New and affordable chic European hotels

SPAIN – Hotel Consolación, Aragón | Being miles from anywhere of consequence, the Hotel Consolación is an unlikely but happy find – one that successfully combines a 14th-century hermitage with zippy modern architecture in a breathtaking landscape. The main part of the hotel houses a restaurant, open-plan kitchen (where breakfast is served), lounge and library as well as a couple of double rooms, which have all had a contemporary facelift. But it’s the ‘Kube’ suites (from €155) – a short walk from the  main house and a long way from the trials and tribulations of daily life – that people come for.

These freestanding, cube-shaped structures are dotted along the top of a lonely ridge, each facade with a wall of sliding glass doors that open onto a small, decked terrace. The interiors are almost Quaker-like in their simplicity, with huge built-in beds, sunken slate baths and cast-iron fireplaces suspended from the ceiling. A daily delivery of firewood makes it easy to stay put, especially if you come while there’s still snow on the ground. But there are plenty of walks straight off the property, numerous charming villages of this little-known Matarrana region to explore, plus a secluded pool for the summer months. Foodies take note: the restaurant makes innovative use of local products. | Tara Stevens

‘Kube’ suite from €155.

FRANCE – BLC Design Hotel, Paris | Short for blanc, the BLC continues where its Parisian sibling, the COlor Design Hotel, left off. All this whiteness is warmed up with subtle lighting and striking photographs by Lise-Laure Batifol (eyelashes; wispy locks; the back of a neck) in each of the 29 bedrooms.

There are also minimalist, sheet-metal bedside tables, funky illuminated cubes (but no wardrobe, just drawers under the bed) and a number of large chrome books. Plus points include separate loos and an excellent rainshower (once you get used to the bathroom’s mirrored walls, which multiply your reflection to infinity).

There’s also been a real effort to ensure a good night’s sleep: efficient double-glazing, firm beds and a Night Cove – an intriguing gadget you can programme to lull you to sleep or wake you up with changing colours, varying light intensity and lots of subliminal hums, clicks and whirls. Friendly reception staff are on hand to serve a glass of wine, but the a-bit-too-designer bar soon runs out of space at breakfast. |Natasha Edwards

Doubles from €180; breakfast €12.

FRANCE – Hotel la Residence du Vieux Port, Marseille | There’s nothing remotely Provençal-looking about the geometric gold-and-grey concrete façade of this hotel, right on the quay of the old port. A landmark building designed in 1954 by the young architect André-Jacques Dunoyer de Segonzac, it was inspired by Le Corbusier. Picture-perfect views from hotel – of little wooden fishing boats and the spires of Notre-Dame de la garde basilica on a distant hilltop – haven’t changed much since the 1950s.

And now current owner Marc Boré has spruced up this eight-storey gem into a friendly, 1950s vintage-style urban retreat and brasserie. The Technicolor effects kicks in as soon as you step into the lobby (check out the monumental original Jean Lurçat tapestry) with a fuchsia, violet and yellow sofa by Kwok Hoi Chan and psychedelic, stained-glass windows. Each of the airy, almost identical 50 bedrooms (including apartments and suites) was designed by Franz Potisek in splashy primary colours, with faux Calder or Miró-inspired paintings and no-fuss furnishings (à la Charlotte Perriand or Jean Prouvé). Bathrooms are smart, and huge bay windows open onto terrific private terraces for sea-gazing at breakfast or sipping a pastis at sunset. | Lanie Goodman

Doubles from €150.

FRANCE – La Suite, Cassis | Built into a slab of rock above a coastal road, this dazzlingly white, three-bedroom guest house could be mistaken for a sumptuous, ultra-modern private villa, which is precisely what the owner, interior designer Herbert Hufnagel, had in mind when he decided to reinvent one of Cassis’ oldest run-down houses. When lounging on the vast deck overhanging the cliff, or lying by the plunge pool, you might as well be on a cruise ship in the middle of the Mediterranean.

Each of the bedrooms (which all have private terraces) is decorated with an unusal mix of handpicked antiques from the Marseille flea market and Marrakech souk, along with chairs and sofas by Mark Brazier-Jones, Charles and Ray Eames and Jean-Michel Wilmotte; the sleek bathrooms have slate-lined showers and sinks. All of which adds up to an uncluttered, stylish look with a hip, friendly edge.

The elegant breakfasts (pastries, fruit salad, home-made jams) are served on the deck or your terrace, both affording the same dreamy view: a cobalt sea framed by umbrella pines, and the towering, red-rock cliff, the Cap Canaille, on the horizon. Leave your car at the villa: the beaches, hiking trails and shops are all just a short stroll away. | Lanie Goodman

Suites from €

GERMANY – The Weinmeister, Berlin | The Weinmeister manages to combine luxury with minimalism, exemplified by the clutter-free bedrooms: huge beds with winged headboards backing on to bathtubs; drawers with real leather pulls. Tehre are iMacs instead of TVs (plus free Wi-Fi) and guests can borrow iPads. The most vibrant parts of Berlin are on the doorstep: teh central Mitte neighbourhood of Scheunenviertel may seem a little touristy, but head off into any small Höfe (courtyard) or alleyway and the ‘real’ Berlin of ateliers, boutiques and galleries emerges. Dirk Dreyer, the hotel’s coolly enthusiastic general manager, has connections with the international art and music science, fans of which hang out in the hotel’s Schwarz Bar (named after local actress Jessica Schwarz). One of the bedrooms was recently named after the rising Manchester synthpop sensation Hurts, who are frequent guests. Lyrics from their song ‘Evelyn’ are etched on the walls and a trunk has been filled with their choice of reading material and music. Furnishings in the ground-floor lobby bar and restaurant are deliberately pared down yet oversized; discreet staff wearing retro Ellesse sportswear glide past walls and columns that are bound, corset-style, in dark-grey blankey fabric. | Guy Dietrich

Doubles from €90.

ITALY – La Locanda Rossa, Maremma | With its stretches of windswept sand backed by gently rolling hills, the coast of the southern Tuscan region of Maremma is beautiful. Yet there were no decent places to stay here until the opening last April fo the Locanda Rossa, a stylish agriturismo set on a 25-hectare olive farm near the pretty town of Capalbio.

The heart of the Locanda is its public areas: a sitting room with an open fire (with a conservatory extension planned for this year), a cheerful, bistro-style restaurant serving local dishes and using the delicious house extra-virgin olive oil, and a series of covered terraces with comfortable seating. The small spa and good pool provide alternatives to the nearby beach. Teh 12 bedrooms range from smallish floor standards to two spacious top-floor suites and four apartments in a separate farmhouse.

There’s plenty of attention to detail, and all rooms have excellent bathrooms, tea and coffee trays, robes and slippers, and great beds made up with fine linen. The style throughout is classy uncluttered mod-rustic, a neutral colour palette providing the background for some interesting contemporary artwork and photography. A laid-back sort of place staffed by smiley, helpful young women, this is a good choice for both summer and off-season holidays. | Nicky Swallow

Doubles from €150.

ITALY – Venissa, Venice | This six-bedroom guesthouse on the Venetian lagoon island of Mazzorbo must be one of the world’s most stylish youth hostels. True, Venissa, which belongs to the Bisol winemaking family, only figures as an ostello della gioventu because that was a condition of the release of EU funds used to restore the place.

But it has entered into the spirit of the deal, providing rooms at two separate tariffs: a ‘Formula Ostello’ at an amazing (for Italy) €30 a night and a ‘Formula Comfort’ for a still very reasonable €50-€65, depending on the room. The only real difference is that ‘Ostello’ cheapskates have to share a bathroom, get cotton sheets and towels rather than linen ones, and do without luxuries such as air conditioning, Wi-Fi, satellite TV and Ayurvedic bathroom products.

They still get to wake up in a warmly minimalist room in a pretty, peach-pink traditional Venetian house on a quiet island that still breathes the more rural spirit of the northern lagoon – and yet is just a pedestrian bridge away from popular Burano, with its colourful fishermen’s houses. The other real draw here is the restaurant in the ancient, walled vineyard that the ostello backs onto. Chef Paola Budel’s fresh take on the bounty of the lagoon and Venetian kitchen garden proves there’s a gastronomic world out there beyond tourist trattoria. | Lee Marshall

Doubles €30 (no-frills formula) or €50-€65 (full services). Dinner for two without wine about € 

PORTUGAL – Freixo Palace Hotel, Porto | This littel gem of a palace, designed by the 19th-century Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni and declared a National Monument in 1910, is one of the finest examples of Portuguese boutique architecture. Set behind a formal Italian garden, right on the banks of the Douro river a few miles upstream from Porto, the Palácio de Freixo recently opened as a histrocial Pousad.

While cleverly preserving as much of the original palace as possible (an underground passage links it to an old flour mill, for example) there are 87 comfortably furnished rooms and suites with views onto the river, palace or gardens. Beneath them is a spa, complete with Turkish bath, sauna, gym, treatment rooms and indoor pool. The light-filled restaurant runs the length of the building and serves a selection of prized Douro wines and regional specialties such as bacalhau espiritual.

Also on the ground floor is the salon, richly encased in rosewood, satinwood and Brazilian blackheart, and the opulent Sala dos Espelhos (Hall of Mirros), with its frescoes and gilded wooden columns. Down at the river’s edge there is an outdoor pool, from which there are views of Porto’s historic skyline in the distance. | Mary Lussiana

Doubles from €150.

SERBIA – Townhouse 27, Belgrade | Belgrade’s rough-and-ready charms and one of the Balkans’ finest restaurant and nightlife scenes are starting to attract in-the-know weekenders to the Serbian capital. Until recently, the accommodation has been more of the Iron Curtain than velvet drapes variety, but boutique-hotel style finally arrived in April 2009 in the shape of Townhouse 27, a 20-room property that combines sleek design and interiors with the sort of high-end service discerning city-breakers have come to expect.

This doesn’t, however, equate to blandness. Though its stone-and-steel exterior and the netural colour palette stick to a tried-and-test upmarket-hotel template, there are touches of Eastern European character. The loud rock music in the lobby bar, for example, or the lack of menus in the ground-floor café (staff simply ask what you want) may horrify top hoteliers, but in this gloriously gruff city it comes across as naive charm rather than amateurism. Bedrooms are as comfortable as they are stylish, and suties have balconies with views over the rooftops and crooked chimneys of Belgrade’s Old Town. | Rufus Purdy

Doubles from €22.

BELGIUM – Pantone Hotel, Brussels | Interior designer Michel Penneman has created a raft of stylish hotels in Brussels, with the White Hotel, Vintage Hotel, Tenbosch House and now the Pantone Hotel, a 1970s building converted into a neo-pop homage to the Pantone colour system. There are Pantone bikes to borrow; coffee is drunk from Pantone mugs, sweetened with Pantone-tinted sugar; and suspended glass globes in the lobby display other Pantone items on sale. Is your ‘colour of emotions’ (as it goes in the hotel blurb) daring, fiery 200C; cheerful, warm 1215C; or fresh, eager 353C?

All the light-filled bedrooms are of a good size and, because the building is a couple of storeys higher than most of its neighbours, many have excellent views over the city. Two bedrooms on the top floor share a vast, decked terrace; room 606 has a small lounge and a balcony. Breakfast is a relaxed, self-service affairs, with some distinctly Belgian touches, such as speculoos paste. The Saint-Gilles district is laid-back and casual with a mix of Portuguese immigrant cafés and new-generation wine bars, just south of the historic centre between the GAre du Midi (convenient if you’re arriving by Eurostar) and the avenue Louise. | Natasha Edwards

Doubles from €94. 

UK – CitizenM, Glasgow | Self-service had never been a hotel plus before CitizenM in Amsterdam (see our Amsterdam feature, page 100) made it desirable for today’s time-pressured traveller. And CitizenM Glasgow, which opened in September 2010 with 198 rooms, is certainly a hotel for the digital age.

Book online and your reservation confirmation welcomes you as a ‘mobile citizen of the world’. Check-in at an electronic kiosk allows you to pick your room just as you would book a seat on a plane. With the help of a Philips touch-screen mood pad, you can even customise it, changing ambient lighting, temperature, TV, music and the view. At CanteenM you help yourself to a hot breakfast and Italian coffee, sandwiches or sashimi, and cocktails at night. you are not alone in a computerised world: there are ‘ambassadors’ about, but no self-important concierge. Instead of a foyer, there are three areas (they call them living rooms), with free Wi-Fi and a large-screen TV, for meetings or chilling out. Rooms are small – well, they are only £49 a night – but they do have power showers, full-length mirrors and luxurious linen on the XXL beds. | Nonie Nieswand

Doubles from £49.

UK – Base2stay, Liverpool | If there is one British city known around the world, other than London, surely it is Liverpool. So it’s surprising that it took so long for cool hotels to move in (Hope Street Hotel was the first, and it only opened in 2004). International hoteliers are still not vying for city-centre locations, so independently owned Base2stay has moved in instead, recreating affordable style in this rapidly regenerating city.

Base2stay Liverpool is the second link in a baby hotel chain (the other is in London). It is housed in a former printworks within walking distance of Tate Liverpool, Albert Dock and just about everything except Aintree. Sleek, innovative and well designed, Base2stay Liverpool ticks pretty much all the boxes. Due consideration has been given to those on a tight budget: behind smooth white doors in each room lies a teeny kitchenette for heat-and-eat suppers (from the supermarket down the road). Great shower rooms, super beds, art installations, a snack breakfast-box service (and special discounts at selected local restaurants) – and all a stone’s throw from the Jacaranda Club. No prizes for guessing which band used to play there. | Sally Shalam

Doubles from £60. Breakfast boxes from £5.

UK – The Montpellier Chapter, Cheltenham | Britain excels at mid-price hotel chains with satisfying individual member properties – think of the Malmaison and Hotel du Vin groups, for example. Now there is a new boutique pretender, Chapter Hotels. The Montpellier chapter is in the icing-white stuccoed centre of Cheltenham (between the Costwolds and the Malvern Hills), and home to racing’s Gold Cup.

The 61-room hotel is in a typical 19th-century villa with a modern, crescent-shaped extension, the two buildings linked by a glassed-in courtyard. Pick a room to match your mood: a cosy, carpeted enclave decorated in moody shades of slate and olive in the old part, or the pale wood and open-plan airiness of the crescent rooms. Consultant chef Simon Hopkinson has created a menu that combines comforts and treats.

An enviable collection of Brit art, plus Matthew Hilton, B&B Italia and Eames furniture populate the library and sitting areas (which include a palm court-like conservatory); treatments in the spa are by Aromatherapy Associates. The Montpellier Chapter is an exciting new arrival; Exeter and Bristol are next. | Sally Shalam

Doubles from £ 

UK – Sanctum on the Green, Berkshire | If the name seems vaguely familiar, that’s because the new Sanctum on the Green is a rural sister to the decidedly rock ‘n’ roll Sanctum Soho in London, which opened in spring 2009. And in Royal Berkshire, the modern coaching inn most definitely rocks. Here, on a perfect village green in Cookham Dean, what has been both village pub and staging post for horse-drawn travellers is now a nine-bedroom country hotel.

There is just enough urban edge to satisfy city escapees (diamanté door handles, bedrooms accented with gold leatherette and black velvet, cocktails and perfect coffee in the bar), along with the amenities to help guests switch off (swimming pool, colour-therapy showers, a simple treatment room, a beamed restaurant and pretty courtyard). Exective chef John Buton Race has devised an affordable ‘Sanctum Favourites’ menu of rustic treats (including fish soup, moules, beer-battered cod) alongside his modern a la carte choices. | Sally Shalam

Doubles from £120.

UK – Shoreditch Rooms, London | If anyone could create something akin to an urban beach resort in London, it is the Soho House Gorup. The company opened its first London hotel in 2009 – the Dean Street Townhouse – neear the original private club, Soho House.

Now it has followed  up with a second London enclave, this time in Shoreditch. It is, in reality, an expansion of the group’s East End club, Shoreditch House, whose industrial-chic bars, open-plan dining spaces, rooftop swimming pool and restaurant terrace are housed in a former biscuit factory. The 26 bedrooms were created by extending into the old pub next odor, but are more evocative of an Mediterranean island retreat than an East End boozer.

Categories are Tiny, Small and Small+, with Small representing the best value. There’s a Cowshed spa on the ground floor where, unsurprisingly, pedicures are much in demand to produce poolside-perfect feet. | Sally Shalam

Doubles from £85

Feature originally published in the April, 2011 issue of Conde Nast Traveller.


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