Edinburgh

Here at Oyster, we can never get enough of bright lights, big cities, and the continuous buzz and hum of modern metropolis life. There’s just something about the energy in the air that we find exhilarating. But that doesn’t mean we don’t take a moment every once in a while to step back in time. And at times like these, we don’t just want to soak up history – we want to live it. Sometimes, there’s nothing better than waking up in a 13th-century building and imagining how many people have woken up, celebrated, or walked the halls of the very same place — and it doesn’t hurt to get to imagine it while still enjoy modern conveniences like air-conditioning and Wi-Fi. And if you don’t want to stay in a crumbling piece of history, you don’t have to — and you can still get a taste of history. There are tons of preserved medieval towns and villages that have newer– even sleek and modern — hotels.  So if you want to get medieval on your vacation (in a historic kind of way, not an urban dictionary kind of way), we’ve got just the right spots to do it. Here are our top ten picks for hotels in ancient towns.

Hotel Athena: Siena, Italy

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Inside the historic walls of Siena, the 100-room Hotel Athena is a classic, upscale property within walking distance of several restaurants and historic sites, including the Siena Cathedral and Biblioteca Piccolomini. Piazza del Campo, Siena’s main square and the site of the famous haven’t-changed-much-since-the-middle-ages Palio horse races, can be reached within 10 minutes by foot. The hotel’s rooftop terrace overlooks the historic buildings of the area and has a bar serving cocktails and snacks. There is a free breakfast buffet with hot and cold items and an elegant restaurant serving regional cuisine. There’s no pool or fitness center at the hotel, but rooms are simple and clean and have free Wi-Fi.

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Is all the talk of summer and beaches…bumming you out? Does the entire concept of humidity make you want to cry? If you see one more Instagram photo of “hot-dog legs” are you going to lose it? Good news! You’re not crazy or a heartless, sun-hating scrooge — and you’re not alone. The dogs days of summer are truly upon us, and sometimes it’s all too easy to dream of snowbanks and icicles (which will be a nightmare once we’re in the thick of winter — but then, of course, we’ll dream of sizzling sidewalks and sun galore). So if you’re already missing winter, here’s where you can travel right now where it’s 50 degrees or cooler. And, of course, we’ve found the coziest hotels nearby where you can properly embrace sweater weather by curling up in front of a fireplace that will chase the (all-too-welcome) chill away.

1. Melbourne, Australia 

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The Southern Hemisphere is where winter’s at, and one of our favorite destinations down under is none other than Melbourne, Australia. Known as Australia’s culture capital, this city situated on Port Phillip Bay is packed with Victorian buildings, museums, galleries, large parks, and gardens. The tree-lined streets and green spaces create a clean, eco-friendly vibe, which is probably part of the reason Melbourne has consistently been dubbed as one of the world’s most livable cities. During the winter months, locals enjoy ice skating, curling, and banishing the chill at the nearby Peninsula Hot Springs.

Stay: Hotel Lindrum

This modern boutique is located just a short walk from sights such as Federation Square and Melbourne Park. It lacks a fitness center and spa, but the features it does have are done well: The restaurant serves a nice breakfast buffet, and the cozy bar features a fireplace and a billiards table. Rooms feature sleek lines, dark wood accents, high-style light fixtures, and contemporary artwork, which combine to create a chic vibe. Read More »

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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 

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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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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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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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Christmas Around the World

by Devon on December 6, 2012

The most wonderful time of the year is upon us (if you can’t tell by all the Target ads), and we’re taking a trip around the world to see how they celebrate in some of our favorite locales. Christmas is a special time all around the globe, whether it’s celebrated with bonfires, dead wrens (yes, you read that right), or just good ole family-style feasts, and we’ve found the best celebrations and places to stay this season. But wherever you go to celebrate the holidays, just remember to say “Merry Christmas,” “Feliz Navidad,” “Joyeux Noel,” or “Froehliche Weihnachten!”

Christmas in the United States

You can't go wrong with Christmas in New York, especially at the Plaza.

For some of the best displays of Christmas spirit, the Big Apple is a premium choice as the host of some of the most celebrated seasonal events in the world. During the one time of year New Yorkers actually don on smile, there is plenty to celebrate — from ice skating at Rockefeller Center to catching the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. For cozy accommodations, The Plaza has some of the most iconic decorations in the city, along with a prime Central Park location near the FAO Schwartz toy store and famed Fifth Avenue shopping. Even Kevin McCallister spent Christmas at the Plaza! Read More »

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The New York Palace gets in the holiday mood -- maybe they're inspired by the holiday shops at Bryant Park?

Christmas markets, or Christkindlmarkts as they are known in Germany, originated in the Late Middle Ages as a way to celebrate the beginning of Advent — the four-week lead-up to Christmas Day. Usually hosted in town squares, these street fairs offer all kinds of seasonal charm, including handcrafted Christmas decorations and gifts, and tasty treats like mulled wine and gingerbread. From Scotland to Chicago, German-style Christmas markets are offering a jolly dose of holiday cheer to people around the globe. Here are some of our favorite Christmas markets the world-over — and the charming hotels to call home so that visions of sugar plums are sure to dance through your head all night long.

Berlin’s Christmas Markets

With over 60 Christmas markets held each holiday season in Berlin, those seeking some magical winter charm need look no further than the German capital. The creme-de-la-Christmas-creme, however, can be found at the historic Gendarmenmart, which is bordered by the French and German Cathedral on one side and the Concert House on the other. Visitors can wander the many booths lining the streets, or visit the heated craftsmen tent where toy makers, goldsmiths, and wood carvers show off their talents. The market stays open through New Year’s Eve, when visitors can hear various bands, toast the New Year with fireworks, and dance a traditional waltz after midnight. There is a one-Euro entrance fee (which is odd for a Christmas market) and New Year’s Eve tickets cost 10 Euro. Other historic Christmas markets in Germany include Dresden’s and Nuremberg’s charming fairs.

Where to Stay: Bleibtreu Hotel

Blumen 31 Flower Shop

A boutique property that has managed to ingratiate itself with its neighborhood, the Bleibtreu Hotel offers a charming bistro/diner and a flower shop with an outdoor garden that is often frequented by locals. Rooms are stylish and functional, if small, and are decorated with natural materials; some have balconies. Read More »

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