One of the big draws of traveling is the lure of the unfamiliar: the opportunity to stay in places that we'd never see -- much less experience -- in our home base. And perhaps staying in a spot that encapsulates the spirit of a new locale is the best way to discover the location. So from a country castle in Ireland to a palazzo in central Italy, we rounded up seven hotels that perfectly epitomize their destination.
Located near the popular Edinburgh Castle, The Witchery by the Castle features nine opulently decorated suites that are spread out across two historic buildings. Each suite comes with a gothic-romantic theme, including jewel tones, heavy tapestries, and lots of tartan. Here, guests can try traditional and excellent Scottish cuisine. Another standout highlight of the property is its two spectacular restaurants — The Witchery, a saloon-style space with detailed wood paneling, red-leather-button seating, and red velvet tablecloths, and The Secret Garden, which is set in an internal patio. The whole experience is akin to spending the night in a museum — the next best thing to staying in the castle next door.
Set deep in a city’s medina, riads are a traditional Moroccan dwelling structured around a central courtyard that typically either features a pool or a shade-giving fruit tree. Some, like Riad Ambre et Epices, also come with a rooftop terrace and hammams. Once inside the property’s courtyard, guests can unwind by the fireplace or small plunge pool. But note: Like many other riads, this one cannot be reached by car.
Save the vineyard farmhouses for the wine tours and experience a true Renaissance palazzo at the Grand Hotel Continental, which was originally a wedding gift from Pope Alexander VII. Although there are a range of rooms to choose from, all feature Tuscany‘s signature Renaissance gilt. Lower-priced rooms are still outfitted in ornate chandeliers and rich upholstery, while suites come equipped with high frescoed ceilings, antique furnishings, and panoramic views overlooking the heart of the city.
Rustic, warm, quaint, and cozy — a stay at Amee Farm checks off all the boxes of a quintessential Vermont stay. The property’s peaceful, secluded location set on 40 acres begs for long walks, while the wrap-around porch with Adirondack chairs is the perfect location to chat with fellow lodgers and admire the scenery. Inside, carefully curated rooms exude an urban-chic vibe (think wide-planked hardwood floors, comfortable beds with white linens, and interesting antiques).
If there’s a single structure that encapsulates Dubai‘s hotel design scene, it’s this iconic property, which is set on its own island. Billing itself as the “world’s most luxurious hotel,” the sail-shaped building embraces the city’s reputation for opulence with a private butler on each floor, a private beach, seven on-site restaurants, and 24k-gold iPads in the two-story suites. Can’t afford a stay there? A trip for high tea (and therefore a chance to explore the grounds) is the next best thing.
Ireland happens to be famous for its castle hotels, like the 13th-century Ashford Castle on the shores of Lough Corrib. Common spaces, which feature rich wood paneling, decadent chandeliers, and stunning antique furniture, add to the royal treatment. Formal dining (jackets are required in the evening) is also available in the George V dining room. The 350-acre estate also give guests the chance to try traditional country sports like clay shooting, archery, and falconry.
While New York City offers a wide range of hotels, the see-and-be-seen, celebrity-packed properties are quite common in the Big Apple. With an A-list party scene, museum-quality artwork, and an emphasis on luxurious design, Gramercy Park Hotel is one such hot spot. Two bars help guests begin their evening, while a rooftop pool with a retractable roof is the perfect place to discuss the previous night’s adventures. It’s both utterly unique and emblematic of the city’s glitterati scene. Just be sure to dodge the cameras on the way out the front door.