Ireland

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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Worried about a Game of Thrones style invasion on your next trip? Roving hordes? Zombie armies? We totally feel you. Travel can be a bit scary, and if you’re the type that likes to feel extra secure when you get away, you might appreciate the idea of staying in a hotel that’s, well, fortified. These five hotels are actually in ancient fortresses, so if you find yourself needing to fend off rebel invaders on your next romantic retreat, you’ll at least have all the battlements, arrowslits, and watch towers your heart could desire right at hand. Hey, you never know…

Castello di Petroia, Umbria, Italy

Castello di PetroiaThe gorgeous Castello di Petroia dates all the way back to the 11th century; with a picturesque setting in the Umbrian countryside, it was at one time a medieval fortress. Back then this region consisted of vying independent city-states, and the fortress was the birthplace of the Duke of Urbino. Today, this 800-acre wooded estate is a charming and undeniably romantic retreat, with a seasonal pool and candlelit gourmet restaurant. The castle is comprised of three buildings: the Major Castellare, the main building with medieval halls and a library; the smaller Minor Castellare, where the castle’s guardian’s once lived; and the 66-foot Tower, which has a three-tiered guest room. The 13 individually-decorated rooms have historic flourishes such as stone arches, wood beams, and frescoed ceilings. Read More »

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Like the rest of the world, our office is abuzz with talk of Wes Anderson’s newest flick, The Grand Budapest Hotel. And sure, it may be mostly water cooler chatter, but we consider it research too — after all, it is about a grand hotel… one that may have seen some grander times. But even in its heyday, the Grand Budapest Hotel just can’t stack up to some of the gorgeous historic hotels that we’ve stayed in — from Irish castles to stately Southern mansions. Check out a dozen stunning stays that are far grander than the Grand Budapest Hotel (with the requisite storied history, to boot).

1. Ca’Sagredo Hotel, Venice

Ca'Sagredo

Originally built in the 15th century by the Morosini family, this beautiful palazzo — right on the Grand Canal — was purchased by the Sagredos (a family of noble blood) in the 1700s, which is how the hotel got its name. Besides luxurious rooms and a lovely terrace, the Ca’Sagredo Hotel features original frescoes and sculptures from the 17th and 18th centuries.

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Okay, as hotel experts we love traveling; we really, really love it. But even for us, saying goodbye to our side of the bed, our cups in the kitchen, our own personal brand of snack food stashed in the fridge, and all those other things that make our abode “homey” can be bittersweet. Thankfully, many hotels are stepping up their game when it comes to providing guests with their creature comforts of choice. From in-room kitchens to roaring fireplaces, these hotels come equipped with tons of great amenities to make you feel like you never walked out your front door — and with these amenities come all the fun perks inherent of a vacation. So fear not the unknown, these homey hotels are awaiting your stay with open arms and familiar treats.

1. Villa D’ Citta, Chicago 

villa d citta

The six-room Villa D’ Citta is a cozy, romantic bed-and-breakfast located in the residential neighborhood of Lincoln Park. Its homey features are all charming: an outdoor whirlpool and sun deck, a brick courtyard with a barbecue, and a large communal kitchen. The bright, luxurious rooms have big flat-screen TVs and hardwood floors, and some come complete with fireplaces.

Homiest Feature: The communal kitchen comes fully stocked with all of the snacks you can imagine, and the outdoor patio features a barbecue grill perfect for warm summer nights.  Read More »

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A nice beach can make a vacation, and there really doesn’t have to be much more to it than soft sand, clean water, and plenty of space to spread a towel. But a truly special beach is harder to come by; it has to have that little something extra that makes it — and your vacation — one-of-a-kind. Here are seven beaches around the world that wowed us.

Bioluminescent Bay; Isla de Vieques, Puerto Rico

w retreat and spa

A national natural landmark, Bioluminescent Bay (also know, much less prettily, as Mosquito Bay) glows a breathtaking neon blue. A tiny micro-organism that sparkles when disturbed gives the bay its beautiful luminescence, and many tours take kayakers and divers out at night to watch the waters glow.

Where to Stay: W Retreat & Spa – Vieques Island

This hotel has the modern, funky feel of the W brand with a tropical twist — it’s right on it’s own private beach, the lobby and rooms feature bright colors and concrete floors, and the infinity pool overlooking the ocean has a pool bar serving up poolside drinks and meals.

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Many people will spend the holidays at home or visiting family, but for some, it has become tradition to spend the time on vacation. Just because you’re staying in a hotel doesn’t mean you’ll miss out on holiday cheer; in fact, these amazing holiday hotels around the globe go above and beyond to spread the holiday spirit. Think: welcome mugs of hot chocolate, elaborate Christmas decorations, visits from Santa, carol singing, and more. Feeling Christmas-y yet?

New York Palace, New York City

The New York Palace, New York CityThe New York Palace is one of the best hotels for enjoying Christmas in New York City. It offers a prime location right next to St. Patrick’s Cathedral (which has Christmas masses) and about a block away from the giant tree and famous skating rink at Rockefeller Center. It also has guards in toy-soldier-style uniforms next to the stunning outdoor Christmas tree (they are happy to pose for photos!) and a Nutcracker brunch at Villard Michel Richard. Read More »

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Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland

Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland

There’s a lot to love about Ireland. The lush green landscape, the charming small-town pubs (serving up plenty of Guinness, of course), the sheep that can be found roaming the hills, and the narrow winding roads. And now that St. Patty’s Day is nearly here, we’re dreaming about all things Irish — specifically, about all of our favorite things to see on the Emerald Isle, from the Ring of Kerry to Kylemore Abbey to the Giant’s Causeway. These 10 attractions are must-sees for any lover of Ireland — even if you’re only able to visit them through your computer screen.

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For outdoorsy types, a tiny basement fitness center at the hotel just isn’t going to cut it. For them, a great vacation is all about getting outdoors — and being in a stunning natural setting to boot. Luckily, there are plenty of fantastic resorts around the world offering a range of activities right on-site, from horseback riding to water sports to fishing to stargazing. Check out our faves.

Calistoga Ranch, Napa Valley

Calistoga Ranch, An Auberge Resort, Napa Valley

Calistoga Ranch, An Auberge Resort, Napa Valley

Calistoga Ranch was designed with Mother Nature in mind: All the modules for the property’s 48 exquisite private lodges were flown in by helicopter to minimize impact on surrounding trees and to maximize privacy. The 157-acre property offers abundant outdoor activities, including hiking (there are a number of trails on-site), outdoor yoga, a beautiful heated outdoor pool, a bocce court, and a fabulous fitness center. After all that exercise, there’s no need to feel guilty about indulging at one of the wine tasting seminars (this is Napa, after all). Read More »

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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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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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