30 Castles You Can Stay In (Yes, Really!)

By Adrienne McIlvaineLast Updated Apr 2, 2020 5:24:06 PM ET
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Sometimes you plan a trip to visit a family member, or place you’ve always wanted to go. But what if you planned a vacation around the kind of place you wanted to stay in, like a castle? We’re talking turrets, ramparts and acres of private gardens. There are hundreds of castles in Europe and elsewhere that have been converted to fully functioning hotels designed to offer a social-media ready experience for any occasion.

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From a private residence in a fortified city on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea to an ancestral seat of nobility in northern England, these castles bring history to life for a trip you’ll never forget. 

The Xara Palace

This 17th-century palace in the heart of Mdina, the ancient capital of Malta, is the epitome of a luxury getaway. Originally built within the fortified walls of Mdina as the private residence of the wealthy Moscati Parisio family, the Xara Palace was converted into a hotel in 1999. It boasts 17 elegantly appointed rooms filled with medieval details, panoramic views, en suite Jacuzzis and antique furnishings.

The hotel features a number of bars and restaurants perfect for a drink or meal after a day exploring the charming city, including a fine dining Mediterranean restaurant set atop the hotel’s defensive walls and an al fresco spot nestled in a quiet palazzo. There’s also a five-star concierge service that can arrange any number of local food and wine tours or spa excursions. And Game of Thrones fans will love the fact that the popular HBO show used the ancient city as the filming location for the fictional capital of King’s Landing.

Kasteel Wurfeld

Drive a few hours east of Antwerp, Belgium, and you’ll come to the small town of Maaseik, home to the stately hotel Kasteel Wurfeld. The 33-room hotel was originally the private residence of brothers Willem and Jacob Croll, who served as clerics and founded a nearby Roman Catholic church. Take a leisurely stroll around the picturesque gardens, its charming water features and tranquil ponds, or take in the sunset on the covered terrace; either way, Kasteel Wurfeld is perfect for a quiet getaway or special occasion.

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Packages cater to a variety of travelers, and offer special including bicycling/walking tours, dining experiences, and events on major holidays like Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Visitors have access to a host of modern amenities like Wi-Fi, TV, and radio while still enjoying the relaxed atmosphere and period details of the nearly 400-year-old castle. 

Swinton Estate

There’s so much to do at the Swinton Estate that you may wind up having to extend your trip. The sprawling country estate, which has been owned by the same family since the 1880s, boasts not only a castle-turned-luxury hotel, but an award-winning culinary school, a modern spa and a rural outpost known as Bivouac, where guests can enjoy a luxury camping experience in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales. If you’ve ever watched Downton Abbey and marveled at the lavish lifestyles of the English aristocracy, Swinton Estate is a must-visit destination.

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The 20,000-acre compound, which once claimed prestige as the seat of the Earl of Swinton, delivers the ultimate in contemporary luxury with a classic twist; you can book a romantic getaway in the circular confines of the Turret suite, or take in views of the lake and surrounding parkland from the posh York suite. Samuel’s, the hotel’s fine dining restaurant, offers a critically acclaimed seasonal menu inspired by the herbs and produce grown in the estate’s massive walled garden; guests can also take afternoon tea either in the spacious drawing room or out on the lawn. 

Kronovall Castle

This meticulously preserved 19th-century castle in southeastern Sweden is an ideal location for couples looking for a romantic getaway or dream wedding, or wine geeks and foodies looking to expand their palate. Known as the “Wine Castle,” Kronovall Castle prides itself on delivering world-class service in a fine-dining program that focuses on seasonal, local ingredients paired with wines from their impressive cellar.

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Each of the 15 rooms at Kronovall is named after a different variety of grape and features period details like oversized windows and antique furniture (in keeping with authenticity, these rooms are serviced by shared bathrooms). Separate villas close by the main castle feature private bathrooms and equally impressive architecture. A typical stay at Kronovall includes afternoon tea in the library, a guided tour of the grounds, numerous wine tastings and a five-course meal topped off with local truffles. 

Amberley Castle

History buffs will want to book a stay Amberley Castle in West Sussex, England, a humble 7th-century lodge-turned-fortified castle that housed English troops and changed hands many times over before finding new life as a hotel in 1989. But its stony exterior belies its reputation as a luxury destination for Britons looking for a quick trip out of the city (the castle is just 60 miles from London) and international travelers looking to enjoy a bit of European history.

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Each of the 19 rooms at Amberley boasts high-end linens, period decor and furnishings, and impressive views of the grounds and manor house; some even include Whirlpool tubs and private lounge areas. Stone arches and a koi pond highlight the lush beauty of the castle’s 12-acre garden, where guests can enjoy a quiet afternoon tea. There’s also a tennis court, croquet meadow and regulation 18-hole golf course.

Castello delle Quattro Torra

Tucked away in the Tuscan countryside, Castello delle Quattro Torra is a wonderfully preserved piece of Italian history that has been in the same family since the 1880s. Surrounded by olive groves that give it a secluded feel despite being just minutes away from several nearby towns, this quaint bed and breakfast is the perfect romantic getaway.

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Castello delle Quattro Torra features several lodging options that will transport you back in time. There’s a cozy apartment with a full kitchen and private entrance overlooking the open-air courtyard; a grand master suite in the castle tower with an incredible view of the countryside; and a spacious room with cathedral ceilings and original brickwork. Ample parking and easy access to local restaurants, bars, and attractions ensure guests have the best of both worlds. 

Langley Castle

Originally built in the 14th century as part of a grand defensive settlement, Langley Castle laid in ruins before being restored in the late 1880s. Nearly a hundred years later it transformed once again, this time into a lavish hotel that offers guests an unparalleled luxury experience deep in the Northern England countryside.

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The castle’s rooms are divided between the castle proper and an extension known as Castle View and are named after famous local figures with a connection to Langley Castle. Four-poster beds, seven-foot-high windows and a host of other thoughtful details are common throughout, with some also containing spa-like bathrooms and wood-burning fireplaces. Daily guided tours bring the castle’s rich history to life; afterward, enjoy an afternoon tea in the Great Drawing Room to really feel like you’ve traveled back in time. 

Thornbury Castle

Built in Glouchestershire, England, sometime around the 10th century, Thornbury Castle was owned at various points by William the Conqueror and (briefly) Henry VIII. It went into private ownership in the late 19th century and is now a world-class luxury hotel that connects England’s past to its present.

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There’s no shortage of luxurious amenities at Thornbury Castle, which is located just outside of Bristol, England. Ornately carved ceilings, four-poster beds, detailed tapestries and other antique details are sure to make even the shortest of stays feel like a royal visit. The acclaimed restaurant uses produce and other greenery from its large and well-tended garden, and fresh-baked scones and pastries round out a classic afternoon tea. And an on-site spa offers a variety of pampering treatments. 

Glenapp Castle

The lush Scottish countryside provides an idyllic backdrop to Glenapp Castle, located on the southeastern coast of Scotland, two hours from Glasglow. Designed on commission by the famed architect David Bryce, the castle is a well-preserved example of Bryce’s unique mixture of Gothic and Renaissance styles that give the hotel a dreamy, romantic feel perfect for weddings, special occasions and weekend getaways.

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The castle’s 14 rooms are spread out across four floors and offer spectacular views of the coastline, expansive gardens and wooded landscape. Ornate fireplaces and luxury details round out the plush setting. Guests are free to explore the 36-acre compound, play a round of croquet or settle in for a night of stargazing at the observatory. A multi-course tasting menu and full afternoon tea highlight the castle’s five-star hospitality. 

Barcaldine Castle

As remote as it is romantic, Barcaldine Castle in Oban, Scotland, is an ideal destination for couples weekends, birthdays or any special occasion. The castle, which dates back to the early 1600s, is ideally situated on the shores of Loch Creran for stunning views and easy access to the nearby isles of Mull, Iona and Staffa.

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Each of the six rooms features a custom design and a relaxing and romantic atmosphere.There’s French furniture, exposed stonework and other luxury details. Massive windows allow you to take in the dramatic Scottish landscape from every angle, and the en-suite bathrooms come with a host of high-end amenities. The hotel is also noted for its fine dining restaurant that offers afternoon tea and sources its fish and produce from local fisherman and farmers.

Chȃteau de Tennessus

Entering Castle Tennessus is like stepping into a fairy tale — guests must first cross the working drawbridge and moat to reach this imposing medieval fortress in the southwest French province of Poitou-Charentes. The castle survived years of neglect and several times came close to being demolished, but the devoted owners have gone to incredible lengths to preserve the historical decor and atmosphere of this castle.

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The grand chȃteaux features five rooms that range from merely opulent to truly regal. The King’s Chamber, which occupies the top floor, features an impressive stone walkway and beamed ceilings, while the intimate Watch Tower comes with a copper bathtub and hand-painted wallpaper. Signs of the castle’s former life as a defensive fortress can be seen in the arrow slits that line the walls. Visitors are free to take a lazy boat ride in the moat and swim in the plunge pool. They can make their stay even more memorable with a variety of add-on packages. 

Hotel Schloss Thannegg

This incredibly charming castle in the heart of the Austrian Alps is ideal for just about any type of vacation. Winter sports enthusiasts will love its easy access to skiing, snowboarding and hiking (the castle is centrally located in the famous Ski Amadé region) while couples and families looking for a unique getaway will enjoy the castle’s chic decor and scenic views.

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Hotel Schloss Thannegg features a mix of cozy couples rooms, family-friendly suites and apartment-style accommodations with details like Swiss pine beds, radiant floor heating and mountain spring showers. A free shuttle bus runs during the winter to nearby ski mountains and other sports complexes, which guests can enjoy for free with a special pass that comes complimentary with every stay.

Château de Mirambeau

The story of this neo-Gothic medieval fortress just outside Bordeaux, France, is a familiar one — built in the 11th century, it survived years of war and ruin and changed ownership many times. After a massive renovation in 2002, Château de Mirambeau reopened as a five-star spa hotel that prides itself on its incredible hospitality and celebrated location in French wine country.

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Each of the 40 rooms is furnished in the finest French antique furniture and accents and offers sweeping views of either the lush countryside or the swimming pool and private gardens. Once you’ve checked in, visit the cognatheque, a unique bar dedicated to cognac and wine tastings, before heading to dinner for a seasonal tasting menu that comes with a variety of options like a cheese course. 

Parador de Sigüenza

A short drive away from Madrid lies Parador de Sigüenza, an impressive medieval castle that was built atop an ancient Roman settlement and offers guests a mix of contemporary luxury and traditional Spanish culture. Take in a relaxing treatment at the hotel’s full-service spa or explore the town’s many cathedrals and chapels; either way, a stay at the Parador de Sigüenza is sure to be a memorable one.

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Each of the rooms is fully furnished in traditional Castilian style that highlights the hotel’s ancient roots. There are many hidden courtyards and secluded spaces within the castle walls, and some rooms even have private balconies and terraces. When you’re ready to go exploring, the Rio Dulce National Park is minutes away and offers sustainable tours of the protected nature reserve.

Castel Monastero

Some vacations are for getting outdoors and pushing yourself to the limit, and some are for eating delicious food, drinking great wine and heading to the spa every day. If it’s the latter you’re in search of, look no further than Castel Monastero. This former monastery in the Tuscan countryside combines rustic charm with luxury amenities and service for the vacation of a lifetime.

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This 11th-century castle takes its rustic charm and updates it with soothing colors, crisp linens and unbeatable views of the famed Tuscan landscape from floor-to-ceiling windows. Spend an afternoon exploring the historic medieval village that surrounds Castel Monastero, then refresh with a dip in the spa’s specially designed saline pool or by enjoying any one of its pampering treatments. Finish the day with an authentic meal at Contrada, the hotel’s upscale restaurant. 

Ashford Castle

Vacations are for living life to the fullest, and a stay at this luxurious castle in western Ireland ensures you’ll do just that. Formerly owned by the Guinness family (yes, like the beer), Ashford Castle sits on a sprawling 35 acres where guests partake in everything from falconry and horseback riding to golf and fishing. If the great outdoors aren’t calling your name, the five-star hotel features a high-end spa with steam rooms, a relaxation pool and Hammam. So what are you waiting for?

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As befits a castle owned by one of the wealthiest families in Ireland, everything about Ashford Castle is elegantly excessive. There are four main dining rooms ranging from ultra-formal (George V) to more casual affairs (Cullan’s at the Cottage), with afternoon tea served in an elegant salon. Guests can choose from 83 rooms that embody the luxurious history of the hotel with contemporary amenities like cable TV, Bluetooth speakers, and 400-thread count Egyptian cotton linens. 

Dromoland Castle

This 1,000-year-old castle in County Clare brings together Irish history with modern luxury for a vacation you’ll never want to end. Guests at Dromoland Castle can partake in a host of country estate activities like clay shooting and archery, then freshen up at the spa before enjoying a five-course tasting menu under a glittering chandelier at Earl of Thomond, Dromoland’s seasonal flagship restaurant. From its elegantly appointed rooms to sweeping vistas, the castle offers guests an authentic Irish experience like no other.

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Choosing a room at Dromoland is a challenge since each of the 98 rooms offers a different luxury experience: the Brian Boru Suite is named after one of the castle’s oldest inhabitants and features views of Dromoland Lough, while the golden Queen Anne suites overlook the estate gardens. And despite the focus on heritage, there are plenty of modern details, too. Each room comes with a Nespresso coffeemaker and American-style electrical sockets. 

Backaskog Castle

Located in the south of Sweden, Backaskog Castle dates back to the 13th century, when it served as a monastery. The feeling of quiet contemplation still lingers at the castle and offers guests a relaxing getaway from the stress of modern life. With easy access to a host of outdoor activities and a variety of lodging options, Backaskog Castle is perfect for a low-key weekend getaway.

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Guests can choose among 54 rooms in the castle proper, where the rooms feature charming stonework and private bathrooms in sections with names like Hops Hall and Klostergarden; or stay in the nearby bed and breakfast, where 11 rooms share bathing facilities and a common kitchen. There are also several group-friendly suites with living areas. A complimentary breakfast buffet is provided in the castle to all guests. 

Pousada do Castelo de Óbidos

It’s not quite one of the Seven Wonders of the World, but this grand castle near the coast of Portugal is considered one of the most magnificent in the entire country. And the story behind it is straight out of a fairy tale: The castle was a gift from King Dinis to his bride, Queen Santa Isabel on their wedding day, making a stay at the Pousada do Castelo de Óbidos a truly royal affair.

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The 700-year-old castle boasts 11 rooms (each named after a different Portuguese king or queen) with period decor, antique furniture and (something they definitely didn’t have back in King Dinis’ day) QR codes that offer guests detailed information on the room’s name royal. Cable TV, central heating and free Wi-Fi make your stay as modern as can be. The castle offers a variety of outdoor excursions, like boating and stand-up paddling, and also features an upscale restaurant with panoramic views. 

Schönburg Castle

Built high atop a cliff overlooking the Rhine River, Schönburg Castle, in the 14th century, once housed as many as 250 people. Centuries later it burnt to the ground but was rebuilt in the early 1900s. Now it’s a third-generation, family-owned hotel that offers guests incredible views of the nearby river, a grand castle garden, and authentic German cuisine in the heart of the Rhine Valley.

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The castle’s 25 rooms pay tribute to its storied heritage with dramatic details like chandeliers and private balconies overlooking the river. Each guest receives a welcome glass of sherry upon arrival and has exclusive access to the well-tended private garden. And don’t forget to check out the charming museum that tells the history of the castle!

Hotel Castle Liebenstein

This impressive 13th-century medieval castle overlooking the Rhine River is notable for several reasons (as if the fact that it’s a 13th-century medieval castle wasn’t enough!). First, the family-owned and operated Hotel Castle Liebenstein in TK, is the highest elevated castle in the historic Rhine River Valley. It’s also designated as part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, which means there’s plenty of activities and places to explore in and around the castle grounds.

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In keeping with the medieval history of the castle, every room is decorated in period style with ornately carved beds and furniture, paintings, and tapestries. Most rooms offer a view of the river. There aren’t any TVs to be found on the grounds, but guests can look up information on the area’s many day tours and activities using the hotel’s free Wi-Fi. 

Fort Bishangarh

Easily accessible from the major Indian cities of Delhi and Jaipur, Fort Bishangarh is a stunning blend of art and architecture. The 230-year-old military fortress cuts an imposing figure above the rural Rajasthani landscape and offers guests a luxury escape with custom-designed rooms and suites, a full spa (housed in the fortress’ former dungeons), pool and a host of bars, gourmet restaurants, and other areas to relax and unwind.

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Every room at Fort Bishangarh is designed for maximum rest and relaxation, with luxury bedding, spacious open areas and grand views of the countryside and mountains. Cool marble and bright colors highlight the hotel’s open areas, which lead out onto the banquet lawn (a popular wedding destination). Guests have the opportunity to explore the surrounding area through excursions such as horseback riding. 

Beau-Rivage Palace

If you’re going to stay in a centuries-old European castle, you should really pull out all the stops. Beau-Rivage Palace sits on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland and spares no expense on providing its guests with a five-star hotel experience that is recognized as one of the best in the world. From its two Michelin-starred restaurants to its internationally-inspired Cinq Mondes spa, Beau-Rivage is a true European luxury experience.

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The palace, which dates back to 1861, recently underwent an extensive two-year renovation, offers a variety of classically-decorated and well-appointed rooms that offer guests either views of the gorgeous Lake Geneva, vistas of the famed Alps, or a clear view of the nearby town of Lausanne. There are 10 different restaurants and bars to choose from, from the French gastronomy of Anne-Sophie Pic to the Japanese-inspired Miyako Lausanne, including a cafe in the spa. For an extra special occasion, book one of the many luxurious packages that bring together the best the hotel has to offer. 

Ballyfin

Tucked away at the base of the Slieve Bloom Mountains in central Ireland lies Ballyfin, a historic Regency country estate famed for its lavish style and idyllic location. Nature lovers will enjoy strolling the estate’s massive walled garden, which features a medieval tower and natural landscaping, while sporty types have a variety of estate activities to choose from, including fishing in the estate lake, tennis, and air rifle target shooting. If you can dream it, Ballyfin can make it happen.

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There are only 20 rooms on the entire estate, which makes a stay at Ballyfin a truly private experience. Each room is lavishly decorated to give guests a taste of the aristocratic luxury enjoyed by the Coote family, who called Ballyfin home for over 100 years, and guests are free to explore the opulent saloon, elegant drawing room and magnificent library at the heart of the hotel (see if you can find the hidden Conservatory accessible only through a secret door!)

Adare Manor

Recently renovated and restored to its late-19th-century glory, the Neo-Gothic Adare Manor combines its long Irish history with contemporary luxury for a one-of-a-kind vacation. The manor house was modeled after the grand cathedrals of Europe and features classic staterooms, regal suites, upscale restaurants and bars, and a heated indoor pool and fitness center with a luxury spa. No matter how long you stay, it won’t be long enough to take in everything this sprawling Irish estate has to offer.

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Whiskey lovers, rejoice; the Tack Room boasts an impressive collection of over 100 rare bottles of scotch, bourbon and Japanese whiskeys, but the real attraction is its well-curated selection of Irish whiskey. Settle in for a drink after a long afternoon of estate activities, including fishing and golf on its award-winning golf course. 

Dalhousie Castle

There’s no elevator in this 700-year-old Scottish castle, which means you’ll have to explore its grand rooms and postcard-perfect turrets on foot. Dalhousie is one of Scotland’s oldest continuously inhabited castles and was the home of the powerful Ramsay Clan for many years before it was transformed into a luxury retreat that welcomes guests with exceptional hospitality and a host of activities and amenities.

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Guests can choose to stay in one of the many well-appointed rooms in the castle itself, ranging from spacious castle rooms and suites to themed rooms that honor the influential figures of Dalhousie’s long history. Falconry, archery and other classic estate sports are available for those seeking a sporty vacation, while a full-service spa offers incredible rest and relaxation. The sprawling grounds, with views of the nearby River Esk, and award-winning dining make this a popular wedding destination.

Kasbah Angour

This Berber castle overlooks the vibrant city of Marrakech from its perch in the scenic Atlas Mountains. Kasbah Angour lets visitors experience life as it was in ancient times. Since opening its doors in 2011, guests have flocked to Kasbah Angour for its impeccable Moroccan design and sustainable approach to tourism. The hotel employs many local Berber residents on its staff and utilizes experienced local guides for many of its unique excursions.

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The boutique hotels’ 25 rooms are divided into four categories that range from south-facing rooms with clear mountain views and private terraces to deluxe suites with spacious living areas and private entrance halls. Morocco’s temperate climate lets guests enjoy the pool year-round, and the landscaped grounds are perfect for afternoon strolls and evening walks. After a full day of exploring the nearby mountains on camelback or shopping in the local souk (market), enjoy a traditional Moroccan meal at Le Grand Atlas restaurant or a drink at the outdoor cafe. 

Lucknam Park

Michelin-starred restaurant? Check. Luxury spa with more treatments, facials and therapeutic treatments than can be reasonably enjoyed in one visit? An equestrian facility that caters to novice and experienced riders? Check. Lucknam Park, an idyllic country estate located a few hours west of London in the Bath countryside, transports its guests to the heyday of castle country living with fine dining and a luxurious atmosphere that has to be experienced to be believed.

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The estate dates back to 1720 and was a private residence until the late 1980s; it includes 42 rooms in the manor house, a dozen luxury suites, and for those who want a truly private retreat, a secluded stone “Keeper’s Cottage” that’s a short walk from the main estate. One of the most unique aspects of Lucknam Park is the on-site cooking school, where guests can sharpen their culinary skills under the instruction of the hotel’s head chef. 

Fortaleza do Guincho

Situated on the eastern coast of Portugal, this lavish castle resort is ideal for travelers seeking a luxurious seaside vacation. Fortaleza do Guincho boasts over half a dozen courtyards perfect for taking in the fresh air of the Atlantic Ocean, and its restaurants and bars are world-renowned; the flagship dining room holds one Michelin star for its hyper-local, seasonal menu that blends traditional Portuguese ingredients with classic French techniques.

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Guests can choose to rest in any of the comfortably appointed first-floor rooms that feature grand views of the ocean, or take in the landscape from the private balcony in the junior suite. Every room comes fully equipped with complimentary wireless Internet, full turn-down service every night, and a host of other five-star amenities. The hotel also offers a full range of special packages designed to make your stay even more memorable. 

Häckeberga Castle

Moats and drawbridges are ways to ensure your castle is kept private and protected, but the builders of Häckeberga Castle in Sweden took things one step further by constructing this 19th century, French Renaissance-inspired castle on its own private island. Castle guests have exclusive access to the nature reserve where the island is located, making a trip to Häckeberga the ideal setting for quiet relaxation.

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Easily accessible from major southern cities Malmö, Lund, and Copenhagen, Häckeberga Castle features chic custom-designed rooms available in the castle proper and a recently constructed addition known as Jaktpaviljongen. The seasonally-focused restaurant holds daily afternoon tea and contains a wide-ranging list of local wines and beer, several gourmet tasting courses and other specialty offerings.