15 Beautiful Castles in Europe People Around the World Flock To Visit
When we think of castles, we immediately picture a grand, imposing structure with tall towers and stone bridges. Some of Europe’s castles were built this way, but many were also military defenses or epicenters of the village. With dozens of architectural styles and features, Europe offers a diverse selection of some of the most stunning castles worldwide.
1. Malbork Castle, Poland
In northern Poland, this Gothic-styled castle is a 13th-century Teutonic fortress built along the eastern bank of the River Nogat. Malbork Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest castle in the world—totaling 52 acres.
2. Schwerin Castle, Germany
Visitors and architects marvel at the design and scale of Schwerin Castle. Once the home of the dukes of Mecklenburg, this castle features 365 turrets and towers built with a Romantic design to present an ultimate fairytale castle. Inside, you’ll find scenic gardens, a cathedral, and lookout points to view the surrounding lake and nearby village.
3. Château de Chenonceau, France
The Château de Chenonceau sits across the River Cher near the village of Chernoceaux. It features beautiful gardens and rooms filled with paintings and sculptures. It is most notably known for the women who built, restored, and protected the manor—including that of Catherine de Medici, Queen of France.
4. Alcázar de Segovia, Spain
Historians believe the Alcázar de Segovia dates back to the 12th century. It sits atop a hillside, with a distinct winding path that leads to the main structure. Walt Disney was also inspired by the Alcázar de Segovia when designing the castles for his theme parks—you may recognize the similar blue-gray turrets and rising fortress.
5. Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
Another inspiration for Walt Disney’s castles, the Neuschwanstein Castle resides along the foothills of the Alps in southern Germany. Its name translates to “New Swan Stone,” a reference to the Swan Knight from Richard Wagner’s opera Lohengrin. King Ludwig II, who built the castle, was nicknamed the “Fairytale King.”
6. Castelo de Leiria, Portugal
The Castelo de Leiria was supposedly built by D. Afonso Henriques, who desired a line of defense against invading armies, as is evident by the structural integrity of the extended castle wall. Inside the fortress is a garden, Medieval armor, weapons, and a stone seating area to look out across the nearby town.
7. Bouillon Castle, Belgium
Records show the first mention of Bouillon Castle dates back to 988 AD. It sits atop three rocky peaks in the hillside and overlooks the River Semois. Bouillon Castle gives visitors a glimpse into a medieval world and time over 1,000 years ago.
8. Castel Sant’Angelo, Italy
Originally built by Emperor Hadrian as a tomb and mausoleum for his family, the Castel Sant’Angelo sits on the banks of the River Timber in Rome. Its unique rotunda design makes this an impressive castle and papal fortress east of Vatican City.
9. Castel del Monte, Italy
In the southeastern region of Apulia in Italy, Castel del Monte overlooks the town of Andria from atop an isolated hill surrounded by forest. Reinforced by eight stone pillars and considered an architectural masterpiece of the 13th century, this octagonal structure is quite an architectural masterpiece. Visitors must ascend the hill on foot, but the views are worth the trip.
10. Eltz Castle, Germany
Many visitors remark on the beauty and fairytale atmosphere of Eltz Castle. Imagine knights riding horseback across the stone bridge toward the castle, flanked by a stream and forests surrounding the area for miles. This castle was built by a branch of the House of Eltz, who are still the owners today.
11. Château de Chambord, France
The French Renaissance construction of the Château de Chambord makes it one of the most recognizable châteaus in Europe. The main castle is surrounded by a walled fortress, with extended gardens on the property, built after King Francis I’s return from the Battle of Marignan in the early 1500s.
12. Palácio da Pena, Portugal
Although the site of this castle was once a monastery built in the late 1490s, natural disasters destroyed the original building. The current Palácio da Pena was constructed in the mid-1800s with Medieval and Islamic design elements. On a clear day, you can see its brightly painted castle walls from nearby villages, towns, and metropolitan areas like Lisbon.
13. Hochosterwitz Castle, Austria
The Hochosterwitz Castle is grand and stunning, sitting on a hilltop overlooking the village. It is a medieval fortress of white stone against a backdrop of green forest and fauna. Many visitors are impressed with the scale of its size, noting 14 gates to pass through before reaching the castle.
14. Alhambra, Spain
The Alhambra is not only a castle, but it’s considered a palace, fortress, and citadel. Once belonging to the Moorish monarch of Granada, Spain, courtyards, gardens, and water features sit within the reddish stone walls of the castle. It is recognized as a monument and historic palace of the Islamic World.
15. Burghausen Castle, Germany
Near the Austrian border, the Burghausen Castle holds the Guinness World Record as the longest castle in the world at 3,448 feet. Although today it is open to the public as a castle museum, it was initially built as a military fortress, adding multiple structures like a gunsmith’s tower throughout the 1400s.
Where indicated, some images courtesy of Depositphotos.com.