This winter, cozy up with a good book, a glass of wine and your significant other at a castle in Europe. Sweet dreams are only the beginning of the fairy tale at these three memorable destinations.
An hour south of Livorno, on the west coast of Italy, is the elegant Castello di Magona. Tuscan Duke Leopold II built the castle in the 16th century, which was acquired by the Merciai family in the mid-1800s. Under the family’s care for 160 years, the castle was carefully renovated to combine historical elements and modern conveniences seamlessly.
The 10-room property is a quiet escape in the heart of Tuscany, offering a hot tub, swimming pool (summer months only), gardens and lovely communal spaces. When you rent the estate, you’ll have free reign to explore beyond concealed doors (if you dare!) and peek at the armor collection. Excursions and onsite activities can be arranged, including cooking classes, winery and olive oil plantation visits, and horseback riding and sailing tours.
You can easily take day trips on your own to see the cathedrals and museums of Florence, Siena and Pisa. Or wander the cobblestone streets of tiny medieval towns, such as Montemerano, Populonia and Volterra, stopping at family-run shops and gelaterias.
The castle has been on and off the real estate market in recent years — you may stay for the week and decide to make this castle your forever home.
Originally built in the late 19th century by the wealthy Weinberg family as a private residence, Geulzicht Castle has been a hotel since before World War II. During the occupation, the Weinbergs provided shelter for many Jews, and a plaque by the entrance remains as a reminder of the war.
Today, the affordable four-star hotel offers double and family rooms, some with sunken Roman-style tubs. The three-story tower suite is accessible only by spiral staircases and provides fantastic views of the estate and forest beyond. The breakfast room and foyer are decorated with elegant Art Nouveau antiques.
The castle sits at the borders of Germany and Belgium. Maastricht is just 4 miles away, where you’ll find several Michelin-starred restaurants, including the fine dining establishment at Château Neercanne. From the dining room, you can see the gardens of the Netherlands’ only terraced palace. The famous year-round Sunday flea market in Tongeren, Belgium is a 35-minute drive west of the castle. Travel 20 miles east to Aachen, Germany to tour the mosaic-covered interior of the city’s cathedral, a gilded masterpiece that holds the remains of Charlemagne. Aachen is a spa town with a grand thermal bath and sauna complex, where you can escape the winter gloom. During the holidays, join in the merriment at the underground Christmas markets in the caves of nearby Valkenburg.
Like so many medieval castles on the Rhine, Auf Schönburg was destroyed in the 17th century. The castle was rebuilt in the 1800s and has served as a hotel for several decades. Most chambers have half- or full-canopy beds, chandeliers and balconies overlooking the Rhine River valley. Rates include breakfast and nightly four-course gourmet dinners.
Late October to mid-March is the off season for hop-on-hop-off ferries along the Rhine River. However, several companies offer New Year’s Eve cruises that include dinner, drinks and live music. Take the train or drive to the quaint villages of St. Goar, Rüdesheim and Bingen for wine tastings and shopping. Plan your trip to coincide with the area’s whimsical Christmas markets.
The castle is closed Jan. 7, 2017 to mid-March; book before the season ends!