14 Gorgeous Castles You Must See Before You Die
In the past, castles are statement of class and power. It is a fortified structure that used to be an exclusive residence for the elites. Although these grandiose edifices remain to signify royalty and nobility, they are now mostly represent or being referred in fairytales, fantasy, and romance.
Most castles are found in Europe and are still not open to the public. But over the years, there are now castles from around the world that travelers can visit and explore. Here are fourteen of the numerous castles in the world that you may want to see for yourself.
1. Prague Castle, Czech Republic
Completed in the 9th century, the Prague Castle complex is currently the official residence of the President of the Czech Republic. Throughout history, it was the home of kings, emperors, and presidents of the country. The Guinness Book of Records has named it as the largest ancient castle in the world, covering an area of 70,000m2.
This vast expanse has buildings of different architectural styles, mostly Romanesque. The castle houses notable buildings like the Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral and Romanesque Basilica of St. George. Although some areas are not open to the public, there are several places where tourists can see history through its art collection.
2. Château de Versailles, France
Located at the wealthy suburb of Paris, France, the Chateau de Versailles is both famous for its regal design and symbol of the country’s absolute monarchy. From 1682 to 1789, it has been the seat of political power in the Kingdom of France. Since the 19th century, it became the Museum of the History of France.
Although its architectural design has taken its inspiration from the baroque Italian styles, it is still able to incorporate French classical style. Also, the intricate details inside the structure tell a lot about the rich history of politics and art of France. In popular culture, it has been the set of popular video games like “Assassin’s Creed” and television series like “Doctor Who.”
3. Highclere Castle, United Kingdom
If you want to experience what it’s like to be part of the Award-winning British-American historical period drama, “Downton Abbey,” you might want to check out the Highclere Castle where the series mostly filmed its scenes.
The television series revolves on the lives of the aristocratic family after the Edwardian era. In real life, it is owned by the Carnarvon family since the late 18th century and it became known as the center of the politics during the late Victorian era. However, it became even more popular during the Edwardian era. The castle is only open to the public every July and August.
4. Alnwick Castle, Northumberland
Are you a Potterhead? You may want to visit Alnwick Castle in the English county of Northumberland since it has been used as the interior and exterior of Hogwarts in the “Harry Potter” film franchise.
The first parts of the castle were built in 1096 during Yves de Vescy, Baron of Alnwick’s time. After the extinction of the Vescy family, it was then owned by the Percy family until today. The family of the current duke still resides in some areas of the castle.
Most of the areas of the castle is open to the public and offers wide range of exhibitions and quests. Apart from the “Harry Potter” films, it has also been used as the filming location of other titles such as Academy-award winning 1991 film “Elizabeth” and the box-office 1991 action-adventure movie “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.”
5. Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland, California
Not all castles date back from the middle ages. A few of the popular castles today are built based on fairytale books. California Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle is one of the castles in the world that was built after fictional literature.
The Sleeping Beauty Castle in California Disneyland began its operation in 1955 and it is the oldest of all Disney castles in the world. Its design is inspired by the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany. When tourists step inside the castle, they will be transported to the passageways where the tale of Princess Aurora and Maleficent is told. In winter, the castle transforms into an enchanting sight as its exterior are adorned with lights and gleaming snow-capped turrets.
6. Castillo de Coca, Spain
Castillo de Coca in Coca, Segovia of Central Spain is a Mudejar castle built in the 15th century by the Archbishop of Seville and Don Alonso de Fonseca. The architectural design of this castle is one of a kind since it is a mixture of the western and Moorish military design.
Unlike the other castles in Europe, Castillo de Coca is made of brick and the interior is adorned with Mudejar-inspired (Muslims of Al-Andalus) decorations.
7. Osaka Castle, Japan
The Osaka Castle is one of Japan’s most visited castles. It is a landmark that symbolizes the unification of the country during the 16th century Azuchi-Momoyama period. The structure has five tiers and nine storey, and it boasts the distinct Japanese architecture. Most people flock in the area during festival seasons, especially the cherry blossom bloom season.
8. Château de Chambord, France
France’s Château de Chambord is considered by many as a work of art because of its intricate and distinctive French Renaissance architecture. It was constructed in the 16th century by King Francis I of France but was never completed based on its original plan. There have been talks that Leonardo da Vinci may have been involved in the design of the structure. However, he was not attributed.
It is open to the public all year round except on special holidays like New Year and Christmas. Because of the flat expanse of the land it sits on, there are more to the castle than looking at its art exhibitions. It also offers horse and carriage rides around the park, boat rides, and various souvenirs at the flea market.
9. Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
The Sleeping Beauty Castle’s design is inspired by Neuschwanstein Castle, which was also used in the visual arts of Disney’s take on the Sleeping Beauty fairytale. The actual Neuschwanstein Castle, on the other hand, is an embodiment of the romantic Middle Ages and German composer Richard Wagner’s musical mythology.
The owner of the house, Ludwig II of Bavaria, wanted to build an estate that would best interpret the musical works of his friend Wagner. Even the name of the castle is a reference to one of Wagner’s characters in his opera named “the Swan Knight.” Today, it is considered one of the most visited castles in Germany.
10. Noor Mahal, Pakistan
Noor Mahal castle is one of Pakistan’s hidden gems. It is built in Bahawalpur, Punjab, Pakistan in the 18th century during the reign of Nawab Sadiq Muhammad Khan IV. Its design is a mix of Corinthian and Islamic architecture with a touch of subcontinental style. Its interior, on the other hand, is adorned with furniture from England and Italy.
Although it is currently under the care of the Pakistan Army, most areas of the structure is open to the public. Sometimes it also houses state guests and other foreign delegations.
11. Himeji Castle, Japan
The Himeji Castle is considered by UNESCO World Heritage Center as one of the finest castles that best represents the 17th century Japanese architecture. The structure has 83 buildings and it boasts systems of defense during the Shogun period. Because of the quality of its building, it remains intact even after the bombings in World War II and the 1995 earthquake.
12. Malbork Castle, Poland
Poland’s Malbork Castle is a one of a kind in Europe. It is originally built by the German Roman Catholic religious order of crusaders called the Teutonic Knights in the 13th century. After its completion, it has become a medieval fortress, designed to protect territories in warfare. The UNESCO World Heritage Site named the castle as the largest brick castle in the world.
13. Bran Castle, Romania
Bran Castle is a popular landmark in Romania as it is known in pop culture as “Dracula’s Castle.” It is the home of the main character of popular fiction novel “Dracula” by Bram Stoker. However, there is no evidence that Stoker knew the finest details of the castle other than it is linked to Vlad III, voivode of Wallachia, who is the author’s inspiration for the character Dracula.
The medieval-styled castle has been converted to a museum that exhibits the art and furniture collection of Queen Marie of Romania, who resided in the castle in the early 1900s.
14. Mont Saint Michel, France
Mont Saint Michel castle is one of the most exhilarating man-made sites in the world. The structure covers an entire island located one kilometer off the northwestern coast in Normandy, France. Its location and design has a greater purpose and meaning. The tiers of the structural composition are reflective of the feudal society since the 8th century AD. At the top is the house of worship which symbolizes God, then there’s the abbey and the monastery around it. Below that, are the great halls; then follows the stores and housing. At the bottom are the houses for fishermen and farmers.
It did not have a bridge back then so it can only be accessed by the outsiders during low tide. High tides are also form of defense from those who intend to conquer the place.