Upon finally arriving at your boutique hotel after your overnight flight to Provence, you are eager to check in, freshen up and perhaps unpack. Excitingly, you open your room door and you find yourself staring at this petit room sometimes with barely enough space for a bed and dresser let alone a chair. You turn on the light in the bathroom and discover the same thing, a tiny bathroom. As an American traveling to Europe for the first time you may be shocked to experience the difference between standard American hotel rooms and even upgraded European rooms. To help ease the confusion and disappointment you may feel, let’s look at why these rooms are so different.

  • SPACE: We all know that space is a valuable commodity in Europe, especially in the cities. Locals live in small spaces with well organized homes (think IKEA). Many of the hotels are built in 100+ year old buildings that simply can’t compete with the rooms of a newly constructed hotel in the States. I have found that the smaller the size of the hotel sometimes the larger the rooms may be. If room size really bothers you, do your research and find a hotel that caters to American guests.
  • BATHROOMS: Baths are usually smaller than American baths. I have found that there is always little counter space for your toiletries. You usually will have a hand held shower head in addition to a rain shower fixture in your shower/bathtub. Often there will be a half glass door and yes, you will get water on the floor. Due to environmental concerns, bath towels are smaller than American towels which helps save water and electricity when laundering. You will not have a face cloth in European hotels. If this is something important to you, bring one from home.
  • ELECTRICITY: Voltage in Europe is twice the strength of that in the United States. You will need to provide your own adapter and converter kits to accommodate the different type of outlets and voltage strengths.
  • BEDDING: Usually a double bed in Europe is not a double bed as we know it in the United States. Most likely, you will have two twin beds pushed together. That being said I find the bed linens in Europe to be of high quality and the beds most comfortable.
  • HOTEL ELEVATORS: Elevators in European hotels can be difficult to find. Just like the small room sizes, the elevators are small and difficult to install in the old buildings. Be prepared for a coat closet sized elevator that can only fit maybe 2 people at a time with luggage. Again, I always stress to my guest to travel light with small pieces of luggage. If there is no elevator you can possibly find yourself carrying your luggage up and down flights of stairs.
  • TURNING ON THE LIGHTS: To save electricity in Europe, which is much more expensive that here in the United States, you might be required to place your room key in a slot by the entrance inside your door. Key in means lights on, key out lights off.  

After all being said, why would one want to stay in a European boutique hotel? The answer is these hotels are unique in style and decor. They almost always have a history. You will say good bye to the cookie cutter designs we find here in some hotel chains. Your room might be furnished with antiques and local artwork. You will get a taste of the region you are traveling in by the decor of your room. Boutique hotels are almost always found in prime locations allowing you to explore your city or countryside safely and easily.

I have yet to rush to the window in my American hotel room to fling open the shutters, step out on the balcony and peer down the cobblestone street in the village or city I am visiting. I have in my European boutique hotel.