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No matter where your travels in Europe take you, adding a visit to some of the most beautiful castles in Europe is sure to add plenty of awe, discovery, and more than a sprinkle of magic to your trip.
From all-action city breaks to alpine ski resort stays, you’re never too far away from a castle in Europe. Let their beauty enchant you, their history fascinate you, and their presence leave you in awe, with memories that will stay with you for a lifetime.
Most Beautiful Castles in Europe
1 – Conwy Castle (Wales)
In the small town of Conwy, in the north of Wales, Conwy Castle is a medieval fortress towering over the bank of the homonymous river. The castle dates to the late 13th century and features well-preserved defensive walls.
The castle, a fine example of medieval military architecture, was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. A visit to Conwy Castle will allow you to tour the battlement area and discover the medieval royal apartments.
The castle is located in the historic center of Conwy, which you can easily reach by train in around 3.5 hours from Cardiff and 2 hours from Liverpool.
2 – Bamburgh Castle (England)
Overlooking the North Sea, Bamburgh Castle is an impressive construction dating to the 11th century and one of the largest castles in England. The castle stands on the site of a fort of the Celtic Britons dating to the 6th century or earlier.
During the War of the Roses, Bamburgh Castle served as home for King Henry VI of the red rose of Lancaster. During this time, it became the first castle in the world to be destroyed by gunfire.
After decades of financial struggles, the industrialist and philanthropist William George Armstrong bought the castle in 1894. The nearest city to Bamburgh is Newcastle upon Tyne, two hours away by train and bus.
Related: 15 Most Beautiful Cities to Visit in the UK
3 – Edinburgh Castle (Scotland)
If you visit the Scottish capital, a visit to Edinburgh Castle is a must. The 11th-century castle stands on top of Castle Rock, a volcanic plug in the center of the Scottish capital city.
Its convenient location makes it easy to visit, unlike many other castles. Edinburgh Castle was a royal residence for many centuries until it became a military building in the 17th century.
Inside the castle, you can visit the Royal Apartments, admire the Crown Jewels, and check out the National War Museum. Visit around 1 PM to witness the firing of the One O’Clock Gun, a tradition dating back to 1861, when the gun was first fired.
4 – Dunnottar Castle (Scotland)
Another impressive castle in Scotland, Dunnottar Castle is perched on top of a dramatic cliff south of Stonehaven, about three hours from Edinburgh and one hour from Aberdeen.
While only the ruins of the medieval fortress are still standing today, Dunnottar Castle is an impressive site for its location and historical relevance. The castle played a key role in the Jacobite rising of the 18th century when it served as a hiding place for the Scottish crown jewels from the English army.
If you don’t have a car, the easiest way to reach Dunnottar Castle is by bus and a short walk from Stonehaven.
5 – Kilkenny Castle (Ireland)
Smack in the center of Kilkenny, about two hours south of Dublin, the 12th-century Kilkenny Castle was built during the Norman invasion and remodeled during the Victorian era.
The impressive castle features beautiful gardens and wonderfully decorated rooms and has often been named one of the most beautiful castles in the world.
Kilkenny Castle has many rooms displaying beautiful artworks and objects, like the Chinese Withdrawing Room, the State Dining Room, the Tapestry Room, the Library, the Nursery, the Picture Gallery, and many others.
Kilkenny is well connected to Dublin, so you can easily visit it on a day trip from the Irish capital.
6 – Neuschwanstein Castle (Germany)
This fairytale-like castle, nestled on top of a hill in Bavaria, near the Austrian border, is one of Germany’s most beautiful castles. The 19th-century castle was built as a retreat for King Ludwig II of Bavaria and opened to the public shortly after his death.
Neuschwanstein Castle is a popular tourist landmark welcoming roughly 1.5 million yearly visitors. You can only visit the castle interior on a guided tour where no photography is allowed. But even from the outside, the castle is a sight worth seeing.
Neuschwanstein Castle is a 20-minute walk from the village of Hohenschwangau. The nearest train station is in the town of Füssen. From there, take a bus or taxi to Hohenschwangau.
7 – Hohenzollern Castle (Germany)
Another castle worth seeing in the country with the most castles in the world is Hohenzollern Castle. At the top of Mount Hohenzollern, the castle you see today was built in the 19th century on the site of two previous castles, all belonging to the royal dynasty House of Hohenzollern.
The first castle from the 11th century was destroyed in the 15th century, while the second one stood for around three centuries before falling into disrepair. The current castle served briefly as the residence of Kaiser Wilhelm II, the last Hohenzollern ruler and Emperor of the German Empire.
The castle is conveniently connected by bus to the small town of Hechingen, in Baden-Württemberg. The nearest big city is Stuttgart, less than two hours by train from Hechingen.
8 – Château de Chambord, Loir-et-Cher (France)
Of the many castles you could visit in France, Château de Chambord is one of the most magnificent. The 16th-century castle is a classic example of French Renaissance architecture and the largest castle in the Loire Valley.
The construction of Château de Chambord lasted from 1519 to 1547, and sources mention Leonardo Da Vinci being involved in its design. The castle initially served as a hunting lodge for King Francis I and later as a storage place for important artworks during World War II. In 1981, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You can visit Château de Chambord on your own or on a guided tour. The castle is just over two hours south of Paris and easy to reach by train and bus.
9 – Bran Castle (Romania)
One of the most famous and awe-inspiring castles in the world, Bran Castle is situated in the heart of Transylvania, Romania. While the castle has little to do with the historical figure that inspired Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, it somehow became known as Dracula’s Castle.
Legends aside, Bran Castle is a captivating landmark worth visiting in Romania. While its origins are uncertain, the first mention of Bran Castle dates to 1377. Unlike other castles, Bran was a fortification, never a royal residence.
Located in Bran, the castle is a half-hour bus ride from the nearest city of Brașov and three hours from Bucharest. You can visit Bran Castle on your own or on a guided tour.
10 – Corvin Castle (Romania)
Another castle worth visiting in Romania is Corvin’s Castle, near Hunedoara. The Gothic-Renaissance castle is among the largest ones in Europe and is considered one of Romania’s most beautiful landmarks.
The castle was initially built in the 15th century by order of the Voivode of Transylvania, John Hunyadi, and is also known as Hunyadi Castle. After many additions and periods of neglect, the castle was renovated during the 19th century.
The charming castle is conveniently located just outside Hunedoara’s city center. The nearest large city is Deva, roughly 20 minutes away by car or bus.
Related: 12 Beautiful Cities in Romania You Should Visit
11 – Bratislava Castle (Slovakia)
Located on a hilltop in the heart of Slovakia’s capital, Bratislava Castle lies in a strategic spot overlooking the Danube. On clear days, you can easily see Austria and even Hungary.
Bratislava Castle dates to the early 10th century and was an important castle for the Kingdom of Hungary. After many renovations throughout the centuries, in 1811, a fire destroyed the castle. In the following decades, it gradually fell into disrepair. Bratislava Castle was restored in its last Baroque style between 1953 and 1964.
You can visit many museum areas, including the gardens, free of charge. The interior of the castle often houses exhibitions that require an entry ticket.
12 – Bojnice Castle (Slovakia)
Bojnice Castle is a bit off the beaten track, located in the small town of Bojnice, over three hours from Bratislava. From the capital city, catch a train to Prievidza and a bus to Bojnice. The castle will reward you with spectacular fairytale-like sights.
Bojnice Castle was originally a wooden castle dating to the early 12th century. During the 13th century, it was rebuilt in stone and seized by a Hungarian nobleman immediately after. The castle was renovated in the Romanesque style at the end of the 19th century.
Depending on the season, you can join different castle tours. In autumn and winter, join a special night tour of the courtyards and enjoy multimedia performances.
13 – Hohenwerfen Castle (Austria)
Around one hour south of Salzburg, near the small town of Werfen, Hohenwerfen Castle is a medieval rock castle towering over the beautiful Salzach valley. The impressive castle is surrounded by the marvelous Berchtesgaden Alps and is reachable via cable car or a short hike from Werfen.
Hohenwerfen Castle was built in 1077 as a wooden structure and was later modified and expanded until it reached its current size in the 15th century. The medieval castle served as a prison, hunting base, and military training center before becoming a tourist attraction in 1987.
You can only visit Hohenwerfen Castle between April and November. Choose between multiple ticket options, which include a tour of the interior, falconry demonstrations, and access to the funicular.
14 – Pidhirtsi Castle (Ukraine)
Understandably, given the current events in Ukraine, right now is not a safe time to visit this beautiful castle. However, when travel can hopefully resume to the country in the future, this magnificent place should definitely be on your must-visit list.
Pidhirtsi Castle is a 17th-century castle in the small village of Pidhirtsi, to the east of Lviv. The castle was built by a French-Polish architect and was part of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland. With Italian-style gardens and vineyards, the castle was among the most prestigious ones in the eastern part of the Kingdom of Poland.
The castle is now part of the Lviv National Art Gallery and offers guided tours of the interiors. You can reach Pidhirtsi in just over two hours by bus from Lviv.
15 – Chateau de Chillon (Switzerland)
Standing tall on a small island on the Swiss shore of Lake Geneva, Chateau de Chillon is a wonderful medieval castle and among the most visited monuments in Switzerland. The first record of Chateau de Chillon dates to the early 11th century, though it may be older.
The castle served as a prison during the 16th century and a weapons depot during the late 18th-century French occupation. The castle’s romantic location inspired many poets and started drawing visitors in the early 20th century.
Reach Chateau de Chillon with a short bus ride from Montreux. The largest nearby city is Lausanne, only 20 minutes away by train.
16 – Gripsholm Castle (Sweden)
Gripsholm Castle is a beautiful lakeside castle in Sweden, less than one hour from Stockholm. Its location makes it a perfect destination for a day trip from the Swedish capital. Jump on a train at Stockholm central station and get off in Gripsholm.
The castle was built between 1537 and 1545 on the site of a former 14th-century fortress and served as a royal residence until the 18th century. Nowadays, the castle is open to the public and houses the National Portrait Gallery. The most infamous sight is The Lion of Gripsholm Castle, an example of bad taxidermy.
17 – Trakai Island Castle (Lithuania)
If you visit Lithuania, a beautiful castle worth visiting is the Gothic Trakai Island Castle, located on a small island in Lake Galvė. Dating to the 14th century, Trakai Island Castle was rebuilt in the 1950s and 60s. Not much later, the Trakai History Museum opened.
The castle is particularly beautiful when the weather is nice and sunny, and you can see its reflection in the blue waters around it. To reach Trakai, catch the train from Vilnius for just over half an hour. The castle is a half-hour walk from the train station.
Related: 12 Beautiful Lithuanian Cities You Should Definitely Visit
18 – Miramare Castle (Italy)
Just outside Trieste, Miramare Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in Italy. Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian commissioned the castle and surrounding park in 1856. The result was an imposing building in the elegant style of the Austrian architecture of the time.
The castle opened to the public in 1931 but later became a Nazi headquarter during the German occupation. The park and castle reopened to the public in 1955 and have drawn many visitors ever since. From Trieste, you can easily reach Miramare Castle in about half an hour by bus.
Related: 15 Beautiful Italian Cities to Visit (Popular & Undiscovered Gems)
19 – Aragonese Castle (Italy)
Another impressive Italian Castle is the Aragonese Castle on the island of Ischia, just off the coast of Naples. The medieval castle occupies a small islet connected to the island by a causeway and offers spectacular views of Ischia and the Tyrrhenian Sea.
A fortress occupied the island already in the 5th century BCE, but the current Aragonese Castle dates to the 15th century. Alfonso V of Aragon commissioned the castle inspired by the Castel Nuovo (Maschio Angioino) in Naples.
To get to the castle, catch a bus from the port of Ischia and get off just five minutes away from the Aragonese Bridge.
Related: 30 Best Places to Visit in Italy for an Unforgettable Vacation
20 – Pena Palace (Portugal)
No visit to Lisbon would be complete without a day trip to nearby Sintra and the Pena Palace. The construction of the colorful hilltop castle started during the Middle Ages but was only completed in 1854.
Pena Palace mixes elements of many other architectural styles, including Romanesque Revival and the typically Portuguese Neo-Manueline style.
In 1995, the castle became a UNESCO World Site Heritage. Boasting bright colors, unique towers, and lovely arches opening onto the Pena National Park, the castle is rightfully included among the Seven Wonders of Portugal. To get there, catch the train from Lisbon to Sintra and walk up or catch a local bus.
21 – Alcázar de Segovia (Spain)
This medieval castle in Segovia, one hour away from Madrid, is among the most famous landmarks in Spain. The castle was built in the 12th century on the site of a former Roman castrum (fortress), of which only the foundations remain. Throughout the centuries, the castle played a significant role for the royal family and served as a royal residence.
Before visiting the castle interior with its sumptuous royal rooms, check out some viewpoints around it to admire the imposing castle in all its magnificence. The best views are from Mirador de la Pradera de San Marcos and Mirador del Alcázar y los dos Valles.
Related: 21 Best Places to Visit in Spain for a Trip Filled with Fun, Sun, and Memories
22 – Malbork Castle (Poland)
The largest castle in the world by land area, the Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork, also known as Malbork Castle, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located in the town of Malbork, the castle was built in the 13th century by the Teutonic Knights as a military fortress.
In the 1930s, the Nazis used the castle for annual pilgrimages, but during World War II, it got partially destroyed. After its restoration, the Malbork Castle museum opened in 1961. You can reach Malbork and the castle from the nearby city of Gdansk in less than one hour.
23 – Frederiksborg Castle (Denmark)
This lakeside castle in the Danish city of Hillerød served as the royal residence in the 17th century when it was built for King Christian IV of Denmark and Norway. In 1882, after a fire and consequent restoration, the castle opened to the public.
Aside from the royal apartments and gorgeous baroque park, visitors can explore the works of art of the Danish Museum of National History. The castle is conveniently located less than 20 minutes from the Hillerød train station. The town is only a 40-minute train ride from Copenhagen.
24 – Hluboká Castle (Czech Republic)
The State Chateau of Hluboká may be a bit off the beaten track, but it’s a gem worth discovering in the Czech Republic. Situated in the Bohemian town of Hluboká nad Vltavou, near Ceske Budejovice, the castle dates to the 13th century.
Over the centuries, the castle was rebuilt several times and got its current appearance in the 19th century. The inspiration for the last reconstruction came from Windsor Castle in England.
Join a guided tour of Hluboká Castle from Prague, or catch a bus or train to Ceske Budejovice, then reach the castle by bus. A great alternative is the boat ride from Ceske Budejovice to the castle along the Vltava River.
25 – Nesvizh Radziwiłł Castle (Belarus)
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2005, Nesvizh Radziwiłł Castle was the residential castle of the powerful Radziwiłł family, whose prominent members covered political charges in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and later in the Kingdom of Prussia.
The 16th-century castle stands on the shore of a small lake on the river Uša in Niasviž. The town is roughly a two-hour bus ride from Minsk. Go on a simple sightseeing tour of the Radziwill Palace museum with its galleries, royal rooms, and artworks, or join a special tour, like the night visit or the dramatized tour of A Day in the Radziwills’ life.
26 – Olavinlinna Castle (Finland)
The 15th-century Olavinlinna Castle is the northernmost medieval stone fortress in the world, located on a small island in the town of Savonlinna. The location of the castle, surrounded by bodies of water, was strategically chosen, and it allowed the fortress to resist several sieges by the Russians.
Nowadays, the castle is open to the public and houses artifacts related to its history and a portion dedicated to the Orthodox Museum. In summer, it serves as a spectacular stage for the Savonlinna Opera Festival.
Olavinlinna Castle is unfortunately not very easy to reach. Savonlinna is five hours away from Helsinki by bus.
27 – Vianden Castle (Luxembourg)
Situated in the northeast of Luxembourg, close to the German border, Vianden Castle stands on the site of a former Roman fortress dating to the 4th century. The castle as you see it today was built between the 11th and 14th centuries and combines Romanesque and Gothic architecture.
The impressive castle towers over the small town of Vianden from the top of a promontory, looking imposing and fascinating. Hike up the hill to reach the entrance and visit its well-preserved interior filled with historical artifacts. To get to Vianden, catch a train from Luxembourg (city) to Ettelbruck and then a bus.
28 – Bled Castle (Slovenia)
Towering over the charming Lake Bled from the top of a dramatic cliff, Bled Castle is the oldest castle in Slovenia and probably the most picturesque one. Dating to the early 11th century, Bled Castle was built in Romanesque style but later expanded with Renaissance-style additions.
Nowadays, the castle houses a permanent exhibition by the National Museum of Slovenia, along with temporary exhibitions. The path to the castle is fairly easy and offers gorgeous lake views. Lake Bled is a one-hour train ride from the capital Ljubljana, perfect for a day trip.
29 – St. John’s Fortress (Montenegro)
The fortifications at the top of the mountain above Kotor date back several centuries BCE but were rebuilt in the 6th century by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. The fortress, and the entire fortification system around Kotor, were then modified during the Venetian rule.
The walled city of Kotor is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, part of the Venetian Works of Defence between the 16th and 17th centuries.
Though mostly in ruins, St. John’s fortress is a wonderful sight to experience, rewarding you with spectacular views of the Bay of Kotor. Start climbing up from Kotor Old Town or via the Ladder of Kotor, just outside the city walls.
30 – Trsat Castle (Croatia)
Although Croatia may not be renowned for its castles as much as it is for its beach destinations, the 13th-century Trsat Castle is a landmark worth visiting if you ever go to Rijeka. The castle sits at the top of a hill above Rijeka, in northwest Croatia, and offers sweeping views of the city.
Although the climb to the castle can be a bit challenging, you’ll be repaid with stunning views. Furthermore, access to the castle is free of charge. Go in the afternoon or evening to enjoy the sunset and maybe stop for a drink at the lovely on-site café.
31 – Vajdahunyad Castle (Hungary)
Located in the northeast of Budapest, Vajdahunyad Castle was built in 1896 after the example of Hunyad Castle (Corvin’s Castle) in Romania. The construction was part of the Millennial Exhibition to celebrate one thousand years after the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin, which includes a large portion of Romania.
The castle lies on the shore of a small lake, in a beautiful park. Among the many sculptures in the park, you’ll come across that of Anonymous, a 12th-century notary of King Béla III of Hungary, whose identity is unknown.
Related: 12 Most Beautiful Hungarian Cities and Places to Visit
32 – Gravensteen (Belgium)
Gravensteen translates to Castle of the Counts and is a medieval castle in the center of Ghent. The late 12th-century castle served as the residence of the Counts of Flanders, hence the name. Over the following centuries, it served as a court, prison, mint, and textile factory.
Nowadays, Gravensteen is among the most important landmarks in Ghent and houses an armory museum. Enjoy beautiful city views from the towers and walkways along the higher part of the castle.
To visit Gravensteen, you can reach Ghent from Brussels by train in less than 40 minutes.
Most Beautiful Castles in Europe Summary
Castles offer a truly unique insight into the history of Europe. These magnificent structures can be found throughout the continent, and all tell so many different stories with their beauty, architecture, and age.
No matter where your travels in Europe take you, if a trip to a castle can be made possible, embrace it with open arms. You are set to experience something quite like nothing else, and spend some time at and inside an iconic building that has centuries of stories and history to be told.
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Contributor: Roxana Fanaru is a freelance journalist and writer, who has traveled extensively across Europe and written for a number of publications.