When you've traveled too far to stay in a hotel that's interchangeable with the ones back home, there's often an option to stay in one worthy of writing home about.
The following ten lodgings are repurposed structures in settings like an Asian hillside, a Swedish peninsula, and a Costa Rican nature preserve. Their histories date back as far as the 14th century and involve famous authors, businessmen, and rock stars. Several of these buildings were drafted into service as shelters during World War II. Read on to see ten unusual hotels created in repurposed, and often abandoned, older structures.
By Colleen Kane
Posted 4 April 2013
Former use: Jail
Location: Roermond, Netherlands
Weekend rate for a double: from approx. $165
This luxury hotel once had extremely restricted check-out times -- back when it was a jail. It's one of the latest of numerous jails around the globe to be converted into hotels.
The prison of Roermond housed prisoners for 150 years, then fell vacant for years, had another stint at being a prison until 2007, then construction began on its current incarnation, which opened in 2011. Now the 105 prison cells have been transformed into 40 rooms for paying guests. Of those, 24 are standard,12 deluxe and four are suites, named "the Director," "the Warden," "the Lawyer," and "the Judge." Just remember to call the outdoor space not a prison yard but a "terrace," and that you can't pay for anything with smokes.
Former use: 1965 Boeing 727 Fuselage
Location: Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica
Weekend rate: $500
The Fuselage home is like a more inviting version of the crashed airplane that "LOST" characters found in the jungle if it was tastefully renovated in teak by The Others. The plane once served South Africa Air and Colombia's Avianca Airlines, but now it's a special two-bedroom, two-bath suite of the Hotel Costa Verde, which has the tagline "Still more monkeys than people." The jumbo suite sits on a pedestal 50 feet in the air with decks over each wing for taking in views of the park and ocean, as well as the sloths, monkeys and toucans in the surrounding trees.
Bonus: An eatery called El Avion, made from a former plane left over from the Iran-Contra affair, is perched at a cliff side in the same park.
Former use: Care Facility
Weekend rate for a double: from approx. $268
Contrary to what the name might indicate, this hotel is not a former arena, though it does have a varied past. It began as The St. Elisabeth home for invalid women, which opened in 1889. During World War II, the building sheltered Belgian refugees, and then in 1969 became a nursing home. After the government allowed squatters to take over the abandoned facility in 1982, it became a youth hostel where musicians such as Iggy Pop and Oasis stayed. In 2002 after extensive renovation, it became Hotel Arena, with a club, bar and restaurant on the premises.
Former use: Lime quarry
Location: Gotland Island, Sweden
Weekend rate for a double: from approx. $320
This industrial chic, eco-friendly lodging on the Gotland's northeastern peninsula Furillen is a former limestone quarry. In addition to standard rooms, seaview rooms, and family studios, the boutique hotel also has the Weighmaster's Suite, which is a cabin overlooking the hotel and the sea, and two nature-immersive Hermit Cabins on the southern tip of the peninsula.
Former use: Headquarters of Gresham Life Insurance
Weekend rate for a double: from approx. $366
This majestic Art Nouveau beauty has presided on Szechenyi Square since its completion in 1906. It was built for Thomas Gresham to be the headquarters of the Gresham Life Insurance Company. During World War II, the building housed Soviet troops, and during the communist era it was an apartment building. After many years of deterioration, the hotel underwent a massive $85 million restoration that retained the original features like sculptures, the glass cupola, mosaics, leaded glass, wrought iron and the peacock-adorned gates, but transformed it to its new incarnation as a luxury hotel. The hotel has 179 rooms, 51 of which overlook the Danube, as well as meeting and conference facilities and a spa, boutiques, restaurant and lounge.
Former use: Abbey
Weekend rate for a double: from approx. $366
This former monastery in Prague's oldest district, Mal Strana, now offers rather more upscale accommodation than its pious 14th-century inhabitants once enjoyed. The hotel retains original Gothic and Baroque features, with vaulted ceilings in the bar and restaurant, and the spa is located in a former Renaissance-era chapel, linked to the main hotel by an underground passage.
Former use: Bullring
Location: Zacatecas, Mexico
Weekend rate for a double: from approx. $111
The Quinta Real is built into the grandstand of a restored 19th century San Pedro bullfighting ring, which was last used for its original purpose in 1975. The former bullring is now a cobblestoned colonial patio with flowers called El Ruedo, and the rooms look out onto another patio with a fountain.
Former use: Courthouse
Weekend rate for a prison cell: from approx. $75
Charles Dickens worked here while he wrote Oliver Twist, but perhaps more important, The Clash stood trial at this 200 year-old former courthouse in 1978 for shooting a prize pigeon. It retains the dignified Victorian exterior and wood paneled courtroom walls, but as is the case with many backpacker-oriented lodgings, all of the interiors have been injected with color. Now outfitted to accommodate more than 500 guests, Clink 78 is part hostel with bunk rooms, part hotel with private rooms, with six original prison cells as well as the late bar known as Clashbar.
Former use: Palace Fort
Location: Rajasthan, India
Weekend rate for a double: from approx. $169
Neemrana Fort Palace was built in 1464 as a royal palace for descendants of Prithviraj Chauhan III, where they held out during the British rule. After Raja Rajinder Singh of Neemrana moved out in 1947, the palace sat unused for forty years until the restoration of its ruins began in 1986. The hotel opened in 1991, with its 7 wings over 12 "layers" restored to include guest rooms with styles ranging from a Shiva-themed green room to French Colonial, as well as hanging gardens, an Ayurvedic spa, and a zipline.
Former use: Brewery
Location: Poznan, Poland
Weekend rate for a double: from approx. $153
Blow Up Hall 5050 is a hotel/art installation in a former 19th century brewery. It has no reception area, no room keys and no room numbers. Guests are given iPhones to find their rooms with IT recognition technology, and those rooms will reflect a black and white mod sensibility Inspired by the 1966 cult film "Blow Up."