Medieval castles were mainly built by nobles as the means to control the area surrounding them. Castles were always built in the vicinity of important travel routes, or near the important features as the mills, running water or fertile land. These defensive fortified structures were also the symbols of their power – bigger the castle, mightier the ruler. They also gathered the population of these areas and were big administrative centres.
In this collection of stunning images from 25 of the world’s most remarkable castles, you’ll see everything from the famous castles of the British monarchy (Windsor), Spanish monarchy (Alcazar of Segovia), Chinese monarchy (Summer Palace) to the mysterious Huniazi and Lichtenstein Castle. Enjoy!
1. Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland
The Eilean Donan castle dates from the 13th century and it was restored in the 20th century on the basis of existing maps. It is located in northern Scotland, on the tidal island where 3 sea lochs meet, so the castle has a magnificent view and it is one of the iconic images of Scotland. After the restoration, it is connected to the mainland by a footbridge. The castle is available for hire, and has repeatedly been featured in well-known films, such as Highlander, Loch Ness and James Bond – The World is Not Enough.
2. Huniazi Castle, Romania
The castle is also known as the Hunedoara castle, in western Romania. It is one of the largest castles in Europe and the oldest parts date from the 14th century. Its location in the mystical Transylvania and the view of the river Zlasti give the castle an almost magical aura. There are several legends that circulate about the castle. Besides the traditional ghosts and vampires, one of the legends is that the group of prisoners have dug the tunnel to escape. They have done this for 15 years to escape to freedom and died in doing so. The big tunnel is still present, the hole has never been closed.
3. Himeji Castle, Japan
One of the most spectacular castles in Japan, Himeji castle, received its present form between 1601 and 1609. The castle dates from the year 1333. and is often referred to as “White Heron Castle”, cause its shape resembles the bird taking flight. The position of the Castle is on the Himeyama hill. And it is a network of 83, mainly defensive buildings. This defensive system was considered impenetrable in the battle, and there were many of those in a turbulent feudal period in Japan.
4. Summer Palace, Beijing
The Summer Palace in Beijing is on the UNESCO Heritage List. This giant complex originates from the year 1750, but the major expansion of the palaces will take place in the 19th century under empress Cixi. The buildings and the complex give a good impression of imperial life at this country retreat. The style in which the complex is built, the beautiful view of the artificial Kunming Lake and the overwhelming size of the complex make a visit to the Summer Palace unforgettable.
5. Castle De Haar, Nederland
Kasteel de Haar is the largest castle in the Netherlands. On the outside, it looks like a medieval castle, and the history of the castle can probably be traced back to the 12th century. The current appearance is largely devoted to the influence of architect Pierre Cuypers, who rebuilt the castle since 1892 in a project funded by the Rothschild family. Both the gardens and parks are magnificent. Park contains several waterworks and more than 7,000 fully grown mature trees. The garden is as beautiful as the one in Versailles. Definitely worth a visit!
6. Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
In the year 1869 King Ludwig II of Bavaria commissioned the construction of Neuschwanstein Castle, as his personal refuge. He dreamed of a medieval knight fairy tale castle, as a homage to the composer Richard Wagner. Unfortunately, he could not enjoy it as he died in 1886. After his death, Neuschwanstein opened to the paying public and has since had over 60 million visitors. More than 1,4 million people visit the castle each year. It is an everlasting inspiration for artists, featured in several major movies, and based on this castle Walt Disney drew a company logo and the Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle.
7. Bodiam Castle, England
The Bodiam Castle was built in 1385 by Edward Knight Dalyngrigge. It is quite plausible that King Edward III of England had ordered him to do so. From this location – in the current East Sussex – the British army could defend from a possible French invasion during the Hundred Years’ War. Experts believe that this moated castle was built to impress, as well as to defend. At the beginning of the last century, the castle was restored. Since 1926 the castle is a National Trust property and opened to visitors.
8. Lichtenstein Castle, Germany
This 19th-century German castle is situated just south of Stuttgart and has a rich history. Burg Lichtenstein has stood on the same spot in the 14th century, and the present castle was built in 1840. The design is based on the design of the medieval castles which were described in 1826 in the book ‘Lichtenstein’. The stunning views, the unique design and the history of the castle add to an all-around fairytale appearance. Many of the rooms are open to visitors during the tour and give a great insight into the life of a 19th-century castle.
9. Castle Bojnice, Slovakia
The castle Bojnice, or Bojnický zámok, has a long history that can be traced back to early 12th century. The castle is rebuilt very often. There are recognisable Gothic elements in the castle and style elements of Romanticism, which were added during the remodelling of 1889. The location and the design of the castle are both imposing. The interior is as magnificent as the exterior. The guides allow visitors to take photographs inside the castle for the small tip.
10. Castle of Los Mendoza, Spain
This Spanish castle, not far from Madrid, dates from the 15th century. It is one of the best-preserved fortifications and oldest castles in Spain. The long history, the current good condition and size of the castle make it a popular attraction for tourists. Despite several restorations and renovations, you can still see much of the original castle from 1475. The beautiful location overlooking the Spanish countryside and an interesting tour where art, history and architecture overlap, make this castle a true attraction.
11. Château de Chenonceau, France
The Château de Chenonceau is a French castle that spans the River Cher, in the vicinity of the small village of Chenonceaux in the Indre-et-Loire area of the Loire Valley in France. It is one of the most visited and well-known castles of the Loire Valley.
The estate of Chenonceau is first mentioned in writing in the 11th century. The château as we now see it was built in 1514 on the foundations of an old mill and it was later extended to successfully span the river. The gardens in front of the chateau are magnificent and reminiscent the best examples of the French royal gardening style.
12. Castle of Conwy, Wales
Conwy Castle is located on the north coast of Wales. It was built in the period from 1283 to 1289. When King Edward I of England had visited this area, he stayed at Conwy Castle. The huge investment in this 8 towers castle, 15,000 £ which was a huge sum for that period, makes it the most expensive of all castles made by Edward I and also the most outstanding. The castle was under siege several times, and it was a safe haven for Richard II in 1399. It was ruined in 1655 when all of the led and iron were stripped off the castle to be sold. The final restoration started at the end of the 19th century. Conwy Castle was accepted to the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
13. Kilkenny Castle, Ireland
Ireland has a great appeal to people who love wild nature. That kind of environment provides a great setting for a castle. The history of the castle dates back to the year 1195. The location was chosen for strategic reasons: from this castle, William Marshal could overlook the nearby River Nore and a number of routes in the area.
About 400 years ago several houses were built around the castle. The city, which has arisen from that settlement, is named after the castle: Kilkenny.
14. Castle Windsor, England
For over 900 years Windsor Castle is known as the largest inhabited castle in the world and the longest-occupied palace in Europe. More than 500 people live and work in the Windsor Castle.
The original castle was built in the 11th century and the State Apartments were added in the early 19th. And the 15th-century St George’s Chapel is located inside these walls. The castle is the most expensive medieval project in England.
The private quarters of the royal family are located in the so-called Upper Ward. It is a preferred weekend home for Queen Elizabeth II.
15. Castle Miranda, Belgium
In 1866 the Liedekerke-Beaufort family hired English architect Edward Milner to design a castle. The building was completed in the same year. Miranda Castle – also known as “Home of the Noisy”‘ is located next to the farmhouse where the family was living. They used the castle as a summer residence. After World War II the Castle Miranda got another purpose. It was converted into an orphanage and sanatorium for children. Nowadays, Miranda Castle stands empty and in a derelict state. Even in this condition, it is a famous destination for urban explorers.
16. Alcázar of Segovia, Spain
El Alcázar de Segovia – The Segovia Fortress – is located in a little city of the same name in Spain. The city and the castle are situated on a triangular peak above the confluence of two rivers, Clamores and Eresma.
In the eleventh century, King Alfonso VI commissioned the construction of the castle. It was a key defence point of the country and the favourite residence of the Monarchs of Castille. It had a big role in the rise of Queen Isabelle I. She took refuge in the castle in 1474 and was enthroned the next day as the Queen of Castile and León. It served as a state prison for two centuries after the royal court moved to Madrid. The castle was later used as Royal Artillery School, and from 1896 as the military college.
It is now one of the most popular historical sites and major attractions in Spain. Also, the castle was used as the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle.
17. Mont Saint Michel, France
If you know that Mont Saint Michel is the third tourist hotspot of France, then you can as well assume that it is a special location. Only 44 people actually live within the walls of this place that is visited by more than 3,000,000 tourists each year. The medieval abbey is built on a rocky tidal island in a bay near the mouth of the Couesnon river. The statue of St Michael – on the tower of the abbey church – rises 170 meters above the bay. In 1979, UNESCO listed the island along with the abbey to its World Heritage List. You can visit the complex on foot crossing a narrow pedestrian bridge.
18. Castle Butron, Spain
Butron Castle in northern Spain, near Bilbao, is an enchanting castle whose history begins in the Middle Ages. It is the largest medieval castle in the world. The current appearance of the castle is partly thanks to the renovations in the 19th century. The panoramic view over the Spanish countryside, the vast area of the castle and the beautiful architecture give the castle a special allure. Unfortunately, only the grounds are now open for visitors, and not the structure itself.
19. Bled Castle, Slovenia
This medieval castle is located on a hundred-meter cliff overhanging the lake Bled. The oldest part is a tower in Romanesque style, while the other buildings were constructed in the Renaissance style. In addition to the breathtaking views from the castle, this place has a rich history – it was the summer residence of the Serbian Royal dynasty for many years.
20. Bamburgh Castle, England
This 12th-century castle has a long history that begins in the Iron Age. It is one of the largest inhabited castles in England with fantastic views of the British countryside and the North Sea. Part of the castle is open to visitors and a museum is decorated with all kinds of objects found during excavations around the castle. The castle provides a unique insight into the history of this area near the Scottish border.
21. Saladin Citadel, Egypt
The Saladin Citadel in Cairo dates back to the Middle Ages and is a unique example of Arab architecture of that time. Inside the castle walls, you can find mosques and museums, including a prison museum.
22. Carcassonne, France
The ancient walled city of Carcassonne is on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997 for a reason. The original centre of this fortified medieval town was completely restored in a maze of small streets and squares reminiscent of days gone by. The castle is largely accessible during the tours and offers information about the history and a glimpse into the life of that time. Besides a beautiful view, you can also enjoy great wines from this famous wine-making region.
23. Nakhal Fort, Oman
This immense fortress probably dates from the pre-Islamic era but was rebuilt by Omani architects in the 17th century. It is very impressive and houses a museum with a great collection of historic guns and a weekly goat market.
24. Hochosterwitz Castle, Austria
The first mention of The Castle Hochosterwitz was in 860. It was built on a dolomite rock 170m above the valley and is accessible by walking the long path, 700 metres, through 14 gates up to the castle. No major changes were made to the castle from the 16th century. It is visible from the distance of 30km on a clear day. The location and the design make this castle one of the most outstanding examples of medieval castle and fortress in Europe.
25. Warwick Castle, England
This medieval castle originates from 1068 and was built by William the Conqueror. It is located in Warwick town on the bend of the Avon river. It is a major tourist location, visited by more than half a million tourists each year. It is Grade I listed building and won the awards for the best castle in Britain in 2003.