Europe's Best Small Hotels
These top newcomers show bigger isn’t necessarily better.
The English call them
bolt-holes: informal, personalized spaces to escape the madding crowd. A place
to put your feet up and feel at home, plan the next foray to galleries and
greenswards, or merely contemplate the approach of cocktail hour.
Of course, Europeans
have always had a way with infusing small-scale hotels with quirky charm. But
now there is a new generation of independent hoteliers who moonlight in the art
world. They’re creating intimate boutiques where the creative vibe is inspiring
and the rooms are curated by artists whose personal passion for collecting
rarities overlaps with an unorthodox sense of hospitality.
Take 40 Winks: the East London inn is the creation of eccentric
interior designer David Carter, who turned his own 18th-century townhouse into
a fashion-and-arts hangout. Here, Shoreditch gallery owners can mingle with out-of-town
clients during the playfully risqué gatherings (tableaux vivants, shadow puppet
shows) that Carter hosts every month in his public drawing rooms. Upstairs, two
bedrooms are filled with his flea market finds from Portobello Road and Clignancourt
in Paris. A brushed-aluminum Empire-style hip bath dominates the shared
bathroom, and while there’s no dining room, Carter makes sure the honor bar is
always stocked with the makings for a proper gin and tonic.
In Rome, hotelier
Alberto Moncada’s aristocratic great-grandfather, a devoted patron of the arts,
once built private studios on Via Margutta where Picasso, Puccini, and
Stravinsky composed masterworks. Around the corner, Moncada has continued the
family tradition by commissioning sepia-toned photographic murals of local
monuments to grace the 14 suites in his newly opened Babuino 181. This
renovated palazzo also has a rooftop terrace and bar for the ora del
cocktail. For breakfast, however, Babuino happens to be steps away from La
Buvette, a local favorite on Via Vittoria where the baristi prepare espressos
while countesses feed their lap dogs apricot jam cornettos.
From the forests of
northern Sweden to the orange groves of Sicily, Europe’s new artistic hotels are
among the Continent’s finest. All have fewer than 15 rooms—and many cost less
than $250 a night.