Do you love beautiful castles? We do too, so we put together a list of 10 castle tours you can’t miss!
1. Neuschwanstein, Germany
Neuschwanstein is one of our favorite beautiful castles located near Schwangau and Füssen in the Allgäu, southwest Bavaria, Germany. It’s a very popular tourist destination in Germany. It was commissioned by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, and construction began in 1869. Unfortunately it was never completed. Neuschwanstein embodies romanticism, back then an architectural fashion, and the king’s admiration of famous composer Richard Wagner.
Neuschwanstein has the nickname ‘Disney castle”, because it was the inspiration for the castle in ‘Beauty and the Beast’. Perched high atop a cliff, you can see why!
Neuschwanstein & Hohenschwangau
When you take a tour of Neuschwanstein, consider also touring the nearby Hohenschwangau. It was the childhood residence of King Ludwig II and it just a stone’s throw away from Neuschwanstein.
You can take a guided tour of each site. The Neuschwanstein tour will take about 35 minutes, while Hohenschwangau takes about 45 minutes. It’s important to note that you will need to reserve tickets in advance. Those will be for a specific time slot, so make sure you factor in the time it takes to get to each place, so you don’t lose your reservation! Pro tip: you can ride a horse-drawn carriage up to Neuschwanstein! A sure way to make you feel like a princess!
2. Dracula’s Castle, Transylvania
Enter if you dare! Dracula’s Castle isn’t just one of the beautiful castles scenes of a movie, it’s real, and you can take a tour! It’s called Bran Castel and is located in Bran, Romania. While there is no evidence that Bram Stoker knew about this castle when he wrote ‘Dracula’, the nickname is still widely used outside of Transylvania. That is due to the fact that Vlad Tepes Dracula, also known as Vlad the Impaler, was once held prisoner there. It was built between 1377 and 1388 on top of a strategic site high above the city of Bran.
A famous tourist destination
Bran Castle is one of Romania’s most famous tourist destinations. You can take a tour on your own, or, if you prefer, you can go on a guided tour. The site is now a museum, displaying items that once belonged to Queen Marie of Romania, who received the castle in 1920 in appreciation for her efforts to unify Romania. It’s a very popular location for Halloween events.
3. Osaka Castle, Japan
This castle, located in Osaka, is one of Japan’s most famous landmarks. It was completed after only 3 years of construction in 1586. In the centuries to come, it was destroyed and rebuilt. Today it is located in Kyobashi, one of Osaka’s business centers. A castle tour here will not disappoint! One highlight is the observation platform, which offers incredible views of the city. The museum vividly displays the history of the castle and the period in which it was built. If you don’t rush, a complete tour will take about 3 hours.
4. Eilean Dolan, Scotland
Scotland has many beautiful castles and fortresses, but Eilean Dolan is probably the most famous one. It’s been features in movies such as ‘James Bond’ as the Scottish headquarters of the MI6. Legend tells us that there was once a mysterious warrior. He drank from a raven’s skull at birth and gained the ability to speak to birds. In the 1200s, this mysterious warrior founded a castle in the exact same spot where Eilean Dolan stands today. However, it was destroyed in the Jacobite risings in 1719.
After World War I
Nothing much happened with the ruins, until a fortress was built there after World War I. Today the fortress is a very popular site for tourists, and tens of thousands visit each year. Surprisingly, you will find many amenities when you take a guided tour. For example, there’s electric lighting and even a heating system!
Take a bus tour including a guided tour of the fortress from various locations in the vicinity, or stay in the Eilean Dolan apartments or cottage and explore the area on your own.
5. Hohensalzburg Fortress, Austria
Hohensalzburg Fortess, located in Salzburg, Austria, is one of the best preserved castles in all of Europe. Built in 1077, in medieval times, it sits high atop the Festungsberg, at 506 meters (1660 feet). In World War I, the fortress was used as a prison, holding Italian prisoners of war and German Nazis until the Germans annexed Austria in 1938.
Visit the fortress
Take the Festungsbahn railway up from Salzburg to the Hasengrabenbastei. Enjoy the stunning views of Salzburg from high above. Visit one of the fortress’s many museums: the Fortress Museum, focused on life at court, the Marionette Museum, where you can view historical marionettes, and the Museum of the Rainer Regiment, which exhibits memorabilia from the times of peace and war.
The panorama tour is a must! Wander from the salt magazine through the dungeon, and from there to the viewing platform, which is on the Reckturm (tower). Once you have taken in the incredible view of the city below, continue through the battlements of the famous Salzburg Bull.
6. Muiderslot, Netherlands
Amsterdam, Netherlands, makes it on lots of bucket lists. But who knew that there’s something special to see? Visit Muiderslot, located only 15 km from Amsterdam, is one of the more famous castles in the Netherlands. It is featured in many TV shows set in the middle ages. Muiderslot was built in 1280, in a strategic location on the Vecht River and used to collect tolls from traders on their way to Utrecht. Utrecht was then one of the most important trade towns in the Netherlands.
Unfortunately the castle was demolished in 1300, but rebuilt in the same spot 100 years later. Abandoned and neglected, Muiderslot became derelict in the late 18th century. In the late 19th century it was finally restored to what you can see when you visit today.
You can easily spend 2 – 3 hours at Muiderslot. Visit the museum and learn about the middle ages and the 17th century. The castle gardens are very special. They were designed in the 17th century, and kept that way until today. They are beautiful and decorative, but also provide fruit, vegetables and herbs. Stroll through the ‘green tunnel’ and feel like a medieval lady!
7. Episcopal Palace, Spain
You may have heard of Antoni Gaudí, the Catalan architect from Spain, who is known as the greatest exponent of Catalan Modernism. Visit Barcelona and you can’t avoid his work. There are only three locations outside of Catalonia that display his signature work. The episcopal Palace in Astorga, in the province of León, in the northeast of the Iberian peninsula, is one of them.
The palace built between 1889 and 1913, after a fire destroyed the original episcopal palace earlier in the 19th century.
Today, the palace houses the ‘Museo de los caminos’. Exhibits show sculptures of the Renaissance and the Baroque. You can wander through the exhibitions by yourself, or book a guided tour. Everything designed by Antoni Gaudí is interesting in an architectural sense, so don’t forget to stroll around the palace and take in the intricate details this true master incorporated in this building.
Since you are in Spain already, don’t miss out on these 10 great hiking spots after you indulged in some culture!
8. Frederiksborg Castle, Denmark
Frederiksborg Castle, located on three small islets in the Castle Lake in Hillerød, Denmark, was built in the early 17th century and is the largest Renaissance complex in the Nordic region. King Frederik II started building this impressive structure in 1560, but between 1600 and 1620, Christian IV, Frederik’s son, demolished the existing structure and built the castle in the style you can see today. A fire in 1859 burned large parts of the interior. A nationwide collection and a lottery were held to generate funds for rebuild. At that point, the royal family abandoned Frederiksborg as the royal residence.
Museum of National History & more
It is now the location of the Museum of National History. Experience 500 years of Danish history through different mediums. The large collection of portraits is complemented by a collection of furniture, historic paintings and applied art.
Visit the Chapel, which was left unscathed by the fire of 1859. You will be mesmerized by impressive pieces such as the historic Compenius organ, built in 1610, and the altar piece, made of gold, silver and ebony in 1606.
To top of your visit, wander through the Castle Gardens, which include a stunning Baroque garden, with straight lines and sharp angles, and the romantic, English-style garden, where you can find a small Bath House Castle.
9. Dunluce Castle, Northern Ireland
Dunluce Castle, on the Antrim coast, has a claim to fame. It was featured in Jackie Chan’s 2001 movie ‘The Medallion’ and it made an appearance on the artwork of the inner gatefold of Led Zeppelin’s 1973 album ‘Houses of the Holy.
It was built in the 1200’son the site of an earlier fort, which dated back to the era of the Vikings. It sits on a rocky outcrop overlooking the North Channel. While it is now mostly in ruins, it is still worth a visit. The site includes a visitor center with a shop, and the ruins of the nearby town, which fell victim to a fire in the 1600s.
10. The Louvre, France
Last, but certainly not least on our list of beautiful castles, the Louvre. You may know the Louvre only as a museum, but did you know that it served as a royal palace for more than two centuries? It didn’t become a public museum until 1791, during the French Revolution. Nowadays it is one of the most famous museums in the world, and it houses one of the biggest and most impressive collections of art. You can’t visit Paris and not see the Louvre!
Incredible pieces of art invite you to spend all day
The museum is so large, you could spend a whole day and not see everything. Pick one of their theme-based tours and explore the rich history this place has to offer. The highlight of any visit should be a stop at Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’, undoubtedly one of the most famous paintings in the world, and on permanent display at the Louvre. Don’t miss ‘The Raft of the Medusa’, the ‘Venus de Milo’, and ‘The Winged Victory of Samothrace’.
The museum’s gardens invite you to rest your tired feet and take in the beauty that surrounds you. Paris is a place like no other, and the same is true for the Louvre.
What beautiful castles would you add to this list?
If you have a favorite beautiful castle around the world that you think should be added to our list, leave a comment to share with our community!