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Ever dreamed of being king or queen of a castle? Lord or lady of the manor? Well, you’re not the only one — and plenty of hotels around the world can make that dream come true. We scouted out nine luxury hotels that were formerly the elaborate private homes of blue bloods, aristocrats, and royals, from an Irish castle to a Gatsby-era Gold Coast mansion. Feelin’ fancy? Then check these out.

Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, Ireland

Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, Ireland

Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, Ireland

This charming stone manor house dates to the 18th century and the 450-acre country estate embodies the sort of wild country beauty that Connemara is famous for. Past owners of the lands have included the O’Flaherty clan (the 16th century “Pirate Queen,” Grace O’Malley, married into the clan and was one of its more noteworthy members); Richard Martin (a member of Parliament nicknamed Humanity Dick for founding the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals); and the Indian Maharaja, Ranji, who bought the estate in 1922. Read More »

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There are those who say that your room on vacation doesn’t matter — you won’t spend any time in it anyway, right? Wellll, being the hotel geeks that we are, we have to respectfully disagree. That kind of logic is perfectly fine if you’re hopping hostels, but the truth is, the hotel room is a major component of a vacation experience for most of us. And if that hotel room provides a stunning outlook of the place you traveled all that way to see, all the better. That way you won’t miss a moment of experiencing your wonderful destination. These nine views aren’t just nice, they’re jaw-dropping — taking your vacation to a whole new level.

Jade Mountain, St. Lucia

Jade Mountain Resort, St. Lucia Jade Mountain Resort, St. Lucia

The guest rooms at Jade Mountain are among the most luxurious in the world, and all have a missing fourth wall featuring stunning views of the Caribbean Sea and St. Lucia’s iconic Pitons. Most also offer private infinity pools. This romantic resort is an architectural marble, built into a mountain about 100 feet above the sea. Read More »

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Some hotels are more than just hotels — they are former castles, royal residences, or Gatsby-esque mansions. Or they opened their doors many years ago to offer accommodations of unsurpassed luxury, attracting royalty and famous names. These grand dames around the world have drawn on their rich pasts in order to offer present-day magnificence.

Grand Hotel Baglioni, Florence

Grand Hotel Baglioni, Florence

Grand Hotel Baglioni, Florence

Housed in the former residences of the Bertolini princes, the Grand Hotel Baglioni lives up to the grand image painted by Florence’s past. The hotel is filled with heavy-handed regal touches and ornate decor from top to bottom. The 193 rooms are very spacious (not often the case in a historic building), and feel luxurious, decked out with classic Italian furnishings, large leaded windows, gorgeous dark wood (the ceilings, floors, and furniture), and equally spacious dazzling white bathrooms. Both the rooftop garden and Terrazza Brunelleschi restaurant offer stunning views of Florence. Read More »

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The term “boutique hotel” can be applied to a host of very different properties — whether quaint or trendy, traditional or avant-garde. But they all have at least one thing in common: They’re intimate, and fewer rooms means fewer guests get to experience them, so staying at one can feel like discovering a secret hideaway. But secrets are no fun if you don’t get share them — so we’re spilling the beans on 11 of our favorite boutiques across Europe.

Draycott Hotel, London

Draycott Hotel, London

Draycott Hotel, London

This 35-room combo of Edwardian townhouses is warm and intimate with a country home feel, and in a great location for exclusive West End shopping. With wonderful boutique perks such as the free English afternoon tea (guests at other hotels will have to pay at least a £15 premium to enjoy such a tradition), free pre-dinner champagne, and free hot chocolate before bed, it’s hard to find much at the Draycott to complain about. Unless, of course, your priorities are a pool and fitness center, both of which the hotel lacks. Read More »

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Visiting Europe is often composed of a whirlwind tour, during which visitors hurry from one tourist destination to another. Therefore — in between trips to museums and monuments — finding the time to breathe can be surprisingly difficult. To help speed along to the moment where you actually find relaxation — you’re on vacation, after all — some of our favorite hotels across the pond are outfitted with top-notch spas designed to get you to that “Ahhh” feeling faster than you can say “Euro Trip.” Whether all you want is some downtime in the sauna or a deep tissue massage, these properties have you covered. So sit back and relax—the Louvre will still be there tomorrow.

1. K West Hotel & Spa, London 

The intimate spa encourages relaxation at every corner.

K West is a smart and sophisticated option in London, with its main attraction being the beautiful K Spa. Featuring sleek style and impressive facilities — the hydrotherapy pool and “Snow Paradise” room are particularly noteworthy — the spa is well-regarded throughout the United Kingdom. The “Snow Paradise” room is meant to follow a hot steam treatment, and is based on Finnish spa techniques of using hot-cold therapy to stimulate circulation and the immune system.

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Some hotel weddings are gorgeous, some not so much, but they often all kind of feel the same. That’s where we come in — we’ve discovered some of the most beautiful and unique wedding venues in hotels around the world. Whether you want to say “I do” on safari, in a cloud forest, or at a Gatsby-esque mansion, these hotels deliver on the romance. Check them out here, and get inspired for your own big day (or vow renewal)!

For the Nature Enthusiasts: Selva Negra in Nicaragua 

Chapel in the middle of a rainforest? Check that off your list.

For outdoorsy couples looking for an authentic eco-lodge experience on their wedding day, Selva Negra is the real deal. This family-run organic farm and coffee estate in Nicaragua has accommodations ranging from hostel rooms to private bungalows, as well as a lush, cool mountain setting that’s rich with wildlife (expect howler monkeys, lizards, agoutis, and all types of birds). Couples can get married at the on-site chapel — which the owners built for their own daughter’s wedding — beneath Selva Negra’s cloud forest.  Read More »

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There are plenty of different ways to travel in Europe – from shoestring-budget trips to over-the-top getaways worthy of the British royals. Here at Oyster we’ve been lucky enough to be able to do both (seriously, the budget hotels in Europe are pretty nice!), but the holidays are for wishing and dreaming, so we’re going to help you put together your own list of top places to get pampered in 2013. Keep reading and discover our favorite luxury hotels in Europe!

Hotel Plaza Athenee, Paris

These luxurious rooms have classic, elegant decor, but modern technologies.

These luxurious rooms have classic, elegant decor, but modern technologies.

The world-renowned luxury hotel Plaza Athenee — a part of the Dorchester Collection — is synonymous with Parisian elegance and good taste. Iconic red awnings and chestnut trees welcome guests to the historic setting, on the upscale Avenue Montaigne location with direct views of the Eiffel Tower. It’s all about luxury here, inside and out. The avenue is lined with high-end shops such as Christian Dior, Prada, and Chanel. And inside, the 146 rooms and 45 suites are decorated in classic Art Deco style with modern touches like flat-screen TVs and marble baths. With six distinct restaurants, a large fitness center, and a can’t-miss daily breakfast in a leafy garden, the Plaza Athenee doesn’t miss a beat.

  • Our favorite luxe amenity: Guests have access to the Dior Institute for a full range of quality beauty and spa treatments.

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Deluxe Room at the Hotel Brunelleschi; Florence, Italy

Deluxe Room at the Hotel Brunelleschi; Florence, Italy

1. FACT OR FAKEOUT? The Hotel Brunelleschi’s tower is the oldest standing building still in use in Florence.

2. FACT OR FAKEOUT? The owners of Eden Roc: A Renaissance Resort and Spa in Miami recently attempted a hostile management takeover of the hotel by breaking into the Marriott’s offices.

3. FACT OR FAKEOUT? The Fairmont Copley Plaza Boston offers puppies to guests who miss their pets.

4. FACT OR FAKEOUT? Two Law students from University of California – Berkeley were arrested after having been caught beheading a 14-year old helmeted guinea fowl at the Flamingo Las Vegas.

5. FACT OR FAKEOUT? The Smyth Hotel’s Food Truck Concierge delivers guests’ favorite dishes from food trucks operating in the area to their rooms upon request.

Check out the answers after the jump!

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Pretty sweet view, right?

Lush, tropical landscapes. Gorgeous city skylines. Tempting mountain vistas. These are the reasons why we go on vacation, right? That, and being able to relax and let someone else do the cooking for a change. But why not have both? Hotels with top-notch restaurants know that pulling in diners is about more than just the grub. A destination restaurant has to have both killer cuisine and a view to dine for [Ed. Note: See what we did there?] in order to pull vacationers away from their lounge chairs. We’ve seen some of the most unique and breathtaking vistas, all while dining on the freshest cuisine, at these five scrumptious hotel properties.

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Credit: Mikhail Shapaev/Flickr

For the past month, soccer fans around the globe have been glued to Euro 2012. It’s been a rough-and-tumble path to the finish line, but come this Sunday only one team will be left standing. First, though, are the semi-finals: Portugal vs. Spain; Germany vs. Italy. (In other words, let the bloodbath begin — on and off the field.) We may not all be extreme hooligans, but we sure don’t mind posing as one for the exciting finish. And where’s a better place to reign in it with a cold one and root for your squad with a passionate fury then besides fervent locals cheering on their respective teams? The teams’ hometowns, naturally. Check out these awesome watering holes that’ll welcome your hooting and hollering with open arms for the finish of Euro 2012.

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