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.
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.
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.
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
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?