If you’re looking for a place that’s more home than a hotel on a city break, but still want luxurious touches, these family-run B&Bs offer everything from in-room massages and airport transfers to private city tours and opera tickets.
From grand interiors to a grand tour of Rome
Interior designer Alessandra Taravacci runs a two-bedroom B&B in her striking studio in Rome. “We let guests poke around the workshop and maybe get some inspiration,” says husband Massimo.
Their Design aTA Experience B&B offers more inspiration in the modern rooms, one based on the Victorian tradition of the Grand Tour, with atlas-themed wallpaper, antique prints and large tapestries, the other in soothing greens.
Both have parquet floors, a welcome pack with fruit, mineral water, coffee and tea, a safe and hairdryer.
In vogue: in the stylish B&B of Alessandra and Massimo Taravacci in Rome
At breakfast in the workshop, which regularly hosts art exhibitions, Massimo regales guests with stories that can reveal the history of cappuccino or the pastries he picks up fresh from a local bakery.
He says, “We give guests ideas for itineraries that they can do for free and we’re also connected to key organizations, so we can arrange for guests to join archaeologists on underground tours of Rome, for example.”
Guests can book anything from a night tour of Rome in a Fiat 500 to a pasta session to prepare dinner.
Massimo adds: ‘We used to like to stay in B&Bs to appreciate the cultural aspects of a country, and now we want to travel through the eyes of our guests.’
B&B costs from around £110 per night (www.design-ata.com/en-GB).
It also feels like walking through the pages of an interior design magazine in Residenza B. Camillo and Veronica Barluzzi’s four-bedroom B&B is less than ten minutes from the Trevi Fountain and close to the Quirinal Palace, home of Italy’s president.
The building has been renovated by architect Stefano Dorata, along with individually crafted furniture. Rooms have a chic boutique feel in a muted palette, with travertine floors, underfloor heating and air conditioning.
Breakfast is served until 10:30am, airport transfers and driver travel can be arranged, private guides can be sought and restaurant reservations can be made. “Because we only have four rooms, we have a lot of direct contact with our guests,” says Camillo.
One of the rooms at B&B Taravacci is painted in ‘soothing shades of green’
Above is the four-bedroom B&B of Residenza B. Camillo and Veronica Barluzzi, less than ten minutes from Rome’s Trevi Fountain
B&B costs from around £175 per night (residenzab.com).
Let inspiration flow in Lisbon with an artist to guide you
Art is omnipresent in Carlos Nen’s house in Lisbon, which he opens to guests under the name Anything Art Bed and Breakfast. You can even get a private tour of his own studio as part of the highly personalized service he provides.
Fancy a massage or reflexology? Carlos can reserve it for you in your room. Fancy wine and tapas? He can organize that too.
“When people ask for dinner, I can do it on the garden terrace,” he says. “I try to put people at ease and help them.” That means making restaurant reservations, creating brilliant sightseeing itineraries and being available on WhatsApp in case guests need help when they’re out and about.
Rooms at Carlos Nen’s Anything Art Bed and Breakfast in Lisbon start at £75 per night
Guests of Anything Art Bed and Breakfast can sign up for a Lisbon sightseeing tour. Pictured is one of the city’s funiculars
Although his house is located just outside the city center, it can be reached in 20 minutes from the airport and is a two-minute walk from the metro.
The room you can choose if you want a private bathroom is number 6, which overlooks the garden and terrace. Otherwise, the other two rooms currently available share a bathroom.
Carlos stopped cooking his famed breakfasts during the pandemic and now has light offerings throughout the day, including muffins, juice, coffee and tea. Soon his wife will open a restaurant next door.
Room 6 costs from around £130 per night, other rooms from around £75 per night (whateverabb.com).
Work hard in the Berlin office, relax in the private pool
Everything you need for a business trip is included in one of the two guest rooms in Olaf Kellerhoff’s house in Berlin in the southwest of the city.
The Work & Wellness area has a fully equipped office, with webcam, monitor, printer, laminator and everything you need, from pens and paper to a paper shredder and cutting machine. There’s also a microwave, fridge and kettle, so it’s no wonder there’s only room for a single bed – the bathroom is shared.
Upstairs is the Free & Relaxed room at Olaf Kellerhoff’s B&B in Berlin
His other room, Free & Relaxed, is more for taking it easy, with hand-carved wooden furniture, a free-standing bath and separate shower plus an en-suite toilet.
Olaf, who has lived and traveled in Asia for many years, greets guests with scented hot or cold towels, depending on the season. “I used to travel a lot,” he says. “Now, instead of traveling the world, the world is my guest.” And how lucky: they can use the small pool and gym, laundry room and bicycles at no extra cost. The house is a 25 minute drive from the airport and about 30 minutes by train to the center of Berlin.
The single room costs from around £53 per night, the double from around £60, with a choice of breakfasts (berlin-entspannt-geniessen.com).
A professional from Paris with the best tickets in town
Tasteful: Jean Etienne Rousseau’s B&B in the 9th arrondissement of Paris
A stay at Jean Etienne’s B&B includes an extensive continental breakfast
Culture vultures return year after year to Jean Etienne Rousseau’s B&B in Paris’ 9th arrondissement.
Passionate about art, theatre, music and travel, he spent ten years in the luxury hotel industry preceded by a decade at the Paris Tourist Board meaning he knows what he’s talking about and has the contacts to make your trip a breeze make a penny when it comes to getting the best tickets.
His house, opposite Le Grand Rex Cinema, epitomizes Parisian chic, and while breakfast is continental, don’t just imagine croissants and pastries – Jean Etienne offers plates of cheeses, meats, fresh fruit, yoghurts and much more.
B&B costs from around £160 per night (my-home-for-you.paris).
The stronghold in Amsterdam that is completely on trend
Villa Nicola Amsterdam is a canal house from 1895 owned by Werner Nijenhuis
Rooms at Villa Nicola Amsterdam cost from around £295 per night
It’s no surprise that Dutch Vogue and other magazines have used Werner Nijenhuis’s 1895 canal house in Amsterdam for fashion shoots – it’s beautiful.
But Werner strives to make guests feel comfortable amidst the elegance. ‘I want everyone to feel comfortable here, to experience it as homely and familiar,’ he says. “I have a Springer Spaniel and she also welcomes guests. I think they come more for her than for me.’
There are only two suites, one in a vintage 1960s style, the other mixing period pieces, art and modernity.
B&B costs from around £295 per night (villanicolaamsterdam.com).
Home from home in every corner of Britain
Book the Lower Studio in Vicky and Edmund Sixsmith’s wisteria-clad house in West London’s Hammersmith, and it has its own entrance and kitchen. “You can have a cocktail party and we’ll lend you the wine glasses — provided you invite us,” says Edmund, who goes out every morning to buy fresh croissants from a local bakery as part of the breakfast offering.
The four-storey 1870s house at 31 Rowan Road also has an upper studio with kitchenette occupying the entire top floor, and a separate comfortable room.
You can pay £20 a day to park there, but being so close to good transport links at Hammersmith seems better to rely on the tube.
The Lower Studio in Vicky and Edmund Sixsmith’s home in Hammersmith, West London
B&B costs from £100 per night, studios from £125 to £145 (abetterwaytostay.co.uk).
They take breakfast seriously at Edinburgh’s 23 Mayfield. Expect everything from haggis, clootie dumplings and tattie scones to slow cooked porridge, kipper or Loch Fyne smoked salmon. In winter, eat it by candlelight by the fire in the elegant dining room.
Ross and Kathleen Birnie have been running the B&B in their Victorian home for 20 years. The seven elegant rooms are quite chic, some with four-poster beds. It is a 20 minute walk to the city center.
Edinburgh’s 23 Mayfield is a seven-room B&B run by Ross and Kathleen Birnie
B&B costs from £145 per night (23mayfield.co.uk).
In Cardiff, Number One Hundred has seven spacious modern rooms just outside the city centre. Owners Charlie and Abi Prothero do not live on site but are there daily to prepare the continental breakfast.
“We keep it pretty simple,” says Charlie. “But for restaurant recommendations and things like that, people come to me.” B&B costs from £58 per night (icardiff.co.uk).