Europe is on almost everyone’s bucket list. Backpacking Europe’s the classic gap year, or summer trip, for students who are off on their first big adventure, dreaming of hostels and wild nights. The continent is equally popular with retirees who are off on leisurely boat trips along the canals, or supported cycle tours through wine country.
Europe is an incredibly diverse continent, from the extreme north of the Scandinavian countries, to the tropical south that dips close to Africa, to the countries still marked by the royal houses of the middle ages, and the stark contrast of the eastern block. Some of the most expensive countries in the world are found in Europe (Iceland) and some of the best values are as well (Hungary and Romania are two).
Getting around Europe can be an adventure of Planes, Trains and Automobiles like proportions. Finding accommodation is another kind of excitement. You can always fall back on the chain hotels found in every capital city, but for those of you who’d like to go local, or boutique, or just plain out-side-the-box, we’ve compiled the Ultimate Guide to Accommodations in Europe.
It should be noted that the most visited countries in Europe include:
And among the most inexpensive places to stay are:
- Istanbul, Turkey
- Krakow, Poland
- Prague, Czech Republic
High season is, in general, June-August, and over Christmas holidays.
Table of Contents
- Hotels $100+
- Hotels Under $100
- Boutique Hotels
- Vacation Rentals
- House Sitting
- Unusual Camping
- Unusual Accommodations
- Digital Nomads
Hotels $100+ a Night
Looking to splurge? Europe is the place to do it. Europeans set the bar for luxury. If money is no object, finding lodging won’t be either. Stay in castles, and enjoy the five star pampering of the best the continent has to offer.
Four Seasons: The best of the best, one of the most highly rated hotel chains in the world. If you’re looking for all-out luxury, this is it.
Ritz Carlton: Another top-rated hotel chain. Fantastic luxury in the heart of Europe’s most beautiful cities.
25 Hours Hotel Berlin: A beautiful hotel in Berlin, overlooking the zoo on one side and the cityscape on the other.
Fairmont: Luxury hotels, but a bit less pricey than the above. Comfort is guaranteed.
Park Hyatt: Classic luxury, familiar to all those who like to travel in style. Located in several destinations around Europe.
Room Mate: Found primarily in Spain, Room Mate is known for its futuristic hotels and unique rooms.
Radisson Blu: Hotels with a modern vibe, Radisson Blu is moderately priced and boasts 182 unique hotels in Europe.
Novotel: A comfortable stay in convenient locations around the continent. 290 hotels in Europe.
JW Marriott Luxury Hotels: All the comforts of home, in every major European city.
Hotels Under $100 a Night
Finding budget hotels in Europe is not hard if you know where to look. Your best bet is to do some research ahead of time. Depending on where you’re going, book your hotel at least two days in advance.
To save a buck, sacrifice proximity to city centers for a more modest hotel nearer the outskirts of town. City transit tends to be affordable in most European countries, so you’re better off taking the subway in than you are spending extra money on being two blocks closer to the Eiffel Tower.
Don’t forget to use air miles to get the best deals!
iescape: A personal favorite for finding European accommodation. Lists boutique hotels as well as your average hotel room.
Sherman’s Travel: A go-to site for more than just hotel deals. Book flights, car rentals, and more; as well as finding a great room.
Expedia: Prone to give you classier accommodation options than you might typically find for under $100, Expedia will not always give you the best deal, but you’re more likely to end up in a comfortable room.
Travelocity: One of the top hotel booking sites out there. Travelocity is great for its reviews. If a hotel is listed with them, it’s passed their inspection and you know you’re getting a clean, comfortable room.
Hotels: An offshoot of Expedia, Hotels.com is good for finding big hotel chains or local favourites for a low price.
Hotels Combined: One of the most popular booking sites for European hotels, with thousands of options and set up to be easy to navigate. Hotels Combined makes researching easy.
Ibis: Ibis hotels convey the feeling of luxury while not breaking the bank. By far, some of the nicest “cheap” hotels you can find in Europe.
EuroCheapo: Made specifically to help you find budget European hotels. Read reviews, find deals, and reserve a room in any of Europe’s most popular cities.
EuroBookings: Over 160,000 hotels in thousands of locations across Europe, catering to all price ranges.
Venere: Book hotels, apartments, and B&Bs across Europe. Unlike many other booking sites, Venere focuses primarily on Europe.
Agoda: A tried and true travel booking website used by thousands of travelers. Sure to get you a good deal on the lodging you’re looking for. You pay in advance on Agoda, accumulate points towards free stays, and if you end up with a terrible place, they’ll refund your money for unused nights.
Boutique hotels in Europe don’t have to be expensive, and staying in one could be one of the highlights of your trip. If you’re looking for a local, hip, place to stay, this is a good place to start.
iescape: Lists at least a few boutique hotels in each European country, offering the best deals first.
Mr & Mrs Smith: Catering to honeymooners in particular, this site locates the best boutique and luxury hotels in Europe, rating them for you, as well.
Great Small Hotels: With over 2150 European boutique hotels listed, you’re sure to find a place to stay here. However, it may be harder to sort the best rooms from the just “ok.”
Secretplaces: A magical, handpicked collection of the best hole-in-the-wall hotels around Europe. Your best bet for finding the hotel of your dreams.
Staying in one area for the majority of your vacation? You may want to consider renting a home instead of camping out in the cheapest hotel room you can find. Chances are, you’ll be able to find a vacation rental that perfectly suits your needs, and may even be cheaper, in the long run, than staying in a hotel.
Most European vacation rentals average from $50-150 a night, and come fully furnished with all the essentials. Save a great deal on food by cooking from the comfort of your own home-away-from-home.
Digital Nomads take note: Check with the owner ahead of time to ensure that wifi is included in the rental if you’ll be needing it; otherwise you might find yourself hunting down the nearest internet cafe.
VRBO: Find owners of vacation rentals around Europe, get connected, and set up a stay.
HomeAway: One of the best vacation rental websites out there. Search according to your price range, stay in your dream home for a week or two… or more!
AirBNB: Rent a house, or rent just one room in your host’s home. A great way to get to know locals and travel economically. For more on this, read this post about Airbnb alternatives.
9flats: Thousands of apartment rentals available in Rome alone. A fantastic local resource for finding European rentals for a fair price.
OwnerDirect: Apartments on the beaches of Greece or at the foot of Swiss ski slopes. All pro-checked and approved.
Wimdu: Another European based rental website, with a great deal of local expertise. Claims to be Europe’s “biggest portal for city apartments.”
If you have a beautiful home, you may be able to swap it with another family’s for an ultra-cheap vacation. Or, pay a membership fee to a housesitting website and stay without swapping. Be sure to make your housing arrangements well in advance of your trip.
Luxury Housesitting: For the best of the best. The houses listed here are beautiful. Plus, membership for homeowners is free.
Housesit Match: Very highly rated and used by thousands. An easy, doable way to housesit in Europe.
Sabbatical Homes: Homes for rental, exchange, or sitting. $45 listing fee.
HouseCarers : A wide range of listings in Europe to suit all needs. $50 fee for house sitters.
Trusted Housesitters: This site has extensive profiles of both home owners and sitters to help ensure a good match. We’ve used this one twice and both times have had fantastic experiences. This site caters specifically to pet owners and lovers; pet sitting is often part of the equation.
Camping & RV
Camping is one of my favourite ways to stay in Europe. Get in touch with local culture, meet new people, and discover off-the-beaten path destinations by staying where locals are staying on their holidays.
Unlike in North America, campgrounds in Europe are often located within walking distance of towns, or public transportation routes in major cities. Vienna has several really great campgrounds, as do Amsterdam, Bruges, Mainz, and Venice, among many others. Also, most campgrounds in Europe offer cabin accommodations, complete with sheets on the bed, so tents are not required.
The only downside to camping is that you’re at the mercy of the seasons and will likely end up traveling during the more touristed months.
Camping Europe: The official European camping guide. Everything you need to know about camping in Europe.
EuroCampings: Europe’s largest campsite search engine, with 9902 annually inspected campsites.
RV Camping Europe: An amateur’s guide to RVing Europe. Best campsites, RV rentals, tips and tricks, and destinations.
Cool Camping: The coolest camping guide out there for the UK and Europe. Read reviews, check out pictures, and book your stay in advance.
Wigwam Village: Sleep in a wigwam (or maybe a yurt) minutes away from the Northumberland coastline.
Camping Raft: Live like Tom Sawyer in a wooden shelter on a raft, exploring the river. Rafts available in Belgium, or the Netherlands.
Retro Airstream Trailer Park: Exactly what it sounds like. Dozens of retro Airstreams parked near the Pyrénées in France. Can it get any cooler?
Treehouse Stay: Sleep in a “cabin in the air” in France. The ultimate camping experience.
Sleep in a Star Box: In the Sparkling Loire Valley you’ll find a unique camping experience. The Boxes come with a transparent roof, a telescope, stellar chart, and astronomy-themed games.
Cloud House: Mediterranean hand-crafted yurts in Spain, with a view of the Seirra Bermeja mountain range. Yes please.
The weird, the fantastic, and the unbelievable. Here are some of the most interesting accommodation options in Europe.
Castle and Palace Hotels: Ever dreamed of sleeping like royalty in an actual castle? Here’s your chance.
Harlingen Crane Hotel: Stay the night in a crane, suspended above the docks. The only hotel of its kind in the world.
Les Hautes Roches: This hotel is carved into the wall of a cliff, making it an exceptionally unique European cave hotel.
Art Hotels: Europe and art go hand in hand. Staying in an art hotel is a bit like staying in your own personalized museum.
Hostels are, by far, the most popular way to stay while in Europe, especially among young people. If you’re willing to sacrifice your comfort and embrace a sense of adventure, hostels are the cheapest way to go. Just don’t expect to be pampered along the way! These are every backpacker’s go-to booking sites for European hostels.
It is worth noting that some hostels have age caps, on the upper and lower ends. Be sure to ask when you book.
HostelWorld: The biggest hostel site out there, with thousands of recorded and rated hostels for you to choose from.
Hostels: They don’t get extra points for creativity, but hey, it’s your basic hostel booking site. What more can you ask?
Savvy Backpacker: One of the best guides to hosteling Europe I’ve seen.
EuropeanHostels: This site specializes in Europe, unlike the others, meaning that it may have more in-depth information on a region than some of the bigger hostel sites out there.
HostelBookers: A personal favourite for easily finding and booking hostels anywhere in Europe.
Europe is pretty much as ideal as it gets for digital nomads. There will be internet readily available practically everywhere. Lodging is easy to find and book. If you’re looking to live in Europe for longer than a couple of weeks, look to stay away from the city centres in order to get more bang for your buck.
If living inexpensively is a factor in your decision making, Eastern Europe has a growing reputation for being welcoming and well equipped. Remember to factor in lifestyle, as well as connectivity into your choice.
As the most touristed continent in the world, Europe has a great deal to offer in terms of accommodations. From five-star luxury resorts to unique cave hotels, vacation rentals, or camping experiences, there’s something for every budget and traveler. Before traveling:
- Do your research
- Figure out how far in advance you’ll need to book your stay
- Choose the accommodation style that fits your needs
Images: Viktor Hanacek (picjumbo.com), Luke Price (flickr), Scott Shephard (flickr), Wolfgang Staudt (flickr), Gatanass (flickr), Sanctuare (flickr), Tim Hodson (flickr), Peet Sneekes (flickr), Bernd Thaller (flickr), Barnacles (flickr)