Europe has some of the most well preserved castles in the world. These impressive structures range from the palatial designs of the most talented architects of the Renaissance era to history-rich castles that date back to Medieval times. It is possible to travel through the entire continent and fill you itinerary completely with castle visits. Of course, there are so many other types of attractions on this culture-rich continent that you would miss too much by focusing completely on castles.

However, certain castles certainly do deserve a place on your itinerary, whether you are having a history themed vacation or simply exploring the best attractions that Europe has to offer.

Here are the top seven castles in Europe.

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

Photo: ZeHawk / Flickr

This German castle bears an amazing likeness to the fairy-tale castles of illustrated children’s books and Disney movies. The tall spires and towers and the location on a hill, framed by snow-capped mountains, provide the perfect setting for people seeking a fairy-tale-like place where reality and fantasy can merge to create a truly unique and memorable vacation experience. Because of its fiction-like qualities, Neuschwanstein is often referred to as the best castle in all of Europe. It certainly tops many people’s lists, but there are so many other worthwhile castles, that it is hard to call this one the absolute best.

Prague Castle

Prague Castle

Photo: zbdh12 / Flickr

If you think “best” is synonymous with “largest,” then Prague Castle is the top castle in Europe. The massive castle complex includes famous churches and cathedrals and a number of other historic buildings. Measurements vary, but according to one respected source, the Guinness Book of World Records, this is the “largest” castle in the world. It is also a very beautiful castle and a prominent part of the Prague skyline.

Chateau de Chambord

Chateau de Chambord

Photo: Luciano Guelfi / Flickr

This French castle is a prime example of Renaissance architecture. The circular wings and surrounding water create a beautiful picture for approaching sightseers. The castle’s interior also offers insight into the design styles of this famed period in European history. Sitting in the scenic Loire Valley, a region rich in historic architecture, Chambord was used as a hunting lodge and vacation home by one of France’s kings.

Pena National Palace

Pena National Palace

Photo: andreadg / Flickr

This castle, built in the Romanticist style, sits atop a hill in the Portuguese town of Sintra. Rising up from the tree-topped peak, it is certainly one of the most majestic castles on the Iberian Peninsula. The castle is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and has a history that dates back to the late 1400s. The view of the surrounding lowlands from the castle grounds is as spectacular as the close up view of the castle’s ornate architecture that awes visitors who enter the castle grounds.

Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle

Photo: dclay / Flickr

This castle in the English county of Northumberland is a great example of the architecture of Old England. This is one of England’s most visited castles. It is officially the home of the Duke of Northumberland, but is open to the public during the summertime. Like many European castles, the original structure of Alnwick (built nearly 1,000 years ago) was added to over the centuries. The beautiful natural surroundings and an onsite garden mean that Alnwick is an attractive place to visit as well as being a great historic destination.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

Photo: Bernt Rostad / Flickr

This castle in Scotland is one of the most historically significant and most beautiful castles in the United Kingdom. The history of this area of the British Isles dates back as far as three thousand years by some estimates. T castle’s history dates back to the 1100s, when the first royal residence was built on the site where Edinburgh Castle currently sits. The castle and surrounding buildings are open to the public. A number of national celebrations take place on the castle grounds and the buildings of the complex house many artifacts from Scotland’s rich history.

Castle of Coca

Castle of Coca

Photo: J. Duval / Flickr

This amazing structure is often considered one of the best remaining castles in Spain. Located in the scenic Segovia area, it has a distinctly Spanish style, which cannot easily be mistaken for the styles seen anywhere else in Europe. The strong Arabic influence creates a unique atmosphere, and the castle has interior exhibits explaining its colorful history, which dates back to the late 1400s.

What are your favorite castles in Europe? Use the comments section to tell us which castles we should add to our list of the seven best castles in Europe.

Josh Lew
Josh Lew
Josh Lew has traveled widely in Asia and the Americas. He has contributed to popular travel sites like Gadling and Brave New Traveler and currently writes a weekly travel column for MNN. His work has also appeared on the websites of CNN and Forbes Magazine.

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