Magnificent structures that inspired novels, films, and dreams abound in Europe. Castles sit on mountaintops with towers that slice through the sky, painting a picture of an almost dream-like grandeur. It’s no surprise that these castles have influenced artists and storytellers all over the world. For instance, the Brothers Grimm centered most of their stories in Germany. Once upon a time, European castles held their glory and have withered over time. Today, these castles are restored for everyone to relive the magic. Here are some of the region’s must-see castles and their fictional counterparts!
Munich, Germany • Recommendation •
The Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany is the most popular castle in all of Europe. It inspired the creation of the Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty castles, two iconic places in the world of Disney. It also inspired the Hyrule Castle from The Legend of Zelda series. It is situated on top of a gorge, overlooking the Alps. The beautiful castle plus the ostentatious view makes it one of the most photographed sites in all of Germany!
Neuschwansteinstrasse 20, Hohenschwangau, Bavaria, Germany
Coventry, United Kingdom • Recommendation •
Channel your inner wizard at the castle that inspired Harry Potter’s Hogwarts! Kenilworth Castle was deliberately destroyed in the 17th century, but its grandeur lives on through the alluring facade of its ruins. Expect long walks through what remains of its halls and stairways because this castle is as large as it is beautiful. It was built on five decades of English architecture and is made entirely of red sandstone. Today, it is a popular heritage site where tourists flock to witness its magic.
Castle Green, Off Castle Road, Kenilworth, Warwickshire, United Kingdom
Würzburg, Germany • Recommendation •
The Lohr a.Main or Lohr Castle is the birthplace of Maria Sophia Margaretha Catherina von Erthal, the woman who inspired the Brothers Grimm’s Snow White. The castle was home to a mirror that was uncommon for that period—one that is extremely smooth and even. It was referred to as “the talking mirror,” because “it always spoke the truth” in that its reflection of objects is crystal-clear. Among plenty of interesting artefacts that loom within the castle, the mirror is housed in the Spessart Museum that is currently located in Lohr a.Main, Bavaria.
Schlossplatz 1, Lohr am Main, Germany
Rennes, France • Recommendation •
Mont Saint-Michel’s accessibility depends on tidal waters. This island commune in Normandy, France plays hard-to-get, but it will astonish you once you’re able to get there. Its elusive charm and undeniable pulchritude inspired the Kingdom of Corona in Tangled. Although not a castle per se, the monastery that sits atop the commune exudes magnanimous majesty. Striking and ethereal, Mont Saint-Michel is a thing of wonder worthy of more than just one visit.
Mont Saint-Michel, France
Sevilla, Spain • Recommendation •
The lush decadence of Dorne in Game of Thrones is credited to The Alcazar of Seville in Spain. The palace was originally developed by Moorish Muslim kings, manifesting opulence with ornate design and architecture. Its extravagance suits the elaborate descriptions of the Martells’ palatial home in Dorne and is perfectly captured by the TV series. Bask in the sensuality of royalty at the Alcazar of Seville at least once—you will keep on wanting to come back.
Patio de Banderas, Sevilla, Spain
Lausanne, Switzerland • Recommendation •
Prince Eric’s castle in The Little Mermaid was inspired by the Chillon Castle in Lake Geneva, Switzerland. The medieval fortress features a rustic charm that is embellished by the lake it’s situated on. It looks like everything that takes place in it has a happy ending. No wonder Ariel hoped so much to get there! Schedule a visit to the chateau and be part of that fairytale world.
Avenue de Chillon 21, Veytaux, Switzerland
Glasgow, United Kingdom • Recommendation •
The Eilean-Donan Castle in Scotland was the inspiration for Castle DunBroch in the Disney animated movie, Brave. Scotland’s most photographed castle features monochromatic consistency as it blends with the robust bridge that leads to it, as well as the lake and the boulders that surround it. It looks incredible at every angle and is just as astonishing inside, with stone walls and gigantic paintings. Any way you look at it, your hair will stand on end—in a good way.
Dornie, Kyle of Lochalsh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Belfast, United Kingdom • Recommendation •
Dark, dreary, and mysterious, Castle Ward in Strangford Island is a very appropriate location for Game of Thrones’ Winterfell. The castle dates back to the 18th century, featuring gothic architecture against an unearthly woodland backdrop. The entrance of the castle features classical Palladian design with columns supporting a triangular pediment. The other side is Georgian Gothic with pointed windows and finials. Castle Ward is a bewitching masterpiece, a definite must-see. Pay it a visit and feel like a queen or king of the night!
Castleward House Castleward Estate, Strangford, Downpatrick, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom