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Affordable European Hotels

In the heart of the buzzing Mitte neighborhood, Lux 11 (9–13 Rosa-Luxemburg-Str.; 800/337-4685 or 49-30/936-2800; www.designhotels.com) is the latest creation from a dynamic minimalist duo, Claudio Silvestrin and his wife, Giuliana Salmaso. The 72 rooms, each in a monolithic space, have open bathrooms finished in concrete and honey-colored wood. An Aveda spa occupies the basement, and a micro–department store, run by the former buyer for Quartier 206, one of Berlin's poshest fashion emporiums, is adjacent to the lobby.

The 77-room East Hotel (31 Simon von Utrecht Str.; 800/337-4685 or 49-40/309-930; www.designhotels.com), in the city's rapidly gentrifying red-light district, was created by Jordan Mozer, the Chicago-based interior designer. Mozer opted for a Gaudí-goes–Far East feel, with nonlinear furnishings (undulating columns in the lobby and Asian-fusion restaurant) and molten-metal moldings (mirrored sculptures that appear to be dripping from the ceiling). On a sunny day, hit the rooftop terrace or the garden for a mai tai and a spicy salmon roll.

At Fresh Hotel (26 Sofokleous St.; 800/337-4685 or 30-210/524-8511; www.designhotels.com; breakfast included) color is key: hot pinks, neon oranges, and cherry reds pop up everywhere, from the check-in desk to the bedside vases. The 133 simple rooms follow the standard minimalist guidelines —plastic furniture, Eames chairs, and Artemide bedside lighting. Although it's barely two years old, Fresh is quickly becoming a jet-set hangout thanks to the rooftop pool with views of the Acropolis and the nouvelle Greek cuisine at the Orange restaurant.

The Art'otel Budapest (16–19 Bem Rakpart; 36-1/487-9487; www.artotels.com; breakfast included) is part of a small, aesthetically minded chain that is considered the pioneer in the artists-designing-hotels trend. For its first venture outside Germany, Art'otel invited American artist Donald Sultan to incorporate oversized images of needles, thread, and buttons into the carpets, wall hangings, even the flatware. Dark-hued contemporary furniture makes no place for fluff and chintz in the spare riverfront rooms, which have floor-to-ceiling views of the neo-Gothic parliament building.

Sister to the Roman property, the aristocratic Casa Howard Florence (18 Via della Scala; 39-06/6992-4555; www.casahoward-florence.com) is housed in a palazzo next to the Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy, which supplies the hotel's pomegranate and mint soaps. The 11 quirky accommodations have individual themes: the intellectual Library Room (wall-to-wall shelves filled with books); the sensual Hidden Room (erotic prints, a sunken bath); and the family-friendly Play Room (videos, a climbing wall).

Opened in June 2004, Alle Meraviglie (8 Via San Tomaso; 39-02/805-1023; www.allemeraviglie.it) could not have a more appropriate name (roughly translated, it means "wonderland"). Its six airy rooms are just a five-minute walk from the Duomo and are outfitted with Baroque-style antique chairs; ivory, green, and hot-pink taffeta curtains; and surreal installations, such as a fringed sheet dipped in plaster. Each guest gets fresh flowers, Internet access, and a radio with short- and long-wave channels in English and Italian, but no TV's (and no white rabbits).

After meeting her husband, Alessandro Bisceglie, on a Roman holiday, American Elyssa Bernard moved to Italy; together the couple opened the three-room Daphne Inn (55 Via di San Basilio; 39-06/4544-9177; www.daphne-rome.com) in 2001. Since then, the chic guesthouse has expanded to 15 rooms in two palazzi near the Via Veneto. Details include Bisazza mosaics on the walls and offbeat artworks hanging above the beds. Each room comes with a cell phone for calling the staff with questions. Although Nos. 222 and 223 are the most affordable, they lack private bathrooms.

At the ultra-minimalist Palazzo Soderini (Campo Bandiera e Moro, Castello 3611; 39-041/296-0823; www.palazzosoderini.it; breakfast included), a three-room pension hidden in a 15th-century villa, everything is rigorously white, from the bed linens to the marble-chip terrazzo floors. Guests breakfast on croissants with organic honey in a walled garden amid perfumed jasmine, red roses, and white-blossomed pittosporum trees. There's a minimum stay of two nights, and arrival times must be prearranged—that's a small price to pay for this oasis near St. Mark's Square.

More than 50 Dutch artists descended upon a 1921 traditional gabled building in the trendy Eastern Docklands, transforming it from a defunct prison into the Lloyd Hotel (34 Oostelijke Handelskade; 31-20/561-3636; www.lloydhotel.com). Furnished cleverly and efficiently (a tub doubles as a table; a bed as a chair), rooms range from one-stars, which lack bathrooms but supply robes to wear down the hall, to spacious five-stars like room No. 221, which has a concert piano. The restaurant, Snel, serves farm-fresh regional dishes, while the on-site Cultural Embassy advises on performances, festivals, and museums.

In a country where "south of the border" means below the Arctic Circle, there's a hotel with a surprising Latin flavor, the Radisson SAS Hotel Nydalen (33 Nydalsveien; 47-2/326-3000; www.radissonsas.com; breakfast included). "Urban" rooms have a cosmopolitan feel, while the "Chili" quarters—with sculptures of red peppers mounted on the walls—need only a mariachi band to channel Mexico. At the restaurant, Circo, dishes like roast pork rolled in Serrano ham add to the vibe.


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