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19 Real, Magical Castles in Fairytales to Visit

19 Real, Magical Castles in Fairytales to Visit

Did you know that many of the castles in fairy tales you’ve seen on movies and television exist in real life? The creations of Walt Disney and other storytellers are mostly based on castles in Europe.

These historic buildings once belonged to royal or noble families and are absolutely incredible to see when traveling.

There are literally thousands of castles across Europe, and while only some of them are the inspiration for fairy tales, most of them will take your breath away with their history and beauty.

Here, we will take a look at some of the top castles from fairy tales or at least look like they should be in fairy tales. All can be visited and toured, and some even serve as hotels or restaurants. 

If you are planning a trip to Europe, some of these are bound to be on your route, so take a look at our list of beautiful fairytale castles below!

19 Real, Magical Castles in Fairytales to Visit

1. Neuschwanstein Castle – Germany

White Castle on the Top of a Hill

Neuschwanstein Castle began construction in 1868 on the order of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. Unfortunately, it was completed just shortly after his death. Today it is one of Germany’s most famous castles.

This mountain fortress was the real-life inspiration for Disney’s Cinderella castle. Its fairy tale appearance, with a stunning forested backdrop and lakes in the distance, made it a perfect candidate for such a story.

Where To Stay To Visit Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein is located in Schwangau, a small village in the far south of Germany. The closest major cities are Munich, Memmingen, and even Innsbruck in Austria. Here are some of our top accommodation choices in the area:

  • In Munich: the Hilton Munich City, which has easy access to the S-Bahn and city center and therefore the ability to take a day tour from the city
  • In Memmingen: Hotel Weisses Ross, which is directly in the historic center of town plus has free parking if you self-drive
  • In Innsbruck: AC Hotel by Marriott Innsbruck, with its easy access to beautiful Innsbruck town as well as the opportunity to spend and earn Marriott points.
  • In Schwangau (where the castle is located): Hotel Weinbauer, in a traditional Bavarian building and with close proximity to the castle for a great price.

How To Visit Neuschwanstein Castle

The Neuschwanstein Castle has been extremely well-preserved and can be visited today in southern Germany year-round. Visiting Neuschwanstein can only be done via a guided tour. Depending on where you are staying, book one of these:

2. Burg Eltz Castle – Germany

Castle Surrounded with Trees

A very old fortress, the Burg Eltz was built in the 16th Century but is still standing tall and majestic today. What makes it especially unique is that besides escaping the destruction of all the wars that have taken place, the castle has also been owned and cared for by the same family that built it centuries ago.

While Burg Eltz is not officially a castle from a fairytale, most will agree that it certainly has a fairy tale appearance that has certainly inspired some. It has eight towers in a timber frame structure emerging from the thick forest it sits in.

Where To Stay To Visit Burg Eltz Castle

Burg Eltz is in the west of Germany, almost near the border with Luxembourg and Belgium. The nearest major city to this gorgeous castle is Frankfurt, with the smaller town of Koblenz nearby; or you could choose to stay in the tiny village of the castle, Wierschem.

How To Visit Burg Eltz Castle

Visits to the castle can be done by guided tour, provided in English and some foreign languages as well. If you want to take the tour given by the castle staff, you don’t need to reserve and the waiting time will be a maximum of 30 minutes. However, you also have the option to take day trips from places like Frankfurt to simplify the journey into the wilderness:

3. Hohenzollern Castle – Germany

Castle on a Hill and Skyline

With a much less fortunate history, Hohenzollern became a ruined castle several times since its construction almost a thousand years ago but was rebuilt into its current state in the 1800s.

The fortress was built as the seat of the Prussian royal family and majestically sits on a hilltop high above the forests below. Today, Hohenzollern Castle houses a vast collection of paintings and artifacts from its long history and can be admired by visitors.

Where To Stay To Visit Hohenzollern Castle

Hohenzollern is located in the mountains of the Swabian Alps and the nearest cities are Stuttgart and Ulm. You could take a train to the nearby village of Hechingen and then purchase tickets for the shuttle to the castle, or rent a car and self-drive. Alternatively, day tours run from Frankfurt.

  • In Stuttgart: Park Inn by Radisson Stuttgart, which has easy access to public transport and a great breakfast
  • In Ulm: B&B Hotel Ulm, a fast-growing European brand hotel that offers self-catering amenities like kitchenettes and extra living space
  • In Frankfurt: Maritim Hotel Frankfurt, for its proximity to Frankfurt’s newest shopping center and luxury amenities and spa for a great price
  • In Hechingen (near the castle): Hotel Hechinger-Hof, a simple budget property for those who just want a place to stay near the castle in a quiet village

How To Visit Hohenzollern Castle

To visit this royal palace, you have the option of getting there on your own and taking a castle staff-guided tour or taking a day tour from Frankfurt. If you choose to do it yourself, the castle offers a shuttle service from the village nearby where the train will take you.

4. Lichtenstein Castle – Germany

Castle with a Tower on a Cliff

Here, we have an example of a ‘reverse’ fairy tale castle: Count Wilhelm of Württemburg bought the ruins of the original Lichtenstein Castle, which was built and destroyed several times over hundreds of years, and had it built as described in the story Lichtenstein by Wilhelm Hauff.

Some of the original ruins date back to 1390, but the most recent purpose of the fortress before its renovation by Count Wilhelm in 1837 was to serve as a hunting lodge. Since then, it has undergone periodic restoration. 

Where To Stay To Visit Lichtenstein Castle

This stunning castle is located in the same region as Hohenzollern above, making them a great combination to visit together. The nearest major cities are also Stuttgart and Ulm, while the castle itself is in the village of Lichtenstein (not to be confused with the tiny country of Liechtenstein, which is super fun to visit as well!). 

  • In Stuttgart: Hampton by Hilton Stuttgart City Centre, which allows you the opportunity to redeem and earn Hilton Honors points and offers that great and always-free Hampton breakfast.
  • In Ulm: Hotel Schmales Haus, for an experience in a traditional timber-framed building along the Danube River with free continental breakfast.
  • In Lichtenstein: LICHTenstein Apartment, managed by a private host for a stay in an apartment with extra space and amenities during your castle visit.

How To Visit Lichtenstein Castle

The building is a magical sight, sitting directly on top of vertical cliff sides with the castle entrance across an old bridge.

You can visit between March and December and the castle is only accessible via a guided tour provided by their staff, meaning you’ll have to arrive on your own for this one.

5. Château d’Ussé – France

One of the most famous fairytale castles in France, the Château d’Ussé was the inspiration for the castle of Sleeping Beauty, drawing thousands of Disney film fans every year. It’s also said to have inspired the Cinderella castle too.

The castle is located on the Loire Valley route – A UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to the region’s numerous historic castles – between Angers and Tours.

The castle grounds are home to impressive gardens and the interior has been totally preserved, with artwork and historical displays throughout.

Where To Stay To Visit Château d’Ussé

The Loire Valley is a few hours southwest of Paris, between the cities of Angers and Orléans. These cities, along with Tours, are great base points to explore the châteaux of the area; or it is certainly doable as a day trip from Paris.

How To Visit Château d’Ussé

This château is open for visitation from mid-February to mid-November, and tickets are required and can be purchased on-site. My best tip is to visit the châteaux of the Loire Valley in Spring when gardens are in full bloom. 

See Related: Must-See Small Towns in France

6. Château Chambord – France

White Castle Near a River

Chambord is a massive royal castle originally built on the orders of King François I but finished after his reign.

It is the largest of the châteaus in the Loire Valley and was the inspiration for the fairytale castle in Beauty and the Beast, making it another of the most famous fairytale castles on the continent.

The castle itself is a world heritage site, and for good reason. It consists of extensive gardens, towers, and a moat surrounding the site; all emerging from the marshlands that surround them.

Where To Stay To Visit Château Chambord

Being located in the Loire Valley, Chambord is easily accessible from the same cities as listed above: Paris, Orléans, Tours, Angers, and all the small villages in between. Which you choose will depend on your transportation around the area and personal preferences.

  • In Paris: Melia Paris Vendome, for those who want to stay in the prestigious Vendome area in a luxurious hotel but don’t want to pay outrageous prices
  • In Tours: Hampton by Hilton Tours Centre, which is another riverfront property with Hilton amenities and that great, always-free Hampton breakfast.

How To Visit Château Chambord

This massive masterpiece of a French château is located between the towns of Tours and Orléans. It can be visited all year round, either with tickets bought from the castle or on a tour:

7. Château de Chenonceau – France

White Castle with a Large Garden

Some consider Chenonceau to be the most beautiful castle located in the Loire Valley. It is easily distinguished by its beautiful arches spanning the River Cher that it sits on, and its numerous towers reaching above.

Chenonceau dates back to the 16th Century and has changed ownership by several noble families of Europe and beyond. Its impressive architecture and extensive gardens will make you think that it’s something out of a fairy tale.

Where To Stay To Visit Château Chenonceau

Again, your options are the cities and villages in the Loire Valley plus Paris. Chenonceau is easily done in a day combined with other nearby fairy tale castles as well, which is something to consider when choosing a place to stay.

  • In Paris: Hotel du Petit Moulin, which is a Small Luxury Hotels of the World property bookable with Hyatt points for a luxurious stay in a local-feeling boutique hotel.
  • Angers: Appart’City Angers, for those who want the amenities of a home and are on a budget during their Loire Valley excursion.

How To Visit Château Chenonceau

Chenonceau is another castle in the Loire that is available to visit every day of the year. You can purchase an entry ticket with a pamphlet or audio guide, or enjoy a guided tour; many of which combine Chenonceau with other nearby castles.

8. Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg – France

While the Loire Valley is one of the most popular tourist destinations for castles in France and there are dozens more there, let’s take a look at the other side of the country for a world-famous castle: the Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg.

This medieval castle dates back to the 12th Century and is located in Alsace, in the east of France. It is a very different-looking castle from those in the Loire Valley, made of stone and timber – and clearly much older, having served as inspiration for typical ‘Northern’ castles in Game of Thrones.

Where To Stay To Visit Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg

The castle sits high on a mountain above the Rhine Valley near the town of Sélestat, a lovely little town in the Alsatian countryside between Strasbourg and Colmar. You could stay in any of these cities, or closer to the castle in the countryside itself.

How To Visit Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg

This medieval castle is easily added to your trip to the Alsace region thanks to its proximity to the other main sites of the area. It makes for a great historical stop along the Alsace wine route or on a day trip from nearby Strasbourg, and they run a shuttle service from the train station of Sélestat for self-tourers.

9. Alnwick Castle – England

Old Castle on a Green Field
“Alnwick Castle” by Dalekwidow is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This medieval fortress is actually one of the UK’s largest inhabited castles, located in the northeast of England and not far from the North Sea.

Its tall walls and towers date back 950 years and are set overlooking the River Aln and the surrounding hills.

The Percy family has owned Alnwick Castle for over seven centuries and has overseen its use as a military outpost, a classroom, a refugee center, a film set, and of course their family home. They also offer visits to their beautiful, well-preserved castle.

Where To Stay To Visit Alnwick Castle

The nearest major cities to arrive to and stay in are Edinburgh or Newcastle-upon-Tyne, but the village of Alnwick is a charming and very walkable city that attracts visitors itself.

  • In Edinburgh: Novotel Edinburgh Centre, a trustable brand with nice amenities such as an indoor pool and fitness center plus a Scottish restaurant
  • In Alnwick: The Oaks Hotel for those who want a more local and intimate experience in the castle’s countryside village

How To Visit Alnwick Castle

Alnwick does close for the winter months, so be sure your trip does not interfere with this. You can purchase to visit the castle on your own or book a day tour from cities like Edinburgh.

10. Eilean Donan Castle – Scotland

Castle with Light Lights at Night by the River

Traveling further north and into Scotland, we find an island castle where three lochs meet: Eilean Donan Castle. This castle is one of the most iconic images of Scotland as it sits on its little spot in the water with the mountains of the Highlands distant in the background.

Eilean literally means island, and it is believed to be called Donan Island after the Irish saint Donan who visited over a thousand years ago. The fortress was built in the 13th Century as a fortification against Viking invaders to Scotland.

Where To Stay To Visit Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle is located in the Scottish Highlands on the Northwest coast of Britain, where three lochs meet. It is very much in the countryside, and while some visitors will choose to visit from Inverness, others might enjoy the peace and quiet this place has to offer for the night.

How To Visit Eilean Donan Castle

This is a well-preserved castle that survived centuries of battle, and today it will still take your breath away.

You can visit Eilean Donan, but being that it is quite a journey from most major cities, you’ll either have to take a day tour from Inverness or stay deep in the Scottish Highlands.

See Related: Most Beautiful Villages in England to Visit

11. Herstmonceux Castle – England

Front of a Castle and Its Gate

One of the oldest brick buildings still standing in England, the Herstmonceux Castle is located in the south of the country close to the English Channel. It is a truly proper castle, set on over 300 acres and surrounded by a magnificent moat.

Herstmonceux is meticulously cared for and is today used as a university study center, an event venue, and a historic monument of medieval England and the renaissance to be admired by the public.

Where To Stay To Visit Herstmonceux Castle

The castle is near Hailsham, with the closest major city being London. The smaller, seaside tourist city of Brighton is even closer and well worth staying in.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, tours aren’t being conducted to the castle at this time, but you can check back later for potential day trips from those cities. You can always find your own transportation and buy tickets to visit Herstmonceux on your own.

How To Visit Herstmonceux Castle

As mentioned, tours of the castle aren’t being conducted at the moment both from major cities nearby or by the castle staff themselves. However, this could change as the pandemic situation evolves. You can still buy a standard entry ticket to the castle and visit on your own, and it’s quite affordable:

12. Stirling Castle – Scotland

Historic Castle on the top a Hill and Cityscape

One of my personal favorites, Stirling Castle is a beautiful castle from the 12th Century that is one of the most historically and architecturally significant in Scotland.

It sits on a hill high above the town of Stirling, which is just a short train ride away from Edinburgh.

The whole former royal residence is now basically a big museum housing artifacts and reviving the history that it has lived through. You can even try on outfits that would have been worn during the renaissance period for a photo op.

Where To Stay To Visit Stirling Castle

Stirling is a lovely historic town to stay in, or you can make the trip from nearby Edinburgh or Glasgow. You will be satisfied with any of these choices for a real Scottish experience along with your castle visit.

  • In Edinburgh: YOTEL Edinburgh, which is a trendy and young property with the simple amenities you need at a budget-traveler price.
  • In Glasgow: Maldron Hotel Glasgow City, for free wifi and air conditioning in a comfortable room with an English breakfast every morning.
  • In Stirling: Holiday Inn Express Stirling, an IHG Hotel, which is a bit more upscale than your standard Holiday Inn Express and has that always-free breakfast.

How To Visit Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle is easily toured from Edinburgh or Glasgow, but you can also go to Stirling yourself and simply walk up the hill to tour the fortress yourself.

13. Chillon Castle – Switzerland

Castle in the Bottom of a Mountain and by the River

Château Chillon is one of the most visited castles in Switzerland, and if you see it you will understand why. It is located on the shores of Lake Geneva below the towering Alps.

Excavations on the site indicate that the castle has existed in some form since the bronze age, making this one of the oldest medieval castles in Europe.

Its position on an island in the lake is stunning enough, and visit at the right time of spring and you can catch it among blooming flowers and snow-capped mountains in the background.

Where To Stay To Visit Chillon Castle

The nearest major city to Chillon is Geneva, however, it is on the opposite end of the lake. The capital of Switzerland, Bern, is also relatively near and staying in one of the villages of the Alps is a very special experience.

  • In Geneva: 9Hotel Paquis, a boutique hotel with a luxurious and modern design and super-cool indoor pool.
  • In Gruyères (a mountain village relatively close to the castle): Hôtel de Gruyères, for panoramic views and access to the mountain activities of the Alps. 

How To Visit Chillon Castle

You might choose to base your stay in Geneva, which has a ton to do and is a great starting point for a tour of all the lake has to offer. Day tours begin from here, and tickets to the castle alone are available for those who can get there on their own.

See Related: Famous Historical Landmarks in Switzerland

14. Pena Palace – Portugal

Crowd Walking a Castle with Yellow Paintings

Located in the beautiful Sintra region of Portugal, the Pena Palace is a breathtaking site perched atop a rock among a beautiful park.

While you might expect to find a Moorish castle on the Iberian Peninsula, this one is a castle built more recently and therefore reflects century romanticist architecture.

The Pena Palace is actually a former monastery, and visitors love the bright colors that cover its walls in true Portuguese fashion. Besides its glorious exterior, the castle building is full of museum-like exhibits.

Where To Stay To Visit Pena Palace

The nearest city to Pena Palace is the capital of the country, Lisbon, which makes for an easy day trip. However, you could also choose to stay somewhere in the massive Sintra-Cascais Natural Park area; one of the most beautiful in Portugal.

How To Visit Pena Palace

The Pena Palace can be visited on a day trip from Lisbon, generally combined with other sites in the Sintra and Cascais area, or on its own for those who prefer.

15. Bran Castle – Romania

In the far eastern part of Europe, we find another true fairytale castle in Bran Castle as it was the inspiration for Dracula’s Castle. This medieval castle dates back to the 14th Century and is located in the Transylvania region of Romania.

Looking at the architectural styles of this fortress, you can immediately associate it with Count Dracula. Still, it is definitely one of the most beautiful castles in the country and in Eastern Europe as it’s hard not to admire.

Where To Stay To Visit Bran Castle

The nearest city to Bran Castle is Brasov, one of the most major in Transylvania. Bucharest also isn’t far, but a stay in Brasov will allow you to experience the very unique culture of this region and give you access to day tours from the city.

  • In Brasov: the Pinehouse Luxury Apartment, which offers either a studio or one-bedroom configuration and apartment amenities at very low prices.
  • In Bran: the Zara Chalet, a more luxurious stay in a timber-built chalet with easy access to Dracula’s Castle.

How To Visit Bran Castle

Bran Castle is open every day of the year and can be seen on a tour from Brasov or even Bucharest. You can also buy tickets to enter if you get there on your own.

See Related: Best Warm Destinations in Europe

16. Castle De Haar – The Netherlands

Castle in the Middle of a Lake

Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful castles in The Netherlands, De Haar is still a private residence for its owners a few weeks every year today. It dates back to the 13th Century and was massively restored in the late 1800s back to its medieval glory.

The castle’s brick complexion with round towers reaching above and its surrounding lakes and gardens make it an incredibly peaceful estate in Holland. Today, it is used as an event venue, exhibition space, and as an important piece of history to be preserved.

Where To Stay To Visit Castle De Haar

The Netherlands isn’t a particularly large country, and while the closest major city to this beautiful castle is Utrecht, it could easily be visited from Amsterdam or Rotterdam. 

  • In Utrecht: Inntel Hotels Utrecht Centre, for a modern but budget-priced property with an indoor pool in a great alternative city to Amsterdam.
  • In Amsterdam: citizenM Amsterdam Amstel, for hip budget accommodation with everything you need to have a good time in Amsterdam.

How To Visit Castle De Haar

You can buy tickets for both the park of the castle as well as the castle building itself, or you can take a tour from Amsterdam. If taking the train, the nearest station is Utrecht.

17. Vajdahunyad Castle – Hungary

Front of Vajdahunyad Castle

One of several castles in Budapest, Vajdahunyad is the one that I think looks the most like it comes out of a fairytale. It is located in the city park near an ice skating rink and boating lake.

The castle is home to a museum today, as well as the host of festivals and concerts. The idea of the castle is that it incorporates many of the most important architectural eras of Hungary into one castle: Romanesque, Gothic Renaissance, and Baroque. 

Where To Stay To Visit Vajdahunyad Castle

As this castle is in Budapest proper, it is best to stay right there and enjoy Hungary’s vibrant capital city. You won’t even need to take a bus tour to the castle in this case.

How To Visit Vajdahunyad Castle

Having an advantage being in the capital city, it’s quite easy to visit Vajdahunyad. You can walk down to the park it sits in yourself and buy an entrance ticket, or take a more interesting type of tour incorporating other sights. Access to the grounds of the castle building is free.

18. Kronborg Castle – Denmark

Castle and Skyline View

One of the most stunning castles in Denmark is Kronborg, which sits on the edge of the sea just north of Copenhagen. It is also truly one of the country’s most beautiful fairytale castles as it is the castle that Elsinore in Hamlet is based on.

Kronborg is accessed by a small bridge over its moat and is a large, square building shaped around a central courtyard.

It sits overlooking the small channel in the North Sea across from the Swedish mainland. Today, Hamlet is performed at the castle consistently to honor its place in the fairy tale.

Where To Stay To Visit Kronborg Castle

The beautiful city of Copenhagen is just south of the castle, and you could even choose to stay across the straight in Helsingborg, Sweden if you don’t mind taking the ferry. Day tours run most commonly from Copenhagen.

How To Visit Kronborg Castle

You can buy simple entry tickets to visit Kronborg yourself or combine it with a day tour from Copenhagen to make a full day of getting out of the capital.

19. Predjama Castle – Slovenia

Castle Built on a Rock

This stunning castle in the Balkan country of Slovenia is incredibly unique as it is built into the side of a huge cave. Often visited with it is Postojna Cave just down the road.

Predjama is a Renaissance castle from the 13th Century. Located in the network of paths through the mountainside are secret cave tunnels, including rooms for dungeons and even the home of a colony of bats. This all makes it a very cool castle to see.

Where To Stay To Visit Predjama Castle

While it is located in the countryside, Slovenia is a small country and you could stay in the charming capital city of Ljubljana and still see it all. Interestingly, this castle isn’t far from the Italian border, and you also have the opportunity to base your trip in the city of Trieste where day trips also originate.

How To Visit Predjama Castle

The Predjama Castle management offers a variety of tours themselves of the castle year-round. You can also take a tour that includes transportation from Ljubljana, Trieste, or even Zagreb in Croatia.

Fairytale Castle Hotels That You Can Stay In

If you want to become a part of the fairy tale, many hotels across Europe are built into historic castles! And while most are luxurious experiences, they don’t necessarily have to break the bank.

Grotta Giusti Thermal Spa Resort Tuscany, Autograph Collection – Italy

Trees in a Garden
Photo by Booking.com

This castle once belonged to an Italian artist and is built on top of natural hot springs that exist deep in a cave below. The thermal vents heat the resort’s swimming pool with mineralized water, and the hotel’s spa includes treatments in the cave pools.

I was absolutely stunned when I stayed here for the first time in September, and I absolutely plan on making more trips back.

The historic castle building has been meticulously restored into luxury accommodation and the thermal springs are just about the coolest hotel pool I’ve seen.

Book the Grotta Giusti here, and I recommend visiting outside of the summer high season to enjoy cooler air temperatures.

Schloss Fuschl, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa – Austria

Aerial View of the Schloss Fuschl, Lake, and the Mountains
Photo by Booking.com

Another one of my personal favorites, this majestic castle sits on the shore of Lake Fuschl in the hills above Salzburg. It is a historic castle built in about 1450 and is magnificently in a condition satisfactory enough to serve as a luxury hotel.

I don’t know where to start when it comes to my favorite part of staying here: the royal-feeling rooms, the indoor wellness center, the amazing buffet breakfast, and especially the electric blue lake all come to mind. I highly recommend it.

Book the Schloss Fuschl resort here. My favorite time to visit is late April to early May when the weather is perfect but still leaves some snow caps on the mountains above.

Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron – Austria

Garden and Building Front of Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron
Photo by Booking.com

Another one of Salzburg’s most appealing attractions and hospitable hotels is the Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron. This majestic hotel, run out of a royal palace, is famous for its grand facade, breathtaking grounds, and opulent interiors.

You’ll probably recognize it from one of the most famous modern fairytales ever told; The Schloss Leopoldskron served as the Von Trapp residence in The Sound of Music. Even if you don’t stay the night there, (but you 100% should), you can still access it on numerous Sound of Music guided tours.

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