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Nearly every fairytale takes place in a beautiful castle in a land that’s far, far away – but they aren’t all fantasy. There are many stunning castles that can be found across the globe – exploring some of the most magnificent should be on the top of every traveler’s to-do list.
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“Sleeping Beauty” Castle as Neuschwanstein is often called, is said to have been the inspiration for Disneyland’s Castle. Set atop a rugged cliff in Germany’s Bavaria Alps, this 19th-century palace is truly a real-life fantasyland and one of the most beautiful castles in Germany.
This stunning castle is made up of three towers overlooking the city of San Marino in Italy, parts of the castle are over 900 years old. On its grounds, you’ll find a bell tower, watchtower, chapel, and a fortress that once served as a prison.
This romantic medieval castle has starred in a number of fantasy and fairytale films. Set in Bojnice, Slovakia, its original Gothic and Renaissance elements date back to the 12th century.
Built in 1228, this castle in County Mayo, Ireland was transformed into a luxury hotel in the 1930s. In 1951, it was the setting for the classic film, “The Quiet Man,” and more recently it’s become famous as the host of a number of celebrity weddings.
The Alcazar, or El Alcazar de Segovia, in Spain’s old city of Segovia, also inspired Mr. Walt Disney. It was said to be the inspiration for Walt Disney World’s Cinderella Castle. It sits atop a craggy hill, and at some angles appears to actually be sailing toward the viewer.
Le Chateau de Chambord in Loir-et-Cher France is one of Europe’s crown jewels as one of the finest examples of Renaissance architecture in the country. Originally a hunting lodge for Francois I, construction began in 1547. It took over 30 years to build and features an elaborate rooftop with 800 sculpted columns, more than 440 rooms and 85 staircases.
Built in the mid-13th century as a fortified castle for Alexander II to fend off Viking attacks, Eilean Donan is one of the most iconic images of Scotland. Set along the main route to the Isle of Skye in the western highlands, it sits atop a tiny island where three sea lochs meet, connected to the mainland by a footbridge.
The largest ancient castle in the world and a top attraction in Prague, Prague Castle is the official residence of the President of the Czech Republic. It dates back to the ninth century and has been a seat of power for Holy Roman emperors and Kings of Bohemia as well as Czechoslovakian presidents.
Another spectacular Irish castle, Kilkenny Castle was built in 1195 and stands out dramatically in the medieval city of Kilkenny in Ireland. Set on a strategic height along the River Nore, over the eight centuries of its existence it’s seen many additions and alterations that have resulted in the complex, stunning structure seen today.
Romania is filled with fairytale-like castles, including Peles Castle in Sinaia known as one of the most beautiful in all of Europe. It was built for King Carol I of Romania at the end of the 19th century and was used by Romanian royalty until the end of the monarchy.
Of course, Bran Castle, otherwise known as Dracula’s Castle, is Romania’s most famous. It’s a major tourist attraction as well as a national monument and landmark, marketed as the home of the star in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
This 19th-century palace in Germany’s Bavarian Alps was the childhood residence of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. It was built by his father, King Maximillian II of Bavaria, on the remains of the fortress Schuangau which dates back at least as far as the 12th century.
This mighty Austrian castle has stood for more than 900 years, towering above the town of Werfen in the Salzachtal valley. Its powerful fortifications are said to be some of the best-preserved late medieval defenses in Europe.
Located along the River Rother in East Sussex, England, Bodiam Castle was built in 1385 by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, originally as a coastal defense. The picturesque structures is said to symbolize the movement from traditional medieval castle to comfortable manor house.
This magnificent island castle located on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland dates back to the 12th century when it was the home to the Counts of Savoy, although the oldest parts were built even earlier. It was made popular by Lord Byron who carved his name on a pillar of the dungeon.
This incredible ancient Baroque castle is tucked into the hills above the Moselle River between Trier and Koblenz in the west of Germany. It’s still owned by a branch of the same family that lived there in the 12th century, going back 33 generations, and is thought to have been designed before 1157.
Mont Saint Michel sits upon a rocky tidal island in Normandy, France, about two-thirds of a mile off the coast. Strong tides in the area change quickly, causing the island to be disconnected and connected from the mainland on a daily basis. It was originally used in the sixth and seventh century as a stronghold of Gall-Roman culture and power.
This romantic palace is one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal, containing a mixture of a number of architectural styles including eclectic, neo-gothic, neo-manueline, Islamic and neo-renaissance. One of Europe’s most stunning royal palaces, it sits on a hilltop overlooking the town of Sintra and is considered one of the best expressions of 19th-century romanticism in the world.
This medieval fortification on the north coast of Wales stands as one of the greatest fortresses of medieval Europe, built by Edward I during his conquest of the country in the 13th century.
While this magnificent structure, also known as Chateau de Noisy, is a shell of its former self, it remains hauntingly beautiful. Originally built by French aristocrats fleeing the guillotine, it was abandoned in 1991, now attracting ghost hunters and thrill-seeking teenagers.