Historic Hotels

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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It’s time to get your spook on. Halloween is just two short weeks away, and for many that means shaking out the costumes, buying some candy and cueing the Monster Mash marathon. But for the brave of heart, Oyster’s here to help you choose your spooky itinerary for Fright Night. No matter where you are across the globe, hauntings and mysteries abound that are sure to scare your socks off. From ghost towns to witches’ hideaways, we’ve found some of the best places to spook and be spooked — and where to rest your head (if you can) at the end of the day. But we’d suggest sleeping with one eye open…

Visit a Ghost Town

The American West is rife with these abandoned metropolises that once served as centers for mining and railroad operations. Walking among the now-desolate edifices that line the streets of these ghost towns is like taking a spooky step back in time, and as the nation’s largest unreconstructed ghost town, Bodie, California is the perfect spot to get your frightening fix. Founded in 1859 on the heels of the gold rush, the town’s 200 original structures once housed thousands of residents – families, robbers, miners, gunslingers, prostitutes – but now they stand eerily empty. Visitors come seeking ghostly encounters — or even just great photos, as the abandoned buildings look hauntingly beautiful at night.

The Hotel: Evergreen Lodge at Yosemite 

When the sun goes down, the monsters come out to play at Yosemite’s Evergreen Lodge.

Located east of Yosemite National Park, Bodie is a fun and spooky visit for campers looking to combine history with mystery this Halloween. And the Evergreen Lodge, a 22-acre cabin resort nestled into the Stanislaus National Forest, is a great spot to call home at the end of the day (if you’re not camping on-site).

Other Haunts: Other ghost towns of the American West worth checking out include Jerome, Arizona (which is well-known for its spectral lore — watch out for the beautiful Sammie Dean!) and South Pass City, Wyoming.

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With everything that’s going on in the world today, it’s nice to occasionally be reminded that simple things do exist — and they’re what counts, right? So sometimes a holiday in the big city surrounded by tall buildings, swarms of people, and a constant cacophony — while invigorating — doesn’t quite match the mold in mind for your relaxing getaway. Cue: a visit to America’s Main Streets — the cute and quaint places that remind us of our roots and that it’s perfectly okay to spend the day sipping lemonade from a rocking chair (after all, you are rocking). Luckily, for every hundred or so shiny glass hotel towers crammed onto big city blocks, there are a handful of adorable hotels in quaint towns with classic character and cozy features. So head towards Main Street — because there’s nothing more comforting than nibbling on a warm slice of Americana and admiring the view from a friendly wraparound porch. Here are our top ten picks.

Hob Knob, Martha’s Vineyard

Hob Knob

Centrally along a quaint stretch of Main Street, the Hob Knob is a welcoming bed-and-breakfast with a well-landscaped yard and wrap-around porch. Of course, in high-tourist season the prices reflect its status as a popular boutique — but in a lot of ways, you do get what you pay for. Rooms are spacious and comfortable with Berber carpeting, luxurious European linens and bathrobes, lovely Classic American-cottage decor (though some rooms feel more tended to than others), and pretty bathrooms with marble sinks. Other highlights include the free organic, full-farm breakfast, and the fact that downtown Edgartown is a short walk away. This place isn’t really geared toward families, though — children under the age of seven aren’t allowed, and teens would likely be bored by the lack of a pool on-site.

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We love whenever we can get a peek into the lives of the rich and famous, and we find it particularly thrilling to visit the haunts of timeless Hollywood stars and hallowed, storied authors (excuse the pun) of yore. After all, there’s something about the celebs of the past that’s just so much more elegant and refined — even in their infamous debauchery — than those of today’s tabloids. Fortunately, luxurious, historic hotels make it possible to revisit the good ole days, and we find ourselves especially interested in the Mediterranean spots they’d jet off to. So here we bring you five iconic jetsetter getaways in the Mediterranean.

Santa Caterina Hotel, Amalfi Coast

Santa Caterina Hotel

While most of the Amalfi hotels can claim excellent views across the coast, the 66 room-and-suite Santa Caterina Hotel has got five-star features, harmonious antique style, and fragrant gardens. Built against Amalfi’s seaside cliffs in 1880 as a home residence and turned into a hotel in 1904, this luxury property was once a favorite getaway of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and in more recent days, has welcomed celebrities such as Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. The Santa Caterina’s four generations of ownership have treated her well, preserving historic elements while successively and successfully adding modern comfort and style.  Guests can take advantage of the wellness center, exclusive swimming pool access, and gym. Dining options range from the elegant Restaurant Santa Caterina to the more casual Al Mare eatery, along with an expansive wine cellar. This property is brand new on Oyster!

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We have travel experts visiting and revisiting destinations around the world every day, and we love when the fresh photos of gorgeous locales start to roll into our offices. Now that fall is approaching (we know, we hate to bring it up – but Labor Day coming and going kinda already did), we’re getting particularly excited about tree-filled spots and landscapes chock-a-block with hills and fields…and few places in the world do that better than the Irish countryside. Fewer places still do that better than these gorgeous hotels nestled away in the Irish country. So without further adieu, we bring you eight of the most beautiful hotels in the Irish countryside — and many of them are brand-new on Oyster!

Lawcus Farm Guest House, Kilkenny

lawcus farm

This rustic property is a solid pick for those travelers who want a slice of traditional pastoral Ireland. The emphasis is squarely on a homey, farmhouse vibe with turf-burning fires and friendly hosts offering a personal touch. The rustic charm carries over into the rooms, some of which have pretty views of the surrounding countryside. The grounds are a real high point and guests can experience the property to the fullest through outdoor activities that include fishing on the river and feeding the farmyard animals. There’s little else quite like it in the area, and prices are pretty reasonable for this level of cozy comfort.

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This post originally appeared on Yahoo! Travel

Covered in sandy beaches, surrounded by the Aegean’s blue crystalline waters, and featuring traditional smooth white architecture against dark volcanic rock, the Cyclades are some of the most famous islands in world. With outstanding beauty and sweeping sea views from almost every angle, it’s not surprising that this gorgeous collection of Greek Isles has goddess origins. According to Greek mythology, a small set of sea nymphs infuriated Poseidon, God of the Sea, and thus promptly found themselves turned into tiny islands. While legends of Greek deities may have come and gone and changed over time, these islands remain — and as dazzling as ever. Lucky for us mere mortals, some of the hotels found here are just as stunning as the Cyclades themselves. Be them “God’s-eye-view” boutiques cut into volcanic cliffs, ultra-luxe properties nestled along the turquoise waters of the Aegean, or traditional caves boasting breathtaking architecture, these are some of the Cyclades’ most stunning hotels.

Aenaon Villas, Santorini

Aenaon Villas

This small hotel on the island of Santorini is comprised of seven luxury villas featuring fireplaces, private verandas, and high-end decor details. Elevated atop the less crowded northern curve of the area’s caldera, Aenaon Villas is set up for upscale couples searching for a private retreat (there are no children under 12 permitted — instead, there’s room service and personal butlers). Aesthetically pleasing, the hotel presents tall stone walls curving around a traditional blanched-white facade with cutout windows and archways. Dark earth tones, reminiscent of mud or clay, are painted in window and door frames and accent the stone walls.

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A hotel has “made it” when it’s honored as a Relais & Chateaux property. After all, established in 1954 in France (mais bien sur?!), this exclusive association is made up of just about 500 hotels and restaurants, combined, that introduce guests “to a deeper, truer understanding of the Art of Living.” Or, in much simpler Oyster terms, they show guests a darn good time by providing gorgeous rooms, luxurious facilities and amenities, and top-notch service. We’ve been lucky enough to have stayed in quite a few of these R&C properties (don’t get too jealous — as hotel experts, we also have to stay in spots like this), and here bring you the real creme de la creme of the best of the best.

1. Saint James Paris

St James

It makes sense to start in grand Paris, non? With a sweeping private entrance surrounded by green lawns and an impressive fountain, the upscale Saint James is a rare find in Paris — in fact, the 19th century manor is considered the only chateau-hotel in the city. It’s fitting that the hotel is located in the wealthy 16th arrondissement (and yes, valet parking is included). The 48 rooms and suites are large by Paris standards, and decorated in plush luxurious fabrics. But the common areas are more impressive — especially the black and white grand staircase on the main floor. The terrace is a beautiful spot for lunch on a nice summer day. And there’s also a small fitness center, a spa, and a gourmet restaurant. The rates here are steep, but guests who want to experience luxury in Paris (and can afford it) should give the Saint James a look.

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During the summer, it’s almost impossible to stay indoors come happy hour. While the cooler months — spent with friends crowding in cozy bars and huddling by the fire — are fast approaching, there’s still time for some rooftop boozin’ — and fortunately, enjoying the sun and stars with a drink in hand is made easy at some of our favorite hotels. Offering stunning vistas and delicious cocktails, these rooftop bars are destinations unto to themselves in cities far and wide.

1. Refinery Rooftop at The Refinery Hotel, New York City 

refinery

The Refinery Hotel is a stylish urban boutique in New York‘s Garment District, located in a historic building that was once a tea salon and hat factory. The property’s past inspired its present industrial-chic design, and small details such as decorative milliner’s tools pay homage to the building’s former function. The property’s cool rooftop bar — aptly named Refinery Rooftop — offers gorgeous views of the Empire State Building and a rotating menu of seasonal cocktails designed by Alex Ott. Reservations are recommended at this swanky spot where DJs are known to perform on Thursday and Friday nights — but guests of the hotel may have a leg up on getting through the door.  Read More »

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As summer comes to a close and Labor Day fast approaches, it can only mean one thing — school is about to be back in session. Of course, degrees and majors are important (kinda, sorta). But when choosing their collegiate home for the next four years (or five or six — no judgement; it’s the best years of your life), many high school seniors also consider the nightlife, history, and culture of the college towns. Taking a trip to these locales offers potential students an opportunity to check out the scene — and it’s also fun chance to explore a young, vibrant college town and relive co-ed life — without the homework — for those who have already attended plenty of college reunions in their day. Here are 10 hotels to visit the next time you want to go back to school — but you can trade in the projects and essays for interesting sights and delicious meals.

Hotel Commonwealth, Boston

Hotel Commonwealth

Some of the most well-known universities call Boston home, so it’s no wonder the city’s population contains a large amount of students. Harvard, MIT, Boston University and Brandeis make up just a small handful of the Boston area’s higher education options. Rich in history, Boston can be as educational as it is entertaining. When you go, make sure to check out a few of the college campuses and perhaps opt for a stay at the 148-room Hotel Commonwealth, one of the most well-rounded boutique hotels in Boston. With its classical furnishings, large rooms, and impressive array of services, it captures the spirit of the city like few others. It’s also a quick three-minute walk to Boston University.

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Who doesn’t love a good theme? We’re suckers for a little kitsch every now and then, and there’s something about the wild, wild West – cowboy hats and boots and all – that’s particularly endearing and fun. A western theme conjures up good ole days of yore, and it can make a property feel especially homey. That’s why we love these seven ranch-style hotels; from upscale estates spread across sprawling grounds to cheesy cowboy-themed properties, this list has the best of the best of the wild, wild West.

Tanque Verde Ranch, Tucson

 Tanque Verde

This rustic, all-inclusive resort is a quintessential Western dude ranch surrounded by miles of gorgeous mountains and desert. The property borders Saguaro National Park East, where guests can enjoy guided horseback rides, hiking, and mountain biking. There’s also swimming, communal ranch meals, and kids’ activities, and sweeping wood-beam ceilings, stone fireplaces, and local artwork add to the ranch-like vibe.

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