$146 Ireland's best-kept secret, Number 31 (31 Leeson Close, Lower Leeson St.; 353-1/676-5011; www.number31.ie; breakfast included) is part gracious Georgian mansion, part modernized coach house. An ivy-clad door at the end of an alley opens onto a mirrored reception desk and groovy sunken lounge. Each room is individually decorated with a mix of antique and modern furniture, complemented by muted walls. Room 21, with lofty ceilings and original 18th-century cornices, may be one of Dublin's grandest places to sleep.
$161 On a street of anonymous budget hotels near Hyde Park, the Pavilion (34-36 Sussex Gardens; 44-207/262-0905; www.msi.com.mt/pavilion; breakfast included) is a world apart. Among its 30 theatrically themed rooms are Honky-Tonk Afro, a lime-green homage to the disco seventies; Highland Fling, a tongue-in-cheek pastiche of a Scottish baronial bedroom; and the fantastical Moorish-Art Deco Casablanca Nights. Be warned: The crowd of musicians and fashionistas can get as loud as the color scheme.
$113 Caroline Main, the vivacious owner of the Main House (6 Colville Rd.; 44-207/221- 9691; www.themainhouse.com), could have installed eight bedrooms in this Notting Hill terrace building. Instead, there are just four, each occupying an entire floor and stocked with super-king beds, Egyptian-cotton sheets, and a winningly eccentric assortment of furnishings, half passed down from her family, half from the antiques shops of nearby Portobello Road.
$242 Guests at Five Sumner Place (5 Sumner Place; 44-207/584-7586; www.sumnerplace.com; breakfast included), an unassuming town house in posh South Kensington, can spend the money they're saving on a blitz of the area's high-end boutiques. Rooms are clean and cheerful—though the Victorian reproduction furnishings are slightly battered. In summer, breakfast is served on the back patio, a rare feature even at far grander hotels.
$156 Canal houses are such prized possessions in Amsterdam that most have been kept private. The Canal House Hotel (148 Keizersgracht; 31-20/622-5182; www.canalhouse.nl; breakfast included), however, offers a chance to sleep in the 17th century. Its two narrow, carefully restored 1640 buildings stand gracefully beside the Keizersgracht, just around the corner from the Anne Frank House. The 26 rooms are furnished with antiques and framed Old Master prints; some have canopied beds or canal views.
$115 The 1720 Seven Bridges (31 Reguliersgracht; 31-20/623-1329; breakfast included) isn't as venerable as the Canal House, but it overlooks perhaps the city's most photogenic canal. Of the eight rooms, splurge on one at the front for a view of the water, or on the largest, No. 5, for a terrace over the garden. The house is filled with I from across Europe—Le Corbusier chairs, Russian carpets, 1920's café tables from Prague.
$103 Within partying distance of the Moulin Rouge, the Hôtel Royal Fromentin (11 Rue Fromentin; 33-1/48-74-85-93; www.hotelroyalfromentin.com; breakfast included) is a cavalcade of color and artwork reminiscent of its 1930's cabaret heritage, which a cast-iron elevator and Art Deco windows help re-create. Rooms above the third floor are tiny but have views of Sacré Coeur or Paris's rooftops. In the morning, have buttery croissants delivered to your room.
$188 Just off Place St.-Michel and adjoining its own hip café, Résidence des Arts (14 Rue Gît-le-Coeur; 33-1/55-42-71-11; www.arts-residence-paris.com) is a superb place to put up for a week: all 11 rooms have kitchenettes. Rustic ceiling beams blend with traditional French interiors on the first and second floors; stay in No. 11 or 21 for huge windows, or on the fifth floor for the best light.
$84 Although its rooms and service put costlier Latin Quarter hotels to shame, the Hôtel St.-Jacques (35 Rue des Écoles; 33-1/44-07-45-45; www.hotel-saintjacques.com) is resolutely a two-star inn. It has a charming, if faded, romance (and not just because Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn filmed scenes from Charade here): murals showing lovers by the Seine adorn the breakfast room and the lounge, and corner rooms 8 and 25 have balconies and views of the Pantheon and Notre Dame.
$193 The eco-minded Ariston Hotel (2 Largo Carrobbio; 39-02/7200-0556; www.aristonhotel.com) attracts a mix of canny business types, green freaks, and models worried about the effects of smog on their skin. The 46 small but stylish rooms have fir-wood furnishings, futon mattresses, and purified, ionized air. Guests can reenergize with an organic breakfast of whole-grain bread and herbal tisanes before pedaling a hotel bicycle to the city center—a three-minute ride. Book on the just-renewed fifth or sixth floor, or the nonsmoking first floor (eco-mindedness goes only so far).
$136 The Antica Locanda dei Mercanti (6 Via San Tomaso; 39-02/805-4080; www.locanda.it) is for anyone who needs a respite from CNN. The 14 rooms have radios, shelves of books, and fresh flowers, but if you ask for a television, you'll be greeted with a frown. The best rooms— with terraces and themed décor—are on the third floor. Request the Stanza del Pascia, with Klimt-inspired frescoes, or the restful Stanza dei Corbezzoli, with floral designs penciled on the walls. Here, smoking is prohibited throughout.
$152 A room with a view of the Duomo is among the attractions at the Residenza dei Pucci (9 Via dei Pucci; 39-055/281-886; www.residenzapucci.interfree.it), though you have to crane your neck to see it. Fortunately, the Pucci's other pluses are easier to appreciate: 13 spacious rooms with high ceilings, coconut-fiber carpets, and restrained swaths of fabric in gold, azure, and ecru. For a great family deal, book the top-floor suite ($245), where, from the shower, the Duomo really is in full view. Take note: There's no elevator, and the receptionist clocks out at 8 p.m.
$115 One glance at the noble palazzo housing Casa Banzo (30 Piazza del Monte di Pietà, buzzer no. 3; 39-06/683-3909, fax 39-06/686-4575; breakfast included) and you'll resolve to be a Roman aristocrat in your next life. The pale blue exterior, with balustraded balconies around an inner courtyard, is only the start. A dramatic entrance hall—terra-cotta urns, marble floor—leads to three light-filled bedrooms that combine antiques, creamy linens, and framed prints. The downside?No phones, and service can be aristocratically chilly. If all the rooms are booked, ask about the rental apartments in the same building.
$156 Design diehards will love the five individually decorated rooms in the new annex at Casa Howard (18 Via Capo Le Case; 39-06/6992-4555; www.casahoward.com), the creation of Hotel de Russie architect Tommaso Ziffer. One is done up in black-and-white Op Art; another has clashing floral fabrics on everything, including the padded walls. The five rooms in the original building are more sedate (wood beams; parquet floors; striped, sprigged, and checked fabrics). Despite the occasional drawback—some bathrooms lie across a corridor, and the owners prefer a recommendation from a previous guest—the place is very popular, so book well ahead.
$119 The best mini-bar policy we've seen is at the AC Aitana (152 Paseo de la Castellana; 34-91/458-4970; www.achotelaitana.com): eat and drink free. This modern 111-room hotel in the heart of the financial district strives to attract business travelers (and sports fans—it's just two blocks from the Santiago Bernabeu stadium). That means a high-speed Internet connection in every room, a gym, and a pillow menu.
$106 The three C's behind the winning formula at HH Campomanes (4 Calle Campomanes; 34-91/548-8548; www.hhcampomanes.com; breakfast included) are chic (modern surfaces with Philippe Starck furniture), cheap (a great deal at $106 a night), and central (near the opera house and the Palacio Real). There's no concierge, but the receptionist can recommend a restaurant or help decode train schedules. The 30 cozy rooms feel a little like upscale dorms (the largest one with a view is No. 201). But with Madrid's throbbing nightlife, who's spending time in bed?
$86 You'll arrive at the Künstlerheim Luise (19 Luisenstrasse; 49-30/284-480; www.kuenstlerheim-luise.de), in the bohemian Mitte district, and think two things: Love the quirky artist-designed rooms and Hate the next-door neighbor (a 24-hour elevated train that's so close you could climb aboard from the communal kitchen). The solution is to stay at the back of this stately 1825 former pharmacy or in the double-glazed courtyard annex. One of the rooms is designed by Berlin artist Jochen Schmiddem, who created the look of Tom Cruise's futuristic bathroom in Minority Report; another integrates Berlin scenes into the paintings of Edward Hopper.
$151 Closed just six weeks after its launch last summer, when the city was devastated by floods, the Hotel Josef (20 Rybna; 800/337-4685 or 420-2/217-00901; www.hoteljosef.com; breakfast included) reopened in October. Designed by Czech-born, London-based minimalist architect Eva Jircina, the 110-room hotel near the old Jewish Quarter consists of two harmoniously geometric buildings, studded with pierced metal sunshades, that flow around a small courtyard. Bedrooms are cleverly compact and functional, with lots of glass and light.
$150 Originally part of the king's castle—and just 100 yards from what remains of it—the 19-room U Krale Karla (4 Uvoz St.; 420-2/5753-3594; www.romantichotels.cz) clings to its royal roots while embracing a Czech chic. Even the heavy hallway antiques don't feel stuffy, thanks to a huge stairway skylight. In the rooms, 15th-century wooden ceilings make for a rustic look. Minimize street noise by asking for a room in the back. Or upgrade to a suite ($234) and get your own fireplace.
$85 With all 22 rooms outfitted in custom-made furniture—like suzani-draped four-posters—it may take the buffet breakfast to lure you outdoors at the Empress Zoe (10 Adliye Sokak, Sultan ahmet; 90-212/518-2504; www.emzoe.com). Bread, white cheese, olives, and strong Turkish coffee are served in the palm-filled garden, next to a 15th-century Turkish bath overgrown with wildflowers. But the real draw is the roof terrace, which has sweeping vistas of the city.
$80 Ablaze with reds and yellows and crammed with 2,000 antique ceiling lamps, the 16-room Kybele (35 Yerebatan Cad., Sultanahmet; 90-212/511-7766; www.kybelehotel.com; breakfast included) is an exercise in over-the-top décor. All rooms have marble baths, but upgrading from a small double to a top-floor suite ($100) gets you a balcony with a view of Hagia Sophia.
$135 In a sea of plain-Jane concrete hotels, the Aqua Bamboo (2425 Kuhio Ave.; 808/922-7777; www.aquabamboo.com; breakfast included) exudes a hipster vibe in its retro lobby. Rooms are comfortable but hardly extravagant; those on the upper level escape street noise. For a seafront lanai, request a room above the eighth floor on the makai (seaward) side. The location is dead-center Waikiki, two blocks from Kuhio Beach, the best beginner surf spot in the islands.
$180 Talk about a corner lot in paradise. On one side of the Park Shore Waikiki (2586 Kalakaua Ave.; 800/367-2377 or 808/923-0411; www.parkshorewaikiki.com) sit the green fields of Kapiolani Park and the slopes of Diamond Head. On the other, an unobstructed ocean view spans more than a mile of coastline. Rates at this overlooked gem are exceedingly flexible, owing to renovations that chased away customers last year. An unrenovated room facing the water should run less than $150 a night, a steal in Waikiki.
$108 It's Morocco à go-go at the 1920's Figueroa Hotel (939 S. Figueroa St.; 800/421-9092; www.figueroahotel.com) in downtown L.A. The old-style rooms have been splashed with spice-colored paint and decorated with wrought-iron beds, sari fabrics, and floor pillows made from colorful Kurdish grain sacks. But the suites are the real deal ($195 for the Casablanca, big enough for a harem). There's also a magnificent heated pool.
$139 Far from the Eagles' "dark desert highway," this Hotel California (1670 Ocean Ave.; 866/571-0000 or 310/393-2363; www.hotelca.com) is just off the Santa Monica beach and steps from the Third Street Promenade. Its 26 rooms are 1947-vintage small (a few have ocean views), but make up for it with a breezy Gidget-goes-to-design-school look of surfboard art and tropical ceiling murals.
$145 A bamboo garden with a koi pond sets the scene at the new Ambrose (1255 20th St., Santa Monica; 877/262-7673 or 310/315-1555; www.ambrosehotel.com; breakfast included), an early California Craftsman-style hotel in a residential neighborhood. Enjoy organic wines by the library's fire, or a healthy morning buffet from celebrity chef Celestino Drago, whose restaurant also provides 24-hour room service. The airy Rec Room proffers one-on-one yoga, and an authentic London taxicab shuttles guests around in style.
$109 You know you're in the capital of geek chic when you check into the Mosser (54 Fourth St.; 800/227-3804 or 415/ 986-4400; www.themosser.com). Last year, the owners of this Victorian hotel off Market Street painted the walls magenta, updated the furniture, and stocked the rooms with Nintendo, CD players, and Internet access. Space and views are limited (which brick wall would you like to face?), but the Museum of Modern Art and Sony Metreon theater are close at hand.
$139 A bijou B&B, the Inn at Union Square (440 Post St.; 415/397-3510; www.innatunionsquare.com; breakfast included) has a modern French feel, with trompe-l'oeil garden scenes on bedroom walls, checked and striped upholstery, and fresh flowers. Little extras—turndown service, nightly happy hours on different floors—keep guests coming back. Another plus is next door: Farallon, one of the city's best seafood restaurants.
$165 For a completely different view of the city, stay at Dockside Boat & Bed (Pier 39; 800/436-2574 or 415/392-5526, www.boatandbed.com), composed of seven fully equipped vessels docked by Fisherman's Wharf. Roomy it ain't, but any sailor worth his salt is prepared to sacrifice ceiling height for nautical atmosphere. That and a glass of wine on the aft deck, with views of the Bay Bridge and the Transamerica tower.
$179 On the Gold Coast, across the street from the Four Seasons, the 221-room Whitehall Hotel (105 E. Delaware Place; 800/948-4255 or 312/944-6300; www.thewhitehallhotel.com) promises luxury at a budget price. It has amenities to match its upscale neighbor's: a complimentary car to take guests shopping, overnight shoeshine. Standard rooms can be a tad small and breakfast will set you back $14; ask the concierge for directions to the nearby Cambridge House coffee shop.
$129 Chicago doesn't have many B&B's—it's not Dublin, despite all those Daleys—which makes the Gold Coast Guest House Bed & Breakfast (113 W. Elm St.; 312/337-0361; www.bbchicago.com; breakfast included) something of a miracle. In an 1873 town house on the outskirts of the Magnificent Mile, this four-bedroom beauty has astounding light, much of it provided by a rear patio. Rooms have quirky touches, such as a 45-rpm record player and a stack of oldies.
$99 Pop culture meets Pop art in the Hotel Helix (1430 Rhode Island Ave. NW; 866/508-0658 or 202/462-9001; www.hotelhelix.com), a 178-room Pucci-inspired palace devoted to kitsch Americana. The walls are covered in green lizard-skin wallpaper or white leather; rooms have faux-fur blankets, high-fashion photographs of Barbie and Ken, and silk-screened images of California surfers.
$109 Rock stars are big fans of the Hotel Rouge (1315 16th St. NW; 800/ 368-5689 or 202/232-8000; www.rougehotel.com), three blocks from Dupont Circle. West Coast designer Mike Moore has adorned its 137 rooms with red velvet drapes, Frette sheets, and zebra-print robes. High style meets major attitude here—even in the mini-bars, stocked with wax lips, red pistachios, Johnny Walker Red, and temporary tattoos. Standard rooms that end in 07 or 11 are more spacious, but not more expensive.
NEW YORK CITY
$139 For Ian Schrager style at a Holiday Inn price, head to the Upper West Side's On the Ave (2178 Broadway; 800/497-6028 or 212/362-1100; www.stayinny.com). The 251-room hotel has all the features of a boutique (slate bathroom floors, steel sinks, down comforters), minus a few (room service comes from the diner across the street). Standard rooms are small, so book one facing the street or suffer with an air shaft view.
$149 It's far enough from Times Square to reduce the noise to a faint hum, but the Washington Jefferson Hotel (318 W. 51st St.; 888/567-7550 or 212/246-7550; www.wjhotel.com) is close enough that you can see the glow of the billboards. The 130 rooms are modest in size (in New York you get what you pay for) but embellished with designer touches—fresh flowers, Molton Brown amenities.
$147 The Abingdon Guest House (13 Eighth Ave.; 212/243-5384; www.abingdonguesthouse.com) feels more like a friend's place in Connecticut than a Manhattan hotel. Two landmark West Village town houses contain nine themed rooms, such as the Martinique, with a canopied four-poster and a skylight, and the Ambassador Suite, with dark red walls and a faux tiger-skin rug. Rooms in the back overlook a small garden (and neighboring apartments—think Rear Window). The Brewbar downstairs serves pastries and coffee and doubles as the check-in desk.
$135 When many other Beantown hoteliers were jumping ship, XV Beacon's Mark Hagopian and his partner Charles Hajjar dove right into the sinking economy, transforming an 1886 private residence into the 33-room Charlesmark Hotel (655 Boylston St.; 617/247-1212; www.thecharlesmark.com). Hallways are lined with works by local artists, imported Italian tile covers the bathroom floors, and $900 silver-and-gold comforters top the beds. The staff, handpicked for their knowledge of the area, can recommend with confidence the best of the surrounding Back Bay.
$115 Hagopian also had a hand in the 32-room Newbury Guest House (261 Newbury St.; 800/437-7668 or 617/437-7666; www.newburyguesthouse.com; breakfast included) around the corner. Carved out of three 19th-century brownstones, this homespun B&B—nicked Victorian dressers, quilted bedspreads, Oriental rugs—brings country comforts to the city streets. Reserve well in advance; the books open in September for the following year.
$70 Among the shops, galleries, and restaurants of the Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood is one of the city's most stylish B&B's: Le Traversin (4124 Rue St.-Hubert; 514/597-1546; www.letraversin.com; breakfast included). In a light-filled 1912 town house are four monochromatic rooms—red, clay, olive, and yellow (the latter two have private baths, but yellow's balcony has the best view). Owners Jean Boucher and Sylvain Laroche will fix eggs to order and then send you down the hall for a fango mud wrap.
$142 In cobblestoned Old Montreal, a Beaux-Arts façade gives way to an ethereal modern interior at the Hotel St. Paul (355 Rue McGill; 866/380-2202 or 514/380-2222; www.hotelstpaul.com). Beyond the lobby, with its alabaster fireplace, are 120 rooms in two palettes: "earth" (brown-beige) or "sky" (blue-gray and green). The multi-culti cooking at Cube—lobster and veal sweetbreads, mushroom tart with truffle oil—draws a smart crowd.
$125 With the words sleep with me emblazoned on its front windows —as well as on the T's worn by the buff staff—Aqua (1530 Collins Ave.; 305/538-4361; www.aquamiami.com; breakfast included) is bound to attract a sexy crowd. Besides the blue condom waiting for you on the bed, another turn-on is the impressively big and stylish rooms. Despite its name, the Aqua has no pool, but the beach (just a few flip-flop steps away), a 12-person whirlpool, and an in-house Bikram yoga studio compensate for that.
$175 We love any place that boasts "clean sheets, hot water, stiff drinks." Opened in 2000, the Whitelaw Hotel (808 Collins Ave.; 888/554-3123 or 305/398-7000; www.whitelawhotel.com; breakfast included) is a former flophouse in the Deco District. In the 49 rooms, baths are glass and travertine, linens are Belgian, and everything's white, from the waffle-weave robes to the mini-bar. Standard rooms are small, so for another $20 per night request a mini-suite, with wraparound windows and a bit more space.
$54 Since the new owners slashed prices at the starkly chic, 14-room Altamont Hotel (207 Darlinghurst Rd.; 61-2/ 9360-6000; www.altamont.com.au; breakfast included) in Darlinghurst, its undulating walls and Balinese furniture have drawn a budget-minded crowd. A two-room suite with TV, DVD, and city-view terrace costs only $80 to $95, but the laid-back staff will likely let any room go for less than published rates—just ask.
$94 Overlooking a wide sweep of Coogee Beach—a 15-minute cab ride from downtown—the small, family-run Dive Hotel (234 Arden St.; 61-2/9665-5538; www.divehotel.com.au; breakfast included) is more like a beach house than a hotel. All 14 rooms have polished wood floors, stylish stainless steel baths, and kitchenettes; Nos. 1 and 2 have drop-dead ocean views. Take a swim at Wylie's Baths, the ocean pool/coffee bar/dive-in cinema, then walk the spectacular cliff-hugging path to Bondi Beach.
$82 With its restful atmosphere and a location only 20 minutes by water taxi from downtown, Watsons Bay is the Hamptons of Sydney. Here, the Doyle family, a Hemingwayesque bunch who run a chain of seafood restaurants, have opened the 32-room Doyles Palace Hotel (1 Military Rd.; 61-2/9337-5444; www.doyles.com.au; breakfast included). Ma Doyle serves up a killer plate of blue swimmer crab. Harbor-view rooms are best, though a bit noisy on weekends.
$97 In a former Rolls-Royce showroom, the 71-room Royce Hotel (379 St. Kilda Rd.; 61-3/9677-9900; www.roycehotels.com.au; breakfast included) combines the grandeur of a 1920's interior with contemporary furnishings. Fronting Melbourne's most elegant boulevard, the hotel is handy to parks and gardens, boutiques and beaches, and downtown. Business travelers predominate on weekdays, but weekends are more relaxed.
$77 In the heart of the trendy Ponsonby zone, Amitees (237 Ponsonby Rd.; 64-9/378-6325; www.amitees.com) is the city's first hip hotel. A former boardinghouse, it has eight sun-drenched rooms with exotic timber floors, avant-garde photographs, and contemporary furniture. Request the petite garden room, or the penthouse for a sweeping cityscape. You can sip a local wine from the hotel's 1,500-bottle cellar before hitting the neighborhood's bars and restaurants.
$80 The city's first design-conscious boutique, the 29-room Gordon House Hotel (5 Battery St.; 91-22/287-1122; www.ghhotel.com), has three room types: Mediterranean, Country, and Scandinavian, with furnishings to match. Located in the hip Colaba district, it's run by the Mars Group, who've created some of the hottest restaurants and bars in town—so it's no surprise that the in-house club, Three Flights Up, has become the nightspot for Bollywood's beau monde.
$102 The new French-owned Sofitel Silom (188 Silom Rd.; 66-2/238-1991; www.sofitel.com; breakfast included) brings a whiff of contemporary European style to Bangkok's affordable hotel scene. Rooms are small, with polished wooden floors, Thai silk and mahogany accents, and spotlighting. A super-efficient business center, sleek restaurants, and a 37th-floor wine bar (killer views, atrocious lounge singer) make this place as good for business as it is for play.
$35 Khao San Road, the ur-backpacking mecca, is undergoing an urban renewal of sorts, with celebrity-owned restaurants, funky shops, and the Buddy Lodge Hotel (265 Khao San Rd.; 66-2/629-4477; www.buddylodge.com; breakfast included). This guesthouse-cum-boutique hotel has Thai artisanal touches normally associated with a hefty price tag: rattan chairs, teak beds, terra-cotta tiling. The simplicity of the rooms recalls the old colonial homes of Bangkok. Best of all is the location: a 10-minute walk from the Chao Phraya river and the Grand Palace.
$95 At the M Hotel Singapore (81 Anson Rd.; 866/866-8086 or 65/6224-1133; www.m-hotel.com; breakfast included), the M could stand for makeover. The former Harbour View Dai Ichi Hotel received a $30 million face-lift last year, reopening as a stylish four-star with 416 rooms. All sport big desks and high-speed Internet; upgrade to a club floor for sweeping views. The Tea Bar, with nearly three dozen varieties on offer, is a good place to retreat from the business district's hubbub.
$60 For historical charm, you can't beat the Royal Peacock Hotel (55 Keong Saik Rd.; 65/6223-3522; www.royalpeacockhotel.com; breakfast included), a boutique property set in a series of distinctive old shophouses in the former red-light district near Chinatown. The 79 rooms are brightly furnished—sleigh beds, red tasseled curtains, gilt-framed mirrors—but have few frills; avoid those in the attic, which lack windows. The neighborhood, lined with canals and restored wooden buildings, is one of the last remaining corners of authentic old Singapore.
$192 These days, affordable hotels are harder to find in Hong Kong than dissidents. One exception is the 266-room Metropark Hotel (148 Tung Lo Wan Rd.; 852/2600-1000; www.metroparkhotel.com.hk; breakfast included), overlooking Victoria Park in Causeway Bay, where locals still start their day with tai chi. Some of Hong Kong's best shopping is nearby, as are the Wanchai clubs and the central business district. Rooms are spacious and contemporary, and a rooftop pool and fitness room grant views that are five-star, even if the room rates aren't.
$140 After a $35 million redo, the Great Eagle Hotel (8 Peking Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui; 800/448-8355 or 852/2375-1133; www.gehotel.com) still offers luxury and location —three minutes from the Star Ferry—for less. The marble-and-onyx lobby glitters with elaborate frescoes and Chihuly glass, and the 487 masculine rooms were built for business (high-speed Internet, three phones, big desks). The hotel's T'ang Court restaurant serves Cantonese; other options include a New York-style deli, where expats tuck into Buddha-sized sandwiches.
$36 History permeates the Lu Song Yuan Hotel (22 Banchang Hutong, Dongcheng; 86-10/6404-0436; www.the-silk-road.com), tucked among the hutongs (old alleys) of Beijing. The former compound of a 19th-century general who became an imperial prince, it's now a hotel with 57 small but comfortable rooms, some with Ming dynasty furnishings. (Hint: Ask for a downstairs room opening to a courtyard with lovely tea tables.) The centuries-old surroundings are unrivaled: step out the front door and old China pulses past.
$80 Equal parts Hogwarts, Nordic castle, and Chinese puzzle box, the Moller Villa (30 Shanxi South Rd.; 86-21/6247-8881, fax 86-21/6289-1020) borders on the surreal. Built in the 1920's by a Swedish businessman for his daughter (who dreamed up its Gothic Revival spires and Escheresque staircases), the house later headquartered the city's Communist Youth League. Last year, the Hengshan hotel chain refurbished it as a 16-room palace ideal for visitors in search of an alternative to Shanghai's mega-hotels.
$252 This capital of chic has historically been short on inspired, reasonably priced lodgings. Now, the Celestine Hotel (3-23-1 Shiba; 81-3/5441-4111; www.celestinehotel.com), which opened just south of Shiba Park last July, offers an alluring option. Simple whites, browns, and blacks characterize the 243 eye-pleasing rooms; sightseer and salaryman alike can chill in the spacious lobby or in the sunny courtyard.
$184 Low budget reaches dizzying heights, literally, at the stylish Hotel Century Southern Tower (2-2-1 Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku; 81-3/5354-0111; www.southerntower.co.jp), which occupies the top 17 floors of a high-rise building. The 375 rooms are small but smartly designed, with clean lines, good beds, and breathtaking views (on a clear day, you can see Mount Fuji). You'll save a fortune on taxis, too: the hotel is just steps from Shinjuku station, where the train from Narita airport drops you off.
$145 Standing along the north wall of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, a six-foot, cast-stone sculpture of a scepter-wielding African queen welcomes guests to the Gallery Inn (204-206 Calle Norzagaray; 787/722-1808; www.thegalleryinn.com; breakfast included). Here, hundreds of artworks are hung on the walls, planted in the gardens, even hidden inside the ornate closets. On the way to one of the 22 rooms where guests sleep with the art, you may see owner Jan D'Esopo in action as she sculpts, paints, and casts on the balcony.
$84 In the lovely suburb of Ocean Park, the seafront Hostería del Mar (1 Tapia St.; 800/742-4276 or 787/727-3302; www.prhtasmallhotels.com) has 26 simple rooms—white walls, terra-cotta-tiled floors, wicker furniture. The restaurant's laid-back style (open-air, tin roof) belies chef Zelma Parra's impressive Puerto Rican cuisine, but with prices as high as $28 for entrées like seared halibut with goat cheese and malanga mash, you probably won't dine here every night. Instead, book a room with a kitchenette (from $165) or an apartment that sleeps four (from $195).
$80 The Armani-clad swarm the lobby of Design Suites & Tower (1683 Marcelo T. de Alvear; 54-11/4814-8700; www.designsuites.com; breakfast included) in swanky Barrio Norte. Downstairs, there's an art gallery, a clothing boutique, and a poolside bar where ambient tunes complement the caipiroskas. Upstairs, the 40 minimalist rooms have king-sized beds, fax-Internet connections, and personal espresso machines.
$66 A converted 28-room mansion in genteel Providencia, near the Metropolitan Park, the Hotel Orly (27 Avda. Pedro de Valdivia; 56-2/231-8947; www.orlyhotel.com; breakfast included) is furnished like a comfortable country estate and run by an unfailingly helpful staff. Join Santiago's smart set at the Cafetto restaurant, or explore the vibrant neighborhood, brimming with great restaurants and shops.
RIO DE JANEIRO
$48 The plaids and florals may be forgettable, the bathrooms may lack tubs, and the architecture of the Arpoador Inn (177 Rua Francisco Otaviano; 55-21/2523-0060; breakfast included) may reek of 1970's Functionalism. But this 56-room hotel, set on the bluff separating Copacabana and Ipanema, is one of few in Rio with direct beach access. And it's a brief walk to some of the city's hottest restaurants (though the in-house Azul Marinho also merits a visit). At $96, the 15 oceanfront rooms still qualify as a steal.
$193 A former Masonic lodge, the Hemingway House (1 Lodge St.; 27-21/461-1857; www.hemingwayhouse.co.za) retains an air of secrecy, unlisted and tucked away near the Mount Nelson Hotel. The courtyard, where meals are served, affords views of Table Mountain; the Afro-Colonial interiors feature African masks, crystal chandeliers, and four-poster beds. Of the four rooms—booked months in advance—the best is the North Room, with doors opening onto the pool. By September there will be four new units to choose from.
$146 Behind the gabled façade of a 1920's villa, the Winchester Mansions Hotel (221 Beach Rd.; 27-21/434-2351; www.winchester.co.za; breakfast included) has 76 rooms in styles ranging from down-home Martha Stewart to modern Terence Conran. A landmark on the Sea Point waterfront, the place has old-world charm; you're just as likely to see a dowager sipping coffee in the colonnaded courtyard as you are a model savoring oysters at Harvey's, the in-house restaurant.
Other Ways to Save
Many hotels unload unsold rooms on-line at bargain prices. Here are some top sites for bottom rates:
• Hotels.com (www.hotels.com) has special deals at thousands of places in North America, Europe, and 10 Asian cities. Quikbook (www.quikbook.com) is similar but concentrates on U.S. destinations. • Some of the lowest hotel rates for hundreds of North American cities can be found on Hotwire (www.hotwire.com). The trade-off: you learn the name of your hotel only after paying in advance for your stay—and the money's not refundable. • The Big Three travel sites—Expedia (www.expedia.com), Travelocity (www.travelocity.com), and Orbitz (www.orbitz.com)—have special rates at hundreds of hotels worldwide.
Don't forget about that old-line medium, books. Hip Hotels: Budget by Herbert Ypma (Thames & Hudson) lists stylish, affordable properties worldwide. Cheap Hotels by New York Times Frugal Traveler columnist Daisann McLane (Taschen) surveys 200 off-the-beaten-track hotels that capture local ambience.
Many distinctive hotel chains have more affordable rates than those of the larger, cookie-cutter properties. • The Kimpton Group (800/546-7866; www.kimptongroup.com), godfather of the boutique movement, began in San Francisco, where it now has 16 hotels, plus 21 others across the continent—many under its Hotel Monaco brand. • W Hotels (888/625-5144; www.whotels.com), the trendy arm of lodging giant Starwood, owns properties in 10 U.S. cities and in Sydney. They're not always the best deal in town, but check the Web site for bargains. • In New York, Amsterdam Hospitality Group (888/664-6835; www.nychotels.com) offers 10 properties with cool décor and rates well below the city's average. • On the West Coast, Joie de Vivre (800/738-7477; www.jdvhospitality.com) has 23 chic boutiques in San Francisco, Marin County, and Silicon Valley. WestCoast Hotels (800/325-4000; www.westcoasthotels.com) owns properties in the Pacific Northwest. And the Ayres Hotel Group (www.countrysuites.com) runs 17 hotels—some kitschy—in southern California.
The Langham, Hong Kong
Italianate grandeur is the aesthetic of choice at this Kowloon property, set a few blocks away from the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront (with its Star Ferry dock and hulking Harbour Plaza shopping center). The lobby is over-the-top ornate, with a high domed ceiling, Dale Chihuly glass sculpture, and inlaid marble floors that evoke a luxe Tuscan estate. Of the 495 rooms, the 270 Grand Rooms have been gorgeously and recently renovated, with leather-paneled walls and vintage black-and-white phtography; slick glass, chrome, and cherry wood furniture; and opulent baths with deep soaking tubs, elegant wall sconces, and piles of fluffy white towels. All have bedside controls for lights, temperature, drapes, and door chimes (the last can be disabled with a “Do Not Disturb” switch). There’s a state-of-the-art fitness center, open around the clock, and a lovely rooftop pool, surrounded by mosaic tile and flowering bougainvillea (very popular during warm weather months—plan to stake out your chaise lounge early).
The Abingdon Guest House
Intimate, elegant, and authentically Villagey, the Abingdon occupies two adjacent, refurbished 18th-century Federal town houses in the heart of the West Village. The nine themed guest rooms are sophisticated but still bohemian; several have exposed brick walls, decorative tin ceilings, and ornamental fireplaces; all are decorated with an eclectic mix of antique repros (four-poster beds, armoires, writing desks), Oriental rugs and textiles, and modern fixtures (track lighting, glass shower stalls).
Tip: Bring a bathrobe. Although all rooms have private bathrooms, some aren't en suite—you'll need to enter yours from the hall.
Room to Book: The Martinique and Essex rooms are the quietest, with windows overlooking a small garden. For charm, though, go for the Windsor Room, with its wingback chairs, parquet floors, and (nonworking but still romantic-looking) brick fireplace.
Winchester Mansions Hotel
Situated on the Sea Point Promenade, this Cape Dutch—style hotel faces the Atlantic on one side and Table Mountain on the other. Built in the 1920’s, the hotel evokes vintage glamour in the common areas, furnished with antiques and fireplaces, while the 76 guest rooms are more modern, with neutral tones, clean-lined furniture, and either ocean or mountain views. On-site amenities include a spa, a heated outdoor pool, and a complimentary shuttle to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. Harveys, the hotel restaurant, serves South African—European fusion fare in a colonnaded courtyard with ivy-covered walls and a wrought-iron fountain.
With six floors, this 1970s-era budget hotel has just palm trees and a cobbled, local-traffic road between it and Arpoador Beach. Within walking-distance of Ipanema Beach as well as Copacabana and Leblon, the 50 basic-feel rooms have a refrigerator, air-conditioning, and a safe. But the furnishings and style—simple wood, tile floors, and showers only in the compact bathrooms—fit the budget price for the location. On the ground floor there's a restaurant with a daily buffet-style breakfast. Later in the day, it serves seafood and Brazilian cuisine on its beach-side terrace.
The charming Orly is housed in a renovated, three-level French provincial mansion, originally constructed in the 1940s as a family home close to Avenida Providencia. The 28 rooms, each with varying architecture, are decorated in a country manor style with polished wood floors, brass fittings, and vaulted ceilings. A straight-out-of-Lyon café and bistro, Caffeto, is attached, which provides the room service. The building is older and somewhat worn, though the low price and location keep it near capacity throughout most f the year. For long-term travelers and business tourists, the hotel added ten apartments in a nearby annex in 2009.
Design Suites & Towers
The first true urban boutique hotel in Recoleta when it opened in 1999, Design Suites now has locations in Calafate, Salta, and Bariloche. The cool, contemporary vibe rings through every aspect of the hotel, to the chilled out music wafting through the private art gallery and clothing boutique to the mirage pool in the lobby. The jet set, overwhelmingly European, crowd are often content to party up in the hotel’s poolside restaurant and wine bar. The 40 minimalist rooms come with trendy amenities like personal espresso machines and fax-internet connections.
Hostería del Mar
This oceanfront hotel in San Juan’s upscale Ocean Park is a beach retreat within walking distance of Condado nightlife and only five miles from historic Old San Juan. The hotel lobby has inviting tropical decor, with dark, hardwood floors accented by white furniture and brightly colored accents. This theme carries over into the guest rooms, which have tiled floors, white linens and accents of tropical blues and greens. Oceanfront rooms have patios (first floor) or balconies (second floor). On-site dining is available at Uvva.
Along a winding street on Old San Juan’s cobblestoned lanes, you’ll find local artist Jan D’Esopo’s hotel, a lush retreat within six connected historic town houses. Inside is a labyrinth of staircases, open-air patios, hidden nooks, and no fewer than 19 gardens—some with night-blooming cerius, others with jasmine and orchids. The 22 rooms have draping floral tapestries, carved wooden headboards, and framed watercolors depicting scenes of the city by D’Esopo herself, who can often be found chatting with guests in her poolside studio.
Hotel Century Southern Tower
Located on the 20th through 35th floors of the Southern Tower building just above Shinjuku station, the Hotel Century Southern Tower is known for its offering of views in every direction. The lobby is sparsely furnished with dark wood floors and a minimalist (but comfortable) feel. Southern Tower includes several restaurants and a sleek lounge, as well as an on-site convenience store for sundries. Each room is decorated in neutrals and light wood furniture and outfitted with extras such as slippers, a yukata, and an English guide to the view out the room's window, with major landmarks noted.
Located on floors 14—17 of a quiet office building in the business district, the Celestine Hotel caters to corporate travelers but provides plenty of amenities for leisure guests, as well. The 243 guest rooms are basic but comfortable, with dark wood furniture, all-white linens, and large windows with views of the cityscape or Tokyo Bay. On the 14th floor, the hotel has two conference rooms, an open-air garden patio, and a lounge with complimentary coffee. The Grand Cross restaurant serves a combination of Japanese, Western, and French fare, while Bar Suzaku houses an impressive selection of 100 single-malt whiskeys.
Stories abound about the origin of this castle-like building. Some say it was inspired by shipping mogul Eric Moller’s daughters dream, while others say the Scandinavian style owes to Moller’s Swedish roots. However it began, this 43-room hotel (built in 1936) stands out in the Xintiandi neighborhood. The brick exterior and red, peaked roofs cast a striking profile, and the white columns, paneled ceilings, and gold-toned chandeliers create an elegant interior. The rooms and suites (from Superior Room to Deluxe Suite) continue the aesthetic with hardwood floors and wood-paneled ceilings.
Lu Song Yuan Hotel
Multiple buildings surround a quadrangle in this courtyard-style Dongcheng neighborhood hotel, which is down an ancient alley, or hutong. Buildings dating from dynasties past—including Qing, Yuan, and Ming—are scattered around it. Noted for having the “most distinctive courtyard” by a local tourist association, this 58-room hotel also includes two suites. Rooms range from a basic Single to the Deluxe suite, which has a king-size bed. Traditional Chinese decorations set the tone, from red rugs and columns to lanterns and calligraphy books.
Metropark Hotel Causeway Bay Hong Kong
In the open three-story lobby, a set of gold escalators flanked by enormous white columns lead up to the reception desk at this hotel, one of multiple Metropark hotels across Hong Kong. This shiny 33-story tower is covered in glass, making it stand out among nearby buildings and providing ample Victoria Harbour views. The standard rooms have double or twin beds and are decorated in neutral tones; the Metropark Suite is the apex of room options, with a Jacuzzi and mini-bar. Location is a strong point, with shopping, entertainment, and business districts nearby.
Royal Peacock Hotel
M Hotel Singapore
The M Hotel Singapore is centrally located in the financial district, making it a top choice for corporate travelers and a frequent host of various conventions. Inside, the lobby is furnished with black leather furniture and a dramatic bull statue. The 413 guest rooms are simply styled with neutral tones and light wood accents, and large workspaces are ideal for business guests. The 11th floor contains the hotel’s recreational facilities, including the pool, gym, and spa. The property also has a lively cocktail bar and three restaurants, including Café 2000, which serves a seafood and barbecue buffet on weekends.
Buddy Lodge Hotel
This small, boutique hotel on Khao San Road houses only 76 rooms in two styles, standard and deluxe. Each room is furnished with Thai antiques and has natural wood accents. The property includes a rooftop pool and bar, a fitness center, and both a sauna and steam room. But location is the main draw here: The property is in the middle of the Khao San district, home to a number of restaurants and entertainment options, and is within walking distance of several attractions, including the Grand Palace.
Sofitel Bangkok Silom
Gordon House Hotel
There's something quite grand about the staircase encircling the lobby at this boutique hotel, especially when paired with the sweeping entrance's statement chandelier and rustic sculpture. The hotel's 100 rooms are styled with muted tones, opulent fabrics, and contemporary furniture and fittings. Some of the accommodations have balconies, others offer loft features, spa baths, and kitchenettes. The hotel's restaurant, Dish, serves contemporary Australian cuisine, and the softly lit, super-stylish Amberoom bar is also on-site. The hotel is located on one of Melbourne's best-known boulevards, St Kilda Road, and is an easy walk back to the city or to trendy South Yarra.
Watsons Bay Hotel
Set on an achingly beautiful stretch of east-coast beach, this boutique hotel occupies what was once a private mansion aptly named Grandview. Only three of the 16 rooms here face the water—but if you snag one you’ll understand why they get booked far in advance: not only do they have huge windows overlooking the surf; they’re also almost twice the size of the other units. Even smaller rooms are outfitted in high-design style, with polished wood floors and clean-lined, pale-upholstered furnishings that lend a beach-house feel. (The bathrooms, though, are wonderfully space-age, with stainless-steel basins and bright-blue tile.) The property’s common areas, including a courtyard lounge and a communal dining room, make the place feel more like a shared guesthouse than a hotel; fix-your-own-breakfast provisions are laid out by 7 a.m. and stay there until noon.
Room to Book: It’s no contest: Rooms 1, 2, and 19 are the only ones with to-die-for views.
Patterned after the original Government House, this Darlinghurst hotel in a Colonial Georgian residence was once a nightclub (the hotel's name comes from a Rolling Stones concert at Altamont Freeway because the band members were regular guests here). Architect Furio Valich helmed the renovation that converted it to boutique hotel, where a shared “street” connects rooms. The interiors emphasize IKEA-style furnishings, stone, tiles, and tones of gray and brown. The Loft, with its tall ceiling, has hosted numerous celebrities including Mick Jagger. Pets are welcome.
Over-the-top decor is this boutique hotel's trademark: crystal chandeliers and tufted throne-like seating in the main area complete the art decor decor. The three story hotel is located on South Beach's Collins Avenue, making it popular with those looking frequent the nearby party scene. All of the 49 rooms at the Whitelaw boast pedestal beds piled high with plush goose-down bedding, all white furniture, and marble bathrooms. Other hotel amenities include a daily airport shuttle, complimentary drinks nightly 7 p.m. to 8 p.m, and club passes.
With the words sleep with me emblazoned on its front windows —as well as on the T's worn by the buff staff—Aqua is bound to attract a sexy crowd. Besides the blue condom waiting for you on the bed, another turn-on is the impressively big and stylish rooms. Despite its name, the Aqua has no pool, but the beach (just a few flip-flop steps away), a 12-person whirlpool, and an in-house Bikram yoga studio compensate for that.
Hôtel St. Paul
The too-cool faux-hawked staffers at this über-chic boutique hotel might be off-putting if the rooms weren’t so stylish and comfortable. Playful fabrics—suede headboards, cowhide chairs, faux-fur throws—brighten the dark walnut floors and cool, white walls. Breakfast, served among the couches and low-slung tables on the second-floor Cube 2 lounge, may be Montreal’s hippest meal, filled with fashionable thirtysomething guests recovering (quite gracefully, it must be said) from the previous evening’s excesses.
Insider Tip: Take advantage of St. Paul’s location on the less-touristed western edge of Old Montreal, where many of the city’s design professionals have set up shop along with some of Montreal’s most innovative restaurants and bars. Our favorite stop is the café and gallery space at Cluny ArtBar.
Room to Book: Those on the south side of the building, facing the port, get the most sunlight.
Newbury Guest House
Housed in three interconnected brownstone townhouses, including a main building constructed in 1882, the Newbury Guest House is an independent hotel on Back Bay’s fashionable Newbury Street. Surrounding townhouses have been transformed into outdoor cafés, art galleries, and designer shops, and both Fenway Park and Symphony Hall are within one mile. Inside, the 32 guestrooms are outfitted with padded headboards, all-white linens, and sheer white draperies framing expansive windows. Select rooms also feature decorative fireplaces. Visitors enjoy all-natural spa treatments at the on-site Violet Skin Boutique as well as a complimentary breakfast buffet and French specialties at La Voile restaurant.
Constructed in 1886 as a private residence, this historic brownstone is now a renovated owner-operated hotel in the Back Bay area. Inside, brick corridors lined with colorful local art lead guests to 40 rooms designed by renowned stylist Dennis Duffy. Each room combines cool gray tones with vibrant pops of red and features custom-made furnishings, handcrafted Italian lighting, and imported tiles. Free Wi-Fi and surround sound entice visitors to stay and relax, but most guests are likely to spend their time exploring the city highlights located just outside the hotel’s entrance, set at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
Washington Jefferson Hotel
Instantly recognizable by the large red “WJ” marking the front entrance, the six-story Washington Jefferson Hotel is located within a 10-minute walk of Times Square, Central Park, and the theatre district. The lobby is furnished with a marble floor, warm wood paneling, and a huge half-dome light fixture, while the 135 guestrooms are more basic—small and sparse, but comfortable and relatively affordable. Designed in a clean gray and white palette, all rooms have platform beds, padded headboards, and limestone-and-slate bathrooms. The on-site Shimizu restaurant serves sushi and Japanese cocktails, and nearby Triomphe is known for its seasonal French-American fare.
On the Ave.
Popular among student travelers and Columbia-visiting academics, this upper-Broadway hotel offers a surprising amount of comfort and style for an affordable price. The 282 streamlined rooms (many of which often go for well below $300) all have beds with suede headboards, down duvets, and 300-thread-count Egyptian-cotton linens; other high-style touches include stainless-steel sinks and complimentary Godiva coffee. The 16th-floor garden terrace with its row of Adirondack chairs is a supreme summer lounging spot (the adjacent penthouse, No. 1602, has stunning views of the Hudson River and is worth the splurge). The property will have two restaurants, a bar, and a fitness center by spring 2008.
Pop culture rules at this fame-obsessed Art Deco hotel with a red-carpet entrance. At home in trendy Logan Circle, this colorful Kimpton property has an over-the-top glam '60s style. Super-sized photos of pop icons adorn the walls— Little Richard and MLK among them — alongside white pleather sofas and yards of animal print and faux fur. Platform beds and leopard-patterned robes are found in Hotel Helix's 160 rooms and 18 suites further enlivened by fun thematic touches (like Pop Rocks and Pez in the mini bars).
Gold Coast Guest House Bed & Breakfast
Set in a renovated, ivy-covered Victorian townhouse, originally constructed in 1873, this bed-and-breakfast is located just four blocks from the Magnificent Mile. Each of the five bedrooms delights visitors with antique furnishings, a private bath with a rain shower, and in the twin bedroom, a large bay window overlooking Elm Street. Owner Sally Baker serves a complimentary breakfast every morning, and guests can also indulge in beer, wine, coffee, and goodies from the snack jar throughout the day. Free Wi-Fi extends outside to the lush private garden, which is visible through a 20-foot window wall in the living room.
With a history dating back to 1928, the Whitehall Hotel is housed in a former luxury apartment building only half a block from the Magnificent Mile. Joining the ranks of such former guests as Katharine Hepburn, Robert Redford, and Sophia Loren, visitors enter the old-world-style lobby, adorned with original wood paneling and gilt-framed oil paintings. Extensively renovated in 2006, the 222 guestrooms and eight suites combine restored antique furniture, marble baths, and 300-count Egyptian cotton linens. Guests also enjoy indulging in pan-Italian cuisine at Fornetto Mei and toasting in the lounge where The Beatles once had a drink.
Dockside Boat & Bed
Situated on a private dock in Rainbow Harbor, this unusual bed-and-breakfast rents six furnished yachts for overnight stays. Ranging from 38 to 54 feet, the boats are permanently stationed within view of the Rainbow Harbor Lighthouse and the historic Queen Mary, a retired ocean liner built in 1934. Each vessel is individually designed with different amenities; for instance, the Crown Jewel has an electric fireplace and 12-bottle wine fridge, while the Obla De Obla Da is primed for entertaining with a wet bar and speaker system on the back deck. A continental breakfast is delivered to the boats each morning.
Inn at Union Square
With only 30 rooms, this narrow, six-story inn provides personalized service as well as a convenient location less than a mile from high-end Union Square shops, Moscone Center, and the theater district. The lobby is adorned with a red padded front desk and oversize flower arrangements, while the individually designed guestrooms feature Georgian reproduction furniture, gilded mirrors, and red and gold chintz. Amenities include a complimentary continental breakfast, late night cookies, and an evening wine and cheese hour held in fireplace lounges on each hall. The hotel is also connected to a full-service fitness center with a heated lap pool.
Opened in 1913 as the Keystone Hotel, the Mosser—purchased by composer Charles W. Mosser in 1981—still retains its Victorian style in the lobby with marble floors, wrought-iron banisters, and rich wood paneling. In contrast, the 166 guestrooms have a modern sensibility: platform beds, brown and black linens, and bright accents of red, green, or pink. While the rooms are small and many share baths, the hotel is ideal for budget-minded travelers and is conveniently located within walking distance of Union Square, Moscone Center, and a BART station. Amenities include the adjacent Annabelle’s bistro and a state-of-the-art recording studio.
Hotel California, Santa Monica
Located near the beach in downtown Santa Monica, this motel is an alternative to larger, higher-priced neighbors like Shutters on the Beach or the Loews Hotel. The ivy covered, two-story building has California touches like palm trees and surfboards mounted on its cream exterior. Inside, rooms are decorated simply, with walls painted in shades of yellow and blue, and light-colored wood trim and furniture. Rooms have local culture nods, such as movie posters or guitars hung on the walls. Complimentary in-room Internet access and mini-refrigerators stand out among the amenities.
A retro façade and otherworldly interior distinguish this 1925 Spanish-Moroccan-style hotel just blocks from the Staples Center. The resplendent interior features hand-carved furnishings, Moroccan tapestries, atmospheric lighting, exotic plant life, and hand-painted ceilings, elevators, and doors. Figueroa Hotel’s accommodations include 285 uniquely appointed rooms and suites, each featuring flowing fabrics and Moroccan decor. The straight-out-of-Tangiers bar, its adjacent lounge and garden pool, and sumptuous event rooms further distinguish this one-of-a-kind tourist class hotel.
Park Shore Waikiki
The main draw at this 226-room budget hotel is its exceptional views of both the ocean and Diamond Head (a massive volcanic ash ring that was long ago consolidated into what geoligists call tuff.) Slight upgrades have been made to the oceanfront rooms, but the other standard rooms can have a dated feel, and many still feature older, non-flatscreen TVs. Hawaiian music sets the mood throughout the lobby, which is dotted with tropical couches. The hotel has a small kidney-shaped pool, an on-site Starbucks©, and two restaurants.
Aqua Bamboo & Spa
Located on Kuhio Avenue, just 10 minutes from Kapiolani Park and the Honolulu Zoo and three blocks from the beach, the 93-room, budget Aqua Bamboo and Spa is housed inside a repurposed apartment building. The hotel is part condo and part hotel, as each room is individually owned and decorated by the owner. All rooms include balconies with street or pool views in addition to small kitchenettes. The lobby is predominantly decorated with Asian elements, including Buddhist statues. Perhaps the hotel’s best feature is its pool area, which is surrounded by bamboo and tropical plants,ew and is adjacent to the two-room spa.
Dedicated to the ancient Hittite goddess Kybele, this boutique hotel in Sultanahmet presents a lavish, jewel-box like interior design highlighted by antique carpets and furniture, red and gold walls, curios, and more than 2,000 colored-glass candle lamps hanging from the ceilings. Only 16 rooms are available, each decorated in a similar but simpler manner, while the garden, where breakfast is served, is reminiscent of a gypsy caravan. Sitting partly over Istanbul’s famous Basilica Cistern, the hotel is in easy walking distance from most major landmarks.
Equally close to Sultanahmet’s major tourist sites as the Four Seasons, this boutique hotel is both quirkily charming and easy on the wallet. Centered on a Turkish bath dating from 1483, the property’s wood-and-brick townhouses contain 19 guest rooms, all decorated with hand-painted Byzantine-motif frescoes, Anatolian handicrafts, terracotta tiles, and Turkish kilims (some also have canopy beds and hammam-style bathrooms). Sunsets are wonderful on the roof terrace bedecked with wisteria vines; you can take breakfast either in a cozy dining nook or in the enclosed garden, a peaceful oasis of fountains, vines, and fruit trees. The one negligible downside to this property is that it smells like history—the Byzantine-era cistern gives many of the rooms a musty air.
Room to Book: Privacy-seekers should ask for the only unit with its own entrance.
U Krále Karla
U Krále Karla (the King Charles) is a 19-room boutique hotel situated on the Royal Route, directly beneath the ramparts of Prague Castle. Originally a Gothic building owned by the Benedictine Order, the structure was renovated in the Baroque style in 1639 and finally transformed into a hotel in 1993. An old-world atmosphere remains in the individually designed guestrooms, most of which contain hardwood floors, reproduction antique furniture, hand-painted joist ceilings, and stained-glass windows depicting Czech royalty. A full breakfast buffet is included, and Moravian wines and cocktails are served beside a fireplace in the small bar area.
Designed by Czech-born, London-based minimalist architect Eva Jircina, the 109-room hotel near the old Jewish Quarter consists of two harmoniously geometric buildings, studded with pierced metal sunshades, that flow around a small courtyard. Bedrooms are cleverly compact and functional, with lots of glass and light.
Past the columned entrance off Paseo de la Castellana, this 10-story brick hotel has a lobby filled with black leather couches, metal accents, and wood paneling. Its 111 guest rooms and suites are similarly decorated, with cream tones and sophisticated grays that suit the financial district’s business clientele. Each room has a wooden headboard with built-in reading lamps, as well as a sitting area, queen or king-sized bed, and a mini-bar. The marble bathrooms have bidets. Guests can use the wireless Internet in both the hotel rooms and public areas, such as the Mediterranean-cuisine restaurant Aitana.
Ideal for visitors seeking a more intimate stay in Rome, this largely unknown bed-and-breakfast provides accommodations for small groups in a 16th-century palazzo built for the noble Alibrandi family. Located near the Campo de’ Fiori, the inn contains two rooms and two full-service apartments (maximum four people) situated around a quiet central courtyard planted with wisteria. The grand entrance hall is designed with marble floors, terracotta urns, stained glass, and a high vaulted ceiling decorated with frescos, while the rooms are more basic, containing little more than simple furniture. Breakfast includes freshly brewed coffee, pastries, and bread with jam.
Residenza dei Pucci
Located on the upper floors of a 19th-century palazzo just a two-minute walk from the Duomo, Residenza dei Pucci is something of a hybrid between a bed-and-breakfast and a hotel. Accessible only by stairway, the 12 guestrooms are uncluttered and spacious by European standards, with hardwood floors, high ceilings, large windows, and either an upholstered headboard or a wooden four-poster bed. A light breakfast buffet is served in the small dining area each morning. Because the reception desk is not staffed between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m., these accommodations appeal to travelers with an independent streak.
Situated in the centro storico (historic center), the Ariston Hotel is within a 10-minute walk of major attractions like the Plaza del Duomo and the Via Torino shopping district. Large marble columns add a sense of drama to the lobby, which also contains bright red armchairs and a curving staircase with decorative metal railings. Upstairs, the 52 minimalist guest rooms include hardwood floors, glass flower vases, and oversize windows, some with views of the surrounding neighborhood. A continental buffet is served each morning in the breakfast room, while an on-site lounge provides handcrafted cocktails and herbal drinks.
Located in the Latin Quarter, the Hôtel Saint-Jacques is less than five minutes from several Paris landmarks, including the Sorbonne and Notre Dame Cathedral. The Belle Epoque hotel pays homage to the artists and poets that inhabited the Latin Quarter in years past, and murals inspired by the art of Latin Quarter denizen Toulouse Lautrec can be found in his namesake breakfast room. Each of the hotel’s 38 guest rooms features wireless Internet access and air conditioning, as well as impressive period artwork. Many also feature small balconies with views of Paris.
Hôtel Résidence des Arts
Located between the Saint Germain des Prés area and Latin Quarter in Paris, the Hôtel Résidence des Arts offers guests access to a variety of luxury shops and gourmet restaurants. The hotel is designed to reflect both the atmosphere of a private Parisian apartment and a luxury hotel. Guest rooms and suites are adorned with rich fabrics and are decked with antiques, creating a stylish, neoclassical, residential feel. Guest room amenities include complimentary Internet access, air conditioning, and room service.
Hôtel Royal Fromentin
Formerly Le Don Juan cabaret, the Hôtel Royal Fromentin is located in the Montmartre red light district. The hotel evokes the Paris of the 1930’s with its original period paneling and antique elevator. The décor is dominated by shades of green and red, and the 47 guest rooms are decorated in a traditional French style, with heavy curtains, ornately-printed fabrics, and art prints. Room service is available, and aperitifs are served in the bar. Guests can easily visit the famous Moulin Rouge, located just down the street.
Located in the Seven Bridges area, this waterfront canal house turned boutique hotel maintains much of its 18th-century flavor. The eight accommodations have ornate rugs, bedding, and drapes, as well as features like exposed beam ceilings, mixed-period antiques, and lots of natural light. Some rooms have sitting areas overlooking the canal, an ideal spot to enjoy the optional, in-room breakfast or watch passersby. Central to shops, museums, and restaurants, the building has a small reception area where the longtime, solicitous owners are often stationed.
The Canal House Hotel
Overlooking the Keizersgracht canal in the Jordaan district, this boutique hotel is comprised of three narrow houses built for Dutch merchants in the 17th century. The renovated interiors now blend original design elements—such as wooden beams and fireplaces—with contemporary touches like avant-garde light fixtures from renowned designer Marcel Wanders. Decorated in a Gothic-inspired palette of black and purple, the 23 guest rooms contain modern artwork, leather headboards, in-room soaking tubs, and velvet drapes framing views of the canal or the private garden. A breakfast buffet is included, and handcrafted cocktails are available in the bar and great room.
Five Sumner Place
Main House, named after owner Caroline Main, discreetly holds four suites in fashionable Notting Hill, each one occupying an entire floor of the upmarket Victorian townhouse. Though there is no signage; rather, a brass doorknocker in the shape of a lion's head denotes the entrance to the brick-walled building built in the 1820s. Inside, rooms are meant to be evocative of a classic British bed-and-breakfast, each one furnished by Main with antiques purchased from the neighboring Portobello Road market. Access to a separate health club (two minutes away) is available, and private cellular phones are placed in rooms as opposed to landlines to reduce costs for guests.
Pavilion Hotel, London
Located within two miles of Hyde Park and Oxford Street, the Pavilion Hotel is a converted townhouse with 30 quirky, individually designed guestrooms. Each room has its own artistic theme with corresponding decorations; for instance, the Honky Tonk Afro room features lime green walls, pink feather boa borders, and a disco ball, while the Casablanca Nights room is adorned with a patterned lantern, mosquito netting, leopard-print linens, and minaret-shaped silhouettes on the wall. The hotel is a popular site for photo shoots and is frequently visited by celebrities, with past guests including Naomi Campbell, Daniel Day Lewis, and Kate Beckinsale.
This funky boutique hotel three blocks from Dupont Circle is serious about the color red. Consistent with Kimpton hotels' fondness for excess, Hotel Rouge incorporates shades of its signature color into every facet of its stylishly '60s décor—from the hallways lines with photos of rock icons to the beds and common areas. The hotel's 137 spacious rooms feature Bohemian design touches like complimentary zebra-patterned robes and tiger-print carpeting. The on-site Bar Rouge attracts an upscale crowd each evening and makes a fun destination for breakfast each morning.
Room Mate Mario
Edgy, post-modern design defines this budget-boutique hotel, located across from the Teatro Real opera house. In the hotel, which is one of four Room Mates in Madrid, find black sofas and quirky bulldog photos in the lobby, and bright primary-colored lighting that continues into the breakfast room. There’s more offbeat design in the 54 guest rooms, where the focal point of each is the individually designed headboard. These range from warped checkerboard patterns to florals. More practically, each room has a mini-bar, wireless Internet, Phillip Starck lamps, and a green apple on the bedside table.
Arte Luise Kunsthaus
What began in 2008 as an “art lab” in a palatial (but condemned) 1825-vintage residential building has evolved into a livable museum-cum-hotel near Berlin’s government district. Today, the revitalized old property (along with a new wing that opened in 2003) houses 48 completely unique rooms, each conceptualized and created by a different artist. The results—which vary in size from sumptuous suites with 13-foot ceilings to small single-occupancy garrets—are wild: there’s the Cabaret room, red-lit and decorated with mannequins in racy lingerie; the Loop room, where the walls and ceilings as well as the floors are completely covered in carpeting; and the Nest room, festooned with sculptures of giant eggs and bird beaks. Check out the website’s online room gallery before you book.