5 elegant European escapes for your wishlist
If you’re a fan of the uncluttered look, you'll love these five fabulous European escapes in the form of hotels that know just how to do minimalist chic, while still packing in lotsof characterful features.
Loire Valley, France
The lowdown: A former Royal residence turned chic countryside hotel.
Best for: History and heritage with a large side order of style.
This impossibly chic countryside hotel occupies a royal abbey that once served as a monastic complex for the Plantagenet kings and queens.
Today, Fontevraud and its abbey attract visitors with a mix of history, splendid architecture and serene parkland – not tomention the surrounding vineyards of the Loire Valley.
The hotel is the vision of French-Canadian design studio Jouin-Manku, whose work highlights the architecture while rendering the space thoroughly contemporary.
Interiors are pared-back with a respect for the existing features – the stone walls and vaulted ceilings are enhanced by the understated white linens and wood furniture.
Whilst here, explore the abbey, the final resting place of historical figures such as Richard the Lionheart and Eleanor of Aquitaine and check out Thibaut Ruggeri’s Michelin-starred Le Restaurant. Opening onto the cloister, it helpfully provides children’s dishes alongside the gourmet tasting menus.
Book itDouble rooms from £120 a night.
HOME HOTEL, FLORENCE
The lowdown Good-value rooms and a rooftop terrace just outside the tourist centre.
Best for Glimpsing a more local side of Florentine life.
On the edge of the city’s pedestrianised heart and overlooking the River Arno, Home Hotel Florence is a fine alternative to the larger, glitzier options in town. It’s a particularly good choice if you’re looking for a more local experience – be sure to hit up staff for off-the-beaten-track restaurant and bar recommendations, which they’re happy to share.
Bright white combines with gold in the bold interiors; the hotel’s symbol is a rose, and this blooming motif appears on walls, floors and even door handles.
Livingetc’s room recommendation? The large suite, which has two sets of French windows out to a terrace with views of the skyline.And, as for winding down at the end of a day’s sightseeing, it’s got be with an Aperol spritz on the panoramic rooftop terrace... Fantastico!
Book itDouble rooms from £95
CASA DO CONTO
The lowdown Quirky style and artistic flairtransform a 19th-century house.
Best for Foodies who love a boho gem.
With a name that translates as House of Tales, Casa do Conto is botha step back in time and wonderfully contemporary. In this renovated 19th-century building, there are six suites to choose from, each with a small kitchenette.White combines with concrete to lend the spaces an industrial edge, which is then funked up with a mix of vintage and modern furniture.
Most of the design drama is reserved for the ceilings – these are decorated with large graphic texts, telling the interesting story of the house.
Facilities are minimalistic but sculptural detailing makes even the smallest rooms special.
Casa do Conto is in an up-and-coming area of downtown Porto, just minutes from the concert hall, Casa da Musica by architect Rem Koolhaus – one of the city’s must-sees. Otherwise, it’s the gastro scene that’s worth skipping sleep for – Porto is a late-night place, full of hip bars and restaurants. Don’t leave without enjoying the local tipple, white port – at its best with just a splash of tonic and a sprig of mint.
Book itDouble rooms from £86, including breakfast
The lowdown A family-style pad in an excellent spot.
Best for A low-fi weekend of sunshine and Salvador Dalí.
You won’t be the first to fall in love with fishing town Cadaqués; withits postcard-perfect waterfront and white labyrinth of cobbled alleys, it’s stolen the heart of many, including Matisse, Picasso and Salvador Dalí (it’s even thought of as Dalí’s second home and there are several must-visit museums of his work in town). It’s just over two hours’ drive from Barcelona, yet has remained wonderfully unspoilt, thanks to tricky access – there’s only one, very long, very winding road in and out. Right in the heart of town, Hotel Tramuntana offers the perfect base.
With 11 small and modestly furnished rooms, it’s a simple place, but effortlessly charming. you could almost call it a B&B, due to highly attentive staff and a home-from-home atmosphere.
We’d describe the interior as rustic pretty, featuring fresh whites alongside soft blues and greys, and those design magpies among you will spot Gervasoni sofas and Hay dining chairs.
The buffet breakfast was a Livingetc highlight, as was the sunny terrace.
Book itDouble rooms from £80
The lowdown A luxury haven on one of the island’s chi chi-est beaches.
Best forScenesters looking to chill out and party hard in equal measure.
There’s no beating Mykonos Blu for location. It’s perched on the rocks at one end of Psarou Beach, otherwise known as the island’s A-list hangout, thanks to beach restaurant/club Nammos and its lively afternoon parties. Even the sun loungers here have waiting lists, but this needn’t worry Mykonos Blu’s guests; it has its own private stretch of beach adjacent to the action – aka, people-watching paradise.
For when you’re looking to chill back at the hotel, the views from the sun terrace and the two-level infinity pool could just be the best in Mykonos.
We also loved the minimal décor – white architecture, textiles, furniture and fittings, broken up with just the right amount of cobalt blue. Luxury touches abound, right down to the smorgasbord of mini desserts laid out in each room for arrival (and the complimentary bottle of wine to wash them down with).
It’s also worth noting that light sleepers needn’t worry about the nearby party action; excellent in-room soundproofing ensures you'll sleep undisturbed.
Book itBungalows from £550
Shining a spotlight on the now and the next in home design and decor, Livingetc is the UK's best selling high end and contemporary home design magazine. As a brand, Livingetc showcases the world's very best homes, breaks and makes the trends, and has access to leading international designers for insight and ideas. It was first published in 1998, and is currently edited by Pip Rich.
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