Hotel History and Culture

Plenty of people visit UNESCO World Heritage sites on vacation. Not too many get the experience of actually sleeping in one. But that’s exactly what Parador de Granada in Spain offers its guests: This former Moorish Palace is actually within the walls of La Alhambra, the famed medieval palace and fortress that has influenced countless works of art and literature. (Among them: Washington Irving’s Tales of Alhambra.) This upscale boutique hotel also once operated as a Franciscan convent, and today, it has elegant, contemporary rooms and a traditional restaurant that’s known for having hosted First Lady Michelle Obama. The serene gardens offer stunning views of Generalife, La Alhambra’s beautiful 13th-century royal palace. See more amazing pics after the jump >>

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This post originally appeared on Yahoo! Travel

Staying in a hotel is exciting in and of itself; there’s something deliciously indulgent about staying in a room that’s totally different from your one at home… and it doesn’t hurt that it gets cleaned for you. But while the sole purpose of many hotels is nonetheless the crash pad amid sight-seeing and exploring new destinations, others are destinations unto themselves — that deserve some time on your sight-seeing agenda. From our many travels around the globe, we’ve picked out a dozen of the most beautiful hotels ever — all of which are housed in stunning historic castles or palaces. The following twelve spots are, quite literally, fit for a king.

1. Hotel Alhambra Palace, Granada

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The 126-room Hotel Alhambra Palace merits the adjective “grand” — the impressive building is more than a century old and, originally commissioned by King Alfonso XIII, once housed a hospital during the Spanish Civil War. A hotel since 1942, this property is a short quarter-mile away from the Alhambra (the palace and fortress complex dating back to the 11th century) up a steep hill. The lobby has keyhole archways and geometric textiles based on Moorish patterns, and the hotel exudes historic charm throughout.

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Worried about a Game of Thrones style invasion on your next trip? Roving hordes? Zombie armies? We totally feel you. Travel can be a bit scary, and if you’re the type that likes to feel extra secure when you get away, you might appreciate the idea of staying in a hotel that’s, well, fortified. These five hotels are actually in ancient fortresses, so if you find yourself needing to fend off rebel invaders on your next romantic retreat, you’ll at least have all the battlements, arrowslits, and watch towers your heart could desire right at hand. Hey, you never know…

Castello di Petroia, Umbria, Italy

Castello di PetroiaThe gorgeous Castello di Petroia dates all the way back to the 11th century; with a picturesque setting in the Umbrian countryside, it was at one time a medieval fortress. Back then this region consisted of vying independent city-states, and the fortress was the birthplace of the Duke of Urbino. Today, this 800-acre wooded estate is a charming and undeniably romantic retreat, with a seasonal pool and candlelit gourmet restaurant. The castle is comprised of three buildings: the Major Castellare, the main building with medieval halls and a library; the smaller Minor Castellare, where the castle’s guardian’s once lived; and the 66-foot Tower, which has a three-tiered guest room. The 13 individually-decorated rooms have historic flourishes such as stone arches, wood beams, and frescoed ceilings. Read More »

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Europe is home to some of the world’s most luxurious properties. From exclusive boutiques to expansive castles, these hotels know how to cater to the rich and famous — if not royalty, itself. Now, you may not own a tiara, but that doesn’t mean you can’t at least dream of laying your head to rest at one of these penultimate establishments. And if you decide to do more than dream, please be sure to pack us in your suitcase: It would be worth it to get back inside these 12 uber-luxurious properties.

1. Conservatorium Hotel, Amsterdam 

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The Conservatorium Hotel delivers a true five-pearl experience in Amsterdam‘s residential Museum Quarter. It’s housed in a 100-year-old former bank building, and the hotel’s warm, modern design melds seamlessly with the structure: The stunning atrium lobby, for example, is industrial-chic, featuring wood, brick, and glass. The rooms are decorated in earthy neutrals and every detail was considered, from the placement of the electrical outlets to the reading lights by the bed to the high-tech controls for the lighting and blinds. The big, modern fitness center, stylish indoor pool, and lovely spa, all located below ground, are highlights. It’s a premier choice for luxury travelers willing to trade a central location for added space and quiet. Read More »

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This post originally appeared on Yahoo! Travel

A summer vacation is the perfect time for catching up on all the books you’ve been meaning to read. With more downtime, more holidays, and less time devoted to required reading, the summer allows us to get in some great — and steamy! — guilty pleasure reads. And while a sandy beach is always a lovely spot for lying out with the latest Nicholas Sparks (please reserve your judgment), there are some hotels around the world not on the beach that are just made for book lovers. Whether it’s where a famous novel was set, an author awaited arrest, or a gorgeous library can be found, these eight hotels are a bookworm’s delight. (And we threw in one on the beach, just for good measure.)

Ambassade Hotel, Amsterdam

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Ambassade Hotel‘s lovely brick front is as inviting as its location in the picturesque (and convenient) Canal Ring neighborhood, across from a boat-lined canal and within walking distance of several major publishing houses, making it a popular crash pad for authors. Rooms offer lovely views and are adorned with rich furnishings, intricate mirrors, and carved furniture. Common spaces are equally elegant, including the library where signed first editions from guests pasts — such as Nobel laureates José Saramago and Orhan Pamuk, and best-selling author David Sedaris — can be found in glass cases.

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the plazaPeople often associate New York City with constant expansion and, to a large part, it’s true. In the past decade, the city’s skyline has become more and more crowded with high-rise hotels, quickly expanding upward in order to accommodate the urban metropolis’s continuous stream of visitors. Yet while New York’s hotel capacity is projected to grow to 100,000 rooms by the end of this year (up from 73,000 tallied in 2006), it is still significantly below the stats from 50 years ago. Back in 1964, The New York Times reported that the city boasted about 125,000 hotel rooms. Although specific research into the cause of the decline since then is pending, the newspaper suggests that the demolition of single-room-occupancy hotels, as well as conversion of luxury hotels rooms — at grande dames such as The Plaza — into condominiums, may be behind it. Still, it appears that, fifty years later, New York City hotel rooms are once again solidly on the rise. [The New York Times]

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Welcome to the ultra-luxe Four Seasons The Biltmore. One of the most iconic properties in Santa Barbara, this beautiful Spanish Colonial Revival resort was built in 1927 and has attracted the likes of JFK and Jackie O, the Kardashian clan, and even several film crews — with stars like Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman in tow. It sits on 22 pristine acres overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and the sprawling grounds are home to gorgeous pools, elegant restaurants, and beautiful gardens.

A stay at this Four Seasons is like stepping into an earlier, more civilized time — but with all the modern conveniences guests crave. The spacious grounds (crisscrossed by winding pathways) convey privacy, and the terra-cotta terraces, ornate and colorful tile work, and high-beamed ceilings give the large public spaces a cozy feel. Active visitors will find lots to do both on and off the grounds, including tennis, swimming, yoga, croquet, biking, and stand-up paddle boarding. The spa offers Santa Barbara and Four Seasons-themed treatments, including grapeseed and red wine-infused body scrubs and wraps. The Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club, on Butterfly Beach, includes an Olympic pool, steam rooms, saunas, and a hefty dose of retro glamour, free of charge to all guests except those staying in Superior or Deluxe rooms.

All this have your attention? When we visited the property we took tons of professional pics, so take a breathtaking photo tour of The Biltmore after the jump.

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Europe is home to plenty of gorgeous grande dames; large, stately hotels that are both iconic and sometimes imposing, with high-ceilinged entryways, sweeping staircases, tons of rooms, and large, bustling restaurants that attract tourists and locals, as well as hotel guests. Spots like these are certainly worth a visit, but there’s something to be said for the boutique hotel experience. Fewer rooms (and therefore fewer guests) often mean more attentive service, a more tranquil vibe, and ultimately a more authentic European stay. We just got back from another tour of Europe, and this time we made sure to seek out the continent’s hidden gems. We ventured down little alleyways and walked along winding cobblestone streets to find 10 charming boutiques in Paris, Venice, Rome, Madrid, and Barcelona — and now on Oyster!

1. Ca’Riccio, Venice

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A six-room bed and breakfast in quaint, quiet Cannaregio, Ca’Riccio is a bright, homey pick filled with fresh-cut flowers and a variety of attractive art on the walls. Rooms are cozy and clean with wrought iron headboards, Murano glass lamps, and minibars. A free continental breakfast is served in a charming breakfast room and Wi-Fi is free, but there is no elevator. Its offers wonderful value considering its level of charm, and it’s within walking distance of the Rialto Bridge and St. Mark’s Square.

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One of the richest cities in the world (as far as history goes), Venice is home to hundreds of beautiful historic palazzos — and luckily for visitors, not only have the majority of them been lovingly — and painstakingly — restored, but many have been converted into gorgeous luxury hotels. Here are a handful of our favorites, brimming with antiques, history (storied pasts included), and vintage touches.

Aqua Palace Hotel

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A 24-room restored palazzo in the heart of Venice, Aqua Palace Hotel dates back to the 1500s when one of Venice’s wealthiest families called the canal-side mansion home. It is conveniently located halfway between the Rialto Bridge and St. Mark’s Square, and soft lighting, elegant chandeliers, and classic Venetian architecture give this boutique a peaceful, romantic atmosphere. Many original elements — such as wooden furniture and the balconies with sweeping views — remain.

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We just got back from an amazinggg trip to Venice. Of course we had been before, but this time felt particularly special as we ambled along the canals and stepped into the little shops and markets we love. And another thing that set this trip apart from all others is that we visited tons of hotels that we had never been to before! From massive historic palazzos to charming Venetian boutiques, we visited a total of 21 hot hotels — quadrupling our Venice coverage — that you can now explore on the site! These new spots should be more than enough to satiate your Venice-loving palate, but don’t fret if you’re still salivating… We have plans to head back to Venice soon to bring you even more expert photographs and reviews of the city’s many hotels.

Boscolo Venezia, Autograph Collection

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A luxurious, 72-room converted palazzo in the northern edge of Venice, Boscolo Venezia Autograph Collection is a quiet retreat from the chaotic heart of the city. The rare, private garden and spa with hot tub, sauna, and steam room are highlights. Rooms have classic decor and Venetian portraits, but upgrading to a Junior Suite gets guests more space and style — these rooms have high ceilings and intricate crown molding. The hotel’s location is far from Venice’s main attractions, but it does offer free water taxi service to St. Mark’s Square and Murano.

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