Castles may have been reserved for the noble and elite centuries ago, but now many of the striking structures have transformed into luxury hotels for romantic rendezvous or memorable family getaways. The fortified buildings — with buttresses, stone arches, and ornate detail — no longer protect against attacks, instead offering travelers a historic and undeniably unique place to stay. From Ireland to Tuscany, we’ve rounded up the best castle hotels in Europe when you want to sleep in a bed that’s fit for a queen or king.
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. The 82 sumptuous, individually decorated rooms combine old-fashioned grandeur with modern tech amenities (including electronic shades, free Wi-Fi, and wall outlets for both U.S. and European plugs). George V Dining Room offers excellent, formal fine dining (jackets are required in the evening), and afternoon tea can be enjoyed in the Connaught Room with lake views. The wide range of estate activities includes falconry lessons, boat tours on the lake, golf on the nine-hole course, clay shooting, and archery. It's one of the best hotels in not only Ireland but the world, and for many guests will be a magical, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
A grand estate in Dartmoor National Park, Bovey Castle Hotel is a luxury retreat without the all the pomp that often comes with a stay at a manor with a pedigree. A sportsperson's dream, it's ideally placed for a country escape, and has its own 18-hole golf course. Hunting expeditions, fishing, and falconry are all on offer, along with croquet and tennis for those who prefer not to leave the yard. The 69 classic rooms could use some updating, but each has a lovely view, and private stone lodges with kitchens are hidden around the grounds. The service can be more informal than some might expect at this price point, but for most the relaxed atmosphere is part of the draw.
The five-pearl Hotel Schloss Monchstein is a luxurious and romantic historic castle hotel with panoramic views of Salzburg from its position on top of Monchsberg Mountain. Despite its lofty location, it takes less than 10 minutes to reach most of Salzburg’s attractions on the Monchsberg elevator, to which guests have free access. The spacious 24 rooms and suites have romantic antique decor, flat-screen TVs, and minibars, and some have terraces. The hotel’s amenities -- an infinity pool, hot tub, and spa -- reflect the relaxing, luxurious nature of this property, and there's an attractive outdoor terrace with a fireplace, bar, and restaurant with the option of dining in the tower spire.
Staying in a castle is an undoubtedly romantic experience, and the Castello Delle Quattro Torra is an affordable and familial alternative to many of the more opulent castle hotels found in the Italian countryside. A short drive from Siena, this family-run bed-and-breakfast has only three rooms, including an apartment and a two-story tower room, all of which can be rented by the night or -- for a discount -- by the week. There's little to do in the surrounding area, and guests really need a car, although those who love walking can hike to Siena in about 45 minutes.
The five-pearl Lough Eske Castle is a beautiful and luxurious hotel that sits on the shores of its namesake lake, surrounded by sprawling grounds and gardens. A secluded countryside retreat (though a short drive to Donegal), the property includes a renowned spa housed in the lovely Victorian Glass House where guests can indulge in some pampering and use the sauna, steam room, fitness center, or infinity pool with views of the gardens. The hotel's restaurant uses fresh, locally sourced ingredients, including seafood from nearby Killybegs. Tastefully decorated rooms are large, as are the luxurious bathrooms with walk-in showers and soaking tubs, but not air-conditioned.
Swinton Park is a luxurious hotel housed in a gorgeous ivy-covered castle in the Yorkshire Dales and surrounded by 200 acres of beautiful grounds dotted with reindeer and swans. The 31-room country estate is richly decorated with antique furnishings and oil paintings that transport guests back to the 1800s. Spacious rooms are full of antique touches like brocade canopy beds and stone fireplaces mixed with modern comforts that include flat-screen TVs and bathrooms with heated towel racks and designer toiletries. The exhaustive list of amenities includes a large kitchen garden that supplies food to the hotel's award-winning restaurant, an aviary with birds of prey, a cooking school with extensive course offerings, and a lovely spa with a sauna and fitness center. Guests seeking a countryside retreat can indulge in a wealth of outdoor activities, including shooting, fishing, archery, and falconry. The location, though secluded, is a short drive away from the small market town of Masham.
The 14-room Waterford Castle Hotel is a beautifully restored medieval castle set on a picturesque private island reached by a free ferry that takes two minutes. From its first incarnation as an early Norman keep to its 19th-century expansion, this imposing ivy-clad hotel -- complete with turrets, arrowslits, and battlements -- feels every inch the fairytale castle of yore. An array of sports and activities -- golf, tennis, nature walks, clay-pigeon shooting, and picnics -- can make for a special stay. Rooms are pleasant, but the bespoke bathrooms really shine. Don't expect any cutting-edge technology (it might break the spell of stepping back into the Middle Ages), but there's free Wi-Fi in the hotel's public areas and flat-screen TVs in some of the rooms.
The upscale Langley Castle Hotel is housed in a genuine 14th-century fortress complete with numerous medieval features and period-style decor. It is set in a peaceful Northumbrian woodland next to the North Pennines, and a 35-minute drive from Newcastle. Rooms are suitably plush with decent amenities, though only some sit in the castle (and these can only be accessed by stairs). Dining is high-end, though portions aren't always generous. The property is set on 12 acres of woodland and well-tended gardens where the peace is only occasionally broken by the caw of one of the free-roaming resident peacocks. While there's plenty to do in the surrounding area, there's nothing in the way of leisure, spa, or health facilities on-site.
The upper-middle-range, 15-room Castello Vicchiomaggio is a lovely place for tourists looking for a picturesque getaway in the Tuscan countryside. It's situated in a restored stone castle built in the 15th century among the rolling hills of the gorgeous Tuscan countryside. It has a long history and has hosted such guests as Leonardo da Vinci and the poet Francesco Redi. It's about a 10-minute drive from the village of Greve in the Chianti area, and the property still produces wine on-site. Rooms are spread between the main castle and a manor house, and all are spacious and nicely appointed with classic furniture. Guests can tour the wine-production area in the cellar, taste the wines, and then have a four-course Tuscan dinner (with wine, of course). The outdoor infinity pool is a highlight as it offers jaw-dropping views of the countryside.
Housed in a grand 16th-century castle with decadent and charming interiors, the 23-room Ballyseede Castle is a popular pick among couples on a romantic getaway. This family-run, upscale property offers an acclaimed restaurant, a cozy bar, and freebies that include an excellent breakfast, Wi-Fi, parking, and tea and cookies throughout the day. Rooms are elegant with tasteful decor, flat-screen TVs, and fine linens. This is a one-of-a-kind property in Kerry, but don't expect modern amenities such as a fitness center or spa.
The luxurious 26-room Fonab Castle Hotel is a luxury property located on the scenic shores of Loch Faskally. Built in 1892, the hotel tastefully blends tradition and modernity -- its beautiful, contemporary interiors include a cozy lounge and two restaurants, a fine-dining establishment serving multi-course gourmet meals, and a more relaxed brasserie with stunning views over the water. The hotel’s sleek and modern spa has a sauna, steam room, pool, and fitness center. Spacious, upscale rooms and suites are located in both the main castle building and an abutting modern annex, offering chic decor and such amenities as flat-screen TVs, Nespresso machines, and designer toiletries. A large, vaulted-ceiling penthouse with an egg-shaped soaking tub is also available for guests seeking extra indulgence.
For travelers who've ever fancied spending the night in a real castle, Castello Bevilacqua is definitely worth considering. This romantic, 14th-century castle-hotel has just seven Junior Suites, each individually styled with beautiful antique furnishings and museum-quality artwork. All come with flat-screen TVs and Wi-Fi, and many have whirlpool tubs in the bathrooms. The property also has a gourmet restaurant with medieval decor, and multiple grand event spaces for conferences and weddings. Wi-Fi is free throughout the property, and there's plenty of on-site parking. While the rooms are gorgeous, and the restaurant is excellent -- not to mention atmospheric -- be aware that reaching the upstairs rooms requires lots of stair-climbing, and some of the lower-level rooms are subject to the noise of creaky wooden floors.
This luxury hotel is set in a former medieval village with a rich history. Originally built in the 11th century as a monastery, it later became a castle and residence for the noble Chigi family. The hotel has been updated with modern amenities and sophisticated decor, and provides a relaxed, chic setting. The 74 guest rooms are dispersed throughout the different buildings and chock-full of charming historical touches. Surrounded by vineyards and the beautiful Tuscan countryside, the hotel is isolated, but there are many amenities at the hotel to keep guests occupied, such as a full-service spa, Gordon Ramsay restaurant, fitness center, and two outdoor pools.
The 54-room, upscale Ballygally Castle is a romantic hotel occupying the only 17th-century building still in use as a residence in Northern Ireland. The castle comes with a (friendly) resident ghost, and oozes character and charm alongside modern conveniences. Guest rooms are clean, spacious, and contemporary, with luxe modern bathrooms and iPod docks. With views of gorgeous landscaped gardens and the Irish Sea, the castle also has an excellent restaurant, a famed afternoon tea, and "Game of Thrones"-themed activities -- the hit show is filmed in many locations throughout the area.
This 13th-century castle has an impressive degree of preserved medieval character, and offers a romantic and fun setting for a true getaway. Some rooms, as well as the terrace, grounds, and outdoor pool, offer spectacular views of the Umbrian countryside. The hotel is a popular destination with tourists seeking a couples’ vacation. An on-site restaurant offers local fare, and has received mostly positive reviews from guests; there are a number of good restaurants within a few kilometers. There are plenty of places to sit within the castle walls, including a spectacular bar with stained glass windows, and plenty of places to stroll outside, including well-maintained gardens and a rooftop walkway that affords an unparalleled view of the rural setting.
Castello Banfi Il Borgo is an 18th-century farmers village that was born around the medieval Banfi Castle. The village (in Italian “Il Borgo”) has been restored and transformed into a luxury resort, and is part of a 7,100-acre property where high-quality red wines are produced. The hotel's 14 rooms and suites reflect this heritage, and each is named after one of the bottles produced by Banfi. Expect plenty of charming historical character throughout the property; picturesque stone buildings have wood beams, bricked archways, and terra-cotta tiles inside. The chic pool has stunning views of the vineyards, and there are also two restaurants, a wine shop, and a glass museum. Those looking to explore the region should note that destinations such as Siena and Montepulciano are nearly an hour away by car.