As we noted in Pt. 1 of this series, if there’s one Old World travel experience that can be found nowhere else but Europe, it’s castle living.
Here’s why: If you inherited a castle, what exactly would you do with it? It’s kind of an issue because are thousands and thousands of them from Spain to Sweden – about 3,000 in tiny Belgium alone! More than a few have been abandoned because the families who own them simply can’t afford them.
Castles were mostly built pre-20th century when labor was cheap and you could always pillage the neighboring kingdom if you needed to raise funds to, say, upgrade your dungeon.
These days … options are limited – live in it, sell it to a celebrity billionaire, rent out or turn it into a B&B.
That said, there’s an entire “live in a castle” industry, with a reality show as well as several websites dedicated to buying and selling.
If you’d like to try before you buy, we’re here for you.
Here’s Pt., 2 of our list, which probably has a castle near you ….
Castello di Valenzano: A half-hour north of Arezzo is Castello di Valenzano, first established as a lookout tower between the 9th and 10th centuries. The castle was part of a chain of defense for the Subbiano lords, of which only it and the namesake castle are still in existence to this day.
Today, the only defense Valenzano provides is shelter from reality with its elegant restaurant and welcoming presence. Rooms range from rustic simplicity to ultimate grandeur, and the food served at the restaurant is rooted in the long history of the castle. Outside, a beautiful valley filled with monasteries, more castles and Romanesque churches await your eyes, while the castle’s woods fill your heart with fairytale silence.
Room rates: €100 – €240/night
TripAdvisor’s crowd-sourced rating: 5 out 5 (144 reviews)
Kasteel Baexem: Eight kilometers away from Roermond is the town of Baexem, home of Kasteel Baexem. This B&B is a 17th-century castle hotel and garden built upon an older foundation. The castle was the home of the Baexem family, whose name first appeared in the middle of the 13th century.
A few centuries and several alterations later, Hotel Kasteel Baexem boasts seven rooms, including one in the botanical garden. The garden itself boasts a wide variety of flora and fauna, along with winding paths, ponds and hidden spots, the perfect escape from the world outside.
The castle hotel hosts lots of events throughout the year in the garden and in the salon; it also offers free short-term residencies for artists, musicians and writers to work on their craft.
Room rates: €85 – €150/night
TripAdvisor’s crowd-sourced rating: 4.5 out 5 (25 reviews)
Palácio Belmonte: Built in 1449 by Brás Afonso Correia, Lisbon’s Palácio Belmonte was built upon ancient Roman and Moorish ruins as a manor. The manor would undergo numerous expansions between 1503 and 1640 to become the palatial estate it is now, which includes 59 tiles comprised of over 30,000 depicting scenes of Christianity and the Portuguese court of the early 1700s.
In the modern day, the Portuguese National Heritage site is a luxury hotel with 10 rooms, purchased and restored in 1994 by current owner Frederic Coustouls. The estate had a starring role in two films: Wim Wenders Lisbon Story and Marcello Mastroianni’s Sostiene Pereira. Palácio Belmonte also made Condé Nast Traveler‘s 2015 Gold List of the world’s top hotels. Services include breakfast, room service, destination dining reservation and more. There’s also a library of 4,000 books, a garden, a black-slate swimming pool and so much more, only 20 minutes away from International Lisbon Airport.
Room rates: €500 – €3,000/night
TripAdvisor’s crowd-sourced rating: 4.5 out 5 (96 reviews)
Kaštel Ečka: Sixty kilometers to the north of Belgrade in the village of Ečka is Kaštel Ečka, built in the English style by the Lazar family between 1816 and 1820, officially opening to guests 28 August 1820.
Kaštel Ečka boasts 38 rooms and seven suites, each mixing modern and Medieval styles to provide guests an intimate, peaceful atmosphere with a grand view of the surrounding park. There’s free Wi-Fi, a safe in every room and in the reception area, a playground for the little ones, guarded parking, and a restaurant serving the finest wines, fish, game meats and goose liver.
Outside Kaštel Ečka, you can also partake in hunting on one of Serbia’s largest hunting grounds, enjoy a sightseeing tour of Zrenjanin with a reception in the city’s beer hall, a guided tour of the Carska bara nature reserve, and fishing along the Begej, Tisa and Tamiš rivers.
Room rates: RSD 3,900 – RSD 9,400 (€33 – €80)/night
TripAdvisor’s crowd-sourced rating: 4 out 5 (30 reviews)
Bäckaskog Slott: To the northeast of Kristianstad between Ivö Lake and Oppmanna Lake is Bäckaskog Slott. Originally a monastery between the 13th and 16th centuries, Bäckaskog Slott was turned into a castle by noblemen Henrik Ramel and his son, Henrik Jr., between 1584 and 1653. The castle was the favorite retreat of Danish king Karl XV during the 19th century, owned by Per Åkers, director of telephone company LM Ericsson, and eventually fell under the watch of Sweden’s Statens Fastighetsverk in 1996.
Today, you can enjoy what the monks and kings enjoyed and then some at Bäckaskog Slott. Every room has amenities like Wi-Fi, television, breakfast, and a bathroom with shower and toilet. You can stay in the castle or in one of the other buildings nearby, dive into some deer and wild boar prepared over an open fire in the castle restaurant, and tackle a number of outdoor activities, like cycling and canoeing.
Also: Bäckaskog Slott was the backdrop for the Swedish reality show Stjärnorna på slottet in 2012 and 2013, as well as the antiquing show Antikrundan in 2016.
Room rates: SEK 625 – SEK 2,580 (€61 – €250)/night
TripAdvisor’s crowd-sourced rating: 4 out 5 (47 reviews)
Bovey Castle: Want to feel like Queen Elizabeth II, Prince William or Duchess Meghan? Why not head up to Bovey Castle in Devon, within the heart of Dartmoor National Park. The castle was first established in the 1890s, following the purchase of 5,000 acres of land from the Earl of Devon by William Henry Smith for £103,000. The estate would become the Manor House Hotel in 1930, changing its name to Bovey Castle in 2003.
Bovey Castle features 60 rooms, individually styled with unique layouts to ensure each stay at Bovey is unlike any other, no matter if you’re exploring England on your own, having your fairytale honeymoon, or travelling around Europe with your family and dog. The castle also has an 18-hole championship-level golf course which flows through the entire estate, a spa to melt away the day, and of course, the natural grandeur and heritage of Dartmoor National Park, which was the backdrop for Steven Spielberg’s War Horse.
Room rates: £179 – £496 (€205 – €567)/night
TripAdvisor’s crowd-sourced rating: 4.5 out 5 (2,546 reviews)