Yas, queen—these historical haunts will turn your next Eurotrip into a real-life fairytale.
Imagine escaping to some faraway turret in the sky where you can swan around in silk robes, devour novels and Netflix shows like popcorn, and sip fine wine from your four-poster bed while soaking up views of the Spanish countryside. This may sound like a far-fetched daydream—the type of fantasy you’d conjure up in your cubicle—but if you play your cards right, you can make it a reality on your next trip to Europe.
Castles are everywhere in Spain, immovable vestiges of ancient feuds and vying kingdoms. Most were abandoned centuries ago, but a handful—lucky us—have gotten a new lease on life as exquisite high-end hotels and paradores (the nationwide chain of government-owned lodgings occupying defunct historical buildings). But you don’t have to be a Habsburg flush with bullion to get the royal treatment, especially in the off-season (September–March), when room rates plummet. So hear ye, hear ye: of all the castles in the land, these are our favorite places to post up like kings and queens.
Castillo del Buen Amor
WHERE: Topas, Castile and León
Towering above the rolling farmland of Castile and León outside Salamanca, this 15th-century sandstone castle was commissioned by Juan II. Ferdinand II of Aragon, one of the Catholic Monarchs, famously overnighted here on his way to the Battle of Toro, where he would defeat the Portuguese to cement his rule over Castile. The castle’s erstwhile splendor has been preserved in its sumptuous gardens, colorful coffered ceilings, and arcaded dungeon, now occupied by an excellent Spanish restaurant (start with a platter of wonderfully nutty jamón ibérico—it’s worth the splurge), and its medieval decor belies modern bells and whistles like a large outdoor pool, air-conditioning, and deep soaking tubs.
Castillo de Grisel
WHERE: Grisel, Aragón
There are only eight rooms in this eclectic and affordable boutique hotel occupying a 12th-century Gothic castle, the best-preserved structure of its kind in the region. Between its sturdy ashlar walls, you’ll find palatial halls, an ancient cistern, and two sun-drenched patios strewn with plants. Grisel makes a good home base for travelers looking to explore the sandy canyons and steep cliffs of the Bardenas Reales, the otherworldly badlands of Navarra.
Parador de Hondarribia
WHERE: Hondarribia, Basque Country
You can live like a feudal lord in this 10th-century bastion that hosted Spain’s founding emperor, Carlos V, at various junctures in the 1500s (hence the property’s other name: Parador del Emperador). When you’re not sunbathing on the outdoor terrace or lounging in the stone-walled lobby, retreat to simply outfitted rooms with dark wood floors and cushy beds. Hondarribia is one of the Basque Country’s most charming towns, thanks to its brightly painted fishermen’s homes and tree-shaded promenades. It’s the last town before France; wind your way down to the harbor on foot, and you can ferry over to the town of Hendaye for an éclair or three and some primo beaches for surfing.
Castillo del Bosque La Zoreda
WHERE: El Condado, Asturias
This stone mansion tucked among chestnut and oak trees in the backwoods of Asturias, three miles outside Oviedo, is far less ancient than meets the eye—it was commissioned in 1926 by a local business tycoon—but there’s nothing newfangled about the pink-stone exterior, replete with arches and chimneys and crowned with ersatz battlements. Inside, things skew more modern with upscale amenities like room service and a sleek indoor pool.
Castillo de Arteaga
WHERE: Gautegiz Arteaga, Basque Country
This stunning French neo-Gothic castle, erected by Napoleon III as a thank-you gift to Biscay for naming his son Eugenio an honorary citizen, is now a Relais & Château–approved rural retreat. The castle’s crenelated towers peek above the oak groves of the surrounding Urdaibai nature reserve, whose waymarked trails take you through seaside meadowlands and forests veined with burbling streams. Spring for a turret suite for the ultimate storybook experience.
INSIDER TIPAvoid booking on weekends—brash wedding parties can ruin the serene atmosphere.
Parador de Cardona
WHERE: Cardona, Catalonia
When Barcelona’s tourist throngs start jangling your nerves, find some quiet respite at this hilltop castle-cum-parador in the village of Cardona, an hour and a half outside the Catalan capital. Arguably the most important medieval fortress in Catalonia, the castillo (castle) was built in the 9th century by (the hilariously named) William the Hairy, a local count. The parador’s barrel vaults and pointed arches make it a jewel of Romanesque and Gothic architecture, but even if you aren’t an architecture buff, you’ll be just as wowed by its period decor (think four-poster beds, beamed ceilings, antique wall art) and home-style Catalan restaurant.
WHERE: La Bisbal d'Empordà, Catalonia
Hidden in a fertile valley between the Pyrenees and the Costa Brava, this 14th-century castle is so heart-meltingly charming that Salvador Dalí is said to have offered to buy it in exchange for several of his works. The (evidently art-illiterate) owners declined, insisting on cold hard cash, and ultimately sold the estate to a Dutch couple, who converted the castle into a 38-room hotel complete with claw-foot tubs, two swimming pools, and a wrap-around sundeck overlooking the golden farmscape.
Hotel Castillo El Collado
WHERE: Laguardia, Basque Country
Use this turreted castle in Álava province as a jumping-off point for vino-filled adventures in Rioja wine country to prestigious bodegas (wineries) like Baigorri, Ysios, and Marqués de Murrieta. Built in 1900 by the Chimbo soap CEO, Víctor Tapia, its construction features the original stones from a disused 12th-century barracks. The sumptuous, delightfully old-fashioned rooms brim with antique furniture collected by Tapia, and the reception area—housed in the former chapel—sets the time-warpy mood with a gilded 17th-century altarpiece.
Tugasa Hotel Castillo de Castellar
WHERE: Castellar de la Frontera, Andalusia
If your bucket list includes slaloming your way through the dramatic cliff-top pueblos blancos (white villages) of southern Spain—por favor, why wouldn’t it?—consider posting up in this 13th-century Moorish fortress with basic, budget-friendly digs. The grounds are located within the Los Alcornocales Natural Park, renowned for its cave paintings, bird-watching, and groves of cork oak. But be forewarned: the hotel’s Achilles’ heel is its restaurant, a mediocre tourist trap with notoriously poky service.
Castillo de Santa Catalina
WHERE: Málaga, Andalusia
Situated two miles east of Málaga’s old town, this Moorish-style castle built in 1932 is best-known as a wedding and events venue, but its eight cozy, grandmotherly rooms (all floral patterns and carved wooden furniture) don’t disappoint, especially on weeknights, when large groups are less likely to barge in on your otherwise peaceful vacation. Request a room with sea views, and you’ll feel like an emir overlooking his realm.
Castillo de Monda
WHERE: Monda, Andalusia
Midway between Málaga city and the beaches of Marbella, in the heart of the Sierra de las Nieves National Park, you’ll find Castillo de Monda, a Moorish citadel with roots in the 8th century. Of the original structure, only a tower and parts of the foundation have survived; the castle lay in ruin for 400 years before reopening as a hotel in 2016. Even if you don’t wind up overnighting in its Moorish-themed rooms (who doesn’t love arabesques, coffered ceilings, and colorful tiled bathrooms?), the castillo is worth a pit stop for its excellent nueva cocina restaurant, Albacar, whose menu hinges on local seafood and produce.