A "residence"—sometimes called an "ApartHotel" or all-suite hotel—is a cross between an apartment building and a hotel. It's a serviced apartment available for short-term rentals.
Residences hotels—like this one in Italy—offer a cross between a rental apartment and a hotel.
A "residence hotel" is an apartment available for short-term rentals, usually with a hotel-like front desk and some level of maid service—kind of like the all-suites hotels in America beloved by business travelers (and savvy traveling families).
Accommodations are at least studios with kitchenette, if not full-blown mini-apartments, and might sleep anywhere for one to six people. They tend to be a bit functional and bland, with a focus more on basic comfort and amenities rather than style.
Residence hotels are usually used mainly for longer stays—some have three-night or one-week minimums, though many allow you to stay for as few as 3, 2, or even 1 night—and they are usually cleaned weekly (sometimes more frequently).
Essentially, it's a bit like getting a time share just for the week or month—only without the whole annoying sales pitch.
Residence inns are often used by folks in town on business for an extended period, but that doesn't mean travelers can't shack up in them as well. If just means you sometimes have to plan to stick around town for a bit longer than the average tourist.
For example, when I studied abroad in Rome, Italy, a "residence" near the school (the Residence Medaglie d'Oro) served as student housing for the program. (As it happened, I became friends with the girl who lived in the mini-apartment above mine, and as I write this—nearly 20 years later—I can hear her in the yard outside my home office window, playing with our kids. So yeah, I'm a big fan of residence hotels.)
Speaking of which, all-suite hotels are a godsend for traveling families, since you can use the kitchen to treat meals more flexibly and cut down on dining costs. (Also, they tend to be bigger—if duller—than your average hotel room.)
The reason this page is separate from that on how to rent an apartment is because I consider apartment rentals to be where you are getting a private apartment in a building surrounded by flats inhabited by actual local residents, whereas in one of these "residence" hotels, everyone is a visitor from out of town.
Resources for finding Residence Hotels
This booking engine is one of the few to list residences—under "Vacation home / Condo"—with often dozens of options in major cities. Even if this weren't our partner site, I'd suggest it as the best one-stop shopping for residence hotels since it includes many one-offs and private ones, not just the chain properties.
Adagio (www.adagio-city.com) - The Aparthotel branch of the mighty Accor family of hotels (famed for brands like Mercure, Sofitel, and Ibis), with all-suite hotels acros France and a handful elsewhere in Europe (Germany, Austria, Italy, the U.K, Switzerland, and Belgium), plus the UAE.
Staybridge Suites (www.staybridge.com)
Nearly 190 all-suite hotels in North America (U.S., Canada, Mexico), Europe (Russia, the U.K.), Brazil, Egypt, and the U.A.E. All rooms are 1- or two-bedrooms suites with full kitchen, and they include free broadband WiFi, a free breakfast buffet, a free evening cocktail reception, and both a convenience store and fitness center open 24/7. It's part of the InterContinental Hotel Group (Holiday Inn Hotels, Holiday Inn Express, InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Staybridge Suites, Candlewood Suites), so you can use your Priority Club rewards points.
Candlewood Suites (www.candlewoodsuites.com)
Nearly 290 all-suite hotels in North America. Rooms are studios or one-bedroom suites with a large work area and 24-hour convenience store in the lobby. It's part of the InterContinental Hotel Group (Holiday Inn Hotels, Holiday Inn Express, InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Staybridge Suites, Candlewood Suites), so you can use your Priority Club rewards points.
Residence Inn (www.residenceinn.com)
Marriott's top end all-suite line. There are 580 around the world (mostly in the U.S. and Canada, with one each in San Jose, Costa Rica and Munich, Germany), with with studios and 1- or 2-bedroom suites, full kitchens, grocery delivery, pool, 24/7 minimart, free WiFi, on-site laundry, and free breakfast and evening cocktail parties. Better rates for longer stays. Can use and earn Marriott Rewards points.
SpringHill Suites ( www.springhillsuites.com)
Marriott's affordable all-suite line. There are 230 properties in the U.S. (plus Quebec City), each offering free breakfast and Internet, microwave and minifridge in the rooms, separate working and sleeping areas, and a pool. Can use and earn Marriott Rewards points.
TownePlace Suites (www.marriott.com/towneplace-suites)
Marriott's all-suite extended stay property for the do-it-yourselfer. There are 190 in the United States, and each suite comes with a full kitchen, free WiFi and breakfast, while the hotels have pools, 24/7 convenience stores, and laundry facilities. Better rates for longer stays. Can use and earn Marriott Rewards points.
Chain of ApartHotels, largely in France (17 in Paris alone), but also scattered across Western Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. One nice thing is that you can book for even just one night.
Barclay International (www.barclayweb.com)
One of the world's premier rental agencies since 1963. (And yes, "premier" does mean "a bit pricey"). Excellent properties and service, though, throughout Western Europe, and though they're billed as rental apartments, these aren't just some bloke's flat; most of them are actually residence hotels or buildings of entirely short-term rentals or condos.
Suite Novotel (www.suitenovotel.com)
A new chain of all-suite hotels aimed squarely at the business traveler—the idea is you can turn the public area, with its unlimited high speed internet and satellite TV channels, into a meeting room or office reception while leaving the sleeping area separate. It currently has nearly 30 properties, the vast majority in France (seven in and around Paris alone), with a few outposts in Germany (Berlin, Munich, Hannover, Hamburg), Switzerland (Geneva), Austria (Vienna), and Spain (Malaga), plus Marrakech and the U.A.E.
Syndicat National des Résidences de Tourisme (www.snrt.fr)
Derag Hotels (www.deraghotels.de)