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Affordable European Hotels

Hotel Porta Rossa 19 Via Porta Rossa; 39-55/287-551, fax 39-55/282-179; doubles $134, breakfast included. The Porta Rossa is as dark as the Pensione Annalena is light -- but in summer, that's a cool comfort. And with 81 rooms, the Porta Rossa offers a better chance of securing a reservation than other smaller, equally reasonable hotels (Hotel Hermitage, Hotel Tornabuoni Beacci). As much as the guests appreciate the New World conveniences that have crept into the rooms over the years (telephones, televisions, and mini-bars, though not necessarily air-conditioning), they return because the owners have never stooped to carving two new rooms out of one indulgently huge old one.
--H.S.M.

LONDON

Wilbraham Hotel 1 Wilbraham Place; 44-171/730-8296, fax 44-171/730-6815; doubles from $141, no credit cards. Within this stalwart Victorian, broad and narrow staircases of the three original houses creak comfortingly up to the 52 rooms. Here, $150 gets you a double with high ceilings, a reasonable bath, straightforward decorating, and good housekeeping. For an additional $20 you buy into a more lordly setting -- a grander room with a (nonworking) fireplace.

The Morgan 24 Bloomsbury St.; 44-171/636-3735; doubles from $125, breakfast included. The 14-room Morgan makes do with a buzzer instead of a doorman and an entrance hall for a lobby. But the gleaming beveled-glass front doors signify a certain pride of place: touch-up painting is always under way. Rooms in the back look out on the garden (one has exclusive access). Five doors down is another 18th-century terrace house that the Morgan has divvied up into four suites with kitchens. At $158, they're surely one of London's best bargains. Full English breakfast is served to guests from both buildings in a fully English breakfast room -- animated by football on the telly.
--H.S.M.

The Pavilion 34‚36 Sussex Gardens; 44-171/262-0905, fax 44-171/262-1324; doubles from $150, breakfast included. Composed of 27 individually decorated -- and titled -- rooms, this idiosyncratic B&B near Hyde Park is favored by the up-and-coming model/musician crowd. It has something for everyone, from the funky ("Honky-tonk Afro," a seventies fantasia) to the Edwardian ("Green with Envy," a gem of emerald brocade and velvet). The only drawbacks are room size (tiny) and bathroom luxury (four rooms have tubs, the rest only showers; all are no-frills). Sacrifices, however, do not include cable TV -- the most popular station being, natch, the Fashion Channel.
--Vanessa Friedman

MADRID

Hotel Santo Domingo 13 Plaza de Santo Domingo; 34-91/547-9800, fax 34-91/547-5995; doubles from $144, $125 corporate, $105 weekends, breakfast included (weekends only). The word grandeur is probably too grand for what this hotel manages to deliver at such an attractive price, but it's not far off. A pleasant walk from the Pal·cio Real and the ravishing Plaza de Oriente, the Santo Domingo has 120 guest rooms decorated with gold damask wall coverings, striped satin bedspreads, and faux tortoiseshell desks; the handsome bathrooms are all gray marble and beige ceramics. Try for a fifth-floor double: some have furnished balconies and views over tiled roofs.

Hotel Monaco 5 Calle Barbieri; 34-91/522-4630, fax 34-91/521-1601; doubles from $65. Until the late fifties, this Madrid landmark was known as the chicest casa de putas in town. Then, the 1918 building morphed into a 30-room hotel, borrowing from its red-light past much of the funky, not to say kitschy, decoration. No. 20 has a bathtub on a platform right in the room; No. 123 features a mirror on the ceiling above the bed. Be warned that the Monaco is a little dog-eared -- some might say it's been around the block -- but the staff couldn't be friendlier and the young, casual vibe is infectious.
--C.P.

PRAGUE

The Charles 1 Josefská; 42-02/5731-5491, fax 42-02/5731-1318; doubles from $178 (5‚10 percent discount if you pay cash), breakfast included. Located in Prague's old city, or Mal· Strana, the Charles has an ornate stucco exterior (with lion's head and rosette sconces); too bad it's marred by a T-shirt shop and money-exchange depot. Inside is a different story. The 29 rooms are small but chic: windows swathed in heavy curtains, dark woods (parquet floors, heavy mahogany armoires) lightened by Oriental rugs and colorful silk bed coverings. But perhaps the most striking detail is the 18th-century hand-stenciled wood ceilings uncovered during renovation.

Pension Vetrník 40 U Vetrníku, Petriny; 42-02/2061-2404, fax 42-02/361-406; doubles from $58, breakfast included. Fifteen minutes by car or tram from the center of town, this charming hotel in the Petriny neighborhood is a converted windmill. If you go, be sure to get detailed directions -- no one around here speaks English -- and look for high stone gates, beyond which lies a red-and-white farmhouse. The six guest rooms verge on the bland, with gray carpets, wood-veneer furniture, duvet-covered platform beds, and plank ceilings. The draws?A private tennis court, frisky yet friendly dogs, a homey Czech restaurant, and a summer beer garden.
L.B.

ROME

Casa di Santa Brigida 96 Piazza Farnese, Rome; 39-6/6889-2596, fax 39-6/6889-1573; doubles from $140. Way back in the 14th century, Saint Bridget secured a prime corner of Piazza Farnese; her house is now home to nuns who open their doors to other women -- and men too, without rolling their eyes heavenward about the two sharing a room. To find it, go to the northwest corner of the piazza and look for the pedimented stone entry to a church wedged into a Renaissance façade. Then ring the bell by the arched doorway to the right. It's hard not to feel guilty about disturbing the peace, but once inside you'll be completely at ease. There are 23 rooms with antique bureaus and modern mattresses, icons in place of televisions, and views of what is perhaps Rome's most handsome square. From the roof terrace, you can even spy on the French embassy next door in Michelangelo's Palazzo Farnese. Just bear in mind that another all-seeing someone is keeping his eye on you, too.

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