Most people have only heard of castles in fairytales and medieval stories. But here in Europe, there is a wealth of unbelievably stunning castles across the continent. As we move forward in our second installation of our Europe’s Best series, we explore the magical and other-worldly castles in Europe.
Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
Sitting on a rocky hill just above the village of Hohenschwangau in Bavaria is the grand Neuschwanstein Castle. While its height is not as astounding as the others, the entire area of the castle goes up to an astronomical 65,000 square feet! You might notice that the castle’s limestone facade is reminiscent of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in California’s Disneyland – that’s because it is. It is said that Neuschwanstein was the inspiration behind the theme park’s iconic castle when Walt Disney and his wife took a trip to Bavaria before the construction of the Californian theme park.
When visiting Neuschwanstein, there is no perfect time to visit. Because any time is absolutely the perfect time. Whether the castle is covered in thick layers of snow or gleaming in the summertime, Neuschwanstein is sure to leave you amazed.
Pena Palace, Portugal
Most of us know castles to have rather rustic, mute colours. But there is nothing of the sort at the Pena Palace. From a distance, the vibrant hues of mustard yellow and brick red will capture your attention and lure you to come and visit. Similar to Neuschwanstein, Pena Place is situated on top of a hill in the Sintra Mountains and can even be seen from Lisbon! Pena Palace, or the Palacio Nacional da Pena, is one of Portugal’s finest tourist attractions. It is also Portugal’s true example of Romanticism, which can be seen in the 19th-century style of architecture.
Oberhofen Castle, Switzerland
Nestled by the pristine waters of Lake Thun in the city of Bern lies the charming Oberhofen Castle. Thanks to its scenic surrounding, the castle holds a very fairytale-like charm. The construction of Oberhofen dates way back until the 1200s and went on for centuries, which led to its structure taking on many forms, inspired by a multitude of architectural styles. Today, visitors are welcome to enjoy the sights and sees that this captivating fortress has to offer as it is now a living museum.
Bran Castle, Romania
More often than not, Bran Castle is often linked to the fictitious Castle Dracula from the 1897 novel, Dracula, written by Irish author Bram Stoker. Its facade fits the description almost perfectly, which is why Bran Castle is more commonly known as Dracula’s Castle. This fortress situated in the vicinity of Brasov is known to be a national landmark and monument in Romania. Initially, construction of the castle was completed in 1382 and was used for defence purposes throughout the centuries. Today, Bran Castle is a famed tourist destination in Romania. Being surrounded by nothing but hills and valleys, its natural setting is sure to make you feel calm and at ease.
Predjama Castle, Slovenia
This renaissance castle in south-central Slovenia takes on a rather riveting location. Not only is this stronghold nestled on a 123-metre cliff, but it is actually built within a cave mouth! The Predjama Castle is “built into an overhanging rock in front of a karst cave hall, that is connected to a cave system underneath the castle”. After knowing that, it is self-explanatory why this is known to be one of Slovenia’s most picturesque castles. Although this fortress was built in the 12th century, most of what you will see in this day and age is actually from the 16th century.
Similar to Neuschwanstein Castle, you can visit the Predjama Castle at any time of the year. In the winter, the castle is blanketed in a thick layer of snow; while in the fall, an array of different colours from the surrounding forests will greet you. But if flowers are your thing, you’d want to visit during the Spring and Summertime.
Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
Last but definitely not least, we have the medieval Edinburgh Castle. Its geographical location is particularly fascinating as it was built atop an extinct volcano! Because of that, it is now known to be one of the best-defended fortresses in the history of Scotland. The castle is rich in history but also filled with myths and mystique. It is believed that Edinburgh Castle was actually haunted. Others believe that any university student that passes the castle gates will fail their final examinations! As bizarre as that sounds, the true majestic beauty of the castle still takes the cake. (I’ve personally visited the Edinburgh Castle in 2017 and it was absolutely breathtaking!)