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.

Location

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.

Comfort

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.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Fair trade: the idea of honesty boxes relies on people paying their way
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
News
news
News
i100
Travel
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
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Recruitment Consultant (Trainee), Finchley Central, London

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    Day In a Page

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary