Throughout history, castles were reserved for certain members of society. They weren’t open for just anybody to wander through, and often, the only way to get in if you weren’t royalty or working for royalty was to be taken as prisoner.
Things are a bit different today. Many of the world’s castles that are still standing from past eras are open to visitors who wish to tour them. In some cases, you can even spend the night there as a guest! These castles are every bit as luxurious and opulent as they seem in the fairy tales. Check them out below!
10 Ashford Castle: Cong, Co. Mayo, Ireland
If you want to feel like you’re a knight in shining armor or a princess in a tower, Ashford Castle in Ireland’s County Mayo is for you. Although from the outside it still looks as if the year is 1314, inside it’s as luxurious and lavish as ever. The best part? This castle isn’t just for visiting on a day tour. You can actually stay here! It has to be one of the most luxurious hotels in Europe.
Spending the night at Ashford Castle won’t come cheap, but hey, how many times in your life do you get to sleep in a castle?
9 Ussé Castle: Loire Valley, France
Visit Ussé Castle in the Loire Valley of France and you’ll feel just like Sleeping Beauty herself. According to Tales of a Backpacker, this is the very castle that inspired Charles Perrault to write his famous fairy tale about the sleeping princess. With its grand façade, it definitely looks like the type of castle that belongs in the children’s books.
Though the castle ended up being a lavish residence, it was initially designed as a fortress in the Middle Ages. The dungeon and some of the other rooms are open to visitors.
8 LumiLinna Ice Castle: Kemi, Finland
Finland’s LumiLinna Ice Castle is about as unique as they come. This castle is far less Sleeping Beauty and much more Frozen! Each year, it is built again with a different design to entice visitors. Though you will feel like royalty while exploring the stunning castle, you won’t be comfortable unless you bring your thermals!
The wintry attraction is the biggest snow fort on the planet and offers guests rooms to stay in that are completely made out of ice and snow. Even the furniture is made from ice. Else would be proud!
7 Malcesine Castle: Lake Garda, Italy
Northern Italy is full of picturesque scenes that have hardly changed from the medieval period. In the stunning and quaint town of Malcesine, near Lake Garda, you’ll find the beautiful Malcesine Castle. The official name of the castle is Castello Scaligero and it lies beside the largest mountain in the region, known as Monte Baldo.
The building can be traced back to 568 A.D. and was originally used as a medieval fortress. The luxurious castle is so pretty that it even inspired Klimt, the acclaimed Austria painter. Good news to those in love: you can get married here between April and October each year.
6 Neuschwanstein Castle: Schwangau, Germany
Perhaps one of the world’s most famous fairy tale castles is Neuschwanstein Castle, located in Schwangau, Germany. It is this very castle that inspired the Sleeping Beauty Castle seen Disneyland today. If it’s good enough for Walt Disney, it’s good enough for us!
The castle was completed in 1886 and sits in the Bavarian countryside. Be sure to reserve your tickets well in advance for the castle, as it is one of the most popular attractions in Bavaria. Visitors love seeing the grand throne room, even if it is missing an actual throne!
5 Kronborg Castle: Helsingør, Denmark
Visiting Kronborg Castle in Denmark is like visiting a piece of history itself. It is believed that legendary playwright William Shakespeare envisioned this castle when he wrote Hamlet, and one of the reasons for this is that the city of Helsingør sounds very similar to Hamlet’s Elsinore.
At this lavish castle, you’ll have the chance to see various parts of the play acted out by local actors. As a bit of fun, there’s also the ghost of the king which has been created using technology. You can see him pop up and describe how he was killed.
4 Lichtenstein Castle: Swabian Jura, Germany
Another stunning German castle that you can actually visit is Lichtenstein Castle, which is actually less popular than Neuschwanstein Castle. It’s a good idea to visit before the tourists find out about this hidden gem!
Although this castle is built in the gothic style, it has only been standing since the mid-1800s. A medieval castle did one stand in its place, though. The castle sits on top of a huge rock, which makes the views from inside to die for. Inside, you’ll see old armor and weapons exhibited on display.
3 Lovrijenac Castle: Dubrovnik, Croatia
Game of Thrones fans must visit Croatia’s Lovrijenac Castle at least once in their lives. In the TV show, this grand fortress served as the Red Keep in King’s Landing. Unlike other popular castles in Europe, this one looks over the crystal-like Mediterranean Sea.
The fortress has recently been used to hold performances of Shakespeare plays, which seem all the more authentic from the inside of a castle. But the main drawing point to Dubrovnik in the past few years has been GoT, which was filmed in the city for the duration of the show.
2 Edinburgh Castle: Edinburgh, Scotland
There’s a good reason why Edinburgh Castle is the most popular paid tourist attraction in Scotland. Containing endless exhibits and historical displays, treasures, a learning center, gift shops, and even two restaurants, the castle always entices crowds of tourists and keeps them coming back.
While you can’t actually sleep overnight at the castle, you can get a sense of what it must have been like for the many royals who did over the centuries. It’s also one of the best places in Edinburgh to learn about the fascinating history of Scotland.
1 Peles Castle: Muntenia Region: Romania
Romania is home to several famous castles, including the famed Bran Castle, which is believed by some to have been the real Dracula’s castle. But if you prefer charming over scary, then you should visit Peles Castle, located in the Muntenia region of the country.
The castle is built in the neo-Renaissance style, according to Travel Pulse, and is surrounded by stunning mountain scenery that will sweep you off your feet. It’s enough to stand from the outside and take in the beauty of the castle, but you can also visit this one!