All of Europe is littered with magical palaces and castles. Relics of yesteryear, the medieval castles of the old continent are important places of cultural and tourist interest. If you’re fascinated by history, or just like to explore the grandeur of stately homes and fortified citadels, you’ll want to check out the best castles in Europe to visit on your next trip. From graceful fortresses to fairytale mansions, here’s our pick of Europe’s magical medieval castles:

Bran Castle, Romania

Castle of Bran

The legendary “Dracula’s Castle”! Like something out of a fairy tale, Bran Castle is the most famous in Romania. Legend suggests that it was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s seminal novel, “Dracula.” Despite this, there is a great debate about whether it has a real connection to the history of the vampire and it is believed that “Vlad the Impaler” is the historical figure that inspired the character.

But regardless of the vampire allusions, its charms are hard to escape, and its mysterious atmosphere, with its turrets and imposing 14th-century stone walls, always captivates visitors. The views from the patio balconies are worth a visit on their own, although the interior is also impressive. Like a living museum, each room tells the story of its former inhabitants, the Romanian royal family, with all its objects and the rest of the original decoration. Bran Castle certainly holds the title of being one of the most famous medieval castles in Europe.

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle: castles in Europe

This fairytale fortress built in the 19th century is one of the most popular cultural attractions in Germany. Neuschwanstein Castle is located in the southwest of Bavaria and is one of the most inspiring European palaces. Instantly recognizable by its typical towers, King Ludwig II of Bavaria, nicknamed the “Mad King”, commissioned its construction in imitation of the medieval castles of yesteryear and dedicated it to the famous German composer Richard Wagner.

Interestingly, it is believed that the famous Disney castle was inspired by it. Open to the public since the end of the 19th century, Neuschwanstein is indisputably one of the most magical castles in Europe. Inside, visitors can soak up the royal grandeur of yesteryear through a series of ornate rooms, including the Singers’ Hall and the Throne Room, which are particularly impressive.

National Palace of Pena, Portugal

Pena Palace: castles in Europe

One of the most colorful and magical medieval castles in Europe is the Palacio da Pena and is located in the city of Sintra. It combines a whimsical mix of architectural styles, assembled seemingly haphazardly, and comes in bright red and yellow. Built by Ferdinand II of Portugal in the 19th century on the ruins of an old monastery, it amazes all who visit it. Its aesthetics are fantastic and its rooms are impressive, but we must not forget that it has extensive gardens full of exotic plants from all over the world that are a true pleasure for the eyes. Designed in a romantic style, this eccentric palace is the most popular tourist attraction in the area and the country in general.

Alcazar of Segovia, Spain

Alcazar de Segovia - medieval castles in Europe

Located in the historic city of Segovia, the Alcázar de Segovia is an incredible medieval castle located about 100 kilometers north of Madrid. It stands on a rocky outcrop between two rivers and is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. In one of its rooms, it presents an original coffered ceiling in the shape of an inverted boat, characteristic of Mudejar art. With its cone-shaped turrets and fortified walls, this grand building began life as a Muslim-era fort between the 7th and 9th centuries. Starting in the 12th century, it became the residence of Spanish royalty and its typical fairy tale appearance dates back to the 15th century, when King Philip II carried out a series of reforms to enhance its beautiful silhouette, making it one of the most magical castles in Europe. 

Castle of Chambord, France

Chambord Castle: European palaces and castles

A fabulous example of traditional French Renaissance architecture is the Château de Chambord, one of the most charming medieval fortresses in Europe. It is the largest in the green Loire Valley, in central France, and one of the most famous in the country. Built in the 16th century, it served as a hunting lodge for King Francis I. Its elegant white façade is surrounded by beautiful landscaped gardens, offering one of the most attractive European palatial images.

Furthermore, there are many theories as to who was responsible for the elegant design of this castle, Leonardo da Vinci has even been mentioned as a collaborator on this royal project. With its unique cylindrical towers and iconic double spiral staircase, Chambord Castle oozes charm and magic.

Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland

Castillo de Eilean Donan

Surrounded by the calm waters of three marine lochs, Eilean Donan Castle is an icon of the Scottish Highlands. Although the current structure is a 20th-century reconstruction, the original castle dates back to the 13th century. In fact, it beautifully embodies Highland romance and played an important role during the clan days of this mountainous north country. Offering an idyllic postcard, today, it is one of the most important medieval castles to visit in Europe.

Castle of Trakai, Lithuania

Trakai Castle: European Palaces and Castles

Located on an island in Lake Galve to the west of Vilnius, this 14th-century medieval castle was built by Kestutis, the Duke of Trakai. Its idyllic setting makes it another of the most magical fortresses in Europe. Unfortunately, it was badly damaged during the wars against Muscovy in the 17th century. Fortunately, by 1961 it was fully rebuilt to its former glory. Today it houses the Trakai History Museum. With such an extensive selection of medieval castles and European palaces, which one would you like to visit first? You can discover our latest cultural trips to Europe to explore these beautiful fortresses on our official website.

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