Everyone wants to stay in a hotel with a bit of character, from a touch of history to the décor or location. Some, however, might not want to look too closely at the place’s past – at least if they want to enjoy their stay. That said, you might be just the kind of person that wants to live on the morbid side of life, seeking out beds for the night you’d give your first-born to visit. From the Dark Tower to a Tower of Death, here are the best hotels with not the best pasts to enjoy…
The Stanley Hotel
If driving along the mountains to the precariously-perched Stanley Hotel makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, it’s probably because it’s better known under a different name: The Overlook. That’s right, this charming hotel in the Rockies is none other than Stephen King’s gratuitously haunted star of The Shining. Not the Stanley Kubrick film though; this is the original.
It’s not just the film link that’s creepy, though; the hotel has always had a history of paranormal activity that, unlike the films of the same name, is genuinely frightening. Needless to say, if you’re a ghostbusting badass like me, you’ll want to stay in rooms 401, 407, 428 or 1302. Even I’m not going anywhere near the Stephen King Suite though; as they say, don’t go to room 217.
He might have ended up dead on a rooftop with grinning officers posing around his body, but Pablo Escobar certainly knew how to live. The kingpin of the Medellin cartel, who at the height of his power was responsible for 80% of cocaine entering the USA, had a good number of sprawling mansions, one of which has been turned into Casa Malca. Situated on the Yucatan Peninsula, the mansion has been restored and built upon with a new contemporary art collection worthy of a gallery of its own and extensions in all the right places.
Airy, calming and tranquil, nowadays the only white powder in sight is the sand. Eco-friendly architecture, locally-sourced food and a beautifully chilled-out atmosphere… it’s a lot more wholesome now than when Escobar stayed. Unless you find a small package underneath the floorboards at any rate.
At a glance, Prora could be any seaside resort. The beaches are beautiful, the architecture is inviting – if not particularly interesting – and the Hotel Solaire is a comfortable, moderately luxurious stay. Except that it’s not any seaside resort. This was the place built by Hitler as the carrot to the Gestapo’s stick; a resort to placate German workers on the Nazi march to power.
Originally erected to house 20,000 residents, the three-mile long resort was never finished as one or two other things happened in 1939 to distract the workforce. It was only completed in the last decade, first as a youth hostel – of all things – then as a string of luxury hotels and apartments. Fortunately, there’s no longer any Gestapo patrols – and that beach is rather lovely.
Even if there were no murders or hauntings at Cliveden House (that we know of), the estate’s history has been marred by more than its fair share of political scandal. Back in 1961, at the height of the Cold War, it was here that John Profumo had his affair with Christine Keeler. An affair’s bad enough, but he was the British Secretary of State for War and she was also seeing a Russian diplomat.
It didn’t go so well. For anyone. Half a century on and scandals have died out at Cliveden (that we know of) yet it remains a gloriously extravagant taste of British aristocracy. It has everything a cheating politician could want, from locally-sourced food and gardens to eavesdrop in, to indulgent fourposter beds. For a good night’s sleep, obviously.
This intriguing little boutique hotel in Lviv, Ukraine, houses just 26 rooms within its infinitely curving walls, with a wealth of cool exposed brickwork interrupted only by impressive views of the city. It’s a charming building and luxurious to boot, a real throwback to the elegance of the City of the Lion’s 18th century nobility. It was also here that over 100,000 prisoners were tortured and starved to death by the Nazis. Yeah. Not so charming now is it?
Things were so bad there that it became known colloquially as the Tower of Death, something that the hotel itself doesn’t dwell on. Nowadays you can eat well with a local tasting menu at restaurant Garmata and have a spa treatment or two that are anything but torture. Dark yes, but still a great stay.
Park Central Hotel
This New York institution has had its fair share of larger-than-life figures through its doors, including Eleanor Roosevelt and Mae West. It’s also had more bullets fired at it than anyone should be comfortable with, courtesy of the mob.
The first casualty was Arnold Rothstein in 1928 (who you may know of from Boardwalk Empire) – not the best news for the hotel considering it had only opened in 1927. A few decades later Albert Anastasia, head of the Gambino crime family, met his end while having a shave – as if razors weren’t tense enough.
Today the Park Central remains one of New York’s most popular hotels. Granted, that has a lot to do with its central location, relaxed atmosphere and effortlessly glamorous décor, but the drop-in tommy gun-related crime has to have helped.