We think many people would agree that there are few buildings in the world that are as beautiful and fascinating as castles. Think about it — how cool would it be to have your own castle? Fortified structures that were built in Europe and the Middle East during the Middle Ages, these buildings not only have a striking appearance, but they were built for nobility. Therefore, they often have an intriguing history. There are many different types and designs of castle, with some dating back as far as the 9th and 10th centuries. Here are the 10 coolest castles on the planet, all of which are as fascinating as they are breathtaking.
10. Conwy Castle, North Wales
Built by Edward I during his conquest of Wales, this impressive fortress dates back to 1283 and therefore has a rich history. It was created as part of a larger defensive structure along with the enormous Conwy town walls. It has played a key role in a number of wars, including the siege of Madog ap Llywelyn and the English Civil War. It is now considered by UNESCO to be a World Heritage site. Although now in a somewhat ruined condition, the castle still looks impressive to this day and remains a popular tourist attraction despite the ongoing maintenance and repair work. The castle is known for its massive defensive wall along with four huge towers that reach 70 feet high, and it has been described as “the finest examples of late 13th century and early 14th century military architecture in Europe.”
9. Miranda Castle, Belgium
Often called Noisy Castle, Miranda Castle is a 19th century neo-Gothic castle found in Ardennes, Belgium. Abandoned today due to the cost to maintain it, it was first built by English architect Edward Milner in 1866 but he would pass away before it was completed. Part of the Battle of the Bulge took place on the property, and this saw the castle occupied by Nazis at the time. Following the war it was taken over by the National Railway Company of Belgium as an orphanage and holiday camp for sick children, and it stayed as this into the 1970s. It was during this period that it was renamed to Noisy Castle. The striking building is now in a derelict state with some heavy structure damage and it is closed to the public, but it remains a favorite venue for urban explorers and it is clear to see why.
8. Hochosterwitz Castle, Austria
Situated atop a rock 172 meters into the sky, Hochosterwitz Castle is mightily impressive and a huge tourist attraction in Austria. It is situated near Sankt Georgen am Langsee, just east of Sankt Veit an der Glan in Carinthia. Seeing as it is built so high up, the castle can be seen from up to 19 miles away on a clear day. The site was first mentioned in an 860 deed, but it has been owned by the Khevenhuller noble family since around 1541. Some parts of the castle are open to the public, including rooms containing paintings, weapons, and armor. It is said that the castle has never been conquered and this is due to enormous fortification and its location. It has 14 gates each equipped with different methods of guarding the path, making it an impressive fortress as well as a stunning medieval castle up in the clouds.
7. Windsor Castle, United Kingdom
A Royal residence in the English county of Berkshire, the stunning Windsor Castle has had a long association with the English and British royal family. It was first built in the 11th century and has been used by succeeding monarchs since Henry I, making it the longest occupied palace in all of Europe. Although beautiful and boasting lavish apartments, the castle was originally designed to protect Norman dominance around the outskirts of London and to oversee an important part of the River Thames. Much of it was rebuilt as it became a royal court and centre for diplomatic entertainment, and it is now an enormous tourist attraction in the U.K. Around 500 people live and work at the castle, making it the largest inhabited castle in the world. The castle also boasts breathtaking grounds, making it immensely popular despite the public only having limited access.
6. Prague Castle, Czech Republic
Found in the capital of the Czech Republic, Prague Castle is one of the largest and most famous castles in the world. It dates back to the 9th century and is the official residence of the President, and it is also a key tourist attraction in Prague. It is also home to the Bohemian Crown Jewels, which are kept hidden inside. The castle reaches around 570 meters in length and is an average of 130 meters wide, making it a breathtaking site and a huge part of the capital. The castle district includes several different buildings and gardens, with all the buildings representing a wide range of architectural styles which makes it a unique and fascinating area to explore. Most areas are open to tourists and there are several museums and galleries. According to the Guinness Book of Records, Prague Castle is the largest castle complex in the world.
5. Peles Castle, Romania
Found tucked away in the Carpathian Mountains in Romania, Peles Castle is a striking Neo-Renaissance castle that was built between 1873 and 1914. Although architecturally it has a Neo-Renaissance and Gothic Revival style, the interior is Baroque-influenced, with heavy use of carved woods and exquisite fabrics. It has a 3,200-square-metre floor plan and over 170 rooms, all of which are lavishly decorated and furnished. Visitors can have a guided tour of the fantastic castle and it is currently on lease from the royal family to the Romanian state. A few highlights include a huge statue of King Carol I (who purchased the land), terrace gardens featuring fountains, urns and guarding lions, and The Grand Armory where there are between 1,600 and 4,000 pieces of weaponry and armor which makes it one of Europe’s best collections of hunting and war implements with items from between the 14th and 19th century on show.
4. Himeji Castle, Japan
Away from Europe now and we are looking at the magnificent Himeji Castle, a hilltop castle located in Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan. Made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993, the castle dates back to 1333 where it was first a fort built atop the hill. It was then dismantled and rebuilt, before being remodeled in 1581.It has since been expanded, and has remained intact even through bombing of the area in WWII and the 1995 Great Hanshin earthquake. It is considered a brilliant example of Japanese castle architecture, with defensive and architectural features such as curved walls, loopholes, angled chutes, three moats and a confusing maze of paths which lead to the keep. Due to its brilliant white exterior, the castle has been featured in many films and it is the most visited castle in Japan. It reopened earlier this year after restoration work was carried out.
3. Schloss Moritzburg, Germany
A beautiful castle from the Baroque era, Moritzburg Castle is found in the German state of Saxony and was originally a hunting lodge for Moritz of Saxony (who the castle is named after). It was then extended and a chapel was added between 1661 and 1671, making it an early example of Baroque architecture. Between 1723 and 1733, the castle was remodeled and a park, ponds and game preserve were added. The unique and colorful castle looks particularly picturesque as it is situated on an artificial and symmetrical island on a large pond. It is equally stunning on the inside, with the walls covered in 17th century gold-gilded leather and an enormous collection of red deer antlers. It is also in a beautiful area that is surrounded by woodlands and lakes, and this makes it a favorite hunting area for the electors and kings of Saxony.
2. Mont Saint-Michel, France
A breathtaking castle that is situated on an island commune in Normandy, France and located about one kilometer off the northwest coast, Mont Saint-Michel is quite a sight to behold. Its unique position saw it used as a defensive tactic, and the connection between the mainland and the island has changed over the years. It used to have a tidal causeway, which was then changed to a raised causeway in 1879. A bridge now exists, as well as a dam, all officially opened by President Francois Hollande. Mont Saint-Michel and its bay are part of the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites and it is one of France’s most recognizable and visited landmarks. As well as working as a defensive tactic, the Mont has also been turned into a prison by Louis XI. The prison closed in 1863 and shortly after it was declared a monument historique.
1. Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
Widely regarded as one of the most romantic places in the entire world, the breathtaking Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany, is a must see and was even the inspiration for the world famous Disneyland Sleeping Beauty Castle. Situated atop a hill high above the village of Hohenschwangu, Neuschwanstein Castle features stunning spires and turrets which give it a striking and dramatic look. It is a 19th century Romanesque Revival building that was commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and homage to Richard Wagner (a German composer). Following the reclusive king’s death in 1886, the castle was opened to the public and it is immensely popular. A fairytale-esque building in a beautiful setting, the interior is also astonishing even though it remains mostly unfinished inside. Today, the glorious castle has 1.3 million visitors a year and is consequently one of the most popular tourist attractions in Europe.