Honeymoon houses: Europe

So here’s the deal – I love staying in nice hotels. I’ve been fortunate enough to experience some pretty fabulous places through my work, and the thrill of turning up at a beautiful hotel where the staff instantly make you feel at home still hasn’t worn off. But I also love self-catering – and when it comes to our own holidays, more often than not we choose to rent a house or apartment. Of course, the words self-catering possibly suggest having to cook every night and not enjoying quite the same luxury that you would expect from a hotel or a resort – but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The joy of self-catering, for me, is the opportunity to experience what it’s like to live in your destination. It’s especially good if you’re a foodie – it’s fantastic to be able to wander around the local shops or market and pick up some of the gorgeous produce you see. So, you don’t get room service, and may miss out some of the perks of honeymooning in a hotel, but it’s a small sacrifice to make for greater privacy (no chance of being woken up by the maid when you’ve forgotten to put the do not disturb sign on the door) and the ability to feel like you’re really getting under the skin of a destination.

And of course, you don’t have to cook if you don’t want to; you have the freedom to do exactly as you please. When we visited New York last year, we stayed in a great little apartment in Chelsea – and being New York, we ate out almost every night. But there were a couple of days when we were so tired out from walking all day that we just picked up a whole load of stuff from the local deli and headed back to the apartment, where we could completely relax. Having the flexibility to do that can be a real highlight.

In addition, you’ll often find that hiring an apartment/house can be a lot cheaper than staying in a hotel – especially when you factor in the additional space and privacy you get.

To whet your appetite, I’ve selected a few properties in Europe that I think would be perfect for honeymooners, and which show that you’re definitely not scrimping on style and luxury if you go down this route.

Andalucia, Spain

I’ve actually stayed in this place so I can say unreservedly that it really is as good as it looks. Tucked away at the top of a very very windy road (make sure you or your partner are happy driving hairpin bends) in the beautiful mountain area of Las Alpujarras, La Estrella is a wonderful retreat. Though there are three bedrooms, which may seem a little unnecessary for two people, it’s actually the perfect size for a couple, with a large, light filled master bedroom. The highlight is undoubtedly the rooftop hot tub – the perfect place to break open a bottle of fizz and soak up the absolutely spectacular views.

From £270 a week.

Robin Hood’s Bay, UK

If you’re thinking of staying in the UK for your honeymoon, then Robin Hood’s Bay is a great choice, with charming little higgledy-piggledy houses staggered down the hillside towards the sea and the wilds of the North York Moors right on your doorstep. White Rose Cottage is unabashedly romantic, and looks the perfect place to hole yourselves up for a few days and shut out the rest of the world. The rustic-chic look works perfectly with its seaside location, and it just oozes cosiness – plus, that bath would be perfect after a day out exploring.

From £395 a week.

Montmartre, Paris

It’s a cliché, but there really are few cities as unabashedly romantic as Paris, and few areas in the city as romantic as Montmartre, with its cobbled streets, multitude of bars and charming old buildings. As you can expect from any big, touristy city, prices are pretty high (as they are for hotels), and apartments, especially for two people, tend to be a little on the small size. I love this gorgeous little flat from HomeAway Holiday-Rentals, with its fondness for Audrey Hepburn and black-and-white prints. It’s situated on rue Lepic, which leads onto lively rue des Abbesses, both of which are crammed with food and wine shops, bars and restaurants, not to mention a great little jazz cave.

From £623 a week.

Santorini, Greece

Imagine sitting out on your own private balcony, overlooking the impossibly turquoise sea while sipping a cold glass of wine….Nest Studio, to me, looks like the perfect place to do this. I love the seating area on the balcony, with its colourful cushions and potted plants (not to mention the view), and the country-style decoration of the bedroom makes a nice change from the crisp, cool white interiors that you most often find in island properties.

From £727 a week.

Who to book through

The last two properties are both from HomeAway Holiday-Rentals – having booked apartments through them on a couple of different occasions, I’ve found them to be an excellent company with a good range of reliable properties. Each property description includes a list of what’s in the house/apartment, so you know what to expect before you get there. It’s also worth checking out their sister site, VRBO, as there’s often different properties on each site.

Aside from these two websites, there are a number of others, including country/destination specific sites that can be worth checking out – the best way to find them is by contacting the tourist office or having a look on Google. Do exercise a little caution, however – make sure you’re sure of exactly how much you need to pay, and when, and also what you’ll be getting for your money. Most agencies/landlords will ask for a deposit – usually around 20% of the fee – with the remainder paid on arrival. This is certainly the best (and perhaps the safest) way to do things, especially as, like anything, there’s always a number of unscrupulous people out to just make a quick buck. If in doubt, stick to an established agency, or one that has been recommended to you.

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