We all have seen medieval castles, visited them, read, and learned about them at school. Luckily, today we can enjoy creations made in those "dark" times. Grand medieval castles are among them, as they stand proud from the 10th century onward. That inspired us to create this top ten list of medieval castles that make visitors wonder how it must have been in their glorious days. They shot light into those "dark" times and show us there's more than meets the eye!
10. Bač fortress, Serbia
People know Serbia for being on the transversal path of explorers, rulers, and everyday folk, and many would leave some traces behind them. In a peaceful village Bač, this castle dominates the plain surroundings. This fortress has a keep tower in the middle of a small courtyard, encompassed by massive walls. Yet, it's no longer in use since the local rebellion in the 18th century.
Archeological and historical research shows us that the fortress was an essential palace for several rulers in the 15th century and after. Today Bač fortress is under constant care and a revivification project run by the local cultural institutions. At the beginning of 2022, this stronghold with its surroundings has been nominated to the UNESCO heritage list!
9. Krak des Chevaliers, Syria
European knights and their followers built several impressive medieval castles during the Crusaders' wars in the Holy Land. In the dramatic surroundings of the desert and the nearby sea stands the most famous crusader's fortress, Krak des Chevaliers. Crusaders rebuilt it in the 12th century, and since then, it has been the most crucial stronghold of these brave warriors.
The castle builders knew how to choose the best location, for this one is up on the hill overlooking a crucial passage. Today Krak des Chevaliers is on the UNESCO heritage list, although the 2014 civil war fighting damaged some parts of it. Since then, conservators have repaired it and given those old stones their former glory.
8. Nuremberg Castle, Germany
When we approach the old busy Bavarian town, we ask ourselves, are we still in the 21st century? Today Nurnberg is safe from the trebuchets because of the high and magnificent medieval walls! Emperors used to have their residence in this palace, and they knew how to show it off! Nurnberg castle was mentioned for the first time in the emperor's hands in 1050. Nevertheless, its glory days came during the Holy Roman Empire.
Unfortunately, a big part of Nurnberg castle was destroyed due to bombing in 1945. However, today it's a buzzy charming town full of tourists wandering around the narrow streets, fascinated by nicely renovated houses. One of those belonged to Albert Durer, the best-known artist of his time in western Europe. On top of the hill is the emperor's palace, now a museum. Close by is Nurburging Nordschleife, one of the most famous racing tracks.
7. Castle of La Mota, Spain
This castle is one of the most glorious medieval castles preserved in the northwestern part of Spain. When you look at it, you instantly go back to old times. The central part of the castle is the keep tower, surrounded by massive walls and a drawbridge to access it. Builders made it out of local red brick, perfectly fitting the sunny Spanish surroundings.
Over the years, many rulers fought fearlessly around this fortress, and each of them would put something of their own in it, such as a keep tower, bastion, etc. Today, you can visit its ground floor for free, but we encourage you to take a day off and explore the whole complex. Go up the tower (more than 40 meters high) to enjoy the most beautiful view you can imagine!
6. Malbork Castle, Poland
Were the Dark Ages so bad? Here's a castle that tells otherwise! Malbork castle in the northern part of Poland is a 21-hectare UNESCO-protected site. With its dominant size and position to the nearby Nogat river, none can say those were the dark ages! This castle used to be a Teutonic knights order headquarters in the 13th century and onward.
Architecturally, it's a masterpiece that contains High, Middle, and Lower castles, with many dry moats in between. Teutonics controlled the trade since the castle lay next to the busy river, close to the sea. Malbork castle remains the biggest brick complex in Europe and a palace to visit once you come to Poland!
5. Château de Suscinio, France
This majestic castle was constructed in the 13th and enlarged in the 14th century for the Dukes of Brittany. Many owners changed, and countless enemies fought bloody fights at the site back in its glory days! However, we don't see that today since it stands in a peaceful environment with tourists making the biggest noise.
The sad story of the chateau begins with the end of the French Revolution when the owners slowly started to sell the castle's stones, turning it into ruin. Yet, the conservators worked long and hard to preserve its original 15th-century layout. We can now visit the palace and imagine attacking or defending this medieval French gem like in the legendary tales.
4. Bodiam Castle, England
In 1385, Bodiam castle came to life and is still one of the best castles in England. Sir Edward Dallingridge and his wife Elizabeth built it to protect England from the French in the never-ending Hundred-year war. With its simple rectangular-shaped position on an artificial watery landscape, the castle has one hell of a moat!
Today this castle is mostly in ruins, not from the French, but from several English attacks! However, approaching it leaves everyone's heart beating hard because of the dramatic landscape in which it stands. The National Trust runs the castle now, and it's a place of frequent events such as fairs, festivals, school trips, and much more!
3. Akershus Castle, Norway
If you've been to Oslo, you know what we're talking about! Akershus castle was first mentioned at the beginning of the 14th century and has been one of Norway's most important building complexes since then! King Christian IV (1588-1648) turned this place into a renaissance castle and royal residence.
Today, it serves as the Royal Mausoleum and the prime minister's residence. Nevertheless, many people love to visit the castle because they can celebrate some big public holidays or learn about the city's history. We also suggest you go for a stroll in its beautiful green surroundings.
2. Chillon Castle, Switzerland
You can find Chillon castle on the shores of gorgeous Lake Geneva. Archeological excavations tell us that the rocky island on which the castle stands has finds even from the Bronze age! Yet, we're not surprised because the landscape must have been spectacular even then!
Chillon is one of the water castles, entirely surrounded by peaceful water. Its builders had a task to use the rocky island platform the best they could in the 12th century! The castle has three courtyards and multiple halls full of history. Finally, you can see one of the biggest medieval armor collections exhibited in Chillon Castle.
1. Gravensteen Castle, Belgium
Last but not least is a magnificent fairy tale castle in the northwestern part of Belgium. Gravensteen castle stood proud from the 12th century and served as the residence of the Dukes of Flanders. Philip of Alsace (1143-1191) is responsible for today's shape, influenced by the Crusaders.
The city of Ghent started buying parts of the castle at the end of the 19th century, which lies in their footsteps, to restore it in Gothic style. We guess that's just one of many steps in this castle's life because it was a court, a mint for coins, a prison, and even a cotton factory! Today it's a museum and a perfect place for a getaway if you're in Flanders!
We liked listening to stories about knights, princesses, dragons, and tower keeps in which everything would happen. Now we're searching for that famous castle in France and other countries and discovering the magnificent architectural and historical stories they're hiding! We know some of the castles are in ruin, but others got their glory back in the 20th century. Some enthusiasts are even making new castles today with the old techniques! While we chose the top ten medieval castles worth visiting, many others are out there for exploration!
Do you have your favorite medieval castle? Is there one in your hometown? Share your fascination with Middle Age fortresses with us in the comment section!