11 Cool Hotel Bars Around the World

Around the World, Featured — By Rachel Greenberg on February 24, 2010 at 6:22 pm

It’s always a requirement to check out the local nightlife while traveling, but with hotel bars like these, you can do it without leaving the building. These bar offer their patrons everything from spectacular views, to jam sessions in former prison barracks, to drinks that come in glasses so cold you never need to order your vodka on the rocks!

1. Hotel La Purificadora’s roof top bar in Puebla, Mexico

Situated in the heart of Puebla, Mexico, Hotel La Purificadora is a swanky upscale hotel built from the wreckage of a 19th century water-bottling factory. Although the exposed brickwork and industrial columns of the original plant’s exterior have been preserved, the interior of the hotel is full of modern designs like purple cubist sofas, rough granite walls, and glass-floored balconies.

Image: hudson_jean

One of the hotel’s most impressive features is its roof top bar which runs parallel to a long glass-walled swimming pool. By day Hotel La Purificadora’s bar is perfect for lounging in the sun, voyeu istically watching swimmers pass by. But by night the vibe is totally different.

After dark the bar becomes one of Puebla’s hottest spots to see-and be-seen. The local elite order up the bar’s signature cocktail- a mixture of mandarin, pineapple, and Curaçao.

Image: luxurious mexico

2. The Salt Hotel’s bar in the Uyani Salt Flats, Bolivia

The Salt Hotel was built in 1993 by a salt artisan who capitalized on the fact that there were no hotels for tourists to stay in while visiting the spectacular Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia near the Chilean border.

The Uyuni Salt Flats are the largest of their kind in the world. Located high in the Andes Mountains, the flats cover 40 square miles, consist of 10 billion tons of salt, and are the remnants of a prehistoric salt water lake. The flats are surrounded by a bizarre landscape of volcanoes, geysers, cactus, and native flamingos, making the flats look like a truly alien landscape.

Image: Ralph and Pat

The hotel itself was created with salt bricks that were fused together with water to create an incredibly strong, cement like substance. Although it might seem impractical, the salt blocks are actually the perfect building material for the harsh climate of thearea. The salt bricks of the hotel soak up heat from the blinding sun during the day, and then at night when temperatures drop to below freezing, they keep the 24 bedrooms of the hotel cozy and warm.

Even the bar area is built with the practicality of salt in mind. The stools, tables, chairs, benches, etc. are all fashioned out of the surprisingly useful building material. But the Salt Hotel only has one important rule, “Please Don’t Lick The Walls!”

Image: Oddorama

3. The Fairmont’s Tonga Room in San Francisco, California

When San Francisco‘s famed Fairmont Hotel was constructed in the 1920’s, what is now the Tonga Room was originally an indoor pool named “the Plunge”. Although the pool was popular, America’s obsession with all things South Pacific in the 1940s prompted the hotel to turn the pool into a restaurant, SS Tonga, in 1945. Then in the 1950s, with the rise in popularity of tiki-bars, the nautical SS Tonga became the “Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar,” and one of the most spectacular tiki-bars was born

Image: Doug Letterman

Today, the Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar is kitschy, charming, and still has all the over-the-top tiki-elements that made it ridiculously hip in the 40s and 50s. What was formerly the indoor pool is now a “lagoon” in the center of the bar where a cover-band plays tropical hits from a floating cabana. Unexpected sprinkler-produced “rainstorms” shower into the pool with booming thunder and lightening every few minutes, and the dance floor is made from the planks of the SS Forester, one of the last schooners that sailed between San Francisco and the South Seas.

The bar is so beloved by San Francisco natives that when the Fairmont Hotel announced its plans to convert the Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar (along with much of its hotel) into upscale condos last year, there was a roar of public outcry. Luckily, the renovation plans have been indefinitely postponed.

If you go with a crowd, make sure to sample one of the bar’s signature Scorpion Bowls that are perfect for sharing…just make sure to take note of the menu’s warning, “Beware! One too many can sting…”

Image: Jim Wilson/The New York Times

4. Cellar Bar at the Bryant Park Hotel in New York City

If the word “cellar” conjures up images of cold, dark, underground rooms, you’re not alone. But, Cellar Bar, with its vaulted, gray brick-facade ceiling, wrought-iron candelabra chandeliers, and blood-red bar backdrop, puts a sexy spin on the underground. Located in the hip Bryant Park Hotel, Cellar Bar caters to fashionistas and other entertainment industry locals.

Though the bar’s been deemed absurdly expensive by some, hotel guests get free cocktails between 5:00 and 6:00 on weeknights. Good luck finding a seat though.

Image: The Bryant Hotel

Image: Melissa

5. ICEHOTEL’s Absolut ICEBAR in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden

In 1993, the creators of ICEHOTEL, a chain of luxury hotels built entirely out of ice, constructed a small bar at their location in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden. The popularity of this tiny bar was overwhelming, and it sparked a frenzy over the ICEBAR concept, resulting in the bar winning Newsweek’s “Bar of the Year”, a partnership with Absolut Vodka, and the creation of three more ICEBARS around the world.

Jukkasjärvi is a small town, located 200 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle where the average temperature in December is -12C/10F. Every winter, ice is harvested from the Torne River to create the ICEHOTEL and ICEBAR. International artists are flown in to make sculptures to adorn the hotel’s rooms and bar.

Image: Steph Goralnick

Visitors to the ICEBAR can enjoy sipping on cocktails in -5C/23F rooms which are on average actually warmer then the temperature outside. Before entering the bar, visitors are required to wear warm silver parkas, gloves, and boots to protect them from the cold (and make for great photo opps). All drinks at ICEBAR are served wtih Absolut vodka in glasses made out of ice…another good reason for the gloves!

Image: Nimos

6. Hostel Celica Bar and Restaurant at Hostel Celica in Ljublijana, Slovenia

Located in Ljublijana, Slovenia, the building Hostel Celica occupies was originally built to be prison barracks in 1883. Initially the barracks housed prisoners of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and later on the Yugoslavian Federal Army. After Slovenia claimed its independence in 1991, the future of the building was uncertain…the city wanted to tear it down but artists, who recognized the prison’s cultural history, squatted in the building and ultimately saved it from destruction. After 10 years and huge amounts of work, Hostel Celica opened its doors to travelers in 2003 with the vision of welcoming strangers into a building that used to confine prisoners but is now full of art and culture.

While Hostel Celica was being renovated, more then 80 local and international artists were invited to decorate the prison-cells-turned-hostel-rooms, and graffiti artists, muralists, and sculptors have covered most of the exterior with urban art. Even though many of the surfaces have been covered, a few remnants of the original architecture remain, including cell bars on the doors to the all the hostel rooms and two former solitary confinement cells.

Image: espinr/Flickr

Hostel Celica’s Bar and Restaurant is located in a sunny atrium in the center of the hostel. The bar is open from 7 am to midnight weekly and serves local and imported beer, wine, absinthe, and an array of mixed cocktail and shooters. The bar also has a weekly schedule of cultural events that happen at night including dancing workshops, jam sessions, and folk music performances.

Image: Mskinner96

7. Skyview Bar at Burj al Arab Hotel in Dubai, UAE

The Burj al Arab Hotel was constructed in Dubai, United Arab Emirates to be the ultimate in opulence and luxury. The hotel is built on a man-made island off the Persian Gulf in the shape of a billowing sail on an Arabian vessel as a symbol of Dubai’s affluence. During the day, the hotel’s mirrored facade shimmers in the sun and can be seen from miles away. And at night the hotel has a rainbow light show that lights up the entire hotel and the surrounding ocean throughout the night.

Guests of the all-suite hotel can enjoy granite floors from Brazil, marble and glass from Italy, fine Irish linens, full sized Hermes bath products, in-room jacuzzies, and a butler assigned to every room in the hotel. Need a ride? A fleet of chauffeured Rolls Royces are also available at guest’s beck and call.

Image: joi

When patrons want to take in the spectacular view from the top of the hotel, they go to the Skyview Bar that juts out from the hotel’s “mast,” perched 660 feet above the Gulf. The combination of Burj al Arab’s incredible height and location off the coast makes the views from Skyview some of the most breathtaking on the entire coast. The bar also boasts the world’s most expensive cocktail, a 55-year-old Macallan single malt scotch whiskey which goes for $7,438 a glass!

Image: Great Interior Design

8. Cloud 9 at The Grand Hyatt Shanghai, China

Occupying the 53rd to 87th floors of the Jin Mao Tower Building in the center of Pudong, the Grand Hyatt Shanghai is one of the highest hotels in the world.

At the apex of the hotel tower, the appropriately named, Cloud 9 boasts 360-degree views of Shanghai from the hotel’s 87th floor. With modern furniture, columns and steel decor, the ambience of the bar is decidedly futuristic.  Offering an extensive selection of champagne, wine and cocktails, the bar caters to business professionals and even offers meeting organizers the option to book out the space.

Image: Steph’s Food Journey

One of the highest points in the city and one of the highest bars in the world, Cloud 9 is not for those scared of heights.

Image: Jaz Cummins

9. The Madonna Inn’s Silver Bar Cocktail Lounge in San Luis Obispo, California

Located in the small town of San Luis Obispo, The Madonna Inn is a true institution of all things tacky on California’s Central Coast. The inn was built by Alex Madonna who was quoted saying, “Anybody can build one room and a thousand like it. I want people to come in with a smile and leave with a smile. It’s fun.”

And with a mantra like that, it’s no wonder that all 109 rooms of the Madonna Inn are themed with kitschy decorations and architecture – from the  “Jungle Rock Room” with animal print bedding, natural rock walls, and a canopy of trees and vines, to the “Old Fashioned Honeymoon Room” with Victorian furniture and paneling carved by Phyllis Madonna (wife of Alex).

Image:Atlas Obscura

The Silver Bar Cocktail Lounge in the lobby of the inn is no exception to Alex Madonna’s over-the-top vision for his hotel. The bar area is covered with pink leather, fake roses adorn the ceiling, and there is a plethora of stone and intricately carved wood. Even the goblets drinks are served in at the Silver Bar Cocktail Lounge are ornate; they are specially made of molded glass in the Madonna Inn’s signature rose pattern and come in an array of iridescent and jewel-toned colors. To really get the full experience try to visit weekend nights when the Silver Bar Cocktail Lounge has couples dancing or during a major holliday (like Christmas or Valentines Day) when then inn decorates their already lavish hotel even more!

Image: mike fischer

10. Harry’s Lounge at the Hotel Im Wasserturm in Cologne, Germany

Wasserturm means “water tower” in German, so it’s no surprise Hotel Im Wasserturm is built inside what used to be Europe’s largest 130-year-old water tower. Although the inside has been totally renovated to house people, not water, the iconic round exterior shape has remained almost the same, including an imposing 11-foot entrance hall.

Image: Hotel im Wasserturm

In addition to the sleek, modern rooms and suites, Harry’s Lounge is Hotel Im Wasserturm’s rooftop bar. Modeled after an old fashioned gentleman’s club, Fm Harry’s Lounge patrons can sip drinks while enjoying the spectacular views of Cologne’s city center.

Image: Rail Bookers

11. GhostBar at the Palms Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada

The original tower of the Palms Resort and Casino opened in 2001 and a second tower was completed in 2005. Although the resort is slightly off the Vegas strip it has become a hot-spot for the younger Vegas party crowd. Located on the 55th floor is one of the Vegas’ most popular nightclubs, Ghostbar.

Image: Andrew Collins

Ghostbar’s outdoor-indoor design and vantage point slightly off the main drag make it one of the best places in the city to see breathtaking views of The Strip. The main bar and dance floor are inside, but the indoor rooms open up to an outdoor deck with clear panels as railing. Since there are no visible barriers between party-goers and the 55 story drop below, the deck feels like it is floating above the strip, giving party-goers 180 degrees of unobstructed views.

If you’re afraid of heights you might want to avoid the see-through acrylic panel at the end of the deck called the “ghostdeck,” stand on it and peer down 55 floors below!

Image: The Palms

Tags: Ghostbar, hotel bars, Icebar, Madonna Inn, Salt Hotel, Tonga Room


  • Baochi Nguyen says:

    As a San Francisco native, I was a frequent guest at the Fairmont’s Tonga Room. It’s a guaranteed good time. All these other bars look like great experiences. I want to go to the one in Bolivia. Love salt!

    Baochi Nguyen

  • Cristina @ TeenieCakes says:

    Some beautiful bars – wish I could say I’ve been to at least one of them!

    The one in Hotel La Purificadora’s roof top bar in Puebla, Mexico looks especially unique.

  • Michelle says:

    I was hoping that I could say that I’d been to at least ONE of these bars, but since I haven’t, I’ll be adding them to my list. Thanks!

  • Tyler Renaghan says:

    I’ve only been to two of these, the Tonga Room and the Ghost Bar…very happy to see them on this list! Another fun, but possibly overrated hotel bar, is the Starlight Room on top of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco. If you go there enough you might be lucky enough to meet the owner, Harry Denton. He’s been known to pop a few bottles of Crystal when he’s in a good mood!

  • Todd says:

    I would propose adding “Bed” in Bangkok, Thailand, to the list for one-of-a-kind, super-cool experiences.

  • StayBank says:

    These are much better than that boxcar bar in Muleshoe, TX that has the goats wandering in and out.

  • Paola says:

    That swimming pool around the bar is pretty cool but it seems like one of those things no one actually uses. The salt place on the other hand just seems nuts to me, except the beach which looked awesome.

  • Mateja says:

    Thank you for the mention of Hostel Celica. We appreciate your spreading the word about us.
    However, I must correct a few facts:
    The bar at hostel Celica is not called Atrium, it’s simply Hostel Celica Bar & Restaurant.
    We have unique, artistically redecorated former prison cells, today hoStel rooms, not hotel rooms. The artists who participated in the project were not only local, but from all over the world.
    The architecture was actually completely transformed and the cell bars and 2 former solitary confinement cells are the only remaining things from the past.

    Thank you for your corrections of the stated facts. If you would like some furhter information about hostel Celica, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

    marketing manager
    Hostel Celica

  • Rachel Greenberg says:

    Thanks for the corrections Mateja!

    Clarifications have been made.


  • Mateja says:

    Thanks Rachel!


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