Built by kings and queens to protect and rule their realms, castles had not only to be able to withstand attack but to project their power and wealth. As such, sturdy keeps and imposing walls were erected alongside marvelous palaces, full of ornate and elaborate chambers and throne rooms.
These castles were often built at strategic and spectacular settings at the mouths of valleys, at the entrance to mountain passes, or on glittering lakeshores. Add in the weight of history, and these amazing structures set amongst breathtaking scenery make for some of the most beautiful castles in Europe.
Trakai Island Castle.
As the name indicates, this magnificent castle is set upon a small island with the sparkling waters of Lake Galve surrounding it. Located just outside of Vilnius, the imposing red brick fortification was once of the utmoststrategic importance to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. First erected in the 14th century, the castle and its magnificent Ducal palace were restored to their original look and style in the 1960s.The Gothic and Romanesque features of the island castle look particularly arresting when viewed from across the shimmering waters of the lake.
Located in the north of Wales, Conwy Castle was built all the way back in 1283 by EdwardI of England, who was attempting to conquer his unruly neighbors. Set at a strategic spot on the banks of the River Conwy, the imposing castle played acruci al role in many battles and wars for centuries to come. Featuring not only two hulking barbicans but eight large and impenetrable towers, the castle is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of military architecture in Europe.
The delightfully named Swallow’s Nest can be found perched dramatically on the edge of a clifftop in the Crimean Peninsula. Overlooking the shimmering waters of the Black Sea, the daintily decorated castle was built in 1911 following very romantic Neo-Gothic designs. Having featured in numerous films in Soviet times, the Swallow’s Nest is now a popular place to visit amongst tourists, who come to ogle at its precarious setting, refinedarchitecture, and the stunning views.
Set in a scenic spot overlooking the town of Cochem, the castle of the same name is surrounded by rolling greens hills, with lush forests and vineyards all around it. While a castle has stood on the same hilltop since at least the year 1130, the original was destroyed by the marauding troops of Louis IV in 1688.Restored and rebuilt in a gorgeous Gothic Revival style, the current castle is now apopular tourist attraction in the German Rhineland. While Cochem Castle is fascinating to explore, the views from its turrets and towers of the valley and river below are just as spellbinding.
Located in the northeast of Slovakia, Spis Castle has dominated its surroundings ever since it was built in 1241.Due to its cultural and political importance to the Kingdom of Hungary, the castle keptgrowing in size until it became the enormous fortress it is today. Boasting impressive and imposing stone walls and towers, as well as a wonderful Romanesquepalace, Spis Castle now serves as an educational museum. With commanding views out over the hills and valleys to be enjoyed from its battlements, this magnificent fort is not to be missed out on when in Slovakia.
Whether viewed emerging from the treetops which surround it or from amidst the clouds which swirl around its walls, Hohenzollern Castle always makes for an epic sight. Perched atop a prominent mount, the castle and Gothic Revival palace exhibit some beautifu larchitecture, and the halls and chambers within are just as delightfully decorated. While the current castle was only completed in 1867, a fortress has stood upon the samemount since at least the 11th century. One of the most visited castles in the whole of Germany, Hohenzollern is still owned by the royal house of the same name.
Commonly known outside of Romania as ‘Dracula’s Castle,’ Bran Castle certainly looks the part. The forbidding fortress lies hidden in a forest in Transylvania. Despite its eerie appearance, however, the castle only has tenuous links at best with the cruel and barbaric 15th-century ruler Vlad the Impaler, who inspired Bram Stoker’ snovel Dracula. Clever marketing ploy aside, Bran Castle is definitely worth visiting for its amazingarchitecture and beautiful setting in a lush valley. In addition to this, visitors can now enjoy exploring the castle’s many rooms, which house the extensive art and furniture collection of Queen Marie.