Winning tip: La Ferrade, Bordeaux
Outside the city centre but only 20 minutes or so by bus, this B&B is beautifully furnished and great value. One of the best reasons to stay here is Yolande, the friendly owner, who couldn’t do enough for us. She recommended great restaurants and gave us tips on what to see in Bordeaux. Her incredible breakfast spread, complete with homemade jam, was the best breakfast I’ve had in France, and that’s saying something. Bordeaux is a fantastic city – a cleaner, friendlier and warmer version of Paris.
• Doubles from €80, laferrade.com
Santa Clara Guest House, Coimbra, Portugal
What a find! Combining old-fashioned charm and modern amenities, our spacious room had panoramic views over the old town, historic university and Mondego river. Sofia exuded Portuguese hospitality: her recommendations for local restaurants were faultless and the simple buffet breakfast suited us fine. We were within walking distance of all of Coimbra’s cultural sites. The B&B was next door to Dos Pequenitos, a miniature park with replica buildings of houses and monuments from all over Portugal, Madeira and the Azores.
• Doubles from about €60, on Facebook
In the Portuguese capital’s historic and vibrant Chiado district, Zuza B&B is a perfect home from home. Luis, the charming owner, makes you feel like an old friend as soon as you arrive, being on hand to provide tips on exploring the city, a glass of local wine or just some friendly conversation (when he’s not, he’s created an app so you can still get his personal recommendations). Zuza’s immaculate rooms are decorated individually with love and style, and breakfast is full of delights, including local pastries, homemade jams, fresh fruit and eggs cooked just the way you like.
• Doubles from €95, zuzabed.com
Parliament Penthouse Boutique B&B, Budapest
This B&B offers a fantastic bird’s eye view of this beautiful city. Steps lead up from the little breakfast room to the a rooftop terrace, with one of the best panoramas I’ve seen. We sat up there with a bottle of wine and sandwiches each evening, just soaking in the view. The rooms range from modern to fabulously traditional, with big old shuttered windows to die for. The friendly owner goes out of his way to help with tips and tricks for getting around the city.
• Doubles from about €60, parliamentpenthouse.com
Iris, Alaverdi, Armenia
Alaverdi city itself is nothing to write home about but there are superb old monasteries nearby and perched on a veranda overlooking the Debed gorge Iris makes the perfect first stop in Armenia from Georgia. It’s also well placed as as stopover before crossing the border the other way. The wonderful hostess Irina makes all the elements of the breakfast – butter, jams, pancakes – and will arrange tours of the nearby Unesco heritage monasteries of Sanahin and Haghpat and the even more atmospheric Akhtala and Kobayr. Be sure to pay the little extra for Irina’s full Armenian dinner at least once during your stay.
• Doubles from £22, booking.com
Halvat, Sarajevo, Bosnia
A warm, friendly and cosy B&B, Halvat is not far from Sarajevo’s old town. The service is first-rate, breakfast is whenever you want it, the desk staff will arrange transport to wherever you need it. Valida, the owner, is really friendly; the second time I visited, she picked me up from the station and gave me a commentary on the city and its past. I have been four times, and the great-value room rate has never changed. On my last visit, Valida took me around the historic market for the whole day, taking me to her favourite ćevapi (kebab) place in the evening. Now I expect the same from all B&Bs wherever I go, perhaps unreasonably.
• Doubles from €45, halvat.com.ba
Alavera de los Baños, Ronda, Spain
It is now two years since we visited this lovely, peaceful B&B in Ronda’s historic quarter by the 13th-century Arab baths, but the warmth and helpfulness of people here, the generous breakfast at a characterful table on the covered patio, the cool gardens and lovely rooms stay with me as the best memory of our trip, which took in several cities. It’s a calm retreat overlooking a riding school and with views of Andalucían hills.
• Doubles from €87, alaveradelosbanos.com
Pension Herbert, Salzburg
Comfortable beds, a good shower and tasty breakfast should be a given at all B&Bs. But what sets such places apart is the host. She or he can make or break your stay. The eponymous Herbert was a gem, and left us with warm memories of the city about which he is so knowledgeable and proud. Multilingual and welcoming, he went out of his way to help us plan our short stay. We noticed that he tailored his suggestions according to each of his guests’ interests and needs. The B&B was a short tram or bus ride from the centre and excellent value at around £60.
• Doubles from €76, on Facebook
The Stop, Galway, Ireland
In a great location, this is a nice and quiet property with fab mid-century decor. Here I had best breakfast I’ve ever had in any B&B, with homemade wheaten bread and a record player for music and atmosphere in the mornings. It’s a lovely chilled place with brilliant hosts who gave us some perfect recommendations.
• From €50pppn sharing, thestopbandb.com
Toledo Station B&B, Naples
On the Via Toledo in the city centre, this is a friendly and fun place to stay. Each room is themed around a different world city – and the owners’ care and sense of humour are apparent in all the little details. The location is brilliant – great for seeing the sights of the city centre and minutes away from all the best Neapolitan pizza and ice-cream.
• Doubles from €125, on Facebook