For travel and history enthusiasts, nothing sparks our fascination like a majestic castle. From Europe and the Middle East to East Asia, you’ll find countless royal residences brimming with lush gardens and mighty fortifications. But which are the best and most beautiful castles in the world? Let’s dive in!
Throughout human history, few structures have captured our imaginations as vividly as castles. These grand edifices, often perched atop hills or surrounded by moats, are more than just stone. They are living chronicles of the past, brimming with tales of romance, intrigue, battles, and royalty.
Some castles were raised to be the tallest and largest, while others were designed to embody the personalities of their rulers. They were used as royal residences, strategic fortifications, and sheer symbols of wealth.
Today, such castles bring a unique flavor and charisma to the landscapes and communities around them. Particularly in Europe, you’ll find that a castle is often the centerpiece of the Old Town. Beautiful castles invoke our curiosity, making us ponder what life must have been like for those who amassed such extraordinary wealth and influence.
While most magnificent castles are in Europe, there are plenty of others sprawled around the globe. Here’s a round-up of the most beautiful castles in the world!
1. Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
When thinking of a beautiful castle, this is probably the first that comes to mind.
Neuschwanstein Castle was built in the 19th century by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, also known as the “mad king.” As mad as he may have been, his eccentric lifestyle and imagination certainly gave rise to the archetypal fairytale castle. It’s truly one of a kind, even in Germany, which has so many awe-inspiring, real castles.
The castle of Neuschwanstein sits atop a rugged hill with its blue turrets and white limestone façade. It’s so magnificent that it inspired Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle.
Check out this incredible drone video of Neuschwanstein:
Beyond its fairytale exterior, Neuschwanstein Castle holds a rich tapestry of history and art. Each room inside has intricate murals depicting scenes from Richard Wagner’s operas, a testament to King Ludwig II’s deep admiration for the composer. Venturing inside is like stepping into a storybook, where art, history, and music intertwine.
Neuschwanstein Castle is tucked away in Schwangau, Bavaria, which straddles the Germany-Austria border. It’s approximately 68 miles (109 km) southwest of Munich.
2. Bran Castle, Romania
Bran Castle is a 13th-century fortress that majestically looms over a steep cliff. The castle’s dramatic architecture conjures up an image of Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula, hence its nickname – Dracula’s Castle. It’s undoubtedly the most famous and iconic castle in Romania.
While many associate Bran Castle with the legend of Dracula, its history is far more multifaceted. Over the centuries, it has served as a royal residence, a fortress against invading empires, and even a customs post. The castle’s chambers and secret passageways echo tales of intrigue, diplomacy, and battles, making it a captivating journey for any history enthusiast.
Bran Castle lies along the border of Transylvania and Wallachia in central Romania. It’s about 100 miles (174 km) north of Romania’s capital, Bucharest.
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3. Edinburgh Castle in Scotland is one of the most unique castles around the world
Edinburgh Castle is a 12th-century fortress in the heart of Scotland’s capital. It’s one of the most iconic and Instagram-worthy places in the UK. This sight is also the most-visited paid attraction in the country, attracting over 2 million visitors each year.
Beyond its military significance, Edinburgh Castle has been a symbol of Scottish resilience and pride. The Stone of Destiny, a symbol of Scottish monarchy, was housed here for centuries. Every year, the castle’s esplanade becomes the main stage for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, a grand spectacle of music and military precision that draws audiences from around the world. This makes it a must-see in Edinburgh!
Humming with rich history, Edinburgh Castle and the Old Town are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s no wonder this is among the best castles in the world. And of course, it’s also one of the coolest destinations in Scotland!
Read also: Top Castle Hotels in Scotland
4. Château de Chambord, France
As far as French castles and royal palaces go, this is among the most breathtaking.
Château de Chambord is an over-the-top estate that embodies Europe’s finest royalty (and excess). This 16th-century royal palace, designed in the French and Classical Renaissance styles, is the largest château in France’s Loire Valley. Though distinct from the medieval castles of Europe, it is aptly fortified with bastion towers and a nifty moat.
The grandeur of Château de Chambord is not just in its architecture but also in its vast parkland, which is as large as the city of Paris! The castle’s design is a blend of traditional defensive structures and the luxuries of a leisure château, reflecting the transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance.
Château de Chambord is 10 miles (16 km) east of Blois and 105 miles (170 km) south of Paris.
5. Alhambra, Spain
The Alhambra in Granada is a hilltop fortress that’s undoubtedly one of the most Instagrammable places in Spain. This castle-turned-royal-palace is a magnificent display of Islamic art and architecture brought to Spain by the Moors during the Middle Ages. Its intricate architecture and lush gardens make the Alhambra one of the most beautiful castles in Europe and the world.
The Alhambra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that epitomizes Spain’s diverse cultural heritage. It’s also one of the top tourist attractions in the country. During a visit to this pretty castle, consider staying in one of these unique accommodations!
The Alhambra is not just a castle; it’s a testament to the sophisticated culture of the Nasrid Dynasty. The intricate tilework, stucco, and woodwork found within its walls are unparalleled examples of Islamic art. The Generalife gardens, with their flowing water and lush greenery, offer a tranquil retreat and a glimpse into the lives of the sultans who once walked its paths. Is this one of the best castles in the world? You bet!
6. Windsor Castle in England is among the most beautiful castles in the world
Built nearly a millennium ago, Windsor Castle is the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world. This royal residence is Queen Elizabeth’s preferred weekend retreat, where she hosts state events for public figures from around the world. Inside this massive castle complex, you’ll also find St. George’s Chapel, a sacred site for royal ceremonies, weddings, and burials.
Windsor Castle’s significance extends beyond its walls. It has witnessed numerous royal weddings and ceremonies over the years. The castle’s St. George’s Hall, with its intricate ceiling and grandeur, was restored after a fire in 1992 and stands as a testament to the resilience and continuity of the British monarchy. It’s no wonder that this is a must-see sight in the UK.
Windsor Castle towers over the old town just south of the River Thames. It’s conveniently located 30 miles from London and 10 miles from London Heathrow Airport.
7. Tourbillon Castle, Switzerland
Built during the 13th and 14th centuries, Tourbillion Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in the world. This fairytale castle proudly stands atop a hill overlooking the city of Sion and the Rhône Valley. Its strategic location made it a pivotal fortress in the medieval era, and its ruins today tell tales of battles and sieges. This makes it a must-see sight in the Swiss Alps!
The castle is not just a military relic; it’s a cultural treasure trove. Within its walls, you’ll find the Chapel of Saint George, adorned with 14th-century frescoes that are among the oldest in Switzerland. Every summer, the castle grounds come alive with the sounds of the Valère Festival, celebrating the region’s rich musical heritage. Needless to say: the breathtaking views are well worth the strenuous uphill climb.
Located in southern Switzerland, Tourbillion Castle is 75 miles (120 km) south of Bern and 93 miles (150 km) east of Geneva. During a visit to one of Europe’s fancy castles, consider one of these cool stays!
8. Eltz Castle, Germany
This medieval castle looks like it’s something out of a fairy tale. It’s one of the prettiest locations in Germany, and it’s easy to see why.
Built in the 12th century, Eltz Castle is one of Germany’s most magnificent castles. This imposing structure has 100 rooms and eight floors. Despite its age, this Romanesque and Gothic castle is remarkably well-preserved.
Nestled amidst lush forests, Eltz Castle has remained in the same family for over 33 generations. Its architecture, a blend of Romanesque and Gothic styles, is a testament to the various eras it has witnessed. The castle’s unique position, surrounded on three sides by the Elzbach River, made it a strategic stronghold in medieval times. Today, visitors can marvel at its original furnishings, spanning over 500 years, offering a genuine glimpse into the past.
Eltz Castle is 90 miles (145 km) west of Frankfurt and 68 miles (110 km) south of Cologne, Germany. For Harry Potter fans (and just about everyone else), this is one of the best castles in the world, hands down.
9. Osaka Castle in Japan is among the coolest castles around the world
The most beautiful castles in the world aren’t just exclusive to Europe. Japan boasts some impressive castles of its own, most notably the 16th-century Osaka Castle.
Osaka Castle, a symbol of Japan’s rich history, stands tall amidst modern cityscapes. This five-story fortress is surrounded by stone walls and a moat, which acted as a defensive shield for the revered ruler who lived there, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The castle grounds burst into a riot of colors during cherry blossom season in early April. This makes it a favorite spot for Hanami (flower viewing) parties.
Inside, the castle houses a museum detailing Osaka’s history, ensuring that tales of ancient battles and samurai valor are passed on to future generations. It’s easy to see why this famous castle is among the most stunning locations in all of Japan.
Osaka Castle is 32 miles (52 km) southwest of Kyoto and 22 miles (35 km) east of Kobe, Japan. Fly into Japan and this will undoubtedly be one of the first things you’ll want to see.
10. Mont Saint-Michel, France
Mont Saint-Michel is one of the best castles in the world that will transport you back to the Middle Ages. Located on a tidal island, it’s not just a rocky fortification, but also an entire medieval city. Here, you’ll find a historic church, restaurants and hotels, museums, and shops, all looking out over the sea. This iconic sight has also been a pilgrimage site dating back to 700 AD.
Interestingly, Mont Saint-Michel is also known for its tidal oscillations. Its low and high tides are only 6 hours apart and can reach over 45 feet. The tides come crashing it at a rapid pace, making it a must-see as one of the coolest castles around the world!
While Mont Saint-Michel’s architectural splendor is undeniable, the island’s culinary offerings are equally compelling. Local eateries serve the famous “La Mère Poulard” omelette, a fluffy delight that has been a staple since the 19th century. As you savor this dish, you’re not just tasting an omelette but partaking in a culinary tradition that has withstood the test of time.
Mont Saint-Michel is 93 miles (150 km) west of Normandy and 217 miles (350 km) west of Paris.
11. Chapultepec Castle, Mexico
Perched high atop Chapultepec Hill in the heart of Mexico City, Chapultepec Castle stands as a beacon of history, culture, and unparalleled beauty. Unlike the typical European castles set amidst rolling green landscapes, this majestic edifice is surrounded by a bustling metropolis, yet it retains an aura of regal serenity.
Dating back to the colonial era, Chapultepec Castle is the only royal castle in the Americas that has actually housed monarchs. Its storied walls whisper tales of emperors, battles, and the rich tapestry of Mexico’s past. Architecturally, the castle is a harmonious blend of neoclassical and baroque styles, making it a visual feast for enthusiasts.
For those seeking a castle experience that’s both unique and steeped in history, Chapultepec Castle is a must-visit. It’s not just a castle; it’s a testament to Mexico’s rich heritage and resilient spirit. So, when curating your list of the world’s most enchanting castles, let Chapultepec be a shining star, beckoning you to discover its wonders. Fly to Mexico and this will be one of the first sights you’ll want to see.
12. Hohensalzburg Fortress, Austria
Located in the heart of Salzburg, one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, lies the Hohensalzburg Fortress. Built between 1077-1519, the Hohensalzburg Fortress is one of the largest medieval castles in all of Europe. It’s 1,660 feet (506 m) above the old town, offering sweeping views of the Austrian countryside.
While the fortress stands as a sentinel overlooking Salzburg, its interiors resonate with melodies. It’s said that on quiet nights, the soft strains of Mozart’s compositions, a Salzburg native, can be heard echoing through the halls. This blend of musical heritage with medieval history makes Hohensalzburg a unique confluence of culture and time.
The Hohensalzburg Fortress is the centerpiece of Salzburg’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. When you’re visiting Austria, you’ll want to add this to your itinerary.
13 National Palace of Pena, Portugal
Nestled near the shores of the Portuguese Riviera is the National Palace of Pena. This flamboyant, 19th-century castle is among the top attractions in Portugal. The palace is so mesmerizing that it’s even considered one of the 7 wonders of Portugal.
The vibrant hues of the palace are not its only allure. Hidden within its walls is a secret passage that leads to the Queen’s Terrace. This secluded spot offers unparalleled views of the Sintra forests and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. Legends say that Queen Amelia spent hours here, lost in thought, making it a beautiful place to visit in Portugal for those seeking a blend of history and serenity.
The National Palace of Pena looks out on the city of Sintra, just 17 miles (27 km) west of Lisbon. For architecture aficionados, it’s one of the most beautiful fantasy castles!
14. De Haar Castle, Netherlands
Comprising 200 rooms and 30 bathrooms, De Haar Castle is the largest castle in the Netherlands. This Neo-Gothic castle was built in the 19th century to embody the glorious fortresses of medieval times.
While the castle’s architecture transports visitors to medieval times, its gardens are a horticultural masterpiece. Designed by the famous landscape architect Hendrik Copijn, they feature rare plants from as far as Japan and Russia. The annual “Castle Day” celebration sees the gardens adorned with thousands of tulips, creating a colorful tapestry that contrasts beautifully with the castle’s stoic gray walls.
De Haar Castle in Utrecht is just a half-hour drive south of Amsterdam.
15. Vianden Castle, Luxembourg
With only 590,000 people, Luxembourg is often overshadowed by its Benelux neighbors, namely Belgium and the Netherlands. However, Luxembourg makes up for its small size with its grandiose castles.
Built between the 11th and 14th centuries, Vianden Castle is one of the largest castles from the Roman and Gothic periods in Europe. Garnering only 200,000 visitors each year, Vianden Castle is an under-the-radar attraction that deserves a slice of the limelight.
Apart from its historical significance, Vianden Castle is a hub for art enthusiasts. Every autumn, the castle’s grand halls host the Vianden Art Festival, showcasing works from emerging European artists. The juxtaposition of contemporary art within ancient walls creates a surreal experience, making it a must-visit for art aficionados.
Vianden Castle is 29 miles (47 km) north of Luxembourg City.
16. Kylemore Abbey, Ireland
This is one of the most beautiful castles in the world, and definitely a top tourist attraction in Ireland. I recently visited during a tour of the West Coast of Ireland and was amazed by the sheer size and beauty.
Though a Benedictine monastery today, Kylemore Abbey was originally built as a castle and private residence. Dating back to the Victorian era, this castle had 33 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms and pretty much all the modern amenities of the day.
Beyond its tragic love story, Kylemore Abbey is home to the Benedictine nuns who have turned a section of the estate into a pottery school. Here, traditional Irish pottery techniques are passed down to the next generation. Visitors can not only purchase handcrafted souvenirs but also witness the meticulous craftsmanship that goes into each piece.
Kylemore Abbey is 47 miles (76 km) northwest of Galway and 173 miles (279 km) west of Dublin. This makes it a best place to visit within convenient reach of the capital.
17. Prague Castle, Czech Republic
Built in the 9th century, Prague Castle is a Romanesque and Gothic masterpiece that embodies Prague’s timeless charm. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Prague Castle is the largest coherent castle complex in the world. Overlooking the Vltava River, this massive and seemingly ancient castle is one of the most iconic structures in Prague.
Prague Castle is not just a single structure but a complex of buildings, each narrating a chapter of Czech history. From the Gothic allure of St. Vitus Cathedral to the Old Royal Palace’s Vladislav Hall, the castle has been the seat of Czech kings, emperors, and presidents. The Changing of the Guard ceremony, held every noon, is a blend of tradition and pageantry, symbolizing the castle’s enduring role in the nation’s history.
Prague Castle and the city’s historic center are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
18. Qaitbay Fort, Egypt
Nestled on the edge of the Mediterranean, in the vibrant city of Alexandria, stands the Qaitbay Fort, a testament to Egypt’s rich maritime history and its strategic importance through the ages. This fortress is not just a mere structure of stone and mortar; it’s a living chronicle of battles, civilizations, and the ebb and flow of empires.
Built in the 15th century by Sultan Al-Ashraf Sayf al-Din Qa’it Bay, the fort was strategically positioned on the exact site of the ancient Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. While the lighthouse no longer stands, the fort has incorporated some of its fallen stones, making it a unique blend of ancient and medieval architecture.
In a world where castles often evoke images of European knights and drawbridges, Qaitbay Fort offers a refreshing perspective from the heart of the Mediterranean. Its blend of ancient wonders, medieval fortifications, and rich maritime history makes it a must-visit for history buffs. When you stand on its walls, gazing out at the endless sea, you’re not just seeing a view; you’re witnessing history. Is this one of the most stunning locations in Egypt? 100%!
19. Highclere Castle in England is a beautiful castle
Downton Abbey fans will know this grand estate in the UK. Built in 1679, Highclere Castle is on a 5,000-acre property with stunning views as far as the eye can see. There are over 300 rooms on 30,000 square feet of living space, making it one of the largest castles of the world not belonging to a king or queen.
As you wander through its opulent rooms, you can almost hear the whispers of fictional characters and the drama that unfolded within its walls. A visit here is like stepping into a scene from your favorite period drama, making it a must-visit in the UK for fans and history buffs alike.
Highclere Castle is just 65 miles (104 km) west of London and 70 miles (113 km) east of Bristol.
20. Bojnice Castle, Slovakia
As far as medieval fortresses go, this is among the most beautiful.e
Tracing back to the 12th century, Bojnice Castle showcases a dazzling mix of Gothic and Renaissance architecture. This impressive castle is chock-full of lavish artwork and furniture. Today, it’s one of the oldest and most historically significant monuments in all of Slovakia. It’s also one of the best and most beautiful castles in Europe.
Beyond its stunning architecture, Bojnice Castle has many legends and tales of romance. The castle has often been the backdrop for many fairy-tale movies, and it’s not hard to see why. With its picturesque surroundings and enchanting ambiance, many couples have declared their undying love within its walls. If you’re lucky, you might even stumble upon one of the castle’s many events or medieval-themed festivals, bringing its rich history to life. This makes it truly a must-see in Eastern Europe.
Bojnice Castle is about 100 miles (160 km) northeast of Slovakia’s capital, Bratislava.
21. Örebro Castle, Sweden
Built in the 1300s, Örebro Castle is one of the most striking fortifications in Scandinavia. Its name derives from “ör” (small stones) and “bro” (bridge).
Since its construction nearly 700 years ago, Örebro Castle was expanded on multiple occasions to include more rooms and fortified towers. Today, this castle is a popular venue for tours and exhibitions, where you’ll learn about the famous Vasa family who once lived there.
Örebro Castle is more than just a historical monument; it’s a testament to Sweden’s rich tapestry of tales. Over the centuries, the castle has seen countless rulers, each leaving their mark on its storied walls. As you explore its chambers, you might hear tales of ancient feasts, royal intrigues, and the echoes of bygone eras. The castle’s guided tours offer a deep dive into its past, making it a captivating experience for visitors of all ages.
Örebro Castle is 124 miles (200 km) west of Stockholm and 73 miles (72 km) northwest of Norrköping. You won’t want to miss this pretty destination on a trip to Sweden!
22. Amer Fort, India
Looking to discover the best castles in the world? Add this royal palace in India to your bucket list.
Erected from red sandstone and marble, Amer (“Amber”) Fort is a castle complex unlike any other in Eurasia. The fort’s ramparts trace back to the 16th century, containing a hodgepodge of Hindu and Muslim architectural elements from those times.
As you walk through its grand courtyards and hallways, you’re transported to an era of Rajput valor and grandeur. The fort’s Sheesh Mahal, or “Mirror Palace,” is particularly mesmerizing, with thousands of mirror tiles reflecting any ray of light into a dazzling dance of brilliance. The evening light and sound show, narrating the fort’s history, is a spectacle that adds to the magic of this ancient stronghold.
Today, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site among the six Hill Forts of Rajasthan in India.
Amer Fort is 8 miles (13 km) north of Jaipur and 150 miles (241 km) southwest of New Delhi.
23. Wawel Castle, Poland
Wawel Castle in Kraków, Poland definitely has the wow factor. Built between the 13th and 14th centuries, this castle exhibits a potpourri of architectural styles, including Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque. Today, it stands as a symbol of national identity for Poland.
Wawel Castle is not just an architectural masterpiece; it’s the soul of Poland. As the former residence of Polish kings, it has witnessed pivotal moments in the nation’s history. The castle complex houses several precious artifacts, including the legendary Szczerbiec coronation sword.
As you stroll through its chambers, you can sense the weight of history and the pride of a nation that has withstood numerous challenges over the centuries.
Wawel Castle is just 1 kilometer away from Rynek Główny, Kraków’s main square.
24. Conwy Castle, Wales
Built in the late 1200s, Conwy Castle is the quintessential Welsh castle. UNESCO considers this limestone and sandstone fortress to be one of the “finest examples of late 13th century and early 14th century military architecture in Europe.” It’s no wonder that this fort is a must-see in Wales.
Conwy Castle is a testament to medieval engineering and architectural prowess. Its eight massive towers dominate the landscape, offering panoramic views of the town and sea. But beyond its battlements and walls lies a rich history of sieges, battles, and royal intrigue. The castle’s well-preserved state offers a unique window into medieval life. This makes it a treasure trove for history enthusiasts and curious travelers alike.
Conwy Castle is 56 miles (90 km) from Liverpool, England and 178 miles (286 km) north of Cardiff, Wales.
25. Buda Castle in Hungary is among the best castles in the world
Castles around the world don’t quite measure up to this one in Hungary. Buda Castle is an iconic castle and palace complex that sits on top of a plateau in Hungary’s capital, Budapest. Though the original castle was built in the 13th century, much of the Baroque palace today dates to the mid-1700s.
Perched majestically over the Danube, Buda Castle is a beacon of Hungary’s rich heritage. The castle district, with its cobbled streets and medieval buildings, tells tales of kings, battles, and the artistic soul of a nation. The Hungarian National Gallery, housed within the castle, showcases the country’s artistic achievements, making it a hub for art lovers. As night falls, the illuminated castle stands as a sentinel, watching over Budapest and its timeless beauty.
26. Moszna Castle, Poland
Dating back to the 17th century, Moszna Castle is a treasure trove of Baroque and Neo-Gothic architecture with striking similarities to Hogwarts from Harry Potter. This castle has 99 spires, undoubtedly making it one of the most unique castles in Europe. Today, it’s used as a hotel, museum, and restaurant.
Moszna Castle, with its fairy-tale spires and turrets, seems straight out of a dream. But its beauty isn’t just skin deep. Inside, the castle boasts intricately designed interiors, each room telling a story of its own. The castle’s picturesque gardens, with their blooming flowers and serene pathways, offer a tranquil retreat. Whether you’re a history buff, an architecture enthusiast, or simply in search of beauty, Moszna Castle promises a magical experience.
Moszna Castle is 115 miles (185 km) west of Kraków and 71 miles (115 km) south of Wroclaw.
27. Scaligero Castle, Italy
Looking to step foot inside one of the most beautiful castles in the world? Pay a visit to the Scaligero Castle on Lake Garda.
Scaligero Castle is a prized fortification on the shores of Lake Garda in northern Italy. With its charming drawbridge and tall towers, this 13th century fortress is among the best-preserved castles from its time.
The castle’s interiors, with their medieval artifacts and frescoes, transport visitors to a bygone era. And as you climb its towers, the panoramic views of Sirmione and Lake Garda will leave you spellbound.
Scaligero Castle in Sirmione is just an hour bus ride from Verona and 93 miles (150 km) from Venice. I highly recommend checking out these stunning cities in Italy during a trip to the Dolomites, which are not far away. TIP: This part of Italy contains some of the most unique Airbnbs in the world.
28. Fasil Ghebbi, Ethiopia
Looking for some of the most famous castles? Tucked away in the heart of Ethiopia’s ancient city of Gondar, Fasil Ghebbi stands as a testament to a bygone era of African royalty.
This fortress-city, often referred to as the “Camelot of Africa,” is a mesmerizing blend of Portuguese, Moorish, and Axumite architectural styles. Built in the 17th century under Emperor Fasilides, Fasil Ghebbi is not just a single castle but a complex of palaces, libraries, and churches, each narrating tales of the Ethiopian Empire’s grandeur. The castle’s imposing stone walls, turrets, and intricate wooden balconies transport visitors back to a time of regal ceremonies and royal decrees.
But beyond its architectural marvel, Fasil Ghebbi is a symbol of Ethiopia’s rich heritage, resilience, and cultural fusion. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, this castle is more than just a historical monument; it’s a journey into the soul of Ethiopia. For travelers seeking destinations off the beaten path, Fasil Ghebbi offers a unique glimpse into Africa’s royal legacy.
29. Hearst Castle, California
Located in San Simeon, California, Hearst Castle is one of the most famous castles around the world. It was built in 1919 for William Randolph Hearst who owned a massive newspaper chain at the time.
With its splendid rooms filled with art from around the world, the castle is a museum in its own right. The Neptune Pool, with its Roman-inspired architecture, is a sight to behold.
Set on 127 acres, Hearst Castle was built in the Mediterranean Revival style and has over 50 bedrooms. This mansion is also home to the world’s largest private zoo. It’s truly a gem in Southern California!
If you’re looking for a famous castle in the New World, Hearst Castle won’t disappoint. Not only is it one of the most unique estates, it’s also among the coolest sights on the Big Sur in California.
30. Trakai Island Castle, Lithuania
As its name suggests, Trakai Island Castle is located on a small island on Lake Galvė. Surrounded by the tranquil waters of Lake Galvė, Trakai Island Castle is a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life. The castle’s red-brick walls and wooden interiors echo the tales of dukes and battles from Lithuania’s storied past. As you explore its chambers and towers, the castle’s reflections in the lake create a mesmerizing effect, making it a favorite spot for photographers and romantics alike.
This castle dates back to the 14th century, and has assumed several roles since then. It was a residence and prison prior to becoming a museum. Today, this island castle is used for exhibitions, concerts, and other special events.
Trakai Island Castle is only 16 miles (26 km) from Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius.
31. Heidelberg Castle, Germany
This beautiful castle in Germany is one of my favorites in the world.
Dating back to the 13th century, Heidelberg Castle is a classic display of German Renaissance architecture. Perched above Heidelberg’s Old Town, this breathtaking castle offers sweeping vistas of the city and Neckar River below.
The castle’s gardens, known as the Hortus Palatinus, were once dubbed the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” Today, they offer a peaceful retreat with stunning views of the Neckar River. The annual Heidelberg Castle Festival, with its plays and concerts, brings the castle’s courtyards to life, making it a cultural hub in the region.
Heidelberg and its medieval castle are located just 50 miles (80 km) south of Frankfurt, Germany.
32. Óbidos Castle, Portugal
Enclosed by formidable walls, Óbidos Castle is a journey back in time. The town of Óbidos, with its whitewashed buildings and narrow cobbled streets, exudes medieval charm. The castle itself, now a luxurious hotel, offers a unique blend of history and modern comforts.
Like the National Palace of Pena, Óbidos Castle is considered one of the 7 Wonders of Portugal. Surrounded by medieval walls, cobblestone streets, and colorful houses, this 13th-century castle is one of the top attractions in Portugal.
Whether you’re exploring its ramparts, sipping on the local cherry liqueur “ginjinha,” or attending one of its many festivals, Óbidos promises a memorable experience.
Óbidos Castle is just 52 miles (84 km) north of Lisbon, making it the perfect day trip from Portugal’s capital.
33. Corvin Castle in Romania is among the greatest castles
As one of the Seven Wonders of Romania, Corvin Castle is definitely among the world’s coolest castles. It was built in 1440 in the Gothic-Renaissance style and is considered one of the largest castles in Europe.
This fortification was most notably used to protect Central and Western Europe from the Ottoman Empire during the 15th century. Since then, it’s been a royal residence and museum in the heart of Transylvania. Corvin Castle is 249 miles (400 km) from Romania’s capital, Bucharest, and not far from the Serbia and Hungary borders.
34. Sunshine Castle, Australia
As the biggest castle in Australia, Sunshine Castle gleams with beauty at every turn. With its towers, turrets, drawbridge, and moat, Sunshine Castle resembles the medieval castles of Europe, though it was only built in 1972. For over 45 years, this enormous and eccentric castle has been used as a museum and event venue.
As you wander through its halls, you might forget you’re on the Australian coast and not in the heartlands of Europe. The castle’s events and exhibitions bring history to life, making it a must-visit for both locals and tourists. Plus, its location offers a unique blend of historical exploration and beach relaxation, truly offering the best of both worlds.
Sunshine Castle is just shy of 70 miles (112 km) north of Brisbane, Australia’s third largest city.
35. Egeskov Castle, Denmark
Egeskov Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in Denmark and Europe as a whole. Built during the mid-1500s, this Late Gothic and Renaissance castle juts right out of the water. It’s widely considered one of the best-preserved water castles.
The castle grounds are home to several museums, including a vintage car museum and a maze. The gardens surrounding Egeskov are equally enchanting, with their manicured hedges, blooming flowers, and tranquil ponds. A visit during autumn is especially magical when the castle is surrounded by a riot of fall colors.
Egeskov Castle sits on Denmark’s third-largest island, Funen, which is roughly 100 miles (160 km) from Copenhagen.
36. Matsumoto Castle, Japan
Matsumoto Castle is a historic castle that dates back to the early 1500s. Surrounded by a sophisticated system of moats and walls, it’s one of the largest and most complete castles in Japan. It’s also one of the best and most beautiful castles in the world.
Beyond its striking appearance, the castle’s interiors offer a glimpse into the life of samurai warriors. The wooden interiors, steep staircases, and stone drop chutes for warding off enemies transport visitors back to feudal Japan. Surrounding the castle, the city of Matsumoto offers a blend of traditional and contemporary Japanese experiences. This includes everything from ancient shrines to modern art museums.
Located in central Japan, Matsumoto Castle is within close proximity (135 miles/217 km) of Tokyo.
37. Chillon Castle in Switzerland is one of the most beautiful castles in the world
Chillon Castle is a picturesque island castle on the shores of Lake Geneva. Though the site of the castle has been used since Roman times, its current ramparts were built during the 13th century. Today, Chillon Castle is one of the most-visited historic structures in Switzerland. It’s also among the best castles in the world.
As you explore its chambers, towers, and walls, you’re treated to panoramic views of the lake and the Alps. The surrounding region, with its vineyards and picturesque towns, complements the castle visit, making it a holistic Swiss experience.
Chillon Castle is just 2 miles (3 km) from Montreux and 60 miles (96 km) from Geneva.
Looking to stay somewhere cool in Switzerland? Read next: Unique Airbnbs in Switzerland
38. Bouzov Castle, Czech Republic
Bouzov Castle stands out among the top castles in the Czech Republic and Central Europe. This fairytale fortress was built during the 14th century and was the seat of the Teutonic Knights. This noteworthy castle has since become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The interiors showcase original furniture, artworks, and artifacts. The castle’s surroundings, with dense forests and rolling hills, add to its charm. Various cultural events, medieval tournaments, and knightly games are held at the castle, making it a lively historical hub. With its gorgeous appearance, you’ll definitely want to add this famous castle to your wish list.
Bouzov Castle is just 22 miles (35 km) from Olomouc and 138 miles (223 km) southeast of Prague. Castles around the world have nothing on this one in Czechia!
39. Swallow’s Nest, Crimea
Add this famous castle in Crimea to your bucket list. Swallow’s Nest is on a dramatic cliff overlooking the Crimean Peninsula and the Black Sea. It’s only a hundred years old, but the Neo-Gothic architectural style, coupled with the awe-inspiring views, make this a stunning sight worth visiting.
The castle’s compact size adds to its charm, making it feel like a cozy nest. The adjoining restaurant offers breathtaking views of the sea, making dining there a surreal experience.
This castle is only 48 miles (78 km) from Sevastopol, the largest city in Crimea. Though it’s not the oldest castle in the world, Swallow’s Nest is definitely among the most majestic!
40. Alcázar of Segovia, Spain
The Alcázar of Segovia is a magical castle in central Spain that dates back to the 12th century. The castle was first used as an Arab fort before becoming a palace. In the centuries that followed, the Alcázar of Segovia was converted into a prison, and later, a military academy. It’s believed that this castle—in addition to Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany—inspired Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle.
The castle’s interiors, with their intricate Mudejar ceilings and rich tapestries, showcase the opulence of Spanish royalty. The surrounding gardens, with their manicured hedges and fountains, offer a peaceful retreat. This makes it a must-see in Spain for all types of travelers.
The Alcázar of Segovia is located 58 miles (93 km) northwest of Madrid.
41. Wartburg Castle, Germany
Built in the Middle Ages, Wartburg Castle is a famous castle and UNESCO World Heritage Site in Germany. It overlooks Eisenach, a medieval town, and the Thuringian Forest. This beautiful castle is notable as the place where Martin Luther translated the New Testament into German.
The castle’s architecture is a blend of Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance styles. Its rooms are adorned with medieval frescoes, artifacts, and artworks. The castle’s significance goes beyond its beauty; it’s a symbol of German unity and freedom.
If you’re seeking a visit to one of the most beautiful castles, this one in Germany has got you covered.
42. Peleș Castle, Romania
Built in 1914, Peles Castle falls on the newer end of the castle spectrum. However, with its Neo-Renaissance architecture and mountainside scenery, the Peles Castle definitely earns a spot among the most beautiful castles in the world.
Its ornate spires, carved stone facades, and decorative windows make it look like a palace from a fairy tale. Inside, the castle is a treasure trove of art, with over 160 rooms. They contain the finest European art, Murano crystal chandeliers, German stained-glass windows, and Cordoba leather-covered walls. If you’re looking for an unforgettable experience, these castles around the world will inspire you.
Peles Castle is less than 80 miles (128 km) north of Romania’s capital, Bucharest.
If you made it this far into the article, here’s your reward:
Other Beautiful castles in the new world worth visiting
Aside from your typical European fortresses, there are other buildings around the world that resemble castles, even though they were designed for different purposes. Two grandiose structures in the new world that deserve some spotlight are the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac in Quebec City and Boldt Castle in New York.
With over 600 rooms, the Fairmont Frontenac is one of the most iconic and photographed hotels in the world. This luxurious property was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1890s as a château-style hotel. The Boldt Castle, located in the Thousand Islands region of New York, is a mansion-turned-museum that straddles the Saint Lawrence River. Though these structures weren’t built to be fortified castles, they certainly rival their stature.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about famous castles
Looking to dive deeper into these castles around the world? Here are some popular questions (and answers) you should know about.
Which country has the nicest castles?
Germany has the best selection of beautiful castles. Here’s why:
- Variety and Abundance: Germany is home to thousands of castles, ranging from medieval fortresses to opulent palaces. This vast number ensures a wide variety of architectural styles and histories.
- Iconic Castles: Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, often dubbed the “fairy-tale castle,” is one of the most famous and picturesque castles in the world. Its romantic architecture and scenic mountain backdrop have made it an icon, even serving as inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle.
- Rich History: German castles have played pivotal roles in European history. They have been seats of power, witnessed battles, and served as inspirations for countless legends and tales.
- Preservation: Many German castles are well-preserved and have been restored to their former glory. This preservation allows visitors to truly step back in time and experience the castle as it was in its prime.
- Accessibility: Germany’s robust tourism infrastructure ensures that many of its castles are easily accessible to visitors. Guided tours, available in multiple languages, offer deep dives into the history and architecture of these majestic structures.
- Surrounding Beauty: Many German castles are set in picturesque locations, whether atop rugged mountains, nestled in dense forests, or overlooking serene rivers. The landscape often enhances the beauty and allure of the castles themselves.
Examples like Heidelberg Castle, Hohenzollern Castle, and Burg Eltz further cement Germany’s reputation as the country with some of the most impressive and beautiful castles in the world.
What is the most famous castle ever built?
The most famous castle ever built is arguably Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany. Here’s why:
- Inspiration for Pop Culture: Neuschwanstein Castle is often referred to as the “fairy-tale castle” and served as the inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle, making it instantly recognizable to millions around the world.
- Picturesque Location: The castle’s location atop a rugged hill against a backdrop of breathtaking mountain landscapes makes it one of the most photographed buildings globally.
- Architectural Beauty: Commissioned by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, the castle is a masterpiece of Romanticism architecture, with its tall white limestone walls, ornate turrets, and towers.
- Rich History: While it looks medieval, Neuschwanstein dates back to the late 19th century. The story of King Ludwig II, often called the “Mad King,” and his passion for building extravagant castles adds to its allure.
- Global Recognition: The castle attracts over a million visitors annually from all corners of the world, making it one of the most visited tourist destinations.
Do any medieval castles still exist?
Yes, many medieval castles still exist. While some are in ruins due to the ravages of time, battles, and natural elements, others are remarkably well-preserved or have been restored. These castles are throughout Europe and other parts of the world where medieval architecture flourished. Here are some notable examples:
- The Tower of London, England: Originally founded in 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest, it has served various roles over the centuries, from a royal residence to a prison.
- Carcassonne, France: A fortified town with a massive defensive wall, towers, and a castle. It’s one of the best-preserved medieval fortifications in Europe.
- Burg Eltz, Germany: Nestled in the hills above the Moselle River, this castle has been owned by the same family for over 800 years and remains intact.
- Warwick Castle, England: Built in 1068, it has undergone various modifications but retains its medieval charm.
- Krak des Chevaliers, Syria: A Crusader castle, it’s one of the most important preserved medieval military castles in the world.
- Alhambra, Spain: While more of a palace-fortress than a traditional castle, its origins date back to the mid-13th century and showcase a blend of Moorish and Christian architecture.
- Conwy Castle, Wales: Built between 1283 and 1289, it’s a classic example of medieval fortress architecture.
- Hohenwerfen Castle, Austria: Overlooking the Salzach valley, this castle has stood for over 900 years and offers a glimpse into medieval life with its falconry displays and weaponry exhibits.
Where is the oldest castle in the US?
The oldest castle in the U.S. is not a castle in the European sense, but rather a fortified structure. San Marcos Castle (Castillo de San Marcos) in St. Augustine, Florida, is the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States. Here are some details:
- Location: St. Augustine, Florida
- Construction Began: 1672
- Purpose: Built by the Spanish to protect and defend Spain’s claims in the New World.
- Material: The fort is made of coquina, a type of limestone composed of shell fragments, which is particularly effective at absorbing cannon fire without shattering.
- Historical Significance: Over its long history, Castillo de San Marcos has witnessed numerous battles and changed hands multiple times, transitioning between the Spanish, British, and Americans.
St. Augustine itself is the oldest continuously inhabited European-established settlement in the continental U.S., founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers. The Castillo de San Marcos stands as a testament to the city’s rich history and the broader colonial history of Florida and the United States.
What are the 4 types of castles?
Castles evolved over the centuries, adapting to advancements in siege technology and changing political and social dynamics. Broadly speaking, there are four primary types of castles:
- These were among the earliest forms of castles built in Europe.
- They consisted of a wooden or stone keep situated on a raised earthwork called a motte, accompanied by an enclosed courtyard, or bailey, surrounded by a protective ditch and palisade.
- They were relatively quick to construct and were popular in England and Europe after the Norman conquest.
Stone Keep Castles (or Norman Castles):
- As the name suggests, these castles were made of stone, making them more durable and resistant to attacks than their wooden counterparts.
- The central feature was the stone keep, a strong, central tower where the lord lived and where defenders could retreat to during an attack.
- The Tower of London is a famous example of a stone keep castle.
- These castles represented a significant evolution in castle design, emerging in the 12th and 13th centuries.
- They had multiple layers of defense, with one wall built outside another. The outer wall was lower than the inner one, allowing defenders on the inner wall to fire over the heads of those on the outer wall.
- They often featured a series of interconnected defensive walls, allowing defenders to move easily between them.
- These were more luxurious residences than military fortifications, though they still had defensive features.
- Built during more peaceful times, they prioritized comfort and grandeur. They often had large windows, ornate decorations, and extensive grounds.
- They were more like palaces than traditional castles, with the primary focus on residential and administrative functions rather than defense.
Recap: Cool castles worth exploring around the world
I hope you’ve enjoyed this list of the best and most beautiful castles in the world! Hopefully, this article introduced you to some new places that weren’t on your radar, and has inspired you to visit these unique castles around the world. Happy travels!