Must-See Castles and Palaces in Europe

Read our list of Europe's must-see castles and palaces, from world-famous landmarks to secret sites.

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  • 02 May 2023
  • • 5 min read

It's not hard to find magnificent castles and palaces in Europe - you can hardly turn a corner without coming face to face with one in some parts (okay, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but there are over 12,000 past and present royal residences across the continent).

With so many to choose from, however, it's easy for your trip into the history books to be a little bit underwhelming. That's why we've put together a list of the most spectacular or culturally significant castles and palaces in Europe to help you find the perfect one for you...

1. The Palace of Versailles, France

One of France's most famous landmarks, Versailles is a popular palace that doesn't disappoint. Opulent, educational and downright massive, it can take a whole day to fully appreciate the architecture and history of Versailles. Located on the outskirts of Paris, it was built by Louis XIV, who is still the longest-serving monarch in European history. Versailles is popular with history buffs of course, but it's also known for its perfectly manicured park and gardens. Tickets to the palace and gardens are free for you lucky people under 26 residing in the EU, or about 20€ for everyone else.

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2. Palácio De Pena, Portugal

Yes, if you're a child this one's got a funny name. Get over it. It actually looks like it was designed for a kid's story book too, with it's multi-coloured towers and wacky spires. The Palace of Pena overlooks the town of Sintra, North-East of Lisbon, and is a perfect example of the Romanticist movement. The 30-minute walk to the castle is well worth it (even if it's just for the views over the Portuguese Riviera!).

3. Alcázar de Segovia, Spain

This Alcázar de Segovia is so dreamy, it's rumoured that it inspired the Disney animation. One of Spain's most famous castles, it was the home of Alfonso VIII in the 12th century. The castle's magnificent spires tower over the surrounding plains, and it's well worth a visit from Madrid (just mind it doesn't get too hot in the desert!).

4. Schönbrunn Palace, Austria

A UNESCO World Heritage site, this huge palace in the centre of Vienna has been a part of the Habsburgs royal family since the 1500s. It's Baroque styling and glittering façades have earned it a reputation as one of the most magnificent buildings in Europe. If you'd rather sunbathe or have a picnic than stare at old buildings, the palace park is also a great place to sit and relax in the summer. The palace grounds are free to walk around, but it's worth paying the fee to get inside and learn more about the royal residents.

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5. Prague Castle, Czech Republic

Another one you can't miss, Prague Castle is actually a Guinness World Record holder for being the biggest joined-up castle in the world. It dates back nearly 1,200 years when it was a seat of power for kings of Bohemia, and people have been drinking beer in its walls ever since (probably). If you fancy a famous Prague ale yourself, head over to the Strahov Monastery Brewery down the road, where you'll find one of the best views of the city.

6. Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

Looming over the city, Edinburgh Castle is one of the best preserved bits of Scottish history. Perched on the highest point in the picturesque Old Town (which is actually an extinct volcano, thankfully) the castle hold secrets of the city way back to the 12th century. If you're feeling in a silly spooky mood you can also wander around inside its prison which has held over 1,000 prisoners. To get a free view of the castle you can head to The Vennel or St Cuthbert's Churchyard.

7. Royal Palace Amsterdam, The Netherlands

In the very centre of Amsterdam, the Royal Palace is unique because it remains a living building for the Dutch royal family. Built in the 17th century during a period called the Golden Age, the grandeur of the Dutch royals is still apparent in the building's marble galleries and the massive Citizen’s Hall. Tickets for adults are just over 10€ - well worth it to get inside and pretend you're royalty.

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8. Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle or Schloss Neuschwanstein is another classic fairytale castle in the south of Germany. Only 14 of its 200 planned rooms were finished, but the exterior looks fit for any king or queen. It was actually built as a private refuge (it's not clear why he needed 200+ rooms) for King Ludwig II who was known as the 'Shy King'. You can see why he wanted to live here, nestled in the foothills of the Alps. You can book tickets and a guided tour to see the castle here .

9. Trakai Island Castle, Lithuania

This castle on an island just West of Lithuania's capital Vilnius is a bit of a secret to most tourists travelling to Europe. Trakai Island Castle on Lake Galvė looks like it could be dropped almost anywhere in the world, with Asian and European influences throughout. It's well worth a day trip out of the city for the beautiful surroundings alone, and tickets for adults are just 12€.

10. Tintagel Castle, England

Just up the coast from Newquay , this ruined castle on the peninsula of Tintagel Island is allegedly where the famous King Arthur was conceived. With views of dramatic cliffs, roaring seas and sandy beaches, it makes sense that medieval royals might have used the castle as a honeymoon spot. If you get bored of the history there's some great rock pools and fishing marks along the coast from the castle. Entry for adults starts from £16.50 and you can buy tickets in advance here .

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