HOTELS • February 2019
In our latest Readers’ Awards, we asked you to vote for your favourite boutique hotels. To celebrate the cream of the crop, travel writer Francesca Syz takes us through the five European hidden gems that came out on top
Krakow has long been a creative hub and this art-filled “boutique style hotel in a fabulous city”, housed in a 19th-century, neo-classical building that was once the home of Polish painter Jan Matejko, is a celebration of all that. “A lovely cosy hotel with everything you need”, one floor is dedicated to Matejko, another to playwright, painter and poet Stanislaw Wyspianski and a third to painter and illustrator Jerzy Nowosielski. A highlight is in-house restaurant Filipa 18, named after its street address, offering Polish classics with a contemporary slant. Its menu is based on what’s available at the excellent Stary Kleparz farmers’ market just around the corner, which has been going since the 12th century. Even the cocktails at industrial-chic U-Bar feature drinks made from seasonal local ingredients. “Beautiful city, beautiful hotel,” said readers. They “loved it”.
(Doubles from £58)
“The most beautiful and peaceful place in the South of France”, boutique guesthouse La Maison d’Ulysse sits on the outskirts of a tiny Provencal village 10 miles from the pretty market town of Uzes. The passion project of its owners, “Guy and Gauthier run a true hidden gem”. Named after archaeologist Ulysse Dumas, whose home it was originally, this “uniquely fabulous” property inhabits a beautifully renovated, 16th-century fortified farmhouse and a series of outbuildings, set within wild, dry and kitchen gardens. Each of the hotel’s nine “outstanding, spacious and not over-decorated” rooms is unique in character and furnished with both vintage and contemporary furniture and textiles. The hotel does a wonderful gourmet breakfast laden with local charcuterie, eggs, organic trout and salmon, lunch every day during the summer and dinners on request.
(Doubles from £182)
Santorini is all about show-stopping views and this “simply gorgeous” little hillside hideaway in the tiny village of Imerovigli doesn’t disappoint. In a peaceful spot set into Santorini’s volcanic cliffs on the highest point of the island, Iconic Santorini (“The name says it all!”) is a cave hotel with a contemporary twist. Its whitewashed rooms are spread over five levels and feature private pergola patios with plunge pools; pretty, locally sourced textiles and decadent Coco-mat beds. For excellent farm-fresh Santorini cuisine there’s Pergola, a stylish take on a traditional Greek taverna. There’s also a salt-water, infinity-edge pool “with fantastic ocean views” and a grotto-like spa with a heated whirlpool.
(Rooms from £530)
It’s hard to imagine that this “just lovely” Terence Conran-designed hotel was once a rather characterless 1950s youth hostel. A five-minute walk from the Vienna State Opera House and not much further to St Stephen’s Cathedral, this stylish, friendly hotel is a temple to classic modern Viennese design, with comfy, studio-like bedrooms with separate living areas, some of which have cantilevered windows with “gorgeous window seats” on which to stretch out to enjoy a book and a glass of something lovely (every room comes with complimentary wine). At the hotel’s relaxed Brasserie & Bakery restaurant you can feast on the freshest bread and pastries at breakfast and contemporary interpretations of traditional Viennese dishes for lunch and dinner.
(Doubles from £232)
The glass of cava that gets pressed into your hand on arrival at this “oasis in the heart of the city” sets the tone nicely. In the riverside neighbourhood of El Arenal, Hotel Mercer offers everything you could want on a long weekend in the city. “A true hidden jewel”, this restored 19th-century palace on a quiet cobbled street has just 12 sleekly contemporary bedrooms, two of which come with private terraces furnished with sun loungers and orange trees. After a day’s sightseeing, head up to the rooftop pool and poolside bar to cool off. Then move on to Maria Luisa, the hotel’s contemporary Andalucian restaurant, and drinks at cocktail bar Fizz, both of which are arranged around an Andalucian-style central patio.
(Doubles from £282)
To see all of our 2018 Readers' Award winners, click here