Do you want to learn more about the most beautiful castles in Europe? If the answer is yes, I’ve got you covered! This post highlights twenty-nine of the most famous European castles worth visiting on your next trip to Europe.
Dreamy European castles have enchanted us since time began with their turrets, moats, drawbridges and rich history.
As children, we read stories like Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty and imagined being in one of those fairytale castles.
And now, as adults, we can visit some of the best castles scattered around Europe that those fairytale stories were based on.
Discover 11th-century castle ruins built for royalty to fantasy follies designed in the 20th century purely for their aesthetics. And visit castles clinging to the side of cliffs, floating almost in an ethereal state beside lakes, standing proudly in towns and perched on the top of mountains.
No matter which country you visit in Europe, you can be sure there is a magical castle just waiting to be explored.
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Fairytale Castles in the United Kingdom
Leeds Castle – England
Surrounded by a medieval moat and standing in 500 acres of lush Kentish countryside is reason enough for the fairytale Leeds Castle in Kent to hold the title of “The Loveliest Castle in the World”. In the 21st century has become the most visited castle in England.
Steeped in history, Leeds castle has seen many changes in ownership during the ages. Once a Norman stronghold, then the private property of six of England’s medieval queens and then the castle that Henry Vlll and Catherine of Aragon lived in for part of their married life.
Inside the castle staterooms, you will be transported back in time when medieval furniture, wall tapestries and suits of armour were de-rigueur for stately castles.
Take a walk around the castle grounds and discover woodland walks, an underground cavern featuring patterns fashioned from shells, an aviary with daily bird displays and a maze. An exhibit at the Gatehouse will bring the 900-year history of one of England’s fairytale castles to life, and a Dog Collar Museum houses the world’s most extensive collection of canine neckwear!
England’s royalty would have frequented the pathways around Leeds Castle moat, and you can now follow in their footsteps. This viewpoint is the perfect place to capture a fairytale photograph of the castle sitting in the water.
Getting to Leeds Castle
Day-trippers from London can experience this Kent castle (not in Leeds in the North of England!) within an hour of driving from the capital.
Travelling to Leeds castle by train from London is another option and takes you to Bearsted Station in Kent. Jump in a taxi from the station for the rest of the journey.
Herstmonceux Castle – England
Herstmonceux Castle in East Sussex, built in the 15th Century, is one of the oldest brick buildings of its time still standing in England. It embodies medieval England and the romance of renaissance Europe.
It is renowned for its magnificent moat setting amidst the beautiful 300-acre estate and superb Elizabethan walled gardens leading to the rhododendron, English rose and herb gardens.
Follow the woodland trails and wander past the lily-covered lakes to the 1930’s folly – a structure built purely for aesthetics – and admire the sheer magnificence of the castle.
Of course, like most medieval castles, Herstmonceux has had many owners and has been used for many different purposes.
Sir Roger Fiennes was the first owner and was a close ally of Henry V. Fiennes also owned Hever Castle, which subsequently became the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. He made additions to the manor house that originally stood at Herstmonceux and styled it into the fairytale moated castle we see today.
The castle operates as an International Study Centre and is not freely open to the public; however, organised tours can be pre-booked.
Dunvegan Castle – Scotland
In a beautiful loch-side setting on the Isle of Skye, Dunvegan is the oldest continuously-inhabited castle in Scotland. It has been the ancestral home for 800 years for the Chiefs of Clan MacLeod.
Overlooking the watery expanse of Loch Dunvegan and perched on a rocky crag surrounded by 42,000 acres of woodland estate, this fairytale Scottish castle is in a spectacular location. Tours of the castle can be booked, or a self-guided tour is available.
Dunvegan castle is still a family home and is steeped in folklore. Hear all about the famous Fairy Flag of Dunvegan, known for its magical properties and associated with the legends surrounding the castle.
Scottish legend tells that the Fairy Flag was passed to an early chieftain by a mythical being, and it helped the clan overcome enemies, provide cures for sickness and aid fertility. Whether it is true or not, it is a magical tale to hear!
Adjacent to the castle is five acres of formal gardens containing waterfalls and bridges, herb and flower gardens, and waterlily ponds to be discovered. The gardens are an attraction in their own right, but there is another surprise at Dungarvan.
The castle boathouse sits beside the loch and offers visitors an exhilarating 25-minute boat trip to the Seal Colony at Dunvegan. It is here that you can watch the seals interacting with one another. Seal Island boat rides run from Spring to Autumn and are perfect for all the family.
Blair Castle – Scotland
One of Scotland’s most well-known historical monuments is Blair Castle, with the oldest parts dating back to the 13th century. A white exterior with turrets makes this fairytale Scottish castle stand out from many brick castles.
Blair Castle is the ancestral home of the Murray Clan and the seat of the Duke of Atholl. Bruce Murray is the current Duke, giving him the 12th Duke of Atholl position.
Inside, a Medieval, Georgian and Victorian interior shows design influences made to the castle through the ages, with thirty rooms open for public viewings. The dark wood panelling and weaponry displayed in pattern formation in the Baronial Hall is a stunning work of art.
Of course, the weapons are now just for display even though Blair Castle has the only private army still existing in Europe. The Scottish ceremonial infantry regiment called “The Atholl Highlanders” act as personal bodyguards to the Dukes of Atholl.
Blair castle sits on 9 acres of sprawling landscape, with its walled “Hercules Gardens” listed as one of the most well-loved gardens in Scotland; a life-sized statue of Hercules is on display in the gardens.
Landscaped ponds, a fruit orchard, flower and herb borders and a Chinese-inspired bridge allow visitors to enjoy a relaxing stroll and return to nature.
A sculpture trail also winds through the estate incorporating ancient and contemporary art forms.
Pitlochry is only 6 miles from Blair Castle, so it makes a good base to visit the castle and other activities there.
Self-guided audio tours inside the castle are available, and a bagpiper plays outside the castle entrance on the hour. It’s a real taste of Scottish life in the Highlands at Blair Castle.
Pembroke Castle – Wales
The 12th-century Pembroke Castle sits alongside the river estuary in the town of Pembroke in South Wales. It is famously known as the birthplace in 1487 of the English King Henry VII, or Harri Tudor as he was also known.
Elizabeth I was the granddaughter of King Henry VII, and on her death, the Royal House of Tudor ceased to exist.
In the mid-17th century, Oliver Cromwell laid siege to the castle during The English Civil War, and it then lay abandoned until 1880 when Mr J Cobb of Brecon spent three years trying to restore it.
Nothing further was done to the castle until the early 20th century when Major-General Sir Ivor Phillips of Cosheston Hall started extensive renovations on this fairytale Welsh castle, during which the remains of a massive medieval mansion were uncovered. Archaeological experts believe it to be where Henry VII was born.
Inside the castle turrets, all the rooms are circular, and the keep is nearly 80 ft high, maybe to stop invaders from scaling its walls. A complex maze of tunnels, stairs, towers and battlements runs throughout the castle.
Special features at Pembroke Castle
A map of Wales can be seen in the courtyard, but it is no ordinary map. It is the largest painting in the UK and the largest map of Wales in the world; definitely, something to look out for!
Pembroke is also the only British castle built over a natural cavern, known as the Wogan cave, accessed by a tight spiral staircase.
You can wander around the castle and the beautiful estuary at your own pace or join an official tour to explore the castle’s rooms, passageways and towers.
Carew Castle – Wales
Wales holds the title of having the most castles in Europe, and one of the most beautiful castles is the 2000-year-old Carew Castle, set in a stunning location in Pembrokeshire, overlooking a 23-acre millpond.
The castle was neglected until the late 13th century and then rebuilt by Sir Nicholas de Carew. It became a cross between a fortified manor and a castle. Over the centuries, ownership was passed through several families until the mid-17th century, when It was completely abandoned and left in ruins.
Carew Castle as it stands today is hauntingly beautiful, and local legend tells of several ghosts roaming its battlements; a Celtic warrior, a kitchen boy, a white lady and a Barbary ape – were kept as a pet in the castle. Whatever the truth, this is one castle with its fair share of ghostly visitors.
Outside there is a delightful one-mile circular walk around the tidal lake, which enjoys uninterrupted views of the castle and several spots to sit and enjoy the tranquillity.
Here, you will also find the only restored 18th-century tidal mill in Wales and a Celtic stone cross said to represent the rulers of the land in the 11th century.
Amazingly these fairytale castle ruins are still privately owned by the Carew family but leased to Pembrokeshire Council for visitors to enjoy for a small fee. You will need a car to get to the castle as it is in a rural location.
Blarney Castle – Ireland
No trip to Southern Ireland would be complete without visiting Blarney Castle, the third Irish castle to stand on this hallowed spot and home of the famous Blarney Stone.
In 1446 the current castle was built by one of Ireland’s greatest chieftains, Dermot McCarthy, King of Munster and has been attracting attention ever since. One of the reasons is because of the castle’s famous “Blarney Stone“.
Legend says kissing the Blarney Stone will give you the gift of eloquence, the ability to talk eloquently, deceive without offending, and flatter using your wit. Who knows the truth behind it, but over 400,000 visitors visit the castle and stone each year!
To “kiss” the stone, you must climb the stairs to the top of the castle, lie on your back, hold onto the rails, and lean backwards. Before the rail was installed, a castle staff member would hold your ankles and lower you down so that you could kiss the stone!
But that isn’t the only attraction at Blarney Castle; its fairytale castle tower and 60 acres of gardens are quite spectacular and consist of walkways, arboretums and waterways, making it one of the best castles in Ireland to visit on a trip.
Blarney Castle is situated in Blarney Village, which is 8 km northwest of the city of Cork, and a car or an organised day trip is the best way to reach the castle.
Fairytale Castles in the Czech Republic
Hluboká Castle is a beautiful Neo-Gothic chateau in the Czech Republic. Built originally in the 13th century, the castle underwent a major Neo-Gothic renovation in the 19th century, when the owners were inspired by England’s Windsor Castle and its romantic style, which also happens to be the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world.
Hluboká is located in a village of the same name – Hluboká nad Vltavou, on the banks of the Vltava River, just 10 kilometres away from the city of České Budějovice in the South of Bohemia.
It is possible to go inside the castle but only on a tour. The large chateau features 140 rooms and 11 turrets.
During the tour, you can peek into the private rooms of the nobles and representative halls with walls covered in carved wood and admire large collections of paintings, silverware, porcelain and tapestry. A viewing tower is accessible, and so is the castle kitchen, complete with equipment from the 19th and 20th centuries.
The castle is reached by car or by local bus. Alternatively, you can ride a bike or even take a boat.
Hluboká Castle is often considered the most beautiful of all Czech castles. It’s no wonder it is the 3rd most visited castle in the country and is especially popular among local tourists.
photo credit – Travel Geekery
Křivoklát Castle is a stunning royal castle northwest of the Czech Republic that looks as though it has popped straight out of a fairytale.
Initially constructed for the Kings of Bohemia in the 12th century, Křivoklát Castle has had a tumultuous history, being rebuilt several times and damaged by fires on multiple occasions. After the last fire in 1826, the Fürstenberg family took ownership of the castle and reconstructed it into what we see today.
Despite being one of the most beautiful castles in Europe, Křivoklát Castle is relatively unknown and makes a great day trip from Prague.
The castle can be reached in about one hour from the capital by car or on a tour, or you can take a train from Praha hlavní nádraží (Prague’s central station) to Křivoklát.
Visitors can purchase train tickets on the day, but be sure to ask the vendor for one of the quicker services that take 1-1.5 hours rather than the slower stopping services.
Tickets for the Gothic Palace introductory tour (in English) cost 300 CZK (€12/£10) for adults, taking you through the interior of the castle (courtyard, treasury, chapel, Knights hall, Royal hall, library, museum, prison, dungeon, and lapidary).
The more extended Castle Grand Tour includes the tower and the ramparts. Children aged six and under go free, and family-combo tickets are available.
While Křivoklát is relatively small, there is a restaurant within the castle grounds (Hradní krčma Křivoklát) that serves up tasty, inexpensive food, so it’s a great place for refreshments after your visit.
Fairytale Castles in Denmark
Contributed by Anjali from Travel Melodies
Home of Hamlet (yes! It’s where Shakespeare set his famous play ‘Hamlet’) and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kronborg Castle, is located in the town of Helsingør or Elsinore (as Shakespeare called it) in Denmark. The castle occupied a strategic narrow headland between the Danish and Swedish coasts and served as a point for the collection of the Sound Dues in the late 1500s.
With its prime position, majestic exteriors (showcasing spires, sandstone towers, and copper roofs), and graceful yet minimalist interiors, Kronborg Castle is one of the principal Rennaissance castles in Northern Europe and one of the most beautiful fairytale castles in Denmark as well as Europe.
As you explore the castle, don’t forget to sneak in the dark and gloomy underground passages till you find Holger Danske’s white sculpture. The legend is that Holger will wake up from his deep sleep the day an enemy threatens the Kingdom of Denmark. The tale is as creepy as the crypts and catacombs!
Hamlet Hall is where you’ll meet the actors playing Hamlet for years. You must plan in August if you want to witness the Shakespeare Festival when Kronborg Castle hosts world-class performances. The first-ever portrayal of Hamlet in Kronborg (in a quintessential square turret) took place in 1816 to celebrate the 200th death anniversary of Shakespeare. Since then, it has become a tradition.
The opening timings, as well as the entrance ticket prices, change with the season. Check out the Kronborg Castle website for more information.
Kronborg Castle is just about 46 km from Copenhagen and is a perfect day trip from Copenhagen. It is best reached by car, or you can catch a train from Copenhagen Central Station to Helsingør and then walk to the castle.
Fairytale Castles in France
Contributed by Ophelia from Limitless Secrets
Château d’Azay-le-Rideau is a beautiful castle located in the Loire Valley in France. This region is the most significant area in France to be included in UNESCO’s world heritage list!
The fairytale chateau has always been one of the most beautiful Renaissance buildings in the Loire Valley! Its architecture combines French, Italian and Flemish influences, and its location on an island in the Indre River makes it even more magical!
The history of Château d’Azay
It was built at the beginning of the 16th century during the reign of Francis I by Gilles Berthelot, an adviser to King Louis XII and Treasurer of France. But for fear of being executed for embezzlement reasons, Gilles Berthelot had to abandon his castle quickly.
At this time, Francis I seized the Château d’Azay and offered it to one of his loyal followers. Then several nobles owned the château in the years before it was purchased in 1905 by the State.
In 1914 Château d’Azay-le-Rideau was classified as a “monument historique” for its historical and architectural heritage value.
This château is genuinely magnificent on the outside but also worth visiting inside.
There is a fee to access the whole site of Château d’Azay-le-Rideau, indoors and outside.
The ground floor has been restored and furnished according to how it was in the 19th century, allowing you to enjoy the luxurious and comfortable neo-Renaissance décor!
The best way to reach the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau is by car. Driving there will also allow you to be independent and discover more castles in the Loire Valley region. Parking your car close to the castle is easy as there are dedicated parking lots.
Chateau de Chenonceau
Contributed by Kathy from Wear I Wandered
One of France’s most beautiful fairytale castles is Chateau de Chenonceau, sometimes called “the Ladies Chateau”. During the castle’s history, an almost unbroken succession of women has directed its design and destiny. Chenonceau is one of the most feminine and lovely castles in France.
It is particularly known for its arches which gracefully span the Cher River and, in essence, support a bridge across the river. Inside this area is a gallery that was once used as a ballroom. It is floored with grey and white slate tiles and has arched openings with windows that provide a gorgeous view down the river.
The chateau is well appointed, with gorgeous collections of furnishings, tapestries, and masterpiece paintings by well-known artists. You will also want to dedicate time to wander around the beautiful gardens.
Located near Amboise in the Loire Valley of France, Chenonceau is the most visited and photographed castle in France and the perfect place to visit on a day tour from Paris.
Because of its popularity, it is easily accessible with plenty of space for parking. This chateau is open every day of the year, but the times vary with the season.
Chenonceau is the epitome of a fairytale castle and should be visited if you are in the Loire Valley of France.
Contributed by Tamara from Your Time to Fly
The medieval city of Carcassonne in France is over 2,500 years old and looks like a sprawling fairytale castle from afar, protected by thick walls on all sides and adorned with cone-shaped turrets.
Château Comtal or the Count’s Castle are within the city walls. Areas of the castle date back to the 1200s and the time of the Cathars; however, the castle was restored in 1853 by famous French architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc.
In 1997, the site was included on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites, and today, the castle and surrounding city is the second-most visited site in France, outside of Paris.
Visitors and tour groups pack the castle ramparts during the day, so it is best to arrive at Carcassonne at least an hour before the Castle gate opens to have time to explore the Basilica and town before lining up to be one of the first to explore the Château.
Inside the walls, you can explore the courtyard and the many simple stone rooms of the castle. Highlights include the Romanesque frescoes and the archaeological collections that cover 2,500 years of history.
A castle tour won’t take long, but walking along the ramparts is a highlight of every visit if you are willing to climb a few stairs.
The Northern rampart offers panoramic views across Montagne Noir. In contrast, the Western rampart includes the bishop’s square tower and the Cathars and inquisition tower, with views across the city and the Basilica of Saint-Nazaire.
Château de Pierrefonds
Contributed by Elisa from World in Paris
This fairytale castle of Château de Pierrefonds is one of the best castles near Paris. It is in Pierrefonds, a small village at the foot of the Compiègne forest north of Paris.
In Pierrefonds, there has been a château since medieval times. The first owner was the Duke of Orléans, a relative of the King of France. Over the next centuries, Château de Pierrefonds changed hands often due to internal disputes or wars against the English.
In the 17th the castle was the property of François-Annibal d’Estrées, a nobleman against King Louis XIII. The king’s troops besieged the castle and severely damaged it.
In the 18th century, the castle was bought by Napoleon I, and his successor, Napoleon III, restored it for personal use. The architect in charge of this restoration was Viollet Le Duc, who added his personal touch, hence the castle’s fairytale look.
The Château de Pierrefonds has a beautiful inner courtyard, elegant rooms and halls decorated with bright colours. It is worth looking inside as well as taking beautiful photographs from outside.
Château de Pierrefonds is open to the public every day from 9.30 am to 6 pm except Mondays.
There are no guided tours to Pierrefonds, and public transportation is scarce, so the best way to reach Château de Pierrefonds is with your car.
If you don’t have one, you can hire a rental car and combine the visit to the château with a visit to the city of Compiègne or a hike in the Compiègne forest.
Fairytale Castles in Germany
Burg Eltz Castle
In the hills between Koblenz and the beautiful city of Trier, the medieval Burg Eltz castle is one of the most beautiful sights along the Moselle River.
This medieval fairytale castle has been perched on a rocky outcrop and surrounded on three sides by the Elzbach River for over 850 years.
Today, the castle consists of three separate complexes belonging to a different branch of the Kempenich family of joint heirs. They are the 33rd generation of the Kempenich family that has resided in Burg Eltz since the 12th century.
The castle’s oldest part is dated to the 9th century and was an important fortress along the Moselle Valley trade route.
In the late 15th century, the various family complexes began construction in the Late Gothic style, giving us the fairytale design of high spires, towers and vaulted ceilings that we see today.
Guided group tours are available in several languages and allow visitors to see various spaces like the opulent Rübenach bed chamber or the flag hall of the Rodendorf House. The tickets include visiting eight centuries of Burg Eltz Armoury and Treasury exhibits.
Getting to Burg Eltz castle
Access to the castle is by car or public transport, with buses taking you to the Burg Eltz bus station near the car park.
There is a shuttle available from the car park for a small fee up to the castle or you can enjoy a 15-20 minute easy hike through the peaceful Eltz Forest. If choosing to walk, strollers and wheelchair users are best suited for the direct route up the steep private road.
The best views of this fairytale castle on approach are from the 1.3km footpath from which the trailhead is direct to the right of the car park.
Connected to the land by drawbridges and clinging to the edge of a cliff, the little-known fairytale castle of Lichtenstein is one of Germany’s hidden gems.
Inspired by a romantic novel that Count Wilhelm of Württemberg, Duke of Urach, had read, the castle was constructed in the mid-19th century on the remains of a medieval castle that had previously stood on the same spot. He paid great attention to the castle’s neo-Gothic architecture to ensure it spectacularly represented the Middle Ages.
The area around Lichtenstein castle forms other buildings from the 19th century, including a chapel, a pretty garden and a romantic courtyard with panoramic views of the stunning German countryside seen from the castle and tower, making it a perfect day trip from Stuttgart.
The family dynasty is currently on its 4th generation of heirs, with the current Count Wilhelm of Württemberg running this fantasy castle.
The basic tour takes 30 minutes, leading the visitor from the first to the second floor of the castle and showing how elaborate and exquisite the designs are, with an abundance of gold, red and green colouring in all the furnishings.
Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the most famous fairytale castles you can visit in Europe.
Walt Disney modelled his famous Sleeping Beauty castle on Neuschwanstein, which has become more famous than its original counterpart. Neuschwanstein is one of Europe’s most famous landmarks and should be included on your bucket list.
Even though this castle looks like it has been standing in the mountains since the Middle Ages, it dates back to a much more recent period.
King Ludwig II of Bavaria commissioned its construction in 1869, just a few years before he died under mysterious circumstances, having never seen the completion of his castle, and even today, many rooms remain unfinished.
When visiting Neuschwanstein Castle, you will need to plan your visit. Get your ticket as early as possible as the castle is popular with tourists worldwide. You need to join a tour to see the interior; they tend to book out weeks in advance.
On your tour, you will see some of the rooms that Ludwig II managed to complete before his death, including a swan grotto. Ludwig loved swans so much that you can find them represented everywhere in the castle. Neuschwanstein loosely translates to “New Swan Stone”.
Getting to Neuschwanstein Castle
You can find Neuschwanstein Castle in Southern Germany, on the edge of the Bavarian Alps. To get here from Munich, you first need to take a train to Füssen, a cute romantic town nearby, and train travel in Germany is cheap and reliable. Then, continue by bus to Hohenschwangau, and Neuschwanstein sits just above this village.
While in Hohenschwangau, take some time to visit the Bridge of Mary.
From here, you have a great view of Neuschwanstein. We also recommend you visit Hohenschwangau Castle, the yellow castle you can find below Neuschwanstein. King Ludwig II spent his summers there, where he found the inspiration to build his fairytale Neuschwanstein Castle.
Germany is renowned for its beautiful castles, and by planning a German fairytale castles road trip, you’ll see the likes of Neuschwanstein, Burg Eltz and Lichtenstein Castle. If you don’t want to visit as part of a road trip or a tour, you can catch a train from Cologne or Munich.
One of the prettiest castles you’ll be able to see on this trip is the stunning red brick Heidelberg Castle or Schloss Heidelberg, situated in southeast Germany.
Heidelburg is both a castle and a palace. It is perched on top of the hill overlooking the university town of Heidelberg and spreads over a vast area that includes fragrant manicured gardens. Some parts are in ruins where just a facade or walls remain; check out the crumbling gunpowder tower split by an explosion!
Other castle areas are still as elaborate today as they’ve always been. The castle is full of exquisite and intricate detailing everywhere you look.
The German Renaissance-style Ottheinrich building is beautiful! The palace is also home to the world’s largest wine cask, the Heidelberg Tun! You’ll find it in the Fassbau Building; it holds a whopping 220,000 litres of wine!
Tickets cover noteworthy museums such as the Palace and German Apothecary Museum, which houses an extensive collection of medical lotions, potions and equipment dating back hundreds of years. The entry includes a ride on the funicular railway from the main town to the castle.
Fairytale Castles in Italy
San Marino Castle
San Marino is not only one of the smallest countries in Europe but also the most fairytale-like.
The capital city of this tiny Republic – Città di San Marino – is a medieval hill town that makes you think you have stepped into a real-life fairytale.
San Marino also has some of the most picturesque fairytale castles in Europe! Set on the three peaks of Monte Titano, you’ll find the famous three towers of San Marino: Guaita Tower (aka La Rocca), Cesta Tower (aka Falesia), and Montale Tower.
The fairytale towers of San Marino were built in the 11th-15th centuries to protect this tiny Republic and its freedom. The three towers of San Marino symbolise the Republic of San Marino and feature on its flag and coat of arms.
Two of the three towers are medieval castles that can be visited for a small fee (combination tickets for the castle and city museums are available). Inside Cesta Tower, you’ll find a small museum that showcases over 1500 weapons, some dating from Medieval times.
But the main reason to visit the Guaita and Cesta towers is the incredible 360° views of the surroundings.
The Adriatic Sea can be viewed from the top, some 20km away. Also, the views from one castle towards another are simply stunning! The so-called “Witches Path” (Passo Delle Streghe) that connects the towers is probably one of the most fairytale-like places in Europe.
The towers can be reached on foot, just a 5-10 minute walk from the historic city centre.
The most magical time to be here is at sunrise or sunset when there are no day visitors, and you can have this place all to yourselves! For more information, please check this San Marino travel guide.
Fairytale Castles in Latvia
The Cesis castle in Latvia was built around 1214 and originally served as the residence of the Knights of the Livonian Brothers of the Sword. Under the management of its next owner, the Teutonic Order, it gained fame as the most powerful fortress in Livonia.
The Castle suffered greatly in the late 16th century during the siege set by the army of Russian Tsar Ivan the Terrible. With the rapid development of military equipment, the ancient fortress lost its military importance, but it was still inhabited until the end of the 17th century. After the Great Northern War, the Castle was abandoned entirely.
Only the Romantic Movement of the 19th century aroused broader public interest in the Castle as a historical monument.
Next to the old Cesis Castle, the manor house was built in the middle of the 18th century. Soon after that, the property was bought by Major and later Count Karl Eberhard von Sievers. Count Siever’s family lived in the manor for five generations until 1920. During this time, manor management was developed, and the Castle’s historical complex was created, which is still visible nowadays.
Cesis Castle in Modern Times
Today Cesis Castle and manor house is a unique destination for cultural tourism in Latvia; its fairytale character attracts travellers worldwide.
Cesis is located about 80 kilometres from Riga, and therefore it is an easy day trip from Riga. Take a public bus or train to reach it.
Cesis is a small town, so you can easily explore it on foot and discover the many other things to do in Cesis. The best time to visit is autumn, when you can enjoy fabulous autumn foliage in the castle park.
Take your time to visit the Castle, climb its towers and enjoy exhibitions of Cesis History and Art Museum in the manor house.
Fairytale Castles in the Netherlands
Muiderslot Castle in the Netherlands is picture-perfect, with a moat, battlements and turrets.
In the 13th century, Muiderslot Castle was built by the Count of Holland on an important trade route to Utrecht. Any goods that passed through Muiderslot were subject to taxation.
Since its beginning, the castle has been destroyed and rebuilt several times. The first time was at the behest of the powerful Bishop of Utrecht, who was less than happy that the Count of Holland was taxing his goods.
During the 16th century, the castle was the home of Dutch playwright P.C. Hooft, who was considered as important to Dutch literature as Shakespeare is to English literature.
Hooft had the castle’s interior redone and commissioned the installation of the Renaissance-style gardens.
On one side of the garden were plants grown for medicinal purposes, and on the other was the kitchen garden. Rare plants that the Dutch found on their global trading routes, such as tomatoes, were planted in this garden.
In the early 19th century, Muiderslot Castle was due to be demolished but was saved by the intervention of the Dutch king. No one had any money to fix the castle, but it was decided that Muiderslot Castle would become a museum. Fundraising efforts in Amsterdam raised money for the project.
The re-design of Muiderslot Castle
As part of its makeover, Pierre Cuypers romanticised Muiderslot Castle to make it look more like people’s expectation of a fairytale castle (such as raising the height of the towers and adding battlements).
He was the same architect who designed the Rijksmuseum and the main train station in Amsterdam. He restored the interior to what it would have looked like during the time of P.C. Hooft.
Muiderslot was also important because it started the Amsterdam water line of defence (a UNESCO world heritage listed system). When armies threatened Amsterdam with an attack, enough water was released into the neighbouring area so equipment could not pass. The water, however, was not deep enough for ships either.
Located near Amsterdam, Muiderslot is one of the oldest and best-preserved castles in the Netherlands and is easy to visit on a day trip from the city on a special tourist ferry.
Entry to Muiderslot is included in the Amsterdam City Card as well. Muiderslot is a family-friendly attraction with many exhibits explaining Dutch life and a large collection of knights’ armaments.
Kasteel de Haar
You’ll find yourself in excellent company when you visit the largest castle in The Netherlands. Not too long ago, Brigitte Bardot, Coco Chanel, Maria Callas and Roger Moore roamed the spectacular gardens and grand halls of Kasteel de Haar.
The noble family that owned the castle, the Van Zuylen van Nijevelts, liked to use it in the ’60s to entertain the rich and famous of those times.
Kasteel de Haar may look like a medieval castle, but it was built in the early 20th century on top of existing ruins.
It was designed by the famous Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers, who also designed the famous Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. There are over 7000 trees on the grounds, and the gardens are a joy to wander through, as they cover 55 hectares and contain French and Roman gardens, a grand canal, stunning rose gardens and a maze.
The castle makes for a fabulous day trip, as it’s only a half-hour drive from Amsterdam and is one of the Netherlands’ hidden gems. If you’re visiting The Netherlands without a vehicle, you can hop on a train to Utrecht, and regular buses will take you to the castle in about 20 minutes.
Since I am a neighbour of this castle, I cannot recommend a visit enough. Visiting with kids is lovely as they can discover the castle and gardens through three scavenger hunts, which are just as much fun for adults.
It’s easy and fun to explore the castle by yourself, so a tour isn’t essential, although you should take your time and plan for two or three hours to properly take in the beauty of Kasteel de Haar.
Fairytale Castles in Poland
The Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork, or, in short, Malbork Castle, is one of the most impressive buildings in Poland.
The vast size of the fortress is striking as you walk along the outer walls. The 13th-century fairytale castle holds two records; it has the title of the largest castle in the world, with an area of 21 ha (52 acres) and the largest brick castle in the world.
Malbork Castle is both a Unesco world heritage site and a Polish national heritage site due to its impressive architecture and past.
The castle’s history is rich; it changed owners multiple times during the centuries. The Teutonic knights built it, but several rulers from Germany and Poland owned it, either by occupation or sold. Since WWII, it has belonged to Poland.
Entry to the castle includes an audio guide in multiple languages, including English, German, Russian, Italian, Spanish, and French.
You will walk through magnificent interiors filled with stories from the past and see the impressive statues of the Teutonic Knights in the yard. The tour lasts 3 hours, so ensure you are well prepared for an extended visit to one of the prettiest fairytale castles in Poland.
You can visit Malbork on a day trip from the nearby city of Gdansk. You can use public transport or organise to rent a car to reach the town. The travel time by train is 30 minutes, while driving takes around 45 minutes.
Fairytale Castles in Romania
The magical fairytale Peles Castle is one of the best castles in Romania and was built to accommodate the Royal Family of Romania.
King Carol I decided he wanted a castle in that location, and thus it commenced construction in 1883.
King Carol II, Carol I’s son, was born in the castle. He and his son (King Micheal) lived in the castle. However, in 1947 Romania had a Communist uprising, and King Micheal was forced off the throne and left the country.
The Communist government used Peles Castle as a tourist attraction, then a resting place for the Romanian elite, and finally, it was closed.
Once the Communist regime fell in 1989, Peles Castle became in state hands again. It became a tourist attraction once again and is still to this day. The fairytale exterior of the castle is its main appeal – it looks straight out of a Disney film – and there are beautiful gardens to explore.
For a cost, you can enter the castle’s interior and see some restored regal furniture displays.
Peles Castle is an easy day trip from Brasov, and tickets can be pre-booked before arrival.
It takes about an hour to reach Sinaia on the train, and then it’s a short walk to the castle.
There is also the historic monastery in Sinaia and lots of hikes to nature spots in the area, including some beautiful waterfalls!
Fairytale Castles in Spain
Alcazar of Segovia
Segovia is a well-known day trip from Madrid and one of Spain’s bucket list destinations.
The top place to see in this UNESCO World Heritage city is the fairytale Alcazar of Segovia. The 12th-century medieval castle has the unique shape of a ship’s bow, and it’s thought that some of Walt Disney’s inspiration for Cinderella’s castle was from the Alcazar (and the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany).
The Alcazar of Segovia was built, on a rocky cliff, as a Roman fortress. Since then, it has served as a royal palace of the monarchs of the Kingdom of Castile, a prison, a Royal Artillery College, and a military academy. Today, it is a museum; everyone can visit its beautiful rooms like the Throne Room, the Hall of the Kings, and the Royal Chamber.
The Alcazar is open to the public all year round. A full visit with access to the castle’s rooms, the Artillery Museum, and the Tower of Juan II, from where one can enjoy scenic views of Segovia’s Old Town) costs 8 Euros. Tickets can be bought on the spot and are valid for a specific time slot.
The easiest way to get to Segovia from Madrid is by train, which takes about 30 minutes. It’s best to book the train ticket in advance on the Renfe website (Spain’s train company).
Colomares Castle, locally known as Castillo de Colomares in Benalmadena, is a tribute to the explorer Christopher Columbus and the discovery of America.
It was the idea of Dr Esteban, a surgeon fond of art and history. He left the scalpel to build a monument to the explorer. He started to work on it in 1987 and finished working on it seven years later. It is now one of the most beautiful fairytale castles in Spain.
The monument tells different stories of the discovery of the American continent in various parts. A stone among them represents the three ships of the expedition and an image of Saint Salvador in honour of San Salvador Island.
While walking around Colomares Castle, you will discover various elements showcasing the symbols of Catholic Kings. These symbols are from the cultures present in medieval Spain- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Inside there is also the world’s smallest church which covers an area of just 1.96m2 and appears in the Guinness Book of World records.
Located in Andalusia, Castillo de Colomares is a 60-minute train journey from Malaga. Visiting the castle is one of the most fun and interesting things to do in Benalmadena.
Fairytale Castles in Sweden
Alnarp Castle is a beautiful ivy-covered castle located 10 kilometres north of Malmö in southern Sweden.
Alnarp’s history dates back to the 12th century when it was a Danish noble estate. It passed through many notable families over the years, most of which were Danish, as this region used to be a Danish-owned state.
In 1862 Alnarp Castle was resurrected into the gorgeous French Renaissance style you see today and is now used as part of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences campus. It is popular for locals and tourists to visit.
The castle is covered in ivy – which turns red in the autumn – and has major Harry Potter vibes. Surrounding the castle, you’ll find parks, other historic buildings, and plenty of agricultural gardens used by the university students.
Alnarps Park is home to one of Sweden’s most diverse collections of trees and shrubs, with 2,500 species from around the world, as well as many birds and bats.
Alnarp castle is stunning all year round, but the best time to visit is in October when it is covered in red ivy, giving it a fairytale appeal.
If you’re planning a visit, Alnarp Castle is a quick 25-minute bus ride from Malmö Central Station. It doesn’t host formal tours but is free to visit as it is on a university campus. Bring a packed lunch as there are many picnic tables scattered through the park, and plan to spend time enjoying the building castle and castle grounds.
Fairytale Castles in Switzerland
Europe has an abundance of fairytale castles, but none in a more spectacular setting than Chillon Castle on the eastern side of the picturesque Lake Geneva in Switzerland. The castle attracts more visitors each year than any other historic building in Switzerland.
Records show a castle has been on this spot since the early 12th century, built as a strategic outpost to control an essential Alpine pass.
From the late 13th century onwards, it became the summer home to the Counts of Savoy, who kept their ships on the lake.
Chillon Castle slowly became derelict due to it being uninhabited for large parts of the year, and in the 16th century, the Bernese took the castle.
Since the late 18th century, the castle has been owned by the Swiss region of the Canton of Vaud. An ongoing restoration campaign is in place to bring one of Switzerland’s most beautiful fairytale castles back to its original glory. A magnificent weapons room, complete with battle sounds, is to be explored in the keep.
Around Lake Thun in Switzerland, there are five impressive castles to visit, but probably the one that looks most like it stepped out of a fairytale is the 13th-century Castle Oberhofen.
Sitting out on the water with turrets and a drawbridge will bring your ‘inner princess vibes‘ to the surface.
The romantic castle complex has had various owners but was more recently bought and used as a summer residence by an aristocratic family in 1844.
They owned it until 1954, after which it was turned into a museum with bedrooms, an oriental smoking room, a dungeon and a 15th-century chapel, allowing visitors to peek into how the castle would have been used during its heyday.
Castle Oberhofen sits in beautiful formal flower gardens, so a stroll along the lakeside setting is a must. A 2.5-acre parkland is on the opposite side of the property if you want to explore it more.
If you fancy refreshments while at the castle, the acclaimed Schloss Oberhofen Restaurant is situated in the castle’s walls. There is also a cafe serving light snacks with an enviable position with fairytale lakeside views.
Oberhofen is accessible by car or from Thun railway station by boat a truly stunning way to arrive.
Please Pin for Future Travel to Europe
Are you are looking for further European inspiration? Please check out the following posts:
Thursday 15th of December 2022
Bookmarked! A castle tour is a great idea for my Europe trip next year. I already have my itineraries from dessert tours to wine tasting and museum tours so I'll add this and finalize my itinerary! Thank you!
Thursday 15th of December 2022
It sounds like your trip is going to be a lot of fun. Enjoy!
Babu Kaji Sitaula
Thursday 18th of August 2022
These castles are really old. They're all so great, gorgeous, and structurally sound. Thanks for the article.
Saturday 5th of December 2020
How stunning are those castles! They are all more beautiful the ones than the others! I haven't visited many in your list so I am glad you shared so many recommendations!
Sunday 6th of December 2020
I am so pleased you enjoyed reading about the fairytale castles in Europe, there are so many it is hard to choose a favourite!