With the recent drop in the dollar, it appears it's time to roll-out the cost cutting strategies for Europe-bound travelers.
The best values are in the countryside, the small towns of Germany and Austria, where double rooms in better-than-adequate hotels can be found for around $100 double or less; hotels like the Gasthof Gröbenhof in the Stubai Valley near Innsbruck, where double rooms are €62 and the food has attracted the attention of Michelin. The same is true at the charming 11-room Zum Rebstock in Kappelrodeck-Waldulm 20 miles south Baden-Baden where doubles start at €77.
In Switzerland, you might find a private residence with a couple of rooms to rent, or perhaps a hostel, for $100 double, but even in tiny Swiss towns, the prices will be almost double their counterparts in Austria and Germany. An example is the 15-room Auberge de la Réunion in Coinsins about 20 miles northeast of Geneva. It’s restaurant is noted by Michelin for serving meals for less than CHF 20 and a double room with bath starts at CHF 170, a good deal for Switzerland.
Hostels for Adults
Put hostels in our “downshift a category or two” advice column, and remember they are not just for youth. At River Lodge Interlaken a private room for two persons rents for CHF 93 per night. One of the best youth hostels we’ve seen is Locarno’s Ostello Palagiovani. Its double rooms are CHF 86-130. In Vienna, Hostel Ruthensteiner offers double rooms with toilet and shower for €52. A double with private bath in Munich’s Wombat’s The City Hostel, a two-time winner of “Cleanest Hostel Worldwide,” costs €76 with free WiFi, a welcome drink, and breakfast.
Best Online Hotel Deals
As we mentioned last month, the chains such as Mercure, Marriott, Hilton, Intercontinental frequently sell off un-booked rooms via our hotel booking search engine and through the so-called “opaque” sites (“opaque” because you don’t know the hotel you’re getting until you’ve made a credit card commitment), Priceline and Hotwire. At BiddingforTravel.com, where travelers share details of successful bids made on Priceline, I noticed a June booking for the Renaissance Munich for $74, and a September booking at the Mercure Berlin Tempelhof for $110.
For June travel, Gemut.com’s hotel search engine showed these discounted rates: €83 per night at the three-star Altstadt Hotel Hofwirt in Salzburg; €92 at the Holiday Inn Munich; €109 at the Gemütlichkeit-recommended Carlton Opera in Vienna; €104 at Hamburg’s Hotel Terminus am Hauptbahnhof.
Don't Forget Michelin's “Bib Hotels”
Here are additional avenues for finding inexpensive accommodations. For Germany and Switzerland, the Michelin Hotels & Restaurants Guides (formerly called Red Guides) highlight “Bib Hotels” (Bibendum, the “Michelin Man”), “establishments offering a good level of comfort and service” with most rooms priced up to €90 for Germany and CHF 180 for Switzerland. It’s Michelin’s way of saying, “here is the cream of the crop of inexpensive hotels.” This feature alone makes the guides worth the price. (By the way, Michelin has a number of smartphone apps, including a free hotel app. On my iPhone I found 162 Berlin hotels offering double rooms for less than US$100 on a three-night stay.)
Great Resource for Inexpensive Hotels: Local Tourist Office Websites
Another excellent source for inexpensive hotels, hostels, B & Bs, boarding houses, and holiday flats is online tourist office websites. For example, at Garmisch-Partenkirchen’s website I searched the B&B category for a three-night stay in April and came up with 37 accommodations ranging in price from €30 to €70, with most in the €50 to €60 range. When I limited the search to accommodations priced at no more than €50, I was shown 39 possibilities.
There are far fewer inexpensive hotels in Switzerland than in Germany and Austria, but they do exist and the best places to find them are via local tourist office websites. For example, at the Chateau d’Oex tourist office site, Hotel Le Vieux Chalet prices start at CHF 80 for a double room with breakfast.