There is no better place to see impressive and iconic castles than in Europe. Castles across the continent show architectural skill and splendor. Sometimes romantic, sometimes dark castles around the world evoke a feeling of wonder and melancholy. Since time immemorial, Europe has been the best place to see some of the beautiful castles. Most of the castles started as fortresses that served as a defense system, while some were built to show the power and influence of the royal family. Here are ten beautiful castles that look like fairytale castles.
Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
This 19th century Romanesque rebirth castle is the most visited in Germany and one of the most picturesque castles in the world. Not only one of the best castles in Europe but the immediately recognizable Neuschwanstein Castle served as inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle and made it a real fairytale castle.
The castle was commissioned by King Ludwig II, who, due to his unsuccessful reign, closed off the reality of the world and increasingly used his own imagination, and this castle was living proof of this. Ambitious design and unrealistic deadlines meant that the construction of the castle took longer than planned. What was supposed to be three years took well over two decades. King Ludwig II only lived in the castle for about 172 days.
Over a million tourists visit this Bavarian castle every year and in the summer months – several thousand a day.
Not only the castle itself, but also the surroundings are really spectacular. With a view of the forests and mountains of the nearby region, it is easy to believe that you have suddenly gotten into a fairy tale.
Chateau de Chambord, France
The Château de Chambord is the largest castle in the Loire Valley and it would be no exaggeration to say that it is also one of the most magnificent. Chambord is recognized as one of the best known examples of French Renaissance architecture, and approximately 2 million people visit this area every year.
Chambord has a unique design because it combines medieval forms with Renaissance structures. The castle was built in the early 16th century and originally served as a hunting lodge for King Francis I of France. It is surrounded by extensive grounds and a wonderful forest. The castle was only completed under Louis XIV.
Château de Chambord has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1981.
One of the most important features of the castle is the double helix staircase. With its revolutionary design and technology, it is said to have been inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s designs. The spiral staircase consists of two steps, and the people who go up on one side do not interact with those who come down on the other side and have no eye contact.
There are over 400 rooms and almost 300 fireplaces in the castle, but only 60 rooms are open to the public.
Gravensteen is an impressive medieval fortress in the Belgian city of Ghent. The castle dates from the late 12th century and was the residence of the Counts of Flanders until the middle of the 14th century.
The castle was intentionally built to look threatening as it was inspired by crusader castles. The castle has typical medieval castle elements – a keep, a fortified, oval Enceinte, Bartizans and a moat.
After the Counts of Flanders left, the castle was used as a court and prison until the 18th century.
Coca Castle, Spain
The Castillo de Coca is a 15th century castle that combines elements of Western and Moorish military architecture with Gothic elements and shows one of the best examples of Spanish Mudejar masonry.
It is about 45 kilometers north of Segovia and is one of the few Spanish castles that were not built on a hill. The castle has a three-tier defense system and is surrounded by a moat.
Castillo de Coca has been a Spanish national monument since the 1920s and one of the best castles in Europe.
Today some parts of the castle are open to the public. These include: the chapel, the armory, the central keep.
Malbork Castle, Poland
The Marienburg in northern Poland is one of the most important and best-known castles in the whole country and in all of Eastern Europe. Malbork Castle is located on the banks of the Nogat River and was built by the German knights in the 13th century. In the 15th and 18th centuries, the castle was one of the several royal residences in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
Malbork Castle is located in the Polish city of Malbork and consists of three separate castles separated by dry moats and towers. It is the largest castle in the world covered by the area (143,591 Sqm).
The style of the castle is a classic representation of medieval architecture and Malbork Castle is a traditional medieval fortress. The Marienburg is also one of the largest brick castles in the world.Malbork Castle is a unique architectural work influenced by the later castles of the Teutonic Order and Gothic buildings in northeastern Europe. It was constructed with a rich repertoire of medieval construction methods. Malbork Castle is a source of fascination for a rich history of the European Middle Ages and its material remains.
Like many other medieval castles, Malbork had a strategic and convenient position. The castle’s convenient location on the banks of the Nogat River meant that it could control the passage of the river and charge fees for merchant and inland waterway vessels.
The Marienburg was restored shortly before the Second World War and destroyed again in battle. It was largely neglected until its final restoration in 2016.
Chillon Castle, Switzerland
The magnificent Chillon Castle stands on a rock on the eastern shore of Lake Geneva. The rock was already inhabited in the Bronze Age and the castle, first mentioned in 1005, is one of the oldest moated castles in the world. A total of 25 buildings are grouped around three courtyards. These were previously reserved for the individual rulers. For example, the couple had their own courtyard.
The castle almost became a quarry for railway construction in the 19th century. Fortunately, this could be averted. Today you can visit the castle either as part of a guided tour or on your own, historical bedrooms with wall paintings from the 14th century and magnificent halls. An underground vault is waiting for you, as is a stroll through the inner courtyards of the complex. In the museum’s exhibitions you get an insight into the Middle Ages.
Pena National Palace, Portugal
This colorful palace is located near the Portuguese capital Lisbon and, thanks to its exceptional architecture, belongs to the list of the most beautiful castles and fortresses in Europe. The Palácio Nacional da Pena sits on the hills of the Serra de Sintra and is surrounded by an impressive castle garden.
The palace was built in 1840 by order of the Portuguese titular king Ferdinand II. It’s not just its facade in yellow and red tones that makes the Palácio Nacional da Pena so worth seeing. The many architectural styles that are mixed here are also unique. Colorful mosaics, arches or battlements and small turrets make the building so worth seeing. A monastery had stood on this site since 1481, and the palace now stands on the foundations. Today the palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Bran Castle, Romania
The legendary Bran Castle in Transylvania is considered the Dracula Castle, which Bram Stoker used as a model for his famous novel about the blood-sucking vampire Count Dracula. Whether the Wallachian Prince Vlad III. Drăculea, who served Stoker as a historical model, has never entered the castle. Nevertheless, it is marketed as a residence by Count Dracula and is open to the public. In the middle of rolling hills and dense forests, it rises impressively over the landscape.
Inside the castle you will find historical furniture and other furnishings to give you an impression of the time when Bran Castle was still the home of a ruler.
The castle was built from 1211, but was repeatedly involved in armed conflicts and further rebuilt.
Trakai Island Castle, Lithuania
Trakai Island Castle is a historic Gothic palace built by the Lithuanian Duke in the 14th century. It served as the Duke’s residence since Trakai was the capital at the time. The entire landscape of Trakai dictates the architecture of the castle with several lakes around the historic center. Trakai Island Castle shows medieval exhibits that were main attractions for tourists. A 300-meter wooden bridge with torches that lit up the path at night leads to the castle. The halls and galleries of indescribable beauty and secret passages fascinate visitors. Trakai Island Castle is currently a museum that hosts various concerts and craft days.
De Haar Castle, The Netherlands
When you visit the province of Utrecht in the Netherlands, Castle de Haar is a must. The largest castle in Holland is only half an hour’s drive from Amsterdam. The medieval-looking castle was built between the reconstruction of the 19th and 20th centuries on the ruins of an earlier castle.
The interior is provided with significant wood carvings throughout. Works by the Rothschild family can also be seen on the entire property, as the castle was converted by the family.
The castle is surrounded by a beautiful castle park with old trees, gardens and ponds.
Hohenzollern Castle, Germany
Hohenzollern Castle is one of the best castles in Europe and most important objects in the Baden-Württemberg region in southwest Germany. The construction of today’s castle on the Hohenzollern began in 1850, when the first two castles that stood in the same place fell into despair.
The impressive castle complex on the mountain is easily reminiscent of a fictional world – with its many towers and buildings there is so much to discover. The castle consists of military architecture, palace buildings, chapels and gardens.
The castle, located 855 meters above sea level, overlooks the surrounding landscape better than anything else. The view extends up to 100 km on a clear day.
Egeskov Castle, Denmark
On the island of Funen you will find this little gem of European castles. Egeskov is a red brick moated castle that was completed in 1554. The castle has been open to the public since 1986. However, it is still privately owned by the descendants of the last castle residents.
Today you will find a castle museum in Egeskov Castle, which extends over 10 rooms and contains many historical furniture, paintings, musical instruments, porcelain and many other art objects. You will also find an extensive hunting trophy collection from a former castle owner.
Another highlight is the room-sized doll’s house “Titanias Palast” with over 3000 parts. In the outbuildings of the castle you will find other museums, for example one with various automobile models, airplanes and motorcycles.
Leeds Castle, England
Leeds Castle is advertised on the homepage as the “most beautiful castle in the world”. And even if this list is only supposed to list the most beautiful castles in Europe, this must of course not be missing. In the middle of a beautiful park and garden landscape on a moat, the castle has stood here since 857. King Henry VIII of England was one of the hosts here. Today, tourists from all over the world flock to Kent every year to visit Leeds Castle.
A maze awaits you in the palace complex, in which many have already got lost, an underground grotto and a garden with flowering shrubs. There is also a large children’s playground and a bird of prey show.
Corvin Castle, Romania
Castles form an important part of Transylvanian history. This region in Romania is known for its notorious connection to Dracula, more precisely to Vlad the Impaler, the ruler of Wallachia. We have already mentioned Bran Castle, which is famous as Dracula’s Castle, but it is impossible to talk about significant Romanian and European castles without mentioning Corvin Castle, also known as Hunyadi Castle.
The Corvin Palace, built in the late Middle Ages in the Gothic-Renaissance style, is not only one of the most important objects in Romania, but also one of the largest in Europe.
The castle has been renovated several times. After a long period of despair, there were also several fires that caused considerable damage.
Due to its impressive Gothic appearance, the castle has been shown regularly in films, video games and television programs.
Moszna Castle, Poland
The Moszna Castle in southwestern Poland in the small village of Moszna is a 17th-century castle built in the Baroque, Neo-Gothic and Neo-Renaissance styles. The fairytale castle was once the residence of the industrial tycoons, the Silesian Tiele-Winckler family.
The castle has an impressive number of towers – a total of 99. The number of rooms in the castle is no less impressive – 365.
The castle changed hands several times and once housed a health facility specializing in psychiatry and neurology.
Ashford Castle, Ireland
The Castle on the banks of Lough Corrib in Ireland dates from the 13th century. If you want to visit this building, you have to dig deeper into your pocket because Ashford Castle now houses one of the most exclusive 5-star hotels in the world. The room prices start at 325 euros. The pompous Presidential Suite costs up to 5,000 euros per night.
The Alcazar of Seville, Spain
Alcazar of Seville has become even more famous with films such as Lawrence of Arabia, Kingdom of Heaven and the cult series Game of Thrones and is one of the most visited places in Spain and Seville.
The Alcazar was built for the Christian King Peter of Castile on the site of a Muslim Abbadid residential fortress. Just like Alcázar of Segovia, this fortress is another excellent example of Mudéjar architecture.
The courtyard of the Patio de las Doncellas is one of the most famous features of the Alcazar complex with its strikingly beautiful tiled pedestals. The 14th century Salón de Audiencias is still used as the reception room of the ruling monarch and is open to the public on guided tours.
The Alcazar is still a royal palace, making it one of the oldest royal palaces still in use.
Chateau de Chenonceau, France
The Château de Chenonceau is immediately recognizable and has a unique design with an arch bridge over the Cher river. It is one of the most famous castles in the Loire Valley. The current castle dates from the 16th century, but an earlier possession was mentioned in writing in the 11th century.
The interior combines elements of Gothic and Renaissance exterior and shows a significant and extraordinary collection of furniture, tapestries and works of art.
The castle is surrounded by a huge forest and there is a beautiful castle park on the site. The truly unique design of this palace allows for hours of wonderful exploration.
Alcazar of Segovia, Spain
The Segovian Alcazar is one of the best castles in Europe and of course in Spain. An Alcázar is a Spanish castle in the Moorish style. Alcázar of Segovia was first mentioned in Christian writings in the 12th century. It was typical of a fortress and was built on a ledge.
During the Middle Ages, the monarchs of Castile preferred Alcázar of Segovia as one of their homes.
In the outer area of the castle there is a moat, a drawbridge, a keep with four towers and a Herrerian courtyard. Inside there are several noble rooms and a chapel.