This advice risks getting more and more subjective! We all have different tastes and there's a risk in following personal recommendations: few places stay perfect for any length of time. Their popularity may deservedly grow, resulting in at least one of (i) higher prices, (ii) difficulty in securing a booking, or (iii) the owners getting a bit full of themselves. Alternatively, they continue to languish as an undiscovered gem, but their very obscurity means insufficient profits are being generated to keep the place up to scratch - or more likely, it simply goes out of business.

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The easiest way to get the best deals and still keep your options open!

This is a genuine recommendation - NOT sponsored by anyone!

For me, remains the most useful site for tracking down any sort of hotel or guest house in any part of Europe (or the world for that matter). Through a straightforward interface you can pinpoint all accommodation options on a map of your target area, and quickly make bookings which not only get rates as good or better than going direct, but also usually give you the flexibility to cancel at the last minute without paying a thing. The user reviews within the site are useful, but it's always worth as well reading what people have said on Trip Advisor - and of course check out the establishment's own website.

And do bear in mind the hefty fees that charges the hotel - if you want to support a small business, by all means check them out first on the portal, but then book directly if you can, and it's worth your while!
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Making a villa or apartment the focus of your trip (you might not need to book a whole week) helps get the right balance between exploration and relaxation. Picture: Casita Lozari in Istria, Croatia.
What makes a good hotel? (with the emphasis more on the overnight stopover, rather than an extended stay). How about:

  • clean, stylish decor (the HRS hotel booking website is particularly helpful in often specifying when the establishment was last renovated)
  • individuality of rooms and hotel layout
  • a choice of restaurants within walking distance (if only to make their own more competitive)
  • bar and restaurant also popular with locals
  • and of course, parking (preferably secure) and free wifi!

Remember that 4 and 5 star ratings may be as much about extensive business and leisure facilities, which may be irrelevant to your needs as a touring motorist.

The hotel chains are always available as a fallback - and if speed and convenience is of the essence, a budget motel on the edge of town makes sense. But you miss so much by not seeking some individuality - so avoid them if you can.