There is so much talk about eating seasonally. Why not take that same approach to…
There’s no shortage of unique hotel experiences to have in Europe.
Old castles, delicious food and wine, cobblestone streets, a love of art and history– I can’t think of a place in Europe I wouldn’t want to visit! Since you’re heading all the way across the pond (that is, unless you already live there, you lucky duck), you might as well spend a night or two some place absolutely fabulous. Here’s a few hotel experiences sure to stick with you for a lifetime.
Hotel Marques de Riscal – Rioja Alavesa, Spain
Deep in the heart of rioja country, you’ll find a architectural masterpiece—the stunning Hotel Marques de Riscal. Famed Architect Frank Gehry captured the spirit of wine throughout the building’s design—sloping walls, swirls of color, high ceilings and more. Wine plays a big part in everything here. There’s a fancy-dancy Michelin-starred restaurant on the property, featuring an exhaustive list of local and global wines. Too spendy for you? No worries—try the wine bar instead for more casual snacks and vino.
The wine theme doesn’t stop there. The hotel spa features a staff of vinotherapists—aka spa staff trained to use grapes and wine during services. Think relaxing soaks in grape skin-infused water and exfoliating treatments using wine and chopped Cabernet grapes, blended to exfoliate and nourish the skin. You can’t make this stuff up!
Ice Hotel, Jukkasjärvi, Sweden
Since 1989, adventurous travelers have headed to Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, 200 km north of the Arctic Circle for a true arctic experience. The ICEHOTEL features rooms made completely of ice. Annually, artists transform ice from the nearby Torne River into sculptures and architecture, which attracts thousands of visitors before it melts away in spring. If you’re game, opt to overnight in one of these ice rooms. They provide a real bed and cozy sleeping bag; you bring thermals, wool socks and a hat—the rooms stay around 19-23 degrees. The ICEHOTEL also offers warm accommodations made of regular materials should you only want to see the rooms instead of sleep in one (the hotel offers daily tours of the artist designed rooms).
And something to keep in mind: Starting next year, the hotel plans to stay open year-round. Great news for people wanting to experience the midnight sun, something this region experiences for 100 consecutive days every summer.
Castello di Torano, Siena, Italy
When in Rome (or in this case, Tuscany), why not sleep in a castle? Castello di Tornano, located in Siena, melds modern luxury with bona fide 12th Century charm. Rooms feature ancient stone and wood (or at least it looks like it, in a good way!), richly furnished with brocaded fabrics, wrought-iron and canopied beds. If you can, opt for a tower suite, known for views of the surrounding countryside. If you’re traveling with kids, they also offer self-catering apartments in a former farmhouse outside the main building. The grounds are as spectacular as the building itself, with mountain biking and horseback riding available onsite, as well as a pool in what used to be the castle’s moat. Bonus: the property makes its own wine.
Clare Island Lighthouse, Clare Island, Ireland
I have a serious soft spot for lighthouses—precisely why I’m drawn to the Clare Island Lighthouse. Located just off Ireland’s western Atlantic coast, the lighthouse, perched atop picturesque craggy cliffs, has spent the last two centuries watching over Achill, Westport and beyond. While the lighthouse used to be a sailor’s respite, it’s been painstakingly transformed into a luxury accommodation.
The whole place is designed to showcase the stunning views—so don’t come expecting to watch a Real Housewives of Ireland marathon—no TVs in the whole place (there is WiFi though). Don’t worry, there’s plenty to do on property and nearby. Hiking, horseback riding, cycling, swimming and hobnobbing with locals.
Manor Farm – Worcestershire, England
Farm stays are becoming more and more popular ways to experience a new place. However, not all farm stays are created equal. Some folks might not mind sharing a giant bunkhouse with 20 or so perfect strangers. I think my days of hostel-style traveling (and woofing!) are behind me. That’s why I love Manor Farm. It’s a real working farm, but with beautiful accommodations.
Not only can you experience the working farm, but learn how to cook with ingredients sourced from the 260-acre property in their state-of-the-art Eckington Manor cookery school. Working the farm, cooking a fabulous dinner, then spending the evening drinking tea or wine, relaxing in a big soaking tub, then slipping into a big bed outfitted in Egyptian cotton sheets? I could get used to that!
What’s your most memorable hotel experience? Share in the comments!
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