When I was younger, I thought visiting castles was such a boring thing to do. However time changes and I now love to plan a little castle visit during our travels. Besides having an interesting historic story to tell, they are a beautiful photo spots and often complemented by a lush, well maintained garden with interesting landscaping. On this list you will find my favorite castles in `Europe.
Palacio de Pena (Portugal)
You will find Palacio de Pena in Sintra, which to me is the castle capital of Portugal as it features so many gorgeous castles. Palacio de Pena is the most popular one in Sintra and it is not hard to see why. The yellow and red painted buildings are so original and even the interior is spectacular. Make sure to plan a visit as soon as the palace opens in the morning. We were lucky to have the palace grounds to ourselves for 30 minutess, until the other visitors arrived. You should also schedule some time to visit the surrounding forest and gardens.
Quinta da Regaleira (Portugal)
Quinta da Regaleira is situated in the center of Sintra and that why it is such a surprise that the gardens are such an oasis. As we arrived very late I didn’t get to visit the interior of the palace, but I absolutely loved the gardens. They were so lush, a true fairytale. The old well is an absolute showpiece, but I don’t have any sharp pictures of it, so you should go check it out.
Monseratte Palace (Portugal)
This castle is the closest you are going to get to Marrakesh in Europe. This is the last castle that we visited in Sintra and definitely not the least. It is incredibly underrated as most tourists skip this castle and go to the more popular Palacio de Pena instead.
Castle Borrekens/Vorselaar (Belgium)
One of the dreamiest castles of Belgium can be found near the Dutch border. It is a private castle, so you cannot visit the interior, but I think you don’t need to to enjoy this castle. Castle Borrekens is located in the middle of a beautiful forest and perfect to visit during fall, when the leaves turn color, or late Spring when the rhododendrons are in bloom. You can easily spend a half day hiking the surroundings.
Chateau de Walzin (Belgium)
Chateau de Walzin is located near charming Dinant in the middle of the Ardennes. It is one of the top spots for autumn in Belgium, we visited a little bit to early and the leaves had not colored yet (save some of my photoshop skills). If you would like to do a full day of hiking between castles, you can hike between Chateau de Walzin and Castle Veves, through the Furfooz nature area, which is on my list for upcoming fall.
Chateau de Versailles (France)
Of course I won’t forget Chateau de Versailles, one of the largest castles in Europe. We visited on a relatively quiet day, during COVID, when there were no American tourists. I found the interior still incredibly crowded, but our visit to the gardens was very relaxed. Make sure you buy tickets that include a visit to Marie Antoinette’s castle, which I found more impressive than the main castle. Wear comfortable shoes, because the premises are huge!
Chateau de Villandry (France)
The Loire Valley has many great castles to visit and when we were passing through France on a roadtrip, we stopped at Chateau de Villandry. This castle has one of the most impressive castle gardens in the world, I cannot imagine how much maintenance it costs. Even though we visited on a weekend, it still wasn’t very crowded, so we got to enjoy this castle to the fullest.
Chateau du Rivau (France)
Chateau du Rivau is another impressive castle in France, which is also great to visit with kids as many activities are organized and the gardens are really playful. The downside of that is that it was quite busy with playing kids when we visited, but the terrain is very large so you can still find quiet spots. A fun detail about Chateau du Rivau is that there are many peacocks roaming free, which will surprise you on unexpected moments.
Schloss Neuschwanstein (Germany)
The inspiration for the Disney Castles: Schloss Neuschwanstein. A perfect place to visit year round, as the nature will change colors with each season. We just missed the snow, but that made the hike for the castle views a lot easier. If you want to fully enjoy Neuschwanstein you must wear sturdy shoes and do the adventurous hike to the viewpoint.
Burg Eltz (Germany)
Burg Eltz recently found Instafame and it is not hard to see why. The location is absolutely stunning, overlooking forests and rivers in Germany. You will never have this castle to yourself, unless you visit during sunrise. If you are visiting during summertime, you will have the opportunity to spot sunflower fields on your way there.
Leeds Castle (England)
England has no shortage of castles. Leeds castle is surprisingly located in Kent, the garden of England and definitely worth a day trip. The gardens are just as gorgeous as the impeccable decorated castle. You can partake in many activities, such as a wild bird show and listen to the commentary with the quintessential British humor.
Sudeley Castle (England)
I found Sudeley castle very impressive because of the many ruin gardens. The gardens of Sudeley have different types of themes, so you will find surprise after surprise once you turn another corner. The whole garden is maintained very well, but still gives of that perfect scruffy vibe.
Real Alcazar (Spain)
The beautiful castles in Andalusia are in full on Moorish style, providing you with lots of tiles, carved out ceilings and gold. Real Alcazar is a popular visit in Seville and will be a true highlight of your visit. If you get to visit in bougainvillea season, the gardens will be even more lovely, but I recommend a visit year round.
The Alhambra in Spain had been on my bucket list for so long, until I got to visit in 2018 as it was the most beautiful thing my mother had ever seen. That set the bar pretty high and I was happy to be incredibly impressed. We visited in May and the roses were in full bloom. The Alhambra is located in Granada, which is one of the driest spots in Europe, however we visited on a day that it was raining, but even that couldn’t dampen our spirits. You should do an online reservation a few weeks before, as tickets can sell out.