There is something special about a castle. Sometimes built for protection, sometimes purely to showcase wealth and power, there is no denying that a visit to a castle makes you feel like a King or Queen in your own fairytale. However, castles aren’t just a feature of Europe, in fact, there are fairytale castles all over the world. So, if you saw the fairytale castles in Europe and want more, check out these beautiful fairytale castles from across the globe.
Fairytale Castles in India
During your first trip to India, visiting the Taj Mahal is a must. But don’t leave Agra after visiting this iconic place because there’s another remarkable building in Agra. The Agra Fort (or Red Fort) is a marvellous 16th-century fort that was built by Akbar, a Moghul emperor. It’s surrounded by a 2.5 kilometre wall and was built to protect the city.
Although only 1/3 of Fort Agra can be visited, as the other parts are used by the army, it’s still worth the stop. The white marble was left over after building the Taj Mahal but most of the fort is red.
From Fort Agra, you enjoy spectacular views over the surrounding area. You can even see the Taj Mahal.
I was struck about the sad story of Shah Jahan who constructed the Taj Mahal to bury his favourite wife. The third son wanted to be in power (instead of the oldest son) and so he killed his two older brothers and held his father captive in Fort Agra. And if that wasn’t cruel enough, the jail looked over the Taj Mahal as an added torture!
By Wendy, World Wide Wendy
Bangalore Palace is a grand palace located in the middle of Bangalore city in Karnataka, India. The palace is currently owned by the Wadiyar royal family. One of the interesting things to note about this palace is that it’s one of the few very palaces in India that has been constructed in the Tudor style of architecture, which is commonly found in England. This is because in the year 1874 the palace was constructed by the British guardians of the then-minor Maharajah Wadiyar. It’s important to note that at that time, the British had colonised India and offered deals to many rules that they submit to the Britishers or go to war. Many rulers chose to submit to the British government, which is how the Bangalore palace came into being.
The palace is now open to visitors and contains pictures of what the palace and its grounds looked like ages ago. One can rent audio tapes which are available in multiple languages, including English and take a self-guided tour of the palace. The palace interiors have an interesting mix of Indian, English and Spanish decor which make it look just as impressive as the exteriors.
By Soujanya, The Spicy Journey
Udaipur City Palace in Rajasthan
The Udaipur city palace is one of the largest palaces in Rajasthan India. It is actually more a complex of interlinked palaces each with their own courtyards and gates. The construction took more than 400 years as the palace developed when Udaipur was the capital of the Mewar kingdom.
The Mewars no longer have royal privileges, but still own and maintain the palace. Of all the palaces they owned, the city palace was the most beautiful thanks to its ornate decoration and its scenic location on the shore of Lake Pichola.
The Mewars still live in part of the palace, but the most striking section is now a museum. Furthermore, it is also possible to stay in the palace as there are two luxury heritage hotels inside. Profit of the palace heritage hotels goes into the Mewar trust that makes donations to charities. In this way, the Mewars still like to contribute to the development of Udaipur.
A visit to the museum is a must when you are in Udaipur. Don’t miss the mirror bedroom, the gardens or the little marble statue of Ganesh at Ganesh chowk. Udaipur is a city of palaces, but the Udaipur City Palace is certainly the largest and most interesting to see.
By Ellis, Backpack Adventures
Jal Mahal, Rajasthan India
After living in India for a few months, I quickly fell in love with Rajasthan and the numerous cities in this vibrant state. Rajasthan’s capital, Jaipur, is one such urban hub that deserves a week-long stay.
From forts to parks, there are many things to do in Jaipur. Jal Mahal, or ‘Water Palace’ is easily one of the most enchanting palaces in the world. It isn’t just the gold-coloured exterior, but also that the palace seems to float on top of Man Sagar Lake that makes this destination worth a visit. Jal Mahal is surrounded by rolling hills and beautiful greenery. The palace is in the Rajput style of architecture and can be viewed from the main Amer-Jaipur road. Vendors sell fresh coconut and fruit juices on the side of the boardwalk that surrounds the lake.
The entire experience is straight out of a fairytale. It is in stark contrast to Jaipur’s busy streets but unfortunately, the palace is inaccessible as it is submerged in water.
By Daisy, Beyond My Border
Mysore Palace India
Mysore Palace is not just one of the top things to do in Mysore but one of the most popular tourist attractions in all of India and is deserving of the title. This huge palace was originally the residence of the Mysore royal family. In 1897 the original wooden structure burnt down during a wedding ceremony and a new palace was built to replace it. The current building is an immense 3 storey structure with stone and pink marble domes.
The interior of Mysore Palace consists of hundreds of opulently decorated rooms, grand corridors and grounds filled with intricately decorated temples and gates. Visitors could easily spend hours exploring the stunning decorations and admiring this eclectic mix of Hindu, Islamic, Rajput, and Gothic architectural styles. But the real magic of the palace is revealed on Sunday evenings when the entire exterior of the palace is lit up by over 10,000 lights making it look just like a fairy tale castle.
By Rohan, Travels of a Bookpacker
Fairytale Castles in the Middle East
Qasr Al Watan, UAE
Qasr Al Watan in Abu Dhabi is one of the newest and most expensive palaces in the world. It is the Presidential Palace for the United Arab Emirates, the home to governance and culture in the UAE. It is not the residential home of the UAE’s ruler, Sheikh Khalifa, but contains the offices for the President, the Vice-President & Prime Minister and the Crown Prince. These functioning buildings are off-limits to visitors, but the main palace building is open daily for all to visit and now sits grandly as one of the country’s most magnificent buildings, alongside the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque.
Construction was only completed in 2018, glittering with gold embellishments and some of the finest craftsmanship of the modern Islamic era. Its stunning white marble exterior represents purity and peace while the interior is decorated in white, blue and gold geometric shapes. The Great Hall leads to several rooms that take you on a tour of ancient to modern Islamic culture through the banquet hall and Presidential gifts before culminating with the Spirit of Collaboration – home to the Federal Supreme Council and a 12 tonne, 350,000 crystal chandelier.
Qasr al Watan sits at the end of the Corniche in Abu Dhabi. It’s easy to reach by taxi from across the city and is on the Big Bus sightseeing route. Entry can be booked in advance or on the door and gets you access to the main palace and the public library. Guided tours (highly recommended) run hourly and can be added for an additional cost.
You can also get cheap “grounds only” passes but the highlights are definitely inside. The gardens aren’t the most stunning – yet – but give them time to mature. In the cooler winter months, they also run an evening lights show.
By Keri, Family Travel Middle East
The Palace of the Sheki Khans in Sheki, Azerbaijan
Once upon a time – between 1743 and 1819, to be exact – one of the most powerful Khanates in the Caucasus region formed its capital in the Silk Road town of Sheki. Located in the northern part of present-day Azerbaijan, not so far from the Georgian border, Sheki is endowed with vivid reminders of that period.
The Palace of the Sheki Khans was built as a summer residence for the royal family. No expense was spared – it’s one of the most sumptuous palaces in the region, and an interesting combination of Eastern and Western tastes.
The front of the building is covered with geometric patterns made from tiles and mirrors. Entering the palace is completely overwhelming – miniature paintings plaster every wall, ceiling, niche and door. Detailed depictions of floral and Islamic motifs, pomegranate trees and allegorical scenes are as vivid as the day they were painted. Shebeki, a special kind of stained-glass made in Sheki, casts vibrant lights around the sequential rooms. There’s a workshop on the palace grounds where you can watch artisans making Shebeki even today.
Attention to detail in the restorations earned the palace UNESCO World Heritage status in July 2019. Visitors can tour the palace in small groups for a fee of around $1 – just roll up, there’s no need to book ahead. Photography is not permitted inside.
While you’re in Sheki, be sure to also visit the lesser-known Winter Palace, which is currently undergoing restorations but promises to be just as breathtaking.
By Emily, Wander-Lush
Golestan Palace, Tehran
Absolutely one of the top things to do in Tehran, especially if it’s your first time in the Iranian capital, the stunning Golestan Palace has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2013. A true masterpiece of the Qajar dynasty, the luxurious walled complex combines fine Persian architecture and crafts with Western-style art, testimony to the love for Europe the Qajari rulers had.
The Qajar era started in 1779 and the new rulers moved the capital of Iran to Tehran, where they built several palaces and mansions. The Golestan Palace features gardens, pools and several rooms with opulent decorations, becoming one of the Qajar symbols of artistic expression. One of the oldest and most important complexes of buildings in Tehran, the palace was the seat of the Qajari government as well as the royal residence. An entire part of the royal palace hosted the wives and mistresses of the king, and some historical sources say at some point they have reached more than 400.
If you want to see all the most important areas, which I totally recommend, you can devote around two hours to visit the place. Located in the historic centre of Tehran, some of the main areas of the Golestan Palace you shouldn’t miss are the Marble Throne, Salam Hall, the Springhouse, the gallery and the museum.
By Angela, Chasing the Unexpected
Crac des Chevalier, Syria
The Crac des Chevalier is a medieval fortress in Syria that was built by the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem during the Crusades, between 1142 and 1271 AD.
It was part of a string of fortresses from which the Knights Hospitallers controlled the route to the Mediterranean Sea through the Orontes River Valley. The Crac is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is generally considered to be the best-preserved Crusader castle in the world.
My husband and I had the privilege of visiting this magnificent castle back in 2003 on our first trip together, when we had only been dating for a few months. We had the place almost completely to ourselves and standing together looking down on the valley below from the ramparts of this castle was a magical feeling.
Unfortunately, its state of preservation has been compromised by the current civil war in Syria. The Crac was captured and held by rebels for nearly two years and then recaptured by government forces in 2014.
A few tourists are starting to trickle back in, though, and have reported that the damages are relatively minor. Hopefully, Syria will soon be at peace, and more people will be able to enjoy this spectacular castle, which sits just a short taxi ride away from the city of Homs.
By Wendy, The Nomadic Vegan
Ali Qapu Palace, Iran
During the Safavid Dynasty, the capital of the empire which today is Iran (and most of its neighbours) was moved to Isfahan. You can tell it was designed for greatness by looking at the Naqsh-e Jahan square (nowadays known as the Imam square). Its name means “the pattern of the world”, since it has symbols in each side representing the four main pillars of power: politics, religion, economy, and the citizens. The Ali Qapu palace, the Sheikh Lotfollah mosque, the Qeysarieh bazaar and portal, and the Shah mosque embrace every power.
The mosques are impressive, but the fabulous Ali Qapu palace tells you a lot about the empire. It was built in the early 17th century. At forty-eight meters high with six floors it was the first “skyscraper” in the Eastern world. It was used by the monarch for royal audiences and to greet ambassadors and heads of states. There’s a spiral staircase that takes you through each floor. Take your time exploring them, looking for paintings and details in the décor.
On the sixth floor you’ll be treated by the Music Hall, where the walls are decorated by bottle-shaped holes that give the hall its remarkable acoustics. From the balcony you’ll have an open view of the square that houses it. Go back at night for jaw dropping sights of every building in the square.
By Coni, Experiencing the Globe
Fairytale Castles in the Americas
Castello di Amorosa, USA
Castello di Amorosa is a true fairytale castle in California’s famous Napa Valley. Napa is one of America’s most important wine regions, specializing in reds especially Cabernet Sauvignon varietals. Castella di Amorosa isn’t just a castle, it’s also a winery.
Castello di Amorosa doesn’t look like it should belong in Napa Valley. It’s a stone fortress, a 13th Century style, Medieval mansion. Complete with towers, a moat, a drawbridge, an armoury & even a torture chamber!
The creator spent over 2 decades designing and perfecting this property. Every aspect of the castle was handmade using materials and methods from hundreds of years ago. Almost a million antique bricks from Europe were used to construct the castle. Authentic furnishings were also used in the interior. So, a wine tour here has the feel of a museum tour.
Castello di Amorosa is an architectural masterpiece and one of the most impressive wineries in Napa Valley. Certainly, it was one of the most memorable wine tours I’ve ever been on! During the tour, you’ll be guided through the most important parts of the castle and learn more about the history of this incredible place. The tour also includes a private wine tasting in the grand barrel room. Add-on options are available for Reserve wines or Chocolate.
By Valentina, Valentina’s Destinations
Hearst Castle, USA
Hearst Castle is located on the central coast of California in the town of San Simeon. It is a National Historic Landmark and a California Historical Landmark. The castle was the joint concept of the publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst and his architect Julia Morgan and built between 1919 and 1947. The Castle has 165 rooms and 123 acres of gardens, terraces, pools, and walkways.
The castle is the former residence and party house of Hearst, and during the time he lived there it was known as the “La Cuesta Encantada” (Spanish for “Enchanted Hill). Hearst was known for hosting lavish weekend-long parties with popular celebrities and political leaders of the time. In 1957 the Hearst Corporation donated the estate to the state of California.
Today Hearst Castle is the 3rd most visited California landmark after the Santa Monica Pier and Disneyland. It is open for tours every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
By Alexa, 52 Perfect Days
Fiscal Island Castle, Brazil
Fiscal Island, or in Portuguese Ilha Fiscal, is an eye-catching light-green neo-Gothic palace located at the Baía de Guanabara, Rio de Janeiro, and looks like a castle straight out of a fairytale. Back in the 19th-century, the island was seat to the marine border control during the imperialism in Brazil, hence why it’s called Fiscal Island.
While the castle has significant historical relevance, what many people don’t know is that Fiscal Island is famous for hosting the last ball of the monarchy. While the imperial family and the court were having fun, the military was plotting a coup. Six days later, on November 15th, 1889, the military seized power and established the Brazilian Republic.
Nowadays, the site makes a bond between present and past by housing a museum with monarchy’s relics and the story of the castle itself.
To buy the entrance tickets, head over to the Navy Cultural Space (Espaco Cultural da Marinha), located on the Olympic Boulevard. That’s also where your transfer will leave, and boarding starts 20 minutes before the chosen time. Admission is R$36 (it’s a guided tour) and opening hours are Thu-Sun, 12.30 PM, 2 PM, and 3.30 PM.
By Bruna, I Heart Brazil
El Castillo de Lamas, Peru
When you think about fairytale castles it might evoke a mental picture of a centuries old structure perched high on a steep mountain somewhere in Europe. The castle I would like to introduce you to could not be more different!
Imagine Peru in South America, the Amazon rainforest, lush and green, mostly steaming hot. Then imagine an Italian inspired fairytale castle in the middle of this setting. Here you have it: “El Castillo de Lamas”.
This castle is not even old; construction of this incongruous structure started in 2005. It was the fantasy of an Italian expatriate, who had chosen Lamas as his new home. The region was hit by an earthquake early in 2005, and the building of the castle provided much-needed employment for many locals.
Now it towers on a hill in the middle of this small town, surrounded by small ramshackle local houses, not far from the town’s fruit and vegetable market. And the Peruvians love it! It’s a very popular place for photoshoots and weddings. On days not booked, the castle is just a tourist destination with an over-priced restaurant in the its courtyard.
Lamas is a small town near Tarapoto, well known as a folklore and craft centre and a cooler place to escape the heat of the Amazon lowlands.
By Juergen, Dare2go
Chapultepec Castle Mexico, City
Not many people think of fairytale castles when they think of what to see in Mexico City, but Chapultepec Castle definitely will make you feel like you are a princess in a telenovela. Chapultepec Castle brings Old World glory, to the New World with its’ ornate detail and architecture reminiscent of the castles of Europe. A castle on a hill offering not only the best views of Mexico City but the largest park in all of Mexico City!
Chapultepec Castle is the only castle in North America to house actual sovereigns. It was the residence of Emperor Maximilian I and Empress Carlota during the Second Mexican Empire (1864-1867). As you can tell from the short reign it didn’t end well for Emperor Max. But we can thank him for the beautiful Paseo de la Reforma, a straight boulevard through Mexico City that goes on as far as the eye can, see leading straight to the castle. With entry at 70 Mexican Pesos ($3.50 USD), and a foolproof way to get there by bike, metro, or walking from the city centre, Chapultepec Castle will make you feel like you are in a dream. However, Mexico City is now left with a real-life gem of architecture, history, and green space in the middle one of the largest, most populated cities in the world!
By Sarah, Travels of Sarah Fay
Hatley Castle, Canada
Hatley Castle in Victoria, British Columbia is a beautiful Edwardian castle with a fascinating and tragic history.
Built in 1908 in the Tudor style by then Lieutenant-Governor James Dunsmuir, it is said that he told his architect that the castle must be constructed without regard to cost. It was to look like a medieval castle on the exterior, but also a refuge from the business world on the inside. Built in a very quick 18 months, the stunning Hatley Castle became a grand home for Mrs. Dunsmuir to entertain the high society of Victoria.
Tragedy struck in 1920 when Mr. Dunsmuir passed away suddenly, leaving his wife and young daughter to live alone at Hatley Castle until 1937.
Hatley Castle was purchased by Government of Canada in 1940 and it was used as a training centre and then a military college until 1995. Today, Hatley Castle is the home of Royal Roads University.
Hatley Castle and Park is open to the public. It is frequently used as a wedding venue and has been seen in dozens of motion pictures and TV series including Deadpool, The Killing and X-Men.
By Lesley, Freedom56Travel
Casa Loma, Canada
Just outside of downtown Toronto, is Casa Loma. Casa Loma was built as a private home in early 1900’s and boasts 98 rooms and comes in at a grand 64,700 square feet. This castle is a beautiful architectural addition to the urban city. Many events are held at Casa Loma through the year, such as it being transformed into a haunted house around Halloween.
A must see in this castle is the ballroom where wedding ceremonies are often held. The ballroom hosts a stunning stained-glass dome ceiling and has windows and plants all around. Just off the ballroom is the beautiful library where wedding receptions are held. Be sure to also check out the immaculately manicured gardens where live music is played some evenings during the summer. The design of this castle is so whimsical, and it is a fun place to check out for kids and adults alike, with hidden passageways and a fascinating history.
When you visit Casa Loma, it’s hard to believe you’re so close to the downtown core of Toronto because you feel like you’re in the middle of a fairy tale.
By Amber, She’s Catching Flights
Iolani Palace, USA
As the only official royal palace in the United States, Iolani Palace in Hawaii is quite a treat. Located on the island of Oahu, Iolani Palace was once home to King Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani, the last of Hawaii’s reigning monarchs. The palace includes several rooms, including the grand hall, the state dining room, the Queen’s bedroom, the King’s bedroom, and even the room in which Queen Liliuokalani was held prisoner for eight months when the Kingdom of Hawaii was overthrown.
Because of its location in downtown Honolulu, Iolani Palace is very easy to access on foot, by car, or by bus. In order to explore both floors of Iolani Palace, there is a $20 entrance fee for adults and a $6 entrance fee for children. However, if you happen to be visiting towards the end of July during the Prince Lot Hula festival, admission to the first floor of Iolani Palace is free for everyone for that particular weekend.
By Sarah, Borders & Bucket Lists
Fairytale Castles in Asia
Himeji Castle, Japan
If you were brought up with the idea of knights in shining armour and imposing stone castles topped with crenellations, then Himeji Castle in Himeji, Japan, will give you a whole new perspective. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Himeji Castle was built in the 17th century for a similar reason to the medieval stone castles of Europe: defence. It has the same arrow slits for shooting at attackers and openings for dropping rocks on soldiers’ heads.
But the similarities end there: Himeji Castle is visually stunning. Perched on a hill, fortified on stone foundations, the bright white castle is astonishingly beautiful, with gracefully curving roof lines and skilful decorative details both inside and out.
Walking up the hill to its entrance is filled with new surprises at every turn because of the intricacies of the castle’s placement on the hill and the ornate architecture.
Thanks to Japan’s excellent network of bullet trains, Himeji is about an hour and a half southeast of Osaka, two hours from Kyoto, and three and a half from Tokyo. It’s definitely worth the trip.
By Rachel, Rachel’s Ruminations
Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul
One of the greatest things about traversing the metropolis of Seoul is witnessing the stark contrast between old and new. One moment you’re elbowing through a massive crowd of busy individuals in the subway and the next you’re meditating in a peaceful temple. The same is true when strolling around possibly the most famous tourist attraction, Gyeongbokgung Palace.
Face the road and you’re surrounded by glass skyscrapers, turn around and the spectacular Gwanghwamun (South Gate) will transport you into the past with its traditional Joseon architectural style and colouring. The original site was constructed in 1395 as the main dwelling and royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty. After almost being destroyed in a fire, it was restored to its former glory between 1852-1919. The massive grounds are a breath of fresh in an otherwise claustrophobic business district and measure around 4,657,576 square feet (432,703 square metres). The entire complex has two museums (The National Palace Museum of Korea and the National Folk Museum), as well as the original Geunjeongjeon Hall, Gyeonghoeru Pavilion, and Hyangwonjeong Pavilion. All great spaces for reflecting, with Bukhan Mountain rising in the background.
The best way to enjoy the grandeur of the palace is to dress up in the Korean traditional dress called hanbok. It’s so much fun to pretend you’re Joseon royalty while taking a slow stroll around the expansive grounds. Don’t forget to see the changing of the guards at the main Gwanghwamun entrance, which consists of the tallest soldiers hand-picked from the military, at 10am and 2pm, as well as a free guided tour in English at 11am, 1,00pm and 3,30pm.
By Cal, Once in a Lifetime Journey
Fairytale Castles in Australasia
Larnach Castle, New Zealand
Larnach Castle was built in 1871 by Australian William Larnach for his heiress bride Eliza.
The building effort was huge, using materials from around the world, including 20 tonne of glass from Venice, brick from Glasgow, the famous local Oamaru Stone, basalt from Port Chalmers, black stone from Cornwall, marble from Italy and cobbles from Marseilles.
Set on 35 acres, the Castle was purchased by the Barker family in 1967. Margaret Barker, historical restorer and creator of the Castle’s 7 acres of garden, wrote a book about the restoration journey titled My Castle My Home.
The gardens are a destination themselves and can be visited separately to the Castle if desired. There is accommodation on the grounds of the castle in renovated stables, a lodge or a new stone manor house. You can also book High Tea in the Ballroom Café or dinner in the Castle Dining Room.
The Castle is located midway on the beautiful Otago Peninsula, 13 km east of Dunedin on the South Island of New Zealand. Otago Peninsula is home to the endangered yellow-eyed penguin, the little blue penguin, Fur Seals and Hookers Sea Lions while Royal Albatross, known for having the largest wingspan in the world, can be seen at the Royal Albatross Centre.
By Jan, Budget Travel Talk
Which of these magical fairytale castles would you visit? I’d love to see more of the castles in Asia for sure! Let me know what you think, please leave your comments below.
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