The Old Railway Station
West Sussex, UK
Was: Petworth Railway Station
Now: A quirky hotel full of olde English charm, this will be a real hit with train enthusiasts and people in need of some down time
What’s it like? The Old Railway Station, which was built in 1892, is the perfect place to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Dubai. Guests can choose to stay in the old station house or in one of the Pullman train carriages. When you’re not enjoying time aboard, stroll around the village for antiques and cute cafés galore. For people needing something a bit livelier than a quaint village, seaside city Brighton is just down the road. Packed with shops, bars, restaurants and people, there is something for everyone here. Into vegan food and fire dancing? Visit the lanes for some odd shops and cool drinking holes. Love candy floss and fairground rides? Take a stroll along the Pier. Can’t get enough of fancy dining and posh quaffing? Dine at Havana in the lanes and drink in the Metropole Hotel. Once you’ve crammed everything into the day, head back to West Sussex safe in the knowledge you’ll have a peaceful sleep in a countryside carriage.
How to get there: Emirates flies direct to London Gatwick from 3,600
Underground Suite, Sweden
Was: A mine
Now: An underground suite in one of the most well-preserved mines in the world
What’s it like? For those intrepid explorers lucky enough not to suffer from the occasional bout of claustrophobia, the underground suite at Sala Silvermine is the perfect place to escape from reality (about 155 metres below the surface of reality, to be precise). Guests staying in the hotel’s only underground suite will be taken down by a guide, given food, water, extra blankets (it’s chilly down there) and a walkie-talkie incase they need to contact staff on reception. Once you’ve left your mole-like sleeping quarters, you can take a tour of the mine, visit the museum and take a stroll round the peaceful town of Sala. If your time down the mine leaves you with a sudden urge to escape from all things quiet, travel the 60k to trendy town Uppsala, where you’ll find pubs, restaurants and entertainment aplenty.
How to get there: Aeroflot flies indirect to Sweden from Dhs2,742
Was: The grandstand of San Pedro bullfighting ring, which was built in the 19th century and had its last corrida in 1975
Now: A quaint, romantic hotel perfect for total relaxation
What’s it like? Quinta Real is such a pretty, peaceful place, you’d be forgiven for wanting to spend your entire vacation sitting on the colonial style patio and watching the world go by. But don’t. When you’re done relaxing and pretending to be a matador in the old bullring (we’d do it too), venture out and explore Zacatecas, a UNESCO world heritage site and haven for history buffs and architecture fans. Take a cable car to Cerro de la Bufa for an aerial view of the city’s skyline – a panorama which features colonial buildings, grand churches and a former Jesuit college. After a morning of exploring the city’s maze of cobbled streets, stop off for some traditional Mexican fare at revolution-themed restaurant Los Dorados de Villa, or book a horse riding expedition to see the sights outside of town.
How to get there: Emirates and Alaska Airlines fly indirect from Dhs5,465
Hotel Saint Merry
Was: The presbytery of the Saint Merry Church in Paris
Now: 17th century gothic style hotel in an amazing location
What’s it like? If staying in a converted church a stone’s throw from the stunning Notre Dame Cathedral doesn’t tempt you into visiting Paris, the renowned charm of the city will. Get your tourist hat on and pay a visit to the Eiffel Tower, Arc Du Triomphe and Sacré Coeur for the stunning architecture; to the Champs Élysées for the high-end shopping; and to the Louvre, where you’ll find the famous Mona Lisa and enough art to keep you busy for days. In the evening, take a moonlit stroll down cobbled streets and along the banks of the Seine, dine in one of hundreds of French restaurants serving food so good you’ll want to weep, and go for a big night out in the Belleville or Saint Germain des Prés districts. There’s no way you can leave this city without falling in love… if not with a charming Parisian, then with the elegant, bustling city itself.
How to get there: Gulf Air flies indirect to Paris from Dhs1,802
Clontarf Castle Hotel
Was: A castle dating back to1837, which replaced the previous castles on the site which date back to 1172
Now: An upmarket hotel with an impressive castle exterior and a surprisingly modern feel inside
What’s it like? Let’s face it, few people would turn their noses up at staying in an Irish castle - particularly one with all mod cons, restaurants, and a backdrop you’d usually only find on a postcard. Make no mistake, Clontarf Castle is one top notch place to lay your hat. If you ever get bored with playing lady of the manor, and picturing yourself mingling with some of the grounds’ famous guests - including the Knights Templar, and later, Handel - the castle is located just two miles from Dublin city centre, so get yourself to a traditional Irish watering hole and find out why the nation is just so darn jolly. In the city, you’ll find bars, restaurants and churches. And if you fancy leaving Dublin, jump on a bus to the Wicklow mountains.
How to get there: Emirates flies direct to Dublin from Dhs4,000
The Henry Jones Art Hotel
Was: A jam factory from the late 1800s
Now: A boutiquey art hotel, so cool it almost hurts
What’s it like? Australia’s first dedicated art hotel, The Henry Jones, has more than 300 artworks in the building and each room comes complete with its own unique pieces. Art zealots need not fear – the displays are rotated regularly so you won’t be staring at the same piece over and over again if you’re a regular here. History buffs will also enjoy learning about the hotel’s transormation from jam making warehouses and boiling rooms to funky sleeping quarters. When you’re not exploring the hotel, take some time out to see Hobart. Here you’ll find chilled out people, ultra hip eateries, and more activities than you can shake a stick at. For the adventurous traveller, there are speedboat rides, bikes for hire, and sailing, while chocolate lovers can visit the Cadbury’s Chocolate Factory (amaze). If you fancy taking a break from Hobart, check out the cruises round Tasman Island.
How to get there: Etihad flies indirect to Hobart from Dhs6,800