Great New Finds: Affordable Europe
Published: June 2009
By Christopher Petkanas, Andrew Ferren, Amy Farley, Maria Shollenbarger, Tina Isaac, Xander Kaplan, Valerie Waterhouse, Clara Sedlak, Alison Tyler, Susan Welsh, Ralph Martin
T+L searched from Stockholm to Seville and came back with 20 hotels that won't break the bank.
While other new hotels have capitalized on Copenhagen’s reputation as a design city by embracing sleek functionalism to the point of folly, the Bertrams Hotel Guldsmeden (107 Vesterbrogade; 45-33/250-405; www.hotelguldsmeden.dk) remains resolutely inviting. It starts at the cheerful entryway, which feels like that of a private residence, and continues into the light-filled dining room and courtyard with its voluptuous breakfast spread. Here, you’ll find a buffet of charcuterie, thick wedges of Scandinavian cheese, crusty rolls and croissants from the nearby Emmery’s bakery. Upstairs, the 47 high-ceilinged rooms have breezy South of France-inspired interiors; downy four-poster beds are draped in white fabrics and accented with seashells. (Ask for a balcony overlooking the courtyard.) The bathrooms are small, but perks like complimentary breakfast and a vibrant location in the Vesterbro district make up for any shortcomings.
At Blanch House (17 Atlingworth St.; 44-127/360-3504; www.blanchhouse.co.uk), a town house hotel right near the seafront, breakfast starts at a laid-back 9 a.m., and no one’s likely to ask whether you want a wake-up call. Each of the 12 themed rooms displays a sense of no-holds-barred fun. In one, the walls, windows, and bed appear swathed in the same green velvet that Scarlett O’Hara used to make her dress; another holds an impressive collection of snow globes. And if that’s not enough, there’s always the buzzy bar (try the strawberry-balsamic mojito), and the all-white restaurant, which serves creative modern European dishes.
With its strategically placed flea-market finds (a velvet couch here, a ventriloquist’s dummy there), the 54-room Alias Hotel Kandinsky (Bayshill Rd., 44-124/252-7788; www.aliashotels.com) projects an air of boho gentility. Rooms in this Victorian-era former girls’-school dormitory overlook quiet side streets and have homey neutral color schemes and Art Deco-style black-and-white-tiled bathrooms. By night, the lobby absorbs spillover from the adjoining bar, as low lighting and lounge music transform the shabby-chic interior into one of Cheltenham’s hippest scenes. The hotel’s prime location in the center of the Cotswolds makes it the perfect jumping-off point for exploring the region.
These days, finding a place to stay in London for less than a small fortune can seem as improbable as locating a discount suit on Savile Row. Thankfully, Chelsea’s Sloane Square Hotel (Sloane Square; 44-20/7896-9988; www.sloanesquarehotel.co.uk) has opened its doors. Set on the landmark square that gives the hotel its name, the revamped 100-room property is a pared-down yet polished gem imbued with traditional British flair. Floral wallpaper by Neisha Crosland and Scottish-tartan wool bedspreads set the mood in the comfortable rooms. On the ground floor, the busy Chelsea Brasserie serves traditional French food. And come evening, the popular Kitt’s Club bar heats up with London’s glitterati.
Only the faintest signs of life outside can be heard from Montagu Place Hotel (2 Montagu Place; 44-20/7467-2777; www.montagu-place.co.uk), a secluded, 16-room Georgian town house in regal Marylebone. A narrow, winding staircase leads to three styles of bedroom (Comfy, Fancy, and Swanky), all with original stone fireplaces, large sash windows, and divinely plump beds covered in chenille blankets. Although the hotel doesn’t serve dinner, some of London’s best gastropubs are a short walk away.
Connoisseurs of 18th-century refinement are filling up Jardins Secrets (3 Rue Gaston Maruejols; 33-4/66-84-82-64; www.chicretreats.net) faster than you can say, "Luxe, calme et volupté." The hotel is in downtown Nîmes but feels like a romantic rural refuge, with just four guest rooms, a rosy bougainvillea-clad façade, and a small swimming pool in the shadow of orange and olive trees. An embarrassment of curated antiques, bowls of garden roses, and curtained bathing alcoves with freestanding rolltop tubs have made this one of the most desirable addresses west of the Rhône.
Deep in the Latin Quarter, not far from the busy Rue Mouffetard, lies the futuristic new Five Hotel (3 Rue Flatters, 5th Arr.; 33-1/43-31-74-21; www.thefivehotel.com). Here, the standard rooms tend toward petite, but what they lack in size they make up for with ingenuity and groovy details such as changeable colored lighting and a five-scent fragrance menu. Doubles are known as "glimmering superiors" for the tiny fiber-optic stars that adorn the tops of the canopy beds. If you can, book an over-the-top suite: No. 501 has a multicolored curtain covering the bed; No. 603, a suspended sleeping loft.
Hôtel Le Sainte-Beuve (9 Rue Ste.-Beuve, 6th Arr.; 33-1/45-48-20-07; www.hotel-sainte-beuve.fr), which takes its name from the 19th-century literary critic Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve, is for traditionalists. In the lobby, a wood-burning fireplace is flanked by red couches and antique furniture. Each of the 22 individually decorated rooms gets marks for charm, but No. 6 is the standout; its turquoise walls are covered with romantic charcoal portraits of Parisian women. That said, if you’re looking for something roomier, stay in the Sainte-Beuve suite: street- and courtyard-facing windows and a small lounge area make it feel like a private pied-à-terre.
Berlin’s recent buzz has been all about the eastern part of the city, but the west side is showing signs of a resurgence. Case in point: the Hotel Garni Askanischer Hof (53 Kurfürstendamm; 49-30/881-8033; www.askanischer-hof.de). An old-school gem, the hotel has soaring ceilings and a maze of bedrooms, all with turn-of-the-century Art Nouveau furnishings and vintage-style radios. Frau Glinicke, the proprietress, has overseen the comings and goings of guests—including Helmut Newton and David Bowie—since 1963. Don’t be put off by the shabby ground-floor landing. Upstairs, the windows are taller than most guests, and overlook a wide, tree-lined boulevard straight out of a John Le Carré novel.
Transparent plastic bedside lights by Kartell. Bathrooms lined with Bisazza mosaic tiles. Wall paints, in fashionably named hues like "pearl gray" and "dauphine," from chic Belgian interiors company Flamant. And—believe it—wastebaskets and wardrobe interiors lined in Gucci wallpapers sporting the famous double "G." Welcome to Forestiera Monforte (2 Piazza Tricolore; 39-02/7631-8516; www.foresteriamonforte.it), a fashion-forward bed-and-breakfast that’s perfectly suited to this city. The owners are a pharmacist and a lawyer who’ve finally solved the dilemma of how to get a designer fix without spending a thousand euros a night.
As a diplomat’s daughter raised in the world’s top hotels, Michelle Lowe was uniquely qualified to create a haven that doesn’t scrimp on design and luxury. Together with local architect Massimo Sciarra, she set about transforming this 17th-century property in Naples’s most fashionable neighborhood, Chiaia, into the nine-room Micalò (88 Riviera di Chiaia; 39-081/761-7131; www.chicretreats.com). The parquet-floored rooms have handmade white-linen quilts and staircases leading to bathrooms with custom fittings fashioned from creamy Trani stone. In fact, stones are the theme here: volcanic rocks from nearby Vesuvius sit like sculptures on the stone bar in the breakfast salon. Even the room keys hang from pebbles found on the nearby beach.
From within the butter-hued walls of the verdant courtyard at Relais Le Clarisse (20 Via Cardinale Merry del Val; 39-06/5833-4437; www.leclarisse.com), the lively streets of downtown Rome seem a world away. But this remodeled former cloister in the bohemian Trastevere neighborhood is still just a short walk from the heart of the city. Blond-wood furniture and wrought-iron beds give the five rooms a warm, residential feel. While all of them flank the sun-soaked courtyard, the Rose suite has its own vestibule and tall, vaulted ceilings. In the evening, stroll through the cobblestoned streets and do as the Trastevereans do: pause for an aperitivo.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Few things come cheap around the chic Oud Zuid neighborhood—not the chunky gold baubles at Bulgari on the venerated P.C. Hoofstraat, nor the escargots perdus at brasserie Le Garage. So a room with double-height windows, Burberry throws, and a soaring corniced ceiling at an affordable price is a find indeed. Spread over six adjacent 19th-century town houses, the discreetly marked Hotel Vondel (26 Vondelstraat; 31-20/612-0120; www.vondelhotel.nl ) fits right in with the neighboring residences. The restaurant is stylishly decorated with framed python skins and vintage Indonesian prints, while the tranquil garden is perfect for evening drinks.
With just seven rooms and a prime spot in the Foz district, Porto’s toniest seaside neighborhood, Casa do Poema (245 Rua Pero do Covilhã; 351-22/617-0656; www.casadopoema.com) feels more like the house of an in-the-know friend than a hotel. Built in the 1950’s by architect Viana de Lima, the funky little building has white marble floors and curving staircases, and is chockablock with 18th- and 19th-century antiques and Turkish carpets. You can pick your style of room, from grandiose Empire to pared-down Modernist; there are also four suites that overlook the ocean. Porto’s medieval center and the riverside Ribeira district are a 20-minute drive away, but the city’s best shopping and restaurants are right next door.
In the minimalist white-travertine lobby of Room Mate Alicia (2 Calle Prado; 34/91-389-6095; www.room-matehoteles.com), a curlicue staircase rises through the compact space like a 3-D Brice Marden painting spun out of silvery metal. The entrance says it all: high style, intimate scale. With interiors by Spain’s star designer Pascua Ortega, the 34 pastel-colored rooms are reminiscent of an ocean liner’s: spare furnishings with clever space-saving built-ins, like reading lamps attached to headboards. If you’re willing to splurge, the two duplex suites are decadent retreats complete with private plunge pools that overlook the 19th-century Plaza de Santa Ana.
The glitter, yachts, and pounding nightclubs of nearby Puerto Banus fade like an old memory at the gloriously unpretentious Town House (7 Calle Alderete, Plaza Tetuán; 34/95-290-1791; www.townhouse.nu), a nine-room hotel tucked into a hidden corner of Old Town. Nothing is overdone in this whitewashed find. Four-poster beds are covered in crisp white linens; bathrooms have Molton Brown products. And then there’s Eva and Maria, the effusive Swedish hostesses, who will gladly arrange your dinner reservations and map out a walking tour. Breakfast is served in the Moorish-style bar, but we prefer to take our coffee to the sundrenched rooftop terrace.
Don’t let the gritty-looking street or imposing double-height wooden doors deter you: Casa Romana Hotel Boutique (15 Calle Trajano; 34/95-491-5170; www.hotelcasaromana.com) is a most welcoming hideaway, from the complimentary glass of Manzanilla that greets you upon check-in to the rooftop solarium and its low-slung chairs. The 19th-century town house’s beige-colored guest rooms may be a little sedate, but bright-red accents and sky-high ceilings brighten the mood, as does the interior courtyard. Only a short walk from the Alcazar, the hotel is also steps from a slew of new restaurants and hip watering holes.
The newly opened L’Avenida Hotel (9 Avda. de Gran Via; 34/69-923-5239; www.avenida-hotel.com), in the quiet village of Soller, is ratcheting up the style quotient in this mountain town on the northwest coast of Mallorca. Housed in a 19th-century mansion, the first floor of the eight-room hotel has a dramatic mix of zebra-patterned chairs and splashes of purple. Upstairs, rooms are decorated in soothing shades of chocolate brown and slate blue, with canopy beds and pedestal tubs. While the beaches are a 10-minute drive away, the hotel’s lovely pool will make you want to stay all day.
Tarifa’s low-key but high-octane vibe is palpable at Posada La Sacristía (8 San Donato; 34/95-668-1759; www.lasacristia.net). The lobby’s palm-studded, arcaded patio is perpetually occupied by the sort of tanned adventurous types that you’d expect to find in this kiteboarding and windsurfing capital. The 10 rooms, with burnished-plaster walls and whitewashed beams, are set in the main 17th-century building. And a sumptuous new suite, "La Capilla" is housed in a former convent next door.
This design-minded city has added another star player to its roster: the Hotel Hellsten (68 Luntmakargatan; 46-8/661-8600; www.hellsten.se). Set in what was once a 19th-century bordello, the labyrinthine retreat (narrow, winding hallways; sloped ceilings) is a mix of classic and modern Stockholm. The 78 rooms have original dark-wood paneling, some with traditional kakelugnar (porcelain chimneys), but they maintain a sleek Scandinavian look, with austere bed frames and crisp linens. Tossed into the mix is the owner’s collection of rare antiques: African masks, Asian cabinets, and exquisite Persian carpets.