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Here's a look at our favorite castles around the world!
One of the great pleasures of touristic travel is the discovery and explorations of castles all over the world, but most seem to be concentrated in Europe. Castles go by many different names - Burg in Germany, Chateau in France, Alcazar in Spain, and so on. Not only are they architectural masterpieces, but many have artistic horticulture landscapes that amaze (and some are a maze!). One note about England and its overabundance of famous and fabulous castles…they’ve got such an extensive embarrassment of riches when it comes to castles, England really deserves its own list, so we’ll leave it for another time. Here are some of our favorites, not in any particular order…
Burg Eltz - Mosel River region of Germany. Our favorite! 12th century medieval castle in the middle of a remote forest in one of our favorite corners of Germany - the Mosel River valley. Great tour, and the 33rd generation family still lives there! Pick up the little shuttle down from the parking lot. Also a perfect setting for lunch. So out of the way relative to all the other castles around the Mosel and Rhine rivers, crowds are sparse. And Jen’s waving from the restaurant terrace in this one!
Château de Chambord - Loire Valley of France. Granddaddy of them all! 16th century renaissance castle. So big and bold, it has a fireplace for each day of the year, 365 in all! Nice tour…make your way to the roof for towers and cupolas all around. Great moat reflection view, surrounded by massive forests. Loads of crowds.
Neuschwanstein Castle - Bavarian alps region of Germany. 19th century Romanesque revival. Fairy tale castle was the inspiration for Disney’s castle. Amazing views all around, from the valley floor to the mountain bridge overlook. One of the most touristic castles in the world, and maybe the most crowded of them all.
Eilean Donan Castle - On the road to the Isle of Skye in Scotland. 13th century castle in the Highlands of Scotland situated on a tidal island where three sea lochs meet. The most popular and most recognized castle in Scotland. The views from most any angle make this incredibly picturesque. Probably best from a bit of a distance. Many movies have been shot here, including Highlander and the James Bond movie, The World is Not Enough.
Predjama Castle - Karst region of Slovenia. Originally built around the 12th century, the present day castle was built during the 16th century in the Renaissance style, but that’s not what makes this castle unique…it’s built into the mouth of a cave! Considered an impregnable fortification. Not the greatest interior, so grab a snack from the little shop and admire from a distance.
Château de Chenonceau - Loire Valley of France. 16th century distinctive renaissance architecture. My wife’s favorite because it’s just so elegant and feminine. The sculpted gardens are magnificent and afford great views, and the fact that the river flows through the place, makes this one grand regardless of perspective. Beautiful interior, with over the top furnishings and detail. Interesting history. Can be incredibly crowded.
Bouzov Castle - Moravia region of the Czech Republic. 14th century romantic gothic style fortress. Out in the middle of nowhere, you won’t run into any crowds at this gem. Nice little tour, but when we visited, had to wait on the staff to get back from lunch break! Had a nice beer from the little restaurant overlooking the place while we waited…pretty much the view you see here. Love these out of the way spots.
Château de Bonaguil - Lot-et-Garonne department of France. 13th century medieval castle - actually the last medieval style fortress to be constructed in France. Awe-inspiring ruins not to be missed when visiting the Dordogne and Lot river valleys while castle hopping the region. Out of the way a bit, and the lack of crowds reflect this.
Wawel Castle - Krakow, Poland. 16th century palace known as the ancient seat of royalty, plus, the Polish crown jewels are housed here. Set on the hill overlooking the river, this castle is unusual in that it’s actually many different structures. Great tour, if not exhausting. A must do while in the beautiful city of Krakow, along with the tasty Perogies. Can be very crowded, only because it’s so accessible.
Château de Beynac - along the Dordogne River, France. 12th century medieval castle. High on a vertical cliff directly overlooking a dramatic bend in the Dordogne River, the setting for this incredible fortress is impressive. Whether on the cliff in the courtyard, or hundreds of feet below along the river, the views are awesome! The quaint little towns in this area are amazing with cuisine to match! Lots of castles in the area, so crowds are minimal.
Pena Palace - Sintra, Portugal just outside Lisbon. 19th century romanticist castle. If you like your castles fanciful and over the top, this one’s for you…colorful, crenelated, and straight out of a fairy-tale. Beautiful parklands offer great views and other amazing attractions like the ruins of the cliff-top Moorish 10th century castle, Castelo dos Mouros. Loads of people around.
Château de Pierrefonds - A behemoth, overlooking the town of the same name. This thing just feels huge, especially standing on the drawbridge looking up. Originally built in the 14th century, Napoleon III had the ruins recreated in the 19th century. Awe-inspiring in its size and design, tour the entire thing. TV series Merlin filmed here. Cute town below with, of course, great French food, especially at the Hotel Beaudon’s brasserie. Even though only an hour from Paris, not too many people around.
De Haar Castle - Dutch countryside of The Netherlands. 19th century rebuild of a medieval style castle surrounded by a moat and very pretty gardens. De Haar is the largest and most luxurious castle in The Netherlands. Although beautiful, you won’t fight crowds here.
Conwy Castle - north coast of Wales. 13th century medieval fortification built by King Edward I during his conquest of Wales. Nice tour of the towers and walking the walls offer views over the bay. Great little town for exploring and close to the mountains of Snowdonia National Park. The Welsh culture is fascinating and is often overlooked when visiting the more popular countries of the U.K. Crowds aren’t too tough.
Château de Villandry - Loire Valley of France. 18th century refurbished castle. Skip the chateau and hit the famous Renaissance gardens…wow! These sculpted gardens are really what everyone comes for - you won’t be disappointed. Can be a little crowded but it spreads out pretty well, keeping it peaceful.
Alcázar of Segovia - World Heritage site north of Madrid. 12th century fortress, now restored. Climb to the top for fabulous views overlooking the city and surrounding countryside. Considered a ship shaped fortress, with its location at the tip of a rock promontory, the castle is probably the most famous and visited in Spain. Crowds are not too bad as there’s plenty to see and do in Segovia.
Blarney Castle - near Cork, in the south of Ireland. 15th century medieval stronghold. Famously known for the Blarney Stone, so don’t miss climbing to the top for the “kiss!” Kissing the Barney Stone (The Stone of Eloquence) is said to give “The Gift of Gab” to anyone dangling upside down to kiss the rock. Don’t worry, there’s someone there to help. Yes, it’s cheesy, so what! No matter how long you wait, we’ll bet it puts a smile on your face.
Reichsburg Castle - in Cochem, Germany. 19th century (originally 11th century) neo-gothic castle along the Mosel River atop a hill overlooking the romantic little town. One of many in this region, but just about the most visually impressive regardless of the direction of your approach. Directly overlooking the river, the tour here not only delivers cool richly decorated interiors, but amazing views up and down the Mosel. Another bonus here is the wine and the stunning steep slope vineyards. Crowds are easily beaten here.
Biltmore Estate - Asheville, North Carolina. Yes! There are castles in America, they just won’t be quite as old. 19th century French Renaissance Chateau built by, and for, the George Vanderbilt family. The largest home in America, known for its luxury, elegance and charm. Majestic and grand, the Biltmore sits on 8,000 spectacular acres, including beautiful gardens. Very crowded most of the time, and very expensive compared to all the others featured.
Frederiksborg Castle - north of Copenhagen, Denmark. 17th century Dutch Renaissance royal residence, now a museum. Baroque formal gardens sit just outside the castle’s full lake moat. Great views all around, and the interior tour includes an amazing collection of Dutch art. It’s an easy place to visit and not crowded.
Honorable mentions, with many omissions!
Belgium, with many impressive castles, here are two of the prettiest…
The Loire Valley of France, with an incredible number of castles, and some already featured, here are three more…
The Dordogne River region of France, with chateau dotting the landscape, here are two more in addition to what’s already featured…Jen in the doorway of the first one.
Italy, not really known for their castles, has a few that really impress…here’s a quickie, in Fontanellato…
We'd love to hear from you, especially if you've got a favorite castle we didn't feature, a comment about one of the above, or anything else you'd like to share...thanks for participating! Dean