Castle Hotels in Europe

Alnwick Castle and the Lions Bridge
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The Terrace at Château De La Treyne (left) overhangs the Dordogne River and provides an ideal setting for dinner.
The Terrace at Château De La Treyne overhangs the Dordogne River and provides an ideal setting for dinner.

Nothing conjures the European fairytale more than an overnight stay at a castle hotel. From Poland to Portugal, age-old castles have been converted into luxurious hotels where guests are invited to rule the roost and play the monarch — if only for a night or two.

France has perfected the art of castle hotel hospitality — with a plethora of chateaux dotting the countryside. One of the most noteworthy of these regal stays is the Domaine des Etangs, which opened in June 2015 in the off-the-path countryside of the Poitou-Charentes region. Previously the home of French oil tycoon Didier Primat, the turreted castle dates to the 11th century. After the billionaire’s death in 2008, daughter Garance devoted the past seven years to transforming the 850-acre country estate into a playground for bon vivants.

The Domaine des Etangs offers a singular hotel experience. The estate grounds boast Gallo-Roman baths, a spiral-shaped kitchen garden, a spa housed in a former mill and Eden-like gardens designed by famed landscape architect Camille Muller. The castle décor by architect Isabelle Stanislas is straight out of a design magazine: a striking mélange of antiques and contemporary art and furnishings. Careful attention was paid to accentuate the historic architectural details.

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Domaine des Etangs has seven suites and seven stand-alone farm cottages.
Domaine des Etangs has seven suites and seven stand-alone farm cottages.

A member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, the Domaine des Etangs is expected to earn a five-star hotel rating from Atout France. There are only seven suites and seven stand-alone farm cottages; the crème de la crème is the Vénus Suite, which is located in the South Tower. Elegantly furnished with Second Empire furniture, this sprawling suite has a lounge and bedroom with sweeping views over the grounds. For VIP reservations, contact Manager Françoise Limoges ([email protected]; 011-33-545-618-500).

Two hours south, the Dordogne is known for its dramatic clifftop châteaux, fortified medieval hamlets and prehistoric cave paintings in the famous Lascaux caves. Also known as the Périgord, this region is celebrated for its excellent cuisine which highlights the local bounty (truffles, walnuts, and foie gras). A popular pastime is canoeing the Dordogne, as each bend in the river gives way to another astonishing attraction, like the village of La Roque Gageac, carved from the cliffs flanking the currents. Here in the Dordogne, the Château de la Treyne features a dramatic riverside setting. Perched on a cliff overlooking the Dordogne just a few miles from Rocamadour, this castle-hotel — a member of Relais & Châteaux — is owned and managed by Philippe and Stéphanie Gombert. (Mr. Gombert is secretary general of Relais & Châteaux.)

Schloss Fuschl, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa has hosted a revolving roster of royalty and film stars to its lakeside location outside Salzburg.

Built between the 14th and 17th centuries, the castle has 17 rooms and suites, individually decorated with period furniture and equipped with contemporary conveniences like free Wi-Fi and Jacuzzi tubs. The top digs are the three master suites: Dordogne, La Favorite and Prison Dorée (“Golden Prison”), located at the top of the 14th-century Square Tower. Another stand-out room is Soleil Levant, adorned with stained glass windows and ceiling frescos because of its location in the former chapel. For dramatic river views, book the Louis XIII Junior Suite. Contact Coralie Quere ([email protected]; 011-33-565-276-060), head of reception, for reservations.

You could spend all day lounging in luxury — there’s an outdoor heated pool and a tennis court — but if you wish to explore the surrounding region, the hotel can arrange a number of excursions, like canoeing, horseback riding and hot-air balloon rides over the Dordogne valley.

Château de la Treyne’s old-world-style dining room, Salon Louis XIII, has a huge fireplace and tall French windows, and all its tables are set with candelabras.
Château de la Treyne’s old-world-style dining room, Salon Louis XIII, has a huge fireplace and tall French windows, and all its tables are set with candelabras.

Don’t miss a meal at the chateau’s Michelin-starred restaurant. Foodies are known to make a pilgrimage for a taste of Chef Stéphane Andrieux’s cooking, a sublime showcase of local flavors (seasonal asparagus, fresh-caught fish, milk-fed Corrèze veal). A must-order is the Millefeuille of beef and foie gras, served with puréed potatoes and a red wine sauce.

In Austria, the Schloss Fuschl, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa has welcomed a revolving roster of royalty and film stars to its dreamy lakeside location 20 minutes outside Salzburg. The castle was first built in 1461 as a private hunting lodge for Prince-Archbishop Sigmund I of Gleink-Volkensdorf, and it later served as the backdrop for the opening scenes of “The Sound of Music,” the beloved film which is 50 years old this year. Schloss Fuschl was also the famous film set for the “Sissi” movies — the 1950s trilogy starring actress Romy Schneider which depicted the life of the Empress Elisabeth of Austria, known to her family as “Sissi.” (The castle witnessed darker days when the Nazi regime took it over during WWII. And a post-war rumor claimed that Nazi looted gold was hidden at the bottom of the lake. It was never recovered.)

Domaine des Etangs has Gallo-Roman baths, a spiral-shaped kitchen garden, a spa housed in a former mill and gardens designed by famed landscape architect Camille Muller.
Château de la Treyne’S La Favorite Suite (here) is decorated with period furniture and equipped with conveniences like a Jacuzzi tub.

Schloss Fuschl, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa has 110 rooms including eight Tower Suites and six Lakeside Cottages. Each comes with a complimentary minibar, free Wi-Fi and sweeping views over the sparkling waters of Lake Fuschl. The best views can be admired from the Lakeside cottages, as they boast private sun terraces in a secluded waterfront location. Housed in the historic castle tower, the seven Tower Suites are straight out of the Old World, furnished with antiques and paintings by the Old Masters. The Sissi Suite is quite popular because of its film connection.

For a truly regal experience, book the Mozart Suite, a palatial two-story Presidential Suite encompassing 2,260 square feet. Designed with a high stucco ceiling and oak parquet flooring, the Mozart Suite comes with a living room, executive boardroom and a small kitchen. Stand-out features include the private sauna, fireplace, balconies and sun terrace to take in the vistas. For VIP bookings, travel agents can reach out to Krisztina Krierer ([email protected]; 011-43-6229-2372-2548), director of sales & marketing. 

Schloss Fuschl Spa is spread over 11,840 square feet, and includes facilities like a pool, sauna, steam room and a fitness area.
Schloss Fuschl Spa is spread over 11,840 square feet, and includes facilities like a pool, sauna, steam room and a fitness area.

The Schloss restaurant highlights local cuisine like freshly caught fish from the castle’s own fishery. Don’t miss the homemade Fuschl Torte at the Schloss Bar. Additional facilities include a cigar lounge, ballroom and event space, indoor pool, gym and the spa overlooking the lake. In need of a reboot? The ne plus ultra of spa experiences: a massage on the private bathing jetty on Lake Fuschl. Conclude your spa experience with a soak in the outdoor Jacuzzi where you can relax and appreciate the scenery.

Activities run the gamut from teeing off on the 9-hole golf course next door to lake excursions on the resort’s electric boats. (Motor boats are not allowed on Lake Fuschl.) The concierge team can also arrange chauffeured outings in a vintage Rolls Royce to explore the Sound of Music countryside. Contact Head Concierge Norbert Strambach ([email protected]; 011-43-6229-2253-1555).

Domaine des Etangs has Gallo-Roman baths, a spiral-shaped kitchen garden, a spa housed in a former mill and gardens designed by famed landscape architect Camille Muller.
Domaine des Etangs has Gallo-Roman baths, a spiral-shaped kitchen garden, a spa housed in a former mill and gardens designed by famed landscape architect Camille Muller.

ADVISOR INSIGHT

Colombe McCarthy, director of the European Division at Destinations & Adventures International in Beverly Hills, has a number of recommendations for European castle hotels.

“Possibly my favorite is Chateau de Bagnols (www.chateaudebagnols.com) outside of Lyon. After a few rocky years from a management point of view, they are back on track. It’s a perfect mix: a historically authentic 15th-century structure and a deluxe hotel. Go in June when you can leisurely gorge on cherries from its huge cherry orchard — a classified historic garden.

“The Pousada Castelo Óbidos (www.pestana.com/uk/hotel/pousada-obidos) in Portugal is another great castle hotel in the walls of the Obidos Castle! For those who are fit, you can make the climb and walk the impressive walls.

“The village is beautiful, and there is an excellent restaurant. For a couple of nights, this is an excellent stop for sightseeing between Lisbon and Porto. Even though it is a great tourist destination, it’s not mobbed.

“Finally, Castello del Nero is a must-stay in the Chianti countryside with a Michelin star restaurant and a fantastic spa.”

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