At These “Dispersed” Hotels, Travelers Have No Choice But to Live Like Locals
You may have to walk a few minutes from your room to the restaurant, but these hotels without boundaries—where you might sleep in an artist’s retreat or a former bridge keeper’s home—are unlike anything else.
At the newly opened Enso Ango in Kyoto, you can’t simply roll out of bed and amble downstairs for breakfast; instead, it’s a five-minute walk from your bedroom to the main restaurant a few blocks away. That’s because Enso Ango is Japan’s first “dispersed hotel,” spread across five buildings that are located several streets apart.
Enso Ango is among a growing breed of dispersed (or “scattered”) hotels worldwide—essentially, properties where rooms and amenities are peppered throughout a destination. The trend, which is largely in Europe and Asia so far, is rooted in the Italian concept of albergo diffuso, a means of reviving historic villages by turning different buildings into stand-alone hotel rooms. While their settings vary—from a remote island in Norway to the bustling streets of Singapore—these hotels without boundaries all share the same goal: to encourage guests to immerse themselves in their surroundings.
Enso Ango, Kyoto
Blink and you might miss Enso Ango, whose 86 rooms are set across five separate buildings that blend right into the Kyoto cityscape. And that’s precisely the point: “Our guests are encouraged to explore not only the hotel itself, but also the surrounding community,” says CEO Yumiko Toeda. “They can stroll around the neighborhood and experience local life.”
The buildings, which are within walking distance of one another, pay homage to traditional machiya (wooden townhouses) with their Zen-inspired aesthetic. Each has different communal facilities that are open to guests staying in other buildings; for instance, the Fuya II building has a tearoom and a gym, while Tomi II houses the hotel’s sole restaurant. Plus, they’re all situated in central Kyoto, mere minutes from the busy Gion district—so you might end up wandering into a craft boutique or glimpsing a geisha en route to dinner.
Sweets Hotel, Amsterdam
Canals are a defining feature of Amsterdam, so what better way to experience the city than to stay in a traditional bridge house right above the water? You can do that at Sweets Hotel, a collection of 28 such houses scattered across the capital. These buildings were once home to the city’s bridge keepers, who controlled waterway traffic, but they became defunct after bridge control was centralized in 2017. Today, they’ve been restored as individual suites complete with prime waterfront views.
Each bridge house is tiny and can only accommodate two people, but you won’t be left wanting. “From your suite, you’ll see locals on their bikes, tourists in motorboats, birds flying over the water,” says cofounder Suzanne Oxenaar. “It’s a new way to experience Amsterdam.” Plus, guests are given a neighborhood guide with recommendations on a tablet, so while there aren’t any amenities in the traditional sense of the word, you’ll be breakfasting at trendy cafés and working out at nearby parks—as a local would.
Six Senses Singapore
The new Six Senses Singapore is remarkable in many ways. For one, it’s the resort group’s first hotel in a city setting; for another, it consists of two sister properties—Six Senses Duxton and Six Senses Maxwell—both located in Chinatown and opened within the past year.
Set across a row of 19th-century shophouses, Six Senses Duxton nods to its Singaporean heritage with its chinoiserie aesthetic; there’s even an herbal dispensary located on site where guests can learn more about traditional Chinese medicine. However, there’s no gym or spa; instead, guests can walk to the more traditional, larger, nearby Six Senses Maxwell. Set in a row of townhouses, it’s where hotel guests can go for their health and wellness fix—although the bars and restaurants along the way may well undo their good intentions. “We want to give guests easy access to the amenities of both, as well as the ability to enjoy the eclectic community in between,” says Six Senses CEO Neil Jacobs. “It’s all about being part of the local fabric and culture.”
Graetzlhotel Neubau, Vienna
A former boat-building workshop and old fishmonger’s shop are two of the abandoned storefronts that now make up Graetzlhotel Neubau, a cluster of four suites spread across Vienna’s creative seventh district.
The former stores have been given a makeover, complete with modern conveniences like rain showers and Nespresso machines, while still paying tribute to their past (the Boatbuilder suite features naval-themed wallpaper, for instance). There’s no reception, so check-in is done autonomously via a key code. There aren’t any amenities either, but guests can head to neighborhood stalwarts like Café Espresso for coffee and Die Parfumerie for cocktails.
“Travelers no longer want to stay in anonymous hotels that are disconnected from local life,” says Theresia Kohlmayr, head of operations of Urbanauts, the hospitality group behind Graetzlhotel. “Our rooms are, by default, intertwined with the built and social environment. Plus, when we outsource services such as [food and beverage] to surrounding businesses, we create a win-win situation for both locals and visitors alike.”
The Arctic Hideaway, Norway
Way up north in the Arctic Circle—and only accessible by boat—lies the Arctic Hideaway, an artists’ retreat scattered across Fordypningsrommet, a remote island in Norway’s Fleinvær archipelago. Here, you’ll find nine stand-alone cabins—five sleeping quarters, a cookhouse, a dining house, a studio, and a sauna—each with floor-to-ceiling windows for open views of the raw, rugged landscape.
Why choose to do a deconstructed retreat in such a remote location? “As soon as I saw the island, I knew it would make a good working space for artists,” says owner Håvard Lund. “All of your senses are sharpened out here. I want people to breathe in as much of the salty air as possible.”
While the Arctic Hideaway primarily hosts artists-in-residence, vacationers are welcome, too—especially those looking to get away from the city and immerse themselves in nature. “We run the place for everyone who needs to reset,” says Lund. “It’s a transformative experience.”
Once a thriving community of over 300 people, Switzerland’s smallest municipality is today home to just 12 residents as a result of rural flight. But a local foundation, Fondazione Corippo 1975, is determined to save it from extinction. The plan? To turn the entire village into the country’s first albergo diffuso—from its centuries-old stone houses right down to the local church, which will become a communal space.
Rooms will be spread across 60 cottages, while the still-functioning osteria in the main square will be made over into the central reception and dining room. The first property, Casa Arcotti, accommodates four people in a single unit and is already welcoming visitors; the rest of the project is slated to be completed by April 2020.