Traveling through Europe’s castles: what’s worth visiting and seeing

15 castles in Europe that are worth seeing! Travel for the Romantic.

Which castle inspired Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”? Where was Indiana Jones filmed? How do ancient European castles function today? Lovers of mystical landscapes, romantic journeys and mysterious legends! This material is for you!

Schloss Eltz, Germany (12th century)

Photo: Johannes Hoehn

Burg Eltz is a castle in Rheinland-Pfalz (Wirscham commune) in the Elzbach valley. Together with the palace of Bürresheim it is the only building in western Germany, which had never been destroyed or occupied. The castle was unscathed even during the wars of the 17th and 18th centuries and the events of the French Revolution.

The castle has been perfectly preserved to this day. On three sides it is surrounded by the river and stands on a cliff 70 meters high. This makes it invariably popular with tourists and photographers.

Photo: Carl T Loveall

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Bled Castle, Slovenia (11th century)

Photo: Ales Krivec

One of the oldest castles in Slovenia (Blejski grad) is located on the top of the cliff near the lake of the same name near the town of Bled. The oldest part of the castle is a Romanesque tower, which was used for housing, defense and monitoring of the castle surroundings.

Photo: Matic Obid

During World War II the headquarters of German troops was located there. The castle was damaged in a fire in 1947 and part of the buildings were damaged. A few years later, the castle was restored and resumed its activities as a historical museum. The museum collection includes clothes, weapons and household items.

Photo: Sandi Bertoncelj

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Neuschwanstein castle, Germany (19th century)

Photo: Martin Pfister

The romantic castle of King Ludwig II is located near the town of Füssen in southwestern Bavaria. The castle was the inspiration for the construction of Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland Paris. Neuschwanstein (German: Schloß Neuschwanstein) is also featured in the 1968 film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as the castle of the fictional land of Woolgaria. Peter Tchaikovsky was fascinated by the view of Neuschwanstein. According to historians, it was here that he had the idea of creating the ballet Swan Lake.

The films “Ludwig II: The Shine and Fall of the King” (1955, directed by Helmut Keutner), “Ludwig” (1972, directed by Luchino Visconti), “Ludwig of Bavaria” (“Ludwig II”, 2012, directed by Marie Noel and Peter Zehr).

Photo: Thomas Kirschner

The castle is currently a museum. To visit it, you must buy a ticket at the ticket center and walk up to the castle by bus, or on foot or by horseback. The only person who “resides” in the castle at the moment and is its keeper – the keeper.

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Castello del Boccale, Italy (16th century)

Photo: Fabrizio Lunardi

The castle in Livorno gets its name from the fact that the local coast is known as Boccale (Jug) or Cala dei Pirati (Pirate Bay). The center of today’s Castello del Boccale was an observation tower built by order of the Medici in the 16th century, presumably on the ruins of an older structure from the period of the Republic of Pisa. During its history, the appearance of the castle has undergone many changes. In recent years the Castello del Boccale has been thoroughly restored and the castle has been divided into several residential apartments.

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Castle Bran (Castle Dracula), Romania (XIV century)

Photo: Minghir Victor

The legendary Bran Castle is situated in the picturesque setting of Bran, 30 km from Brasov on the border of Muntenia and Transylvania. It was originally built at the end of the 14th century by the efforts and means of the locals for the exemption from paying taxes to the state treasury for several centuries. Due to its location on the top of a cliff and its trapezoidal shape, the castle served as a strategic defensive fortress.

Photo: Istvan Kadar

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The castle has 4 levels connected by stairs. The castle changed hands several times during its history: it belonged to the lord Mircea the Old, the inhabitants of Brasov and the Habsburg Empire. Legend has it that, during his campaigns, the famous voivode Vlad Tepes-Dracula spent nights in the castle, and its surroundings were a favorite hunting ground of the lord Tepes.

Photo: Denis Rusu

At present, the castle belongs to a descendant of the Romanian kings, the grandson of Queen Maria, Dominik Habsburg (in 2006, according to a new law of Romania on the return of the territory to the previous owners). After the transfer of the castle to the owner, all the furniture was taken to museums in Bucharest. And Dominic Habsburg had to recreate the decoration of the castle by buying various antiques.

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The Castle of the Alcázar, Spain (IX century)

Photo: Carlos Luque

The Spanish Kings’ fortress of Alcázar is located in the historic part of Segovia on a rock. It was not only a royal palace, but also a prison and an artillery academy. According to archaeologists, even in Roman times, there was a military fortification on the site of the Alcazar. During the Middle Ages the castle was a favorite residence of the kings of Castile. In 1953, the Alcazar was turned into a museum.

Photo: Max Foster

Nowadays it remains one of the most visited places in Spain. The palace has an open museum with furniture, interiors, a collection of weapons, and portraits of the kings of Castile. There are 11 rooms and the tallest tower, Tower of Juan II, available for viewing.

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Chambord Castle, France (16th century)

Photo: Ray Choquell

Château de Chambord is one of the most recognized castles in France, an architectural masterpiece of the Renaissance. The facade is 156 m long and 117 m wide, the castle has 426 rooms, 77 staircases, 282 fireplaces, and 800 sculpted capitals.

Photo: Joao Martinho

According to historical studies, Leonardo da Vinci himself took part in the design. It is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1981. The castle has been a public commercial enterprise since 2005. On the second floor of the castle is now a branch of the Museum of Hunting and Nature.

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Windsor Castle, UK (11th century)

Photo: Ben Cross

Located on a hill in the River Thames Valley, Windsor Castle has been a symbol of monarchy for over 900 years. In different centuries the appearance of the castle has changed in accordance with the capabilities of the ruling monarchs. The present appearance is obtained as a result of reconstruction after a fire in 1992. The castle covers 52,609 square meters and combines features of a fortress, palace and a small town.

Today the palace is owned on behalf of the nation by the Royal Palaces Estate, and the household services are provided by the Royal Household Department. Windsor Castle is the largest of the residential castles in the world (about 500 people live and work there). Elizabeth II spends a month at the castle in spring and a week in June for traditional ceremonies associated with the Order of the Garter. Each year the castle is visited by about a million tourists.

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Corvinov Castle, Romania (14th century)

Photo: Irinel Cirlanaru

The ancestral home of the feudal house of Hunyadi in southern Transylvania, in the modern Romanian town of Hunedoara. Originally, the fortress had an oval shape, and the only defense tower was located in the north wing, while on the south side it was covered by a stone wall.

Photo: Gabriel Rosca

During the reign of governor Janos Hunyadi was built seven towers, and laid chapel, built the main halls and the south wing with outbuildings. As a result, the appearance of the castle combines elements of Late Gothic and Early Renaissance.

In 1974 the castle was opened to visitors as a museum. Tourists are led into the castle by a giant bridge, shown the vast hall for knights’ feasts and two towers, one of which bears the name of the monk John Capistran and the other the romantic name “Do not be afraid”.

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It is also said that in this castle Hunyadi was kept the deposed Vlad Tepes Dracula for 7 years.

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Lichtenstein Castle, Austria (XII century)

Photo: Martin Kornmesser

One of the most unusual castles in architecture (German – Burg Liechtenstein) is located on the edge of the Vienna Woods. The castle was built in the 12th century, but was destroyed twice by the Ottomans in 1529 and 1683. In 1884 the castle was rebuilt. Another damage was done to the castle during World War II. Finally, over the years, the castle was restored by the citizens.Since 2007, the castle, like more than 800 years ago, is owned by relatives of its founders – the princely family of Lichtenstein.

Photo: Max Conrad

The modern popularity of Lichtenstein Castle is due to the Johann Nestroy Theatre Festival, held here in the summer. The castle is open to visitors.

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The Castle of Chillon, Switzerland (IX century)

Photo: Remi Oudinot

Château de Chillon, near Lake Geneva, 3 km from the city of Montreux, is a complex of 25 elements from different periods. The layout and construction of the castle allowed the owners full control over a strategically important road between the lake and the mountains. For a certain period of time the road to the St. Bernard pass served as the only transport route from Northern Europe to Southern Europe. The depth of the lake provided security: an attack from this side was simply impossible. The stone wall of the castle, facing the road, is fortified by three towers. The opposite side of the castle is residential.

Photo: Benjamine Baker

Like most castles, Chillon Castle also served as a prison. Louis the Pious imprisoned the abbot Valois of Corvey here. In the mid-14th century, during a plague epidemic, Jews were held and tortured in the castle and accused of poisoning water sources.

Chillon Castle is the setting for George Byron’s poem The Prisoner of Chillon. The historical background was the imprisonment of François Bonivard by Charles III of Savoy, who romantically described the castle in his works by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Percy Shelley, Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas.

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Hohenzollern Castle, Germany (13th century)

Photo: Thomas Hoppe

Hohenzollern Castle (German: Burg Hohenzollern) is located in Baden-Wuerttemberg, 50 kilometers south of Stuttgart, on top of Mount Hohenzollern at an altitude of 855 meters. Over the years, the castle has undergone several times of destruction.

Photo: Thomas Spinner

One of the most famous relics kept in the museum is a crown of the Prussian kings and a uniform that belonged to Frederick the Great. From 1952 to 1991 the remains of Frederick I and Frederick the Great were kept in the castle museum. After the reunification of West and East Germany in 1991 the ashes of the Prussian kings were returned to Potsdam.

Photo: Dominic Walter

Currently the castle is two-thirds part of the Brandenburg-Prussian Hohenzollern line and one-third of the Swabian-Catholic line. Annually it is visited by about 300 thousand tourists.

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Chateau Valzen, Belgium (11th century)

Château de Walzin (Belgian Château de Walzin) is located in the village of the same name approximately, built on a rock above the river Les. One of the largest castles in Belgium was built in the 11th century by the Bishop of Liege, Ditwin (Theodouin) of Bavaria as a defense. The fortress was repeatedly besieged and destroyed.

Photo: Rudy Denoyette

The castle was restored twice: the first time in 1881 (architect Emile Jeanlet) and in the years (Olivier Flanno). After the restoration work the castle acquired the romantic appearance, which is now widely known. Today, the castle is owned by the Count and Countess de Limburg-Stirum, direct descendants of Henry IV Duke of Limburg and Guillaume de la Marche. Walzen is sometimes called the “Belgian Neuschwanstein.” The castle is closed to visitors.

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Bürresheim Castle, Germany (12th century)

Photo: Uwe Müller

Bürresheim Castle (German – Schloss Bürresheim) is located approximately 4 kilometers from the town of Mayen in the Eifel region. Surprisingly, but over its centuries-long history the castle has suffered almost no damage. The castle was founded in the XII century.

In this castle episodes of the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” were filmed. Nowadays there is a museum here, where you can look at the old furnishings, paintings and furniture, which became examples of the Rhine noble culture.

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Trakai Castle, Lithuania (14th century)

The largest surviving ancient castle in Lithuania (lit. Trakų salos pilis) is located in the ancient residence of Lithuanian princes, the town of Trakai. At one time, Trakai Castle was the strongest castle in the entire principality and one of the most impregnable fortresses in Eastern Europe: it had never been conquered by enemies.

During the reign of Vitovt, the castle experienced its golden age: sumptuous receptions and feasts for guests from all over Europe were held here. Since 1962 there is a museum of Trakai history and souvenir shops inside the castle.

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A true Bavarian wonder, the most fabulous and beautiful of Germany’s castles. The history of its creation is linked to the name of Ludwig of Bavaria, a delicate and unusually romantic character. Ludwig was known as a patron of the arts, a passionate admirer of Wagner’s music, and a great waster and profligate, ready to lay his entire fortune on the altar of the arts. Ludwig spent a record sum to build this castle – almost 6 million gold marks. He willed that the castle be blown up at his death. Fortunately, none of his subjects had the slightest idea of destroying it.

Overlooking the surroundings of the Algoy Valley, the lonely and beautiful castle with its spires pointing skyward looks exquisite and a little sad, recalling with all its appearance the fate of its creator. This castle has served as a source of inspiration for the creation of magical castles in Disneyland parks around the world.

The castle is in Bavaria, near the border with Austria, the nearest town to it is Füssen. From there you can get to the castle by bus. Tourists often come here from Munich and explore the Bavarian capital.

Bran, Romania

This medieval castle was built at the end of XIV century. It was built at the expense of the citizens, for which they were exempted from paying taxes for a long period. Its history is shrouded in dark legends and mysticism. The castle often changed owners. At one time even Queen Maria of Romania lived here, but the most famous owner of the castle was the famous Count Dracula (real name – Count Vlad III Tepes). A collection of one of the castle halls is entirely devoted to this sinister character. The interiors of the castle were used for the shooting of Francis Coppola’s movie “Dracula”.

History is silent on whether the vampire count actually lived there and drank the blood of common mortals, as Bram Stoker’s fantasy attributed to him. You should visit the castle if only to enjoy the gloomy beauty and to feel yourself a hero of the real gothic novel.

The castle is located on the border of Transylvania and Muntenia. The nearest towns are Brasov (30 km) and Rysnov (20 km). There are buses from Brasov to Bran.

3 Chambord, France

One of the most charming castles of the Loire Valley. It was built as a hunting lodge for King Francis I, but centuries later it became an architectural gem of the French Renaissance. The castle had its heyday under the Sun King – Louis XIV.

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One of the main attractions of the castle is the famous spiral staircase, designed by Leonardo da Vinci. The castle is surrounded by a magnificent ancient park, the alleys of which is pleasant for a wander after visiting the halls.

The city of Blois is about 20 km from the chateau and from here you can get to the chateau by shuttle or car. The way from Paris will take longer (180 km), but it is possible to keep it in one day.

4. Hluboka nad Vltavou, Czech Republic

The snow-white beauty proudly towering above the Vltava River attracts tourists from all over the world. The castle was built in the Neo-Gothic style and impresses with its splendid view. This is the most “English” of the castles in the Czech Republic. It was founded in the XIII century, was repeatedly rebuilt. English features the castle acquired in the XIX century. Its then owner, Duchess Eleonora Schwarzenberg, after a trip to England, was fascinated by Windsor Castle, so she decided to globally reconstruct her own property in its likeness.

The pride of the castle is its magnificently preserved interiors, one of the richest and most impressive among European castles. You can see the richest library with a collection of rare books in several languages, unique pieces of furniture and porcelain, a collection of paintings, a collection of knightly armor and weapons.

The castle is located in southern Bohemia, near the town of Cesky Krumlov. The distance from Prague – 140 km.

5. The Castle of the Moors, Portugal

The medieval castle with powerful fortress walls stands on a mountaintop. The castle was built in the VIII century by the Moors and served at the same time a defensive and observation function. The castle was conquered by the Moors in 1147 and later served as the seat of the Jewish community. The castle is not in perfect condition until today. In the 18th century it was badly damaged by an earthquake. The building was reconstructed in the 19th century, during the reign of Fernando II, but not in its original form, but in a Romantic style.

Eastern and European features are intertwined in the architecture of the castle. Most impressive are the strong fortress walls with battlements, which can be seen from afar. On these walls one had to climb to the top to enjoy the magnificent panorama. The whole town can be seen from here, along with the picturesque surroundings of Sintra and the blue and blue Atlantic Ocean.

The castle is about 20 km from Lisbon. From there you can reach Sintra by train from the three city stations (Rossio, Oriente, Entrecampos). There are buses from the center of Sintra to the castle.

6. Butron, Spain

This elegant Gothic castle in northern Spain was founded in the 11th century and has undergone many alterations and reconstructions. The castle is located on a small island – to get there you have to go down 237 steps. The castle is named after its first owners, the Butron family. It was built as a fort, but was later transformed into a residence. There are many legends connected with the castle about the feud of powerful clans, intrigues, murders, power struggles. The castle is surrounded by a beautiful garden with ancient trees and outlandish plants. Unfortunately, get inside the castle now can not, tourists can only admire the castle from outside.

Butron Castle is 19 km from the city of Bilbao, from which buses run.

7. Aragon Castle, Italy

Located on a small island of volcanic origin, very close to the coast of Ischia. It is the main attraction of Ischia and one of the oldest castles in the world, the first mention of it dates back to 474 BC. The heyday of the castle fell on the XVI century, when on its territory was opened Clarissa monastery, there was also a residence of the bishop. Nowadays the castle belongs to private owners, but it is open to the public. In summer concerts and musical evenings are often held there. On the territory of the castle the famous festival of musical and theatrical art takes place.

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Aragon Castle is located at 220 m from the coast of Ischia, in the south-eastern part of it. It is connected to the island by a causeway and a stone bridge. The bridge connecting the castle and the island first appeared here in the XV century. Inside the castle can be accessed through a tunnel or by elevator. In the tunnel there is a chapel of St. John Joseph, who is considered the patron saint of the island. Those who wish can stay overnight in the castle, in one of the monastery premises is now a hotel.

8. Windsor Castle, UK

One of the most beautiful castles in England, for centuries the residence of British monarchs. Windsor Castle is the oldest residential castle in Europe, founded in 1070 by William the Conqueror. Originally built as a fortress, it soon became a favorite residence of the royal family. The castle has a huge territory, it is one of the largest residences in the world. The royal family, and especially Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, often likes to stay here. When the queen is at Windsor, the royal standard proudly unfurls over one of its towers. Much of the castle is open to the public.

St. George’s Chapel, the largest structure on the castle grounds, is the burial place of British monarchs. In this chapel are held marriage ceremonies of members of the royal family. One of the most recent was the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

From the observation deck of the Round Tower you can enjoy a beautiful view of the surroundings of Windsor. The tower holds the famous Sevastopol Bell, cast in Russia in the 18th century and seized by the British during the Crimean War. According to tradition, the bell rings only on the day when one of the British monarchs dies.

Windsor Castle is located in the town of the same name, in Berkshire. Windsor can be reached by train from Paddington Station in London.

9. Chillon Castle, Switzerland

This romantic castle which looks like an impregnable fortress but at the same time like a sumptuous royal residence was celebrated by Lord Byron in his poem ‘The Prisoner of Chillon’. The castle was once a prison for the prisoner François Bonivard, the protagonist of Byron’s poem. He was a monk condemned for preaching against the ecclesiastical tenets of the time. Inside the castle the place where he supposedly served his sentence is preserved. Lord Byron left his autograph in this place. Besides Byron, A. Dumas, W. Hugo, J.-J. Rousseau and other famous writers admired the beauty of the castle.

Chillon Castle is on a small island in Lake Geneva, near the popular resort of Montreux. The island is connected to the mainland by a bridge. From Montreux and Villeneuve you can get to the castle by bus.

10. Kronborg, Denmark

The castle was built as a royal residence in the first half of the XV century, and became famous thanks to Shakespeare, who put his famous hero, Prince Hamlet, in it. In the castle you can visit the Maritime Museum, visit the ancient chapel, go down to the casemates and see Holger of Denmark sleeping (the hero of the Danish epic, reminding our Ilya Muromets), see the royal chambers and dancing halls, climb the tower.

The chapel is the only place of the castle where the original interior was preserved – the wooden carved ceiling, the “chess board” floor, the king’s box. Now it is a working church. The castle stands on the shore of the Eresund Strait, in the narrowest place, on the opposite shore of which is Sweden.

In the small town of Elsinore, where the castle is located, you can get from the center of Copenhagen by train (about an hour).

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