I love hotels! It may sound weird, but I really do. I like walking into a new place I’ve never been before, nicely cleaned and set up, just waiting for my arrival. I like seeing what each new room has to offer, from their toiletries, decorations and random other amenities. It’s exciting to be in a different place that isn’t your apartment, even if it’s just for a couple days. While every kind of hotel is thrilling, and I would more than happy to stay at a random Holiday Inn somewhere, in all honesty, it’s the luxury or boutique styles that are the most appealing to me. I mean, they are just so different than your typical chain hotels—which, unfortunately make up the majority of locations in the country. The real tragedy is not just that there are fewer unique hotels, but they are also much more expensive. But to experience something truly out there…I think it would be worth the money.
|Sala Silvergruva. Credit: WSJ|
So, you can just imagine how excited I got when I read about Sweden’s Sala Silvergruva, a hotel that is so far from ordinary, it borders on creepy. It’s located in a 600-year-old silver mine dug in solid marble. The high-style rooms are situated over 50 stories below ground, and it takes guests a full four minutes in an elevator to get to the outside world. The rooms have silver leather chairs and candelabras all over. And since you are sleeping underground, the hotel uses a partition and electric heaters to bring the temperature up from its usual 36 degrees to a more reasonable 64 degrees—down covers and extra blankets are provided. Talk about stepping out of your comfort zone.
If guests don’t want to sleep in a cave, they can opt for a wooden dormitory, originally built for miners. While it may not be as nice as the mine suite, it is much cheaper and you still get a similar experience. The suite costs around $600 per couple, with a dinner and subterranean tour included in the price. The dormitory costs $60 per person.
A cave is certainly intriguing to me, but I think sleeping in a refurbished plane would be more my style. At Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport, a Boeing 747 that used to fly for Pan Am was gutted and transformed into hotel accommodations. It has 27 rooms equipped with bunk beds and cabinets made from luggage bins. Guests share the bathrooms, but they have been revamped to include shows and porcelain toilets. If you have the money, you can get a suite in the nose and tail of the plane that have double beds and their own bathrooms. Bunk-bed rooms cost $60, while the suites cost around $500.
In the Netherlands, an old harbor crane was made into a one-room inn. The cab sits atop four legs at 56 feet high and features a double bed and bathroom with a toilet and showers. It has large windows that offer panoramic views, but the cab is still designed to rotate, so guests can change their view with the push of a joystick. Day rates range from $570 to $857.
While some of these sound really interesting, and I would like to try them out at least once, there is one concept I think I would gladly skip: A prison. That’s right, you heard me correctly. Some hoteliers have taken to turning closed down prisons into boutique hotels. I cannot imagine two things more opposite. The Malmaison Oxford Hotel was converted from a prison in 2005. Part of the old complex dates back to 1071—which I guess is pretty cool. But I don’t know if I could sleep in an old cell that once housed killers, rapists and thieves. Stockholm’s Långholmen Hotel was also once a prison. It was where Sweden’s last execution was held in 1910 and closed in 1975. Decorations include mirrors that mimic guillotines and gray sheets striped like prison uniforms. Rooms are very small and have bunk beds.
So, there are more than a few quirky places out there for me to explore, and hopefully one day I'll get to see these hotels and experience everything they have to offer. Because, let's face it, it's not everyday you can sleep in a silver mine or an oil-rig escape pod, so why not step out of the ordinary, just once.