How does the idea of going on vacation and staying in castles built centuries ago that have survived war, invasions, and feuds between royal and noble families sound? The good news is it’s possible.
These places range in prices. You can even find several on Airbnb and pay as little as you would at a conventional lodging house.
Exploring the stone halls of the homes of former kings and queens and sleeping where some of the most powerful people in history did is an adventure in itself (30 Adventure Destinations for 2016).
Many of Europe’s lasting ancient castles that have been turned into hotels are in Ireland, England and Scotland. But some marvelous constructions still stand in Russia, India and Portugal. You may not associate old palaces with the U.S. but America has several amazing baller manors as well.
Each grand estate on the list, now a hospitality venue, offers something unique. Choosing one over the other is a tough decision to make, but all will make you feel like a baron or a princess.
This magnificent citadel is in the world-famous Scottish countryside. The Culzean Castle, which was originally a central tower in the 1500’s, still clings to a cliff (The World’s Scariest Cliff Dives). Dwight Eisenhower stayed on the top floor of the citadel after World War II and many times later as president. It was turned into apartments for the general public after his death. You have drawing rooms and 600 acres of forest at your disposal. Activities include clay pigeon shooting, horseback riding, sailing, fishing and golfing on some of the best courses in the world.
You’ll be staying at a medieval castle built in 1228, the oldest one in the country. The Guinness family had bought the estate in the 1800’s and significantly expanded it. The Ashford Castle still has everything you’d imagine a castle has – chandeliers and gilt mirrors, original turrets, armor, oak paneling, ramparts. Modern amenities include a spa (The World’s Best Hotel Spas), a huge wooded parkland, and golf course. You can go fly-fishing, horseback riding or boating. Falconry, clay shooting and archery are also options.
Staying at Castell de Cardona is literally like traveling back to the Middle Ages. The fortress was built in 800 AD and still stands high atop a promontory and watches over the picturesque village of Cardona. The décor, fosses, towers and walls still have gothic elements. The castle hotel has 53 guest rooms. The estate is attached to the famous Church of Sant Vicenç and Minyona Tower, both built in the 11th century. The views of the rolling hills and Cardona are a real gift every morning.
Amberley Castle, built about 900 years ago, is just 60 miles away from London. The castle has pretty much kept its original medieval architecture. Go behind the 60-feet walls and authentic portcullis to see hauntingly beautiful gardens, design, peace and serenity. All 19 rooms feature whirlpool bathrooms so you feel like royalty. A magnificent original twin-tower gatehouse still stands. Visit the estate’s unique tree house (World’s Epic Tree Houses You Can Actually Stay In). Tennis courts and golf courses are also available.
This stone castle is overlooking the Connecticut River. It looks like a classic fortress, but the interior is quite different. Ordered and partially designed by William Hooker Gillette, who played Sherlock Holmes onstage, the 24-room castle included strange features – original doorknobs and locks, hidden surveillance mirrors, and about 60 images that pay tribute to his 17 cats. No two doors are the same in this castle. Gillette's own walking paths were constructed with near-vertical steps, stone-arch bridges, and wooded trestles. Activities include river camping, hiking and picnicking (Best National Parks for Camping in the Spring).
If you are planning a trip to the fairytale town of Carcassonne, consider staying at an equally fairytale-like castle. Hotel de la Cite, built in 1909, is the only hotel in the world that is inside UNESCO World Heritage site. Have coffee or tea on a balcony and enjoy the beautiful sunsets (or sunrises). Wandering around the Medieval streets of the city, which is basically a fortified walled castle, is an adrenaline-pumping experience.
The humungous Dalian City Castle is in the sea side resort town of Dalian. It’s actually very new – built with real stone and a brick in 2001 – but its magnificence alone is enough to land it a spot on this list. This grand estate is always lit up at night. As every modern hotel, the castle has a spa, pool overlooking the incandescent ocean through floor-to-ceiling windows, fitness center, beauty salon, 292 luxurious rooms, and 29 suites.
This 12th century castle in the historic village of Porrona in Tuscany is like a small heaven on earth. Enjoy rolling hills of sunflower fields, olive trees and vineyards. The Castel Porrona has a fully-equipment kitchen in every room so you can cook your own meals if you want. You can also go horseback riding, play tennis or relax in the pool and sauna.
While most heritage resorts near Delhi are born with the beauty and treasures of history, Neemrana offers a vibrant site for magical weekend getaways, feasts, celebrations, and conferences, according to the castle’s website. Constructed in 1464, the palace was built on a hillside so the king can see his lands any time he wishes. The seven palace wings built over 14 layers tiered into a hill across 6 acres of garden-palace make the castle one of the most unique resorts in the world.
The Ruthin Castle is surrounded by expansive woods and grassland. It has kept its dungeon, whipping area and drowning pool because they are part of its history. The fortress once survived an 11-week siege during which time the walls were pelted with heavy artillery. Nowadays, though, you get to enjoy medieval-themed parties and feasts like a true royal. Before it was a hotel, the castle was a clinic. Don’t miss the Clwydian Range close by, which offers spectacular views of wildlife and miles of hiking trails.
Óbidos is one of the world’s best preserved walled cities. The castle started being built in 718 AD. It was finished to its current form in 1300’s. The troops that defeated Napoleon for the first time were dispatched from the Pousada de Obidos. The rooms include canopy beds and stone walls. (Pousada is a traditional or historical Portuguese hotel.) Enjoy the nearby white-sand beaches of Silver Coast and sail the pristine waters (15 Worth Your Time Beaches 15 Minutes from the Airport). Hot air balloon rides are also an option.
The Lobanov Rostovsky Palace, also known as the “Lion Palace” in the historic St. Petersburg was built in 1820 (On granite pedestals white marble lions guard the central archway like sentinels). It’s one of the best 5-star hotels in the country, now part of the Four Season Hotel chain. Time has not affected the castle much; it has kept its gorgeous neoclassical romantic features.
Castello di Amorosa is a 13th century inspired Tuscan castle and winery. Authentic construction techniques started in 1995, with workers hand-chiseling stone, making nails by hand and hand-painting frescoes. The 107-room structure in Napa Valley took 14 years to finish and the end result is a historically accurate 121,000-square-foot castle. Don’t miss a chance to see the imported relics, the exquisite construction and taste the incredible wine.
The Burg Altena Castle was built in 1108. The charming and high above the old mastermind city on the Lenne hotel is one of the most beautiful hilltop castles in the world (10 Amazing Castles You Can Visit in the U.S.). It was the first permanent youth hostel in the world, inaugurated in 1914. Archery and flying over the castle are available. Don’t forget to visit the wonderful museum with an extensive exhibition of medieval weapons and living.
Schlosshotel Igls was built just about a century ago for a doctor who wanted to stay there in the summer. The estate was a base for the German Air Force during WW2. It is now a lavish castle hotel in the heart of the Tyrolean Alps, not far from Munich. Some of the many activities you can enjoy there include golfing, skiing, climbing (The Best Places to Go Rock Climbing in the World), cycling, summer and ice bobsledding, rafting, canyoneering, to name a few.