Seville

In our original post, we brought you from Nantucket to Kauai and everywhere in between, offering perfectly captured glimpses of our country’s most beautiful vistas. But we’d be biased if we only shared our stunning photos of the United States. So we packed our bags and headed to Europe in search of its best vantage points. Here are 13 of our favorites…

Fretheim Hotel, Norway

Norway

For travelers interested in exploring Norway’s natural wonders, there’s no better starting point than the Fretheim Hotel. Located in Flam, a popular departure point for fjord cruises, the Fretheim offers some pretty breathtaking views of its own. With its floor to ceiling windows, the Fretheim’s popular restaurant has an unobstructed view of the beautiful valley and nearby harbor.

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Many hotels were not born as hotels. Some first served as prisons, or hat factories, or even lemon distilleries. And some had, shall we say, loftier first lives — as the residences (often, the second, third, or fourth homes) of royalty. That’s right. We’ve stayed at hotels — from the Amalfi Coast to the Irish countryside – that were once the official residences of royals, but have since shed their former titles to serve the lowlier, “ill-bred” set like us. But fortunately, we’ve still been given the royal treatment at each. Check out these eight gorgeous hotels that kings, queens, and counts once called home.

Hotel Palazzo Murat, Amalfi Coast

palazzo murat

Unlike most hotels in the cliffside town of Positano that require a steep walk to reach the beach and town center, the Palazzo Murat is located smack in the town center’s pedestrian zone. It dates back to the 17th century, and for a while it was the extravagant summer home of Napoleon’s brother-in-law and King of Naples, Gioacchino Murat. Its historic opulence is evidenced by intricately cut stone doors and window frames, refurbished tile mosaics, and wooden furniture. With a pristine pool and some nice freebies, Palazzo Murat is ideal for travelers who want to stay in historic lodgings in the heart of the action — but it lacks the gorgeous ocean views of nearby cliffside hotels.

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This post originally appeared on Yahoo! Travel

We here at Oyster.com have done all types of travel. We’ve trekked to some pretty far-off places, we’ve slept under the stars, and we’ve pinched pennies at some budget (but nonetheless awesome) locales. But we gotta say, our favorite kind of travel is luxury travel. Of course, there’s something to be said for roughing it and that whole getting-back-in-touch-with-nature thing, but given the choice between a tent and a massive presidential suite? Um, we’ll take the suite any day — without hesitation. Suites vary from hotel to hotel, and from destination to destination, but throughout our extensive travels we have come across a handful (fourteen, to be exact) of gorgeous, over-the-top hotel suites that are so luxurious, they’re quite literally mind-blowing. From a Vegas suite with its own pool and mini-golf course to a gigantic “Sultan Suite” overlooking the Bosphorus in Istanbul, these fourteen suites take luxury to the next level.

1. The Royal Bridal Suite at The Toren, Amsterdam

The Toren

This romantic boutique hotel near the Anne Frank House has historical significance: It was once used as a safe house in WWII. The Toren family bought the property in 1968 and expanded it over time to include additional accommodations along the Keizersgracht canal. Today there are 38 rooms and suites ranging from smaller standard size, to spacious, elaborate options like the Royal Bridal Suite. This over-the-top, dual-level suite promises romance and opulence; it sits in a second building, removed from the main house, for added privacy and features rich decor (such as gorgeous antique furniture, chandeliers, and murals), a fireplace, a deep soaking tub, and a private entrance with a patio.

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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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Fall is an ideal time to visit Spain, thanks to the season’s mild climate and reduced tourist crowds. (It’s still a popular time to go, but September and October aren’t nearly as busy as August, when most Europeans plan a vacation.) And visitors can avoid the hoards not just as the tourist sights, but within their hotels, too — provided they select an intimate boutique pick, like these five attractive options.

Abac Barcelona

Abac Barcelona

Abac Barcelona

This exclusive 15-room luxury boutique hotel embodies contemporary style at its best, fitting right in in a city that treasures design. Rooms are avant-garde, from the clean, white and beige decor, to the modern under lighting, to the remote-controlled blinds, to the Bang & Olufsen sound system. An amazing spa with Turkish baths shouldn’t be missed, and the hotel’s Michelin-starred on-site restaurant is a highlight. But the slightly out-of-the-way residential location is a drawback. Read More »

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The AVE links Madrid with Barcelona and Sevilla in less than 3 hours. Credit: istockphoto/Holger Mette

The AVE links Madrid with Barcelona and Seville in less than 3 hours. Credit: istockphoto/Holger Mette

Visiting our neighbors “across the pond” isn’t just a hop, skip, and a jump that the saying makes it sound: It involves long (and expensive) flights, long lines in customs, and plenty of seat-of-your-pants transfers and transactions. But Europe is a lifetime must-see and Spain is one of its most diverse and fascinating countries. So how do you possibly see all it has to offer during a week-long vacay?  Well, the reliable, high-speed AVE trains certainly help. The country’s top destinations – Barcelona, Madrid and Seville – are all within 3 hours of each other by way of the AVE, which makes it easy and fast to discover this trio of cities in just one trip. Of course you could spend years in the country and still be discovering new spots each day, but our Oyster guide offers a solid itinerary for each city that includes the three attractions you just can’t miss — and still allows you enough time to enjoy some tapas al fresco. And, as hotel experts, we let you know the best places to stay, to boot. Pack your bags — and don’t forget this guide! You’re Spain-bound, baby. Read More »

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