Top Ten European Castles

Top Ten European Castles

  1. Windsor Castle, Berkshire, England

           A thousand year old fortress transformed into a royal palace, Windsor Castle has become one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world. Home to England’s royal family since the reign of William the Conqueror, this 480,000 sq. ft. manor is the largest inhabited castle in the world. Today it serves as one of three principal residences for the British monarch and is used for state and private entertaining.
    Links: Top Ten English Attractions
  2. Prague Castle, Prague, Czech Republic

           This castle has served as home for Kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman Emperors and presidents of both Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic. It also holds the title as the world’s largest coherent castle complex. The castle has been rebuilt many times over its history and as such represents elements of nearly every architectural style of the last 1,000 years. Today nearly all sections of the complex are open to the public. Prague Castle houses several museums and regularly plays host to the Summer Shakespeare Festival, the largest open-air theater-festival in Europe.
    Links: Top Ten Czech Republic Attractions, Top Ten Shakespeare Plays,
  3. Château de Versailles, France

           “This castle complex is Louis XIV’s masterpiece, a structure so magnificent that the state treasury was almost depleted during its construction. Also known as the Palace of Versailles, and located now on the edge of Paris, this palace became home to French nobility during the 17th century. As the complex grew through four “building campaigns,” Versailles became the center of French government. Louis XIV lived at Versailles, and government offices, homes of thousands of courtiers and their retinues were built there, and nobles of a certain rank and position spent time each year at the court complex. Louis XIV’s attempt to centralize the French government succeeded, as few could match the ostentatious glamour represented by Versailles. Visitors now can visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site and view luxuries such as the Hall of Mirrors and the magnificent gardens among other features. The official Web site also contains a gallery and podcasts where individuals can learn about the castle before they actually visit. If this castle isn’t enough for you, then visit this list of French castle sites.”
    Links:
  4. Castello di Strassoldo di Sopra, Italy

           
    “While there are more magnificent and famous Italian castles, this choice is far from the maddening tourist crowd. This castle is the ‘upper’ castle, which is located near the Castello di Strassoldo di Sotto (”lower” castle), and both castles are located in northeast Italy. Both castles also are privately owned by the Strassoldo family and have been in this family for almost one thousand years. Since they’re privately owned, they aren’t open to the public; however, the owners open their halls for two fascinating exhibits in the spring and fall each year. Additionally, important wedding banquets and other memorable events are personally organized by the owners. The castle’s splendid and fully furnished halls can host several hundred people, while the park can be used for open air buffets and wonderful photos. The owners of the Castello di Sopra have recently restored a fifteenth-century small house called “la Vicinia,” which they rent out overnight. This building and the castle are located in the heart of a lovely medieval village, surrounded by a centuries-old park that’s fed by spring waters.”
    Links: Top Ten Italian Attractions,
  5. Tower of London, England

           The Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space known as Tower Hill. It was founded towards the end of 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England. The White Tower, which gives the entire castle its name, was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 and was a resented symbol of oppression, inflicted upon London by the new ruling elite. The castle was used as a prison since at least 1100, although that was not its primary purpose, as it served as a royal residence as well. As a whole, the Tower is a complex of several buildings set within two concentric rings of defensive walls and a moat. There were several phases of expansion, mainly under Kings Richard the Lionheart, Henry III, and Edward I in the 12th and 13th centuries. The general layout established by the late 13th century remains despite later activity on the site. The Tower of London has played a prominent role in English history. It was besieged several times and controlling it has been important to controlling the country. The Tower has served variously as an armory, a treasury, a menagerie, the home of the Royal Mint, a public records office, as well as the home of the British Crown Jewels. From the early 14th century until the reign of Charles II, a procession would be led from the Tower to Westminster Abbey on the coronation of a monarch. In the absence of the monarch, the Constable of the Tower is in charge of the castle. This was a powerful and trusted position in the medieval period. In the late 15th century the castle was the prison of the Princes in the Tower. Under the Tudors, the Tower became used less as a royal residence and despite attempts to refortify and repair the castle, its defenses lagged behind developments in artillery. The peak period of the castle’s use as a prison was the 16th and 17th centuries, when many figures fallen into disgrace, such as Elizabeth I before she became queen, were held within its walls. This use has led to the phrase “sent to the Tower.” Despite its enduring reputation as a place of torture and death, popularized by 16th century religious propagandists and 19th century writers, only seven people were executed within the Tower before the World Wars of the 20th century. Executions were more commonly held on the notorious Tower Hill to the north of the castle, with 112 occurring there over a 400-year period. In the latter half of the 19th century, institutions such as the Royal Mint moved out of the castle to other locations, leaving many buildings empty. Anthony Salvin and John Taylor took the opportunity to restore the Tower to what was felt to be its medieval appearance, clearing out many of the vacant post-medieval structures. During WWI and WWII, the Tower was again used as a prison, witnessing the executions of 12 men for espionage. After the wars, damage caused during the Blitz was repaired and the castle reopened to the public. Today the Tower of London is one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions.
    Links: Top Ten English Attractions, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tower_of_London,
  6. Buda Castle, Hungary

         
     “Located on the southern tip of Castle Hill in Budapest in Hungary, Buda Castle was first fortified in the 13th century, after a Mongol attack led Buda’s citizens to seek a more easily defended neighborhood. Today, the castle has a mixture of architectural styles, ranging from Gothic to Baroque, being invaded repeatedly, followed by rebuilding in the style of the period.”
    Links: Top Ten Hungarian Attractions,
  7. Dover Castle, England

           
    Dover Castle is a medieval castle in the town of the same name in the English county of Kent. It was founded in the 12th century and has been described as the “Key to England” due to its defensive significance throughout history. It is the largest castle in England.
    Links: Top Ten English Attractionshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dover_Castle,
  8. Frankenstein Castle, Germany

           
    “Darmstadt, Germany is home to the setting for Mary Shelley’s Gothic horror novel, Frankenstein. This castle was the 18th century home of Lord Konrad Dippel Von Frankenstein. There are many theories about Dippel, including one that he sold his soul for eternal life. In reality, Dippel was a highly controversial alchemist in whose laboratory the color Prussian Blue was discovered. Maybe his enemies tried to ruin his reputation with the legend about the monster created in his laboratory. Visit Frankenstein Castle during Halloween to get the maximum scare factor, as an elaborate monster-themed theater show is performed, along with actors who lurk in the castle shadows. If this castle isn’t enough for you, you can visit a few other German castles that might tickle your luxury bones.”
    Links: Top Ten German AttractionsTop 100 Movie VillainsTop Ten Horror MoviesTop Ten Movie Monsters
  9. Château de Chambord, Chambord, Loir-et-Cher, France

           With its distinct blend of French and Italian architecture, the Château de Chambord is one of the most recognizable châteaux in the world. What it lacks in defense and toughness it more than makes up for in aesthetic. This isn’t your grandfather’s castle. It was built during a time in the 16th Century when defense became less important than displays of richness. With that in mind, it is easy to declare this beautiful property one of the most impressive castles in the world.
    Links: Top Ten French Attractions,
  10. Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany

           With a name like Neuschwanstein, it has to be good; and this castle is truly one of the best. This enormous 19th Century palace stretches majestically into the skies over a rugged Bavarian hillside in southeast Germany. Proposed in 1869 as a summer home for Ludwig II, the castle was dedicated to controversial German composer Richard Wagner. However, neither man would live to see its completion in 1892. The castle’s remote location allowed it to survive both World Wars relatively unscathed and it now plays host to over 1 million visitors annually. If the castle looks familiar to you, it should. It served as the inspiration for Walt Disney’s famed Sleeping Beauty Castle.
    Links:
  11. Bran Castle, Romania

           “This is another castle that the faint of heart might want to avoid! Commonly known as Dracula ’s Castle, the Bran Castle was originally a stronghold built by the Knights of Teutonic Order in 1212. The first documentary attestation of the Bran Castle is the act issued on 19 November 1377, giving the Saxons of Kronstadt (Brasov) the privilege to build the Citadel. The building started in 1378 as a defense against Turks and later became a customs post on the pass between Transylvania and Walachia. From 1920 the castle became a royal residence until the expulsion of the royal family in 1948. Today it functions as a very attractive museum of medieval arts. The official Romanian site will provide you with the lowdown on this country’s castles, so be sure to visit that site if you plan to visit Romania.”
    Links: Top Ten Romanian Attractions, 
  12. Spiš Castle, Slovakia

           The ruin of Spiš Castle is one of the largest castle sites in Central Europe. The castle is situated above the town of Spišské Podhradie and the village of Žehra that with adjacent ecclesiastical town Spišská Kapitula form components of the UNESCO World Heritage site. In 2009, the site was extended to include the famous altar by Master Paul of Levoča and the historic center of Levoča with many well preserved Renaissance buildings.
    Links: Top Ten Slovakian Attractions, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levo%C4%8Da,_Spi%C5%A1_Castle_and_associated_cultural_monuments,
  13. Royal Castle of Laeken, Belgium

           The Royal Castle of Laeken is the official residence of the King of the Belgians.
    Links: Top Ten Belgian Attractions, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Castle_of_Laeken,
  14. Bonus: Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

           Situated on an extinct volcanic crag, Edinburgh castle dominates the skyline of the city of Edinburgh in Scotland. Few of the present buildings pre-date the 16th century. The notable exception is St Margaret’s Chapel, the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh, which dates from the early 12th century.
    Links: Top Ten Scottish Attractions,
  15. Bonus: Malbork Castle, Poland

           Located in Poland, Malbork Castle is the largest castle in the world. The castle was founded in 1274 by the Teutonic Knights who used it as their headquarters to help defeat Polish enemies and rule their own northern Baltic territories. The castle was expanded several time to host the growing number of Knights until their retreat to Königsburg in 1466.
    Links: Top Ten Polish Attractions,
  16. Beaumaris Castle, Wales

           Beaumaris Castle, located in Beaumaris, Anglesey, Wales was built as part of King Edward I’s campaign to conquer the north of Wales. It was designed by James of St. George and was begun in 1295, but never completed. Beaumaris is part of the World Heritage site known as Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd. Beaumaris Castle was positioned to face the royal llys at Abergwyngregyn on the opposite shore of the Menai Strait and was intended, along with Conwy Castle and Caernarfon Castle at either end of the Menai Strait, to overshadow the Welsh Royal home and centre of resistance in the English forces. Its constable from 1509 to 1535 was Sir Roland de Velville, a reputed son of King Henry VII of England
    Links: Top Ten Welsh Attractionshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaumaris_Castle,
  17. Bonus: Carcassone

           Carcassonne is a fortified French town in the Aude department, of which it is the prefecture, in the former province of Languedoc. It is divided into the fortified Cité de Carcassonne and the more expansive lower city, the ville basse. Carcassone was founded by the Visigoths in the Golden Age. The folk etymology, involving a châtelaine named Carcas, a ruse ending a siege and the joyous ringing of bells (“Carcas sona”), though memorialized in a neo-Gothic sculpture of Mme. Carcas on a column near the Narbonne Gate, is of modern invention. The fortress, which was thoroughly restored in 1853 by the theorist and architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1997.
    Links: Top Ten French Attractionshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carcassone,
  18. Bonus: Castel Sant’Angelo, Rome, Italy

            The Mausoleum of Hadrian, usually known as the Castel Sant’Angelo, is a towering cylindrical building in Parco Adriano, Rome, Italy. It was initially commissioned by the Roman Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family. The building was later used by the popes as a fortress and castle, and is now a museum.
    Links: Top Ten Italian Attractions, Top Ten Mausoleums, Top Ten TombsSculptures, Top 100 European Sculptures, Top Ten Bridges, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castel_Sant%27Angelo,
  19. Bonus: Cathar Stronghold of Montségur

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  20. Pena National Palace, Sintra, Portugal

         
     “Built in the 1840’s as a summer home for the Portuguese royal family, this castle is now a national landmark and one of Portugal’s most visited sites. Over time its colorful facades faded and for many years the exterior appeared as a dull gray. By the end of the 20th Century, however, the original bold red and yellow colors were restored, shocking some residents who did not know of their previous presence. These colors give a personality to the property and make it one of the most recognizable castles in the world.
    Links: Top Ten Portuguese Attractions,
  21. Hohensalzburg Castle, Austria

         
     “Hohensalzburg Castle located in the Austrian city of Salzburg is one of the largest and best preserved castles in Europe. The castle was constructed in 1077 and was significantly enlarged between 1495 and 1519 when it reached more or less its present proportions.”
    Links: Top Ten Austrian Attractions,
  22. Chateau de Chillon, Switzerland

    Description:
    Links: Top Ten Swiss Attractions,
  23. Bonus: Conisborough Castle, England

           Conisbrough Castle is a 12th century castle in Conisbrough, South Yorkshire, England, whose remains are dominated by the 97 ft. (29.5 m) high circular keep, which is supported by six buttresses. In the mid-1990’s, the keep was restored, with a wooden roof and two floors being rebuilt. Audio and visual displays now help to reconstruct a view of life in a medieval castle, while a history of the site is documented in the adjacent visitors’ center. The building is considered one of South Yorkshire’s primary tourist attractions, and sees in excess of 30,000 visitors per year.
    Links: Top Ten English Attractions, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conisborough_Castle,
  24. Links: Attractions, European Attractions, Top 100 European Artifacts, http://www.intlistings.com/articles/2008/top-25-most-beautiful-castles-in-the-world/,

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