Simple Guide to Hotel Star Ratings in Europe

Charming hotel with incredible views of the sea and Calanques of Piana | Kate Baker
Charming hotel with incredible views of the sea and Calanques of Piana | Kate Baker

Simple Guide to Hotel Star Ratings in Europe

Europe's hotel star rating system deals with many complexities - don't read too deep into the stars.
In this article, we break down fact from fiction when it comes to selecting the best accommodation in Europe.
Garden of a 3 star hotel in Bayeux Normandy |  <i>Kate Baker</i> Bolzano - Hotel Scala double room ensuite 4 star hotel |  <i>Efti Poulos</i> Stay in handpicked hotels full of character

How hotel star rating systems work in Europe

Hotel star rating systems in Europe generally work by inspectors visiting accommodation sites and checking what facilities are on offer.  For instance, a hotel that features private baths, a 24 hour reception, and a minibar may automatically receive a 3-star rating simply because of these amenities. It does not take into account anything outside of these parameters.
Inside Chateau de Camperos Barsac, France |  <i>Deb Wilkinson</i>

There is no universal hotel star rating system across Europe

Not all stars are equal in Europe. 
Countries have their own independent ranking systems of varying standards. This can even differ from region to region within a country. Also, there are some countries, such as Germany and France, where obtaining a classification is voluntary, whereas other nations, like Spain and Italy, make it mandatory. Therefore it is not reliable to compare a 2-star hotel in Portugal with a 2-star hotel in Austria.
Picturesque accommodation options on the GR5 |  <i>Vincent Lamy</i>

Star ratings can be deceiving

In most cases, additional stars are given due to the number of boxes a hotel is able to have checked off. 
While a 3-star hotel may sound good on paper, it is not necessarily better than a 2-star hotel. This is because the 3-star hotel may be in an obscure location, offer basic customer service and have a bland interior design. The hotel rating system is not a review of a hotel, but more an indiscriminate ranking. 
Another downside of this is that it's quite easy for a hotelier to add relatively affordable amenities, like complimentary soaps and shampoos, that will earn them an extra star (and the heftier price tag that comes with it!).
Hotel near San Gimignano on the Via Francigena |  <i>Tim Charody</i>

Certain hotels may not be able to increase their star rating  

Want to stay in the centre of Budapest but are fussy about staying in a 2-star hotel? You have likely stumbled upon a rating rut. 
Historic areas of cities and towns can have regulations that forbid hoteliers from renovating to maintain the aesthetic. That's why a cosy luxury apartment may never get awarded with 4-star status because they are restricted from putting in a full length bath tub. Wouldn't you rather be in the heart of the town?
A perfect example of this is the A Tafona hotel in Santiago de Compostela. This is a 2-star hotel that includes a Michelin-starred restaurant!
Accommodation on the Porto to Santiago cycle |  <i>Pat Rochon</i>

How does UTracks select accommodation on tour?

If all of this is getting you down, don't despair! Since 2006, the UTracks team are a reliable source for choosing accommodation in Europe.
We treat where you sleep during a trip as an opportunity to become further immersed in your destination. It's a place where you'll be warmly greeted as a guest; shown behind closed doors to see how the locals live; and have time to rest up and recharge after a rewarding day on the trail. This is why we carefully handpick accommodation that enriches your trip.
There are several factors that determine the accommodation on a UTracks trip. 
  • Charming character. We adore accommodation that blends in with the local scenery.
  • Good location. On an active holiday, sometimes you don't want to move any further than you need to at day's end! This is why we prioritise accommodation in the heart of the destination.
  • Family-owned and operated. Embrace the generous hospitality and invaluable knowledge of a local.
This often results in a variety of starred accommodation being used on UTracks trips, with a range of charming 2, 3 or 4-star hotels. While the rating may differ, you can be assured that it is the best option available.
Guesthouse in Moeciu de Sus Transylvania |  <i>Kate Baker</i>

Accommodation upgrades

It is generally possible to upgrade the accommodation on your UTracks trip. There are two key reasons for choosing to do this while on an active holiday in Europe. 
If you're a creature of comfort and want to go all out on your holiday, upgrading to a premium stay may be just what you need. Think ensuites, larger rooms and more.
The other reason you may want to upgrade is for the unique type of accommodation on offer. Europe has a wealth of accommodation options, from grand chateaux to renovated castles to splendid manors. 
One of the best examples of this is on the Camino de Santiago, where you can stay in paradors. These historic buildings are steeped in Spanish culture and were previously used as medieval castles, monasteries or convents. Truly a Spanish experience like no other! Take a look at the self-guided Pilgrims and Paradors trip.
>> To upgrade the accommodation on your trip, speak to one of the UTracks team.
Santiago cathedral and parador |  <i>Dana Garofani</i>

Examples of accommodation in Europe

Here are some of the different accommodations used on a UTracks tour.
2 star hotel in Beuvron en Auge in the heart of Normandy's Calvados region as seen on our self guided cycle trip |  <i>Kate Baker</i> Room at Hotel Villa de Laguardia, 4 star in Rioja, Spain Chenonceaux 3 star Hotel la Roseraie exterior |  <i>Efti Poulos</i>
Canopy-covered bed in a charming handpicked agriturismo in Tuscany |  <i>Allie Peden</i> Castle Hotel Sorano bedroom with view |  <i>Kate Baker</i> Sunset view from the castle hotel in Sorano |  <i>Kate Baker</i>

In summary

Don't be deceived by Europe's hotel star ratings. Sometimes they don't reveal the full picture of what you're getting for your holiday.
Talk to a member from the UTracks team about what you can expect on your walking or cycling holiday.

Have you had your expectations blown away or misled by Europe's hotel star ratings? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Accommodation, Europe accommodation, hotel rating Europe, UTracks accommodation

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