50 Affordable Gems in Europe's Most Expensive Cities
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The dollar may be taking a beating in Europe, but you don't have to. Our correspondents have combed five favorite European cities for the best small, stylish, and reasonably priced accommodations (most are $250 a night or less) and restaurants that serve great food at a great value. From a Roman villa on the Tiber to a sleek modern hotel just off Las Ramblasall you have to do is choose.
Most of the 28 rooms in Hotel 54 Barceloneta, the newest hostelry in the increasingly trendy fishing quarter, have fantastic views of Port Vell, and all have Wi-Fi. The decor is light and airy, with playful touches like neon mood lighting and bathrooms with green-glass sinks. Strengths: Near the beach; sunny rooms; a cushioned rooftop chill-out zone that gives the place an Ibiza vibe. Weaknesses: Noise from the hip basement nightclub drifts up to the lower rooms (34-9-32-25-00-54; hotel54barceloneta.com; doubles, $194–$241).
The 45-room industrial-style Hotel Onix Liceo, just off Las Ramblas, has a well-lit lounge area with a fireplace, and a large terrace with a floral mural. Rooms are chic and modern, done in a black, gray, and chocolate-brown palette. There's no bar or restaurant, but the hotel serves a hearty buffet breakfast for an extra $13. Strengths: Comfortable furnishings; high-speed Internet access. Weaknesses: Rooms facing the street can be noisy, especially on weekends (34-9-33-03-41-54; hotelsonix.com; doubles, $141–$176).
Situated on the busy Gran Via, the elegant Hotel Soho is a ten-minute walk from the Plaça Catalunya. By local architect Alfredo Arribas, the minimalist look features designer frills such as Verner Panton lamps, supercomfortable beds, and natty glassed-in bathrooms. The best rooms are on the seventh floor and come with wood-decked terraces. There's no restaurant, but breakfast is served in the lobby and room service is available until 9 p.m. A snazzy business center in the basement and a cool rooftop plunge pool make the place a bargain. Strengths: Excellent location; great style. Weaknesses: Heavy traffic on the Gran Via means rooms on the lower floors can be noisy (34-9-35-52-96-10; nnhotels.com; doubles, $148–$404).
The Market Hotel & Restaurant has large rooms with polished wood floors, Oriental lacquered furniture, and black-tiled bathrooms. Some have terraces; all have Wi-Fi. In a quiet, leafy neighborhood a 15-minute walk from the city center, it's good for those seeking peace rather than action. Downstairs is a sophisticated restaurant. Strengths: Quiet and stylish. Weaknesses: Interior rooms are dark; elevators are reserved for disabled guests (34-9-33-25-12-05; markethotel.com.es; doubles, $129; two-bedroom apartments, $172–$229).
All nine Boria BCN lofts and suites are multilevel and measure at least 484 square feet. They have small but fully equipped kitchens and a decor featuring cappuccino tones and hardwood floors (some have two bedrooms). Strengths: Great for families; concierge service in the lobby from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Weaknesses: Storage space is limited; you don't get your own key for the main building (34-9-32-95-58-93; boriabcn.com; lofts and suites, $241–$362).
Staying Cool combines the luxe of a trendy small hotel (bathrobes, fluffy white towels, fancy toiletries) and the independence of an apartment. Located in the arty neighborhood of El Raval, this one-bedroom is a tasteful blend of original features and modern style: Huguet tiles and bow beams in the living room and bedroom; poured concrete in the kitchen and bathroom. Strengths: The apartment comes with Wi-Fi, DVD player, iPod speakers, and a fridge stocked with juicing oranges. Weaknesses: Shabby entrance; no elevator (44-1618-32-4060; stayingcool.com; $218–$278 per night, with a two-night minimum).
The creation of an ex–art curator and graphic designer, Destination BCN rents out artfully decorated apartments. The best values are the sleek designer lofts near the Plaça Universitat ($195–$269) and the quieter hideaways off the beaten path in Poble Sec ($155). Strengths: All have fully equipped kitchens and multimedia bells and whistles. Weaknesses: Traffic noise in the apartments on the Plaça Universitat (34-6-87-91-45-66; destinationbcn.com; apartments, $155–$350 per night, with a four-night minimum).
Taller de Tapas packs in local workers with its excellent-value lunches. By night, the ancient stone walls buzz with the chatter of the lively crowd who come to savor regional specialties such as pimientos de padrén (green peppers that occasionally pack a fiery punch) and Spanish soul food like rib-sticking callos, or tripe stew (28 Calle Comtal; 34-9-34-81-62-33; tapas, $4–$16). Inopia, a brightly lit neighborhood bar co-owned by Albert Adria (pastry chef at the legendary El Bulli), specializes in traditional tapas featuring top-notch ingredients, including local anchovies and gooey sheep's cheese. Most of the patrons stand, but there's a sit-down area for those who book in advance. Evenings only (104 Calle Tamarit; 34-9-34-24-52-31; tapas, $3–$15). Rising star chef Josep Nicolau presides over Rosal 34, hidden in seldom-visited Poble Sec. The menu has a seasonal repertoire of dishes such as steamed cockles with passion fruit and razor clams with vanilla and lime oil (34 Calle Roser; 34-9-33-24-90-46; tapas, $5–$24).
Behind its traditional Georgian facade, B&B Belgravia is a sleek oasis of contemporary calm: white walls, walnut floors, funky furniture, and unexpectedly luxurious bedrooms. Room rates include free Internet access, cappuccino (from a proper espresso machine), breakfast, and magazines. Strengths: Chic and homey surroundings; laid-back but helpful staff. Weaknesses: No air-conditioning (44-20-7259-8570; bb-belgravia.com; doubles, $223).
The 205 rooms at The Hoxton are smart and compact, with Frette linens and duck-down duvets, flat-screen TVs, power showers, and Pears soap. The price for a double—which is cheaper the earlier you book—can be as low as $2 a night with occasional promotional offers but is typically about $200. Included are a light breakfast delivered to your door, mineral water, fresh milk for hot drinks, and Internet access. To boost your chances of landing a $2 room, get on the hotel's mailing list. Strengths: A superior central location; loads of free amenities. Weaknesses: The same rooms are sold at a variety of prices, depending on how far in advance you book (44-20-7550-1000; hoxtonhotels.com; doubles, $2–$296).
A cozy town house hotel in Marylebone, Montagu Place has 16 rooms in three categories, defined largely by the size of the bed. Only "Comfy" rooms on special offer fall into the budget category, but that's no hardship: Accommodations include a pleasing ensemble of pastel colors, Molton Brown toiletries, free Internet access, and CD and DVD rentals and players. Strengths: A luxurious retreat in a prime location. Weaknesses: Breakfast is not included in the room rate (44-20-7467-2777; montagu-place.co.uk; doubles, $296–$369).
Twenty Nevern Square is a newly restored redbrick Victorian town house. All 20 guest rooms have an old-fashioned feel, complete with silk curtains and hand-carved wooden beds. Strengths: Close to Earl's Court station. Weaknesses: The cheapest rooms are tiny (44-20-7565-9555; twentynevernsquare.co.uk; doubles, $200–$350).
45a Cloth Fair is a basic but functional Georgian apartment steeped in history. The two-bedroom flat, which sleeps four, overlooks the ancient Church of St. Bartholomew the Great and features period architectural details and antiques as well as a thoroughly modern kitchen and bathroom. Book through the Landmark Trust. Strengths: Close to Smithfield Market, the Museum of London, and St. Paul's Cathedral. Weaknesses: No Internet access or TV; a rock-hard living room sofa (44-1628-825-925; landmarktrust.org.uk; $380 per night, with a seven-night minimum).
Citadines Trafalgar Square offers 187 apartments in the heart of London, ranging from studios that sleep a couple to two-bedroom flats. Strengths: The apartments are within walking distance of London's most famous monuments, galleries, and theaters; comfortable furnishings; no minimum stay required. Weaknesses: Mid-'80s hotel chain–style living room decor doesn't impress (44-20-7766-3700; citadines.com; studios, $220–$248).
Those staying in London for a week or more may prefer the comfort of a new purpose-built block like the Courtyard, Wimbledon. Located on a tree-lined street, it's a five-minute walk from the main train station, with easy connections to South Kensington and Waterloo stations (the trip into central London takes approximately 15 minutes). The flats have one or two bedrooms (extra beds are available) as well as balconies, satellite TV, washing machines, and dishwashers. Strengths: Spacious, comfortable, modern, and light-filled. Weaknesses: Located outside central London (44-20-8944-1444; apartmentservice.com; one bedrooms, $210 per night, with a seven-night minimum).
Gordon Ramsay's latest venture, The Narrow occupies an exquisite spot on the river in Limehouse, where it serves up traditional British dishes at reasonable prices. A white onion and wild garlic soup with croutons, for example, is $7; soft herring roe on toast, $9 (44 Narrow St.; 44-20-7592-7950; entrées, $16–$25). One of the best Vietnamese restaurants in London, the canteen-style Viet Hoa is cheap and cheerful, attracting the trendy Shoreditch crowd (70-72 Kingsland Rd.; 44-20-7729-8293; entrées, $8–$18). Afghan Kitchen is a small eatery with a limited menu but superb, wholesome food: The Afghan chicken, chickpea curry, and fried baby eggplant are all delicious, as are the yogurt-based drinks (35 Islington Green; 44-20-7359-8019; entrées, $10–$13). The authentic South Indian food at rock-bottom prices makes the trip to Saravana Bhavan, in Zone 3, worth it. A simple masala dosa—a huge rice pancake filled with spiced potatoes and accompanied by four different chutneys—is just $5 (300 High St. N.; 44-20-8552-4677; entrées, $3–$12).
In the thirteenth arrondissement, the Hôtel La Manufacture combines a nineteenth-century facade with a hip interior. Rooms are small and spotless, and cost from $147 a night for a standard double to $263 for room 74, which has a view of the Eiffel Tower. Book online for reduced rates. Strengths: Family-friendly; warm, English-speaking staff; stylish rooms. Weaknesses: Away from the city center; small rooms; breakfast is unimpressive and not included in the rate (33-1-45-35-45-25; hotel-la-manufacture.com).
The Hôtel Chopin, tucked down a passageway off the Grands Boulevards metro stop, has become a synonym for the well-priced hôtel de charme. Rooms are cheerful and very French. Strengths: Quiet; central location; good for families, couples, or singles. Weaknesses: Least expensive rooms are dark; views are uninspiring—except for the top floor, which looks over the rooftops (33-1-47-70-58-10; hotelbretonnerie.com; doubles, $109–$124).
In the fashionable Marais, the Christian Lacroix–designed Hôtel du Petit Moulin resonates with a different kind of Frenchness, and has an unostentatious facade hiding idiosyncratic rooms. The two-person "Comfort Room" goes for $240 a night year-round, while superior and executive rooms, normally $333 to $372 a night, can be as low as $242 on Sunday nights—although there is a two-night minimum. Strengths: Central location; chic decor; trendy bar; wheelchair friendly. Weaknesses: Snooty receptionists; overpriced breakfast; a charge for Wi-Fi (33-1-42-74-10-10; paris-hotel-petitmoulin.com; doubles, $243–$472).
The Hôtel Esmeralda, in the Latin Quarter, is small and scruffy, but what it lacks in polish it makes up for in bohemian charm (floral wallpaper, flea market furniture). Bare-bones singles with no shower are as low as $47 per night, while doubles with a private shower and overlooking Notre-Dame are between $108 and $128. Strengths: Great location; friendly staff. Weaknesses: Shoe box–size rooms; a tad dusty; no elevator or TV (33-1-43-54-19-20; no Web site).
Lodgis, a Paris rentals agency, has more than 1,000 furnished apartments, with prices starting at about $36 a night for a studio. Strengths: Consistently good-quality apartments; well situated; reasonable prices; an authentic Paris base. Weaknesses: Staff are lax about replying to e-mail and phone queries; be prepared to clean the apartment and do laundry at the end of your stay or else pay a supplement (33-1-70-39-11-11; lodgis.com).
Chez Vous offers apartments in Paris's most exclusive areas. One-bedroom apartments—such as Bisou, in the Latin Quarter, and Mimosa, beside the Place des Vosges—are $260 a night and sleep up to four (two in daybeds). Traveling en masse makes things cheaper still, and Chez Vous's two-bedroom apartments—including Picasso, in an ancient hôtel particulier in the heart of the Marais—comfortably sleep six for $440 per night and up. Strengths: Welcome service upon arrival (with English-speaking staff); linens and towels provided; attractive apartments in central areas. Weaknesses: Smaller apartments are typically dark; layout can be awkward—especially in those with sleeping lofts; antique decor means the flats are not suitable for families with young children (415-331-2535 in California; chezvous.com; rates vary widely depending on the apartment; most have five-night minimums).
The two-bedroom Rue des Écoles, on the border of the fifth and sixth arrondissements, is bright, roomy, and kitted out with a fabulous kitchen. Strengths: Great location; charming building with high ceilings; washer, dryer, and dishwasher; free overseas calls and Internet access. Weaknesses: Very basic decor and few amenities (781-383-6006 in Massachusetts; panacherental.com; $450 per night, with a five-night minimum).
Places worth crossing the city for are numerous, but Chez Gladines, a Basque restaurant in the Quartier Butte-aux-Cailles, sees more pilgrims than most, with Parisians lining up nightly (no reservations) for copious $9 salads, wine from $16 a bottle, $4 chocolate mousse, and the charmingly manic staff. Step aside when you hear "Chaud! Chaud! Chaud!"—this will be a waiter delivering sizzling snails to hungry diners (30 rue des Cinq Diamants; 33-1-45-80-70-10; entrées, $11–$16). The small, no-frills Kaza Maza, set beside the Panthéon, in the fifth arrondissement, is a local favorite, serving delicate tabbouleh, lemon-grilled chicken, moussaka, and Lebanese pastries to eat in or take away (1 rue de l'École Polytechnique; 33-1-46-33-96-74; entrées, $4–$13). For more traditional fare, Bistro Victoire is a fine choice. A zinc bar, cheery staff, and an enticing menu of entrées (all $12) and desserts and cheeses (all $7) combine to make this a convivial stop in an otherwise expensive quartier (6 rue de la Vrillière; 33-1-42-61-43-78).
In the trendy Monti district, the 27-room Duca d'Alba is close to the Colosseum and the Forum and only a few steps from the subway and the No. 117 electric bus, which stops at many sites in the historic city center. All of the rooms are elegant, and those on the fourth floor, though smaller, come with little terraces. Strengths: An excellent location; friendly, generous service. Weaknesses: Small rooms; no outdoor public space (39-06-48-4471; hotelducadalba.com; doubles, $147).
Near the delightful Villa Torlonia park and museum complex, the recently spruced up Villa del Parco is a quiet, sunny refuge from the tourist hordes and is well connected by bus and subway to Rome's historic squares and monuments. The brighter rooms are on the second floor, and the mansard quarters on the fourth are small but charming (the other floors have not yet been renovated). Strengths: Lovely garden for breakfast or an aperitif. Weaknesses: Not within walking distance of the heart of the city (39-06-4423-7773; hotelvilladelparco.it; doubles, $170).
The family-run Il Gattopardo Relais, on the piano nobile of an elegant nineteenth-century building close to the Vatican Museums and the subway to Piazza di Spagna, has six nicely decorated rooms. Each has first-class amenities, including air-conditioning, a minifridge, a bar, and Wi-Fi. Strengths: The 24-hour reception desk is efficient and hospitable; rooms are stocked with everything you might need, from a toothbrush to slippers. Weaknesses: If you're not an early riser, noise from the front hall can be disturbing (39-06-3735-8480; ilgattopardorelais.it; doubles, $189–$256).
Anna Fendi (of the fashion dynasty) and her daughters opened the stylish Villa Laetitia hotel along the Tiber in an Art Nouveau mansion with meandering gardens. Every room and bath is unique and decorated with antique tiles that Fendi collected on her travels and other eclectic objets d'art. For a splurge, consider a lavish suite. A spa is slated to open this fall. Strengths: Well-equipped kitchenettes; beautiful details. Weaknesses: Hard-to-find staff; breakfast not included (39-06-322-6776; villalaetitia.com; doubles, $202–$270).
Il Colosseo, a studio with a kitchen, has a small terrace with a big view of the Colosseum. It's impeccably furnished and comes with a flat-screen satellite TV, Wi-Fi, and even a cell phone. Strengths: A fridge stocked for breakfast; a complimentary bottle of wine. Weaknesses: Short on space for a long stay (39-06-4890-3612; listing number 229 on romanreference.com; $120 per night, with a three-night minimum).
The Piazza di Spagna penthouse has a sprawling terrace with views of a leafy street near the famous square. There's one comfortable bedroom, a bathroom, a full kitchen, and a spacious living/dining area with a convertible couch that's big enough for two. The helpful English-speaking owner is just downstairs, and the Eternal City is at your feet. Strengths: Fabulous location; terrace to party on. Weaknesses: Entrance is through the vestibule of the owner's apartment (Gabriella Morici, owner, 39-338-396-5266; enroma.com, in Spanish; $200 for two per night, $245 for four, with a two-night minimum).
In a seventeenth-century building on a quiet street along the Tiber, near the Piazza Navona, Tor di Nona is coolly elegant, with plush white couches and wood-beam ceilings. The second bedroom has two double beds, and there's a small terrace and courtyard. Amenities include air-conditioning, Internet access, a CD player, a washing machine, and an espresso maker. Strengths: Well appointed, bright, and quiet. Weaknesses: No elevator, but it's only one flight up (39-06-9932-0047; rentalinrome.com; $255–$340 per night, with a three-night minimum; $241–$317, with a seven-night minimum).
A three-minute walk from the Vatican Museums, Osteria dell'Angelo is quintessentially Roman, with marble-topped tables, butcher-paper place mats, and brusque but friendly service. A four-course dinner includes a pleasant wine produced at the owner's vineyards. Dine outdoors in good weather (24 Via G. Bettolo; 39-06-372-9470; prix fixe, $34). Tradition reigns at Trattoria Monti, a family-run eatery near the Basilica of St. Mary Major. The small dining room packs in Romans who come for winning dishes such as the tortello pasta—one oversized but delicately stuffed raviolo made with fresh egg yolk (13a Via San Vito; 39-06-446-6573; entrées, $20). Palatium, a sleek wine bar between the Piazza di Spagna and the Via del Corso shopping mecca, has a full menu of local specialties, featuring pecorino and ricotta cheeses, fava beans, and Gaeta olives. Lunch and dinner are always lively (94 Via Frattina; 39-06-6920-2132; entrées, $19–$27).
In a sixteenth-century building with eighteenth-century frescoes and an outdoor patio where breakfast is served along a serene canal, the 13-room Hotel Locanda San Barnaba is almost perfect. The property has been in Silvia Okolicsanyi's family for more than a century, and she runs the place with the care of someone who is banking on having it for another hundred years. Avoid the two ground-floor rooms, and pay $14 more for a superior double with a frescoed ceiling. Strengths: Impeccable service; simple yet classic furnishings; perfect location near the Church of St. Barnabas. Weaknesses: Dial-up Internet (39-041-241-1233; romanticasrl.191.it; doubles, $190–$200).
The ten rooms in the fifteenth-century Palazzo Odoni Suites and Rooms offer a serenity that will make it difficult to leave—as will the homemade sweets for breakfast. Strengths: Spacious, romantically decorated rooms; rooftop views; broadband Internet; luxe, recently redone bathrooms. Weaknesses: Almost no common areas—you're either in your room or out roaming the canals (39-041-275-9454; palazzoodoni.com; doubles, $162–$190). Breakfast is served in your room every morning at the homey yet luxurious Ca'della Corte. The 12 accommodations have an eighteenth-century flair and excellent modern bathrooms; many are big enough for a family of four. Strengths: A pleasant courtyard perfect for rambunctious kids. Weaknesses: No Internet, although Wi-Fi is said to be arriving soon (39-041-715-877; cadellacorte.com; doubles, $225).
The terrace outside room 4 at the Pensione La Calcina overlooks the large Giudecca Canal all the way to Palladio's masterpiece, the Church of the Redeemer—but any room with a canal view won't disappoint. Some rooms have Wi-Fi, and there is a guest computer with Internet in the reception area. With its large windows and comfortable couches and chairs, the lobby recalls Venice at the end of the eighteenth century, before the fall of the republic. Breakfast is served on a wooden deck that juts over the canal. Strengths: Simply yet tastefully decorated rooms; elegant common areas. Weaknesses: Side rooms get very little natural light (39-041-520-6466; lacalcina.com; doubles, $150–$220).
Located in the splendid Fondamenta della Misericordia residential neighborhood, 2579 Cannaregio is all about its terraces. The rooftop terrace—with jasmine, wisteria, and a pomegranate tree—has a panoramic city view and is ideal for an unforgettable cocktail party or dinner. The apartment itself is small, and you'll be sleeping on a (comfortable) pullout couch. Strengths: Fantastic views; daily maid service. Weaknesses: Tiny bathroom (email@example.com; $214 per night, with a seven-night minimum).
The spacious two-bedroom apartment at 290 Guidecca, on Guidecca Island, has a modern kitchen and comfortable furnishings. It overlooks the Giudecca Canal, and the view extends into the heart of the city. Strengths: Roomy; great views. Weaknesses: Cramped shower; slightly out of the way but a five-minute vaporetto ride from the center of town (39-348-873-6815; firstname.lastname@example.org; $216 per night, with a three-night minimum).
The beautiful private garden at 3099 Cannaregio affords the peace and quiet so often necessary after a few hours on the busy byways of Venice. This recently remodeled apartment sleeps up to four—on a pullout queen-size bed and a pullout full-size bed. Strengths: Modern bathroom; big open kitchen; very quiet. Weaknesses: A 20- to 30-minute walk to the Piazza San Marco (39-041-718-931; $270 per night).
Locals like to say that if a restaurant doesn't require reservations, it probably isn't worth eating at, which is why you'll have to book ahead for a table at Osteria da Rioba (insist on one outside). The place oozes Venice, with canalside seating and local specialties such as numerous preparations of cod with polenta and fresh squid-ink pasta. The only drawback: the loud live music that emanates from a nearby bar (2533 Cannaregio; 39-041-524-4379; entrées, $14–$47). Everything is simple at Osteria Anice Stellato, from the wooden tables to the fresh fish that's always cooked just right. Again, opt for a table along the canal (3272 Cannaregio; 39-041-720-744; entrées, $11–$47). Dropping in to Osteria Al Ponte for an informal meal with the locals is as close as you can get to being a Venetian. Order the cod and other cicheti (small dishes)—the daily pasta plate is often subpar (6378 Cannaregio; 39-041-528-6157; entrées, $8–$36).