- Learn about some of the most famous castles in Europe and their fascinating histories on our European tours and river cruises
- Discover fascinating historical facts for castles including Prague Castle, Neuschwanstein Castle, and Spain’s Alhambra
- Find out what to see and do at these famous castles, and the role they have played throughout European history
Planning a holiday to Europe and want to know where to find the best castles in France, Germany, Italy, Romania, and more? Join one of our escorted tours and not only will we take you to see famous castles, but you’ll also learn about their rich history and their famous residents firsthand. Here are 14 of the most famous castles in Europe to visit.
Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany
A famous castle said to have inspired romantic fairy tales around the world, Neuschwanstein was built in the 1860s by the Bavarian king Ludwig II. Originally intended as a private refuge, Neuschwanstein dramatically clings to the side of a vast valley and is one of the most iconic castles in Europe to visit – it’s a highlight of our Austrian Tyrol and Innsbruck tour.
Prague Castle, Czech Republic
Visit Prague, and you’ll have the opportunity to explore one of the largest castles in the world. Although the castle was built in 880 CE, it wasn’t until 1085 CE that it became the royal resitence of the Bohmeian Kings. The famous castle complex is UNESCO listed, covers an area of almost 70,000m² and consists of an extensive collection of palaces and ecclesiastical buildings. Relics of saints can be found in St Vitus Cathedral.
Bran Castle, Romania
The legendary Bran Castle, which captured the imagination of author Bram Stoker, is on the itinerary of our Transylvania and Bucharest tour; however, there’s no need to fear an encounter with Count Dracula. The famous castle, complete with towers and turrets, perches precariously on a jagged outcrop. While its former inhabitants thankfully don’t include vampires, Marie of Romania, one of Queen Victoria’s granddaughters, notably spent her summers here.
Buda Castle, Budapest, Hungary
Embark on our Blue Danube River Cruise that visits Vienna, Salzburg, and Budapest, and in the latter, you can visit Buda Castle, the palace complex of the Hungarian kings. Built in the 13th century, today it’s the home of the Hungarian National Gallery and Castle Museum. It’s also an excellent spot for far-reaching panoramic views of the city and Danube.
Gravensteen Castle, Ghent, Belgium
Another river cruise, this time visiting Bruges, Medieval Flanders, Amsterdam and the Dutch Bulbfields, stops at Ghent, where a tour ashore includes the 12th-century Gravensteen Castle, known as Castle of the Counts. The only remaining medieval castle with a moat in Flanders, the fortress has a turbulent past and was once a courthouse and prison.
Cochem Castle, Germany
One of the oldest castles in the world, Cochem Castle or Reichsburg is also among the best castles in Germany, and it’s easy to visit on our Rhine and Moselle River Cruise. Steeped in over 1,000 years of history and falling foul of sieges, the medieval fortress was lovingly restored during the 19th-century Romanticism period. A shuttle bus operates between the town and hilltop entrance, and you’ll have time to explore independently when we are moored.
Alhambra, Granada, Spain
Any trip to Granada has to include a tour of the sprawling Alhambra, a remarkable Moorish palace and fortress. Taking its name from the Arabic phrase meaning ‘red castle’, the Alhambra is the city’s most popular tourist attraction and a must-see on our Classical Spain tour. Exploring the Alhambra complex takes an average visitor four hours – don’t miss the tranquil formal gardens with its roses and fountains.
Trakai Island Castle, Lithuania
Trakai Island Castle is, as the name suggests, a castle on an idyllic island in Lake Galvé, under an hour’s drive from the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius. Built during the reign of Grand Duke Vytautas, the enchanting red-brick castle has a wooden footbridge and natural moat– all that’s missing is a Disney princess and dashing knight. Visit on a Charms of the Baltics for Solo Travellers holiday.
Royal Palace, Sintra, Portugal
This is technically a palace rather than a castle. Still, this royal residence with its grand rooms and priceless collection of artwork is a definite highlight of our Lisbon, Porto and the Douro Valley escorted tour. So is Sintra’s elaborate Palace of Pena and the nearby Moorish Castle, a 12th-century fortress that suffered lightning attacks and earthquakes before being restored in the 1800s. While only entrance to the Royal Palace is included in the tour, there will be free time for you to explore the other castles at your own pace.
Colditz Castle, Saxony, Germany
Join our Berlin, Dresden, Meissen and Colditz five-day adventure and visit Colditz Castle, the famous castle near Leipzig. Built around 1200 CE as a lookout post for the German emperors, it was transformed over the decades into a royal hunting lodge, a poorhouse, and a psychiatric asylum. It is, however, more well-known as a World War II prisoner-of-war camp for serial would-be escapees – fighter pilot Douglas Bader was a former inmate.
Château de Fontainebleau, France
Go on a holiday to France, and there’s a good chance you’ll visit an exquisite château, such as the grand Château de Fontainebleau, a highlight of our Monet’s Garden, the Loire Valley and Fontainebleau tour. Situated south of Paris, the medieval castle and subsequent palace has been the home of many French monarchs, as well as Napoleon. Fontainebleau’s architecture, décor, and grounds are simply magnificent.
Wawel Castle, Krakow, Poland
On our Krakow city break, time is spent in the Wawel castle district which dates back to the 11th century. A Renaissance palace now stands on the spot of the original royal residence – join one of the best castle tours in Europe, and inside you’ll see the chambers of former kings and queens. The rooms overflow with artwork, fine furniture, and an extensive collection of tapestries. Read more with our first timer’s guide to Krakow.
Miramare Castle, Trieste, Italy
Built in 1860 for the Archduke Maximilian of Habsburg and his wife, Charlotte of Belgium, Miramare is yet another European castle in a truly picturesque setting – perched on a rock beside the Gulf of Trieste. A glorious aristocratic residence, the coastal castle has remarkable and somewhat eclectic interiors, as well as immaculately landscaped gardens. Entrance is included on our Secret Italy: Trieste and Udine tour.
Bled Castle, Slovenia
European tours are an excellent way to discover the best of a country, which often means a visit to a famous castle. On our Slovenia and Lake Bled tour, there’s time to explore medieval Bled Castle, dating back to 1004 CE and the oldest castle in Slovenia. As the fortress overlooks the famous lake, it’s also a perfect spot for taking photos of the iconic island church. There will be free time to explore at your own pace if you with to enter the castle after we arrive at Bled Island.
See famous castles in person with Riviera Travel
Magical castles can be found throughout Europe, and while they all served similar purposes, each has its own unique history, architecture – and enthralling tales. Discover the best and most famous on one of our escorted tours and enjoy a journey back in time. Looking for more castles to inspire your travels? Read our guide to the best castles on the Rhine.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.