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10 of the Most Unforgettable Medieval Castles in Europe

If you're a big fan of history and architecture, there are a few medieval castles in Europe that you simply have to see.

If you’re a fairytale lover like I am, then there are bound to be some medieval castles in Europe on your travel bucket list.

Europe is filled with astonishingly beautiful castles dating back to the medieval period. Many of them are incredibly well preserved, which means you get to experience them nearly exactly as they once looked.

From Roman ruins tucked away in royal fortresses in Italy to island castles set in the Scottish Highlands, Europe offers an array of storybook castles with their own history and character to discover. Whether you are hoping to uncover secrets from a country’s past or want to climb towers that lead to unspoiled views of the landscape, there’s an ancient European castle for you.

10 of The Most Magical Medieval Castles in Europe

1. Bled Castle – Bled, Slovenia

Source: Unsplash

If you want to experience a dramatic fairytale setting, Slovenia’s oldest castle is the one. Blejski Grad or Bled Castle is perched high on a precipice and overlooks Lake Bled and the rest of the town, offering incredible views that truly seem like the stuff of legends. As far as medieval castles go, the structure is striking and requires its visitors to climb 99 steps to reach the ancient cliffside attraction.

Once you get to the castle buildings, you’ll stumble upon two quaint courtyards, one of which features a 16th-century chapel. Other popular stop-offs in the castle include a wine cellar, restaurant, and museum. The old printing shop on the castle grounds offers visitors a glimpse into the traditional art of wood printing. Can it get any more medieval than that?

2. Urquhart Castle – Inverness, Scotland

Source: Unsplash

Naturally, Scotland comes to mind when you think, “medieval castles in Europe”. And Urquhart Castle is one where you can clearly tell many battles have been fought. Nestled in Northern Scotland’s stunning landscape near Loch Ness, the iconic ruins let you take in magical views of the lush Scottish Highlands and its wild natural beauty. And if discovering over 1,000 years of Scotland’s past isn’t dramatic enough for you, then gazing over the water of the country’s second-largest and deepest loch might do the trick. Who knows? Maybe you’ll spot the Loch Ness Monster.

The walls of this medieval castle still hold remnants of its legendary past. Catch a glimpse of an old prison cell, imagine the splendid banquets held in the great hall, and observe a remarkable collection of artifacts left by the castle’s previous residents, which include a full-sized working trebuchet siege engine. As you go up the Grant Tower and take in the Highlander’s heritage and landscape, you can sense the acts of chivalry, defiance, and struggles the castle has witnessed.

3. Castel Nuovo – Naples, Italy

The Castel Nuovo (Maschio Angioino) (front view). Naples, Campania, Italy, South Europe.

A true Gothic-style medieval castle, this architectural landmark was constructed in the 13th century in Naples, Italy. And if it couldn’t get any more romantic than that, this European castle is brimming with treasures too.

Often called Maschio Angioino, you can find this iconic structure in front of Piazza Municipio near the Naples City Hall. You’ll be in awe at the medieval gems once inside. Highlights of Castel Nuovo include Roman ruins in the Armoury Hall, the Palatine Chapel, original Giotto frescoes, and two museums that feature a series of Neapolitan paintings dating back to the 17th century!

4. Trsat Castle – Rijeka, Croatia

Source: Visit Rijeka

Set near the coast in Northern Croatia is a fortress perched on a hill that makes lovers of medieval castles shiver. Trsat Castle overlooks the village of Rijeka and offers impeccable views of the village, the Rječina Gorge, and the river. On clear days you can spot the nearby island of Krk from the castle. Legend has it that the castle grounds cover an ancient Roman fortress.

Perhaps this will persuade you to tackle the Pilgrim’s Way route, consisting of 538 steps leading up to the castle from town. It sounds daunting, but once the magic of the scenery seeps in, it’ll all have been worth it.

5. Neuschwanstein Castle – Bavaria, Germany

Source: Unsplash

It wouldn’t be a list of European castles or even medieval castles without Germany making an appearance. And once you set your sights on Neuschwanstein Castle, it’ll be love at first sight! Very few places on earth look more like storybook illustrations than Neuschwanstein. Nestled in the Bavarian Alps, the 19th Century cliffside palace is perched above the village of Hohenschwangau.

Known as Schloss Neuschwanstein in German, the castle was commissioned by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, who sadly didn’t get to see the final Neuschwanstein. But within weeks of his sudden and mysterious death, the opulent castle was opened to the public, quickly becoming one of the region’s most visited attractions. With its towers, turrets, frescoes, and throne hall, it’s easy to get swept off your feet in this idyllic medieval castle.

Related Read: 5 of the Best Islands to Visit in Greece (Views & Relaxation Await)

6. Corfe Castle – Dorset, England

Source: Unsplash

Explore the ruins of Corfe Castle and estate nestled in the quintessential English countryside. Dating back to the 11th century, the fortification was built by William the Conqueror and commands a gap in the Purbeck Hills along the route between Wareham and Swanage. If those quaint names don’t scream medieval castle-ness, then I don’t know what does.

Historically the Corfe Castle was used to house royalty, as a royal treasure shop, and even as a prison on the Isle of Purbeck in Corfe Castle Village. It was one of the first stone castles built in England, and thanks to conservation efforts, the grounds happily welcome visitors who want to experience its history and beauty. Make sure you take time to wander around the village itself, with charming cafes lining its pretty streets.

7. Bourtzi Castle – Nafplio, Greece

Source: Greece Is

Set off the Greek islet of Agioi Theordoroi in the middle of the Nafplio’s harbor is a seaside treasure and fortress called Bourtzi Castle. A true epitome of medieval castles in Europe, the Venetians built it in the 19th century to protect the city from pirate attacks. In the 1960s, it was converted into a luxury hotel and restaurant for a decade.

Today you can visit Bourtzi Castle from the port by boat, where the castle grounds host festivals and events throughout the year. But even then, nothing can compare to the stunning views from the Nafplio promenade and other vantage points along the quaint harbor.

8. Conwy Castle – Conwy, Wales

Source: Unsplash

What’s a list of medieval castles in Europe without a UNESCO World Heritage Site? Enter: the magnificent Conwy Castle, which still towers over the Welsh town of Conwy after 700 years. Built in the 1200s by King Edward I as part of his plan to surround Wales in “an iron ring of castles” to subdue the rebellious population. Now impressive towers leave their watchers awestruck.

Adding to the allure, the European castle is set against a cinematic backdrop with beautiful scenery, dramatic architecture, and the picturesque Snowdonia Mountains off in the distance. Take the circuit walk of the grounds to truly absorb Conwy’s rich history and astonishing sights.

9. Bellver Castle – Palma de Mallorca, Spain

Source: Fascinating Spain

Straddling a woody hillside, Castell de Bellver overlooks the gorgeous island of Mallorca in Spain. Getting its name from Catalan for “lovely view”, the Bellver Castle is a 14th-century circular Gothic-style castle and is the pinnacle of Palma. In other words, it offers impeccable views across the bay.

Easily one of the most unique castles in Europe, the dramatic building has a museum that offers visitors a glimpse into the city’s past and art from the Arab, Roman, Talaiotic, and Spanish periods. Make sure you take a walk around the castle grounds to explore the courtyards, moat, and of course, the incredible panoramic views. You can decide if you would like to take the 450 steps leading up to the castle or arrive by car. I’d prefer to take the steps and imagine myself in medieval Palma.

Related Read: Read This Before Visting the Black Forest in Germany

10. Akershus Castle – Oslo, Norway

Source: Visit Oslo

In the Norwegian city of Oslo is a medieval castle fit for Scandinavian royalty or even Vikings! Akershus Castle and the fortress date back to 1299; it was strategically built along the harborside to protect the city from attacks. Today its seaside location adds to postcard-worthy scenes, with stunning views of the city and the Oslo Fjord.

Easily one of the most beautiful places in Norway, the structure oozes that medieval castle charm. Oslo’s heritage is rooted in this European castle, having endured many sieges before becoming a royal residence and Renaissance-style castle in the 16th century. In present-day Oslo, the castle hosts banquets, events and houses government reception rooms and a small church.

There you have it, our list of the most unforgettable medieval castles in Europe. Now allow me to daydream about being rescued from a spiral tower by a knight in shining armor.


Jenny Cohen Drefler

Jenny Cohen Derfler

Air Dr CEO & Co-Founder

Jenny is the CEO and one of the Co-Founders at Air Doctor. She spent more than 20 years at Intel, most recently as general manager of its manufacturing facility in Israel and before that in various engineering and manufacturing roles in Silicon Valley. Air Doctor is her second startup having previously founded electric vehicle company ElectRoad.