15 European cities with wonderful castles
When it comes to travel destinations, cities with castles will always be a rewarding experience. Europe doesn’t let us down with its fascinating selection of breathtaking castles which you should not miss, especially if you are fond of time travelling. Visiting a castle will bring you back in time. Discover bits of history, relive the most intriguing plots and take a deep breath, because you will be needing it when stepping on the same ground as kings and queens did centuries ago and feeling as if eavesdropping on the secret alliances hidden between the walls of the splendid European castles.
1. PRAGUE CASTLE
A UNESCO heritage, the Prague Castle is the largest most ancient one in the world. Once the seat of the Kings of Bohemia, this enchanted castle reveals a large-scale composition of palaces and ecclesiastical buildings of different architectural styles. The most representative landmark that stands out among these constructions is St. Vitus Cathedral, a Gothic masterpiece whose tower is over 90 meters high. Dating back to the ninth century, the castle is nowadays the official residence of the Czech Republic President.
In order to get an in-depth understanding of the historic background that revolves around the buildings of the Prague Castle, you should really consider visiting it. Once in Prague, there are several ways to get there, depending on your time, budget and preferences. You can choose to walk, take the tram or the taxi. Moreover, you can opt for guided or self-guided visits or castle tours. Classical music lovers will be delighted to find out that they can explore this architectural jewelry in a different way, since regular concerts are held in here. The castle is open daily, but the hours may vary depending on the season. For more information about visiting, the Prague Castle official website could be helpful.
2. NEUSCHWANSTEIN CASTLE
A Romanesque-Revival masterpiece, the nineteenth century Neuschwanstein Castle is located in southwest Bavaria, Germany, and it is a highly-visited and famous castle, whose fairy tale touch has been exploited through movies in which it was featured. Its beauty also inspired the castle in the storybook Sleeping Beauty from Disneyland. No wonder it is among the most popular destinations in Europe. Conceived as a place of retreat for King Ludwig II, the latter one declared the construction of the castle an homage to the composer Richard Wagner, for whom he had a deep appreciation.
The history of this wonderful place is worth discovering with your own eyes through guided tours, actually the only option available for visiting. Therefore, if you are planning a trip to Germany, don’t forget to add on the list this magical destination or otherwise, you might regret it. However, you should plan carefully your visit, since getting there requires at least one train and bus ride. For useful information about how to get there, visiting hours and prices, you can check the Tourist Information page on the Neuschwanstein Castle website.
3. VERSAILLES CASTLE
Paris will remain a top destination in any season and on any occasion. Very close to Paris lies the Palace of Versailles, a landmark of France and of the French civilization. The seat of Louis XIV, le Château de Versailles has been on UNESCO’s World Heritage List for 30 years and is one of the most outstanding constructions of the 18-century French art. With an impressive interior and exterior, as well as the surrounding gardens, visiting the Palace of Versailles will be a rewarding experience. The wealth and the degree of sophistication will speak for themselves…
If you feel like exploring the siege of absolute monarchy, you can come well prepared with the help of useful information gathered from the castle official website. As for the access, it is really easy to get there, be it by train, special Versailles buses or by car. All you have to do is to be sure to include this masterpiece on your priority list when in France.
4. PELES CASTLE
A cultural symbol and valuable attraction situated in Sinaia, a small city of tourist interest, the Peles Castle dates back to 1883 and is best known to accommodate King Carol I of Hohenzollern and his wife, Elizabeth. The unique appearance is conferred by the extensive use of wood decorations for both the interior and exterior of the castle. The elegance of the castle is embellished by seven surrounding terraces decorated with statues, ornamental vases and Carara marble. The German new-Renaissance architecture is complemented by the exquisite attractions, such as the secret entrance, the Big Armory room, the Concert room or the Imperial Suite.
At the foot of the Carpathian Mountains, the castle and its surroundings will reward you with the delightful scenery and peaceful nature. Although situated at high altitude, the castle is really easy to reach by car or by city bus. As for other information regarding tickets or visiting hours, you can go to Peles official website.
5. PENA PALACE
Whether you are in passing or touring Portugal, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the most iconic attraction in the country, namely the Pena Palace. Located high on the hilltop, it reigns over the city of Sintra and it is surrounded by a green beautiful landscape composed of the most unique combination of tree species in Europe, reunited under the name of Pena Park. Built during the Middle Ages, the palace was destroyed by an earthquake in 1755. The ruins were brought to life into the outstanding castle that we see today in the nineteenth century by King Ferdinand.
With its majestic position and pastel colors, as well as its romantic gardens and pavilions, this landmark invites you to discover a profusion of styles and elements and get a better grasp of its exotic appearance. Regarded as an expression of the Romanticism in the world, the Pena Palace stands out among the seven wonders of Portugal, while also proudly figuring on the UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. And if don’t want to miss any single piece of it, you can plan your visit by checking its official website.
6. HOHENWERFEN CASTLE
Surrounded by mountains, in the heart of the enchanting nature lies the Hohenwerfen Castle, a medieval fortress waiting for its visitors to provide them with an insight of the life at the castle over 900 years ago. Here you will discover some of the best preserved medieval defenses and rooms in Europe. Located above the Austrian town of Werfen, around 40 km from Salzburg, this mighty castle used to function for a while as a state prison.
Besides the medieval walls and rooms, tourists will have the opportunity to investigate the weapons, the bell tower, as well as the falconry centre, since the castle hosts the first Austria’s museum of falconry. Therefore, daily demonstrations of the high art of falconry using various birds of prey will delight the visitors and contribute to their list of outstanding travel memories. So if you decide to investigate the splendors of the Hohenwerfen Castle and need some useful tips, you can start by visiting its official website for such reliable information.
7. BOJNICE CASTLE
Situated above the Slovakian medieval town with the same name, the Bojnice Castle is a Romantic construction featuring also some Gothic and Renaissance elements. Among its most renowned inhabitants was King Matthias Corvinus, who used to work here at his royal decrees. The castle has been submitted to several modifications, the most significant one being its complex Romantic reconstruction following the orders of Count János Ferenc Pálffy, who also brought his contribution as an architect and graphic designer in order to achieve an imitation of the beautiful French castles on the Loire Valley.
With its fairy tale and mysterious air, the Bojnice Castle is the ideal destination for romantic weddings. The attractions are numerous and you should definitely not miss the tour to the stalactite cave situated under the castle or the Bojnice Zoo. Special events are held all year long and include the Castle Fairy Tale, the International Festival of Ghosts and Spirits and the Summer Music Festival. In the season, from May until September, the castle is open daily, while outside the season, from October to April, it is closed on Mondays. As a tip for visitors arriving there by car, the chateau area is hidden by the green park and it is only a short walk from the parking lot. For other information related to tickets and tours, you can visit the castle website.
8. TRAKOSCAN CASTLE
Situated in the Northern Croatia, in the Varazdin County, the Trakoscan Castle dates back to the 13th century. Ever since, it has suffered several reconstructions and it was declared national museum with permanent exhibition in 1954. As a result, visitors will be attracted by the collections of weapons, paintings, furniture, books and photographs, all of them belonging to the Draskovic family and revealing a small piece of the Renaissance period.
Another attraction worth visiting lies in the Trakoscan Park, namely the St. Cross chapel, built in the Baroque classicist style. The castle is open daily, including weekends and holidays. Other useful information of tourist interest can also be found on the official website.
9. HOHENZOLLERN CASTLE
With its numerous towers and fortifications, the Hohenzollern Castle stands out among the architectural masterpieces designed in the neo-Gothic style and due to the breathtaking panorama, it is a unique attraction visited yearly by more than 300,000 tourists. The picturesque appearance is given by the most beautiful Swabia mountain on which it is seated, while its greatness is inherited from the glorious history of the Hohenzollern dynasty reigning within its walls. In fact, the castle is still inhabited although occasionally by the Prince and Princess of Prussia.
Visitors can indulge their curiosity and thirst for knowledge in the royal art collection, valuable silver and china, as well as the Prussian King’s crown, concerts, exhibitions, open-air cinema and one of the most iconic and exciting Christmas markets in Germany. For those interested in conquering the beauty of the ancestral Hohenzollern Castle, they can come well prepared for their conquest by first consulting its official website.
10. DE HAAR CASTLE
Submerge yourselves in the medieval atmosphere with the biggest and most luxurious castle in the Netherlands. It is here that you can explore the cosmopolitan uniqueness of the country, together with an impeccable artistry and a charming park with romantic gardens.
Situated in Utrecht, De Haar Castle was founded in the 14th century. Between the 18th and the 19th centuries, it was abandoned and fell into ruin. Hopefully, it was completely restored by its inheritor, the baron Etienne van Zuylen van Nijevelt van de Haar, as a result of an enormous project started in 1892. The new building was built in neo-Gothic style according to the trends of the 19th century: inspired by the Middle Ages but with modern luxuries, such as an elevator, electrical lighting, hot and cold running water and a central heating system.
As for the gardens, those directly surrounding the castle follow the French geometric pattern from Versailles, while the rest are designed in the English country style with bridges and impressive trees. All in all, after a visit to the castle you will leave amazed by the glorious period with which this luxurious establishment rewarded its inhabitants. Before planning your visit, you may find some useful information here.
11. EDINBURGH CASTLE
One of the most iconic symbols of Scotland, as well as Scotland’s top paid-for tourist attraction, the Edinburgh Castle has a complex building history, the oldest part dating from the 12th century. Situated at the west of Edinburgh’s old town, the castle is naturally protected by the volcanic Castle Rock, the only easy approach being from the town to the east. The oldest building in the castle is St. Margaret’ Chapel, which dates from the reign of King David I, who dedicated it to his mother, Saint Margaret of Scotland. Nowadays, the chapel continues to be used for religious ceremonies, such as weddings.
Visitors might be interested in knowing that the castle houses the Crown Jewels (the Honours) of Scotland, the Stone of Destiny, on which kings were enthroned for centuries, the famous gun Mons Meg, the One O’Clock Gun, as well as the National War Museum of Scotland. For those of you willing to explore the glorious past of the country, this is the right place to start. After all, many monarchs were sheltered in here, including Queen Margaret and Mary Queen of Scots. And if you’re interested in discovering more information about the castle, the visiting hours and the access, its official website can be useful.
12. WARWICK CASTLE
Of medieval origin, the Warwick Castle was built by William the Conqueror in 1068 and later on rebuilt in stone. Then, during the Hundred Years War, it was refortified, leaving us a testimony of the most iconic example of 14th century military architecture. Finally, the Tussauds Group bought it from its owners, the earls of Warwick, and transformed it in the leading attraction it is today.
Tussauds performed extensive restorations to make it more than a simple tourist attraction. It is also an entertaining hub which will turn any visitor into a medieval hero and fulfill the dreams of those in love with the Middle Ages. For instance, you can join a battle alongside a Medieval army, be a princess in the castle Tower or witness some of the darkest and most frightening times in Warwick’s history by entering the Castle Dungeons. And there are still plenty of other exciting attractions to be explored during your tour of the castle. Therefore, take the challenge and become a court protagonist from Medieval times by visiting the Warwick Castle.
13. ROSENBORG CASTLE
Copenhagen Rosenborg Castle is a Danish Renaissance castle very easy to access by tourists visiting the country, being located in the capital. Built in 1606 by King Christian IV, it quickly became a venue for the most important events, although it was initially intended to be only a summer residence. Here you will encounter the symbols of the Danish royal power, as well as the Renaissance architecture and precious artifacts. Moreover, you can enjoy a pleasant walk along the peaceful King’s Garden, also embellished according to the Renaissance style. It is a great retreat and favorite picnic area of Copenhagen inhabitants.
Located in the center of the capital, the castle is very easy to reach, regardless of the means of transportation you are about to choose. If you want to be well-prepared before choosing to visit the castle, you might take a look at the official website for other reliable information.
14. GRAVENSTEEN CASTLE
Originating in the Middle Ages, the Gravensteen Castle in Ghent is the most visited monument in this delightful Belgian city. Since its creation in the 12th century by count Philip of Alsace, the castle has undergone several restoration phases and it even served as a factory. Gravensteen, meaning “the castle of the counts” in Dutch, is reputed for its collection of weapons, including various torture devices, such as a guillotine, used in the Flanders back in those days.
The Medieval air of the castle makes it an ideal venue for couples, this is why it is often used as a setting for their wedding day. All in all, it fits perfectly well with the entire setting of the city of Ghent, a destination appreciated for its intact medieval architecture and its center which is the largest car-free area in Belgium. You can visit the city and its castle in any time of the year. However, if there are events at the castle you are particularly interested in, you can choose to visit it depending on the season. For information regarding the Gravensteen Castle events, you may visit its official website.
15. CORVIN CASTLE
The Corvin Castle is located in the west of Romania, in the city of Hunedoara, Transylvania, and it proudly displays an iconic example of Gothic-Renaissance architecture from the 15th century. Also known under the name of Hunyadi Castle or Hunedoara Castle, it is among the largest ones in Europe.
A real wonder of Romania, this magnificent castle was built at the demand of John Hunyadi, a descendant of a Romanian noble family, as well as a political figure in Central and Southeastern Europe during the 15th century. Later on, the castle was inherited by his son, Matthias Corvinus, one of the greatest kings of Hungary. Among the most popular attractions of the castle are the Dungeon and Torture chamber, the Knight’s Hall, or the “bear pit”, where it is said that two hungry bears were kept and those who were damned to disappear used to serve as food to the bears.
Moreover, other legends are attributed to this castle and it is even believed that Hunedoara Castle was a source of inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula Castle. Therefore, if you want to add this destination on your travel list, you can start by planning your trip and gathering useful information about visiting hours and fees, which you can find in here.
As you can see, the European cities don’t cease to surprise us. Almost every castle has secrets waiting for us to discover, while some of them preserve an intact touch of luxury or glory as if time has never passed for them. They are the proof that eternity exists and that they have won the battle with time…
If you have a favorite castle or feel like adding one to the list, don’t hesitate to let us know in a comment below!
And if you’re ready to pack your bags and go see these amazing castles, check the recommendations in our Beginner’s guide to travel bags.