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Affordable European Hotels

At the 16th-century Hotel König von Ungarn (10 Schulerstrasse; 43-1/515-840; www.kvu.at; breakfast included), just a short walk from St. Stephen's Cathedral, gilded mirrors, boldly graphic wallpaper, and chandeliers ensure that no two rooms are alike. Sip coffee in the glass-­covered courtyard atrium, steps away from where Mozart composed The Marriage of Figaro, or try a sekt (traditional sparkling wine) at the bar.

The two charcoal-colored town houses of the Hotel Julien (24 Korte Nieuw­straat; 32-3/229-0600; www.hotel-julien.com; breakfast included) are surrounded by 17th-­century churches, gabled mansions, and cobblestoned alleys. The pared-down interiors combine blond wood surfaces with whitewashed furniture and handmade white porcelain vases. Orchids are everywhere. Freshly brewed coffee and Belgian chocolates are available around the clock in the library, which is filled with stacks of international magazines and art books.

Most of the city's upscale hotels are impersonal, catering to a business crowd. Not the Maximilian (14 Haštalská; 420-2/2530-3118; www.maximilianhotel.com; breakfast included), a welcoming spot near the Old Town Square. For a recent revamp, Czech-born and London-based Eva Jiricna (of Hotel Josef fame) ditched the former cookie-cutter look in favor of light, geometric designs. The compact rooms have imposing dark-wood headboards that reach to the ceiling, and Philippe Starck bathroom fixtures. The on-site spa specializes in Thai massage, a first for Prague.

To launch its latest car, Volkswagen commissioned 21 international graphic designers, graffiti artists, and illustrators from São Paulo to Hokkaido to renovate the 61-room Hotel Fox (3 Jarmers Plads; 45-3/313-3000; www.hotelfox.dk), where the wildly fantastic décor is the draw. Brisbane-based design group Rinzen created the Sleep Seasons room (a brown pitched tent surrounded by a forest mural), and Friendswithyou, from Miami, covered the Harmony's Helm room with 25,000 powder-blue and canary-yellow mosaic tiles.

Right next to Town Hall—and close to the train station, Tivoli Gardens, and the Strøget shops—the Square (14 Rådhuspladsen; 45-3/338-1200; www.thesquare.dk) is emphatically unsquare, with scarlet Arne Jacobsen Egg chairs in the lobby and striking black-and-white photographs lining the halls. As at many Scandinavian hotels, the feather duvet–topped beds are dressed in plain white linens. The sunny top-floor restaurant is open only for breakfast, a smorgasbord of hearty breads and cheeses. For dinner, don't miss the herring or the roast pork and cabbage at nearby Det Lille Apotek.

In the middle of a grand sweep of wedding cake–style buildings known as the Regency Mile, the discreet sign for Drakes (43–44 Marine Parade; 44-1273/696-934; www.drakesofbrighton.com) is easy to miss. But behind their scarlet lacquered door is a diminutive 20-room inn filled with objets d'art. Splurge on one of the balconied suites with a freestanding tub overlooking the sea. The Gingerman—a modern British restaurant, which opened a year ago—has already become a local favorite.

Too often, bed-and-breakfast implies dingy paint and graying curtains. Enter Penny Brown, Colette Huck, and Lynne Reid, the owners of the 17-room B&B Belgravia (64–66 Ebury St.; 44-207/259-8570; www.bb-belgravia.com; breakfast included), who have 40 years of hotel experience between them. The trio went high style, gutting a Victorian town house in one of the city's most exclusive neighborhoods. Now, orange pansies brighten the entrance, an Ingo Maurer chandelier hangs in the foyer, and a Conran-style sofa sits in the front room, where guests take cappuccino by the fire. The hotel has no restaurant or bar, but an organic full English breakfast is prepared in a cheery room overlooking the garden.

South Beach meets the East Village at London's cutting-edge K West Hotel & Spa (Richmond Way; 44-870/027-4343; www.k-west.co.uk). Noel Pierce of Pierce Design International—who also did the Peninsula in Hong Kong—fashioned 220 calm rooms, blending soft taupes, creams, and browns with stainless steel and sandblasted glass. Even cooler than the décor are the guests (mostly media mavens and touring musicians), who keep the scene at the K Lounge rocking all night long and recover the next day with holistic treatments at the Asian-inspired spa.

The Hotel Linna (29 Lönnrotinkatu; 358-10/344-4100; www.palace.fi), a 1903 Finnish Art Nouveau fortress, was originally the local university's student union building. Historical details (stone arches, stained-glass windows) have been preserved in the public spaces; the 48 rooms have been spiffed up with leather headboards, suede chairs, and mod Diogenes lamps. Ask for No. 401, the only guest room in the imposing round tower and steps away from one of the hotel's three saunas.

The 47-room Général Hôtel (5–7 Rue Rampon, 11th Arr.; 33-1/47-00-41-57; www.legeneralhotel.com), just off the Place de la République, recently received a makeover by architect Jean-Philippe Nuel, who designed two other beloved affordable Paris hotels: the Axial Beaubourg and the Lavoisier. New touches include a sleek lobby and bar (low cocoa-colored suede sofas, walls covered in graphic floral images), rooms in neutral tones, all-white bathrooms, and a green apple on every pillow.


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