Medieval palaces and castles to discover in Europe: discover the most imposing historic buildings on the old continent

Although the Middle Ages are also referred to as the Dark Ages, a period associated with a general decline after the fall of the Roman Empire, certain beautiful relics such as the medieval castles, have survived over the centuries.

for all the Europe, it is possible to find these bastions, each with its own unique characteristics. Some perched on top of a mountain, others apparently floating on water, and some almost hidden by forests that seem impenetrable, the medieval castles they had to be functional, durable, and easy on the eyes, considering many were an escape for royalty and aristocrats.

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Many of medieval castles in Europe are iconic and easily recognizable, while others are off the beaten path. Here's our pick of the 24 most beautiful medieval castles in the world.

Medieval castles in Europe: Top 24

Eltz Castle – Germany

medieval castles in europe

Photo: Error 420 / Unsplash

Surely you must have seen an image of Eltz Castle on your Instagram feed. The attraction located near the city of Münstermaifeld, Germany, has become one of the most photographed castles in Europe thanks to its charming architecture and its incredible background of a dense forest, making the landscape extremely bucolic.

like many medieval castles in Europe, the attraction has survived massive conflicts but has never been destroyed over the centuries. Interestingly, the Eltz Family still owns the castle to this day.

Eilean Donan – Scotland


Photo: Darren Blight / shutterstock

Eilean Donan is best known medieval castles, easily recognized by almost everyone. In part thanks to its presence in the 1986 film Highlander, but also as one of the must-see places in Scotland's Western Highlands.

Historically, it was a citadel for Clan Mackenzie and was established in the 13th century. Unfortunately, the original castle suffered destruction in the 18th century during the Jacobite Rebellions and was rebuilt in the 20th century.

Edinburgh Castle – Scotland

medieval castles in europe

Photo: Michal 11 / shutterstock

Another amazing Scottish attraction to see during your trip to the country is Edinburgh Castle. Sitting atop Castle Rock, it overlooks Scotland's capital.

Bran Castle – Romania

medieval castles in europe

Photo: Cristian Balate / shutterstock

when talking about medieval castles, mentioning Romania is a must. Most people will immediately think of Dracula and Transylvania.

Bran Castle sits on top of a former Teutonic knights' stronghold dating back to the early 13th century, but the castle itself first appears in documents dating back to 1377.

Built at 760m above sea level, the castle overlooks the picturesque village of Bran, and its many towers give it a mysterious atmosphere.

Today, tourists can visit the castle and wander up the narrow stairs that lead to 60 interestingly wooden rooms, many of them connected by underground passages.

Kilkenny Castle – Ireland

medieval castles in europe

Photo: Madrugada Verde / shutterstock

Kilkenny Castle in Ireland is an Anglo Norman stone castle, which actually started out as a wooden fort in the second half of the 12th century. Over the centuries, the castle has undergone several changes and to this day it boasts elements of various architectural styles, mainly the Gothic Revival.

Its location was historically a strategic point that controlled the crossing of the River Nore. Nowadays, the castle is surrounded by vast gardens, where visitors can slowly appreciate and observe the imposing construction.

Mont-Saint-Michel – France

medieval castles in europe

Europe's most famous medieval castles. Photo: Gaspar Janos / shutterstock

Few places in the world are as magical as the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel in France. The imposing island located where Normandy and Brittany meet is world-renowned, attracting thousands of tourists every year. While technically not a castle, it would be difficult for anyone to deny its magnificence.

At the top of the island is a medieval monastery that has attracted pilgrims for centuries. Legend has it that Bishop Aubert of a nearby town was ordered by Archangel Michael himself to build a church on top of the island. The construction of a Benedictine abbey began at the end of the 10th century.

The scenery that surrounds the island is constantly changing, as the tides in the bay can quickly recede, revealing a completely different view. During low tide, the island can be reached on foot, and hundreds of tourists visit it every day. Museums, the parish church, and the abbey are open to visitors.

Windsor Castle – England


Europe's most famous medieval castles. Photo: Mistervlad / shutterstock

Possibly one of the most famous castles in Europe, Windsor Castle has been home to British royalty for centuries. Since Henry I ruled England in the 12th century, this palace has been used by the reigning monarch and therefore has had the longest occupancy of a palace in Europe.

As you would expect in any monarch's home, impressive and renowned pieces of art decorate the castle's interior.

Castello del Monte – Italy

Photo: canadastock / shutterstock

The 13th century citadel in the Apulia region was built by Emperor Frederick II. The facade features elements of classical antiquity, the Islamic East and Northern European Gothic.

The castle is situated on a rocky peak in an isolated forest, and the building itself has not undergone significant structural changes.

Alhambra – Spain


Europe's most famous medieval castles. Photo: esherez / shutterstock

The palace and fortress complex in Andalusia, Spain, known as the Alhambra, was built in the 13th century by Emir Nasrid Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar of the Emirate of Granada. Built on top of the ancient ruins of the Roman fort, it became a royal palace in 1333, and a century later the site became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella.

Alhambra strongly reflects the signature of Moorish architectural elements to the reign of the last Muslim dynasty in the Iberian Peninsula.

The number of visitors allowed to go to the Alhambra is highly limited, so visits must be planned well in advance. Alhambra includes the royal complex, the Court of the Myrtles, the Hall of Ambassadors, the Hall of the Abencerrajes, a Court of Lions and a fountain and other features.

Vianden Castle – Luxembourg

medieval castles in europe

Photo: esherez / shutterstock

In the small European country of Luxembourg, nestled between France, Germany and Belgium, this idyllic attraction stands out as one of Europe's medieval castles.

Although its origins date back to the 10th century, the castle was built over three centuries between the 11th and the 14th century. Vianden Castle is an example of the Romanesque style with semi-circular arches, although there were later Gothic additions.

Like many other medieval castles, Vianden Castle sits on top of a hill overlooking the town of Vianden.

Suscinio Castle – France

medieval castles in europe

Europe's most famous medieval castles. Photo: Hartmut Albert / shutterstock

In northwest France, on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, there is the Castle of Suscinio. Designed to be the residence of the Dukes of Brittany, this medieval castle it has a chapel in ruins, a dovecote, and some annexes in ruins.

The building was originally intended to be a mansion for the management of the agricultural estate, however, in the mid-12th century, it was extended to a castle.

The castle is surrounded by swamps where exceptional flora and fauna are present.

Château de Suscinio is a unique medieval example of Western European fortresses as it remains well preserved, while others have suffered significant damage due to cannon fire.

Malbork Castle – Poland

medieval castles in europe

Europe's most famous medieval castles. Photo: Artur Bogacki / shutterstock

Malbork Castle, also known as Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork, is a 13th-century castle and fortress located in northern Poland. According to UNESCO, it is the largest castle in the world measured by land area.

Due to an increasing number of Teutonic Knights, the castle was expanded several times. At one point, it housed over 3000 horsemen.

The castle was heavily damaged during World War II, but has since been rebuilt and is open to visitors.

Trakai Castle – Lithuania

medieval castles in europe

Photo: Kanuman / shutterstock

Trakai is well known for its unique lakes and the medieval castle complex that was revived from its ruins in the last century. Located on Lake Galvė, construction of the castle began in the late 14th century and was completed in the first decade of the 15th century.

Trakai was one of the main centers of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It had great strategic importance but lost its military significance shortly after the Battle of Grunwald, when the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was defeated by the Polish-Lithuanian army.

Bodian Castle – England

medieval castles in europe

Europe's most famous medieval castles. Photo: IR Stone / shutterstock*

Some of England's historic significance these days can be appreciated through the many castles dotted around the country, and Bodiam Castle is one of the best-known medieval examples after Windsor.

Built in the 14th century by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, a former knight of Edward III, it was used to defend the area against French invasion during the Hundred Years' War.

Bodiam Castle is one of the few quadrangular castles and has chambers in the outer walls and in the inner courts. The fortress features a central courtyard, and there are round and square towers, originally built for defence.

Bojnice Castle – Slovakia


Europe's most famous medieval castles. Photo: Traces / shutterstock

Get ready to discover one of the most romantic castles in the world!

Built in the 12th century and restored at the end of the 19th century, Bojnice Castle first belonged to Matthew III Csák, who received it in 1302 from King Ladislaus V of Hungary.

The castle is perched on a hill and nowadays has an artistic and historical museum within its walls. In late spring, the International Festival of Ghosts and Spooks takes place.

The castle is surrounded by a vast and beautiful park which is an integral part of this remarkable Slovak attraction.

Hohenwerfen Castle – Austria


Medieval castles in Europe. Photo: Tatiana Dyuvbanova / shutterstock

From fairytale to ghostly, next on our list is Austria's Hohenwerfen Castle. Surrounded by the Berchtesgaden Alps and the adjacent Tennen Mountains, this medieval rock castle is approximately 40 km from Salzburg.

The fort was built in the late 11th century to serve as a strategic bulwark atop a 152-foot-high rock. Over the years, it served not only as a military base for the rulers of Salzburg, but also as a residence and hunting refuge.

Later, the castle gained a frightening reputation due to its use as a state prison.

Today, the castle complex serves as a museum that showcases history and a vast collection of weapons. An interesting addition is the Falconry Center which offers flying demonstrations using various birds of prey, including eagles, hawks, hawks, and vultures.

Pierrefonds Castle – France

medieval building

Europe's most famous medieval castles. Photo: Arnaud BEAUVOIS / shutterstock

An exceptional example of defensive medieval military architecture is the Chateau de Pierrefonds in France. Robust and gigantic, the many towers that appear from above the treetops and the light facade of the castle attract attention at first eye contact.

Built in the late 14th and early 15th centuries. It was later destroyed and remained a ruin for over two centuries. Napoleon I bought it in 1810 for less than 3,000 francs.

Since 1862 it has been a monument of great historical significance in France and underwent a major restoration in the late 19th century.

Over the years it has been featured in many movies and television series, which has made it even more recognizable around the world.

Corvin Castle – Romania

medieval building

Medieval castles in Europe. Photo: Balate Dorin / shutterstock

We've already mentioned Bran Castle, and this list wouldn't be complete without also mentioning Corvin Castle.

The castle was built in the late Middle Ages and was designed in a Gothic-Renaissance style. Corvin Castle is actually one of the biggest castles in europe.

The castle features a large and imposing structure with tall towers, ramparts, an interior courtyard, roofs of different colors, and rows of windows and balconies decorated with stone carvings. Buzdugan Tower was built for defensive purposes. Its exterior is decorated with beautiful geometric elements.

Hluboka Castle – Czech Republic


Photo: Beneda Miroslav / shutterstock

Many of the castles built during the Middle Ages served as military bastions intended for defence, and this can certainly be seen in their appearance. Hluboká Castle in the Czech Republic is not among these castles and features prominently in a Gothic design and therefore has a rather romantic quality, looking from a modern point of view.

Although it was built in the second half of the 13th century, the castle was expanded during the Renaissance and later rebuilt into a Baroque castle. It was then rebuilt again after Johann Adolf II von Schwarzenberg ordered the castle to be rebuilt to resemble the romantic style of Windsor Castle in England.

Doorwerth Castle – Netherlands


Medieval castles in Europe. Photo: HildaWeges Photography / shutterstock

Doorwerth Castle has a unique and charming appearance. The castle grounds feature one of the oldest trees in the Netherlands. The acacia tree was planted there around the year 1600.

Today, the castle is open to visitors, has three museums, and the impressive great hall is available for events and receptions.

Haut-Kœnigsbourg Castle – France


Photo: Leonid Andronov / shutterstock

Overlooking the Alsatian plain towards the Black Forest, perched in the Vosges mountains, is the Castle of Haut-Kœnigsbourg.

This one medieval castle in Europe it has all the features needed for a fortress and the strategic location allowed observation and retreat if necessary.

At its base it presents the lodgings and the keep, as well as the great bulwark. The first floor has more living rooms, and the second floor has beautiful chambers.

Castillo de Coca – Spain

medieval building

Medieval castles in Europe. Photo: Boudewijn Sluijk / shutterstock

In central Spain, in Segovia, is Castillo de Coca. The geometric patterns featured in the castle are a hybrid of Moorish Muslim and Christian Gothic architecture.

Karlštejn Castle – Czech Republic

medieval building

Photo: DaLiu / shutterstock

Built in the mid-14th century, Karlštejn Castle in the Czech Republic served as a guarding place for the Imperial Regalia, crown jewels, holy relics, and other royal treasures.

The castle is located approximately 30km from Prague and is one of the most visited attractions in the Czech Republic.

As intended for its purpose, the castle had an extensive defense system. Not only is it located on a hill, it also features a moat, a drawbridge and a bulwark. The architectural elements are mainly Gothic.

Burghausen Castle – Germany


Medieval castles in Europe. Photo: Boris Stroujko / shutterstock

Burghausen Castle, with almost all of its medieval fortifications intact, is one of the largest castle complexes in the world and the longest, according to the Guinness World Record company.

This medieval Bavarian castle was the second residence of the Dukes of Lower Bavaria. Built in a Gothic style, with an interior courtyard and five exterior courtyards, this castle is located close to the borders of Germany and Austria.

The incredible building offers unparalleled views of its surroundings and is a must-visit when visiting Lower Bavaria. The gallery inside the castle has a collection of late Gothic panel paintings and a monumental cycle of paintings illustrating the history of Bavaria.

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