What's in the box? A pop-up hotel

Sleeping Around, Antwerp

It's not uncommon to muse on previous guests as you settle into a new hotel room. Whether the past occupants were Chinese-made toys or spare motorcycle parts, however, is less likely to cross your mind. But spend the night at Sleeping Around, a cheekily named pop-up hotel in Antwerp, and you can't help but wonder about the history of your four walls.

Sleeping Around's "rooms" are in fact recycled Chinese shipping-containers, complete with the serial number and a Lloyd's of London registry sticker slapped on the side. They have been salvaged and transformed into compact, luxury hotel rooms that can simply be packed up, put on the back of a truck and moved to another location.

Right now, the four, 6x2-metre rooms, a container bar and a container sauna sit in a semi-circle on Antwerp's old port, looking out over the River Scheldt. Seen through the massive window that makes up one wall of each room, the post-industrial scenery of an old harbour, an expanse of flat water and an oil refinery blinking in the distance appears as magnificent as a landscape by a Flemish old master.

One side of each container has been transformed into sliding doors which open on to a decked terrace. The glass wall removes any sense of claustrophobia and makes you feel part of the environment, while at the same time protecting you from the elements. The wind may be howling outside, but you can sit serenely in the heated box, staring out as the ships sail past, contemplating the city's rich trade and maritime history.

The design of the rooms complements the view, with white walls and simple furnishings focusing attention outside. The occasional colourful designer lamp and the high quality furnishings ensure you feel suitably cossetted.

In the morning, an excellent breakfast appears in the container next door. Staff don't stay on site, but are a few minutes away and at the end of a phone-line if you need them.

Should you wish, you can also pop over for relaxation in the sauna, although shuffling through the biting wind in a fluffy robe as the crew of a coal barge looked on didn't appeal during my stay.

I preferred to revel in the unique experience instead. So as night fell, I pulled back the curtains and hopped into bed, watching the gas flares of the oil refinery. The following morning, I awoke to take in the pre-dawn glow on the water. But beware: local dog walkers are inclined to peer into these strange boxes, so make sure you're appropriately attired, or risk becoming the view yourself.


You sacrifice some centrality for the originality of the port-side location. But happily, Antwerp is a compact little city. You can follow the harbour south, cut across to the Grote Markt and be in the main cathedral, marvelling at Rubens's glorious frescos, within 20 minutes. Even closer is the regenerated old port area, where bars and cafés line the waterside. At its centre is the MAS museum (00 32 3 338 44 00; mas.be), an architectural marvel of rust-red blocks and glass tubes soaring skywards. This is home to a permanent exhibition on the history of the port, as well as temporary shows: currently documenting Antwerp under Napoleonic rule in the early 19th century.

Sleeping Around will be in Antwerp only until the end of this month, however, before shipping off to another as-yet-unnamed location, likely to be in Belgium.


Everything that could be done to make a shipping container luxurious has been, from the comfort of the box-spring bed and crisp white linen to the rainforest shower and bespoke toiletries, robes and slippers. But there is only so much you can do with a 6x2 metre box, so prepare for limited storage space and room for manoeuvre.

The bathroom is behind a flimsy divider and the wind can rattle the containers at night. There is an iPod dock but no Wi-Fi, which the management say they are looking into installing.

Overall, the design is a success. However, lying on the bed staring out at the expanse of sky and listening to the sea birds, it is easy to forget that you are in a container which once ferried goods across the oceans from manufacturer to consumer.

Travel Essentials

Sleeping Around, Scheldekaai, opposite Rijnkaai 150, Antwerp, Belgium (www.sleeping around.eu).

Rooms ****

Value ****

Service ***

Doubles start at €149, including breakfast.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Product Manager / Product Marketing Manager / Product Owner

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Product Manager / Product Owner is required to jo...

    Guru Careers: Carpenter / Maintenance Operator

    £25k plus Benefits: Guru Careers: A Carpenter and Maintenance Operator is need...

    Recruitment Genius: Visitor Experience Coordinator

    £17600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum cares for one of the largest...

    Recruitment Genius: Experienced PSV Coach & Minibus Drivers

    £12500 - £24500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Drivers wanted for a family run...

    Day In a Page

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Attwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

    Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

    Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

    Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

    The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
    10 best waterproof mascaras

    Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

    We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
    Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

    Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

    Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
    Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
    Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'