Fancy a city break that scores high on style and central location, but won’t melt your credit card? Ready, steady, book!
Generator Berlin Mitte
Best for… flashpacking
The low-down: Reliving your backpacker days needn’t mean roughing it. Oh no, no, no. A private room in the buzzy Generator Berlin Mitte offers industrial-chic interiors (very Berlin), a youthful-feeling bar with bargain beers and, best of all, the perfect central location for hitting the shops, bars and restaurants. Which you’ll have plenty of leftover cash to do so with, at this price. What’s more, there are cycles available for hire and friendly, helpful staff who know Berlin like the back of their hands – so exploring the city is a cinch.
Out and about: Looking for laid-back fine dining in an arty atmosphere? Make straight for the Michelberger for seasonal, organic small plates and a none-more-cool vibe. Keep the arty theme going with a visit to the open-air East Side Gallery, where the murals painted along a 1,316-metre remnant of the Berlin Wall speak of the triumph of unity over division. And if you’re feeling brave, why not sample some of Berlin’s famed club scene? Sisyphos mixes industrial styling with a festival vibe and pounding tech beats. Be warned: this one doesn’t even open until midnight…
Stella loves: The wooden-walled café serves up delicious fare at totally reasonable prices.
Rates from £45 per person for a private room; generatorhostels.com
Andersen Boutique Hotel, Copenhagen
Best for… its walk-anywhere location
The low-down: Whether you’re after the fun and thrills of Tivoli or the cool cocktail bars and restaurants of the old meat market at Kodbyen, the small family-owned Andersen Hotel in Vesterbro is ideally situated.
While the central shopping area and harbour are within easy walking (or cycling) distance, you’re away from the busiest, touristy streets, while a walk along the city’s three interconnected lakes will take you to the boutiquey shops and bars of Norrebro. Cycle everywhere, stroll around or just find a craft beer or coffee shop for a drink and one of the country’s beautifully crafted open sandwiches – and enjoy watching the Danes do what they do best: making city living look effortlessly cool.
Out and about: A few blocks from the Andersen Hotel, find Kodbyen food market’s hip restaurants and bars. Try Warpigs, a must for beer and barbecue aficianados, or Magasasa for dim sum and cocktails. A short cycle ride west brings you to the Carlsberg brewery with its magnificent elephant gate (guided tours, aka The Copenhagen Exbeerience, a must). Or hop on your bike and explore the famous pastel houses of the old harbour and the Little Mermaid, of course. Head up to Norrebro for a more urban feel. Try The Laundromat for brunch – you can wash your clothes at the same time) or one of many small, friendly bars, like the microbrewery and restaurant Tapperiet Brus on Guldbergsgade.
Stella loves: The complimentary wine hour between 5pm and 6pm, when you can sit in the lobby and enjoy a drink with your fellow guests.
Rates from £150 b&b per room; andersen-hotel.dk
Memmo Alfama, Lisbon
Best for… design lovers
The low-down:Tucked away down a hidden cobbled street, a few steps away from the Cathedral (Se) and Sao Jorge Castle is the chic, 42-roomed Memmo Alfama. Housed in a former 19th-century shoe polish factory and bakery, it’s a clever blend of old and new – the original vaulted brick bread ovens have been converted into cosy reading rooms. Inspired by contemporary Scandinavian style, the rooms focus on the tactile, and are decorated in muted shades with bleached wood floors and locally woven rugs. Take your pick from three outdoor terraces overlooking Alfama – the oldest and most characterful part of Lisbon, with its narrow whitewashed alleyways. Or go for a dip in the small pool (more for laps than serious swims). If you can, opt for the larger Alfama Superior rooms.. A sophisticated oasis of calm.
Out and about: A five-minute walk away is Lisbon’s much-heralded restaurant of the moment, Prado, the recently opened (and surprisingly affordable) restaurant from Nuno Mendes protege Antonio Galapito (do book ahead). Or stock up on provisions in Prado Mercearia, its beautifully designed grocery next door, celebrating the best of Portuguese produce. And pick up gorgeous handcrafted wool blankets, rugs and scarfs, from ChiCoração – dangerously close to the hotel.
Stella loves: Unparalleled panoramic views from the hotel across the terracotta rooftops of Alfama and the river Tagus.
Rates from £130 b&b per double room; memmohotels.com/alfama
Hotel Rum, Budapest
Best for… inventive cocktail lovers
The low-down: The Rum is a modern design hotel in a central location, with 38 great-value rooms and a laid-back restaurant/bar serving Asian sharing plates and cocktails. A conversion of an old apartment block, it is spread over six floors, all leading off an elegant central staircase. Rooms come in four sizes – Light Rums (Small) to Black Rums (Large Plus) – with stylish furnishings whatever measure you go for.
Out and about: Stroll through Buda and Pest on either side of the River Danube for stunning architecture and take a night-time cruise along the river. Bathe in the thermal waters of the hidden Veli Bej baths, an old Turkish complex, with a central octagonal pool and an ice shower. The late-19th-century Great Market Hall is a terrific place to buy souvenirs – Tokaji wines and paprika feature heavily. Explore the Jewish quarter, with its magnificent Dohany utcai Synagogue, and the uber-cool ruin bars. Hop aboard the Number 2 tram for a scenic trundle along the Pest embankment – the views across the water to Buda are terrific. The tram winds up at Mupa (Palace of the Arts), home to the illuminating Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art; fans of Picasso and Warhol will particularly enjoy this.
Stella loves: The central location couldn’t be better and yet it’s still incredibly quiet. And i-escapers get a free bottle of prosecco.
Rates from £54 per night b&b double room; i-escape.com/hotel-rum