From Scotland to Switzerland, and from India to Italy, here are the most beautiful castles in the world where you can actually stay – and they’re all bookable on Culture Trip.
Ready to fulfil your royal fantasy? Perhaps it’s all those childhood storybooks, but castles still exert a powerful appeal into adulthood. Photogenic, romantic and often spectacular, few can pass up the chance to stay in fortified mansions and houses that typically blend history with drama, comfort with grandeur, and the good life with the high life.
North of Venice in the heart of prosecco country, Castelbrando perches beautifully on a forested hillside spur overlooking the village of Cison di Valmarino. Originally a Roman fortress, the much-expanded castle was last used as a Salesian monastery before a late-1990s refurbishment converted it into a hotel. Canopied beds, walls decorated with nobel crests and vintage furniture grace the regular rooms, but suites up the décor with more Venetian styling and Murano glass chandeliers; the Presidential features original Roman masonry as do parts of the spa.
Hunguest Hotel Palota, Hungary | Courtesy of Hunguest Hotel Palota / Expedia
A 1930s high-society hangout turned workers’ holiday resort via World War II military hospital: the Hunguest has had a chequered journey in a relatively short time. Designed to look far older, it’s a mix of Flemish gables, churchy belfries and faintly Russian-style domes. One restaurant resembles a cavernous ballroom while another has chapel-like vaulted ceilings and stained glass. In comparison, the modernised rooms and suites are restrained and low-key.
Kasteel Engelenburg_Netherlands | Courtesy of Kasteel Engelenburg / Expedia
In look and feel, the Engelenburg more closely resembles an upscale and well-heeled country club than its origins as a 16th-century castle. Today, it echoes a 19th-century manor house, and the landscaped gardens and forest, a nine-hole golf course and moat-like lake embellish that ambience along with a Michelin-forked restaurant serving mainly French-cuisine. Rooms and suites are all unique and beautifully designed, their contemporary décor lending a distinctly studied but appealing character.
Almost spearheading the Scottish Baronial style, which combined gothic and renaissance design, Glenapp Castle near Loch Ryan was constructed in the 1870s (though the estate is much older). Saved from ruin in the 1990s by a fastidious restoration, it now has rooms and suites paying homage to high Victoriana by way of canopy beds and elaborate drapes, chandeliers and oriental rugs. You can play croquet, go clay-pigeon shooting and watch falconry. Dinners trend towards formal three- or six-course gourmet affairs and most produce is locally sourced.
Boutique Hotel Schlossberg | Courtesy of Boutique Hotel Schlossberg / Expedia
Looming above Thun town at the head of Lake Thun, this 12th-century castle was built by the Dukes of Zähringen for symbolic and administrative purposes rather than defence. Round-pointed corner towers and a huge pitched roof add to the drama; today it’s a museum and concert venue. The accommodation lies in the former prison wing, with views of the courtyard and keep. Only the Panorama and Tower rooms have blistering sought-after lake views. Surprisingly, all but the latter feature avowedly modern, almost Scandi-minimalist, interiors.
Just short of Cape Tainaron, the southernmost point of mainland Greece, the Tainaron Blue Retreat stands sentinel over the azure Mediterranean. Myths tinge the landscape, with a local sea-cave reputedly the entrance to the underworld of Hades. Much more recently, the area was famed for fierce oft-feuding inhabitants and their austere masonry tower houses, many of which now stand mostly unused. The three-roomed Tainaron Blue Retreat is a clever renovation of one such tower. Part boho-chic and part rustic lodge, it has a clever design maximising both space and vernacular integrity while accommodating an infinity pool.
Chateau d'Urspelt, Luxembourg | Courtesy of Chateau d'Urspelt / Expedia
In rural north Luxembourg, the original Urspelt “castle” – more like a grand country house – was built in the 1860s. Half a century of decay ended in 2005 when a local entrepreneur funded a restoration and then added another wing in 2016. Rooms are stylish and comfortable but only the so-called Grand Ducal Suite (four rooms plus bathroom) convincingly evokes the charm and aura of a fully fledged heritage property. You’ll eat well in the gourmet restaurant and the former cellars are now a cosy bar.
Named after the lake it overlooks near Salzburg, Fuschl was originally a 15th-century hunting lodge initially owned by local archbishops, followed by a succession of aristocrats and, ultimately, the Nazis. A hotel since the 1950s, accommodation ranges from contemporary rooms and country-style suites in the annexes to a clutch of heritage suites with renaissance, art nouveau and baroque stylings in the historic tower. Old Master paintings, gorgeous lake views and an upscale French restaurant tick all those old-world, high-life boxes.
Perched on a promontory jutting into the Saint Lawrence River in Quebec, the monumental Château is among the great so-called “railway hotels” put up across Canada in the late 19th century. Designed with a confection of towers, turrets and steeply pitched roofs, it has 18 floors lending an imposing skyscraper vibe – albeit one tinged with Victorian gothic. The 610 rooms and suites conjure the elegant feel of historic Europe in conservative palettes of cream and beige. Some themed suites are named after world leaders, including Queen Elizabeth II, Alfred Hitchcock… and Celine Dion.
Once owned by the Guinness family, this extraordinary castle overlooks the north shore of Lough Corrib near Galway. The first fortification was built in 1228 but now most of the elaborate buildings are 18th- and 19-century additions fusing French-like château with Victorian gothic. Meticulous interiors are costume-drama perfect with oak panelling, antique furniture and vintage-style fabrics. The in-house cinema (32 red-velvet armchair seats) neatly taps the cinematic heritage of the estate – it appeared in much of John Ford’s The Quiet Man (1952) with John Wayne.
Château de la Caze, France | Courtesy of Château de la Caze, France / Expedia
Tucked into the narrow and spectacular Gorges du Tarn, by a fetching bend in the river, the 15th-century Château de la Caze was, despite appearances, never designed for defensive purposes but as an aristocrat’s honeymoon retreat. Now, 10 rooms and suites (all named after prior residents) feature mostly canopied or four-poster beds, beamed ceilings and vintage furniture, yet all feel surprisingly homely rather than overbearing. The garden has an outdoor pool.
Noted in the 11th-century Domesday Book, Amberley Castle has a venerable history spanning a chequered millennium of drama, conflicts, destruction and repairs. A picturesque castellated gateway of rounded towers along with tall curtain walls enclose the 600-year-old stone and timber manor house. The 19 uniquely configured rooms feature part-timbered ceilings and cross-hatched windows, though some have masonry-arched trefoil lights and brick fireplaces. Decor treads carefully between pared-down vintage and elegant contemporary; you can dine in the Great Room amid tapestries and suits of armour.
Taj Lake Palace, India | Courtesy of Taj Lake Palace, India / Expedia
Built in the 1740s by the Maharana of Mewar (Udaipur) as an island-summer palace in the midst of Lake Pichola, few other royal residences in Rajasthan have such romantic appeal. While an early 1970s conversion into a luxury hotel staved off ruin, reams of A-list guests and an appearance in the James Bond movie Octopussy (1983) have cemented a unique allure. Rising sheer from the lake, it has surprisingly restrained rooms overlooking the water while a handful of suites have an exotic, almost cinematic, opulence.
Originally constructed in 1499 as a rest house and hospital for pilgrims completing the Camino de Santiago in Santiago de Compostela, this is reputedly the oldest continually operating hotel in the world. For Ferdinand and Isabella, Spain’s so-called Catholic Monarchs, funding it was an act of piety. The elaborately carved, almost cathedral-like, entrance plus colonnaded courtyards with fountains and gardens lend a monumental old-world feel. Rooms and enormous suites maintain that character, with coffered ceilings and fireplaces, without being slavish.
Along the Ayrshire coast in scenic Scotland, and dating from 1777, Culzean Castle has decorated the Royal Scottish Banknote for 30 years and is rumoured to hold seven famous ghosts. It’s now a National Trust property, with six double rooms, a private dining room drawing on locally sourced produce, and you’ll wake up to a sumptuous Scottish breakfast.
Castello di Pavone, Italy | Courtesy of Castello di Pavone / Expedia
Located in the Turin province, Castello di Pavone is a medieval national monument, restored in 1888, and is believed to bring luck and prosperity to its guests. it has a range of singles, doubles and suites, including a tower suite with wonderful views of the Alps. Dinner is served in a frescoed restaurant where Piedmont specialties are the order of the day.
Once home to the son of Prithviraj Chauhan III, who fled Delhi in 1192, Neemrana Fort-Palace is the jewel of the ancient city of Neemrana in Rajasthan. Today, it’s a popular film location and is the halfway point between Jaipur and New Delhi. With 76 rooms and suites, it comes with hanging gardens, two pools, an ayurvedic spa, and even a zip line.
The Sababurg is the star of the historical Reinhardswald region, named after Sleeping Beauty’s castle in the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale. Restored in 1959 as a beautiful hotel, it also has its own theatre. Its ten rooms are in the castle’s towers, where you’ll sleep a sound as Sleeping Beauty, but without those pesky, impenetrable brambles and thorns of the fairy tale.
Built in 1835 in County Clare, Dromoland Castle was a place of residence for the famous O’Brien family. Today, this first-class hotel has its own golf course and Michelin-star restaurant, plus it has hosted many celebrity guests, including Muhammad Ali and Nelson Mandela.
Château de Bagnols has sat in the Beaujolais region, known as the country of golden stone, of France since the 13th century. The beautiful grounds include a vineyard, terrace gardens and orchard. Its rooms and suites are furnished with restored antiques and mural paintings, and the fine-dining restaurant serves traditional local cuisine with a contemporary twist.
Situated along the banks of the Danube River in the Krems-Land district, is Hotel Schloss Dürnstein, a five-star hotel that includes an art gallery and private gardens. The surrounding town of Dürnstein has a rich history, playing an important role in Austria‘s port trade since 1019.
Parador de Oropesa, Spain | Courtesy of Parador de Oropesa / Expedia
Legend has it that Hercules founded the town of Oropesa in 1716 BC – a town that the historic Parador de Oropesa has called home since 1336. In 1930, it was the first castle in Spain to be converted into the luxurious Parador it is today. Its bedrooms blend rich fabrics with antique-style furniture and modern amenities, and you’ll enjoy spectacular views from the Parador’s outdoor swimming pool.
Château de Mirambeau, France | Courtesy of Château de Mirambeau / Expedia
Located in the small town of Mirambeau, Château de Mirambeau, built in the 16th century, is a unique fort, complete with a mixture of Renaissance and medieval architectural influence. The surrounding perimeter conceals this château from the public, making its 22 rooms and private gardens a truly luxurious retreat.
Hotel de la Cité lies in the Unesco World Heritage Site of Carcassonne, a town famous for its architecture and wine-making, and with a history that goes back to 3,500 BC. Since 1909, Hotel de la Cité has allowed guests to stay in the historic fortress, in one of its deluxe, family or terrace suites.
Lucky guests are selected to stay in this invitation-only suite in Cinderella’s famous castle at the Disney World Resort, Florida. Originally meant for Walt Disney’s family before his death in 1966, this suite has its own salon, master bedrooms and beautiful marble bathroom, decorated with five-star taste and a little Disney magic.