Castles have long inspired tales of nobility and heroics. The idea of a hero slaying a dragon to save a princess owes most its inspiration to the European castles of the Middle Ages. Many of them have been battered by wars and time, but the elegance of several castles has remained. The perseverance of those on this list make them the perfect setting the next time you dream about heroic tales from the past.
Alcázar of Segovia – Segovia, Spain
What better way to start this list than the castle that Walt Disney used as his inspiration for the castle in Cinderella. Built sometime in the 1100’s, Alcázar of Segovia is about an hour drive from Madrid. RADTIP: While in Segovia, check out one of the largest remains of a Roman aqueduct, located 5 minutes from the castle.
Mont Saint-Michel – Normandy, France
Completed in 1523, this abbey was turned into a fortress, and then back to a prison. Currently, it’s a commune with a population of 44 people, and at high tide it boasts the single best water barrier in the world.
Neuschwanstein Castle – Hohenschwangau, Germany
Initially built as a private residence for King Ludgwig II, this castle was opened to the public in 1886, a mere 7 weeks after his death. Sixty-one million people have visited this private castle that served as the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty.
Durham Castle – Durham, England
Castles, monarchy, nobility: all words synonymous with the United Kingdom. This castle was donated to the University of Durham and was a filming location for Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone.
Balmoral Castle – Royal Deeside, Scotland
First occupied in 1390, Balmoral is Scotland’s finest castle. Prince Albert purchased the property in 1852, and has been the Scottish home of the Royal Family ever since.
Hohensalzburg Castle – Salzburg, Austria
Austria’s only castle to never have been conquered stands high above the town of Salzburg. Construction began in 1077, and was later expanded in the late 15th century making this one of the largest castles in all of Europe.
Kilkenny Castle – Kilkenny, Ireland
Built in 1195 and was later sold to the people of Kilkenny for only 50 pounds. Kilkenny is one of the most popular tourist attractions in all of Ireland, and is a two-hour train ride from Dublin.
Prague Castle – Prague, Czech Republic
The current official residence of the President of the Czech Republic, this castle is the largest ancient castle in the world. Several buildings make up the castle complex, with St. Vitus Cathedral being the can’t-miss stop for any visit.
Windsor Castle – Windsor, England
The oldest and largest occupied castle in the world in the preferred weekend residence of the Queen of England. Witness the world famous Changing of the Guards, Henry the VIII’s resting place and some of the finest collection of art & jewelry in the world.
Chillon Castle – Vaud, Switzerland
Located on the shore of Lake Geneva, Chillon Castle is our third castle turned into a Disney movie. The first written record of the castle was in 1005, and almost a thousand years later The Little Mermaid designed it’s walls after this remarkable building.
Castle of the Teutonic Order – Malbork, Poland
The reddish exterior represents this castle being the world’s largest brick castle. Founded and built by the Teutonic Order, a German Catholic religious order of crusaders.
Hochosterwitz Castle – Sankt Veit an der Glan, Austria
Imagine the epic hide-and-seek games that could be played on this Dolomite rock castle built in 860. Fourteen fortified gates surround the courtyard, and the armory contains weapons left by Napoleon.
Corvin Castle – Hunedoara, Romania
Housed in the Transylvania region, this gothic castle owes its spookiness to having held Vlad the Impaler in its dungeons in the 1400’s. Corvin Castle was later used as the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.