Unusual places to stay... in Europe
Looking for something different this year without travelling too far? We have pulled together some of Europe’s quirkiest places to lay your head, including cosying up in an Arctic treehouse, staying in a rock-hewn hotel and living like a king in one of Spain’s noble paradors (converted historic buildings).
Ice Hotel 365, Swedish LaplandIce Hotel 365 is an exhibition of ice and snow that makes sleeping in an igloo a year-round experience. Located 200km north of the Arctic Circle, it can be found in the sleepy Swedish village of Jukkasjärvi. There are four ice suites that you can stay in year round, with an additional two between December and April. If sleeping in temperatures as low as -5C, surrounded by intricately carved ice sculptures and reindeer hides to keep you warm doesn’t appeal, then there are also warm hotel rooms.
The interiors of Ice Hotel 365During the summer months, the domed roof of the Ice Hotel is covered in grass and wildflowers, yet maintained at sub-zero temperatures by solar power. Channel your inner Donatello at an ice sculpting class and discover how the Sámi people lived in isolation with their reindeer for thousands of years. The untouched Arctic wilderness is best explored on a dog sled or snowmobile; keep your fingers crossed for an appearance of the northern lights.
Marques de Riscal, Elciego, SpainThe Marques de Riscal is an extraordinary 21st-century château designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, who created Bilbao’s titanium-clad Guggenheim Museum. Gehry’s intertwining wave-like design is perched on the side of the chateau, and resembles an extravagant fascinator. Set in the southern Basque country, the hotel is encircled by perfectly manicured Rioja vines and quaint stone houses that date back to medieval times.
Frank Gehry's design, Marques de RiscalThe hotel’s expansive vineyard dates back to 1858, making it the oldest vineyard in the area. Learn about the production from grape to bottle as you walk through the farm and cellars. Taste the finest Rioja vintages alongside dishes curated by Michelin-star chef Francis Paniego. Then, why not soak in the barrel bath at the Vinothérapie SPA and relax with a grape-infused treatment?
The sitting room at Marques de Riscal
Cappadocia Museum Hotel, Uchisar, TurkeyCappadocia Museum Hotel lies below Uchisar Castle, which is hewn into the volcanic outcrop. In the past, villagers used the castle’s maze of tunnels and corridors as a hiding place when enemies assembled in the valleys below. Similarly designed to the castle, the hotel has been renovated within the original cave structure and reflects the region’s history. Inside, the artefacts and antiques on show date back to the Ottoman, Seljuk and Roman eras.
The views from Cappadocia Museum HotelRenowned for its spectacular geology, the hoodoo - also known as fairy chimneys - protrude from the gorges like rusty spears. See the hoodoo up close by walking in between them or have a romantic evening meal in a secluded spot in the valley by candlelight. Traditional Anatolian cuisine can be learnt from local chefs, who take guests to a local grocer, butcher and spice shop, before showing them how to prepare the delicious dishes.
Cappadocia Museum Hotel suites
Arctic TreeHouse, Rovaniemi, FinlandRising out of the ground, this equilateral treehouse offers a floor-to-ceiling window at the foot of your bed. From the comfort of your bedroom, admire the snow-drenched conifers without having to brave the freezing temperatures. The capital of Lapland, Rovaniemi, is in the north of Finland, making it the perfect winter get away with a possibility of spotting the northern lights.
Arctic Treehouse, FinlandThe hotel was designed by Studio Puisto and was influenced by its natural surroundings. With just two suites and one glasshouse that has two rooms, the property has an exclusive feel. The warm wooden interiors are complemented by Scandi-chic furnishings that are draped with fur rugs. Guests can cosy up around the central fireplace in the dining room and then enjoy a meal created with seasonal Arctic produce and ingredients. For the less faint-hearted, there’s also the option of dipping into the ice-cold Arctic lake after a Finnish sauna!
Interiors at Arctic TreeHouse
Parador de Granada, SpainThe Parador de Granada is set in a 14th-century Moorish-palace-turned-convent in the grounds of the Unesco-listed Alhambra fortress. The exclusivity of the hotel allows guests to enjoy an evening stroll around the gardens once the crowds have left. The architecture and decor is a mix of Arabic, Christian and Andalusian, which adds to the hotel’s character and charm. Sala Nazari in particular still retains its 14th-century tile work.
Parador de Granada, SpainRooms are designed in a simple yet classical style with a blend of antiques, Alpujarran rugs and Moroccan lanterns. The contemporary restaurant serves Andalusian-infused plates, such as ajo blanco - a cold almond and garlic soup - and seafood paella. There is also an outdoor patio with beautiful views of Granada, making it the perfect place to enjoy a selection of Spanish wines and tapas.
The courtyard, Parador de Granada
Tree Hotel, Lulea, SwedenDesigned by renowned Norwegian architects, Snøhetta, Tree Hotel is a series of quirky treehouses in Swedish Lapland. There are seven contemporary designs in the pine forest that include a mirrored cube, coated with infrared film so birds don’t fly into it; a bird’s nest; spaceship; and a suspended rectangle cabin, with a floor-to-ceiling window. Each of the treehouses' interiors are minimalist with eco bathrooms and pine-clad walls and floors.
The rectangular cabin at Tree HotelThe hotel's restaurant is in Britta’s Pensionat, which has an authentic, vintage feel in comparison to the contemporary treehouses. Around a cosy fire, Britta serves a selection of home-cooked Swedish and international dishes. As a perfect retreat for the whole family, children can fly through the forest by zipline, while parents have a Swedish massage or relax in the hot tub. The family can then bond over ice-fishing in the Luela river, go dog-sledding or embark on a moose safari.
The Mirrorcube treehouse
Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita, Matera, ItalyThe southern Italian town of Matera is known for its Sassi - Italian for stones - that grew out of caves from the stone and bronze ages. The Sassi were then turned into palaces, churches and homes during medieval times. After 10 years of restoration and conservation, the Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita became a boutique cave hotel.
Sextantio Le Grotte della CivitaOriginally a cave church with 18 dwellings, the rooms have been restored back to their former glory. Each room’s size varies depending on the rock formations and has its own quirks, simple furnishings and an egg-shaped bathtub. Breakfast is served in what used to be the old crypt and the courtyard overlooks the older caves of Matera.
Bathroom, Sextantio Le Grotte della CivitaTo visit one of these amazing hotels, please speak to one of our Europe travel specialists who will be able to organise a tailor-made holiday. Alternatively, if you complete our tailor-made request form one of our experts will get back to you to help you plan an itinerary. Share: