgh International Conference Centre
Opened in 1995, the center will soon announce an expansion of its 12,755 square feet of exhibit space.
Hilton Caledonian Hotel
Also in Edinburgh, the 254-room Hilton Caledonian has upgraded guest rooms and will redo public spaces as it works to join the Waldorf=Astoria collection.
Hôtel de Paris
Next to the Monte Carlo Casino, the Belle Epoque 182-unit Hotel de Paris is redecorating its 36 Alice Wing guest rooms and revamping the lobby and the rooftop Le Grill. Special venues include its celebrated wine cellar, the elegant Salle Empire for up to 600 guests, and six other meeting rooms.
The Hôtel Hermitage
The belle époque jewel is adding a conference room for 500 guests, complementing the existing 6,555-square-foot Salle Belle Epoque ballroom and eight other meeting rooms. Many of the hotel's 280 guest rooms are slated for renovation by May 2010.
Monte-Carlo Beach hotel
The classic 1930s hotel has undergone a full redesign, including modernizing all 40 guest rooms. The larger of the beachside resort's two meeting rooms can hold 65 theater-style; several other spaces can be used for special events.
Crowne Plaza Paris République
The 328-room Crowne Plaza Paris République opened in April, following the debut of the Crowne Plaza Paris Champs Elysées last year. With classic Parisian style, the 1865 building features 18 meeting rooms and an inner courtyard.
Shangri-La Hotel, Paris
The brand debuts in Europe in 2010 with the 108-room Shangri-La Hotel Paris. A conversion of the palace of Prince Roland Bonaparte, the hotel retains details such as the grand staircase, frescoes, and historic paintings and statuary.
Starwood's W brand opens in 2011 in an elegant 1870s building in Paris. Plans call for 90 guest rooms.