Most of life’s guilty pleasures eventually lose their lustre, but one decadent delight that never fades is spending a long weekend with a significant other in one of Europe’s grand hotels. For a few days you’re living a different life, a more glamorous existence, like characters in a Continental film noir.
You’re bound to have your own favourites, places you love to revisit, but if you’re looking for somewhere new to stay, here’s my top ten. They’re not the most opulent hotels, or even the most expensive. What sets them apart is their understated elegance. Naturally they’re not cheap, but if your travel dates are flexible you can often find a bargain. And anyway, wouldn’t you rather spend a weekend in one of these places than a week in a boring chain hotel?
Brenners, Baden-Baden, Germany
Founded in 1872, Brenners is the most famous hotel in Germany, but when you check in you’d never know. There’s nothing brash about it. Staying here feels like being a private guest in a stately home rather than a paying guest in a grand hotel. The house style is deliciously discreet and the location is divine, looking out across leafy parkland towards the wooded hills of the Black Forest. One of Europe’s smartest spa towns, Baden-Baden is full of fun things to do. The gorgeous Caracalla Baths, the palatial Kurhaus (with its beautiful casino) and the futuristic Frieder Burda Museum (one of Germany’s leading modern art galleries) are all just a short stroll away.
Cour des Loges, Lyon, France
From the street it doesn’t look like much, but once you step inside the Cour des Loges you’re in another world. A spectacular Renaissance building, built around a covered courtyard, it’s like a scene from The Three Musketeers. The bedrooms are an alluring mélange of ancient and modern but the main attraction is its Michelin starred restaurant, Les Loges (if you fancy something less formal, the Café Epicerie next door is ideal for a light lunch).