For many of us, castles conjure up images of great rulers of times past or of fairytale princesses longing for a grand romance.
These impressive structures, with their exquisite designs set amidst breathtaking landscapes, are the backdrop of many non-fiction and fictional stories alike and have done their jobs well in captivating most all of us. Visiting these mythic-like places is a worthy adventure to add to many of our lists.
These are some of the most unique and enchanting castles in the world to visit.
1) Matsumoto Castle, Japan
This stunning castle is one of the oldest and most beautiful castles found in Japan.
The castle’s origin dates back to 1504, with much of its structure built in 1590 and completed around 1594. It has been restored multiple times, notably after it began to lean around 1904.
Known as “Crow Castle” because of its black exterior meant to invoke fear, this castle was designed mainly for militaristic purposes, although nobility also lived in a palace within the walls.
It has five floors with a hidden floor where samurai soldiers slept and ate, and features exhibits of firearms, armor and samurai swords.
After getting to the top, you’ll get a stunning view of the Northern Alps.
In the spring, Matusmato castle is known for its beautiful cherry blossoms. This is an especially popular time for many to visit!
There is also an annual taiko drumming festival in July and a moon-viewing festival in the fall. There’s even an ice sculpture event to experience in the winter.
If you’d like to tour the Matsumoto castle, it’s open all year round except from December 29th-December 31st. However, it does come with an entry fee. The beautiful outer grounds, on the other hand, are free to explore.
2) Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
Located in Bavaria, Germany, about an hour away from Munich, the Neuschwanstein castle remains one of the most visited castles in Germany.
This magical, fairytale castle apparently inspired the creation of the famous castle at Walt Disney World!
Commissioned by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, this historic castle was built as a way for the king to retreat from public life as he was no longer a sovereign ruler once he lost the war to Prussia. Thus, In 1867, King Ludwig decided to create his own kingdom of palaces and castle over which he could rule over.
The design of the Neuschwanstein castle was inspired by romantic interpretations of the Middle Ages.
It is said he slept only a short time in the castle before his death and thus never got to see the completed version of the castle.
Within weeks of his passing, the castle was opened for public viewing.
To see and explore this popular castle in person, you will have to do a guided tour, which lasts about thirty minutes.
Guided tours in English and German are usually done by staff members. Visitors who speak other languages such as Japanese, French, or Greek will do an audio-guided tour instead.
There is also a shop and cafe located in the castle in case you get hungry or need to buy memorabilia for your trip.
3) Ilha Fiscal Castle, Brazil
If you have ever wanted to visit a castle in South America, then Ilha Fiscal Castle is one such place to go.
Completed in 1889 and situated on the island of Ilha Fiscal in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this historic castle was used to house the head of the Customs Post who oversaw the foreign merchant ships that docked at Guanabara Bay.
Now it is part of the Cultural Complex of the Navy which includes the Naval Museum and the Cultural Space of the Navy, also worth visiting.
The castle features a Gothic-style mix of elements from the late 19th century and the 1930s (and has a mosaic floor made with 14 types of Brazilian wood!).
To visit, it’s best to purchase your tickets at the Cultural Space of the Navy in person. You’ll then get to take a 20-minute scenic boat ride to the beautiful, famed castle; a great way to start off your tour!
Currently, tickets cost about 36 BRL or less than $7 USD.
There are also scheduled time slots, so go early to have your pick of choices!
4) Mont-Saint-Michel, France
Mont Saint-Michel is not simply a castle but a fortified island with a long and fascinating history.
Originally used as a stronghold in the sixth and seventh centuries, it has been ransacked by the Franks, conceded in a treaty to the king of Brittany, attacked by the English (although not very successfully), before becoming an established monastery prior to the French revolution.
It was later converted into a prison to hold those who opposed the French regime, before being closed down in 1863.
It became a historical monument in 1874 thanks to the famed French architect, Edouard Corroyer.
This jewel of an island, which is visited by millions of people a year, is also officially a part of the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites and has been since 1979.
To get to the Mont and in particular, the Mont Saint-Michel Abbey, you can take a variety of transportation (especially if coming from Paris) such as car, bus, or train.
While you can’t drive on to the Mont itself, there is 24-hour parking available for an affordable fee and a free shuttle to take you to the site. If you prefer, you can also take a relatively short walk to the Mont.
While there, feel free to visit the many restaurants and shops that are lined along the historical streets before making your way to the renowned Abbey.
You can even stay at hotels within the city walls for a more immersive experience.
As expected, summer is the busiest time to visit, so if you can, try to go in the fall or spring to avoid the usual crowds.
5) Hohenzollern Castle, Germany
Destroyed in 1423 and rebuilt in 1454, this castle was later converted into a fortress and changed owners a few times. Sadly, it was neglected and eventually deteriorated into ruins in the 19th century.
Thanks to then Crown Prince Frederick William of Prussia, the ancestral seat of this once grand castle was restored.
Featuring neo-Gothic architecture, the Hohenzollern castle is visited by hundreds of thousands of guests a year!
Unlike many castles in the world, this incredible one is still privately owned and receives no government support.
This means whenever you decide to visit, you’ll be directly contributing to the maintenance of the castle, which allows it to stay open and remain in good condition. (One point for sight-seeing with a cause!)
It’s a steep walk up to the castle, but thankfully there is a shuttle service offered that can take you up and back down from the parking area to the entry gate. Unless, of course, you want to get a small workout in and decide to tackle the steep hill yourself!
The ticket prices currently include exploration of the exhibition rooms, cellar rooms and secret passageway and it’s free for children on their birthday!
If you like, there is even an app for the castle that lets you listen to an audio-guided tour of each room from the comfort of your own device.
There is also the Castle Shop right in the courtyard which offers art, jewelry, literature, and even pieces from the Prussian collection (for those of you who are collectors out there).
If you’re feeling hungry, you can choose to dine in the restaurant in the beer garden located right on the castle grounds.
6) Umaid Bhawan Palace, India
One of the world’s largest private residences with its 347 Indo-Deco style rooms is located in Jodhpur, India.
Built for the former Jodhpur royal family between 1928 and 1943, this spectacular palace is set on 26 acres with a magnificent garden and dancing peacocks. It even has the same palm court marble as the Taj Mahal.
You can also find many private dining halls, tennis courts, a vaulted banquet hall, and a throne chamber within the grounds of this exquisite palace.
Today the palace has been divided into three sections: the residence for the former royal family, a highly rated 5-star hotel, and a museum highlighting the Jodhpur royal family’s history.
If you’d like to stay in this gorgeous and unique place expect prices to start at around $600 per night. However, this can easily go up to $15,000 for a single night.
A fun but not so necessary fact: it’s also the place where Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra got married. Good to know if you ever feel like walking a very expensive mile in royal and celebrity shoes.
However if you’re like me and would like to visit this royal palace, but need to watch the budget a bit more closely, then a trip to the museum is a much better option. It has an entry fee that’s currently less than $2 per person.
7) Rosenborg castle, Denmark
This beautiful Dutch renaissance castle was built by one of the most famous Scandanavian Kings, Christian IV, as his summer residence.
Located in the King’s Garden, a popular park to visit, you will experience 400 years of history at this castle. You’ll get the chance to see the Danish crown jewels, the coronation throne room, the king’s private chambers and much more.
After touring the captivating interior, take a stroll through the Rosenborg castle garden, which is actually Denmark’s oldest royal garden. It’s also even more amazing if you can catch it during rose season!
To visit this castle, you can get your ticket online or purchase it there. You can also get the Park Museum ticket which gives you entry to six museums (including the Rosenburg castle) for one low price.
The castle is also free to visit if you have the Copenhagen card, which includes access to public transportation and 87 attractions and museums!
8) Carew Castle, Wales
Many may not know it, but Wales is also known for its castles. With over 600 castles, you certainly wouldn’t want to miss out on exploring at least one.
Once a powerful stronghold, Carew Castle, is an enormous stone fortress and Elizabethan mansion.
This unique castle was built in 1100 by Norman Gerald of Windsor who’s said to have married the most beautiful woman in Wales at the time, Princess Nest.
Carew Castle was later owned by Sir George Carew during the Civil War before changing hands many times.
Today it’s home to the only restored Tidal Mill in Wales powered by a stunning 23-acre millpond.
You can have a picnic on the north side of the pond where you’ll get a captivating view of the castle.
There’s also a nice mile-long circular path, great for stretching your legs with your pet as you take in the 11th-century Celtic cross and Medieval bridge featured at the site.
Take advantage of the free daily guided tours and visit the nice, cozy, and modern tearoom named after Princess Nest.
The Mill Shop at the Tidal Mill and the Castle Shop also have locally produced food and drinks along with gifts and crafts to bring back home.
If supernatural tales are more your thing, it is said that several ghosts roam the halls of Carew Castle such as Princess Nest herself or as the people of Carew village call her, “The White Lady”. You may even see the ghost of the Barbary ape, which has a dark and twisted story.
9) Castello di Amorosa, USA
After spending hours and hours sketching medieval castles, monasteries and wineries during his European travels in the 1970s, Dario Sattui’s obsession with medieval architecture would eventually lead to the creation of the Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga, California.
Opened in 2007, this 13th century-style Tuscan castle features a moat, draw-bridge, courtyards, a Knight’s hall, an armory, and even a torture chamber.
Sattui wanted it to be as authentic as possible, so much so that he imported nearly one million antique bricks from Europe to build the castle and made sure they used the same methods and materials as those in the past.
This stunning castle has 107 distinctively styled rooms with four underground levels and beautiful vaulted wine cellars.
There are different tour packages available that include a tour of the castle along with a delicious wine tasting.
10) De Haar Castle, Netherlands
The largest and one of the most luxurious castles in the Netherlands features stunning medieval architecture dating from the 13th century.
Restored in 1912, it has since entertained famous guests such as Coco Chanel and Roger Moore.
With 200 rooms, a unique main hall with Gothic arches and an opulent ballroom, there is plenty to see within the walls of this historical castle.
Described as an enchanting oasis of harmony and peace, the castle is surrounded by a breathtaking 135-acre park and garden that’s stunning to explore in any season.
Once the private residence of the Van Zuylen family, the descendants actually return every September to stay in the castle.
De Haar has guided tours, exhibitions and many other entertaining events.
With an affordable entry fee and easy access by car, visiting this beautiful castle should be high on your list whenever you visit the Netherlands.