When you think about European castles, the top of the list are towering ramparts, swirling moats, dark dungeons and secret staircases. These features make Europe’s legendary castles exciting to explore. These European fortresses are full of fairytale romance, adventurous history, and incredible architecture. Most European countries can boast at least a handful of castles located in their major cities and remote countrysides, but here’s a list of six of the best.
The first castle is the palace that inspired Walt Disney’s castle in the Magic Kingdom. In the 19th century, King Ludwig II built Neuschwanstein near Füssen in Germany’s southern state of Bavaria. By then, a castle’s need for defense was no longer necessary, but regardless, the Fairytale King wanted a castle. And not just any castle. He wanted an opulent castle, and the resulting structure was a magnificent palace unlike any other. Its name means “New Swan Castle”, referencing the monarch’s love of Wagner operas, and though Ludwig died before it was finished, it has fascinated countless visitors since its completion.
Eilean Donan, Scotland
Bran Castle, Romania
Bran Castle is a magnet for tourists visiting Transylvania seeking the legend of Dracula. And though Bram Stoker, the creator of the famous vampire, never set foot on the property, the castle matches his description of the Count’s secluded fortress. In reality, the structure was first built as a fortress by Teutonic Knights, and was later adopted as a royal residence of Queen Maria of Romania. However, Dracula fans still are plentiful at this castle, so expect to be bombarded with Dracula references and souvenirs.
Segovia Alcazar, Spain
According to legend, the Trakai Castle in Lithuania was built on a whim. Folklore says that a Duke’s wife decided she didn’t like living in Old Trakai. The Duke, keen to remind his beloved of her previous home by the sea, not only created a magnificent castle complex, he chose to locate it on a peninsula jutting out onto a lake. The romantic gesture was somewhat subverted when the castle was converted into a prison, but today it’s a history museum that visitors can tour and learn about the region’s fascinating history.
Ghent’s castle was built in 1180 by Count Philip of Alsace, who drew his inspiration from the Crusader castles he had seen on his tour of duty. Perched on the river Leie, the medieval fortress is a crowning jewel of this Belgian city. In its time, it’s been a courthouse, prison, and even a factory, though today it’s one of Ghent’s most popular tourist attractions.