For travel and history enthusiasts, nothing quite sparks our imagination like a majestic castle. Built by kings and queens of years gone by to protect and rule their realms, castles had not only to be able to withstand attack but project power and wealth for all to see. Some castles were raised to be the tallest and largest, while others were designed to embody the personalities of their rulers. They were used as royal residences, strategic fortifications, and sheer symbols of wealth. While most magnificent castles are in Europe, there are plenty of others sprawled around the globe. Here’s a round-up of the most beautiful castles in the world!
1. Neuschwanstein, Germany
Neuschwanstein Castle is a 19th-century historicist palace on a rugged hill above the village of Hohenschwangau near Füssen in southwest Bavaria, Germany. The palace was commissioned by King Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and in honour of Richard Wagner. One of the biggest ironies of this castle is that a structure built to be a private refuge, “sacred and out of reach” (“heilig und unnahbar”), should now be host to thousands of tourists each day. Another irony: although it was built largely as a stage for Wagnerian productions, the composer never set foot in Neuschwanstein. Nor was the castle’s throne room ever completed in time to contain a throne. To execute his dream project, the king commissioned a stage designer as architect. The castle that Christian Jank designed for Ludwig inspires awe and surprise in visitors to this day. But in part because the Disneyesque image of Neuschwanstein has become such a cliché, it is easy to dismiss it as an ostentatious example of poor taste, an anachronistic piece of foolishness. Nevertheless, ever since it was opened to the public, Neuschwanstein has acted as a powerful magnet. The castle’s unique location combined with Ludwig’s “fantasy in stone” creates a special magic.
2. Pena Castle
The Pena Palace is a Romanticist castle in São Pedro de Penaferrim, in the municipality of Sintra, on the Portuguese Riviera. The castle stands on the top of a hill in the Sintra Mountains above the town of Sintra, and on a clear day it can be easily seen from Lisbon and much of its metropolitan area. Pena Palace of Sintra is open everyday from 9:30 AM to 6:30 PM. Last entry will be at 6:00 PM. It is located in Sintra, around 4 km away from the Sintra National Palace and is easily accessible by bus, train, and car. Coffee shops and restaurants, stores and wheelchair access are some of the facilities you can expect at Pena Palace. Due to safety reasons post lockdown it is advised to book your tickets online before arriving at the venue. It is best to arrive as early as possible to avoid overcrowding at the venue. The Pena Palace houses a rich profusion of styles resembling a lot towards to exotic taste of Romanticism. It houses a mix of several architectural styles such as Neo-Gothic, Neo-Manueline, New-Romanesque along with other Oriental styles such as Neo-Moorish and Indo-Gothic most of which has become prominent since the major renovation in the 1840s. Many of the elements of the convent were well preserved including the cloister, the dinning, the sacristy and the Manueline-Renaissance chapel. All of it was later moved to the new section of the palace that featured a wide and a clock tower.
3. Topkapi Sarayi, Turkey
Topkapı Palace was built by Sultan Mehmed II (1444-1445 and 1451-1481) during the years 1460-1478, following the conquest of Istanbul. New buildings and annexes were added by other sultans over the centuries, creating the palace complex as we know it today. The site on a headland at the southern mouth of the Bosphorus was originally known as Zeytinlik (Olive Grove), and here work began with laying out gardens and building pavilions, after which the site was surrounded by walls known as the Sûr-ı Sultânî or Kal‘a-i Sultânî. For many years this palace was called the New Royal Palace, to distinguish it from the earlier palace in the district of Beyazıt, but later on it became known as Top Kapısı Palace after a pavilion known as Toplu Kapı. The palace remained the sultan’s main residence and centre of government until the mid-19th century. Topkapı Palace is situated in one of the oldest parts of Istanbul; the historic peninsula bounded by the Marmara Sea, the Bosphorus Strait and the Golden Horn inlet. It is one of the city’s most iconic buildings, covering an area of 700,000 m² on the headland known as Sarayburnu, which had been the site of the Eastern Roman acropolis.
4. Alcazar of Segovia
The Alcázar of Segovia, located in the city of Segovia, Castile and León, Spain, dates from the early 12th century and is one of the most famous medieval castles in the world and one of the most visited monuments in Spain. The “keep”, the fortified towers that are so prominent when looking at the Alcázar head on, are deceivingly narrow and almost like a façade to what lies beyond. When you step through into the castle you end up in a large courtyard and looking back at the keep. The highlight of the Alcázar are the halls and rooms (I counted 9) which are lavishly decorated. All have a mix of Christian and Mudéjar (Moorish) aspects including azulejos, carved arches and incredibly decorated ceilings (the ceilings are among the most impressive we have seen). The Sala de los Reyes (The Hall of the Kings) stands out, a room depicting sculptures of the 52 kings who’ve ruled here.
5. Predjama Castle, Slovenia
Predjama Castle is a Renaissance castle built within a cave mouth in south-central Slovenia, in the historical region of Inner Carniola. It is located in the village of Predjama, approximately 11 kilometres from the town of Postojna and 9 kilometres from Postojna Cave. The castle is also connected to the legend of the “robber baron” erasmus of Predjama. Its uniqueness has not escaped the notice of the film industry and it has frequently served as a film set. As well as visiting the castle, we recommend visiting the cave below Predjama Castle, the second-longest show cave in Slovenia. Predjama Castle is first attested in 1274, the year it was built, in the Gothic style, by the Patriarch of Aquileia. It was later rebuilt by its new owners, the Luegg family, whose most notorious member was Erasmus of Predjama. Predjama Castle is the only completely preserved cave castle in Europe. Its unique situation halfway up a cliff offers a unique insight into the construction techniques and inventiveness of its medieval builders, who sought a safe refuge right by the entrance to the cave. Inside the castle, visitors can see numerous replica weapons – lances, halberds, swords, battle hammers, longbows, crossbows and armour – in a faithfully reconstructed room in the main castle attic.