The Major Cheap Hotel Chains in Europe That Will Save Your Budget
Every American knows the big, affordable U.S. hotel brands in their own country: Hampton Inn, Best Western, Fairfield Inn, Motel 6, and others. But which brands do you look for when you need a cheap hotel in Europe? You won't find many of those North American names overseas. In the United Kingdom and Continental Europe, locals turn to different brands (like Hub by Premier Inn, pictured) when they need a clean, reliable hotel room no matter where they sleep. Take note of these brands, some of which are new to the scene; each one costs much less than most of its competition in the same neighborhoods.
Dutch style hotel CitizenM is making inroads in the United States, but its origins are in Europe. The design is eclectic and modern, and lobby areas combine hangout space with dining. This is the CanteenM at the CitizenM in the Bankside area of London, near the Tate Modern, which was one of the first Citizen M hotels to open outside of the Netherlands. In the morning, breakfast is served here, and in the evening, it becomes a cocktail bar that guests actually use. At the Tower of London location, there's rooftop bar and terrace with panoramic views that's only open to guests.
CitizenM's lobbies are effortlessly hip, but rooms are wonders of compact design: The one class of rooms isn't suited to families but they come standard with huge platform beds piled with a soft duvet, a shower/WC kiosk, LED lighting that can change color according to your whim, truly fast free Wi-Fi, motor-controlled blackout curtains, and a bedside tablet to control everything. You'll find CitizenM in the Netherlands, London (a room beside the Tower of London is pictured above), Scotland, France, Denmark, Switzerland, Taiwan, and Malaysia, and in a growing number of American cities including New York and Miami.
Moxy is American, but it owes a lot to the style that was set by the Dutch at CitizenM. Moxy is also expanding rapidly through Europe through the investment muscle of its Marriott ownership—by early 2023, there were more than 83 locations there. Rooms emulate the current trend toward simple yet modern (the bathroom may be a prefab unit and instead of in a closet, coat hangers hang on pegs, but the TV does all kinds of streaming tricks).
Without much space in the rooms, the lobby is where the life is. Guests may spend most of their time in the common spaces. The check-in desk may double as a bar for coffee and cocktails, food is usually served, and there are plenty of loungers, books, and games to arrest your development. There are downsides: As with so many hotels on the lower end of the expense scale, many Moxy properties are in somewhat inconvenient spots such as near airports or satellite neighborhoods. But they're much cooler and more relaxed than the standard Marriott product, and at least you can earn and redeem Marriott points here.
Like CitizenM, the Hoxton Hotels in London, Paris, and Amsterdam (properties are often called "The Hox") are buzzing with activity in the lobby—self-caffeinators, telecommuters, creative kids getting together. Wi-Fi is free, and the lobby may even come with a hair salon or a coffee bar. This is a lifestyle brand for millennials: It's cool, but it won't break the bank.
No two rooms at a Hoxton Hotel are exactly alike, but amenities are standard: free Wi-Fi, an hour of free telephone calls (to anywhere) daily, loaner bikes, and a little bag of granola, orange juice, and a banana hung on your doorknob before you wake up (for a few pounds or euros). Each property also prides itself on advocating the best local shops and tours in its neighborhood, favoring local-owned business over corporate formula consumerism. Even the giant corporate hotels fake local boosterism these days, but the The Hox (as it's sometimes called) was among the first to do it well.
Point A is based on a simple concept: Give customers a basic, clean room and don't bother with too many extras or services. Most of its properties offer breakfast (they call it "brekkie"—the London's Liverpool Street location is pictured above), and some locations might throw that meal in for free if you book directly.
But Point A is always well located—never far out of town—and within walking distance to big attractions or big nightlife districts. You won't get a closet—you'll get hooks and if you're lucky, a tiny drop-down desk—and your bathroom will probably be small. It's a crash pad, to be sure, but a reliable one.
This Point A room (which is in London's Kensington location) shows what you get: an uncomplicated room maintained to a high company-wide level, with free Wi-Fi considered standard, and every unit has a power shower and a safe. This room has a window, but not all of them do. Point A is in the United Kingdom and Dublin; rooms in London cost as little as £81 if you can score an ultra-low rate far in advance, but usually prices are higher—so to get the most of this brand, book way ahead and do without a window.
EasyHotel uses a pay-as-you-use-it system, which can feel downmarket but can also cut costs dramatically. At its cheapest, you get a prefabricated room without a window—a person who stays in this room has opted for a splurge—but all rooms have their own bathrooms.
They start cheap (as low as £30 with advance reservations) and expenses rise as you add options: You'll pay extra for things like the use of the TV, Wi-Fi, luggage storage, late checkout, or housekeeping services. EasyHotel is a cousin of the bare-bones European airline easyJet, and spreads just as wide: Britain, Bulgaria, Belgium, Hungary, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.
Z Hotels—pronounced "Zed," of course—began in London, where cheap rooms are precious discoveries, and expanded from there to Bath, Glasgow, and Liverpool. Book far enough ahead and prices can be less than £100 a night, but even at their highest, prices are almost always a fraction of rival neighboring hotels. There's a daily free wine mixer for guests, a breakfast that includes fine cheeses and comb honey, and a casual energy that fits its price point.
Z Hotel rooms are designed to be simple and comfortable but not Spartan. Each unit has its own "shower room," or bathroom unit, right in the middle, enclosed in fogged glass. That might make it a little embarrassing to share a room with someone you're not romantically involved, with, but semi-private washrooms are also not unusual among hotels of this price class.
Rooms are small (so much so that the hotel promotes "underbed storage" as a perk), but Z Hotels are very good at delivering dignity at a sensible rate. As with all of these new-brew budget style hotels, Wi-Fi doesn't cost a penny more. There are 11 locations in London now, and they all stay busy.
One of Europe's most common affordable brands is Ibis, the budget-class keystone of France-based Accor Hotels. These aren't terribly cool—in fact, the buildings they occupy, which are frequently former office blocks, can be downright utilitarian—but they contain everything you need in a cheap hotel.
Plain, cheerful rooms, a double bed, a bathroom with a shower, free Wi-Fi, a basic desk, and often, a simple square window—those are hallmarks of the Ibis brand. Downstairs, there's an inexpensive café for light meals and both food and a receptionist available at all hours. Because its parent company is French, there are usually excellent baguettes served at breakfast.
And they're all over Europe. This one's the London Sutton Point location, about 12 miles from Westminster Abbey. And that points to a major pitfall when it comes to booking an Ibis hotel: Sometimes, they are very far from the tourist action or even distant from easy public transportation. The company does operate plenty of properties within walking distance to key sites, but you have to double-check the location with a map before committing.
Ibis actually runs few major brands that are a little different from each other: Ibis, Ibis Styles, and Ibis Budget.Ibis Hotels
Ibis Styles hotels have rooms with amenities that are just as basic as the ones in standard Ibis properties, but costs a little more because food is included in the rate. Ibis Styles are also more likely to have family rooms and, as you can see, a little more effort has been put into personalizing the décor. It's still a solid budget hotel.
Bed, shower bathroom, TV, free Wi-Fi—that's pretty much all you get. Not even a phone. If those things are all you need, then the stripped-down Ibis Budget brand (which used be known as Etap) can make a trip to an otherwise expensive European city possible for you.
Accor does super-duper-no-frills hotels that are even cheaper than its Ibis brands—that's Formule 1, or HotelF1. This is one-star all the way, and you'll find them across 150 locations in France, particularly near highways. There aren't showers or toilets in the room; instead, there are self-cleaning units in the hall. Staff is not available at all hours, and food is by vending machine. For this, you can wind up paying less than US$40 a night in many locations.
Distinguished by its characteristic teal accents, Germany-based Motel One is a current version of a budget hotel—it aims to have style without forcing guests to pay a lot for it. The brand is distinguished by maintaining a lobby area in every property, The Lounge, that flips from breakfast (which costs extra) to cocktails and wine as the day wears on.
This one is in its Berlin Hauptbahnhof property. At all Motel One locaitons, rooms are nicer than to be expected at this level, but still clearly budget—bathrooms may be made with black granite, for example, but only have showers. This combination of comfort and low pricing appears across Germany but has also expanded across Europe, including to Austria, the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic.
The rates can be attractively in the low triple digits at this lower-end design hotel chain, but some locations (in 2023, there were 16 across Europe) have better service than others.
The company leans into its self-cultivated trendy reputation and hipster-approved neighborhoods, which can attract a lively local scene to the common spaces. The brand also provides free streaming movies on in-room TVs—"including X-rated," its official materials boast—but that's just another thing CitizenM did first, and stopped.
The Resident hotels (in London and Liverpool) go for "affordable luxury" and hit the nail on the head—sane prices are charged because they don't have cost-inflators such as in-house spas, bars, or restaurants. The brand, which was originally opened as Nadler Hotels, also makes an effort to grant discounts of 20–25% for advance reservations and for stays longer than 3 nights.
Each Resident room has some forward-thinking twists, like in-room mini-kitchens (if you like, the staff can stock if for you before you arrive) and free filtered water. You'll also often find a Nespresso machine for free use, which is something only the luxury hotels tend to have, and a half-hour of free phone calls to anywhere in the country. Meanwhile, the TV systems acccept streaming your laptop, hook you into your own free and private Wi-Fi signal, and guide you through the secrets of the neighborhood.
Technology is also a mainstay at hub by Premier Inn (yes, they want the H to be lowercase because it's supposed to be daring). A special app can do everything in your prefab room with prefab bathroom unit: stream from a library of free on-demand movies, control the lights, or activate the air conditioning (here, all rooms have AC, which isn't assured at other budget hotels).
Hub is pretty much designed so you never have to spot another human. After all, check-in is by kiosk, some rooms lack windows, and even the rooms that do have windows may frost the glass. But this is all about creating budget-priced cocoon in the heart of the city.
The pre-fabricated rooms in hub by Premier Inn are controlled by this bedside panel called, of course, The Hub.
For all its simplicity and despite the fact it only launched in 2014, hub's locations tend to be spectacular. There are several within a stone's throw of London's Trafalgar Square, which is as central as it gets for tourists.
Hub's parent brand is Premier Inn, and it is massive. Seriously: It has more than 800 outposts across Europe, particularly in the United Kingdom, where it's the top hotel operator by a mile, as well as in Germany and Ireland.
Here's a standard room; most of the time, there's also a casual café downstairs. Prices are great if booked way ahead, and the weekly rates for distant advance purchase can be positively head-turning. But if you wait until the last days to make a reservation, prices are not generally competitive with other hotels. That late-game pricing jump must be how Premier Inn makes so much money.
Since 2018, Premier Inn has also been testing an ultra-cheap capsule-style hotel, ZIP by Premier Inn, that are just 91 sq. ft. (8.5 sq. m) per room and cost from £20. But so far, ZIP hasn't expanded widely enough to be of use for mainstream travelers.
Not related to the Travelodge of North America, the European ones are simple and reliable, and lately, the company has been refurbishing them to give them more personality—the photo above is the new standard, although while the transition is happening, the room you get might be older.
No matter what, you get a king-size bed, a little desk, bathtub and shower, TV—but no phone, hair dryer, or toiletries. They're simple, and so are prices: If you buy many months in advance you'll find prices that can be lower than US$50, but wait too long and you'll overpaying for a bare-bones room, and properties are formulaic, with little regard for local culture or attractions.
Travelodge rooms that haven't been upgraded to the current style will look like this. Theyr'e still acceptable, but more dated. If you opt to pay extra for breakfast (around £10 in the U.K.), you can eat as much as you want, American-style, and up to 2 kids aged 15 or under eat free with every paying adult.
Travelodge also advertises SuperRooms and Travelodge PLUS rooms, but they're more or less regular rooms with nicer fittings than the standard type of room.
Contrary to what the name implies, you will not be assigned a roommate if you book at Room Mate Hotels. You get eclectic, design-hotel style like this. There are now more than 20 properties in Spain, Holland, Italy, and Turkey, and to underscore their individual personalities, each one is given a human name—Room Mate Óscar is in Madrid, Room Mate Bruno is in Rotterdam, and this hotel, Room Mate Giulia, is in Milan. No two Room Mate properties look the same—each one is designed by artists to suit its location and expected clientele.
At Room Mate properties, breakfast is served until noon—a far cry from those fuddy-duddy B&Bs where night owls are punished with meals that wrap up by 9am. Although they're fairly inexpensive because most units are modestly sized and not packed with frills (rates are frequently in the double digits), you don't sacrifice amenities—properties may have cocktail bars, gyms, or even rooftop pools This room is the in Room Mate Anna, in Barcelona.
Room Mate Hotels
Now that you know the names of the major European budget brands, make sure you include them in your research when you plan your next Europe trip. After all, you may not find any of these cheap hotels unless you set out to look for them—and they are almost always cheaper than the Sheratons, Hiltons, Marriotts, and Hyatts you're familiar with.