Floatels: Boat hotels around the world we’re dreaming of checking into
26th May 2021
We’re on the home stretch of this pandemic (hopefully!) but international travel still seems like a while off. In the interim, we are dreaming of a holiday like no other, starting with these magnificent boat hotels around the world.
Listen, our first holiday back can’t just be any old trip. It’s got to a holiday so good that it blows all of the cobwebs from the last 15 months way off and turns our year around so it becomes the years that you went on that incredible holiday.
Big sandals to fill, I know. Which is why we’re starting our research early – and why not, we all could use something to look forward to. AirBnBs and campervans are in high demand this summer, but what about on the water? Here are nine floating and boat hotels to put on your travel wish list.
Fingal Edinburgh, Scotland
Launched in 1963, the Fingal used to ferry supplies to Scotland’s lighthouses, many of which were engineered by the Stevensons, of Robert Louis fame. After the vessel’s retirement, the Royal Yacht Britannia Trust invested £5 million into her conversion from maritime workhorse to luxury hotel, opening last year. Its 23 cabins are named after each of the Stevenson’s lighthouses, while its vintage grandeur – Art Deco and Neoclassical inspired design, coupled with all mod-cons – makes it a cinch for milestone celebrations.
Port x Prague, Czech Republic
Designed by the award-winning Atelier SAD, Prague’s Port X is a swish river capsule in the hip and happening Holesovice neighbourhood, known for its unique architecture, art galleries and trending restaurants, and just 20 minutes from the historic capital. A clean and contemporary aesthetic features throughout the houseboat (which caters for up to four persons), with a spacious, open-plan living area overlooking floor-to-ceiling-window views of the Vltava, the Czech Republic’s longest river.
Off Paris Seine, France
Docked centrally on the Quai d’Austerlitz, this boatel harbours magnifique modern suites, a sun terrace, plunge pool and a bar and restaurant with live music and weekend parties. Embark on a Seine cruise from the boatel’s private marina or – more affordable – dine on Breton oysters, ceviche and crab rolls from the “La Mer à Boire” menu, which runs seasonally from June until October.
Good Hotel, United Kingdom
“Stay good, do good” is the mantra of this admirable 148-room enterprise, which trains long-term unemployed locals, stocks suppliers from small, local businesses and donates profits to help educate children from low-income families. The result is a beautifully designed and affordable accommodation option, which was literally shipped from Amsterdam to London’s Victoria Docks in 2015. London City Airport is just an eight-minute DLR ride away, while Canning Town Tube stop is within a 15-minute walk.
Belmond Afloat, France
Offering upscale, private charter river cruises throughout France, Belmond Afloat – from the same stable as the Venice-Simplon Orient Express – comprises seven boats across different routes. Book a cabin for two on the Belmond Napoléon, travelling from Tain-l’Hermitage to Avignon, or the Belmond Hirondelle, from Châlons-en-Champagne to Epernay. All cruises include curated itineraries – truffle hunting, hot-air ballooning, wine tasting – and have bicycles on board for day trips.
Boat-Hotel de Barge, Belgium
This characterful, 22-room boutique boatel is housed in a large, retired barge docked on the Bruges-Ghent canal in Belgium’s Centrum district – one kilometre from Bruges central station and 500 metres from Minnewaterpark, a gorgeous lakeside park. The hotel’s true hero though is arguably its restaurant, The Captain’s Table, which serves contemporary cuisine with an emphasis on fresh seafood.
Queen Mary Long Beach, United States
Launched 23 years after Titanic, the Queen Mary was the luxury cruise liner’s superior in every way: bigger, faster – and it didn’t sink. Star-spangled guests during its golden age include Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Winston Churchill and JFK, except during WWII, when it served as troopship. While you are aboard its current iteration as a three-star, 347-suite boatel, learn more about its construction, celebrity ties and its apparently haunted past during a guided tour of historic exhibits, model gallery, engine room and 4D theatre.
SWEETS hotel, The Netherlands
More a network of floatels, SWEETS is made up of 28 different bridge houses across Amsterdam. For a century these structures have housed bridge keepers in charge of opening bridges for frequent boat traffic. Now automated, they’ve been converted into lodgings to help preserve the city’s past. Each unique suite has been smartly designed and beautifully decorated, and although space is minimal (suitable for just two people), the canal views are unbeatable.
The Covington Inn, United States
This nostalgic towboat has been afloat on the Mississippi River since 1946. No longer a cargo barge, however, The Covington Inn in Minneapolis-St Paul welcomes guests as a bed and breakfast these days. Its three storeys contain four staterooms, each with deck access, while owner and Minnesota native Liz Miller welcomes guests with her quintessential Midwestern hospitality, offering advice on local haunts – theatres, museums, shops, eateries and breweries – in nearby downtown St Paul, a food and cultural haven.
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