Whether you’re interested in history, architecture, or just feeling like a prince or princess, there’s no denying that ancient castles are sights not to be missed when you’re on your travels. Today we’ve piled together some European castles that are straight out of a fairytale. They’re the ones that demand to be seen and still look surprisingly intact even after all these years, and they need to go on your bucket list ASAP.
Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
Neuschwanstein castle is one of Germany’s most popular tourist attractions, ranking #1 on the country’s ‘most photographed building’ list. In fact, it’s noted as being one of the most beautiful castles in the world thanks to its unique and highly stylistic architecture, which surely keeps the visitors coming.
Situated in Bavaria, atop a rugged hill overlooking the land for miles in every direction, Neuschwanstein castle was completed in 1886, making it a mere 134 years old. It was built for King Ludwig II who unfortunately died before the castle was completed. It was opened to the public shortly after his death and has been popular ever since.
Neuschwanstein survived the mass destruction created in World War II, due to its secluded spot amongst the mountains and trees, although in 1945, the SS actually considered blowing the castle up to stop it from being seized by the enemy. Luckily that didn’t happen, and Neuschwanstein still stands proud today.
Burg Eltz, Germany
Our second fairytale castle is also German. Burg Eltz dates back to the 9th century, meaning that this medieval castle is over 1000 years old. That’s quite a lot older than Neuschwanstein to say the least.
This castle has monument status, which means it cannot be left to fall into disrepair, and its last period for restoration took place between 2009 and 2012, where structural frames were mended and renewed to ensure its safety.
Burg Eltz has been in possession of the Eltz family for over 800 years now. However, the owners don’t live on the premises, choosing to instead to live in cities close by. Eltz is open yearlong for tourists, who travel far and wide to check out this fairytale castle that sits on top of a rock above the river Mosel.
Château de Challain, France
Château de Challain is a French wedding venue that oozes elegance and sophistication. This romantic, medieval château is all about romance, so it’s a fairytale castle at its finest for sure.
Built back in 1050, Château de Challain is almost 1000 years old, but it’s stood the test of time remarkably well. In fact, it’s not always been such a romantic destination. It began as a fortress for the town of Brittany and was destroyed during the destruction and wars that followed.
Château de Challain was restored by a Parisian architect who took his inspiration from the Louvre in the 19th Century, which is where it got a lot of its romantically stylized architecture. In 2002, the château was restored for a second time, although it was a long and painstaking job. Clearly it was well worth the effort, as it now stands as one of the finest wedding destinations in Europe.
Kasteel de Haar, The Netherlands
Kasteel de Haar or De Haar Castle, is the biggest and most luxurious castle in the Netherlands, and began its time as a medieval fortress much like the rest of the castles on this list. Nowadays it’s renowned for its picture perfect rose gardens and perfectly restored turrets and moat and it plays host to multiple weddings throughout the year.
The original Kasteel de Haar dates back to the 13th century, although it underwent renovations under the watchful eye of the van Zuylen family, who still own it today. The castles restoration was completed in 1912, making this version of the castle just over 100 years old.
De Haar is open throughout the year, and is the most popular castle in the Netherlands, attracting over 250,000 visitors every year. It’s revered for its picture perfect location – 135 acres of land studded with completed gardens, and even a deer park, where wild deer roam freely.
Hluboká Castle, Czech Republic
Yet another castle famed as a glorious wedding destination, Hluboká Castle is known as being the Czech Republic’s most beautiful castle, and attracts up to 300,000 visitors per year. It’s not hard to see why.
This gothic castle dating back from the 13th century has been rebuilt multiple times after its first stint as a military fortress that overlooked the Vltava river. During its most recent restoration in the 19th century, it was ordered to be made to resemble England’s Windsor Castle by the occupying family.
Now, with its snowy white exterior and neatly trimmed gardens, the castle is well-known for being a prime wedding location for those with an eye for luxury. It’s also a monument, which means it can’t be knocked down and must be restored as soon as it needs a few touch ups.
Pena Palace, Portugal
Definitely the most colorful regal household on our list, Pena Palace sits atop a hill just outside the capital of Portugal, Lisbon, and is painted in reds, pinks, and yellows, which helps it stand out amongst the jungle of foliage it sits above.
Yet another location wedding destination, Pena Palace attracts visitors in their droves. In fact, in 2017 they received a whopping 3.2 million visitors making it the most visited spot on this list. Considering the walk up to the palace can take up to an hour, we’re surprised (although you can also take public transport up to the top if you don’t fancy the hike).
Pena Palace is so special to Portugal, that it’s been named one of its 7 wonders, and is even a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which means it needs to be kept in top condition throughout the year.
Mont-Saint Michel, France
Our second pick that’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mont-Saint Michel sits on its own fortified island in Normandy, France, and was originally a monastery built in the 8th century.
The castle that appears at the beginning of every Disney movie? That’s based off of Mont-Saint Michel. Disney’s artists were inspired by the beautiful medieval castle during their initial design process. In fact, this castle is so magical, it even looks like it’s glowing and floating above the water that surrounds it during the hours of darkness when it’s lit up.
Mont-Saint Michel is visited by around 3 million people per year, making it one of the most popular castles on this list. It’s also pretty ironic, given that it used to be a world renowned pilgrimage site in the middle ages. Clearly people are still ready to head off on a pilgrimage to find out what this castle is all about.
Predjama Castle, Slovenia
Predjama Castle in Slovenia is the darkest fairytale castle of them all, with damp dungeons and dangerous holes in the castle’s ceiling which were used to pour boiling oil on the enemies of those inside.
Built at the mouth of a cave, Predjama is a renaissance style castle built in the 13th century and it pokes out along the side of the cave and a rock face high above the ground. It’s the perfect hide away and if you visit this awesome castle you may even find a bit of treasure on display. This treasure is said to have been collected and hidden by famed Slovenian ‘Robin Hood’ figure, Erazem Lueger and dates back to the 15th Century.
Which of these fairytale castles is your favorite? With so many fortresses, palaces, and chateaus to explore throughout Europe, there’s plenty of history and architecture to sink your teeth into. Which one will you be setting on your list?