Start with an 11th-century medieval fortress nestled between the French regions of Bordeaux and Cognac. Add 22 rooms with silky walls, rich berry-hued drapery, white marble baths, and cornice canopies. Then decide between veal with caramelized chanterelles or Ballotine quail with reduced grape and shallot chutney from the castle’s Michelin-starred restaurant.
Feast like a king on local game in the baronial dining hall of Parador de Alarcón, an eighth-century Moorish castle set above the Río Júcar in central Spain. Several of the castle’s 24 rooms still have original arrowslit windows. Jesús Mateo’s UNESCO-sponsored murals in Iglesia de San Juan Bautista are just a seven-minute walk away.
PORT ANTONIO, JAMAICA
Once upon a time, Susan Evanko glimpsed a Bavarian castle on a National Geographic cover and it changed her life forever. After chasing castles around the world, she and her partner began the 17-year process of building a 15-room coral palace above an old pirate’s cave on a Caribbean cliff in Jamaica. The tip-top “penthouse apartment” offers 360° views from three parapeted balconies.
Once home to 1920s aviatrix Elsie Mackay, the grounds of Glenapp Castle are in the UNESCO Galloway and South Ayrshire Biosphere, just a stargaze away from the Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park. Royal up and book the new three-bedroom penthouse, complete with a sauna, a private chef, full 24-hour butler service, and a private ocean-view castle tower.
Located between Guincho Beach and Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, the indomitable saffron-hued Fortaleza do Guincho is the westernmost hotel in continental Europe. In its Michelin-starred restaurant, Chef Miguel Rocha Vieira plates Azorean squid, Alentejo black pork, and feijoada with summer beans and langoustine. Guest rooms feature vaulted wood ceilings, embroidered pillows, and deep-blue Atlantic views.
A 12th-century dreamboat, La Mamounia oozes shiny zellige mosaics, steamy tagine dinners, and private-pool glam. The castle garden, a wedding gift to Prince Al Mamoun, also features 5,000 rose bushes, 700-year-old olive trees, 21 cactus species, and a 16,145-square-foot vegetable garden bursting with lemongrass, spices, tomatoes, leeks, and mint used in Moroccan tea.
Photographer Paul Zizka’s favorite view of 754-room Fairmont Banff Springs is from Surprise Corner, “when the hotel rises majestically above Bow River … best during blue hour, when the scene takes a magical, medieval feel.” The castle hotel sports a grand piano Royal Suite and farm-to-table French cuisine. Stop to see the fossils in the spiral staircase between the polished stone.
ST. MARY’S ISLAND, ENGLAND
Nicknamed “the land that crime forgot,” England’s Isles of Scilly are home to daffodil farms, migratory birds, the world’s smallest soccer league, and eight-pointed 16th-century Star Castle. Reserve a pet-friendly room built right into the ramparts. Sip castle-grown pinot noir in the not-so-dingy dungeon. Then enjoy a lobster dinner trapped to order by owner Robert Francis.
Designed by famous architect Lúcio Costa, 22-suite Castelo de Itaipava was originally built by 20 European families carting Portuguese stones, French slate, Italian Carrara marble, and Austrian stained glass, all to be framed by carved Brazilian jacaranda trees. After a morning rain forest hike, unwind in the terrace whirlpool before dozing off in a glamorous and cozy tower suite.
Remember that time you thought, “I wish I could go to the Alps and sleep in the Sound of Music castle—and it had free bikes, Wi-Fi, electric car-charging stations, complimentary prosecco, resident honeybees, and a world-famous library”? Enter Schloss Leopoldskron, the waterfront rococo palace commissioned in 1736 by Salzburg’s prince-archbishop. The hills are alive and waiting.
Built in 1746 as the pleasure palace of Maharana Jagat Singh II, white marble Taj Lake Palace floats on Lake Pichola just a seven-minute ferry ride from Udaipur. If you can pull yourself away from your plush, flower-filled, silky suite, climb aboard the hotel’s 150-year-old Gangaur boat for a luminous evening on the lake.
Between the torture vault, the annual knight tournament, the arched bridge stone entryway, and the dungeon wine room, southern Poland’s Czocha Castle is all about drama. Take in a comedy act or mead tasting before a traditional Polish dinner. Rooms are pet friendly and the castle’s secret passageways are open for exploring … if you can find them.
Over 500 castles twirl across Slovenia, the world’s most sustainable country. After visiting Predjama Castle’s famous bat caves, head east to the warm-hued, impeccably hospitable Grad Otočec, tucked between willows on an island in the Krka River. Enjoy a mouthwatering dinner of venison tartare and fennel soup, then wake up for an early round of golf.
Despite the fact that it once simultaneously housed 250 people from 24 families, 10th-century Hotel Auf Schönburg may be the world’s quietest hotel castle—thanks to the fact that its walls are over nine feet thick. Check out the castle tower observation deck for vineyard views of the romantic Rhine Valley.
COUNTY MAYO, IRELAND
In 2019, 83-room Ashford Castle will celebrate its 80th hotel anniversary and its 791st birthday. Picnic on Irish farmhouse cheese in the walled garden. Practice falconry. Book a seaweed massage in the conservatory spa. The hotel’s $75-million renovation also means a cinema, billiard room, wine tunnels, and ultra-ultra-plush king-size accommodations.
HUNTINGTON, NEW YORK
Damian Spyridon has tended the Olmsted gardens of Oheka Castle for 34 years—long enough to finish planting 500 junipers down the driveway while daydreaming about the castle’s swanky roaring twenties. Oheka’s 32 rooms boast luscious beds, muraled walls, and claw-foot tubs. Spyridon suggests a winter visit when the castle is “just pristine … two feet of snow and it’s breathtaking.”
What Dalian’s Castle Hotel lacks in ancient dusty mystique it makes up for in grandeur. The lobby’s stained-glass dome and imperial staircase welcome visitors to 292 elegant rooms, a Baden-Baden-style spa, and an ocean-view indoor pool. Restaurant Zhen Bao serves stone pot sea urchin tofu and other gourmet Cantonese cuisine. All concierges are Clef d’Or certified.
Forty miles and one moat east of techy Malmö sits Kronovalls Vinslott, or Kronovall Castle, a vintner-owned, 18th-century stronghold of Nordic nobility and French Baroque detail. Think crystal chandeliers, floor-to-ceiling windows, pale pink floral walls, beaux arts gold paneling, four-poster beds, a 20,000-bottle-plus wine cellar, and an endless supply of cheesy stone oven pizza.
Built in the 1400s, Ca’Sagredo was bought by Sagredo nobility in the 1700s and today serves as a decadent five-star hotel right on the Grand Canal in Venice. Walking through the castle and its rooms is like wandering through a glittering jewelry box with Murano-glass chandeliers, original frescoes, marble cherubs, 3D ceilings, silk paneling, and golden salons.
For a truly authentic experience, the mountain-view terraces, wooden-beamed ceilings and exposed stone bedroom walls of 10th-century Castello Orsini ought to do the trick. Just an hour’s drive from Rome, the castle is best visited in summer to take advantage of al fresco dining and lounging by the pool.
Once an Ottoman Sultan’s palace, Çirağan Palace Kempinski is a landmark of luxury, so massive that you can even arrive by helicopter. There’s a plethora of saunas, whirlpools, and Turkish baths plus a heated infinity pool overlooking the Bosporus. Every guest room includes a private balcony, marble bath, twice-daily housekeeping, and a “pillow menu.”
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