Everybody likes a bit of variety and what better way to try out something different on vacation than by staying in an old monastery or a former school that has been reborn as a luxurious hotel. Just in time for the holiday season, the members and editors of travel website VirtualTourist.com (www.virtualtourist.com) have compiled their own list of the Top 10 Converted Hotels. Reuters has not endorsed this list: 1. Mandarin Oriental, Prague - Prague, Czech Republic
Though many of the most famous sites in Prague are located in the Staré Mesto and Nové M�sto, the Prague Castle and much of the city's most atmospheric walks are found on the other side of the River Vltava in the Malá Strana neighborhood. One of these unique buildings is the Mandarin Oriental Prague, housed in a converted Dominican monastery from the 14th century. Even hotel group's signature holistic spa experience, with water-based facilities such as a vitality pool and two saunas, is set in an area of architectural heritage. The spa's entry, a glass walkway, both displays and preserves the remnants of a Gothic church found during the hotel's renovation. A stroll around the Malá Strana will give guests ample opportunities to indulge in the city's famous brews and hear some splendid classical tunes. 2. The Liberty Hotel - Boston, Massachusetts
A grey stone structure emerges at the Boston side of the Longfellow Bridge, harkening back to a time far before the Massachusetts General Hospital and Red Line MTA rail were the major players in this area. The looming façade belongs to the Liberty Hotel, now a popular playground for adults, but the former home to the Charles Street Jail. The enormous atrium is beautifully preserved, the lighting fixtures providing a modern aesthetic with a historical slant. The architecture of the former jail has been brilliantly reconceived as an urban one-stop shop: the nightclub is in the former "drunk tank," cocktail areas occupy the surviving catwalks, and two different eateries can be found in rooms with original jail cell details. A VirtualTourist.com member noted that the location, once ideal for preventing prisoner escapes, is now very convenient for exploring Boston: stroll around Beacon Hill, cab to Newbury Street, or take the T's Red Line to Cambridge. 3. La Purificadora - Puebla, Mexico
One of the first projects to catalyst the converted hotel trend beyond monasteries and jails is La Purificadora in Puebla, Mexico. The city of Puebla, located 100 km (62 miles) east of Mexico City, was one of the most important colonial cities in Mexico. It served as the site for the significant victory over France that established a holiday adults all over the world enjoy celebrating: Cinco de Mayo. The city is also a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its range of preserved architecture styles. Unlike the majority of converted hotels that are housed in refurbished palaces, monasteries, or convents, the structure housing La Purificadora was born in 1884, as an ice factory where water was bottled and purified for ice production. The archeologists and architects kept the building's original use in mind when designing the hotel, incorporating clear glass, pools, and open spaces, and allowing the adjacent church of St. Francis to be seen from almost any public area of the hotel. It is a unique and talented group who managed to make a modern and open space so effortlessly coexist within a city of colonial landmarks, making La Purificadora truly the benchmark for a successful converted hotel. 4. Wanderlust Hotel - Singapore, Singapore
While many visitors to Singapore assume sticking to hotels located on Marina Bay is their best bet, other areas of the city are exploding with the unique flavor that can only come from a city with such a variety of ethnic backgrounds. In the Little India neighborhood, Wanderlust Hotel is a great example of this trend. Built in a former schoolhouse, the hotel is part of the Unlisted Collection, which also includes Singapore's New Majestic Hotel and Shanghai's The Waterhouse at South Bund; all three are converted hotels. Wanderlust added something new to the mix by giving each of the four floors to a local design firm, resulting in four different themes: Industrial Glam for the Lobby Level, and Eccentricity, Is It Just Black and White? and Creature Comforts for the three floors of rooms. In addition to the high design experience, the hotel also offers a rustic French restaurant, Cocotte, filled with communal tables and food on shared plates.