Last updated on March 11, 2023
Often inspiring fairy tales and fantastical stories, castles in the world not only bring to life imaginations but were originally built with specific needs in mind, namely defence. Some castles in the world fell to ruin over time and others remain as markers of the past.
Come along as we explore 17 famous castles from around the world and get to know their stories a bit better.
Want a fun challenge? Then jump right in and test your knowledge with our challenging Castles of the World quiz! Or if you’re not quite ready for that, keep reading on to learn some fun and interesting facts.
17 Famous Castles of the World
Windsor Castle (United Kingdom)
Windsor Castle is one of the most recognized and famous castles in the world. Located 25 miles from the English capital city of London, it served as the royal residence of the British royal family for decades. The famous castle was enjoyed by Queen Elizabeth on most weekends, as well as a couple of weeks each summer and during Easter celebrations. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the queen briefly moved to Windsor Castle, making it her primary residence before returning to Buckingham Palace.
It is home to some of the most important pieces of the Royal Collection, including the Royal Archives, the Royal Library, and photo albums that go back generations. It was originally built in 1070 and took around 16 years to construct. The site was chosen by William the Conqueror, and many other famous royals have made substantial additions to it, notably Edward III who transformed it into a spectacular Gothic palace. Before Edward’s rule, Windsor Castle was primarily a military fortification. It has survived both civil and world wars and the Windsor Fire of 1992 and is now one of the most visited castles in the world.
Edinburgh Castle (Scotland)
History buffs get a kick out of Edinburgh Castle, one of the oldest castles in the entire world. Found among the rolling hills of Scotland, Edinburgh Castle was built upon Castle Rock, an area that was first occupied by humans around the Iron Age. Its high location gave it a major strategic advantage, and throughout history Edinburgh Castle has exchanged hands many times, being fought over by the Scottish and English during the medieval ages and throughout countless civil wars. It is one of the most exciting historical sites on Earth and one of the most famous castles in the world, hosting approximately 2.3 million visitors in 2019.
Neuschwanstein Castle (Germany)
Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the most enchanting castles in the Bavarian region of modern-day Germany and is said to have inspired the royal residence of Princess Aurora and her parents in Giambattista Basile’s story Sleeping Beauty. Although it closely resembles a medieval fortress, this beautiful castle was built much later, at the end of the Little Ice Age. Construction began during the 1870s by the mad King Ludwig II. The castle complex is said to be a monument to the king’s favorite composer Richard Wagner.
Much of this historic castle was left with an unfinished interior when the king ran out of money. His fondness for building beautiful castles, including Linderhof and Herrenchiemsee in addition to this seemingly medieval castle, provided him with an escape from reality and allowed him to enter a calmer, more ‘romantic’ world. It has remained largely uninhabited throughout history but its reputation as one of the most famous castles in Europe comes from its use as a place to store and protect priceless pieces of art during World War II. In 2017, ongoing restoration efforts began on some of the artwork in the rooms that are accessible to visitors. Due to the delicate nature of some of the rooms, the only way to see the interior of Neuschwanstein Castle is through a guided tour.
Trakai Island Castle (Lithuania)
A 45-minute bus ride from the city of Vilnius in Lithuania brings you to Trakai Island Castle, the only medieval castle in Eastern Europe built on an island. While its stone walls are surrounded by water, the castle complex is nestled in the lush forests that Lithuania is famous for. This Gothic Castle was once the home of every grand duke in the Lithuanian Empire.
The Grand Duke Gediminas founded the site during one of his hunting trips, falling in love with the area and constructing the castle in the 14th century, and the castle served as the country’s capital city until the 18th century. It was restored by Soviet communists and converted into a history museum in 1962. Today, it is a local favorite, with Lithuanians flocking to its gates to take in the nature that surrounds the area or enjoy the Christmas decorations that adorn it during the holiday season.
Bojnice Castle (Slovakia)
Slovakia has one of the highest concentrations of castles in all of Europe and Bojnice Castle is one of the most beautiful castles the country has to offer. Influenced by both Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles, this strikingly unique and beautiful castle began its life as a simple wooden fort, constructed in the year 1113. For centuries, its wooden walls were slowly replaced with stone ones by its various owners until it was inherited by Count Jan Palfi, who wished for it to be converted into a museum.
Known as the Spirit Castle to locals, the castle is said to be a meeting place for ghosts and spirits, and the International Festival of Ghosts and Monsters takes place at this famous castle every spring, sometime during the end of April or the beginning of May.
Vianden Castle (Luxembourg)
Despite its small size, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg has quite a collection of castles, perhaps none more historically important than Vianden Castle. Built on a hill overlooking the River Our during the middle ages, between the 11th and 14th centuries atop Roman ruins, Vianden Castle is one of the largest fortified castles in the region. However, Vianden Castle was not a royal palace. Rather, it was built for the Counts of Vianden, who shared ties with both the French and German Royal families, making them exceptionally powerful.
At the beginning of the 16th century, when the House of Vianden and the House of Nassau were married, the castle was sold off until it became the state-owned property of the small country of Luxembourg in 1977, where it now acts as a major tourist attraction.
Eltz Castle (Germany)
Eltz Castle has the distinction of being one of the largest continuously inhabited castles in Europe. In fact, it is large enough to house the three families that still live there: the Eltz-Kempenich line, which translates to “Eltz of the Golden Lion”; the Eltz-Rübenach line (Eltz of the Silver Lion), and the Eltz-Rodendorf line (Eltz of the Buffalo Horns).
The Eltz line has held the duty of protecting the castle for generations, although its proximity to a vital trade route prevented Eltz Castle from being attacked and destroyed, unlike many other castles in Europe. Today, the famous castle is one of the tallest around, due to its location atop a hill which prevented it from being expanded horizontally.
Château De Chambord
Found in France’s Loire Valley, Château de Chambord is a stunningly well-preserved example of a French Renaissance castle and one of the most famous castles in France. Built by King Francois I to be used as a hunting lodge, much of its inspiration was drawn from the work of Leonardo da Vinci.
Construction began in 1519 and took 28 years, with the finished castle being unveiled in 1547. However, once the king laid eyes upon it, he felt it was too elaborate and only used it for short stays. Château de Chambord was declared a historical monument of France in 1840 and was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981.
Prague Castle (Czech Republic)
The Historic Centre of Prague is one of the most important cultural sites in the Czech Republic, playing a vital role in the political, economical, social, and cultural revolution that began in the 14th century and carried on for centuries thereafter. The site was granted world heritage site status in 1992. Among the center lays Prague Castle, the largest castle complex in the world, founded sometime around the year 880, although that date is just an estimate.
Comprising an area of over 7000 square meters, Prague Castle consists of both royal palaces and ecclesiastical buildings that reflect the evolution of architectural styles that took place throughout the centuries, with the Romanesque and Gothic styles being the most prominent.
De Haar Castle (Netherlands)
De Haar Castle is the largest castle in The Netherlands (Holland), a short drive from the capital city of Amsterdam. It has hosted famous visitors such as Bridgette Bardot, Roger Moore and Coco Chanel. A relatively young castle, De Haar was built between 1892 and 1912 by a famous Dutch architect called Pierre Cuypers. Despite being ranked among the top twenty museums in Holland, it belongs to the Van Zuylen van Nijevelt van de Haar family, who have retained the right to reside here during the month of September every year, which they have done for over a century.
Conwy Castle (Wales)
Conwy is quite an original castle as it’s the only one on this list that can be found in Wales. It was built during the conquest of the country by Edward I in 1283 as part of a larger project that sought to surround the town of Conwy with towering walls and is one of the greatest fortresses remaining in medieval Europe. A restored spiral staircase lets visitors walk atop the castle walls and even climb to the top of some of the higher towers, allowing them to fully appreciate the grandeur of this impressive medieval fortress.
Peleș Castle (Romania)
Enjoyed by the royal court during the summer months, Peleș Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in Romania. It was built in the hills of the stunning Carpathian Mountains and was the first castle in the world to have electricity and heat. Construction was completed in 1883 and remained the property of the royal family until it was seized in 1947 by the Communist regime.
Due to its close proximity to Bran Castle (of Dracula fame), you can easily tour both Peleș Castle and Bran Castle on the same day. If you have enough time, try to squeeze in a visit to one of the largest castles in Europe, Corvin Castle. A stunning blend of Gothic-Renaissance style, Corvin Castle was once used as a defence against the Ottoman Empire.
Himeji Castle (Japan)
The largest and most popular palace complex in Japan, Himeji Castle is sometimes referred to as the White Heron Castle because of its stunningly white castle walls that resemble a bird in flight. The stunning architecture makes Himeji Castle one of the most beautiful castles in the world.
Built in 1346, it is unique in that it was built on a hilltop fortress but is also a moated castle. It made Unesco’s World Heritage list in 1993 and is regarded among locals as one of the most important sites in Japan, along with Matsumoto Castle and Kumamoto Castle. Interestingly, the black exterior of Matsumoto Castle is a stark contrast to Himeji Castle and is often referred to as the ‘Crow Castle’ for that reason.
Bodiam Castle (United Kingdom)
Bodiam Castle is distinctive as it is one of the few quadrangular castles in the entire world. Located in East Sussex, the castle was built by a former knight of King Edward III called Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, supposedly as a way to protect the area from French soldiers during the Hundred Years’ War. Interestingly, the site was used during the filming of more than a few films, including Monty Python’s Tale of Sir Lancelot and Camelot. It is now owned and managed by the National Trust of England.
Kylemore Castle (Ireland)
Built in Ireland for an English politician called Mitchel Henry in 1863, the castle complex of Kylemore Castle includes Kylemore Abbey and the Victorian Walled Garden. It can be found in the Connemara Valley along the Wild Atlantic Way, a scenic driving route that hugs the Northwest coast of Ireland.
The beautiful castle grounds have been home to the Benedictine order of Nuns for the last 100 years, who welcome visitors to learn about the history of the castle, walk amongst the gardens, attend daily prayers or shop in the Craft and Design shop, which is stocked full of hand-crafted goodies like chocolate, soap, blankets and more.
Hohenwerfen Castle (Austria)
Hohenwerfen Castle is a classic example of a medieval rock castle, a style of architecture in which beautiful medieval castles are built directly right out of the surrounding rock formations. The fortress is over 900 years old and has a remarkable history. Sitting high above the Salzach valley in Salzburg, Austria,
Hohenwerfen Castle was commissioned after a period of conflict in 1077 as a way to protect and preserve the archdiocese. Visitors can either drive or take a bus to the base of the castle, but the only way to reach the castle gates is to walk uphill or ride the castle’s cable car. However, the castle is only open from April to November.
Malbork Castle (Poland)
Malbork Castle is one of the most beautiful castles to be found in Poland. Officially named The Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork, it was famous for being the largest brick castle upon its completion in 1406. Historians believe that construction began around 1274.
Malbork Castle was built by the Teutonic Order, a Catholic institution of military personnel founded in the Kingdom of Jerusalem, whose primary purpose was to aid Christians as they made their way to the Holy Land to establish hospitals. The order came to an end in Prussia in 1525, and Malbork Castle became the property of the country of Poland.
Now that you’ve read all our facts about the castles of the world try your knowledge and take this 20-question quiz!
This post was compiled by the Travel Trivia Challenge (TTC) team. TTC was founded by Dalene and Pete Heck who traveled the world non-stop for almost 8 years.