Most of us are familiar with some of the UK’s well-known castles like Windsor and Warwick, but we tend to spare less thought for the many other spectacular castles dotted around the world.
With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of 17 of the most beautiful castles in the world. From Denmark to Japan, and India to Lithuania, we’d love to hear which ones are your favourites.
1. Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
Nestled in the Bavarian Alps at the top of a rugged hill is Neuschwanstein castle, which, with its high towers, blue turrets, and white limestone body, looks like something straight out of a fairytale.
It was commissioned in 1868 by Bavaria’s ‘mad king’ Ludwig II and the final towers were completed in 1892. Today, Neuschwanstein is one of the most visited castles in the world.
Neuschwanstein is so beautiful that it even inspired Walt Disney to model his Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty Castles in disneyland on it.
2. Bran Castle, Romania
Undoubtedly the most famous and iconic castle in Romania, Bran Castle is a 13th-century fortress. Perched at the top of a steep cliff, it guards what was the most important medieval trade route between the historic regions of Transylvania and Wallachia.
Despite there being no evidence that author Bram Stoker knew it existed, Bran Castle is commonly referred to as Dracula’s castle.
Construction of the castle was completed in 1388 and over the years it’s been used as a trading route, military fort, royal residence, and hospital during World War II.
3. Château de Chambord, France
Set within the largest enclosed park in Europe and surrounded by a 32km wall, France’s Château de Chambord is a magnificent sight to see.
Originally built in 1519 to serve as a hunting lodge for King Francis I – who was an enthusiastic hunter and lover of the arts – the château ended up becoming one of the largest and most iconic symbols of the French renaissance, both in Europe and across the world.
It’s been a UNESCO world heritage site since 1981.
4. Alhambra Palace and Fortress, Spain
The Alhambra is a famous castle-turned-royal-palace in Spain. Overlooking the lively city of Granada, its exotic design and backdrop of the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains make it the most popular attraction in all of Spain.
Construction of the Alhambra occurred between 1238 and 1358, but other sections were also added later in Renaissance style. Alhambra means ‘the red’ in Arabic, which is likely a reference to the reddish colour of the fortress’ outer walls.
The surrounding park which is full of beautiful roses, myrtles, and oranges, and dense wood of English elms make the Alhambra even more enchanting.
5. Matsumoto Castle, Japan
Matsumoto Castle is one of the most complete, historically-rich, and beautiful of all Japan’s original castles.
Its unusual structure gives the castle its highly unique look and its striking black pannelling has earned it the nickname ‘Crow Castle’.
Matsumoto’s main body and its second, smaller tower were built between 1592 and 1614. These are both well-fortified because peace in Japan hadn’t been fully achieved at the time they were constructed. However, in 1635, when military threats had passed, a third, barely defended turret was added to the castle, as well as another specifically for moon viewing.
During springtime, Matsumoto Castle and its spacious grounds are popular for spotting cherry blossom.
6. Mont Saint-Michel, France
Located on a magical tidal island within a beautiful bay shared by Brittany and Normandy, Mont Saint-Michel is one of Europe’s most unforgettable sights.
The mount can be spotted from a great distance and is home to a fortified medieval town with winding streets, which lead up to its breathtaking abbey.
Mont Saint-Michel’s well-established defenses meant that it remained unconquered by the English during the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453); and it also has an interesting history as a state prison during the French Revolution.
The beauty of Mont Saint-Michel has captivated people throughout time – serving as inspiration for various works of art and literature – and more recently in film. For centuries, it also served as one of Europe’s most popular pilgrimage sites.
7. National Palace of Pena, Portugal
As one of the world’s greatest expressions of 19th-century romanticism, the National Palace of Pena is recognised for its striking colour and decorative design.
It was originally built as a monastery on the site of a medieval chapel, but following damage by the 18th century great Lisbon earthquake, the castle was constructed to serve as a royal residence for King Ferdinand II of Portugal.
In 1889 it was then purchased by the Portuguese State and later classified as a national monument – and, today, is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Perched on a hill above the town of Sintra, the National Palace of Pena can be easily spotted all the way from Lisbon on a clear day.
8. Vianden Castle, Luxembourg
Overlooking the modern town of Vianden, Vianden Castle is recognised as one of Europe’s greatest historical monuments and one of the most beautiful castles from the Gothic and Romanesque periods.
The castle’s main structure was built between the 11th and 14th centuries, but its origins date back to the 4th century – where it’s thought to have served as a Roman military camp.
Despite falling to ruins in the 17th century, Vianden Castle was fully restored in 1990.
9. Trakai Island Castle, Lithuania
Famous for its special location and gothic architecture, Trakai Castle sits on an island in Lake Galve – one of Lithuania’s deepest lakes.
Construction of Trakai Castle began in the 14th century and it served as a residence for the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. The castle’s structure fell into ruin during the 17th century but was successfully rebuilt in 1951.
Using a wooden bridge to reach the castle, Trakai appears like something out of a dream. In summer, medieval festivals and events are held in the castle courtyard and, in winter, the lake freezes over to become a magical natural skating rink.
10. Bojnice Castle, Slovakia
Dubbed Slovakia’s most romantic castle, Bojnice Castle is so breathtaking that many pictures of it fail to look real.
The castle’s beauty makes it not only one of the most visited castles in Slovakia, but across central Europe as well.
Constructed on the site of an 11th-century medieval castle, Bojnice was inspired by the designs of romantic castles of France’s Loire Valley. It was reconstructed by Hungarian architect J Hubert towards the end of the 19th century.
11. Amber Palace, India
Built in pale yellow and pink sandstone with touches of white marble, the extensive Amber Palace (also known as Amer Fort or Amber Fort) is located around 11km from Jaipur and is one of the most eye-catching sites in India.
Overlooking Maota Lake, this extravagant palace is divided into four main sections, each featuring its own courtyard.
Amber Palace was first built in 1592 but added to and expanded over the centuries. Perhaps most famously, Amber Palace was the residence of ruler Raja Man Singh who had a total of 12 queens and had 12 rooms – one for each of them.
12. Scaligero Castle, Italy
Appearing to float atop the crystal clear water of Lake Garda, Scaligero Castle is Italy’s most well preserved medieval castle.
Building of Scaligero’s enchanting structure began during the mid-13th century over the remains of an ancient Roman fortress and took over a century to build.
Apart from entry by boat, the only way into the Scaligero Castle is through two drawbridges.
13. Moszna Castle, Poland
With 99 turrets, mixed architecture styles, and set within an expansive park, Moszna Castle in Poland is a common feature of most beautiful lists – and it’s not difficult to see why.
Moszna Castle was built in the 17th century in baroque style architecture – but other styles have been added throughout the centuries too. For example, the neo-gothic eastern wing was added around 1900, followed by the neo-renaissance western wing 12 years later.
The castle’s interior is just beautiful, with various chambers covered by ornate walls.
14. Eltz Castle, Germany
Located in the middle of the Eltz Forest, Eltz Castle is full of charm and beauty. Spanning 33 generations, Eltz Castle has remained in the same family for over 850 years and its history takes you right back to the Middle Ages.
The Eltz family first moved into the castle during the 12th century but continued to make renovations to its structure for centuries – and it wasn’t completed until some time between 1490 and 1540.
The castle’s prime location within the woods is home to a number of diverse and unique species of animals and plants. Many people enjoy hearing the sweet birdsong as they walk along the castle path.
15. Corvin Castle, Romania
Designed as a prison and defense fortress against the Ottoman Empire in 1440, Corvin Castle (also known as Hunyadi Castle) is one of the largest castles in Europe.
Only accessible via a long bridge which is set over a small creek, Corvin Castle is a gothic architectural masterpiece. It was built in 1446 by leading Hungarian military and political figure John Hunyadi and is split into three large areas – the Knight’s Hall, Diet Hall, and the circular stairway – but also received restoration in later centuries.
In popular culture, Corvin Castle has inspired a number of television shows and video games, such as Underworld and Most Haunted Live. And alongside Bran Castle, it’s believed by many to have been a source of inspiration for Bram Stoker’s famous novel, Dracula.
16. Egeskov Castle, Denmark
Egeskov is one of Europe’s best preserved Renaissance moated castles.
First recorded in the 1400s, Egeskov was originally an unfortified manor house. However, in 1554 it was transformed into a highly fortified stronghold set upon a foundation of oak pilings by Danish nobleman Frands Brockenhuus, who was one of the most cultured men of his time.
Ownership of Egeskov was taken by the Bille family in 1784 – and the evolvedAhlefeldt-Laurvig-Bille family still live in the castle today.
17. Dunrobin Castle, Scotland
Ending our list with somewhere slightly closer to home, Dunrobin Castle in Scotland is one of the UK’s lesser known castles – particularly when compared with the likes of Windsor, Warwick, and Edinburgh.
However, despite keeping a relatively low profile, with its fairytale spires, grand architecture, and spacious gardens, Dunrobin Castle resembles an enchanting French chateau.
Dunrobin is the most northerly of Scotland’s castles and one of Britain’s oldest continuously inhabited houses – dating all the way back to the early 1300s. Throughout history, it served as a World War I hospital and boys’ boarding school between 1965 and 1972.
It’s tricky not to be blown away by the beauty and magnitude of these castles from across the world. Each with its own unique history, location, and architecture, could one of these be on your bucket list?
While this list is but a snippet into the expansive collection of beautiful castles our world has to offer, we hope you’ve enjoyed reading it.
For more history-related content, head over to the art and culture section of our website which has everything from museums you won’t want to miss to information on how to explore your family tree. Alternatively, you might be interested in the range of history talks hosted by Rest Less Events.