Signature delves into the secretive world of exclusive private clubs and shares which memberships you should have.
A certain image comes to mind when discussing the most exclusive private clubs in the world. Whisky swirling in fine crystal, a fire in the grate. Perhaps a stag head or two mounted on the wall. These clubs may have their roots in such imagery, but their modern incarnations may prove surprising.
The ‘old boys’ mentality has largely given way to a bold spirit. It is within such establishments that the world’s leading entrepreneurs, cultural icons and creative powerhouses gather to exchange ideas and break new ground. The central tenets of privacy and exclusivity remain. As does a proclivity for exquisite decor, state-of-the-art facilities and bespoke service. All these elements have prompted a global resurgence of exclusive private clubs globally.
Apollo’s Muse, London, England
London’s latest private members club has been taking the British capital by storm, Apollo’s Muse is hidden within the walls of the restaurant, Bacchanalia, and dressed in equally ostentatious style. Hospitality maestro Richard Caring, of Annabel, The Wosley and The Ivy fame, has taken a heavy influence from Baroque Italian design with interiors with marble statues en masses and art-laced walls, giving off a feel of being in a bar within a museum. Grab a cosy armchair and drink in the artworks, a series of original Greek and Roman statues dating from the 1st to 4th century, including Apollo’s Muse, which dates to the 2nd century, over a craft cocktail by the expert bar staff. More bar than a dinner venue, the Apollo’s Muse food menu offers smaller plates to pair with your drink with the fuller menu at Bacchanalia’s best pre- or post-club.
The Dracula Club, St Moritz, Switzerland
The Dracula Club is not only St Moritz’s most lauded members-only private club but is also one of only a handful of such elite members-only havens in Europe. Started by the late famous art collector Gunter Sachs in 1974, it is where Swiss bankers, celebrities and captains of industry join as life members to let their hair down alongside others of similar social standing. Entry into The Dracula Club is only to these life members and their guests on weekend nights during the winter skiing season with a strict dress code meaning men wear formal jackets with women in couture. Mobile phones are conspicuous by their absence – taking photos inside is banned. Making The Dracula Club’s retro ’80s-style disco inferno proving enormous fun, with dinner from 8pm and the club opening in full force from 11pm until the early hours.
CORE: Club, New York, United States of America
Core describes itself as an “anticlub”. There’s no dress code, mobile phones are permitted and members are invited to conduct the “business of life”. Located in midtown Manhattan, you’re likely to run into the likes of Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz or perhaps Bill Clinton. Once you cover the US$50,000 joining fee and US$15,000 annual fee thereafter, you’ll still need to be recommended by a current member. And then there’s the matter of finding the place. Patrons access the foyer via a secret entrance tucked into the side of a building. After navigating these obstacles, however, expect carefully curated cultural experiences ranging from private concerts to conversations with global leaders.
Capital Club, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
There’s no choice to be made between business and pleasure at Dubai’s invitation-only Capital Club. Here “your office away from your office” is complemented by the highest level of comfort and cuisine. And unmatched personal service. Whether in one of the elegantly furnished meeting rooms or on a fourth-floor terrace with views of the Burj Khalifa and the International Financial Centre, it’s the place for closing multi-million-dollar deals. After being approved by the Membership Committee, a rumoured US$15,000 joining fee will get you through the door and buy you access to social events. These include lectures by prominent speakers from the upper echelons of business, finance and politics.
Yacht Club de Monaco, Monaco
For over 700 years, the sea has been a defining influence in the Principality of Monaco. Serving as the foundation of the city-state’s economy and its favourite leisure pursuits. Founded in 1953 by Prince Rainier III, the club’s exclusive membership endeavours to balance maritime heritage and progressive values with environmental preservation. Prospective members need two sponsors and approval by club president HSH Prince Albert II. The clubhouse, designed by Lord Norman Foster, overlooks YCM’s dedicated marina. It features a nautical-themed library, restaurant, outdoor swimming pool, gym, meeting spaces and a ballroom.
The Battery, San Francisco, United States of America
This avant-garde enclave in a former candy factory bills itself as a “living social experiment”, accepting members from a range of industries and backgrounds. The five-storey space opened in 2013, offering membership perks such as access to exclusive events. From wine tasting to live music (including a members-only appearance by Snoop Dogg). Membership also gives you access to a 120-seat restaurant, bars, a library, spa, gym, a wine cellar, event spaces including the Battery Collection gallery. The club’s boutique hotel is topped by a penthouse with a wraparound rooftop terrace
The Hurlingham Club, London, England
Considerably older than many of its counterparts (King Edward VII went pigeon shooting here) The Hurlingham Club is often described as ‘a green oasis’ springing from the hubbub of London. It’s rather a large oasis at that, sprawling across 17 hectares of immaculately manicured grounds. That offer first-class social and sporting facilities and a regal clubhouse with countless rooms and terraces. It may take a while to join its prestigious ranks, though. The waiting list is currently closed “subject to annual review” according to the website.
Soho House, Barcelona, Spain
The 57-bedroom house in Barcelona is the latest in this network of creative clubs. The first Soho House was founded in 1995 in London. It was billed as a ‘home away from home’ where leading lights of the arts and media could gather, eat and drink. The brand now has 20 private clubs, including Houses in London, New York, Chicago, Berlin, LA, Istanbul and Toronto.
Soho House in London is even said to have played host to the first date between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. If you don’t live in a city with a Soho House you can still secure a coveted membership. Cities Without Houses memberships are available in 37 metropolises, including Sydney. As well as restaurants and bars, Soho Houses may feature pools, gyms, screening rooms and spas.
The Australian Club, Sydney, Australia
Yes, megacities such as London and New York are undoubtedly the most fertile ground for private members’ clubs. However, Sydney is also home to one of the most exclusive clubs in the world. Founded in 1838, The Australian Club is the oldest gentlemen’s club in the Southern Hemisphere. This exclusive private club blends tradition and modernity through business and dining facilities. It has ensuite bedrooms, apartments and an extensive library. Patrons gaze on enviable views of the Royal Botanic Garden. Notable members include Malcolm Turnbull and James Packer.
The Arts Club, London, England
Founded in 1863 by a cohort of London’s eminent intellectuals, including none other than Charles Dickens, The Arts Club was then – and is now – a haven for those affiliated with the arts, literature or sciences. Notables such as writer Wilkie Collins and musician Paolo Tosti have graced the elegant rooms and suites of The Arts Club in the heart of Mayfair throughout its illustrious history. Before his death in 2021, HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was also an Arts Club patron.
A full membership costs £2,000 annually. Patrons also pay an equivalent joining fee. Membership, open to applicants aged 30 or older. Patrons have full access to the private club’s exclusive salon, modern brasserie, library bar, conservatory and nightclub. The manifold experiences available to members, curated by a Clefs d’Or pin-wearing concierge, include exclusive art showings and talks by industry-leading creatives.
39 Monte Carlo, Monaco
Consider this Monégasque hideaway the world’s most sophisticated sports club, frequented by high-profile international athletes, from football stars to Formula 1 drivers. This private club is the brainchild of ex-rugby union player, Ross Beattie. It combines a state-of-the-art fitness studio with a wellness and beauty centre in a chic, discreet social hub.
39 Monte Carlo restaurant has an innovative menu designed by sports nutritionists and top chefs. The private club also has a members’ lounge and cigar terrace. The highlight is the sprawling, multi-zone Sports Floor, hailed by members as the world’s best gym, complete with training zones, an altitude chamber, personal coaching from professionals and personal body assessments.
Annabel’s, London, England
British entrepreneur Mark Birley was at the vanguard of a new breed of liberated members’ clubs when he opened Annabel’s in 1963. Presidents and royals (even Her Majesty has paid a rare visit) gather at the 44 Berkeley Square subterranean den to see performances by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Lady Gaga. The four-floor complex invites members to mingle at four restaurants, seven bars, two private rooms and a cigar lounge. Annabel’s even has a dog-walking service on offer for some of London’s most pampered pooches.
Clarence Vault Rooms Sydney, Australia
Set within a beautiful heritage electrical substation building that once powered Sydney’s CBD, Clarence Vault Rooms is a private club brought to life by the Vault House group. Featuring a speakeasy bar, private dining, co-working spaces and a bespoke concierge service, the organisation facilitates the sharing of ideas and socialisation between like-minded individuals. Membership rewards guests with access to Old Sessions House in London, Mello House in Perth and Jimbour House in Queensland, with more partner clubs around the globe, and membership is capped at just 500 people.
Lawson Flats, Perth Australia
A new club located in Perth’s CBD, Lawson Flats is a lifestyle destination set across three floors in one of the city’s last remaining art deco jewels. Boasting facilities such as a sauna, art gallery, pool room, co-working space, movement studio, gym, bar, karaoke rooms and private rooms for meetings, dining and more – it’s a home away from home. Membership provides access to all amenities plus the ability to host private events here, access to club events and entry to reciprocal clubs around the country.
Yellowstone Club, Montana, United States of America
Yellowstone Club is the world’s only private members’ residential ski, golf and adventure community, and it sprawls across 6151 hectares of countryside. Located west of Big Sky in the spectacular Rocky Mountains, the community has fine dining, world-class ski trails and an 18-hole mountain golf course designed by course architect, Tom Weiskopf. Catering exclusively to the top-most tier of influential individuals, notable families and business leaders, the only way to become a member is by buying one of the community’s multi-million dollar properties.
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This article on the most exclusive private clubs in the world originally appeared in Signature Luxury Travel & Style magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.