June 24, 2024


Travel Finishes First

Europe’s Most Popular Hotels, According to Experts

With Europe trips on the horizon this summer (finally!), we’re dreaming of the best places to stay—hotels that reflect the destination, like a cliffside former home where breakfast is served overlooking the Amalfi Coast, a Scottish retreat that pairs golf with personalized whisky tastings at the hotel bar, and panoramic suites that overlook the Tuileries Garden in Paris.

But it’s really all about the people, says Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg, co-owner of Valerie Wilson Travel, and a member of AFAR’s Travel Advisory Council. “All of the most popular hotels we book have beautiful accommodations, delicious cuisine, and memorable locations,” she says. “But more importantly, they have exceptional general managers and teams, epitomizing the top 1 percent of hoteliers. A property is only as good as the people leading it, with a genuine desire to serve, care for, and connect with the guests.”

I asked several travel experts and luxury advisors (who can get you perks like upgrades, free breakfast, spa credits, and more) what their favorite and most-booked hotels in Europe are, both prepandemic and as travel starts to ramp up again.

Here’s a list to dream on and use as a guide when planning trips to Europe. 


Portrait Roma
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“The Lungarno Collection is owned by the Ferragamo family—the hotels have been some of my and my clients’ favorites for nearly 20 years. Each one is different but the top is Portrait Roma, located above the flagship Ferragamo store in Rome. There are just 14 luxury suites—some with terraces—and an amazing rooftop with views of the city. It’s like a private club—there is no signage or flags at the entrance, just a plaque and a doorbell. You never want to take the elevator as the hallways and staircases are filled with the Ferragamo family’s nostalgic personal items, like notes and pictures. My friend Gianluca [Vallerotonda] is the general manager and this property and entire brand is beyond special. It’s like staying in Salvatore Ferragamo’s home.” —Will Kiburz, Coronet Travel 

Hotel Eden
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Hotel Eden in Rome feels like a private home in the center of the Eternal City. It has breathtaking views from the rooftop restaurant and bar, and the general manager, Luca Virgilio, and his team are phenomenal.” —Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg, Valerie Wilson Travel 

Hotel de la Ville 
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Hotel de la Ville in Rome, Sir Rocco Forte’s 18th-century palazzo, has the best bones of any hotel in Rome. The refurbishment is so beautifully done with incredible attention to detail, especially the sumptuous fabrics. The outdoor terraces and balconies have so much extended space, with a sea of candy-striped umbrellas. It has an extraordinary location as it sits on top of the Spanish Steps—an easy walk to see all the sights of Rome. I love their restaurants and the rooftop terrace for cocktails. The service was top-notch—it is a hotel I will return to, and recommend, often.” —Anne Scully, Embark Beyond


Rosa Alpina
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Rosa Alpina, now an Aman partner hotel, is a family property in San Cassiano in Alta Badia, a region of the Italian Dolomites. It is a perfect merger of Old-World warmth and welcome, outdoor adventures, and modern cosseting, which is why I—and so many of our members—return every year.” —Melissa Biggs Bradley, Indagare Travel


Grand Hotel Tremezzo
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“Family-owned and operated luxury hotels are harder to find–this is just one reason why our clients are so in love with Grand Hotel Tremezzo and their warm, welcoming team. The property continues to set the standard on Lake Como, and they never stop investing and innovating. We love their beautiful pools and brand new beach. This is the next generation of the Italian grand hotel.” —Jonathan Epstein, Celebrated Experiences


At Palazzo Avino, a dip in the pool comes with one of the best Amalfi Coast views

Palazzo Avino
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“Clients return again and again to one of my favorite properties, Palazzo Avino. Ravello is a hilltop village without the crowds of Positano or Amalfi, and the views overlooking the Amalfi Coast are epic. And the property has multiple terraces to enjoy the views from.” —Will Kiburz, Coronet Travel 

Le Sirenuse
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“For anyone who loves luxury travel, Le Sirenuse in Positano is most probably on their bucket list, if they haven’t stayed. It feels as if you are vacationing in a relative’s holiday home, which is no surprise given it has been owned and run by the Sersale family since they opened their former summer home as a hotel in 1951.” —Tania Swasbrook, Travelworld International Group


COMO Castello del Nero
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“To break through in a region with so many excellent hotels, you must be doing something right! I have been so impressed by the massive investment into COMO Castello del Nero, a beautiful Tuscan resort, since it was purchased by COMO in 2019. The castle dates to the 12th century, yet the updates make the hotel fresher and brighter, while feeling 100 percent Tuscan. The new spa is one of the finest in Europe, and just like the vibrant dining and bar scene, the wellness rituals incorporate an authentic sense of place by using local products. After a long hiatus, the team is ready to share their pent-up Tuscan hospitality.” —Jonathan Epstein, Celebrated Experiences 

The Place Firenze
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The Place Firenze is the chicest home away from home you’ll find, located in the heart of Florence on the Piazza Santa Maria Novella. This jewel box of a hotel is filled with local treasures from all over the region. Sip your espresso from the gorgeous Ginori ceramics while cozying up at the terrace wrapped up in cashmere sourced from a producer in the Tuscan region. But it must be said that the best part of the Place is your host, general manager Claudio Meli, because no one knows Florence better than Claudio!” —Erina Pindar, SmartFlyer 


Deplar Farm is owned by adventure travel company Eleven Experience.

Deplar Farm by Eleven Experiences
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“Thirteen-room Deplar Farm by Eleven Experience is tucked into the Narnia-like wilderness of northern Iceland on the Troll Peninsula and has some of the world’s best guides for outdoor adventuring.” —Melissa Biggs Bradley, Indagare Travel  


The Dolder Grand in Zurich
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“The Dolder Grand in Zurich is an incredibly romantic hotel. I remember being in the hot tub overlooking a beautiful mountain as it was snowing. The juxtaposition of the old, classic hotel with the new, more modern wings gives clients the best of both worlds. It has been said ‘the lady has a new scarf’ in describing the refurbishment. I think it has one of the most incredible spas in Europe for both wellness and indulgence with their incredible spa suites. The dining options, from fine dining to a weekend brunch, give guests great choice.” —Anne Scully, Embark Beyond 


Ashford Castle
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“Fairy tales do come true at Ashford Castle in Ireland. While I love the activities, unforgettable design, and iconic setting on Lough Corrib beside the charming village of Cong, it is the people who steal the show at Ashford Castle. Falconry, boat trips, and horseback riding may get all the love on Instagram, but each team member is singularly focused on making dreams come true.” —Jonathan Epstein, Celebrated Experiences 


Finca Cortesin
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Finca Cortesin in the heart of Andalucia is another favorite with its spacious suites, excellent golf, and fine cuisine. I enjoy dining under the stars, and Rene and Javier are the most gracious hosts.” —Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg, Valerie Wilson Travel   [Read more in Finca Cortesin in Spain Is the Perfect Post-Lockdown Hotel.]


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Gleneagles is a majestic hotel and there is something for everyone to do there. They are known for their great golf courses but also have the nine-hole Wee Course where you can enjoy an easier round of golf and still say you played at Gleneagles. Among the other highlights: incredibly designed rooms and suites to satisfy the most discerning guests; great food and wine options, like whisky tasting and a wine cellar; horse and carriage stables; an over-the-top spa; fly fishing or a four-wheel drive adventure. You can also visit Stirling Castle [nearby].” —Anne Scully, Embark Beyond. Jonathan Epstein of Celebrated Experiences says Gleneagles boasts the longest average length of stay of any of their hotels in the U.K. 

The Balmoral, Edinburgh
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“Visit Edinburgh to start or end your trip to Scotland and stay at the Balmoral, another outstanding property. You must stay in the Harry Potter Suite, where the author wrote one of her famous novels. Enjoy the best of Scotland with these two properties—they also happen to have two of the best general managers in the luxury market, Conor O’Leary at Gleneagles and Richard Cooke at the Balmoral.” —Anne Scully, Embark Beyond


Have dinner overlooking the Acropolis at Hotel Grande Bretagne.

Hotel Grande Bretagne
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“With every trip to Greece, we make sure to include at least two nights in Athens at the best hotel in the city, Hotel Grande Bretagne, due to its location in the city center, service, and prestige. It’s a true landmark and a constant hit with all of our luxury clients.” —Tania Swasbrook, Travelworld International Group

Canaves Oia
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Canaves Oia on Santorini is a collection of family-owned properties. It started with just one property in the town of Oia but in the last years they’ve added special properties sprinkled around the island, like Canaves Oia Sunday Suites, Canaves Oia Epitome, and several private villas. With the addition of Amanzoe to the mainland [2.5 hours from Athens], Greece has luxury options that take tourism to a whole new level.” —Will Kiburz, Coronet Travel 


Aman Sveti Stefan
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“Montenegro has all the charm and history of its neighbor Croatia but without the crowds. Aman Sveti Stefan, like all Aman properties, always takes things to the highest possible level when it comes to rooms, service, public spaces, and dining.” —Will Kiburz, Coronet Travel 



Le Meurice
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Le Meurice in Paris is one of the original Parisian palace properties overlooking the Tuileries Gardens. The people there are truly incredible, starting with Franka Holtmann, the general manager, and her dedicated team. I always feel very at home, pampered, and special when I stay there.” —Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg, Valerie Wilson Travel 

Le Bristol
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“There is no better perch on Rue du Faubourg St.-Honoré, or the heart of Paris, then Le Bristol, which blends Parisian elegance and cozy charm. The only staff member who may have a hint of a Parisian pout is Fa-Raon, the hotel’s Burmese pet cat.” —Melissa Biggs Bradley, Indagare Travel 

Four Seasons George V
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“There are only a handful of truly iconic hotels in the world, and Four Seasons George V is certainly one of them. This art deco landmark is classic and grand with the right modern touches, but never stuffy. The newly reopened 8,000-square-foot spa is stunning and the perfect place to retreat when you need a break from exploring the City of Lights right before cocktails at Le Bar and a dinner at the buzzy Le George.” —Erina Pindar, SmartFlyer 


The gardens at Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc overlook the Mediterranean.

Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc
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“On the tip of Cap d’Antibes, Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc is the quintessential Riviera retreat with its storied past and spectacular saltwater pool, complete with swings and ladders for nimble exhibitionists.” Melissa Biggs Bradley, Indagare Travel  


Les Sources de Caudalie Bordeaux
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Les Sources de Caudalie Bordeaux is one of my personal favorites as it has it all, with incredible history and beauty. It’s a family-run, five-star hotel set among the vineyards of Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, focusing on wine, food, and its spa. The owner is Alice Tourbier, and her sister Mathilde Thomas—inspired by the grapes—started the Caudalie brand of organic skincare, now well known around the world. It is an absolute hit for clients.” —Tania Swasbrook, Travelworld International Group

The Netherlands

The Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam sits on one of the city’s main canals.

The Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam
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The Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam spans six 17th- and 18th-century palaces and is located right on the UNESCO heritage canal Herengracht, considered to be one of the most important canals in the city (where the richest merchants and most influential politicians called home). The hotel is filled with history, from the grand staircase that greets you on arrival built by Daniel Marot, Louis XIV’s architect, to the Vault bar where you can find the original vault of the MeesPierson bank.” —Erina Pindar, SmartFlyer