Searching for the best castles in Europe to feed our fantasies, we dive into not just the enchanting facades but also the history that built the reputation and attracted visitors from all over the world.
Europe is full of impressive castles. From humble beginnings as wooden strongholds, the castles we see today represent centuries of refinement and development that aimed to create an impenetrable fortress for those lucky enough to live within their walls. Whether they were built as defensive fortresses in the early middle ages or lavish status symbols, Europe’s greatest castles tell a story about their occupants.
Some castles offer unique views of the landscape and beautiful gardens, some serve as inspiration for famous fairy tale books while others serve as fortresses. Some of the oldest castles in Europe are still inhabited by royal families or aristocratic, others lay in ruins waiting for you to discover them.
If you have ever wanted to visit a castle, here is a list of the 10 best castles in Europe that you can see in your lifetime.
10. Trakai Island Castle, Lithuania
The stone castle served as home to all the Grand Dukes of Lithuania and the Trakai Island Castle withstood many sieges throughout history making quite the strong statement that has inspired many Lithuanian folk tales. As one of the medieval castles in eastern Europe, the Trakai Island Castle features the classic architecture of the 14th century.
This castle is built on an island surrounded by lakes and canals and is the only one among the eastern European castles to be built on water.
Trakai Castle Museum was established after the castle’s reconstruction and has been open since 1962. Visitors can now enjoy a variety of interesting items on display, admire the historical interiors, the expressive stained glasses, old frescoes, and even secret passages.
To access the castle, consider taking a castle tour to learn more about its history. Visitors will also need to walk across a 300 meters bridge so be ready for an adventure.
9. Predjama Castle, Slovenia
This only castle in Slovenia is considered to be the largest cave castle in the world. The Predjama Castle is one of the impregnable European fortresses as it has never been successfully conquered with its strategic location, sitting right in the middle of a 123-meter high cliff.
The castle is fairly small, but it’s got enough space for a banquet hall and other decorated rooms. There is also an escape passage, a dungeon, and a chapel inside the cave castle.
Another amazing thing about visiting this popular Slovenia tourist attraction among other castles in Europe is that the cave underneath the castle is home to a colony of bats. The bat cave is open for visitors from June to August but is closed the rest of the year in consideration of the hibernation period of bats.
8. Caernarfon Castle, Wales
Wales, a country with the most castles per square mile compared to any other country in Europe boasts several picturesque castles and most certainly one should not miss out on visiting among the best English Castles is Caefernon Castle.
Built during the thirteenth century by King Edward I of England, Caernarfon Castle is one of those castles that served as a royal residence and military base. For over 600 years, the castle was occupied by royal families and it served as a fortification for English troops in different wars. The castle also boasts a spectacular collection of tapestries, armors, and banners from the past centuries.
Considered to be one of the best castles in Europe, this UNESCO World Heritage site remains a well-preserved fortress and attracts visitors from all over the world with its impressive architecture with views of castle towns and River Seiont.
Caernarfon Castle is now open to visitors with its newly refurbished towers and walls.
7. Château de Chenonceau, France
One of the old castles in Europe worthy of a visit is Château de Chenonceau. This royal castle has a very interesting and unique history.
Built in the sixteenth century, the renaissance castle changed hands on numerous occasions with owners such as Catherine de Medici, Diane de Poitiers, and Louise Dupin who turned it into a beautiful place famous for its wonderful gardens and even more impressive architecture.
Another big part of this story is that during the French revolution, the new owner Gabrielle Dupin de Francueil made sure the castle was opened for the public to give them some joy during these hard times.
Visitors will be captivated by the stunning architecture and array of artifacts on display. There are also a lot of areas to explore, from galleries to bedrooms, kitchens, extensive gardens, and living rooms. Also, one should not miss out to check the bedrooms with magnificent tapestries, a variety of paintings, and luxurious beds.
It’s no wonder that this wonderous castle is now on the top of every tourist list when it comes to castles to tour in Europe.
6. Windsor Castle, United Kingdom
Another amazing castle in Europe to check off your bucket list of best castles in Europe is England Windsor Castle. There are so many things to do in England and Windor Castle is the largest castle in England which was built during the 11th century and it’s been a favorite home to English royalty ever since.
This royal palace serves as a Private home to The Queen. It also plays host to many state visits which are often held in the Grand Reception Room, St. George’s Hall, or The State Apartments. One of the great castles to behold, it has also been declared as the largest occupied castle in the world with 1,000 rooms.
On top of that, the medieval castle was built in a mixture of different architectural styles which gives this amazing attraction an even more diverse feel. Visitors will be fascinated by how big it is!
Windsor Castle is considered to be one of the greatest castles in the world with around 1 million visitors per year. It is one of the main reasons people travel to Europe for a vacation. Its impressive architecture and beautiful interior design make it truly worthy to be considered as one of the best castles in Europe.
If you’re a fan of the British Royal Family this is the best castle to visit!
5. Bran Castle (Dracula’s Castle), Romania
Among the world’s greatest castles is this medieval fortress that was popularly called Dracula’s castle even when there is a lack of evidence that the work of Bram Stoker was inspired by this castle. But still, a lot of visitors are interested in checking this castle out to see if they can spot any connection between the infamous Dracula character and this amazing fortress.
Bran Castle was built during the 13th century by Teutonic knights; the castle name Bran comes from the old German word “Brennen” which means fire. This once upon a time military stronghold is highly popular on the list of best castles in Europe.
The Bran Castle perches atop a 60-meter high cliff offering a spectacular view of the villages below from the terraces and windows. There are also collections of weapons and armors and furniture.
It is surrounded by walled courtyards that have a drawbridge that gets visitors into the main tower. Inside, visitors will get to see its amazing halls and richly decorated rooms with collections of medieval furniture. Also, there are more than 100 rooms full of paintings.
Bran castle currently functions as a museum and one of the famous middle ages castles of eastern Europe complete with a panoramic view. It attracts over half a million visitors each year and certainly can be considered as one of the most beautiful castles in the world.
4. Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
Edinburgh Castle is a stunning castle with building as old as the 12th century. The castle sits on the Castle Rock of Edinburgh which was formed from an extinct volcano.
The oldest castle in the world became home to royals in the 15th century with its most notable owners being Mary Queen of Scots, King James VI & I, and even Bonnie Prince Charlie. Edinburg Castle served as a military fortification for many centuries
The famous castle has seen some renovation work between 1998 – 2014 which included conservation works on stonework, replacement roof slates, and the construction of a visitor center.
Today, Edinburgh Castle is one of Scotland’s best castles with some parts of the castle being open to visitors while others remain active in serving royal family members and providing accommodation for the military.
Visitors can now explore 15 different National Trust areas which include places such as The Great Hall, St. Margaret’s Chapel, Mons Meg, Scottish National War Memorial, and Saint Margaret’s Chapel.
3. Pena Palace (Sintra), Portugal
Talking about the best castles in Europe, Pena Palace is a must-visit for European castle tours. This magnificent castle is one of the huge castles in Europe that was built during the Romanticism Period by King Ferdinand II who was inspired by other castles in Europe.
The magical castle is situated on a hill in São Pedro de Penaferrim, Sintra which makes it one of the most beautiful castles to visit and perfect for castle dates. The castle looks like it had a fairy tale king at some point and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984.
Towering at 250 meters above sea level, you can see stunning views of Lisbon below. The palace has also inspired many artists and had appeared in several music videos, films, games, and even novels.
The palace is full of bright colors and ornate designs which make it truly unique while maintaining its medieval look. The interior of the castle features paintings by renowned 19th century Romanticism painters such as Daniel Richter, Johann Peter Krafft, and Henrique Pousão D’Armas e Silva Roldã.
Considered to be one of the seven wonders of Portugal, even the famous author Hans Christian Andersen was also captivated by the beauty of this pretty castle.
2. Prague Castle, Prague
This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the beautiful castles of the world that exudes a fairytale-like atmosphere. Prague Castle is considered to be one of the largest castles in Europe that houses several artworks and is based on the site that had been occupied by earlier castles, churches, and even settlements dating back to the 10th century.
This interesting castle has a lot of history attached to it and was once the official residence of many famous rulers including Emperors Ferdinand I, Francis Joseph I, & Charles IV.
The Bohemian Crown Jewels can be found here which are made up of the coronation jewels used by many kings and queens.
The St Vitus Cathedral is also an interesting place to visit within the castle grounds. It’s considered to be one of the most important places where royal coronations took place including the funerals of Kings and Queens.
Today, the castle is still a working palace that plays host to many official state functions while also serving as a museum where visitors can get to see rare historical artifacts from its collection, certainly one of the best castles to visit in Europe.
1. Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the most famous castles on top of the mountains that inspired sleeping beauty’s castle at Disneyland and is also rumored to be the source of inspiration for Walt Disney‘s Cinderella castle on the classic, “Cinderella,” released in 1950.
This German castle was built in the 19th century by the popular Ludwig II of Bavaria who wanted to design something that looked like an idealized version of a medieval knight’s castle with 20,000 workers and using an astronomical amount of stone (over 1.5 million cubic meters)
A castle that looks like a fairytale and castle for lovers, this is one of the most visited castles in Germany and attracts tourists from all over the world.
One of the breathtaking castles of Europe, Neuschwanstein Castle is a dream come true for many visitors. It is filled with magnificent architecture that takes inspiration from the 12th century Romanesque and Byzantine styles. Visitors can admire the castle’s exterior all year round while visiting in winter will give them an even more picturesque view of this fantastical palace.
Being inside these ancient castles and palatial buildings invoke a sense of connection to the colorful distant past that we only see in movies. Visiting these castles is surely a memorable experience for adults and children alike. The next time you travel make sure to join in the marvel of visiting some of the famous castles in Europe!