If there's anything we love more than a great hotel, it's a great hotel that feels like a steal.
This is our second installment of the World's Best Budget Hotels, an understandably popular category in the Fathom Travel Awards, our ongoing celebration of the best places, services, and products in the world.
This year, we focused on hotels in destinations that are usually on the pricey side: big cities, hot destinations, and great beaches.
A few trends have impressed us this year, starting with the expansions of up-and-coming brands The Hoxton and Experimental Group, who are following in the footsteps of Freehand, Ace Hotel Group, and Mama Shelter — companies we rely on for high quality and low prices. This is a corporate trend we applaud. We’re also excited to see small, well-run companies like Rooms Hotels in Georgia and Brown Hotels in Israel stake claims in their home countries. And, of course, we’re always cheering for family-run and employee-owned independents.
Still have travel plans to make this year? Discover the Top Places to Travel in 2019 and the 20 Best Hotel Openings of 2019.
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The hotels below are in the $250-and-under range, but, because hotel rates are more art than science, you should consider these guidelines and not gospel. Rates will fluctuate, especially during peak seasons and holidays.
But let’s cut to the bottom line: The 15 hotels on this list all deliver excellent service, design, and accessibility — at prices cheaper than they could be.
Where: Paris, France
What We Love: The latest lifestyle masterpiece from Experimental Group, creators of some of the coolest bars and hotels in Paris and London (including Henrietta Hotel), was once a cinema before becoming a bourgeois residence. And it shows. The elegant boutique and its 50 rooms, rooftop bar, and noteworthy restaurant were designed by Dorothée Meilichzon, who preserved the hotel’s retro flair. Like all things Experimental Group does, the restaurant, which serves rustic French-Italian fare, and the cocktail bar adorned in shells (a popular 18th-century motif), compete with the best on the Right Bank, if not Paris itself.
Where: Brooklyn, New York
What We Love: The Hoxton — quirky, chic, stay-a-week-past-check-out-cool — has for the last decade claimed some of the most sought-after (and affordable) rooms in London, Paris, and Amsterdam. Now, the hip British mini-chain has finally brought its obsession-worthy hotels stateside, with locations in Brooklyn and Portland already up and running and Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco in the works. The group’s first U.S. outpost, located in a former water tower factory in Williamsburg, is a pleasure to spend time at (so much so that our team has taken to occasionally working from the bright and airy lobby). The hotel has 175 stylish rooms with views over Brooklyn or Manhattan, three restaurants and six bars (including an open-air eatery with serious summer vibes), and a full calendar of cultural and lifestyle events.
Where: Copenhagen, Denmark
What We Love: The collection of midcentury modern pieces is so impressive the hotel could double as a furniture showroom. The rooms filled with ‘50s and '60s details are dedicated to such great Danish designers as Arne Jacobsen, Hans Wegner, and Finn Juhl. Stealing that chair for home might be a little harder than the hotel toiletries, but try anyway.
Where: Amalfi Coast, Italy
What We Love: We almost didn’t put this one on the list, because it’s already getting hard for us to get our own reservations at the beachside hotel we visit at least (at least!) once every summer. The third-generation family-run hotel is best known as the restaurant that everyone on the Amalfi Coast visits for leisurely, glamorous lunches (what’s up, J-Lo, and oh, hey, Springsteen) of outstanding farm- and sea-to-table cuisine. But they also have fourteen bedrooms that are simple but impeccable, with balconies overlooking the sea. They could charge three times as much and would still be a bargain for the Amalfi Coast. Tell them we sent you.
Where: New York, New York
What We Love: It’s so new the paint is barely dry, but given the pedigree of the hotel (the latest from our pals at Atelier Ace) and features like rooms inspired by Japanese and Scandinavian design and an all-day, veggie-forward restaurant with an outdoor patio — not to mention an amazing location in the Lower East Side — we’re feeling really bullish that this boutique is going to deliver more than your money’s worth.
Where: New Orleans, Louisiana
What We Love: Set in a historic 19th-century compound that once consisted of a church, rectory, schoolhouse, and convent, this 71-room gem has a refreshing grown-up vibe with rooms decorated in gingham fabric, baroque-style wood furnishings, and simple white linens. A charming bar/restaurant/coffee shop concept called The Elysian Bar is run by the team behind local favorite Bacchanal, so you know the drinks are good.
Where: Tbilisi, Georgia
What We Love: Georgian hospitality group Adjara, the folks behind the country’s coolest hotels, knocked it out of the park with this eye-catching, affordable gem. Housed in a former Soviet-era publishing house, the boutique is filled with references to its history (original print paraphernalia, freestanding brass bathtubs, concrete columns) and features a soaring, five-story living lobby lined with foliage and a stunning glass-bottom rooftop pool visible from the ground floor. Also on site are a co-working space, an all-day cafe, a chocolate factory, an amphitheater, an Art Deco-inspired casino, and even a fleet of helicopters available for charter.
Where: Austin, Texas
What We Love: The sunny, spacious, great looking, and communal boutique has a very nice little to-go coffee counter serving cinnamon buns and migas and other things that will destroy any hope of eating well for the day by about, oh, nine in the morning. (Don’t even mention the word “calories” at the comfort-food-focused restaurant Carpenters Hall.) While the hotel’s aesthetic is super design-forward, the prices are super affordable, making it a great home base for anyone eager to explore the red-hot Texas capital.
What We Love: In a country split between Crazy Rich Asians and Michelin-starred street food, this 37-room boutique in a refurbished heritage godown, or warehouse, strikes a nice balance between luxury and affordability. The lobby is impressive, with a handsome bar that serves a refined, locally inspired cocktail menu. The hotel restaurant, Pó, dishes fancy Singaporean comfort food — great for a nice dinner. The sprawling, beautifully designed rooms (as well as the the rooftop infinity pool) count the Singapore River as their view.
Where: Mexico City, Mexico
What We Love: The coolest, most Zen-inducing ryokan is located where you least expect it — about ten minutes from Chapultepec Park in the heart of Mexico City. It’s got everything you’d expect from a traditional Japanese inn: tatami mat floors, sliding walls, a garden with a koi fish pond, and even an onsen of sorts on the rooftop terrace. But with ten blond-wood-bedecked rooms starting at $150 a night and a great location in the city’s up-and-coming Little Tokyo (don’t miss whiskey-sake bar Le Tachinomi Desu nearby), this place is anything but stuck in the past.
Where: Tel Aviv
What We Love: Brown Hotels, the folks behind some of Tel Aviv’s hippest boutiques, launched a line of hotels for cool kids who want the feel of a luxury hotel with the personality and price tag of something a lot more approachable. The Dave Gordon, located in a preserved Bauhaus building by the beach, has a vintage video game console, an honor bar, and a tattoo parlor in the lobby, and 1970s-inspired rooms decked out in bold colors and funky ephemera sourced from flea markets and secondhand shops in Tel Aviv and abroad. The Dave Levinsky, which will open in the city’s up-and-coming Levinsky Market neighborhood later this spring, makes one thing clear: These hotels are as much about location as they are about design.
Where: Stockholm, Sweden
What We Love: The 79-room island retreat, the former home of Sweden’s Royal Marines, is a short walk from downtown Stockholm but feels a world away. Rooms are simple, but well kept, with modern touches like Italian Boffi sinks and Orla Kiely toiletries. During warmer months, an aperitif on the outdoor patio is a must. The Swedish meatballs are among the best in Stockholm.
Where: Washington, D.C.
What We Love: This is the opposite of a hipster hotel with all the modern Instagram-bait trappings, and that's why we love it. We've been staying here for decades, but that’s only a fraction of the nearly 100 years that the inn has been a pocket of warmth in an otherwise tough-as-nails town. The 35 rooms are quirky and personal, filled with vintage finds from many eras. Nothing matches, and everything's perfect. Located on a quiet Dupont Circle street, the hotel occupies three Victorian townhouses and, during World War II, was home to the Female Navy Officers known as WAVES. Today, guests and visitors can have a drink by two fireplaces in three lounges or have dinner at the Michelin-noted restaurant that has specialized in local ingredients before it was trendy. But here's one trend we'd like to see them inspire: The hotel is almost totally employee-owned.
Where: New York, New York
What We Love: That the latest from Moxy Hotels takes inspiration from its Flower District location is clear from the entrance — a Putnam & Putnam Flower Shop — and even more from the stunning three-story vertical garden in the second floor lounge. Rockwell Group designed the public spaces with lots of cheeky, playful touches throughout: at Italian-chic Feroce Restaurant and Bar Feroce on the ground floor, in the Conservatory second-floor lobby (ha ha to the classic Italian sculptures holding selfie sticks), and The Fleur Room rooftop bar (dig that elaborate disco ball). Yabu-Pushelberg designed the rooms, which may be small but are notable for their efficient use of space, multi-functional furniture, comfy beds, and floor-to-ceiling windows. As at other Moxys, some rooms are available in bunk configurations for family and small group sleepover fun.
Where: Todos Santos, Mexico
What We Love: The eight-room boutique hideaway has all the creature comforts of a great bed-and-breakfast — beds with beautiful headboards upholstered in bright Otomi fabrics; wool blankets imported from Peru; bathrooms with hand-painted tiles, beautiful Mexican sinks, and locally sourced bath products; and a lush tropical garden with hammocks, an honor bar, and a small but lovely swimming pool. The owners, Erin and Andrew Wheelwright, are an absolute dream and will hook you up with everything Todos Santos has to offer.
Read more about what to do in Todos Santos.