IF YOU’RE A FAN OF A TURRET OR TWO, GET YOURSELF TO EUROPE TO VISIT SOME OF THE BEST CASTLES AROUND.
Building fortified strongholds for ruling families became all the rage across the continent during the Middle Ages.
Propelled by the need to protect their land from a more frequent threat of invasion, monarchs constructed castles to demonstrate their wealth, too.
Many spectacular medieval castles in Europe remain occupied to this day.
Below, we look at 12 of the best European castles that you can still visit .
1. Prague Castle
A huge complex in the heart of the Czech Republic’s capital, Prague Castle dates back to the 9thCentury and has witnessed some key moments in European history. Its wartime efforts are not limited to medieval times – it played an integral part in World War II, when it was seized by Adolf Hitler, and saw action during the war for Slovakian independence later that century. Nowadays, Prague Castle is home to government offices and continues to play a major role in political debate.
2. The Alcázar of Segovia
Located in central Spain, the Alcázar of Segovia – also known as Segovia Castle – was built by the Berber dynasty in the 12th Century. It’s thought to have played a pivotal role in the Christianisation of the local principality during this time, and has since acted as a state prison, and military college for King Charles III.
3. The Hohenzollern Castle
The aptly named stronghold of the House of Hohenzollern in Baden-Württemberg, Germany – the Hohenzollern Castle is most striking because of its Disney-esque architecture. In fact its current façade was inspired by the English Gothic revival and commissioned by King Frederick William IV of Prussia between 1846 and 1867.
4. Château de Chambord
The Château de Chambord in Loir-et-Cher, France is a magnificent affair fit for royalty – quite literally. The castle was built by King Francis I of France but made famous by King Louis XV, who restored the building to its former glory in the 18th Century, shortly before the French Revolution.
5. Hunyadi Castle
Also known as Corvin Castle and Hunedoara Castle, this fortress in Western Romania is a sight for wide eyes, and counted as one of the largest castles in Europe. Standing strong since its construction in the 15th Century for the Hunyadi family – in honour of former monarch Charles I of Hungary – the castle has been praised as a Gothic masterpiece. It’s also involved in several national legends surrounding Vlad the Impaler.
6. Eltz Castle
Another German castle to feature on our list, this fortress can be found in the hills and forest between Koblenz and Trier. It was originally built in the 12th Century by the Eltz family, who continue to occupy the castle to this day. As one of only three castles to sit on the left bank of the Rhine, Eltz Castle features on the German 500 Deutsche Mark.
7. Malbork Castle
A historically significant castle situated in the West of Poland, this building’s full, grand name is the Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork. A 13th Century medieval fortress constructed by the Teutonic Knights during their Catholic crusade across the continent, miraculously the building remains undamaged. Throughout its history the castle has been involved in the Great Prussian Uprising, the Crusades, the papal persecution of the Knights Templar, and multiple wars surrounding the ownership of Polish and Prussian land.
8. Trakai Island Castle
Another European castle worth exploring, all is not as it seems when it comes to Trakai Island Castle in Lithuania. A grand, red brick building surrounded by a man-made moat, the castle was originally constructed in the 14th Century by medieval ruler Kęstutis. However it was almost entirely rebuilt in the 19th and 20th Centuries – causing many historians to despair at what it has become. Regardless, it’s a hugely popular tourist attraction in Eastern Europe.
9. Neuschwanstein Castle
The chocolate box castle of European architecture, Neuschwanstein Castle translates to New Swanstone Castle in English, and is attributable to Ludwig II of Bavaria in homage to Richard Wagner. Built in the 19th Century, Neuschwanstein may not have the historical integrity of its peers, but what it lacks in wartime significance it makes up for in cultural importance. It even inspired Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle.
10. Spiš Castle
Slovakia’s Spiš Castle is a ruinous, elaborate fortress overlooking the town of Spišské Podhradie. It was introduced to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in the 1990s and represents the once thriving agricultural economy. It burned down in 1780.
11. Miramare Castle
Many Italian castles pride themselves on their looks, but none more so than Miramare Castle. As its Latin-based name suggests, this fortress is situated on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, near Trieste in North East Italy. It was built as a home in the 19th Century by Ferdinand Maximilian, a relation of the Emperor of Austria.
12. Heidelberg Castle
Last but by no means least, Heidelberg Castle is a ruined fortress and landmark in the South West of Germany. The castle has been used for multiple different purposes since it was built in the 17th Century, including as a headquarters for the Heidelberger Bergbahn funicular railway.