Sunday, 31 July 2011

Christon Café – Tokyo, Japan

Catholics might get a bit squeamish about the décor at the Christon chain of cafes in Tokyo, which is a bit on the gothic side. At the entrance you’ll find a glass display of the Virgin Mary, and inside is an elaborate and slightly macabre display of gargoyles, statues of saints, stained glass windows and even an authentic altar. For those interested in checking it out in person, the food is said to be fabulous and quite reasonable.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Mao-Era Red Guards Restaurant – Nanning, China

You wouldn’t think the Chinese people would be eager to relive the Mao era while casually dining, but patrons at Shaoshan Chong line up to consume local delicacies served by waiters in the Red Guard uniform. The Red Guard was the army unit formed by Mao Tse Tung during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), which aimed to wipe the country free of revisionist and Western influence.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Robot-Staffed Restaurant – Nuremburg, Germany

One restaurant in Nuremburg, Germany cut out waitstaff altogether, relying on robots instead. Alas, they weren’t walking, talking robots wearing aprons or anything really fun like that. Rather, it was centered around automation – customers ordered via touch screens, and moments later the food traveled to their tables on a spiral slide. It might have saved diners money on tips, but apparently the concept didn’t go over too well, as the restaurant was not open long.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Hobbit House – Manila, Phillipines

Long before the Lord of the Rings trilogy debuted on theatre screens, the Hobbit House was founded in Manila by former Peace Corps volunteer and Tolkein fan Jim Turner. Don’t expect to find the sort of lush Middle Earth scenery that filled the movies, however – what you’ll encounter instead if you stop to dine at the Hobbit House is a staff of ‘the smallest waiters in the world’. That’s right, check your political correctness at the door – this is one group of little people who are okay with being referred to as hobbits.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Vampire Café – Tokyo, Japan

Continuing the creepy, otherwordly themes is the Vampire Café in the Ginza section of Tokyo, where the interior is almost entirely blood red. Guests are ushered down a long hallway with red blood cells superimposed on the floor. Inside, the décor includes heavy velvet drapes, black coffins dripping with red candle wax, skulls and crosses. Many of the meals are vampire-themed, and diners drink red cocktails from martini glasses.

Monday, 25 July 2011

The Hellfire Club – Manchester, UK

The Hellfire Club, with its gothic décor and creepy theme, might not seem like a likely place to enjoy a world-class meal, but the food here is said to be divine. It’s located in a reportedly haunted 19th century building and resembles a dungeon, with skeletons, coffins and red lights strewn throughout. Menu items include steaks named ‘Kiss of the Vampire’ and ‘Cannibal Holocaust’.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Death Themed Restaurant – Truskavets, Ukraine

When a group of undertakers set out to start a restaurant, you know it’s going to be weird. And indeed, ‘Eternity restaurant in Truskavets, Ukraine is a windowless building shaped like a giant coffin. Inside you’ll find funeral wreaths, black shrouded walls and human-sized coffins. Menu items include dishes with names like “Let’s meet in paradise”.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Graveyard Restaurant – Ahmadabad, India

The New Lucky Restaurant in Ahmadabad, India began as a tea stall outside a centuries-old Muslim cemetery, and grew to encompass it over the years. The graves, situated between tables and often topped with candles, and resemble green-painted concrete coffins. One is said to contain a 16th century Sufi saint. Business is brisk, and the owners say that the graves bring them good luck.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Pitch-Black Restaurant – Beijing, China

It’s often said that if you take away one or more of your senses, the remaining ones get stronger. That’s the idea behind Pitch Black, a Beijing restaurant where patrons eat in complete darkness. Illuminating devices like cell phones and watches are strictly forbidden, and it’s so dark you can’t see your hand in front of your face. Don’t think you can get away with any funny business, however – the waiters wear night-vision goggles.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Maid Cafes – Tokyo, Japan

Those with maid fetishes and fans of Japanese ‘otaku’ (geek) culture can enjoy a meal like no other at one of the many maid-themed cafes in the Tokyo area, including this one called ‘@home’. Giggling women in cartoonish maid costumes call patrons ‘master’ and pat them on the heads like babies. It’s not about the food here – which is usually overpriced and less than appetizing, like spaghetti topped with ketchup. It’s about the service, which often includes playing games like Barrel of Monkeys (for a fee, of course) and, uh, ear cleaning.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Hitler’s Cross – Mumbai, India

Hitlers Cross, in Mumbai, India, understandably provoked a lot of anger from the community when it debuted in August of 2006. On display was a giant poster of Hitler, and the ‘o’ in ‘cross’ on the restaurant’s large illuminated sign contained a swastika. Just one week later, the restaurant was forced to change its name to the ambiguous ‘The Cross’ and remove all Hitler and nazi memorabilia.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Modern Toilet – Taipei, Taiwan

Perhaps the best-known strangely themed restaurant is Modern Toilet in Taipei, Taiwan, where hungry customers take a seat on Western-style commodes and enjoy feces-shaped chocolate soft serve in miniature toilet bowls. Toilet rolls are hung over the tables for use as napkins, and drinks come in miniature urinals. The toilet theme continues throughout the restaurant, with ‘WC’ signs hung as décor.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Cabbages and Condoms – Bangkok, Thailand

The only restaurant in the world dedicated to birth control, Cabbages & Condoms in Bangkok, Thailand offers not mints on your way out the door, but condoms. Their slogan, emblazoned on t-shirts in the gift shop, is “Our food is guaranteed not to cause pregnancy”. Menu items include the ‘Spicy Condom Salad’, fried Shanghai noodles spiced with herbs. The restaurant benefits the Population and Community Development Association

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Cannabalistic Sushi – Tokyo, Japan

‘Nyotaimori’ in Japanese literally means ‘female body plate’, and this restaurant named after the tradition of eating sushi and sashimi off a nude woman’s body takes the concept to a whole new level. An edible body, with dough ‘skin’ and sauce ‘blood’ is wheeled into the room on a hospital gurney and placed upon a table. The hostess begins the meal by cutting into the body with a scalpel and then patrons dig in, operating on the body to reveal edible ‘organs’.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Buns and Guns

At Buns & Guns in Beirut, Lebanon, everything is military themed – from the décor and names of the menu items to the helicopter sounds that play constantly in the background. Manager Yussef Ibrahim says that the theme reflects the mood of the city during Lebanon’s 2006 war with Israel, and that while some patrons may find it disturbing, most are amused. You can order yourself an M16 Carbine meat sandwich, a Mortar burger or a Terrorist meal (which happens to be vegetarian). Displayed at the entrance is the restaurant’s slogan, “Sandwiches Can Kill You”.

Friday, 15 July 2011


If you’ve always dreamt of being a prince or princess for a day, splashing out on a room in a castle in a stunning location may just be what you’re looking for to fulfill a childhood dream. Whether it’s an ornate French Chateaux or a Castle in the Scottish highlands, you are bound to get your money’s worth as you’ll be more interested in exploring its architecture and manicured grounds than to run off to seek entertainment elsewhere.
Last but not least, it would have also been great to include the famous Swiss nuclear bunker turned zero-star hotel, but unfortunately, it was only open for one year and can now only be visited as a museum. You might want to check it out though if you’re in the area.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Hay hotels

‘Hay hotels’, as they have been nicknamed, are also a fantastic way of getting a good night’s sleep in the European countryside without spending a fortune. Farms across Switzerland, Germany and Austria are now offering, literally, a hay bed in their charming barns. Switzerland’s farmers have particularly warmed up to this scheme, and in a country where a simple hostel bed can cost you 30 dollars, this budget accommodation choice is welcome. Somewhere in between camping and hosteling, barn stays are an original and memorable way of getting in touch with nature.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Mountain huts in the Alps

Hiking around the Alps does not have to include staying in St. Moritz-style glitzy hotels and chalets, as the mountains are dotted with mountain huts offering anything from simple beds to sleeping bag accommodation. Bear in mind that most huts are only open during the summer season, so for hiking outside of this time frame you should make sure to research in advance which huts remain open and what services they offer.

Monday, 11 July 2011


With its many pretty canals, Amsterdam just begs for boat accommodation, but it’s not the only place in Europe where you’ll be able to sleep on water. In London, you can rent a narrow boat, sleep in it, and, if you’re adventurous, sail it through the narrow canals of London so that you end up having both sleeping accommodation and a mode of transport. The same can be done along France’s Canal du Midi, which with the Canal des Deux Mers, allows the appropriate boats to go from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean without interruptions.

Sunday, 10 July 2011


What happens when a prison is no longer used for the purpose it was initially intended? You guessed it. It is turned into a hotel. For such a strange concept, there are a lot of former prisons which are now delighting sleepers with their ‘cozy’ rooms. For your inmate experience you can head to Stockholm, Istanbul or Oxford, though there are many, many more options. Also remember that while some have kept their prison-related ‘charm’, like the Oxford MalMaison hotel, others, such as the Four Seasons Hotel in Istanbul, have wiped the slate clean and been transformed into luxury accommodation.

Saturday, 9 July 2011


While being underground may not seem like much fun, it has its benefits during the hot Mediterranean summers when the thick rock all around you keeps the room cool without the need of that dreaded air-conditioning system. But let’s face it; it’s also figuratively cool because of the novelty factor. You can find cave houses from Andalucia to Italy. And though this is not really Europe, (though a small bit of the country does cling to the continent) cave accommodation in Turkey’s famed Cappadocia region is also worth a mention.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Ice hotels and igloos

Traveling around in much of Western and Northern Europe in winter is not always fun due to the often-freezing temperatures, but if you’re looking to celebrate winter and all that it entails, consider of incorporating it in your accommodation. Ice hotels and igloo accommodation have been springing up all over Europe, and now you can find them in countries including Norway, Switzerland and Sweden. If you’re traveling further north, you might also be able to spot the Northern lights from the comfort of your bed. And if you can’t take the temperatures, some hotels, like Sweden’s famous Ice Hotel, offer warm accommodations choices as well.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Monasteries and convents

You don’t have to be religious to stay at one of the many monasteries and convents around Europe which offer simple accommodation for the traveler who wants more than a concrete block of a hotel, but you certainly need a good measure of respect. While convents charge a set fee as a guesthouse would, monks, who have as one of their vows hospitality, only ask for a ‘donation’ in return for offering simple accommodation.
Obviously, this sort of sleeping option is not for party animals, but more for those of you out there who want a little bit of quiet time  to yourselves. If all the above has got you interested, check out any online bookshop, as plenty of guides out there cater specifically for those looking for this sort of accommodation.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011


What better way to enjoy the iconic Mediterranean countryside than by booking yourself a into a wonderful agriturismo? When applied to its Italian meaning, Agriturism literally refers to a farm stay, though such farms can be made to incorporate all sorts of luxuries.
Staying at an agriturismo means not having to drive from the city to take a spin around the local countryside, but being directly in it with the opportunity to stroll through it early in the morning before breakfast, or at sunset after the strong afternoon sun has turned into mellower warmth. Many agritourismos offer the chance to learn more about the local agriculture, from farm tours and cooking classes to wine tastings and private picnic dinners. For those out of you who think that staying in a typical Italian farm involves spending a fortune, think again. Low-end prices are affordable, and agriturismos are not just limited to Italy. You can find anything from simple farm b&bs to more refined buildings in France, Spain and even the U.K.
If you’re happy with agritourism at the very lower end of the scale of style and comfort, consider WWOOFing, and then you won’t even have to pay accommodation costs, as this organization sets you up with room and board in exchange for work on the farm premises.

Monday, 4 July 2011

The Rock Bar – Bali

Perched 14 meters above the Indian Ocean, this open-top bar is literally served straight up on the rocks.
It’s a perfect place to sit and watch the sunset, sip cocktails and admire the view of the perfect Bali waves splashing against the rocks below. What makes it even more novel is the outdoor elevator which takes you down the cliff to the bar. Beware though, it only holds four so you might end up taking the stairs!
Live musicians play on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays so you can sit back and enjoy some tunes with a view. Located within the Ayana Resort & Spa in Jimbaran Bay, The Rock Bar will certainly leave a lasting impression and is Bali’s most chic sunset and after-dark destination.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

William Thornton Floating Bar & Restaurant – British Virgin Islands

The William Thornton is a steel 100-foot schooner with a restaurant and bar on board, moored at The Bight off Norman Island.
The Willy T, as it is affectionately known, began life in the 80s as a wooden Baltic vessel. But after the boat sprung a leak and sank at its anchorage, the owners, Annie and Mick Gardner, replaced it with the larger steel boat everyone knows today.
The William Thornton who the floating bar is named after was born in the British Virgin Islands and is the man behind the design of the United States Capitol building.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Alux Restaurant & Lounge – Mexico

Alux, in Playa Del Carmen, is one of only two restaurants in the world inside a cavern.
The whole Yucatan peninsula in Mexico is riddled with an interconnected system of caverns and subterranean rivers and after years of planning and restoration, Alux restaurant and lounge was opened for the public to enjoy this natural environment with a drink in hand.
The Flintstones-like cavern has numerous chambers where you can lounge, drink, dine, and dance amongst the stalagmites and stalactites, which are lit up in shades of violet, blue and pink. Small, magical beings called ‘Aluxes’ are said to occupy these caverns, so look out for one as you dance the night away! It’s a drinking spot you mustn’t miss if you’re staying in Playa Del Carmen.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Floyd’s Pelican Bar – Jamaica

Floyds has to be the coolest bar in the Caribbean. Looking out from the shore at the dot on the horizon, your first reaction might be “is that really a bar?”
Perched on stilts on a sandbar, Floyds is made completely of driftwood and palm leaves. Bring a sharp object and you can carve your name in the floor. It looks like it might fall over, but it’s surprisingly sturdy.
Floyds sits about a mile off the south coast of Jamaica in Parottee Bay and local fisherman will take you out there. There’s nothing like a cold beer in the middle of the ocean, doing a bit of snorkelling and enjoying a fresh lobster meal prepared by Floyd himself. You might spot some pelicans and a few sting rays too