5 Iconic Castles in Europe
Europe is full of majestic castles, ancient structures that served to defend villages hundreds of years ago. They were built to last on hills, rocks, or surrounded by moats to withstand attacks from invaders. Many of these stone fortresses survive up to this day, frozen in time to give visitors a glimpse of what it must be like to live in power in the past.
There are thousands of castles existing in Europe today—some are in ruins while others are kept in better shape. No matter their style, look, or current condition, they all evoke a sense of melancholy and wonder in us; what must it be like to live in a castle, to be a real-life princess, or to be a damsel in distress needing to be rescued by a knight?
We may never know, but visiting castles and seeing and feeling the ancient stones themselves gives free rein to our imaginations. So when you find yourself in Europe, make sure to visit some (or all) of the castles we are recommending below to give you a chance to appreciate ancient history. They all have the character and history that sets them apart from other castles in Europe.
The Fairytale Castle of Neuschwanstein, Germany
Ask any child to draw a castle, and it would be Neuschwanstein that would come to mind. If this castle looks familiar, it’s probably because it has grown to be the face of what a fairytale castle should look like. It was the template used by Disney in its castles, and it has inspired a lot of literary and artistic works worldwide as well.
Neuschwanstein, located in the small village of Hohenschwagau in Germany, is the most photographed castle in the world, with its tall turrets, white towers, and Middle Ages-inspired décor.
Coupled with its isolation and its history—mad King Ludwig II had it built in 1869 as a homage to German composer and opera conductor Richard Wagner—it has fascinated people through the years, so much so that over a million visit it every year.
Predjama: The Picturesque Castle on the Cliffs of Slovenia
Predjama Castle, home of the rebel knight Erazem in the 15th century, the so-called “robber baron,” is the image of a powerful and impregnable stronghold. It looks imposing, perched proudly on a cave mouth for over 700 years. It remains remarkably well-preserved, especially the chapel, the requisite dungeons, and the living quarters.
Aside from the number of historical artifacts that make it worthwhile to visit, there is also a passage from that castle that leads to an observation post on the cliffs, giving wonderful views of the countryside. From there, the entrance to the legendary Erazem’s Tunnel, used when the castle was under attack, can be seen.
Pedjama Castle, located in the village with the same name in Slovenia, reminds people of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Helm’s Deep. With its picturesque views, colorful and bloody history, dungeons, and secret tunnels, it’s definitely a must visit for all castle lovers worldwide.
Malbork, The World’s Largest Castle in the World
If size is your thing, a must-visit is Malbork Castle in Poland, the largest castle in Europe, surface wise. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, the castle was built in 1274 to accommodate all the knights living there, believed to number over 3,000 at one time.
A classic Gothic medieval fortress, Malbork used to be a residence of Polish kings. There are three separate subdivisions, the high, middle, and lower castles and all are separated by dry moats and towers.
Peles Castle, One of the Most Beautiful in the World
Peles Castle, considered by many to be one of the most beautiful castles in Europe, is nestled in a picturesque town called Sinaia in Romania. King Carol I fell in love with the land and ordered its construction in 1873. While it combines elements of several architectural styles, it is the German Renaissance influence that dominates the structure and gives it its stunning beauty.
There are over 160 rooms in Peles Castle, with around 35 open to the public. It is now a museum and a must-see destination in Romania.
The Mysterious Bran Castle, Romania
Perhaps the most mysterious castle in Europe with an intriguing history, Bran Castle is a must-see, especially those who are fascinated with the legend of Count Dracula.
Known as Dracula’s Castle, Bran Castle is located outside the village of Bran in Transylvania. It was originally built of wood in 1212 by Knights of the Teutonic Order and had been rebuilt in stone after being completely destroyed by the Mongols in 1242.
Its eerie surroundings, supernatural tales, and close ties with Bram Stoker’s most famous character, all contributed to make Bran Castle one of Romania’s most famous landmarks and the top tourist attraction in the country.
There are thousands of other castles in Europe but these five all hold their top places due to their size, intrigue, fairytale likeness, outstanding beauty, or romantic atmosphere. If you love castles, romance, and mystery, visiting any of these timeless beauties will not disappoint you.