Nothing screams romance like booking an hour-long stay in a love hotel
A Japanese institution, early incarnations date back to the island country’s pre-Imperial Edo period, when samurais would visit geishas at drop-in ‘tea houses’. Love hotels as we know them originated in 1960s Osaka, and today, they’re popping up all over the world.
During Japan’s post-WW2 economic boom, demand for temporary access to hotel rooms rose due to over-populated living conditions and conservative attitudes towards unmarried couples. The world’s first love hotel, Osaka’s aptly named Hotel Love, was built in 1968.
Back then, love hotels were discreet, with an inconspicuous entrance and staff handing over room keys from behind a screen, with minimal interaction. Today, many love hotels preserve this tradition, with some opting for anonymous touchscreen services. At the same time, a diverse market has flourished, ranging from the kinky to the kitsch: video game, Hello Kitty and Godzilla-themed options are all available. Trying to shake off its seedy reputation, the institution has undergone something of a rebrand. While the more traditional, hush-hush kind of place still exists, it sits alongside places that opt for a more open, fun approach, as well as high-end hotels that cash in on Japanese couples’ desire for both privacy and luxury.
Meanwhile, romantic short-stay hotels have expanded across the globe. In South Korea, love hotel booking site Yanolja is a business valued in the multiple millions, showing a growing acceptance of their popularity. Some – such as Toronto’s Tokyo Love Hotel – haven’t lasted the course, but others are thriving in locations as far-flung as Paris, Auckland, Buenos Aires and New York.
Five love hotels worth a visit around the world
Although love hotels are dotted all over Japan, many of the best are in Tokyo. From high-end, chic spots to themed accommodations, there’s no shortage of options.
Hotel Sara Kinshicho stands out for its imaginative list of rooms. Why not opt for Chestnut and Squirrel (it’s the nuts)? Its dimmable bed panel, mood-lit bath (the rubber ducks are a bit odd) and portable game terminal are all natural aphrodisiacs.
Alternatively, there’s Candy Candy, a sickly sweet fantasy of pink and red, or the Leopard Room, which has enough leonine decor and gaudy furniture to get a third-rate dictator in the mood.
Berlin’s Provocateur, inspired by 1920s Paris, goes all out on the seductive front, with velvet fabrics and proximity to the sultry-sounding Kurfürstendamm district.
Book Intime, with its Queen-size bed and rain shower, or better yet, De Luxe, which has a freestanding bath and spectacular city views.
The award-winning cocktail bar offers drinks that ‘will make even the wildest of tigers purr like a kitty kat’ (wow). Next, there’s the French-Chinese Golden Phoenix, a newly renovated restaurant where ‘foreplay’ means Hennessey and peach cocktails, followed by an experiential food menu that promises to ‘satisfy you to the climax’: dim sum, sashimi, monkfish XO and foie gras-topped tenderloin.
Ah Paris, the most romantic city on earth – whether you’re staying there for a lifetime, a week, or somewhere between one and four hours.
Rooms at Love Hotel à Paris include 1001 Nights, where belly dances are recommended, and La Cage, which is either terrifying or incredibly exciting, depending on what you’re into. There’s even Geisha, an homage to the Japanese love hotels of yore, with a floor-to-ceiling wall print and mirrors to be covered or unveiled by curtains.
Then there’s Metro. Inspired by the subway, its train maps, mirror and graffiti artwork help you live out your train-themed fantasies without breaking any indecency laws.
On the outskirts of Kiev, Cherry Twins is a saucy addition to the love hotels cannon. It offers a variety of room options, including Tet-a-Tet, a ruby-red pleasure room complete with handcuffs, bracers and air conditioning (which isn’t part of the role play, it’s just nice to be comfortable).
Other options include Gothic, with its elegant ceiling work and bathroom decor, and then there’s Arabesque Harem, which is like a kinkier version of the Paris hotel’s 1001 Nights. Finally, there’s the Queen’s Boudoir, which lets you play out your Prince Philip-Queen Liz fantasies to your heart’s content.
Each room comes with a suggested ‘play scenario’, which is helpful. You wouldn’t want to find yourself in a love hotel on the outskirts of Kiev with stage fright.
A hotel for the classy lover, with flowers on the sheets, champagne, fine art and private gardens, plus hot tubs located perilously close to the bed (please keep any electricals at a safe distance).
A three-hour stay almost seems like a waste at this lavish bolthole, where you could enjoy lounging in the pool and dipping into the mini-bar for days. It’s reflected in the steep prices: this is a place in which to seriously impress a date.
A love hotel’s intentions don’t get much clearer than at New York’s Liberty Inn, which pitches itself as ‘your rendevouz for romance’.
The Big Apple’s hourly hotspot has ceiling and wall mirrors, murals and paintings, Jacuzzi tubs and saucy mood lighting – and there are even 40” televisions so you can catch up on the news while you’re there.
Surrounded by the meat-packing district (too easy), Liberty Inn is close to the Hudson River Greenway park and trendy Chelsea Market, and its rooms are characterised by plush sheets, vibrant colours, a rather large amount of satin, and numerous bed posts or pillows which pay homage to lips, traditionally used for kissing, speaking, and other things besides. Enjoy.