Ten incredible places transformed into hotels

For a hotel company, taking a plot of free land, then throwing up a new build property is the easy route. And while shiny new hotels can be great, they don't tend to have as much character as those that have taken something completely different and transformed it…

L'Iglesia El Jadida, Morocco

There are several converted church hotels around the world, but few have the sumptuous charm of this 14 room affair in the fortified town of El Jadida. The usual Moorish look doesn't apply to either town or church – it's an old Portuguese exclave, with architecture to match. The main lobby takes over the nave of the former Portuguese church, most rooms are in the former convent, and the restaurant is in a former consulate building. See liglesia.com

The Courthouse Shoreditch, London

No prizes for guessing what this once was, but the revamp of the former Old Street Magistrates Court and Police Station is thoroughly impressive. The Grade II-listed baroque building now hosts a 196-seat cinema, indoor swimming pool and bowling alley. Those who passed through in the former incarnation include the Kray twins and George Orwell. That theme is riffed on with big artworks featuring the likes of the Mona Lisa and Darth Vader behind bars… See shoreditch.courthouse-hotel.com

QT Sydney

Now firmly established as one of the hippest hotels in Sydney, the QT took over the much-mourned Gowings department store, which closed in 2006. It wasn't just Gowings it took over, though – it also colonised the theatre/ cinema building next door. Flamboyant theatricality and several nods to the fashion industry have been retained in the interior design. See qthotelsandresorts.com

Grand Hotel Convento di Amalfi, Italy

Perched on an 80 metre cliff, with outrageous views of the Amalfi coast, the monks who once called this 13th century monastery home didn't have it too bad. The original cloister and church are still in place, but the sleeping quarters are rather more swanky than they were. The bright, neutrally-toned rooms are designed to maximise the sea views, while the pool is something the monks wouldn't have enjoyed. See nh-hotels.com

Quinta Real Zacatecas, Mexico

Built back in 1886, this historic hotel was once considerably less restful than it is now. Its original incarnation was a bullring, which hosted its last fight in 1975. It was saved from demolition by the ambitious plans to convert it into a luxury hotel. The ring is still in place, the lobby circles around it, and most of the rooms are built up in viewing gallery-esque stacks behind. See quintareal.com

Hotel Fort Canning, Singapore

Fort Canning Park is arguably the most historic part of Singapore – it's where the kings of ancient Singapore were buried. But the hotel at the edge was once home to the British military administration. Guests get a more lavish experience than the British Far East Command officers, with two pools and daringly modernised rooms, some of which come with glass-enclosed verandas. See hfcsingapore.com

Cley Windmill, England

In coastal Norfolk, the Cley Windmill's blades no longer turn and maintaining the 18th century building is something of a labour of love. There are six rooms inside the five storey mill, but its former life is most obvious in the sitting room, where sofas, antique furniture and an open fire are arranged inside a large circle. The dining room, meanwhile, is inside a wood-beamed 1713 warehouse. See cleywindmill.co.uk

Alila Fort Bishangarh, India

If it's an actual fort you're wanting, then this effort in Rajasthan has the full looks package – all turrets and battlements. On a hilltop, this 18th century fort played host to kings as well as warriors, and the current incarnation is more suited to the former. By Indian opulence standards, it's tastefully minimalist inside, drawing attention to the little details like the heritage wooden window frames. But there's still a fab infinity pool. See alilahotels.com


One Room Hotel, Prague

Prague's communist era TV tower has become something of a local icon, and 70 metres up is one of the smallest hotels in the world. Inside one of the tower's brutalist bulges, there's just one room, although it comes with most of the facilities you'd expect in a normal hotel. The glass-fronted bathroom offers spectacular views over the city and a TV in the mirror. And, if you want to dine in-house, simply head up in the lift to the even higher restaurant. See towerpark.cz

Miss Clara by Nobis, Stockholm

One of Stockholm's most glorious art nouveau buildings is now a stylish hotel, but it was once the Ateneum girls' school. The name comes courtesy of former headmistress Clara Strömberg, and the main staircase is a 1910 original. Rooms come with dark herringbone parquet floors, church-like arched windows and limestone bathrooms. See missclarahotel.com

Disclosure: David Whitley has been a guest of QT Hotels and Resorts, Hotel Fort Canning and the Courthouse Shoreditch.

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