Berlin

Easter is fast-approaching, and leading up to the springtime holiday is Holy Week, which, in Roman Catholic tradition, is the last week of Lent, taking place right before Easter (which falls on Sunday, April 20th this year). Parades, processions, traditional celebrations, lively festivities, marching bands, festive foods: These are the sights, sounds, and flavors of Holy Week around the globe, and for travelers who sample a country’s culture as much as its fine cuisine and beautiful scenery, visiting a celebratory country during Holy Week is the holy grail — no pun intended — of cultural travel. Here are our six top picks for the most festive spots in the world to visit during Holy Week.

Guatemala

La Reunion Golf Resort & Residences

Guatemala is one of the world’s most renowned destinations for celebrating Holy Week, thanks to the nation’s vibrant and ornate religious festivities. To kick off the week, Guatemalans decorate their streets and homes with palm fronds on Palm Sunday, and the celebration continues through Good Friday. In Antigua, residents scatter the country’s famed alfombras – dyed sand and sawdust, with pine needles, flowers and plants — on the cobblestone streets to create spectacularly colored “carpets” that lead the way for religious processions.

Where to Stay: Just 30 minutes from colonial Antigua, La Reunion Golf Resort & Residences gets you close to the Holy Week action but not too close: visit during the day and escape at night to avoid the pulsating — and often overwhelming — crowds.

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The term “hipster” has a lot of connotations these days, but we think we have a pretty good idea of what it means when it comes to travel. If you’re a hipster, you’re probably the type who won’t want to stay somewhere mainstream — and certainly not a major chain. You’re the type who appreciates what’s cool, yes, but in a way that is interesting and different. You love anything eco-friendly and organic.

Sound at all familiar? Fess up. We at Oyster have a special spot in our heart for hipster travelers. After all, they, like us, have high standards when it comes to choosing a hotel. They’ll often gravitate toward spots that are uber-trendy, quirky, or extremely green, and with that in mind, we unearthed some of the best hotel options in the world for the hipster set.

Wythe Hotel, New York City

Wythe Hotel, New York City

Wythe Hotel, New York City

The Wythe Hotel is a hub for hipster travelers and locals alike. With a hopping rooftop bar boasting jaw-dropping views of Manhattan, a wonderful restaurant, and cutting-edge industrial design, the Wythe is a destination unto itself. It’s located near the subway as well as dozens of restaurants, bars, and shops in the heart of trendy Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a neighborhood boasting one of the highest concentrations of hipsters in the country. Rooms are spacious and have high pine ceilings, reclaimed wood furnishings, and great amenities, including flat-screen TVs; local, hand-made toiletries; free Wi-Fi, and radiant floor heating. 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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It's a pink explosion in the Barbie Suite at the Palms!

Hotels often incorporate themes into their rooms, but these so-called themes are usually “classic elegance,” “boho chic,” or “understated luxury.” In the case of the rooms in this slideshow, however, the themes are a bit more specific — and over-the-top. From a suite that Barbie would approve of, to a room dedicated to David Beckham (and, in particular, his abs), we’ve found some amazing themed rooms and suites that are worth a visit (or at least a look).

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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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The St. James's Hotel and Club is a top choice for business travelers in London.

Europe’s bustling capital cities always attract the suit-and-tie set, and the continent’s best business hotels cater to these travelers with great service, special features, and around-the-clock amenities. Whether you’re ironing out the details of a high stakes merger or need to be connected to all four corners of the globe at once, these impressive properties are equipped to help with your every need. Sealing the deal in Europe‘s capital cities has never been easier than at these top business hotels:

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When you go on vacation, you’re trying to escape the everyday chores of home — and that includes cooking. But cooking can actually be fun, especially if you have a master chef offering instructions. Plus, the best part of going to a cooking class? You don’t have to do the cleanup! Check out awesome hotels across the States (and one in Berlin because, well, why not?!) that offer on-site cooking lessons.

Mansion on Forsyth Park, Savannah

700 Kitchen Cooking School at the Mansion on Forsyth Park

Savannah, where chefs such as Paula Deen got their starts, is arguably the food capital of the South. One of the city’s top luxury hotels, the Mansion on Forsyth also boasts one of the city’s top attractions: It’s on-site cooking classes at the 700 Kitchen Cooking School. In classes of no more than fifteen students, the hotel’s culinary director, Chef Darin Sehnert, teaches everyone from novices to (at least self-proclaimed) experts. Though different classes focus on a variety of cuisines, such as Italian and Caribbean, the most popular are the Low Country cuisine classes, where menus include delectable delights such as Low Country crab stew, angel biscuits, and green tomato cobbler. Classes are available for lunch and dinner; most last three hours and cost $100/person.

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We’ve all fantasized about a month-long trip to Europe — but the time to fulfill this dream is not always easy to come by. Fortunately, a ton of time isn’t necessarily required if you want to explore the other side of the pond. With just a few days, you can visit numerous areas of the continent and hit up top destinations, and there are a few attractions you just can’t miss. We’ve picked one in each of Europe’s most popular cities, and paired it with a nearby hotel so you can get the most out of your flash trip. These nine sights are all must-sees — don’t miss out!

Must-See #1: Tower Bridge, London

The Tower Bridge was designed by Sir Horace Jones in 1884.

The Tower Bridge was designed by Sir Horace Jones in 1884.

Some of you might say, “What about Big Ben (excuse us, the “Elizabeth Tower”)? And the British Museum?” Well, yes, those are top spots of course, but if there is one place that makes London recognizable, it is the Tower Bridge. Built in the late 19th century and painted blue in 1977 for Queen Elizabeth II’s silver jubilee, the bridge is crossed on foot, bike, car and double-decker bus by thousands of Londoners and visitors daily, making it one of the most visited places in all of London. On a rainy day, you can get great views of the bridge from the glass-enclosed City Hall, and on a sunny day, head to the Tower of London for the best vistas.

Stay: Apex City of London Hotel

Spacious rooms have warm lighting and free Wi-Fi.

Spacious rooms have warm lighting and free Wi-Fi.

The Apex City of London Hotel is a contemporary, mid-size chain property located just a 3-minute walk to the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge, and the tube. All 179 rooms have warm lighting, big flat-screen TVs, free Wi-Fi, and bathrooms with separate soaking tubs and walk-in showers. The sleek interior design continues in the lobby and in Addendum Restaurant, which serves seasonal fare and has outdoor seating. Small touches (such as a rubber ducky for the tub) make this property feel like more than a typical chain hotel.

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Awards season continues this Sunday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles as the biggest names in the music industry strut their stuff at the 55th Grammy Awards. And as we dream about jamming on stage with the likes of  Elton John, The Lumineers, Jack White, and Justin Timberlake (who’s making his return to the Grammy stage after a four-year hiatus from the music scene, swoon), we can’t help but be a little jealous of those who get to do so. Thankfully, some of our favorite hotels understand our musical plight. From on-site recording studios to guitar rental services, these hotels may not promise celeb-studded jam sessions but they’re definitely rocker-approved. And we mean that literally: Everyone from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Stevie Wonder has visited these music meccas of the hotel world. So if you want to drop a beat before the awards or just pick up the vibes left behind by some of your favorite musicians, check out these rock-ready hotels.

Sunset Marquis Hotel & Villas, Los Angeles 

The Nightbird Sound Studio at the Sunset Marquis has hosted A-list recording artists for decades.

The Sunset Marquis cost guests just $8 a night when it first opened in 1963 as a motel for musicians playing at the nearby House of Blues, Roxy, and Viper Room, all located within a few minutes’ walk. Today, there are so many celebrities that continue to traipse through the hotel that the staff doesn’t get starstruck anymore. During Oyster’s two-night stay, Lars Ulrich of Metallica, Joss Stone, and Roger Daltrey of The Who were all spotted at the hotel, validating the hotel’s “paparazzi diversion tactics” that are offered for a nominal fee.

In addition to its innate rocker vibe, the hotel also offers a state-of-the-art recording studio on-site — Nightbird Sound Studios — designed by renowned acoustician George Auspurger. Accessed via a hidden entrance in the underground garage, the space features (in addition to the usual trappings) a Yamaha Mark IV Disklavier piano, one of only two in America, on which Stevie Wonder has been recorded. Every A-list musician has passed through the studio, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Justin Timberlake, and Lil Wayne and Green Day both recorded here within days of Oyster’s visit. High rollers can rent out the studio for personal use, including karaoke birthday parties.

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Trust us, we here at Oyster get it more than most people — going on vacation is freakin’ awesome. Vacations are all about fun, relaxation, and the “what happens here, stays here” vibe, and when you’re on a vacay, it feels like nothing can get ya down. But some hotel websites go a little too far and market their properties by showing “guests” in absolutely euphoric (and unrealistic) states. To the point where we’re pretty sure that that kind of happy can only be reached if you’ve been dabbling in some recreational, er, “fun.” And depending on the destination, maybe you have been. But still, when we’re deciding where to stay for our winter getaway, we usually don’t base it on how happy the “guests” on the website seem to be. Nonetheless, those photos can be pretty entertaining. Last time, we rounded up a bunch of marketing photos where the guests just couldn’t seem happier. And this time, we’ve done the same thing — but focused on those hotel couples that just seem so in luuuurve. We’re sorry, but even if we were married to Ryan Gosling, we wouldn’t be smiling that big! Check out some of the most hilarious hotel couples we found!

1. Your room or mine?

“What about one final fling before you marry that old ball and chain?” (Mansion on Forsyth Park, Savannah)

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