Five very different overnight sleeps
Most hotels are not particularly memorable, as you go to a location to see the place, not the four walls of your overnight accommodation. But what if you could see somewhere different and stay somewhere unusual at the same time?
We’ve found five very different overnight sleeps to try out, most not prohibitively far from Luxembourg, where you’ll have a lasting memory of where you spent the night.
Sleep next to polar bears or tigers
If you want to wake up with polar bears or tigers, then head to Pairi Daiza just north of Mons in Brugelette, and the zoo with botanical gardens, where you can stay at nicely kitted out lodges that face directly into the animal enclosures.
The Land of the Cold has rooms with a window which shows the underwater area so you can see the largest land predator taking a swim. Alternatively you can take up residence in a Siberian forest with views of the tigers, or the full moon lodge, where you might find a bear or a wolf peeking in at breakfast.
The animal park Sainte Croix in Rhodes, in the Moselle region of France, has several lodges on the wolf enclosure, with huge windows so you can get up close and personal with the pack. The dome-roofed den faces the enclosure for a pack of grey wolves but looks more like a hobbit house (more on that later). You can also bed-down in a yurt with the deer, or take a lodge overlooking the bears, bison and coyotes.
Closer to home? A bit less wild, but out in nature, you can stay at the Escher animal park which has a number of pretty fairy treehouses dotted around the complex for a magical overnight stay amid the goats, highland cattle, deer and racoons. Otherwise head to Clervaux and the Tourist Centre Robbesscheier, which has accommodation with shire horses and goats amongst the animals on site.
Do time in prison
Watch too many TV series set in prison? Well now is your chance to know exactly what that feels like. Barabas Hotel in Lucerne, Switzerland was a real prison until 1998. Originally built in 1862, the historic building was repurposed to provide accommodation in 60 prison cell rooms. Barabas was a pacifist who refused military service and was thrown in jail. He painted frescoes of all the things he missed in life, which are still at the hotel. Don’t expect comfort. Bunk beds, metal sinks and windows with bars, although you will get a shower. Borrow crime novels from the hotel’s library, but you won’t have to eat prison food. This prison has a Japanese restaurant.
If you’re feeling hardcore, dare yourself to spend a night in the Karosta Prison in Latvia, with its huge iron doors. Unchanged since Tsarist Russia, this prison was the place of fairly brutal treatment and is said to be haunted. You’ll be treated like a prisoner from start to finish, with uniformed guards showing you to your cell with a fairly basic mattress and blanket. This is the ideal overnight stay for the slightly masochistic, although the marketing blurb says it caters to hen and stag nights, and wedding parties!
If Latvia is too far to go, Kaiserslautern is just a couple of hours away and you can stay at the Alcatraz hotel which dates back to 1967. There are cell-style room with original prison beds made by inmates, and breakfast is served through the hatch of the original prison door. Don’t worry, the world won’t forget you, as even the cell-style rooms have WiFi. And if you prefer all your creature comforts, then head to the Liberty Hotel in Offenburg, Germany. A prison built in 1840 for the Baden revolutionaries, it’s been lovingly restored, with several cells merged into one comfortable hotel suite.
Closer to home? Well you may not know it but the former Palace Hotel in Mondorf-les-Bains was the prisoner of war camp that held many high-ranking Nazis including Hermann Göring. Camp Ashcan as it was code-named, had a 15 foot high electrified barbed wire fence and the rooms were furnished with army cots. The prisoners were transferred to Nuremberg in August 1945 to stand trial. The original hotel was demolished so you’ll have to spend the night in a more luxurious spa hotel.
Sleep in a bubble under the stars
Want to get back to nature and sleep under the stars? Well you can do it in a bubble tent or dome in a number of places in the Belgian Ardennes.
In the village of Sainte Marie near Libramont, you can sleep in a fully glass dome or a tent bubble in a wooded park with Ardennes Insolité. Wake up in a field in Marche-en-Famenne, at au Claire de ma Bulle (Under my Bubble), in a king-size bed with floor to ceiling views of the surrounding countryside. In Houyet you can cosy on down in a large bubble tent with private wash area, fire pit, and access to an outdoor pool.
If you don’t want even a thin sheen between you and the night skies, head to Domaine de Ronchinne in the Namur region, where you can literally sleep on a fur-covered bed under the stars completely alfresco, in the Rhododendron forest.
Closer to home? Well there aren’t any bubble tents, but there are plenty of great campsites and nothing to stop you grabbing your sleeping bag and settling down under the night sky. Here’s our list of the best campsites in the Grand Duchy.
Your own hobbit house
A fan of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and want to stay in a home like Bilbo and Frodo? Well you can do just that in several places in Germany including Feriendorf Auenland located in the Thuringian Forest near Rennsteig. Each little 45sqm house has its own wood burner and custom-made oak furniture and can accommodate 2-4 people. Just an hour from Luxembourg you can also stay overnight in “the shire” in a hobbit house in Spicheren, France. In fact all the rooms at this guesthouse are Tolkien-inspired and include one for elves.
Further afield Mi Tesoro in the Galician town of Lugo in Spain has three semi-buried, grass-roofed hobbit dwellings accommodating up to six people. You can then embark on the 122km trek of the Sierra de Norte de Madrid also known as the Camino del Anillo (Way of the Ring), Inspired by JRR Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, the path allows you to travel from the Shire to Middle Earth, then Rivendell, and finally the Valley of Moria. You can find out more here.
Closer to home? Stay the night in a mushroom ecolodge at Pietsche Lauer in Useldange or a barrel-shaped mini-hobbit hole on the banks of the River Clèrve at Camping Val d’Or. Neither has reported any Orc sightings for some time.
Bird’s eye view from a water tower
Head to Cologne for a night in a what was once Europe’s highest water tower, now a Hilton hotel, with a very unique rooftop terrace bar which is 35m high and affords great views of the city. The 130-year old building has rooms with marble bathrooms and floor-to-ceiling windows. The Biesbosch National Park in Rotterdam is also home to a water tower hotel, with five rooms – one for each floor.
Closer to home? You can find out about all things water at the Aqua tower Berdorf, which has sunset viewings this summer. If you want to stay overnight in a tower, try either the self-catering apartments in the medieval fortified towers of Echternach. Of the original 20 towers, three have been converted into holiday homes. More medieval flare is on offer at Grevenmacher, where you can stay in a restored watch tower that is part of the city wall, with great views of the old town.
And more unusual places
Want to lower your carbon footprint with fewer flights? Then fly nowhere and instead stay in a jumbo jet hotel in Sweden’s capital city, or the Airplane suit in the Netherlands’ Gelder province (where you get the whole plane to yourself).
Whilst we’re on transport lodgings, you can stay inside vintage train carriages at the Train Hostel in Brussels, and you can sleep in a VW Beetle car bed at the V8 hotel in Stuttgart. If a VW sounds too small, go for the Cadillac bed.