Although the Middle Ages may not have been the prettiest of time periods – riddled with war, famine, and disease, many of the castles built during this time are nothing short of breathtaking. Luckily for us, many of these fortifications have withstood the test of time and are still standing for us to marvel at, even being returned to their former glory through restoration projects. These are the most beautiful old castles from around the world.
Eltz Castle, Germany
Located in the hills above the Moselle River and between the cities of Koblenz and Trier, Germany, the oldest part of Eltz Castle dates back to the 9th century, when it was a small manor. However, by the 12th century, it was a massive castle and part of the Holy Roman Empire.
The castle is divided into several parts, with the different sections belonging to the different families or branches of the families that lived there. Today, the castle is still owned by the Eltz family, who lived there in the 12th century.
Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
With the earliest parts of the fortification dating back to the Iron Age in the 2nd century, Edinburgh Castle has been considered a royal castle since the reign of David I in the 12th century and remained a royal outpost for many years.
A defensive fortress that has stood for decades and evolved over the centuries, Edinburgh Castle is a top tourist spot today and history buffs travel to visit an incredible piece of the past.
Bran Castle, Romania
Although it is also known as Dracula’s Castle, Bran Castle has no actual connection to the myth of Dracula besides being located on the Transylvania side of the border. Bran Castle was initially built as a wooden fortress in 1212, and the original structure was destroyed by the Mongols in 1242.
Today, the castle is now a museum that features artwork collected by Queen Marie that can be visited with a tour guide or without one and includes cottages, barns, and water-driven machinery from the time it was originally built.
Kilkenny Castle, Ireland
Built in 1195, Kilkenny Castle began as a wooden structure, although has evolved numerous times throughout the centuries. It was a symbol of the Norman occupation and would have played a vital role in the defenses of the town.
For just £50 the castle was sold to the people of Kilkenny with the property now being managed by the Office of Public Works with the gardens and parks being open for public use. Typically, these are also used for graduations and other ceremonies.
Windsor Castle, England
Featuring around 1,000 years of English architectural history, Windsor Castle was built in the 11th century by William the Conqueror and has remained the longest-occupied palace in all of England. Although the original structure was first made of wood, it was slowly added to with stone fortifications.
Today, it has been described as “the most expensive secular building project of the entire Middle Ages in England,” managing to survive several sieges of the centuries, particularly during the English Civil War.
Castel del Monte, Italy
Translated to mean “Castle of the Mountain,” the fortress is a 13th-century citadel located in southeast Italy. It was constructed by Emperor Frederick II after inheriting the land from his mother who was the Constance of Sicily.
Considering that it doesn’t have a moat or a draw bridge, it’s assumed that the structure was never intended to be a defensive fortification. Today, it is a protected World Heritage Site and has been described as “the most fascinating castle built y Frederick II,”
Vianden Castle, Luxembourg
Considered to be one of the largest fortified castles west of the Rhine, Vianden Castle in the north of Luxembourg dates back to the 10th century and was built to demonstrate the Romanesque style between the 11th and 14th centuries.
Although a Renaissance mansion was added during the 17th century, the castle as a whole was allowed to fall to ruins. Thankfully, a restoration project was set into motion and is now fully restored and is open to the public.
Malbork Castle, Poland
When measured by land area, Malbork Castle is the largest castle in the world, located near the town of Malbork, Poland. Built in the 13th century by the Teutonic Knights, a religious order of crusaders, it was initially named Marienburg after Mary, the mother of Jesus.
In the mid-1400s, the castle was sold by the Order to King Casimir IV of Poland and was used as a Polish royal residence until the First Partition of Poland in 1772. The castle is now one of the two World Heritage Sites in Poland as well as one of Poland’s official national Historic Monuments.
Trakai Island Castle, Lithuania
Located on an island in Lake Galve, construction of the fortress began in the 14th century with a lot of the building being done by Vytautas the Great, who would die in the castle in 1430.
Considered to be of great strategic importance, it was one of the key locations for the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and was eventually rebuilt during the 1950s and 60s despite receiving resistance from the Soviet Union. Today, it now houses the Trakai History Museum.
Mont-Saint-Michel is located on a tidal island that is considered to be a commune in Normandy, France. The castle is strategically placed to be accessible at low tide and became increasingly fortified with the rising of the tide which would drown would-be attackers.
Seeing the castle’s natural fortification led Louis XI to turn it into a prison for some time. The castle is visited by more than 3 million people each year with the structure and its bay both being on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Bodiam Castle, England
Built in 1385 by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, Bodiam Castle was constructed to defend the area against the French during the Hundred Years’ War. With no keep, the chambers are constructed around the outer defensive walls and inner courtyards.
It remained in the Dalyngrigge family for several generations before their line was eventually extinct and then changed hands several times during the War of the Roses. The castle has remained under the ownership of The National Trust since 1925 and was donated by Lod Curzon following his death.
Hohenwerfen Castle, Austria
Located in Austria, Hohenwerfen Castle is more than 2,000 feet in the air and overlooking the Austrian town of Werfen in the surrounding valley. It is a “sister” castle to Hohensalzburg Fortress, which were both built by the Archbishops of Salzburg in the 11th century.
Despite its external beauty, it was also used as a state prison that was known for its inhumane treatment of the prisoners, with many nobles spending their days confined within its walls.
Corvin Castle, Romania
Corvin Castle is a Gothic-Renaissance castle that is on the list of the Seven Wonders of Romania and is one of the largest fortresses in Europe. Although additions were made in the following centuries, for some time, it remained completely devastated by a fire and overall neglect until it was completely restored with “architects projecting to it their own wistful interpretations of how a great Gothic castle should look.”
It is rumored that this castle was where Vlad the Impaler was held prisoner by John Hunyadi and is referenced as an inspiration for the Castle in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Hluboká Castle, Czech Republic
Hluboká Castle is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful castles in the Czech Republic and is by far one of the most visited. Initially, the castle was built in the Gothic style during the 13th century although was transformed over the years, with its final appearance being completed by Count Jan Adam of Schwarzenberg.
Although the castle was seized by Gestapo during World War II, it is currently open to the public where galleries have been held since the 1950s.
Also known as “The Red One,” Alhambra is a fortress located in Granada, Andalusia, Spain that was initially founded as a small fortress in the late 9th century. It remained rather unimpressive until the 13th century when it was completely remodeled by Arab Nasrid emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar of the Emirate of Granada.
The castle is considered to be one of Spain’s most significant tourist attractions and is widely considered to be Spain’s best example of Islamic architecture.
Doorwerth Castle, Netherlands
Originally wooden, Doorwerth Castle was besieged and burned to the ground in 1260 before being rebuilt using stone only to be destroyed once again in 1280. Overall the castle is of rather simple design with a hall-keep that is two stories high, a thick wall, and a moat for protection.
The castle neared its present appearance in 1560 and was finally completed around 1637. However, it was abandoned by the end of the 18th century and was watched over by a steward of the owners until it was bought by retired artillery officer Frederic Adolph Hoefer.
Fenis Castle, Italy
One of the most famous tourist attractions in the area, the first documentation of Fenis Castle dates back to 1242. Although it was most likely a small fortification until it was built to its current state from 1320 to 1420 under the lordship Aymon of Challant.
The castle remained in the Challant family until the 1700s when they were forced to sell it to pay their debts. It then went through two restorations until it was finally completed in 1935.
Castillo de Coca, Spain
Located in central Spain, Castillo de Coca is an impressive combination of both Moorish Muslim design, Gothic architecture, and Spanish Mudejar brickwork. The fortress has been inhabited since the 2nd century BC and has been owned but the Spanish aristocratic family, the House of Alba de Tormes, until the 19th century.
The property was given to the Ministry of Agriculture in 1956 and was named a Spanish National Monument in order to keep it safe.
Burghausen Castle, Germany
The longest castle in the world, it is believed that the fortress’s location was settled as early as the Bronze Age, with the actual castle being first established before 1025. Due to the Landshut War of Succession in1505, the castle grew to have military importance, and with the ever-looming threat of the Ottoman Empire, it was modernized for the times.
Although the castle suffered some damage during the Napoleonic War, part of the castle remained lived in by the painter Maximillian Liebenwein from1899 until his death.
Eilean Donan, Scotland
Eilean Donan is a tidal island in the western Highlands of Scotland that is home to a castle. The castle was established during the 13th century and was home to Clan Mackenzie and Clan MacRae. However, the castle was partially destroyed by government ships after the Mackenzie’s involvement in the Jacobite rebellion.
The current castle we see today was completed in the 20th century by Lieutenant-Colonel John Macrae-Gilstrap and is considered to be one of the most photographed monuments in all of Scotland.