From medieval fortresses to a Japanese palace, these are the 13 most breathtaking castles that should be on every traveler’s bucket list. Spread across Europe and beyond, they offer a glimpse into a bygone era of knights, nobles, and extravagant architecture.
|Alhambra of Granada 🇪🇸
|Medieval complex housing palaces, carved Moorish throne room & cloistered courtyards with fountains.
|Prague Castle in the Czech Republic 🇨🇿
|Vast castle complex with buildings revealing architecture from Roman-style to Gothic & 20th century.
|Alcázar of Segovia, Segovia, Spain 🇪🇸
|Romantic medieval castle restored after fire with ornately decorated rooms & an armoury museum.
|Bojnice Castle, Bojnice, Slovakia 🇸🇰
|Daily & night tours of a hilltop, neo-gothic castle with a museum, landscaped gardens & cave.
|St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall, England 🇬🇧
|Island home to a medieval castle, reached by causeway, with Norman church and sub-tropical gardens.
|Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany 🇩🇪
|Turreted, 19th-century, hilltop castle built for King Ludwig II, with tours of furnished rooms.
|Himeji Castle, Himeji, Japan 🇯🇵
|Iconic circa-1613 castle known for a white facade, plus towers, moats, passageways & cherry trees.
|Corvin Castle, Hunedoara, Romania 🇷🇴
|Renaissance fortress rebuilt in the 19th century, with Gothic towers & a history museum.
|Eltz Castle, Wierschem, Germany 🇩🇪
|12th-century castle with towers and turrets, surrounded by forest, with treasury and Knights’ Hall.
|Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany 🇩🇪
|Art collection & the Prussian king’s crown housed in mountaintop, turreted, 19th-century castle.
|Château de Pierrefonds, Oise, France 🇫🇷
|Castle, with medieval origins & a parapet walk, redesigned in the 19th-century by Viollet-le-Duc.
|Hohenwerfen Castle, Werfen, Austria 🇦🇹
|Hilltop medieval castle & history museum, reached by funicular, with falconry center & guided tours.
|Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal 🇵🇹
|19th-century, Romanticist palace on a high rock & former monastery site, surrounded by parkland.
Alhambra of Granada
The top spot goes to Spain’s Alhambra, the ornate 14th century palace and fortress complex in Granada. With over 130,000 Google reviews and a 4.8-star rating, its intricately carved courtyards and fountains continue to enchant visitors today.
Prague Castle, Czech Republic
The sprawling Prague Castle dates back over a thousand years. As the largest castle complex in the world, its Gothic spires, Romanesque halls and Baroque gardens reveal the evolving styles of Czech architecture across the ages.
Alcázar of Segovia, Spain
Perched atop a rocky crag, this regal 12th century castle looks like something straight out of a storybook. After a devastating fire in 1862, it was painstakingly restored and now houses a museum of armor and weaponry.
Bojnice Castle, Slovakia
The magnificent Bojnice Castle hosts over 50,000 visitors per year. By day, tourists flock to this neo-Gothic hilltop castle to traverse its medieval interior and manicured gardens. By night, its silhouette makes an unforgettable fairytale backdrop.
St Michael’s Mount, England
At high tide, this iconic island castle appears to float magically on the sea. A medieval priory still remains from the 12th century, complemented by later additions like the stately manor house.
Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
The soaring Neuschwanstein Castle was built as a retreat for reclusive king Ludwig II in the late 1800s. Though more modern than most on this list, its towers and turrets look every bit the storybook castle surrounded by Bavarian countryside.
Himeji Castle, Japan
Nicknamed the “White Egret Castle”, the 17th century Himeji Castle is considered a masterpiece of Japanese castle architecture. Despite surviving civil war, earthquakes and World War II, its white plaster walls and labyrinth of passageways remain remarkably intact.
Corvin Castle, Romania
With tall pointed towers, Corvin Castle is considered one of the largest and most eye-catching Gothic buildings in Eastern Europe. First built in the 14th century, it still retains its medieval aura despite 19th century restoration.
Eltz Castle, Germany
Nestled within the forests of western Germany for over 850 years, Eltz Castle is the rare European castle to still be owned by the same noble family since the 12th century. The medieval furnishings, turrets and frescoes transport you hundreds of years into the past.
Hohenzollern Castle, Germany
Dramatically perched atop a lone mountain peak, Hohenzollern Castle looks like something straight out of a Grimm’s fairytale. While mostly a 19th century reconstruction, it still houses an impressive collection of Prussian royal artifacts.
Château de Pierrefonds, France
The majestic Château de Pierrefonds in northern France underwent a major rebuild in the 1800s. Despite its turbulent history over 8 centuries, Viollet-le-Duc’s redesign made it one of the most perfectly preserved medieval castles today.
Hohenwerfen Castle, Austria
Reached by a dramatic funicular ride, Hohenwerfen Castle has defended mountain passes since the 11th century. Falconry displays at this mountaintop castle reveal centuries-old hunting techniques fit for an emperor.
Pena Palace, Portugal
The vibrant Pena Palace caps our list as a riot of colors and architectural styles. The castle, monastery and palace fused together here make it one of the major expressions of 19th century Romanticism in Europe.