Ten Must-Visit European Hotels

 

Trying to pick the top 10 among luxury hotels in Europe is like trying to pick just one from a box of Fauchon chocolates.

You know anything you choose will be delicious so it’s going to come down to very personal preference. Some people prefer nuts over jellies, the way some people prefer decadent thread counts over bathtub size."There are 10 great choices in Paris alone," says Misty Ewing, spokeswoman for luxury travel network Virtuoso. Still, if she had to pick just one in Paris, it would have to be the Four Seasons Georges V.

What sets it apart from the ultra-posh pack?
"All the flowers," she says, referring to the artistic flower arrangements created by world-renowned floral designer Jeff Leatham. "They’re everywhere and they’re beautiful." Her colleague, Albert Herrera, vice president of hotels and resorts for Virtuoso, prefers the Ritz, hands down, for the simple reason that "It screams Paris!".

Complicating things is the fact that the chocolate selection keeps growing. In Eastern Europe, for example, "hotel development is through the roof," says Herrera. "In Russia alone, there are no fewer than 15 luxury developments in the works." Five of them are in St. Petersburg and the rest are in Moscow, where the Ritz-Carlton just opened one of its most lavish properties yet.
A "basic" room at the hotel, which offers jaw-dropping views of the Kremlin and Red Square, start at $1,000. The opulent presidential suite, with its bullet-proof dining room windows, goes for $16,000 a night.

Prague, he says, went from having no upscale hotels to having several--including properties by the Four Seasons, Rocco Forte and the Mandarin Oriental in just a few years. Visit Budapest, and you'll find the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace. The sumptuous Art Nouveau details in the lobby alone will take your breath away: delicate wrought-iron vents, exquisite gold mosaic tiles, stained-glass windows and cupolas abound. Spacious rooms with Spanish marble bathrooms offer views of the Danube and the rolling Buda hills.
The increased traffic is making hotels all over Europe, long known for being grand, but a bit stodgy, "clean house." They’re lightening up and in some cases, like the Balmoral in Edinburgh, or the Connaught in London, undergoing extensive renovations. There's nothing staid about the all-white La Scalinatella in Capri, one of the "airiest" hotels around with terraces that open onto the Mediterranean.
Also offering exceptional amenities? The Kamp Hotel in Helsinki, which boasts heated floors and towel racks as well as a sauna suite that fits 10 for "informal business gatherings."


1. The Ritz, Paris
Best Bathrooms

The Ritz, former home of Coco Chanel, is famous for its royal beds and Louis XV décor, its Roman bath Health Club, its fawning service (the staff-to-guest ratio is 3 to 1) and the legendary Hemingway Bar where the Sidecar was invented. But the bathrooms are divine. They have luxe toiletries, Titanic-size tubs, personal scales and fancy cords to summon maids and valets, and, of course, plush, fashion-forward robes that even Coco would have liked.


 

2. The Balmoral, Edinburgh
Best Wooly Blankets

One of the grandest hotels in Britain, the Balmoral, with its famous landmark clocktower, recently underwent a major renovation. The sleek new rooms were done up in the colors of the moors, mists and heathers so evocative of Scotland. The blankets, gracing the end of every bed, are exclusively designed for The Balmoral by Johnston's of Elgin. Perfect for snuggling up to that majestic view of Edinburgh Castle.


 

3. Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace, Budapest
Best Location

Located in downtown "Pest" the hotel is at the foot of the Chaine Bridge and minutes away from Vaci Street shopping and Budapest's financial center. Don't let The palace's historic façade and the Art Nouveau details in the lobby fool you: Rooms offer the most modern amenities as well as views of the Danube and the rolling Buda hills.

 

 

4. Milestone Hotel, London
Best Boutique Hotel

A glass of champagne on arrival, Bentley car service, a 2 to 1 staff-to-guest ratio, iPod docking stations, historical architecture and an ideal location in a Victorian town house across from Kensington Palace are just some of the reasons guests keep coming back to this intimate boutique hotel. Some of the rooms are themed, like the clever Savile Row room, which boasts pinstripe wall coverings, a tailor's dummy and books on men's fashion. Themed or not, most rooms boast fireplaces and king-size poster beds fit for a queen.

 

5. Hotel Hassler, Rome
Best city hotel

The Hassler in Rome stands, quite literally, above everything else. Situated at the head of the Spanish Steps it’s a perfect vantage point for enjoying panoramic views across the Eternal City. Here you can drink in almost all of Rome’s most famous landmarks; the Coliseum, the Villa Borghese, the Piazza Trinità die Monti and many of the city’s obelisks. The hotel is so highly regarded that it recently landed at number 21 in Travel+Leisure’s Top 100 World’s Best Awards 2008 making it Europe’s best city hotel! A particular stand out here is the newly renovated rooftop restaurant, Imago; with its lush marble flooring, relaxing music and the flicker of candlelight reflected in the glass table tops.


6. Grand Hotel Europe, St. Petersburg
Best for musically inclined visitor

Moscow may hold the honour of being the world’s most expensive city yet St. Petersburg also has a very pricey jewel in its crown, namely the stunning Grand Hotel Europe. The hotel opened its doors 130 years ago and has seen a number of significant figures stay here; Tchaikovsky chose it as his honeymoon destination while George Bernard Shaw dined together with Maxim Gorky. The hotel is situated on Nevsky Prospekt, rightly regarded and St. Petersburg’s most attractive avenue, and is near to some of the city’s most culturally significant buildings such as the Russian Museum and the Mussorgsky Theatre. A particular stand out here is one of the Executive Suites which boasts a baby grand piano – perfect for the musically inclined visitor!


7. Hôtel de Paris, Monaco
Best lobby

Prince Charles III of Monaco had a plan: to turn his city into a meeting place for blue-blooded and world famous hedonists and since gambling was illegal in France at that time Monte Carlo quickly established a reputation for itself at the end of the 19th Century as THE place to be to go wild and enjoy life to the fullest. The Hôtel de Paris was opened in 1863 and attracted the international elite; from Russian Tsars to the Duke of Windsor to Winston Churchill, many a world-famous name stayed here to enjoy the splendour of the hotel itself and the stunning views of the azure blue sea. The hotel has since enjoyed several renovations yet retains the charm and sophistication of the times from which it first became famous. From the moment you step into the lobby it’s like taking a trip back in time.

8. Grand Hotel Kronenhof, St. Moritz
Best view

No list of the world’s great hotels would be complete without a nod to St. Moritz – for years the favourite playground of the international jet set. The Grand Hotel Kronenhof certainly more than lives up the reputation St. Moritz has for opulence and luxury. Built between 1848 and 1900 both the interior and exterior of the hotel are protected by a preservation order making it one of the most culturally significant hotels in the Alps. Grand Hotel Kronenhof is located in the heart of Pontresina in private parkland and is a great base from which to enjoy skiing and winter walks. From the guest rooms and suites you can enjoy a view across a truly magical winter wonderland; the Engadine Valley with acres of pine forests and the Bernina glacier in the distance.


9. Kempinski Grand Hotel, Heiligendamm
Best furniture

The Kempinski Grand Hotel in Heiligendamm operates under the slogan “A unique world, an unforgettable time” and this is certainly the best way to describe this luxury establishment. Even from the outside, looking at its impressive architecture rendered in chic white stone, it’s obvious you’re standing before a hotel where luxury and comfort are top priorities. The hotel boasts 215 stunning rooms and suites and all contain furniture and fitments exclusively designed for Kempinski giving each room an aura of casual elegance. Enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail in the elegant Baltic Bar or a nightcap in the Nelson Bar with live piano accompaniment.

10. La Scalinatella, Capri
Best Private Terraces

The name means "little stairway" and that's how this hilltop hotel is built, on levels climbing upward much like the painterly bougainvillea along the hotel's winding paths. Rooms at this dove-white Moorish hotel are vast, airy and bright with his-and-her baths and sprawling terraces that stare down the Mediterranean and the rock outcroppings known as the Faraglioni.