Travel through the past at historic rentals around the world.
Imagine sleeping in a grand Renaissance palace where knights once lay their heads. Or sipping a cocktail in a sleek midcentury modern that conjures Hollywood’s Golden Age. Medieval castles, Victorian Ladies, a stone house built during the American Revolution, and more are all available on online rental marketplaces, meaning you’re free to wander the halls and delve into yesteryear for the mere cost of a night’s rent. Here are some of the most intriguing overnight experiences that transport visitors to another place and time.
1300s Moussac Castle
WHERE: Moussac, France
This romantic 14th-century castle, once the property of the bishops of Uzès, got caught up in the clash between Church and State almost from its earliest beginnings. The original fresco in the Great Hall, depicting the Jews as the State condemning Jesus as the Church, provides a wee glimpse into what was at stake. That small fact aside, Moussac provides an intimate experience in medieval living, with its original architecture and meticulously renovated rooms. But don’t worry–modern conveniences reign throughout. The mezzanine sitting room beneath a Gothic vault is breathtaking, though it’s the plein-air terrace alongside the ancient dovecote tower, with picturesque views over the confluence of the Droude and Gardon Rivers, that perfectly sums up why neither the Church nor the State wanted to part with this rare gem.
1400s Castello dei Bonaparte
WHERE: Gubbio, Italy
Once upon a time, this castle in the heart of Italy’s Umbrian countryside provided the main defense for the region against the city of Perugia. Later, Giulia Bonaparte (yes, those Bonapartes) became its owner, and it remains in the family. The castle, restored using the highest standards, includes a fresco-adorned church, a large stone courtyard with an ancient well, and plenty of antique furniture and architectural details that transport you to another time. If you’re not too busy imagining yourself donning a knight’s helmet and chain mail to join the local forces, you might want to think about roaming the 1,500 acres of surrounding trail-crossed countryside, inhabited by roe deer, wild boar, and partridges.
INSIDER TIPTruffle hunting is huge in this neck of the woods. In the fall, taste this local specialty—often called black gold—in neighborhood trattorias.
1500s Huis Happaert
WHERE: Antwerp, Belgium
Knight and mayor Jan Happaert laid the first cornerstone of this Renaissance residence in 1520, when Antwerp reigned as the center of the world. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the prestigious Delft family took up residence, adding their family’s coat of arms on the house’s walls. Grandeur has not waned since, down to the antique pianoforte in the stately piano room, gleaming parquetry floors, and hand-painted fresco ceilings.
1600s Indulgence Divine
WHERE: Vittoriosa, Malta
Waterfronts don’t get much more charming than ancient Vittoriosa, with its Renaissance-era architecture and bobbing fishing boats. And you’ll be near the heart of it all in this romantic townhouse. Once part of an eminent merchant’s residence, the house retains traces of its historic past throughout, including the majestic dining room, centered around a Carrara marble table, and the sumptuously decorated bedroom, entered through a graceful stone arch. Whether you’re sipping wine on the sunny terrace or strolling along the café-filled marina outside your door, you’ll feel as if you’ve become part of the historic setting yourself.
1700s Old Stone House
WHERE: Lexington, Virginia
When the Old Stone House was built between 1780 and 1790, the Revolutionary War was in full swing. It’s said Thomas Jefferson employed the original owner, builder and iron-master John Jordan, to help build the University of Virginia. Lovingly restored, the two-bedroom guest house remains on Main Street in the heart of Lexington’s historic district, a staunch tribute to colonial days. Hints of the past include period antiques, colonial-themed décor, and two-foot-thick walls—not to mention, the enormous brick hearth that beckons some good old-fashioned warming on cool evenings.
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1800s Pool House
WHERE: Governor’s Harbour, Bahamas
Let’s see, what should you do this afternoon? Feel the trade winds riffle through your hair on the shaded porch? Stroll into the storybook town five minutes away? Take in the sweet scents of the lush garden, harboring fruit trees, bougainvillea, and hibiscus? This 19th-century, coconut-palm-shaded cottage above Governor’s Harbour offers all of the above. Oak floors, high ceilings and period furniture add to its bygone Caribbean charm.
INSIDER TIPIf you stay four or more nights, a free flight from Nassau to Eleuthera is included in the price.
WHERE: Cariboo, Canada
You might get the wrong impression that life on the frontier was cozy and warm at this restored, 1860s roadhouse in British Columbia. Sitting on 1,000 acres of wild ranchland, this log home bustled during Gold Rush days. Today it’s filled with such rustic touches as patchwork quilts and regional antiques, along with all the modern conveniences you’ll need for a comfortable stay. Just outside the door awaits hundreds of lakes for swimming and fishing, trails through stunning countryside and a short scenic drive to the famous Gang Ranch.
INSIDER TIPDogs—and horses—are welcome. Hay bales provided as needed.
1900s Great Storm Survivor
WHERE: Galveston, Texas
This gracious gingerbread Victorian weathered the Great Storm of 1900, one of the deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history (a fast and furious tale recounted in Erik Larson’s Isaac’s Storm). Much of the original architecture remains, and the furnishings and antiques were found in local shops. Pull out a paperback and spend a languorous afternoon on the screened-in back porch.
1910s Historic Browning Mansion
WHERE: Ogden, Utah
With the onset of mass production in the early 1900s, artisans demanded a return to handcrafted genius. Their unified voices created the Arts and Crafts movement, and this elegantly restored mansion—built in 1911 and winner of the 2016 Utah Heritage Award for outstanding historic preservation—is the epitome of Arts and Crafts loveliness. Built by the family of the famed firearms inventor John Browning, the eight-bedroom abode incorporates rich hardwoods, stained glass, and painted murals into its meticulous design. The outdoor areas are amazing, with more than 2,500 square feet of patios and decks (and waterfall and fish pond), plus nearly a half-acre of additional flower-bedecked land on which to roam.
1950s Midcentury Pool Retreat
WHERE: Palm Springs, California
Put on your best Mad Men outfit for this groovy Palm Springs modern, showcasing a sleek open floor plan, walls of glass, and throwback decor in cool aqua, avocado, and tangerine. But it’s the sparkling pool that turns the most heads, where you can lounge all day beneath the desert sunshine, cocktail in hand, fully believing you have died and gone to retro heaven.