These four fabulous Europe minibreaks are all a hop, skip and a jump (or, err under two-hour flight) away
Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa, Baden-Baden, Germany
Best for… celeb-spotting
Since it opened in 1872, this grand hotel in the heart of the Black Forest, has attracted an upmarket crowd – from King Edward VII to Victoria Beckham – thanks to its combination of attentive service, fine dining and award-winning spa and medical centre, where the glass-fronted pool and fitness centre overlook stunning grounds. Afterwards, refuel with a Black Forest-themed afternoon tea in the elegant Kaminhalle drawing room, all open fireplaces, gilded mirrors and chandeliers. Book a table for dinner at Fritz & Felix for exquisite local and seasonal produce – watch dinner being prepared on a cast-iron ‘Spanish Charcoal’ grill – and for a nightcap, the adjacent bar area has a menu of cocktails featuring 150 different regional and specialty spirits.
Stella loves: Villa Stephanie, a 5,000-square-metre mansion connected to the hotel, which houses its impressive medical centre and spa, complete with a pool and enormous 500 square-metre sauna. If it’s good enough for VB…
Out and about: Explore the hotel’s parkland and rose gardens on foot, then take a carriage to Baden-Baden’s historical Roman/Irish baths, known as Friedrichsbad Spa, or visit the modern art centre, Museum Frieder Burda. If you’re feeling lucky, go for a flutter at Casino Baden-Baden, which Marlene Dietrich called the most beautiful casino in the world.
Rooms from £294 a night, based on two people sharing a double standard; oetkercollection.com
Read the full expert review: Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa
The Dean, Dublin, Ireland
Best for… Brooklyn vibes
If you like a drink (and a dance), you’re on the best street – and at the buzziest hotel – in town. This cool and edgy party pad has a definite air of Brooklyn to it. There are DJs on weekends and punchy gin cocktails and pizza, plus Sophie’s, the rooftop bar and restaurant, has 360-degree views of the city, perfect for a sundowner when the skyline sparkles and the music ramps up. Sleep it off in your cool, gun-metal grey boutiquey bedroom with excellent power shower.
Stella loves: The Penthouse Suite complete with beer taps, poker table and table football, plus a whopping-great TV and stylish Ligne Roset sofa.
Out and about: The hotel is located in the centre of town, right on Harcourt Street, which has nightclubs and bars aplenty. The Victorian Gaiety Theatre is eight minutes away, or head to the archway of the old railway station for a selection of cafés.
Rooms from £138 a night; visit deandublin.ie or follow the hotel on Instagram @thedeandublin. Aer Lingus operates multiple daily flights to Dublin flying from London Heathrow, London Gatwick and London City. Fares start from £32.99 one-way including taxes and charges; visit aerlingus.com
Read the full expert review: The Dean
Hotel Sofia, Barcelona, Spain
Best for… beating the crowds
This modern hotel located in Barcelona’s business district is away from the hubbub of the city, so it feels particularly relaxing. The long slick pool dotted with spongy sunloungers is perfect for laps and people-watching alike, plus there’s a sizeable spa with a salt cave, steam bath and plunge pools – try the bio-relaxation massage, designed to help lower stress levels and create a sense of inner calm. At night the hotel comes alive – try Zuu restaurant, which hosts immersive cabaret-style shows while you eat.
Stella loves: Philosofia, the hotel’s book-lined literary café, which serves scrumptious brioche toasties.
Out and about: Located in the city’s business district, it’s away from many of the usual tourist hotspots but just a 20-minute stroll from the pretty gothic monastery, Monestir de Pedralbes, which is well worth a visit.
Rooms from £129 a night; sofiabarcelona.com
Read the full expert review: Hotel Sofia
The Dylan, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Best for… waterside wanderings
The Dylan sits proudly on the Keizersgracht (the Emperor’s Canal) in the heart of historic Amsterdam, a worthy match for its elegant neighbours that line the waterfront of this most swish part of the city. Beyond its cobbled entrance you’ll find seductive wood-panelled rooms, cosy leather armchairs, an exquisite flower-decked courtyard and a Michelin-starred restaurant, Vinkeles. For a more relaxed vibe, the bar and brasserie, Occo, serves up everything from signature cocktails – try a whisky-and-Grand Marnier-based Dylan Thomas – to much-needed, delicious morning-after-the-night-before breakfasts. Our room was accessed by its own super-steep flight of steps – a signature of the city, it seems – and once up there we flopped on to possibly the comfiest bed we’ll ever sleep on.
Stella loves: Sipping a nightcap in the courtyard as dusk fell
Out and about: For cute boutiques and fabulous vintage shops, the nearby Negen Straatjes (Nine Streets) are had to beat. Stroll up to the Jordaan district for streets packed with bars and restaurants – we loved Assaggi for great pasta and super-friendly staff. Get away from picture-postcard Amsterdam by catching the free, 24hr Buiksloterweg ferry from Central Station across the water to check out the Eye Filmmuseum, with its terraced café, and the A’dam tower where the brave at heart can try out Europe’s highest swing, which swooshes over the edge of the building, 100 metres up.
Double rooms from £261 a night; dylanamsterdam.com
Read the full expert review: The Dylan
Edited by Laura Powell. Reviews by Sophie Foster, Amy Bryant, Jessica Carpani and Stacey Thomson