Solar Do Castelo Hotel Rating: 4.0 Pearls

The historic Solar Do Castelo is different than any other hotel in Lisbon. The rooms are quaint (if not luxurious), and the breakfast buffet offers a ton of options for hungry guests. But the real reason tourists stay at this hotel is the location; not only is it convenient to numerous sights and neighborhoods in the city, but it is the only hotel within the walls of the medieval village surrounding St. George's Castle. It's quiet, and rich in history -- the hotel has preserved a large part of the architecture, as well as adding a small museum of artifacts off of the lobby. And a real highlight is the outdoor terrace, where peacocks congregate. None of the 14 rooms are decorated the same, and some feel more upscale than others. But all offer free Wi-Fi and plenty of charm.

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Europe's Most Historic Hotels (2 of 24)

 The historic Solar Do Castelo is different than any other hotel in Lisbon. The rooms are quaint (if not luxurious), and the breakfast buffet offers a ton of options for hungry guests. But the real reason tourists stay at this hotel is the location; not only is it convenient to numerous sights and neighborhoods in the city, but it is the only hotel within the walls of the medieval village surrounding St. George's Castle. It's quiet, and rich in history -- the hotel has preserved a large part of the architecture, as well as adding a small museum of artifacts off of the lobby. And a real highlight is the outdoor terrace, where peacocks congregate. None of the 14 rooms are decorated the same, and some feel more upscale than others. But all offer free Wi-Fi and plenty of charm.
Europe's rich history is alive and well at these amazing hotels. Seeming to appear straight out of the history books, these castles, palaces, and monasteries have been the host to some of our world's most interesting -- and sometimes notorious -- affairs. Check them out in this slideshow:
The 40-room Ballynahinch Castle Hotel is a less formal, more accessible alternative to the more famous Ashford Castle to the east. It has a riverfront location amid the wild, unspoiled beauty of Connemara and decor that's alternately homey and elegant. It's more of a manor house than a castle, but the main structure dates to the 18th century and both the building and the estate are steeped in history. Past owners have included the O'Flaherty clan (the 16th century "Pirate Queen," Grace O'Malley, married into the clan and was one of its more noteworthy members); Richard Martin (a member of Parliament nicknamed Humanity Dick for founding the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals); and the Indian Maharaja, Ranji, who bought the estate in 1922. The historic Solar Do Castelo is different than any other hotel in Lisbon. The rooms are quaint (if not luxurious), and the breakfast buffet offers a ton of options for hungry guests. But the real reason tourists stay at this hotel is the location; not only is it convenient to numerous sights and neighborhoods in the city, but it is the only hotel within the walls of the medieval village surrounding St. George's Castle. It's quiet, and rich in history -- the hotel has preserved a large part of the architecture, as well as adding a small museum of artifacts off of the lobby. And a real highlight is the outdoor terrace, where peacocks congregate. None of the 14 rooms are decorated the same, and some feel more upscale than others. But all offer free Wi-Fi and plenty of charm. This luxurious 22-room boutique is housed in a centuries-old palace located along the Grand Canal, near the main train station in Venice. Decadent rooms have modern amenities including flat-screen TVs and comfortable beds, but the use of rich patterns in gold and blues, the classic artwork on the walls, and the Rococo-style furniture might be a bit too much to some. Rooms facing the canal have better views (though some have small windows), but those overlooking the lovely square are quieter. Though location is convenient for those arriving to Venice by train, the hotel is a 25-minute walk from Piazza San Marco, and it lacks a full restaurant. Dukes Hotel is a pricey, prestigious 90-room boutique delivering an updated take on classic English luxury. It's quietly opulent, and features plenty of special boutique amenities, such as a cognac and cigar garden, and a Drawing Room where traditional afternoon tea is served. The most notable feature, however, is Dukes Bar, formerlyfrequented by James Bond creator Ian Fleming, and the birthplace of the famous "Shaken, not stirred" line. (The bar is, naturally, famous for its martinis -- but note that there's a strict dress code.) Rooms have upscale decor that varies between room types; lower level rooms have fresh ivory and white decor, while suites blend classic and contemporary styles. All are sophisticated. The hotel is housed in the city's original train station; there was a track just 32 feet from the current lobby until 1977. Today, it's a 170-room, colorful boutique hotel. And while the new decor is funky, original touches remain: a beautiful, classical façade; structural beams incorporated into hallways and rooms; and soaring ceilings in second-floor rooms. The Italian restaurant, for example, occupies the original train station waiting room, and has booths shaped like old-fashioned train seats. One guest suite was once the management's office -- where the king would wait for his train -- and an original fireplace, lamp, and wallpaper all remain. Ashford Castle embodies the fantasy of the Irish castle hotel, featuring a massive historic stone facade, complete with towers and turrets; gorgeous, manicured grounds; a stunning setting on a huge lake; and common spaces that are truly grand, with rich wood paneling, chandeliers, and antique furniture. And, as any true castle hotel should, Ashford Castle has a rich history. The Anglo-Norman de Burgo family first built a castle here in 1228, and then lost it after being defeated by the O'Connors in the 16th century. The castle passed hands many more times over the following centuries and the building went through a number of reincarnations -- receiving the addition of a French-style chateau in 1715 and two Victorian wings in 1852 -- before evolving into the hotel it is today. In more recent history, the castle grounds were used as a primary filming location for the classic 1952 film The Quiet Man, which is a point of local pride. The world-renowned luxury hotel Plaza Athenee -- a part of the Dorchester Collection -- is synonymous with Parisian elegance and good taste. Iconic red awnings and chestnut trees welcome guests to the historic setting, on the upscale Avenue Montaigne with direct views of the Eiffel Tower. It's all about luxury here, inside and out. The avenue is lined with high-end shops such as Christian Dior (guests have access to the Dior Institute for a full range of quality beauty and spa treatments), Prada, and Chanel. And inside, the 146 rooms and 45 suites are decorated in classic Art Deco style with modern touches like flat-screen TVs and marble baths. With six distinct restaurants, a large fitness center, and a can't-miss daily breakfast in a leafy garden, the Plaza Athenee doesn't miss a beat. But it comes at a high price -- and Wi-Fi isn't even included in that cost. This 16th-century property features a distinguished facade -- and an impressive history to match. Together with the famed Ospedale degli Innocenti building, it forms one of Florence's most stunning Renaissance-era architectural complexes. Beautiful arches and columns make for an impressive exterior and the feeling of grandeur continues inside, with wood-beamed ceilings and parquet floors throughout. Rooms aren't quite luxurious, but do feature antique furnishings, flat-screen TVs, and air-conditioning. The small, plain bathrooms are a bit of a letdown. The hotel's location on the Piazza della Santissima Annunziata puts it close to many tourist sights, but some guests may feel uneasy about the homeless people who linger in this popular square. Hotel Les Amures is a quaint luxury boutique with a fabulous location in Old Town. The 32 rooms in this 17th century mansion are charming and high-end, with details such as wood-beamed ceilings, faux-fur throws, and stone walls that create a chalet-like vibe. The style extends into the restaurant, breakfast room, and common spaces -- beamed ceilings are present throughout, and there's even a suit of armor in the lobby. The hotel attracts well-heeled couples and even the occasional celebrity -- George Clooney stayed here -- but amenities are few: There is no spa, fitness center, or pool. Rates are a bit steep considering the lack of features, but at least breakfast and Wi-Fi are free. The Sofitel is an upscale property in the heart of the Old Center. The building has a rich history; it has been both a 15th-century convent and a city hall. The 177 rooms are contemporary and homey (though some are on the small side) and feature Nespresso machines, flat-screen TVs, and wonderful beds. Bathrooms are sleek, and most have walk-in showers. Hotel features include a high-end spa with indoor heated pool, a modern fitness center, and Bridges Restaurant with a canal-side garden terrace for dining al fresco. Room service is on offer 24 hours a day and a kids' program includes baby toiletries and cribs. One of the more notable historical hotels in London, the Langham Hotel has been around since 1865 -- when it opened as the city's first purpose-built luxury hotel. Luxurious, stately, and composed, this 380-room hotel projects an air of exclusivity. Certain amenities seem meager for a five-pearl luxury brand, however -- even the "complimentary" evening champagne is offered in conservative amounts and presented with a full champagne menu, presumably to encourage extra spending. But for a certain quintessentially English air of prestige without the usual pretention, and a premier location for West End shopping, this is a good place to be. The ultra-luxurious Chuan Spa, 16-meter pool, and salt sauna don't hurt its high-end credentials either. The 265-room Shelbourne, built in 1824, is one of Dublin's best-known luxury icons, with a grand entrance right on St. Stephen's Green and an impressive roster of famous past guests (Bill Clinton, Julia Roberts, and Liam Neeson have all stayed here, to name a few). Celebrities aside, the most notable aspect of the hotel's history is arguably its role in Ireland's politics. In 1922, the Irish constitution was signed in Room 112, now dubbed The Constitution Room and open for guests to view. A small museum dedicated to the hotel's rich history is located off the lobby. The Fretheim Hotel has long been a destination for tourists looking to explore Norway's natural wonders. In the late 19th century, English lords came to Flam and stayed at the farm of Christen Fretheim while they fished for salmon or hunted for nearby game. The farm soon developed into a hotel, and today it welcomes tourists who flock to Flam for fjord cruises, hiking, and in the winter, cross-country skiing. The current hotel incorporates the original historic building, and the rooms in the Historic Wing are designed to look as they might have over a hundred years ago. For true authenticity, they don't even have TVs -- just old-fashioned working radios. In the lobby, historic charm is blended with contemporary mountain style for a rustic-chic feel. The Hotel Adlon Kempinski is an elegant, classic hotel with a rich history. Its predecessor was one of the most popular hotels in Europe through World War II, hosting guests such as Charlie Chaplin and Josephine Baker. The original building was demolished, but after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a building inspired by the original was built on the same location near the Brandenburg Gate. This 382-room hotel still attracts A-list clientele -- this is where Michael Jackson dangled his baby son from a balcony in 2002. Luxurious rooms have heavy drapes, four-poster canopy beds, plush couches, and fresh cut roses. Marble bathrooms offer soaking tubs and heated floors. These inviting rooms, combined with the hotel's impressive amenities -- an indoor pool, full spa, fitness center, and variety of restaurants -- make this one of the best picks in Berlin. The Cadogan is an unpretentious boutique hotel with a prestigious Knightsbridge address. This 64-room hotel occupies a historic Edwardian townhouse on Sloane Street, in close proximity to local shopping. The property has a rich history, including the room where Oscar Wilde awaited his arrest in 1895 and another where King Edward VII met with his mistress, the British actress Lillie Langtry. The Cadogan creates guest profiles to take note of personal preferences, and classy rooms are full of character with antiques, dramatic curtains, and luxe bathrooms. Guests craving modernity will be happy to see big flat-screen TVs and iPod docks. The hotel also offers an excellent restaurant, Langtry's, named after the actress. With a small fitness center and personal service, the Cadogan is an appealing pick, although some guests consider rooms to be a tad small and complain of street noise. Housed in the former residences of the Bertolini princes, the Grand Hotel Baglioni lives up to the grand image painted by Florence's past. The hotel is filled with heavy-handed regal touches and ornate decor from top to bottom. The 193 rooms are very spacious (not often the case in a historic building), and feel luxurious, decked out with classic Italian furnishings, large leaded windows, gorgeous dark wood (the ceilings, floors, and furniture), and equally spacious dazzling white bathrooms (though there are some awkward shower/tub combos). Both the rooftop garden and Terrazza Brunelleschi restaurant offer stunning views of Florence. All of this comes with a hefty price tag, of course, but the convenient location and rich design make the splurge worth it for some. The 105-room Casa Fuster is an upscale historic boutique near high-end shopping and Modernist architecture. The building itself is one of the most prominent examples of this style, with an elaborate façade and ornate marble interiors. Elegant rooms have pastel-colored walls, oversized headboards, and great amenities such as flat-screen TVs, free Wi-Fi, Loewe toiletries, and surround-sound stereo systems. Some even have small in-room saunas, balconies and hydro-massage showers. But quarters can be tight, and king-size beds are really two smaller beds pushed together. Hotel features include a Mediterranean restaurant as well as a beautiful rooftop deck with a small pool and gorgeous panoramic views of Barcelona. Beautiful Café Vienes is a favorite among artists, intellectuals and locals, and its weekly jazz nights have performers such as Woody Allen and the New Orleans Rag Trio. With a sweeping private entrance surrounded by green lawns and an impressive fountain, the upscale (and historic) Saint James is a rare find in Paris -- in fact, the 19th-century manor is considered the only chateau-hotel in the city. It's fitting that the hotel is located in the wealthy 16th arrondissement (and yes, valet parking is included). The 48 rooms and suites are large by Paris standards, and decorated in plush luxurious fabrics. But the common areas are more impressive -- especially the black and white grand staircase on the main floor. The terrace is a beautiful spot for lunch on a nice summer day. And there's also a small fitness center, a spa, and a gourmet restaurant. The rates here are steep, but guests who want to experience luxury in Paris (and can afford it) should give the Saint James a look. This elegant, 78-room boutique hotel is located in the Trastevere neighborhood on the right bank of the Tiber River, a bit far from most tourist sights. Lovers of history will likely appreciate the 17th-century monastery setting, designed by a well-known Baroque architect and featuring wood-beamed ceilings, arched hallways, and marble floors. Rooms have antique-style furniture (though some bedding is slightly dated rather than charmingly old-world), as well as flat-screen TVs, minibars, spacious bathrooms, and bathrobes. The rooftop terrace offers outstanding panoramic views of the neighborhood, but it lacks seating areas. Those who want to relax outside will have to make do with the pretty courtyard garden on ground level. Hotel Wellington is a classically beautiful, historic hotel in Salamanca, just a short walk from the famous Retiro Park. The grand lobby has a stately vibe, with crystal chandeliers, velvet furniture, and high ceilings, and the look continues throughout the hotel -- though it's a bit simpler in the 255 rooms. Rooms have small flat-screen TVs, iPod docks, and free Wi-Fi, but standard rooms are a bit small and some feature two beds pushed together -- which is common in Madrid, but not what one would expect at a luxury hotel. Like a luxury hotel, however, Hotel Wellington features a long list of amenities: a 24-hour business center, well-equipped fitness center, spa with numerous features, seasonal outdoor pool, and seven dining options, one of which is a Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant. Plus, the hotel's rich history is impressive; after all, it has hosted the likes of Gene Kelly and Ernest Hemingway. The Dylan is a stylish, upscale boutique centrally located in the Canal Ring. The 41 rooms are split into six different styles, ranging from lofts with cathedral ceilings to all-white rooms to Asian-inspired spaces. All rooms in the 17th-century building have high-end amenities including Bose sound systems, stocked minibars, and Zenology toiletries. A cozy lounge, two bars, a brasserie, and a lovely courtyard with heat lamps are all draws, but the real highlight here is the Michelin-star Vinkeles restaurant, which serves contemporary French cuisine in an exclusive space with just a handful of tables. While some rooms are quite small and rates are high year-round, the hotel does offer free Wi-Fi and some rooms have beautiful views overlooking the canals. Hotel d’Angleterre is one of Geneva’s grand dames, popular among diplomats and well-heeled travelers for its gorgeous views and opulent accommodations. It offers a convenient location right on the shores of Lake Geneva -- near shopping, dining, attractions and public transportation -- and high-end amenities such as in-room spa treatments, an acclaimed bar, and a wonderful restaurant with superb views and a popular afternoon tea service. Its 39 luxurious rooms and nine suites all feature pillow menus, iPod docks, interactive TVs, free Wi-Fi, and original artworks. But while some offer stunning lake and mountain views, others face the building next door and are a little small. Walking into the Hotel Al Sole is like taking a step back in time. The 15th-century building is infused with everything visitors to the city would expect, from the brick walls, to the charming courtyard, to the canal views. That being said, the rooms are nothing to fawn over (especially at their price): Generic bedspreads, cheap rattan furniture, and tiny flat-screen TVs are some of the low points. The stocked minibars and canal views are helpful in looking past these faults, though, as is the hotel's great location near Venice's popular sights. Perhaps the best aspect of this mid-range hotel is its close proximity (literally steps) to Notre Dame Cathedral. This also means guests have direct access to the Latin Quarter and Saint Germain for unbeatable culture and many restaurants. But it's not only about the location -- the rooms, designed by Christian LaCroix, are something special, with funky colors, fabrics, and eccentric touches everywhere. The building is about 400 years old, so it has some quirks. For example, the lobby is on the second floor, and guests have to lug their bags up the stairs to get there (the elevator doesn't go there). For the young and adventurous, the Hotel Le Notre Dame is a great choice. The area is bustling with vendors, tourists, and traffic, which brings in a bit of noise but also a lot of excitement. But for those who want to relax and have a lot of options in the hotel itself, they won't find it here -- aside from the necessity to climb stairs, there is no fitness center, or restaurant (though there is a breakfast served).
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