When visiting Europe, you can expect a variety of sites to feast the eyes and some of it are not only marvelous but also filled with interesting facts and history such as these beautiful castles in Europe.
Indeed, this continent is filled with gems that would cater anyone with a severe case of wanderlust but also people who are interested in various activities, just check out these beautiful national parks in Europe where you’ll see some of nature’s works at its finest.
However, mother nature is not only the best architect for beauty but also us, humans, have the creativity to create something fascinating. The castles in Europe mentioned in this article are some of the greatest human-made architectures anyone would have the opportunity to see and explore.
With that said, as centuries passed by, we sure have created some of the greatest marvels in this world and many of it are located in various sites in Europe.
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15 Beautiful Castles in Europe
15 Beautiful Castles in Europe
1. NEUSCHWANSTEIN CASTLE, GERMANY
Neuschwanstein Castle, a famous castle in Europe, was opened to the public just seven weeks after the death of King Ludwig II in 1886 and has since become a popular destination for travelers who share the late king’s love of medieval romance.
Dubbed “the castle of the fairy-tale king,” Neuschwanstein was built as a refuge from the prying outside world, though over one million people make the pilgrimage today. Designed as a solitary place of retreat, the castle was not used for conducting royal business but for playing out dreamy pastimes, evident in everything from the Camelot-inspired wall art to the lush furnishings of the king’s many private quarters.
Interestingly enough, the king’s passion for medieval novelties ended where comfort was concerned: the castle was fitted with state-of-the-art plumbing and electricity, as well as steam-supplied central heating, with the throne room boasting an impressive heating structure in the shape of a majestic crane.
Indeed, Neuschwanstein is one of the beautiful castles in Europe you should visit one day.
2. EDINBURGH CASTLE, UNITED KINGDOM
Awarded top honors in the British Travel Awards and ranked the #1 paid-for tourist attraction in Scotland, Edinburgh Castle carries a history as complex as it is irresistibly macabre. Often cited as the inspiration for Macbeth’s abode in Shakespeare’s famous play, the castle holds the highest number of ghost sightings to date– no doubt an attraction itself.
With origins dating back to the Iron Age, the castle was erected as a defensive stronghold in 638 AD for the Celts. It was later seized by Edward I in 1296, followed by Robert Bruce, who ordered its destruction. Several hundred years later it was rebuilt as a residence for Mary Queen of Scots until her English exile.
3. CHÂTEAU DE FOIX, FRANCE
Listed as a “Monument Historique” by the French Ministry of Culture, the Château de Foix was the home of the Viscount of Béarn, and future residence of the kings of Navarre and surrounding French territories.
The castle was the setting for numerous battles, as well as attempted sieges and coups, with only one instance of it being successfully taken by force in 1486 during a Foix family feud. Originally consisting of only 2 square towers for the first three hundred years, the castle’s rounded tower was added in the 15th century and later used as a political prison until 1862.
Serving as both museum and medieval archaeological site, the castle hosts an assortment of updated exhibits, along with recreations of life in the early centuries as experienced by the Foix family.
Photo by Andrea DG | CC 2.0
4. PENA PALACE, PORTUGAL
Arguably one of the most alluring attractions in Portugal, the Palacio Nacional da Pena is an outstanding example of the 19th century’s obsession with exoticized romantic architecture. With it’s a mixture of painted terraces, mythical statues, and ornate battlements, the palace is surrounded by a dense forest, giving it an otherworldly feel altogether.
The interior was restored in 1910 after the Portuguese nobility’s escape to Brazil during the revolution, with King Ferdinand II later marrying into the family. His sole influence on the palace’s decor can be seen in the Bavarian-inspired “feather palace,” designed by Baron Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege.
From its spiked walls to grinning gargoyles, set within a vividly colorful palette, guests today will no doubt enjoy the none-too-subtle nuances of the castle’s blending of eras, aesthetics, and personal tastes.
5. HOHENZOLLERN CASTLE, GERMANY
The ancestral home and imperial seat of the House of Hohenzollern, this beautiful castle in Germany overlooks the Berg Hohenzollern, a 768-foot bluff rising above the foothills of the Swabian Alps, in what is now central Baden-Württemberg. With over 300,000 visitors per year, Hohenzollern is one of the most visited historic sites of the country.
Foundations were constructed in the early 11th century, though the castle was destroyed in 1423 during a siege and rebuilt between 1454 to 1461. By the 18th century, the castle fell into disrepair, with the original medieval chapel all that remains of the original structure.
This beautiful castle in Europe as it stands today was built between 1846 and 1867 as a memorial for the Hohenzollern family and their descendants, namely King Frederick William IV of Prussia. Modified to suit the popular English Gothic revival that was all the architectural rage at the time, the castle contains many noteworthy artifacts, including an assortment of items belonging to King Frederick, as well as a personal letter from President George Washington thanking the Hohenzollern family for their support during the Revolutionary War in America.
6. BOJNICE CASTLE, SLOVAKIA
Often called “the gem of Bojnice,” this arguably beautiful Eastern European castle stands upon a large travertine monticule, and has passed through the hands of some of the most powerful Hungarian families since the 11th century. Budapest architect J. Hubert revamped the castle in the later 19th century, enhancing the Victorian attitude towards a romanticized version of the Middle Ages.
The castle’s storybook appeal is offset by an equally idyllic landscape, complete with a dripstone cave that runs deep beneath the castle. Frequent fencing and falconry demonstrations are performed around the castle’s park grounds, with the International Festival of Ghosts and Spooks held regularly between April and May.
7. HUNYADI CASTLE, ROMANIA
Built on the grounds of a former Roman camp, this European medieval castle is the epitome of Gothic splendor. Thanks to its founding Anjou family, the castle features an impressive drawbridge, towering buttresses, and lavish Knight’s Hall, additionally sporting over fifty furnished rooms.
Legend tells of the courtyard’s 100-foot stone well being dug by three Turkish captives who were promised their freedom upon completion, which took 15 years from start to finish. Due to the region’s high iron extraction and processing, the castle carries an extensive exhibit of 14th and 15th-century swords, spears, and armor pieces. Though mainly enjoyed as a public attraction, the castle also hosts private events and celebrations throughout the year.
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8. CHÂTEAU DE VERSAILLE, FRANCE
Anyone who’s seen Sophia Coppola’s sumptuous 2006 film “Marie Antoinette” is already well-acquainted with the opulent Palace that marked the rise – and fall – of one of the history’s most notorious royal figures.
Located in the Île-de-France region of France, the Palace of Versailles was initially intended to be a modest retreat from the chaos of Parisian life. The château quickly grew and splendor, eventually going on to become France’s center of political power and intrigue, as well as a playground for the aristocratic elite. Louis XIV and his wife Marie Antoinette famously held court at the palace until they were forced to flee the revolution in 1789.
Among Versailles’ many attractions is the Hall of Mirrors, as well as the royal family’s Grant Apartments, along with an extensive maze-like network of gardens, fountains; the palace also boasts its chapel and opera theater.
A favorite of visitors, the Queen’s Gardens offers a glimpse into the private life and (somewhat frivolous) pleasures of Marie Antoinette. The park posed as a kind of pastoral getaway for the queen, who played at being a peasant, residing in a small cottage and taking up farm life pursuits. Nobody was granted access to the queen’s Trianon domain without an explicit invitation, a rule that thankfully doesn’t apply today.
Photo by Andrei Niemimäki | CC 2.0
9. MIRAMARE CASTLE, ITALY
Containing most of its original furnishings and possessions, Italy’s Miramare Castle was commissioned by the Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Hapsburg in the latter half of the 19th century as a residence for himself and his wife, Charlotte of Belgium.
Surrounded by a botanical park, with breathtaking panoramic views thanks to its position on a cliff overlooking the Gulf of Trieste, the castle is a luscious blend of Medieval, Renaissance, and Gothic styles. The Mediterranean also plays a significant part in the castle’s design scheme, evident in the pale blues and indigo hues of the interior tapestries.
Guests will no doubt marvel at the lavishness of the castle’s scope, regardless of the intimacy Maximilian had intended for himself and his wife, from the grand coats of arms woven throughout the household textiles to the “Castelletto” (small castle) constructed within the park.
10. BRAN CASTLE, ROMANIA
Though Bram Stoker never visited Romania in his lifetime, he had one source in mind while crafting Dracula’s castle. Situated along the border between Transylvania and Wallachia, construction for this iconic castle began in 1212 when the Teutonic Knights erected a wooden fortress intended to halt traffic at the entrance of the mountain pass, which at the time was heavily used by traders.
This medieval castle in Europe was destroyed by Mongols in 1242, with the first official documentation of Bran Castle made in 1377, when the Saxons of Kronstadt were granted sole permission to rebuild. Between 1438-1442 the castle was once again used as a customs checkpoint.
By 1920 Bran Castle had become the preferred residence of Queen Marie of Romania, who ordered extensive renovations that fortunately didn’t overwhelm the original architecture and design too heavily.
Visitors can still wander the halls and atmospheric courtyards, hoping to catch a glimpse of the immortal vampire himself. Overnight guests were allowed for the first time in 70 years when Airbnb hosted a special Halloween contest, an event that will hopefully get a repeat in 2017!
You can also visit Bran Castle for a day trip from Bucharest.
11. TRAKAI CASTLE, LITHUANIA
Located on an island in Trakai (“the town of lakes”), this picturesque 14th-century structure was one of the main centers of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, later enjoyed as a summer residence. The castle has undergone several phases, with some demolitions followed by painstaking restorations. Today the castle consists of two: the original, situated on one side of the lake, and a second one, erected in later centuries, located in the middle of the lake.
Cited by architectural enthusiasts as a true embodiment of the Gothic style, Trakai Island Castle at one time featured a series of wooden galleries, stained glass paneling, murals, and secret passageways, which visitors can view the evidence of in the castle’s official museum.
12. PREDJAMA CASTLE, SLOVENIA
Perched atop a towering cliff, the mysterious and magnificent Predjama Castle has been listed in the Guinness World Records as the largest cave castle in the world. Due to its setting, series of underground tunnels, and walls interwoven with the natural cave structure, the location has been featured in numerous films and television specials. (In 2011 Predjama was visited by Game of Thrones author and screenwriter George R.R. Martin, if that’s any indication.)
The castle acted as a refuge for Erazem of Predjama in the 15hth century, a legendary robber baron who resisted the year-long siege and went on to become something of a Robin Hood figure. Between the months of May and September visitors can explore the tunnels and caves used by Erazem and various others, as well as the newly renovated attic room that boasts astonishing views of the valleys and roads leading up to the stronghold.
13. CARDIFF CASTLE, UNITED KINGDOM
At once both a medieval castle and mansion of the Victorian Gothic revival, the Welsh castle of Cardiff began as an early Roman fort, evolving over a period of 2,000 years. Claimed by the Normans in the late 11th century, the castle’s initial wooden structure was replaced by stone, with various conflicts between the Welsh and Anglo-Normans frequently interrupting progress. The 19th century saw a complete fairy tale overhaul of the castle, with the Bute earls overseeing the modifications present today.
Among this old European castle’s many sights and activities are as follows: guests can ascend the great Clock Tower, visit the grand banqueting room, and roam one of the intriguing underground tunnels used during WWI and WWII. Numerous arts and cultural festivals are held year-round on the grounds, with musical legends such as Tom Jones, Queen, and Green Day having made appearances.
14. PELES CASTLE, ROMANIA
Located in the brook valley of Peles, the namesake castle stands on a spot named Pietrele Arse (“The Burnt Stones”) and is one of the most famous royal residences in Romania. Legend has it that King Carol I spent a night in the town monastery and loved the wild landscape so much he decided to build a castle in the valley.
Recent estimates show that from start to finish the castle cost over $16 million in gold to build and maintain. At the time of its construction, the castle was fitted with a working central heating system and interior elevator, as well as over 170 bedrooms and public chambers.
Today Peles Castle is considered one of the loveliest castles in Europe, celebrated for its sumptuous furnishings, exquisite architecture, and valuable collections of paintings, tapestries, sculptures, and statues.
15. KSIĄŻ CASTLE, POLAND
Located in the city of Walbrzych, Książ has come to be known as much for its fascinating WWII secrets as its 13th-century architectural style. The castle’s foundation was built on the private property of the Hochberg family, who held the land’s title since the early 16th century.
During the second world war the Nazis seized the property to punish the Hochbergs for not supporting Hitler, and the Welsh-born Mary Theresa Olivia, also known as Princess Daisy, was the castle’s last owner. Upon her death in 1943 her body was moved many times to protect her grave from plundering Soviet troops, with her final resting place unknown. Various ghost stories surround her whereabouts, claiming her spirit returns to the castle periodically.
Visitors today can stroll the palatial grounds of the castle, visit the most prestigious rooms and galleries, and savor the exotic flora & fauna of the famous Palm House.
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