Which one of us does not like to see a gorgeous castle looming over the city while we travel? Don’t we all feel jaw-droppingly impressed when we see the grandiose architecture of a castle? On the other hand, some of us are much more interested in history and architecture than the average person. Again, some of us like to find a fairytale world worthy of our childhood dreams full of fantasy places. Castles with great towers and many turrets, castles set among great green forests and high over mountains. We have compiled here the top 20 most beautiful castles in the world for those whose heads are full of chivalric dreams and medieval adventures. Take a look at them, read about their fascinating history, and plan your next adventure!
1. Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in the world. Situated in Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh Castle looks over the city perched on top of a giant volcanic rock formation called Castle Rock. Edinburgh Castle has been a royal residence, prison, fortress, and military garrison throughout history. Nowadays it is a famous attraction of Edinburgh. However, some parts of the castle are still open to military use.
The origins of the castle go back to prehistoric times. Seeing Castle Rock’s strategic potential, the local people built a fort on top of this volcanic plug in the Iron Age. In time, it became a fully functioning castle and royal residence. Edinburg Castle is notorious for being the most besieged castle in Britain. It constantly changed hands between the English and the Scots after several bloody battles. The stronghold is most famous for its bronze guns the Seven Sisters in the Half Moon Battery. Another famous weapon is Mons Meg, one of the deadliest medieval cannons of its age.
The castle’s days as a royal residence ended when James VI became King of England as James I. James I took his residence in England. However, you can still see some of the oldest and most famous jewels in Europe in the Crown Room. These include the Honours of Scotland and the renowned stone Destiny.
2. Windsor Castle
One of the most beautiful and popular castles in the world, Windsor Castle has been the royal residence of kings and queens of England for generations. Windsor Castle is known to be the largest and oldest inhabited castle in the world. Situated near Thames River, it was William the Conquerer who initiated the construction of the castle. It took 16 years to complete it. It was originally a fortress guarding London, but its ideal location drew royal members to take residence there. Many kings added new features and buildings to the castle to make it a renowned palace. Since its foundation, it has been a home for 39 kings and queens.
Today the castle is an official residence of Queen Elizabeth II. However, Queen Elizabeth also uses the castle for ceremonial and state occasions. However, it welcomes visitors throughout the year. The highlights of the castle include the State Apartments used for ceremonial purposes and St. George’s Chapel where royal weddings and funerals take place. St. George’s Chapel is also the resting place of 10 monarchs including Henry VIII. You can also watch the changing of the guard here at Windsor. Additionally, you might take a look at the Royal Collection which includes some of the most valued art collections and other treasures in the world.
3. Neuschwanstein Castle
This fairytale castle located in Germany is one of the most iconic and beautiful castles in the world. Neuschwanstein is in Germany’s Bavaria region. Ludwig II of Bavaria, or the ‘Fairytale King’ as people know him, commissioned the castle. Several sources say that Ludwig II took refuge in the solitary confines of Neuschwanstein located in the Alps of Germany. The castle overlooks the Hohenschwangau Valley where Ludwig spent his childhood. The epitome of an idyllic medieval castle in an age when castles were no longer used for military or defensive purposes, Neuschwanstein has very advanced technology. Ludwig II constructed it to be the perfect castle worthy of ancient times, and it was the subject matter of Richard Wagner’s operas that inspired him. The castle was supposed to be the private residence of Ludwig II, but it was opened to the public soon after his death.
Highly inspired by German romanticism, the castle is decorated intricately, and it even has an artificial cave. The architects employed several styles in their construction such as neo-Gothic, Byzantine, and Romanesque designs. Nowadays, the castle is one of the most popular attractions in Europe, and it inspired many Disney movies such as The Sleeping Beauty.
Located in Granada, Spain; Alhambra was one of the most beautiful castles and palaces of the medieval world. Its unique structure that combines Moorish and Spanish styles has been the praise of the world. Alhambra means ‘red castle’ in Arabic, and it takes its name from the color of stones used in its construction. Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar of Granada built the castle upon the ruins of Roman fortifications to serve as a royal residence, military quarters, and fortifications. The rulers of Alhambra expanded and decorated the castle throughout the years and eventually the castle fell into the hands of the Spanish. It became the property of Queen Isabella I of Castille and King Ferdinand II of Aragon when they conquered the area. The castle and palace of Alhambra housed these Spanish monarchs, and even famous figures like Christopher Colombus spent some time hereunder Isabella’s patronage.
The castle is most famous for its beautiful gardens, grand halls and towers, and its Islamic architecture. Its attractions include the Hall of the Ambassadors, Court of Lions, the alcabaza, Generalife Gardens, and the Palace of Charles V.
5. Himeji Castle
Himeji is another exquisite castle in Himeji, Japan. The castle, also known as the ‘White Heron Castle because of its white facade, is a medieval castle. The construction of the castle began in the 1400s and it took around 200 years to complete it. The castle complex has 83 buildings in it and the whole complex is a marvelous defensive system. The architects used a genius combination of wood and white plaster in their construction. Himeji survived wars, firebombs, and earthquakes. Today, it is a major attraction in Japan and a Unesco World Heritage Site. It is also the biggest surviving castle in Japan.
Travelers like to see the Mikuni Pond, take photos on Sakuramın-Kashi Bridge, take a look at the seven floors inside, and stroll among the cherry blossom trees in the gardens. The castle is also home to two festivals every year. Himeji Yukota Kİmono Festival celebrates the start of summer. People wear their kimonos, take part in parades, indulge in street food, and enjoy music and dance. In October, the castle hosts the Nada Kenka Matsuri Festival also known as the fighting festival.
6. Bran Castle
Thought to be the residence of Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula the vampire, Bran Castle is today one of the most popular and hair-raising castles in the world. Situated in Romania’s Transylvania region, Bran Castle is perched on top of a cliff overlooking the Bran Gorge. Towards the end of the 1300s, Bran Castle was constructed for strategic, military, and economic purposes. Supposedly, Count Dracula lived here in the 1800s according to Stoker’s book. Although Dracula is a fictitious character, there were local legends in Bran villages that suggested that the area was infested with evil spirits, ghosts, and vampires known as “steregoi”. The steregoi were living people who led normal lives during daylight but turned into evil spirits at night haunting the villagers. These myths eventually led to the belief in vampires which inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Today, Bran Castle is open to visitors with attractions such as the Time Tunnel which showcases the history and myths of the castle. Additionally, there is an exhibition on the 4th floor, ‘A History of Dreads in Transylvania’, which portrays local Romanian myths and fantastic creatures.
7. Pena Palace
Pena Palace, situated in Portugal, is one of the most extraordinary and colorful castles in the world. The architects became influenced by 19th century Romanticism in architecture. In the middle of a dense forest, the vivid colors of the battlements and terraces form a stark contrast with the lush greenery. Highly influenced by the notion of an ideal medieval past, there are many mythological statues, hidden paths, and fantastic ornaments around the area surrounding the castle. The architects decorated the grounds and the interior of the castle equally in high detail.
The palace was initially a monastery in the 1400s. The 1755 earthquake, however, caused much damage to the monastery and its inhabitants then abandoned the monastery for quite some time. During the first half of the 19th century, Ferdinand II King Consort of Queen Maria II, brought German architect Baron Van Eschurege to remodel the ruins into a palace. After the death of Queen Maria II, Ferdinand fell in love with Swiss-born American opera singer Elise Hensler. He married her, also giving her the title of Countess of Edla. After the death of Ferdinand, the palace passed on to Elise Hensler. Today, Pena Palace is open to visitors. Countess Edla’s Chalet in the castle grounds is one of Pena Palace’s many attractions.
8. Château de Pierrefonds
One of the most beautiful castles in the world, fans of the Harry Potter series would immediately realize the striking resemblance of Pierrefonds to Hogwarts castle. With its high towers and many turrets, Pierrefonds is an example of marvelous architecture. Located in France, the castle’s origins go back to the 14th century when Louis the Duke of Orleans built the castle. However, in the 17th century when the country was going through civil unrest, Louis XVIII King of France besieged the castle. It became badly damaged as a result. Pierrefonds was in ruins until the 19th century. Several painters depicted the ruins of the castle in their art until then. Napoleon Bonaparte rebuilt the castle by hiring Viollet-le-Duc for its restoration. It is thanks to this man that the castle is what it is today.
The French nation accepted the castle as a historical monument and it has been open to the public since 1862. Pierrefonds has been featured in many movies and tv series. However, it is most famous for being the Camelot of the famous tv series Merlin.
9. Agra Fort
Agra Fort or Red Fort, so-called because of the red sandstone used in its construction, is located in India. Another example of fine architecture, Agra Fort is sometimes overshadowed by its sister monument Taj Mahal. The fort became the royal residence and military base when the Mughal emperor Akbar ordered its construction. It remained as the royal residence of the Mughal Dynasty until the capital moved from Agra to Delhi around the 1600s. Agra Fort looks over the Yamuna River and connects to the Taj Mahal by parks and gardens. Persian and Timurid architectural styles influenced the architecture of the fort. The castle is also sometimes called a city inside the walls.
Agra Fort became a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1983. The major attractions of the castle include Jahangir’s Palace, the Pearl Mosque, the Hall of Private Audience, and the Palace of Mirrors.
10. Eltz Castle
Eltz Castle, situated in the middle of the Eltz Forest in Germany, is one of the most beautiful castles in the world and a sight to behold. The castle is built on top of a large rock and is considered one of the finest castles in Germany. River Elzbach flows around the castle grounds. Eltz Castle is one of the few castles in the world that remained in the original family’s hands. It is also unique in that it survived 8 centuries unscathed by wars and was never destroyed.
The castle came into being in the 1100s to protect one of Germany’s most important trade routes. During the 19th century, Eltz Castle went under renovation with the emergence of Romanticism in architecture. Today, it is still the property of the Eltz family. However, it is open to visitors. Several famous people visited the castle over the centuries from royal members to artists. Among them is Victor Hugo who fell in love with the castle. The castle has a unique private collection of treasury and armory. It portrays life in medieval times in an awe-inspiring way. The castle’s main attractions are the Knights Hall and the kitchens which are striking representations of medieval life.
11. Castel Del Monte
Castel del Monte, meaning Castle of the Mount in Italian, is a medieval castle located in Apulia, Italy. Shaped like an octagon with eight towers in each corner, Castel del Monte is one the most unique structures in Europe. Every Italian knows the castle since its picture is stamped on the back of the Italian 1 cent coin.
Emperor Frederick II commissioned the castle in the 13th century. Both Eastern and Western designs influenced its construction. What is astonishing about Castel del Monte is that although castles are generally built for defensive purposes, this castle lacks defensive elements such as moats or draw bridges. Many people actually believe that the castle has sacred or ritualistic purposes. Many also believe that the octagon shape of the castle represents the union of the earth and the sky. Today, it is a Unesco World Heritage Site. Additionally, it is one of the most visited castles in Italy.
12. Alnwick Castle
Alnwick Castle, most famous for being a movie setting for Harry Potter movies, is one of the most beautiful castles in the world. The castle is the second largest inhabited castle in the United Kingdom. Alnwick’s origins go back to Norman times. However, it was the Percy family who made the castle as it is now. They added many towers, gateways, stone figures on top of the battlements, and the Barbican. The castle went under many changes throughout 700 years of rule under the Percy family. Situated near the border between England and Scotland, the castle has a strategic location, and therefore, has a complex defensive structure.
Today, the castle still belongs to the same family. The Duke of Northumberland and his family share the castle with their staff, some students from St. Cloud State University, and of course with visitors. Alnwick has also been a movie setting for 41 movies and tv series including Harry Potter and Downtown Abbey. It also has one of the finest collections of art in Europe. Among Alnwick’s attractions are the Guard Chambers, its huge library, the drawing and dining room, and the castle grounds. We are also happy to let you know that Alnwick Castle also gives broomstick training for those who are still a child at heart. Maybe it’s time to fly like a witch or wizard!
13. Rumeli Hisarı
Rumeli Hisarı or Bogazkesen Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in the world with its breathtaking view of the Bosphorus. Along with its extremely scenic view, the castle has a very important place in history.
Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror built the castle to aid him in besieging what was then the capital of the Byzantine Empire: Constantinople, or Istanbul as it is today. Sultan Mehmet ordered the construction of the fortress to control the ships that were passing through the Bosphorus and stopping any aid coming from the sea to the weakened Byzantium. Mehmet the Conqueror built another fortress on the Asian side of the Bosphorus called Anadolu Hisarı which can easily be seen from Rumeli Hisarı. Around 800 workers and 300 engineers worked on the construction of Rumeli Hisarı. After the conquest, the fortress lost its importance and became a prison. It got badly damaged during a fire that broke out in 1746.
Today, restored to its magnificence once again, the fortress offers one of the most scenic viewpoints in Istanbul with three terraces among judas trees. Within its courtyard, there are also cannonballs and Goldenhorn chains from the Ottoman Empire used in the conquest of Istanbul. The three towers of the fortress were also the largest of their age.
14. Buda Castle
Along with the Parliament and the Chain Bridge, Buda Castle is one of the most iconic structures of Hungary’s city of Budapest. The castle district includes the royal palace, St. Matthias Church, the Fisherman’s Bastion, and not to mention the underground labyrinth. The castle is located on the Pest side of the Danube River. It was King Béla IV of Hungary lV who laid the foundations of the castle in 1247. Throughout history, the monarchs of Hungary enlarged the caste by adding new buildings and features. During the 1500s, the castle changed hands when the Ottomans took Hungary under their rule. They left the castle unattended during this period and the besieging of the Western armies to recapture Budapest mostly destroyed the castle. The Hungarians rebuilt the castle in time again inspired by neoclassical and baroque architecture.
Today the castle district is a Unesco World Heritage Site. The royal palace is now home to Budapest History Museum and the Hungarian National Gallery. The Buda Castle Labyrinth is also a famous attraction. According to legends, these underground caves and tunnels were where Vlad Tepes, otherwise known as Count Dracula, was once a prisoner. The castle district is additionally home to three festivals throughout the year. These are the Festival of Crafts, Wine and Beer Festival.
15. Castillo de Coca
Situated in Segovia, Spain; Castillo de Coca is one of the most impressive castle structures in the world. The castle’s origins go back to the 15th century. It is one of the finest illustrations of Spanish Mudejar brickwork that combines Gothic architecture with Islamic Moorish style. It was Don Alonso de Fonseca, Archbishop of Seville, who constructed the castle. The formidable medieval walls and towers of the castle are what stand out the most with their imposing structure. Castillo de Coca is one of the few castles in Spain that was not built upon a hilltop. During the time of the Peninsular War, the castle came under the rule of the French. Under French rule, the castle deteriorated as a result of neglect.
Castillo de Coca became a national monument in the 20th century. It went under a serious restoration after that. Today, most parts of the castle are open to tourists. These include the Chapel which exhibits various works of art, the armory which holds weapons going back to the 15th century, and the Central Keep.
16. Frederiksborg Castle
One of the most beautiful castles in the world, Frederiksborg Castle is located on the small islets in Hillerød’s Castle Lake district in Denmark. King Christian IV of Denmark built the castle at the beginning of the 17th century. It was to show off the splendor of his rule and to build a worthy royal residence. Later, the architects added famous and highly aesthetic gardens to the castle grounds. Around the 19th century, however, a big fire that broke out in the castle caused quite a damage.
Since its renovation towards the end of the 19th century, the castle is home to the Museum of National History which exhibits a large collection of portraits, paintings, furniture, and applied arts. Among Frederiksborg’s attractions is the chapel on the castle grounds. From the 17th to 19th century, the Kings of Denmark were anointed here. It is largely the castle gardens that attract most visitors with their beauty. Along with the Baroque Garden, there is also the English-style Romantic Garden. The castle’s interior design, on the other hand, is as magnificent as the gardens. Some of the most impressive rooms in the castle are the Great Hall, the Audience Chamber, and the dining room Rose.
17. Arundel Castle
Britain is a land of magnificent castles and Arundel Castle is surely one of them. The Earl of Arundel Roger de Montgomery built the castle in the 11th century in West Essex. It has also been the residence of the Dukes of Norfolk for more than 850 years. Being powerful vassals of the crown, the residents of the castle were always at the front of English history. Going under two besieges, the castle was badly damaged during the reign of Oliver Cromwell and it was not repaired for many years. Among the famous visitors of the castle is Queen Victoria. For her stay, special furniture was made. The castle also holds one of the largest private collections of archives in Britain.
Among the most visited places in the castle, complex are the State rooms, the bedrooms in Victorian and Edwardian styles, and the Fitzalan Chapel. The castle also has one of the most beautiful gardens in the country. In Arundel Castle, one also has access to several events such as jousting tournaments, medieval weekends, and history days.
18. Bojnice Castle
Situated in Bojnice, Slovakia; Bojnice Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in the world with a fairytale design. The castle sits on top of a travertine hill and its origins go back to the 12th century. In the beginning, it was a wooden castle, but in time stone replaced wood. The castle underwent changes from Gothic to Renaissance and then Baroque architectural styles. Its last owner Count Jan Frantisek Palfi was who gave the castle today’s image. The castles in the Loire Valley and the romantic revival of the medieval past influenced him so much that he followed the same styles for Bojnice Castle. Unfortunately, he died before he saw the end of the reconstruction.
Today, the castle is in the hands of the Slovak National Museum. There is a beautiful romantic park around the castle. The majestic lime tree in the park is especially famous. Supposedly, the Hungarian oligarch Matus Cak Trenciansky planted the tree in 1301. King Matej Corvin loved this tree so much that he would throw dinner parties and hold meetings under it. Therefore, it is known as the Lime Tree of King Matej. There is also a travertine cave under one of the courtyards which are open to the public. Additionally, the castle is home to the International Festival of Ghosts and Spirits every year in May.
19. Château de Chambord
With more than 100 castles within its borders, France’s Loire Valley region is home to some of the most beautiful castles in the world. The most famous one is Château de Chambord. King François, I commissioned the castle in the 16th century. The castle is the epitome of the French Renaissance. People even say that the famous double helix staircase drew its inspiration from Leonardo da Vinci. While François started the construction, it was King Lois XIV who completed it in the 17th century. Several times, the castle served as the royal residence of Louis himself. Later, it became a residence for Louis’s father-in-law King Stanislas of Poland who was then in exile.
Today, a French historical monument and a Unesco World Heritage Site, the castle is open to visitors. It is among the most popular attractions in France. Among the castle’s attractions are the double helix staircase, the chapel, historical apartments, the keep, and the panoramic terraces. The French Formal Gardens, however, are equally famous. It was again the Sun King Louis XIV who ordered these gardens.
20. Hohenzollern Castle
Last but not least on our list of most beautiful castles in the world is Hohenzollern Castle in Germany. Along with its beautiful medieval structure, Hohenzollern also has a unique history. It was actually built not once, but three times! The construction date of the original castle is not exactly known. But it was one of the biggest and most elaborate castles of its time. Several sources call it the ‘Crown of all Castles in Swabia’. It was, however, completely destroyed in a besiege in 1423. The second castle’s construction began in 1454, and this castle played a central role during the Thirty Years War. However, it lost its importance towards the 19th century and fell into disrepair, eventually becoming no more than ruins.
The Crown Prince Frederic William of Prussia built the third castle in 1819. He made the castle what it is today inspired by neo-Gothic styles. Set among the beautiful mountains of Swabia, the castle has a magnificent view. Today, it is open to visitors. People can look at the treasures of the castle, including the Crown of Wilhelm II, and the personal belongings of King Frederick the Great. You can also find the burials of princes and princesses of Prussia in the castle cemetery. Among the castle’s attractions are the Eagle Gate, the palatial buildings, the Count’s Hall, and the Margrave’s Tower.
We hope that you enjoyed our list. Have you ever visited one or more of these castles? Tell us what it is actually like to be inside them, and write about your favorite places in these castles. If you have other castles to add to this list, let us know in the comments.