Discovering the most beautiful castles in the world
For travel and history enthusiasts, nothing quite sparks our imagination like a majestic castle. From Europe and the Middle East to East Asia, you’ll find countless royal residences brimming with lush gardens and mighty fortifications. But which are the best and most beautiful castles in the world?
Some castles were raised to be the tallest and largest, while others were designed to embody the personalities of their rulers. They were used as royal residences, strategic fortifications, and sheer symbols of wealth.
Today, such castles aren’t merely relics of a bygone era. They bring a unique flavor and charisma to the landscapes and communities around them. Particularly in Europe, you’ll find that a castle is often the centerpiece of the Old Town. Beautiful castles also invoke our curiosity, making us ponder what life must have been like for those who amassed such extraordinary wealth and influence.
Similar to how people keep up with the rich and famous today, people share an affinity for the kings, queens, and lords who once lived high on the hog in the world’s ultimate estates. Castles are like a window into a fairytale land from once upon a time.
While most magnificent castles are in Europe, there are plenty of others sprawled around the globe. Here’s a round-up of the most beautiful castles in the world!
1. Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
When thinking of a beautiful castle, this is probably the first that comes to mind.
Neuschwanstein Castle was built in the 19th century by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, also known as the “mad king.” As mad as he may have been, his eccentric lifestyle and imagination certainly gave rise to the archetypal fairytale castle. It’s truly one of a kind, even in Germany, which has so many awe-inspiring, real castles.
The castle of Neuschwanstein sits atop a rugged hill with its blue turrets and white limestone façade. It’s so magnificent that it inspired Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle.
Check out this incredible drone video of Neuschwanstein:
Neuschwanstein Castle is tucked away in Schwangau, Bavaria, which straddles the Germany-Austria border. It’s approximately 68 miles (109 km) southwest of Munich.
2. Bran Castle, Romania
Bran Castle is a 13th-century fortress that majestically looms over a steep cliff. The castle’s dramatic architecture conjures up an image of Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula, hence its nickname – Dracula’s Castle. It’s undoubtedly the most famous and iconic castle in Romania.
Bran Castle lies along the border of Transylvania and Wallachia in central Romania. It’s about 100 miles (174 km) north of Romania’s capital, Bucharest.
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3. Edinburgh Castle in Scotland is one of the most unique castles around the world
Edinburgh Castle is a 12th-century fortress in the heart of Scotland’s capital. It’s one of the most iconic and Instagram-worthy places in the UK. It’s also the most-visited paid attraction in the country, attracting over 2 million visitors each year.
Humming with rich history, Edinburgh Castle and the Old Town are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s no wonder this is among the best castles in the world.
4. Château de Chambord, France
As far as French castles and royal palaces go, this is among the most breathtaking.
Château de Chambord is an over-the-top estate that embodies Europe’s finest royalty (and excess). This 16th-century royal palace, designed in the French and Classical Renaissance styles, is the largest château in France’s Loire Valley. Though distinct from the medieval castles of Europe, it is aptly fortified with bastion towers and a nifty moat.
Château de Chambord is 10 miles (16 km) east of Blois and 105 miles (170 km) south of Paris.
5. Alhambra, Spain
The Alhambra in Granada is a hilltop fortress that’s undoubtedly one of the most Instagrammable places in Spain. This castle-turned-royal-palace is a magnificent display of Islamic art and architecture brought to Spain by the Moors during the Middle Ages. Its intricate architecture and lush gardens make the Alhambra one of the most beautiful castles in Europe and the world.
The Alhambra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that epitomizes Spain’s diverse cultural heritage. It’s also one of the top tourist attractions in the country. During a visit to this pretty castle, consider staying in one of these unique accommodations!
6. Windsor Castle in England is among the most beautiful castles in the world
Built nearly a millennium ago, Windsor Castle is the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world. This royal residence is Queen Elizabeth’s preferred weekend retreat, where she hosts state events for public figures from around the world. Inside this massive castle complex, you’ll also find St. George’s Chapel, a sacred site for royal ceremonies, weddings, and burials.
Windsor Castle towers over the old town just south of the River Thames. It’s conveniently located 30 miles from London and 10 miles from London Heathrow Airport.
7. Tourbillon Castle, Switzerland
Built during the 13th and 14th centuries, Tourbillion Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in the world. This fairytale castle proudly stands atop a hill overlooking the Swiss countryside. The breathtaking views are well worth the strenuous uphill climb.
Located in southern Switzerland, Tourbillion Castle is 75 miles (120 km) south of Bern and 93 miles (150 km) east of Geneva. During a visit to one of Europe’s fancy castles, consider one of these cool stays!
8. Eltz Castle, Germany
This medieval castle looks like it’s something out of a fairy tale.
Built in the 12th century, Eltz Castle is one of Germany’s most magnificent castles. This imposing structure has 100 rooms and eight floors. Despite its age, this Romanesque and Gothic castle is remarkably well-preserved.
Eltz Castle is 90 miles (145 km) west of Frankfurt and 68 miles (110 km) south of Cologne, Germany. For Harry Potter fans (and just about everyone else), this is one of the best castles in the world, hands down.
9. Osaka Castle in Japan is among the coolest castles around the world
The most beautiful castles in the world aren’t just exclusive to Europe. Japan boasts some impressive castles of its own, most notably the 16th-century Osaka Castle.
This five-story fortress is surrounded by stone walls and a moat, which acted as a defensive shield for the revered ruler who lived there, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. It becomes particularly photogenic during cherry blossom season in early April.
Osaka Castle is 32 miles (52 km) southwest of Kyoto and 22 miles (35 km) east of Kobe, Japan.
10. Mont Saint-Michel, France
Mont Saint-Michel is one of the best castles in the world that will transport you back to the Middle Ages. Located on a tidal island, it’s not just a rocky fortification, but also an entire medieval city. Here, you’ll find a historic church, restaurants and hotels, museums, and shops, all looking out over the sea. This iconic sight has also been a pilgrimage site dating back to 700 AD.
Interestingly, Mont Saint-Michel is also known for its tidal oscillations. Its low and high tides are only 6 hours apart and can reach over 45 feet. The tides come crashing it at a rapid pace, making it a must-see as one of the coolest castles around the world!
Mont Saint-Michel is 93 miles (150 km) west of Normandy and 217 miles (350 km) west of Paris.
11. Hohensalzburg Fortress, Austria
Located in the heart of Salzburg, one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, lies the Hohensalzburg Fortress. Built between 1077 and 1519, the Hohensalzburg Fortress is one of the largest medieval castles in all of Europe. It’s perched 1,660 feet (506 m) above the old town, offering sweeping views of the Austrian countryside.
The Hohensalzburg Fortress is the centerpiece of Salzburg’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
12. National Palace of Pena, Portugal
Nestled near the shores of the Portuguese Riviera is the National Palace of Pena. This flamboyant, 19th-century castle is among the top attractions in Portugal. The palace is so mesmerizing that it’s even considered one of the 7 wonders of Portugal.
The National Palace of Pena looks out on the city of Sintra, just 17 miles (27 km) west of Lisbon. For architecture aficionados, it’s one of the most beautiful fantasy castles!
13. De Haar Castle, Netherlands
Comprising 200 rooms and 30 bathrooms, De Haar Castle is the largest castle in the Netherlands. This Neo-Gothic castle was built in the 19th century to embody the glorious fortresses of medieval times.
De Haar Castle in Utrecht is just a half-hour drive south of Amsterdam.
14. Vianden Castle, Luxembourg
With only 590,000 people, Luxembourg is often overshadowed by its Benelux neighbors, namely Belgium and the Netherlands. However, Luxembourg makes up for its small size with its grandiose castles.
Built between the 11th and 14th centuries, Vianden Castle is one of the largest castles from the Roman and Gothic periods in Europe. Garnering only 200,000 visitors each year, Vianden Castle is an under-the-radar attraction that deserves a slice of the limelight.
Vianden Castle is 29 miles (47 km) north of Luxembourg City.
15. Kylemore Abbey, Ireland
This is one of the most beautiful castles in the world, and definitely a top tourist attraction in Ireland.
Though a Benedictine monastery today, Kylemore Abbey was originally built as a castle and private residence. Dating back to the Victorian era, this castle had 33 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms and pretty much all the modern amenities of the day.
Kylemore Abbey is 47 miles (76 km) northwest of Galway and 173 miles (279 km) west of Dublin.
16. Prague Castle, Czech Republic
Built in the 9th century, Prague Castle is a Romanesque and Gothic masterpiece that embodies Prague’s timeless charm. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Prague Castle is the largest coherent castle complex in the world. Overlooking the Vltava River, this massive and seemingly ancient castle is one of the most iconic structures in Prague.
Prague Castle and the city’s historic center are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
17. Highclere Castle in England is a beautiful castle
Downton Abbey fans will know this grand estate in the UK. Built in 1679, Highclere Castle is set on a 5,000-acre property with stunning views as far as the eye can see. There are over 300 rooms on 30,000 square feet of living space, making it one of the largest castles of the world not belonging to a king or queen.
Highclere Castle is just 65 miles (104 km) west of London and 70 miles (113 km) east of Bristol.
18. Bojnice Castle, Slovakia
As far as medieval fortresses go, this is among the most beautiful.
Tracing back to the 12th century, Bojnice Castle showcases a dazzling mix of Gothic and Renaissance architecture. This impressive castle is chock-full of lavish artwork and furniture. Today, it’s considered one of the oldest and most historically significant monuments in all of Slovakia. It’s also one of the best and most beautiful castles in Europe.
Bojnice Castle is about 100 miles (160 km) northeast of Slovakia’s capital, Bratislava.
19. Örebro Castle, Sweden
Built in the 1300s, Örebro Castle is one of the most striking fortifications in Scandinavia. Its name derives from “ör” (small stones) and “bro” (bridge).
Since its construction nearly 700 years ago, Örebro Castle was expanded on multiple occasions to include more rooms and fortified towers. Today, this castle is a popular venue for tours and exhibitions, where you’ll learn about the famous Vasa family who once lived there.
Örebro Castle is 124 miles (200 km) west of Stockholm and 73 miles (72 km) northwest of Norrköping.
20. Amer Fort, India
Looking to discover the best castles in the world? Add this royal palace in India to your bucket list.
Erected from red sandstone and marble, Amer (“Amber”) Fort is a castle complex unlike any other in Eurasia. The fort’s ramparts trace back to the 16th century, containing a hodgepodge of Hindu and Muslim architectural elements from those times. Today, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site among the six Hill Forts of Rajasthan in northern India.
Amer Fort is 8 miles (13 km) north of Jaipur and 150 miles (241 km) southwest of New Delhi.
21. Wawel Castle, Poland
Wawel Castle in Kraków, Poland definitely has the wow factor. Built between the 13th and 14th centuries, this castle exhibits a potpourri of architectural styles, including Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque. Today, it stands as a symbol of national identity for Poland.
Wawel Castle is just 1 kilometer away from Rynek Główny, Kraków’s main square.
22. Conwy Castle, Wales
Built in the late 1200s, Conwy Castle is the quintessential Welsh castle. UNESCO considers this limestone and sandstone fortress to be one of the “finest examples of late 13th century and early 14th century military architecture in Europe.”
Conwy Castle is 56 miles (90 km) from Liverpool, England and 178 miles (286 km) north of Cardiff, Wales.
23. Buda Castle in Hungary is among the best castles in the world
Castles around the world don’t quite measure up to this one in Hungary.
Buda Castle is an iconic castle and palace complex that sits on top of a plateau in Hungary’s capital, Budapest. Though the original castle was built in the 13th century, much of the Baroque palace today was built during the mid-1700s.
Today, Buda Castle is home to the Budapest History Museum and Hungarian National Gallery.
24. Moszna Castle, Poland
Dating back to the 17th century, Moszna Castle is a treasure trove of Baroque and Neo-Gothic architecture with striking similarities to Hogwarts from Harry Potter. This castle has 99 spires, undoubtedly making it one of the most unique castles in Europe. Today, it’s used as a hotel, museum, and restaurant.
Moszna Castle is 115 miles (185 km) west of Kraków and 71 miles (115 km) south of Wroclaw.
25. Scaligero Castle, Italy
Looking to step foot inside one of the most beautiful castles in the world? Pay a visit to the Scaligero Castle on Lake Garda.
Scaligero Castle is a prized fortification mounted on the shores of Lake Garda in northern Italy. With its charming drawbridge and tall towers, this 13th century fortress is among the best-preserved castles from its time.
Scaligero Castle in Sirmione is just an hour bus ride from Verona and 93 miles (150 km) from Venice. TIP: This part of Italy contains some of the most unique Airbnbs in the world.
26. Hearst Castle, California
Located in San Simeon, California, Hearst Castle is one of the most famous castles around the world. It was built in 1919 for William Randolph Hearst who owned a massive newspaper chain at the time.
Set on 127 acres, Hearst Castle was built in the Mediterranean Revival style and has over 50 bedrooms. This mansion is also home to the world’s largest private zoo. It’s truly a gem in Southern California!
If you’re looking for a famous castle in the New World, Hearst Castle won’t disappoint. Not only is it one of the most unique estates, it’s also among the coolest sights on the Big Sur in California.
27. Trakai Island Castle, Lithuania
As its name suggests, Trakai Island Castle is located on a small island on Lake Galvė. This castle dates back to the 14th century, and has assumed several roles since then. It was a residence and prison prior to becoming a museum. Today, this island castle is used for exhibitions, concerts, and other special events.
Trakai Island Castle is only 16 miles (26 km) from Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius.
28. Heidelberg Castle, Germany
This beautiful castle in Germany is one of my favorites in the world.
Dating back to the 13th century, Heidelberg Castle is a classic display of German Renaissance architecture. Perched above Heidelberg’s Old Town, this breathtaking castle offers sweeping vistas of the city and Neckar River below.
Heidelberg and its medieval castle are located just 50 miles (80 km) south of Frankfurt, Germany.
29. Óbidos Castle, Portugal
Like the National Palace of Pena, Óbidos Castle is considered one of the 7 Wonders of Portugal. Surrounded by medieval walls, cobblestone streets, and colorful houses,this 13th-century castle is one of the top attractions in central Portugal.
Óbidos Castle is just 52 miles (84 km) north of Lisbon, making it the perfect day trip from Portugal’s capital.
30. Corvin Castle in Romania is among the greatest castles
As one of the Seven Wonders of Romania, Corvin Castle is definitely among the world’s coolest castles. It was built in 1440 in the Gothic-Renaissance style and is considered one of the largest castles in Europe.
This fortification was most notably used to protect Central and Western Europe from the Ottoman Empire during the 15th century. Since then, it’s been a royal residence and museum in the heart of Transylvania. Corvin Castle is 249 miles (400 km) from Romania’s capital, Bucharest, and not far from the Serbia and Hungary borders.
31. Sunshine Castle, Australia
As the biggest castle in Australia, Sunshine Castle gleams with beauty at every turn. With its towers, turrets, drawbridge, and moat, Sunshine Castle resembles the medieval castles of Europe, though it was only built in 1972. For over 45 years, this enormous and eccentric castle has been used as a museum and event venue.
Sunshine Castle is just shy of 70 miles (112 km) north of Brisbane, Australia’s third largest city.
32. Egeskov Castle, Denmark
Egeskov Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in Denmark and Europe as a whole. Built during the mid-1500s, this Late Gothic and Renaissance castle juts right out of the water. It’s widely considered one of the best-preserved water castles.
Egeskov Castle sits on Denmark’s third-largest island, Funen, which is roughly 100 miles (160 km) from Copenhagen.
33. Matsumoto Castle, Japan
Matsumoto Castle is a historic castle that dates back to the early 1500s. Surrounded by a sophisticated system of moats and walls, it’s one of the largest and most complete castles in Japan. It’s also one of the best and most beautiful castles in the world.
Located in central Japan, Matsumoto Castle is within close proximity (135 miles/217 km) of Tokyo.
34. Chillon Castle in Switzerland is one of the most beautiful castles in the world
Chillon Castle is a picturesque island castle on the shores of Lake Geneva. Though the site of the castle has been used since Roman times, its current ramparts were built during the 13th century. Today, Chillon Castle is one of the most-visited historic structures in Switzerland. It’s also among the best castles in the world.
Chillon Castle is just 2 miles (3 km) from Montreux and 60 miles (96 km) from Geneva.
Looking to stay somewhere cool in Switzerland? Read next: Unique Airbnbs in Switzerland
35. Bouzov Castle, Czech Republic
Bouzov Castle stands out among the top castles in the Czech Republic and Central Europe. This fairytale fortress was built during the 14th century and was the seat of the Teutonic Knights. This noteworthy castle has since become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Bouzov Castle is just 22 miles (35 km) from Olomouc and 138 miles (223 km) southeast of Prague. Castles around the world have nothing on this one in Czechia!
36. Swallow’s Nest, Crimea
Add this famous castle in Crimea to your bucket list. Swallow’s Nest is set on a dramatic cliff overlooking the Crimean Peninsula and the Black Sea. It’s only a hundred years old, but the Neo-Gothic architectural style, coupled with the awe-inspiring views, make this a stunning sight worth visiting.
This castle is only 48 miles (78 km) from Sevastopol, the largest city in Crimea. Though it’s not the oldest castle in the world, Swallow’s Nest is definitely among the most majestic!
37. Alcázar of Segovia, Spain
The Alcázar of Segovia is a magical castle in central Spain that dates back to the 12th century. The castle was first used as an Arab fort before becoming a palace. In the centuries that followed, the Alcázar of Segovia was converted into a prison, and later, a military academy. It’s believed that this castle—in addition to Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany—inspired Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle.
The Alcázar of Segovia is located 58 miles (93 km) northwest of Madrid.
38. Wartburg Castle, Germany
Built in the Middle Ages, Wartburg Castle is a famous castle and UNESCO World Heritage Site in Germany. It overlooks Eisenach, a medieval town, and the Thuringian Forest. This beautiful castle is notable as the place where Martin Luther translated the New Testament into German.
If you’re seeking a visit to one of the most beautiful castles, this one in Germany has got you covered.
39. Peleș Castle, Romania
Built in 1914, Peles Castle falls on the newer end of the castle spectrum. However, with its Neo-Renaissance architecture and mountainside scenery, the Peles Castle definitely earns a spot among the most beautiful castles in the world.
Peles Castle is less than 80 miles (128 km) north of Romania’s capital, Bucharest.
If you made it this far into the article, here’s your reward:
Beautiful castles in the new world worth visiting
Aside from your typical European fortresses, there are other buildings around the world that resemble castles, even though they were designed for different purposes. Two grandiose structures in the new world that deserve some spotlight are the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac in Quebec City and Boldt Castle in New York.
With over 600 rooms, the Fairmont Frontenac is considered one of the most iconic and photographed hotels in the world. This luxurious property was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1890s as a château-style hotel. The Boldt Castle, located in the Thousand Islands region of New York, is a mansion-turned-museum that straddles the Saint Lawrence River. Though these structures weren’t built to be fortified castles, they certainly rival their stature.
More cool castles worth exploring around the world
I hope you’ve enjoyed this list of the best and most beautiful castles in the world! Hopefully, this article introduced you to some new places that weren’t on your radar, and has inspired you to visit these unique castles around the world. Happy travels!
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