Hotel History and Culture

Ballnahinch Castle, one of Ireland's most beautiful historic stays, has played host to Pirate Queens, members of Parliament, and an Indian Maharaja.

Europe’s rich history is alive and well at these amazing hotels. Seeming to appear straight out of the history books, these castles, palaces, and monasteries have been the host to some of our world’s most interesting — and sometimes notorious — affairs. Pirate Queens, famous authors, scheming politicians, and celebrities of days past and present have walked through these corridors — and now you can, too, just by clicking through our slideshow.

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When traveling around the world, tourists often have famed art museums on their lists of must-see attractions. But what if the hotel they’re staying in is basically a museum unto itself? The following hotels all offer top-notch amenities and services, but they all also have such stunning art collections, you won’t even need to step foot out of the lobby to get your culture on (although we’d still highly suggest it). Here are eight hotel art collections that are worth a visit.

Egerton House Hotel, London

An original lithograph by Toulouse-Lautrec hangs in the dining room.

Housed in a beautiful historic townhouse in Knightsbridge, the Egerton Hotel features numerous period pieces, such as antique chandeliers, mirrors, and grandfather clocks. The artwork is equally, if not more, impressive. The common spaces boast original artwork by Matisse, Picasso, and Toulouse-Lautrec, as well as prints from the Illustrated London News. Guests staying in the blue Deluxe King Room can take in a Toulouse-Lautrec lithograph, hanging on the wall opposite of the bed, every morning right when they wake up.

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Tanque Verde, a quintessential Western dude ranch

Tanque Verde, a quintessential Western dude ranch

Sometimes, the journey is about the destination. Because the destination is so special, your whole travel experience is wrapped up inside it. We’ve traveled the world and have been to some pretty special spots. From a western dude ranch to a Florentine palazzo to an African canoe excursion, these 11 trips offer a far richer experience than your typical overnight stay.

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Ballynahinch Castle Hotel

Ballynahinch Castle Hotel

People tend to go a little crazy on St. Paddy’s day; most of us are familiar with the crowded parades, green rivers, and drunken revelry. And it’s understandable why so many get excited about their love for Ireland, which is deservedly famous for its dramatic green cliffs, roaring peat fires, lively pubs, and welcoming locals. Ranging from historic castles to modern boutiques, these nine hotels are packed with Irish charm and may help inspire your next trip — or at least help get you in the St. Paddy’s spirit.

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Want to live like a Rockefeller on your next vacation? Or want a voyeuristic peek into the world of the rich and powerful? These iconic resorts across the country — from a Gilded Age Palm Beach estate to a Newport mansion to a Long Island Gold Coast castle — will make you feel like your blood runs blue.

The Breakers Palm Beach

The Breakers Palm Beach

The Breakers Palm Beach

There’s a reason The Breakers’ reputation precedes it. This 140-acre resort, first built in 1896 (and reconstructed in 1926), resembles a Renaissance palace, and it’s seen more than its fair share of American royalty over the years; Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, William Randolph Hearst, and various Astors, Rockefellers, and Vanderbilts have all walked the halls at this posh spot. No other hotel in Palm Beach can come close to matching the luxury found at this iconic property.

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San Francisco's Chinatown stands ready to celebrate the Spring Festival.

In just a week, Chinese New Year kicks off! And we want to give you plenty of notice so you can start planning how — and where — you’ll celebrate. Also known as the Spring Festival, this holiday consists of two weeks of feasting, lion dances, lantern lighting, and much more. After all, it is the most important holiday in the Chinese lunar calendar, so festivities necessitate indulgence. Millions of people around the world will celebrate with gorgeous decorations, rich foods, and stunning firework displays — and we here at Oyster can’t wait to get in on the action at some of our favorite Chinatowns around the globe. We’ve got you covered on where to ring in the Year of the Snake, but no matter where you choose to kick things off, Oyster wishes you a prosperous new year or, as they say in Mandarin, Gong Xi Fa Cai! Read More »

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In honor of President Obama’s inauguration on Monday, we’re taking a look back at his travels over his last four years in office — and on the campaign trail. The Commander-In-Chief has laid his head in some of our favorite hotels around the globe and, thanks to his refined taste and seriously swanky style (although we’d argue we really have Michelle to thank for that), we’re always eager to see where he’ll travel to next (and, more importantly, where he’ll stay!). Congratulations, Mr. President! May the next four years be full of prosperous times — and plenty of unique hotel stays!

The Hay-Adams, Washington, DC

This decadent junior suite at The Hay-Adams offers White House views.

Four years ago, President Obama moved his family into the Presidential Suite at this historic hotel with White House views after former President George W. Bush rejected his request to stay in Blair House, the White House’s guest residence. President Obama wanted to move to Washington three weeks before his inauguration so that his daughters could start at Sidwell Friends School without missing the beginning of the term, but he was informed that Blair House was already booked (for former prime minister of Australia John Howard and several receptions, as it later turned out). Lucky for him, The Hay-Adams is one of DC’s most luxurious stays. Read More »

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Choosing between artsy Melbourne, seen here, and beach-y Sydney isn't easy.

Australia is a big country. With an extremely diverse landscape and culture, the “Down Under” offers something for every kind of traveler. But deciding where to vacation when visiting for a limited amount of time can be difficult. Even the country’s two largest cities — Sydney and Melbourne– are two very different sides of the same coin. Both offer gorgeous architecture and a boat load of culture, but where one gets top marks for an eco-friendly attitude and a hipster vibe, the other is renowned for its beaches and bold attitude.

The rivalry between the cities is legendary, dating back as far as their foundings. While Sydney was originally built with very little urban planning as a massive jail for English convicts, Melbourne was a settler’s destination, constructed as a European metropolis with a grid of streets (one point for Melbourne!). Both bustling, rough-and-tumble Sydney and up-and-coming Melbourne experienced population booms in the late 1800s, establishing themselves as the largest cities — and most bitter rivals — early on. But which is superior? The decision isn’t an easy one: Canberra was even made the country’s capital back in the day just so as not to fuel the fires between the two cities. Today, visitors have to make that choice for themselves — but with a little help from Oyster, of course. Get the lowdown on our favorite aspects of these Aussie cities and then make your decision!

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The beach is peaceful and has tons of on-site watersports.

The 21-room GoldenEye is hands down Jamaica’s hippest and most luxurious resort. It’s also one of the island’s most historic, as the former home of Ian Fleming, and the hideaway at which the author scribed all 14 of his James Bond novels. Today, the property, which reopened in 2010 after an extensive $50 million renovation, includes stunning cottages and villas overlooking a private beach and lagoon, as well as two happening restaurants, two pools, a tree house spa, and an extensive roster of on-site activities. The rates might cause some to flinch, but those who can afford it will find little cause for complaint. See more incredible photos after the jump or read our full review now »

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Unique amenities and personalized services are becoming increasingly in-demand at luxury hotels. Some might label these services over-the-top — and some of them are — but many of the butlers, sommeliers, and experts of the hotel world are performing real and important services for guests. And we here at Oyster want to hear their stories — especially if they include exciting and heartwarming tales from Ireland’s rich past! Descendants of the Emerald Isle are scattered far and wide around the globe, yet many often find themselves returning home to discover their roots. And giving them a helping hand is Helen Kelly, the Genealogy Butler at The Shelbourne Dublin, A Renaissance Hotel. A professional genealogist, Kelly has been aiding the Irish in their quest for their ancestral history since the 1980s, and has worked with The Shelbourne since 1995 as, quite literally, the only Genealogy Butler in the world.

The Shelbourne's Genealogy Butler, Helen Kelly, "empowers" guests to track down their ancestors.*

The Shelbourne Dublin itself is a historic icon located on St. Stephen’s Green. Built in 1824, the property has witnessed major historical events firsthand (the Irish Constitution was signed here in 1922) and has hosted plenty of famous guests (including Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Princess Grace Kelly, Bill Clinton, and Bono).

Hotel guests, who perhaps get inspired by their storied surroundings, can make an appointment with Kelly to review whatever information they have on their ancestors. She will then be able to offer guidance on how to best track down more information in a city where the mass of historical documents and institutions is daunting. Over a one-hour consultation — which costs 100 Euro — guests will receive a full assessment from Kelly on their ancestral history, as well as an overview of the history, culture, and landscape of Ireland.

To read more about Kelly’s work as Genealogy Butler, check out our interview after the jump.

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