5 Reasons to Stay in Small European Hotels

categories: europe travel

santoriniWhen we first started traveling to Europe, 20-plus years ago, both our bank account and our relaxed itinerary led us to stay in small, quaint European hotels instead of larger American chain hotels. We instantly loved staying in buildings that were hundreds of years old, often in residential neighborhoods, and spending time wandering those neighborhoods, shopping in local markets and eating in out-of-the way neighborhood restaurants that most tourists never found.

This meant that we weren’t always “on the beaten path”, which sometimes meant a little extra travel time to hit the spots we had come to see. But what we could discover along the way more than made up for the inconvenience. And while the hotels may not have all of the “amenities” we would find in even the most basic American hotel, the character and charm (and often the price) made up for it.

So here is my list of why to opt for a small European hotel and skip the large chains:

  1. Meeting locals: The couple in London who rented us a flat on our first visit, who invited us in for tea on our first day there, made us feel like we were visiting friends. They gave us the inside scoop on an upcoming rehearsal for the Queen’s birthday celebration, which is a parade which dwarfs the usual Changing of the Guard. All 5 regiments of the Palace Guard march, and the Queen herself rides in a carriage. The only difference with the rehearsal, is that the Queen isn’t there. Still an amazing example of how well the British do pomp and pageantry.
  2. A chance to stretch (or shrink) yourself: You’ll never know how many people and pieces of luggage you can fit in a 2X3 foot lift until you try (answer: not very many). Side benefit: more exercise, since part of your group may just opt to take the stairs.
  3. Cost: As was the case 20 years ago, the smaller hotels still usually cost less.
  4. Character: When we first began traveling, the common practice when you asked for a room was to be shown a room that was available, to see if it was to your liking. When was the last time that happened in a Ramada? Why would it? All the rooms are pretty much the same, and you always know what to expect.
  5. Neighborhoods: Staying near the main attractions is very convenient, but it’s easy to breeze in and out of a city and see only the same top spots you’ve seen on the postcards. To really get to know a city, get into a neighborhood, and walk alongside people who are heading home from work. Take the bus or subway with them in the morning. You may still only have enough time to scratch the surface, but your view will be much richer than if you only see what the other tourists see.

Bonus reason: In many cases, even small European hotels can be booked online through sites such as venere.com. So much easier than even 10 years ago, when if you wanted to book a hotel in Europe, you either had to work through a travel agent, or find the right time of day to call, make a (very) long distance call, and hope that someone on the other end might speak English!

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Joan Christensen

by Joan Christensen

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