Fairytales, princes, princesses and Disney movies of childhood and even as we get older, the appeal of the castle remains at least partly because they so regularly serve as backdrops in video games, movies and books.
Unless you happen to find that you had a long lost great great grandfather who left you an international conglomerate in mining and shipping then, unfortunately, you’ll probably never get the chance to live in such grandeur. Luckily there are a lot of absolutely stunning castles around the world that are open to the public, some are even converted into hotels where you can stay if only for a night.
We present you the 7 visually stunning and historically fascinating castles from throughout Europe and beyond.
Prague Castle, Czech Republic
Prague Castle: This 9th Century castle is one of the largest castles in the world and is home to the crown jewels of the Bohemian Kingdom, which according to legend will cause a usurper to die within one year if worn: interestingly this is exactly what happened to Reinhard Heydrich during the Second World War when he was assassinated within a year of placing the crown on his head.
Czechoslovakian kings and presidents have lived in this massive mansion in central Prague which includes not just residences but also churches, palaces, towers, stables and over half a dozen gardens. Lit up at night, Prague Castle is simply mind-blowingly beautiful!
Alhambra Castle, Spain
Alhambra Castle: The name of this 9th Century castle translates to The Red Fortress and highlights the most outstanding feature of this stunning castle – its instantly recognisable red hue. It’s of architectural interest today because of the fact that it blends both Christian and Islamic design, but the real reason that people love to visit this attraction on Spain’s Costa Tropical is because the building is just so amazingly beautiful.
Amazingly the Alhambra fell into neglect throughout the 18th and 19th Centuries with the lowest point being Napolean’s transformation of the castle into barracks for his troops stationed in Granada. It wasn’t until 1870 that the Alhambra was designated a national monument and given protection.
Himeji Castle, Japan
Himeji Castle: For a castle that looks different from any in the west, you might want to take a trip to Japan to see the 80+ buildings that make up this flatland mountain castle. The design of Himeji Castle is distinctly Japanese, fascinating and awe-inspiring. Among the many defensive elements is the famous maze of paths that protects the main keep by channeling any would-be attacking force into dead ends where they can be attacked by air from the relative safety of the keep. If you are more into anime than Disney, this is the ideal castle.
Chateau de Chambord, France
Chateau de Chambord: This is the largest castle in the surrounding region and yet it wasn’t even originally built to be a primary residence for the king who ordered its construction; Chateau de Chambord was in fact intended to be a hunting lodge offering respite from the stresses and strains of being a king. Chateau de Chambord is recognised today as one of the most outstanding castles in the world, particularly in terms of its representation of French Medieval and Classical Italian architecture.
Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
Neuschwanstein Castle: This Bavarian castle sits atop a mountain in Germany and offers a spectacular view and vantage point over the surrounding region that can hardly be matched by any that of any other castle in the world. Constructed by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a mountain retreat, Neuschwanstein Castle has a gatehouse, a Bower, a citadel and the Knight’s House with a square tower. Chances are that you wouldn’t even notice the view here, though, because you’d be so entranced by the splendour of the castle itself. In fact, the castle was the inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyla
nd in Florida.
Said to be the most photographed tourist destination in Germany, Neuschwanstein Castle, or New Swan as it translates into English, is a popular spot for anyone interested in Germanic history.
Chapultepec Castle, Mexico City
Chapultepec Castle: North America has a few amazing castles to its name, the most impressive of which is this one located on a hill overlooking Mexico City. In addition to being a home for royalty, Chapultepec Castle has been a military academy and an observatory. It’s currently a museum providing information about the history of the area to visitors but people go here to see the building more than to learn what it’s about!
Schonbrunn Palace, Austria
Schonbrunn Palace: Anyone who knows much about European history knows about the important influence of the Hapsburg family. The aesthetic preferences of that family are displayed here in the palaces and gardens that make up this amazing castle in the heart of modern Vienna. One outstanding feature is a ‘Roman Ruin’ which was created in the 18th Century on the grounds that represents the ancient architecture of Rome in days gone by.