Experimenting with Boutique Hotels & Winter in Central Europe

Today’s post is going to be a bit different. It is going to be about a travel experiment I recently conducted in Central Europe.

Basically, I set out to prove the hypothesis that 1) visiting the Central European capitals of Budapest, Vienna, and Prague in the dead of winter would be cool and 2) Central Europe has some of the best boutique hotels on the continent in terms of design and value. The formula I used to prove this hypothesis was very simple and looked something a little like this:

 (A1+A2) + (B1+B2) + (C1+C2) = D

 A1=Budapest is cool in winter

A2=there is a great boutique hotel in Budapest that I highly recommend

B1=Vienna is cool in winter

B2=there is a great boutique hotel in Vienna that I highly recommend

C1=Prague is cool in winter

C2=there is a great boutique hotel in Prague that I highly recommend

D=the Central European capitals of Budapest, Vienna and Prague are great places to visit in winter and there you can indulge in some pretty awesome boutique hotels, even if you are on a budget.

 Have I lost you yet? Hope not.

Now before I get much further, I do have to express my gratitude to Wizz Air, king of low-cost airlines in Central Europe, Soho Hotel in Budapest, The Daniel Hotel in Vienna and Bohemian Hostels in Prague for working with me on this. I was incredibly lucky that all of them, my first and only choices for airline and accommodation, were so supportive and generous. In line with this, I must also say that if you ever see me posting stories about hotels or hostels, it means these places are pretty special and that I want to tell you about them – I really don’t have to.

Now on to my findings:

First up was Budapest. It’s here where I encountered the most “winter” on my entire trip. The day I arrived it snowed quite a bit. At first I thought it was annoying, but then realized it was actually a special experience which more than proved A1 to be true. How many travelers can say they have seen Budapest blanketed in snow? Probably not as many as can say they’ve seen it dry and sunny.

My hotel of choice while in Budapest was the very cool Soho Hotel. I checked out quite a few boutique hotels but was drawn to this one in the end for several reasons: it is in a great location, amenities are wonderful, and most importantly, it all came at a pretty good price. Their site offers last minute specials from 65 Euros per night, and sometimes even cheaper if booked through Expedia. You can read more about my time in Budapest and Soho Hotel here.

Final results: A1 and A2 were both proven to be correct.

Next was Vienna. I had been in Vienna before and wasn’t in a hurry to get back until I found out about The Daniel Hotel. Staying at The Daniel Hotel very much proved the part of my hypothesis (and B2) about Central Europe having some of the coolest design/boutique hotels; it also proved (independent from this experiment) that hotels and hostels are not merely just places to sleep. No, they can also be experiences. Spending time at The Daniel felt more like spending time with a cool new friend…who incidentally had a hammock in their room.

Rooms start at 92 Euros per night which is not cheap if you are on a backpacker’s budget, but it isn’t expensive either for such first-class amenities in the center of Vienna if you are able to spend more. Everyone deserves to treat themselves from time to time, right?

As for Vienna being a cool place to visit in winter (B1), this also proved to be true. It wasn’t flooded with tourists like I remember it was back when I was first visited in the spring of 2004. No snow fall occurred, but there was plenty of ice. Ice=beautiful.

Final results: B1 and B2 were both proven to be correct.

And lastly, there was Prague. Oh, Prague and its unbearable beautifulness! I knew that proving it is was a cool place to visit in winter (C1) was not going to be hard, but at the same time I had kind of hoped I’d have it a little more to myself. That didn’t happen. There were TONS of tourists, even in February, but I still loved it.

At this point things had really warmed up throughout the region so I didn’t get to see it covered in snow, but that was ok; rain/snow or shine, Prague will always be gorgeous.

I ended up proving C2 twice on this trip. It turns out Prague not only has one great boutique hotel, but actually a boutique empire that I highly recommend. Bohemian Hostels owns four properties in Prague, but I stayed at just two of them: Mosaic House Hotel and Miss Sophie’s. Both of these places have something for everyone and are not only boutique, but budget! You can have everything from a dorm bed to your own apartment, and believe me when I say you will be blown away by bang you get for your buck at both. You can read more about my stay at Mosaic House Hotel and Miss Sophie’s here.

(Mosaic House)

(Miss Sophie’s)

Final results: C1 and C2 were both proven to be correct.

 So the conclusion to my findings?

Let’s actually forget about the math and science…

Central Europe rocks in winter as does its boutique hotel scene. There were so many perks to traveling in the colder months: it’s generally less crowded, flights are cheaper, hotel and hostel rates are lower, places are cozier, and covered in snow, they might even be more beautiful.

I don’t stay at hotels or hostels very often as I am still very much into Couchsurfing, but my final thoughts are that if there is one good place to splurge on a place to stay in Europe, it is definitely in its Central and Eastern regions. Not only because it is cheaper, but because there’s also a lot going on in terms of new concepts and experiments in design — concepts and experiments that don’t necessarily break the bank making it entirely possible for travelers to enjoy some pretty sweet accommodation even if they are on a budget.

Have you ever conducted such an experiment? Traveled off-season? Stayed at an amazing boutique hotel?


  1. Michelle

    March 16, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    Interesting post. I love boutique hotels, and they usually offer great personal service and fantastic value. One thing about travelling in winter to keep in mind is that the daylight is more limited as the days are shorter. This means that the place you stay is more important because of the cold and the dark you may find your self spending more time at your hotel than you would when the days are longer and warmer.

  2. Larissa

    March 19, 2012 at 3:41 am

    Thanks, Michelle. Boutique hotels are the way to go! I’m so happy that this experiment helped me realize that there really are some good ones to be found if you just spend a little extra time researching. I always assumed they’d be way overpriced just for looking and being cuter.

    Also, great point about the shorter days. I definitely had to get an earlier start and plan visits to some sights a little better knowing the sun was going to set around 5 or 6; and in turn, had no problem “turning in” some nights around 8 or 9 🙂

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