Europe is, overall, a notable tourist hub where the carefully preserved historical gems, aesthetic architecture, and romantic vibe attract thousands and thousands of tourists every year. Some of the busiest tourist sites are the historic castles of Europe, reflecting the grandeur and cultural splendor of many past civilizations.
Prior to Covid’s impact, I had the opportunity to travel this amazing continent. Visiting Europe was an experience of a lifetime, especially for a history fanatic like me who got to visit, touch, observe and walk around the hallways, paths, and rooms of the castles, where royals of the past once lived and goverened.
In this article, I will walk you through five of the most visited castles in Europe, including the reasons why these castles stand out among thousands across this historically rich continent.
- Alcazar de Segovia
On this list of the five most visited castles in Europe, the first is Alcazar de Segovia. Located in Segovia, Spain, the Alcazar of Segovia is one of the famous medieval castles in Spain. The castle’s architecture appears to have come straight out of some dreamland with its enchanting towers and picturesque turrets. The backdrop of the castle is also worth note, with the castle’s clifftop positioning amid the Guadarrama mountains that extend beyond.
The castle was built in the twelfth century by King Alfonso VI as a royal residence. However, King Alfonso VIII was the first Emperor to take up the castle as his residence. The castle was later modified in the sixteenth century as per the Gothic traditions, which can still be seen today. In the eighteenth century, the castle was converted to a state prison until King Charles III decided to change the castle’s status to a Royal Artillery school in 1762.
Today, the castle serves as a museum and military archives building. Thousands of tourists worldwide visit this dreamland castle for both its historical significance and picturesque location, making it one of the top five most-visited castles in Europe.
- Neuschwanstein Castle
Giving tough competition to Alcazar Segovia regarding its architectural splendor and visual aesthetics, Neuschwanstein Castle is located in Germany. Nestled amid the Bavarian Alps, the castle appears to have been plucked and pasted on Earth from a Disney movie. Interestingly, the castle has inspired many castles featured in Disney movies. From its fascinating turrets to its magnificent throne hall to its sky-high towers, Neuschwanstein Castle certainly deserves the status of being one of the top five most visited castles in Europe.
Reflecting on the castle’s history, the building of the castle is believed to be commissioned by King Ludwig II, but he never lived to see the castle completed. The castle never got the status of a royal residence. Instead, after the death of Ludwig II, it was opened to the public and soon became famous in Germany as one of the highest visited tourist spots in Germany.
With the Gothic structural elements blending with Byzantine-Arab traditions, the castle offers fascinating architectural and cultural traditions of the past to the tourists. You cannot visit the castle without a guided tour, and an entrance fee is required to enter the castle premises, but the experience itself is worth the cost.
- Rheinstein Castle
Another German tourist hotspot in Europe, Rheinstein Castle continues to enchant tourists worldwide with its romantic vibes and hotel services available for visitors. Located on a rocky ridge overlooking the Rhine River, there is no better spot than the Rheinstein Castle to enjoy a first-hand experience of staying in a medieval castle. The castle is protected by the Rhine valley walls, keeping an optimal temperature surrounding the area, which adds to its features as the five topmost visited castles in Europe.
Exploring the castle’s history, it was built around 1282 AD by the Roman Emperor Rudolph von Habsburg. The castle was constructed for the Archbishop of Mainz, to secure the land against the maurading knights. The castle enjoyed its glory for the coming few centuries till it was reduced to ruins in the 17th century. The ruins were later restored by Prince Fredrich in the 19th century, mirroring romantic architectural traditions. An enchanting garden, according to Romantic traditions, was also added to the castle to elevate its aesthetics.
The castle today is famous for its historical significance and the special experiences it offers to tourists. In addition to the guided tours, the castle has a restaurant overlooking the Rhine River where you can bask in the medieval aesthetics of the place while enjoying your food. In addition, there are two beautiful apartments furnished with period décor where you can stay overnight and get a real-life experience of staying in a castle.
- Hohensalzburg Castle
Hohensalzburg Fortress is one of the largest medieval fortresses located in Austria. Carrying 1000 years’ worth of history etched on its castle walls, the castle deserves its place as one of the top five most visited castles in Europe. The castle is located on a hilltop in the outskirts of Salzburg city. With its Baroque towers overlooking the city, Hohensalzburg Castle is considered one of the most enchanting skylines.
Exploring the castle’s history, the initial instructions of the castle began around 1077 under the supervision of Archbishop Gebhard von Helfenstein. The castle was originally built with wood but was later fortified and expanded by Emperor Henry IV in the fifteenth century. The renovations and reinforcements to the castle continued throughout its history, with the most recent done in the later nineteenth century. From serving as a fortress to a royal residence to a prison for Italian prisoners of war, the castle is counted as one of the best-preserved castles around the while Europe.
To visit this historical beauty, you need to pay a small ticket fee for the castle and the museum. If you plan ahead, you can reserve your slot reserved to experience Mozart’s concert as well as enjoy a VIP dinner at Hohensalzburg Castle along with a river cruise.
- Alhambra Palace
Last in the list but not least, Alhambra Castle located in Granada, Spain, also finds its place among the five most visited castles in Europe. This enchanting Moorish castle with its red brick walls against the mountains of Sierra Nivada as its backdrop, Alhambra Palace is the pristine example of Moorish architecture in Spain.
Overlooking the city of Granada, the palace was built around 1238 AD, where it started as a small fortress known as Alcazaba. The fortress was expanded to a palace under Nasrid rule, followed by several reconstructions and reinforcements to the castle. After the Moors were expelled from the castle in the fifteenth century, King Charles V rebuilt some of the palace portions in Renaissance style and added Italian influences.
Today, the palace stands proud in its carefully preserved form with the original Moorish orchids and gardens surrounding the palace. Exploring this Moorish beauty, you will get to hear many legends and anecdotes attached to the castle’s history, which makes the visit to the castle worthwhile.
With Alhambra, I conclude my list of the five most visited castles in Europe. I am sure that reading about these castles has piqued your interest in exploring these historical gems located in Europe. In the comment section, let me know which castle you would like to visit first.