8 Most Fairy-Tale-Esque Castles in the World
Be it an imposing keep, striking interior decor or period architecture, what castles have to offer can make them a great addition to an itinerary, both for their rich history and photo-worthy design. So whether you’re hoping to explore the halls that inspired a Shakespearean play, feel as though you’ve stepped into a Disney film or want to stand where Vikings once stood, we’ve rounded up some of the most beautiful castles in the world.
Chillon Castle, Veytaux, Switzerland
Chillon Castle is located on a rock on the banks of Lake Geneva near Montreux and is one of Switzerland’s most visited historical monuments. The stronghold was inhabited by the Counts of Savoy for nearly four centuries and features medieval architecture. The castle was also memorialized in Lord Byron’s poem “The Prisoner of Chillon.” Literary enthusiasts will also want to pay close attention to the pillars in the dungeon -- behind a Perspex screen you’ll find that Byron carved his name into the stone.
Predjama Castle, Predjama, Slovenia
This more than 800-year-old Renaissance fortress, located 9 km from Postojna, is situated in a 123-meter-high cave and is considered one of the most dramatic castles in the world. Though the building of the stronghold took place over the years, starting in 1202, much of the present-day castle was built during the 16th century. The fortress is listed by Guinness World Records as one of the largest cave castles in the world.
Neuschwanstein Castle, Schwangau, Germany
When most people imagine a fairy-tale castle, they are often imagining a version of Neuschwanstein. The idyllic 19th-century fortress inspired the Sleeping Beauty castle at Disneyland, is located in southwest Bavaria and was first opened to the public in 1886, following the death of King Ludwig II. Today it’s one of the most popular castles in Europe and sees roughly 1.4 million visitors each year.
Bunratty Castle, Bunratty, Ireland
Considered one of the most authentic medieval fortresses in Ireland, Bunratty Castle was built in 1425 on land that was once a Viking trading camp. Today this County Clare stronghold features 15th- and 16th-century furnishings and tapestries. Surrounding it is Bunratty Folk Park, a sprawling 26-acre area that also features more than 30 buildings that have been recreated to represent life in 19th-century Ireland.
Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal
This dramatic 19th-century castle, the brainchild of King Ferdinand II, is located in the Sintra Hills of Portugal and features both Manueline and Moorish-style architecture. The fortress is visible from any point within the park -- on a clear day it can also be seen from Lisbon -- and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.
Conwy Castle, Conwy, Wales
Part of the Castles and Town Walls of King Edward I World Heritage Site, Conwy Castle was built between 1283 and 1289 and is located on the north coast of Wales. It’s considered one of the finest surviving medieval bulwarks and was originally built for Edward I by Master James of St. George. Today it boasts two barbicans, eight towers and a great bow-shaped hall and offers Instagram-worthy views of the mountains and sea from the battlements.
Kronborg Castle, Helsingor, Denmark
Kronborg Castle is perhaps best known for its immortalization as Elsinore Castle in Shakespeare’s iconic play Hamlet. The fortress itself, located along the narrowest part of the Oresund strait between Denmark and Sweden, dates back to the 1420s. The castle burned down in 1629, and though the exterior was reconstructed in 1639 -- led by Danish architect Hans van Steenwinckel the Younger -- the interior of the fortress was never the same. The castle is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Himeji Castle, Himeji, Japan
Himeji Castle, also known as the White Heron Castle, is one of Japan’s most spectacular strongholds thanks to its imposing size and striking white appearance. Unlike many other castles around the country, Himeji was not destroyed by war, earthquake or fire. It is one of Japan’s 12 original fortresses. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is located in the Hyogo Prefecture and consists of 83 buildings.
Ashley Bess is an editor turned freelancer writer who describers herself as short, opinionated, recently repatriated, lover of gin and travel and with a head full of useless song lyrics and movie quotes.