Stay in a castle

Stay in a castle: 25 of the best castles to stay in Europe

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Staying in a castle gets you closer to royalty, celebrities, legends – and ghosts? Here are 25 of best castles to stay in Europe for a romantic, royal or spooky adventure.

Europe is synonymous to castles and what could be better than simply visiting awe-inspiring, medieval European castles? Staying in a castle, of course.

There are many castles to stay in Europe, where you can tread in the footsteps of royalty, celebrities, politicians, historical legends – and even ghosts, if the stories are true.

Castles to stay in Europe

Staying in a castle is one way to bring a little enchantment to a European getaway. Here are some of the best castles to stay in Europe, including castle hotels in Ireland, Scotland, England, Germany, Spain, Romania, Italy, Portugal, Wales and France.

Castle hotels in Germany

1. Schloss Hornberg

Location: Black Forest | W: Schloss Hornberg

History: A knight’s castle, dating back to the 11th century. In 1517 it was purchased as a residence and sold again in 1612 to the Barons of Gemmingen, who still own it to this day. A hotel and restaurant have been operating out of the castle since 1953.

This is interesting: They offer a 'knight’s meal' for 20 – 120 people, complete with period-speak, musicians, and jugglers. The feast is prepared according to original recipes, using spices and ingredients from the middle ages.

Stay in a castle: Schloss Hornberg

2. Schloss Hugenpoet

Location: Essen | W: Schloss Hugenpoet

History: Originally built during the Middle Ages, the castle was destroyed after the 30 Years’ War and rebuilt in 1647 to its current form. The idea to use it as a hotel originated around 1955 and it currently holds membership in the Leading Small Hotels of the World.

This is interesting: Hugenpoet was named after the toads (hugen) that once lived in the moat (poet = puddle). Little toad emblems are still around the castle — e.g., menu adornments, lapel pins — to honor this legacy.

3. Schloss Lembeck

Location: Lembeck | W: Schloss Lembeck

History: The origins of this castle date back to the 12th century and it has been in the same family (Merveldt) for 600 years. It was reconstructed and enlarged in 1692, and a 300th anniversary in 1992 marked the occasion with concerts, equestrian tournaments, and theater performances.

This is interesting: The Merveldts were forced to abandon the castle as a residence in the 1970s due to high maintenance costs (especially heating).

Stay in a castle: Schloss Lembeck

4. Schloss Spangenberg

Location: Spangenberg | W: Schloss Spangenberg

History: Built by knights in the 1200s and added to over the centuries by the counts of Hesse and Count Wilhelm IV. It survived the 30 Years’ War but was lost to the French in the 7 Years’ War. It has since been restored after being damaged during WWII.

This is interesting: The castle was recently renovated and restored.

Castle hotels in Spain

5. Parador de Cardona

Location: Near Barcelona | W: Parador de Cardona

History: The original was built by King Louis the Pious in 789 as a strong point to secure territories taken back from the Moors. The present castle began construction in 1020. It has withstood wars, surviving attacks from the French and Spanish during the War of the Spanish Succession, a siege during the Peninsular War, and an attempt by the Carlists during the Spanish Civil War.

This is interesting: Room 712 is reputed to be haunted by a ghost dressed in a leotard and period costume.

Stay in a castle: Parador de Cardona

6. Parador de Granada

Location: Granada | W: Parador de Granada

History: It is part of the palace and mosque of the Alhambra (started in 1238). The parador was built between 1332 and 1354 and later converted to a Franciscan convent.

This is interesting: The kings of Spain used to be buried in the former chapel part of the building, but were later relocated to the Royal Chapel.

7. Hospedería del Real Monasterio

Location: Guadalupe (Cáceres) | W: Hospedería del Real Monasterio

History: A small chapel was originally built on the site and later replaced by a hermitage built by King Alfonso XI. The Hieronymites took care of the building between the 15th and 18th centuries. Ferdinand and Isabella signed the documents authorizing Columbus’s first voyage to the New World in the monastery. In the 1800s the monastery was abandoned and looted by the French during the Peninsular War. It is now maintained by the Franciscans.

This is interesting: Guadalupe is home to the shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe; the statue was being brought to Sevilla from the Greek island of Patmos when the party was attacked and they buried it in a nearby field. It lay for 600 years before it was discovered.

Castles to stay in: Hospedería del Real Monasterio

8. Castillo de Monda

Location: Monda | W: Castillo de Monda

History: The Moors laid the first foundations of the castle, which were taken by the Christians in 1485, then razed in 1570 during a Moorish uprising. It was never rebuilt over 400 years, but in the 1970s the ruins were restored.

This is interesting: The Battle of Munda in 45 BC between Julius Caesar and Pompei is said to have taken place on this site, according to local legend.

9. Parador de Olite

Location: Olite (Navarra) | W: Parador de Olite

History: Built over 10 years by Charles III as his summer residence during his reign from 1357-1425. In 1512 the castle was invaded by his grandson — he obviously wasn’t too happy being left out of the royal succession. It later suffered severe damage in the 17th century and was nearly destroyed during the Napoleonic Wars.

This is interesting: When booking, request a room inside the historic castle. No additional charge, but much more atmospheric.

Castles to stay in: Parador de Olite

Castle hotel in France

10. Chateau de Castel Novel

Location: Varetz, France | W: Chateau de Castel Novel

History: From the website:

Built on a rock in the 13th and 15th centuries its overall architecture dates from the 18th century. After having belonged to several of the region’s great families the château became the property of Henri de Jouvenel. A talented journalist and influential politician he married the famous writer COLETTE, who wrote several of her novels at Castel Novel.

It was purchased in 1956 and turned into a high-quality hotel and restaurant.

This is interesting: Canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and golfing are just some of the activities that can be done nearby.

Castle hotel in Portugal

11. Castelo de Óbidos

Location: Óbidos, Portugal | W: Castelo de Óbidos

History: Human occupation on the site dates to prehistory, it is believed. Mentions of the castle go back as far as 1153. Serious damage was done to the castle during a big earthquake in 1755. It was the first to fire shots in the Battle of Roliça in 1808, the first defeat of Napolean’s army in the Peninsular War. In 2007 it was elected as one of the 7 Wonders of Portugal.

This is interesting: The town of Óbidos is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Castles to stay in: Castelo de Obidos

Castle hotels in Ireland

12. Abbeyglen Castle

Location: Sky Road, Clifden | W: Abbeyglen Castle

History: Built in 1832, it was converted to a girls’ orphanage in 1854 where they were trained in domestic services. It became a mixed orphanage in 1953 and closed in 1955 due to lack of funding. It’s been developed and run as a hotel since the ‘60s.

This is interesting: Tuesday nights are Irish night, when the menus are written in Gaelic and traditional dishes are served.

13. Ashford Castle

Location: 42 kilometres north of Galway | W: Ashford Castle

History: Built in 1228, the castle changed hands a few times and was extended over the centuries by its various owners. It opened as a hotel in 1939.

This is interesting: Previous guests have been John Lennon, George Harrison, Ronald Reagan, Brad Pitt, John Wayne, and Pierce Brosnan.

Best castle hotels: Ashford Castle

14. Dromoland Castle

Location: Clare | W: Dromoland Castle

History: The first structure on the site was built in the 15th or early 16th century. The current building was completed in 1835.

This is interesting: In 2004, President George W. Bush spent a night during a EU-US Summit. Over a 16-hour period he was guarded by 7000 police, military, and private security forces.

15. Kinnitty Castle

Location: Co. Offaly | W: Kinnitty Castle

History: The original castle was first destroyed in 1209. After being rebuilt and extended to what it is today, it was burned again in 1922. It was rebuilt in 1928. The state held ownership between 1951 and 1994.

This is interesting: The castle is haunted by the Phantom Monk of Kinnitty.

Best castle hotels: Kinnity Castle

Scotland's castle hotels

16. Balfour Castle

Location: Shapinsay, Orkney | W: Balfour Castle

History: Building started in 1847 and took three years to complete. The original plan included seven turrets, 12 external doors, 52 rooms, and 365 sections of window.

When the family line died out in the 1960s, maintenance of the castle fell to Polish Captain Tadeusz Zawadski and his wife Catherine. The castle was purchased in February 2009 and restoration to the buildings and grounds was undertaken.

This is interesting: When Captain Tadeusz Zawadski moved in, he fulfilled a gypsy fortune teller’s prophesy that he would one day live in a castle.

17. Glenapp Castle

Location: Just south of the village of Ballantrae in South Ayrshire | W: Glenapp Castle

History: It was built in 1870, designed by David Bryce for Mr. James Hunter, the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Ayrshire. Between 1917 and 1982 it was owned by the 1st Earl of Inchcape and expanded considerably to its current size. It was purchased in 1994 by local hoteliers who restored the neglected castle and opened its doors in 2000 as a luxury hotel.

This is interesting: The daughter of the 1st Earl of Inchape — Elsie Mackay — died in 1928 in an attempt to fly the Atlantic in a single-engine Stinson Detroiter.

Best castle hotels: Glenapp Castle

18. Guthrie Castle

Location: Angus | W: Guthrie Castle

History: Originally built in 1468 as only a tower with living quarters. This was abandoned in 1760 when a house was built nearby. In 1848, the tower and house were connected by a 'finely panelled hall'.

This is interesting: This castle is haunted too. The ghost was last seen by one of the present Guthrie family members when she was a little girl.

19. Kilravock Castle

Location: Croy, Inverness | W: Kilravock Castle

History: Building of the castle began in 1460 with a tower. In 1553, the main housing area was built and a west wing and the main staircase were added in the 18th century. In 1967 it became a Christian Centre. It has been operating as a B&B since 2008.

This is interesting: According to the Clan Rose Society of America, this is the only Scottish castle to have the distinction of being continuously inhabited since it was built.

Best castle hotels: Kilravock Castle

Castle hotels in England

20. Amberley Castle

Location: Amberley | W: Amberley Castle

History: In 1103, a hunting lodge was built on the grounds by a Bishop. The stone hall was added in 1140 and in 1200 the east wing was built. After the dissolution of the monasteries, the castle was leased for the first time to a tenant — the Crown. And was then again returned to the Bishopric in 1660. And then that ended in 1893.

This is interesting: They host unusual events like the one called 'Unusual Produce From Australia'.

21. Hazlewood Castle

Location: Hazlewood | W: Hazlewood Castle

History: The castle dates way back and was first mentioned in the Domesday Book, the first record of the great survey of England in 1086. It was a place of refuge for Catholic priests during the reign of Henry VIII and his persecution of Catholics. It was opened as a hotel in 1997.

This is interesting: They offer a Masterclass that includes a hands-on cooking demo, informative tutorial, signature apron, and a private tour of the castle.

Best castle hotels: Hazlewood Castle

22. Thornbury Castle

Location: Thornbury, South Gloucs | W: Thornbury Castle

History: First mentions of the castle date back to the 10th century. The full history sounds straight out of a fantasy novel, full of romance, imprisonment, betrayals, and beheadings.

This is interesting: You can stay in the bedchamber once occupied by King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.

Castle hotel in Wales

23. Margam Castle

Location: Margam, Port Talbot, Wales | W: Margam Castle

History: Built between 1830 and 1840 , the “castle” is actually a Victorian era mansion built in mock castle style. There is also photographic history here: William Henry Fox Talbot — British inventor — was a frequent visitor, choosing the castle as his subject in some of his photographic experiments.

It is also the subject of the earliest Welsh photograph, a daguerreotype taken by the Reverend Calvert Richard Jones in 1841. The entrance hall has been open to the public since 1992.

This is interesting: Like others on this list, it is haunted. It’s been visited and investigated by Most Haunted (2006) and Ghost Hunters International (2010). There are no beds but there is camping in Margam Country Park, in which the castle sits.

Castle hotel in Italy

24. Castel Brando

Location: Cison di Valmarino, Italy | W: Castel Brando

History: Built in the early Roman period, the original castrum — from 46 AD — can still be seen today. In the 13th century the castle was enlarged and in the 1500s the central part again enlarged. An extension was built onto the southern part of the castle in 1700. It was purchased in 1959 and opened as a monastery and a centre for spiritual studies. It again changed hands in ‘97 and was renovated to open as a hotel and museum.

This is interesting: The castle was originally built as a means to protect communication lines between Northern Italy and countries on the other side of the Alps.

Castles to stay in: Castel Brando

Stay in a castle in Romania

25. Bran Castle

Location: Transylvania, Romania | W: Bran Castle

History: In 1377, permission was given to the Saxons of Kronstadt to build the citadel. In 1378, the castle was used as a defense against the Ottoman Empire, and later a customs post at the mountain pass between Transylvania and Wallachia. It then became a royal residence within the Kingdom of Romania, being the primary residence of Queen Marie.

In 1948, it was seized by the communist regime when the royal family was kicked out of Romania. The government handed back ownership to Archduke Dominic of Austria-Tuscany — son and heir to Princess Ileana from whom it was seized. It has been open to the public as a museum since 2009.

This is intersting: This is one of the castles associated with Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Although there is no evidence that it was ever the home of Vlad Tepes — the count who apparently inspired the character — it is likely he used the castle during his raids into Transylvania. It is also not a hotel, but according to this post, the Round Tower can be turned into a luxurious apartment for tourists wanting to spend the night.

 

Carlo Alcos / Reprinted with permission of Matador Network.

Carlo Alcos Carlo Alcos is the Director of MatadorU – a leading online travel journalism school - and a Managing Editor at Matador Network. He lives in Nelson, British Columbia. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.


Photo Credits: Larry Koester (Ashford Castle), John North (Glenapp Castle), Wijsyl (Kilravock Castle), DAVID M GOODWIN (Hazlewood Castle), Bohndorf Film-Team (Schloss Hornberg), Don Reinhardo (Schloss Lembeck), Paradores (Parador de Cardona), Chemiya (Real Monasterio), Cesar Viteri Ramirez (Parador de Olite), Massimo Colomban (Castel Brando), Pedro Ribeiro Simoes (Castelo de Obidos), Jim Trodel (thumbnail).

 
 

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