As I’ve grown older, I’ve become far more open-minded – especially when it comes to travel.
As an 18 year old, I’d convinced myself I needed to stay in proper hotels that had thousands of positive reviews, eat at restaurants in super touristy areas and I wouldn’t even dream of leaving the city centre or the main strip. As such, I could rarely afford to go anywhere because each trip would cost me a damn fortune.
As I’ve realised the appeal of not being a tourist or indeed acting like a tourist, I’m far more likely to go off the beaten track – and that includes accommodation. AirBnb has truly shaped how I plan my trips. Of course, the concept of staying in other people’s homes for vacations isn’t a new thing – AirBnb wasn’t the first, and won’t be the last. Sure there is Couchsurfing and HomeStay and VRBO and many more, but it seems AirBnb in recent years has really been able to crack all kinds of markets – young and old, backpackers to pleasure-and-leisure-seekers, solo adventurers to business travellers. They’ve really nailed their marketing campaigns to embrace all generations and types of travellers.
Why stay in an AirBnb? Well, for starters it can make your trip a helluva lot cheaper by renting someone’s apartment or spare room, compared to a hotel. Staying ‘locally’ can be more enlightening when learning about a new city and help you embrace local culture. Even better – when you just rent a room and stay with your host, many will offer local cuisine homecooked meals for cheap prices – perfect!
I made it my mission to find some super interesting places to stay within Europe, away from the traditional ‘Entire place’ and ‘Private room’ searches. Trying to be open-minded, I’ve managed to source some truly creative places, some that even don’t have electricity and really let you get back to nature. So, without further ado, here are some super-duper AirBnb properties across Europe just waiting for your suitcases:
Looking at Heidelberg first. Now just how charming is this gorgeous greenhouse room! In summer you will wake with a warm glow coming through the roof, whilst snuggled in blankets, and fall asleep at night under the stars while lighting candles.
This accommodation really entices you to live within nature, harnessing plants and greenery alongside rustic unvarnished wooden furniture. Chickens roam freely outside providing free range eggs and add to the rural farmy-country vibe. Let loose and go and chill at the Charming livable greenhouse studio. Probably not a place you’d want to consider in winter, but mid summer would be a country-living fanatic’s dream.
I also just had to mention the greenhouse’s sister accommodation, the Modern Creative Spacious Loft, also in Heidelberg. This place is in a smashing location, just 15 minutes from the best food and bars in Old Town. You’ll have to get over the fact this place is frequently used as an event venue during the day. It is unlikely to be good for a family or bringing your grandma – but it will absolutely inspire you as an open-minded, creative couple, solo or group of friends. You might even find some inspirational workshops to sign up to whilst you’re there.
At the minute, the loft is operating on a super cheap price (£70 a night for an entire property is incredible!). The owners, who are doing this place up themselves, state it is very much a “work-in-progress” but -hey- what a damn amazing thing to be a part of? Even if it’s just to stay for one night, go and soak in the culture.
Before I move on from Germany, I needed to share another loft, but this one in Berlin. From a purely aesthetic point of view, I’d say this property is every Instagrammer’s wet dream. The building is a 100 year old factory and is absolutely full of character. The apartment claims to be used plenty for photoshoots and events – and it’s not hard to see why.
It’s redonkulously close to the main train station and the airport so a great base for exploring the alluring city of Berlin.
The apartment offers raw industrial decor, custom-made vintage furniture, and there are plenty of wooden unvarnished surfaces for a severe amount of coffee and avocado-smash flatlays. This place does pack a punch for its £310-a-night offer. Now, that’s quite a lot. But you have to look at the bigger picture. Just how much do you want that Instagram glory and bragging rights?
Paris is absolutely full of secret gems in a variety of ancient buildings, but I think this restored industrial studio lodge has got to be one of my favourites. It’s tiny but cute as hell, with exposed brick walls and a ‘mezzanine’ where the bed is. The building also harbours a deep and harrowing history: during the Second World War and the Nazi occupation of France, members of the local resistance took shelter in this very building to hide.
With a Metro stop being at your front door and an excellent host providing insider tips of navigating Paris, you really couldn’t ask for a better base to explore this magical city. It’s compact, but from £54 a night you couldn’t ask for more!
Is there anything better than having a whole castle to yourself?
Well, unfortunately you can’t have the whole castle, but you can have the master suite with personal access to your own turret in this 1400s-built medieval castle in the outskirts of Galway, Ireland. This isn’t my typical city break recommendation as you DO need a car to get to it, but it was too much of a babe to leave out.
This property is being refurbished by one man – an impressive feat when you consider how old the castle is. The owner, Peter, who works on many castles throughout Ireland, offers a true, authentic Irish experience in what must be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And at around £120 a night, you have an amazing opportunity to use this gorgeous castle as a base to explore this beautiful country.
My heart burst with joy when I came across this beautiful Writer’s Cabin by the lake in Lidingö, Sweden – I couldn’t move fast enough to grab my wallet but was heartbroken it wasn’t available during the dates of my annual leave! I will absolutely be back!
For storytellers, this is a dream. The perfect office space to help you curate all of your ideas into wonderful pieces of content. Not a writer? F*ck it, just pretend. Holing up in this cabin, you’ll feel like you’re in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo with a warming log burner behind you, rustic writing bureau underneath you and having nothing but nature and scenery surrounding you.
You will be a little bit off the beaten track, but it is only a short drive from Stockholm central. The cabin is only 15 minutes on the ferryboat (ferryboat!!) to the underground, and then you’ll be right back within civilisation again. In winter you can go iceskating on the Fjord. In summer, hiking through the forests.
You won’t be able to have a proper shower (there’s only a “hand shower”) unfortunately – but perhaps you’d expect a lack of luxuries for £75 a night (in what is a VERY expensive country). What you will get is an impeccable place for inspiration, a chance to really leave civilisation behind, and also perhaps you can pretend for a few days you’re a super cool detective or investigative journalist with a super important mission ahead. No? Just me that likes to pretend cool sh*t like that?!
Ok, so you can’t have a castle all to yourself, but you can have a romantic 1874-built windmill near Amsterdam all to yourself!
Every room is wooden and rustic, including the gorgeous draped bed in the main bedroom. The lounge/kitchen/diner is wonderfully well lit and airy and supplies views of gorgeous scenery whilst you eat breakfast. There is a beautiful river flowing nearby and, in summer, supposedly is perfect for swimming in!
It is a little bit out of the centre of Amsterdam, so again you will need a car to get you out here, but surely there’s no better way to enjoy the gorgeous Netherlands countryside – the hosts even offer cheap bike hire so you can go exploring on pedal. But if you do need town, the centre of Amsterdam is only 15 minutes away.
Now this is definitely more than what I’d normally pay for an AirBnb – from around £250 a night. But then this isn’t a normal property. You would stay here to be part of the culture, part of the woodwork. A fly on the wall in a beautiful country. It’s worth splashing out every now and then for a truly remarkable experience after all.
I couldn’t leave out my home country now, could I?
How about this haunted bedroom? It claims to be ‘Britain’s Most Extraordinary Home’ and is based just outside of London Stansted airport. As much as I am ashamed to use copy and paste in one of my blogs, I simply just have to share this sentence because I cannot imagine a more perfect and haunting way of relaying this information:
…this room recreates in nightmarish detail the bed chamber of a seven-year-old Edwardian child complete with books, toys and ephemera.
Sends shivers down your spine, doesn’t it? Now this is one room I definitely WON’T be staying in (despite my open-mindedness) as I am terrified of ghosts!
Despite being advertised as a bedroom, the host promises you will have the entire property to yourselves – just to add to the creepiness! Previous guests explain this is more of an ‘experience’ than a regular hotel stay – you have been warned! For £110 you probably cannot find a better place to indulge in spooky fantasies or do a bit of ghoul-hunting, whilst sleeping in style and luxury.
Sccarrrttlannnnd. Four poster beds. Castle views from your sofa. The cobbled well-walked streets of Edinburgh on your doorstep. SIGN ME UP!
For only £144 a night, which is pretty good for the heart of Old Town, the Laird’s Lodge is mere footsteps to the Royal Mile and a short (uphill) walk to the castle which offers astonishing views across the rest of the city. There are many wonderful pubs close by, as well as many of the popular sightseeing or touristy destinations (National Gallery, the university, Scott Monument) and you are still within walking distance of Carlton Hill, the Palace of Holyroodhouse and Arthur’s Seat.
I’ve now been to Edinburgh six or seven times over the past 5 years – personally it’s my favourite city in the whole world and I would live there if I could. I will never tire of the beautiful Scottish accent, nor will I ever get bored of going up Arthur’s Seat. If you haven’t been, I recommend you consider it as your next trip – you won’t regret it.
Anyway – there we have it! 9 alternatives to your traditional hotel room or apartment rental stay in 6 beautiful European countries. I really recommend with every booking to be on the look-out for unusual places to stay because it really can propel your trip from ‘it was alright’ to ‘it was gaddddamnnnn magical!’.