Dust off that tiara or suit of armor you have hiding in your closet and admit (only to your travel agent) that you’ve been dying to indulge your inner noble. Here are nine castle hotels in Europe where you can spend the night.
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Hotel Schloss Fuschl Resort and Spa
Overlooking Lake Fuschl, Schloss Fuschl has played host to royalty, film stars, and archbishops since 1450, when it was built as a hunting lodge. Some of the art and décor have retained old-world charms—including original paintings from the 17th century—but the full renovation in 2006 added contemporary furnishings and amenities, as well as a new restaurant and wellness area. Classic car lovers are also in for a treat: Several rallies are held each year, including the 25th Kitzbühel Alpine Rally May 30–June 2.
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West Sussex, England
A luxury hotel with more than 900 years of history, Amberley Castle has 19 bedrooms, each named after a Sussex castle. The castle grounds cover 12 acres, including formal gardens within the castle walls. At night the portcullis closes—so those staying in rooms within the castle’s walls will feel exceptionally cut off from the rest of the world. Don’t miss the magical tree house, a thatched-roof house that sits in the bower of an oak tree and has unparalleled views of the castle and lakes.
Film geeks will get a kick out of staying at a castle where several film and TV shows were shot, including Robin Hood, starring Patrick Bergin and Uma Thurman. The medieval-style castle was built in the mid-19th century, was turned into a hotel in 1988, and now has 48 individual guest rooms. On the castle grounds, try your hand at falconry, archery, rappelling, and ropes courses.
Château de Mirambeau
Between Bordeaux–Cognac, France
The Chateau de Mirambeau, a Relais & Châteaux property, is located where the vineyards of Bordeaux and Cognac meet. Food- and wine-lovers can visit during the Bordeaux Wine Festival (June 28–July 1), but it’s easy to celebrate French gastronomy without leaving the castle at all. The property’s chef, Maxime Deschamp, fills his menus with food fresh from local markets, the sea, and the Gironde estuary. Outside the castle, there's a lot going on in the Bordeaux region.
If you’re looking to live the fairy tale, head straight to Castle Sababurg. It’s not as grand as Germany’s Neuschwanstein Castle (the model for Disneyland’s palace) but it claims a dreamy history—legends say that Sleeping Beauty slept in this castle for 100 years before a kiss saved her. Our advice: Include the hotel in a tour of Germany’s famed Fairy Tale Road.
Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co. Clare, Ireland
Calling all O’Briens—welcome home. This palace (one of our Platinum Circle winners), dates back to the 16th century and was once the royal seat of the O’Brien clan, who are direct descendants of Irish King Brian Boru. Today the trappings are certainly fit for royalty: The River Rine flows through the estate, where an 18-hole champion golf course, tennis courts, clay shooting, and horseback riding are all on hand for guests.
Parador de Santiago de Compostela
Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Also known as Hostal dos Reis Católicos, this famous Spanish parador began as a hospital in 1499 to give refuge to the many pilgrims coming into Santiago; some consider it to be the oldest hotel in the world. Its spectacular location in the Plaza do Obradoiro means that some of the rooms have windows looking down on the cathedral square where the pilgrims finish their walks.
Kinsterna Hotel and Spa
This 27-room mansion-turned-designer-boutique hotel claims roots in the Byzantine era, has perfect views of the nearby Rock of Monemvasia, and is named for an ancient cistern that snakes through the center of the building. If you want to sleep in equally historic surroundings, choose one of the Byzantine Suites, which feature the mansion’s original vaulted ceilings. Many indulgences await on-site—think champagne at breakfast, staff-made picnics to bring on hikes nearby, and a hot tub outside the spa.
Ashford Castle Hotel
Co. Mayo, Ireland
This castle (a 2012 Gold List winner) has immediate charm—if for only telling the lads back home that you stayed at the former Guinness family estate. They might make you buy a round of pints, but go ahead and keep bragging about being pampered with impeccable service, your unforgettable castle skeet-shooting experience, and how your kids thought you were the best parents ever for taking them on a Hawk Walk.