World's Most Unusual Hotels

Begin Slideshow
The Liberty Hotel

For a truly memorable stay, break free from hotel chains and check into one of these unusual hotels. 

Liberty Hotel, Boston

1 of 17

You don’t have to commit a crime anymore to earn acceptance into Boston’s famous Liberty Hotel, which used to be home to the Charles Street jail—inmates once included Malcolm X and shamed Boston mayor James Curley. Built in 1851, the jail, which resides in the heart of Boston’s Beacon Hill, sealed its doors due to overcrowding in 1990. In 2007 it was brilliantly converted into a 298-room high-end dwelling, which still showcases parts of the original structure. Dine inside remnants of original jail cells at the hotel’s restaurant, Clink, and enjoy a drink at Alibi, the bar that once doubled as the jail’s drunk tank. The Catwalk, a walkway once patrolled by prison guards, and part of the 16-floor tower structure, now houses the Liberty’s newest bar. Even the “Do not disturb” signs say “Solitary.” If you want the real lockup experience, ask to stay in one of the 18 rooms that feature parts of the real jail. Investigate local architecture by taking a guided tour of historic homes like the Harrison Gray Otis houses and the Nichols House Museum. Shop Charles Street, which offers terrifically unique shops. Or get wet at the community boat dock, which is just a seven-minute walk from the hotel. Kayaks are free to rent when you show your room key. 215 Charles St., Boston, Mass.; libertyhotel.com

—Alix Strauss

World's Most Unusual Hotels

Liberty Hotel, Boston

You don’t have to commit a crime anymore to earn acceptance into Boston’s famous Liberty Hotel, which used to be home to the Charles Street jail—inmates once included Malcolm X and shamed Boston mayor James Curley. Built in 1851, the jail, which resides in the heart of Boston’s Beacon Hill, sealed its doors due to overcrowding in 1990. In 2007 it was brilliantly converted into a 298-room high-end dwelling, which still showcases parts of the original structure. Dine inside remnants of original jail cells at the hotel’s restaurant, Clink, and enjoy a drink at Alibi, the bar that once doubled as the jail’s drunk tank. The Catwalk, a walkway once patrolled by prison guards, and part of the 16-floor tower structure, now houses the Liberty’s newest bar. Even the “Do not disturb” signs say “Solitary.” If you want the real lockup experience, ask to stay in one of the 18 rooms that feature parts of the real jail. Investigate local architecture by taking a guided tour of historic homes like the Harrison Gray Otis houses and the Nichols House Museum. Shop Charles Street, which offers terrifically unique shops. Or get wet at the community boat dock, which is just a seven-minute walk from the hotel. Kayaks are free to rent when you show your room key. 215 Charles St., Boston, Mass.; libertyhotel.com

—Alix Strauss

The Liberty Hotel

World's Most Unusual Hotels

On a Sri Lankan riverbank stands a lone, slightly misshapen, enormous elephant. As you approach cautiously, you realize this creature isn’t some freak of nature; it’s an eco-lodge of grass and twigs that sleeps up to 10 people in its belly.

Kumbuk Hotel belongs to a peculiar breed of hotels that continue to crop up worldwide, winning over travelers with their sheer novelty. Some of these unusual hotels have never-knew-you-needed-them amenities like an in-room sailboat, while others go for shock factor: ever slept in a coffin bed or a rescue pod? Still others are in improbable locations: the depths of a silver mine; atop a coral reef. But what all the world’s most unusual hotels promise is that you’ll be talking about your stay long after you check out.

Make no mistake: while these unusual hotels may look crazy, they aren’t the result of hoteliers gone mad. The owners are often forward-thinking architects or tinkerers inspired to make their small hotel creations into quirky destinations in and of themselves. They’re well aware that anything strange attracts publicity and curious travelers.

Berlin’s Propeller Island, for example, has become popular among artists, who seek stimulation among the green padded walls, floating beds, and fun-house interiors, which, not surprisingly, have been featured in many music videos. While it jives with Berlin’s artsy reputation, some other unusual hotels go to more radical lengths to blend in with their surroundings. The salt pans of Bolivia make the Palacio de Sal hotel—constructed entirely from salt blocks (even the beds)—a true product of the environment.

Sure, your usual tastes probably run sweeter—say, to a hotel pool, a king-size bed with a down comforter, and tasteful décor. Yet there’s something liberating about letting loose and giving in to a strange suite once in a while—just as there’s something reassuring about knowing these properties exist and thrive. In cases like Sweden’s futuristic all-suites Treehotel, unusual hotels can even be beautiful examples of out-of-the-box design.

Still, that doesn’t account for a life-size hamster hotel where guests are greeted with masks on arrival. That’s just downright strange—and you need to see it to believe it.  

—Adam McCulloch

Did you enjoy this article?

Share it.

Explore More