Here is a list of some of my very favorite hotels in Europe:
Hotel Hosianum Palace (Centro Storico)
The Hotel Hosianum Palace is a snug and sunny place with yellow stucco and green shutters, tucked away on a tiny street near Piazza Venezia. I’ve stayed there three times—in 2008, 2010, and again in 2013. The rooms I booked were small but cozy, classically furnished, impeccably clean, and surprisingly quiet, with tall double-glazed windows. From here, nearly all of the historic center of Rome is within walking distance, even Vatican City which is no more than a pleasant thirty minute stroll. Even better, a right turn out of the hotel lobby takes you far away from the bustle of the city into the maze of narrow alleyways that spill unexpectedly into charming piazzas with wonderful shops and restaurants.
My only reservation in recommending the hotel is their reluctance to make use of a stunning rooftop terrace. Some of my fondest memories of the Hotel Hosianum Palace in 2008 were of having breakfast high among the church spires and the winged chariots that perch on top of the Vittorio Emanuele monument. When I returned two years later, the terrace was closed and when I inquired as to the reason, I was told that it was “too cold,” while it was, in fact, quite perfect. In June 2013, the terrace was closed once again and this time the manager explained that it was “too wet,” even though it had not rained in weeks. It’s perplexing, really, and just a bit maddening given that few hotels in Rome have such a pretty view, but depending on the season, it may be little more than a minor inconvenience.
Click here to read my journal entries about the Hotel Hosianum Palace in Rome.
Hotel Davanzati (Centro Storico)
I’m a creature of habit and when I travel I like having a neighborhood to call my own. When I’m in London, I live—temporarily, at least—in South Kensington. In Paris, the 5th Arrondissement is my home. And when I’m in Florence, I stay at the Hotel Davanzati. It’s as simple as that.
I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Florence three times in the last five years and, if anything, each of my stays has been more pleasant than the last. I’ve stayed in several different rooms on different floors at the Davanzati and I’ve always found them to be warm, inviting, sparkling clean, and well-equipped (with DVD players, laptops, and reliable wifi). The location on Via Porta Rossa is likewise superb—just a short stroll from Piazza della Signoria and the Ponte Vecchio—but the most important reason I return time and again is to enjoy the hospitality of this family-run hotel. Fabrizio and his sons are friendly and enthusiastic hosts with a deep knowledge of their city and a genuine kindness for their guests. They are always on hand and eager to make restaurant recommendations, shopping suggestions, and reservations for museums and guided tours. They also host a lively Happy Hour every night with music, candlelight, and complimentary drinks, which is a relaxing way to meet fellow travelers and to unwind after a busy day of sightseeing.
To those who follow online reviews, none of this will come as a surprise. The hotel is a perennial favorite on Trip Advisor, but it is nice to know that some things never change. Florence will always be a captivating city well worth a return visit, and the Davanzati will always be the perfect home away from home.
Click here to read my journal entries about the Hotel Davanzati in Florence.
Hotel al Ponte Mocenigo (Santa Croce)
I’ve stayed at the Hotel al Ponte Mocenigo three times in the last five years, and I would never consider staying anywhere else in Venice. The furnishings are elegant, the artwork unique, and the property overall spotless and well-maintained. A hearty continental breakfast (with amazingly good warm croissants) is served either indoors or in the hotel’s courtyard garden. I was equally impressed by the location, just steps away from the San Stae vaporetto stop on the Grand Canal. While I watched a great many tourists heave luggage over the city’s small canals and bridges, the hotel’s main entrance along Fondamenta Rimpetto Mocenigo required few steps, and the secondary entrance off of Calle dei Preti none at all. Walking to and from the hotel was an equal delight. The immediate neighborhood is quiet, charming, and largely overlooked by the hoards of visitors who congregate in St. Mark’s Square, and yet that vibrant piazza, and the Rialto Bridge and market you cross along the way, are just a fifteen minute stroll by foot. It really is the best of both worlds.
As always, my thanks go out to Walter and Sandro and the rest of the staff for their warm hospitality!
Click here to read my journal entries about the Hotel al Ponte Mocenigo in Venice.
Cinque Terre, Italy
Hotel Margherita (Monterosso al Mare)
The Hotel Margherita in the old town district of Monterosso al Mare is a friendly place, painted in shades of tangerine with green shutters. The rooms are well air conditioned, but if the weather cooperates in the summer, it can be nice to open the louvered windows, to draw in the scent of the lemon trees and fresh basil growing in the garden below.
The Millenium Bailey’s Hotel (South Kensington)
I stayed at the Millennium Bailey’s Hotel in South Kensington for one week in August 2006, and for three separate one-night stays in 2007. The staff were prompt and efficient, but also unfailingly pleasant at all times. The public areas of the hotel, including the lobby and winding grand staircase, were breathtaking in their Victorian opulence. The space featured ornate crown moldings, wrought iron railings, and original stained glass windows. On my first stay, I reserved a non-smoking Club room, which was enormous, but their standard double rooms are also clean, comfortable, quiet, and attractive.
The location of the hotel is also very convenient. The surrounding neighborhood offers every possible amenity, including restaurants, a grocery store, ATM machines, a pharmacy, and internet café. The Gloucester Road tube stop is directly across the street and joins the District, Circle and Piccadilly lines, the latter of which goes directly to Heathrow airport. As a result, I found that many major sites in London were just 10-20 minutes away. The hotel is also within walking distance of Kensington Gardens, the Royal Albert Hall, and several museums.
The Rubens at the Palace (Victoria)
Apex Waterloo Place Hotel (New Town)
Hôtel des Grand Hommes (5th Arrondissement)
I spent seven memorable nights at the Hôtel des Grands Hommes during my first trip to Paris in July 2007. I chose a “superior” room facing the Panthéon, booked months in advance on the hotel’s website at a special summer rate. It did not disappoint! While small in size, the room was exquisitely decorated with fine furniture, an open beam ceiling, and upholstered walls in a Toile de Jouy pattern. This was a boutique hotel in the truest sense of the word. There was none of the bland and uniform decoration typically found in chain hotels. Instead, there was sheer style that constantly reminded me that I was in Paris! The hotel’s location on the Place du Panthéon was ideal for exploring the city by metro or on foot. It was just a five minute walk from the Luxembourg RER station, which traveled directly to Charles de Gaulle airport, and a fifteen minute stroll to Notre Dame cathedral. The hotel was also well situated for dining out. There were many delightful places to eat nearby, including inexpensive sandwich shops and creperies, ethnic restaurants, and those that served traditional French cuisine, such as Le Coupe Chou. There was a fabulous boulangerie around the corner, an Amorino ice cream shop, and a patisserie called Dalloyau which made wonderful macarons. Along the Rue Soufflot, I also found basic but vital amenities such as a 24-hour internet café and an ATM machine.
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
The Toren (Jordaan)
Platzl Hotel (Marienplatz)
Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
The Romantik Hotel Markusturm, located in a former toll house that dates from the year 1264, is pretty as a postcard, situated alongside the Markus Tower and Röder Arch in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany. Inside, there’s a rustic parlor with an oak paneled ceiling and fanciful fretwork chairs, and the halls are filled with antiques, including an old butter churn and a doll carriage, all of which give the place a warm and cozy feel. I suspect that Hansel and Gretel would be very much at home here! I certainly was.
The Hotel Sonne in Füssen is a charming place awash in salmon pink, where the corridors are lined with costumes and memorabilia from the local stage production of a musical based on the life and death of “Mad” King Ludwig II. It’s the perfect home base for exploring the castles nearby.