Monday, January 28, 2013

The Ten Best Castles in Europe

Castles originated in Europe over a thousand years ago. These fortresses were one of the original defense systems, and erecting the structures on hills or just beyond moats was a functional choice. Castles were built to house rulers, impose power, and above all, spurn would be attackers. Conforming to these basic principles of utilitarian design, the strongholds now appear solitary, majestic, and frozen in time. The attackers are long gone, and now a steady stream of camera clutching invaders breach the castles daily, ready to inspect the epic grandeur of the past.

While Europe has hundreds of excellent castles, these ten all have design, character, and history that sets them apart. Some occupy the center of bustling cities, while others lurk in forgotten countrysides. Spanning eight countries across Europe, each of these castles has a story to tell.

best castles in europe
Prague Castle
Location: Prague, Czech Republic

Nearest airport: Prague Airport

Year originally built: 870

Inhabitants: Kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman Emperors, and presidents of the Czech Republic

Interesting fact: According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Prague castle is the largest castle complex in the world.

best castles in Europe

Bran "Dracula's" Castle

Location: Bran, Romania

Nearest airport: Henri Coandă International Airport in Otopeni, Romania near Bucharest

Year originally built: 1212

Inhabitants: Teutonic Knights, Mircea the Elder, Vlad III, and Romanian royalty

Interesting fact: In 2007, the castle was put up for sale for $78 million. It has since been taken off the market.

castles in europe


Location: Schwangau, Germany

Nearest airport: Munich International Airport

Year originally built: construction began in 1869

Inhabitants: King Ludwig II

Interesting fact: This castle has been visited by over 60 million people and is the template for Disney's Sleeping Beauty castle.

best castles in europe

Leeds Castle

Location: Maidstone, Kent, England

Nearest airport: Kent International Airport

Year originally built: 1119

Inhabitants: King Edward I, Henry VIII, and other notable British royalty

Interesting fact: Leeds Castle hosts a large garden maze and a dog collar museum.

best castles in europe

Windsor Castle

Location: Windsor, Berkshire, England

Nearest airport: Heathrow Airport

Year originally built: 11th century

Inhabitants: William the Conqueror, Henry I, Edward III, and many other British rulers

Interesting fact: Windsor Castle is the longest-occupied palace in Europe.

best castles in europe

Mont Saint-Michel

Location: Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France

Nearest airport: Rennes Britanny Airport

Year originally built: 10th century, though the earliest abbeys in the fort date to the 6th century

Inhabitants: Currently 41 people call the Mont Saint-Michel home, and the structure has been home to monks to over a thousand years.

Interesting fact: The tides around Mont Saint-Michel vary by almost 50 feet, and many people have drowned approaching across the sands.

best castles in europe

Château de Chambord

Location: Chambord, Loir-et-Cher, France

Nearest airport: Paris Charles de Gaulle

Year originally built: 1526

Inhabitants: King François I, Louis XIV, and the Ducal family

Interesting fact: Though the original designer of the châteaux is widely disputed, some insist it was Leonardo Da Vinci.

best castles in europe


Location: South of Salzburg, Austria

Nearest airport: Salzburg Airport

Year originally built: 1078

Inhabitants: Salzburg rulers and prisoners

Interesting fact: The misty castle served as a prison for hundreds of years.

best castles in europe

Buda Castle

Location: Budapest, Hungary

Nearest airport: Budapest Airport

Year originally built: 1265

Inhabitants: Hungarian Kings

Interesting fact: You can visit a portion of the 6 mile subterranean labyrinth under Buda Castle.

best castles in europe

The Alhambra

Location: Granada, Spain

Nearest airport: Federico García Lorca Granada-Jaén Airport

Year originally built: 14th century

Inhabitants: Muslim Emirs from the Nasrid Dynasty and Charles V

Interesting fact: It was in the Alhambra's Hall of Ambassadors that Columbus made his pitch to sail to the orient by heading west from Spain.

Source: Gadling


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