Coolest places to stay in Europe

December 30, 2010 in Europe,Places

I’ve stayed in my share of places while traveling: hotels, hostels, apartments, guest bedrooms, a friend’s couch, a stranger’s couch. I’ve had good experiences and I’ve had bad experiences. Most of the time I’m just looking for reasonably clean, sometimes quiet, hopefully comfortable spot to rest my head and store my stuff. There’s times I’m craving a bit more luxury and others when I want to spend as little as possible.

Jonas Houseboat

Whether spending a lot or a little, these are my five favorite places to stay in Europe. They’ve captured my heart with charm, location or really good food.

Jonas Houseboat
Amsterdam
I love it when accommodation feels like home—and within minutes of arriving, I felt incredibly comfortable in the Jonas Houseboat. The houseboat isn’t the most centrally located or the cheapest place to stay in Amsterdam, but it certainly has character. Jonas, the owner, is super knowledgeable about his city and is willing to share all his insider secrets. The boat has two guest rooms, both with a queen bed, a loft twin, a television, a radio and a computer with internet access. The bathroom is truly a boat bathroom—shower over the toilet!—but it’s all part of the experience.

The best part for two starving backpackers? A fully stocked fridge and the best coffee I’ve ever tasted—all for free. Actually, the best part might just have been being able to say “I’m on a boat” all weekend long.

Carpe Noctern
Budapest
This is another one of those hostels where you feel like you’re crashing on a good friend’s couch. It’s remarkably laid-back, full of comfy couches and beanbags in the common room and bunkbeds scattered throughout the sleeping area. The young people who work there are in love with Budapest; they can recommend the not-to-miss tourist sites, the must-see places off the beaten path and the nightlife hotspots. It’s fairly small, so you get to know everyone pretty quickly.

City Backpackers Hostel
Stockholm
While City Backpackers is a huge hostel, what sets it apart is its incredible cleanliness, efficient design and awesome perks. The rooms and bathrooms were all spotless, as was the communal kitchen, Wifi lounge and TV area. While I’ve come to expect free Wifi, I wasn’t ready for the rest of the freebies: dry pasta, sauna time, a glorious copy of the New York Times. The hostel also offers bike tours, Swedish cooking classes and pub crawls. If only every major European city had a hostel like this!

Apartments in Paris

Paris isn’t home to great hostels, but it is the perfect destination to splurge on an apartment. No one does chic design like the French, and it’s just so much more fun to pretend to be a Parisian who lives in a charming building with a courtyard. I’m partial to this adorable one-bedroom in the Marais, mostly because you walk outside the door right into the street with my favorite falafel, Jewish bakery and vintage shops.
While I haven’t stayed in any of their properties, I have friends who swear by Haven in Paris apartments—and the photos certainly make me swoon. If you want a delightful, often funny, insider look at Paris, you can’t miss the HiP blog.

Any free couch in any city

Sometimes you want a luxury hotel in Barcelona or five-star accommodation in New York City—and sometimes, you can afford that. But other times, you’re looking for something a bit more organic and a whole lot cheaper. Some of my favorite travel experiences have come when I’ve had the least luxurious accommodation: crashing on a friend’s couch just blocks from Oktoberfest, passing out on an air mattress after pints of Guinness in Ireland, my first-time couchsurfing in Lyon.

What’s your favorite accommodation in Europe?

  • Katarina

    I love newyorkhabitat.com for finding apartments in Paris. I’ve used their services twice and last summer stayed in an 18th century 3rd floor walkup with a courtyard in the 17th arrondissement where the local tenants came together for wine and cheese (oh tres chic indeed) on a Friday night while the kids and dogs played tag around the planted roses. Incredibly affordable: 425 euro/7 nights/3 people = at 20 euro a night, same price as a night at the st. christopher’s 8 bed dorm room.

    This past march we stayed in the tiniest studio apartment in le marais where we discovered our favorite bakery in all of paris (deux expressos, deux pain au chocolate et un sandwich avec jambon et gruyere = 7,45 euro, mon dieu!! 😉 ) 325 euro/7 nights/2 people = 23 euro a night

    PARISLOVE :)

  • I’ve had a great experience at Singer 109 in Berlin and Le Monde Hotel in Edinburgh, although very different types of hotels!

  • I’m still not very experienced with staying in other locations where I don’t have a friend’s bed, couch or floor on which I can crash on (luckily, my friends are spread all over the World, so usually, wherever I go, I have an home alternative!) or have got a hotel paid by the company when it comes to business trips.

    But I’m planning to travel a bit out of my circle next year (starting with NY and Edinburgh!).

    Btw. I love the idea of the houseboat !!

  • I keep wanting to give local apartment stays a go, but I’m a sucker for small hotels or little family-run B&Bs. The latter is my favorite, I think because it often affords a local home-away-from-home experience – complete with a family, too!

    These are the places I’ve stayed and would return to in a heartbeat:

    http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g155032-d185715-r15030216-Auberge_Les_Passants_du_Sans_Soucy-Montreal_Quebec.html
    Montreal – Auberge Les Passants du Sans Soucy (Huge rooms in the heart of the old town and crazy amazing breakfasts.)

    http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g187870-d280645-r5702751-Ca_del_Dose-Venice_Veneto.html
    Venice – Ca’ del Dose (No longer under the same ownership as the two times I stayed here for one month each visit, but still a great location and place to stay. The new owners are nice, but I may give someplace new a chance the next time I go to Venice.)

    http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g187782-d267384-r7592762-Casa_Astarita_Bed_and_Breakfast-Sorrento_Campania.html
    Sorrento – Casa Astarita (Great breakfasts, and amazing homemade limoncello!)

    http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g187147-d189228-r63251625-Hotel_Jeanne_d_Arc-Paris_Ile_de_France.html
    Paris – Hotel Jeanne d’Arc (Basic rooms, but great rates for an amazing location in the Marais.

    http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g187147-d188745-r6002112-Hotel_Caron_de_Beaumarchais-Paris_Ile_de_France.html
    Paris – Le Caron de Beaumarchais (Another great Marais hotel, but now out of my price range – rates have really gone up in the 5+ years since my initial stay there. It’s lovely though. So cute.)

    http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g60652-d874104-r12064278-Sheffield_House-Kailua_Oahu_Hawaii.html
    Oahu – Sheffield House (Lovely family, great location.)

  • 11th hour cinema hostel in Budapest

  • Anonymous

    I haven’t been to Edinburgh yet–I’ll have to keep that one handy :)

  • Anonymous

    An apartment is absolutely the best deal if you have a few people to go in on it or if you’re staying more than a week! My favorite part is being able to use the kitchen: keeping yogurt, fruit, bread and cheese on hand is so much cheaper than eating out every meal. Plus, you can take advantage of the awesome markets!

  • Anonymous

    The houseboat was awesome–one of the coolest accommodation experiences I’ve ever had! I love having a home alternative–I plan a lot of trips around where my friends are in the world!

  • Anonymous

    Next time I go to Budapest, I’ll have to check it out!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the tips! I love smaller, family-run places as well–that’s how the houseboat was, and it really did feel like a home away from home!

  • Accomodations can really make or break a trip sometimes. My requirements are pretty simple; clean, safe, affordable, comfortable, and relatively close to public transportation (or at least easy to get around). These sound like some really interesting places, especially the houseboat in Amsterdam. I’d totally brag to my friends back home that I was staying on a boat.

  • Nice is kind of a second home for our family. Every year we end up staying in Vieux Nice in an apartment.

    We found Nice Pebbles ( http://www.nicepebbles.com ) on Craig’s list when looking for places to stay on our honeymoon in Nice and have used them ever since. Really great people and they rent out some awesome apartments. So much fun!

  • A friend used Nice Pebbles this past spring and had a wonderful experience with them, too.

  • Anonymous

    I agree: cleanliness, price and location are probably my three biggest make-it-or-break-it points. The houseboat was super fun–I wish they had this option in more cities! :)

  • Anonymous

    While working in Nice, I met the people who own Nice Pebbles–they’re awesome! I’ve used Nice Pebbles as well and it’s a great, easy way to find an apartment in Nice–and the places are beautiful with such great locations! Glad to know that they have some fans :)

  • It was a bit of a spill (anniversary) but I really loved the thematic rooms. I got the Atlantis, which has a huge aquarium over the bed and a rainshower (in the bathroom that is). Amazing restaurant too, and great location!

  • Anonymous

    My favorite hostels in Europe were both in Spain. One in Madrid and one in Sevilla. They were both modern, essentially brand new, well run, clean, and had a great backpacker vibe.

    You might even say they were … “Flash.”

  • Anonymous

    Do these flash hostels have a name? I haven’t been to Madrid or Sevilla yet!

  • Jose A. Ibarra

    You are very kind to have added us to your wonderful list. Thank you. Jose Arturo Ibarra (http://www.rentparisnow.com)

  • Anonymous

    No problem! My parents are certainly looking forward to their stay in a few weeks–and I’m quite jealous!

  • i can vouch for City Backpackers in Stockholm, was there in September .They run a first-class operation. Sadly, have not stayed on a houseboat in Amsterdam yet, but did stay on one in Ghent at the Echohostel Andromeda (http://www.ecohostel.be) , and it was the best stay of my trip!

  • Anonymous

    I would go back to City Backpackers in Stockholm in an instant–if only every hostel were like that!

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