5 Best Places in Europe to Visit:
For Those Wanting to Experience a Piece of History

While enthusiastic vacationers may travel to Europe’s bustling cities, towns, and villages as much for the food and nightlife as they do for the culture. For most, there are fewer items at the top of a European checklist than a visit to one of the tens of thousands of castles, villas, chateaus, monasteries, or churches. If this speaks to you—and if you’re already here, we think it does—then staying overnight in a piece of history might just be your thing. But really, if you could stay in an 800-year-old castle, wouldn’t you?

With so many churches across Europe and a decline in attendance across the globe, it’s not surprising that creative entrepreneurs are coming up with solutions to utilize the many empty cathedrals, monasteries, and nunneries spanning the continent.

Check out this luxury boutique hotel in Mechelen, only twenty minutes outside of Antwerp. Once a church, Martin’s Patershof Hotel has been recently converted and upgraded into a 79-room luxury hotel. While most of the rooms are located in the attached monastery, the restaurant and bar take shape inside the church itself.

Aside from the modern amenities all rooms at Martin’s Patershof offer, each room has its distinctive charm, original to the 19th-century neo-Gothic building. In many of the rooms, natural light filters in through beautiful stained-glass windows, encased by stone arches. They really are a sight to behold. If you’re looking for a unique experience in Belgium, this short drive from Antwerp should certainly be atop any traveler’s list.

Travel tip: When booking, request The Best of Home Suite. This large, opulent suite pulls out all the stops; guests are treated to an ornate, spacious room with a private jacuzzi tub, bathrobes and complimentary bottle of champagne, a desk and lounging area, and, of course, some very impressive stained-glass windows and stone columns.

Sunshine, Cliffs, Spas… and a four-hundred-year-old monastery!

Monastero Santa Rosa hotel & Spa

There are very few destinations that tick off as many items as the Monastero Santa Rosa. With incredible views and an exquisite atmosphere, nestled high above the Amalfi coast in western Italy, you’d never believe that this priceless location once belonged to a group of Dominican cloistered nuns.

Built-in the 17th century, the monastery/convent operated for over a century and became a well-established part of the local culture. After being recognized for its architectural beauty, location, and exquisite potential, the Monastero Santa Rosa was converted into the luxury five-star hotel it is today. Arguably located in one of the best places in Europe to visit, travelers flock, year-round to rest, relax, and maybe take a dip in the vast infinity pool.

While the historic setting is reason enough to visit the hotel, the spa will keep you there for days on end.

Travel tip: Naples is just a mere hour-long drive up the Italian coast, so definitely add that to your itinerary. Stop in Pompeii along the way and spend the day immersed in Italian history and culture, without having to venture too far. When booking, check out the ‘day in Pompeii’ add-on if you’re not keen on making the plans yourself.

Notable mention: The Convento do Espinheiro in Portugal is an awe-inspiring luxurious wonder to visit. In fact, the monastery was built on a popular pilgrimage site in the mid-fifteenth century. This modernized hotel is seeped in luxury and amenities for couples, families, and pet lovers alike.

Travel tip: if you’re only passing through, make sure you visit at night. The white-washed exterior almost glows in the night sky.

Best German Castle Turned Hotel

Colmberg Castle, Germany

It’s impossible to talk about European castles and not mention Germany—we tried, really. With over 25,000 (yes, thousand) castles still standing in the country, tourists looking for a luxurious stay where they can literally feel like royalty will not be disappointed. With so many castles to choose from, which castle made the cut? While the top of every best European castle list is the Neuschwanstein Castle near Munich, this impressive fairy tale castle is, unfortunately, open only for tours.

But if you’re wanting to stay overnight inside a German castle, then we recommend checking out the Colmberg Castle Hotel in Bavaria. Built over a thousand years ago, this medieval castle boasts all the brooding charm you might expect of a millennia-old hotel with the updated warmth of modern accommodations, hospitality, and plumbing of a twenty-first-century four-star hotel.

While in Colmberg, explore the quaint town either on foot or by bicycle. The town itself is a historic timestamp, surrounded by Bavarian forests and country hospitality that tourists flock to visit each year. If hiking or cycling isn’t for you but you still want to get outside, there’s a four-star golf course located at the base of the castle. See, there’s something for everyone!

Travel tip: when booking, request the Tower Guard Suite. This private two-floor suite provides weary travelers with a unique experience, nestled high above the surrounding landscape.

A Charming Stable turned Hotel with a World-Class View

Chateau de Chambord

If you’re looking for a fairy-tale setting with a storied past, the Loire Valley in Western France is a stop you cannot miss. Commonly known as the Garden of France, the Loire Valley spans a 280 km area around the Loire River. Known as much for the delectable wines as it is for the sprawling chateaus, much of the region has been given UNESCO heritage status and is widely regarded as one of the best places in Europe to visit.

While millions of visitors flock to the popular destination each year for a variety of reasons, the 42 chateaux that span the UNESCO World Heritage Site are the true gem of the region. Each building has its own charm and you truly can’t go wrong with the location you choose. While in the Loire Valley, you’ll want to visit the Chateau de Chambord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its own right. The sprawling chateau was built in the early 16th century by Francois I, originally as a hunting lodge. As the intention and size of the structure grew, so too did the inspiration. Inspired by the works of Leonardo di Vinci, the Chateau de Chambord is a true French Renaissance delight. Over the years, the castle has hosted many of France’s royal family and nobility and inspired the design of Versailles one hundred years later.

 So where do you stay when you want to visit one of the most beautiful chateaux in the world? In the nearby stables, of course. Well, not really. The former stables of the chateau were converted into a luxury hotel in 2018. Now known as the Relais de Chambord, this charming boutique hotel stands out because of its luxury, affordability, and proximity to the tourist’s delight, the chateau. With exquisite views of the Loire River, valley, forest, and chateau, this quaint hotel is reason enough to visit the Loire Valley.

Travel Tip: Stay for the night and enjoy a Michelin Guide restaurant brunch, exclusively offered seven days a week to guests of the hotel only for an additional fee.

A close second on our list is the Château des Arpentis. If you’re looking for accommodation that’s fit for royalty, we recommend checking out this gem in the Loire Valley. The residence dates back to the 14th century and was originally a fiefdom. Bet you didn’t see that coming.

Best castle for large groups – Ashford Castle

Ashford castle, Ireland

Few locations are more romantic or elegant for a wedding than a historic castle. With its sprawling green hills and the misty morning air, few European countries offer a more desirable backdrop than Ireland.

Located on the western edge of Ireland, the 800-year-old castle has a storied history with some notable owners and guests throughout the century. In the 1800s, Ashford Castle was purchased by the Guinness family (yes, that Guinness family) which hosted upper nobility and American moviemakers.

Today, Ashford Castle Hotel is owned by a hotel group and, after a four-year restoration, has been listed as Ireland’s first and only Forbes Five-Star hotel. While Ireland is known for its medieval castles and sprawling estates, Ashford castle is one you and your group don’t want to miss.

Whether you’re planning a wedding or a large party, Ashford Castle Hotel is an ideal piece of history, waiting to add your event to its story.

Travel tip: If you’re looking for a unique dining experience, Ashford Castle’s ‘The Dungeon’ is located on the lower level of the castle and oozes a dark, medieval dungeon vibe.Best Places in Europe to Visit

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