Stay in a Different Kind of Hotel on Your Next Europe Trip

People & Culture

Hotel boutique in the Tufa Mountains at sunset in Goreme city, Cappadocia, Turkey

Tired of staying at the usual chrome, glass, and brick established hotel? There is an amazing number of accommodations in Europe that are totally different and they range in style, price, and locale. I have selected some examples which I find unusual, sometimes strange, but definitely memorable as well as something that you can tell your friends about when you return from your Europe trip. I am not endorsing any hotel mentioned here but bringing to your attention they exist.

Stay in a Castle and Maybe Live like a Lord

I am amazed how many castles have been converted into hotels, but when you think about it, why not.

Ashford Castle in Ireland is on the County Mayo-County Galway border on the shore of Lough Corrib. It is a huge medieval castle dating back to the 16th century. The famous Guinness family bought it in 1852, and in the early part of the 20th century, it became a luxury hotel. The guest list has included King George V, Princess Grace, Brad Pitt, John Lennon, Robin Williams, and President Reagan. There is a portrait gallery on the 2nd floor which shows the famous people who have stayed here. Activities available include horse riding, falconry, lake cruising, fishing, clay shooting, archery, golf, and much more.  They also have a spa for those who want to be pampered on their Europe trip.

Medieval Ashford Castle and gardens, County Mayo, Ireland
Ashford Castle and gardens, County Mayo, Ireland

A stay at a villa in Tuscany may sound appealing while on an Italy vacation, but how about doing something different and staying at a castle? The Castelletto di Montebenichi lies between Siena and Arezzo, just south of Florence. This hotel, dating back to the 12th century, sits on a hilltop surrounded by woods, vineyards, and olive groves. It is filled with medieval decorations and Renaissance artwork including frescoes, sculptures, and ceramics. The surrounding views are exceptional.

If you are looking towards a Scotland vacation, then consider Skibo Castle in the Scottish Highlands. Parts of the castle date back to 1186 when it was built as a watchtower to house Bishops, but the first fortified part wasn’t until 1545. Most of what you see today was added in 1897, when it became the home of the American steel magnate and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie. After the Carnegie family sold the property, it became a very exclusive hotel. This giant castle has become a place for the rich and famous. Wedding receptions for Madonna and Guy Ritchie in 2000 and racing driver Dario Franchitti and actress Ashley Judd took place here. I quote the castle hotel, “Everything is meant to make you feel like a Scottish royal and the head gardener even plays the bagpipes around the castle each morning at 9am.” The bagpipes will get you up in time for breakfast! Activities include shooting practice, horse riding, tennis, and one of Scotland’s best golf courses.

One hotel which is not a castle in itself but is built into the ramparts of one is the Hotel de la Cite in Carcassonne in south-west France. It was constructed into the medieval wall of Carcassonne’s walled city in 1909. It offers amazing views of the valley below and is right next to the Basilica of Saint Nazaire. The fortified city of Carcassonne looks like something out of a children’s fairytale book when it’s seen from afar. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a charming place to visit and explore on a Europe trip.

Hotel de la Cite de Carcassonne, Languedoc-Roussillon, France
Hotel de la Cite de Carcassonne, Languedoc-Roussillon, France

Government-Run Doesn’t Mean Austerity

The Spanish government decided to get into the hotel business and came up with some wonderful luxury properties called Paradors. They are usually located in a converted historic building such as a fortress, castle, convent, or monastery. Paradors can be found all over Spain. I believe the total number exceeds 90, so it should not be a problem to find one wherever you are heading.

Pousadas in Portugal, although similar in concept and style, are not now Government-run but are strictly controlled and government supported. The Portuguese word pousada means hostel or inn. Again, these are located in historical buildings. The government handed over the chain to private enterprise in 2003. There at least 40 pousadas in Portugal, again widespread throughout the country.

Aerial shot of Parador de Cuenca in Cuenca, Spain
Aerial shot of Parador de Cuenca in Cuenca, Spain

Now We Get to the Really Unusual

Stay at an Ice Hotel
Perhaps not everyone’s idea of comfort, but certainly different, are the ice hotels which have now sprung up in Europe. You are not going to find them in a warm climate so naturally, they exist in the northern hemisphere. I am aware of ice hotels in Norway, Sweden, Finland, Austria, Switzerland, and Iceland. The concept of an ice hotel is that it is a temporary building which depends on sub-freezing temperatures. It is literally constructed of ice and snow and reconstructed each year. Guests have to be prepared to sleep in beds made of ice but totally wrapped in furs, hides, blankets, and sleeping bags designed to keep out the cold. Some of the facilities to be found in ice hotels are saunas, outdoor hot tubs, ice bars, and ice restaurants. Activities offered tend to be connected with winter such as skiing, tobogganing, dog sledding, snowmobiling, and ice sculpting. In the more northerly ice hotels you find on Europe trip, there is always the opportunity to view the wonderful and mystic Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis).

Woman at the bar of an ice hotel, Europe
Woman at the bar of an ice hotel

Stay in a Treehouse Hotel
This is a serious proposition, not something built in the backyard for children to play in. In a treehouse hotel, you literally sleep in a large tree in a building lodged securely in the tree’s branches. They can range from basic to luxury-style accommodation. Once inside the room, you will be amazed how identical it is, in most cases, to a similar room at, say, a lodge. Treehouses are eco-friendly and allow the guest to really commune with nature. They are abundant in Europe, existing in France, UK, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Finland, Sweden, Greece, and Slovenia.

Stay in a Crane Hotel
A slight departure from a treehouse hotel is the Crane Hotel Feralda in Amsterdam. This is a three-suite property housed in a converted crane. It naturally boasts great views of the city. There is no reception room or lounge but there is a hot tub on the roof. The owner simply greets new guests on arrival to hand over the keys and explain the concept. All suites are equipped with modern conveniences including coffee machines, kettles, minibars, televisions, and music streaming devices. There is no restaurant as such but a champagne breakfast can be delivered to your room. Breakfast can also be taken at a nearby hotel.

Crane Hotel Faralda in Amsterdam, Netherlands | Photo credit: Nichon Glerum
Crane Hotel Faralda in Amsterdam, Netherlands | Photo credit: Nichon Glerum

Stay in a Lighthouse Hotel
You would naturally need to choose a country which has a sea coast. Lighthouse hotels exist in the UK, Ireland, Italy, France, Portugal, Norway, Netherlands, Denmark, and Croatia. Quite often, the hotel will be a historical landmark. Sometimes, they require a boat ride to reach them. One thing is assured, you will be lured to sleep by the sound of the waves lapping on the shore. Once again, you can find accommodation ranging from the basic to deluxe. Quite often, these hotels serve at least breakfast.

Stay in a Cave Hotel
Cave hotels are literally built into the side of mountains, rocks, and similar terrain. They can be found on a Europe trip in a few countries including Italy, France, Spain, Greece, and Turkey, the most ideal country for me personally. The region of Cappadocia has several, and this particular location offers very unusual landscapes. So, not only are you staying in a cave, but you’re surrounded by odd shaped rock formations that look like something you would see on the moon. Cave hotels are just as comfortable as a standard hotel, perhaps even more cozy on Turkey tours.

Stay on a Houseboat Hotel
Most houseboat hotels are moored at the side of a river and offer the same facilities as a regular hotel, quite often supplying meals in a restaurant. And once again, they can range in style, quality, and price. A few European counties offer this type of accommodation including the UK, France, Spain, Denmark, Germany, and the Czech Republic.

Hotel Boat on the River Vltava in Prague, Czech Republic
Hotel boat on the River Vltava in Prague, Czech Republic

And the Award for the Most Unusual Hotel Goes to…..

The CasaAnus Hotel near Antwerp in Belgium has been designed to resemble a giant intestine. There is one room inside, complete with a double bed, shower with hot water, a toilet, and a heater. Breakfast is served in a nearby building. On reflection, the name is very appropriate.

Central Square and City Hall of Antwerp
Central Square and City Hall in Antwerp

So now you can, on your next Europe trip, decide to be different and try one of these very special hotels.

Related Article:
Unique Accommodations Around the World