Being a continent with such a rich history, it’s no surprise that so many castles in Europe have been converted into hotels. Some have spectacular, centuries-old architectural features such as turrets and portcullis, while others have sprawling grounds that are perfect for relaxing walks.
And while these historic sites may have been in existence for aeons, their hotel incarnations are not lacking in creature comforts. Luxurious accommodations, restaurants and bars serve hearty meals and drinks, and even spas with treatments help you to unwind. Whether it’s a romantic holiday, a family trip or a once-in-a-lifetime splurge with loved ones, here are five castle hotels to check out in Europe.
1. Amberley Castle, England
Nestled behind a portcullis, Amberley Castle is 900 years old and has an old-world charm history buffs will love. During the course of its existence, it has operated as a hunting lodge and even a fortified manor house, complete with battlements and a portcullis, under the supervision of resident bishops.
The castle was converted into a hotel in 1989 and there are 19 rooms. Some feature four-poster beds and en suite whirlpool bathrooms, and every room has luxurious touches such as crisp white linen, fine furnishings and antiques, and some have original features such as fireplaces, while others have added rustic charm thanks to exposed beams.
The beautiful formal gardens cover over 5ha and are contained within the castle walls. It’s a sight to behold, with features such as medieval stonework, rose-covered arches and topiary dating from the 1920s. There’s also a golf course and a tennis court, and you can play croquet in front of the castle battlements within the grounds. The hotel is less than two hours away by car from London, plus there’s a direct train from Victoria Station that runs hourly to Amberley Station, which takes about 80 minutes. Let the hotel know you’re arriving by train and they’ll arrange for a taxi to pick you up from the station.
2. Castlehotel Schönburg, Germany
Overlooking the town of Oberwesel, Castlehotel Schönburg – less than two hours by car from Frankfurt Airport – has been operating as a hotel since 1957. Of course, the building’s history dates a lot further back to somewhere between 911 and 1166, which was around the time the Dukes of Schönburg ruled over the town.
The castle burned down in 1689 during the nine-year Palatinate heritage war and the grounds lay in ruins for two centuries until an American of German ancestry bought it from the town in the late 19th century and restored it. The Oberwesel town council subsequently bought it back from his son in 1950 and the Hüttl family has been living it in since 1957.
The hotel and restaurant they established is now operated by the third generation. There are 27 guestrooms and no two rooms look the same. Some have four-poster beds while many have a balcony or a terrace. Relax in the fireplace room, pick a book from the library or make a trip to the prison tower – something you’ll be telling your friends about later.
Views from the terraces are not to be missed as the hotel overlooks the gorgeous Rhine Valley. If you’re getting married, stay at the honeymoon suite in a little house within the courtyard that comprises a living room, a large bathroom and a walk-in closet. Bonus: Each reservation includes breakfast as well as a four-course dinner, which changes daily.
3. Parador de Cardona, Spain
Parador de Cardona overlooks the town of Cardona and dates back to the 9th century, during which it had been the site of a fort and church. More recently, it was damaged during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Following restorations, it has been operating as a hotel since 1976.
Around the property, you’ll see walls decorated with tapestries and wrought iron torch holders. There are also elements from the old times such as moats, towers and an ancient cistern for the storage of water. The medieval look extends indoors, too, as the furniture has medieval designs and Catalan antiques are found in the rooms.
There are over 50 rooms of various sizes and many have four-poster beds and woven bedspreads. Guests enjoy modern comforts in the rooms, with air-conditioning, central heating, WiFi and even a gym and sauna. Its location on a promontory means you’ll get sweeping views of the surrounding mountains and villages, too. And it’s less than two hours by car from Barcelona.
4. Castel Monastero, Italy
Believed to have been around since at least the 11th century, Castel Monastero, as its name suggests, was once a monastery. Other notable moments in its history include being conquered in 1270, and once being home to the aristocratic Chigi-Saracini family, who used it for hunting and harvesting the fruit of the vines in the area. Located in gorgeous Tuscany – about three hours by car from Rome – you’ll be surrounded by vineyards that stretch as far as the eye can see.
There are more than 70 rooms and suites, all designed Tuscan-style with elements such as terracotta flooring and wooden beams, and there are historical prints around the rooms. There’s also the secluded Villa Lavanda that sleeps up to eight. While here, you will get to sample the region’s food and wine at the hotel’s two restaurants or unwind at its spa, which offers weight loss, anti-ageing and detox programmes. Alternatively, you could just luxuriate in one of its three swimming pools or book wine tours or a hot-air balloon ride over the Chianti hills.
5. Södertuna Slott, Sweden
Outside the small town of Gnesta by Lake Frösjön sits Södertuna Slott (“castle” in Swedish), a perfect spot to unwind and enjoy the Swedish countryside or even engage in activities such as hiking, biking and canoeing.
The castle’s history dates back to the 14th century and while the main building is of medieval origin, it was updated in the 17th and 18th centuries to give it a more modern look. The manor house has been home to various Swedish families over the centuries and it was officially inaugurated as a hotel and convention centre in 1986 by Princess Christina of Sweden.
What it lacks in history, it makes up for in its gorgeous surroundings. You’ll feel like you’re in a fairy tale. Rooms are located in the castle’s wings and all guarantee views of the lake and the castle park or garden. Food is prepared with ingredients from local farms as much as possible and you’ll also enjoy freshly-baked bread from its bakery and wine from its cellar. The hotel is easily accessible from Stockholm – around 45 minutes by both car and train. If you stay here during the winter months, you might even be able to skate on the lake.
The information is accurate as of press time. For the latest travel advisory updates, please refer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website.
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This article was originally published in September 2020