The world’s best palace hotels where you can live like royalty

Play at being king or queen for the weekend with a stay at one of these luxurious palace hotels

Gstaad Palace, Switzerland

Gstaad Palace, Switzerland

The magnificent Gstaad Palace hotel is nestled in Switzerland’s Bernese Alps, with its flag-topped turrets flanked by snow-capped mountains. The building itself is over a century old. It’s an imposing grand dame when viewed from the outside, but its chic interior design keeps things cosy.

In its 1960s heyday, Hollywood stars flocked to this quaint corner of Switzerland just to stay at the Gstaad. The likes of Louis Armstrong and Marlene Dietrich would spend their days on the ski slopes around the hotel, before letting their hair down in its bars and five-star restaurant. If walls could talk…

Ashford Castle, County Mayo, Ireland

Ashford Castle Connaught Room

Credit: Kelvin Gillmor

The sprawling Ashford Castle estate in west Ireland was once the home of the Guinness family, and has a history that can be traced back to the 1200s.

Dine in The Dungeon for a Medieval banquet-style experience, or sample fine vintages in the cavernous wine tasting tunnels. More modern additions include a 30-seat private cinema and a state-of-the-art spa. There’s also a zip line and tree climbing trail for children.

Pousada Palacio de Estoi, Algarve, Portugal

Pool at palace hotel Pousada Palacio de Estoi, Portugal

This 19th-century palace in the Algarve sits pretty in pink, after being restored it to its original rose-tinted glory.

Now a five-star hotel the regal Pousada Palacio de Estoi is famous for its elaborate Rococo ceilings – a work of art in themselves – and regal touches. They include gold furniture and elegant landscaped gardens. There’s also a wonderful spa.

Hampton Court Palace, Greater London, England

Living room of The Georgian House at Hampton Court Palace

You can play out all your regal dreams at Hampton Court Palace, once the home of Henry VIII. You can’t stay in the actual palace itself, but The Georgian House – a pretty 18th-century residence which sleeps eight – is in the grounds. It was originally built to accommodate the kitchens of the Prince of Wales, but has held various uses in the royal household over the years.

The best part of staying here? You’re free to roam the gardens, courtyards and public rooms of the palace during opening hours as often as you like.

Palais Faraj Suites & Spa, Fez, Morocco

Palace Faraj Suites & Spa offers an authentic glimpse of old Morocco, with its antique decor, regal suites and pretty shaded courtyards (a cool spot for a traditional mint tea).

This hilltop palace hotel overlooks the 1,200-year-old marketplace in the city of Fez. It was designed in the 19th century by Jean Baptist Barian, King Hassan II’s very own architect and interior designer, complete with suites and a lavish hammam.

Château Rhianfa, Menai Bridge, Wales

Sir John Hay Williams was inspired by the Loire Valley chateaux he and his wife had seen on their travels when he built his family home in the 1800s. The resulting building – which took him over a decade to finish – created a little slice of France in the heart of Wales.

This mini castle, set in landscaped gardens with views of Snowdonia, is now a private hotel and wedding reception venue. Our favourite part? Château Rhianfa’s turrets have been converted into showers in some of the suites.

Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace, Budapest, Hungary

Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace, Budapest

Credit: Four Seasons

When Four Seasons acquired Gresham Palace in 1998, it set about restoring this Art Nouveau residence to its former splendour. The $110-million project saw Hungary’s finest silversmiths, artists, ceramists and mosaicists put to work.

Their skill is evident in every corner of this spectacular hotel. Standout features include the two million-piece mosaic floor, sweeping staircase and soaring stained glass ceilings.

Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace also boasts standout features that bring it throughly into the present, including an infinity-edge pool, fitness room, restaurant and bar.

Hotel Narain Niwas Palace, Jaipur, India

In the 1920s, local ruler General Amar Singh built a lavish palace in Jaipur for his family. His sprawling mansion was bedecked with fine art and furniture, with elaborate murals in typically bold Rajasthani colours.

Much effort has been taken to restore the palace’s original character – with the exception of a few mod cons such as flat screen TVs and an on-site sauna. As such, a stay at the Hotel Narain Niwas Palace is like taking a trip back to the days of the Raj.

Olissippo Lapa Palace Hotel, Lisbon, Portugal

This Lisbon palace dates back to the 1800s, when it was built by the characterful Count of Valenças. It’s said that the Count would look out over the high-end neighbourhood from the tower as he dressed, and his parties – attended by Lisbon’s aristocracy – were legendary.

Many of the palace hotel’s original features have been preserved in its current guise as the Olissippo Lapa Palace Hotel. Key features include the stained glass windows of the Columbano room, and the the Eça de Queiroz room’s 170-year-old carpet.

It’s still a treat to look out over the Lapa district and the Tagus river, though you might want to draw the curtains while dressing…

Borthwick Castle, near Edinburgh, Scotland

Just a few miles from Edinburgh you’ll find Borthwick Castle, the former home of Mary Queen of Scots – now transformed into an elaborate private hire venue. It’s perfect for weddings and large celebrations, with room to sleep up to 85 people.

Be sure to bag Mary’s bedchamber as your own, which boasts a hand-carved four-poster bed. The room also has views of the hill from which Sir Oliver Cromwell launched his attack on the castle. Make your home in this unique piece of history – for one night, at least.

Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria

Schönbrunn Palace, Austria

Credit: Alexander Eugen Koller

The ludicrously opulent Schönbrunn Palace is Vienna’s most popular tourist attraction, and it’s easy to see why. The building is a feast of gorgeous imperial decor, gilded furniture and magnificent marble statues at every turn. However, few people realise that you can actually stay at the palace in your very own stately suite.

The Austria Trend Hotels suite can accommodate up to four people. The suite includes a salon, two bedrooms, a generously proportioned living room and a pair of modern bathrooms. You’ll also get amazing views of the Gloriette, Neptune Fountain, Crown Prince Garden and the 160-hectare Schlosspark.

Ciragan Palace Kempinski, Istanbul, Turkey

This former Ottoman palace was built on the shores of the river Bosphorus. This was a strategic spot in case of invasion, which just so happened to have incredible views too. It’s on the European side of the river, so you can look out over luxury yachts and the Asian side of the city while sipping your Turkish coffee.

Book the Sultan Suite at the Ciagran Palace Kempinski, which has its very own hammam and Bosphorus-view bathtub. Looking to arrive in style? Then you’ll be interested to learn that this is the only hotel in Istanbul accessible by car, yacht and helicopter.

The Gritti Palace, Venice, Italy

Overlooking the Grand Canal and a mere five-minute walk from St Mark’s Square, the The Gritti Palace is a really special spot in Venice. It was built by the Doge of Venice, Andrea Gritti, in 1475, and was later used as the residence of the Vatican ambassadors to Venice.

It’s still an incredibly regal place to stay, and is positively dripping with expensive artwork and furniture. It’s hard to miss the eye-popping Murano glass chandeliers, and the precious Rubelli fabrics that decorate the rooms and suites.

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