A look at the world’s most impressive castles, built for royalty, sovereigns and generals.

 The castle (remember that the castle is a mix between a fortress and a palace ) is one of the most emblematic features of European folklore. We imagine princesses, knights, horses, moats, and even the occasional dragon in our fantastical interpretations of these places. However, few can pinpoint exactly which castles inspired these widespread tales. Some feel that they are mainly the product of fiction. While there is no doubt that some tales have been embellished, the castles that we will look at below have undoubtedly influenced our cultural conceptions of the Middle Ages and later times.

They are homes of royal protagonists and settings for drama and romance. The truth is that many castles were built more for fortification and functionality than for beauty and ostentation.

However, that changed as advances in weapons and warfare made the thick castle walls obsolete. Then,

During the Renaissance, builders focused – this time, yes – on beauty rather than protection. The results were castles full of fantasy. Some of the castles that we will see stand out due to their architecture, others for their history.

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It is not so common to find a castle in our day to day . What used to be a common structure for royalty, government officials and the very, very rich is now a rather rarer place of residence. The castles that still stand today are often relics from hundreds of years ago. Many castles have fallen into ruins due to lack of funds to rebuild them and maintain their status. Castles that still stand in all their glory are often part of tourist attractions, attracting millions of visitors from around the world each year.

The castles on this list are among the most striking and well-maintained castles left standing in the world. These castles have a long history, with some being used as fortresses during wars and battles and others as private residences for the richest families in the world.

Some of these castles sit in the middle of the water, while others are on top of the hills. No self-respecting history buff, architecture lover or castle enthusiast should pass up this gallery.

 Versailles castle, France

Versailles castle, France

The Palace of Versailles or Château de Versailles is part of a series of architectural wonders that are very famous throughout the world. The former hunting lodge of Louis XIII was extended by his son Louis XVI to the enormous palace it is today. The expansion was designed and supervised by renowned architects including Louis Le Vau, Jules Hardouin-Mansart and Rober de Cotte. The palace is a magnificent example of French Baroque architecture and is the most famous royal castle in France. It has been part of the UNESCO world heritage since 1979 and is open to visitors from all over the world.

Cardiff Castle, Wales, UK

Cardiff Castle, Wales, UK

Situated in the heart of Cardiff city centre, this massive fortress and stately manor house is one of the Welsh capital’s most defining landmarks. Within the newer outer walls, the original Norman castle and moat can be seen towards the north end, while later additions in the 15th, 16th and later 18th centuries, gave rise to the larger lodging rooms that they are now grouped around the west and south gates. Today, daily tours take visitors through the regal rooms of the Victorian manor house, through the original lines of the Roman fort, and into the ruined 11th-century Norman fort.

Himeji Castle, Japan

Himeji Castle, Japan

Himeji Castle in Hyōgo Prefecture is one of Japan’s most impressive examples of feudal-era castle architecture. Although the castle dates back to 1333, its structure has undergone many renovations and is currently made up of a network of up to 83 buildings. Known for its elaborate white façade, the castle is often referred to as “Castillo de la Garza Blanca”. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993.

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

Like many fortresses, Neuschwanstein Castle was built on rugged terrain as a safe haven. The picturesque white Bavarian castle was intended to be the personal home of Ludwig II of Bavaria, but was immediately opened to the public after his death in the late 19th century. The castle, however, has suffered the setbacks of its location. The area’s harsh climate has had a detrimental effect on the limestone facades, which will be renovated section by section in the coming years. However, the interior remains as enchanting as ever, adorned with white swans denoting the Christian symbol of “purity”, something Louis of Bavaria was obsessed with. In fact, Neuschwanstein means “new stone swan”.

Coca Castle, Segovia, Spain

Coca Castle, Segovia, Spain

Coca Castle was built in the 15th century under the jurisdiction of the Castilian royal house, which had a penchant for luxury. In fact, this beautiful castle served primarily as a place of residence rather than one of martial importance. Because the surrounding areas lacked resources for its construction, the castle was built with bricks instead of stone. This fact largely explains the reddish appearance of the castle. The structure of the castle itself is amazing. The castle currently serves as a forestry school apart from hosting tourists from all over the world. Property of the Casa de Alba, it was ceded to the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture in 1954.

Eltz Castle, Germany

Eltz Castle, Germany

Burg Eltz or Eltz Castle is located in Germany, near the city of Trier. Originally built sometime in the 12th century, the castle’s foundation can be dated to several hundred years earlier. Eltz has received architectural renovations and restructurings over the centuries, but one thing hasn’t changed: descendants of the Eltz family, the same family that originally built the castle, continue to own and live on the property. There are sections of the castle that are open to the public, mind you. The interior, which can be viewed as part of a tour, contains artifacts from the last 800 years.

Bodiam Castle, England

Bodiam Castle, England

Located in East Sussex, England, Sir Edward Dalyngrigge built Bodiam Castle in 1385 to defend the area from the French in the Hundred Years’ War. An epitome of a fairy tale castle, this castle features a series of 14th century architectural designs, with a tower entrance of twin towers breaking the horizon. The castle has large circular towers at all corners. Today it remains a place to visit and relive dreams of knights in shining armor.

Hearst Castle, California, USA.  UU.

Hearst Castle, California, USA. UU.

Spanning more than 8,000 square meters in the Santa Lucia Mountains, halfway between the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles, this grand complex of Mediterranean Revival architecture, Romanesque pools, neoclassical rooms, and stately living spaces offers guests visitors a glimpse of 1950s high-end society, as well as an unadulterated panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean. And it is that in its day it was the home of William Randolph Hearst, who later bequeathed the castle to the State of California , opening the grounds and the large upper rooms for groups of tourists and guests from all over the world. Since 1972 it has been part of the National Register of Historic Places.

Hunyad Castle, Romania

Hunyad Castle, Romania

In the Romanian town of Hunedoara there is a Gothic-Renaissance castle, known for its high red slate roofs, ornate balconies, and wide windows . It was built in 1446 at the request of John Hunyadi, a Hungarian military leader. Cultural lore says that 12 Turkish prisoners were ordered to dig the castle’s well and would only be released when they reached the water. Fifteen years later, when the well was finished, her captors broke the promise, and many have claimed that there is a scribble on the wall of the well that reads: “You have water, but no soul.”

Castillo de Chenonceau, France

Castillo de Chenonceau, France

Chenonceau Castle, near the small town of Chenonceaux, France, straddles the Cher River and was built around the 11th century. It is part of the series of castles commonly known as “Loire castles”. The mix of architecture gives the castle a unique look. The castle survived both world wars, serving as a hospital ward in the first and surviving a German bombing raid in June 1940 during World War II.

Bran Castle, Romania

Bran Castle, Romania

Bran Castle was built in 1388. It is located on the border between Wallachia and Transylvania, and is commonly known as Dracula’s Castle due to its connection to the legend of Dracula (Vlad Tepes). It is clear that Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula was inspired by Bran Castle, as it fits the description of the castle perfectly. Today this castle is a museum filled with art and furniture collected by Queen Maria of Romania, who ruled during the 1920s and 1930s.

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