World’s most bizarre hotels
Despite the world’s wealth of disparate locales and host of hotel options, from design boutiques to hovels and everything in between, finding a unique one can prove difficult. They’re out there, though. A temporary lodge in the arctic circle, a one-room venture 155 metres underground, an undersea resort, a nautical-themed historical house, and other curios comprise The World’s Most Bizarre Hotels.
Behind the News
ICEHOTEL, Jukkasjärvi, Sweden
While many a bizarre hotel has world renown, Sweden’s ICEHOTEL is the most famous. Located 200km inside the Arctic Circle, the ICEHOTEL began as an art installation before blossoming into the coldest lodge anywhere. Seasonably available, it has a cachet-birthing transience. Utilizing the nearby Torne River, construction annually begins in November, opening in its first phase on December 10th. From there, it adds sections, including the Absolut-sponsored ICEBAR and various suites, completing its process two days before the new year. Art still plays a major part in the concoction. No two ICEHOTEL incarnations are the same, with differing design concepts from year to year. Tip: long johns may not be cool but, seriously, don’t go without. Also, worry not about shrinkage (there’s nothing you can do about it).
Sala Silvergruva Hotel, Sala, Sweden
Claustrophobics should stop reading now. Located 155 metres underground, Sala Silvergruva is not so much a hotel as a single subterranean bedroom. And it’s stunning. Located in a preserved Swedish silver mine, it’s a candlelit space that’s about as private as one can get. There’s only the aforementioned bedroom and the underground staff consists of one de facto butler/server/etc. that sees to guest needs, including breakfast and dinner. The ad hoc hotel comes with a banquet hall and washroom facilities and… a mine. The place teems with industrial history and aesthetic and geographical curios. Tip: don’t watch The Descent beforehand (you don’t even know what I’m talking about, do you?).
Songjiang Hotel, Songjiang, China
Songjiang Hotel may not yet exist, though reps assure me it’s coming. So, it gets a mention on this list. Like ironic moustaches, the environmentally aware epoch will not soon disappear. Of all recent trends (with the possible exception of high-waisted jeans and plaid), earth-friendliness is the most welcome. However, this heightened level of awareness need not preclude striking and innovative design. Projects can blend environmental sensitivity with aesthetic panache; Atkins’ Songjiang Hotel concept does both. Interacting with the landscape symbiotically, the multi-star, 380 room resort will slide into the 100-metre tall quarry. A hideaway, it will have its own ad hoc lake and natural views of nearby rock (probably prettier than it sounds). Did I mention it’s in a damn quarry?
Inverlochy Castle, Fort William, UK
“You have to go to Toledo, just outside of Madrid. There’s a hostel there that’s actually in a castle,” the two Kiwi travelers effused over drinks in London. When my friend and I made it to the aforementioned medieval town, albeit without reservations, we ambled up to the castle hostel’s desk. “Two beds, please.” Nope. It was sold out. Damn it. So, I never got the opportunity to sleep in that castle. To hell with that hostel. Inverlochy Castle in Scotland is a posh 17-room hotel housed in a nineteenth century country house that looks a lot like a castle (good enough). Set on lush verdant grounds at the foot of the highest British mountain (Ben Nevis), it’s surrounded by pretty vistas. Rooms are period appropriate and often score Best in Europe honours. Beware of ghosts.
Jumbo Hostel, Stockholm, Sweden
I can’t sleep on a plane. Even when I’m a little soused, I can only manage an hour of zzzzzs, at most. Perhaps I should avoid Sweden’s Jumbo Hostel. Regardless of my airplane insomnia, Jumbo Hostel is damn cool. As it is still a hostel (aka not a hotel), do not expect opulent surrounds. That said, you’re there for the novelty. A decommissioned Boeing 747, Jumbo has plenty of space, including 25 different rooms, most equipped with bunk beds. You can crash (poor choice of words?) in the cockpit, lounge in first class, and hangout in the full-service café. Bonus: it’s a relatively cheap option.
Jane Hotel, New York, USA
Like Paris — though, to a lesser extent — New York hotels lack size. A new batch utilize that spatial disadvantage, including the Pod Hotel and the historic Jane Hotel. The latter has a lush history. Erected in 1908, the throwback building which houses Jane has lived through myriad incarnations, including shelter for Titanic survivors, seafarer safe house, and YMCA. Later, it indulged in the bohemian lifestyle, becoming part rooming house, part performance space, and part hotel. It’s the latter manifestation that perseveres. Like a mix between the feted Pod and the enduring Chelsea, the Jane offers budget, micro-accommodation. Rooms begin at a mere 50 square feet, though the price is right. For larger guests and agoraphobics, the Jane also has 250 square-foot rooms. Strangely, it also has a giant, opulent, brand new ballroom bar.
Capsule Inn, Tokyo, Japan
The nautically themed Jane may have small spaces though, juxtaposed against Tokyo’s Capsule Inn, the rooms seem gigantic. In a famous Seinfeld episode, Kramer sets up accommodation for Japanese tourists inside a large-enough dresser. I’m not saying that the Capsule Hotel stole that idea, though it uses the same paradigm. Located in Tokyo’s Akihabara area, Capsule encapsulates Tokyo’s zeitgeist, exuding efficiency and modernity. Rooms have glass doors, built-in air conditioning, lights, and table, all controllable by guests. Built with doors, each space is 1m x 1m x 2m. It looks like the sleeping quarters on a spaceship, ala Alien , but even more condensed. Business facilities and a lounge — both almost regular sized — round out the experience.
Propeller Island City Lodge, Berlin, Germany
The term “art hotel” usually refers to what’s on the walls, but at Propeller Island City Lodge it refers to the rooms themselves. Each is unique and wacky (yeah, I used the word “wacky”). The Upside-Down Room has a bed and furniture on the ceiling (as well as a hidden bed in the floor); the Symbol Room has a surfeit of, well, symbols; the Mirror Room (I made that name up) has slanted mirrors, funhouse style (maybe I should have called it the Funhouse Room… whatever); and the Floating Bed Room has, well, a floating bed. Even the halls are out-there, populated with various dashes of artifice. Pick your room carefully, as the eccentricity of some can be off-putting, while others are alluring.
Malmaison Oxford, Oxford, UK
After a long bus journey, I found a nook in Urquhart Castle and promptly passed out. Operators don’t look kindly on dozy tourists hiding amongst medieval ruins. They woke me up, prematurely killing my sleep-in-a-castle dream. On a vaguely related note, boutique gem, Malmaison Oxford, looks a lot like a castle. Sure, it used to be a prison but one man’s palace is another’s cage. The rooms have many of the typical boutique notes, but all are buoyed by prison touches (i.e. brick, prisoner ghosts, etc.). With a popular brasserie and other amenities, it has all the allure of your standard design hotel, but throws in enough gothic notes to make it strange and unique. Try not to get lost therein (just saying).
Poseidon Undersea Resort, Pacific Ocean, Fiji
I’ll try not to burden you with this, but I have a particular Little Mermaid song stuck in my head (sorry, I know it’s a blurb transmitted affliction). Poseidon Undersea Resort, under Fiji, doesn’t open until 2010 but it’s already famous. Located on the ocean floor and accessible via elevator, the resort will feature underwater suites, over water villas, and island bungalows. Though all purportedly posh, the underwater suites hold a special allure. Featuring massive windows and attendant views of sea life and, well, water, the rooms are state-of-the art. While surface activities round out the experience, the inclusive below deck spaces have a range of allures, including submarine sojourns, Jacuzzis — because you need a little more water — fully stocked mini-bars, replete with champagne and state-of-the-art technology. You could go out, but you’d drown (you don’t want that).
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