Whilst the mega capitals of London, Paris, Madrid, and Rome see American tourists in their droves, those that desire discoveries off the beaten Western European path venture East. Say Ahoj to the wonders of the Central and Eastern portions of this bountiful continent. Upscale Living switches the wheely and straps on Aways F.A.R. Convertible Backpack, holding a carry-on suitcase worth of gear for the excursion, to reveal how cities from Prague to Warsaw handle luxury by way of hotels.

Four Seasons Budapest
Budapest’s grandest hotel is the unrivaled base to explore the city, and its ground-floor restaurant’s wines are all-around winners. Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Budapest.

Best in Budapest, Hungary: Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest

Think Budapest, think grand Budapest hotels, and you’ll want for nothing more at the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest. This timeless treasure is grandeur from the mosaic lobby to a step-out balcony overlooking the Danube River by the Chain Bridge. Your route to relaxation starts at one of 179 guest rooms including 19 suites; they carry Diptyque essentials in marble bathrooms; tower with vaulted ceiling bedrooms; and are softened with plush bedding and furnishing. Ceramic kettles and gold-accented dishware make in-room tea time a pure delight. Expect signature Four Seasons service across all amenities which range from a sumptuous heritage-style spa to fashionable lobby bar MÚZSA. Those keen to sample French-Hungarian fare need to book a table at KOLLÁZS – Brasserie & Bar, where anything paired with their Hungarian wines will alter any perception of European fine dining. Don’t miss the Somlói Sponge Cake for the perfect rum, nut, chocolate, and vanilla concoction. When ready to explore the capital, you’re in a prime location for both business and leisure. Jump into Budapest’s thermal spas including GetYourGuide’s Széchenyi Spa pass, as well as its both vast and fascinating museum scene. Our favorite is the harrowing House of Terror Museum (best taken with an audio guide). 

Mandarin Oriental Prague
Royal service in a fairy tale city, the Mandarin Oriental, Prague has just the people, the history, and delicious amenities that make it Prague’s premier experience. Photo courtesy Mandarin Oriental Prague

Best in Prague, Czech Republic: Mandarin Oriental, Prague

What differentiates an extraordinary five-star hotel from an ordinary five-star hotel is service, and the Mandarin Oriental Prague‘s personnel is always steps ahead. Arrivals are greeted with genuine warmth like family anticipating beloved returns. One’s ‘home’ on this trip dates back to the 14th century, a build that beautifully captures the old-world charm, uplifted in MO elegance. This may be in the heart of Prague‘s key attractions, minutes walking distance to the Charles Bridge and the Old Town Hall Tower, but the walled haven just off the main drag is a serene chance to cocoon. The hotel is boutique through and through, with just 99 spacious guestrooms, spread across the grounds as it was in its monastery era. You’ll rest, refuel and explore undisturbed. Every personal preference is dutifully noted, so room settings are you-perfect. Enjoy a brew by the arched windows and gaze at Prague Castle; submerge into Diptyque within the oversized heated limestone bathroom; or get cozy with a good read from an opulent king bed, wrapped in signature brand robe and slippers. Tearing yourself away might prove difficult, particularly since room service is presented in upscale restaurant fashion, but whilst turn-down service occurs we suggest a meal at Spices Bar & Lounge for Asian specialties under renaissance vaulted interiors, or a session at their award-winning holistic spa, connected by an underground passageway in what was once a stunning Gothic chapel. The Mandarin Oriental, Prague is where superfans are conceived.

Prague Must-Do

A nation famed for its brews, there’s only one way to celebrate this: a visit to the Original Beer Spa. You’ll plunge into the ultimate of baths in huge hand-carved royal oak tubs that are filled with natural extracts used to brew Czech beer. The vitamins and enzymes are naturally present in brewer’s yeast are said to help regenerate skin, remove harmful bodily substances and ease fatigue and stress. Unlimited beer is available to pour throughout your session and fresh homemade beer bread to help soak it up. Towers and slippers are provided, along with sauna, bathroom, and shower facilities in a gorgeous fireplace-warmed environment, so all you have to bring is yourselves. A brilliant activity solo, for couples or with pals, the Original Beer Spa is our pick of all the things to do in Prague and a once-in-a-lifetime travel bucket list experience.

Intercontinental Ljubljana
Five-star contemporary luxury in the heart of Ljubljana. Photo courtesy InterContinental Ljubljana

Best in Ljubljana, Slovenia: InterContinental Ljubljana

Ljubljana, is a destination warming up to U.S tourists thanks to medieval streets, captivating castles, and a healthy green ethos. The best base to explore it all from is the Intercontinental Ljubljana. As the tallest hotel in the city, this gleaming glass façade holds 165 rooms including 14 suites and a Presidential suite. Business or pleasure, a stay at Club Level is a must: inviting access to the 19th-floor lounge where uplifted hospitality, drinks and bites, meeting rooms, and lounge chairs with Alps views reside. Rooms are designed in sleek dark tones that incorporate the works of Slovenian artists, and you have here all the smart tech one could wish for, including desk connectivity, fast Wi-Fi, and even motion-sensor bathrooms. Fragrant Byredo products

in this marble sanctuary aid with post-business relaxation, as do drinks on the top floor B-Bar or a dip on the 18th-level zero-edge indoor pool where orange sunsets are beautifully showcased. Ready to take on town? Arm yourself with the Ljubljana pass and take you to the museums, castles, and boats, all within walking distance of the Intercontinental. Just don’t forget the refillable water bottle—you’re never short of clean H20 at Europe’s greenest.

Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna
A delightful entry to Kempinski hospitality, the Austrian edition is a five-star stay on Ring Boulevard. Photo courtesy Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna

Best in Vienna, Austria: Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna

Those unfamiliar with the Kempinski brand stateside is yet keen to sample luxury across the pond are recommended splurge on one of the most respected hoteliers from Europe. Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna is an excellent first foray. The Austrian outpost is housed in a heritage-listed Palais on the prestigious Schottenring Street, not only surrounded by architectural wonders but itself a jewel among jewels. Rooms and suites are elegantly decored with neutral tones offset with amenity noirs such as Samsung smart television, mirrored mini bar cabinet, and bedside tech, popped by royal ballet art on canvas. In the marble bathrooms, you’ll foam Salvatore Ferragamo on waters running at the touch of a button, temperate control included, and when done, dry off as heated marble floors soothe tired soles. The spa offers additional R&R on the mezzanine level, with 8600 square feet of treatment rooms, saunas, steam rooms, a hydro pool, a gym, and a relaxation lounge. Breakfast (and more) is served in the Wintergarten, while the Michelin-starred EDVARD is a sought-after dinner reservation. Other property outlets include a sushi restaurant, a lobby lounge and bar, and a cigar lounge. Location-wise, you’re within easy walk and transit of all the main Viennese draws, including Schottenring train station to the storied Schönbrunn Palace, one of Europe’s most beautiful Baroque complexes where the Grand Tour is a must.

Vienna Must-Do

Vienna, a destination sparkling in romance, is the best place to explore on an equally sparkling horse and carriage. Riding Dinner Vienna explores the enchanting streets in the company of Austrian bubbles, Les Caves Romaines Brut, and both savory and sweet delicacies from local connoisseurs, Zum Schwarzen Kameel, presented by butler on a specially designed table with elegant glass holders. Lovers (or even friends, families, and acquaintances) are taken on the ultimate sightseeing tour via luxury converted horse-drawn carriage, where its equine stars are, like guests, treated like VIPs. Founder and CEO, Marco Pollandt, and his team have a deep-rooted love for horses, not only adhering to Austria’s top-level animal welfare regulations but exceeding them. The horses of Riding Dinner are exceptionally well cared for, routinely checked by veterinarians, and pampered stable side with their peers (the stables are available to tour so you can even see for yourself). In addition, they work in pairs, not only making each draw a breeze but also bringing comfort in companionship. Visitors can book knowing that these magnificent creatures are thoroughly enjoying every part of their rich and fulfilling day.

Esplanade Hotel Zagreb
A storybook property, the lobby of Esplanade shimmers in gold and rooms in old-time romance. Photo courtesy Esplanade Zagreb Hotel

Best in Zagreb, Croatia: Esplanade Zagreb Hotel 

Keen on spending time at Zagreb’s number one attraction? Then all you have to do is check into Esplanade Zagrab Hotel. The near-centurion icon of the city opened as a refuge for passengers from the Orient Express, as well as notable figures in history to present-day personalities, including Orson Welles, Elisabeth Taylor, Louis Armstrong, Tina Turner, Hillary Clinton, and Cristiano Ronaldo. They’re drawn to the hotel’s sublime art deco glamour, fairytale exterior, and thoughtful guest experience. There’s no better location to explore the capital city of Croatia. Rooms and suites tell the story of the hotel’s great heritage on sumptuous furnishings which have a tint of Tinseltown magic, along with inspiring views of town and marble bathrooms clad with L’Occitane products. Bathrobes and goose-down duvets, soft to the touch, wrap and warm in winter, while breezy summers bounce wall to wall by way of vintage casement framed windows. Fast internet, Samsung smart TVs, and Illy coffee machines bring guests back to 2023. Opt-in for breakfast at Zinfandel’s, set in impressive Austro-Hungarian architectural surroundings, it’s the upscale way to start the day… or swap with a session at the basement health club. Esplanade is also dog-friendly, offers limousine service, and has a business center.

Intercontinental Warsaw
One of the tallest buildings in the city, InterContinental’s top-floor wellness center offers a dip in the clouds amidst Warsaw’s landmarks. Photo courtesy InterContinental Warsaw

Best in Warsaw, Poland: InterContinental Warsaw 

In Warsaw for new business? Consider this your base whether switched on or switched off. InterContinental Warsaw stands center of town as one of its tallest landmarks—so high it has completely unobstructed views of the Palace of Culture and Science. Select a club-level floor for optimum observatory-style vistas, not to mention access to the 41st-floor lounge where breakfast, refreshments, afternoon tea, and evening treats are served. Twenty years after its debut, Warsaw’s shiny skyline icon remains the premier stay, at the forefront with modern amenities from the in-room smart TV with futuristic touch-charge remote to the ultra-fast WiFi and business facilities in the club lounge. But it isn’t all work no play: rooms and suites are outfitted in contemporary chic decor, soothed in blue from entry to marble bathrooms stocked with Byredo. But the top soak is upstairs on 43 and 44. It’s here you’ll find Riverview Wellness Center, a haven featuring a stunning lap pool and jacuzzi—you’ll literally dip in the clouds. Add a sauna, steam bath, and fitness facilities for an expansive whole day of R&R. As for eats, you’ll find a Michelin-guided restaurant, Platter by Karol Okrasa, on-site, as well as Downtown, where breakfast is soundtracked by harp. Though being located where all the action is, guests need not venture far to satisfy an appetite for Polish food, wine, and quality city entertainment.