We usually associate castles with European history, it’s actually a type of architecture found all over the world from Japan to India and Morocco to Puerto Rico. Here are some of the most beautiful in the world

Why do castles fascinate us so much? Perhaps because they were described as enchanted and fabulous places, for their history and all that they evoke in us. In Europe, the golden age of castles lasted for 500 years, i.e. the entire high and late Middle Ages. Read on to learn more about 12 of the world’s most beautiful castles, fortified palaces perched on islands or mountains

Himeji Castle , Japan

This castle is also known as the “Castle of the White Heron”, due to its resemblance to the great bird in flight. Himeji Castle dates back over 600 years, but the first set of fortifications were built around 1400 and completed in 1609 under the supervision of daimyo (military officer) Ikeda Terumasa. It is a complex made up of more than 80 buildings and a park with more than 1,000 cherry trees. It is both a Japanese National Treasure and a World Heritage Site.

Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes, Greece

This classic medieval castle dominates the island of Rhodes in the Aegean Sea. Originally built as a Byzantine citadel, it was reworked into its current Gothic form by the Crusader Knights of St John when Rhodes was their grand master’s headquarters. During the brief Italian occupation of the Dodecanese, Benito Mussolini used the castle as a holiday home. In the castle there is a museum which exhibits the finds of ancient Greece and the early Christian period.

castles

Neuschwanstein, the castle of castles (Germany)

This castle also known as a fairytale castle was built at the end of the 1800s at the behest of King Ludwig II. The Bavarian monarch commissioned his architects to design something that reflected both the works of Richard Wagner and the Romantic ideals of the Middle Ages. Precisely because of its fairy-tale structure, Walt Disney was fascinated by it and was inspired by this fortress to build the Disney castle of the animated film Sleeping Beauty (1959). Not only that, he has also appeared in other film productions, such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs , Cinderella and Rapunzel .

castles

Alcázar of Segovia (Spain)

One of the most impressive castles in all of Europe, the Alcázar sits on a narrow rocky promontory overlooking the plains of Ancient Castile in central Spain. Although it was built as a Roman fort, the structure has evolved over hundreds of years into a medieval castle with a deep moat, drawbridge, round watchtowers and a sturdy keep, but also richly decorated royal chambers . Segovia Castle is most renowned as the home of Queen Isabella and the mighty Philip II before the royal court was moved to Madrid.

Pena National Palace, Sintra (Portogallo)

Commissioned by King Ferdinand II on the ruins of an ancient monastery dedicated to the Virgin of Pena, Pena Castle is a flamboyant medley of various historic styles including Gothic, Moorish and Renaissance details . The castle’s red and yellow color – and its eye-catching clock tower – give it a much more playful air than the sombre castles found in other parts of Europe.

Forte Amber, Jaipur (India)

Built in the early 17th century by the Mughal ruler of Rajasthan, Amber Fort stands on a hill near Jaipur, its walls reflecting in the waters of Lake Maota. Within the palace walls are many courtyards, the Maharaja’s apartments, the Sukh Niwas (Pleasure Hall) and the Diwan-i-Am (Royal Audience Hall).

castles

Ksar di Aït-Ben-Haddou (Marocco)

This massive mud-brick structure in the foothills of the Sahara Desert has been the set for countless films including ‘Game of Thrones’, ‘Gladiator’ and ‘The Man Who Would Be King’. There really aren’t any castles, but it’s a low walled town along the Asif Ounila River – where people still live there even though it’s partially in ruins.

castles

Kalmar Castle, Sweden

Founded at the end of the Viking Age, Kalmar Castle was essentially a 12th-century defensive tower overlooking the Kalmar Strait on the Baltic Sea . Four centuries later, in 1592, King Gustav and his sons transformed Kalmar into a splendid royal residence.

castles

San Felipe del Morro Castle, Porto Rico

At the entrance to San Juan Bay, Puerto Rico stands a 16th-century Spanish citadel, one of the most impressive structures in the Caribbean. Protected by a moat, with a drawbridge, the castle has repelled numerous attacks including several assaults by French pirates. Sadly, it was captured by US forces after a ferocious naval bombardment during the Spanish-American War.

castles

Topkapi Sarayi, Turkey

Though officially called a palace, Istanbul’s sprawling Topkapi complex has all the makings of a classical castle: fortified walls, powerful gates, and a royal residence that was occupied by Ottoman sultans from the late 15th century , when it was originally built until 1850. It was converted to a museum when the Ottoman Empire dissolved after WW1. Topkapi is surrounded by extensive gardens, overlooking the Bosphorus.

Castello di Predjama, Slovenia

What makes this castle so special is its location: Predjama was built in the mouth of a cave under a natural rock arch on the side of a sheer cliff . Built in the 13th century, this feature made it practically impregnable. It has a secret passage (which still exists today) which allowed inhabitants and soldiers in the event of a siege to come and go as they pleased.

castles

Aragonese Castle, Italy

This bastion built on the island of Ischia and looking towards the Gulf of Naples is the oldest castle on our list, with its roots dating back to the 5th century BC when the Greeks colonized the region . The castle has been subject to many occupations from Roman legionaries to Napoleonic troops. Today it belongs to an Italian family who bought the fortified island in 1912 and began the restoration of the battlements, churches, convents, crypts and gardens.

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