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View from the Pool Terrace at the Grand Hotel Minerva, FlorenceIf asked to picture a postcard version of Florence, the views from the Grand Hotel Minerva are most likely what would come to mind. The lovely rooftop pool and terrace offer up some of the most picturesque views in the city, and many rooms have balconies offering similarly excellent outlooks (most balconies have great views of the Santa Maria Novella Plaza, and those on higher floors have spectacular views of Florence’s skyline). All rooms and suites are spacious, with high ceilings and elegant furniture, and bathrooms are modern (if a little tight). The hotel’s central location, high-end restaurant, and regal historic ambiance make it easy to justify the splurge. Read More »

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Red rooftops against the backdrop of Tuscany's hills create the perfect sight to take in on your first morning in Florence.

Red rooftops against the backdrop of Tuscany's hills create the perfect sight to take in on your first morning in Florence.

There’s nothing better than, well, being on vacation in the first place — and then looking out of your hotel room’s window to a gorgeous view. We’ve seen plenty of beautiful sights on our travels, and we’ve taken in some of the most breathtaking views we’ve ever seen in Florence, a city characterized by red rooftops, cobblestone streets, and distant rolling hills. Check out some of the most bellissimo views we’ve seen in the Italian city.

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The hotel's lobby combines funky new pieces with antiques to create a sleek look.

The hotel's lobby combines funky new pieces with antiques to create a sleek look.

The boutique-like Rocco Forte Hotel Savoy — with just over 100 rooms – is known for personalized service and contemporary style. Neutral tones and tasteful fabrics create an elegant look, and are livened up by colorful artwork throughout. The attached L’Incontro Bar and Restaurant features a renowned Tuscan menu created by Michelin-starred Chef Fulvio Pierangelini and a chic dining room that spills out onto the piazza during summer months. The hotel’s central location is a major draw, and most guest rooms offer spectacular views. Those facing front look out onto the piazza, which makes for a pretty vista, if a bit of noise during lively days and nights. Rooms in the rear overlook the stunning Duomo — even the fitness center has lovely views from its top-floor perch. See more incredible photos after the jump or read our full review now»
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Waking up on a Monday morning (especially after a holiday weekend) can be pretty tough — but it isn’t so hard to do at the Hotel Loggiato Dei Serviti. Located in Piazza della Santissima Annunziata — one of Renaissance Florence’s most stunning architectural complexes — this 16th-century property boasts a grand entrance of beautiful arches and columns. But the Tuscan elegance doesn’t end there: Wood-beamed ceilings, antique furnishings, and rich fabrics exude a classic Florentine vibe throughout the hotel. Still, nothing is more breathtaking than the views from the guestrooms. Adorable private terraces featuring flower boxes look out towards the Duomo so guests can sip on freshly-brewed espresso and greet the day — and the city  — with a smile. But until then, as we say every week, sit back, relax, and soak in the goodness that is the Hotel Loggiato Dei Serviti.

Waking Up Isn't Really So Hard to Do: The Deluxe Room at the Hotel Loggiato Dei Serviti, Florence

Waking Up Isn't Really So Hard to Do: The Deluxe Room at the Hotel Loggiato Dei Serviti, Florence

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In our original post, we brought you from Nantucket to Kauai and everywhere in between, offering perfectly captured glimpses of our country’s most beautiful vistas. But we’d be biased if we only shared our stunning photos of the United States. So we packed our bags and headed to Europe in search of its best vantage points. Here are 13 of our favorites…

Fretheim Hotel, Norway

Norway

For travelers interested in exploring Norway’s natural wonders, there’s no better starting point than the Fretheim Hotel. Located in Flam, a popular departure point for fjord cruises, the Fretheim offers some pretty breathtaking views of its own. With its floor to ceiling windows, the Fretheim’s popular restaurant has an unobstructed view of the beautiful valley and nearby harbor.

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Suburbia often gets overlooked, especially by those planning a vacation – often an adventurous vacation purposely away from the cookie cutter homes and manicured lawns that the suburbs are known for. But sometimes, a touch of the familiar can be reassuring when exploring a new city. And hotels outside the city limits — but near enough at hand to get to all of the action with ease — usually come at a fraction of the cost of their city neighbors. In fact, some of Oyster’s favorite hotels call the suburbs home. From New York City to London and beyond, we have found charming hotel options outside of the major city limits that are just waiting to welcome you with open arms and suburban flair. (Trust us, it exists. See for yourself below.)

1. The Box House Hotel
Located in a suburb of: New York City

box house

New Yorkers are used to commuting. The suburbs give the great isle of Manhattan a chance to really spread out and breathe — as much as one can in one of the five boroughs. Vacationers looking to pinch a few pennies and experience another side of the City that Never Sleeps should explore Manhattan’s neighbors. And for a real dose of Brooklyn, what many (hipsters) consider the best corner of NYC, it doesn’t get more authentic than The Box House Hotel. This former door factory houses 57 apartment-style rooms designed by local Brooklynite Kip Jacobs, who is a friend of the owners. The spacious rooms and lofts (some sleep six) attract families, couples and those conducting business — mostly film crews. Modern kitchens and free extras include bottled water and coffee, rides within a mile-and-a-half radius, and use of the stylish fitness center. This is a hidden gem for those seeking breathing room and easy access to Manhattan. 

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Many hotels were not born as hotels. Some first served as prisons, or hat factories, or even lemon distilleries. And some had, shall we say, loftier first lives — as the residences (often, the second, third, or fourth homes) of royalty. That’s right. We’ve stayed at hotels — from the Amalfi Coast to the Irish countryside – that were once the official residences of royals, but have since shed their former titles to serve the lowlier, “ill-bred” set like us. But fortunately, we’ve still been given the royal treatment at each. Check out these eight gorgeous hotels that kings, queens, and counts once called home.

Hotel Palazzo Murat, Amalfi Coast

palazzo murat

Unlike most hotels in the cliffside town of Positano that require a steep walk to reach the beach and town center, the Palazzo Murat is located smack in the town center’s pedestrian zone. It dates back to the 17th century, and for a while it was the extravagant summer home of Napoleon’s brother-in-law and King of Naples, Gioacchino Murat. Its historic opulence is evidenced by intricately cut stone doors and window frames, refurbished tile mosaics, and wooden furniture. With a pristine pool and some nice freebies, Palazzo Murat is ideal for travelers who want to stay in historic lodgings in the heart of the action — but it lacks the gorgeous ocean views of nearby cliffside hotels.

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A hotel has “made it” when it’s honored as a Relais & Chateaux property. After all, established in 1954 in France (mais bien sur?!), this exclusive association is made up of just about 500 hotels and restaurants, combined, that introduce guests “to a deeper, truer understanding of the Art of Living.” Or, in much simpler Oyster terms, they show guests a darn good time by providing gorgeous rooms, luxurious facilities and amenities, and top-notch service. We’ve been lucky enough to have stayed in quite a few of these R&C properties (don’t get too jealous — as hotel experts, we also have to stay in spots like this), and here bring you the real creme de la creme of the best of the best.

1. Saint James Paris

St James

It makes sense to start in grand Paris, non? With a sweeping private entrance surrounded by green lawns and an impressive fountain, the upscale 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.

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It’s hard to pick just one spot to visit in Southern Italy. After all, it seems that every corner of the region is rife with beautiful scenery, architecture, and attractions. But if you’re just in the area for a quick trip, it’s worth starting your time in Sorrento. A laid-back, seaside town set on a cliff, Sorrento is surrounded by some of Italy’s more popular tourist destinations – Naples and Pompeii to the north; the island of Capri just offshore; Positano and the famed Amalfi Coast to the east. With a large selection of hotels and easy transportation options, it’s the perfect home base for a southern Italian vacation. Aside from being a gateway to other areas, Sorrento is also a lovely place to stay. Scented by lemon groves and offering stunning views of the Bay of Naples, its Old World charm remains intact, with a maze of beautiful, cobbled backstreets and an assortment of quaint shops. Here are six of our favorite Sorrento hotels.

Grand Hotel Royal

Grand Hotel Royal. Sorrento, Italy

Grand Hotel Royal. Sorrento, Italy

Grand Hotel Royal is set dramatically above the Bay of Naples, with floor-to-ceiling windows that open out onto the well-manicured garden and pool overlooking the bay. It’s only a short walk from Piazza Tasso, popularly considered the center of Sorrento’s old town, and the area’s train station is also a few minutes walk away. There’s frequent service heading towards Naples, with stops at stations that offer access to the Herculaneum and Pompeii. The ferry station with service to Capri is close by the hotel as well.

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The beauty of reading a good book is that it transports you to a whole different world — without ever costing you a penny. Whether James Joyce guides you through Dublin or Hemingway fixes you a drink from his home in Key West, literature opens pathways to other dimensions that never require a passport. But sometimes the imagination needs a dose of reality to fully grasp the whole picture. Other times, an author’s words so imbue a reader’s mind, he or she cannot help but pack up bags to experience the same sights, sounds, and smells that gave birth to a favorite novel. Poets, novelists, and playwrights give us a little bit of their world on every page — and now it’s our chance to take a bit more for ourselves. The best destinations for book lovers are enumerable: Every person has a favorite author, and every author has a different world view. But there are some spots around the globe that possess just a bit more of a literary spark than others. So pack your bags — and your favorite paperback — because we’re going on a trip perfect for any bookworm.

1. Dublin, Ireland 

dublin

The Irish have a reputation for storytelling, and with good reason. A UNESCO City of Literature, Dublin the home of James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, W.B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw, and countless other prominent literary figures — and you can visit several of their homes during your visit. At Trinity College, visitors can take a look at one of the most famous books in the world, The Book of Kells, dating back to 800 A.D. And, once night comes, be sure to take part in the Literary Pub Crawl that takes you to some of the city’s best pubs with an acting troupe in tow portraying some of your favorite scenes from Irish literature. The James Joyce Museum, the Dublin Writers Museum, the Chester Beatty Library, and the Long Room at Trinity College are among other popular literary sites.

Stay: Dunboyne Castle Hotel & Spa

The Dunboyne Castle Hotel & Spa is located about half an hour northwest of Dublin’s city center. The historic property — an 18th-century castle turned Georgian house, turned convent, turned hotel — sits on beautiful green grounds, making it a popular spot for weddings and events. The location allows visitors to see more of the country that inspired Ireland’s great writers, and with a library, restaurant, three bars, and several golf courses nearby, there is plenty to keep guests entertained. Read More »

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