Castles evoke stories, folklore, and grandiose fantasies; they have a special allure that attracts contemporary tourists. The towering buildings and lush grounds of royal residences transport us back to the settings of our early bedtime tales. More so, the world’s royal homes convey an enthralling story about the rich past of a location, its people, and their trade.

The elaborate murals and tiles adorning the magnificent dining rooms pay tribute to the best painters of that era, while their legendary halls provide insight into the victories (and tragedies) of its monarchs. The lofty towers provide detailed architectural lessons about the elaborate styles that were popular then and later. Not to be overlooked are the unique textiles and furniture that have been conserved over many centuries and are still present in many of the original meeting rooms of the palaces. Put simply, castles provide visitors with an opulent look into the past by acting as opulent time machines.

These enchanted properties offer enough tales to fill entire storybooks, from a Japanese stronghold that mimics the majesty of nature to a Danish palace that was rebuilt after a horrific fire. These are the top 22 castles in the world, guaranteed to make you believe in “happily ever after.”

view of the famous alhambra, granada, spain

Alhambra in Granada, Spain

Perched high above Granada, the Alhambra is a testament to the rich history of Spain. The hilltop castle and fortress were first commissioned in 1238 by Ibn al-Aḥmar, who also founded the Naṣrid dynasty. The Moorish structure expanded to house three separate areas: a military camp, a quarter for court officials, and a quarter for the royal family when various leaders came to power.

Charles I wanted parts of the palace to be destroyed during his reign so that more Renaissance-style buildings could be constructed. Nonetheless, visitors can still observe the authentic Moorish architecture and tile work in the renovated Naṣrid structures located around the site.

el morro, castillo castle san felipe

Castillo San Felipe del Morro in San Juan, Puerto Rico

It took about 250 years to build Castillo San Felipe del Morro, popularly known as El Morro. At the topmost peak of Old San Juan, the Spanish started construction on the fort in 1539. The fortress’s six storeys were purposefully built to give occupants the upper hand over any enemy ships that could approach the harbor. El Morro had already had an unenviable name by the time it was finished in 1790, having withstood multiple assaults, including one by Sir Francis Drake in 1595 and a Dutch invasion in 1625. The fort never suffered a loss.

The National Park Service turned the fort into a museum, and it is now regarded as a World Heritage Site.

chenonceau castle

Château de Chenonceau in Chenonceaux, France

Encircled by immaculate formal gardens, Château de Chenonceau seems to float gracefully over the Cher River that reflects light. The arched bridge, the signature feature of the castle, was commissioned by Diane de Poitiers, the mistress of Henry II, in the 16th century, but the original structure dates to the 11th century.

After the king’s death in 1559, Chenonceau became the preferred abode of Catherine de’ Medici, another great woman. The French queen’s Grand Gallery and flawless hospitality abilities never failed to astonish guests within the castle walls.

It’s even thought that the grounds hosted France’s first-ever fireworks show to commemorate the coronation of her son, Francis II.

During World War II, the chapel of the château was attacked by the Allies and German troops, causing severe damage. The Menier family hired architect Bernard Voisin in 1951 to restore the building and gardens to their former splendor.

romania, sinaia castle

Peleș Castle in Sinaia, Romania

In the 1860s, King Carol I ordered the building of a neo-Renaissance-style castle in the sleepy village of Sinaia, inspired by the bucegi Mountains. There are 160 rooms in the royal summer palace, each with a unique theme. For instance, the magnificent murals by Austrian artists Franz von Matsch and Gustav Klimt that cling to the walls and ceiling of the theater on the grounds create the impression of being in a storybook.

Peleș Castle was eventually deserted after years of use as a royal residence when Romania was ruled by communists. In 1989, the castle reopened as a public museum following the revolution.

view of chapultepec castle against sky in mexico city during sunny day, mexico

Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City, Mexico

Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City is the only castle in North America that has ever held real sovereigns. In 1785, Viceroy Bernardo de Gálvez gave the order to build the stronghold, which would house the governor of the Spanish province of New Spain.

The palatial building was converted into a military academy years after the Mexican War of Independence and was the scene of the Battle of Chapultepec in the Mexican-American War in 1847. Eventually, Emperor Maximilian I and his wife, Empress Carlota, would use it as their formal royal palace once more.

qaitbay citadel alexandria

Qaitbay Fort in Alexandria, Egypt

Sultan Al-Ashraf Qaitbay started building this stern fortification on the Mediterranean Sea in 1477 after hearing that Ottoman forces were moving closer to Alexandria. The blueprints for the castle were ingeniously designed on the wreckage of the collapsed Pharos Lighthouse, allowing laborers to salvage elements of the former building to construct red granite columns for the mosque and entrance.

Egypt was eventually taken over by the Ottoman Empire, but the citadel continued to be used as a military stronghold until the British bombardment in 1882. The Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities intervened in the 20th century to restore the magnificent and commanding building on the port to its former splendor after it had been abandoned for years.

matsumoto, japan november 21 2015 matsumoto castle, one of japans premier historic castles, along with himeji castle and kumamoto castle, its known as crow castle due to its black exterior

Matsumoto Castle in Matsumoto, Japan

Matsumoto Castle’s history begins in 1504, when the Ogasawara clan began constructing a fort to repel invaders. The formidable warlord Takeda Shingen took control of the military structure just a few years after it was finished. The castle was known as the “Crow Castle” because of how its architecture changed throughout time, becoming a towering three-towered building with dark black roofs and walls.

under 1872, the castle was under danger of being demolished because developers intended to replace it with more modern structures and apartment complexes. Nevertheless, the locals of Matsumoto launched an effort to conserve the structure, and in the end, the city government bought it.

bojnice, slovakia august 30, 2019 old beautiful medieval castle in bojnice, slovakia, europe unesco heritage landmark

Bojnice Castle in Bojnice, Slovakia

Written documents discovered at the Zobor Abbey suggest that this Romanesque stronghold may have started out as a wooden fort in 1113. Wood was gradually replaced by stone, and by the sixteenth century, the Gothic fortress had Renaissance features.

King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary may not have been the first to build the stronghold, but he was certainly among the first to make investments in its future. On the grounds that now carry his name, the ruler would frequently travel to the small city to work on his decrees and recite them under a linden tree.

ethiopia march 24 fasilides castle, royal fortress enclosure of fasil ghebbi unesco world heritage list, 1979, gondar region, ethiopia photo by deagostinigetty images

Fasil Ghebbi in Gondar, Ethiopia

Emperor Fasilides, who defied convention by founding Gondar as the new capital, oversaw the construction of the massive fortress-city in 1636. In the past, Ethiopian emperors would journey across the nation, camping out and surviving on food given by the populace. Fasil Ghebbi was a symbol of transformation in Ethiopia from the beginning.

Perched on a lofty plateau, the castle complex housed the royal family’s residences along with an assortment of gardens, temples, libraries, and even a swimming pool. The castle in the medieval architecture was expanded by all succeeding rulers to Fasilides, but it was Iyasu the Great, Fasilides’s grandson, who added the ivory statues and gem-encrusted ceilings that are frequently mentioned in historical records to the palace.

panoramic view of the castle neuschwanstein from the bridge

Neuschwanstein Castle in Schwangau, Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle was built in 1868 by King Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat from the press and political unrest. Despite being essentially deprived of his authority following Prussia’s conquest of Austria and Bavaria in the Austro-Prussian War, Ludwig still harbored dreams of ruling his own kingdom.

“There will be several cozy, habitable guest rooms with a splendid view of the noble Säuling, the mountains of Tyrol, and far across the plain; you know the revered guest I would like to accommodate there,” Ludwig wrote about his vision for Neuschwanstein in a letter to his longtime friend and fellow German composer Richard Wagner.

 

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