After touring through Italy a few years ago and then throughout Europe this summer, I found I have some definite opinions on what I like in European hotels. I thought that I would share my favorites and not so favorites. In thinking about the hotels I liked best, I discovered that I have 3 distinct styles that I prefer in this order: Historic, Charming or Very Modern. Quite opposites really. When we travel abroad, I want my hotels to have certain features:
- A Central Location is great if we are going to explore by foot
- Gardens, Terraces, or Places to hang out are nice if we are looking for somewhere to just Relax
- Always a must – Good Food service since we eat breakfast at the hotel daily and occasionally we may want to eat dinner there as well
- A Reasonable room size with enough room for 2 people to relax comfortably (Mark is a napper and I am a fidget)
- A view is a nice bonus but not required
- A Bar or Lounge is nice if we finish our day early and want to grab a cocktail
- A comfy bed is a must because we explore all day and need to get our beauty sleep
- Working a/c, elevators, coffee machines etc. make me happy
- Competent Staff that can provide information and assistance without being Rude
My Top 5 Favorite Hotels in Europe.
While deciding between the hotels we have stayed in for this list, I got Mark involved asking for his opinions as well. We actually agree on our #1! Wow! But he mentioned another hotel that he liked which had not been on my radar for the list.
Our #5 pick, the Hotel Astoria in Lucerne, is a great hotel. This photo literally looks exactly like our room. So much natural light, and very comfy beds. The room was clean, modern and offered everything we needed.
The hotel has a nice central location if you choose to walk and explore. There were tons of shops and things nearby. Our Tour Director suggested we check out the Penthouse Bar that evening for a nightcap since it has a fantastic rooftop vantage point of the city. We met up with a few of our travel friends for a quick drink and to take in the view. Simply stunning.
A Starwood Property
Rewards Category 7 – 50,000-70,000 points per night
Overlooking the Grand Canal in the heart of Venice, The Gritti Palace boasts one of the most enthralling views of the lagoon city, spanning from the island of San Giorgio Maggiore past landmarks Punta della Dogana and Santa Maria della Salute Basilica to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Dating to 1475, this noble palace and luxury hotel is a place of exceptional art and elegance that has retained its reassuringly intimate and familiar feel of a private residence.
– The Gritti Palace – a Luxury Collection Hotel
I had the good fortune to stay here for 2 nights on my birthday in 2015. Happy Birthday to Me!! The location is right in the heart of Venice Island couldn’t have been more perfect. If we walked out the main door, we were on a path that led to shops, restaurants, bridges and more. But if we walked through the Lobby and out the other side, we were on a Terrace right on the Grand Canal!
This hotel was once a Venetian Palace so it has a lot of authentic decor and detail. When it came to the rooms, the property offers a variety of types. Some people in our group got very small rooms that were quite restrictive, but we were lucky enough to get a much larger room with a useful entry way area. The bathrooms were pretty basic and a little tight but none the less got the job done. We were not on the Canal side, so our view was of the alley and building across the way. All of that was fine though, because we were in Venice and the room is the last place you want to be!
During our travels, we have had meals in many hotels throughout Europe. The dining rooms here were decorated lavishly and the food and dinner service were both amazing. Later we were able to relax and sip a cocktail in their beautiful Lounge. The Gritti Palace is the very meaning of the word luxury. This is a hotel I would for sure stay in again if given the opportunity.
A Starwood Property
Rewards Category 4 – 20,000-30,000 points per night
During our 14 day trip through Europe, we stayed in a wide range of hotels and rooms. The city of Vienna was a surprise hit for us as was this hotel. It was very Modern and quirky when compared to most of the other places we have stayed in.
Our reservation was for 2 nights in this cool and funky hotel. I was fascinated by the artwork throughout the hotel. It made our time there so much more interesting.
The bathroom was wonderfully modern and quite spacious. This lady in the shower caught me by surprise, but along with all the other artistic detail I loved the fun vibe it gave our room. The bed was very comfy, there was plenty of space to spread out in our room and abundant places to stow things away. I like an orderly room.
The breakfasts here were very nice. We did not have an opportunity to have a dinner though since we had plans both evenings of our stay. After our first night out, we landed at the hotel bar with our fellow travelers and found it to be quite civilized. Anywhere that makes a good Negroni scores bonus points with me.
Set amidst beautiful gardens and olive groves, this hotel offers a quiet and hospitality and high quality services in a friendly atmosphere. Many of the spacious rooms have balconies with sea views and all have wireless broadband internet. The location is excellent both for sightseeing and for enjoying the beach, you’ll be within walking distance of Pompeii and Herculaneum, but also from the islands of Ischia and Capri, Marina del Cantone and Marina di Puolo, as well as some of the best beaches in the area .
-Hotel Johanna Park
What made me rate this hotel so high was both its country charm and the hospitality of the staff. I felt incredibly relaxed and comfortable during our stay there. The minute we arrived, Johanna met us in the lobby insisting we have a complimentary cocktail before heading up to our rooms. The food and dinner service were fantastic, the Staff were attentive and the Head Waiter looked just like Robert DeNiro! Funny.
Johanna Park is a great location to be able to easily access Sorrento, Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast or the isle of Capri. This property was lovely with lemon and olive trees, beautiful patios and a magnificent view of the Bay of Naples. Our room was large, well-appointed and we had a terrace with a bay view. The bathroom actually had a tub….a rare find in Europe indeed. I would stay here again in a heartbeat as it is a great place to come, relax and be pampered.
You can enjoy a great holiday or a romantic weekend in the hushed surroundings of the Palace Grand Hotel. Sit back and relax on the comfy Frau settees as you sip on a drink, read a good book on the terrace or reserve a table in the scenic restaurant.
-Palace Grand Hotel
This hotel was an unexpected jewel set on top of a hill in the Lake district of Northern Italy. Arriving here was like stepping back in time to when this hotel really was a Palace. How fun when they hand you the comically large, heavy key and fob to open the door to your room. That is if you can open the door…cross your fingers!
Every part of the hotel is authentic and has been beautifully preserved. From the gorgeous hardwood bar to the furnishings throughout the lobby. The Staff were Top Notch and took excellent care of us.
Once we were settled in, we had time to grab a cocktail from the bar to enjoy on their stunning Garden Terrace. Such an inviting area with beautiful scenic views. A great place to unwind and socialize.
The Negroni I ordered here was the best I have ever had. Bonus points! Dinner was delicious and was completed by a house made tiramisu for dessert. My favorite!
Sunrise in Varese
Our room was comfortable, spacious and had a great view. The bathroom was very large in comparison to most that I have had in Europe. I almost hated to leave after only one night here! It was a great place to slow down from our crazy pace, take in the beauty of the area and recharge our batteries before continuing on our European adventure.
Losers & Runner Ups
So now you have heard my Top 5 favorite Hotels here are the ones that just missed the list and the one we will never stay in again.
Honorable Mention: Park Plaza London Riverbank
Unfortunately we missed our first night at this hotel due to trip delays. Once we got there, we were spent from travel misadventures. I am going to say that we did not give this hotel as much consideration as it was due, because of our overall frustrations at the time.
The Park Plaza London Riverbank is New, Modern and within walking distance to Big Ben and the House of Parliament. Since we only ended up with about 5 hours in London, we walked to a local Pub for dinner, checked out Big Ben and the House of Parliament, crossed a bridge near the MI6 building and found a trendy tap room for a cocktail before returning for bed.
Once we got settled into our room, we loved it. All the newest most modern creature comforts you could ask for and a bed that felt like a cloud!!! We didn’t get a traditional breakfast here since our departure was before their service started, but they sent us on our way with little breakfast boxes that did the job just fine.
Here is the main reason why this hotel missed our top 5 list…..There was a very strong scent throughout all the common areas. Like walking between the Abacrombie and Fitch and Macy Fragrance counters simultaneously. Every time we were outside our rooms, the smell would overcome us and my husband would start sneezing. He was stuffy and sneezing until we checked out.
Honorable Mention: Sofitel Brussels
Like the hotel in London, the Sofitel Brussels was brand new. They were still finishing some landscaping around the exterior but everything inside was quite lovely. Another new modern hotel with all the amenities you could ask for and a very comfy bed.
The food was good, the Staff were friendly and it was in a good location on one side of a square with lots of little pubs, restaurants and shops. This was a very nice place indeed.
Biggest Loser: NH Heidelberg, Germany
Funny that none of the photos on the website looked like our hotel room! This one really missed the mark all around. I was happy to check out of this hotel.
- A/C did not work (or if it did you could not tell)
- The dining area and Lobby have been remodeled, but the rooms we were in were very old, with horrible beds and not very well-appointed at all.
- Food that was ok but the Table Service was snail slow.
- If you wanted a glass of wine with your meal, you had to go outside of the main dining area to get it yourself. While waiting for dinner, I went to get wine for our table but nobody was manning the bar. About 10 minutes later someone showed up flustered that we (now there was a line) needed service.
- Later I realized the missing bartender and the slow dinner service was because they only had 2 employees floating between working at the Front Desk, Plating the food, Waiting Tables, and Servicing the Bar for 48 of us.
- Most unfriendly (bordering on nasty) Front Desk Employees – especially at check out
While in Venice on our latest trip, we stayed off the island at the NH Laguna. I was disappointed in its remote location, how very basic the hotel was and the dinner that we were served there. Overall the hotel was really average at best.
After staying in both the NH – Heidelberg and the NH Laguna – Venice, I would say that I am not that impressed with NH as a chain. I would shy away from them when making future reservations unless there were no other options.