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Chic on the cheap: budget boutique hotels

Chic on the cheap: budget boutique hotels

Dear Skyscanner,

I am a woman of high standards and impeccable style but without a bank balance to support extravagant spending. I love chic and boutique hotels, but where can I go for a long weekend of luxury, without the feeling of bankruptcy?

Fiona, Devon

Dear Fiona,

Fear not, you can get a stylish hotel for your long weekend without breaking the budget – most of the hotels I’ve recommended here are under £100 a night.

You’ll get the best rates by booking off-peak, which can mean different timings at different hotels (although Sunday night tends to be cheaper everywhere). At hotels popular with business travellers, the best deals are at the weekend and vice versa at hotels that are popular with holidaymakers.

Check on the hotel website and comparison sites to see when rates are best, or better still call up the hotel direct armed with the best deal you could find online and challenge them to beat it. Also ask if you can get a third night discounted or try for a meal or airport transfer to be included, you’ll be amazed how they’re willing to negotiate.

Paris

So – back to those hotels. I’ll start with a quirky little property in Paris on the edge of the Marais. It’s called Hotel du 7e Art (or 7th Art Hotel) and has just 23 bedrooms, all with a vintage cinema theme. It’s not what you’d call sleek or contemporary but the rooms are clean, comfortable and characterful. The bar takes things one step further with colourful film posters and memorabilia, and there’s a gym in the basement. It’s in a great position on the rue Saint Paul, walking distance from the Place des Vosges and Place de la Bastille and rooms cost from £90 a night for a double.

Also try Mama Shelter in the Parisian district of Saint-Blaise. It’s a good choice for third/fourth time visitors to the city who want to stay somewhere a little off the beaten track – the hotel is quite a way from the Metro and is in the 20th arrondissement, but has more ‘local’ flavour than the centre of the city.

Modernists will love the Philippe Starck-designed hotel – the look is contemporary, bordering on “industrial chic” with polished concrete, striking art and minimalist furniture. The concrete is possibly a hangover from the building’s former life as a multi-storey car park, which could also explain the graffiti-look carpet.

It’s comfortable though, with free wireless internet access, Kiehl’s toiletries and a popular bar and restaurant, which does a good brunch if you fancy a slow and indulgent start to your day. Doubles start from £90 in the basic level of room, La Mama, and the hotel website has some excellent recommendations for things to see and do while you’re there under its “Location” section, including suggestions of unusual places to go for a drink or a meal.

Avignon

If you want to get out of the city and go somewhere a little more pastoral, there’s a pretty little hotel in southern France that comes highly recommended by travel writers and Francophiles. Hotel de l’Atelier is in Villeneuve, just outside Avignon. It is a former silk workshop, built in the 16th century and refurbished as a 22-bedroom hotel.

It has an attractive stone courtyard that sometimes hosts art exhibitions of paintings or sculpture, among the wrought iron table and chairs. If you don’t want to relax al fresco, the living room, with fireplace and armchairs, is a great place to curl up with a book. Rooms are decked in a soft Provencal style with stone walls, exposed beams, antique furniture and large throw-open windows. Rooms cost from a bargain £50 per night and nearby there are markets to explore, plus churches, villages and ruins.

Chianti

Italy has charming hotels galore like Hotel de l’Atelier. One is La Rignana in Chianti, known as an agrotourismo property which is a rural property, often on a working farm. In this case the farm produces wine and oil, and the two guesthouses are among olive groves, woodland and vineyards. There are seven double rooms in one guesthouse and eight in the other – they can be rented on a B&B basis or in their entirety. There’s a swimming pool and a restaurant serving traditional Tuscan food. Rooms cost from £80 a night B&B.

Marrakesh

If you want to venture out of Europe, Morocco is a good option because the flight time is still under four hours. Marrakesh is the place to start, and more specifically a riad, one of many of the refurbished traditional townhouses in the Medina, the historic centre within the city walls.

Dar One is a modern and simply decorated boutique property with just six bedrooms. Design lovers will appreciate the smooth lines of the sleek furniture and elegant fabrics, while it’s still Moroccan to the core, with a central courtyard, day beds for lounging and hammam or baths.

Rooms cost from £80 a night including breakfast (on the roof terrace if you care to dine al fresco). The website has pictures of every room so you can choose the one you like before booking. Petit Prince is the least expensive because it is a little smaller.

New York

If you’ve got your sights on the Big Apple, be it for shopping, a show, culture or sightseeing, my favourite budget chic hotel is The Jane, a quirky 200-room hotel where rooms looks like ship cabins or train couchettes. Some bedrooms have shared bathrooms – so are consequently cheap (for NYC), and all rooms are clean, comfortable and have internet access. Cafe Gitane on site does a wonderful breakfast and you’re on the edge of the Meatpacking district, one of the coolest areas in town.

If that doesn’t float your boat, I have also heard great things about Thompson Lower East Side, from the contemporary, budget Thompson Hotels chain – it’s their fifth property in the city. The area is great fun – lots of independent boutiques, bars and restaurants, and a short cab ride or ten-minute walk from the main drag of Broadway.

The 141-room hotel may not sound boutique, but like The Jane, it feels more characterful than a chain property. It has a buzzing bar and restaurant, Above Allen, with stunning rooftop views, a Chinese restaurant called Shang, and best of all, an outdoor pool. The style is boardroom-meets-industrial-chic, with lots of leather, dark wood, metal and concrete. Rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows, toiletries by C.O. Bigelow (a fashionable NY brand), flat-screen televisions and iPod docks. It’s more expensive than The Jane, but still good value for the Big Apple, with rooms from £230 a night.

Answer by Ginny Light – TimesOnline travel editor

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