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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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Oftentimes a movie, TV show, or music video can suck you in with its gorgeous sets and shooting locations. They can feel so real, you  just wish you could be there. Well, you probably can’t live the fictional lives portrayed on the big and small screen (and sometimes, you probably don’t wan t to), but you can catch a bit of the magic with a visit to the set locations. We’ve found some real-life places that set the scene for some of our favorite on-screen moments.

Mad Men Goes For Drinks at P.J. Clarke’s in New York City

New York City, 1 Aug 08

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Mad Men is an amazing show for many reasons, including it’s incredibly detailed portrayal of the 1960s in New York City. When Peggy gets promoted to a copywriter position, she invites everyone for a round of drinks at P.J. Clarke’s. This landmark New York pub has been around since the 1800s and it is still a popular after-work spot. Back in the day, Elizabeth Taylor and Frank Sinatra were frequent patrons.

Where to stay: The Waldorf Towers

The Waldorf Towers occupies the top floors of the iconic Waldorf Astoria hotel in Midtown East. It is an exclusive boutique with 117 classic, individually decorated rooms, some of which have a rich history of famous guests and long-term residents. Most amenities are shared with its sister property — including the great (but pricey) restaurants, high-end Guerlain Spa, and beauty salon — but the hotel has its own lobby, fitness center, elevators, and concierges.

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While a nautical theme can make for fun hotel decor all year round, we can’t help but enjoy it a little more in the summer when the timing feels particularly fitting. After all, during warmer months we love the idea of being out on the open seas, wind in our hair… until we think about how crowded and gross cruise ships can actually be. Considering the many recent mishaps on ships and boats — some of which actually proved to be quite dangerous — as of late, we’d rather enjoy a nautical theme from dry land, thank you very much. Fortunately, we’ve visited plenty of hotels that make you feel like you’re first mate — without actually having to set sail.

Amstel Botel, Amsterdam

Amstel Botel

The 175-room Amstel Botel, a former river cruiser converted to a floating hotel, sits by the industrial NDSM wharf, a growing outpost of Amsterdam’s underground art scene. The Botel is decorated like a European ferry, and is a no-frills budget-friendly option for visitors. Central Amsterdam is a 15-minute free ferry ride away. Kids may enjoy the experience of staying on a boat, but the property is more popular with value-minded couples and groups. Luxury seekers and visitors hoping for a charming European hotel should look elsewhere, but those searching for a boat-like vibe without having to leave the dock will find the nautical decor fun and charming.

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Beyonce isn’t the only one with a message for all the single ladies out there — a growing number of hotels, in an effort to target single female travelers, are offering women’s-only rooms and floors. These range all the way from shared hostel accommodations to entire floors of upscale business hotels. So for the hostel dorm rooms we’re pretty much on board – we know we wouldn’t love having to possibly change in front of strange dudes — but we’re a bit conflicted about having women’s-only rooms and floors in nicer hotels, where it’s less a matter of practicality and more of a marketing gimmick. These properties are targeting well-heeled businesswomen with female-oriented amenities such as curling irons and glossy fashion mags; some may find it convenient, others a bit insulting.

We can see that it might be nice to leave the yoga mat and nail file at home for those who often pack up all their supplies for just a short weekend getaway — but other women may find the selection of amenities discriminatory (after all, I’ll take the standard NYTimes over Cosmo any day). Also, for hotels with women-only floors (rather than select rooms), there’s an implied security element — it’s as if the hotel is promoting a way for women to stay safe and non-sexed on their next business trip. (Kind of like, er, staying in a convent.) What do you think — are women’s-only floors convenient or anti-feminist?

To help you decide, we’ve rounded up nine properties around the world with dedicated dude-free accommodations.

The Georgian Court Hotel, Vancouver

georgian court

The women’s-only Orchid Floor has 18 rooms, all equipped with extra amenities for women, including flatirons, curling irons, yoga mats, ladies emergency kits, and lifestyle magazines. The upscale hotel is on the edge of Downtown Vancouver, within walking distance of numerous Vancouver attractions.

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Barcelona is a city steeped in culture and rich in history. Art is more than just a scene here: It’s a heritage, which comes as no surprise since this city is where Salvador Dali and Picasso would meet for lunch and forever cement their friendship. Okay, so now we’ve covered the cultural bases — onto the shopping! When it comes to a European shopping expedition, Barcelona delivers without a doubt. Check out our shopping guide to Barcelona below before flexing that plastic!

Where to Shop for Luxe Goods: Passeig de Gracia 

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Paris has the Champs-Elysees — and Barcelona has Passeig de Gracia. Along this shop-lined street, you’ll find all the usual suspects of international luxury shopping such as Chanel and Gucci, but there are plenty of brands and stores that are unique and distinctly Spanish. International brand Zara has plenty of stateside locations, but none compare to the huge flagship Barcelona store. Not only does it have the hip fashion you would expect, there’s also housewares. It also offers affordable shopping compared to its high ticket neighbors, but everyone can afford to drool over the spectacular turn-of-the-20th-century architecture that populates the iconic Passeig de Gracia.

Where to Stay: El Palace Hotel

The Palace oozes elegance and old-world charm. Housed in an early 20th-century building a few blocks from the Gothic Quarter, the hotel is popular among well-heeled families, couples, and business travelers. The property boasts a Michelin-starred restaurant, Caelis; car service to the airport and major attractions; and a small but modern fitness center. The exclusive spa features the only Temazcal sauna in Spain, Anne Semonin products, and traditional treatments. 

Budget-Friendly Option: Petit Palace Museum

This 61-room hotel, part of the tech-savvy Petit brand, is a no-frills but contemporary choice located in Barcelona’s city center, a few blocks from Plaza Catalunya. There isn’t much to the property (it lacks any outdoor space — a rarity for Barcelona) but it’s a good value, especially for families. Rooms are starting to show wear and tear, but high-tech amenities such as flat-screen TVsiPod docks and laptops help compensate. 

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What’s not to love about Barcelona? It goes nearly undisputed that the Catalonia capital is Spain’s coolest and most modern city. And it’s arguably one of the top party spots in Europe. Oh, and if that’s not enough, it’s replete with excellent restaurants, beautiful Gothic and Modernist architecture, calming sea breezes, great shopping, and — most importantly to us — gorgeous hotels. Barcelona is home to some of the top European luxury hotels, and considering the city’s focus on design, these spots feature cool, modern decor — as well as beautifully maintained historic details. Below we bring you 13 of the best luxury hotels in Barcelona, new on Oyster since our recent visit!

1. Hotel Espana

Hotel Espana

Located on a quiet side street off Barcelona’s main tourist thoroughfare La Rambla, this 1859 building was redesigned as a hotel in the early 20th century by celebrated Modernist architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner. A restoration in 2010 kept many of the historic and design features, including a stunning carved stone fireplace in the bar. The striking, contemporary decor gives the hotel a very stylish flair, from the dramatic light fixtures in the common areas to the staircase that snakes up the property. There is also a great food program on the property including a restaurant by Michelin-starred chef Martín Berasategui. A rooftop pool and bar is open in the warmer months. Some nearby hotels have lower rates, but don’t offer the same history or style.

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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

alhambra-001

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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It’s hard to beat an afternoon spent soaking up the sun from a rooftop. Add a pool, sweeping views, and Barcelona as the destination to the equation, and you’ve got a siesta that’s definitely worth hopping over the pond for. Here are ten of our favorite hotel rooftop pools in the City of Counts. (Didn’t know that was Barcelona’s nickname? Well, now you do. You’re welcome.)

1. Hotel 1898

Hotel 1898

Located on a prime piece of Las Ramblas real estate, the Hotel 1898 evokes Spain’s opulent late 19th-century past with its architecture and decor. But guests get thoroughly modern pampering, with sterling service, plush rooms, a spa, and fine dining. And unlike other Las Ramblas area hotels, Hotel 1898 has not one but two pools: an indoor pool in an atmospheric grotto and a rooftop pool with panoramic Barcelona views. The property is the perfect pick for travelers willing to spend more for historic style and upscale comfort in a location right on the bustling Las Ramblas, near Passeig de Gracia shopping.

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When in Paris, it’s wise to do as the Parisians do – stroll the cobblestone streets, eat way too much bread, and people-watch from sidewalk cafes for hours. And it’s also smart to do a little research before you make the trip to ensure that you find the hotel that’s perfectly suited for you. Fortunately, we here at Oyster.com do the majority of that work for you. We recently visited a bunch of Parisian hotels, and took tons of photos and notes in order to bring you in-depth reviews and truthful photos so what you see is what you get. Here, we bring you a dozen gorgeous hotels that we just added to the site, complete with hundreds of photos and detailed reviews. Enjoy!

1. La Maison Favart

Maison Favart

This upscale, 30-room boutique hotel is one of the best choices in Paris, and offers surprisingly competitive rates for the level of luxury. It is named for the founder of the Opera Comique across the street, and the decor blends influences of the 18th century theater with modern trends. Rooms are chic and sport colorful accents, as well as thoughtful amenities such as iPod docks, bathrobes, towel warmers, and flat-screen TVs with free movies. Several metro lines are nearby, and popular sights such as the Louvre are within walking distance. Just note that the (excellent) breakfast buffet is an extra fee, and that the Classic Rooms are quite small.

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Planning a European getaway is one of the travel world’s greatest pleasures. Explorers envision romantic strolling in Paris, tapas tasting in Barcelona, and museum-hopping in London. But just as daydreaming turns into legitimate agenda-forming, sticker shock often backslaps like a champion street fighter. The Euro and the Pound are a tough pill to swallow for American and Canadian vacationers, but Europe isn’t all sky-high prices; we promise there are actually excellent deals to be found across the pond, especially when you plan your escape to miss peak season. We scoured our favorite cities for 3+ pearl hotels that come in under $150 a night in mid-September – the perfectly not-too-hot, not-too-cold, not-too-crowded time to visit Europe!

Conscious Hotel Museum Square, Amsterdam

Conscious Hotel Museum Square

Price: $148 for a 3-pearl property

The Conscious Hotel proves you don’t have to go ultra-budget or far-flung to get a good deal in Amsterdam. This quirky, eco-themed hotel is located within walking distance of the Van Gogh Museum and local tram stations for a quick ride to the city’s historic center. The inviting hotel earns points for its large-for-Amsterdam sized rooms, natural light, and modern décor. Guests drawn by the eco theme will enjoy the organic daily breakfast, tree photo murals, and on-site bike rentals.

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