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The 13 best hotels in Europe

From luxury lounges to relaxed retreats, here's our pick of the best hotels in Europe

Written by
Time Out European editors
Rhys Thomas

How do you even begin to pick the top hotels in Europe? Impossible, right? There's like... a lot of them. A lot of great ones, too. But we love a challenge, so we've given it a go. Of course, 'best' is subjective, but we've tried to channel into our readership – and have gone for that perfect mix of great design, location and amenities – then factored in less tangible elements such as history, experiences and ambience, in places that you'll really really want to visit. So here, in no particular order, are our favourite 13 hotels in Europe. They include timeless classics, like London’s Claridge’s, cool new brigade hotels such as Stockholm’s Ett Hem and Barcelona’s branch of Soho House. There's fin de siecle beauties like Vienna’s Hotel Sacher and Moscow’s Metropol too. Others focus on wellness, like Austria’s Ayurveda Resort Sonnhof and Portugal’s Six Senses. Woah, there's a lot! Whichever place you decide to visit, we feel sure that a stay at any of these will be one of the best hotel experiences you’ll ever have. Let's see who made the cut, shall we? 

The best hotels in Europe

Ett Hem

1. Ett Hem

Where is it? Stockholm, Sweden

Why go? Well it's a mere ten minutes from Stockholm Central Station, so super conveniently placed. That aside, Ett Hem is ‘a home’ you’d love to call 'your home', even if it is just for one day. Less a hotel, more of a trio of private houses. The vibe is laidback and Scandi cool. Wood-panelled rooms (by the dozen) with flashes of contemporary. Some have marble bathrooms, others retro chandeliers, cast-iron four-posters, and a wood-burning stove. Hang out in the library, relax in the cool glasshouse, or have a treatment and really allow yourself to relax in the mini-spa. A fitness area includes pilates equipment, and the chef (yes, this is a hotel list after all, we're not going to leave you to do the cooking!) creates simple meals, with a distinctly Swedish flavour, from whatever the day’s market offers. Try something new, enjoy privacy, feel very very fancy. Did we mention you're right in Stockholm? 

Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea
Photograph: Courtesy

2. Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea

Where is it? Taormina, Italy

Why go? There’s a wonderful whiff of old-style Italian glamour at the Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea, a gorgeous five star hotel which sits on its own private beach in eastern Sicily’s chicest town. Many of the light and breezy rooms have balconies with views of the Bay of Mazzarò, and you can hop on the nearby cable car to reach central Taormina (or take the free shuttle) to explore 'on the ground' as it were. Mount Etna's not too far away either. At the hotel, though, features include an infinity pool, a spa surrounded by luxuriant gardens, Restaurant Oliviera which is on the watetside. If you prefer to be in the heart of buzzy Taormina itself, the Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo is equally impressive and offers outstanding views, but for something truly unique and tranquil, it's Sant'Andrea all the way. 

Photograph: Courtesy

3. Claridge’s

Where is it? London, England

Why go? Forever the most classy of London’s classiest options. Thanks in part to its Mayfair location and the list of starry guests (Kate Moss had her 30th here, as you do), yes, but also Claridge's is just unlike anywhere else. It dazzles and has dazzled since the 1850s. More recently, an incredible Art Deco redesign has only elevated the hotel. From its enormous Dale Chihuly chandelier in the sumptuous art deco foyer to Simon Rogan’s Michelin-starred Fera restaurant. All rooms are luxurious, but suites come with a literal butler and even the free use of a Burberry trench coat, because as we said, classy. Needless to say, everything about the place is five stars. 

Ayurveda Resort Sonnhof
Ayurveda Resort Sonnhof

4. Ayurveda Resort Sonnhof

Where is it? Hinterthiersee, Tyrol, Austria 

Why go? To rest mind, body, soul, spirit, fingertips, armpits, and more, how about this mountainside resort which offers a European ayurvedic (one of the world's oldest holistic healing systems) experience? All your senses are cared for here, from the sight of the surrounding Austrian Alps that backdrop the hotel to the smell of alpine trees and incense wafting throughout, and luxurious fabrics that make thebedroom. There is also, of course, expert therapists in the spa and the taste of creative Ayurvedic cuisine. All of which is included in the price of the room so make sure to use it as much as you possibly dare to relax, isn't it a hard life) isn't it, oh yes.


5. Soho House

Where is it? They're everywhere, but we're on about the one in Barcelona, Spain

Why go? Minutes from the city's famed street, La Rambla, this Spanish outpost of the super-cool Soho House brand has plenty going for it. Let's start with the chic rooftop pool and its views over Port Vell and the sea beyond. Or maybe the super sleek Cowshed spa, and its indoor pool, steam room and wood-panelled treatment rooms. You see what we're getting at. As with all Soho House establishments, the vibe is elegant and informal. "We'd like you to relax, but in the fun way, not the use this nice chair but worry about spilling your wine way" staff might well say. Excellent food is available at ground-floor Cessoni’s, or the house kitchen. Other activities include a cinema and the cocktail bar next door. But you're in the heart of Barca too, so there's plenty to see and do (and eat). 

Serge Detalle

6. Grace

Where is it? Santorini, Greece 

Why go? On one of Greece’s coolest islands, this minimalist boutique hotel is the perfect hangout in one of the trendiest getaway destinations of the moment. Thanks not least to its location; the pared-back predominantly white hotel is carved out of the actual cliff, so the views are frankly, silly. After a day relaxing by one of the most impressive infinity pools imaginable, with views over the sea, guests can move into an award-winning Champagne bar and an open-air restaurant that’s one of the finest eateries on the island anywhere, open-air or uh... closed air! Both the bar and restaurant overlook the vivid blues of the southern Aegean Sea. Beautiful. Back inside, many of the rooms have their own plunge pools, in-room fitness kits, and some have a private hammam too. Now there's relaxation. 

Le Clos Saint-Martin Hotel & Spa
Photograph: Courtesy

7. Le Clos Saint-Martin Hotel & Spa

Where is it? Ile de Ré, France

Why go? Ile de Ré is where the Parisians go on holiday in France. Le Clos Saint-Martin in Saint-Martin-de-Ré is where they might be all "woah, c'est cool" just like Emily from the tele is when she goes to "pa-ree". The style of this boutique hotel is exactly in keeping with the island’s architecture: two-storey whitewashed buildings with grey shutters, which overlook two swimming pools and a hollyhock-filled garden. Zen meets the seaside in its 33 rooms – all pale oak floors, white furnishings and the softest fabrics. If that doesn’t send you into a state of calm, the spa and its supremely comfortable loungers will. Outside, you're a few steps from the Port inside the walls of Vauban. 

Six Senses
Photograph: Courtesy

8. Six Senses

Where is it? Douro, Portugal

Why go? Located in Northen Portugal's Douro Valley, surrounded by lush, vine-covered hills, you will find the idyllic 19th-century manor house of Six Senses. Next to which, you will see the truly excellent kitchens and restaurant, swimming pools and an organic garden. The spa offers plenty of beauty treatments and therapies, while individual programmes can be arranged too (following non-invasive health screening, which is also quite useful to have). But this is far from a joyless health resort; we’re in wine country after all, so the hotel has its own wine library (for drinking, not reading) and can arrange trips to nearby winemakers for tastings, and even a chance to tread the grapes if you want to get your feet dirty. You won't find many better places to relax afterwards. 

Finca Cortesín

9. Finca Cortesín

Where is it? Casares, Spain

Why go? Just half an hour's drive from bustling Marbella in Southern Spain's Andalusia, Finca Cortesín is a gorgeous retreat that features palatial courtyards, and vast grounds scented with jasmine and roses. It also boasts one of the country's best championship golf courses anywhere, a Thai-inspired spa, and a Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant. Truly something for everyone!
Within, the finca has been styled by interior designer Duarte Pinto Coelho, and along with intricately carved wooden ceilings, the decor is enhanced with Spanish, Portuguese and Moroccan antiques. There’s also a private beach club, because even making sandcastles here is a exclusive, luxury affair. 

Hotel Sacher
Courtesy CC/Yelp/Hotel Sacher

10. Hotel Sacher

Where is it? Vienna, Austria

Why go? This elegant 19th-century five-star hotel is a real institution (former guests have included John F Kennedy, Indira Gandhi and Queen Elizabeth II), and is named after Eduard Sacher, son of the creator of the famous Sachertorte. Name drops aside, Chocolate fans will be thrilled that the legendary breakfasts include plenty of cake, and the theme extends to your bathroom – where even the soaps are chocoalte scented. Located a short walk from the State Opera, the hotel is perfectly situated for sightseeing and shopping. But if you don't fancy spending the holiday clocking up steps, you'll find two  perfect restaurants, a terrace bar and a well-equipped spa all within the vicinity. It's your holiday, do what you want! 

Le Pavillon de la Reine
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Yelp/Le Pavillon de la Reine

11. Le Pavillon de la Reine

Where is it? Paris, France

Why go? Given it's the only hotel on Paris’s tranquil Place des Vosges, the Pavillon de la Reine is a true city bolthole – situated you’re right in the heart of the buzzing Marais district yes, but all that aside, it's also just full-blown lovely here. This 17th-century former mansion is draped in ivy for pure European romance, while the private courtyard garden provides countryside ambience which you should indulge in for at least a quick stroll through fresh air. Le Pavillion's 56 rooms range from antiques-filled traditional style aboes through to spaces with more modern décor. You can expect a mix and patch of four-poster beds and beamed ceilings. It means each visit will be a little different. What is felt throughout though, is the idea of being cosseted by a wonderful atmosphere and looking around at endless ncie things. This extends from the rooms to the spas and the library-like restaurant, which also has a bar. Classique. 

Photograph: Courtesy

12. Metropol

Where is it? Moscow, Russia

Why go? If seriously over the top opulence floats your boat (just while on holidays or generally) Moscow’s five-star Metropol should definitely be on your hotels bucket list, assuming of course, it isn’t already. First opened in 1905 with the purpose of being a next-level hotel, this fabulous buidling is just steps from the Kremlin and Red Square. Inside, along with boasting heaps of period Art Nouveau features, including stained glass, sculpture, and art, the bathrooms are jaw-dropping in their marble splendour. The leaded roof of the beautiful dining room, which you might gaze at while taking in an evening concert, is an absolute vibe. You can also ponder on what former guests and visitors such as Trotsky, Lenin, Mao Tse-tung, Marlene Dietrich and Michael Jackson made of it all. That'd make for an interesting dinner party, wouldn't it. While we can't predict the conversation, we can assure you that the service will be sublime. 

St Regis

13. St Regis

Where is it? Florence, Italy

Why go? This sympathetically restored Brunelleschi-designed palazzo is a tiny 10 minutes north of the Ponte Vecchio and in a romantic spot right on the River Arno. There's lofty spaces filled with colour, sumptuous furnishings and beautiful antiques, it'll all take you back to the Renaissance (not that you were there, but this may make you feel like you are). The 99 handsome rooms are ornate without going over the top. If you can, it's worth upgrading to one of the rooms with a private balcony overlooking the Arno. Because being there is pretty damn special. The Winter Garden restaurant is a real beauty, actually one of the best places to eat in the whole of Florence. It's Italian cuisine borrowing from regions across the country, and all given a Michelin-starred gloss. The spa is an intimate affair, with private hot tubs in each treatment room. Very relaxing, very glam. 

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