Winter might be cold, but it need not be miserable. The New East offers countless locations for a seasonal getaway, from boutique hotels to more adventurous activities. Here are our picks of the most stylish and snug spots to indulge in a bit of snowbound Instagram fun.
Butterfly Lodge, Bohinjska Bistrica, Slovenia
Just a short drive away from the picturesque Lake Bohinj in Slovenia’s Julian Alps, and only an hour from Ljubljana, Butterfly Lodge is a cosy B&B situated in the small village of Bohinjska Bistrica. Rooms feature rustic wood-panelled walls and exposed beams, perfect for bedding down with a book. An hour of sauna time is included in the room price, as well as breakfast and afternoon tea with fresh local produce and homemade cakes. If you do feel like venturing outside, the lodge has partnered with a ski hire service, and there are some good skiing spots close by as well as Slovenia’s more famous venues, like Vogel Ski Centre or Kranjska Gora — both about an hour’s drive away. There is also a cross-country skiing club connected to town by a bus service, as well as other opportunities like ice climbing. If you’re not feeling quite so adventurous, then in the village you’ll find several cute cafes, a covered water park, and an ice skating rink.
Ekesparre Boutique Hotel, Saaremaa island, Estonia
The wooden walls of the Ekesparre Hotel overlook the moat of Kuressaare Castle, built by the Teutonic Order in the end of the 14th century. The hotel itself is the oldest on Saaremaa island, which became a popular resort in the 19th century. There are only 10 rooms on the property, all perfectly art nouveau-styled, complete with floral carpets and period furniture. There is a restaurant that offers locally caught fish and a blend of Estonian and French cuisines, plus a library — all in all, you won’t have to leave the premises. If you do decide to venture into the cold, consider a walk around the rustic old town, a visit to the historic castle, or some pampering: there are lots of spas around the town, but free visits to Georg Ots Spa are included in the room rates.
Pädaste Manor, Muhu island, Estonia
Located just next to Saaremaa, this exquisite resort on the small Muhu island has several accommodation options, from a private farmhouse (don’t let the description fool you — it’s luxuriously sequestered in a secluded corner of the estate and features its own private library and sauna), to a nine-room Carriage House and 14-room Manor House. All rooms are decorated in the Nordic style and fitted out with an iPad, Playstation, and a hidden (to preserve the rustic atmosphere) TV, so you won’t succumb to boredom at any point in your stay. There are also countless spa treatments (including a Siberian cold tub and a seawater hot tub), and activities such as horse-drawn carriage rides. There are also workshops to attend — for example porcelain or quilt-weaving — if you’re so inclined. You might have guessed by now that this place is expensive, but the high prices are not for nothing: some of the rooms feature a separate rainwater shower in addition to your regular, run-of-the-mill bathroom with clawfoot tubs. The grounds of the hotel are perfect for frosty walks or building an army of snowmen, and the Alexander restaurant is a regular feature in guides to the best Estonian eateries.
Brody House, Budapest, Hungary
Fancy a sleepover in an artist’s studio? Brody House is technically a hotel, but its 11 rooms are all inspired by the founders’ artist friends, whose artworks feature in the rooms named after them. It’s extremely stylish and shabby chic, an experience described as “more like staying at a rich artsy relative’s place than a hotel.” Occupying a late 19th-century house in Budapest’s hip, central Palace district, the hotel is named after Hungarian writer Sandor Brody, who also lends his name to the street where the building itself is situated. There are lots of common spaces in the hotel for you to lounge, read books, or play board games, and an “honesty bar” where you write down the drinks you have on a piece of paper and pay at the end. The hotel also includes Brody House, a club featuring a restaurant, bars, and events.
Rooms Hotel Kazbegi, Stepansminda, Georgia
When it comes to getting a room with a view, there are few hotels that can compare to Rooms Hotel, on the old Military Highway into northern Georgia’s Caucasus mountains. It’s a former Soviet resort turned into a well-designed, modern mountain retreat. All its rooms are furnished by local designers, while common areas like the lobby bar, terrace, and restaurant are cosy and picturesque. Fortunately for winter visitors, Georgian food is as close to the ideal of comfort food as any cuisine can get. Feast on warm cheesy breads, grilled meats and vegetables, as well as local pickles. The local red wine is of great quality, widely available, and will warm you up after a hike in minutes. There is also a casino (be careful combining that Georgian wine and gambling), a spa centre, and a covered and heated swimming pool, with — of course — breathtaking mountain views.
Kalatowki Mountain Hotel, Tatra National Park, Poland
This charming mountain hotel is located on a trail in the Bystra Valley of Poland’s Tatra National Park, at an altitude of 1,198m. Although a mountain shelter has existed on the site of the hotel for much longer, the current building was constructed in 1938 and was used in the 1939 International Ski Federation World Championship. In the 1960s, the hotel became a jazz hotspot (it still hosts a Jazz Camping event every autumn), and despite many refurbishments you can still see the charming midcentury interior details come through in wood panelling and floral and plaid upholstery — in fact, you’ll probably feel like you’re on a school ski trip in communist-era Poland. There are a restaurant and two cafes on site, so you can treat yourself to a cup of coffee with traditional Polish szarlotka apple pie after a walk in the snow (or a day in bed with a book). The snow stays on the mountains for a long time, so you can easily delay your vacation and go on your “wintry” getaway in April, when the hotel holds an Easter egg hunt competition. But this is no ordinary contest: contestants participate on vintage skis and come decked out in stylish period outfits.