Often relegated to the periphery, a hotel pianist is responsible for setting the all-important mood of a hotel. Combined with elegant design and an enticing cocktail menu, those tinkling ivories put the icing on the cake of a perfect hotel bar. On your next trip, don’t miss out on these classic piano lounges around the world.
Four Seasons Gresham Palace in Budapest
On the banks of the Danube, the sounds of Hungarian composers like Franz Liszt, Zoltán Kodály and operetta maestro Imre Kálmán ring out through the Four Seasons Gresham Palace’s brilliant, glass-cupola-topped lobby. The piano is stationed right at the entrance to the lobby bar, so whether you’re digging into flodni tart (there’s daily afternoon tea from 3-6 pm), or returning from a night at the opera, the opportunities to enjoy a mini-concert are many.
The Oberoi, Gurgaon in India
Frozen cocktails and specialty martinis—shaken tableside—are some of the main attractions of Piano Bar, a classy hotel lounge inside the Oberoi Gurgaon, an hour from New Delhi. Another big draw is, of course, the live jazz and mellow blues, played six nights a week (Mon-Sat) on a royal blue, podium-raised piano framed by an elaborate gold leaf wall.
The Jefferson in Washington D.C.
In-house pianist Peter Robinson, who shows up at D.C.’s the Quill Tuesday through Sunday starting at around 9 p.m., provides the perfect set of American standards (think Billy Joel) to complement the sexy, den-like space. Bathed in warm lighting (the bar itself is made of glass and lit from the inside), and decorated with 18th-century maps, the intimate lounge is perfect for a late-night cocktail, or two...or five.
Le Bristol in Paris
This winter, one of Paris’s most exclusive addresses (and T+L’s World’s Best Award winner) will become a haven for classical music lovers. Pianist Emmanuelle Jaspart has curated a new seasonal concert series, featuring one performance each month through June. Hosted in the stunning wood paneled salon, the series will feature top pianists like Olivier Charlier and Antoine Palloc (Valentine’s Day tip: on February 15, Palloc will collaborate with soprano Nathalie Manfrino to present “Great Women in Love at the Opera”).
St. Anthony Hotel in San Antonio, Texas
Custom-built in 1924 for the Russian Embassy, the rosewood Steinway grand piano that sits magnificently inside the St. Anthony’s Peacock Alley is nearly as historic as the hotel itself. It was originally installed by owner Ralph Morrison in 1935 (where it was used in weekday chamber quartet performances), then shipped off in the mid-‘90s to California for private use. The current owners serendipitously rediscovered it during an auction in 2013, and—to the delight of guests today—brought it back to its rightful home, where it’s used for live jazz on a near-nightly basis.
Ashford Castle in County Mayo, Ireland
No royal residence would be complete without a little live entertainment, and this restored Irish castle—parts of which date back to the 13th century—is no exception. Head to the Drawing Room, where pianist Brendan O’Byrne has been installed for the last 30 years, and where you’ll be introduced to Irish classics like ‘The Wild Rover’ and ‘Danny Boy.’
Cameron Highland Resort in Pahang, Malaysia
Elegant wicker armchairs and lush tropical views set the tone at the Jim Thompson Tearoom, where a resident pianist nicknamed Uncle Steve—immediately recognizable in his white dinner jacket—has serenaded guests since 2006. Show up for classic English Afternoon Tea, featuring oven-fresh scones and specialty teas from nearby plantations.
Belmond Grand Hotel Europe in Saint Petersburg
It’s not every day you get to sample authentic Russian beluga caviar, washed down with a house cocktail by Russia’s only full-time vodka sommelier, while listening to works by famous Russian composers like Rachmaninoff and Rimsky-Korsakov (think Flight of the Bumblebee) in a marble-fitted hall that makes other hotel bars look like storage units, now is it?
The Carlyle, a Rosewood Hotel in New York City
Of course, no list would be complete without mentioning New York’s classic, leather-upholstered Bemelmans Bar, named after Madeleine creator Ludwig Bemelmans, who also painted the whimsical murals that encircle the room. A full schedule of performances can be found here, though the bar’s iconic status has resulted in impromptu appearances by everyone from Mariah Carey to Bono.
Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles
The cozy, fire-lit lounge at Hotel Bel-Air is supremely elegant with its life-size black-and-white Norman Seeff photographs, and offers a varied lineup of performers—all anchored by a slick Yamaha baby grand—almost every night of the week.
The Park Hyatt in Tokyo
Directly behind the pianists who serenade Park Hyatt Tokyo’s 52nd-floor New York Bar each night is a backdrop unlike any hotel bar in the world. Soaring windows give way to the twinkling Tokyo skyline, making this elevated jazz bar (which boasts both Japanese and Scotch whiskeys, as well as Japan’s largest selection of Californian wines) an easy choice for travelers staying in the Shinjuku area.