What does a hotel need, to feature in our Hotels We Love series? Well, obviously something extraordinary; something that no other hotel has to the same extent; something that lets you forget that you stepped out of your comfort zone and knee-deep into a foreign culture; something unexpected that leaves you in awe.

When Katja and I made our way to Lodz in Poland we were excited about what lay ahead. To be honest, Lodz was not necessarily on my bucket list – I had never been to Poland, and thought my first encounter would be the capital Warsaw or beautiful Krakow in the south. But we happened to have received an invitation by Vienna International hotel group to explore not only Lodz but also their flagship hotel andel’s – and why would we say no to the opportunity to go off the beaten track?

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Lodz is quite an interesting place to describe. On the one hand, it’s a popular conference and business city – close to Warsaw and the international airport (roughly 1.5 hours drive), loads of hotels and restaurants to choose from and not too big to get lost. On the other hand however, Lodz has developed into a centre for creative industries and cool urban development. Many of the old warehouses and factories in town have been abandoned by their former owners a few decades ago – mostly textile manufacturers – and the city has been busy renovating and restoring them to change its image. Today, there is a thriving culture of creative freelancers in design, fashion and architecture, a renowned film school, numerous galleries and art centres and street art decorating the walls.

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While Lodz’s city centre is dominated by a gorgeous high street, and candy-coloured architecture, it is the industrial edge that lies behind every corner, that gives the city its actual appeal. And this is where andel’s hotel comes in – not only the city’s first 4-star design hotel, but also located in a historic weaving mill from the 19th century.

It hit me immediately when I arrived late on the Thursday night. I entered through large glass doors and headed straight for the reception across a giant hall. Had I ever seen such a spacious hotel lobby before? I dare to doubt that. Scattered around were couches, lounge corners, and an art exhibition featuring posters by a local graphic designer. Everything seemed cool, but not cold. The staff greeted me with a smile as big as the lobby and directed me to my room on the first floor, which was connected to Katja’s suite by a double door.

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Five minutes later, I sat on my bed, surrounded by plates full of chocolate-covered fruit and little pastries – a welcome midnight snack sent from the kitchen. As I was stuffing my face and glanced out into the darkness through those massive windows, I marveled at the sheer height of the ceiling and got excited about what was awaiting me behind that door on the opposite side of my room – Katja and Atlas of course, but what did the rest of the suite look like?

When I woke up to the noise of a child’s laughter the next morning, I got out of bed and popped the last chocolate strawberry in my mouth. Finally, I would open the door – and this is what I found:

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I swear I felt like I was teleported to somewhere in London or New York, but no, this dream of a loft was actually our dream in Lodz. What had started as the biggest hotel lobby I had ever seen, continued as one of the highest ceilings I had ever called my home-for-the-weekend.

The exposed brick wall and photographs made the suite super cool, the large windows let in all the daylight and were a great spot to sit with your laptop and get some blogging done. There was so much space for us to spread out, work a little and entertain Atlas a little more. It was like crashing your ubercool friend’s warehouse-turned-flat and have more space than at home.

While I wouldn’t have necessarily left the room at all (room service!), Atlas obviously got cabin fever, and being a first-time visitor to Poland I got itchy feet as well. We reached Lodz’s centre by tram in a couple of minutes and for just a few Zloty (1 USD ~ 4 Zloty) and made our way to Piotrkowska, one of Lodz’s main attractions – the long shopping street. We were not so much interested in the shops though (although you can get amazing deals in summer sales), but in finding the vintage and design shops in Off Piotrkowska, a complex of lanes, squares and factory buildings just off the main road. We strolled through the art and design shops, contemplated the purchase of jewellery and vintage dresses, but ended up investing our money in a great lunch deal and delicious local beer at Spółdzielnia instead. The lanes are covered in colourful street art and fairy lights, as well as the creme-de-la-creme of Lodz’s creatives.

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Back in the hotel area, we paid a visit to Manufaktura, part of the same factory complex as andel’s and Lodz’s state-of-the-art shopping centre. All shops are located in the renovated red-brick buildings of the weaving mill, and the square in the middle bustles with live. Children playing in the water fountains, little stalls selling soft ice and a gorgeous carrousel with wooden horses. Definitely worth a stroll!

Exhausted and hungry again, we were happy to find that andel’s has two different restaurants: delight for more formal dinners and Oscar’s Bar for lunch through to dinner. Both restaurants offer fusion-style cuisine in a great atmosphere. My favourite spot however, was the bar on the roof terrace from where you could get a view over all of Lodz. Right next to is was my second favourite place: the panorama swimming pool which sits on top of the building. Part of the floor around the pool is made of glass, so you can walk and watch the miniatures of people moving at the bottom – both scary and impressive at the same time.

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The big focus of andel’s (next to service and comfort) is without a doubt the exhibition of art all across the hotel. Being so spacious and large, the building makes for a great exhibition space for functional design (furniture, carpets) and decorative art (wall-art, photography, sculptures). The interior is all about contrasts – exposed brick and concrete walls, furniture and carpets in bright neon colours, white openings in the ceiling and changing lights below them, pieces of modern art next to Bollywood-style textiles and folk-style Matrioshkas; here and there old machinery from the weaving mill. There was something different hiding behind every corner and on every floor, and we spent quite a bit practicing walking with Atlas while exploring it all.

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After a final breakfast at the hotel on the Sunday morning, it was time for us to say goodbye (and find all of our things in the far corners of our suite – not so easy).  We certainly had a good time exploring the city and an even better time resting our heads at andel’s hotel. Warsaw and Krakow will have to wait a little longer, because for now we lost our hearts to Lodz.

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Have you ever been to Lodz, or could we convince you to add it to your Europe-list?

All photos by Katja Hentschel.

Disclaimer: Katja and I were invited by Vienna International Hotel Management to spend the weekend at andel’s hotel in Lodz. All opinions are our own though.