Once dominated entirely by the resolutely masculine, the world of private members’ clubs has seen a renaissance. Founded in London by upper-class British men in the late 17th century, they began as aristocratic gentlemen’s clubs, where they could gamble, smoke and drink in the company of like-minded gents.
Today, the established institutions have had to adapt to the times — most notably diversifying their clientele across genders, ethnicities, and careers. A glut of new clubs have also popped up over the years, with many adopting more lax club rules and trending design. But make no mistake: These clubs still maintain the air of exclusivity by hosting only society’s finest. Only paying the fees won’t get you through the door as strict vetting processes are put into place. From the classic to the cool and contemporary, these are some of the world’s most exclusive private members’ clubs.
1. 5 Hertford Street, London
This is London’s most secretive club. Information on its official website is scarce, and accessing its events calendar requires a login. You won’t find its photographs online — in fact, the club’s Instagram account is set to private (we heard that only those with verified accounts are given access). It’s home to Loulou — its very own nightclub, and even an exclusive cigar shop. Frequented by A-list Hollywood stars, tycoons and London’s upper crust, the club’s interiors are festooned in classic English patterns and prints and are appointed in Baroque and Art Deco furnitures. The club adheres by a strict dress code, which includes no large frays or rips in jeans, no sportswear, and for the men, jackets are to be worn at all times. Naturally, a club so exclusive isn’t for everyone. Membership is by invitation only, and is subject to the reference of two existing members.
2. The California Club, Los Angeles
So exclusive is The California Club that membership is subject to an interview by six current members. The timeless Southern Californian institution was designed by Robert Farquhar, and to date, maintains its sumptuous interiors of exquisite antiques, rich fabrics and museum art. Inside, you’ll find a 24-hour gym, over 51 luxury rooms and suites, a barbershop and in keeping up with its younger members, myriad club events, which includes talks by esteemed industry leaders and wine tastings.
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3. Carnegie Club, Scotland
Hidden away in Scotland’s Northern Highlands is Carnegie Club is one of the world’s most prestigious private members’ clubs. Rightly deemed “Heaven on Earth”, the 8,000-acre sprawling estate is home to pine forests and heather moors. At its heart is Skibo Castle, where the club is located. Its Scottish Baronial facade is as impressive as its Edwardian-style interiors. If you need further convincing on why membership is so coveted here, the club is home to opulently appointed rooms and lodges for overnight stays, the famed Carnegie Links golf course, and other top-notch facilities, including a steel-framed, glass-paned swimming pool, a French clay court, and world-class restaurants.
4. Soho House Istanbul, Turkey
Leading the pack of cool private members’ clubs is Soho House. The group is famous for banning its members from suits and ties in its Houses. Much like its counterparts across the world, the Turkish outpost caters to the who’s who of the creative world and even doubles up as a hotel. Living up to this reputation, it’s home to a rooftop pool which overlooks the city’s bustle and glowing minarets, a swanky cocktail bar, and a club styled as an old-school speakeasy. It’s situated in a sumptuous 19th-century mansion, and boasts a stylish mix of custom-designed and vintage furniture. Membership awards you access to all club spaces and facilities, which includes bars and restaurants, a gym, a screening room and all of its events. To protect the privacy of its members, no photos are allowed.
5. CORE: New York
CORE: is the anti-club. It has no dress code and unlike most private members’ clubs, cellphones are allowed here. The six-storey building is located in the heart of Manhattan. Its members are made up of society’s finest — Wall Street bigwigs and cultural icons. As its website states, you’ll find “people who have significantly altered business, culture, and society” here. The facilities are, of course, plenty and varied, and include private dining rooms, a gym, theatre and library. In addition, the club curates 200 events a year spanning trending topics in media, the arts, cuisine, travel, commerce, and thought to keep its members intellectually satiated.
6. Straits Clan, Singapore
Paying tribute to the clan associations of Singapore’s bygone era is Straits Clan. This is a community of game-changers — across social, entrepreneurial or creative fields — united by their passion for positive change. The four-storey space took over the now defunct New Majestic Hotel, and is architecturally impressive. Walk in and you’ll see Clan Cafe, the club’s all-day lounge which serves nourishing bowls and brews by day, and Asian bar bites and craft beers by night. Tucked behind is its members-only Dining Room. The second floor is the ‘Entertainment’ space where you’ll find the gateway to the club’s finest spirits and wines in the Tasting Room; elevated local favourites at the Bar & Courtyard; and a 1980s-styled arcade and party lounge. The third floor is entirely catered to wellbeing. Break a sweat at the boutique gym, have your feet rubbed into submission at the spa, or catch up on work at the reading lounge. The Attic is where all the main action’s at, with performances talks, screenings, workshops on rotation.