There are fewer things more magical than visiting (or staying in) the many fairytale castles in Europe and the UK. Steeped in unbelievable history, legend and folklore, Europe has become one of the most sought-after destinations for those who are inspired by bygone eras. From the wonderful hills in Wales, the ‘castle capital of the world’, to the jaw-dropping Renaissance chateaux in the Loire Valley in France, every inch of our continent is charmed by regal properties that are simply out of this world.
If you’re planning a luxury vacation, a special event or big family reunion with something a bit different, make Europe your next destination of travel. Here are 23 of the most incredible fairytale castles to see (or stay in) in Europe.
One of the finest castles in the Scottish Highlands, and located in one of the most unbeatable locations anywhere in Europe. Aldourie Castle simply had to make it to the top of our list. Set on the shores of the world famous Loch Ness, the panoramic views from the water’s edge are truly priceless. With a 500 acre private estate to explore, golfing and other activities, this castle is much more than just a pit stop. Available to rent for house parties, extended stays or even weddings, Aldourie can help you create an unforgettable vacation in Scotland.
For the ultimate fairytale experience, you have to travel to the Kingdom of Bavaria in Germany. The most beautiful of the German states, recognized for its unique culture, great food and drink, amazing views of the Alps, and of course its many castles buildings. Neuschwanstein Castle is perhaps the most beautiful, a 19th Century Romanesque Revival palace set atop a hill above the sleepy village of Hohenschwangau near Füssen. This is the castle that inspired the fictional home of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, and it’s even more spectacular in real life.
A breathtakingly beautiful castle which spans the River Cher near the small village of Chenonceaux. The reflections in the water are a photographer’s dream, and there’s much to explore on site. What’s great about this castle is its coveted location, deep in the Loire Valley. A region celebrated for its lush landscapes dotted with fairytale castles from the Renaissance. Whilst here, you can book a luxury stay in one of our featured rental properties, Chateau De La Barre.
Wales is known as the ‘castle capital of the world’ so if you love pretty palaces and romance, there’s no better place for a vacation in the UK. Conwy Castle, located along the north coast, is a medieval fortification that has remained well intact and almost all of the property is still accessible to this day. A World Heritage Site, Conwy Castle is a charming bucket list must, and the town itself is a historic gem not to be missed.
Considered to be one of the most dramatic castles in Europe, this unique building is basically carved into the center of a vertical cliff. It’s over 800 years old and is the largest cave castle in the world, and visitors can come throughout the year to witness this phenomenal structure in person. Travel during the summer months (May to September) and you will also have the opportunity to explore the underground caves below.
Schloss Kogl was built by the Khevenhüller family in the mid-18th Century, and has since been carefully restored to include all its original features, whilst offering modern amenities and cozy comfort for anyone who wishes to enjoy a castle vacation. This fabulous fortress, furnished in traditional Austrian ‘fin du siecle’ style, has 75 acres of private outdoor space and can sleep up to 17 people at any one time (with 8 double bedrooms and 1 single room). It also features a pool, tennis court and outdoor bowling alley.
Scotland’s stunning 13th Century fortress, Eilean Donan, is set in a location where three lochs meet. Surrounded by water, a visit to this castle promises to be relaxing and tranquil. An excellent escape from urban life for any travelers staying in Edinburgh or other major cities in the Scottish vacation region. Located in the Highlands, you will find so many great walks nearby. Plus, the castle itself is a playground for history fans or those who enjoy landscape photography and dramatic mountain views.
Built in the 12th Century and one of the most famous landmarks in Transylvania. Visit the legendary fictional home of Dracula, relive the old school tales and stories of The Count himself, and explore the grounds of a place where author Bram Stoker’s imagination came to life. Guided tours are available for visitors, and there is also a fantastic tea house for food and refreshments after you’re done. You can find out more here.
Situated near Kværndrup, in the south of the island of Funen, the 460 year old Egeskov Castle benefits from the most mind-blowing views. There are some great rooms to explore inside, including The Hunting Room and The Banqueting Hall. And Print Titania’s Palace, perhaps the most amazing doll house ever to be made, is a feature that will appeal to children or adults alike.
Located in County Waterford, Lismore Castle is the perfect castle to rent for a big family vacation, a big group event, or corporate escape. Originally built in 1185 by King John, the property was later taken over by the Duke of Devonshire and has remained in the same bloodline since the 1700s. A regal abode, surrounded by golf courses and located just an hour away from Cork Airport. Sleeps up to 27 guests in total, with en-suite bathrooms in every room. Here are some other amazing castles near Cork.
The setting and structure of Leeds Castle certainly makes it one of the finest landmarks in the UK. Located in Kent, this dreamy stronghold will take you back in time, and there’s so much to do here that you’ll want to stick around for more than just a day. From exploring the manicured grounds and enjoying the fantastic maze to watching falconry displays, there’s not a dull moment here. There are some great luxury rentals in the south of England, including Cowdray House, located just over an hour away.
Now this really is the stuff of fairytales…..Château de Chambord is one of the most recognized palaces in the world, due to its distinctive French Renaissance exterior. One that looks so magical that it will stop you in your tracks on approach. In the heart of the Loire Valley, this 17th Century UNESCO World Heritage Site should be at the top of your list if you’re planning a trip to the French countryside. Book your stay at Chateau de la Barre and spend at least a week soaking up the sights of the region. The food and wine is, of course, to die for too…
Tuscany is definitely one of the most glorious parts of Italy, one which has its own unique way of life, history and culture. Castello di Meleto is one of those forts that will transport you back in time, with its oldest parts dating back to the year 1000. Located in the heart of Chianti, between Siena and Florence, this building is now a center for wine production. So history fans and wine connoisseurs will be just as pleased to be here. During your stay, you can stay at the stylishly opulent Villa Centinale in the Ancaiano District.
A gorgeous location for sunsets and a panoramic favorite amongst the photography community. Featuring an interesting mix of architectural attributes, taking on both Manueline and Moorish influences to create a spectacular picture of 19th Century romanticism at its best. Such a unique hybrid of features can also be seen inside the palace, and walkers will fall in love with the vast surrounding woodland park.
Visit the largest castle in the Netherlands and marvel at the incredible medieval architecture of De Haar. Dating back to the 13th Century, this structure is everything you would expect of a typical medieval stronghold, with a huge fortress, drawbridges, moats, towers and ramparts. And located in the bustling city of Utrecht, you’ll find plenty of things to do nearby to make your stay worthwhile.
There aren’t many people who haven’t heard of Windsor. It’s been the home of British Monarchs for more than a thousand years after all. This charming royal retreat is where Queen Elizabeth II likes to spend her weekends, and inside it also houses a royal mausoleum for the bodies of many monarchs throughout history, including Henry VIII, Charles I and George V. More interestingly, Windsor is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, making it a truly special place. Stay at the elegant Farleigh House, located just an hour away from Windsor.
Set atop a hill with jaw-dropping views of the surroundings, the climb to the castle is definitely worth the effort. Castell Dinas Bran was built for a Welsh prince (and not for Norman occupancy like many other castles in the area), and today the 13th Century ruins can be accessed high above the Dee Valley. The ascending route may be rugged but it’s well-marked so the paths are easy to navigate.
Inveraray Castle is an iconic attraction and the ancestral home of the Duke of Argyll, and Chief of the Clan Campbell. Located at Scotland’s west coast and on the banks of Loch Fyne, visitors are surrounded by water. The building accommodates up to 13 guests at any one time and features 6 double bedrooms with one single bedroom. There’s also a state dining room and a saloon for in-house guest use.
Enjoy a stay in this magnificent castle in County Fermanagh, an area known for its many castle buildings, grand estates and beautiful scenery. Some of the local towns for a fun day trip include Enniskillen, Belleek, Irvinestown, and Kesh. The castle itself also has a tennis court, rowing and sailing boats on Lough Erne, and a shooting area on the estate. Plus, there are several golf courses close by, making Crom Castle the perfect place for a golfing vacation. It sleeps up to 24 people across 12 guest rooms.
This is the second castle in Tuscany that we think is worth a mention. Again, vineyards and a wine cellar occupy the grounds, so wine connoisseurs can have double the fun when vacationing here. Today, the entire estate has been re-styled into a hotel with 5 star luxury suites, so guests can spend a full week indulging in wine tasting, tours, and local exploration. Or you can book your stay in the charming Villa Michaela, situated just 30 minutes from Pisa Airport and one hour away from Florence.
Another must-visit castle in Ireland, located in County Westmeath just one hour away from everyone’s favorite city of Dublin. Not only does Ballinlough provide a superb day out for all ages (great for young children), but it’s also a place to rent and stay if you are traveling in a group. This 17th Century stronghold has a grand exterior, yet it remains wonderfully cozy and intimate inside, sleeping up to 16 guests across a number of suites and double rooms.
If you want to plan an unforgettable French vacation, the Loire Valley is a region that you have to visit. Not only are there so many castles and French Renaissance buildings to feast your eyes on, but the food and drink are also excellent. Stay in Chateau de la Barre, a luxurious family-owned palace that can be booked per room (as a boutique hotel) or rented out completely for your own events and celebrations.
We simply couldn’t share our favorite castles in Europe without mentioning the remarkable Edinburgh Castle, one of Scotland’s most famous attractions. It provides a wonderful day out for the whole family so if you are traveling with little ones, the Scottish capital is the perfect day out. We can help you with bespoke Scotland travel, including many luxury properties, stately homes and manors that are located within easy driving distance from the city.
If you’d like any help planning your vacation around Europe, please do get in touch with us today – we’d love to help you.This entry was posted in Travel Inspiration and tagged activities, castles, travel, uk, vacations .