Places to Stay

For better or worse, I like to try different types of places to stay. Sometimes it’s a regrettable choice, but most often I find a treasure.  I don’t think luxury is always the most expensive hotel in a city or the most famous. It’s important to look for the innovative, historic and/or unusual.  Neighborhoods are important to consider.

One of my favorite stays ever was in the former hacienda used by the archeologists who excavated the Chichén Itzá site on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. I’ve also stayed in some bizarre accommodations including a B&B in Vermont that seemed like it was a set (and cast) for a horror movie. But sometimes the worst places make the best memories and isn’t that what travel is all about?

 


Best Hotels Near European Train Stations

 All ready for Christmas at Excelsior Hotel Ernst, Cologne.Cologne | Excelsior Hotel Ernst

A short walk from the train station you will find the lovely Excelsior Hotel in the center of the city, just across from the Cathedral.  Even though it’s a short walk, I was traveling with my Mother who was in her 80s, so I asked the hotel to meet us so my Mother would not have to walk. Bellmen were waiting for us when we arrived and we were at the hotel quickly organizing our attack on the first of the Christmas Markets. Cologne has seven.

Delicious tea treats at Excelsior Hotel Ernst, Cologne.After hitting the first of the seven Christmas markets, we were back at the Excelsior for afternoon high tea, our chosen alternative for dinner tonight. A wonderful way to end the day, stuffing ourselves with all those wonderful goodies. Our room was contemporary and comfortable, with a TV that swung 180 degrees to face the sitting area or the beds, acting as an attractive divider. The final surprise that night was looking out the window of our room and seeing the beautifully lit cathedral.

The Blue Danube, Budapest, Hungary.Budapest | Le Meridien Hotel (now a Ritz-Carlton)

We arranged for Le Meridien Hotel, to send a driver, so leaving the station was a breeze.  In about 15 minutes we were at our centrally-located hotel, tired, but ready to begin our adventures.

The Meridien is a large, contemporary hotel with all modern conveniences and this property lived up to the expectations of the chain. One evening we attended their Hungarian dinner complete with entertainment, it was a lot of food and an enjoyable evening.

The first order of business was to find a Hungarian-style restaurant close-by.  We went to Dio about 5 minutes from the hotel across the square.  The meal was terrific, my husband started with goulash, and the rest of us tried pork, smoked trout, and veal.  Then we dashed back through the square to avoid the drizzle starting to fall and off to bed for good night’s sleep.

Lovely Prague

Prague | Mamaison Pachtův Palác (now a Smetana Hotel)

A driver from the hotel met us and helped us navigate the deceptively large station that is quite expansive under the level in which the trains arrive. My husband and I were traveling with my Mother (in her 80s), so we had extra bags to manage as well as a travel partner not keen on stairs and long walks.

We arrived at the Pachtův Palác in the Old Town (Staré Město), just across from the Vltava near the Charles Bridge in time to regroup before dinner.  We stayed in really lovely apartment/suites carved out of the Baroque Palace of Count Jan Josef Pachta, built in the 18th century. Mozart and his wife were regular visitors, and it was here that Wolfgang had his only encounter with Giacomo Casanova. Beethoven was among the many other composers who also visited. I could only try and imagine what it must have been like during a visit by the Mozarts. I chose the more historic suite locations, but many of the rooms also have wonderful views of the castle and river.

The hotel staff was great and directed us to excellent spots for dining as well as an amazing walking tour. We had a wonderful meal at the casual, comfortable Restaurace Stoleti near the hotel, also on Karolíny Světlé.  Trying to eat a little healthier after the excess of previous travel days, we opted for a delicious meal that included salad, grilled trout, chicken, and a spinach/blue cheese omelet.

A Bavarian Christmas at the Hotel Excelsior, Munich.Munich | Hotel Excelsior by Geisel

The Hotel Excelsior is an iPrefer property centrally-located to the train station, shopping and Christmas Markets. Unfortunately, British Air left my suitcase in London, so I spent some serious time trying to find out where it was and when they would get it to me.

The hotel is a family-run, Bavarian-style property.  It was charming, with friendly staff and very comfortable. It was beautifully decorated for the holidays, a great way to start our Christmas market trip. They provided me with some basic toiletry essentials I didn’t have on hand and I did sleep in the cozy robe provided. Our room was spacious, with a sitting area and a nice bottle of Riesling Kabinett Trocken along with some treats for waiting for us.

I was just ready to hit the adjacent department store for new boots and clothes when my missing suitcase showed up. We decided to pack up the wine and save it for our next stop.

View of the train station from Le Meridien Grand Hotel, Nuremberg.Nuremberg | Le Meridien Grand Hotel

My friend and I walked out of the Nuremberg train station (shown here), with print and google maps in hand. Neither was needed once we looked up from our paper and screen, the hotel was right in front of us. The Le Meridien Grand Hotel is a modern hotel within a historic façade with a perfect location. One of the great things about European cities is the ability to walk to so many places and that experience is enhanced for me when you can easily just walk out the door of your hotel and either walk to your destination or jump on a train.

We arrived too early for check-in, but in plenty of time for a delicious lunch at the hotel restaurant.  We sampled some of our first delicious Nuremberg sausages (Nürnberg Rostbratwurst) along with a nice Rosé. Once done, our room was ready and we took off for the castle, shops, and markets. I don’t care about hotel toiletries, but I do love a good pen and notepad and so does my good friend and travel partner. In addition to tips about the area and Christmas Markets, the nice young clerk at the front desk kindly gave us extras of their great turquoise-colored pens.

Fabulous decor at the Stuttgart, Germany Christmas Markets.Stuttgart | Althoff Hotel Am Schlossgarten

The Althoff Hotel Am Schlossgarten is a modern hotel located just across the street, very close to the train station. From here were explored the nearby ObererSchossgarten and central city center as well as the large Christmas Markets area. Our room was contemporary with a nice sitting area; it was very comfortable.

The hotel did not have a salon but recommended Ramp Salon just a block away. I checked in early in the morning for a quick blow-dry after experiencing their fabulous massaging, hair-washing recliner (we need to import these to the US). Neighborhood culinary delights ranged from the local version of Sauerbraten (basically, a steak) at Carls Brauhaus, tasty brunch upstairs at Wirthaus am Schlossplatz, to chips, chocolate, and our bottle of Riesling in our room. A final dinner of brauten & dumplings at the hotel’s VINOthek restaurant was finished off nicely with a beautiful pear dessert.

 

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