Top 10 Castles in Europe - Straight from a Fairy Tale

Tags: #WindsorCastle ,   #Castle ,   #PragueCastle ,   #Travel ,   #Royal

Alex O'Brien

Alex O'Brien

Last updated:  2023-07-26 08:14:36

Let's head up to the enchanting world of famous European castles! Almost all of the Old Continent's strongholds are secluded and surrounded by lush vegetation or isolated on the high cliff but in a charming environment. Furthermore, most of them look like they are from a fairy tale - magical and mysterious. That's why it was challenging to make this selection, as we had to leave out some, like Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin or Vajdahunyad Castle in Budapest. Still, we hope you'll enjoy this best castles in Europe list and get carried away by the fantasy world and real European royals!

10. The Bran Castle, Brasov, Romania

An outside look at the Bran Castle in Romania.
Notorious legend about Count Dracula gives the Bran Castle an eerie vibe (photo: Dorothea OLDANI/
Location: Bran near Brasov, Transylvania, Romania
Built: 14th century
Best known for: Alleged connection with historic Dracula
Open for visits: Yes
Other uses: None
Castle info

This historic European castle near Brasov in Romania attracts people with its eerie legend about Count Dracula. Bran Castle is a medieval fort from the 14th century, located on the cliff providing gorgeous views of the nearby hills, ideal for defense. Even though the castle is impressive, the main tourist attraction comes from its nickname - Dracula's Castle, based on a gothic tale about Bram Stoker's bloodthirsty villain. 

This location and the Count Dracula from the story had many similarities with the Bran Castle and the Transylvanian ruler from the 15th century Vlad the Impaler, known for his cruelty. Therefore, it is advertised as the place where Count Dracula lived. Unsurprisingly, this legend still attracts tourists from all around the world. However, there's no proof that the count visited it even once.

9. The Schwerin Castle, Germany

Lake in front of the Schwerin Castle in Germany.
Beautiful location on the lake provides the Schwerin Castle a unique look (photo: cocoparisienne/
Location: Schwering, Germany
Built: 973
Best known for: Gorgeous surroundings
Open for visits: Yes
Other uses: Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state parliament
Castle info

The first records about the fort date back to 973 AD, and the latest renovations are from the 19th century. During this period, the castle often changed its owners, who repurposed defense walls, making them prettier.

The castle's location is quite charming, as it's on the island in the Burgsee, connected with the Schwerin city center with a lovely bridge. The lake and surrounding gardens give Schwerin Castle a fairy tale look. Today, the main palace is a seat of parliament and a tourist attraction with a museum.

8. The Castle in Love with the Wind, Bulgaria

The youngest of all castles, but not a bit less pretty - Castle in Love with the Wind
Location: Ravadinovo, Bulgaria
Built: 1996
Best known for: The youngest castle in Europe
Open for visits: Yes
Other uses: None
Castle info

This charming fairy tale place is a childhood dream of Mr. George Tumpalov come true. Every year, more than a million people visit this major tourist attraction. The castle is the youngest in Europe, as its construction began in 1996.

The main building is cross-shaped and made from natural materials, mainly marble limestone and some granite. The castle's location is near the Black Sea, and the name comes from the region's phenomenon – the sun only shines when the wind blows. The constructor paid attention to details and made a magical castle with an artificial lake, beautiful gardens, fountains, and ponds.

7. The Bojnice Castle, Slovakia

Bojnice Castle in Slovakia.
Fascinating surroundings of Bojnice Castle make it one of the most visited attractions in Slovakia (photo: dedodj/
Location: Bojnica, Slovakia
Built: 12th century
Best known for: Gorgeous park and museum
Open for visits: Yes
Other uses: None
Castle info

Today's castle was built on the grounds of another one from the 11th century. Over the years, it changed owners, and the current look dates back to the 18th century. The previous owner was Count Pálfi, who was inspired by the lovely Loire Castles in France.

Within Bojnice Castle is the historical museum, and a beautiful large park surrounds the whole area. The most treasured item in the museum is the gothic altar from the mid-14th century. Today the château is the most visited attraction in Slovakia. Moreover, it hosts the annual International Festival of Ghosts and Spooks, drawing in tourists.

6. The Windsor Castle, The United Kingdom

A garden in front of the Windsor Castle in London.
It's a charming landscape and magnificent architecture that make Windsor Castle so great that it fits the British monarch's needs (photo: 12019/
Location: Windsor, Berkshire, England, United Kingdom
Built: 11th century
Best known for: The seat of the British crown
Open for visits: Yes (partially)
Other uses: The seat of the British crown
Castle info

We can't discuss the famous European castles and not include at least one of many in the United Kingdom. As the official residence of the British monarchs, Windsor Castle certainly deserves a place in our top ten. Settled on the River Thames not far from London, Windsor has been home to 39 monarchs since its construction in the 11th century. 

How connected the castle is with the royals proves that ten sovereigns chose it for their final resting place. Although this is an official residence and private home of the ruling monarch, some parts are open to tourists. This includes the State Apartments, The Semi-State Rooms, Queen Mary's Doll House, and St. George's Chapel.

5. The Prague Castle, Czech Republic

The Prague Castle in Czechia
Perfectly located on the hill above the Vltava River, Prague Castle overlooks the whole city (photo: klausdie/
Location: Prague, Czech Republic
Built: 9th century
Best known for: Largest castle complex in the world
Open for visits: Yes
Other uses: Office of the President of the Czech Republic
Castle info

The Prague Castle is a colossal complex spread on the Hradčany hillside. Furthermore, it's the world's largest castle complex at over 750,000 square feet (70,000 square meters). The first settlement was constructed in the 9th century, with several buildings later added within the castle's walls. This includes four palaces, churches, and towers. 

The most significant structure is the St. Vitus Cathedral, a Gothic construction from the 14th century. The complex is the main tourist attraction and a symbol of Prague, with 1.8 million yearly visits. Moreover, today the castle is a formal office of the President. 

4. The Alcázar of Segovia (Segovia Castle), Spain

Alcázar of Segovia Castle in Spain.
Towering above the river, Alcázar of Segovia Castle has an astonishing look (photo: gayulo/
Location: Segovia, Spain
Built: 12th century
Best known for: Stunning scenery
Open for visits: Yes
Other uses: Military archive
Castle info

The name Alcazar indicates that the Moorish rulers built the first establishment in the location of today's castle. The site was strategically chosen as it stands on the cliff, towering above the river. Therefore, it allows an easy defense and creates stunning scenery. This is typical for medieval castles in Europe, but it makes sense.

The castle's golden years are connected with King Alfonso VIII, who converted it into a luxury castle in the 12th century. Moreover, the Alcazar had a turbulent past as a location of numerous significant events in monarchs' lives. Today the Alcazar Castle is a prominent tourist attraction in Segovia, not far from Madrid, and a museum surrounded by exquisitely decorated gardens.

3. The Moszna Castle, Poland

Moszna Castle in Poland.
Fabulous Moszna Castle will sweep you off your feet (photo: domeckopol/
Location: Moszna, Opole, Poland
Built: 1768
Best known for: Eclectic architecture
Open for visits: Yes
Other uses: None
Castle info

This eclectic castle has a charming main palace in the 17th-century baroque style. Over the years, the rest of the château was built in neo-gothic and neo-renaissance styles, giving it a truly unique look. The exciting design with 99 towers and 365 rooms gives beauty and charisma to the Moszna.

Moreover, the castle has a few legends about its origin. One of them says this was the Order of the Knights of Templar shelter. Beautiful gardens and a park surrounding the castle have merged with nearby forests and meadows. Nowadays, Moszna is one of the most important tourist attractions in Poland.

2. The Chambord Castle, France

Chambord Castle in France seen from the other side of the lake.
All the beauty of the French landscaping and architecture comes together at Chambord Castle (photo: edmondlafoto/
Location: Chambord, Loir-et-Cher, France
Built: 1547
Best known for: French gardens
Open for visits: Yes
Other uses: None
Castle info

France has the most beautiful castles in Europe you can imagine. Still, we had to limit our list to one of the most unique places to visit in Europe. Chambord Castle at Loir et Cher is 110 miles (177 kilometers) southwest of Paris. The beauty of the French Renaissance architecture and French gardens combined have created the most impressive castle in the Loire Valley, known for its charm. King Francois I started the castle's construction at the beginning of the 16th century, and his successors continued creating this absolute masterpiece.

However, completing the French Gardens in front of the castle was difficult, as it required canalizing the river Cosson that flows around the château. The challenge was enormous, but it led to a genuinely striking result. Today the Chambord is open to the public with more than 60 refurbished rooms.

1. The Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany.
Astonishing surroundings of Neuschwanstein gives it a fairy tale look (photo: muenzi1958/
Location: Hohenschwangau, Germany
Built: 1886
Best known for: The most beautiful castle in the world
Open for visits: Yes 
Other uses: None
Castle info

According to many, the most beautiful European castle is Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany. King Ludwig II of Bavaria, obsessed with building the best castles in Europe, created it. This fairy tale castle catches its constructor's soul (known as mad King Ludwig), as he was passionate about the fantasy world. The castle was opened to the public a few years after the suspicious passing of the King.

The picturesque nature surrounding the place is magical, as the mountain hills and dense forest of Bavaria rise above with the château over the misty valley. The dreamlike castle inspired Disney's castle of Sleeping Beauty. Today this charming place attracts more than a million visitors a year.

Europe has many castles and palaces scattered all over. We have chosen the top ten most beautiful ones, leaving you more to explore. As many are at least partially open to the public, don't think twice about visiting them!

Have you ever visited a fantastic castle? What did you like the most? Please write to us in the comments, as we want to hear your thoughts.

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Lyle Says:

While Bran Castle is impressive, history says that Count Dracula never set his foot there.

September 26 at 08:34:30 AM

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