Luxe European Breaks


If you’re looking to try something new explore Europe but not the usual tourist areas then let Mr & Mrs Smith take you to some stunning but off the beaten track spots, but you will still enjoy a luxe break.

Montenegro

Peer down at soul-stirring views from Montenegro’s ruggedly handsome mountains, encompassing acres of tangled forest and the sparkling cerulean waters of the Adriatic. In recent years, this Eastern European country has revelled in a newfound spotlight thanks to a number of new hotels catching on to its charms: Montenegro may be small, but it packs a punch with beaches, nightlife and unspoilt natural beauty. When its beaches are thronged with sun-seekers, pockets of culture draw travellers-in-the-know: Roman villas, historic Catholic churches, towering minarets and monasteries line this tiny nation’s cobbled streets.

Aman Sveti Stefan Montenegro with Smith Hotels (Check Availability)



Perched on isthmus in the Adriatic Sea, Aman Sveti Stefan hotel occupies a converted 15th-century fishing village and a shoreside, turn-of-the-century royal villa. Rooms in red-tiled cottages and sea-front suites let you live like a local throughout your stay. It’s a devastatingly romantic place, which will inspire fantasies about medieval Montenegrin living. However, spa cottages, three pools and restaurants, and attentive beach service are a reminder that this is a wholly modern seaside stop.
Less a hotel than a private island village, Aman Sveti Stefan offers plenty of crannies for aspiring explorers. For those who prefer to laze in the Mediterranean sun, the pine-shaded infinity pool and sleepy pink-sand beach await with sunloungers at the ready. The Aman spa is a luring knot-shouldered guests and locals in search of herb-oil massages or hydrotherapy sessions. The staff can arrange day trips throughout the region, including sailing trips with picnic lunches and hikes in Lovćen National Park. Head out by car or boat to explore the architectural bounty north of the hotel: Montenegro's Adriatic coast is dotted with breath-snatching medieval towns, including the centuries-old walled town of Budva and Kotor, a Unesco World Heritage Site with Romanesque churches and striking red-tiled roofs.

Budapest, Hungary

Far from Prague’s madding crowds – but with an equally winsome mix of chocolate-box hilltop vistas, burgeoning culture and wry post-Communist humour – Budapest’s more than ready to take its place as one of Europe’s most inviting, and intriguing, cities. On the Pest side of the river, a party’s never hard to find; the Buda side is ideal for stylish sophisticates.

Brody House Budapest, Hungary with Smith Hotels (Check Availability)



More than just a boutique bolthole, Brody House – a sometime film and fashion-shoot set – also has a members’ club with a stylish bar, a block of shabby-chic apartments, and gallery and printing studio Brody ArtYard, in four city-centre locales. The club and ArtYard have calendars crammed full of exhibitions, live music and book readings, and rooms at the hotel are an extension of this creative streak: each is named after the artist whose work hangs on its walls. The communal spaces have high ceilings, lots of natural light and original parquet floors; yet somehow the townhouse still has the air of a (very cool) private home, and the apartments even more so.

Brody ArtYard (a 15-minute walk away on Vasvári Pál Utca) is the hotel's print studio and gallery, hosting exhibitions by contemporary artists; private views here are lively, and after parties go on till late. If you tire of admiring the art on the walls and loitering with the locals in the hotel's club rooms, talk to the staff: they’ll be thrilled to put together a customised itinerary for you, taking in their hand-picked Budapest highlights. A major attraction in the City of Spas is a trip to the historic Turkish baths, of which there are dozens; Brody House staff can arrange visits to several, including neo-
Baroque Széchenyi on Állatkerti Körút (www.szechenyibath.com ). If you like shopping for art and antiques, nearby Falk Miksa Utca is the street to visit; head out alone or take a guided tour (in English): they’re available year round (www.falkart.hu ).

Modern art gallery, shop, studio and café Printa on Rumbach Sebestyén Utca puts many of its limited-edition print designs onto clothes, cushions, aprons, etc, in their silkscreen studio; they’re also rumoured to serve Budapest’s best coffee (www.printa.hu/main). The somewhat surreal Memento Park on Balatoni Út is worth a visit by history buffs: the collection of preserved Communist statues that used to dot the Budapest landscape gives an insight into an era that’s gone but not forgotten
Memento Park  

Transylvania, Romania

If you’re a Latin-boffin or ancient Roman, you’ll already know that Transylvania means ‘land beyond the forest’. No doubt the Romans were just being factual, but it’s an aptly intriguing description for such an imagination-stirring landscape. Unfenced fields dotted with mediaeval churches, Saxon houses painted in primary colours, sleepy villages, a culture rich in tradition and superstition – someone should write a gothic thriller about Transylvania. (Oh wait, Bram Stoker already did.) Lazy Dracula references aside, the real Romania is more compelling than any haemoglobin-hunting Count. Way before Vlad the Impaler was sharpening sticks, various tribes and nations squabbled over the territory, including the Hungarians and Saxons (they're to thank for the area’s hearty goulashes, sour soups and cabbage-y creations). More recently, the region’s seven fortress towns (Bistrita, Brasov, Cluj-Napoca, Medias, Sebes, Sighişoara and Sibiu) wobbled under Ceauşescu’s Communist regime. Unlike the disgraced leader, they emerged relatively unscathed, and were swiftly restored to former finery. Popular culture casts Transylvania as a nocturnal vamp, but its pleasures – skiing, walking and wine tasting – are designed for daytime.

Copsamare Guesthouses Transylvania, Romania with Smith Hotels (Check Availability)



Short of shacking up with a villager, stays don’t get more truly Transylvanian than Copsamare Guesthouses, where honey comes from the priest’s bees, furniture comes from the neighbours, and decorations come from nature: dried nut leaves, maize and tree trunks. Aside from the Italian owners, everything about this modest hotel is true to its Romanian roots.

Take part in one of the hotel’s truffle-hunting weekends, which begin with a welcome meal (cooked by an expert local chef) on Friday night, followed by a truffle-seeking session with a guide on Saturday. Once you’ve gathered enough fungi, you’ll have a cookery class (with truffle wine as refreshment) and a truffle-centric dinner. In winter, go for a ride on the owners’ cart, a gift made for them by the villagers; in summer, use the cart for picnics in the hills. Biertan, the nearest village, is Unesco-protected – make the short drive there to find out why. Walk out of the village towards the lone tree on top of the hill: this is the hotel’s logo, and has sweeping views. (Botanists might be interested to hear that four species of flowers once thought to be extinct were discovered here.)
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