Europe offers some of the most incredible history and rich culture in the entire world. For visitors coming to Germany, France, the UK, and more to experience Europe’s many wonders, there is one way to ensure a historical and magical experience, unlike any others. By visiting the top 10 castles in Europe. From 18th century fortresses to 13th-century palaces to old castles from as early as the 1st century, there is so much to discover.
From learning about the history of the royal families, battles and wars fought over regions and territories throughout the continent, and the relationships to these castles through bloodlines lasting for generations, visitors will be swept away off their feet at each of these monumental sites. Millions of people travel the globe just to perfect pictures of castles to create their own fairytales. But before diving into the most remarkable castles in Europe, take a moment to learn why castles were and remain so important to European life.
The Importance of Castles in Europe
In medieval times, castles in Europe served many great purposes including protecting the nobility. Here are some fun and interesting facts about these magical castles you may not know.
- Most castles in Europe were built in the Middle Ages. There are more than 10,000 medieval castles and their remains in Europe.
- Not only did they protect nobility, but they also served as political centers, local government offices,
- The European country with the most castles, is Germany, with over 25,000. Some of the oldest including Meerburg Castle and Wartburg Castle still remain intact.
- Moving into the Renaissance era, many of these historical monuments became military fortresses.
- Windsor Castle is the oldest castle in Europe to still be inhabited. But more on that later.
10 Castles to Visit in Europe
With thousands of castles to choose from it’s hard to pick just 10. These European castles stand out for their beauty, history, fortitude, and international popularity. If exploring Europe’s most impressive castles is on your bucket list this year, then this list is the perfect place to start.
Neuschwanstein Castle – Germany
Arguably the most popular castle in the world is Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria. With over 1.4 million visitors a year, this 19th-century romanesque palace is the perfect image of beauty and power. The fortress was commissioned by King Ludwig II, so he could retreat from public life. It remained his home until he died in 1886, and it was then opened to the public since then. It is nicknamed “the castle of the fairy-tale king,” for its magical details, design, and splendor.
The castle is also rumored to be the inspiration behind the castle in Disney’s Cinderella, and also has a shocking resemblance to Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. For a truly breathtaking sight, visitors should visit the castle during the fall when the colorful autumn foliage surrounds the castle. Visiting this site really is like walking into a fairytale.
Château de Chambord – France
Known for being the largest château in the Loire Valley, the Château de Chambord lives up to its impressive reputation. Its impressive and distinctive French Renaissance architecture makes it one of the most recognized châteaus in Europe. Although constructed under the reign of Francois I in 1519, the building was not completed until the reign of Louis XIV.
With influences from Leonardo da Vinci and Domenico da Cortana, the medieval and classical styles of architecture were blended together to make one of the most beautiful structures in 16th-century Europe. The Château de Chambord is currently open to the public and welcomes millions of visitors a year. It is also notably one of the only castle structures to have survived from that age without major modifications to its original design.
Hohenzollern Castle – Germany
The Baden-Württemberg in southwest Germany is home to one of the most beautiful castles, Hohenzollern. Construction on the current castle began in 1850 after the two castles that were previously in the same location were destroyed. The original Hohenzollern castle dates back to the 11th century and a second from the 15th century. The castle sits atop Mount Hohenzollern and is straight out of a fairytale overlooking the whole region. On a clear day, visitors can see as far as 60 miles (100 kilometers) away. The castle includes military architecture, palatial buildings, gardens, and chapels.
Alcázar of Segovia – Spain
Located in the old city of Segovia, the 12th-century Alcázar of Segovia or Segovia Castle is one of the most jaw-dropping castles in Europe. With a mountain backdrop and its rocky location above the rivers, it is one of the most well constructed and preserved fortresses in Spain. It even has a shape similar to that of a bow on a ship. Although the alcázar was originally built as a fortress it has served many purposes since then including, a royal palace, state prison, military academy, and is now open to the public to explore. This castle was also one of the inspirations for Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle, similar to the Neuschwanstein Castle.
Windsor Castle – England
One of the most famous castles is without a doubt, Windsor Castle in Berkshire, England. With over 1000 years of architectural history, this castle has served the British royal family and monarchs as home since Henry I. It is the longest-occupied palace in Europe. It is the official residence of the Queen of England and is located about an hour away from central London. Fun fact, ten kings are buried at Windsor Castle, including Henry VIII.
Bran Castle – Romania
Located in Bran, Central Romania on the Transylvanian side, Bran Castle is home to one of the most historical legends. Famous for its incredible stature and position, this castle is also commonly known as Dracula’s Castle, however, it is only one of the many locations connected to the legend. It is also commonly mistaken as the home of the title character in the book, however, there is no evidence to support that author, Bran Stroker, knew anything about this castle before publishing the book.
Bran Castle dates back to the 14th-century and was intended to protect the region from the Ottoman empire. In 1920 the castle was refurbished to display furniture and art collected by Queen Marie and has been a museum open to the public since the late 1800s. Visitors can also explore the traditional Romanian cottages, barns, and architecture at the bottom of the castle’s hill.
Palace of Pena in Sintra – Portugal
One of the most popular places to visit in southern Portugal is the incredible Palace of Pena in Sintra. The town of Sintra on its own is famous for its many historic castles and palaces, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites, but the Palace of Pena stands out above the rest. Quite, literally, as it is one of the highest structures on this list, often photographed above the clouds.
The palace was created and designed by King Ferdinand II and its architectural style reflects 19th-century romanticism. The elaborate decor of the palace interior is just as colorful as its painted exterior. The views from the top terraces are something everyone must experience at least once in their lifetime.
Moszna Castle – Poland
The 17th-century Polish landmark, Moszna Castle, is one of the most important monuments in Poland. The castle is the former residence of the German Tiele-Winckler family and has 365 rooms and 99 turrets. While the castle is the focal point of the complex, the entire area includes fields, gardens, meadows, and its own forest. Today the castle’s chapel is used as a concert hall, and the site also hosts serval works of art from many famous artists. The natural landscapes make for the perfect places to spend an afternoon.
Hohenwerfen Castle – Austria
Surrounded by the gorgeous Berchtesgaden Alps, visitors can come and see the Hohenwerfen Castle near Salzburg, Austria. This medieval rock castle is situated on a 2,044 feet tall (623 meter) cliff. It looks over the town of Werfen and was originally built in the 11th century by the Archbishops of Salzburg. Hohenwerfen also is a sister of the Hohensalzburg Fortress that was built by the same archbishops.
Serving as a home to royalty and the clergy, this castle was inhabited for 900 years. It also served as a state prison for a period of time during its inhabited period. One of the main points of popularity for visitors? The falconry center, where guests can see eagles, falcons, vultures, and other local birds of prey show off their skills and the historic art of falconry.
Eilean Donan – Scotland
Scotland’s famous Highlands are home to one of the most famous castles in Europe, Eilean Donan. This 13th-century castle is located on an island where three great sea lochs meet, with an expansive mountain backdrop. Over the course of history, this castle has been built and rebuilt four times. The first and original castle was built during the Middle Ages to protect the lands of Kintail against the Vikings. Due to its location and size, it was the best place to protect Scotland from invaders. Today, this is one of the only castles in the world where almost all parts of the castle can be explored and visited by the public.
Now that you have discovered the top castles in Europe, it’s time to plan your stay. Find the best hotels and vacation rentals on CuddlyNest to stay at while you explore Europe’s most magical and historic castle monuments.
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