The US is wonderful, but if it’s lacking in one area, it’s history. Sure, Philly’s got a big broken bell, and Boston has a few bars with some decent stories from the revolutionary wars, but castles? Nope. Fortresses? Negative. Thousands of years old city walls? Definitely not.
If you’re craving history, take a transatlantic trip, and you can literally sleep in it.
From Scottish castles to French palaces and thousands of historic hotels in between, the opportunities to quell your yearning for yesteryear are endless.
Here are some of Europe’s top historic hotels.
The Old Bell Hotel
Location: Malmesbury, UK
Vibe: Throw way way back
The rundown: It’s complicated to verify “oldest hotel” claims, but The Old Bell Hotel in the UK has one of the strongest shouts to the title. The quaint inn has been in continuous usage since 1220 when it was purpose-built as accommodation for visitors to the monastery next door. Edward III, Henry III, and Edward IIII are all known to have stayed on the premises at different times.
It’s been operating as a hotel since the 16th century when the monastery closed, so you can expect a high level of service honed over the centuries. While it has been developed further, the core of the building remains intact and features multiple important architectural quirks that helped it secure grade 1 listed status.
Chateu de la Flocelliere
Location: La Flocelliere, France
Vibe: Escape to the chateau
The rundown: Not including a French chateau on the list would be a travesty. While there’s no shortage of these castle-like homes scattered across the country, Chateau de la Flocelliere is one of the most beautiful of Europe’s top historic hotels(and oldest).
The immaculately preserved property is mentioned in a historical document dating back to the 12th century, and tours are available for guests to help lend context to its storied existence. Also, on the grounds, you’ll find medieval ruins, parks to wander, a pond to row around, and an outstanding restaurant equipped with the best in the region’s wine.
Gasthous Zum Riesen
Location: Miltenburg, Germany
Vibe: A good riesen to visit Germany
The rundown: Getting out into Germany’s smaller towns is a must. The historic settlements appear frozen in time, with few embodying that more than Miltenburg. In the town center, you’ll find Gasthous Zum Riesen, a delightful guest house come beer house, and restaurant.
Boasting quintessential German architecture, Zum Riesen has been operating in one form or another for over five hundred years. Its tumultuous history has seen everything from royal visits to the grizzly burning at the stake of one landlord’s wife for witchcraft. Nowadays, it’s a warm and inviting inn for travelers on the hunt for Europe’s top historic hotels.
Firenze Porta Rossa
Location: Florence, Italy
Vibe: Full-Firenzian immersion
The rundown: Don’t be fooled by its big brand ownership and modern decor; Florence lives in the details of this stunning hotel. Nestled in the heart of medieval Florence, the Porta Rossa has a claim to be one of the oldest operating historic hotels in Italy.
Featuring a breathtaking 13th-century tower, marvelous frescoes, and countless other character-packed quirks, it’s the perfect place to base yourself for a history-centric visit to Florence.
Location: Chania, Greece
Vibe: Venetian living; Greek location
The rundown: It may be Greece, but Hotel OFF has Venetian dripping from every nook and cranny. Set in the 13th-century Venetian area of Chania, the property has been expertly renovated to be a stylish and modern retreat while still respecting the beauty of its past.
Rooms are fully equipped for the modern traveler with minimalist furnishings and slick space usage, but the design remains firmly rooted in the neutral brick tones of the original building. And the views from the balcony rooms…magical.
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Vibe: Historic luxury with a dash of hocus pocus
The rundown: It’s tough to find a standout here, as Scotland has no shortage of historic hotels. The Witchery’s reputation lies predominantly with its renowned restaurant, but the property also boasts an atmospheric nine-room boutique hotel. Nestled in a centuries-old building just steps from Edinburgh Castle’s outer wall, there’s no better place to base yourself in the Scottish capital.
The building has watched over years of bloody history, as Kings and Queens rose and fell, while its name is a nod to the hundreds of men and women burned or hung for witchcraft just outside. It’s a pricier stay, but it’s one you’ll never forget on your search for Europe’s top historic hotels
Parador De Alarcon
Location: Alarcon, Spain
Vibe: Epic Moorish spectacle
The rundown: One of the most epic of Europe’s top historic hotels on our list is found in Alarcon in Spain. Set in a dramatic Moorish fortress, the 8th-century Parador de Alarcon wears its Islamic architecture with aplomb while embracing the hundreds of years of Christian rule that defined the region.
Its room fuse old and new beautifully, with the modern aesthetic drawing eyes to the original stonework, over a thousand years old. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more impressive setting for a hotel stay.