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Magical Fairytale Castles in Europe You Can Actually Visit

Neuschwanstein Castle Germany - Fairytale Castles in Europe you Can Actually Visit

Who doesn’t love a fairytale castle?  I asked some top travel bloggers to share their favourite fairytale castle in Europe, and they didn’t disappoint!  I’ve brought together the ultimate list of the most beautiful fairytale castles in Europe which you can visit, or simply imagine yourself living there!  Perfect for wannabe princes and princesses, prepare to be whisked away to a magical world where dreams do come true!    

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Fairytale Castles in Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle

Probably the most famous fairytale castle in the world, Neuschwanstein is a gorgeous castle a couple of hours from Munich.  It was built by the “Mad” King Ludwig II of Bavaria, who sadly didn’t get to see his castle finished as he was found dead before building work was completed. 

Shortly after his death, the castle was opened to the public, and Neuschwanstein became one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe.  

Neuschwanstein is said to have been the inspiration behind Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle, and it isn’t hard to see the resemblance!  The castle is built in the foothills of the Alps and is even more picturesque thanks to the incredible views all around. 

Walking up to the castle from the town gets the blood flowing, and once you reach the castle, keep going up the hill to reach the Marienbrücke bridge for some of the best views of the castle.  This is the most popular spot so expect to queue to get onto the bridge.  Move along to the far side once you are on the bridge, and you can even continue walking up the path to find a quieter spot to view the castle.

Most people visit Neuschwanstein Castle on a day trip from Munich, although there is accommodation available in the nearby town of Füssen.  There are plenty of hikes in the area too, so if you have time to spare then you certainly won’t be bored here!

By Me, Tales of a Backpacker

The Fairytale Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany
The Fairytale Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany

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Wernigerode Castle

Over 20,000 castles are found throughout Germany but some are less visited than others. Nestled in the Harz mountains, towering 300ft above the town of Wernigerode stands a romantic 12th-century baroque castle that was once a medieval fortress. Its beauty is rather unsung compared to other German fairytale castles, but it is yet another gem of the Harz region. 

The castle is open daily (entrance is 7 euros for adults, 3.50 euros for children) and there are two different guided tours you can take. Each one is just forty minutes long and will introduce you to a different side of the castle (2 euros for German guided tour or 3 euros for English or Russian).

However, my favourite place was inside the terraced gardens that surround this masterpiece. As the castle is perched on a hill, there are lofty panoramic views of the surrounding hills and medieval city of Wernigerode, that are well worth visiting especially at sunset.

The castle can be reached by foot through the forested hills or on the small yellow motorised train that leaves the city centre every thirty minutes.

By Roshni, The Wanderlust Within

Wernigerode Castle Germany - Fairytale Castles in Europe
Wernigerode Castle Germany – Fairytale Castles in Europe

Lichtenstein Castle

Lichtenstein Castle is one of the hidden gems of Germany and while it’s famous among Germans, not many international tourists seem to know about this beauty of a castle.

Lichtenstein Castle is built in the gothic revival style and many would consider it a fairytale castle, me included. It’s actually not an old castle, and it was built upon ruins of a medieval castle in 1840-1842. The design is inspired by the novel with the same name.

It’s located in the Swabian Jura in southern Germany, and it’s easy to get here from cities like Stuttgart and Munich. Frankfurt is about 3.5 hours away by car.

What makes it special is the beautiful location overlooking the Echaz Valley and that the castle is perched on top of a huge rock. Visitors can also go inside the castle to see old armour and weapons which date back to medieval times.

But the most impressive is just to stand at the viewpoint and admire the beauty of Schloss Lichtenstein. The entrance is just 2 Euro to the Castle gardens, and you only pay extra if you want to walk inside the castle where a guided tour is included in the price.

By Alex, Swedish Nomad

Lichtenstein Castle
Lichtenstein Castle

Hohenzollern Castle

Hohenzollern Castle is located in southern Germany about an hour south of Stuttgart. Hohenzollern delights visitors with its hilltop location with the Bavarian towns and fields surrounding its base. The original castle dates back to the 11th century, but the current structure is from the 15th century.

It was privately owned for over 1,000 years until the Thirty Years War where it changed hands frequently and fell into disrepair. In the 19th century, Crown Prince Frederick William of Prussia wanted to have Hohenzollern Castle returned as the imperial seat of Bavarian and restored the castle to the fortification that you see today.  

The castle was built in a neo-Gothic style with many towers and fortifications. It is still owned by the Prussian family line and whenever the current owner Price George Frederick of Prussia and his family are staying in the castle, their flag flies above the tower.

Visitors can visit the interior rooms with a guided tour (offered in multiple languages). Little ones will be offered a cloak to wear on the tour and everyone wears slippers to keep the floors clean. Tours include the staterooms, Count’s Hall, Blue Salon, and Treasure Chamber with armour, the Prussian royal crown and various family treasures. Located in the courtyard are a Biergarten, the family church and stunning views!

By Chelsea, Pack More into Life

Hohenzollern Castle Germany
Hohenzollern Castle Germany

Ludwigsburg Palace

A short drive from the city of Stuttgart, in southern Germany, and a great day trip from the city, lies the enchanting Ludwigsburg Palace, a large palatial estate that is sometimes considered the mini Versailles of Germany.  With a total of 18 buildings, the palace has an astounding 452 rooms and survived several wars intact.  

The palace housed a variety of dukes throughout its history and is now a large tourist attraction in southern Germany.  The palatial grounds also host the world’s largest pumpkin festival from September-October every year, as well as a variety of other festivities and events throughout the year. 

The palace has an exquisite interior that allows not only for tours but for special events as well. The palace grounds have expansive gardens that are well kept with displays of flowers and hedges that make the grounds stand out.   In fact, the gardens are one of the biggest draws of the palace as it covers nearly 80 acres of land.  

In addition to greenery, there is an entire area called The Fairytale Garden that has recreations of fairy tales such as Rapunzel and her tower and Sleeping Beauty. A carousel and a water ride, along with an animal farm, playgrounds, greenhouse and many other small venues are part of what attracts visitors to the palace today.

By Diana, The Elusive Family

Ludwigsburg Palace
Ludwigsburg Palace

Sigmaringen Castle

On the banks of the young Danube River, you’ll find a dramatic castle of massive size. My partner and I were paddling our inflatable canoe to Sigmaringen. After landing and packing, we walked around a bend in the Danube which revealed this spectacular sight.

The town around it is disproportionately small in comparison to the humongous Schloss Sigmaringen. It’s perched on a dizzying chalkstone cliff and has been the site of some castle or other since the 11th century. Lost of sieges and fires damaged the castle, but it was always rebuilt or renovated by the new people in power.

The several expansions and renovations over the centuries until the early 20th century turned the site from a fortress into a castle and even a palace meant for lavish parties. The combined styles and ages turn it into something really special: an amalgamation of Romanesque, neo-Gothic, and Renaissance styles. Either you love it and think it’s an inspiration for the Disney castle, or you hate it and think it’s kind of like the original McMansion. 

You can appreciate the castle from just across the Danube, from the nearby hill Josefkapelle, or from the hills and surrounding forests. If you seek the higher ground and have luck with the weather, you’ll even see the snowy peaks of the Alps when facing southward. Entry to the castle and the armoury (with German-speaking guide) costs €12,50.

By Iris, Mind of a Hitchhiker

Sigmaringen Castle
Sigmaringen Castle

Eltz Castle (Burg Etlz)

The famous fairytale Eltz Castle in Germany can be found in Wierschem, hidden in a side valley of the Moselle erected on a 70 m high rock. According to German history, Eltz Castle is considered the German knight’s castle par excellence. Its history is a wealth of myths, and events, famous personalities, and great art. 

The castle has a Romanesque, Baroque architecture style. It has up to eight stories soaring up to 35 meters high, its oriels, roofs, timber frame structures, and turrets make it the epitome of a castle (Georg Dehio), a picture book castle.

What makes Eltz stands out from other castles is that it has remained in the possession of the original family for 850 years and was never destroyed. There are about 100 members of the owners’ families lived in the over 100 rooms of the castle. Currently, the owner of the castle, Dr. Karl Graf von und zu Eltz-Kempenich, alias Faust von Stromberg, lives in Frankfurt am Main. 

Our visit to Eltz castle was memorable, for me, it was my first time to visit a real castle, and it made me feel like a princess in a Disney film. You would definitely want to visit Eltz castle in the future for it’ll offer the best view of the enchanted castle as well as the rare treasures of German history.

To get to the castle, you can reach the car park of Eltz Castle by car, motorbike or bus from Münstermaifeld and Wierschem. At the car park, you walk 800m (5-10 minutes) along a number of short footpaths in the beautiful Eltz Forest. 

The castle opens daily from 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM, late Mar-Oct only. €8/5.50 adult/child.

By Mary Alexine, LexieAnimeTravel

Eltz Castle Germany
Eltz Castle Germany

Fairytale Castles in Portugal

Pena Palace 

Pena Palace is the most photographed castle in Portugal, and its distinctive red and yellow towers are famous throughout the world.  Pena Palace sits high on a hill in Sintra, about an hour outside the capital city of Lisbon.  

The Palace has extensive gardens to explore, and you can see most of the outside terraces and gardens with a cheaper ticket.  You can also pay extra to go inside the castle if you like.  For me, there was more than enough to keep me occupied without going inside.

The views of the surrounding countryside are spectacular, and from the castle walls, you can see the Moorish Castle and the Palace of Sintra, two of the other magnificent castles in Sintra which make up the UNESCO listed “Cultural Landscape of Sintra” with Pena Palace.

Pena Palace is one of the best examples of 19th Century Romanticist architecture and combines elements of vault arches, and medieval and Islamic architecture to create a fascinating and unique blend.

By me

Pena Palace - The Most Colourful Castle in Sintra
Pena Palace – The Most Colourful Castle in Sintra

Fairytale Castles in Italy

Malcesine Castle

Malcesine (pronounced MAL-CHES-INAY for those interested!) is a beautiful picturesque medieval town in the north of Lake Garda, Italy.

Malcesine’s most striking feature is its stunning historical castle, Castello Scaligero, which sits in the shadow of Monte Baldo – the largest mountain in the Lake Garda region. This medieval fortress, dating back to 568AD, in my opinion, one of the best castle Lake Garda has to offer.

The castle itself is visually stunning and a very unique set against the backdrop of the Dolomites. The beauty of Scaligero castle captured the heart of Austrian painter, Gustav Klimt, who painted the critically acclaimed “Malcesine on Garda” in 1913. German poet Goethe was equally fascinated by the beauty of Scaliger Castle and today the castle has its own ‘Goethe Room’ dedicated to the poet.

What makes this castle even more enchanting is that between the months of April and October each year, the castle opens its doors to couples wanting to tie the knot. Weddings in Malcesine castle are a truly beautiful, romantic and unique fairytale experience.

Visitors can enter the castle for around €6 and tickets include to the onsite museum. For the best panoramic views and photo opportunities, head to the top of the tower. The views across the lake
from here are absolutely extraordinary. And if you’re lucky, you may even see a happy couple tying the knot!

By Kylie, Our World of Adventure

Malcesine Castle Lake Garda - Fairytale Castles in Europe
Malcesine Castle Lake Garda – Fairytale Castles in Europe

The Royal Palace of Turin

Italy is not the first place that comes to mind when I think of fairytale palaces, but that all changed after a trip to Turin. The Royal Palace of Turin is a monumentally impressive palace that was built for the House of Savoy in the 16th century. A large, grand building on the outside, it’s the inside that will make your jaw drop and evoke a sense of awe.

Inside the royal apartments are room upon room of lavish decoration. In the Throne Room, gigantic chandeliers drop from the roof that is adorned in an intricate fresco. The gold trimmings almost blind the eyes. I can just imagine the feeling as the King or Queen would sit atop their throne surrounded by such beauty.

The absolute highlight though is the breathtaking grand armoury. Every fairytale needs a knight in shining armour, and this is where our hero would have armoured up. A walk down the centre of a long hallway that is filled with armoured knights on horses. A patterned floor and art adorning the walls and ceiling above, it’s enough to leave you speechless.

The good news is that The Royal Palace of Turin is super easy to reach. It’s located right in the heart of Turin, a very walkable city. Turin is well serviced with an international airport and a busy train station with direct routes to other parts of Italy, including Milan, Rome and Venice.

By Kristen, Our Passion For Travel

Inside the Palace of Turin
Inside the Palace of Turin

Fairytale Castles in Ireland

Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle, close to Cork in Ireland, is famous for the Blarney Stone, which visitors queue up to hang upside down and kiss.  Legend has it, if you kiss the Blarney Stone, you will be granted the gift of the gab, and be able to talk yourself into or out of any situation. 

The castle itself isn’t as ornate as other castles on the list, but it is set in beautiful gardens which are well worth exploring once you’ve kissed the stone.  The gardens include a poison garden with deadly plants, an enchanted fairy glad and a river where you might be able to spot local wildlife such as otters and kingfishers.

Blarney Castle is best visited on a day trip from Cork, or even Dublin, although I came here as part of my Shamrocker Tour which gave us enough time to queue up and kiss the stone and wander around the gardens.  Bear in mind the queue for the stone can be up to hours wait, so make sure you leave enough time to visit.

By Me, Tales of a Backpacker

Beautiful Blarney Castle and Gardens in Ireland
Beautiful Blarney Castle and Gardens in Ireland

Kilkea Castle

Just 81 km from Dublin is Kilkea Castle, which was built in 12th century and is one of Ireland’s longest continually habited medieval Castles.

Kilkea Castle is one of our favourite Castles in Ireland. There are opportunities to stay in the Castle itself, or in the Carriage Rooms or in the lodges located near the Golf Course. You can dine in the Castle or Hermione’s Restaurant in the Golf House.

Activities include golf, falconry, equestrian and archery.

At the back of the castle you will find the pet cemetery and the ruins of the family’s medieval church just waiting to be explored.

The Castle was originally built for Sir Walter de Riddlesford. On his death, the castle was passed down to his 2 daughters. One of them Emelina married Maurice Fitzgerald.  It stayed in the Fitzgerald family for over 700 years.

There are legends! One is where on the 7th day of the 7th month of the 7th year the ghost of the Wizard Earl returns home to the castle to find his wife. No one knows exactly what the 7th year is, are you game?

The 2nd legend involves the monkey logo that the Castle uses. It is rumoured that a monkey who lived in the castle saved baby John the 1st Earl of Kildare from a fire that broke out.

By Jane and Duncan, To Travel Too

Kilkea Castle Ireland - Fairytale Castles in Europe
Kilkea Castle Ireland – Fairytale Castles in Europe

Fairytale Castles in France

Ussé Castle

There are hundreds of castles in the Loire Valley region in France, but none will immerse you in a fairy tale as much as Ussé Castle. 

Ussé Castle inspired Charles Perrault when he wrote the Sleeping Beauty. With spiky dark roofs at the top of white walls with machicolation, the towers give the castle its fairy-tale appearance. Some even find it looks like Disney’s Cinderella castle.

First built as a fortress in the Middle Age, it’s been transformed over the centuries into a charming, elegant residence with lovely gardens designed by Le Notre, the landscaper of Versailles. It’s nowhere as big, but it makes a pleasant stroll.

The visit to the dungeon is all about experiencing a fairy tale. The most famous scenes of the Sleeping Beauty story are presented in the tower using wax statues and decors. It’s perfect for the kids. But down to earth adults will prefer looking at the old stylish furniture in some of the few rooms open to visitors. The rest of the castle isn’t accessible as it’s still a private residence. Could you imagine living in a fairytale castle?

Eloise, My Favourite Escapes

Usse Castle -Fairytale Castles in France
Usse Castle -Fairytale Castles in France

Château de Crazannes

A visit to the Château de Crazannes isn’t just a fairytale experience, its former occupant inspired one of the world’s most famous tales. Jules Gouffier, otherwise known as the Earl of Caravaz, lived in the castle in the 17th century and was the inspiration for the character of Marquis de Carabas in the iconic Puss in Boots (or Chat Botté in French) story. His legend lives on within the castle and is tastefully incorporated into the experience.

The castle itself has undergone many renovations, but today’s château is as enchanting as ever. The original moat and dungeon still remain, the latter converted into accommodation fit for a modern-day king. It’s a joy to visit and explore, both inside and out.

However, the most magical time to experience the château is at Christmas, when the entire grounds and interior are transformed into a Christmas wonderland. Take a tour of the lavishly decorated rooms, drink mulled wine in the delightful gardens, and treat your kids to a surprise when Santa himself pays a visit!

By Nadine, Le Long Weekend

Château de Crazannes France
Château de Crazannes France

Tarascon Castle

Tarascon is a small but cute town in Provence, France. On the banks of the bright turquoise Rhône River you’ll find Tarascon Castle, also known as Château de Roi René. Despite being slightly off the tourist track, this medieval castle is a huge and beautiful fortress. 

When I visited, there was hardly anybody else around and I was left to explore this castle almost completely alone. My footsteps echoed in the dark inner chambers and when I climbed up to the vast castle ramparts, I was the only person there.

Rather than having the rooms decorated as they would have been in the 15th century, the castle has created installations in some of the rooms where you can see heirlooms from the days of yore. Including a creepy music box that started playing on its own when I entered the room and gave me the fright of my life. 

The views from the top are stunning. On the one side you can see the town of Tarascon, and on the other the Rhône River, and across the water the charming town of Beaucaire, which has a ruined medieval castle of its own. 

Tarascon is an easy 20-minute train ride from Avignon. It makes a great day trip, especially when paired with Beaucaire on the opposite side of the river.

By Maire, Temples and Treehouses 

Tarascon Castle, France
Tarascon Castle, France

Château Comtal Carcassonne

Carcassonne is a charming medieval village in France located in the Langeudoc region. This perfectly preserved 12th century town became listed as a UNESCO heritage site in 1997 and since then has become increasingly popular with tourism. It sits on a hilltop dominating over the modern city of Carcassonne below; an absolutely magical sight.

Carcassonne is famous for its beautifully restored fairy-tale castle, Château Comtal. It is located within the walls of the medieval village and with impressive towers and spiky turrets, this castle truly looks like a scene taken straight from a storybook. Carcassonne is also known for being the largest medieval village in Europe with its walls still completely intact.

You might be wondering how a 12th century castle is in such pristine condition? Despite having suffered attacks and invasions over the centuries, Château Comtal and its ramparts were fully restored in the 19th century by architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. He was also responsible for restoring many other important landmarks in France including the Notre Dame in Paris.

Take a step back in time as you explore the inside of Château Comtal and walk along its ramparts. The most breath-taking views of the castle and city below can be seen from the top of the ramparts.  

Getting to Carcassonne is easy as there is an airport in the city offering Ryanair flights to and from London, Dublin and a few other European cities. You can also reach Carcassonne by driving or taking the train 1 hour south from the city of Toulouse.   

By Ann, The Road is Life

Chateau Comtal - Carcassonne France
Chateau Comtal – Carcassonne France

Fairytale Castles in England

Arundel Castle

Arundel Castle is probably the most impressive castle I have visited in the United Kingdom. Located in the town of Arundel, just over one hour from London by train, Arundel Castle is the residence of the Duke of Norfolk, but it can also be visited by tourists.

To see the entire castle, you would probably need at least half a day, and I recommend getting the ticket that covers both the inside (the keep, the rooms and the bedrooms) and the grounds – with the gorgeous gardens.

Arundel Castle’s interior is very special, mostly because some of its rooms are still used by the Duke of Norfolk when he has guests. The library was one of the rooms that impressed me the most: tens of thousands of books are carefully arranged on mahogany carved bookcases on both sides of the room. The red sofas and armchairs together with the curtains and the big fireplace create the perfect reading environment.

Another fantastic room is the dining hall, which has very high ceilings and looks proper royal. Who wouldn’t love to have dinner in such an exclusive environment!

On the other side of the castle, visitors can climb up to the keep, which dates from the 12th century and is still in its medieval form. Here, visitors have the opportunity to dress up with props from the English Civil War and pose in front of the 17th century decors.

By Joanna, The World in My Pocket

Arundel Castle - Fairytale Castles in England
Arundel Castle – Fairytale Castles in England

Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle in Northumberland definitely has something magical about it, not least because it was used for a filming location for parts of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.  In the area where the scenes were filmed, you can even take a broomstick flying lesson like Harry did, with resident witches and wizards who guide you through the spells (and imagination!) necessary.

The castle was also used as a filming location for other productions including Downton Abbey and one of the Transformers films, take a guided film tour to learn more about what was filmed here and where. 

Alnwick Castle is close to the Scottish border so can be visited on a day tour from Edinburgh or spend a night a two in the village to properly explore.  Nearby Alnwick Gardens are also worth a visit, including their poison garden which is only accessible with a guided tour.

By Me, Tales of a Backpacker

Alnwick Castle Northumberland
Alnwick Castle Northumberland

Herstmonceux Castle, England

From the classic looking moat that surrounds its base to the battlements that crown the top, Herstmonceux Castle is truly a stunning castle to explore. Located in East Sussex, England, this 15th century red brick castle sits peacefully in a rural area surrounded by fields and forest about an hour south of London by train.

What makes Herstmonceux special is its look and its history. Currently, it is one of the oldest brick buildings of “significance” still standing in England. Originally built as a not-so-humble manor, the Castle was never intended for actual battle. Over the centuries, Herstmonceux has been through trials and tribulations. It changed owners multiple times and even fell into despair due to neglect. New owners in the 1900s decided the ruined castle should be restored and preserved. Luckily, it also survived aerial bombing during World War II!

Herstmonceux Castle features many beautiful details like original woodworking, a stunning inner garden courtyard, acres of landscaped gardens, sculptures, and walking trails around the overall estate property. Of course, there is a long stone entranceway leading to the front door over the moat – a feature that gives Herstmonceux its charm.

Interestingly, the location in rural England made the grounds the ideal location for The Royal Greenwich Observatory – a title held until the 1970s. In fact, there are massive white-domed telescopes still dotted around the property to this day. 

By Eric, Ontario Away

Herstmonceux Castle in England
Herstmonceux Castle in England

Fairytale Castles in Scotland

Eilean Donan Castle

The most photographed castle in the UK and the most romantic place in the country is the Eilean Donan Castle in Scotland. Standing proudly in the region now called as Kyle of Lochalsh since the 13th century, Eilean Donan castle is built at a point where three sea-lochs meet and is located on its own island.

This makes this castle very different and unique from every other castle in the UK. It is indeed the most picturesque castle in the country, mainly because of its unique location where it overlooks the mesmerizing Isle of Skye and Kintail mountains can be seen in the backdrop.

Eilean Donan is a perfect fairytale castle which was originally built as a defensive system and has been destroyed and reconstructed multiple times. A little village of Dornie in Scotland hosts the castle which is an icon of Scotland in the entire world.

The castle is best seen from the bridge which connects the island to the mainland. In order to reach the castle, there are tours available from Inverness, the Isle of Skye and Fort Williams. Alternatively, one can easily drive to the castle. While heading towards the Isle of Skye, Eilean Donan Castle is a must-stop along with the route.

Nabiha, Verses by a Voyager

Eilean Donan Castle Scotland
Eilean Donan Castle Scotland

Fairytale Castles in Hungary

Vajdahunyad Castle

Unlike other European fairytale castles that are located pretty far away from the city, the Vajdahunyad Castle is not complicated to get to. You wouldn’t usually expect to find such a gem in the middle of a public park in a popular city, but this one is located in Budapest’s City Park, right next to the famous Heroes Square.

The castle was built in the late 19th century to celebrate 1,000 years of Hungarian architecture. Essentially, it’s a mix of different buildings built throughout Hungary’s history. You can see that it combines several architectural styles like Gothic, Romanesque. and Baroque.

Nowadays, it houses the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture. Visiting the museum costs about 5 Euros (1600 HUF), but wandering around the castle’s courtyards is completely free of charge. Take your time to appreciate all the incredible architectural details of this complex, and don’t forget to take lots and lots of beautiful photos.

By Or, My Path in the World

Vajdahunyad Castle Budapest - The Best Castles in Europe
Vajdahunyad Castle Budapest – The Best Castles in Europe

Fairytale Castles in Spain

La Calahorra Castle

La Calahorra castle is probably not the most well-known castle in Spain, but it is definitely one of the most scenic ones. Located between Granada and Guadix, this fortress has inspired countless painters, filmmakers, and photographers.

What makes La Calahorra castle so unique? First, it’s set against the majestic Sierra Nevada mountains, which during spring are still snow-copped and create a breath-taking backdrop for the castle. Another reason why La Calahorra should be in your travel plans is that it is one of the first Italian Renaissance castles outside Italy… built over a Moorish ruin!

The best time to visit is during spring. At that time the Sierra Nevada mountains are still covered with snow but the first flowers and plants are already coming out. This creates a marvellous colourful setting that will make you feel like a princess or a prince in a fairytale.

What’s more, La Calahorra is one of the most coveted photo spots in Andalucia, so don’t wait and visit soon.

How to get there: Drive from Granada or Guadix. It can also be visited with a day tour from Malaga. 

By Paulina, Paulina on the Road

La Calahorra Castle Spain
La Calahorra Castle Spain

The Alhambra, Granada

The predominantly Moorish designed Alhambra Palace sits regally atop Sabika Hill in the city of Granada in Andalucia Spain.

The name Alhambra comes from the Arabic phrase Qal’at al-HamraIt meaning red fort. Originally constructed in AD889, it’s current form dates back to the early 13th  Century, when Muhammad I of Granada built the Nasrid palaces as his residence.

The then Emirate (Nasrid Dynasty) of Granada was a Muslim state corresponding in area with modern day Granada, Almeria and Malaga.  The Moors returned to Africa after the Alhambra fell to the Christian Kings of Castile, Iberia in 1492.

Since then the complex has been altered as with the additional Catholic Palace of Charles V, but it is still the intricate Moorish tile work and the Moors impressive use of water within the Palaces and gardens, that makes the Alhambra special.

The 140,000 square metre complex contains the Nasrid Palaces, Generalife Gardens where the Sultans relaxed amidst greenery and fountains and the Alcazabar Fortress where their soldiers resided.

Two of the best places to view the Alhambra from are below on the Carrera del Darro, the walk that runs beside the Darro River and from the Mirador San Nicolas, a viewpoint on an opposing hill.

In turn, the views from the Alcazabar Fortress offer 360 degrees of fantastic views of Granada and distant snow-covered mountains.

By Jan, Budget Travel Talk

The Alhambra Spain - Fairytale Castles in Spain
The Alhambra Spain – Fairytale Castles in Spain

Alcázar of Segovia

When you’re a kid and you draw a castle, usually it has all the features you’ll find in the Alcázar: a moat, a drawbridge, pointy turrets and a keep. That’s why it was one of the places used as inspiration for Disney’s Cinderella castle. 

It is believed there has been a fortress on this site since Roman times, but the first documented record dates back to the 12th century. The name comes from the Arabic /al-qasr/ (fortress).  This fairy-tale like place was originally built on top of a rock as a fortress and later was used as a royal palace and a military academy. 

One of its most distinguishing characteristics is that is shaped like a bow of a ship, standing tall where the Eresma and Clamores rivers meet.  A big part of it burned down in 1862, but it was reconstructed later on.

Nowadays this UNESCO’s World Heritage Site is one of Spain’s main attractions. It’s impossible to miss it if you’re strolling around the streets of Segovia (and you should discover the city’s other treasures), but if you want to look it up, it’s located in the Plaza de la Reina Victoria Eugenia. It opens daily from 10AM to 8PM during summer, and to 6PM during winter.
Coni from Experiencing the Globe

Alcazar of Segovia Castle in Spain
Alcazar of Segovia Castle in Spain

Madrid Palace

Spanning 135,000 square meters with 3418 rooms, Madrid Palace is the largest palace in the world. It is the official residence of the royal family, although, is now used for ceremonial purposes only.  The rest of the time it is open to the public to experience the sheer opulence. The perfect white monument with a vast courtyard overlooking the city is mesmerizing. 

The Royal Palace of Madrid (called El Palacio Real in Spanish) replaced the medieval Alcazar which was destroyed by fire in the 18th century. It took 100 years to build the palace. The work on this massive monument was started by Filippo Juvarra and King Charles III was the first to sit on the throne in this architectural masterpiece.

When in Madrid, the Madrid palace is a place you just cannot miss. You can walk in the courtyard for free to listen to amazing musicians playing there. An entry ticket will allow you to enter the palace and experience the royalty. As you walk on the staircases, enter the ornate halls and the lavish dining rooms, and you will feel like you are into a fairytale.

By Sinjana, Backpack & Explore

Madrid Royal Palace
Madrid Royal Palace

Fairytale Castles in Poland

Moszna Castle

Around 2 hours away from the storybook city of Wroclaw is one of the grandest fairytale castles in the world. Moszna Castle, with its eclectic mix of different styles of architecture and sprawling gardens, was formed during different eras in history where it served different functions as it was handed from one owner to another.

Although its extravagant facade was first constructed in 1723 when it was inherited by Frederick the Great, it was once the humble abode of Templar knights.  Now, it is a reasonably priced hotel surrounded by a beautiful park filled with a long line of oak trees and gardens filled with charming azaleas and rhododendrons.

To get to the castle, you can either drive on the A4 or take a bus heading to Katowice at the Wroclaw Glowny. Get off at Station Strzelce Opolskie to take a Bus 18 which stops at Moszna. Another option is to take a taxi to Moszna.

By Karolina, The Lazy Travel Blog

Moszna Castle Poland
Moszna Castle Poland

Fairytale Castles in Latvia

Cesis Castle

Cesis Castle is the main attraction of Cesis, one of the loveliest cities in the region of Gauja and, in fact, in Latvia. The city is located at around 100 km from Riga and can be easily visited on a day trip – though you should plan to spend at least two full days to fully enjoy its quaint, relaxing atmosphere.

The Castle was first built in 1214 to become the residence of the Knights of the Livonian Brothers of the Sword. In 1577 the castle was put under siege by Ivan the Terrible and the Russian Army, and soon fell. It was however used as a residence until the end of the 1600s, when it was abandoned. In the 19th century, it was turned into a national monument.

Cesis Castle can be explored independently, but if you want a truly unique experience sign up for the €8 guided tour which lasts about one hour and is run by guided dressed in traditional medieval clothes. You will be guided through the court, where a series of workshops have been established to show the traditional crafts and arts that helped the castle thrive; and inside the castle, through the darkest rooms and passages. You will be handed a traditional lantern which will help you illuminate the way.

By Claudia, My Adventures Across the World

Castle of Cesis Latvia
Castle of Cesis Latvia

Fairytale Castles in the Czech Republic

Lednice Castle

Lednice Castle is located in the Moravian Region of the Czech Republic, and it’s probably one of the most underrated castles in Europe. It’s listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has a beautiful exterior which makes you think about how much wealth was put into building this huge castle.

However, while the outside is beautiful, the inside and the interior is magic and could be taken from any Disney movie featuring a royal castle. Everything from the furniture to the walls has the most magnificent details fit to impress any king and queen in the world.

The main highlight is perhaps the carved staircase, which is actually delicately carved out from just one single piece of wood, and chiselled into perfection with a staggering number of details.

Even as a visitor you can feel to royal vibes all over the place, and you can easily imagine yourself as king or queen here. Lednice Castle has several rooms and floors, and they are all noticeable for their grandness. Visitors are only allowed to join a professionally guided tour that takes you around the castle and the rooms that are open for tourists.

You’ll have 10-15 minutes to admire the grand hall and the room with the carved staircase, and if you ask a few questions, you can prolong the visit a bit more.

By Christine, Christine Abroad

Lednice Castle Czech Republic
Lednice Castle Czech Republic

Prague Castle

Prague Castle’s history technically started in 870, when the Church of the Virgin Mary was built here. Since then it has grown and evolved alongside the city and its people, acquiring architectural styles from Romanesque to Gothic. Today, it is the largest ancient castle complex still standing, at 70,000 square meters total. 

You can see the complex from just about anywhere in central Prague, so it’s pretty easy to get to; just walk in the direction of the giant epic castle! Otherwise, there is literally a Prague Castle tram stop (“Pražský hrad” in Czech) that drops you off directly in front of it. 

Once you’re in the castle walls, there’s a ton of cool stuff to see. Chances are you’ve been admiring the castle from afar, but the views of Prague from within are just as glorious. The castle is just above the Mala Strana neighbourhood, which is known for its bright orange roofs. These really pop as you look out over the city. 

Part of what I love about Prague Castle is how it is a truly well-preserved castle complex. You wander the old streets and ancient apartments in the Golden Lane, or impressively carved halls of St. Vitus Cathedral—it’s like you’ve stepped into history. End your visit in the glowing halls of the Old Royal Palace, and you’ll feel like you’re living a Czech fairytale.

By Kaisa, Glam Granola Travel

Prague Castle Complex in the Czech Republic
Prague Castle Complex in the Czech Republic

Fairytale Castles in Romania

Corvin castle

One of the most stunning castles in Romania (and perhaps in Europe) is Corvin castle. You don’t expect to find this jewel in Hunedoara, a small town in the central part of Romania, but just outside the town centre, after old houses and communist blocks, there it is: a medieval piece of art.

Corvin Castle was built in Gothic style in the XV century on top of an older fortification, by Ioan de Hunedoara and improved by his descendants (Matia Corvin and his son, Ioan Corvin, hence the name Corvin castle).

Today you can have a tour inside the castle and visit one by one the Torture room, the ladies’ room, the Throne hall, the chapel and many other chambers decorated with old furniture and objects. You can climb the defence towers, see the artillery terrace and visit the inner courtyard (with the fountain surrounded by many legends).

The rooms are arranged to offer its visitors a general idea about how people lived in those times. Vlad the Impaler (the ruler who inspired the vampire Dracula) was incarcerated in the castle’s prison.

Today, because of its idyllic appearance, the castle is considered a perfect place for medieval parties and even weddings.  

By Corina, Another Milestone

Corvin Castle Romania
Corvin Castle Romania

Bran Castle

Bran Castle might be one of the most famous castles in the world. Known affectionately as “Dracula’s Castle,” this was not actually the home of the historic Dracula, Vlad the Impaler. Rather, it is the castle that most closely fits Bram Stoker’s description of the castle where Dracula the vampire lives in the novel.

Imagine spending a tranquil autumn day surrounded by so much Vampire lore, not to mention how great it would be to literally read Dracula while you’re visiting!

If you want a special treat, visit this Transylvanian landmark near Halloween. If you are a spooky thrill-chaser you can even buy tickets to the annual Bran Castle Halloween party that takes place here each year on the night of October 31. 

While this might not make Bran Castle seem like your typical fairytale castle (it’s hard to associate Dracula and vampires with “happily ever after”) it does mean that a visit here will certainly feel like it’s right out of a storybook. Just a much darker one!

You can visit Bran Castle from Bucharest on a day trip, or spend a few days exploring Transylvania.

By Stephanie, Sofia Adventures

Bran Castle Romania
Bran Castle Romania

Fairytale Castles in Slovenia

Predjama Castle

If you are planning a trip to Slovenia, don’t miss Predjama Castle! The largest cave castle in the world, Predjama Castle is located in the Slovenian countryside, about 45 minutes by car from Ljubljana. In conjunction with the world-famous Postojna Cave nearby, Predjama Castle makes for a wonderful day trip from Ljubljana or the Slovenian coast.

So, what’s special about Predjama Castle? First, its stunning location. It is built into the mouth of a huge cave, about halfway up a sheer mountain face. Can you imagine how difficult it must have been to access in medieval times?

And second, the castle comes with a fascinating story. In the 15th century, Predjama was home to Erazem, born a noble but known for being a robber baron. He used the castle as his hidey-hole while he attacked and looted wealthy estates nearby. He was eventually killed, after a year-long siege, but only because one of his men betrayed him.

Today the castle is a museum you can tour. You can also tour some of the cave tunnels behind the castle, if you visit in the summer. Doesn’t that sound exciting? The views from the castle are amazing as well.

You can arrive at Postojna Cave by bus from Ljubljana or the Slovenian coast, and then take a taxi, or the free shuttle in the summer, to visit the castle.

Dhara, It’s Not About the Miles

Predjama Castle Slovenia
Predjama Castle Slovenia

Fairytale Castles in Denmark

Kronborg Castle, Denmark

We heard Hamlet speak out, “To be, or not to be, that’s the question”, from inside the castle, as we walked towards the entrance of the Kronborg Castle. As we stepped over the threshold, a youngster, dressed in a period costume spoke his lines to another who was following us. Wow! We were right in the middle of Shakespeare’s well-known play. 

The beautiful Kronborg castle at Helsingør, Denmark, which is visible from afar, is also called the Hamlets Castle as it is said that Shakespeare had this castle in mind when he wrote his play. Even the name of the city he refers to is Elsinore which is quite close to Helsingør! Quite often the local folks enact various acts out of the play which is quite interesting. They have also electronically recreated the shiny ghost of the King, in the casemates,  recounting how he was killed by the queen and her brother. 

This strategically located castle was built in the early 15th century to control the water channel between Denmark and Sweden and levy taxes on merchant ships using this waterway. 

Several rooms of the castle are now converted into museums containing well-preserved artefacts of that time, including wall paintings, beautiful wooden furniture and several cannons around the castle. All in all, it was worth the couple of hours doing the Kronborg Castle Tour.

Nisha and Vasu, Lemonicks

Kronborg Castle in Denmark
Kronborg Castle in Denmark

Rosenborg Castle

Rosenborg Castle is the prettiest one of Copenhagen’s numerous castles. The castle was originally built as a summer house in 1606–34 by Danish King Christian IV. Its Dutch-Rennaissance exterior is very enchanting, complete with fairy-tale turrets and stone lions guarding the entrance.

The interior is opulent and largely untouched for the past 100 years, now housing the Danish Royal Collections. Most of the castle’s 24 rooms retain their original Renaissance decor from Christian IV’s residence, while the rest have been redecorated by later kings.

The highlight of the interior is the magnificent red, black, and white tiled Long Hall which features exquisite 17th-century tapestries and a collection of 18th-century silver furniture including three silver lions that once guarded the king’s throne. Other highlights include the Baroque Marble Hall – replete with immaculate stuccowork and imitation marble and the Royal Chamber of Frederik IV – featuring an ornate ivory-inlaid mandolin and a grandiose rock crystal chandelier.

Thousands of royal paraphernalia including paintings, trinkets, furniture, and weapons are also on display. Most impressive of all is the underground treasury containing the crown jewels and other royal regalia. The Rosenborg Castle is surrounded by the verdant lawns of Kongens Have (King’s Garden) that are dotted with sculptures, rose gardens, and herb beds.

By Jacky, Nomad Epicureans

Rosenborg Castle Denmark
Rosenborg Castle Denmark

Fairytale Castles in the Netherlands

Castle Huis Bergh

The castle Huis Bergh is one of the most beautiful Dutch castles in The Netherlands. It’s found in the not often visited Dutch province of Gelderland and it is the most enchanting castle in The Netherlands that I’ve ever been to.

What I believe makes this castle so special is its design and the history of this place and its estate. Parts of the castle of Huis Bergh date back to the 13th century, others to the 14th, 15th and 17th century. 

This castle has been almost completely burned down and has suffered immensely in its time. It burned down almost completely in both 1735 and 1939. But yet, when you look at this Dutch castle it seems like you walk back into the 13th century. So much history, but it’s easy to forget the things the castle and its region have been through when you see this picture-perfect building. 

The beautiful estate and gardens of castle Huis Bergh are just as spectacular as the castle itself. Long, beautiful gardens in an English style that were restored to its original glory of 1727 back in 2016. They are also called the oldest gardens of The Netherlands, which gives you yet another reason this visit castle Huis Bergh.

By Manon, Visiting The Dutch Countryside

Castle Huis Bergh Castle Netherlands
Castle Huis Bergh Castle Netherlands

Castle de Haar

Arguably the prettiest castle in the Netherlands, Castle de Haar is everything that fairytale dreams are made of! Located just outside the city of Utrecht, this is one of the most popular attractions outside of Amsterdam and a pretty big bucket list item for many travellers to the Netherlands. 

While a castle has stood on the site since the 13th century, it wasn’t until Baron Etienne Gustave Frédéric van Zuylen van Nijevelt (say that five times fast!) married Hélène de Rothschild and together had the castle restored that it became the gorgeous spot it is today. The Baron and Baroness hired famed Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers (the same man who designed the beautiful buildings of the Rijksmuseum and Centraal Station in Amsterdam) to restore the castle in his neo-Gothic style. 

As well as wanting it to look like a proper castle, the Baron and Baroness also wanted all the modern comforts, so when the castle restoration was completed it had hot and cold running water, central heating, electricity, a Turkish bath (and a salon), a hypermodern kitchen and an elevator! At the time of its completion, Castle de Haar was more luxurious than even the residences of the Dutch royal family.

Nowadays the castle is open for visitors, as well as being a popular location for weddings and other events. Tickets can be purchased just for the extensive grounds – which are also gorgeous and even house a herd of deer that you can sometimes pat – as well as for the grounds and castle interior.

In spring Castle de Haar hosts the Kingdom of Elfia; a fantasy fair filled with cosplay, stalls, music, dancing, LARPing and more. During the last week of November, the Country and Christmas Fair is also held in the grounds, where you can do all your Christmas gift shopping, as well as enjoying food, drink, music and an incredible water, sound and light show! 

To get to Castle de Haar, you can catch a train from Amsterdam to Utrecht, and then bus line 9 to just near the castle entrance. Read more about visiting the stunning Castle de Haar here.

By Kristy from Tassie Devil Abroad

Castle-de-Haar The Netherlands
Castle-de-Haar The Netherlands

I hadn’t realised that there were so many beautiful fairytale castles in Europe, so I hope this post has given you some serious wanderlust to go and visit some of them!

Watch out for another post coming soon about fairytale castles around the world.

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Magical Fairytale Castles in Europe

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Last updated: January 6, 2021

4 thoughts on “Magical Fairytale Castles in Europe You Can Actually Visit

    • Claire says:

      I’m sure there are! There are actually far more castles in Europe than I thought, and trying to include them all would have been impossible for this post – hopefully I’ll get to write more about castles in a future post!

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