World's Top Geek Hotels
Thread count is essential for some guests. Others check in for the views or a buzz-worthy restaurant. But for geeks, a hotel is nothing without a high-tech gadget, a high-concept gimmick, or a connection to something the geek world holds dear (paging Star Wars fans).
In the brave new world we live in, free Wi-Fi doesn’t cut it anymore. As with many of the wonderful technical advances we take for granted, geek hotels owe a lot to Steve Jobs. The late Apple maestro made using technology so accessible that it has become easier to interact with an iPhone than a doorknob. Touch-screen technology has infiltrated hotels worldwide; one in Switzerland allows diners to use an iPad to view dinner being prepared and even chat with the chef.
Jobs, with his appealing, intuitive design sense and seize-the-moment attitude, also endowed geekiness with a certain cool. It comes with the specialized knowledge and passion typical of geeks, whether for coding or clever wordplay. Groups like Brooklyn’s Secret Science Club—think date-night lectures from NASA scientists and Nobel Prize winners—make flaunting your inner geek sexy. And there are plenty of role models, real (Tina Fey) and imagined (Harry Potter).
Today’s geeks want to be heard, and hotels are listening. In New York, the central conceit behind the Library Hotel is entire floors and individual rooms ordered according to the Dewey Decimel system.
Architecture aficionados can get in touch with their inner Le Corbusier at the Hotel Silken Puerta América, in Madrid, which brings the world’s greatest architects under one roof. For guests who consider Pritzker prizes more important than the Oscars, it’s the ultimate retreat.
Geek hotels exist all over the world, from New York to San Francisco, Tunisia to Hong Kong. Some of the properties on our list offer traditional inducements—beautiful views, enviable locations—along with their more esoteric offerings. But much like geekdom itself, many of the hotels largely ignore the outside world in favor of their own awe-inspiring reality.
Follow your own passion to the check-in counter at one of these top geek hotels.
Yotel, New York City
If the airline-style automatic check-in and white-on-white décor at this much-buzzed-about New York newcomer resembles something out of 2001: A Space Odyssey, then the Yobot, a robotic luggage handler, must surely be HAL. Left luggage is stored behind the imposing white arm in pigeonholes, allowing guests to roam New York City after checkout. yotel.com
Mama Shelter, Paris
The 24-inch iMac in every room of this Philippe Starck–designed hotel acts as mission control for HDTV, radio, movies, films, DVDs, and Internet (complete with Mama Shelter’s city guide and hotel compendium). The restaurant’s communal dining table is embedded with monitors, and a digital photo booth allows guests to become part of the ever-changing video installation. Electric scooters are available. mamashelter.com
Hotel ICON, Hong Kong
Owned by Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the Hotel ICON is a fully functioning hotel and nonprofit training ground for hospitality students. Guests can book a stay in three new guest rooms that focus on innovation and design—testing out new devices like the Cybertecture mirror, an interactive mirror overlaid with news, weather, and hotel services (a staple of every sci-fi movie command center). hotel-icon.com
Kameha Grand, Bonn
Some hotels add on technology. Others, like the Kameha Grand in Bonn, build around it. A geothermal power plant at the hotel’s heart supplies 70 percent of its heating and cooling needs, thereby reducing CO2 emissions by 400 tons a year. To combat any late-night restlessness (you are sleeping over a power plant, after all), the Fair Game suite offers Nintendo Wii, darts, and foosball. kamehagrand.com
The Hotel Silken Puerta América,Madrid
The world’s most revered starchitects each tackled one of the 12 floors of this rainbow-colored tower, letting their creative visions run wild. Zaha Hadid’s white caves appear to have been etched by wind; Marc Newson’s red lacquered walls speak of a futuristic Chinese bordello; and Jean Nouvel’s ghostly glass printed screens create a sense of being trapped between layers of film. hoteles-silken.com
Nine Zero, Boston
Boston’s Nine Zero hotel does not flaunt its technology, but rather integrates it into a 007-worthy package for the 12,000-square-foot penthouse suite on its 19th floor. The private jet, Cristal and caviar, telescope, personal assistant, private chef, and personal shopper can all be yours—as long as the retinal scan in lieu of a room key is a match. Don’t blink. ninezero.com
Blow Up Hall, Poland
At check-in, guests receive an iPhone, which navigates them to their unmarked room and unlocks the door. Each phone is also preloaded with customized apps. All the while, guests are unwittingly part of a giant video installation in the lobby that displays abstracted video feeds of people as they move through the public areas. blowuphall5050.com
Hôtel Sidi Driss, Tunisia
Amid the shifting desert sands and wind-sculpted stone of southern Tunisia, the troglodyte Berber structure of Hôtel Sidi Driss is instantly recognizable to Star Wars geeks as the homestead for the Lars family of moisture farmers on the planet Tatooine. The subterranean rooms organized around a sunken, whitewashed courtyard are carved directly into the sandstone. At about $10 a night, it’s far from luxurious; beds are within individual caves. So if you choose to sleep here, may the force be with you. 011-216-05-230-005
Tomo Hotel, San Francisco
Every room in this anime-themed hotel, aptly located in the Japantown neighborhood, features wall or ceiling murals by anime artist Heisuke Kitazawa. But this is more than an art hotel. Dedicated gamers book the Player’s Suite, equipped with an eight-by-five-foot LCD screen, a Nintendo Wii, and a Sony PS3. There are also two queen beds, although with a game center this awesome, who needs sleep? jdvhotels.com/tomo
Bellevue Palace, Switzerland
With an iPad served before the main course at the Bellevue Palace’s 16 Gault Millau point restaurant, every dining table becomes a high-tech chef’s table. A video feed shows head chef Gregor Zimmerman and his team preparing such delicacies as roast beef on sesame cherries and ras-el-hanout malfatti. The chat function allows diners to comment on the preparation: “Hey, Chef. What spices do you use in your ras-el-hanout?” bellevue-palace.ch
Aria Resort & Casino,Las Vegas
You can thank company Control4 for its role in creating the Aria’s high-tech, intuitive suites. Sensors recognize when guests first enter a room and greet them accordingly. Curtains part and lights switch on automatically, and the 42-inch LCD TV (which doubles as a message center) turns on to display customizable controls. Everything from the lighting to music can be altered and the preferences stored. When you crawl into bed, a “good night” button can shut it all down, closing the curtains and hanging out the Do Not Disturb sign. arialasvegas.com
LibraryHotel, New York City
To the delight of old-school bookworms, this cozy boutique hotel right by the New York Public Library follows the Dewey Decimel system of organization. Each floor is dedicated to one major category—12th floor, religion; 3rd floor, social sciences—and ample volumes allow guests to immerse themselves in the subject at hand. While erotic literature (room 800.001) may be perfect for a dirty weekend, Slavic language (400.001), with its War and Peace–length tomes, suits longer-term stays. libraryhotel.com
Hotel Sax, Chicago
Chicago’s Hotel Sax partnered with Microsoft to provide conferencing facilities worthy of the Pentagon. A technology butler is on hand to arrange massive in-house video conferencing at a moment’s notice. The hub (the main conferencing facility) has a wall of 32 plasma TVs. The meeting rooms feature hi-def video projectors, and the studio is equipped with the latest gaming and computer equipment. Virtually any room, therefore, can be turned into a situation room. Thompsonhotels.com
Hotel Avante, San Francisco
This Silicon Valley hotel specializes in nerd nostalgia, sourced mainly from Think Geek, which sells geek-tastic items, from Han Solo trapped in Carbonite ice trays to Doctor Who’s Sonic Screwdriver. In each room, amenities include playing cards, Advanced Rubik’s Cube, Gordian’s Knot Puzzle, Etch-a-Sketch, and Cast Puzzle. There is also a complimentary shuttle service to every technology company in a 10-mile radius, including the hallowed ground of Google headquarters. jdvhotels.com