Ireland has more than its fair share of proper castles. But as magical as they are, there are some other ones in the world that really do look like they’ve been plucked straight out of a fairy tale! Join me on a little journey to discover the most beautiful of them all…
Who doesn’t love a proper castle? There’s just something about the many spires, round towers and intricate windows that get our imagination going and whisk us away to times gone by. Well, I felt like day dreaming myself today, which is why I’ve decided to take a little look at some especially magical fairy-tale castles across Europe! Get ready to start dreaming…
Twilight creeps closer and the sun begins its descent as the sky slowly fades from shades of blues and greens to oranges and pinks. Basically, twilight is the perfect time to capture the castle of Mont-Saint-Michel! This incredible piece of architecture is love at first sight. The unique location perched high on a hill with sleepy houses nestled at its base and various architectural styles merging together – Gothic, Romanticism and Classicism – make it truly one of a kind. Although the structure was built as early as the Middle Ages, it was able to withstand the test of time incredibly well thanks to continuous restoration efforts. Every year this fairy-tale castle attracts about 3.5 million visitors to the French region of Normandy – the pilgrims making their way along the Way of St. James can’t bear to miss this spectacular structure.
The Swallow’s Nest – magic in the Crimea
Alright, the Crimea isn’t really the most obvious place that comes to mind when thinking of places with proper fairy tale magic, but trust me – those of you who love that proper old-school fairy tale charm will love the Swallow’s Nest. Perched on cliffs that tower over 40 metres above the Black Sea, this incredible building close to Yalta blends Oriental-style architecture and historic Gothic Revival styles. But of course it’s not just the building itself that makes it so magical – the incredible views are also definitely part of the charm! While there is unfortunately not much left of the former monastery, the fortress and its large tower make for a spectacular image which brings the tale of Rapunzel to mind.
Château de Chenonceau – French charm in Centre-Val de Loire
Could you imagine how it must’ve been like to live in a palace like the Château de Chenonceau? You’d feel like the bee’s knees I reckon! The morning view of the water from the dream-like estate isn’t the only thing that’ll get you daydreaming. If you fancy catching some divine views in the afternoon, look at the castle from the outside – it’s best to do this from the Gardens of Catherine of Medici. A splendour of flowers and green meadows flatter the breathtaking building, and one look at the structure with all its little spires and towers is enough to make you feel like a member of a royal family. The winding paths adorn the lakes and lend the estate a special and idyllic charm. In fact the entire region of the Loire Valley has some of the best châteaux in all of France. For aristocrats and the very well-heeled, the region served as a perfect getaway region from all of the political goings on in Paris.
Eilean Donan Castle – the pride of the Scottish Highlands
Personally this is one of my favourite places in the world. Seeing the moor-covered peaks in the distance and their shades of browns and green, the tranquil waters of the loch and the steadfast walls of Eilean Donan castle… Absolutely magical! Scotland’s most iconic castle (sorry Edinburgh!) dates all the way back to the 13th Century, and it’s assumed that the island it was built on was named after an Irish clergyman named Donnán, who toured Scotland in the 6th Century. The castle’s long history has meant that its seen all sorts of conflicts and wars, including fending off the Vikings, various clan feuds and even the Jacobite Uprising, which ultimately led to Eilean Donan’s destruction. During the 20th Century, a man named Lot. Col. John MacRae-Gilstrap oversaw painstaking restorations of the castle which lasted decades, even adding the little footbridge which links it to the mainland.
Schwerin Palace – romantic at heart
OK, so this one isn’t really a castle, but I think the architecture and surroundings are so idyllic that it certainly deserves a spot on this list! Schwerin Palace, located in the German city of the same name, does have historic roots that can be traced to around the 10th Century, but as of the 16th Century the castle took on less and less defensive roles and became instead a ornamental seat of the local dukedom. Today it serves as the seat of the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern State Parliament, and it’s considered to be one of the most significant Romanticist structures in all of Europe. The view of the castle’s many spires from its sprawling gardens is absolutely incredible!
Lichtenstein Castle – German fairy tales come to life!
No, not that Lichtenstein! In actual fact this gorgeous little place known as Schloß Lichtenstein is situated in the southern German state of Baden-Württemberg. Reached by crossing over a bridge, it appears as if the castle has sprouted straight out of the bedrock below. Built in a Gothic Revival style, this beautiful castle is perched on the edge of cliffs that tower almost 300 metres above the Echaz River below. It’s surrounded by dense pine forests, and I can’t help but get those proper traditional German fairy tale vibes – it’s as if it was taken right out of a Brothers Grimm story!
Palacio Nacional da Pena – experience the lifestyle of the Portuguese kings
Certainly one of the most flamboyant castles you’ll ever see! Towers big and small, fanciful structures and walls adorned with gold – this place has royalty plastered all over it. Seen from the air, the architecture of the castle speaks for itself – whoever lives here surely has plenty of cash to splash. No surprise then that the Palácio Nacional da Pena was built in 1840 by Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege for none other than the Portuguese King Ferdinand II himself. The King and his wife requested all sorts of architectural styles and features to be included, and one of the towers even pays homage to the famous Tower of Belém in Lisbon.
Neuschwanstein – idyllic Romanticism in Bavaria!
It’s not just the view of the fairy-tale castle of Neuschwanstein that’s simply royal – the building itself served as the residence of Bavarian King Ludwig II. With its magnificent main building and numerous steeples towers built in a historicist style, Neuschwanstein Castle not only attracts countless visitors but is also regarded as the most famous sights in all of Germany. Surrounded by the Alpsee and Schwansee lakes, the fairy-tale atmosphere is enough to whisk you right off your feet.
Eltz Castle – a trip to Eltz
You’re guaranteed to feel like you’ve been transported to the Middle Ages at Eltz Castle. Its massive, stone structures, half-timbered walls and slate-topped spires make it the perfect example of what we would imagine a knight’s castle to look like. Surrounded by a dense forest and nestled in the bottom of a valley, the castle looks almost unreal – it’s one of the few castles in the regions to remain completely intact throughout its history. In fact it’s still owned by relatives of the Eltz family who took residence there in the 12th Century, meaning that this beautiful place has been in the same hands for more than 33 generations. Nowadays, the castle is shared by three family houses, Kempenich, Rübenach and Rodendorf, each living in their own part of the castle. The living quarters of the Kempenich house are the only parts of the castle not open to the public.
And so they lived happily ever after…
… and built more and more fairy-tale castles. :) Of course, these are not the only fairy-tale castles in the world. There are numerous beautiful castles all over Europe and beyond which can make our beloved bedtime stories come true. Got any that you love but weren’t included on the list? Then just let me know in the comments below! :)
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