Where to stay in Europe – Hotel, B&B, Apartment or Villa

By Steven Wright

There are many accommodation offerings throughout Europe and it can be challenging to know what is available and will work best for your travels. Finding the perfect accommodation depends on your needs: traveling alone and looking to meet others, or traveling with a family or group and want to be able to prepare some of the meals and do a load of laundry, or maybe you want a villa equipped with a chef. All these options are readily available throughout Europe and can help to make your dream vacation a reality.

If you are visiting many countries, cities or towns on your trip, mixing up your accommodation type can you keep on budget and lend to some great experiences along the way. Even if you are planning to stay in one destination for a longer period of time, it can be nice to rent an apartment for some of the stay and then have a couple of days in a 5 star luxury hotel with a spa upon.

There are many benefits to staying at a bed and breakfast. Most B&B’s will offer a continental breakfast with grains, cereal, milk, juice, coffee or tea, yogurt and fruit, while others may include a hot breakfast. The owners will greet you upon arrival and often the owners will occupy the same house or apartment that you are staying. They can be great resources for tourist information and often have insider suggestions for dining options and the best tours, museums and other sites. Many B&B’s are in residential neighborhoods allowing you the opportunity to live like a native and immerse yourself in the destination, make sure to ask about local markets and transit links. If you are staying at a larger B&B you will have the opportunity to meet and chat with other tourists. You may want to inform your host about your arrival details so they are available to meet you when you arrive. Most will require a deposit or payment at time of reservation and can be done through credit card or other methods.

Some of my favorite experiences while staying at B&B’s include creating a great rapport with a local restaurant in Berlin, I ended up eating there a number of times through my trip, the owners greeted and chatted me up as I was eating alone and I could not leave the restaurant without an aperitif, on the house. On another occasion we were able to find a great B&B in the 1st Arrondissement of Paris overlooking the Parc de la Tour Saint-Jaques that was a fraction of the cost of a hotel in the same area.

There are countless sites and ways to search for hotel nights all over Europe. Some of the sites will offer only select hotels, while others will only offer certain room types. From my experience I would say that working with a travel agent like myself can help you to find the best accommodations suited to you. Often they will have other great tips for booking room nights, for example, booking a hotel in the EU Quarter of Brussels during the weekend can save you incredibly. They will also be privy to promotions and sales for certain destinations and properties or resorts that can offer added savings or other benefits on site, like personalized services on arrival. Great agents follow up with their clientele so that they have the most up to date information and recommendations from clients who have stayed there.

Location of the property and services offered by the hotel play into the room night cost. If you are not planning to use the restaurant at the hotel, or the fitness centre and pool then a booking without those services can help you save money. Staying outside of city centres can also help you save, especially if there are great transit and metro links just outside the door.  Many properties include an option to prepay your stay and that often offers a discounted rate but can also have firm restrictions for changes and cancellations up to and including the entire deposit. It is very important to know the booking rate details when making your decision.

There are many benefits to choosing to stay in a hotel, from having a Porter carry your bags to your room, 24 hour concierge services, room service, laundry service, wake up service, restaurants, bars, fitness facilities, pool and sauna, even coffee in the lobby and much more. Many have the added convenience of an in room safe to store your passport and other valuables, check to ensure you know how to operate it, if not someone from the front desk can help. Ask about occupancy rates at the front desk at check in, if the hotel has a lower projected occupancy you may be able to get a room upgrade at the same rate – it never hurts to ask.

The buildings themselves become part of the draw to hotels across Europe. Many old government, manufacturing and other large buildings have been re-purposed into 4 & 5 star luxury hotels. A prime example is the conversion of one of the buildings owned by the House of Armani into the second location of The Armani Hotel, scheduled to open in Milan later this year. Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam is another example as it was formerly the city hall of Amsterdam and now is a destination for luxury accommodation and corporate events. The wedding chamber is a magical space and the perfect location for a destination wedding.

Some of my favorite hotel stays have come unexpectedly, on our trip to Bilbao Spain we arranged to stay at the Zennit Bilbao, we had a well appointed room with a king sized bed and opening the blinds led to a huge 3 metre by 4 meter private terrace off our room – room service on the patio was divine! Our suite at Grand Hotel Amrâth Amsterdam included a remote control that allowed us to close the drapes and dim the lights from the comfort of bed. We got a steal on Marriott Executive Apartments Brussels, European Quarter our one bedroom suite included a kitchen 1.5 bathrooms and a huge patio for less than $100 CDN per night staying on a weekend when the EU officials have left.

Renting an apartment or villa can be the perfect option for larger groups, extended stays or if your are at that point in your month long tour where the opportunity to cook your own food, or do some laundry would be ideal. There are many options for shorter stays as well, these options allow you the opportunity to explore the neighborhood markets, shops and restaurants and live like a native. These rentals come fully stocked with everything you would need for your stay including towels, linen, cutlery, dishes, pots and pans. Many also include a WIFI connection and cable or satellite TV and a washer and dryer. Often you will find some handy things left behind from former travelers like cooking oil, spices and other dry items in the kitchen and books, movies, attraction flyers and maps in the living space.

There are many more things to consider when opting to rent an apartment or a villa. Again there are many sites dedicated to short stay or vacation rentals, it can be difficult to search through all of the various sites to see what is truly available. I would suggest reviewing comments from previous travelers staying at that apartment or villa. These reviews can give you a more accurate description of what it is like to stay at the property. If you are renting the apartment or villa for a peaceful sleep it will be important to know if the location is in the middle of the bar and club district,  if there is a major road or rail line close, or if there is construction in or beside the building.

Often as you are renting from an individual, you are required to send a money transfer to make your reservation, this can be an intimidating process as banks will have you sign off and confirm the information of the transfer because it’s final once complete. If you are renting a larger property or for an extended stay this can be a sizable sum of money. I would suggest trying to negotiate for a 15-25% deposit with the balance in cash on arrival. Some owners will require your passport number for their records, and some may require a security deposit that will be returned at checkout if no damage to the property has occurred.

There has been a huge increase in the travel industry for apartments and villas as it is a desired option for travelers. More suppliers are exclusively offering travel agents villas and apartments around the world. Working with these suppliers can help take some of the risk out of renting a property for your vacation. Often your travel agent can help you to secure options like a wine tasting at your villa or a chef to cook meals for your stay.

There are many benefits to booking an apartment or villa for your holiday. Often this option will give you much more space including a kitchen and living area, some even include patios, terraces and even a garden. There is something to suit every traveler whether you are looking for a hip apartment in the centre of the city, a remote villa in the country or a place right on the beach. There are great options for families and groups giving you more opportunities to spend quality time together. Many offer multiple bathrooms and laundry.

When considering an apartment or villa it is good to inquire about local markets, grocery stores, restaurants and transit links, everything you will need to know to enjoy your stay. Often the person greeting you will give you an idea of the neighborhood and are a great resource for insider information on the destination. They can often offer suggestions of how best to get to the apartment or villa from the airport or train station. You may also want to ask them for the best way to reach them during your stay – being locked out or into your apartment can dampen your stay. You should also make arrangements for checking out so that you can be sure to catch your flight or train.

Some of our best apartment and villa rentals include a conveniently located 2 bedroom apartment in the heart of Old Town Krakow, the apartment was a great value, had satellite TV and laundry. Somehow we locked ourselves in that apartment and the owners were very accommodating and returned to set us free.  In Amsterdam, we rented multiple 2 bedroom apartments on Rembrandtplein that were modern and spacious and the perfect location for our group. In Barcelona we rented a 5 bedroom villa in El Born that was close to shopping, restaurants and the beach, it was a great place to open all the windows and enjoy siesta.

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2 thoughts on “Where to stay in Europe – Hotel, B&B, Apartment or Villa

  1. This blog is very comprehensive and helps the traveller realize numerous options.
    Somehow can’t see myself booking without your knowledgeable travel agent.

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