I stayed in “the most revolting hotel in the world” – and felt like I was in a horror movie
A musty smell lingers as I walk along heavily stained carpet and through silent ghost town hallways empty of guests. Nostalgic black and white photos tout the glory days of this central Birmingham hotel’s opening.
Those days are long gone. It’s even hard to find the room because the neighboring door numbers are missing digits, while mine is hidden under broken lights.
Only 15 minutes into the stay, the economy room itself is plunged into darkness as the electricity suddenly goes out and a horror movie begins. I’m glad the blackout doesn’t last all night – but as the lights come back on, I spot two dents in the “private bathroom” door, probably kicked in by an angry guest.
Read more: Inside ‘the world’s most revolting hotel’ – which guests say is the stuff of nightmares
Inside, the buzzing extractor fan is thick with dust and grime while the towel rack below is marred by rust-colored grime. I step into the shower to wash off the grime around me, only to be greeted by a nimble little silverfish, weaving its way around a well-worn drain plug.
That was reality as BirminghamLive stayed in a £45-a-night ‘budget’ room in a hotel dubbed the ‘world’s most revolting’ and a ‘despicable place’ by disgruntled customers. We decided to give it a try ourselves after reviewers took to TripAdvisor to rant about their stay, leaving the place with over 480 (out of 660) “terrible” reviews.
But surely, whatever the outcome, could it really be worse than our 24-hour stay in Pontins? Located less than three miles from the hustle and bustle of our city centre, it is attractive as an economical overnight stopover for those visiting Birmingham for work or leisure.
The Norfolk is located on one of the city’s main thoroughfares and markets itself as having WIFI, free parking and tea/coffee making facilities. It boasts of a “private bathroom feature” in every “modern room”.
And the hotel, in front of a sleek glass-encased entrance, boasts a ‘sleek reception’ and a ‘modern, well-stocked bar’. But as we walk in, the reality is a soulless reception with a closed bar.
Also in complete darkness and behind a “closed” sign, the bar seems to have stopped since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. An egg cup, balanced on a tray, remains on the table and there is still a baby high chair on one of the empty tables.
At check-in, a lone worker sits in the dimly lit reception, and while he doesn’t seem thrilled to be there, he’s quite helpful and friendly. He hands us the room card and warns us that the hotel is a “completely smoke-free” place.
He doesn’t bother to wish me a pleasant stay, and I fully appreciate his realism as I walk past a broken elevator with its wires exposed.
I’m forced to take the hallway and can’t help but think that leaving that elevator out of order is a bad hotel move as I step on a dirty carpet in the hallway. A sign warns guests that there will be ‘no gathering or socializing activity in any part of the hotel’. Another printed notice indicates a planned power outage between 10:00 and 12:00 due to maintenance work on site.
The room is hard to find given that the next door is missing two digits, 109, but I finally discover it in a corner under a broken light. The double bed is quite comfortable and for under £50 a night it’s a great room and has three windows for much needed ventilation.
And while I’m glad to find the bedding clean after disgusting guest reports, the rest of the room needs a thorough cleaning – maybe a new carpet.
As I continue to search the room and settle in for the coming night, the lights suddenly go out and I wonder what I could have done to cause the power to go out so soon. I panic for a moment because I misinterpreted the warning sign about tomorrow’s maintenance work and that I’m going to spend the night in a dark room with no entertainment.
But I check and see it’s not due until 10:00. I turn on the torch on my phone and reach for the room phone to call reception.
But as you can see in the video above, it cuts out and I can’t reach anyone. I have no idea at this point if the whole hotel is affected, or just me. As I walk towards the reception, there is no one there either. CCTV behind the desk shows these same strange hallways and I’m starting to wonder where all the other guests are.
I call Booking.com’s phone number, only to realize I hear the ringtone from across the empty desk. I wait about ten minutes before being greeted by the same receptionist – who doesn’t seem surprised by the blackout.
He explains that the fuse blew, probably due to a “faulty socket”. I didn’t have anything plugged in, but he suggests I flip the switch in the corner of the room to fix the problem. Perhaps in response to my blank expression, he agrees to come up into the room and sort this out for me.
As we go up, we see other guests for the first time. One of them goes out to get a take-out meal outside the hotel, while the receptionist waves to two others who are leaving, adding: “Be careful, see you soon.
They seem to be happy customers, obviously happy with what they have at reasonably cheap prices – ranging from £39 a night.
When we return to the room, the lights except for a broken light bulb next to the bed come back on thanks to the staff member.
But that’s when I really notice the dirt in the bathroom. And as I step into the shower tray to wash off, I’m joined by a silverfish that goes around the plug.
But since I’m not in the mood for shower guests, I’m stepping back for now in hopes that this will go away. Freeview TV and Wifi distract me for a while, until it’s time to sleep.
I start to drift around 11pm, but midnight strikes and it seems the hotel is waking up. I hear the voices of a man and a woman before the slamming of a door in the adjoining rooms. Soon after, I count more men and women entering our corner of the hotel.
I hear a woman shout “you’re a ****” at a man before their voices fade away. Others come later, although there are only two rooms next to mine, but either I get used to the noise – or I fall asleep.
Perhaps it is these “gatherings” that the hotel is trying to prevent with its blue prints pasted in the hallways. I wake up refreshed after what turned into a pretty good night’s sleep. Unfortunately breakfast is not an option as the bar and restaurant are closed.
Glad to see that the shower, thankfully now bug free, works and isn’t quite the “drip” that another TripAdvisor guest previously criticized.
But as far as the hotel being “the stuff of nightmares” as others have suggested, while I wouldn’t stay there again, it certainly didn’t live up to its reputation neither is “the most revolting hotel in the world”.
Yes, it’s dirty. Yes, it is unloved and has fallen into disrepair. But perhaps if it were cleaned up, repaired – and with a little care – it could be restored as a desirable budget hotel in a prime city location.
Do you have a similar experience or a story to tell? You can contact us by emailing [email protected]
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