$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.