11 Stylish Hotels in Former Schoolhouses

Courtesy of The College Hotel

Are you too cool for school? Not if you want to stay in any of these hip hotels, all of which are housed in former learning institutions. Whether in stately stone buildings or quaint, one-room, clapboard houses, these lodgings make the grade when it comes to combining contemporary design with whimsical classroom accents, ranging from in-room chalkboards to gymnasiums repurposed as chic restaurants. At these 11 hotels, you’ll be glad that school’s back in session.

By Jill Fergus 

Courtesy of Michael Spengler

Washington School House Hotel

WHERE: Park City, UT

An 1889 schoolhouse-turned-hotel, the Washington School House Hotel, named for the first President and housed in a landmark limestone building, is a welcome addition to Park City—Utah’s winter playground. Don’t expect austere interiors, as this 12-room inn and Fodor’s 100 Hotel Award winner, boasts antique Bergere chairs, Pratesi linens, Persian rugs, and wood-burning fireplaces. Main Street, lined with gastropubs and après-ski spots, is a block away; the town’s main ski lift, delivering you to powdery runs in winter and wildflower-studded trails in summer, is only a 10-minute walk from the hotel.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Park City and the Southern Wasatch Guide

Courtesy of Noah Kalina

Hillside Schoolhouse

WHERE: Barryville, NY

It doesn’t get more charming than a one-room schoolhouse, which is what the two-room Hillside Schoolhouse was in its former life. Dating from 1893, the white clapboard building in Sullivan County (90 miles north of New York City, in the scenic Catskills region) has undergone a top-to-bottom renovation. Downstairs is the homey communal area with comfy leather couches, cowhide rugs, and slate chalkboards for doodling, while upstairs are the modern, minimalist rooms including one located under the old bell tower.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Catskills Guide

Courtesy of Liz Devine/McMenamins

McMenamins Kennedy School

WHERE: Portland, OR

Guests who stay at this former elementary school dating from 1915 are definitely not too cool for school. The offbeat 57-room McMenamins Kennedy School, in the bohemian Alberta Art District, has fully embraced its educational history. The former cafeteria has been transformed into the lively Courtyard Restaurant, while the auditorium now functions as a movie theater outfitted with vintage chairs and couches. Meanwhile, in the Detention bar, guests can sample local Portland microbrews.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Portland Guide

The Schoolhouse Hotel

WHERE: Dublin, Ireland

The owner of the former red-brick St. Stephen’s School, which opened in 1861, gets a gold star for keeping many of its stunning architectural details in what is now the Schoolhouse Hotel, including the beautiful, arched wooden ceiling in the restaurant and a large peat-burning fireplace in the bar. The 31 rooms, named for Irish writers (Joyce, Wilde, and more) offer modern comforts like Wi-Fi and flatscreen TVs. Its location in quiet Ballsbridge is just a 10-minute walk to Dublin’s major attractions, including Merrion Square, Trinity College, and Grafton Street.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Dublin Guide

Courtesy of Great John Street Hotel

Great John Street

WHERE: Manchester, England

If a student snuck up the boys or birls staircase to the roof back when this historic brick building was a Victorian grammar school, it would have likely resulted in a ruler across the knuckles. These days, however, guests can ascend the original staircases in Great John Street to have a cocktail or take a dip in the hot tub on the trendy rooftop terrace. Other stylish additions include the Oyster Bar (which serves a popular afternoon tea) and the cozy, book-lined library. The 31 duplex suites feature wrought-iron railings, hand-carved headboards, and egg-shaped tubs.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Lancashire and the Peaks Guide

The Davie School Inn

WHERE: Anna, IL

In a nod to its schoolhouse roots—the two-story Davie School Inn functioned as the town’s public school from 1910 to 1966—there’s a flagpole with Old Glory waving in the breeze at the inn’s entrance and each of the 11 rooms comes with an original chalkboard but don’t worry, no rote writing is required. The spacious digs also feature king-sized beds and Jacuzzi tubs. The inn makes for a great base when exploring southern Illinois’ main attractions, such as the Shawnee National Forest and the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Illinois Guide

Rock House

WHERE: Harbour Island, Bahamas

Harbour Island, with its pastel cottages and pink-sand beaches, is seemingly straight out of a storybook. And in the center of Dunmore Town, facing the harbor is the Rock House, a stylish 10-room hotel fashioned from a former Catholic school and a private villa. With its breezy British colonial décor—mahogany furnishings, ceiling fans, rattan accents—and cabana-lined pool, there’s little to remind guests of its scholastic past, but certainly a stay at this exclusive Caribbean property, which has long attracted A-listers, puts you at the head of the class.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Bahamas Guide

Courtesy of The College Hotel

The College Hotel

WHERE: Amsterdam, Netherlands

Taking the school theme a bit further than simply being housed in a hall of academia—in this case, an imposing stone structure dating from 1859—College Hotel is run by students training at local hotel management schools (though it is managed by a team of professionals). In addition to 40 contemporary rooms, there’s a cocktail bar with specialty cocktails and live jazz as well as a buzz-worthy restaurant, housed in the former gym, serving Dutch cuisine with a modern twist. 

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Amsterdam Guide

Courtesy of The Conservatorium

The Conservatorium Hotel

WHERE: Amsterdam, Netherlands

This spectacular 19th-century Neo-Gothic landmark in the Museum Quarter was built as a bank and later housed the Sweelinck Conservatory of Music. Today, the 8-story Conservatorium Hotel is a stunning, contemporary 129-room hotel whose centerpiece is the glass-covered atrium where guests can dine or have coffee in the open brasserie while taking in the building’s more classical elements. The rooms have muted color schemes and come with plenty of high-tech gadgets, and the high ceilings, as you might expect, provide fabulous acoustics.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Amsterdam Guide

Courtesy of Hotel da Estrela

Hotel da Estrela

WHERE: Lisbon, Portugal

Learning the three R’s couldn’t have been so bad while surrounded by such opulence—this former school is housed in the historic Condes de Paraty, a mansion owned by an aristocratic Portuguese family now reborn as the luxury Hotel da Estrela. It’s staffed with students from the Lisbon Hotel School next door and while the 19 rooms are minimalist in design, they still have a few school-related touches, such as carpeting resembling a written-on chalkboard and a Do Not Disturb sign that reads “Studying Hard.”

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Lisbon Guide

Courtesy of Wanderlust

Wanderlust Hotel

WHERE: Singapore

Though housed in a former school from the 1920s, with eye-catching Art Nouveau mosaics on the facade, the design at Wanderlust, a funky, art-filled boutique in the up-and-coming Little India quarter, is more industrial cool than scholastic chic. In the 29 individually decorated rooms you might find platform-style beds and walls painted purple or turquoise.  The  restaurant Cocotte, with its exposed ceiling pipes and mismatched chairs, attracts a hip local crowd who appreciate its unfussy French fare served at communal tables.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Singapore Guide