Best Budget Boutique

At Mr & Mrs Smith we expect every hotel to stand out from the crowd, but there are some that punch well above their weight. These unique luxe-for-less stays are all about great things in small packages: independent passion projects or under-the-radar gems with think-out-side-the-box design and staff fully converted to the concept – all with a refreshing price tag.

Winner: Sands Hotel & Spa, Greater Palm Springs

Our judges say ‘Sands Hotel offers some serious bang for your buck – although staying here is definitely more ‘fun’ than ‘serious’. We loved playing Fifties glamourpusses by the pool; the pastel pink exterior and boldly printed mid-century furniture are a riot; and the retro-chic restaurant helped this Indian Wells hotel amount to so much more than the sum of its parts’.

Kyrimai Hotel, Gerolimenas

The price point might reflect locals’ Spartan descent, but Kyrimai’s 19th-century rooms are generous and charming: stone-built walls and fireplaces, exposed beams and antique furniture add to the sense that you’ve escaped time as well as place. Fish is caught and cooked as it has been here for generations: swing by the hotel’s award-winning restaurant to learn how to prepare them and other Hellenic dishes with an afternoon cookery class.

Hôtel Bienvenue, Paris

Pretend you’re in a perfectly poised Parisian apartment at Hôtel Bienvenue, a baguette-slim townhouse in South Pigalle. Compact room sizes are forgiven thanks to acclaimed designer and scenographer Chloé Nègre’s inspired art-deco fixtures, pastel hues and tactile fabrics. Flour-power baker Anaïs Olmer has been recruited to rustle up delicious pastries and cakes on-site. Its modest price tag looks a steal, too, when you realise Gare du Nord, Montmartre and le Louvre are all a stroll away

Principe di Salina, Salina

On the woodland- and wildflower-coated Aeolian Isles, you’ll find Principe di Salina: a family-run hotel that delivers a honeymoon-worthy experience on a second-date budget. Piping hot, mineral-rich waters bubble to the surface below it, emerging into a geothermal spa bath that presides over sea-and-mountain views. What’s really priceless here, though, is the Sicilian hospitality: family-style dinners, bend-over-backwards staff and free brioche-making classes with the chef make you feel oh-so at home. 

University Arms, Cambridge

Live out your EM Forster fantasies by enrolling at the University Arms where Martin Brudnizki (of Annabel’s and the Ivy fame) has worked wonders on the interiors, crafting a literary-leaning hotel worthy of its Parker’s Piece location. Take one of the hotel’s blue-trimmed bikes for a spin a round the city – staff will pack you a picnic so you can make a day of it. Don’t miss roast Norfolk duck and devilled potted shrimps in Parker’s Tavern, bossed by Cambridge boy Tristan Welch (formerly of Mustique’s Cotton House).

Best budget boutique hotel award criteria

WINSOME PRICE

It’s not about ‘cheapest’ – you get what you pay for – and since our collection includes hotels everywhere from the world’s busiest cities to the planet’s remotest corners, setting a price is tricky. But to qualify as luxe-for-less, we think you should be able to book a sizeable double room for around £150/$200 or less.

PERSONALITY

Inexpensive should never mean uninteresting. Our budget-boutique retreats still have the stylish look and feel you’ve come to expect from Smith-selected spots, and all are brimming with charisma and individuality.

THE BIG THINGS

There shouldn’t be a step-down in quality just because you’re not paying a premium – all the usual best-of-the-best rules apply: the bed must be dreamy, the decor desirable, and the service up to par.

THE LITTLE THINGS

Are there surprise treats? Extras that you might normally expectto pay for? We’re often most impressed by the smallest details: fresh flowers, the choice of bed linen, some home-made bread at breakfast, a well-stocked honesty bar...