Thursday, February 9, 2017

Favorite hotels in Europe... the luxury lodging edition

Good morning, readers.  After a solid week of sickness, I'm feeling better today.  I think it's because I managed to get a couple of hours of extra sleep after my husband left for work.  Those extra winks have left me energized and inspired.  

Since our first Germany tour, Bill and I have been lucky enough to stay in some really great European hotels.  They've run the gamut from budget friendly accommodations to luxury digs.  I know people look for different things when they're booking hotels.  Personally, I tend to like really comfortable places.  If it doesn't cost an arm and a leg, so much the better.  Here are a few of my favorite luxury hotels in Europe... the kind of places you might book if you're looking for a splurge.

5.  Hotel Suitess zu Dresden-  Dresden, Germany

Bill and I visited Dresden in November 2008.  We were celebrating our sixth wedding anniversary, so I planned a trip to Dresden, Bolaslaweic, Poland, and Prague.  At the time, we were not as flush with cash as we are now, so money was more of an object.  Nevertheless, I love to splurge.  Hotel Suitess was one of the suggestions I got from Expedia.com and it was ranked number one on Trip Advisor.  The price was right, so I booked us.  I think it might have been our first five star hotel.

Things got off to a good start when a valet unloaded our bags and parked our SUV.  As we checked in, we sipped on a welcome glass of sekt.  I believe I booked a standard room, which was outfitted with a huge, comfortable bed, Hermes toiletries, and had a marble bathroom outfitted with gold fixtures, fresh flowers, and a television.  Donald Trump might have felt at home with all the gold in that room.  The service at Suitess was impeccable, even if it didn't come cheaply.  I still fondly remember the very expensive but incredible Eggs Benedict I had for breakfast there.


That bed was the stuff of dreams.

Dresden is a fantastic city and we had a marvelous time there.  The fact that we stayed in a beautiful hotel just steps away from the famous Frauenkirche made it all the more memorable.  I would definitely recommend Hotel Suitess to anyone looking for a luxury lodging experience in Dresden.

4.  The Chester Residence- Edinburgh, Scotland

Our visit to Edinburgh in November 2012 came at the end of our fabulous tenth wedding anniversary trip to Scotland.  I booked us four nights at The Chester Residence, a swanky apartment hotel in downtown Edinburgh.  I booked The Chester Residence on the strength of many positive reviews I read about it on Trip Advisor.  Indeed, our experience there was excellent.  Located in a quiet neighborhood close to the action, The Chester Residence offers guests spacious apartments complete with kitchenettes.

We had spent the previous ten nights on the Hebridean Princess, where we were pampered non-stop.  The Chester Residence was only a slight step down from that.  It was a great way to end an amazing trip.



Plenty of room to stretch out...

3.  Hotel Corinthia- Budapest, Hungary

We took one last trip before PCSing from Germany in September 2009.  I decided I wanted to go to Budapest because I figured it would be harder to get there from the United States than some of the other cities I was considering at the time.  It turned out to be an excellent choice for a final hurrah before we'd leave Germany for good...  or not.  I booked us at the Hotel Corinthia, which is a fabulously comfortable luxury hotel right on the main drag through Pest.  I booked us in a junior suite, which gave us access to the excellent Executive Club.  I don't know if things have changed since 2009 (and I'd love to find out), but a person could literally sit in that club all day and eat and drink to their heart's content.  A lot of people seemed to be doing just that.


The very beautiful foyer at Hotel Corinthia, Budapest.

We were very impressed by the service at this hotel, as well as the awesome spa.  I even talked Bill into booking a treatment, which he enjoyed immensely.  I later recommended this hotel to my mom when she visited in 2015.  I think she was just as happy with it as we were.  I hope we can visit again soon.

2.  Hotel Miramar- Barcelona, Spain

In April 2009, Bill and I enjoyed our second blind booking trip, courtesy of the airline formerly known as Germanwings.  It was Bill's first trip to Spain and my second.  We still talk about that trip today in reverent tones, mainly because we had one of the best meals of our lives there.  Bill also fell in love with La Sagrada Familia, a place he had never heard of until he met me and I showed him a picture of it.  I also booked us at a fabulous hotel, Miramar, which overlooks the city and offers huge, fabulous rooms.  The one I booked had a jacuzzi and an enormous terrace.  The bathroom was big enough to move into.  

This hotel has a very unique outdoor pool, but it was too cold for us to use it during our visit.  No matter, because there's also an indoor pool and a whirlpool, which we did get to use.  


A lovely park in front of the hotel, complete with orange trees.  Just beyond the grove, you can enjoy a fantastic view of the Mediterranean Sea.

The one drawback to Miramar is that it's not located in the thick of things.  If you want to be close to the action in Barcelona, this hotel might not be for you, since it's located in the Montjuic area of the city, which is kind of on the outskirts a bit.  It's possible to walk to the city, but that involves walking down a steep hill.  Alternatively, you can either take the funicular, which has a station very close to the hotel, or take the bus.  I recommend both methods.  The funicular offers stunning views of the sea, while the bus offers hilarious cross-cultural experiences.  There is a funny story to go with that last comment, but I probably ought to save it for another blog post.

1.  Hilton Molino Stucky Venice- Venice, Italy

Venice has the distinction of being the city where I had one of my poorest lodging experiences, as well as one my very best.  In August 1997, I arrived there with two friends and we stayed in a hostel run by a convent.  I shared a communal room with a shy French woman while my friends, dating at the time and now a married couple, got a private room.  They ended up with bedbugs.  I didn't get bedbugs, but we did endure being locked out all day.  Incidentally, the day we were there also happened to be the day Princess Diana died.  

When Bill and I visited Venice in May 2013, we were on our way to Rome to catch SeaDream 1, a luxury mega yacht, that would take us to Athens via the Corinth Canal.  Because Bill had never been to Venice or Florence and we didn't know if we'd be able to get back to Europe after he retired from the Army, we decided to get to Italy a few days early and work our way down.  Bill had tons of Hilton Honors points, so he booked us a room at the Hilton Molino Stucky.  On the day of our arrival, we took a private water taxi to the hotel, which is located on the island of Giudecca.  The lobby was positively bustling with people, mostly British.  The place was fully booked, with the exception of the Tower Suite, the second best suite in the hotel.  And that was the room we got.


The bed...  This was a first class experience!


Sitting room.


The view from the window.

That suite was amazing.  It was located in a tower and had a bedroom, two bathrooms, and a sitting/dining room with views on two sides.  The main bathroom was palatial.  A generous breakfast buffet was also included.  But the best part of all was that we didn't pay a cent.  The room was entirely paid for with Bill's Hilton Honors points.  They really rolled out the red carpet for us.  Now, I know we totally lucked into that room and we'll probably never be that lucky again.  But it was definitely a memorably luxurious experience for us.  While the Hilton may not be Venice's best hotel, it was definitely one of the best we've ever stayed in simply because of a visit from the upgrade fairy.  

So there you have it-- five of my most memorable luxury hotel stays.  I hope to update this list sometime with five more fabulously luxe hotels.  Until then, I'll keep searching for the best in uniquely awesome places to visit.

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