Castles That Will Take You Back in Time and Transport You Into a Fairy Tale

Castles have been around for hundreds of years in one manner or another. They range from fortresses and huge homes for royalty to entire towns! Their halls hold tons of history in the form of tapestries, portraits, royal furnishings, and even weapons.
Getty Images Photo by Balate Dorin
Getty Images Photo by Balate Dorin
Much of Europe and Asia have ruins scattered throughout, but there are plenty of structures both still standing and ready for you to look inside. Get one step closer to a modern-day fairy tale when you take a look at some of these beautiful pieces of architecture and history.

Neuschwanstein Castle – Schwangau, Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the most famous in the world. It’s nicknamed Cinderella’s castle and was the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Castle in theme parks and movies. But this castle isn’t a fairy tale – it housed King Ludwig II of Bavaria, who died in 1886.

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After his death, the castle was opened to the public and it now brings in more than a million visitors every year. Nestled among the pristine, beautiful hills and mountains of Schwangau, nobody who lays eyes on this opulent construction can say much more than “wow.” Follow us as we take a look inside.

Just as Beautiful as You Might Expect

Even though Ludwig died when only fourteen rooms were finished, there’s no denying this castle is at the top of the line when it comes to decoration and beauty. Visitors are able to see the king’s bedroom, the Singer’s Hall, and others.

 

The Grotto, an artificial stalactite room on the third floor, is undoubtedly the most unique of the rooms in the castle. Special lighting arrangements add an even greater fairy-tale feeling. Every room is made with as much detail as possible, and you might end up wanting to never leave.

Windsor Castle – Windsor, England

When the queen isn’t busy at Buckingham Palace, she spends her days at her residence in Windsor Castle, just outside of London. This huge stone structure has been the official residence of the royal family – no matter which one it might be – for more than nine hundred years.

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It’s both the oldest and the largest still-occupied castle in the world. The castle takes up thirteen acres of space, which doesn’t include the large grounds and garden. This structure is weighed down under much history, as can be expected from such a long-running royal residence.

Where the Queen Lives

The Windsor Castle contains a mind-boggling one thousand rooms. It’s one of the biggest residences in the world. In 1992, a devastating fire did a great deal of damage to the castle’s east end. However, restorations have brought it back into a beautiful state and presented a good opportunity to update it to modern standards.

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Want to know something interesting? The queen has slept in the dungeons – during World War II, whenever the Luftwaffe would do bombing runs, Elizabeth and her sister ran to the dungeons to stay out of harm’s way. There was no central heating and there were plenty of beetles.

Pena Palace – Sintra, Portugal

Atop its mountain outside Lisbon, a Romanticist castle from the middle ages brims with color. King Ferdinand II of Germany built this residence for Queen Maria II of Portugal. He placed it on a beautiful spot that allows not only a good look at the countryside but also a panoramic view of Portugal’s Riviera.

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With bright yellows, vivid reds, and even cool, soothing blues, the exterior design of this castle catches the eye and demands attention. Completed in 1854, the castle is both a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. It’s available to tour and is also used for state functions.

Portugal’s Prettiest Palace

The interior of the palace wasn’t fully finished and furnished until 1910. Tour guests can now enter and take in the eye-popping vaulted ceilings and the incredibly detailed wall frescoes, stuccos, and painted walls.

 

Notable rooms include The Chapel, The Royal Dining Room, and The Noble Room. There is also the Kitchen – which is big enough to house all the cooks needed for such a structure, which may have seen hundreds and hundreds of guests for official functions. The interior serves as the summer residence of the family and is home to numerous royal collections.

Stirling Castle – Sterling, Scotland

Stirling Castle is said to be a “brooch” that holds Scotland together, situated right between the Highlands and the Lowlands. This ancient residence was once home to King James IV. The castle was also a symbol of Scotland’s independence. During the numerous wars and conflicts between England and Scotland, the castle changed several hands and has been sieged at least eight times.

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Sitting atop Castle Hill, an Intrusive crag, its strong defensive position made it critical for any army who wanted to control the land. The most recent was only a few hundred years ago, in 1746. The castle is a Scheduled Ancient Monument managed by Historic Environment Scotland.

The Greatest Tapestries in the World

No castle is complete without the hangings and trappings of royalty, and Stirling Castle is no exception. In fact, the tapestry hanging in the Queen’s Presence Chamber, a recreation of The Hunt of the Unicorn tapestries, took years to complete, and cost more than two million pounds. And that’s just a recreation!

 

After years of being forgotten, the royal residences (though they aren’t in use) have been restored to their original states. The castle is the headquarters of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. However, the sole surviving unit of the regiment, the Balaclava Company, has been garrisoned at Redford Barracks in Edinburgh since 2014.

Matsumoto Castle – Matsumoto, Japan

Japanese Hirajiros  are five- or six-tiered castles. There are only five of them in Japan. Matsumoto is the oldest example of these beautiful and iconic structures. It was constructed at the start of the sixteenth century. Nicknamed Crow Castle due to its black color, it dates back to the Sengoku period.

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Known as a flatland castle (because it wasn’t built on a hill or amid rivers), the full defensive capabilities include an extensive system of inter-connecting walls, moats, and gatehouses. Maintaining its original wooden interiors and external stonework, it is listed as a National Treasure of Japan.

A Simple Samurai Home

The castle was originally slated to be torn down in the late nineteenth century, following a sale of the site. An influential figure from Matsumoto, Ichikawa Ryozo, started a campaign to save the building, and the efforts were rewarded when the city government acquired the building for preservation.

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The interior of the building is simple and sparse, as befitting the home of the warrior class, the samurai. After a 5.4 magnitude earthquake in 2011, ten large cracks appeared in the inside wall of the main tower. The second floor features a museum with a collection of guns, armor, and other weapons.

Hochosterwitz Castle – Sankt Georgen, Austria

Rising more than five hundred feet around the countryside and built on a large dolomite rock, Hochosterwitz Castle dates back to medieval times. It is a major tourist attraction and one of the Austrian state’s biggest landmarks. The castle is said to have been built circa 860 A.D. by the Osterwitz dynasty.

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There’s a long pathway up to the castle itself, which features fourteen fortified gates. The castle has been the same for hundreds of years. It remains in the possession of the Khevenhüller family, as requested by George Khevenhüller, the original builder. Some sections of the castle are open to the public.

The Interior Armory

What clusters and fills the halls of Hochosterwitz Castle, you might ask? Nothing less than a huge armory of weapons left by Napoleon himself. Part of this armory is an astounding set of armor that tops eight feet tall. It was worn by someone named Burghauptmann Schenk, who may or may not have been the inspiration for Gregor Clegane from “Game of Thrones”.

 

The castle also boasts prehistoric artifacts, paintings, and detailed interior set pieces that recreate the immense history of this building. From knights praying at altars to old-world walls, there is a lot to see and take in here.

Orava Castle – Oravsky Podzamok, Slovakia

At more than seven hundred years old, the Orava Castle is an example of a castle sitting atop a prime defensive position, on a rock in a valley. The Orava Castle, named for the river it overlooks, is often considered one of the most beautiful castles in this country that has more than a few to offer.

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Hugging the shape of the 520-meter spur of rock it occupies, this castle was first built in the Romanesque and Gothic styles. However, it has been updated to a Renaissance and Neo-Gothic look later on. It’s possible you’ve seen a movie that featured this castle – the 1922 film “Nosferatu” used it as Count Orlok’s Transylvanian castle.

One of Pop Culture’s Favorite Castles

Thanks to its clifftop location, Orava Castle is also known as the Eagle’s Nest. Getting all the way to this fortification requires climbing a steep, narrow iron staircase. However, the interior is warmly decorated and now includes a museum. Visit, and you’ll find a Painting Gallery, the Weapon room, and collections of scientific, ethnographic, and archaeological importance.

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Additionally, this castle has appeared in the 2020 TV adaptation of “Dracula”, and it’d design inspired Kaer Morhen, the fortress for the Wolf School of witchers in the video game adaptation of “The Witcher” book series. Talk about a cultural footprint!

Nesvizh Castle – Niasviz, Belarus

Both the home of the Radziwill family and a World Heritage Site, the Nesvizh Castle can be found on a peninsula in the Usha River. Its walls were first formed in the late fifteen hundreds. This princely estate was built with a Baroque style, tall and grand.

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This castle has been the site of numerous large-scale battles, including when King Charles XII sacked the castle and destroyed its fortifications. The most famous or important part of this residence is the Corpus Christi Church. The church houses the coffins of seventy-two members of the Radziwill family. It was the world’s first domed basilica with a Baroque facade.

Still Undergoing Reconstruction

The Nesvizh Castle has drawn sharp criticism due to the lengthy reconstruction projects that are still ongoing. This includes structures that have been long-demolished, such as a bell tower. However, the interior of the castle still looks pristine, with gold filigree on nearly every surface, and oodles of examples of beautiful furniture, art, and decorations.

 

One member of the Radziwill family was Caroline Bouvier, the younger sister of Jackie Kennedy. Due to this marriage, Caroline became a princess, which must have been nice to hold over Jackie’s head. But this castle hasn’t always been full of fun – in 1939, the Red Army expelled the Radziwill family and made the castle a sanatorium as the park fell into neglect.

Rocca Scaligera Castle – Sirmione, Italy

Found on Lake Garda, Rocca Scaligera is one of Italy’s best-preserved castles. It sees more than three hundred thousand visitors a year! The castle has been around since the thirteenth century and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Italy. It features a notable wet dock, a fortified port built in the fourteenth century, stylistically unique ramparts, and crenelated towers.

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The bright tan stone and clear, green waters of the lake under it turn this castle, along with the city accompanying it, into a beautiful scene for visitors and residents alike. As a castle on the water, this structure had to do a lot of things differently.

Arrive by Boat and Drift to the Front Door

The waters of Lake Garda creep into the thick walls of the castle – by design. The castle was built with numerous passageways that allow travel by boat while also keeping the castle defended. Due to this feature, it looks as if the lake is slowly swallowing the castle, giving it another moniker: the Sinking Castle.

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Yet this structure has stood for hundreds of years and has defended the old town of Sirmione since its construction. The castle’s name came from the original builders, who chose to decorate the buildings with symbolic and defensive design elements in order to make their status as the owners widely known.

Hohenzollern Castle – Bisingen, Germany

Hohenzollern is one of the three hilltop castles still owned by Prussian royalty. It could very easily be seen as a real-life Hogwarts, with huge spires and towers, and immense keep, hundreds of outbuildings, and large walls. Yet this neo-Gothic castle is only a few hundred years old, built in the nineteenth century.

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Just south of Stuttgart, more than three hundred thousand people visit this castle every year. This perfect example of beautiful neo-Gothic architecture also features the crown jewels of the Prussian King. It is currently the home of the Prussian royal family, though since Prussia doesn’t necessarily exist anymore (it’s complicated) the family isn’t in charge of any state matters.

Nothing Like Some Good Old Fashioned Opulence

The Prussian spirit is alive and well in Hohenzollern Castle. The castle boasts more than 140 rooms, and each one includes unique details that visitors love to notice. These range from intricate marquetry floors, to immense murals that take up entire walls, to gilded, vaulted ceilings.

 

There are four towers, aligned to bastions, that rise into the air. It houses numerous buried royalty, and the Eagle Gate, the main entrance to the castle, is an immense tunnel. While it’s never shown up in a Harry Potter film, it was the location for a 2016 thriller-horror film “A Cure for Wellness”. A 2017 TV adaptation of “The Worst Witch” also used the castle.

Chillon Castle – Veytaux, Switzerland

Few of the fortifications on this list have their roots as far back as Chillon castle. Romans laid the foundations of this fortress in the Bronze Age as a Roman outpost, guarding a strategic road through the Alpine passes. Sitting on the edge of Lake Geneva, the first written record of the castle itself is from 1005.

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Throughout the centuries, the castle has been home to royalty, captured and recaptured by invaders, and withstood sieges. The Swiss style of the castle is structurally similar to other European castles of the Medieval style. But its outward appearance is still unique, with sloped, tiled roofs and circular towers.

Want to Have a Party in a Castle?

“Chillon” comes from a word that means “flat stone, slab, or platform.” Seeing as how this castle is perched on a rock platform, it’s the perfect name. Chillon Castle includes twenty-five buildings and plenty of rooms in each one. Visitors are free to tour the castle.

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According to the castle’s website, it is the most visited historical monument in Switzerland! Want to show off to your friends? Space inside the castle is available to rent for events. As for pop culture influence, the castle was the inspiration for Prince Eric’s castle in “The Little Mermaid”.

Kronborg Castle – Helsingor, Denmark

One of the most famous plays of all time, “Hamlet”, was set in Kronborg Castle – though William Shakespeare called it Elsinore. Nestled in the border between Denmark and Sweden, the castle was an important stronghold between the sixteenth century and the eighteenth century.

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First built in the fourteen hundreds, it began as a fortress (known then as Krogen) for King Eric VII, controlling the entrance to the Baltic sea. King Frederic II, between 1574 and 1585, transformed the fortress into a magnificent Renaissance castle. A fire destroyed much of the castle in 1629, but King Christian IV had it rebuilt.

Modern Interior with a Classic Exterior

The castle consists of four wings surrounding a courtyard, and a Great Hall – the largest of its kind in Northern Europe – is used for banquets. The interior also boasts royal apartments, a large ballroom that has been updated with modern aesthetics, and a “Little Hall,” full of tapestries portraying a hundred Danish kings.

 

There is also a chapel that has been used as an army barracks, a gymnasium, and a fencing hall. Numerous famous actors have played Hamlet in the castle of his history, including Laurence Olivier, Derek Jacobi, David Tennant, and Jude Law.

Osaka Castle – Osaka, Japan

Osaka Castle is one of the five beautiful Hirajiros that Japan is home to. It is beautifully white, gilded with colors, and the sprawling castle grounds are full of traditional cherry blossom trees, making the public park a popular destination when the trees bloom. The bloom’s Hanami festival is home to food vendors, taiko drummers, fireworks, and much good cheer.

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The castle is one of the more important spots in Japan’s long history. It was built in the fifteen hundreds and was the setting for the unification of Japan in the sixteen hundreds, which led to the Shogunate and samurai era.

In Honor of the Architect

Inside Osaka Castle are nineteen scenes from the life of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the original architect of the castle. There are also Panorama vision screens showing scenes from the Summer War of Osaka, during which an army of two hundred thousand men attacked the city of Osaka and the castle. Despite being severely outnumbered, the defenders won the day.

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Fires have plagued the castle, including in 1660, when lightning struck a gunpowder warehouse, which set the castle on fire after an explosion. In 1955, movie “Godzilla Raids Again” had the titular monster destroying the castle as it pins Anguirus against it.

Prague Castle – Prague, Czech Republic

While several castles on this list may have had their foundations laid long ago, few have older constructions than Prague Castle. Building this fortress began in approximately 870 A.D. It served as a house for Bohemia’s kings and is still the home of the Czech Republic’s president to this day.

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It’s even in the Guinness Book of World Records, as the largest coherent castle complex in the world – it occupies almost seventy thousand square meters. The structure is one of the most popular Prague tourist attractions, bringing in over 1.8 million visitors annually. Due to the age of the building, it doesn’t stick to one certain style, but it’s classified as Baroque and Mannerism.

A Town Just by Itself

With multiple churches, a monastery, numerous courtyards, halls, and more, it wouldn’t be wrong to call Prague Castle its own town. Touring the castle allows you to see the Royal Palace which was rebuilt in the fourteenth century in the Gothic style by King Charles IV.

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There is also the Golden Lane – which consists of small, bright houses – as well as both St. George’s Basilica – a Romanesque basilica – and St. Vitus Cathedral. The cathedral is immense, and one of the most prominent examples of Gothic architecture in the country. It contains the tombs of many Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors.

Ort Castle – Gmunden, Austria

Built on an island in the center of an Austrian lake known as Traunsee, it’s said that Ort Castle was built on the remains of an ancient Roman castle. The castle as we know it now was originally founded in 1080 by Hartnidus of Ort, and improvements continued to grow it up through the thirteenth century.

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The castle is in the Renaissance style, though it has a unique design – most clearly seen thanks to the top of the central tower – that sets it apart from others of its kind. After decades of poor maintenance, the castle is now being used as a study center for the Federal Ministry for Land and Forestry.

A Smaller Castle for a Smaller Country

Many castles are nowadays big, culturally important places that brim with visitors, but not all of them. Ort Castle doesn’t see as many tourists as some of the other examples on this list, but at least it’s been used for the shooting location of the television show “Schlosshotel Orth”.

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It’s also available to be used as an event center, such as weddings, concerts, and even business conferences. The castle features a dungeon with prison cells, a large Gothic terrace, numerous interior halls, and a beautiful chapel. Walking along the long wooden bridge to this island castle is an often-missed opportunity.

Predjama Castle – Predjama, Slovenia

This list has castles on top of mountains, on islands, on lakes, and on rivers, but Predjama Castle is built into the mouth of a cave. This Renaissance-style castle appears in writing as far back as the twelve hundreds, and it’s one of the most famous attractions in Slovenia.

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It has a substantial legacy as the largest “cave castle” in the world. The underground tunnels – used by plundering knights in the Middle ages – add even more to this castle’s history. As a balance, a natural vertical shaft was enlarged, which allowed for the castle to be secretly resupplied during times of siege.

A Stony Climb

Of course, visitors nowadays aren’t allowed anywhere near these secret passages. No, there’s only one way in and out of Predjama Castle now, and that’s a passageway through the cavern that it’s built into.

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The castle was one of the favorite summer residences of the Cobenzi family, which included famous art collector Philipp von Cobenzi as well as diplomat Count Ludwig von Cobenzi. In 1810, Count Michael Coronini von Cronberg inherited the castle, and in 1846 he sold it to the Windischgrätz family. This family remained the owners until the end of World War II when the Yugoslav Communist authorities confiscated it and turned it into a museum.

De Haar Castle – Utrecht, Netherlands

As the largest castle in Holland, De Haar Castle lies just outside of Amsterdam. Constructed in the late 1800s, it’s reminiscent of fairytale castles. Art-filled halls and sprawling gardens are always open to visitors.

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The current structure is not even two hundred years old. However, the oldest records of a building on the spot come from 1391, when the De Haar family received the lands from Hendrik van Woerden. Ownership passed through plenty of hands and families until it landed at the doorstep of Jean-Jacques van Zuylen van Nyevelt. Jean-Jacques’s grandson set about restoring the castle, which had fallen under the ruin of time.

The Tourist Spot of the Rich and Famous

Jean-Jacques’s grandson was married to a member of the Rothschild family, and with the help of their finances, they set about doing right by the old building. The interior’s now rich, ornamented woodcarving is reminiscent of the interior of a Roman Catholic church. The same carver even designed the tableware.

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There are lots of pieces of art from Japan and China, including classic pieces of porcelain. The centerpiece is a carrier coach of the wife of a Japanese Shogun, reportedly one of only two in the world. Many visitors take the opportunity to tour, but Japanese tourists, in particular, are interested in the carrier coach.

Heidelberg Castle – Heidelberg, Germany

With foundations dating back to the early twelve hundreds A.D., the Heidelberg Castle has gone through multiple iterations as wars, destruction, and demolitions have seen it continually change. The ruins have been partially restored, and the remains of this part-Gothic, part-Renaissance castle draw in over a million visitors a year.

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The castle is first mentioned in writing in 1225 (as “castrum”). Famous residents include Frederick V, Elector Palatine, Elizabeth Charlotte, Princess Palatine, and several others. We know you’re wondering: “Elector Palatine” was the ruler of a region under the Holy Roman Empire, sort of like a Governor of a state.

Still Intact Despite the Ruins

The castle is in ruins (on purpose), but there are still several structures that are intact enough to visit and take in. These include the Ottoheinrich Building, which is a large section of the castle, as well as the gardens, the palace, and the “Barrel Building”. The latter housed the castle’s large wine and spirits collection and seen the different residents host huge blowout parties.

 

This location has been a tourist destination for hundreds of years. Descriptions from 1465 mention that the city (meaning the castle) is “frequented by strangers.” Of course, tourism wasn’t a big industry then, but in the nineteenth century, the place became a major tourist attraction.

Glamis Castle – Angus, Scotland

Glamis Castle, in the home of the Lyon family and the current Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, has been around since the thirteen hundreds. If you’re imagining the famous Shakespeare play Macbeth within its walls, then you’re doing the exact same thing that Shakespeare did.

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It was the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother (wife of King George VI). Their second daughter, the sister of the current Queen of England, was born there. With walls that are a meter thick, it’s ready to withstand any and all attacks – and due to the tumultuous war history of Scotland and England, it had its work cut out for it.

Pretty, Pretty Ghosts

There are lots of stories and fables about this old structure – it’s possible Shakespeare knew what he was doing when he wrote about ghosts appearing to Macbeth. King Malcolm II and his son Duncan I both died in the castle under mysterious circumstances.

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There’s also a Monster of Glamis – it’s said to be a hideously deformed child, who stayed in the castle all his life, and when he died, his suite of rooms was bricked up. Still, the interior is richly-designed and, as far as we can tell, free of ghosts.

Castello di Miramare – Trieste, Italy

Built for Archduke Maximilian, part of the powerful Hapsburg family, the Castello di Miramare overlooks the Gulf of Trieste. Along with a regal and eye-catching palace in a Gothic Revival style, the grounds include fifty-four acres of meadows, forests, and shorelines.

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The castle’s construction began in 1855. There are stables, a park featuring numerous tropical species of trees and plants, and a large museum. Though more of a mansion than a castle, it went through World War I and World War II, as well as numerous other smaller conflicts, and it served as a headquarters for various German, New Zealand, British, and American forces at different times.

Visit the Archduke’s Home

There’s much to see one this sprawling estate, even if you aren’t interested in the outdoor amenities. Visitors will be able to see Maximilian’s chambers and those of Charlotte, his consort; the guest rooms; the information room, which details the castle’s history and the park’s construction; and many more.

 

Each room is decorated with the original furnishings, ornaments, and furniture from the middle of the nineteenth century. Visitors can also take in the throne room, which has recently been restored to its former splendor. The park is open to the public free of charge, and thousands of tourists also take a tour of the building every year.

Buda Castle – Budapest, Hungary

When you visit Budapest and take in the huge city, one building will stand out: Buda Castle, a huge palace on Buda hill, overlooking the Danube River. This immense structure is the focal point of Budapest’s Castle District.

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It’s been undergoing constant construction since the fourteenth century, and during World War II it was destroyed. After the war ended, it was rebuilt with a simplified Stalin Baroque style. It has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Calling this castle historic is an understatement since it’s gone through wars, regime changes, the Holy Roman Empire, and numerous updates, all while reigning over Budapest.

Lots to See Inside this Huge Complex

Buda Castle is now home to the National Gallery, the Budapest History Museum, and the National Library, and each one requires its own entry fee. It’s pretty easy to say that you could spend a week seeing everything at this immense, gorgeous piece of architecture. Parts of the castle, like the courts, are still free.

 

The castle also includes an extensive cave system, which was utilized by hunters to store tigers and Hungarian mountain bears during the Ottoman era. There are numerous unique and memorable rooms to enjoy, such as the Writing Room, the Royal Bedroom, the “Circle” Room, and the Archducal Apartments.

Alcázar of Segovia – Segovia, Spain

With a perfect perch on a rocky hill, overlooking the confluence of two rivers, Alcazar of Segovia appears to be the bow of a ship, slicing through waters with a beautiful medieval look. Construction took centuries, and the initial foundations were laid in the twelve hundreds.

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The name is simple – Alcazar means fortress, stemming from the Arabic “al’qasr.” This is also where Alcatraz got its name since California was settled by the Spanish. The huge halls of this formidable fortress are immense structures, and the castle itself is huge – the castle and the grounds together combine for a hundred and thirty-four hectares.

Don’t Get Too Lost

It’s been said that Alcazar of Segovia was the inspiration for the Wicked Queen’s home in Walt Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, and is also thought to be one of the inspirations for Cinderella’s Castle at the Walt Disney Magic Kingdom Park.

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There are hundreds of interior rooms to explore, which include the Hall of las Piñas, named for the decorative motifs of the coffered ceiling, and the Room of the Belt, named because of the long golden lace walls. There’s also a chapel where the king or queen took mass, and the Armory Room, which features a collection of weapons.

Shuri-jô Castle – Naha, Japan

This is a beautiful example of far-eastern architecture. This stylish castle was built for the Ryukyu Kingdom, serving as a palace for four hundred years until the year 1879. Though the castle was nearly destroyed during the Battle of Okinawa during World War II, a long restoration project brought it back to life, and the castle is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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It also spent some time as part of a university campus after the war. It’s the site of numerous important religious and cultural ceremonies, though since the restoration has limited access to the site for the purpose of some events.

A Lightning Rod for Destruction

This palace has burned down four times over the course of its history. In fact, a fire has ravaged the grounds even as recently as 1992 and Halloween night, 2019. The main courtyard structures of the castle were once again damaged.

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The castle and grounds feature large Japanese gates, numerous shrines, and plenty of other features such as private gardens, man-made ponds, natural springs, royal tombs, and even a royal villa that is a rare, historically valuable example of Ryukyuan landscape gardening. The castle has appeared in a number of video games, including “Deadly Dozen: Pacific Theater”, and “Call of Duty: World at War”.

Arundel Castle – Arundel, England

Now completely restored, Arundel was the home of Roger de Montgomery, who was made an earl by William the Conqueror all the way back in 1067. Through the centuries it was home to numerous members of the nobility and is the current home of Edward Fitzalan-Howard, the eighteenth Duke of Norfolk.

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This castle has been the location for events, such as royal weddings, and public collections. Its cricket field has, since 1895, seen matches that run from local youth teams to international sparring matches. Currently, the gardens are undergoing extensive improvements and were expected to open again soon.

Stop in and Say Hi to the Neighbors

Arundel Castle is available for tours, but the family of the Duke of Norfolk still owns it and lives on the property. Due to the lengthy history of the property, it’s been featured in plenty of works. One of them is the famous piece of literature “Morte D’Arthur”, in which it is the castle of Angelides, the mother of Alisander.

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It’s also been used as a filming location for several TV shows and film productions, including “Doctor Who”, and “The Madness of King George”. It’s also likely the inspiration for the kingdom from the “Frozen” series. The castle currently features a museum.

Cochem Castle – Cochem, Germany

Cochem Castle is a stunning creation that contains lots of old-world German style. It brings an outstanding view of the nearby Mosel River and an unforgettable example of early Gothic architecture. Constructed in the eleventh century, this castle has been a home for royals.

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In 1688, the castle was occupied by French King Louis XIV’s troops during the Nine Years’ War. In the following year, they destroyed it. By the year 1868, the castle had long been in ruins when Berlin businessman Louis Frederic Jacques Ravene bought the castle and remade it in the Gothic Revival style. Since 1978 the town of Cochem has owned the castle.

Trust Us, It’s Authentic

A lot of people write off Cochem Castle as not authentic because of the many times it was destroyed, sieged, and, after every time, rebuilt. Still, it remains a distinct collection of structures, and even though the building itself is a little bit newer, it’s still one of Europe’s oldest structures (it was first mentioned in a document alleged to be from 1051).

 

The long and fascinating history brings tourists year-round. The castle now includes a restaurant that offers three-hundred-and-sixty-degree views of the surrounding countryside, and the castle itself contains plenty of rooms that are chock-full of beautiful ornamentation and furniture.

Kylemore Abbey – Connemara, Ireland

This decorative castle, stirring silver and nestled among the emerald beauty of Ireland, was built in the late 1800s by a wealthy politician who spared no expense when making a home for his wife. In 1920, the estate turned into a Benedictine nunnery by nuns who fled Belgium in World I, and it remains so to this day.

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The grounds contain a six-acre walled garden. The full, one thousand acre estate, situated outside Galway, is open for visitors to explore to their heart’s desire. Have no fear, this abbey is just as pretty on the inside as it is on the outside.

A Nunnery With Victorian Decor

The Benedictine community has renovated the abbey’s gardens and its church with donations and local artisans, all in order to be a self-sustaining estate. The interior of the abbey shows how the castle might have looked during the Victorian era. This includes furniture, decorations, and even mannequins wearing traditional era-appropriate outfits.

 

The castle as a whole also includes a family mausoleum, thirty-three bedrooms, four bathrooms, four sitting rooms, a ballroom, a billiard room, library, study, school room, smoking room, gun room, and numerous other offices and residences for staff. Building the structures took a total of a hundred men and four years to complete – hardly anything when you think about some of the other castles on this list.

Bran Castle – Bran, Romania

Look at that pretty set of structures, nestled into the hills of Romania. It’s the kind of place a princess could live! Or, if you’re Bram Stoker, a vampire. Yes, Bran Castle is the inspiration for Dracula’s Castle in the original “Dracula”.

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Bran Castle served as a medieval fortress during the thirteen hundreds and later became a royal residence. Of course, Dracula wasn’t real…but his inspiration, Vlad the Impaler, son of Vlad Dracul, was. However, most historians agree that Vlad probably never set foot in the castle, seeing as how it was an unfriendly place for him to visit and was never under his rule. It’s just a creepy place.

No Vampires in Here

Of course, once you step inside the castle, those spooky feelings will dissipate quickly. The interior of the castle is now a museum, and full of wonderful amenities among its fifty-seven rooms. There are, however, several secret passages, which can be a wonderful way to spook your friends.

 

Of course, the connection to Dracula was great for the tourism industry in the area. In the 1970s the Communist Party of Romania made the decision to market the castle as the “real” Dracula castle, which drew no small number of vampire fans. The castle now, like so many others, houses a museum.

Château de Chambord – Chambord, France

The epitome of a beautiful French residence, this castle at Chambord combined the need for defense with a style that would take the world by storm. Construction began in the fifteen hundreds, and today is one of the most recognizable châteaus in France. It is currently a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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The castle has been owned by royals, fallen into decay, and was reestablished thanks to Gaston d’Orleans, who carried out extensive restoration work. King Louis XIV added a twelve-hundred horse stable, which allowed him to use it as a hunting lodge, but he too abandoned the location not long after he planted his flag.

The Largest Château in Loire Valley

This site is now visited by thousands of people every year, and there’s plenty of space for all of them. The huge building includes 440 rooms, a total of 282 fireplaces, and eighty-four staircases. While it was built with tough walls, corner towers, and a moat, this castle was never intended to act as defense from enemies. Even the partial moat was considered an anachronism at the time of its construction.

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Also part of this home of kings and princes is the spectacular double-spiral staircase, the centerpiece of the château. It’s so well known, that there are even thoughts that Leonardo da Vinci may have been the original designer of the staircase, though obviously not involved in its construction.

Edinburgh Castle – Edinburgh, Scotland

If you visit Edinburgh, it’s hard to miss this incredible construction. Situated on top of Castle Rock, and overlooking the entire city, this castle has been the home to Scotland and the U.K.’s monarchs. It maintains its position as one of the oldest fortified places in the whole of Europe – evidence of humans has been found on Castle Rock in one form or another that date back three thousand years!

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It dominates the skyline of the city, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Scotland. The castle is home to the Scottish regalia, AKA the Honours of Scotland, and is the site of the Scottish National War Memorial.

A Long History of War

The Great Hall inside Edinburgh Castle was made for King James IV and was completed in 1511, in order to be used for banquets. There are numerous tourist attractions available for the visitor. The most popular paid tourist attraction in Scotland include cafes and restaurants, numerous shops, and historical displays.

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An educational center in the Queen Anne Building runs events for schools and educational groups and even employs re-enactors in costume and with period-correct weaponry. Another feature is the One O’Clock Gun, fired every day at one P.M., except for Sundays, Good Friday, and Christmas Day. The purpose? Originally, it told ships on the water what time it was.

Bonus Castle: Swallow’s Nest – Gaspra, Ukraine

Instead of protection, this castle is little more than a two-bedroom home that was built purely because the original designer – a doctor to the Tsar – loved the look. It’s barely a castle due to its small size, only twenty meters long by ten meters wide.

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The original design included a foyer, a guest room, stairs that lead to the tower, and two more bedrooms on two different levels within the tower. While many of those details were left out, the building does have an observation deck ringing the building, which provides a view of the sea and Yalta’s distant shoreline.