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Is your heart set on visions of Gothic churches and majestic Baroque palaces, of snapping shots of Barcelona's great Sagrada Familia or checking off bucket list sights like Prague Castle and the Viennese Old Town? Great. But how to do all that on a tighter budget than a conventional hotel will allow? You can opt for a stay in a pension. These low-key pads tend to come in at just a fraction of the cost of your usual suite. By edging out to more distant districts of a city or stripping down their rooms to offer only the basics, they are able to keep things nice and easy on the wallet.
But that doesn't mean compromising on space or privacy. Pensions are no hostel, offering individual doubles and twin rooms to call your very own for the whole duration of your stay. Some of these sorts of establishments might have shared bathroom facilities and communal lounge areas, but they tend to be clean, comfortable and well-maintained.
What's perhaps more enticing about a pension, though, is the way these sorts of stays manage to work into the fabric of a destination. You can discover charming pensions in Barcelona, for example, all neatly tucked into the nooks and crannies of the Gothic Quarter or sat in the bright and airy apartment blocks of modern Eixample district – the boutique rooms and leafy balconies of local 3-star abodes are a fine, affordable specimen of those.
There are also pensions in Vienna that channel the opulent Baroque majesty of their host city. Take the likes of Pension Suzanne, which has velvet curtains and gold-glimmering chandeliers, mahogany furniture and frilly lamps echoing the grand Habsburg palaces outside the window. Then come the more off-the-beaten-path pensions in Cesky Krumlov, which ooze style from amid the cobbled streets of a South Bohemian castle town – a UNESCO World Heritage Site, no less. Minimalist and modern Largo pension is the pick of the bunch there.
Pensions are there for the budget-conscious traveller who still wants a little of the pampering and service that comes with a full-scale hotel. They are there for culture buffs who love to feel truly immersed in a destination. And they are great for accommodation aficionados who like to discover new and interesting stays that merge and mix with the setting all around them.