A vacation should take you away, both physically and emotionally. Truly great travel experiences inspire creativity and dreams, bringing you both relaxation and excitement. If you’ve been dreaming of a magical vacation, fill your itinerary with a few of these fantasy fairytale castles in Europe! Walk the halls where kings and queens of the past trod and connect with the magic of the living past. You’ll find that fairytale magic still exists–it’s still present in these rarified, mysterious European castles.
Our Top 10 Fairytale Castles in Europe:
Location: Normandy, France
A shining example of medieval architecture, the impressive (and very fairytale-worthy) Mont Saint-Michel sits on its own fortified island on the north coast of France. Viewing this castle, it’s easy to see why Disney artists were inspired by it. Especially when seeing this castle at night, it appears to glow, floating on the water less than 1,000 feet from shore. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is actually a monastery established in the 8th century. The castle island, in the bay at the mouth of the River Couesnon, features a hodgepodge of buildings, once tiny homes and great halls, that surround and lead up to the abbey and monastery. The shallow bay has become filled with silt, but efforts are underway to preserve its island character so that water stills flows around it. The awesome structure is topped with a tall, thin pinnacle pointing up into the sky.
The Palace of Pena
Location: Lisbon, Portugal
Step into the heart of romanticism from Portugal’s late Gothic period, circa 200 years in the past, at this grand palace in the Sintra hills of Lisbon. You’ll be surrounded by grand Moorish architectural touches, complete with a large dome. The palace architecture is Portugal’s unique Manueline style at this palace commissioned by King Ferdinand. Getting there is half the adventure, as visitors approach the palace on its steep, winding road, often in a quaint carriage-for-hire available on the grounds. Visitors pass through the verdant gardens and forest (with more than 500 tree species represented) that make up the Parque das Merendas grounds, viewing the palace from different angles throughout the ascent.
Location: Segovia, Spain
Shaped like the bow of a ship, this imposing stone castle inspired Cinderella’s Castle at Disneyland. Segovia Castle, originally a Roman fort, sits on a rocky outcropping, looking down on the strategic spot where two Spanish rivers meet: the Clamores and the Eresma. Starting out as a fortified town, the location has also had other incarnations, such as a prison, a military college and a palace for Castilian monarchy. Located about 50 miles outside of Madrid, the cathedral was built during the Roman era and was burned in the mid 19th century. Fortunately, the magnificent interior has been rebuilt. Scenes from the 1967 musical film “Camelot” were shot at the castle.
Location: Stuttgart (Baden-Württemberg), Germany
A castle on this site dates back to the beginning of the 11th century and was recognized as the most well defended, strongly built and imposing structure in the country. Still, that “indestructible” early castle was to be demolished in the 15th century. The neo-Gothic castle seen today, about 30 miles from Stuttgart, was constructed in the mid-19th century at the behest of Prussian King Frederick William IV. The castle often appears to rest atop clouds and fog, with dark gray or greenish roofs rising above walls that look golden in sunlight. Multiple thin spires top towers throughout the walled grounds, which is located atop a prominent, heavily forested hill. Its fairytale silhouette makes this castle truly spectacular, when viewed from near or far.
Location: Hampshire, England
This site has been the location of prominent houses since the 8th century, when it housed the Bishops of Winchester in a medieval palace. Modern visitors know this castle as the site of the popular TV drama, Downton Abbey. The current structure was built in the Jacobethan style with Italianate influences, in the mid-19th century. Since the 17th century, the castle has been the seat of the Earls of Carnarvon—today owned by the 8th Earl. Visiting this large rectangular structure, this many-windowed castle, will allow you to step into the sumptuous and complex world of Downton Abbey for one lovely afternoon.
Location: Maybole, Scotland
One of the most amazing fairytale castles to visit in Europe is the Georgian, neo-Classical Culzean Castle. This romantically brooding castle sits atop the prominent Ayrshire cliffs and is comprised of over 40 buildings. It is an L-plan structure that was built for the 10th Earl of Cassilis. The centerpiece of the castle is the oval staircase designed by Robert Adam. A wonderfully varied experience for the traveler, the grounds feature a Swan Pond, cliffside park, formal gardens, woods and beaches. Today you’ll find an illustration of the fairytale worthy castle on the back of Scottish five pound notes.
Carreg Cennen Castle
The Welsh countryside features the most castles per square kilometer in the world, a legacy of the area’s warrior-like history. This eerily romantic structure sits on an isolated, often thickly misted, hilltop in Brecon Beacons National Park near the larger, and perhaps better-known Caerphilly Castle. Carreg Cennen sits close to the River Cennen in Trapp village, north of Swansea. As with most castle grounds, the site has been strategic (and built upon) since antiquity, in this case back to Roman times. The current buildings date to King Edward I during his spate of castle-construction throughout the area. While you are here, explore a curious limestone cave, with torch in hand, descending deep into the castle bowels. There is evidence that the cave once housed homing pigeons and birds, as a food source in winter.
Location: Chenonceaux, France
This strikingly lovely white French chateau, once a royal residence, completely spans the river Cher in the Loire Valley. Often reflected in the clear water surrounding the building’s foundation, you may see the castle’s image duplicated in amazing detail. The chateau was loved and cared for by several women throughout its history. Henry II gifted the château to his mistress, who had the arched bridge constructed, joining the castle to the opposite riverbank. She also added amazing, triangular, riverside gardens. Next, Catherine de’ Medici took over and enlarged the structure. The property then went to her daughter-in-law (wife to Henry III), then later was gifted to the mistress of Henri IV. Ravaged by the bombs of WWII and a flood in 1940, the storied, storybook castle has since been restored for you to visit.
Location: Lichtenstein, Germany
Schloss Lichtenstein (shining stone palace) is situated high on a cliff in Southern Germany’s Baden-Württemberg, overlooking the valley of Echaz. A Gothic Revival castle erected in the mid-19th century, the castle building is uniquely dwarfed by a large white tower rising well above its spires. Fittingly called the “fairy tale castle of Württemberg”, the structure was inspired by a then-contemporary novel by Wilhelm Hauff. Inside, you’ll find a collection of armor and weaponry, along with ornate romantic decor and furnishings.
The Renaissance castle of Predjama hugs the side of a steep cliff, located in the mouth of a large cave. Construction began in the 13th century. The fairytale aspect of this castle takes a slightly dark turn. As you enter look up to see the holes in the tower’s ceiling, handy for dousing trespassers with boiling oil. While you are here take a look at its dark, damp dungeon. You’ll also find once-buried treasure on display and a lofty hideout (Erazem’s Nook) named after a 15th-century, Robin-Hood-like figure from local lore. (Erazem Lueger was known for stealing from the rich and giving to the poor.)
Make Your Dreams Come True… With a Visit to These Fairytale Castles in Europe!
If any of these fairytale castles in Europe have peaked your curiosity let us help you plan your vacation. The travel experts at go-today travel are ready to create a fairytale trip for you. We’ll help you plan the best European tour of your life. Contact us today!