With their turrets, moats, drawbridges, and other fairytale charms, castles have long intrigued travellers.
These magnificent monuments to monarchy, once the exclusive domain of the aristocrats who called them home, are now accessible to any pleb with a taste for the posh. Hoteliers around the world are transforming castles into indulgent accommodations, blending the best of past and present into an experience fit for 21st-century kings and queens.
Drafty old fortresses these are not. Today’s castle hotels boast lush interiors, modern amenities, and attentive service for all luxury lovers, and best of all, you won’t need to drain the royal treasury to afford a stay.
Book a night at one of these extravagant estates next time you want to pretend you’re Prince Charming or a Bond villain.
Hôtel de la Cité | Carcasonne, France
The walled city of Carcasonne sits high on a hill above the River Aude, keeping an ever-watchful eye on the Minervois vineyards and Lauragais valley below. Should you wish to visit the UNESCO World Heritage site, there’s just one hotel in town: the Hôtel de la Cité, built in 1909 on the site of a former bishop’s palace. The property embraces its history with traditional furnishings and elaborate gardens, bringing them into the modern era with the additions of a luxe spa, Michelin-starred restaurant, and outdoor pool.
Ashford Castle | Cong, Ireland
Perhaps the most famous of all castle hotels, Ashford Castle is an Irish icon. Guests at the one-time home of the Guinness family are greeted by grand stone gates, carefully manicured grounds, and exquisite interiors restored to their 800-year-old splendour. The estate’s range of patrician activities includes archery, clay shooting, golf, tennis, boating, horseback riding, and most exotic of all, flying birds of prey with Ireland’s oldest falconry school.
Pousada Castelo Óbidos | Óbidos, Portugal
The walled town of Óbidos is a highlight of many tourist itineraries, but only a lucky few can lay claim to an overnight in its 12th-century castle. The plush pousada, a traditional or historical Portuguese hotel, was once a dowry for a Portuguese queen. Today guests fight to reserve one of its limited rooms, the most coveted of which is the tower room, where you can expect total silence and tranquility thanks to 80-inch-thick stone walls.
Çırağan Palace Kempinski | Istanbul, Turkey
Built by Sultan Abdülâziz and designed by Armenian palace architect Nigoğayos Balyan, this former Ottoman palace is now a five-star hotel under the Kempinski brand. Though no longer a residence for royalty, Çırağan Palace carries on a long tradition of grandeur with regal suites and sweeping views of the Bosphorus. Guests are spoiled by personal butlers, a traditional Turkish hammam in the spa, and some of the country’s finest native cuisine served up in Executive Chef Sezai Erdoğan’s Tuğra Restaurant.
Ruthin Castle | Ruthin, Wales
Nothing says “relaxing holiday” like a dungeon, a whipping pit, and a drowning pool. Ruthin Castle, constructed in the late 1200s and located in Northern Wales, has all three, though its days of torture and gore are long gone. The former home of Henry VIII now offers a far tamer experience in the form of themed medieval feasts, complete with period costumes and a toast of mead. Rumour has it, however, that a few ghosts still roam its halls.
Parador de Oropesa | Oropesa, Spain
Parador de Oropesa’s varied history stretches back to the 14th century. The imposing square structure was once the ancestral home of the Álvarez de Toledo family, and has sheltered numerous soldiers, religious persons, and nobles over its lifetime. If legends are to be believed, it was built on a site first settled in 1716 BC by Hercules’s soldiers, but regardless of its true origins, this character-filled Spanish stay presents a unique opportunity to be immersed in history.
Burghotel auf Schönburg | Oberwesel, Germany
In 1689, this majestic German castle was burned down by French soldiers and remained in ruins until its restoration in 1914. Decades later, the property has a new lease on life as a pristine, 24-room hotel overlooking the Rhine. Each room is individually decorated for a one-of-a-kind experience, while shared facilities include a romantic garden and a restaurant serving four-course meals made from local ingredients.
The Castle In Clarens | Clarens, South Africa
For an intimate take on the royal estate, try this quaint castle in the heart of South Africa’s Maluti Mountains. The Castle In Clarens, known to many as Rapunzel’s Tower, is a real-life fantasy experience lovingly curated with antiques and objets d’art sourced from around the world (including cornerstones from Windsor Castle). Cosy up by the gigantic fireplace, enjoy heavenly views in the Chamber of Angels, and don’t forget to order breakfast – it comes delivered to your door in a treasure chest.