Amazing lodgings, itty-bitty nations.
It’s not easy being small, especially in Europe where the big countries get all the attention. Most tourists spend their time hopping from France, Spain, Italy, and Germany, but few ever make it out to the lesser-known countries in Europe like Moldova, Cypress, or Malta. Although Europe’s smaller countries may lack in square footage, they’re packed with personality when it comes to hospitality. From a boutique hotel in Andorra to an urban retreat in Slovenia, here are Europe’s best hotels in its littlest countries.
In a country only slightly larger than the state of Maryland, the remote island of Muhu only makes up .4 percent of the entire country of Estonia. Muhu Island feels like a cross between Iceland and The Hamptons, but it’s home to Estonia’s most remarkable hotel. Pädaste Manor dates back to 1566, but it wasn’t until the late 19th century that this Muhu Island property got an Imperial update. The property was purchased by the Imperial Hunting Master of the Romanov royal family, Axel von Buxhoeveden.
The manor prospered until 1919, when von Buxhoeveden was brutally murdered on his way back to the island.
The manor swapped hands and stood abandoned for years before its current owners endeavored to restore the property in 1996. The first step was removing the trees that were growing out of the windows, and the final step was ensuring the Wi-Fi was up to par. Today, Pädaste Manor is a member of the prestigious Small Luxury Hotels of the World and offers a remarkable retreat on one of Europe’s most exotic and remote islands.
Hôtel Metropole Monte-Carlo
At only 2 square kilometers, Monaco is roughly three times the size of the National Mall in Washington, DC and the most densely-populated country in the world. Monaco attracts high rollers from all over to test their luck at the glamorous casinos, but the sure bet for glitz in the country is at the Hôtel Metropole. The Belle Époque icon sits on land that was once owned by Pope Leon XIII, but has been in operation as a hotel since 1889. The hotel was completely renovated in 2004 and now features 126 rooms and suites, a new spa (Spa Metropole by Givenchy), and four restaurants totaling three Michelin stars. It also happens to be one of the few places in the world where couples can have an entire wedding ceremony performed under the sea!
Artagonist Art Hotel
One of the most popular Google searches for Lithuania is “Is Lithuania still a country?” Not only is it most definitely still a country, but this often misunderstood land is home to arguably the fastest Wi-Fi in the world, as well as a fast growing population of artists and artisans. The newest hotel in Lithuania’s capital city of Vilnius is the perfect marriage of the two, with sleek technology and an artsy vibe throughout. The Artagonist Art Hotel sits in a renovated 15th century building in Vilnius’s Old Town and features artwork from Lithuanian artists, Chemex coffee makers in each room, and reusable eco-friendly water bottles with a charcoal filter.
Vander Urbani Resort
It’s easy to fall in love with this petite country, and the capital city of Ljubljana is dreamy. Although it’s been called the Paris of Eastern Europe, there’s no comparing Ljubljana’s unique blend of sprawling green spaces and trendy urban districts to any other European city. Directly in the middle of the city’s pedestrian district, the Vander Urbani Resort sets the bar high for any other hotel in the country with its romantic backstory and minimalist design. The hotel is a member of Design Hotels, and every aspect of the hotel has been designed by Sadar + Vuga to create an organic flow throughout the small space.The hotel serves handpicked wines from around the world (mainly Slovenia) to share with guests.
Aman Sveti Stefan
Montenegro’s beaches are among some of the best kept secrets along the Adriatic coastline. The country is roughly the size of Connecticut, but with about 2.95 million fewer people, meaning its beaches are rarely crowded. Most of the country’s stunning beaches are in Budva, which is also home to the Aman Sveti Stefan hotel. Technically, the hotel comprises its own island, formerly the fortified village of Sveti Stefan, and is only connected to the coastline by a narrow isthmus. The hotel’s 58 rooms, cottages, and suites are each uniquely decorated and look out onto either the pink sand beaches below or the azure waters in the distance.
Latvia underwent its final transformation into the European Union in 2014 when it adopted the Euro as its national currency and tossed out the Lat system. Now the country’s capital city of Riga is almost more European than many of the oldest cities in the EU, with its historic cobblestone streets and plethora of UNESCO Heritage sites. The Hotel Gutenbergs is named after a German inventor, decorated in French and Dutch antique furniture, and serves Austrian coffee, but there’s no mistaking its Latvian identity. This 38-room hotel opened in 2001 inside the halls of a former printing warehouse dating back to the 17th and 19th centuries. The rooftop restaurant is run by a Latvian chef with a flair for presentation, but the hidden gem of this hotel’s food and beverage offering is their exquisite rye bread baked fresh daily for the complimentary breakfast buffet served in the basement.
Grau Roig Andorra Boutique Hotel and Spa
Andorra is tucked discreetly between the borders of France and Italy. So discreetly, in fact, that many people don’t even realize they’ve entered into a new country when driving through. The Grau Roig Andorra Boutique Hotel and Spa helps increase the country’s awareness as it regularly competes with the most luxurious hotels around the world. The hotel features 42 neo-rustically decorated rooms with outstanding views of the mountains and lakes that comprise the pristine Pyrenees landscape surrounding the hotel.
The hotel began in 1959 as a small mountain hut built for convenience so skiers could stay near the only ski lift in the region. Nearly 60 years later, the hotel remains the only boutique hotel situated at the bottom of the slopes of Granvalira, and has become the hot spot for après ski with its sumptuous spa and swanky Teatre del Vi (wine theater). Don’t miss dinner at La Marmita, the hotel’s restaurant that has been voted best in Andorra for its pairings of authentic Pyrenees dishes with rare wines from around the world.
Park Hotel Sonnenhof
Despite the country’s ominous sounding name, Liechtenstein is one of the most peaceful and fairytale-esque countries in the world. This principality could be deemed even more neutral than its famously neutral neighbor Switzerland, thanks in part to its well-loved royal family, who has a long-standing tradition of inviting their subjects to family dinners every year at the palace on Liechtenstein National Day.
For non-Liechtensteiners, the closest to enjoying the royal treatment comes at the Park Hotel Sonnenhof. The hotel is just steps from the Vaduz Castle and offers 29 uniquely furnished guest rooms and an expansive spa with an indoor pool and Finnish sauna. The Park Hotel Sonnenhof has been family owned for four generations, where the current owner Hubertus Real also serves as head chef of the hotel’s Michelin-starred Restaurant Maree.
Hotel Parc Beaux Arts
Slightly smaller than the state of Rhode Island, size has never been an issue for this confident country. Luxembourg was one of the six founding countries of what is now known as the European Union (EU), and today offers one of the highest standards of living in the entire EU. Residents aren’t the only ones who benefit from the affluent culture of Luxembourg, as guests of the Hotel Parc Beaux Arts can affirm. The hotel dates back to 1500 and was renovated in 2005 to feature 11 exclusive suites and an upscale restaurant, Le Friquets. Its Old Town location makes this boutique property ideal for touring around the city on one of the hotel’s chic bicycles.
Despite the fact that before 2008 visitors couldn’t use euro to purchase a gyro on the island of Cyprus, Cypriots have always considered themselves to be European, even though they’re closer to their Middle Eastern neighbors. The island is famous for its stunning beaches, most notably on the southwestern side of the island where The Almyra hotel is located. The hotel occupies eight acres along the coast of Paphos, where it has been family run since 1974, and offers 189 accommodation options. The Almyra is a member of Design Hotels and looked to French designer Joelle Pleot for the hotel’s chic renovation in 2003. Now, the hotel offers four swimming pools, a tennis court, five restaurants, and a spa.
Hotel Ristorante Cesare
WHERE: San Marino
Surrounded on all corners by Italian countryside, landlocked San Marino is the third smallest country in Europe, trailing only behind Monaco and the Holy See. The country claims to be the world’s oldest surviving republic, and today survives due to its resilient residents and their ability to capitalize on the sales of postage stamps and collector coins within the country. Like their Italian neighbors, the Sammarinese are passionate about cooking with quality ingredients, and one of the best restaurants in the country happens to be at one of the top hotels.
With only 18 rooms, the Hotel Ristorante Cesare may be small even for San Marino standards, but the hotel is bursting with personality and flavor. The restaurant on the terrace offers amazing views of the country, where pasta is handmade fresh to order and main courses are cooked in the center of the room alla brace del camino a vista (at the embers of a fireplace).
Despite being roughly the same size as some larger European countries, the population of Iceland is only 335,878, putting it below the populations of Malta and just above the population of Andorra. Iceland is the same size as Kentucky, but only 20 percent of the country is habitable, with most of the residents living in the capital city of Reykjavík. Traveling just outside of the city can feel like traveling to a different world, where Iceland’s glaciers and waterfalls sparkle during the day and the night sky lights up with unobstructed views of the Northern Lights. One of the best viewing spots for viewing this natural phenomenon is at the delightfully remote Hotel Rangá luxury resort.
The hotel is located an hour from Reykjavík, far from the light pollution of the city, and even has its own observatory onsite with professional telescopes for stargazing. Built in a log-cabin style, the hotel is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World and offers 51 room and suites with an outstanding gourmet restaurant onsite. While most of the rooms have their own hot tubs and outdoor terraces, there are also geo-thermal hot tubs lining the property for guests to use.
Officially, Gibraltar is recognized as a British Overseas Territory, but this Southwestern European country has made a name for itself. Gibraltar’s petite population rivals that of Poughkeepsie, New York, but the country still feels heavily populated since all of those Gibraltarians live within the country’s 2.6 square mile radius. With limited space, new construction was an issue in the country until the luxury hotel Sunborn Gibraltar came up with the genius solution of building off the coast. The yacht hotel is the first purpose-built, five-star floating hotel in the world and is permanently moored in Gibraltar by six hydraulic arms. The hotel has 189 rooms and suites, a casino, multiple restaurants and bars, a spa and gym, a pool terrace, sundeck, and more.
Residenza Paolo VI
WHERE: Vatican City
Although it may not be the newest or the oldest of the European countries, the Holy See (or Vatican City) is by far the smallest country in the world. The entire country sits snugly inside of the city of Rome, where more than 800 people (of whom only 450 have citizenship) walk the sanctified city limits each day. Although there is no hotel within the Vatican’s walls, the nearest hotel is the Residenza Paolo VI, located only 10 steps from the country’s border. It is the only hotel located directly on St. Peter’s Square, and offers 35 rooms, some of which look out on the Holy Office or over the internal courtyard of the ancient monastery. Guests of the hotel can dine on Italian specialties or sip espresso on the hotel’s terrace while looking out on the spot where the Pope himself appears each Sunday at noon to bless the faithful.
The Phoenicia Malta
Malta is located directly in the center of the Mediterranean Sea, and is an archipelago made up of three islands (Malta, Gozo, and Comino). This little country became independent in 1964 before joining the European Union in 2004. The pace of life on the islands strolls along at the pace of a Sunday afternoon picnic, where late morning espressos roll into early afternoon aperitifs on a regular basis. Leisure and luxury are intertwined in a blissfully pastoral way that is all at once unassuming and unashamed. The Phoenicia Malta hotel embodies the Maltese manner of living best, located in the midst of a 7.5-acre garden while looking out onto a stunning Renzo Piano designed Parliament House. This recently refurbished, 16th century hotel is a member of Leading Hotels of the World, and offers 136 rooms, multiple dining venues, and stunning infinity pool looking out over the harbor.