On some holidays, a hotel is more than just a place to rest your head. Staying at a concept hotel can make your travel experience that bit more special. Here’s a selection of some amazing unusual and unique hotels around – some weird, some spectacular, all outside the ordinary.
Unique Hotel #1: The Liberty Hotel, USA
Ever thought of living out your Chicago fantasies? Yes, all that jazz – in a prison. Well, former prison. But not just any former prison. Built in 1851, the old Charles Street Jail had been home to Boston’s most notorious prisoners – and Malcolm X – for 120 years before being declared unfit for habitation and closing in 1990.
It sounds like a gimmick, right? But, as the designers included historians and conservationists in its redesign and refurbishment, the original features and history of the prison have largely been preserved in what is now a swanky hotel with about 300 rooms.
At the unusual Liberty Hotel today, most impressive is an atrium of about 90 feet high, with industrial-turned-seductive catwalks and motif windows.
Also, if you like puns, you’ll like this place: the bar is in the former drunk tank, and the do-not-disturb signs for the doors reportedly say ‘solitary’.
Unique Hotel #2: Quinta Real Zacatecas, Mexico
Not a fan of bullfights? You’ll love this hotel. It sits around the old San Pedro bullfighting ring in the historic city of Zacatecas, a UNESCO heritage site famous for its impressive architecture, which came about as a result of the silver mines that made it rich back in its heyday.
Originally built in 1866 in the colonial style, the Quinta Real Zacatecas is also believed to be the oldest bullring in North America. It is located alongside the 18th-century El Cubo aqueduct and a cathedral. The last fight took place in 1975, when two brothers decided to convert the ring into the luxury hotel it is today.
The arena itself is today a romantic cobblestoned patio, encircled by 49 suites with antique furnishings. Poke into Bar Botarel, and try to imagine what was once the holding space for the bulls before they were released into the ring. Blood was once spilt here, but no more.
Unique Hotel #3: Tsala Treetop Lodge, South Africa
Living in trees doesn’t mean roughing it. In the case of the Tsala Treetop Lodge, it means having a suite of your own built of stone, glass and wood among the canopies of the Tsitsikamma Forest, a private infinity pool and all the amenities you could possibly want.
Its location makes it a good place to explore South Africa’s so-called ‘Garden Route’ of green coastline, but if at some point you get sick of the wilderness and want some night-life, the beaches and bars of Plettenberg Bay are just 10km away.
Tarzan and Jane this is not.
Unique Hotel #4: Ice Hotel, Sweden
Ice hotels have become something of a thing in recent years, but it all started in a small village called Jukkasjärvi in the Lapland countryside of Sweden which, apparently, has more huskies than people. So dog sledding is a must, or you could try winter running, skiing or snowmobiling.
The Ice Hotel is a unique hotel created from scratch every year from snow and ice, and this year is its 25th anniversary. To celebrate, 42 artists from around the world gathered together to create 16 individually designed ‘art suites’ based on themes such as time or love. The ambitious highlight, however, is the Aurora Hall, a 1,800-square-foot domed theatre made of solid ice that holds live performances for up to 150 people.
And while you’re here, keep an eye out for the Northern Lights. The Aurora Sky Station nearby is supposed to one of the best places for a view.
Unique Hotel #5: Elephant Safari Park Lodge, Indonesia
Love elephants? This is exactly what it sounds like. At this unique hotel, you could get your own private lodge set within Bali’s award-winning Elephant Safari Park in the Taro forest.
More importantly, you’ll be able to observe, feed and play with 30 Sumatran elephants, an endangered species. You’ll also be able to watch them paint, apparently. And if you get too lazy to walk, forget buggy drivers – you’ll have your very own ‘elephant chauffeur’. You can also see where a 15,000-year-old mammoth skeleton is held – it’s the only one in South East Asia. A great opportunity to combine a vacation with supporting conservation efforts.