6 Royal Castles to Call Home on Your European Honeymoon
A fairy-tale wedding deserves a similarly magical honeymoon. One way to make that happen? Head to Europe, where luxury hotels take up residence among the ballrooms, libraries, and lookout towers of centuries-old castles. You'll wake up feeling like royalty—which is the intention. The properties that you're about to see were all constructed for rich counts, decorated knights, and royal princes. And while they might not be owned by the nobility of modern day, their design, décor, amenities, and opulence would make anyone think otherwise.
When you think of history's classic castles, U.K.-inspired residences (like Kensington Palace!) come to mind. Though we absolutely included the best castles in Ireland and Wales, we were also sure to feature other popular countries you're likely to visit while abroad. Turns out, you can check into a castle virtually anywhere in Europe, including Portugal and Germany—and, regardless of where you vacation, you'll experience the past firsthand. Take the Château du Grand-Lucé, for example. Built as a summer house for a high-up baron, the 15-suite estate features the original grand hall, large enough to accommodate 18th century women in massive ball gowns.
No matter which country (or castle) you visit, the history lesson is just a bonus. The luxury and elegance (the two things conducive to a perfect married first trip!) you'll experience at each property are the main events. Give it a while—after waking up, day after day, in a vintage four-poster bed in a castle equipped with the finest amenities, you're bound to get used to the royal treatment.
Ireland: Ashford Castle
Before it became a celebrated hotel, this 13th-century estate was owned by the noble Anglo-Norman de Burgo family and Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness (yes, that Guinness). Its main fortress and wings house 83 rooms in regal shades of vermilion, champagne, and indigo; various bars and restaurants; a movie theater; and a spa. Outside are 350 acres of gardens, meadows, and storybook woods, plus a falconry school, a zip-line course, and horse stables for romantic carriage rides or leisurely trots. As the final piece in a $75 million-plus renovation, all 64 rooms at the former hunting lodge have just been renovated.
Wales: Roche Castle
To guard against a prophecy that he would die of a viper bite, Adam de Rupe—a 12th-century Norman knight—made his home inside this sandstone fortification high on a rock overlooking St. Brides Bay. (His efforts notwithstanding, the prediction came true—the stowaway snake arrived in a bundle of firewood.) Despite its impressive size, there are only six guest rooms in the castle, and their simple yet chic design goes against type: no tapestries or suits of armor here, just herringbone floors, plush king beds, and a soothing color scheme. It's all on the edge of a national park with gorgeous beaches hugging 186 miles of coastline lined with a walking path. Plus, shuttle rides are available to the nearby locavore restaurant Blas, set inside sister hotel Twr y Felin.
Germany: Althoff Grandhotel Schloss Bensberg
In the early 1700s, Prince-Elector Johann Wilhelm II of Düsseldorf had plans drawn up for a hunting lodge at the edge of the scenic Königsforst woods, overlooking Cologne. Having visited France's famed Versailles, he ordered his architects to create a place in the same glorious vein instead. Sadly, he didn't live to see the construction finished, and his widow returned to Italy without ever living there. Nearly 300 years after it was first imagined, the striking white castle opened as a 120-room hotel, anchored by Restaurant Vendôme and its three Michelin stars. If you can pull yourself from your luxurious room, the Königsforst is now a nature preserve laced with hiking trails and biking paths.
Italy: Castello di Casole, a Timbers Resort
Over the past 900 years, exiles, aristocrats, sunflower farmers, and Italian film director Luchino Visconti and his Hollywood entourage have inhabited this property, which is part of a 4,200-acre Tuscan estate 20 minutes west of Siena. Today, discerning travelers flock to what is now a 41-room hotel, perched on a hillside amid cypress trees, olive groves, Sangiovese vineyards, and a game preserve with deer, pheasant, and wild boar. Each suite is different—some have terra-cotta floors, beamed ceilings, and wrought-iron-framed beds; others, like those in the former citrus greenhouse, open out to private gardens.
France: Château du Grand-Lucé
Grand-Lucé means "great light," a fine name for a neoclassical château with plentiful windows that let in the honeyed Loire Valley sunshine. It was built in the 1760s as the summer house of Baron Jacques Pineau de Viennay. Surrounded by gardens, the estate is 45,000 square feet of macaron-colored salons, orangeries, and expansive halls built to accommodate 18th-century women donning ball gowns. Later in 2018, 15 suites with parquet floors, marble fireplaces, and soaking tubs will be available.
Portugal: Tivoli Palácio de Seteais
The palace-dotted town of Sintra is less than 20 miles from Lisbon—but a mere day trip would mean not sleeping in this storied 18th-century property, built for a Dutch consul. Ask for a tour with resident historian Vasco Serrano, who will take you from room to magnificent room and point out Gobelin silk tapestries and an antique German Steingraeber & Söhne piano (one of only a few left in the world). Throughout, hand-painted frescoes cover the walls, and nearly all the antique furniture is original. The view outside is equally breathtaking—on a clear day, you can see beyond the mountains all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. Soak it in from a poolside lounger, the sculpted garden, or the expansive patio (at sunset, cocktail in hand). And if you need yet another spot to unwind in, the property recently debuted the cozy Anantara Seteais Spa and Wellness Centre.