12 Best Greek Castles
Archaeology and antiquity buffs can gain a better understanding of the complex history of Greece by exploring the castles, or in some cases, ruins of castles, that dot the different islands.
From a stone castle built into a cliffside by hand to an elegant castle estate, there is a wide range of castles to be found in the state of Arizona as well as castles of interest to just about every visitor to the American Southwest.
Archaeology and antiquity buffs can gain a better understanding of the complex history of Greece by exploring the castles, or in some cases, ruins of castles, that dot the different islands.
Neuschwanstein Castle, known as Schloss Neuschwanstein in German, is a 19th century palace sitting atop a hill near the village of Hohenschwangau in the southwestern part o fBavaria.
Some of the best castles in Portugal include the National Palace of Pena, Belém Tower, Castle of the Moors, and Guimarães Castle.
The idea of fairytale castles typically conjures images of medieval Europe rather than the United States, but if you know where to look, America is full of beautiful castles and chateaus as well.
More Amazing Castles Around the World
Castles conjure fantastical images of princes and princesses, knights and regal kings, moats and draw bridges, and even the occasional dragon! Many of these magical castles were built during the Middle Ages and have survived the test of time, standing as beautiful icons of a bygone age. Europe is the home to the most breathtaking castles in the world, some of which seem to float on water while others are perched on the top of high mountain peaks. Take a journey back in time with a visit to some of these magnificent citadels.
Aggstein Castle is a ruined 12th-century castle that sits high above the Danube on the hills of the Dunkelsteinerwald Forest in Wachau, Austria. Built by the Kuenring family in the early 12th century, the castle’s layout remains and features a knight’s hall, a dungeon, spacious courtyards, a chapel, hidden stairways, and soaring towers. The castle is also home to the famous and somewhat misleading Rose Garden (Rosengärtlein) – a rock ledge captured prisoners could choose their fate – starve or leap to their death. Guided audio-tours explore all parts of the castle and visitors can soak up the magnificent views of the surrounding landscapes from viewing platforms access by wooden staircases. Annuals highlights include the Spring and the Christmas Markets.
Aggstein, 3642 Aggsbach Dorf, Austria, Phone: +43-2-75-38-22-81
The Gravensteen is an ancient medieval castle at Ghent in East Flanders, Belgium, that is famous for being a house of torture and injustice. Originally built as a small wooden castle in 1180 by the Counts of Flanders who lived in it until 1353, the fairytale fortress that we see today was constructed later by the pompous Count Philip of Alcase as a symbol of the power and wealth. The prison went on to become a prison and courthouse and became infamous for the inhabitable subterranean dungeons in which criminals lived and the barbaric torture they underwent. The castle was almost razed at the end of the 1800s due to its abominable reputation but was saved by a preservation group and restored to its former glory with a decorative moat on three sides.
Sint-Veerleplein 11, 9000 Gent, Belgium, Phone: +32-92-25-93-06
Château d'Amboise (Castle of Amboise)
Nestled in the Loire Valley in France, the Château d'Amboise is a grand castle that has played a unique role in French history. Set in Amboise with panoramic views over the Loire River, the château became a royal residence in the 15th century after being confiscated by the monarchy and was extensively rebuilt with Italian-style architectural accents. The castle hosts a breath-taking sound and light show with 250 performers and equestrian stuntmen that brings the splendor and intrigues of life in the Court of Charles VIII back to life. Don’t miss a visit to the Chapel of Saint-Hubert just outside the main château, which is one of the Château’s hidden gems.
Montée de l'Emir Abd el Kader, 37400 Amboise, France, Phone: +33-2-47-57-00-98
Schloss Hohenschwangau (
Hohenschwangau Castle)The Hohenschwangau Castle is a 19th-century palace located in the German village of Hohenschwangau in southern Germany that was the childhood residence of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. Built by his father, King Maximilian II of Bavaria, the castle fell into disrepair and was rebuilt in 1832 in the Gothic style by the Crown Prince Maximilian II of Bavaria (later King Max II) and was used as a summer and hunting residence. Today, the castle is open to the public, and visitors can explore the grand royal apartments, which are decorated with scenes from medieval legends and poetry, the kitchen, and the beautifully manicured gardens.
Alpseestraße 30, 87645 Schwangau, Germany, Phone: +49-83-62-93-08-30
Resting atop a hill surrounded by dense forests in Rheinland-Palatine, which is also known as the Moselle wine region famous for Riesling wine, Eltz Castle is a magical medieval castle with spectacular panoramic views over the Elzbach River. Located between Cochem and Koblenz, near the Mosel River in the Eltztal, the 80-room castle has been occupied by the Eltz family since the 12th century and still looks much like it did 850 years ago. It is one of the few in the area that survived the Thirty Years’ War, and legend has it that it is haunted with the ghosts of medieval knights. Visitors can reach the castle by one of two trails on opposite sides of the valley.
Burg Eltz 1, Wierschem, Germany, Phone: +49-26-72-95-05-00
Nestled in the center of Vienna, the Hofburg is Vienna's Imperial Palace that was once the residence of the Habsburg dynasty rulers until the and today serves as the official residence and workplace of the President of Austria. Built in the 13th century and continually expanded over the following centuries, the sprawling 59-acre Vienna Hofburg is one of the largest palace complexes in the world, reflecting more than 700 years of architectural history and styles ranging from Gothic and Renaissance to Baroque and Rococo, and boasting 18 groups of buildings, 19 courtyards, and 2,600 rooms. The area around the Hofburg houses several major attractions including the Natural History Museum, the Imperial Chapel, and the world-renowned Spanish Riding School.
Michaelerkuppel, 1010 Wien, Austria
Pele? Castle is an elaborately decorated, fairytale-like Neo-Renaissance castle in the Carpathian Mountains, near Sinaia in Romania that was built between 1873 and 1914 for King Carol I. Located on an existing medieval route linking Transylvania and Wallachia, the ornate 160-room royal palace took a decade to complete and featured a concert hall, a movie theater decorated with frescoes by world-renowned Austrian artists Franz von Matsch and Gustav Klimt, and an ornate music room with antique teak furniture that was once used as a salon by Queen Elizabeth. The castle was seized and closed between 1975 and 1990 when Romania fell under Communist rule and reopened to the public as a museum after the revolution of 1989. The castle can be explored on docent-led guided tours.
Aleea Pele?ului 2, Sinaia 106100, Romania
Château de Chambord (Castle of Chambord)
The Château de Chambord is a vast palatial Renaissance in Chambord, Loir-et-Cher, France that boasts breathtaking and distinctive French Renaissance architecture, making it one of the most recognizable châteaux in the world. Blending classical Renaissance style with traditional French medieval forms, the exquisite mansion is an outstanding example of the transition from medieval-era fortified castles to grand homes of the Renaissance. Commissioned in 1519 by King François I as a hunting lodge and completed 28 years later, the fortress has 440 rooms, 365 fireplaces, 84 staircases, and 800 sculpted capitals, including a double helix staircase thought to be designed by Leonardo da Vinci.
Château, 41250 Chambord, France
La Cité de Carcassonne (Citadel of Carcassonne)
Overlooking the River Aude in Carcassonne in the Aude-Languedoc-Roussillon region of Southern France, the Cité de Carcassonne is a medieval citadel dating back to the Gallo-Roman period and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The historic fortress is famous for its long double surrounding walls which stretch for almost two miles, interspersed by 52 towers and has been inhabited by a variety of clans and cultures over its 2,500-year history, including Romans, Visigoths, Saracens, and Crusaders. La Cité of Carcassonne was restored to its former glory at the end of the 19th century and is the largest citadel with its walls still wholly intact in Europe.
1 Rue Viollet le Duc, 11000 Carcassonne, France, Phone: +33-4-68-11-70-70
Himeji Castle is a spectacular 17th-century Japanese castle complex that rests on a hilltop in Himeji overlooking the Inland Sea. Considered the epitome of the Japanese feudal castle, Himeji-jo is an outstanding example of early 17th-century Japanese castle architecture, a masterpiece of construction in wood unified by white plastered earthen walls, earning it the moniker of ‘White Heron Castle’ due to its resemblance to a great bird taking flight. The castle complex is comprised of 83 buildings that combine function with aesthetic appeal and feature highly developed systems of defense designed during the Shogun period. Himeji Castle is reached by a 30-minute bullet train from Osaka and Kobe.
68 Honmachi, Himeji, Hyogo 670-0012, Japan
Unrivaled in its beauty and magnificent state of preservation, Angkor Wat is described, quite literally, as ‘heaven on earth’ and has earned its place as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. This majestic structure lies at the heart of the 154-square mile Angkor Archaeological Park and contains scores of other Khmer temples dating back to the ninth century. Representing one of humanity's most astonishing architectural achievements, the temples were built by the Khmer civilization’s King Suryavarman II between 802 and 1220 AD as a miniature replica of the universe in stone and an earthly model of the cosmic world. Orientated to the west, which is symbolically the direction of death, the magnificent pantheon is thought to have served both as a temple and as a mausoleum for the king.
Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Gyeongbokgung, also known as Gyeongbokgung Palace or Gyeongbok Palace, is a beautiful royal palace in northern Seoul, South Korea that was built during the Joseon Dynasty in the 1930s. The first of the royal palaces to be created by the sovereignty of the Joseon Dynasty, Gyeongbokgung is the largest of the Five Grand Palaces, which include Changdeokgung Palace, Changgyeonggung Palace, Deoksugung Palace, and Gyeonghuigung Palace. The buildings that were damaged during the Japanese occupation have been beautifully restored by the Korean government, and visitors can now also explore the National Folk Museum of Korea and the National Palace Museum of Korea in the palace grounds.
161 Sajik-to, Sejongno, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea, Phone: +82-2-37-00-39-00
At the heart of Beijing is the Forbidden City, the largest palace complex in the world and once home to the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties. First built during the reign of Emperor Chengzu in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the ancient Chinese believed the emperor was said to be a son of Heaven, and therefore Heaven’s supreme power was bestowed upon him. Exquisitely decorated in the royal color of yellow, the immaculate design, and the layout of the 870 buildings in the palace represent the essence of traditional Chinese architecture. Known today as the Palace Museum and listed as a World Cultural Heritage Site, it is home to numerous rare treasures and curiosities collected over five centuries of imperial rule.
4 Jingshan Front St, Dongcheng, Beijing, China, 100009, Phone: +86-10-85-00-74-21
Castillo de Belmonte (Castle of Belmonte)
Resting on a hill above San Cristobal, just outside the village of Belmonte in the southwest of the province of Cuenca in Spain, the Castillo de Belmonte is a beautifully restored medieval castle and a historic monument within the National Artistic Treasury. Built in 1456, the medieval castle was constructed as a fortress-palace to defend attacks and was once a royal residence and a prison, and today is open to the public as a museum and a historic venue for celebrating special events. The castle features significant architectural details such as a pentagonal shape, a Gothic façade at the entrance gate, a ‘tortured structure’ on the ground level, and Neo-gothic style interiors with luxurious Mudejar ceilings and vast galleries. National and International medieval combat tournaments are held at the castle in May and June.
Calle Eugenia de Montijo, s/n, 16640 Belmonte, Cuenca, Spain
Set on the Central Coast of California, Hearst Castle is a California and National Historic Landmark that was once the principal residence of William Randolph Hearst. Also known as La Casa Grande, meaning ‘big house,’ the castle was designed in 1919 by architect Julia Morgan in the Mediterranean Revival style and is renowned for its grandeur and opulence. The mansion spans 68,500 square feet and boasts a façade that reflects a Spanish cathedral complete with bell towers and ornate decorations, 115 rooms, including 38 bedrooms, 40 bathrooms, a beauty salon, and a theater. The mansion is filled with an extensive collection of antiques and artworks owned by Hearst.
750 Hearst Castle Rd, San Simeon, CA 93452
Built on several islands in a lake formed by the River Len in Kent, England, Leeds Castle has a rich and varied history from being a Norman stronghold in the early 12th century and the private property of six of England’s medieval queens to a palace used by Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon and an elegant early 20th century retreat for the rich and famous. Surrounded by 500 acres of pristine parkland and gardens and the tranquil waters of a moat, the castle today is one of 57 heritage sites in England open to the public and features a maze, a golf course, two castle-themed children's adventure play areas, and the world's only museum of dog collars.
Maidstone ME17 1PL, United Kingdom, Phone: +44-16-22-76-54-00
Once home to the kings of ancient Northumbria, Bamburgh Castle is a medieval stronghold near the village of Bamburgh on the northeast coast of England and one of Northumberland's most iconic buildings. While today’s castle is a relatively new structure, the site of Bamburgh Castle boasts a long and storied history dating back to prehistoric times and includes feting royal guests and English kings, including Edward IV, who destroyed it in the Wars of the Roses. The castle was restored to its former glory at enormous cost during late Victorian times by famed industrialist the first Lord Armstrong and still stands as the ancestral home to the Armstrong family.
Bamburgh NE69 7DF, United Kingdom, Phone: +44-16-68-21-45-15
Possibly one of the most famous castles in Europe, Windsor Castle is an 11th-century medieval castle in the English county of Berkshire that has been the home of British royalty for centuries. Surrounded by 13 acres of pristine gardens and grounds, the castle features a palace, a fortification, and a small town and is home to more than 500 people who live and work there. The castle boasts a Georgian and Victorian design with Gothic features and beautiful 19th century Georgian-style interiors filled with impressive works of art and sculptures. The fully-operating Windsor Castle still functions as a home to Queen Elizabeth II, who spends her weekends there, and it is the longest-standing still-occupied castle in Europe.
Windsor and Maidenhead SL4 1NJ, United Kingdom
Located in Beaumaris in Anglesey, Wales, Beaumaris Castle is a massive stronghold that was built during King Edward I's campaign to conquer north Wales in the late 13th century. Built in 1295 following the Madog ap Llywelyn uprising, Beaumaris Castle was the last and most significant of the castles to be constructed by King Edward I and remains as one of the finest examples of medieval military architecture in Britain today. The castle is built with an almost geometric symmetry with a high inner ring of defenses surrounded by a lower outer circuit of walls making it the ultimate "concentric" castle. A fascinating exhibition on the ‘Castles of Edward I in Wales’ can be seen in the little chapel based in the Beaumaris Tower, which features vaulted ceiling and pointed windows that make it one of the highlights of the castle.
Castle St, Beaumaris LL58 8AP, United Kingdom
Lednice Chateau is a jewel in the crown of the magnificent Lednice-Valtice area, which stretches 125-square miles in the south-eastern Czech Republic and is one of the finest examples of landscape architecture in Europe. The 19th-century Neo-Gothic-style castle is surrounded by one of Europe's largest parks and formal gardens and features spectacular attractions such as a Roman aqueduct, a Venetian fountain, a Chinese Pavilion, a minaret, the Palm-house, and the romantic John's Castle. Visitors to the castle can enjoy guided tours that explore the Representative rooms, the Private Princely apartments, the Children's room, the Puppet Museum, and the artificial baroque cave of the Grotta, which is said to be haunted.
Zámek 1, 691 44 Lednice, Czechia, Phone: +42-05-19-34-01-28
Perched high above the city of Edinburgh on the ancient volcanic outcrop known as Castle Rock, the massive fortress of Edinburgh Castle is a Scottish beauty that has been occupied since the second century. Dominating the skyline of the capital city of Scotland, the historic citadel has survived at least 26 significant attacks during its 1,100-year lifespan and has changed ownership between the Scottish and the English several times. Today, the castle protects Britain's oldest crown jewels known as the Honors of Scotland and hosts the annual Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, as well as many living history events, arms and weapons demonstrations, and music concerts. Bygone military mascots are buried in the castle's Dog Cemetery.
Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG, United Kingdom, Phone: +44-13-12-25-98-46
Trakošcan Castle is a fairytale fortress in Hrvatsko zagorje, near Varaždin in northern Croatia dating back to the 13th century. Surrounded by magnificent park-style grounds with a tranquil lake, the castle boasts a rich history of almost 800 years beginning as a small defense system for north-western Croatia and standing today as one of the most beautiful castles in the 19th century. The castle is home to a museum that boasts a valuable collection of artworks, weapons, furniture and priceless objects dating back to the Renaissance age that represents the life of the Draškovic family in Trakošcan. Visitors can explore the natural wonders of the forest park Trakošcan on the three-mile educational path Puta Vila (Fairy Path), which features 20 interpretive signs, and a quaint fisherman's cottage.
Trakošcan 4, 42253, Bednja, Croatia, Phone: +385-42-79-62-81
Boasting spectacular panoramic views of the city, Prague Castle is a castle complex in Prague, the Czech Republic that was built in the 9th century and is the official office of the President of the Czech Republic. Standing as the seat of power for kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman emperors, and presidents of Czechoslovakia, the castle has been an iconic symbol of the Czech state for more than a thousand years and is one of the largest complexes in the world, comprised of historical palaces, fortification buildings, churches, formal gardens, and picturesque nooks and crannies. Major attractions in the castle complex include the Old Royal Palace, St Vitus Cathedral, no less than ten formal gardens, and the Golden Lane - a row of 16th-century cottages that once housed the castle guards. Guided tours of the castle are offered during daylight and evening hours.
Hradcany, 119 08 Prague 1, Czechia, Phone: +42-02-24-37-33-68
Perched on a rocky tidal island nearly a mile off the coast of Normandy in France, where the bays of Brittany and Normandy emerge, Mont Saint Michel was built as a Benedictine abbey in the late 10th century and is one of Europe’s most unforgettable sights today. Magnificent monastic buildings were added to the monastery through medieval times, which became a renowned center of learning and attracting some of the greatest minds and manuscript illuminators in Europe. Today, the abbey and the island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which is connected and disconnected from the mainland daily by strong tides. During the low tide, the island can be reached on foot, and is visited by hundreds of tourists each day.
Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, 50170, France, Phone: +33-2-33-60-14-30
Schloss Neuschwanstein (Neuschwanstein Castle)
Perched high on a hill above the village of Hohenschwangau in southwest Bavaria, the Neuschwanstein Castle (Schloss Neuschwanstein in German) is a fairy tale fortress akin to those found in storybook illustrations. Designed to reflect the moving operas of Richard Wagner and romantic principles of the Middle Ages against a backdrop of breathtaking views of the snowcapped Alps, the spectacular Romanesque Revival palace, and Bavarian masterpiece was built by King Ludwig II in the late 1800s. Today, the castle is one of the most visited in the world, seeing more than 1.5 million visitors every year.
Neuschwansteinstraße 20, 87645 Schwangau, Germany