The 24 Best Castles in Europe: Step into a Fairytale

Who hasn’t grown up watching the fairytale castles in the Disney movies or reading fairytales and imaging what it would be like to live in a fairytale castle? While you can’t live in one per say, there are plenty of fairytale castles in Europe that you can visit.

That’s why one of the best things to do in Europe is to explore the beautiful castles. There are so many beautiful castles around Europe, that no matter where you are, you are bound to find to your own fairytale!

From the most well known castles in Germany and Scotland to lesser known castles of Lithuania and Romania, you are in for real treat and bound to see the best castles in Europe.

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Best Castles in Germany

Marienburg Castle, Hannover

Castle surrounded by autumn leaves

There is one castle that is a little less known than Neuschwanstein Castle but is still the perfect fairytale Castle: Marienburg Castle.

Marienburg Castle is a gothic revival castle located in Hildesheim about 30km from Hannover. Marienburg Castle is one of the best castles in Europe, especially in Autumn when it is surrounded by beautiful autumn colours.

King George V built Marienburg Castle between 1858 and 1867 as a birthday gift for his wife, Queen Marie. She wished for a romantic castle to serve as her summer residence.

Sadly, the royal family only lived in the castle for a year before they were exiled to Austria. No one lived in the castle f0r 85 years and is now one of the best preserved castles in Europe.

Getting to Marienburg Castle is relatively easy either by train or by car. Trains from Hildesheim run every hour and take 11 minutes to Nordstemmen.

Nordstemmen is the closest train station to Marienburg Castle, and is then a 2.7km walk to the castle (or you can take a taxi).

If you have access to a car or you have hired a car, Hildesheim is a 16 minute drive from Marienburg Castle.

There is plenty of free parking at the castle and the carpark is located about 200 meters from the castle.

When visiting Marienburg Castle I recommend staying in Hannover or Hildesheim.

You can explore the outside of the Castle for free and enjoy the views and the autumn leaves but if you wish to tour the castle you will need to purchase a ticket for 12,50€

Neuschwanstein, Bavaria

Tanya Bindra, My Right Sock

A white castle sitting on a hill top

Perched on a hill in the heart of the Bavarian alps, Schloss Neuschwanstein is this grand, larger than life castle that gave Walt Disney the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty! 

Although it is said to be on of the most beautiful European Castles if not the best castle in Europe. Although, the story behind it, is a tad less idyllic.

A man of creative genius, King Ludwig II built Schloss Neuschwanstein for his fanciful abode. Having been burdened with heavy responsibilities at a tender age, however, the young king retreated into himself. Later, after substantial administrative and financial losses to the kingdom, Ludwig II was declared clinically insane, and deposed from the throne.

He built several castles but Neuschwanstein was his most ambitious project. Poor thing he didn’t really get to see it ready: Ludwig II died a mysterious death much earlier before the castle’s completion.

Perhaps not all fairytales have a happy ending. But visiting Schloss Neuschwanstein is certainly like stepping into a dream sequence borrowed from a fairytale.

Neuschwanstein Castle is based in a tiny village called Hohenschwangau, which is a 10-minute drive from a bigger town called Fussen. 

Travelers can make a day trip to the castle from Munich, or plan a weekend getaway from Stuttgart and Nuremberg. There are direct regional and ICE trains to Fussen, also bus connections.

The castle grounds are free to access, however there is a ticket to enter the castle which includes a guided tour. You can buy a combined ticket that provides entry to Schloss Neuschwanstein and also Schloss Hohenschwangau, the castle Ludwig II spent his childhood in.

Pro tip: Make sure to do a hike up to the Marienbrucke bridge, and further up if you’re feeling adventurous. The views of the valley will totally be worth your while. If possible, book the tickets online to avoid long waiting queues at the counter.

And don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes! There’s quite a bit of walking and the terrain can be tricky.

Sanssoucis, Potsdam

Renata, Bye Myself

Yellow palace a wooden windmill in the background and garden hedges in the fore ground

It’s very surprising how little the town of Potsdam is known to international travellers. Located only 30 minutes by regional train from Germany’s capital Berlin, it’s here where parts of Europe’s history were written and re-written.

During the division of Germany, Potsdam was stagnating behind the “iron curtain”, but now it got its glory back and is one of the most recommendable day trips from Berlin, mainly for the Palace and Gardens of Sanssouci.

Sanssouci Palace is one of the most famous Hohenzollern castles. Prussian King Frederick II commissioned this small yet exquisite summer palace in the Rococo style according to his own sketches in the mid 18th century.

The now-famous garden view of Sanssouci was created after Frederick the Great decided to build a terraced vineyard on the southern slope of the Bornstedt ridge.

Viticulture has been common in the Mark Brandenburg region already since the 13th century. However, it had never played a central role in the artistic design of the gardens. In Sanssouci, it became the center of the park. On the top, the palace is now crowning the vineyard terraces.

The rooms of the Sanssouci Palace, which by the way translates from French to “without worries”, are on just one level. This way, you can easily reach the garden.

Mind you, this was Frederick’s summer palace where he could stroll or ride through the lush gardens, play his flute – at the age of 26 he composed his first symphony – or write letters to his famous pen pal philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Also the room’s layout aims for comfort. According to then-fashionable French architecture, the chambers are divided into so-called “apartment double”: Two rows of rooms are one behind the other, the main rooms facing the garden in the south, the servants’ chambers lay behind facing the northern side of the building.

For your visit to the stately chambers, they supply you with an audio guide so that you can take your time admiring all the sublime furnishing and decoration.

However, the Palace is by far not the only superb structure to be admired at the park. There are an Orangery and a Belvedere, hence, a panoramic viewpoint from where you have an excellent view of the land that once belonged to the Prussian Kings.

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Linderhof Castle, Ettal

Diana, The Globetrotting Detective

A lake with a statue in front of a castle

Linderhof Castle located in the state of Bavaria in Germany is the most gorgeous castle in Germany. It’s an easy day trip from the capital of Bavaria, Munich as it’s only 95 km from Munich. You can easily get to the Linderhof Castle either by public transport or car.

Linderhof Castle is one of the grandiose and charming royal palaces of the ‘Mad King’ of Bavaria, Ludwig II, built in the 19th century. Ludwig II was the one who also built Neuschwanstein Castle. The king’s desire was to create places that reflect his own fantasy world where he could escape from reality.

As for the Linderhof Palace, King Ludwig II.’s dream was to create a palace in Linderhof similar to his most beloved palace, the Palace of Versailles in France.

Due to the fact that it would have been a huge financial investment, his dream could not be realized. Nevertheless, the palace built is still one of the dreamiest palaces in the world.

The exteriors and interiors of this fairy tale palace are equally lavish and impressive. The luxurious interiors are actually breathtaking.

When walking around the glamorous halls of the Linderhof Palace you will feel under some kind of magic spell. Especially, when you are in the dazzling Hall of Mirrors. The mirror-effect of this room is simply magical as you can witness an endless reflection of mirrors. 

Not only is the palace awe-inspiring and picture-perfect but its surrounding. The palace is surrounded by spectacular gardens, meticulously maintained parks, tranquil littles lakes, green forests, and dramatic mountains.

The best spots for photography are around the palace. The number one location for the most epic photo possible is in front of the waterworks of the palace. Unfortunately, inside the palace, it’s not allowed to take photos.

Best Castles in Scotland

Eilean Donan Castle

 Anuradha, Country Hopping Couple

A couple crossing the bridge to The ruin of a castle sitting on the side of a lake

Sitting dramatically on a tidal island where three lochs converge (Loch Duich, Loch Also and Loch Loch), Eilean Donan is one of the impressive and most photogenic castle in Scotland and one of the best Castles in Europe.

Eilean Donan is a Gaelic word, and it means “Island of Donan” referring to the Irish Saint Donnan who is believed to be lived in the island during the 6th century. 

Although the first fortification on the island was seen during the 13th century by the Scottish King Alexander II . 

Ever since then, it had a strong hold of the Clan Mackenzie and their allies Clan MacRae. During the 17th and 18th century Jacobite risings, the castle ultimately got captured and destroyed to ruins.

The stark ruins of Eilean Donan was neglected for another 200 years.  It was in 1911, Lt Colonel John Macreae – Gilstrap bought the island and began reconstructing the building to what we see today!  

The castle was opened to public in 1955 and ever since then, the popularity of the castle grew. The beautiful stone bridge that connects the island to the castle is something one cannot miss.

Inside the castle, you can visit the courtyard, main keep banqueting halls,  bedrooms, remodeled kitchens and a small museum. The views of the surrounding mountains and lochs are spectacular. 

Reaching the castle is not that difficult by car, if you don’t know have your own car you can easily hire a car from Inverness, Edinburgh or Glasgow.

If you are heading from Inverness, take A82 and then A87 and follow the signs to Dornie Village. 

There are many tours (including a visit to the castle) from Inverness, Edinburgh and Glasgow, which are worth considering, if you do not drive. 

The castle is featured in many films, including Highlander and James Bond’s The World Is Not Enough. Needless to say, Eilean Donan is one of the stunning and must visit castles in Scotland if you are travelling in the Scottish Highlands. 

Best Castles in England

Tower of London, London

Dymphe, Dymabroad

London from above

One of the best castles of Europe is the Tower of London located in the heart of London. It is also one of the most famous castles in Europe and you find it next to Tower Bridge.

Depending on where you are in the city you can either walk, take the bus, go by metro, or ride a taxi.

The Tower of London has a rich history, construction of the castle started in 1066 during the Norman Conquest of England. Over the years there were some expansions, and the complex now consists of several buildings, defensive walls and a moat.

It had several roles throughout history, for example, it served as a prison, the home of the Royal Mint and now it holds the Crown Jewels. Even if you only have one day in London, you should definitely visit the Tower of London!

You can get inside of the castle and see what the castle is like. Also, the Crown Jewels are on display here and there are Royal Guards.

To take a photo of the Tower of London it is best to do it from a point that is farther away, such as from the river Thames.

Hever Castle, Kent

Joanna, The World in my pocket

An old castle covered in ivy

Hever Castle is without a doubt one of the most beautiful Tudor era castles in the South of England. Located in the beautiful county of Kent, around one hour by train from London, Hever Castle is the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII. She played a key role in the reformation of the English church.

Visiting Hever Castle is like stepping back in history, when Henry VIII was courting Anne, who later married him and became the mother of Queen Elizabeth I. She died a couple of years later after giving birth, wrongfully accused of treason and beheaded in the Tower of London.

 The oldest part of the castle is the king’s bedroom itself, with the original beams ceiling dating from the 16th century.  The other bedrooms, even if they have been restored, they show a glimpse of how life at the castle used to be in the 16th century.

Hever Castle also hosts one of the most beautiful collections of Tudor portraits, that tell the story of the Tudors. Portraits of five of Henry VIII wives are displayed in the Queen’s chamber, whilst the six is located upstairs, in the Long Gallery.

Besides visiting the castle itself, you can spend hours strolling around the beautiful grounds and the gardens. The Italian and the rose gardens are particularly special. The property also has a lake and 125 acres of woodland with plenty of trails to walk on.

Best Castles in Ireland

Huntington Castle, Ireland

Cath, Travel Around Ireland

An old castle surrounded by trees

One of the best castles in Europe is Huntington Castle and Gardens in Clonegal, County Carlow in Ireland. Also known as Clonegal Castle, it was built in 1625 as a defensive garrison. It was built in Clonegal as this was an important, strategic location on the Dublin to Wexford route at the time for British forces.

It was inhabited by soldiers for 50 years. After they moved out, the family of the original builders set about turning it into a family home and it has remained so to this day with descendants of the founding family still in residence. Huntington Castle and Gardens is located approximately 120km from Dublin city centre, a journey that will take around an hour and a half.

The castle is open to the public during the summer months with guided tours given by a member of the resident family. Visitors are shown various rooms throughout the castle, with notable artefacts, artworks and antique furniture on display.

The sun-room on the side of the castle is of special interest with a small drawing of a certain famous mouse on the mural. I won’t spoil the story but if you ever visit, listen carefully when you pass through this part of the house. And the basement is quite a surprise, having been converted into a temple to the Egyptian Goddess Isis.

But the castle isn’t the only draw. The gardens are spectacular too. They were laid out by the Esmondes in the 1680’s and include formal gardens, a French lime avenue (thought to be over 500 years old), an ornamental lake and orchards. There are also some informal areas and a great hidden playground for kids to enjoy.

Castles are one of the best reasons to visit Ireland and if you are passing through, or near, County Carlow, then a visit to Huntington Castle and Gardens during summer is highly recommended.

Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny

Isabelle, Issys Escapades

A purple flower in the grass in front of an old castle

Kilkenny Castle, a former Norman stronghold, has dominated the city of Kilkenny, Ireland for almost 800 years. Built in the 13th century, it is one of Ireland’s largest and most important castles. 

In around 1391, the current Earl of Ormand purchased the castle and thus began a period of 600 years’ continuous occupation of the castle by the same family – quite an unusual feat in Ireland!

The Butler dynasty ruled swathes of land in the South-East of Ireland and in 1967, after it was no longer viable for the family to live at the castle, they handed it over to the city of Kilkenny, in a ceremony that was attended by Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithful.

The castle is extremely well maintained and is open year round to the public. Decorated today in what is a mainly Victorian style, a tour within the castle is highly recommended – make sure to check out the massive tapestries in the dramatic Picture Gallery room and impressive staircases when visiting.

A huge draw of the castle, too, are the extensive grounds on which the castle sits. An extremely popular public amenity in Kilkenny, the Castle Park is a walled demesne that extends to 50 acres and includes a mixture of formal and informal parkland and terraced gardens. 

For some of the best views of the castle and to take some of the best pictures, take the pathway that runs from the side of the castle down towards the River Nore and along its bank to St. John’s Bridge. An equally good photo opp is from across the other side of the river, from the terrace bar of the River Court hotel. 

A popular destination for a short break in Ireland, Kilkenny is also a perfect day trip from Dublin, as it is only a 1.5 hour drive from Dublin and is also connected to Dublin by a direct train line, which also takes around 1.5 hours.

Best Castles in Wales

Chepstow Castle, Wales

Cath, Passports and Adventures

A ruin of a castle

While not the prettiest castles from the outside it is still one of the best castles in Europe. Once you get inside, Chepstow Castle in South Wales reveals its beauty and size. Located along the River Wye in South East Wales, Chepstow Castle is one of the oldest-surviving post-Roman stone fortifications in Britain and is quite a large castle.

Construction of this Welsh castle began in 1067 and continued into the 1800’s. It has no less than four Baileys (courtyards) and the old wooden castle doors, believed to be over 800 years old are still at the castle, now displayed in a special exhibition. It was built on a clifftop, overlooking the River Wye at an important crossing point on the main artery between Monmouth and Hereford. It has been home to some of the most powerful and wealthiest men of the Medieval and Tudor ages.

Chepstow Castle is located approximately 32 miles (45 minutes) from Cardiff and is easily accessible from the M4 motorway. It is open throughout the year and is managed by Cadw, the Welsh equivalent of the National Trust.

As well as the four Baileys, there are other nooks and crannies to explore in this castle, including the cellar whose ceiling is amazing. You can enjoy views across the River Wye and if you are visiting in summer, check their website to see if any special events are taking place during your visit. Their medieval re-enactments with trebuchets is something to experience.

It is one of the great castles of Europe to visit with kids and has plenty of space inside for them to run free and enjoy themselves. And despite its plain exterior, the inside is where it is at.

Best Castles in Romania

Pele Castle, Sinaia

Chrysoula, Historic European Castles

Pele Castle in Romania

Peleș Castle is an impressive Neo-Renaissance castle nestled on the edge of the Bucegi Natural Park just north of the town of Sinaia.

Commissioned by King Carol I of Romania who loved the mountain scenery of this region, this castle took around 10 years to complete (between 1873-1883) and was the summer residence of the Royal Family until 1947.

In addition to the main castle building, King Carol also commission a Foișor hunting lodge, the guards’ chambers, the royal stables and even a nearby power plant so that the complex could be fully powered by locally-produced electricity.

The design of the castle was created by German architect Johannes Schultz and combined Italian and German aesthetics that suited the King’s taste for grand, classical European styling.

The king then also went on to add an Indian-style Music Room, a Turkish Salon and a Moorish Hall so the castle had a really eclectic style!

Visitors to Peleș can spend a few hours discovering this fairy-tale castle and lush surrounding landscape with tours available Tuesday-Sunday throughout the summer months (May to September) and Wednesday-Sunday in winter.

Visiting with a tour is the only way to go inside at Peleș Castle and there are two different price points (20 lei for the first floor or 50 lei for both floors) so that you can choose whichever tour suits you depending on your budget. There is also a 32 lei license fee if you want to take photographs so be sure to purchase this before the tour begins if you want to take pictures.

While Peleș Castle has a fairly remote, countryside location, Sinaia can easily be reached by CFR train from Bucharest (80 miles south) to Brasov (40 miles north) and from the station the castle is just a short taxi ride or a 45-minute walk away.

The journey from Bucharest takes 1.5 hours and around 1 hour from Brasov. One-way tickets cost between $4-$10 US depending on your departure destination.

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Corvin Castle, Hunedoara

RJ, RJ On Tour

An old bridge leading up to a stone castle

Corvin Castle is also known as Castelul Corvinilor is located in Hunedoara in the Transylvania Region of Romania. It is one of the most gorgeous castles in Romania and is very much a fairytale type affair.

Getting to the castle involves either driving or a minibus from the nearby city of Deva after arriving by train. The minibus runs regularly from the railway station and is very cheap, Deva train station is on the mainline from Vienna to Bucharest so relatively easy to navigate too.

Corvin Castle is constructed in the Renaissance Gothic style of architecture and is very distinctive. First port of call when arriving is a courtyard outside of the castle’s moat with tourist shops and a torture museum to peruse. The outer courtyard is a great place to admire the castle from the outside and take photos.

To gain access to the castle you need to purchase a ticket from the kiosk near to the bridge across the moat. The bridge has some amazing views of the castle and a great place for selfies or wide angles photographs of the building.

Inside visitors are taken through the whole of the building including the main halls, inner courtyard and the turrets. Corvin Castle has many fascinating backstories and these are presented well in a variety of languages including English.

Some of the interior rooms are stunning especially the bedrooms and chapel with its red carpet seen from above. The castle’s museum also has sections of the trades used in medieval times such as blacksmiths, stonemasons and even hunting.

The castle is very special both inside and outside and is a very popular destination for travellers to visit. Corvin Castle is included in the “Seven Wonders of Romania” list for very good reasons.

Best Castles in Poland

Ksiaz Castle

Bec, Poland Travel Expert

A green lawn in front of a tall manor house

Nearly every castle has the same story. It is built, mighty and strong to house a family, to keep them secure. Then it is conquered, raided and falls into disrepair until someone comes along with love, ideas and a whole lot of passion to restore it…Ksiaz Castle is absolutely no different but it definitely has a few extra chapters that make it one of the most mysterious and best castles in Europe.

Ksiaz Castle sits beautifully high above the banks of the River Pelcznica with its bright wonderful colours. Ksiaz was built back in as early as the 1200s but it has been recent times where the castle has seen more turmoil. If you are going to visit Poland this amazing castle must be on your list.

In World War II it was conquered by the Nazi Army and it is believed that Hitler planned on spending a lot of time here.

Prisoners of War from concentration camps nearby hand-built some of the tunnels under the castle to make it safer for the army. Within these tunnels, it was believed that the Nazi Gold Train was hidden which put Ksiaz Castle back on the worldwide radar with people travelling from all over to see it and search it. 

When the Nazi army was defeated the Red Army took over and looted much of the treasures from the castle.

Now with a dedicated team, the castle is being restored to its former glory and it is stunning both on the outside and on the inside. A beautiful touch is that some of the books from the looted library and some of the other items are being returned to the castle so they can be back where they belong.

Malbork Castle, Malbork

Kami, My Wanderlust

A red orange castle across a river

Malbork Castle, located in the northern part of Poland, is one of the most spectacular castles you can find in Europe.

Starting from 1278, the castle was built in a few stages and actually consists of three castles – High, Middle and Lower ones.

Originally, it belonged to the Teutonic Order, German Catholic crusaders who have conquered the area of Old Prussia and wanted to settle in the area.

They named the castle “Marienburg” as a tribute to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Over the centuries Malbork Castle was in the possession of the Teutonic Order, Polish Kings, Prussia and eventually, after World War Two, Poland again.

In 1997 Malbork Castle was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List as the largest castle in the world when measured by land area and a great example of the medieval brick castle.

Today it is one of the biggest attractions in Poland so you might expect many visitors touring the place with you – fortunately, with audio guides, you can see the place at your own pace and you might spend there the whole day checking every corner and the detail.

The side of an old castle

Getting to Malbork Castle is very easy, there are frequent trains from Gdańsk (around 30-40 minutes away) or Warsaw (a bit over 2 hours), the main train station is located some 15 minutes walking from the tickets office.

The best view of the castle is from across the Nogat river – you can admire Malbork Castle in its full grandness from there and see why it is one of the best castles in Europe.

Moszna Castle, Moszna

Diana, Travels in Poland

A path and lake leading up to a castle

Castles are amazing, both inside and out.  Moszna Castle is no exception as it’s exterior medieval and gothic architecture has given it the title as one of the most beautiful castles in Europe.

Located in Southwest Poland, about 1.5 hours southeast of Wroclaw, the drive to the castle is uneventful and through many fields and small towns.  There is nothing on the drive that prepares you for the castle at the end. 

The castle serves as a destination for weddings, parties, and many popular events from around the region.  The gardens around the castle are quite large and serve as an idyllic place to wander the grounds.  The back of the castle is where visitors can find a sweeping staircase, several grand statues and amazing views of many of the Hightowers.

There is a lot of open space around the castle and drones are permitted, making aerial photography a must when visiting the castle.  While some birds remain perched on the tallest towers, it is easy to get the drone high enough for spectacular views.

The castle allows overnight stays and it is best to book directly with the castle.  There are several dining areas in the castle, one of which looks out into a small greenhouse.  The rooms have been converted and remodeled but it is still quite fun to wander the castle or even take the tour that is offered.

Best Castles in Austria

Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna

Martina & Jürgen, Places of Juma

Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna

No visit to Vienna is perfect without having seen the beautiful Schönbrunn Palace. It is one of the most beautiful sights of the city, one of the most imposing buildings in Austria and one of the best castles in Europe. Once the Empress “Sisi” lived here, today this baroque castle is one of the most sought-after sights of Vienna.

Under Empress Maria Theresia, Schönbrunn Castle became the glamorous center of courtly life in the course of the 18th century as an imperial summer residence. Even today it is a popular meeting place for the Viennese, but of course also for tourists. Since 1996, Schönbrunn Palace and park area around have been listened as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

When you visit the palace, you will also find the fantastic gardens, the Zoo Schönbrunn as the oldest zoo in the world, the Gloriette on the hill with a view over the city and the entire palace park with its many flowers and plants. The whole area is so huge that you could spend the whole day here.

But an absolute highlight is the visit of the castle from the inside, where you can see magnificent rooms and exhibits. 

Best Castles in the Netherlands

De Haar Castle, Utrecht

Maartje and Sebastiaan, The Orange Backpack

A birds eye view of De Haar Castle and the gardens

One of the best castles to visit in Europe and the most beautiful one in the Netherlands is castle De Haar. It’s located not far from the cities of Utrecht and Amsterdam, making it an easy day trip when visiting The Netherlands.

As the biggest castle in the Netherlands, De Haar has 200 rooms. Some of them are open to visitors and they’re all decorated with authentic furniture. The main hall of De Haar is hard to miss; you’ll get there often during your castle tour. Make sure to look up, as the ceiling is just beautiful. The castle’s architect was a famous designer back in the days, especially for Catholic churches. That’s exactly what the main hall will remind you of, looking at the monumental statues and gothic arches.

Other rooms are fully furnished as well and will tell you the history of the glamorous castle years. It was reconstructed and redesigned by the Catholic architect already mentioned around 1900. The owners of the couple were quite extravagant socialites in the Netherlands, decorating the castle to become the most luxurious home in the country and hosting big parties.

This tradition continued in the 60s, when the new owner used the castle during the December month to invite famous stars and royalty for his parties. Stars like Coco Chanel, Yves Saint Laurant and Brigitte Bardot all frequented De Haar.

When visiting the castle today, you’ll get a glimpse of this old glamour when walking around the castle. Make sure to visit the castle gardens as well and spot deer.

Best Castles in France

Château de Villandry, Loire  Valley

Ophelie, Limitless Secrets

Green and red garden in front of castle

Château de Villandry is a castle located in the Loire Valley in France. Built during the Renaissance by Jean Le Breton, Minister of Finance for François I, this is one of the great chateaux of the Loire. But Château de Villandry is different and original compared to the others in the area.

On the one hand, its architectural design is rather avant-garde with a simple, purely French style without medieval references like turrets, pinnacles or decorative machicolations. On the other hand, its gardens have an exceptional beauty.

You will find here three different kinds of garden: the Ornamental Garden, the Water Garden and the Kitchen Garden. The Ornamental garden itself is divided in different salons of greenery. Some of them are structured in geometrical shapes to symbolize love for example with amazing red flowers.

The water garden features an ornamental pond. And the Kitchen Garden is divided in nine patches with a different lovely geometric motif of vegetables and flowers.

Château de Villandry is elegantly furnished and decorated to showcase how it was under the Renaissance. The rooms are all beautiful and well preserved.

You can choose to visit the castle and the gardens or the gardens only. As the gardens are the most famous, you can skip the visit of the castle if you do not have much time.

The best way to get to Château de Villandry is by car as it’s easier to drive around in the Loire Valley region. There are dedicated parking lots close to the castle. 

Château de Pierrefonds, Pierrefonds

Jamie, Travel Addict

A white fairytale castle in Europe

hâteau de Pierrefonds is located in northern France in the absolutely charming town of Pierrefonds, and is an incredible castle to visit in France. The castle is the most famous landmark within this village but the rest of it is well worth a visit while you’re in the neighbourhood. The main square has several cute bistros and cafes with outdoor seating and a wonderfully welcoming vibe.

Does Pierrefonds look familiar? Most certainly! It has featured heavily in television shows – most notably on BBC’s show Merlin (now on Netflix for those wanting to catch up). This quintessential castle really exudes a fantastical feeling from it’s double turrets, strong defensive walls, and wealth of architectural beauty.

The castle has undergone many expansions and several key restorations in it’s lenghty history, and has had a number of owners. A full restoration occurred at the castle towards the mid to late 1800s and it was rebuilt to the structure that we now see today. It was intentionally rebuilt with the key features of a traditional defensive castle in France, and has stunning exhibits throughout showcases architecture and sculptures.

Photography Tip: The crypts have incredible coloured glass that is hugely photogenic. There’s also fantastical sculptures all around, and the impressive stairs in the main courtyard.

Best Castles in Italy

Castello Lombardia, Sicily

Annabel, Smudged Postcard

A view over a castle wall and a village behind the castle wall

Castello Lombardia is located in the town of Enna in central Sicily. Enna is the highest regional capital in Italy and it takes a bit of getting to – 100 kilometres from Catania and 140 kilometres from Palermo. However, it is definitely worth the drive.

Castello Lombardia is positioned right at the very top of what is already a very elevated hilltop town. The castle is free to enter and visitors can climb one of the still intact towers – Torre Pisana – for utterly awe-inspiring views across the surrounding countryside. If you’re visiting Sicily with kids, they will love shouting “I’m the king of the castle” from the top of the tower.

What makes this one of the best castles in Europe is that visitors will often have the whole place to themselves as Enna is not a well known tourist spot.

The castle and surrounding area are particularly beautiful in spring and early summer when the grounds of the castle are carpeted in wild flowers and the wheat fields beneath the town are bright green (unlike the more arid landscape visitors in summertime will see).

The castle was built in the 13th century on the site of an original fortification which dates back over a thousand years. Sicily has seen countless invaders and settlers, Enna and its castle reflect this turbulent history.

Although it is possible to reach Enna by public transport, it is more rewarding to drive – there are other beautiful hilltop towns close by to explore and there is not a great range of accommodation in the town centre. However, there is a good selection of agriturismo properties just outside the town which offer an excellent way to enjoy local Sicilian hospitality. 

Miramare, Trieste

Ingrid, Ingrid Zen Moments

Miramare on the edge of the ocean

As you cross the border from Slovenia to Italy or you make your way from Austria through the picturesque Northern part of Italy, only minutes away from the less known hidden gem of Trieste, you’ll find one of the best castles in Europe – Miramare Castle.

The majestic white castle is almost hit by the waves of the Adriatic Sea and sits in the middle of a lush park where visitors can enjoy minutes of relaxation and feel like a royal. Getting here from Trieste couldn’t be much easier, and you will only need to hop on bus number 6 leaving in from of the Trieste train station.

Once the home of Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Habsburg (the brother of Emperor Franz Joseph), now a local attraction nobody should miss when coming to this less-popular part of Italy.

Beautifully perched on the edge of the sea, you will be charmed by the sight of Miramare castle even from afar when you come to see the sunset in Barcola. Choose to pay a visit during spring, when the wisteria will make the castle’s garden even more charming.

Don’t leave without taking a picture in the castle’s charming balconies, or from the Sphinx of Miramare from where you will have a perfect viewpoint.

 Bracciano Castle, Bracciano

Annina, Travel, Connect, Experience

A white castle in the sun

The Bracciano Castle is located about 40 km north of Rome, Italy, and is the most popular historical landmark in the area of Lake Bracciano.

The current look is due to renovations by the wealthy Orsini family during the 15th and 16th centuries. The castle stands in the historic center of the city of Bracciano, on a hill overlooking the lake of the same name, characterized by the blue color of the water and the green of the lush hills.

The Odescalchi family runs the Bracciano Castle, which is now a museum with more than 20 rooms open to the public and equipped with ancient furniture. Trunks, beds, closets are those that were once used. The frescoes on the walls and ceilings are sublime, from the Renaissance period, and depict scenes of life in the changing seasons.

The most interesting rooms are the Weapons Room, which displays original weapons and armors, and Isabella Orsini’s room, also known as the “Red Room”. It is said that the noblewoman used to betray her consort with countless men right on the bed currently present in the room and then push them to end up in a trap and down into quicklime. When her husband Paolo Giordano Orsini discovered this, he strangled her with a silk ribbon.

The Castle of Bracciano is open every day and can be visited with a €10 ticket. It is possible to reserve some rooms to celebrate weddings, like Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes did in 2006.

To reach the castle via public transport, take a city train from Trastevere, Valle Aurelia, or Ostiense stations in Rome and get off at Bracciano.

Best Castles in Hungary

Vajdahunyad Castle, Budapest

Or, My Path in the World

A bridge crossing a river to a castle surrounded by trees

One of the most stunning yet slightly underrated places to see in Budapest is the Vajdahunyad Castle. While fairytale castles in Europe like this one are not usually found in the middle of a big city and many of the times require taking a road trip, this dreamy spot is situated in Budapest’s City Park, right behind the famous Heroes Square.

Today, the Vajdahunyad Castle houses the Hungarian Agricultural Museum, and you can visit both the castle’s Gatehouse Tower and the museum for 1600 HUF (about 5 Euros).

Luckily, the courtyards are free to wander all day long. Sunset is probably the best time to enjoy this place, and you can easily spend an entire afternoon taking photos of the castle from every possible angle.

A castle gate and turrets

As for its history, the Vajdahunyad Castle dates back to 1896, and it was built to celebrate one thousand years of Hungarian architecture. It stands on an artificial island that is easily accessed by four bridges.

Around the complex, you’ll see an intriguing mix of architectural styles like Baroque, Gothic, and Romanesque, and if you’re a true Hungarian architecture lover, you might be able to spot how different buildings in the country’s history were merged into one gorgeous fairytale castle.

Best Castles in Lithuania

Trakai Island Castle, Lake Galve

Daniel and Ilona, Top Travel Sights

A bridge leading to a castle on an island

One of the top castles in Europe is the Trakai Island Castle in Lithuania. Not only is Trakai Island Castle on of the best castles in Europe, it is also one of the prettiest castles in the world. Standing tall in Lake Galve, the fort has become popular with tourists from all over the world.

Trakai Island Castle dates back to the 14th century and played an essential role in Lithuanian history. Back in the 1500s, Vilnius was already the capital of Lithuania. Nevertheless, the grand dukes would often invite nobles, diplomates and other important visitors to stay at the Trakai castle instead of in Vilnius.

Today, even though the town of Trakai only has about 5000 inhabitants, it is a popular tourist destination. You can easily visit Trakai on a day trip from Vilnius as buses connect both cities regularly.

Inside the Island Castle, you can find multiple exhibitions. Start at the back, inside the main building, where you can learn about the history of the castle. Here, you can also discover an exhibition about the Karaites.

This ethnic minority, of Turkish origin, has been living in Trakai for centuries. Even though nobody is exactly sure how they arrived in Lithuania, the most likely explanation is that Grand Duke Vytautas recruited them as castle guards in the 14th century. Today, only a few Karaites still live in the area, and this is a great chance to learn more about them.

If you want to take photos inside the castle, you need to pay an extra fee. We recommend getting this picture license, as the building is highly photogenic.

Another way of getting great photos is by joining a boat tour. These regularly leave from the shores of Lake Galve and will allow you to observe the castle from various angles. They are also great for seeing more of Trakai, and the Lithuanian nature surrounding this town.

Map of the best castles in Europe

Which Castles are missing from the list? Let me know in the comments below!

Fiona xoxo

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My BEST Travel Resources

Here are my favourite travel resources for planning travel like a pro

Flights: To find the best flights I always search on Google Flights or Skyscanner. For even cheaper flights, fly mid week and pack in a carry on!

Accommodation: I always use booking.com (I love their price match and flexible cancellation policies) or Airbnb (if I want a little more space) to book trip. If you prefer hostels, I suggest Hostelworld.

If you are new to Airbnb you can get an awesome discount using this link

Travel Insurance: After a few hairy moments on my travels, I ALWAYS purchase travel insurance. It may seem like a big cost now, but if the worst happens, it will save you a lot of money and heartache. I personally use World Nomads (and love them!), but I recommend that you do some research to find the insurance company that suits your needs.

Tours: While I prefer to travel independently, I do love doing some tours once I’m in a destination. It is a great way to find out history, hidden gems, taste local food and get a local insight into your destination. I always use Viator to book my tours.

Train Travel: If you are planning on taking the train in Europe, I cannot recommend the Eurail enough! Check out The Ultimate Guide to the Eurail Pass to find out why

Car Hire: Planning an epic road trip across the US or through Europe, or anywhere! Check out Europcar, they are my go to for car hire all over the world!

Luggage Storage: Some times when we are travelling our check in and check out times don’t match with our departure times so we have to put our luggage into storage. Stasher Luggage Storage is the biggest Luggage Storage Network across the UK, France and Germany

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