This post was originally posted in March 2017 and was updated in November 2019.
For centuries, majestic castles have left people in awe and admiration. These fascinating displays of wealth, power and influence were built to last for years and continue to amaze us today. We have collaborated with other travel bloggers to uncover some of the world’s most enchanting castles. Here is a collection of some of the most beautiful castles from around the world:
Bran Castle, Romania
Made famous by Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Bran Castle is a medieval castle set upon a 200 foot hill. Although the author never visited Transylvania, Bran Castle is said to be only castle in all of Transylvania that actually fits Bram Stoker’s description of Dracula’s Castle. The inspiration for Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, however, has no significant role in the history of Bran Castle. Inconsistencies in the story aside, Bran Castle is an interesting place to visit while in Transylvania, Romania.
RELATED POST: Exploring Transylvania: A Week in Romania
Bled Castle, Slovenia
Bled Castle, located on a steep hill 100m above Lake Bled, is one of Slovenia’s oldest castles. This medieval castle, converted into a museum and a restaurant, offers captivating views of the surrounding mountains and Lake Bled. It is possible to reach this castle through various walking trails. The easiest one to spot is the one towards the Parish Church of Saint Martin. While the walk is not hard, it can be quite steep.
RELATED POST: 7 Awesome Things to Do in Bled, Slovenia
Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
The ultimate in fairytale castles, Neuschwanstein resides at the foot of the Alps in southern Bavaria. Rumored to be the inspiration for the Disney castle, Neuschwanstein Castle is a nineteenth-century Romanesque Revival palace on a rugged hill above the village of Hohenschwangau near Füssen, Germany. I highly recommend staying in the village and getting up early to beat the crowds that arrive from Munich and Fussen. Built by the mad King Ludwig, Neuschwanstein is a testimony to one man’s dream and attempt to disconnect from the pressures of royal life. Sadly, he slept only 11 nights in the castle before being murdered for his crown.
Lina and Davie – Divergent Travelers
Located in the medieval heart of the Flemish city of Ghent, the Gravensteen is one of the most imposing of the more than 1,000 castles in Belgium. Its name means literally “Castle of the Counts”. The Gravensteen was built in 1180, its construction commissioned by Philip of Alsace and modeled after the crusader strongholds that he saw during the Second Crusade.
Having served as the seat of the Counts of Flanders for more than a century, the castle was abandoned in the 1300s. From then on, it had several different purposes, from courthouse and prison to even a factory. The city of Ghent eventually bought the castle in the late-19th century to save it from demolishment. It was renovated, its walls and keep restored to their former glory. Nowadays, the Gravensteen houses a fascinating museum of the Middle Ages, including a rather macabre exhibit of torture devices.
Bram – Travel. Experience. Live
Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland
Just before you enter one of the greatest fairytale destinations in Scotland (Isle of Skye) you’ll drive through Kyle of Lochalsh, which is home to Eilean Donan Castle. This striking 13th-century building cannot go ignored as it sits on an island surrounded by three Scottish lochs. This Highlands and world-famous tourist attraction has been reconstructed four times and now lies in the hands of the MacRae family. If you really do fall in love with Eilean Donan Castle you can marry on the grounds!
Gemma and Craig – Two Scots Abroad
Vianden Castle, Luxembourg
Vianden Castle in Luxembourg is one of the most fairy tale-like castles I’ve ever seen. You know the image of a castle on a hill, with turrets and battlements? That’s exactly it! The castle was constructed in the Middle Ages on the ruins of a Roman fort, and it was home to a local noble family until it fell into disrepair in the 18th century. Over time, new features were built to make the castle more and more beautiful – such as the Gothic turrets, added in the 14th century, and a Renaissance mansion three centuries later. Vianden Castle was my favourite of all the castles in Luxembourg I visited – perhaps because there was a really cool medieval festival on that day, and I felt as if I jumped into Game of Thrones!
To know more, check out Margherita’s post about Vianden Castle, Luxembourg.
Margherita – The Crowded Planet
Predjama Castle, Slovenia
There are many beautiful castles around the world, but none quite as unique as Predjama Castle in Slovenia. The castle appears to grow out of a rocky crag, clinging to the side of a 400-foot cliff. But what makes it truly unique is that it incorporates a natural cave into the man-made dwelling. Built during the Middle Ages, the castle was designed to incorporate the cave to provide secret passageways, a natural water source and hidden rooms. We were free to roam the interior of the castle – from the dungeon to the dining room to the small chapel – and even into the depths of the cave that the castle conceals.
To know more, check out Sarah and Kris’s post about Predjama Castle, Slovenia.
Sarah and Kris – Jetsetting Fools
Château d’Ussé, France
The Loire Valley is full of beautiful castles but for us, one in particular stands out. Château d’Usse in Rigny-Usse is said to have been the inspiration behind Charles Perrault’s Sleeping Beauty.
A one-time fortress of the Middle Ages, this Chateau is now a richly decorated family home that has been opened to the public, with many of the rooms open for you to explore.
The grounds are extensive, and not only can you wander around the inner rooms of the Chateau, you can also explore the tower, dedicated to Sleeping Beauty, the gardens and the family chapel.
Tamason – Travelling Book Junkie
Kronborg Castle, Denmark
Kronborg castle is a UNESCO World heritage site in Denmark, a great day trip from Copenhagen. In the summer, not only can you tour the beautiful buildings and grounds, but they have all kinds of activities happening. While we were there, they were holding a production of Hamlet. It is said that Kronborg was Shakespeare’s inspiration for the play. At the entrance, there was a blackboard with the times and rooms of each scene. To see the whole play, you would probably need to spend the majority of the day there. We, luckily, saw the final scene where everyone dies. Don’t miss this wonderful castle in Helsingor!
To know more, check out Corrine’s post about Kronborg Castle, Denmark.
Corinne – Reflections En Route
Buda Castle, Hungary
Buda Castle (UNESCO World Heritage Site) is located in the so-called Castle Hill on the Buda side of Budapest in Hungary. It was originally built in the 13th century to protect the hill, when the Tartars invaded the country from Mongolia. However, the current form of the castle was built in the 18th century in neo-baroque style. The center of the castle is a more than 60-meter high dome, and 200 rooms are arranged in a symmetrical fashion. Unfortunately Buda Castle was seriously damaged during World War II, and the interior was almost completely destroyed. After restoration the exterior now shines in its original beauty again, and the interior hosts some important museums like the Hungarian National Gallery.
Gabor – Surfing the Planet
RELATED POST: How to Fall in Love with a Beautiful City like Budapest
Peles Castle, Romania
I have to admit that visiting Peles Castle in the town of Sinaia, Romania left me gobsmacked, I had no idea it would be so amazing. This beautiful castle was built in 1873 by the first King of Romania – King Charles I who was originally from Germany. The really impressive thing is he built the castle with his own money, not a single cent or Romanian lei was taken from the local people. And this place had all of the modern amenities you can imagine including central heating, electricity, a vacuuming system and private cinema all of which you can view at the castle. I’ve seen quite a few castles in my time, but Peles is my favourite, and the fact that it survived the communist occupation in tact makes it a beautiful reminder of the country that Romania was and will be again.
Megsy and Tommo – Food Fun Travel
Trakai Castle, Lithuania
In the town of Trakai, thirty minutes outside of Lithuania’s capital Vilnius, you find this charming 14th-century castle. Due to its remote location on a tiny island in the middle of a lake, this Gothic structure has been used as both a prison and the royal family’s summer residence in the past. With the only way to get to the mainland being a narrow pedestrian bridge, the castle has a mysterious, almost sombre, air to it. Hidden behind a handful of tall trees and a sturdy brick wall, the courtyard looks like it hasn’t changed much over the last centuries. Looking up at the wooden walkways running along the walls, it’s easy to imagine how this place used to resonate with shouting merchants and scurrying footsteps.
Mariana – Rucksack Ramblings
Blarney Castle, Ireland
Blarney Castle is one of the most infamous and mysterious castles in Ireland steeped in intoxicating tales of witches, life-changing magic and of course, the Blarney Stone. According to legend, if you kiss the stone embedded on the top of this castle, you’ll walk away with the ‘gift of the gab’ i.e. the gift of eloquence! Supposedly the stones powers were revealed to the owners by a witch saved from drowning and pilgrims have been making their way to its powers ever since for the last 200 years! Kissing the stone may look easy but hanging off the side of a castle whilst your legs are being held is actually quite a nerve-racking experience. Regardless, I can say that I think it’s worth it and the castle and ground themselves are beautifully built.
Alice – Teacake Travels
Warwick Castle, U.K.
Set in the town of Warwick, UK, Warwick Castle is one of the UK’s most impressive castles. It dates from 914 AD making it nearly 1100 years old. It boasts a weekend’s worth of attractions for the whole family. Inside the castle you’ll find beautiful state rooms and an impressive collection of medieval armour. On site there is a gruesome dungeon (for teens and adults only), a huge trebuchet that launches a fireball, and falconry displays. History buffs will want to check out the Time Tower and walk the walls as you’ll find more information about the castle’s history displayed inside the towers. We had a fantastic family day here; if you’re visiting the UK, you shouldn’t miss Warwick Castle.
To know more, check out Emily’s post about Warwick Castle, UK.
Emily – Kids and Compass
Ashford Castle, Ireland
Ashford Castle in Ireland is everything you imagine a castle should be. Now a hotel, it is updated in some comfortable ways, but it has the ancient grey exterior and classic interior features and furnishings that go with the dream. In the public spaces on the main floor you can have afternoon tea, a cocktail, or a Guinness (Sir Arthur Guinness was a former owner of this castle), and you can enjoy an elegant dinner in the dining room or a more casual meal in the property’s pub. And you won’t want to miss a Hawk Walk organized by Ireland’s original School of Falconry, which is also on the expansive property, and do allow time to hike into the adjacent village of Cong to visit the sweet shops and see the medieval abbey ruins.
To know more, check out Carole’s post about Ashford Castle, Ireland.
Carole – Travels with Carole
Heidelberg Castle, Germany
The ruins of Heidelberg Castle sit majestically over the old town centre. Overlooking the Neckar Valley the palace’s red sandstone silhouette dominates. Heidelberg Castle dates back to the early 13th century. Clearly the most popular castle ruin in Germany, a tour of the castle and its beautiful grounds reveals many myths and legends. A large part of the upper castle was destroyed by a lightning strike in 1537 and the castle suffered at the hands of war. In what was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history, the thirty years war, the French ordered the fortification be destroyed. In 1689 the castle was set on fire and had the front of the Fat Tower blown off. Four years later the towers and walls that had previously survived were blown up. As if not enough destruction, in 1764 the castle was again on fire, this time from another lightning strike, severely damaging the castle. Some attempts to rebuild took place, however for the most part the castle remains in ruins today. The stones from the ruins were repurposed, building many of the houses in Heidelberg. In an attempt for preservation of the castle quarrying the remains was stopped in 1934 and the King’s Hall was added. What remains of the beautiful castle today clearly shows a part of German history and the regions turbulent past.
Lyn and Steve – A Hole in My Shoe
St Michael’s Mount Castle, U.K.
St Michael’s Mount Castle sits on a small island opposite Marazion in Cornwall, UK. It looms large and foreboding. It’s imposing like a fortress and dates back to the 12th Century with links to a sister isle; Mont St Michel in Normandy, France.
Today you can walk across the causeway to the castle island (when the tide is out) and return to shore on an aquatic duck (when the tide is in). Meander up the cobbled causeway that leads steeply to the castle, which has shades of the past echoing in every room.
I stood at ancient lookouts and read of Napoleonic sieges, imagined I could hear the swish of the robes of Benedictine Monks, and put myself in the shoes of the person who lit the first beacon at the top of the church to warn London of the approach of the Spanish Armada.
Thirty people still live and work on the island, and part of the beautiful castle is still home to Lord St Levan and his family.
Jo – ZigaZag
Cargill’s Castle, New Zealand
Cargill’s Castle is one of only two castles in New Zealand, both of which are located in Dunedin. Built using concrete, the castle was completed in 1877 before being abandoned barely a century later. Officially the ruins of Cargill’s Castle are off-limits, but if you’re up for wriggling under a fence you can explore the crumbling interior (it’s not all that safe though, so be warned!). You can see the exterior from the beside the fence or the road though, so many choose to keep a safe distance. Cargill’s Castle is located on a cliff overlooking the ocean — the views are incredible on a sunny day.
To know more, read our post about Cargill’s Castle on our new South Island (New Zealand) site.
Matsumoto Castle, Japan
During my 1-month trip around Japan, I visited 4 Japanese Castles: Matsumae Castle, Hiroshima Castle, Himeji Castle and Matsumoto Castle. And while it’s difficult to choose, I think Matsumoto Castle (in the town of Matsumoto) is my favorite.
Matsumoto Castle is one of Japan’s most famous and well-preserved historic castles. The castle was built in 1504 and is nicknamed the ‘Crow Castle’,due to the black exterior. It’s a beautiful building and the amazing thing is that the castle is made entirely out of wood.
A unique feature of Matsumoto Castle: from the outside it looks like a five-story building, but there are actually six floors! The third floor is hidden between the levels and has no windows so it’s invisible from the outside. This secret floor was designed to mislead the enemy about the number of soldiers inside the castle.
The interior of the castle is as it was hundreds of years ago and it’s easy to imagine how people were living in earlier times.
Lotte – Phenomenal Globe
Matsuyama Castle, Japan
Matsuyama Castle is Japan’s oldest original castles. It is largely off the radar of most tourists because Himeji is so popular but sadly the crowds also flock to Himeji. If you want a more authentic experience without tons of gawking bystanders than you should head to Matsuyama!
The castle was originally built in 1603 and rebuilt after being struck by lightning in 1854. Matsuyama Castle is on of only 12 remaining original castles in Japan and should be on your Japanese bucket list!
You can take a short cable car, a single chair ski lift (best choice) or walk up to the first gate of the castle. Wandering around the courtyard is free but once you enter the main keep you’ll have to pay a small fee.
To know more, read Mike’s post about Matsuyama Castle, Japan.
Mike – Live, Travel, Teach
Solomon’s Castle, U.S.A.
Presented as Howard Solomon’s ‘dream turned reality’, this castle is the story of what happens when a inventive, brilliant man decides to build his own castle on land he bought in a Florida swamp. Undeterred, he began collecting some of the materials used in the making of his castle – the aluminum presses from the local newspaper, oil drums, metal from cars, and so on. (Careful observers will note the tickets you’re handed are also reused over and over again.)
Beyond the castle’s outside, the tour inside covers hundreds of examples of Mr. Solomon’s sense of humor, as seen through his arts and crafts. Look for ‘the Tortoise and the Hair’, a combination of a tortoise shell and strands of hair, an elephant made from oil drums, and so on. It’s a wonderful and oddball destination worthy of a detour from Tampa or Sarasota.
Chris – One Weird Globe
Have you been to any of the world’s most beautiful castles? Have you been to a beautiful castle that should be included in this list? Let us know.