Top 10 European CastlesTop places to visit picked by our travel expert
Something new – A Top 10 travel list written by someone that’s been to each place. With dozens of amazing castles across Europe, our travel expert selected places that are visually stunning, rich in culture, and in a region worth visiting. (Bonus, we took most of these pictures!)
#10 Bran Castle – Bran, Romania
Deep in the heart of Transylvania lies Bran Castle, home to Romanian Royals and intriguing stories for hundreds of years. You’ll find the castle 40 minutes south of Brasov and can be easily reached by day tours from Bucharest.
Why we like it: At the feet of the Carpathian Mountains, the castle rises over the small village of Bran and recalls classic Transylvanian thoughts. The castle is privately owned and well maintained. While you’re there, visit Bran but watch out for all the cheesy Dracula souvenirs, Vlad the Impaler never lived at the fortress.
#9 Alcázar of Segovia – Segovia, Spain
Only an hour from Madrid sits the impressive Alcazar of Segovia. With humble beginnings as a Roman fort the castle developed into its current form in medieval times. Home to royalty for hundreds of years, the Alcazar has earned its distinguished place in Spanish history.
Why we like it: With incredible views overlooking Segovia and the countryside, this medieval castle impresses with its shear size and fairy tale design. In person, it looks like a place straight out of Disney World or Harry Potter. Segovia is also worth a visit to see their massive Roman aqueduct.
#8 Cité de Carcassonne – Carcassonne, France
Sitting on top of a hill with 52 towers, this huge medieval fortress is straight out of a fairy tale book. Located in the beautiful countryside in southern France, the castle and village area is worth a day’s visit.
Why we like it: The incredible castle is visible across the countryside, which on its own is amazing. Inside the walls we liked the small shops and village feel. Walking around gives the best impression of what it would’ve looked like during medieval times.
#7 Edinburgh Castle – Edinburgh, Scotland
Home to the Scottish Crown Jewels and towering over Edinburgh, the Castle is a must visit in Scotland. The castle is still and has been actively used for hundreds of years. This is Scotland’s most popular tourist attraction and visited by over 2 million people per year.
Why we like it: Arriving to Edinburgh, the castle towers over the city. Although filled with tourist shops, the walk up the Royal Mile to the entrance is exciting. Inside, we enjoy the views overlooking the city and the large amount of buildings and rooms that can be explored. The castle is best visited in the off-season when it’s not so crowded.
#6 Hohenzollern Castle – Hechingen, Germany
Perched on top of a mountain, this is one of Germany’s most imposing castles. It’s a great place to visit off the beaten path and see authentic German cities. Most of the castle was refurbished in the 1800’s but retains it’s medieval history.
Why we like it: The shear size on top of the mountain is an incredible site. The castle is well maintained and offer great views of the surrounding valleys. Sometimes, you’ll be visiting in the clouds. We also love to visit the cities around the castle since it’s off the beaten tourist path. Check out Tübingen, a fun city with one of Europe’s oldest universities and some unique museums.
#5 Chateau de Menthon-Saint-Bernard – Annecy, France
At the base of the Alps and shores of Lake Annecy, lies this unique castle. Over the past 1100 years, the castle has been transformed to one of the more interesting castles to visit in Europe. While it’s not the biggest or most picturesque, Chateau de Menthon is worth the visit.
Why we like it: Two incredible facts we love about Chateau Menthon. 1. For the last 800 years, the same family has owned and lived in the castle. 2. St Bernard was born and lived here. Inside, it is amazing to see the 13th century kitchen and library with over 12,000 books made before 1800. It’s an incredible authentic feeling visit.
#4 Chillon Castle – Montreux, Switzerland
On the shores of Lake Geneva, this medieval fortress has style and substance. Centuries worth of history, stories, and views of the Alps captivate visitors from across the world. Today, it is one of the most visited castles in Switzerland and Europe.
Why we like it: With an easy train ride from Geneva and beautiful countryside along the way, it’s exciting to see the castle start to appear in the distance. Certainly one of the most picturesque castles in Europe, its also full of interesting history exhibits including Lord Byron who carved his name in the dungeon.
Fun fact: Chateau Chillon inspired Prince Eric’s castle in Disney’s Little Mermaid.
#3 Eilean Donan Castle – Kyle of Lochalsh, Scotland
This castle looks straight out of a movie. In reality, Eilean Donan has a rich history starting in the 13th century. In addition to the tales of clans, uprisings, and royalty, the castle has enjoyed screen time in movies such as Highlander, Rob Roy, and James Bond.
Why we like it: Surrounded by water and greenery, the medieval stones cast a striking silhouette. The Macrae family has occupied the fortress for the past 500 years and you can see current family pictures as you walk through the castle – a nice homey touch in a castle. There’s a good chance of rain during your visit, which allows for a nice warm lunch in the nearby visitors center with an awesome view of the castle.
#2 Neuschwanstein Castle – Hohenschwangau, Germany
In the Bavarian Alps lies possibly the most famous castle in the world. Built by Prince Ludwig II in the late 1800’s, the castle continues to capture the imagination of all visitors. After the Prince mysteriously drown (maybe at the hands of taxpayers), the castle became a tourist attraction. Today, the inside is modest and mostly unfinished, but the sight of Neuschwanstein perched on the mountainside alone is worth a visit.
Why we like it: It’s the most picturesque castle in Europe and was intentionally built that way. The undeniably beautiful building is surrounding by equally amazing scenery. Our favorite thing to do is to hike around on trails that look down upon the castle. Our picture (in this article) was taken from a trail.
#1 Mont St Michel – Pontorson, France
Since the 1200’s a monastery has sat on the island known as Mont St Michel. At low tide, the Mont is accessible by land and by high tide it becomes an island. This environmental advantage has protected the island for hundreds of years and has made it one of France’s most famous landmarks.
Why we like it: The Mont is one of the most spectacular sites in Europe. It’s a living medieval village full of restaurants, shops, and the famous cathedral. Although the shops are full of tourist crap, we love staying overnight and walking around at sunset after the throngs of tour bus tourist have retreated back to their big box hotels on the mainland.