Branded hotels account for 70 percent of the room stock in the
U.S., but in Europe, that number's less than 20 percent. Which
means while you're familiar with Sheratons on one side of the
Atlantic, it's less likely you'll know about the Sofitel chain on
the other. So for those of you headed across the pond who prefer
the comfort of a well-established name hotel, here's a list of the
growing European hotel groups little known to a lot of
WHO: Sofitel, (800) 763-4835, www.sofitel.com
WHAT: While the French company has begun making a
name for itself in the U.S., Sofitel, the world's fifth largest
hotelier, is biggest abroad, with a total of 69 European hotels -
38 in France alone. A subtle sophistication pervades the hotels,
which are stylish and design-sensitive, but not at the expense of
warmth and service. Boosting its culinary credentials, Sofitel has
teamed with several Michelin-starred chefs.
HOW MUCH: Fair to middling
NEW AND NOTABLE: The Sofitel St. James London
occupies a historic building near Piccadilly Circus with a
restaurant supervised by famed French chef Albert Roux.
WHO: Relais du Silence, 011-33-144-49-90-00,
WHAT: Located throughout Western Europe, the 262
independent hotels of this Paris-based confederation champion
solace. Qualifications for membership include a peaceful setting
(often rural), a building of character (think a monastery or
château), and an emphasis on fine food. Strongest in France,
Silence stars include the 17th-century park-set manor house Manoir
de Moëllien in Brittany.
HOW MUCH: Middle of the road
NEW AND NOTABLE: Among two new Irish members, the tranquil Ross
Lake House Hotel lets 13 rooms on a well-manicured estate near
WHO: Paradores of Spain, 011-34-915-16-66-66,
WHAT: The state-run paradores, lodged largely in
historic buildings ranging from medieval hospitals to 18th-century
palaces, continue to expand, adding three new links in the 87-inn
chain over the past year. Locals love to hold weddings in
paradores, which are beloved for their history. Each in-house
restaurant cooks regional fare such as rich fabada stews in the
north and gazpacho in the south.
HOW MUCH: A lot of bang for your buck
NEW AND NOTABLE: Parador de Plasencia inhabits a
15th-century monastery with vaulted ceilings and a
cloister-cum-courtyard in western Spain's Extremadura region.
WHO: Boscolo Hotels, 011-39-049-82-87-777,
WHAT: This Italy-based company operates 18 vintage
redos with looks that blend historic character and modern
functionalism. Boscolo chefs hail from Italy's prestigious Etoile
cooking school, which is also owned by the Boscolo brothers.
Renowned designer Adam Tihany recently completed the sleek Aleph
hotel in Rome, and restaurants in several others.
HOW MUCH: A pretty penny
NEW AND NOTABLE: In December, the elegant Exedra
property debuted in Rome's Piazza della Repubblica with an on-site
branch of the Etoile cooking school for guest instruction. Prague's
Carlo IV will open this month in a former bank.
WHO: Six Continents Hotels, (800) 327-0200,
WHAT: Headquartered in London, Six Continents
manages 3,300 hotels worldwide, including the well-known American
brands Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza. Though operated stateside,
too, its upscale InterContinental Hotels are better recognized
outside the U.S., with 140 properties in 65 countries.
HOW MUCH: If you have to ask, you can't afford
NEW AND NOTABLE: The InterContinental Le Grand
Paris just reopened following an 18-month renovation to install a
new spa and restore guest rooms and the celebrated Café de la Paix
to vintage 1862 splendor.
WHO: Sina Hotels, www.sinahotels.com
WHAT: The Bocca family, one of Italy's oldest,
runs this 40-year-old business. Housed in converted antique
buildings, most of the seven Sinas come furnished in period-correct
décor. But The Gray, recently opened in Milan, goes the fashion
route, with minimalist interiors and ceiling-suspended beds.
HOW MUCH: Not too cheap, not too costly
NEW AND NOTABLE: Come July, the 18th-century Bocca
family estate in the rural Piedmont district near Turin will open
as the 40-room Relais Villa Matilde.
WHO: Design Hotels, (800) 337-4685, www.designhotels.com
WHAT: This Germany-based alliance has more than
100 independent hotels in 38 countries, and each is known for its
architectural emphasis and excellent service. The Miró Hotel in
Bilbao, Spain, for example, was designed by fashion guru Antonio
Miró and sits between the Mu-seum of Fine Arts and Frank Gehry's
masterpiece, the Guggenheim.
HOW MUCH: Pleasantly affordable
NEW AND NOTABLE: Original art-deco furnishings
from the '20s and '30s outfit the newly opened Hotel Rialto near
the business district in Warsaw.
WHO: Jolly Hotels, (800) 237-0319, www.jollyhotels.com
WHAT: This midprice brand is a favorite among
business travelers, and its 50 properties can be found in Belgium,
France, Germany, Holland, Italy, the U.K., and the U.S. Italophiles
the world over are keen to Jolly's Italian touches, including an
Italian-speaking staff, Italian restaurants, and Italian
HOW MUCH: Fairly light on the euros
NEW AND NOTABLE: The modern Jolly Hotel Vivaldi
recently debuted on Berlin's centrally located Friedrichstrasse as
part of a retail-residential development.
WHO: Thistle Hotels, (800) 847-4358, www.thistlehotels.com
WHAT: Thistle offers value rates at 56 U.K.
properties in both busy city centers and rural countryside locales.
Some of its 24 London inns showcase views of the Tower of London
and Oxford Street.
HOW MUCH: For the budget minded
NEW AND NOTABLE: In January, the 692-room Thistle
Marble Arch in London opened a new corporate lounge that features
an exclusive check-in and check-out desk, compli-mentary
continental breakfast, and free canapés each evening.
rooms to go
if you prefer the comforts of home when traveling abroad, check in
to one of these new european accommodations from some well-known
u.s. hotel groups.
this month, marriott's village d'ile-de-france opens a
villa-filled resort one mile from disneyland paris. from $375.
(800) 845-5279, www.marriottvillarentals.com
the park hyatt milano opens in august in a grand 19th-century
building near the duomo with contemporary, art-filled interiors.
starting at $500. (800) 233-1234, www.milan.park.hyatt.com
in prague this august, hkhotels, the owners of new york's
boutique the library hotel, will launch the aria, a 52-roomer with
a music theme. from $349. (212) 201-1155, www.ariahotel.net
starwood's grande bretagne, overlooking the acropolis in athens,
just reopened after a $70 million renovation in preparation for the
2004 olympics. from $319. (800) 325-3589, www.luxurycollection.com
the four seasons hotel prague reopens this month after a 10-month
clean-up following the august 2002 floods. $280 and up. (800)