Europe's rich history is alive and well at these amazing hotels. Seeming to appear straight out of the history books, these castles, palaces and monasteries have been the host to some of our world's most interesting affairs.
Europe’s rich history is alive and well at these amazing hotels. Seeming to appear straight out of the history books, these castles, palaces and monasteries have been the host to some of our world’s most interesting — and sometimes notorious — affairs. Pirate Queens, famous authors, scheming politicians, and celebrities of days past and present have walked through these corridors — and now you can, too.
Solar Do Castelo Hotel
Alfama, Lisbon, Portugal
The historic Solar Do Castelo is different than any other hotel in Lisbon. The rooms are quaint (if not luxurious) and the breakfast buffet offers a ton of options for hungry guests. But the real reason tourists stay at this hotel is the location; not only is it convenient to numerous sights and neighborhoods in the city, but it is the only hotel within the walls of the medieval village surrounding St. George's Castle.
It's quiet and rich in history — the hotel has preserved a large part of the architecture, as well as adding a small museum of artifacts off of the lobby. And a real highlight is the outdoor terrace, where peacocks congregate.
None of the 14 rooms are decorated the same, and some feel more upscale than others. But all offer free Wi-Fi and plenty of charm.
Hotel Canal Grande
Santa Croce, Venice, Italy
This luxurious 22-room boutique is housed in a centuries-old palace located along the Grand Canal, near the main train station in Venice. Decadent rooms have modern amenities including flat-screen TVs and comfortable beds; but the use of rich patterns in gold and blues, the classic artwork on the walls, and the Rococo-style furniture might be a bit too much to some.
Rooms facing the canal have better views (though some have small windows), but those overlooking the lovely square are quieter. Though location is convenient for those arriving to Venice by train, the hotel is a 25-minute walk from Piazza San Marco, and it lacks a full restaurant.
Grand Hotel Baglioni
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 (though there are some awkward shower/tub combos). Both the rooftop garden and Terrazza Brunelleschi restaurant offer stunning views of Florence.
All of this comes with a hefty price tag, of course, but the convenient location and rich design make the splurge worth it for some.
Mayfair, London, England
Dukes Hotel is a pricey, prestigious 90-room boutique delivering an updated take on classic English luxury. It's quietly opulent, and features plenty of special boutique amenities, such as a cognac and cigar garden, and a Drawing Room where traditional afternoon tea is served.
The most notable feature, however, is Dukes Bar, formerly frequented by James Bond creator Ian Fleming, and the birthplace of the famous "Shaken, not stirred" line. (The bar is, naturally, famous for its martinis — but note that there's a strict dress code.)
Rooms have upscale decor that varies between room types; lower level rooms have fresh ivory and white decor, while suites blend classic and contemporary styles. All are sophisticated.
Langham Hotel London
Marylebone, London, England
One of the more notable historical hotels in London, the Langham Hotel has been around since 1865 — when it opened as the city's first purpose-built luxury hotel. Luxurious, stately, and composed, this 380-room hotel projects an air of exclusivity.
Certain amenities seem meager for a five-pearl luxury brand, however — even the “complimentary” evening champagne is offered in conservative amounts and presented with a full champagne menu, presumably to encourage extra spending. But for a certain quintessentially English air of prestige without the usual pretention, and a premier location for West End shopping, this is a good place to be. The ultra-luxurious Chuan Spa, 16-meter pool, and salt sauna don't hurt its high-end credentials either.
Comfort Hotel Grand Central
The hotel is housed in the city's original train station; there was a track just 32 feet from the current lobby until 1977. Today, it's a 170-room, colorful boutique hotel. And while the new decor is funky, original touches remain: a beautiful, classical façade; structural beams incorporated into hallways and rooms; and soaring ceilings in second-floor rooms.
The Italian restaurant, for example, occupies the original train station waiting room and has booths shaped like old-fashioned train seats. One guest suite was once the management's office — where the king would wait for his train — and an original fireplace, lamp and wallpaper all remain.
County Mayo, Ireland
Ashford Castle embodies the fantasy of the Irish castle hotel, featuring a massive historic stone facade, complete with towers and turrets; gorgeous, manicured grounds; a stunning setting on a huge lake; and common spaces that are truly grand, with rich wood paneling, chandeliers, and antique furniture. And, as any true castle hotel should, Ashford Castle has a rich history.
The Anglo-Norman de Burgo family first built a castle here in 1228, and then lost it after being defeated by the O'Connors in the 16th century. The castle passed hands many more times over the following centuries and the building went through a number of reincarnations — receiving the addition of a French-style chateau in 1715 and two Victorian wings in 1852 — before evolving into the hotel it is today.
In more recent history, the castle grounds were used as a primary filming location for the classic 1952 film The Quiet Man, which is a point of local pride.
Hotel Plaza Athenee
8th Arrondissement (Champs-Elysees), Paris, France
The world-renowned luxury hotel Plaza Athenee — a part of the Dorchester Collection — is synonymous with Parisian elegance and good taste. Iconic red awnings and chestnut trees welcome guests to the historic setting, on the upscale Avenue Montaigne with direct views of the Eiffel Tower.
It's all about luxury here, inside and out. The avenue is lined with high-end shops such as Christian Dior (guests have access to the Dior Institute for a full range of quality beauty and spa treatments), Prada and Chanel. And inside, the 146 rooms and 45 suites are decorated in classic Art Deco style with modern touches like flat-screen TVs and marble baths.
With six distinct restaurants, a large fitness center and a can't-miss daily breakfast in a leafy garden, the Plaza Athenee doesn't miss a beat. But it comes at a high price — and Wi-Fi isn't even included in that cost.
Saint James Paris
16th and 17th Arrondissements (Bois de Boulogne), Paris, France
With a sweeping private entrance surrounded by green lawns and an impressive fountain, the upscale (and historic) 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.
Sofitel Legend the Grand Amsterdam
Old Center, Amsterdam, Netherlands
The Sofitel is an upscale property in the heart of the Old Center. The building has a rich history: it has been both a 15th-century convent and a city hall. The 177 rooms are contemporary and homey (though some are on the small side) and feature Nespresso machines, flat-screen TVs, and wonderful beds. Bathrooms are sleek, and most have walk-in showers.
Hotel features include a high-end spa with indoor heated pool, a modern fitness center and Bridges Restaurant with a canal-side garden terrace for dining al fresco. Room service is on offer 24 hours a day and a kids' program includes baby toiletries and cribs.
Hotel Adlon Kempinski
Mitte, Berlin, Germany
The Hotel Adlon Kempinski is an elegant, classic hotel with a rich history. Its predecessor was one of the most popular hotels in Europe through World War II, hosting guests such as Charlie Chaplin and Josephine Baker. The original building was demolished, but after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a building inspired by the original was built on the same location near the Brandenburg Gate.
This 382-room hotel still attracts A-list clientele — this is where Michael Jackson dangled his baby son from a balcony in 2002. Luxurious rooms have heavy drapes, four-poster canopy beds, plush couches, and fresh cut roses. Marble bathrooms offer soaking tubs and heated floors.
These inviting rooms, combined with the hotel's impressive amenities — an indoor pool, full spa, fitness center, and variety of restaurants — make this one of the best picks in Berlin.
Casa Fuster Hotel
Barri de Gracia, Barcelona, Spain
The 105-room Casa Fuster is an upscale historic boutique near high-end shopping and Modernist architecture. The building itself is one of the most prominent examples of this style, with an elaborate façade and ornate marble interiors.
Elegant rooms have pastel-colored walls, oversized headboards, and great amenities such as flat-screen TVs, free Wi-Fi, Loewe toiletries, and surround-sound stereo systems. Some even have small in-room saunas, balconies and hydro-massage showers. But quarters can be tight, and king-size beds are really two smaller beds pushed together.
Hotel features include a Mediterranean restaurant as well as a beautiful rooftop deck with a small pool and gorgeous panoramic views of Barcelona. Beautiful Café Vienes is a favorite among artists, intellectuals and locals, and its weekly jazz nights have performers such as Woody Allen and the New Orleans Rag Trio.
Paquis Navigation, Geneva, Switzerland
Hotel d’Angleterre is one of Geneva’s grand dames, popular among diplomats and well-heeled travelers for its gorgeous views and opulent accommodations. It offers a convenient location right on the shores of Lake Geneva — near shopping, dining, attractions and public transportation — and high-end amenities such as in-room spa treatments, an acclaimed bar and a wonderful restaurant with superb views and a popular afternoon tea service.
The hotel’s 39 luxurious rooms and nine suites all feature pillow menus, iPod docks, interactive TVs, free Wi-Fi, and original artworks. But while some offer stunning lake and mountain views, others face the building next door and are a little small.
You’ve seen 13 of the best historic hotels in Europe; now see the remaining 11 hotels.