Spend the Holidays in a Castle

Castello Castelfalfi in Tuscany ItalyCastle at Castelfalfi in Tuscany
Castello Castelfalfi

The Medici family once owned the medieval Tuscan village of Castelfalfi (above), but now plebians like us can take up residence on the estate.

Yes, you can afford to stay in one of these authentic castles—some cost less than $125 per night! Pick your winter palace, whether you're window-shopping for next year or looking for a festive last-minute getaway.

Instead of going home for the holidays, why not consider giving yourself the royal treatment? Rent a room or apartment in one of these surprisingly economical real-life castles, and toast the season as though the whole Christmas feast is in your honor. Long live Budget Travelers!

Thirlestane Castle: Lauder, Scotland

History: Thirlestane was originally a 13th-century fort, but then one of Scotland's richest families, Clan Maitland, set to work rebuilding it as their home in the 1500s. The Duke of Lauderdale died in 1682, but apparently he wasn't very eager to abdicate the castle—his ghost is thought to still roam the corridors.

Price: From about $117 per night, celticcastles.com

What you get: Privacy in a bucolic setting. You'll be the only overnight guests in the castle, leaving you free to re-enact your favorite Game of Thrones episodes in peace after a few chalices of wine. The Lauderdale Suite is in the castle's south wing and comes equipped with a full kitchen, an original clawfoot bathtub, and parkland views. The "self-catering" option is the cheapest, meaning cooking your own meals, but you can book a personal cook or meal delivery for an extra fee. Take your daily constitutional into the woodlands through the formal rose garden, dine on the secluded picnic tables on the grounds, and enjoy exclusive use of the castle's courtyard.

Castello at Castelfalfi: Florence, Italy

History: Once owned by the Medici family, this 800-year-old medieval village was abandoned in the 1960s but is now a swank resort.

Price: From $285 per night, toscanaresortcastelfalfi.com

What you get: An unforgettable Christmas with beaucoup perks. This Italian vacation is a splurge for sure, but you might find the special extras worth the cash: You'll stay in the (festively decorated) building that was once the village's tobacco factory,and hear live holiday music as you dine on special Christmas and New Year's menus in the castle proper, at the property's gourmet Tuscan bistro helmed by a Michelin-starred chef. Or opt for a four-course holiday menu at the more affordable Il Rosmarino trattoria—one of the courses is roast pork tenderloin with Chianti and radicchio (from about $50, beverage included). Your stay also includes access to the 27-hole golf course. Greens fees are reduced during the low season, or you can practice your swing at the hotel's driving range for less than $15.

Château Hermitage de Combas: Servian, France

History: A medieval fortress turned castle residence, the château sits amid 123-plus acres of vineyards in Southern France. Famous figures like the playwright/actor Molière have called the Languedoc-Roussillon region home. Locals say Molière himself probably performed in this very castle.

Price: From about $125 per night—mention Budget Travel when booking to get a 7 percent discount, homeaway.com, charming-holidays.fr

What you get: A fairy tale come true. You can stay in the round tower just like Rapunzel—but with many more activity options. Enveloped by lavender and rosebushes, the castle has 25 apartments with full kitchens, plus a heated pool, a tennis court, and an on-site restaurant that offers a special Christmas menu and fireside dining. It's also within driving distance of the coast—the weather in December is good enough to rent a classic convertible from the castle to tour the grapevine-lined road. Come Christmastime, each apartment, the main entrance hall, and the stairway are decked out in holiday regalia.

Clontarf Castle Hotel: Dublin, Ireland

History: Clontarf Castle was built in 1172 and changed hands several times in the 17th century, including from military and political leader Oliver Cromwell to Captain John Blackwell. Nearly 200 years later, due to sinking foundations, the building was demolished and then rebuilt in 1837.

Price: From $109 per night, clontarfcastle.ie

What you get: Modern luxuries like 24-hour room service and a flatscreen TV, plus convenient proximity to Dublin sightseeing. The castle is only a 10-minute drive from the city center. Pony up for the slightly pricier Christmas Package, and you can enjoy a Christmas Eve arrival reception with mulled wine, mince pies, and Christmas carols, plus other perks like a champagne Christmas Day breakfast and Christmas Day mass.

The Inn at Erlowest: Lake George, New York

History: The castle dream home of American lawyer and politician Edward Morse Shepard, Erlowest was built out of solid granite in 1898 on Millionaire's Row along the Lake George shore.

Price: From $155 per night, theinnaterlowest.com

What you get: A rich, immersive getaway experience—especially if Titanic-era history fascinates you. The Howe Suite is the most wallet-friendly of the 10 rooms and offers a king-size sleigh bed, gas fireplace, and lake and Adirondack mountain views. A cheese platter, bottle of champagne, and a full breakfast each morning is complimentary.

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