International intrigue, Lone Star State lore, and movie star dramas. They all play out big and bold in the historic hotels that line the streets of downtown El Paso, Texas.
In fact, for a chance to walk where U.S. presidents, Mexican revolutionaries, and Hollywood movie stars once walked, few places can compare to El Paso.
For instance, just a mile or so from the international border of the United States and Mexico, downtown El Paso’s Hotel Paso del Norte was a popular spot back in the 1910s for watching the Mexican Revolution play out in the neighboring city of Juarez, Mexico.
And over the years, luminaries like U.S. Presidents William Howard Taft, Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, and both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, as well as famous personalities like Amelia Earhart, Charles Lindbergh, Clark Gable, Will Rogers, and Gregory Peck have all stayed in the 1912-era hotel. The Paso del Norte is also said to have hosted U.S. General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing and Mexican Revolutionary General Pancho Villa.
Then, there is The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park, built in 1930 as one of the first high-rise structures of hotel magnate Conrad Hilton. The hotel later hosted Hollywood starlet Elizabeth Taylor, then married to Conrad Hilton, Jr.
Today, a number of El Paso’s beautifully preserved and renovated buildings hold hotels that run the gamut from old-world charm to sleek and hip atmospheres. Here are five of the best.
1. Hotel Paso Del Norte
Step into the lively lobby of the Hotel Paso del Norte, Autograph Collection in downtown El Paso, Texas, and you can immediately feel it: History happened here.
During my recent stay in the hotel, the friendly staff was quick to fill me in on some of the interesting tidbits, like the fact that El Paso residents once paid a small fee to go on the rooftop terrace and watch the Mexican Revolution of 1910–1920 unfold just across the international border in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico.
And over the years, countless historical figures have stayed at the hotel, including a half-dozen U.S. Presidents, old Hollywood movie stars, and modern-day celebrities. The hotel’s website notes that a “veritable who’s who of the 20th century” passed through the doors of the El Paso icon — all “adding their own stories to the city’s unique blend of Mexican, Texas, and Native American cultures that make this hotel a true gem of the Southwest.”
But beyond its colorful history, the Paso del Norte is a wonderful spot to while away an evening or two. I loved sitting at the circular bar in the hotel’s classic Dome Bar, sipping a beer or a mezcal cocktail, and gazing up at the massive Tiffany-style stained-glass ceiling while a pianist played classics in the corner.
There is also a rooftop pool, bar, and patio — all offering great views of El Paso and Juarez, just across the U.S./Mexico border. The full-service hotel features several excellent restaurants as well, including the modern Sabor Cocina/Tequileria/Panaderia.
With its spacious guest rooms decorated in a Southwestern motif featuring a vintage map of El Paso emblazoned on the wall, the Hotel Paso del Norte is a must-stay for history buffs and lovers of fine dining and cocktails alike.
Pro Tip: The Hotel Paso del Norte is conveniently located within easy walking distance of a number of downtown El Paso attractions, including the wonderful El Paso Museum of Art, the brightly lit El Paso Street, and the bustling Southwest University Park, the home of the El Paso Chihuahuas minor league baseball team.
2. Stanton House
For a modern art-focused lodging experience, consider the Stanton House, a 42-suite upscale hotel housed in the 100-year-old former Rogers Furniture store building in downtown El Paso.
The building underwent a massive renovation several years ago and opened in 2018 as a modern, airy boutique hotel that is said to be fashioned after Mexico City’s upscale hotels.
Art is a major theme of Stanton House, with each of the 42 suites featuring one-of-a-kind art pieces from the hotel’s collection. The hotel’s website notes that the goal is to immerse guests in provocative art pieces by artists both local and international, “because we believe El Paso is a masterpiece itself: eclectic, beautiful, and bold.”
The hotel also features views of the bustling San Jacinto Plaza — a historic park located in the heart of downtown El Paso.
Playing into the rich history of El Paso, Stanton House features a restaurant that commemorates a momentous meeting between two presidents. The Taft Diaz restaurant is a “delicious nod to the historic first meeting between the American and Mexican presidents (U.S. President William Howard Taft and Mexican President Porfirio Diaz) in 1909,” says the website.
Taft Diaz’s menu includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner with Southwestern classics like breakfast chilaquiles (eggs, red or green chile, bean puree, and asadero cheese), and lunch and dinner choices of innovative versions of al pastor or braised-beef tacos, corn truffle soup, and the Taft-Dias rib-eye steak, complete with charred avocado, mashed potatoes, and roasted onions.
3. Hotel Indigo
Another modern hotel in a historic building can be found at the Hotel Indigo El Paso Downtown, which offers hip and fun accommodations in the renovated building of the 1960s-era Downtowner Motor Inn.
Billed as a spot where mid-century architecture meets contemporary design, the Hotel Indigo (an IHG hotel) offers up a sleek blend of Mexican and American cultures, mixing El Paso history with the modern scene in today’s downtown.
During my stay at Hotel Indigo, a few standouts were the gorgeous rooftop patio and pool, the guest rooms’ modern Southwestern design, the sweeping views of downtown, and the wonderful ground-level restaurant Mamacitas.
Featuring breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner, Mamacitas specializes in innovative takes on Mexican classics, such as street corn risotto croquettes, hearty tortilla soup, and a roasted poblano pepper stuffed with vegan sausage, squash, and mushrooms, all covered in a creamy avocado sauce.
Pro Tip: For another excellent dining option, ELEMI Cocina is located right next door to Mamacitas. Both offer unique and delicious takes on Mexican cuisine.
4. Aloft El Paso Downtown
For another modern hotel in a historic setting, head to the Aloft El Paso Downtown, a stylish new hotel that is located in the renovated O.T. Bassett Tower — a distinctive 1930-era Art Deco-style skyscraper located on Texas Avenue in downtown El Paso.
Designed by Trost & Trost, a prominent architecture firm in the Southwestern United States, the 15-story O.T. Bassett Tower was briefly the tallest building in El Paso before it was surpassed by the nearby Hilton Hotel (now the Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park).
The Aloft El Paso features a light and breezy design in its guestrooms, along with the on-site WXYZ Bar that features live music, signature drinks, and a full menu.
Pro Tip: Aloft El Paso is located within walking range from the San Jacinto Plaza, a central El Paso square that features fountains, sculptures, and concessions.
5. The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park
Located right in the midst of the vibrant El Paso arts district, known as Las Plazas, sits the magnificent Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park — a hotel that is known to have led many lives over its 90 or so years of existence.
A project of Hilton Hotels founder Conrad Hilton, the hotel — originally known as the Hilton Hotel — was opened in November 1930. It was the tallest building in El Paso at the time, and it is still among the tallest structures in the city. Like the nearby O.T. Bassett Tower, the Plaza was designed by the Trost & Trost architectural firm in the Art Deco style.
Among the hotel’s claims to fame is movie star Elizabeth Taylor’s extended stay there, who was married at the time to Conrad Hilton’s son, Nicky Hilton (Conrad Jr.). Taylor is said to have lived in the hotel’s penthouse in 1955 while she was filming the movie Giant in nearby Marfa, Texas.
After Hilton sold the hotel in the 1960s, it became known as the Plaza. It closed in the early 1990s and was later renovated and reopened in 2020 as The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park — today embodying both its glamorous past and its modern revival.
The hotel’s website terms the Plaza “El Paso’s most luxurious boutique hotel.” Alluding to its time as Elizabeth Taylor’s temporary home, the website adds, “Now, the iconic 130-room hotel is reasserting itself as the starlet of the city.”
Along with its 130 guestrooms, the Plaza also features a restaurant and a rooftop bar — the Ambar Restaurant and Lobby Bar, a Mexican-inspired restaurant that features handmade tortillas, churrasco-grilled meats, and regional specialties, and La Perla — a rooftop bar that occupies what was once the penthouse suite where Elizabeth Taylor lived.
“While at La Perla, you’ll feel like West Texas royalty as you admire the saturated hues while perched above downtown,” says the hotel’s website, adding that the bar venue offers impressive views of the city, the surrounding mountains, and the borders of Mexico and New Mexico.
Please note that hotel guests are given priority access to La Perla, and the bar is open by reservation only to the general public with a $125 minimum spend per party.