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Great Cities, Affordable Hotels

ROME
$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.

MADRID
$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?

BERLIN
$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.

PRAGUE
$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.

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