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When bucket list vacation planning, what better item to add to your growing list than a fairy tale-inspired adventure to a luxury castle hotel? Destinations like Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales are an obvious starting point, with an abundance of centuries-old castles dotting the verdant, green landscapes. Head deep into Europe, though, and you’ll discover hidden gems across the continent from Belgium to Italy. For those in search of a side of vitamin D with their opulence, central Spain (among other warm destinations) will deliver just that.
It’s not often that a five-star hotel can deliver on all our favorite modern amenities while preserving hundreds of years of history and architectural integrity. So go on, have a scroll and pick a favorite. You can certainly expect elegant accommodations and amazing views, fit for the most discerning of world travelers.
Ashford Castle, Ireland
While you can sense the 800-plus years of history throughout the hallowed hallways of Ashford Castle, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property, the centuries-old property isn’t without abundant five-star amenities. Guests can expect individually designed rooms with bespoke carpets and beds and striking artwork. Of course, a boat ride across nearby Lough Corrib and a horseback ride around the 350 acres of ancient woodland are both a must.
Roch Castle, Wales
Extraordinary 360-degree views of surrounding quaint Pembrokeshire make Roch Castle especially unique. Situated on a rocky, volcanic outcrop in southwest Wales, this historic fortress saw a loving restoration in 2009 that resulted in five-star accommodations while protecting the historic charm and footprint of the castle.
Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi
Guests should anticipate experiencing the ultimate lap of luxury upon entering Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. A private beach and marina are the cherry on top of elegant accommodations, exquisite Arabian interiors, and world-renowned, five-star service.
Hotel Schloss Mönchstein, Austria
Fittingly located high atop the world on Mönchsberg hill in the heart of Salzburg, Hotel Schloss Mönchstein is the crème de la crème of luxurious accommodations in the area. Rooms and suites are outfitted with antique furniture, marble bathrooms, and modern amenities. From the property’s chic Apollo Bar to the indulgent spa and The Glass Garden restaurant, this castle hotel offers an idyllic getaway in an unforgettable location.
Château de la Treyne, France
This stunning Relais & Chateaux property is the perfect home base while exploring the Dordogne and Loire Valley. Guests can unwind on their personal balcony overlooking the river, soak in the historic atmosphere from the comfort of chic accommodations (both rooms and suites are available), and dine on some of the region’s finest French food at the property’s restaurant, helmed by Michelin-awarded chef Stéphane Andrieux.
Glenapp Castle, Scotland
Located in western Scotland’s mystical Hebridean Islands, everything from this castle’s penthouse apartment to the intimate level of service and secluded location makes Glenapp Castle unique, epitomizing five-star luxury at its finest. The castle grounds are manicured and picturesque, the opportunity for outdoor adventure is abundant, and the fine Scottish course-style menu at the property’s restaurant is as indulgent as lavish room and suite-style accommodations.
Parador de Alarcón, Spain
More than 13 centuries of history set the scene for this storied castle-turned-luxury-hotel along the Júcar River, just over 100 miles south of Madrid. For those interested in outdoor exploration, this is the place to be—the castle’s surroundings offer wetlands, coves, forest, and sandy beaches, perfect for adventure. Rooms are stately and feel distinctly medieval, but not without modern comforts.
Dromoland Castle, Ireland
Dating back to 1551, Dromoland Castle, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property, is a regal dream come true. Elements like the ivy-covered façade, and sweeping views of Queen Anne Courtyard, the lake, or Dromoland gardens from every room, along with authentic Irish fare make this castle hotel one of Ireland’s premiere destinations.
Castello di Casole, Italy
Belmond’s Castello di Casole, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property in the Tuscan countryside is one of those hotels that whisks you away the moment you step foot inside. More than 4,000 acres of sprawling vineyards and pastoral Italian landscape set the scene for a luxury stay in this historic castle, which dates back to the 10th century. While the history lives on in the restored structures and buildings, guests can anticipate 39 lavish accommodations and abundant modern comforts throughout the property.
Taj Lake Palace, India
Situated within one of the most majestic and recognizable settings on Earth, the luxury Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur is one of the world’s most legendary castle hotels. The structure seems to float upon the lake, offering views of nearby attractions like City Palace, Aravalli Hills, Machla Magra Hills, and Jag Mandir. Rooms and suites are as ornate and colorful as one could imagine, and the property’s elegant restaurants range from authentic Rajasthani to European fare.
Beau-Rivage Palace, Switzerland
Located in stunning Lausanne, Switzerland, Beau-Rivage Palace offers guests the perfect balance of Swiss heritage and unbeatable modern luxury on the banks of Lake Geneva. The light and airy rooms and suites are elegant, accented with pastel colors and floral patterns. A visit to the property’s peaceful Cinq Mondes Spa is a must, and foodies can look forward to six different restaurants on-site to choose from.
Hotel Dukes Palace, Belgium
Once a residence for the Burgundian aristocracy, this five-star castle hotel has the unique draw of its historically significant location in the center of Bruges, a UNESCO World Heritage City. The castle’s 15th-century charm is felt throughout the grounds, complemented by the spacious and elegant rooms which feature marble bathrooms, historic frescoes, and ornate chandeliers.
Fairmont le Château Frontenac, Canada
Overlooking Quebec City’s fortified Old City, Fairmont le Château Frontenac, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property, is one of the world’s most iconic turreted buildings. Comfortable rooms feature sweeping views of the city and St. Lawrence River, and the hotel’s interiors are just as elegant as the grande exterior. Be sure to book a luxurious treatment at the on-site spa, and sit for signature cocktails at the hotel’s 1608 Bar.
Le Domaine de La Tortinière Château Hôtel, France
It is difficult to imagine a more beautiful setting for a castle than the Loire Valley. Le Domaine de La Tortinière presents a charming, family atmosphere (ahem, note the stunning pool, the bike rentals, the tennis courts) in the center of a lush park covering nearly 40 acres. Guests can explore the valley and return to comfortable rooms and delicious local cuisine—all inside a historic mid-century French castle, of course.
Adare Manor, Ireland
Situated along the banks of the River Maigue, Adare Manor, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property, looks like it’s been plucked from a storybook. Guests can choose from rooms, suites, or cottages, all of which feature goose-down beds and elegant personal touches. Enjoy tea in The Gallery after playing 18 holes on the golf course or practicing falconry on the dramatic grounds.
Castello Orsini, Italy
Located just over 20 miles from bustling Rome, Castello Orsini’s majestic presence looms over Nerola. The medieval castle’s long history is reflected in its well-preserved walls (think: battles, power struggles, and love stories) and the property’s distinctive rooms are outfitted with both period furnishings and modern amenities.
Inverlochy Castle, Scotland
For those in search of a fairy tale castle experience alongside five-star service, look no further than Inverlochy Castle, a 19th-century structure nestled into the verdant Highlands of Scotland. Nearby must-visit sights include the falls at Glen Nevis, the monument at Glenfinnan, and the storied mountains of Glencoe. Rooms and suites are outfitted with traditional Scottish décor, and each overlooks the manicured grounds and private lake.
Amberley Castle, England
Those who love British culture will delight upon arrival to Amberley Castle, one of the U.K.’s premiere luxury hotels that—you guessed it—doubles as a historic castle. This ivy-covered Sussex property is a countryside gem, with over 900 years of history within its walls. Rooms are tasteful, decorated with period pieces and sumptuous linens. Of particular interest are the property’s restaurants, which feature a 12th-century barrel vaulted ceiling (in the Queen’s Room) and striking Norman architecture (in the Great Room), built in 1165.