As a history and travel lover, there’s no kind of building in the world that perks my interest more than a castle. Whether it’s learning about the history of Windsor Castle, comparing the summer and winter palaces of the Shaki Khans while traveling Azerbaijan, or sleeping in a castle in Ireland, visiting castles always rates high on my travel itineraries. Looking for the best castles to travel to, I asked forty-nine travel writers to give me the recommendations of the best and most beautiful castles they’ve visited anywhere in the world. I add one of my favorites into the mix, too, giving you fifty amazing and beautiful pictures of castles to inspire your next trip plus their travel tips so you can get started planning!
The British Isles
The British Isles are synonymous with castle travel, and they offer a huge variety of types of castles to visit. The British Isles are comprised of the major islands of Britain and Ireland, along with the smaller islands like the Isle of Man. Here you can stay in castle hotels, stop in to visit a reigning monarch, and take foggy dream photographs at ruined castles on sea cliffs. You could travel here for weeks and not run out of gorgeous castles to see. Here are travel writers favorites:
Travel writers rated four English Castles as their favorites. While I’ve been to Windsor Castle, I’m excited to check out the rest of these on my next trip to England!
The market town of Barnard Castle is found in the North East of England on the edges of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The town is named after the castle of the same name. The castle sits high on a rocky outcrop above the River Tees and takes its name from its 12th-century founder, Bernard de Balliol. It was at one point in the hands of Richard III and you can see his emblem carved into part of the castle. Back during my childhood, I used to stable my horse in the outer ward of the castle, which is of course, what makes it special for me! You’ll now find it maintained by English Heritage.
There are fabulous views from the castle and a great history here. Visit during either the Meet weekend (always the second Bank Holiday in May) or the popular 1940’s weekend at the end of June and you’ll see the castle utilized for a number of charitable events.
The town itself offers plenty of places to stay, there are some great pubs here and you’ll also find the Bowes Museum, which has links to the Queen Mother. Several of the pubs have beer gardens backing onto the castle, which make for an interesting viewpoint with your pint.
Contributed by Sarah Carter from ASocialNomad
Bodiam Castle, near Robertsbridge, is one of the most beautiful castles in England and the stuff of fairytales. The magnificent medieval castle sits within a mirror-like moat protected by a drawbridge and four castellated towers riddled with arrow slits. Situated in rural countryside near the River Rother in East Sussex, Bodiam is one of the most photographed castles in England.
Nearby mainline railway stations are at Robertsbridge (5 miles) and Battle (10 miles, London Charing Cross to Hastings route). There are no public transport links from mainline railway stations, only private taxis. There’s no taxi rank at Robertsbridge so you’ll need to pre-book a cab. There is a taxi rank at Battle. Another option is the steam train. A steam train ride is a magical way to arrive at Bodiam. Seasonal steam train journeys go from Tenterden town to Bodiam station: Operated by Kent & East Sussex Railway.
Contributed by Suzanne Jones from Sussex Bloggers
Old Wardour Castle
I’m not sure any castle can match the architecture, history, and collection of priceless art and artifacts of Windsor Castle. The Castle is over 900 years old! It’s where Queen Elizabeth likes to spend her weekends and where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle had their wedding.
Windsor Castle is easy to get to from London. It only takes an hour on the train from London Waterloo station. As you can imagine, Windsor Castle is very popular so get your tickets in advance (or use your London Pass) to avoid the long lines.
Arrive early to catch the changing of the guard at 11 am. The audio tour (included in your admission price) is fantastic and will guide you through the Castle including Queen Mary’s Dollhouse, the State Apartments, and St. George’s Chapel.
The highlight for me was St. George’s Hall, where state dinners are held. You would never know that it was seriously damaged during a fire in 1992. The ceiling is so grand and the table can seat up to 160 guests.
Room after room is filled with priceless art and elaborate details! Windsor Castle is a real working palace and it is such an amazing experience to be able to explore the grounds.
Contributed by Anisa Alhilali from Two Traveling Texans
Learn more about the history of Windsor Castle
Ireland is home to over 30,000 castle and castle ruins! Once your plane touches down, you’re never too far from an Irish castle.
Malahide is a beautiful castle tucked into a beautiful 22 acres just north of Dublin’s city center. This area of Ireland’s Ancient East is becoming known as the Land of 5000 Dawns as it holds thousands of years of Irish history.
Malahide is a huge turreted castle whose history stretches back to 1175 and has been in the Talbot family for over 800 years. It was held by the same family for many generations even as the family fortunes ebbed and flowed with their various political affiliations.
Legend has it that on the morning of the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, 14 members of the family sat down to breakfast in the Castle. By dinnertime, 13 of them were dead. Ghost stories abound at Malahide Castle from the mysterious white lady to Miles Corbett who was found guilty of regicide as a conspirator in the death of Charles the First.
The castle gardens are superb and you could wander for a long time on the trails and pathways admiring all the beauty of this Irish garden. With over 22 acres to roam this garden has over 5000 botanical species and truly is a botanical masterpiece.
The courtyard at the back of the castle contains an interpretive center, displays and a fascinating Avoca shop and tearoom. Avoca is one of Ireland’s original hand weaving destinations and these days they not only sell beautiful blankets and items they design for the home they have a whole range of Irish foods, linens, cookbooks and the traditional Avoca throws available in the shop.
If you have the energy to explore more after visiting the castle pop down to the village of Malahide itself. Very popular with day tripping Dubliners the village has some remarkable Georgian architecture and great cafes and pubs.
Contributed by Faith Coates of XYUandBEYOND
Northern Ireland has its fair share of Irish castles, too! Don’t skip Northern Ireland if you’re planning an Irish castle vacation.
Dunluce Castle looks like something out of a fairytale! Castle ruins are already cool but put them on top of a hill overlooking the water and you have a winner!
Dunluce Castle is located in Northern Ireland along the Causeway Coast. It is located less than two hours from Belfast and is extremely easy to get to! It is best if you have a car of your own, but if you don’t, you can see Dunluce Castle on a tour or by taking a taxi from a local town.
The castle is steeped in history and bloodshed, and there are lots of panels to read and information to absorb when you visit. It is also a Game Of Thrones filming location which is pretty cool if you like the show!
Plan for spending about 1.5-2 hours exploring Dunluce Castle and there are so many cool things to see in and around the building!
Contributed by Victoria Yore from Follow Me Away
I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Scotland yet, but I know that I can’t wait to see Scotland’s famous castles along with some of it’s lesser traveled castles and castle ruins.
It’s true, you can actually sleep in a castle in Scotland but not this one. Ardvreck Castle is, sorry was, a three-story castle belonging to the Macleods. In a later edition of house wars, the Mackenzie clan took over the 15th-century royal building which sits by Loch Assynt. Karma bit the Mackenzie’s in the behind when Ardvreck was removed from them and put in the Crown’s hands. An upgraded version of the castle, Calda House’s ruins sits close by too, making it a worthwhile stop on Scotland’s answer to Route 66, the North Coast 500 road trip.
Do you know if your ancestors ever owned a castle? It was pretty exciting to find out that mine did! Located in a remote area 80kms west of Fort William in the Scottish Highlands, Castle Tioram dates back to the 14th century and was the seat of my ancestor’s clan, the Macdonalds of Clanranald.
Remaining in the family for almost 600 years and enduring many battles, the castle is now a ruin but conflict still surrounds her. Since 1997 the current owner and a Scottish government body have been locked in an appalling dispute. The owner wished to restore the castle into a private residence and dedicate a museum to the clan, whereas the government denied the request and preferred the castle to remain a ruin due to its historical significance.
Despite this stalemate and uncertainty over the castle’s future, I had an overwhelming sense of feeling at home during my visit. The most special part was realizing my very existence was possible due to the successful line of people who fought for this area, even against the Crown (just like an episode of “Outlander!”)
Castle Tioram is accessible by land during low tide, but keep in mind it becomes a little island when tides are high. Either way, she is undoubtedly my favorite castle!
Contributed by Alyse Madeline from The Invisible Tourist
Eilean Donan Castle is by far my favorite castle in Scotland. It’s one of the most iconic images of Scotland, and widely recognizable around the world from its use on packaging for things like shortbread and whiskey, and in films and television programs. Its prominent position on an island at the meeting point of three lochs, surrounded by majestic mountains makes it a stunningly beautiful place. Eilean Donan was originally built in the 13th century and due to its strategic location was the site of many attacks and involved in key moments in history, until it was largely destroyed by naval bombing in 1719. In the early 20th century Eilean Donan was restored and a footbridge to the mainland was added, opening the castle to the public in 1955. It’s now one of the most visited castles in Scotland. Many visitors stop by while on a Scotish road trip while on their way to the Isle of Skye or on their way towards the North Coast 500, as the castle is around 4 hours from Edinburgh and Glasgow. There’s a large parking lot, a visitors center with gift shop and a cafe, making it a great place to stop and admire the views, even if you don’t cross to the castle itself, although it’s only £7.50 to visit. If you get the timing right with an incoming tide and calm waters, the reflection of Eilean Donan in the loch is stunning!
Contributed by Sonja Bolger from Migrating Miss
The Glamis Castle is located in Angus, Scotland near the village of Glamis. Pronounced “Glams” this castle is one filled with an impressive amount of history and beautiful gardens. The castle is open to the public April-October. There is an admission fee, 12.50 pounds for adults, 9.00 pounds for children.
Since 1372 the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne hold the seat to this amazing castle. Glamis Castle was also the childhood home to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. The Queen Mother loved this castle and insisted that one of her children be born here, on August 21st, 1930 the HRH Princess Margaret was born at Glamis Castle.
To tour inside of the castle, you must go with a castle guide. The guides are very informative and relay stories you would not hear otherwise. Glamis Castle is also known to be the most haunted castle in the British Isles. While taking the tour you are told stories of the past that seem to not leave the castle walls. Including why Shakespeare based his play Macbeth on Glamis Castle.
Enjoy the outside of the castle too, there are several gardens to discover. The Italian Garden with manicured lawns and statues. The Nature Trail where you can roam under the dense and cool trees. The Macbeth Trail with wooden carvings that tell the story of Macbeth. All three gardens are peaceful and beautiful.
Contributed by Sherrie Allbritten from Travel by a Sherrie Affair
Wales might be overlooked compared to England and Scotland, but it has its share of British castles, too! Don’t overlook Wales when planning a tour of castles on the island of Britain.
Caerphilly Castle, located in the town of its namesake, is a 13th-century medieval fortification which is the second largest castle in the United Kingdom. Featuring a double moat system, it was last owned by the Marquesses of Bute before being given to the state in 1950. It is now managed by Cadw and is a must-see castle in South Wales.
Caerphilly is a large site and has many areas and towers to explore. One of the most prominent features is that of its leaning tower, which leans to a greater degree than the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Caerphilly Castle now plays host to a family of dragons. In 2016, a large, smoke-breathing dragon appeared on the banks of the moat outside the castle to commemorate St. David’s Day, and Dewi, as he was named, soon moved inside the castle where he resided for many months before touring other castles in Wales.
In 2017 he was joined by a lady friend, Dwynwen, a spectacular blue dragon and their two eggs. Their babies have since hatched and the family can be viewed at either Caerphilly Castle, or one of the other Cadw sites around Wales if they happen to be on holiday. They are an amazing addition to a wonderful historic site and make a visit to Caerphilly Castle even more memorable, especially with kids.
We enjoyed many visits to this wonderful medieval castle, even doing our own form of dragon hunting with our son. We highly recommend it if you are in Cardiff as it is easily accessible by car or train taking no more than 30 minutes to reach.
Contributed by Catherine from BattleMum
Western Europe is home to the most quintessential fairy tale castles and palaces. While Germany and France might have some of the most famous, castles dot the entire region.
The former capital of the Hapsburg empire, the wealth fo Austria can be seen in its magnificent castles and palaces.
While even William Shakespeare was inspired by the majesty of Danish castles! While I love the history of the vikings in Denmark, the country is also awash with castles! You can start by seeing some right in Copenhagen, but you can visit even more if you get out of the city.
If you are like me who just love castles, you have to check out Egeskove which is located on the island of Fyn, it’s only half an hour drive from Odense, City. If you are flying in Copenhagen, you can take either a bus or train to Odense, the main city in Fyn island then another bus to the castle itself. What makes this castle special you ask? This is a living castle, which means real people are living here. Some parts of the castle are open for the tourist to enjoy, there is also a massive park where you can simply enjoy the view and get amazing photos. They also have a big collection of vintage cars and old buses from all over Europe.
Contributed by Marie Charie from A Mary Road
Chateau de Chambord is one of the best castles in France (and probably one of the best that I have ever seen in my life). The castle is in Loire Valley, only 2.5-hour drive South of Paris. This spectacular French architectural marvel dates to the 16th century and it is now a UNESCO Heritage Site. And it is easy to see why.
The castle’s intricate designs, marble staircases, and beautifully decorated interior provide the viewer with an extraordinary insight into the rich history of French kings Louis XIV and Louis XV. One can only imagine the fancy parades that must have taken place in the grand corridors of the castle.
Chateau de Chambord is surrounded by carefully designed and well-manicured French formal gardens. These are a work of art just as much as the castle itself, and best viewed from the terraces atop the Chambord.
This castle will leave you and any visitor with a feeling of accomplishment. And to me, Chambord is by far, the most amazing French castle and worthy of being on any best castles list!
Contributed by Jolene and Andrzej Ejmont from Wanderlust Storytellers
Château de Chenonceau is one of the most romantic and best known of France’s famous Loire Valley châteaux. Built over the river Cher, on the foundation of an old mill, the current château was constructed in the 16th century. (The original château was burned down in 1412 to punish its owner for a betrayal. Times were tough!)
Since then, Chenonceau has served as home to a string of famous occupants, including Diane de Poitiers, who acquired it as a gift, and Catherine de Medici, who traded up from Château Chaumont after King Henry II died. Queen Catherine then embarked on an aggressive remodel and expansion to impress guests during lavish parties she hosted there.
Today, you’ll enjoy the experience of two very different gardens at the château: the Renaissance style garden created by de Poitiers and the innovative 16th century garden with walkways, roses, and lavender, first envisioned by de Medici.
A visit to Chenonceau in the Loire Valley makes a perfect stop between Paris and all points south in France. In fact, we saw it en route to Paris from the incredible Dordogne region in southwestern France, famous for Cro-Magnon cave art, scenic canoe rides, and the impressive Château de Beynac.
Contributed by Christina Roman from Explore Now or Never
Avignon is a lovely city that serves as a great base of operations for exploring Provence. But its history as a center of Papal power in Europe makes it a unique destination all on its own. At about 3 hours from Paris by high-speed train (and a short Uber ride from the station) downtown Avignon is easy to reach as a day trip or for a longer stay. And your first stop, once you arrive, should certainly be the Papal Palace. The Palais des Papes, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, became the seat of papal power in the 14th century and was home to 6 popes over nearly 100 years. While it fell into extreme disrepair after the Church moved back to Rome and Protestantism came to the forefront, and isn’t as well-preserved as many privately-owned fortifications, this imposing palace is still home to some of the oldest and most vibrant hand-painted tiles from the era and some absolutely exquisite ceilings, chapels, and frescoes. The palace now also serves as a home for many modern art exhibitions and theatrical performances, making it a valuable part of history and modern day. The self-guided tour is affordable but long and is a true feast for the eyes. Once you wrap up, make sure to stop at one of the nearby cafes situated on one of Avignon’s winding streets to cool down and enjoy the day.
Contributed by Megan from Two Restless Homebodies
The castle in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is based on a German castle, and it would be impossible to think that you haven’t seen a German castle in pictures before.
Deep down into the Eltz Forest in Germany, you’ll find one of the most magical castles in the world: Burg Eltz. Burg Eltz is a beautiful medieval castle with pointy towers and brick walls that have been owned by the same family (The Eltz Family) since the 12th century, for over 850 years.
Burg Eltz is not like most of the other castles in Germany since you can not see it from far away upon a high hill overlooking the country. The Eltz Castle you have to walk downhill for about 10-15 minutes before you reach it down in the lush valley, which is quite unique.
This castle is not only full of interesting history but also several cool photo spots, which has made Burg Eltz to one of the most popular and famous castles in the world.
Contributed by Christine Wedberg from Christine Abroad
Burg Hohenzollern, located in Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany, rivals the most beautiful castles in the world. Once the seat of the Prussian royalty, Hohenzollern is still owned by the royal heirs, which is quite unusual. Located near the small town of Bissingen, about 70 km south of Stuttgart, Germany, the castle stands on a hilltop where it can be seen in full glory, for miles.
There is a visitors parking area about halfway up the hill to the castle. There is also a shop where tickets are purchased, wither for grounds entry, or a guided tour. Visitors can then hike the path to the castle, or take the shuttle. The walk takes about 30 minutes.
Grounds admission includes the entire area surrounding the castle and the courtyard, as well as the two chapels and the casemates. For those who have some knowledge of castle and defense architecture, the details and layout of the castle are fascinating. Then, of course, the casemates are long, and a bit eerie, and of course there is the legend of the white lady who is said to haunt the castle. There is also an outdoor cafe, where refreshments are available.
A guided tour includes several rooms in the castle, including a ballroom, and both the queen and king’s chambers. The guides share a lot of history about the castle itself, and the royal family. The tour ends with a trip to the treasury where visitors can browse at their leisure. There are a number of personal items in the treasury, such as the dress Queen Louise wore for her negotiation with Napoleon, in 1807, and the royal jewels. We found the guided tour well worth the additional 5 Euro.
Contributed by Roxanna Keyes from Gypse with a Day Job
Contributed by Noel Morata from Travel Photo Discovery
Neuschwanstein is the castle of all castles and receives more than 1.3 million visitors each year! The castle was built by King Ludwig II and has since inspired the fairytale castles of Disney. Neuschwanstein Castle is very beautiful both on the inside and outside.
The castle can be found in Southern Germany in the Bavaria region. It’s easy to get here by bus or car from Munchen and various other cities in Southern Germany as well as Innsbruck in Austria.
From the bus stop, you walk uphill for about 30 minutes. And if you’re feeling lazy, it’s possible to go for a shuttle bus ride as well. The viewpoint is a point of interest that shouldn’t be missed. It’s called Marienbrucke, and it’s from there you get the iconic view over the castle.
I also suggest you buy tickets before you travel there unless you stay overnight. Because the tickets sell out quickly, and you’re only allowed to enter the castle on a guided tour. You can buy them online and you need to do it minimum 3 days before your arrival.
Contributed by Alex Waltner from Swedish Nomad
“Without worries” or “without concerns” is what Sanssouci translates into. This magnificent piece of Rococo architecture was Frederick the Great’s carefree summer palace. Located in Germany, just outside of Berlin in beautiful Potsdam, the golden palace of Sanssouci stands proudly and is recognized today as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Stroll through the vineyards, hearing the wind gently whistle through the swaying vines heavily laden with grapes. Frederick the Great preferred French wine and thus the grapes were simply for eating. Walk up the steps, hearing your feet on the gravel, up to the one-story palace. Frederick’s architect pleaded for a taller building, insisting it would be grander and more imposing. Yet the Prussian war hero stated he wanted to be able to walk straight into the garden from his summer residence. Indeed, Sanssouci is much simpler than the palace of Versailles, to which this palace is often compared to, and to other opulent palaces built by rulers during the 18th century across Europe. There are just twelve rooms inside, yet each is as exquisitely decorated as the stunning exterior.
Looking back out towards the meticulously planned garden, admire the fountain and chuckle as Frederick never saw the splashes from the jets of water, as his gardeners were not the most competent plumbers…
No trip to Potsdam is complete without gazing upon possibly the smallest grandest palace in Europe. Make sure you visit the gorgeous Sanssouci at some point in your lifetime.
Contributed by Anna Liddell from My Travel Scrapbook
When travelers head to Italy, they usually are thinking about visiting the Roman Forum and ancient Roman sites, beautiful seaside towns, and famous cathedrals in Venice and Milan. However, Italy is another country that is covered in beautiful castles and palaces you can visit while on your Italian vacation.
Castello di Miramare
The Castello di Miramare (Miramare Castle) is a 19th Century castle on the Gulf of Trieste, northeastern Italy. It was built between 1856 and 1860 for Austrian Archduke Maximilian Ferdinand and his wife Empress Carlotta. In 1850 at the age of eighteen Maximilian came to Trieste with his brother and decided to move there and to have a home built facing the sea surrounded by a park worthy of his name and rank.
The castle has a rich history and inhabitants over the ensuing years included Emperors, Archdukes and New Zealand and British troops.
In March 1955 the park was opened free of charge to the public and has become an attraction for thousands of tourists. The castle is surrounded by beautiful parklands and the estate includes greenhouses, chapel ruins and a smaller version of the main castle. The residence has remained largely intact and gives the visitor an insight into life in the middle of the 19th century.
It is easy to get to Trieste by train. It is a 3 and half hour train trip from Rome to Venice and then a 2-hour train trip from Venice to Trieste. Alternatively, it is a short 1-hour flight from Rome to Trieste.
My mother spent most of her young life in Trieste and many of her family still live there. She was married there in 1957. And for that reason, this beautiful city holds a very special place in my heart. It was a dream come true to spend a few days there in August 2017 to retrace my mother’s steps, catch up with her family and even to meet up with her childhood friend whom I found on Facebook and who mum had not seen since her and her husband left for Australia soon after they got married.
Contributed by Danni Cathy from Cathy Travelling
Castello Sforzesco in Milan, Italy, is one of the most iconic castles in Italy. It was built in the 15h Century and used to be the residence of the Sforza family, one of the noble families that ruled over Milan and the surrounding countryside. Today it’s home to a number of different museums and art collections. It’s located right in the center of Milan, next to the Lanza, Cadorna and Cairoli Castello underground stations, and on the edge of the beautiful Park Sempione, the largest park in Milan. If you want to enter the park from this side you will have to walk through Castello Sforzesco. Entry to the castle, if you’re just walking through or want to hang out in the courtyard area, is free, however, you will have to pay a fee to access the museums. If you’re looking to visit all the most magical castles around the world, Castello Sforzesco should definitely feature on your bucket list!
Contributed by Greta Omoboni from Greta’s Travels
Luxembourg is the only BeNeLux country that I haven’t visited yet, but I will definitely add Vianden Castle to my trip when I get there!
A lot of people might skip Luxembourg when traveling in Europe, or only spend some time in the capital of Luxembourg City. But if you don’t get out of the city to explore you are missing out on some of the most beautiful castles in Europe! While Luxembourg is small it packs a punch with lots of lovely castles, and Vianden Castle in the town of Vianden is one of the most impressive. It towers over the charming town and river, and it’s a very big impressive castle even without being on top of a hill! Not only is the castle beautiful but it’s also very interesting to visit and see displays and actors showing what life in this feudal residence and fortress used to be like. Located only about an hour out of Luxembourg City, Vianden is perfect for a day-trip to explore the cobbled streets and cafes, then act out your favorite princess or knight fantasies from the castle battlements. The castle also features a stunning view over the pretty town and valley below. It only costs €6 to enter and you will see local actors in traditional clothing, musket demonstrations, beautiful tapestries and the gorgeously decorated castle rooms. To see more photos of this stunning castle and the pretty town make sure you have a look at my full post.
Contributed by Kristy Atkinson from Tassie Devil Abroad
Driving through Portugal on a road trip in March, I came to love Portuguese architecture, especially their beautiful castles and palaces.
Swiss chocolate, ski vacations, and lakeside castles: Switzerland promises romantic views and delicious food.
Chillon Castle in one of the must-visit places in Switzerland and a popular tourist attraction in Montreux. The historic castle set on the shores of the Lake Geneva with a backdrop of the Alps looks like from a fairytale. The entrance to the castle is through a small roof-covered wooden bridge which has a ticket counter. The castle has several rooms and hall recreated to depict the history of the castle from the times it was used as a prison. During the tour of the castle, you come across several windows which offer great views of the lake and the Alps, the best views, however, are from the 25m high tower of the castle. The castle is about 10 minutes bus ride from the Montreux train station. Once you are done with the castle tour we recommend you return back to the train station by foot. The Montreux city lake promenade is one of the most beautiful lake promenade lined with historic buildings and decorated with flowerbed. One can also reach the Chillon Castle by boat that runs from Geneva with a stop at the Chillon Castle. For private vehicles, there is free parking available on both sides of the road. Chillon Castle is a popular great day trip from the Swiss cities of Geneva and Lausanne.
Contributed by Rashmi & Chalukya from GoBeyondBounds
While most people think of Western Europe and the British Isles when they think of traveling to visit a castle, some of my favorites are actually in Eastern Europe. Colorful, intricate, and historic, every castle lover should plan to visit Eastern Europe.
The Czech Republic
One of the few countries in Eastern Europe that I haven’t been to yet, I love the descriptions of these castles in the Czech Republic. I am adding these to my to-do list for 2019!
One of our favorite castles of all time is Bouzov Castle in Moravia, Czech Republic. When people think of castles they typically don’t think of the Czech Republic, however, there are around 1200 castles in the country alone! After visiting several we decided Bouzov was one of our favorites because it looks straight out of a fairy tale. You can even buy this castle if you’re interested! Located not far from the city of Olomouc, you can best reach Bouzov Castle by car. Since you probably don’t have the $270 million to buy the castle you can tour it instead and keep dreaming. We loved how we felt like we were in a Disney movie wandering the halls of the castle. Also, from the balcony, you get an incredible view of the rolling Moravian hills and countryside.
Contributed by Megan Indoe from Bobo and Chichi
When it comes to castles, Europe is full of them. Every major European city or even a small town is likely to have at least one big castle, in many cases, they have two!
However, one of my favorite castles is the Prague Castle in the capital of Czech Republic.
How to Get There: Prague is well connected by its efficient public transport system. Thus, making it easy to go around the city. The most convenient route to the Prague is by taking the Tram No.22 to Královský letohrádek or Pražský hrad. You can also take a Metro till Malostranská or Hradčanská stations
Almost two million people visit the Prague Castle each year, making it the most visited attraction in the Czech capital. This beautiful castle has a very large complex of buildings, forts, and churches, making it the biggest castle in the world with an area of over 70,000 square meters as per the Guinness Book of World Records.
With the many monuments inside this UNESCO World Heritage site, the architecture style that stands out in the Prague Castle complex includes Romanesque architecture, gothic and baroque.
Some of the key monuments in the castle premises include the St. Vitus Cathedral, Basilica of St. George, the Old Royal Palace.
The Bohemian Crown jewels are stored here. Also, the Czech rules were centuries and now the President lives in the castle complex.
What I love about the Prague Castle is not just the beauty you see as you walk around, but the view that it has to offer. You can get a panoramic view of the city of Prague just by standing along the complex boundaries. Changing of the guards is an important tradition that still attracts large crowds. As you walk back down to explore the main city, the many steps will introduce you to a variety of street musicians, artists and little sweat meat shops along the way and around the castle!
Contributed by Parampara & Parichay from Awara Diaries
There are interesting palaces and castles all over the former USSR, but I’ll admit I hadn’t thought about taking a trip to visit a castle in Estonia until now.
No trip to Hungary is complete without a trip to Buda Castle in Budapest. Part of the Budapest UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s a beautiful site in Eastern Europe.
The Buda Castle in the capital city of Hungary is a part of Budapest’s most famous World Heritage Site. Perched upon Castle Hill in Buda, this exquisite fortress and palace have a long history that explains the varied architectural forms that can be discerned here. The castle was first built for a Hungarian King in the 13th century in medieval style. Then every couple of centuries, the castle complex would be extended, enhanced and redone in Baroque, Baroque Revival, Rennaissance, Neo-Rennaissance, Gothic and Modernist architecture. Once destroyed in 1686, the reconstructed palace was again brought to ruins during World War II. When the modern restoration efforts began in 1948, the fortress suffered losses once more due to a major fire in 1950. The present-day castle is a result of the latest reconstruction effort that culminated in 2013.
The Buda Castle can be reached by a set of funiculars or by hiking up the cobbled inroads or taking a lift. This landmark looks magical when viewed from the other bank of the Danube or from one of the bridges that connect Pest to Buda. Apart from the architecture, the castle is a must-visit place for its panoramic vantage points, museums and natural underground cave complex.
History lovers visit Poland for its historic city centers, charming villiages, and its World War II and Holocaust museums and sites. However, Poland also has some beautiful preserved castles to visit as well. I know I personally haven’t spent enough time in Poland, and I always find new things I’d like to add to my next trip there.
Malbork Castle is pretty unique in that its the largest castle in the world by land area and is situated in the Polish town of the same name, Malbork. When it was first constructed by the Teutonic Knights in the 13th-century, the castle was also the largest brick building in the world. Today, Malbork Castle is an easy day trip via train from the pretty port city of Gdansk.
The train ride takes around half an hour to an hour’s train ride away depending on whether you choose the slow or fast train, though it’s worth noting that the slower of the two options is significantly cheaper. The now designated UNESCO medieval fortress lies alongside the River Nogat and highlights of the castle include cloisters, impressive fortifications, and a self-guided tour via audio which takes at least three hours!
Contributed by Sophie Nadeau from solosophie
The Royal Castle in Warsaw is very unique in the sense that it looks more like a Palace than a Castle. The reality is that this monument has been through a lot of alterations through time! It dates back to the 14th century, but it only started to get its current form in the 16th century, when Warsaw was named the capital of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. More recently, the Castle, as most of the city, was seriously damaged during the Second World War. Nonetheless, and just like the rest of the Old Town in Warsaw, it was completely reconstructed to resemble the original building. The Royal Castle is beautiful inside and out, and if you are visiting the city it is certainly an attraction you can’t miss. Even if you don’t want to pay the admission fee, take a look at the exhibition in the basement “From Destruction to Reconstruction”, which details the Castle’s resurrection. Admission fees are actually quite affordable, and on Wednesdays, the visit is free of charge.
To add, it is located right in the historical center of the city, near to many of its highlights! It is easy to fall in love with Warsaw: the city full of history, and a visit to the Royal Castle and the surrounding Stare Miasto (Old Town) is a wonderful introduction to this amazing European capital!
Contributed by Maria & Rui from Two Find a Way
Bran Castle might be the most famous of Romania’s castles, but Romania is a country full of castles and fortresses. Driving through the countryside, you’re constantly coming across amazing castles, especially in Transylvania.
One of the things that people should know about Romania but they don’t is that there are over 250 castles in the country. But there is one that stands out above them all – Bran Castle, also known as Dracula’s Castle. According to Bram Stoker’s book Dracula, this is where the count lived… or at least it matches the description and the Transylvania location. But Vlad the Impaler, the historical figure that Stoker based his fictional character on, never actually lived here.
Despite this, it is still associated with Dracula and when you visit there is an eerie feel about the place. From the outside, the castle looks more like a fortress, but inside you will find a Saxon-style (think fairytale castles) courtyard with a quaint round tower. There is also an exhibition of torture instruments, which adds to the intrigue of this place. It is one of the must do things in Romania.
The town of Bran is located in the heart of Transylvania and it’s very easy to get to. Not far, is Brasov, one of the most popular cities to visit in Romania, and from here you can easily visit Bran Castle as a day trip – either as part of a tour or by taking public transport. There are several bus companies that do this route but one of them has a bus every hour. The price of admission is 40 Lei (~ 10 USD) and, as it’s such a popular site, I’d recommend booking it in advance if you’re visiting during high season.
Contributed by Teresa Gomez from Brogan Abroad
Romania has no shortage of castles, and while Bran Castle (the supposed Dracula’s Castle) tends to get most of the attention, it’s Peles Castle that quickly stole my heart during my week in Romania. Located in the Carpathian Mountains, near Sinaia, Peles Castle isn’t that old; it was actually built in the late 1800s and finished in 1914. From the outside, it looks like it belongs in the pages of a fairytale storybook, especially with the setting in the mountains. However, the inside is just as enchanting with sculpted wood, stained glass, an impressive armory with over 4000 weapons, a royal library, and a grand total of 160 rooms. Peles Castle is a must visit for anyone traveling through Romania and interested in history and castles.
Peles Castle is located near the town of Sinai which is about one and a half hours from the capital, Bucharest or one hour from the nearby Brasov. Travelers who have rented a car often use it as a stopping point between Bucharest and Brasov, however, you can also visit it on a day tour from either of those cities as well; either on your own by train or bus, or as part of a group tour through Transylvania.
Hannah Logan from Eat Sleep Breathe Travel
European castles are not just a mainland phenomenon. Some of Europe’s most intriguing castles are protecting islands in the Mediterranean.
St. Hilarion Castle in Cyprus
Thanks to its location at the meeting point of three continents – Europe, Africa and Asia – and its reputation as the crossroads between East and West, Cyprus has suffered waves of invasions throughout its long and turbulent history. As a result, a number of castles and forts dot the landscape, including three crusader castles straddling the Kyrenia Mountains in North Cyprus. The most impressive of these is St Hilarion Castle.
Sprawled across the summit of a rocky crag, this tumbledown castle is a combination of crumbling watchtowers, elegant turrets and stately royal apartments with gothic-arched windows, all contained within imposing fortifications. It’s an enchanting place to wander and try to imagine the people that lived, loved and fought within these mighty walls. But it’s the views take your breath away.
At times it’s a lung-busting, thigh-burning climb to the summit, but it’s worth every step. Each time you catch a glimpse of the view through a graceful arch or narrow arrow slot on the way up, you nod at your camera and think, ‘nailed it!’ Then you reach the top and see the entire coastline stretching from Livera to the tip of the Karpass National Park.
Like all good castles, St Hilarion has its share of intriguing myths and legends. The castle is named after Hilarion, a hermit-monk with an aversion to washing who dedicated his days to banishing demons from the mountains. Then there’s the fairy queen who lived in a secret garden off room 101 with a penchant for luring unwary travelers to her lair and robbing them of their treasures.
There’s no public transport to St Hilarion; your only options are to hire a car or hop in a cab. Note that your approach is via a military road where photography is forbidden until you reach the castle.
Contributed by Jo Amos of The Road to Wanderland
While western travelers might have a picture of a French or German castle in their heads when they think about taking a trip to see castles, don’t overlook the castles and palaces of Asia! The architecture might be different, but Asian castles are gorgeous and the history behind each is fascinating!
I spent two weeks exploring Azerbaijan, and one of the things I loved was visiting its castles, palaces, and fortresses which are spread all across the country.
The Palace of the Sheki Khans
Here’s my personal recommendation. The palace of the Shaki Khans was the summer palace of the Shaki Khans starting at the end of the eighteenth century. Now it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site tenative list, and the town of Sheki is a very popular tourism destination in Azerbaijan. I loved the intricate windows, the beautiful miniature paintings and other details, and the palace’s lavish facade.
To get there, you can walk or taxi a taxi (3-5 manat) to the palace. Every taxi driver will know what you mean. It’s also worth stopping at the much less touristy winter palace while you’re in town.
India has some amazing palaces! I can’t wait to tour the country and see these architectural stunners.
Jal Mahal Floating Palace
Naggar castle is situated in the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh in India and was built by Raja Sidh Singh about 500 years ago. The castle is now turned into a rest house and is run by HTPDC. Tourists come from all around the world to see its majesty and brilliance during the different time of the year.It is located at about 30 kms or more from the capital of Shimla and is situated on the left of the river Beas in Himachal Pradesh.
The castle looks ravishing and splendid in the morning and in the evening as ligh strikes the guest houses and is a wonderful retreat for travellers and travel enthusiasts acros the globe.There are many guest houses inside the castle but considering its popularity and immense historic appeal,it is expensive for local people and is mostly preferred by foreigners across the globe who come to visit the wonderful state of Himachal Pradesh in India.
Contributed by Somnath Roy from Travel Crusade
I’ve been thinking a lot about traveling to Japan lately. Everything from the amazing Japanese pilgrimage sites to its stunning cherry blossoms and its magnificent castles – there’s just so much to see there!
Cherry blossom season is very special, so it’s no wonder that everyone wants to travel to Japan at this time of the year. The country is then filled with lots of travelers from all around the globe and also with Japanese groups that meet under the cherry tree to party. Exactly during that time, we went to visit the Matsumoto Castle, which is located on the Nagano prefecture, accounts as one of Japan’s premier historic castles and was built in the 14th century. From Tokyo, you can easily reach the castle by train. Even faster, you can travel from Nagano. It’s a short walk that will get you from the train station to the castle, but it will take you through the historic center of Matsumoto.
Matsumoto Castle is also known as “Crow Castle” due to its black exterior – and this is what makes it super special. You can get inside too and wander from floor to floor. It’s getting steeper and steeper and smaller and smaller the higher you get and obviously, you’ll have an amazing view above the region. The castle is surrounded by water and by a beautiful park which is full of cherry trees. Hence, during cherry blossom season you can easily take your picnic blanket and some snacks and do it like the Japanese do – sit down and enjoy the beautiful surrounding.
Contributed by Clemens Sehi from Travellers Archive
The Osaka Castle in Osaka, Japan is an iconic introduction to the castles of Asia. Located in the vibrant city of Osaka, Japan, this 14th-century castle has gone through many restorations and recreations, especially after WWII. The beautiful castle is surrounded by a water moat and the Nishinomaru gardens. Osaka Castle is made up of citadels, enormous stone walls, and a pagoda-style roof peaking above the cherry blossoms. The 1997 restoration improved access to the castle including a modern elevator to reach the top.
Visiting Osaka with kids and the castle is great because so many local families and tourists fill the parks on weekends for picnics and festival food, including takoyaki octopus balls. You will most certainly see couples taking wedding pictures and posing for portraits under the pink cherry blossoms. In autumn, the fall colors on the leaves are a dramatic contrast to the green-peaked roof and gold detail of the castle.
To get to Osaka Castle, take the Tanimachi subway line to Tanimachi 4-chrome station or ride the JR Loop line to the Osakajokoen Station. If you go inside the castle, the entrance fee is 600 yen and it is open daily from 9 am – 5 pm. The best time of year to visit Osaka Castle is during cherry blossom season in April.
Contributed by Cerise Roth-Vinson from Enchanted Vagabond
During my time in Malaysia, I explored a bit of Malacca and Kuala Lumpur and relaxed in an overwater bungalow. I missed Ipoh, so I will definitely add Kellie’s Castle to my next trip!
I love a good story and in Malaysia, I stumbled upon this one! They called it a spooky palace!! The haunted Kellie’s Castle in Batuh Gaja near Ipoh. I found several stories on the internet of locals and visitors that had sightings in or near the castle so I really needed to check that out for myself!
Going down from Penang to Kuala Lumpur you can get off the bus/train at Ipoh. From there a day trip was easily booked that also included some of the beautiful Chinese cave temples in the surroundings.
At Kellie’s Castle, I soon saw it was unfinished. I saw a half build castle and an old mansion. I soon learned that William Kellie Smith started to build the castle when his family was there already for some years. They were happy here and wanted to stay to build their imperium, Kinta Kellas Tin Dredging Company. But while building Kellie’s Castle the Indian workers got sick and many died of the Spanish flu in 1918. Kellie donated a Hindu temple to the Indian workers. They honored him and in his respect put a statue of him on the temple.
On one of the trips of Kellie to Europe in 1926, he would get an elevator to take with him to Malaysia. That would have been the first elevator in Malaysia but it would never get there because he got sick, developed pneumonia and died on December the 11th in Portugal. The castle was never finished and the family left for England and never returned.
Soon after sightings started. People started seeing Kellie in the corridors of the unfinished castle. There are also sightings of daughter Helen been seen in the door opening of the room that supposed to be hers.
I spend some extra time in every room, waited until everybody was gone and started to feel the room. I did my best but unfortunately never felt a thing. You can go in the evening or at night too… Maybe that would have been better?
Would you dare to visit this spooky castle?
Contributed by Jacomijn Heupink from Safe and Healthy Travel
I haven’t traveled to Australia yet, but I had no idea there’d be a castle waiting for me when I get there!
The United States
As an American, I can’t say that I’ve been to too many American castles, but I’ve been to a few. It’s always fun whenever you come across one while explore the US, since it reminds you just how crazy our history actually is!
Located in New York across an aquatic border, Boldt Castle is a gorgeous castle with a romantic history. A young castle compared to many of its European and Asian relatives, Boldt Castle began its iconic journey in 1900.
Millionaire George C. Boldt wanted to pay tribute to his wife Louise through epic and ornate architecture. And he did just that with the creation of this gorgeous stately building complete with tapestries, sculptures, and gardens, all with the St Lawrence shorelines in the background.
Although Boldt Castle came to be thanks to a romantic and over the top gesture, George C. Boldt started the project to woo his wife into everlasting wedded bliss. But it was all completed too late. She suddenly died of an incurable illness before the project was complete. She never got to witness the majesty of the castle. Boldt was overcome with grief resulting in the abandonment of the project ceasing construction, development and any other advancement. It was left empty and isolated for 70 years.
It wasn’t until 1977 that Boldt Castle had a second wind and chance on life. The Thousand Island Bridge Authority purchased it on Heart Island and began restoration of its original majestic appearance. Since then, it has been opened to the public, allowing tours, visits, and even fairytale weddings, from millions of curious travelers.
Boldt Castle is only accessible via ferry for the most part. With this outpour of popularity, a Homeland Security office was built on the island for passport control as technically the castle is located in New York. If you visit and disembark your boat to explore Heart Island, make sure you come prepared with your passport and any necessary visas.
Contributed by Janine Good from Fill My Passport
Do you have a favorite castle from your travels? Do you have any pictures of castles from your trip? Leave suggestions and links for great castle trips below!
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