There are many jaw-droppingly beautiful castles to visit around the world, and a few all-time favourites would have to be :
The Alcazar of Segovia, Spain.
Originally a 12th century fortress, the castle sits atop a rocky hill. It has a very distinctive shape, like the bow of a ship. These days it serves as a museum with some spectacular examples of armoury from over the centuries – for both horses and soldiers(the suit of armour featuring winklepicker footwear is especially dashing).
Prague Castle, Czech Republic
One of the largest and oldest castles in the world, it is still a working castle with the ballroom being used for state occasions. The palace complex is enormous and a waLk around the courtyards will bring to mind days gone by. Life was contained within the palace walls – formal balls, church services and walks in the gardens complete with lashings of gossip and intrigue! Stunning by day, Prague Castle is magical by night. Take a stroll after dinner down to the Vltava River and over the Charles Bridge to join the many hundreds of tourists enjoying the sparkling fairytale panorama over the palace and the many church spires of Prague.
Hohensalzburg Castle, Austria
The hills may be alive with the sound of music in Salzburg, but one hill in particular – the Festungsberg has the beautifully-preserved, 11th century Hohensalzburg Castle sitting atop it. If you are fairly fit, it is a 30 minute walk from the township of Salzburg up to the castle, or alternatively you can take the funicular ride to the top.
Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
Located in the Bavarian region of Germany, the castle was the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle. Built in the 19th century as a retreat for King Ludwig II, it was under construction for 17 years but not completed before his death in 1886. Even so, it is still a fascinating castle to visit and the location is spectacular with views over the Hohenschwangu Valley and the many walking trials to enjoy nearby. For the best view of the castle, where you can appreciate the scale of the structure and obtain the best photographs, go to the spectacular viewing platform on the Marienbrucke Bridge.
Palace Sanssouci, Potsdam, Germany
Once the summer home of Frederick the Great, Sanssouci has a grand columned entrance, a facade of the distinctive Hapsburg yellow, with arched windows and a turquoise dome in the rococo style. You could spend a day wandering and exploring the palace gardens. Featuring a central lake, topiary and statues in lovely structured lines, the Orangery houses exotic plants, a Chinese tea house, Japanese garden and Roman baths.
Zwinger Palace, Dresden, Germany
Walk through the gate and look up to appreciate the beautiful clock made from the world-famous Meissen porcelain which chimes prettily every quarter hour. You will pass into a huge square courtyard with manicured lawns and fountains. The 18th century baroque palace has been rebuilt after it was completely decimated during the Second World War. The Nymphaeum with its fountains, waterfall and Greek statues you would imagine to be the equivalent of a day spa today, where the Ladies of the Court would bathe and lay in the sun being pampered.
Schoenbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria
Those Habsburg monarchs sure knew how to build a palace, and Schonbrunn is no exception. With over 1,400 rooms and gardens that extend for 1.2km from east to west and approximately one kilometre from North to South, they include not only a maze, but a zoo as well. Schonbrunn is beautiful whatever time of the year you choose to visit, but especially beautiful in April/May when all the flowers are in bloom and the lavender plants are climbing over the arbours. The walk through the Great Parterre, past the Neptune Fountain and the roman ruins, up the hill to the Gloriette is well worth the reward of spectacular views back over the palace and the terracotta rooftops of Vienna.
There are many more amazing castles around the world. Have you visited any of these, or do you have other favourites to share?