Europe’s long and fascinating history can still be seen today in the magnificent castles spread throughout the continent. Among these castles, there is a plethora of diverse architectural styles that symbolize the artistic and cultural evolution of Europe. These castles are historical landmarks and living representations of Europe’s heritage and traditions. However, everything these castles offer isn’t just set in the past, as most still have a variety of experiences to offer the modern traveler looking for their own adventure. Continue reading to embark on a journey through time where you can discover the best castles in Europe, each offering a unique glimpse into the continent’s rich history and stunning landscapes.
1. Alcázar of Seville, Spain
Originally a royal Moorish fort, Alcázar has housed many Spanish kings and has been a symbol of power in the region since the Middle Ages. Famous for its exquisite gardens, patios, and the iconic Patio de las Doncellas, this UNESCO World Heritage Site showcases a blend of Islamic, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles that reflect the region’s complex history. The best time to visit this region is in the spring, between April and June when the weather is most pleasant. When looking for activities outside the castle, the nearby city of Seville is rich in culture, with attractions like Seville Cathedral and the Giralda Tower. But if you’re looking for something a bit less touristy, you can also explore the nearby Barrio Santa Cruz for authentic Andalusian cuisine and flamenco shows.
2. Bran Castle, Romania
Next, we have the dark and historic Bran Castle, also known as “Dracula’s Castle.” Initially a fortress guarding the mountain pass, it played a strategic role in defending against Ottoman expansion. While Bram Stoker never visited, the castle’s eerie atmosphere inspired his depiction of Dracula’s residence. Today, the castle offers a breathtaking view of the surrounding mountains. It houses extensive collections of Romanian and Transylvanian furniture, art, and armor. The best time to visit is in the late spring and early autumn to avoid the summer crowds, but if you want a truly unique experience, you should attend the Annual Halloween hosted at the castle. Then, after taking in all the Bran Castle has to offer, you can head to the nearby town of Brasov and take in the scenic Carpathian Mountains.
3. Château de Chambord, France
A testament to the grandeur of French Renaissance architecture, Château de Chambord was initially built as a hunting lodge for King Francis I. However, this is far more than your typical hunting lodge as it features 440 rooms, more than 80 staircases, and 365 fireplaces, showcasing the ultimate royal extravagance. Surrounding the castle is a national game reserve enclosed by a 32-kilometer wall, one of the largest in Europe. The most popular time to visit is in the spring, but between September and November, the weather is slightly cooler in exchange for far fewer tourists. Not far from the castle, Loire Valley is known for its vineyards and other historic châteaux. If you want the best experience possible, you could also rent a bike to explore the castle’s vast estate and nearby nature reserves.
4. Moszna Castle, Poland
Dating back to the 17th century, our next castle is the former residence of the German Tiele-Winckler family, who were industrial magnates at the time. Moszna Castle is known for its picturesque appearance, combining Gothic, Baroque, and Neo-Renaissance architectural styles, featuring 99 turrets and 365 rooms. Today, the castle still hosts various cultural events, including classical music concerts and art exhibitions. To experience the castle at the peak of its beauty, the best time to visit is in the late spring or summer for the full bloom of the castle gardens. Nearby, there is also the scenic countryside of southwestern Poland and local vineyards, but don’t forget to stop by the castle’s stud farm, which is famous for its thoroughbred Arab horses.
5. Alcázar of Segovia, Spain
The last castle on our list was originally an Arab fort and later served as a royal artillery college and state prison. Eventually, the Alcázar of Segovia’s academy and prison were forgotten as it became the favored residence of Castilian monarchs, with each adding to its structure. You might already recognize this castle as its “fairytale” appearance, which has made it a popular filming location, including scenes for movies like “Braveheart.” This area in Spain can reach some extreme temperatures so the best time to visit is in the Spring or Fall for the milder climate. When visiting, stop by the historic city of Segovia, where you can see the Roman aqueduct, Segovia Cathedral, and enjoy a traditional Castilian meal.
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Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Michal 11.