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The myth of 7-star hotels: the truth about hotel star ratings

Do 7-star hotels actually exist? We find out.

Officially, 7-star hotels don’t exist.

Yet, the hotels included in this article are supposedly 7-star hotels; most have been “assigned” these stars by journalists because of the extremely high degree of luxury they offer; above-and-beyond the ‘standard’ five-star classification.

Others have even been included in the seven-star elite by official classification associations, and others simply have the seven stars in their name.

If you think you’ve seen it all when it comes to luxury hotels, then you need to check these.

A '7 star star hotel' in Abu Dhabi

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The United Arab Emirates are so wealthy that they have managed to produce a second 7-star hotel. The Emirates Palace Hotel Abu Dhabi is an unparalleled luxury palace, both inside and out, and even better rated by its guests than the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah. Its features include a private beach, a marina and guestrooms which, with their exclusive Arabic furniture, create an atmosphere like in The Arabian Nights.

However, the hotel’s website merely advertises that the hotel offers more than five-star luxury. No official mention is made of seven stars here either.

Hotel Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi

Top rated
Abu Dhabi, 13 km to Abu Dhabi International Exhibition Centre
9.5 Excellent (8755 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.4 / 10
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A 7-star hotel in Dubai

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The Burj Al Arab Jumeirah in Dubai, with its striking silhouette in the shape of a sail, is probably one of the most famous hotels in the world and a landmark of the city. It is a symbol for extraordinary luxury and therefore also as expensive as you’d expect. One night in a double room costs well over 1,000 euros. A “small” suite is already 170 m² here – much bigger than most people’s entire apartment. You can even book a Rolls Royce with a driver if you wish.

The hotel would clearly deserve seven stars and has often received this categorisation in the press or in subjective review ratings on rating platforms. Bu the term “7-star hotel” is nowhere to be found on the official website.

Burj Al Arab Jumeirah

Top rated
Dubai, 4.9 km to Al Barsha Dubai
9.6 Excellent (7022 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.5 / 10
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A 7-star hotel in Milan

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After its opening in 2007, the TownHouse Galleria Hotel in Milan was given the title of the world’s first 7-star hotel. It received the corresponding certificate from SGS Italy (Société Générale de Surveillance) – a Swiss-based testing group that offers inspections, tests, certification services and verifications.

So it was the only official 7-star hotel in the world and for a while advertised this fact in the hotel name:Seven Stars Galleria. However, this term has since disappeared from the hotel website. The only thing reminiscent of the seven stars today are the Seven Stars Suites.

TownHouse Galleria

Milan, 8.8 km to Airport Milano Linate
8.0 Very good (761 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.3 / 10
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A 7-star hotel in Istanbul

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The Shangri-La Bosphorus is centrally located in the Besiktas district, right on the Bosphorus. As usual for the Shangri-La hotel chain, this is a luxury hotel extraordinaire that makes guests’ wishes come true. Guestroom sizes start from 42 m². Many of them offer fantastic views over the Bosphorus from a private terrace. You can also visit the Chi Spa to relax in a Turkish hammam and enjoy a massage to loosen up those tight muscles.

Even before the construction of Shangri-La Bosphorus began in 2010, it was praised by many websites and journalists as the first 7-star hotel in Turkey. Meanwhile the hotel is finished, but on its website you won’t even find a single mention of “seven” in connection with the hotel star rating.

Shangri-La Bosphorus

Top rated
Istanbul, 17.1 km to Airport Istanbul Ataturk
9.0 Excellent (1121 reviews)
Excellent Service 9.3 / 10
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A 7-star hotel in Beijing

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One might wonder whether the owners of the Pangu 7 Star have picked their stars from the sky. Because it’s completely unclear where the seven stars in the hotel name have come from.

But apart from that, this luxury hotel certainly doesn’t have to hide. The interior was created by the famous Italian designer Ricardo Bello Dias. He skilfully combined oriental and western elements. The hotel is the top address for all luxury lovers travelling to Beijing. Even the richest man in the world – Bill Gates – is said to have spent the night here during the Olympic Games.

Pangu 7 Star Beijing

Top rated
Beijing, 8.2 km to BeiHai Park
9.0 Excellent (626 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.3 / 10
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A 7-star hotel in South Africa

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Experts have long referred to the Karkloof Safari Villas near Pietermaritzburg in South Africa as a 7-star hotel. What is offered here would even deserve eight stars – for example, individually designed private villas sure to amaze you, your own vehicle for safari trips and an exotic spa with views of the natural landscape and the surrounding gardens.

However, the hotel itself only advertises with the official five stars.

Karkloof Safari Villas

Top rated
8.9 Excellent (44 reviews)
Excellent Service 9.2 / 10
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A 7-star hotel in Fiji

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The Laucala Island Resort is a real island paradise in the South Seas. It took three years to build the hotel on Laucala Island, which is dotted with tropical rainforest and sugar-white sand beaches. Only very few guests stay in the 25 villas at the same time and a 300-strong team takes care of them. The Hilltop Residence on the mountains of the island offers 11,000 m² of privacy! In addition, there are a private panoramic pool area, two spacious guest houses as well as a private chef, driver and nanny. It’s almost impossible to get more luxury.

No wonder that the term “7-star hotel” is used in the same breath as the hotel name. Officially, however, this hotel is “only” a five-star hotel.

Laucala Island Resort

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Hotel classification in Europe

Various hotel associations in Europe have agreed on the awarding system for hotel stars described in the previous paragraph and founded the Hotelstars Union (HSU).

Founding members were Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Meanwhile, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Belgium, Denmark, Greece and Liechtenstein have also joined. Therefore, it’s easy to compare hotels in the same category in these countries.

In all other countries in Europe, however, hotel stars are awarded according to different criteria and the classifications all have their own characteristics.

  • The UK awards five stars. The main criterion here is customer service.
  • In France the evaluation criteria mainly refer to the premises. There is also the unofficial name “Palace” if the hotel offers more than it would need to, such as a Michelin-starred restaurant or more employees than necessary.
  • In Spain there are 17 regional evaluation regulations in total. This means that hotels in Majorca are rated according to completely different criteria than hotels in Madrid, for example.
  • The Italian star rating classification system focuses on cleanliness. In Italy, classification is mandatory, but there are many different regional systems rather than one official supervisory body.
  • In Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Hungary, classification is required by law. In all other European countries it is voluntary.
  • In Finland and Norway, there is no official star awarding system.