Many hotels that we visit are housed in brand-spanking-new buildings, erected in recent years for the sole purpose of being the site of that “just opened” Marriott or Four Seasons. But some properties, recently opened ones and historic ones alike, instead reinvent old spaces to create the hotels that visitors call home during their vacations. And some of these old buildings have quite the story to tell! From prisons to plantations, the 10 hotels on this list were once the sites of quite different operations, and all have storied – whether eerie or interesting or just downright weird – pasts.
For nearly 150 years, this tall granite building was known as the Charles Street Jail and housed some of Boston’s most heinous criminals. In 2007, after a painstaking restoration that preserved elements of the prison design, it reopened as the Liberty Hotel. The result is stunning, with nearly 300 rooms, a 90-foot-tall atrium, winding catwalks, and high, circular windows that flood the lobby with light. The hotel’s popular restaurants and bars play on the jailhouse theme with names like Alibi, Clink, and The Yard.
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The uber-luxurious Hotel Plaza Athenee in Paris reopened today (at 7 a.m. to be exact) in a belated celebration of its centennial. While the overall design and vibe of the hotel has reportedly remained true to its classic roots of iconic elegance, the hotel closed in October of last year in order to commence renovations on a recently-acquired townhouse next door, which meant the addition of six new rooms, eight suites, and several event spaces, including a ballroom. The hotel’s restaurants — including the famed Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée and La Galerie des Gobelins – also received a redesign.
But while the reopening of its doors certainly marks a triumph, the Plaza Athenee has seen a mix of both good and bad press this year. Part of the Dorchester Collection, it is owned by the Sultan of Brunei, who’s recent decision to implement sharia law in his home country led many, including celebrities, to boycott his properties. This Parisian property is perhaps the most upscale of the collection; iconic red awnings and chestnut trees welcome guests to the historic setting, on the upscale Avenue Montaigne location with direct views of the Eiffel Tower. The rooms and suites are decorated in classic Art Deco style with modern touches like flat-screen TVs and marble baths, and with six distinct restaurants, a large fitness center, and a can’t-miss daily breakfast in a leafy garden, the Plaza Athenee doesn’t miss a beat. [The Telegraph]
Travel + Leisure has its readers rate their favorite hotels — based on categories like food, rooms, service, and location — every year, and the 2014 results have been tallied! U.S. resorts did better than ever this time around, with Rhode Island’s The Ocean House ranking particularly well by scoring a spot in the top five. Are we surprised? Well, no. Located on a private white-sand beach in the sleepy (read: adorable) coastal town of Watch Hill, this luxury resort has an elegant vibe that’s nonetheless laid-back and beachy. The hotel offers a slew of amenities, including a full-service spa, indoor pool (that opens to the outdoors), large fitness center, and plenty of dining options, so there’s really no reason for guests to even leave the hotel grounds — which, by the way, are gorgeous. But don’t just take our word for it…
See more amazing pics of The Ocean House after the jump >>
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Resorts and mega-hotels certainly have their perks, but few stays can feel as personal or as cozy as one at a quaint bed-and-breakfast. While the level of luxury and service can vary greatly from one B&B to another (some claim the status simply by offering free bagels each morning), we’ve had the good fortune of holing up in some particularly charming bed-and-breakfasts across the states. From romantic rooms that maintain the property’s historic flair to absolutely glorious breakfast buffet spreads, these twelve bed-and-breakfasts offer the very best in the U.S.
The 15-room Savannah Bed and Breakfast Inn was built in 1853 in the southern end of the historical quarter of Savannah and is listed in the local register of Historic Inns. Each room has individual character, but all are decorated in a formal, traditional style with four-poster beds, oriental carpets, and shelves stocked with books. The inn is renovated and bathrooms are modern, but certain period features, like steep, narrow staircases, remain. Breakfast included in the daily rate is excellent and southern-inflected; afternoon tea and evening cookies are also served. Rooms are available in four carriage houses and assorted nearby cottages.
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Of course, we’ve visited many, many, MANY hotels during our travels. And in order to get a better feel for the destinations to which we travel, we have also visited quite a number of museums. But the real kicker is when we find a hotel that has some pretty impressive artwork itself. From elaborate ceiling paintings to stunning murals on the facades of the buildings, we’ve rounded up a dozen of our favorites. They’re so gorgeous you may want to book a room just to get a closer look!
Boasting ample turn-of-the-20th-century elegance in its 550 rooms, the Palace is aptly named — it is indeed palatial. “The Pied Piper” mural, gracing the bar named in its honor, was created for the hotel in 1909 by famed artist Maxfield Parish.
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It’s no secret that space in New York City is limited, which makes it all the more precious and expensive. Unfortunately, for budget travelers in particular, this means not much lodging — that you’d actually want to stay in — is available outside of hostels. Fortunately, in the last few years the Big Apple has seen its own take on Japanese-inspired capsule hotels pop up, and these spots are dedicated to making the best use of tight spaces (and budgets!) without sacrificing style. Trust us, we’ve stayed in some small spaces during our travels — but no place does small quite so chicly as these three NYC “pod” hotels. These are the perfect budget hotels for a stay in Manhattan as they are modern, stylish, compact, unique, and efficient — just like NYC. (Besides, how much time do you really spend in your hotel room?)
Born out of a desire to create luxurious accommodations in compact spaces, Yotel began as a by-the-hour hotel system in various London airports. In 2011, NYC became home to the first standalone, brick-and-mortar incarnation of the brand. Located two blocks from Time Square, Yotel’s intuitively efficient rooms are well-steeped in style, and display a futuristic design with high-tech convenience built right in. Well-thought-out floor plans mean rooms never feel cramped (well, I guess we can only speak for ourselves…), while monsoon showerheads and heated towel racks prove you don’t have to skimp on comforts. Rooms here may be small, but the hotel isn’t shy when it comes to common spaces. With 18,000 square feet of lounging and dining space, including a 7,000-square-foot trendy rooftop terrace, Yotel gives you plenty of über-hip bang for your buck.
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Throughout our travels we’ve seen over-the-top luxurious rooms, themed rooms, massive rooms, just plain weird rooms, and everything in between. But for some rooms that we’ve gotten the chance to explore, there’s no better way to describe them than just, well, cool. Whether they’re located in caves or decked out in all-over orange (you’ll understand in a minute), these ten picks are some of the coolest hotel rooms in the world.
Hotel Estherea takes a maximalist approach to its interior design, and treads the fine line between plush extravagance and gaudiness with aplomb. This is particularly apparent in the lavish Suite of Orange, which lives up to its name; decked out in various shades of orange with plenty of mahogany touches, it features a gorgeous chandelier and high-tech amenities such as massive flat-screen TVs and iPads upon request. The hotel’s location on the Singel canal is picturesque, and well positioned for exploring Amsterdam‘s attractions.
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This post originally appeared on Yahoo! Travel.
We here at Oyster.com have done all types of travel. We’ve trekked to some pretty far-off places, we’ve slept under the stars, and we’ve pinched pennies at some budget (but nonetheless awesome) locales. But we gotta say, our favorite kind of travel is luxury travel. Of course, there’s something to be said for roughing it and that whole getting-back-in-touch-with-nature thing, but given the choice between a tent and a massive presidential suite? Um, we’ll take the suite any day — without hesitation. Suites vary from hotel to hotel, and from destination to destination, but throughout our extensive travels we have come across a handful (fourteen, to be exact) of gorgeous, over-the-top hotel suites that are so luxurious, they’re quite literally mind-blowing. From a Vegas suite with its own pool and mini-golf course to a gigantic “Sultan Suite” overlooking the Bosphorus in Istanbul, these fourteen suites take luxury to the next level.
This romantic boutique hotel near the Anne Frank House has historical significance: It was once used as a safe house in WWII. The Toren family bought the property in 1968 and expanded it over time to include additional accommodations along the Keizersgracht canal. Today there are 38 rooms and suites ranging from smaller standard size, to spacious, elaborate options like the Royal Bridal Suite. This over-the-top, dual-level suite promises romance and opulence; it sits in a second building, removed from the main house, for added privacy and features rich decor (such as gorgeous antique furniture, chandeliers, and murals), a fireplace, a deep soaking tub, and a private entrance with a patio.
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There’s cozy and then there’s spooky. And when it comes to the cavernous spaces of some of our favorite hotels, we’ll just have to let you be the judge. The dark corners and vaulted ceilings of these lair-like rooms often simply add a little extra oomph to the sultry ambiance of a romantic restaurant or a sexy spa, but we still can’t help but get a little spooked in these windowless spots. Here are six hotels that are home to some pretty cool (and kinda creepy?) caves.
Bermuda’s Grotto Bay Beach Resort is home to the mother of all caves. Natural grottos can be found on the property, and weekly cave crawls explore the grottos’ vast nooks and crannies. Guests are free to swim and snorkel on their own, but if the idea of this makes you a bit tense, have no fear — the spa’s sole treatment room can be found in the subterranean space. The hotel’s private beach is also available for swimming and water sports.
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While a nautical theme can make for fun hotel decor all year round, we can’t help but enjoy it a little more in the summer when the timing feels particularly fitting. After all, during warmer months we love the idea of being out on the open seas, wind in our hair… until we think about how crowded and gross cruise ships can actually be. Considering the many recent mishaps on ships and boats — some of which actually proved to be quite dangerous — as of late, we’d rather enjoy a nautical theme from dry land, thank you very much. Fortunately, we’ve visited plenty of hotels that make you feel like you’re first mate — without actually having to set sail.
The 175-room Amstel Botel, a former river cruiser converted to a floating hotel, sits by the industrial NDSM wharf, a growing outpost of Amsterdam’s underground art scene. The Botel is decorated like a European ferry, and is a no-frills budget-friendly option for visitors. Central Amsterdam is a 15-minute free ferry ride away. Kids may enjoy the experience of staying on a boat, but the property is more popular with value-minded couples and groups. Luxury seekers and visitors hoping for a charming European hotel should look elsewhere, but those searching for a boat-like vibe without having to leave the dock will find the nautical decor fun and charming.
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