1. Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
This extravagant home of Bavaria’s King Ludwig II appears to be part of a fairytale, which is most likely why it was chosen as one of Disney’s primary inspirations for his infamous Cinderella Castle. Located just outside of Munich, this palace asserts itself as one of the most breathtaking castles in all of Europe. Embrace your inner royalty as you tour the lavish estate and learn about its fascinating history, then be sure to hike up to Mary’s Bridge and admire sublime views of the castle and the surrounding Bavarian countryside.
2. Pena National Palace, Portugal
Although this sherbet colored palace looks like it belongs in Candy Land, it’s actually located in Sintra, Portugal – just a quick day trip away from Lisbon. Nestled between lush forests atop a scenic hilltop, Pena National Palace boasts unique 19th-century Romantic architecture, opulent interiors and colorful photo opportunities. While the charismatic town of Sintra is enough reason to venture outside of Lisbon, this sun kissed, candy coated palace stands out as one of the most picturesque castles of all time.
3. Alcázar of Segovia, Spain
Yet another castle that inspired Walt Disney, this hidden gem can be found just outside of Madrid in the charming medieval town of Segovia. Here you can also find a historic Roman aqueduct and a dazzling Gothic cathedral, though Segovia’s whimsical palace is the most awe-inspiring sight in town. While the inside of the alcázar is rather bare, its majestic façade and stunning views from the top compensate for its humble interiors. Soak up everything quintessential Old World Spain has to offer when you visit this magical castle in Segovia.
4. Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
The only thing more striking than this sturdy fortress is the captivating past that it beholds. While the city of Edinburgh is brimming with history, the stories behind this castle are particularly enthralling. Take a break from eating haggis and tasting Scotch whiskey to tour this castle’s haunting prisons, admire the Scottish crown jewels and controversial Stone of Destiny, and enjoy incredible vistas from the fortress’ Half Moon Battery.
5. The Alhambra, Spain
Widely regarded as one of the most regal palaces in the world, the Alhambra exudes pure magic and wonder. The Alhambra, in Granada, illustrates some of the finest examples of Moorish architecture, complete with impressive interiors and flourishing gardens. Get lost within the castle’s ornate walls and enjoy the some of the most incredible views of the city from the fortress’s many lookouts. Check out the St. Nicholas Viewpoint for the best panoramas of the castle itself, and be sure to take advantage of the many nearby taverns that serve free tapas when you order a drink!
All Photos © Courtney Likkel
Author Bio: Courtney is a Seattle native living in Madrid and working as an assistant English teacher. Besides venturing around Europe, she likes drinking tinto de verano in the sunshine, embarrassing herself by trying to speak the local language, and attempting to seek out the best brunch in Spain. You can follow along with her adventures on her blog Adelante, as well as on Instagram and Twitter.