Top 10 hotels with a past

August 26, 2012 , What's hot in travel, Miami, Paris, Istanbul, Venice

Tired of predictable chain hotels and beige boutiques? Then doze in a drug baron’s den, bed down in a train station or spend the night in jail – but only if they’ve been transformed into a fabulous hotel. Check in, soak up the history and imagine your room in its previous life. If only walls could talk.


Hilton Molino Stucky - Photo: Hilton Hotels | All Rights Reserved
Hilton Molino Stucky, Venice
The towering brick structure at the end of Giudecca Island was once Europe’s largest flour mill, now it’s home to the city’s first rooftop pool. Built at the turn of the 20th-century, the nine-story, thirteen-building complex is no stranger to firsts – it was here that electricity was introduced to Italy. Now you can take in the twinkling lights of Venice from its Skyline Bar. Discover more about Venice in our GuidePal city guide.

The Villa by Bartong G, Miami
Make like a supermodel at Gianni Versace’s palatial 1930s mansion. The flamboyant designer bought his South Beach home in 1992 and spent around USD 30 million on redecorating it in Italianate style, complete with fountains, frescoes and mosaics. Not long after Versace was shot dead on the doorstep, it was converted into an über-exclusive hotel with ten sumptuously decorated suites, each with a different theme. Discover more about Miami in our GuidePal city guide.


Malmaison Oxford - Photo: Malmaison | All rights reserved
Malmaison, Oxford
Built in 1230, this hotel was a lock up for undesirables until 1996 but today it’s no punishment to be shut away in the luxurious rooms. The central three-tier prison corridor remains, as do some of the original iron doors but porridge is off the menu. And so you don’t forget where you are, they’ve kept two prison cells intact, complete with bunk beds and bars on the window.


Four Seasons Sultanahmet, Istanbul - Photo: Four Seasons Hotel | All Rights Reserved
Four Seasons Sultanahmet, Istanbul
This century-old former prison in the heart of Sultanahmet has gone from sadistic guards a la ‘Midnight Express’ to personal butlers that cater to your every whim. Where inmates were once held in horrific conditions, willing captives are now pampered in elegant surroundings. Much of the prison structure remains, from the high walls and watchtower-like turrets of the main building, to the exercise yard turned garden restaurant. Discover more about Istanbul in our GuidePal city guide


Hopper Hotel Et Cetera, Cologne
Opened in 1894, the charitable monks at this former monastery used to feed the city’s poor and infirm, eventually dishing up around 3,000 lunches a day. The monks retired in 1994 and soon the Spartan cells were replaced by a far more luxurious bed and board for those with more hedonistic tendencies, while the vaulted cellars are now home to a bar and sauna.


Union Station Hotel - Photo: Union Station Hotel Autograph Collection | All Rights Reserved
Union Station Hotel, Nashville
In the heart of downtown Nashville, this historic turn of the century railway station changed track in the 1980s to become a 125-room hotel and the perfect escape for those without a timetable. The last train has long since departed but the impressive Richardson Romanesque architecture remains, including a soaring, barrel-vaulted lobby ceiling, marble floors, oak doors, gold leaf medallions along with many bas relief sculptures and Tiffany-style stained glass.

Casa Magna, Tulum
Chill out at the Mexican beach retreat of the notorious Colombian drug baron, Pablo Escobar. Just one of his many boltholes, he had already abandoned the property before the Colombian police gunned him down in Medellin in 1993. The den of thieves sat decaying for nearly a decade before being turned into a boho-chic boutique hotel. Today the site of wild, drug-fuelled parties offers soothing yoga retreats.


MamaShelterParis - Photo: Mama Shelter | All rights reserved
Mama Shelter, Paris
This multi-storey car park turned Philippe Stark-designed boutique made a style statement in the previously unfashionable 20th arrondissement. It’s a trailblazing hybrid of budget and luxury and the 172 rooms boast designer graffiti, iMacs and five-star sheets. And in the industrial-chic bar-cum-restaurant, a long electronic table with built-in screens allows you to eat and surf at the same time. Discover more about Paris in our GuidePal city guide


Beach cottage - Photo: Christian Horan | All rights reserved
Goldeneye, Jamaica
Write your postcards at the desk where the Bond novels were penned at Ian Fleming’s tropical retreat. The author used to write a thousand words in the morning, then go swimming before lunch on the terrace, another thousand words in late afternoon followed by martinis. Guests can follow suit, swapping the typewriter for tennis, yoga and water sports, or just lazing on the private stretch of beach.

Timberline Lodge, Oregon
Here’s Johnny! This 1930s skiing lodge built on the side of Mount Hood made a star appearance in ‘The Shining’ as the Overlook Hotel. But you won’t find sinister-looking twins lurking in the corridors, only the façade appeared in the film. In fact the rustic, hand-crafted, interior has barely changed since it opened, with high ceilings, massive exposed beams and large expanses of rough-cut stone.


Dazzling Rio de Janeiro → ← Last of the festivals of 2012