The i-escape blog / Lucy Richardson

By Lucy Richardson, Editor

Why not take a quick Euro hop? The big cities are quieter and cheaper at this time of year, so you’ll get a more authentic glimpse into urban life. Live the locals do and stay in a stylish apartment in the hip end of town. Here are 8 of our favourites in Europe’s coolest cities.

1  Verona Boutique Apartment

Home to ancient frescoes, incredible live opera and Juliet’s famous balcony, Verona oozes romance. Base yourself at this equally romantic apartment, set on a cobbled street across the river from medieval Castelvecchio. Verona Boutique Apartment combines 50’s furniture and sleek contemporary design. It may not be huge but it makes up for it in style: we loved the classic design pieces, including a superbly comfortable Silvio Cavatorta bed.

From: £104/night, sleeping 2

Live like a local: Pop to the nearby bakery for morning pastries, and try the neighbourhood’s excellent bars and restaurants.

2 Paris Boutique Apartments

Paris is a good idea at any time. To experience it like a proper Parisian, base yourself at Paris Boutique Apartments, a collection of hip one-bedroom pads with loft-style vibes. Each one has a lovely back story – one was a costume workshop; another was a fashion studio. Now they’re adorned with smart panelling, jazzy paintings and playful signage. You’re in the Strasbourg-Saint-Denis quartier, a lovely neighbourhood with local shops and a great food scene; the Gare du Nord, the Bourse and Opéra are all walkable.

From: £139/night, sleeping 2

Live like a local: Go for dinner at L’Echiquier, located mere metres from the apartments – we had the best food of our trip here.

3  Antwerp Boutique Apartments & Suites

Antwerp, the fashion and diamond capital of Belgium, is stylish, fun, artistic — and much underrated. There are world-class boutiques to shop in, modern art meccas to visit, and gourmet delights a’plenty (including exquisite chocolate and gourmet fries!). We love Antwerp Boutique Apartments & Suites for 2-3, set in a classic old townhouse, with gorgeous design pieces and little kitsch details.

From: £174/night, sleeping 2-3

Live like a local: Around the corner is the famous Vrijdagmarkt flea/antique market, which runs all day Friday.

4 Boutique Apartments Porto

Sweet little Porto is a perfect short-break destination. There’s so much colour and character here: the painted houses, the azure riverfront, the iconic yellow trams, and the gorgeous hues of intricate tilework. Set in a mansion by the sea, a short tram ride from Porto’s historic centre, the Boutique Apartments Porto are a restful haven away from the tourists. Each is stylish, spotless and brimming with design surprises – paintings by up-and-coming Portuguese artists are all for sale. Gourmet breakfasts can be delivered to your door, and there’s an on-call concierge service.

From: £130/night, sleeping 2-5

Live like a local: At sunset, take a picnic and some vinho verde up to Jardim do Morro – the views across the river and city are impossibly romantic.

5 Palacio Bucarelli, Seville

For orange blossom-scented squares, Moorish architecture, sunshine, and a buzzy food scene, we adore Seville. But don’t get stuck in the tourist traps, stay at Palacio Bucarelli, a converted 17th-century mansion near the river in the San Lorenzo district – the foodie hub of the city. Apartments are set around a colonnaded courtyard with a trickling fountain, slender cypresses and a plunge pool.  They have antique furniture and old tapestries, and breakfast is made easy with hampers brought to your door each morning.

From: £133/night, sleeping 2-4

Live like a local: By all means, see the Alcazar (book in advance), but also make time for Palacio de las Dueñas, the former home of the Duquesa de Alba. The garden of citrus trees, the pretty arcaded courtyard, and the Renaissance design make it a real beauty.

6  Baixa House, Lisbon

Ah, Lisbon! How we love your edgy vibe, rattling trams, urban art scene and buzzy restaurants. If you haven’t yet visited the Portuguese capital, come and fall for its beguiling mix of majesty and shabbiness. These stunning apartments in Baixa House are a perfect base to explore, set downtown, near the historic districts. Quirkily furnished and flooded with light, they’re brilliantly kitted out for self-catering, and rates even include breakfast (fresh bread is delivered to your door; everything else awaits in your fridge).

From: £152/night, sleeping 1-7

Live like a local: Drop by a cosy little tasca (bar) to discover the delights of ginginha, a cherry liqueur: the aptly named A Ginginha in Rossio is a favourite.

7  StayCatalina, Palma de Mallorca

If you need an injection of sunshine, jet off to Palma. This lively harbourfront city buzzes all year round, with temperatures often reaching the high teens in winter. Santa Catalina is Palma’s ‘Soho’, with great bars, cafes and boutiques, plus the lovely light-filled StayCatalina Boutique Apartments for 2-5. Whitewashed interiors are chic and minimalist with splashes of bright colour, and all have terraces or patios for soaking up that blissful warmth.

From: £104/night, sleeping 2-5

Live like a local: If cooking feels like a chore, big breakfast baskets are available on request: cheeses, Iberico ham, freshly-squeezed orange juice and pastries, along with warm boiled eggs, olives and muesli.

8  Berlin Boutique Apartments

Edgy Berlin is famed for its history, graffiti and world-class museums and galleries. Some also come for its all-night-long techno clubs, but we weren’t that cool! Whatever you’ll be doing here, the Berlin Boutique Apartments are where to stay, in trendy Prenzlauer Berg. The apartments (a mix of 1- and 2-beds) are discreetly located in a residential block in one of the area’s prettiest and most vibrant streets, choc-a-block with restaurants and boutiques; your direct neighbour is likely to be a local. Inside, expect bold colour schemes, plush fabrics, decorative wallpapers, and vintage furniture.

From: £128/night, sleeping 1-4

Live like a local: Berlin is great to explore by bike, as it’s fairly flat with numerous cycle paths. There are cycle shops close to the apartments where you can rent a bike for the day.