24-hour room service: The Baron Hotel, Aleppo, Syria

There are not many "golden age of travel" hotels that haven't suffered a makeover at the hands of a big chain, but you can rest assured that the Baron Hotel in Aleppo, northern Syria, remains unchanged.

Originally built in 1909 as a select staging post for grand tourists and pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem, the furnishings belong to a prep school common room circa 1930 and some of the staff have been on site for almost as long.

The 40-room Baron may not be the swankiest place in town, but what it lacks in modern sophistication, it more than makes up for with charisma. Over the years stacks of celebrities have slept here, from President Assad to TE Lawrence, Theodore Roosevelt to Julie Christie.

Location, location, location

The Baron Hotel is at Baron Street, Aleppo (tel: 00 963 21 210 880, fax: 00 963 21 218 164).

Baron Street is Aleppo's premier thoroughfare, and the hotel is just up from the Aleppo Museum and down from the cinemas. This wasn't always the heart of the city, though; 60 years ago it was possible to shoot duck some 100 yards from the hotel.

Time to international airport: The airport is 40 minutes away by taxi from down-town Aleppo. Syrianair operates a regular service from Aleppo to Damascus International Airport (280 miles away) for the amazingly cheap price of £11 one-way. Alternatively, you can return to Damascus on the overnight sleeper train for £6.

Are you lying comfortably?

Just about. The bed is creaky, the room needs paint and the counterpane is a touch frayed. The bathroom is eccentric to say the least, with a light-bulb hanging on a flex and a hot-water tap that gives a salutatory final squirt when you turn it off. But at least there's a hat stand.

Staying in touch: The room has a Bakelite phone of considerable antiquity, and when reception calls it sounds as if you are speaking to the North Pole in a blizzard. You are better off making your phone calls from state-of-the-art card phones on the street. Alternatively, send a fax from reception.

The bottom line

A bargain: £15 per single, £20 per double, breakfast included, all payments in hard currency.

I'm not paying that: Not expensive enough? Aleppo has a couple of new, characterful hotels in the old, walled district. Beit Wakil, set around a courtyard amid marble fountains and lemon trees, offers all the usual suspects - minibar, TV and telephone. Singles (call 00 963 21 217 169 to book) cost £45, doubles £65.

Comments