Our Cheap & Chic collection proves that holidaying on a budget doesn’t have to mean scrimping on style. Most have prices starting at under £100 per night and all offer that something special to make your trip unforgettable. Read on for the i-escape team’s recollections of their favourite budget boutique hotels…
Vibe: Abode is an impeccably chic Indian city hotel. Its beauty, generosity and attention to detail exceeds that of many 5-star places.
Why I love it: “It’s rare to find a boutique property in Mumbai that sits so comfortably within its surroundings. Abode’s owner was an antiques collector and has furnished the hotel with beautiful pieces collected from all corners of India. Little touches add charm – complimentary Indian biscuits in reception, sweets left on your pillow at turn down. It’s a one off kind of place. The surrounding area is buzzing with old colonial buildings that now house funky bars and boutique shops showing off up-and-coming Indian designers. Check out the tandoori wrap stall over the road (called “Bademiya”) – it’s legendary and attracts hordes at weekends. Watching them masterfully keep track and serve thousands of orders is a show in itself.”
Vibe: A well-placed and wonderfully weird art hotel, with original artist-created rooms.
Why I love it: “Berlin is one of my favourite destinations and the location of this quirky hotel could not be more perfect. We got there very easily from the airport and woke for a day of sightseeing with all the tourist spots right on our doorstep. I’ve never been to a hotel quite like this – every room has its own distinct personality which gives a real flavour of Berlin’s vibrant creative scene.”
Vibe: A 3-bedroom B&B hidden behind an inconspicuous green door on the tourist-trodden thoroughfare to St Mark’s Square.
Why I love it: “Great-value and stylish lodgings in the heart of Venice are rare as hen’s teeth, but Gio & Gio is the exception to the rule. This 3-bedroom B&B is a little patch of Venetian heaven, just 5 minutes’ walk from St Mark’s Square. It’s super peaceful, too. As we relaxed on the guest lounge sofa, the only indication of our central location was the spirited gondolier repartee flooding the canal beneath us. Better yet, owner Gianni’s insider tips are excellent – just ask for activity and restaurant recommendations.”
Vibe: A stylish hideaway in Porto’s hippest neighbourhood, which feels more like a home than a hotel.
Why I love it: “Rosa Et Al Townhouse does everything to perfection: the beautiful rooms with their stylish mix of mid-century modern furniture and colourful throws, the art-lined communal areas with their restored period features, the laid-back garden where you can kick back with a book and a glass of Port… And the food! It was the best we tasted during our time in Portugal. I won’t forget those fennel-grilled tiger prawns and gooey chocolate fondants in a hurry….”
Vibe: A modernist masseria conversion with 7 self-catering studios in a tranquil rural setting just outside the town of Fasano.
Why I love it: We stayed here on our first visit to unspoiled Puglia. It worked perfectly for our family: the parents appreciated the lovely design details, we had our own private garden area, and the kids loved the bath with lights that changed colour! It was a charming walk across the fields to the well-stocked farm shop, where we bought our supper. And a short drive to the Adriatic beaches one way, and ZooSafari in Fasano the other, where you drive safari-style through a multitude of exotic animals. Knowledgeable and efficient host Caroline’s MyPuglia card got us discounts at a range of attractions and restaurants.
Vibe: A family-run mini-complex of beachside studios, apartments and villas set in bougainvillea-dotted gardens.
Why I love it: “Gorgeous sea views, moments from the beach, bucolic setting – usually these things add up to a pricey break. Not so at Skiathos Holidays, its self-catering rentals are great value and occupy one of the south coast’s most endearing stretches of coastline. We spent our days sunbathing at the nearby beach bar and paddling in the gin-clear sea. In the evenings, the island’s handy bus service whisked us into Skiathos Town for candlelit dinners and cocktails. All in all, a bargain beach holiday that we’ll remember for years to come.”
Vibe: A fun art hotel in Penzance, with a 3-bedroom cottage and a sociable eatery.
Why I love it: “We stayed at Artist Residence Cornwall on a blustery February weekend, and I can’t think of a better place to ride out a winter storm. We spent a happy afternoon in front of the wood-burner in the bar, slowly working our way through the inventive cocktail menu, before tucking into delicious home-smoked fare in the restaurant. And we loved our room: quirkily decorated, with a huge zinc bathtub and super-comfy bed. I now want to return in summer and make the most of the garden.”
Vibe: Charming self-catering stone cottages and a sun-drenched pool in a sleepy hamlet: our favourite budget option in Cyprus.
Why I love it: “I loved the sunny courtyard with raised pool and colourful flowerbeds, and the homely but still chic interiors which ooze history. The little village of Psematismenos is tranquil but has at least 1 good restaurant, and it is only a short drive from the sea. Most of all, I found owners Yiannos and Christiana – a successful architect/Renaissance man and a Pilates-teacher/nursery school owner – absolutely delightful. Of all our Cyprus places, it’s where I would choose to go back.”
Vibe: Guesthouse with 3 elegant bungalows in sprawling tropical grounds, just inland from the fishing town of Tangalle on Sri Lanka’s southeast coast.
Why I love it: “I loved everything about Villa don Hendrick, from the sprawling tropical grounds and emerald-green infinity pool, to the owners’ faultless hospitality and delicious culinary skills. We saw monitor lizards darting across the gardens and heard wild peacocks crying from the coconut palms – a real taste of the jungle yet just a short tuk-tuk ride from Tangalle’s beautiful beaches.”
Vibe: An off-the-beaten track Scandinavian-inspired hotel with a swish pool and spa set in central Portugal, yet only a couple of hours from Porto Airport.
Why I love it: “We were blown away by the staggering vistas of the Serra da Estrela. We walked through glacial valleys, swam in natural lakes and picnicked by waterfalls without seeing another soul. The landscapes may be rugged, but this beautiful hotel is anything but. Scandinavian inspired, it has 18 beautiful boutique bedrooms and squashy sofas next to wood-burners in the lounge, plus the food is heavenly.”
Vibe: A laidback countryside B&B with beautiful interiors and very warm and enthusiastic hosts.
Why I love it: “There are so many reasons why I would go back to this beautiful hideaway. The views are stunning come rain or shine and the spacious rooms have classy colour palettes with interesting details like enormous wire ball lampshades. The setting is splendid too, it’s in a quiet spot where the only noise we heard was from sheep and pheasants, but it’s just minutes away from Hay-on-Wye, the beguiling town of books.”