Destinations: Castles

Palazzo Pisani Gritti
Venice, Italy

Known as one of the most distinguished hotels in the world, the Palazzo Pisani Gritti offers the ultimate Venetian getaway. (Visit venice-hotel-gritti.com for pricing and availability.) Because this intimate hotel is located right on the waterfront, it provides an excellent view of the Grand Canal. And while it may not be as impressive as other castles from the outside, it has 93 of the world’s most luxurious, Venetian-style rooms within. Originally the residence of the Doge of Venice, the palace has hosted the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Greta Garbo, and Winston Churchill. It is also located near St. Mark’s Square, the perfect place to start any Venetian vacation. Stick around and eat dinner in the beautiful inhouse restaurant and then head out into the city for the evening.

Explore all that the city has to offer. From blown-glass jewelry (which can be found on almost every corner) to delectable gelato (also on every corner) to the musical stylings of the locals, Venice has it all. Hop on a gondola and stop by San Nicolo dei Mendicoli, a beautiful Church with architecture from the seventh, twelfth, thirteenth, fifteenth, and seventeenth centuries, and then try Santa Maria della Salute, a beautiful baroque basilica containing works of Titian and Tintoretto. And make sure you drop by the Musica a Palazzo (musicapalazzo.com), even if you decide not to stay for a show (usually °Ë40). Look for other, free musical events on posters hanging throughout town.

However you decide to spend your evening, you can spend it relaxed and knowing that you get to return to an unforgettable, elegant palace fit for a king or queen.

Waterford, Ashford, Edinburgh, Windsor, and Leeds Castles
British Isles

The United Kingdom has a vast array of castles you can visit and stay in. Set on the grounds of a 310-acre private island in southeast Ireland, Waterford Castle (waterfordcastle.com) offers the splendor of fifteenth-century elegance with a modern twist. You can stay in one of the 19 magnificent rooms in the main castle, five of which are deluxe suites, and all of which provide stunning views of the surrounding grounds. Reached by ferry, Waterford Castle also boasts an 18 hole, par 72 championship golf course, as well as gardens that will leave you breathless. Spend a day golfing, playing tennis, learning archery, or even trying your hand at clay pigeon shooting. Then be sure to stop in for tea time in the Grand Entrance Hall, followed by dinner in the Fitzgerald Room, where you can enjoy a delicious meal until 9 p.m.

Ashford Castle, Ireland
Another great option for royal accommodation is Ashford Castle (ashford.ie) in northwest Ireland. First established in 1228, Ashford Castle was voted the second best hotel in Europe in 2008. The castle features luxurious rooms preserved in their historic appearance, but with the gift of modern amenities. As for on-site activities, take an afternoon and head over to the equestrian center and spend the day horseback riding along the two surrounding rivers or up into the Connemara Mountains. If you’re looking for a more relaxing day, head out onto the lake for lake cruising, where you can learn about the history of the island of St. Patrick.

When you’re not romping about the grounds of your hotel, take a ferry over to Scotland or England to see some of the amazing castles there (visit directferries.com for a wide range of Irish ferries). Here are a few places you might visit:

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