Palaces and castles are no longer reserved for royalty, as Edwina Hart discovers in these resplendent lodgings reminiscent of something out of a fairytale.

1. Turkish Delight

One of the few places in the world that occupies two continents, Istanbul is a mesmerising Turkish city where East meets West. A visit to the Ciragan Palace Kempinski is like stepping back in time. This enchanting Ottoman-era palace with 310 richly decorated rooms is a vision of architectural grandeur along the shores of the Bosphorus Strait. Private balconies overlook the palm-lined courtyard and an ever-so-tempting infinity pool. If you truly want to fulfil your fairytale fantasies, splurge on the Sultan Suite, a 458-square-metre penthouse with vintage decor, crystal chandeliers and a handmade marble hammam (Turkish bath). Another highlight of this palatial resort is a gold facial at Sanitas Spa; or for an unforgettable evening, dine in imperial splendour at the hotel’s Tugra restaurant, which showcases Turkish specialties and, of course, has glittering views over the Bosphorus Strait.

2. Pastel Perfection

Photographer: Edwina Hart

The Suján Rajmahal Palace hotel in India’s north is straight out of a Wes Anderson film with its pastel colour palette, playful wallpaper and eye-catching symmetry. The marshmallow-pink heritage hotel in the bustling heart of the Pink City of Jaipur is an oasis secreted behind verdant gardens and palace walls. Built in 1729, it is one of Rajasthan’s most treasured palaces and has entertained distinguished guests, including Jackie Kennedy and Queen Elizabeth II. In recent years, the royal family of Jaipur commissioned an extravagant restoration and, with only 14 apartments, suites and rooms on the sprawling estate, you feel like a private guest of the Maharaja yourself. Afternoon teas are swoon-worthy affairs with three-tiered stands piled high with confections served by pink-turbaned butlers on manicured lawns. When you’re done with that, take a dip in the Art Deco pool.

3. Fabled French Castle

Château de Bagnols is a French Renaissance castle turned five-star hotel and spa that sits against an idyllic backdrop of Beaujolais vineyards. The medieval stronghold, replete with a drawbridge and moat, is classified as a historic monument. The 21 individually styled rooms, including a collection of original apartments, have wooden beams, stone fireplaces and frescoes. The Lady Hamlyn garden suite is one of our favourites with its vaulted ceiling, antique furnishings and elegant garden terrace. Located in one of France’s most celebrated wine regions, the château will delight those looking for the quintessential French countryside experience. The bucolic setting could not be more picture-perfect. Think French-style gardens, a cherry tree orchard and a stunning circular Roman pool. Be sure to also try out the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, 1217, for divine gastronomic creations made with locally sourced food and fine wines.

4. Irish Elegance

Neighbouring the quaint village of Cong in the west of Ireland, 800-year-old Ashford Castle was the former home of the stout-brewing Guinness family. The painstakingly refurbished hotel combines an old-world aesthetic with modern luxuries, including a state-of-the-art spa. There are 83 rooms and suites festooned with silks and exquisite furniture. The Reagan Presidential suite in the oldest wing of the castle boasts its own original fireplace, an antique George III four-poster bed and floor-to-ceiling views of Lough Corrib. There’s a sense of occasion when you head down for breakfast in the George V Dining Room, named after the Prince of Wales who visited the castle, and don’t go past the full Irish breakfast. When you’re ready to head out, the 141-hectare estate is just the place to enjoy old-fashioned country pursuits – horse riding, clay shooting, fishing and falconry – or just spend a few hours on a traditional wooden rowboat gliding across the glass-like lake. When you’re done for the day, dine under the historic curved stone ceiling at the bistro, located on the lower ground floor and aptly named the Dungeon. Wander through the centuries-old passageways to the lamp-lit wine cellar, where you can enjoy private tastings with a sommelier.

5. Luxe Lisbon

Palácio Belmonte is perched above the steep medieval streets of Alfama, one of Lisbon’s oldest areas. This character-filled palace is within walking distance of the famous São Jorge Castle. There are 11 boutique suites flaunting one-of-a-kind design, all with sitting rooms and opulent marble bathrooms, but honeymooners shouldn’t go past the three-level Padre Himalaya Suite, at the top of the Roman tower with sweeping vistas over the city’s red-tiled roofs and the river Tejo. Meticulously restored by local owners, Frederic and Maria, the palace’s modern revamp respects each layer of history. Built in 1446, Roman and Moorish towers are part of the structure, as well as a baroque facade. It’s little wonder this hidden gem is adored by art-lovers – it’s as much a carefully curated gallery as it is a gorgeous guesthouse. Beyond the collection of antiques, paintings and tapestries are 3,800 timeworn ceramic azulejo (tiles) that line the walls and date back to the 1700s. Wake up to a feast of local produce served on your private balcony and spend a languorous day seeking shade in the lush gardens, or lazing around the black marble pool framed by pink bougainvillea.

6. South American Sanctuary

At this restored 17th-century palace and convent, Spanish colonial architecture and Peruvian touches are met with modern amenities. A quiet sanctuary in the centre of Cusco, just a stone’s throw from the Plaza des Armas, Belmond Palacio Nazarenas is ideally positioned for exploring the former Incan capital. You can sense the history encased in the walls with interiors that emphasise original Inca stonework, colonial frescoes and gold-framed paintings. The boutique hotel has 55 suites and a 24-hour butler. Oxygen-enriched rooms allow for a perfect night’s sleep as you acclimatise to the high altitude and, importantly, rooms all come with a pisco sour–making station, so you can whip up your own Peruvian cocktails. One of South America’s most romantic retreats, it features ancient fountains, cloistered courtyards and a jewel-coloured swimming pool. Unwind at the Hypnôze Spa, where herbs and wildflowers collected from the Amazon rainforest are used for organic handmade products, or savour cutting-edge Peruvian cuisine at Senzo restaurant where chefs source fresh ingredients from the hotel’s onsite garden. Make your stay even more magical by taking a daytrip to Machu Picchu on board Belmond’s luxurious Hiram Bingham train, which leisurely weaves its way through the Peruvian highlands towards the Lost City of the Incas.

This article appeared in Luxury Escapes Magazine Issue #5. Subscribe here


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