Four European city breaks to book now
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Classic Amsterdam, all shined up
It’s not new (the original opened 125 years ago), but it’s definitely newly reborn: the Hotel de L’Europe in Amsterdam, owned by the Heineken family, has just emerged from an extensive makeover that puts it back at the apex of the city’s hospitality scene (it has always has one of the city’s best centre-of-the-action locations, just off the Golden Triangle and an easy walk to the Museumplein and the Rijksmuseum, which lies just beyond). The 97 rooms and suites – which include a stonking six-bedroom penthouse – show off a fairly un-Dutch mix of lush textiles and appointments alongside impressive architectural details (those beams…), and original contemporary art.
Eight of the suites, each unique and furnished with antiques spanning the 18th to 20th centuries, are located in ’t Huys, a converted former bank adjacent to the hotel (among them are spaces designed by fine jewellery designer and meisje-about-town Bibi van der Velden, and Dutch design duo Nicemakers). ’T Huys is also home to Mendo, the flagship bricks and mortar store of the illustrious art publishing house, as well as a spa and Italian restaurant, Trattoria Graziella. Then there’s newly glamorous Freddy’s Bar, the space to which Alfred Heineken himself used to repair (for a pint, we’re guessing) back in the day. deleurope.com, from €799
Palazzo living in the heart of Rome
The ultimate Roman retreat has just come online, courtesy of Hotel Vilòn. We were already big fans of its top-of-the-class design, service, cuisine and amenities at prices still a notch or two below the naked thievery being perpetrated across the rest of the Eternal City’s hospitality-sphere – not to mention its sweet, super-central location in a building adjacent to the Palazzo Borghese. Palazzo Vilòn, the four-bedroom private apartment launched last week by the hotel – which is actually in the famous Palazzo, with access to its beautiful gardens for guests – is a real eye-popper.
This is thanks as much to the talents of Milan-based designer Giampiero Panepinto as to the illustrious built environment. Amid all the amazing listed 16th- and 17th-century floors, frescoes, and architectural details, he goes long on slick, contemporary furniture design and interior landscaping vignettes (recessed windows softened with huge potted palms are among his chic signatures). Besides the three bedrooms plus a master suite that might be our new favourite in the entire city, there is a grand entrance hall, two sitting rooms, a spectacular mirrored dining room, a sauna and fitness centre, and a private cinema. Plus two private entrances. Clearly such a glittering redoubt doesn’t come cheap, but if you’re planning a celebration-of-a-lifetime for your nearest and dearest, this is a place to do it. palazzovilon.com, from €25,000
Escape to (minimalist) Porto
Lisbon continues to be everyone’s favourite European city-break destination (which, as the pinnacle of high season, with its tuk-tuk gridlock, approaches, can feel more a curse than a compliment). Porto – smaller, equally if differently beautiful – offers an alternative that might feel less frenetic. Casa da Companhia has just opened here, in the heart of the city and in the building that once housed the HQ of the Real Companhia Velha port wine producers.
The 40 rooms are pared back in the extreme: white on beige on biscuit, with tons of natural light coming in through the tall original windows or Crittall-style half-walls giving onto landscaped interior gardens. The pared-back palette, which doesn’t always work, does so terrifically here, creating a redoubt of calm amid streets full of exuberant colour (tile freaks, this is your Stendhal-moment city). There is a fitness centre and spa worthy of a much larger hotel, and a streetside restaurant majoring in pan-Mediterranean dishes. casadacompanhia.com, from €196
Mitteleuropa members’ club vibes in Kraków
For a less overrun European city with all the good old-world feels, consider Kraków (consider Poland in general; lots of travel tastemakers seem to be doing so these days). Forgive Stradom House for having given itself the off-putting moniker of “lifestyle destination”, which belies what looks to be a very appealing offering: a 125-room hotel in a 14th-century monastery, whose clean-lined and comfortable accommodations start at less than €200 a night.
It’s complemented by two restaurants, a bar and a sprawling wellness centre, with a 20-metre indoor pool, infrared sauna and sound room, and treatments created by London-based Alexandra Soveral (whose all-organic and massage-intensive approach to facials we love). There’s a members’ club component, which may well mean an interesting mix of local patrons setting a great tone. stradomhouse.com, from €170