If your European fantasies feature historic properties, new tastes and culture by the bucketload, our hotels are the places to turn them into reality. Make enchanting memories in 2020 by adding these lesser flocked-to destinations to your travel wanderlist
Good things come in small packages. Slovenia may be tiny, but it has it all: jaw-dropping nature, architectural treasures and scrumptious delicacies. Travellers love the country for fresh-air pursuits – skiing, hiking, cycling, horse-riding, ballooning, canyoning and caving to name a few.
WHERE TO STAY: Whether you’re visiting for the first time or the fiftieth, Slovenia’s capital of Ljubljana always delivers something new. Stay at the exclusive Antiq Palace and you’ll be amongst it all – the castle, river, squares and markets – in a luxury haven with a genuinely fascinating story to tell.
Puncturing Latvia’s greenery with its Gothic spires, Rīga may look peaceful and reserved at first glance, but dive deeper into the capital’s belly and you’ll discover there’s a vibrant energy going on. Funky bars, contemporary art, and hip, experimental restaurants provides everything you could hope for in the one real city among the country’s vast parklands.
WHERE TO STAY: Gorgeous accommodation in Rīga needn’t be a headache to find. Metropole nudges the city’s most-loved attractions and delivers a world-class 19th-century base for your Latvian adventure in the centre of Old Town.
Europe’s beating heart, Slovakia is a storied and harmonious country. It’s also another gem for outdoor lovers. If you’re an adventurer and not yet explored Slovakia’s trails in the High Tatras, pack your walking boots and prepare for serious ethereal beauty.
WHERE TO STAY: In the land of castles and mountains, it feels fitting to stay in a palace. Don’t do things by half – check into luxury five-star spa Hotel Royal Palace and experience royal elegance in a building dating back to 1883. This Art Deco wonderland has its own centuries-old thermal spring and even offers one-of-a-kind wellness treatments using 24-carat gold.
This teeny destination has been shining in the spotlight for a while now, with travel bloggers rightfully lauding its charming coastlines and astonishing history. Teetering between the east and west, the European gem harnesses a treasure trove of cultural delights. You’ll see them everywhere – in the mosaic tiles of Roman villas, in the embellished details of Catholic churches, and in the big hearts of the Montenegrins themselves.
WHERE TO STAY: Montenegro’s capital, Kotor, is a time-traveller’s paradise. In the dramatic Old Town sits Hotel Cattaro – a boutique stone haven that’s been everything from a theatre to a guard tower in its previous lives.
There are two sides to Romania – its peaceful hamlets with time-turning folk culture, and its vibrant capital with hip cafes, drinking gardens and dynamic energy. In spooky Transylvania, you’ll be hard pressed to not to bump into a castle (Bran Castle of Bram Stoker fame is a storybook classic), while its rolling hills and meandering Danube provide endless natural wonder.
WHERE TO STAY: Live like royalty at the five-star Suter Palace Heritage Boutique Hotel, a Bucharest-based beauty built between 1902 and 1906. It’s a luxurious masterpiece inside and out, from its elaborate architecture to the crystals, velvets, walnuts and silks inside.
Come to Croatia for the emerald coast, stay for homestyle cooking. Set between the Balkans and central Europe, its lands have been fought over for centuries – resulting in a rich and varied cultural tapestry, told in its palaces, forts, churches and museums.
WHERE TO STAY: Hotel Villa Astra in Lovran is an Art Nouveau masterpiece designed by Venetian architect Renato Renosco in 1905. Its revitalisation has been spectacular – there’s now seven spacious double bedrooms (seaview included), a stunning restaurant, outdoor pool, private beach and massage area.
Wipe the grey, gloomy image from your mind. Discerning travellers know Poland delivers vivid scenery, rich history, unusual experiences and spectacular hotels. Its coolest city is arguably Krakow – Warsaw’s better looking sister. From its Renaissance treasures to the clip-clopping of horses and local beers by candlelight, it’s like stepping into a storybook. For the best of the Polish country, flock to St. Anne’s Mountain – the sleepy pilgrimage centre among precious green lands.
WHERE TO STAY: Just south of Krakow – close enough to the city for easy travel yet far enough for serenity in spades – is four-star historic hotel Sierakow Manor. Peace-seekers will also love Palac Lucja in Zakrzów village – a 19th-century sanctuary in the heavenly landscape of St. Anne’s Mountain.
8. Czech Republic
Czech never fails to cradle you in culture. From the Gothic good looks of Prague to the castles and chateaux clinging to Bohemian country scenes, the scope of travel opportunities are inexhaustible. Everywhere you look seems to have a turreted fortress, baroque mansion or charming palace… you can even stay in them.
WHERE TO STAY: Bohemia is a bucket-list destination for travellers craving a fairytale castle experience – look no further than Rubezahl-Marienbad Castle Hotel in the spa town of Marienbad, baroque beauty Chateau Liblice in the quaint village of Liblice, and Vetrov Castle Hotel in a natural park outside the city of Aš.