As summer looms ahead, choosing where to travel in Europe to those fleeting warm months is a pretty daunting task. Let alone picking a travel destination with activities that can be fun for everyone. If you’re looking to experience breathtaking beauty, what better than to lose yourself in larger-than-life architecture surrounded by gorgeous nature? And Europe has many of these stunning gems! Here are ten unforgettable castles in Europe to travel to for their astonishing beauty and grandeur.
This 19th century marvel is known as “the castle of the fairy-tale king,” King Ludwig II and it also happens to be one of the most popular in Europe for travel lovers. Seven weeks after King Ludwig II’s death in 1886, Neuschwanstein opened to the public.
Ironically, the king had built it as a sanctuary to withdraw from public life. This no longer stands as up to 6,000 travel and history buffs each day come streaming through the great halls and rooms. Its setting in nature is idyllic and travel lovers find it’s one of the most photogenic spots in Europe!
Eilean Donan, Scotland
Eilean Donan is recognized as one of the most iconic images of Scotland. Partially destroyed in an uprising in 1719, Eilean Donan was in ruins for about 200 years. This all changed when Lieutenant Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrap bought the island in 1911. He then led a 20 year restoration and opened the castle to travel lovers in 1932.
Eileen Donan is located in the Scottish highlands on an island known as “the point where three great sea lochs meet”. Surrounded by natural beauty such as the mountains of Kintail, the Isle of Skye, or its surrounding lochs, it is no wonder that Eilean Donan has starred in movies such as Highlander and James Bond (1999). A memorable spot for Europe travel!
Alcázar of Segovia, Spain
Rumored to be the inspiration behind Cinderella’s Castle in Walt Disney World, the Alcázar former fort-turned-castle. Built by the Romans, then turned into a Muslim fort by the Berber Almoravid dynasty, documentation of this marvel only began a couple years after it returned to Christian hands. References to it as “the castle of Segovia” and “Alcázar” began between 1124 and 1139.
A travel must-see for your list, here you can explore 12 of the rooms which open onto two main courtyards. Each of the rooms contain a mix of Gothic, Roman and Moorish influences. The Alcázar’s multiculturalism is also present in its name. Alcázar derives from the Arabic ‘al quasar’, meaning fortress or palace. For every travel lover who visits Europe, the culture and history of the Alcázar is fascinating.
Bran Castle, Romania
A national monument and landmark in Romania, it was once the royal residence of Queen Marie of Romania and is now the Ethnographic Museum. It is filled with old village houses, furniture, and household objects collected by Queen Marie.
It owes its fame to both its imposing presence and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. While Stoker never visited Transylvania, the Irish author relied on a combination of research and vivid imagination to create the setting of Count Dracula. The novel sparked myths claiming that Bran Castle was once the home of Vlad Tepes, ruler of Walachia. While the myths are completely unfounded, this Europe gem continues to attract all fans of the Count and people from all over the world travel here to see it.
Viewed as romantic and fairytale-like, Bojnice is one of the most attractive and visited in central Europe. The chateau is located near Prievidza, otherwise known as the “Green city” and houses a museum of art and history. The museum’s most notable piece is the Bojnice Altar. Nardo di Cione Ortagna, a Florentine artist, made the masterpiece in 14th Century. It was finally returned to the chapel in 2013.
The best time to travel to Bojnice is during the International Ghosts and Spirits Festival, which takes place between the end of April and the beginning of May. How’s that for sunny Europe travel?
Located near the German Highlands (the Swabian Alb), this ancestral seat of the Hohenzollern dynasty has sat atop its sylvan hill for almost 1,000 years. Originally a fortress, both Hohenzollern lines restored the complex in the 19th century.
Hohenzollern’s scenery attracts hundreds of thousands of international travel lovers all year round. Its main attraction is its art collection. Kaiser Wilhelm II’s famous “Hohenzollern Crown” is one of its stars. With numerous concerts, exhibitions, and one of Germany’s most beautiful Christmas markets, it is a Europe travel attraction to be enjoyed at any time of the year.
Leeds Castle, United Kingdom
This English stunner has had many lives. It was once a Norman stronghold, a royal castle, a palace used by Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon, and many more. Its interesting history has led it to be one of Britain’s most visited buildings – one for your travel bucket list in Europe!
Privately owned until recently, it has been open to the public since 1976. It is built upon two islands in the middle of a lake. The Maze, one of its multiple attractions, hides in its center a Grotto which also serves as the exit. When not serving as the backdrop for dream weddings, this gem hosts a plethora of events, exhibitions and animations. The Gatehouse Exhibition notably takes you on a journey through almost 900 years of its history.
Swallow’s Nest, Ukraine
Perched atop the Aurora cliff overlooking the Crimean sea, Swallow’s Nest stands as “a curious remnant of Imperial Russia.” The original structure of the property was a wooden cottage, constructed for a Russian general around 1895 then given to a physician. Baron von Stiengel then purchased the cottage and transformed it into the Neo-Gothic structure we see today.
Despite its aesthetic quality, Swallow’s Nest’s physics-defying design made it wholly uninhabitable. It was renovated and rendered visitable in 1968. Its beauty has been captured in multiple Soviet films. Travel to Swallow’s Nest if you find yourself in Europe – it’s a photography dream as well!
Buda Castle, Hungary
Looming over Danube, Buda Castle towers atop Várhegy (Castle Hill). Though a first castle was built in the thirteenth century, the foundations of the modern structure were built in the 14th Century. Built by King Lajos the Great, it has a long history of renovation, destruction and reconstruction.
Home to the National Library, National Gallery, and the Budapest History Museum, this marvel today is a cultural institution. Surprisingly, the best part could be to travel to explore its surrounding district. The district is overflowing with castle tours, restaurants, statues and historic landmarks. Whether by bus, cruise, or even segway, travel around here is never boring.
Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
An emblem of Scotland, this landmark looms in city’s skyline from its perch on Castle Rock. Humans have inhabited the rock since the Iron Age, whereas Castle Rock has only welcomed a royal abode since the reign of David I in the 12th century.
During its time as a royal abode, it was home to St Margaret and Mary Queen of Scots, who gave birth to James VI in the royal palace in 1566. After serving as a military base and then a prison, the landmark is now Scotland’s most-visited paid tourist attraction. It is home to Scotland’s crown jewels, the National War museum and a regimental museum. If the lavish interiors aren’t to your fancy, travel to Edinburgh for theatrical re-enactments in period costume.
Each of these gems is unique in a timeless way. Their breathtaking architecture, rich history, and deep cultural ties give them an inexplicable charm. They offer us a precious gift: to walk and marvel at their beauty as seconds turn to hours.
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