Take a step back in time to the dramatic and romantic medieval period by visiting these epic European castles. The wondrous medieval castles of Europe are full of romance and mystery, from the rugged Carreg Cennen Castle in Wales to the mysterious Hunyad Castle in Romania. By visiting one of these medieval castles in Europe, you get to experience the history of the era come to life through the castle walls.
Most castles were built as fortified royal residences, and many of them sprang up throughout Europe during the medieval era. Each one is steeped in history and, while some are better preserved than others, it is worth exploring as many as you can to get a feel for the feudal states of Europe during this time.
Here's our top 10 most epic medieval castles in Europe:
Carreg Cennen Castle, Wales
Did you know that the Welsh countryside is home to more castles per square mile than anywhere else in the world? Well, it is! And while Carreg Cennen may be a ruined castle, its rugged location on a limestone hilltop in the Brecon Beacons National Park makes it one of the most beautiful medieval castles on the list. The castle has actually been in a ruined state since 1462, but it is possible to visit the castle in the spring and summer months from April to October.
Predjama Castle, Slovenia
Famous for its bizarre location on the side of a 400-foot-high cliff, Predjama Castle has all of the quirks of a traditional medieval castle. Dingy dungeons, secret tunnels, and a very bloody history – with this formula Predjama is a must-see medieval castle. The castle also hosts an exciting medieval tournament every July at the grounds, a unique experience that is worth checking out.
Windsor Castle, England
The oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world, Windsor Castle is a royal residence located in Berkshire, England. Originally built in the 11th century by William the Conqueror, the lavish castle has been used by succeeded monarchs ever since. The prominent castle survived the English Civil War, and a number of other battles throughout its long existence just outside of London. Today, Queen Elizabeth II spends her holidays there along with many tourists!
Hunyad Castle, Romania
Famous for being the prison of Vlad the Impaler (Bram Stoker's inspiration for Dracula), the frightening looking structure of Hunyad Castle has remnants of Gothic, medieval and Renaissance architecture. Its impressive towers, multi-colored roofs, and elaborate stone carvings add to its charm, and make this castle one of the most memorable European palaces to visit.
Schloss Wartburg, Germany
Faithfully restored and kept in excellent condition, the Schloss Wartburg in Eisenach is famous for sheltering Martin Luther when he was translating the New Testament into German. Founded in 1067, the castle is one of the best preserved in Germany and is now listed as a World Heritage Site. You can visit the castle's museum, observe the many architectural styles involved in the design of the palace, and even visit the room where Luther made his translation, known as The Luther Room, with a guided tour.
Chateau Comtal, France
The Chateau Comtal, which means the Count's Castle, can be found in the City of Carcassonne, a city famous for being the largest city in Europe to still have its city walls intact. The whole site of the castle has been significantly restored, and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. The castle is a great tourist attraction today and its detailed description panels are written in both French and English.
Part palace, part fort, part World Heritage Site, Alhambra is also a great example of some of the world's most outstanding medieval architecture. The historic monument is a popular tourist site, and more than 6,000 visitors pass through every day during the summer, so it is often best to visit during the off-season. The central palace complex is one of the highlights, which features a wooden carved ceiling, lavishly-colored walls, and a stunning courtyard.
Castel del Monte, Italy
In the town of Andria in Italy, the Castel Del Monte combines both classical antiquity with elements from the Islamic Orient and northern European Cistercian Gothic. The castle is actually shaped like an octagon, with towers on each corner, and doesn't have steeples, a chapel, or a moat. Constructed during the 13th century, most historians consider the World Heritage castle was intended as a fortress and the small castle was once used as a prison!
Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
The fully-restored medieval structure of Edinburgh Castle in Scotland is one of the finest examples of a 12th century castle. Built atop an extinct volcano known as Castle Rock, the famous castle, which bears down over Edinburgh city, has been battled over by the English and the Scots for centuries, but now is open to the public for tours, events and even ghost trails!
Bojnice Castle, Slovakia
One of the most romantic castles on the list, Bojnice Castle in Slovakia looks like a fairytale castle. Built in the 12th century, the castle is the most visited castle in Slovakia and has also been used as the location for many fairytale movies and fantasy films. The castle's grounds are also something to behold, and are home to the oldest and most visited zoo in Slovakia.
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