Immersive hotel stays are fodder for travelers who seek out novelty — with clever options ranging from house boats, treehouses or even historic estates. The latter category hits its stride in Europe, where centuries-old castles have been reimagined into regal accommodations. Booking a room in one of the best European castles is like stepping back in time, when candlelit corridors and unspoiled landscapes reigned supreme. And although many of these properties have changed ownership over hundreds of years, many of them still feel frozen in time (just with the added conveniences of things like electricity and running water, of course).
If you’re planning a European getaway — or need an excuse to — consider leaning into the historic theme and reserve a room in one of the castles below. In the United Kingdom, you’ll find corner-towered castles that feel plucked from a medieval period drama. In Germany, fairytales come to life with Gothic, Romanesque, and Byzantine architectural styles situated atop dramatic mountains. Or in Italy, stately castles are accentuated by sprawling landscapes. Ahead, dive into TZR’s favorite European castle hotels from budget-friendly finds to bucket list stays, so you can live out your royal living fantasy (if only just for a few nights).
Surrounded largely by the tranquil Mediterranean Sea, Spain is a picturesque destination for sun dwellers with a penchant for world-class cuisine and culture. It’s also brimming with iconic architecture, including castle stays for history-loving travelers. Just outside the village of Calvía on the island of Mallorca, 19th-century castle Castell Son Claret welcomes guests with its 43 suites accentuated by fragrant gardens, which provide ingredients for home-blended gins in the hotel’s bar as well as spa treatments that use almond blossom, lavender, and rosemary.
Head to mainland Spain for Parador de Olite, located in the heart of wine country. This hotel was once a medieval castle that dates back to the 15th century and has since been declared a national monument. Take a step back in time with the historic features like stained glass windows, arched walkways, and stone walls.
Italy’s diverse beauty can’t be overstated, with majestic mountain ranges like the Dolomites in the north to ancient olive groves and white-washed fortresses in the south of Puglia. If you’re looking for a unique stay in Italy, castle hotels abound beginning with COMO Castello del Nero in Tuscany. The origins of the castle and its estate can be traced back to the 12th century when it was the country residence of the noble Florentine Del Nero family. On the 740-acre property, guests can enjoy a mix of contemporary design by Paola Navone with original Renaissance frescoes, the Del Nero coat of arms, and front row views of the rolling Tuscan countryside — plus, estate-to-table Tuscan produce and treatments at COMO Shambhala Retreat.
Head south and you’ll find the early 16th-century Castello di Caprarica complete with decorative fireplaces, storied corridors, and an internal courtyard designed with a tranquil garden. Great for large groups, this castle accommodates 18 people with nine bedrooms and is just a short drive from the Adriatic coast of Salento. Over on the Umbrian border, Reschio Estate dates to the year 1050 and after an extensive restoration process, now offers 36 suites plus a scenic outdoor pool and an ambient subterranean spa located in what used to be the castle’s old wine cellars. The property is a treasure trove of beautifully-designed corners and crannies to relax in like The Old Kitchen, which is the castle’s former (you guessed it) old kitchen and features the original hearth, a focal point during the cooler months of the year when the fire is roaring.
Land of moody castles, England is replete with atmospheric stays in these historic properties. In Bristol lies Thornbury Castle, a Tudor estate that dates back to the 1500s and was the setting for King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn’s honeymoon (fun fact: you can book the very room that this infamous couple shared in 1535). Heavy wooden doors open into opulent bed chambers and days are spent enjoying afternoon tea and meandering the grounds, all satiating the desire to step back in time.
You can also head for Bovey Castle in the heart of Dartmoor National Park. This early 20th-century mansion overlooks Edwardian gardens and offers immersive experiences like archery, rifle shooting, and sloe gin making classes. Also not to be missed is Swinton Park Hotel in the Yorkshire Dales. This castle is the ancestral seat of the Earl of Swinton and is decorated with antiques and family portraits and offers guests outdoor experiences like clay pigeon and game shooting, river fishing, and over 63 miles of picturesque footpaths.
The great age of castle building began during the middle ages and Germany is said to have over 25,000 of them. Unsurprisingly, there are numerable options to book a room in these days, beginning with Burg Rabenstein near the Bavarian Alps and close to the iconic Neuschwanstein (the real-life inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty castle, which warrants a day trip). While on the grounds of this nine-story castle, you can take in their flowstone cave, falconry, a tavern complete with a beer garden, and hiking trails in close proximity to the castle.
Over at Hotel Schoenburg, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the Rhine valley from this 27-key castle property. Explore the fireplace room, prison tower, and library before taking a stroll in the property’s magical garden. And lastly, if you find yourself in the heart of the Moselle region, Scholl Lieser is a gorgeously-restored 19th-century castle that overlooks the river and surrounding vineyards. Spend your days with strolls around the grounds exploring the gardens, vineyards, library, chapel, and the wine cellar plus the nearby village of Lieser.
There’s nothing quite as arresting as the sight of a medieval castle with its steely gray hue and textural stonework surrounded by an almost impossibly green Irish countryside. If you’re headed to The Emerald Isle, begin your stay at Dromoland Castle — a beloved hotel that’s been welcoming guests since the 16th century (and that finds its origins as the ancestral home to the O’Briens since 1014 AD). It features a baronial façade and the interiors are as historic feeling as they are luxurious. This 450-acre estate has it all from a golf course to wellness spa, and the property excels during the holiday season with festive Christmas and New Year’s Eve programming.
Ashford Castle is another lavish estate worth booking a stay at via Inspirato. This 800-year-old castle is situated on 350 landscaped acres and has unique amenities like a library of 800 antique books, a billiards room with an adjoining cigar terrace, and a 32-seat cinema. There’s also Kinnitty Castle Hotel, which dates back to 1209 and is designed in the Gothic style. It’s set on an impressive 650 acres of parkland and forests and features a cozy Library Bar with an open fire, hot meals, and Guinness on tap (plus, it’s a budget-friendly stay, with prices starting around $150 a night).
As one of the oldest countries in Europe, it’s no surprise that Portugal is a prime destination for history junkies. Book a room at Pousada de Óbidos located in Vila de Óbidos — it’s listed as one of the seven wonders of Portugal. With features dating back to the 9th century, this castle was a wedding gift from King D. Dinis to Queen Santa Isabel (it’s also where they were married). The best rooms here are the three suites located in the tower and don’t forget to make a reservation at Pousada's restaurant for locally-sourced Portuguese fare.
Head for the medieval town of Marvão for a magical stay at The Pousada Marvão. It’s located in the Parque Natural da Serra de São Mamede and is perched on top of a hill with views across the countryside and across the Spanish border. It was converted into a hotel from two medieval buildings (some of which dating back to the 13th century) and is accessed by steep, narrow cobblestone streets that wind up to the castle’s entrance.
Le sigh, what’s not to love about France? It’s a country with boundless seemingly boundless history and culture and also a beautiful location for palatial properties. One such destination is the Neoclassical Hôtel de Crillon (now part of the Rosewood Hotel portfolio). It was originally built in 1758 as a private residence to host the world’s great ambassador and overlooks the Place de la Concorde. This building has remained through the reigns of two French kings, the French Revolution, and the rise and fall of the Napoleonic Empire; eventually becoming a luxury palace hotel in 1909.
In the Lorie Valley, Hotel Château du Grand-Lucé is another majestic Neoclassical property and was built between 1760 and 1764 by Baron Jacques Pineau de Viennay. The 80-acre property is surrounded by an original medieval wall and offers manicured French gardens for guests to explore. The former stables were converted into a ballroom and the old laundry house is now a spa with garden views and a private courtyard. Limestone floors and French white oak serve as a backdrop for the interiors, with crystal chandeliers and fine Persian rugs accentuating the royal ambience. Lastly, Chateau de Mirambeau located between Bordeaux and Cognac is a Renaissance style hotel that was built on the site of a medieval fortress dating to the 11th century. Absorb the lush upholstery, antique furniture, and marble bathrooms and enjoy seasonal bites from the property’s one star Michelin restaurant by Chef Maxine Deschamps.