10 best: Chic European city stays
Boutique experts Mr & Mrs Smith pick their favourite European hotels.
The House Hotel Galatasaray
A historic mansion with minaret views, House Hotel Galatasaray has been respectfully revitalised.
Plenty of original features have been preserved, such as the elegantly patterned floors and original marble staircases, and have been masterfully mixed in with the more modern touches.
Book at suite with a view and gaze out over the city sprawl to the Galata Tower and the Sea of Marmara beyond.
One of the best restaurants in Cukurcuma's Old Town district, Ceyazir, is conveniently located right behind the hotel.
Wander the winding streets nearby and you'll find a range of lively bars and popular restaurants.
Details: Doubles from €234.
Hotel Thoumieux Paris, France
There's almost no surface left unpatterned at the striking Hotel Thoumieux: this tiny but ornate hotel in the chic 7th arrondissement packs quite the visual punch.
Interior-design star India Mahdavi has lavished plenty of print and colour on the walls, floors and furnishings of the 10 guest rooms, and there are splashes of leopard spot and zebra print in the two restaurants; it's all just mismatched enough to be perfectly harmonious.
The same goes for the food: in Michelin-starred Le Restaurant de Jean- Francois Piege, the menu's a DIY adventure wherein diners design their dishes based on the chef's daily list of fresh ingredients.
Details: Doubles from €200.
Grand Central Hotel
Hide out above Barcelona's bustle at this cool bolthole on the edge of the hip El Born district.
Its lantern-lit rooftop pool terrace is one of the most superb spots in the Catalan capital for an al fresco cocktail.
The imposing 1920s facade is in keeping with the city's reputation for fine architecture, but the interiors are tastefully modern and thoroughly well-designed -- lights, windows and entertainment systems can all be controlled from the comfort of your bed.
When you do manage to drag yourself from your room, don't miss the modern Catalan cuisine cooked up by award-winning chef Ramon Freixa in the secluded Avalon restaurant downstairs.
Details: Doubles from €156.
If you've always craved the spotlight, this is the hotel is for you.
As opulent as the most dramatic of stages and surrounded by Porto's wealth of playhouses, Hotel Teatro is all dark colours, sumptuous textiles and audience-covered walls (you'll find the unique wallpaper in the sleek Palco restaurant).
There are even costume racks by the lifts.
So grab your phrasebook and catch a play in Portuguese. Once the curtain's lowered, head to the bars lining the Galerias de Paris; the cocktails at Twin's Baixa are scene-stealers.
Details: Doubles from €104.
The Levante Parliament
Its exterior belies its origins as a 1908 boarding house, but inside, The Levante Parliament hotel is the streamlined chrome-and-glass model of modernity.
High ceilings make every room feel spacious, and the inner courtyard feels like a secret space tucked away from the Viennese whirl on the streets beyond.
Thanks to its very central location right by -- what else? -- the Austrian Parliament, Levante Parliament puts you just minutes away from both palaces and pastries.
Visit Vienna's famous Café Central, about 15 minutes away on foot, for what are arguably the city's must-eat cakes.
Details: Doubles from €155.
The nine boho boudoirs in this historic 19th-century townhouse make an ideal base for exploring Pest's palace quarter. It's a hotel, members' club, cultural salon and record-label HQ all in one.
When you first arrive in the elegant square and press the discreet buzzer, you'd be forgiven for thinking it was someone's house, but wander up the grand staircase and you'll be wowed by the property.
There are antique doors turned into headboards and beds incorporating the former attic rafters, and the walls expose old paint and wallpapers pasted up by long-gone former residents.
In the guest rooms themselves, the design is led by the modern art collections exhibited in each one; each artist has created a unique room.
Details: Doubles from €90.
A fashionable family affair in Florence, Riva Lofts hotel was designed by architect Claudio Nardi and managed by his daughter Alice.
The father-daughter team have filled their chic B&B with collection of art, antiques and a well-stocked library.
The boutique escape is neatly hidden from Florence's more tourist-ridden areas, a fact you'll appreciate when lounging by the serene white sandstone pool.
Yet all the frescoes of Florence are in reach, thanks to Riva Lofts' 1950s bike collection. On foot, it's a 20-minute stroll to the Ponte Vecchio.
Details: Doubles from €210
Visit New England by way of Stockholm at the harbourside Hotel J, tucked away on a serene shore.
Guest rooms are full of yacht-inspired smooth lines and seaworthy craftsmanship, and the casually nautical lounge and bar boast plenty of the hotel's original features from 1889, such as historic tiled stoves and painted ceilings.
The Mid-Atlantic ambience even extends to a menu of American favourites -- soft- shell crab, red snapper saltimbocca and liquorice whoopie pie -- at the Club House restaurant.
Details: Doubles from SEK 2045 (€242), including breakfast.
Almost everyone agrees that travel broadens the mind, but at College Hotel you get to do the travelling while the staff do the learning -- it's run by hospitality students, so guests benefit from their enthusiasm and the students themselves serve under the expert guidance of experienced pros.
There's nothing amateur about the design of this slick Amsterdam bolthole, though.
A former school, there are high-ceilinged guest rooms, an elegant bar and a restaurant packed with locals, but the fact that it's a training ground for its fresh-faced staff keeps the prices low.
The hotel's a block away from the confluence of five canals, too, so hop on a boat and see the city from the water.
Details: Doubles from €195.
Bold, very British and bursting with personality, The Zetter hotel has all the cutting-edge design, clever details and first-class cuisine you'd expect from a cool East End establishment.
It's a temple to technology, too: there's a 4,000-mp3 music library accessible through your TV in case you forget your iPod.
Book a rooftop studio to make the most of the location: the iconic dome of St Paul's Cathedral dominates the capital skyline views.
Gastronomic delights are steps away -- Hix Oyster & Chop House is five minutes' walk to the south, round the corner from the ever-changing menu at Vinoteca.
Details: Doubles from £156 (€200).
To book any of these properties, visit mrandmrssmith.com or call 1890 812 925