Tuesday 12 December 2017

Self-catering secrets

Intouriste apartments Agadir
Intouriste apartments Agadir
No 46 Prague
The Merrion Mews Dublin
Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile tracks down his pick of pocket-friendly apartments from Prague to Rome.

Antuninska Old Town Apartments, Dubrovnik, from €15pp

After the siege of 1991, it looked as if Dubrovnik’s Old Town would be wiped off the map (in a 10-month onslaught, two-thirds of its buildings were damaged).

Tourists are swarming the place once again, however, and the walled city is being compared to Venice — a testament to the spirit of its people, not to mention their recovery effort.

These three-star apartments (two studios and a single-bed) are located inside the 19-foot town walls, right next to the Franciscan monastery.

It doesn’t come more authentic than that, and Banje Beach is just a 10-minute walk away.

Details: The Antuninska Old Town Apartments can be booked by emailing antuninska@ hotmail.com. They cost from €30 to €120 per day in the high season. They are also available on a seven-night package holiday with Concorde Travel (01-775 9300; concordetravel.ie) from €374pp.

Intouriste Apartments, Agadir, from €54pp

Morocco has come on in leaps and bounds as a sun-holiday destination, so much so that travellers sometimes forget the colour and diversity on offer in its cities.

This self-catering option in Founty, a residential and tourist area about 900m from the beach and 1.5km from the centre of Agadir, provides the best of both worlds.

Sunway describes the three-star Intouriste Apartments as a bright, modern aparthotel, and they come kitted out with a pool, spa, bar and restaurant. You can choose full or half-board, before exploring the wide boulevards and bending bay of Agadir itself.

Details: Sunway (01-288 6828; sunway.ie) has seven nights at the Intouriste Apartments, including flights, from €377pp based on a June 4 departure.

Malone Lodge, Belfast,from €33pp

Visitors to Belfast may be familiar with Malone Lodge Hotel, the Victorian townhouse-style hideaway in the university quarter. But what about its selection of one, two and three-bed apartments?

Hotel apartments marry the freedom and independence of selfcatering with the services, reception, food, drink and leisure facilities of a hotel.

The apartments here designed are in a tidy, Meadows & Byrne-ish style, and the Eglintine Avenue location is close to the boutiques of Lisburn Road and just a couple of minutes from the city centre.

Details: Malone Lodge (0044 289 038 8060; malonelodgehotel belfast.com) charges £75/€87pn per room. Stay three nights and the price is £170/€197 per room.

Colom 2 Apartments, Barcelona, from €32.50pp

Check out Colom 2, a studio apartment in a 19th-century building just 50 metres off Las Ramblas. Located in the narrowalleyed Barri Gòtic, it’s close to Le Seu Cathedral and the zesty Boqueria market, and just a fiveminute stroll from Plaça Catalunya.

As a studio, the lounge doubles up as a bedroom with a queen-size bed, and there’s a bathroom, kitchen, Wi-Fi and safe, too. The 45sqm pad could work nicely for a couple with a baby — a travel cot and highchair are provided, though access is via a lift from the first floor.

Details: Habitat Apartments (0044 871 218 2568; habitatapartments. com) has the Colom 2 Studio from €65 per night, with discounts of 5-20pc for bookings within 20 days of travel.

San Polo, Venice, from €38pp

Visiting Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go, as Truman Capote so memorably put it. And where better to plonk yourself for the indulgence than an old-world apartment in Santa Croce?

Personally furnished with antique pieces by the owner, the first-floor court apartment has a rose-pink plasterwork façade and overlooks a canal — the kind of atmosphere you’d imagine Graham Greene or one of the old grand tourists would approve of.

The leafy, 100sqm apartment has recently been refurbished, and is a short walk from the Rialto markets.

Details: Holiday Rentals (0044 140 481 4109; holiday-rentals. co.uk) has this apartment at £900 (€1,042) per week, year-round. It sleeps four.

Piazza Navona, Rome, from €29pp

Nobody needs an excuse to travel to Rome. With apartments offering savings of 15-30pc on hotel prices, however, you’ve got one tailormade. Rome Sweet Home offers some 500 self-catering apartments in the Eternal City, with villas, luxury apartments and family options all on the cards.

Take the Affreschi Luxury Apartment off Piazza Navona, or an 18th-century terraced flat in Campo dei Fiori, for example. Both sleep six.

Details: Rome Sweet Home (0039 066 992 4091; romesweethome. com) has the Piazza Navona apartment from €220pn, and the Campo dei Fiori one from €175pn.

196 Bishopsgate, London, from €81pp

London is a short hop away, but hotel bills can stay a long time on your credit card. By booking selfcatering, however, you could make big savings.

196 Bishopsgate offers a range of fully serviced apartments (from studios to penthouses) with no minimum stay. Each of the 48 residences is furnished with fully equipped kitchens, en suites, dining areas and high-speed broadband connection.

The complex is five minutes by tube to the West End, and a short hop from Hoxton and Shoreditch.

Details: 196 Bishopsgate (0044 207 621 8788; 196bishopsgate. com) has studio apartments from £116/€135 per night, with twobed apartments from £243/€282. VAT is extra at 20pc.

Santos River Apartments, Lisbon, from €37pp

What are the benefits of an apartment on a city break? You get an added layer of privacy, you can have friends up for dinner and, if you’re in Lisbon, you can grab pastéis de nata from the local patisserie for breakfast.

The Santos River Apartments are set in an old tiled building along the Tagus River, just 600m from the Bairro Alto, meaning you can lap up the views and party in one of the best old towns in Europe without ever needing a taxi.

There’s a choice of studio, one-bed and two-bed serviced apartments, and all come with fitted kitchens and complimentary toiletries.

Details: The Apartment Service (0044 208 944 1444; apartment service.com) has studio apartments from €70 per night, rising to €125 for a superior two-bed, excluding tax at 6pc.

The Merrion Mews, Dublin, from €33pp

You don’t have to take an airplane to enjoy a city break. Nor do you have to kill your credit card. Dublin is stuffed with free parks, museums and galleries, and the next ‘Dine in Dublin’ restaurant week is scheduled for March, so why not give the capital a try?

The Merrion Mews is an Irish Landmark Trust property squirreled away above a brace of old stables on Fitzwilliam Lane. Dating from the late 1700s, it comes with a cute, country-style kitchen, a daintily wallpapered living room, and two of the three double bedrooms overlook one of the last remaining gardens on Merrion Square.

Details: The Irish Landmark Trust (01-670 4733; irishland mark.com) has the Merrion Mews on a special offer of €200 per night for bookings of three nights or more. Sleeps six.

Bijou de Bellefond, Paris, from €31pp

This two-bed apartment is stitched into the Grands Boulevards area of Paris, where luminaries such as Alexandre Dumas and Henri Toulouse Lautrec once lived. Overlooking two pleasant courtyards, the third-floor hideaway is entered via a hallway boasting a bright-red chandelier and Louis XV-style half-moon table.

Other features include a chaise longue, walk-in wardrobe, kitchen and dining area and a storage room, but there are plenty of mod-cons too, including a home cinema system. It could be the perfect place to live like a Parisian.

Details: Holiday Homes Direct (01-284 6653; holidayhomes direct.ie) has Bijou de Bellefond from €1,300 per week. Sleeps up to six.

Richmond, San Francisco, from €32pp

San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities on earth for hotels, but you can save hundreds of dollars by renting someone’s home. Within walking distance of China Beach, the Presidio and Golden Gate Park, this apartment is owned by an Irish ex-pat.

There’s one big bedroom, a double sofa bed, a dining room, a full kitchen, cable TV and a gas-lit fire. We love the excellent seafood, Chinese, Mexican and Thai food recommendations — right outside the door.

Details: Holiday Homes Direct (01-284 6653; holidayhomes direct.ie) has this one-bed apartment in San Francisco from €895 per week. Sleeps four.

Apartamentos Sandoval, Madrid, from €50pp

Fancy committing to more than a fleeting weekend in Madrid? Set a short stroll from the San Bernardo subway station, Apartamentos Sandoval are teed up nicely for city breaks of a week or longer.

Fourteen one-bed apartments are housed in a newly refurbished character building here, all furnished with wooden floors, luxury kitchens, internet access and large double beds.

Calle Sandoval is 1.2km from Plaza de Colón and 800m from Fuencarral Market, but you needn’t go that far for the basics. There’s a Starbucks just around the corner.

Details: The Apartment Service (0044 208 944 1444; apartment service.com) has Apartamentos Sandoval from €100 per night, with a minimum stay of seven days. Sleeps two.

Four Views Monumental Lido, Funchal, from €89pp

Madeira isn’t exactly famous for its city breaks. But isn’t that a reason to go in itself? You may be surprised at just how vibrant and mosey-worthy its capital, Funchal, can be.

Though small, and easy to walk around, the city is still able to conjure up a cosmopolitan feel, with buzzy bars and restaurants open well into the wee hours on weekends.

The fresh flower and food markets add a splash of colour, and the greenery and Atlantic harbour location give it all a dramatic feel. The apartment here is a studio at the Four Views Monumental Lido hotel, a four-star offering available as a package.

Details: Sunworld (0818 200 400; sunworld.ie) has seven nights at the Four Views Monumental Lido studio, including flights and transfers, from €629pp. Departs February 20.

Tuscana, Orlando, from €22pp

If you’re going to Orlando, you’re going to see theme parks. Simple as that. And this apartment, at the gate of the ChampionsGate Golf Club, is a 10-minute drive from Walt Disney World — the theme park to end them all.

The apartment is bright and spacious, with a three-bed option looking like a good fit for families (there’s an en suite bedroom, a twin and a double). Throw in satellite TV, full kitchen facilities, a shared pool and nearby walking and cycling trails, and you’re made.

The closest bar and restaurant are 400m away, and it’s just 30 minutes from Orlando Airport.

Details: James Villas (1890 943909; jamesvillas.ie) has these villas in Orlando from €911 per week in low season, €918 in June and September, and €924 in July and August. Sleeps six.

Colour Apartments, Rome, from €60pp

The Spanish Steps are one of Rome’s most romantic locations. So, instead of traipsing from hotels all over the city to see them, why not stay in your own pad nearby?

This colour-themed complex is in a late 19th-century ‘Umbertine’ building, featuring one and two-bed apartments sleeping up to five people. It’s just a short walk from the Spanish Steps/Villa Borghese area, and apartments come with fully equipped kitchens. Blue, Green and Orange apartments sleep two, Aqua, Brown and Red sleep four, and the 100sqm Grey apartment sleeps five on the sixth floor.

Details: Habitat (0044 871 218 2568; habitatapartments.com) has one-bed apartments from €120pn and two-beds from €240, based on two guests. Extra guests cost €30 per night.

Jerez, Andalucía, from €35pp

It’s a property so hot you won’t even find it on the agency website. This little apartment, located on the first floor of a 19th-century palace in Jerez, was tipped off to us by upscale operator Elysian Holidays. The style is contemporary, with a master bedroom on a mezzanine level overlooking the open-plan living space.

It’s a stone’s throw from the cathedral in a city famous for its flamenco, sherry and white Cartujano horses, and the local climate boasts an average of 290 days of sun per year. That means lively streets and squares yearround.

Details: Elysian Holidays (0044 158 076 6599; elysianholidays. co.uk) has this apartment for rent from €890 per week for two people. For four, the price rises to €980.

Times Square Apartments, New York, from €79pp

The days of yummy mummies invading New York on shopping trips may be over, but there’s still no city break like the Big Apple. Irish company New York Apartments has this two-bed, bang in the middle of the Times Square theatre district, in a complex with its own 24-hour doorman.

The 865sq ft apartment comes with two king-size beds, an open-plan kitchen and a dining and entertainment area. It’s designed for four, but you can request a roll-out bed to accommodate a fifth guest at $49 a night. Why waste your money on a shoebox?

Details: New York Apartments (01-685 4312; newyorkapart ments.ie) has this Times Square offering from €357 per night in low season. There’s a minimum stay of three nights.

No.46, Prague, from €55pp

From Charles Bridge and Prague Castle to lesser-known spots such as the Kafka Museum and Jewish quarter, Prague is a city that merits more than a two-night stay. No.46 could be just the base for your explorations.

Owned and restored by an Irish couple, the classy two-bed is located in Vinohrady and kitted out with wooden floors and quirky yet tasteful furniture (check out the giant bellows that works as a coffee table). Extra touches such as a Nespresso machine and a little black book stuffed with bar and babysitter recommendations echo the elegance of the Czech capital itself.

Details: No.46 (086 263 1485; no46prague.com) costs €160 per night for two people, but you can add two further guests at €30 each. There is a 15pc discount for stays before April 1.

Grand Plaza Apartments, London, from €53pp

London is calling with this bank of serviced apartments on Princes Square. Housed in an old Victorian building close to Hyde Park, Grand Plaza is an aparthotel — a hybrid creature combining self-catering apartments with the 24-hour service of a four-star hotel, plus a nifty conservatory breakfast space. It’s a good base for Notting Hill, Kensington Palace and the West End, and just a five-minute walk from the Tube (Bayswater).

We reckon the best value is in the one-bed apartments, where a family of four could be accommodated using a sofa-bed in the living area.

Details: City Hotels (01-685 4312; cityhotels.ie) has a one-bed apartment at the Grand Plaza from €212 per night based on a booking for the end of February. Sleeps four.

Note: All headline prices are per person, per night. Prices correct at time of going to press, subject to availability, and do not include flights, except where stated otherwise.

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