Small hotels in Europe for romance and luxury
Europe is home to some of the most enchanting small hotels in the world. They’re the kind of places that dwell in memory for decades. You’ll find seven such places here. First, a word about prices. Rates for most, though not all, are toward the higher end and, perhaps surprisingly, the highest rates are the ones quoted by the hotel directly. The rates shown here are for mid-April and were found on a variety of booking sites. A caveat: rates vary widely from site to site so before you book, search for the best you can find on the web; it could save hundreds of dollars. That said, always visit the hotel website for a full appreciation of what’s offered.
Denmark has, for the last 40 years, topped international polls as the happiest place in the world to live. That doesn’t mean that Danes go around leaping for joy and clicking their heels in the air. It’s more a contentment index and Danes really do get many small pleasures out of life. So what about visitors? If you enjoy biking, parks, city lakes, open-face seafood sandwiches, swimming in harbours, lots of cafés with superior food and drink, good design and even better looking people you probably would enjoy a visit to Copenhagen. That goes double if you fancy living on a canal. The CPHLiving boat hotel, docked across from the city centre, offers 12 rooms with full front glass walls that look out on passing ships and the harbour beyond; even the showers come with water views. There’s a pleasing rooftop sundeck where you can enjoy a Heineken at the end of the day. The decor is upscale Danish modern with lots of wood and steel. Heated floors enhance the pleasure of padding around barefoot. It’s an informal place that’s bound to add to your happiness quotient. TV and Wi-Fi equipped, of course. From $164 (expedia.ca); cphliving.com.
The Scottish capital is the most popular city in the UK with overseas visitors — outside of London — and why not? It’s poetry in stone and masonry. The High Street tucked below the rock on which Edinburgh Castle sits makes the city centre one of the most arresting anywhere. More than 500 years old, it’s home to dozens of ancient pubs in which to sip a wee dram, and Scotland has become a foodie mecca in the last decade. The sightseeing is spectacular from the Castle to Holyrood Park with its stunning views to Arthur’s Seat. Culture abounds from bookstores to theatre, not forgetting the famous summertime Fringe Festival. You can even take tea on the Royal Yacht Britannia, now in dry dock and open to visitors. You will feel like royalty when you stay at Prestonfield, once home to the Lord Provosts of Edinburgh. Located on an estate a five-minute ride from the town centre, its 18 rooms and five suites offer both history and sensuality, a combination that is perhaps the reason this is often called the finest place to stay in the capital. Expect impeccable service and all the amenities. From $266 (trivago.ca); prestonfield.com.
Located in the heart of Florence, Palazzo Tolomei is housed in a captivating palace that dates from the 16th century and is only a short walk from all the sites that make the city famous: the Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio, the Uffizi Gallery, the Basilica of Santa Croce and on it goes. The Palazzo offers 15 Italianate rooms and suites with many of the ceilings decorated with original frescoes. Spacious rooms and common spaces carefully furnished with a blend of antique and modern pieces foster a feeling of luxury that would have been appreciated by a Medici. Expect gold and white rooms, mirrors, fine china, crystal, marble and exquisite flooring. You will also find all the modern amenities: Wi-Fi, television, and luxurious bathrobes and slippers and fine toiletries. Some rooms contain Nespresso machines, and coffee and complimentary pastries are offered in the elegant lounge. From $255 (ca.hotels.com); palazzotolomei.it.
The capital of Portugal is sometimes overlooked by visitors to Europe and that is a mistake. It offers the best beach/city combination on the continent, the weather is consistently mild from March through November, the architecture is a marvel, old wooden trams rumble up the hills, there’s a Medieval/Moorish castle and a lavish monastery that celebrates the country’s vast colonial empire. The seafood is beautiful, the wine soft and highly drinkable, the porto the best on the globe. The Hotel Britania, on a quiet street off the main Avenida da Liberdade, is a stunning Art Deco masterpiece designed by Cassiano Branco in the 1940s and maintained in pristine condition. It’s a gem. The 30 rooms are large, yet intimate and comfortable, the beautiful bar with its original wall paintings and cork floors invites lingering. Service throughout is impeccable, indeed it’s a winner of a Condé Nast award for “most outstanding service” among a host of other honours. From $231 (expedia.ca); hotel-britania.com.
Prague, like Vienna, is a walking town. Go for the Baroque buildings, the stone bridges, the lovely green river, and all the mad people who have been attracted here for centuries and still are. You might start your tromp in the old town’s Malá Strana quarter, home to painters, poets, musicians and others of that ilk, with a stop at the Kampa Museum, which features Bohemian artists past and present. Take a break at the tobacco-infused Franz Kafka Café where you can debate the virtues of the choices you’ve made in life or, if you’re in more of an up mood, head for the chandeliers and cakes of Café Café. Visit the Castle and go up the tower, but mostly hang out, eat and drink, and allow yourself to have a very good time. Those good times could well start at the Hotel Josef. The unfailingly bright and upbeat architecture and decor set a positive mood, the breakfasts are outstanding and can be enjoyed on the rooftop terrace in fair weather. The staff are friendly and helpful. There’s fruit, coffee and pastries in the lobby, bottled water and fine cosmetics in the generously sized rooms, Wi-Fi and a fitness centre with sauna. From $169 (expedia.ca); hoteljosef.com.
If you need an excuse to go to Rome, perhaps you should stay home. After over 2600 years since it was founded by those twins, the place still has a lot to offer. If this is a first trip, get the tourist sites out of the way early on and spend the rest of your stay absorbing the city — the restaurants, cafés, shopping, people watching and nearly everything else reaches its zenith in the Imperial City. You’ll find yourself in the heart of it all at Hotel Campo de’ Fiori near the plaza of the same name. The astonishingly romantic looking place covered with ivy is right out of the movies. Inside you’ll find 23 elaborately decorated rooms in the Roman style — that is to say over the top with heavy draperies, frescos and gilt. The rooms are on the small side, but don’t let that stand in the way; there’s a rooftop garden where you’re invited to bring your own wine. If space is a necessity, the deluxe accommodations are larger and some have balconies. The service is friendly and the breakfast buffet generous. Wi-Fi. Families should ask about the 12 apartments connected to the hotel. From $288 (priceline.ca); campodefiori.com.
Why Vienna? The Kunsthistorisches Museum, Viennese State Opera and Spanish Riding School for starters. The museum has a stunning collection of European paintings thanks to the Hapsburgs penchant for conquer and art; the opera offers standing room tickets for less than $10; and you owe it to yourself to see those horses perform “airs about the ground” at least once. Then there’s Freud’s home, the Third Man Museum based on the 1949 Orson Welles movie filmed in post-war Vienna, and the Narrenturm, which houses a Pathology and Anatomy Museum, worth a glimpse if only to see how far the profession has come since the 19th century. And on to the food. Take frequent stops for the iconic pastries and don’t balk at the idea of a daily Wiener schnitzel — you’d never do that at home, but this is a holiday. Sleep it off at the Hotel Das Tyrol on the Mariahilfer Strasse, the longest shopping street in the city and close to the historic quarter, the Spittelberg. The decor blends the past with the modern. Contemporary Viennese art is featured in most of the commodious rooms. The breakfast buffet gets you off to a running start toward a high-calorie day. Leave it to the hotel’s sauna, steam room and light therapy facility to coax you back into shape. Wi-Fi. From $209 (ca.hotels.com); das-tyrol.at.
This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.