10 Real-Life Fairytale Castles in Europe

Samantha Franco
Photo Credit: Frank Bienewald / LightRocket / Getty Images and DeAgostini / Getty Images

Fairytales have always included beautiful castles guarded by dragons. But these structures are not just imaginary. There are some castles in the world that truly look like they belong in the movies, and some even inspired fairytales. Here are 10 of the most amazing!

Eltz Castle

Eltz Castle
Eltz Castle is located in the valley of the river Eltz. (Photo Credit: Oed / ullstein bild / Getty Images)

Eltz Castle in Germany is a medieval castle that was built during the 12th century under the rule of the Holy Roman Empire. The condition of the castle is impressive when considering its age and the number of conflicts that have occurred in the region. This gorgeous building has remained intact.

Eltz Castle sits perched on top of a rock in the Eltz Forest, surrounded on three sides by the river Elzbach. The castle has remained in the same family for over 800 years, passed down through 34 generations.

Eltz Castle
Eltz Castle, the ancestral residence of the von Eltz noble family at Wierschem, Germany, circa 1986. (Photo Credit: Wolfgang Kuhn / United Archives / Getty Images)

Alcazar of Segovia

Alcazar of Segovia
The Alcazar of Segovia, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is located in Spain. (Photo Credit: DeAgostini / Getty Images)

Alcazar of Segovia is a 12th-century castle that sits atop a cliff in Spain and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985. It is one of the most famous medieval castles in the world and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Spain.

As if it weren’t close enough to a fairytale castle, it is actually rumored that Cinderella’s Castle, located at Disney World, was inspired by the architecture of this particular palace.

Alcazar of Segovia
Pictured is a spectacular view of Alcazar Castle, palace and fortress. (Photo Credit: Tim Graham / Getty Images)

Hohenzollern Castle

Hohenzollern Castle
The Hohenzollern Castle is surrounded by autumnally coloured trees near Bisingen, Germany, circa 13 October 2017. (Photo Credit: Thomas Warnack / picture alliance / Getty Images)

Three castles were built on the site where Hohenzollern Castle stands in Germany. The first was built in the 11th century but was destroyed by 1423. The second was erected in the mid-15th century but eventually fell into disrepair during the 18th century.

Between 1850 and 1867, the final castle was built under the rule of King Frederick William IV of Prussia. Its Neo-Gothic architecture still looms over visitors who come to see both the castle and the museum (which houses a letter from US President George Washington!).

Hohenzollern Castle
An aerial view of Hohenzollern Castle shows it nestled in an autumnal forest. (Photo Credit: Thomas Warnack / picture alliance / Getty Images)

Mont-Saint-Michel

Mont Saint Michel
The tidal island of Mont Saint-Michel on the Normandy coast at sunrise, taken on October 15, 2011. (Photo Credit: Jeff Morgan / PhotoPlus Magazine / Future / Getty Images)

Built on a rocky island between Normandy and Brittany, France, the Gothic-style Benedictine abbey dedicated to Archangel St Michel was built between the 11th and 16th centuries. Originally built as a commune, over the centuries it has been used as both a commune and a fortress castle.

It is completely surrounded by water during high tide, and it is that image, of Mont-Saint-Michel surrounded by water, that inspired the town and castle featured in Disney’s Tangled. 

Mont Saint Michel
A picture taken on August 31, 2019, shows the Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy, northwestern France. (Photo Credit: JOEL SAGET / AFP / Getty Images)

Berwartstein Castle

Burg Berwartstein
Berwartstein Castle is seen from the east. (Photo Credit: Pascal Dihé / www.dihe.eu / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

Berwartstein Castle is hidden in the Palatinate Forest of southwestern Germany and was built as one of the rock castles used to protect the Palatinate during the Middle Ages. The castle that stands there today is a restoration of the original structure that had undergone some damage over the centuries.

Some parts of the castle have been carved right into the rock face, including rooms, stairs, and passageways.

Burg Berwartstein
Another view of Berwartstein Castle. (Photo Credit: Franzfoto / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)

Alhambra Palace

Alhambra Palace
The sun sets, casting a beautiful light upon Alhambra Palace and Fortress. (Photo Credit: Jebulon / Wikimedia Commons CC0)

Alhambra Palace was built between 1238 and 1358 and overlooks the Albaicín quarter of Granada in Spain. Originally planned for military purposes, this fortress was built under the Moorish Nasrid dynasty and serves as one of the most beautiful examples of Islamic architecture in Europe.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Alhambra fell into neglect and the property became the home of thieves and beggars. That is, until 1870 when the palace became a National Monument of Spain. In 1984, it officially became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Alhambra Palace
View from the gardens of the Generalife to the Alhambra in Granada, circa 2000. (Photo Credit: Imagno / Getty Images)

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle
Neuschwanstein castle stands in this aerial view on June 11, 2015 near Hohenschwangau, Germany. (Photo Credit: Sean Gallup / Getty Images)

One of Germany’s most famous castles, Neuschwanstein sits within the Bavarian Alps. The name translates to “New Swan Castle,” which is fitting given the building’s height and crisp white exterior. This castle may seem familiar, as it was the inspiration behind Disney’s 1959 film, Sleeping Beauty.

Built by King Ludwig II, it was inspired by composer Richard Wagner’s operas, and Ludwig once wrote to Wagner to say “the location is one of the most beautiful to be found, holy and unapproachable.” He wasn’t wrong, as Neuschwanstein stands on a cliff overlooking the majestic valley below.

Neuschwanstein Castle
Exterior view of Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany, 1960s. (Photo Credit: Archive Photos / Getty Images)

Hluboká Castle

Hluboká Castle
Hluboká Castle, May 1997, Czech Republic. (Photo Credit: François ANCELLET / Gamma-Rapho / Getty Images)

Located in the Czech Republic, Hluboká Castle was originally built in the 13th century but has undergone multiple rebuilds over the centuries. In 1871, it was given its final makeover in the image of Britain’s Windsor Castle and now sports a Neo-Gothic style of architecture.

The palace has 140 rooms and 11 towers, and it is commonly referred to as the most beautiful castle in the Czech Republic.

Hluboká Castle
Overview of Hluboká Castle in 2013 in Hluboká nad Vltavou, České Budějovice District.(Photo Credit: Jiří Sedláček / CC BY-SA 3.0)

Château de Chillon

Chateau de Chillon
Chateau de Chillon castle on the banks of Lake Geneva (Lake Leman) at Veytaux in the canton of Vaud, Switzerland. (Photo Credit: Andia / Universal Images Group / Getty Images)

Castle Chillon is located right on the bank of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. Believed to have been built sometime between the 11th and 12th centuries, this island castle has become one of the most visited monuments in Switzerland.

The first written record of the castle dates it back to 1005. It was built to guard the road between Burgundy and the Great Saint Bernard Pass, and was the summer home of the Counts of Savoy, who kept a fleet of ships on Lake Geneva.

Chateau de Chillon
Chillon Castle, and Dent du Midi, Geneva Lake, Switzerland between ca. 1890 and ca. 1900. (Photo Credit: Universal History Archive / UIG / Getty Images)

More from us: The Ancient City of Ani Has Withstood the Test of Time

Bran Castle

Bran castle
Bran Castle, famous as “Dracula’s Castle,” stands among Transylvanian mountains on March 10, 2013 in Bran, Romania. (Photo Credit: Sean Gallup / Getty Images)

The original castle that sat where Bran Castle now looms was built in 1212 and was made of wood by Teutonic Knights. It wasn’t until 1377 that a stone structure was built on the site.

Bran Castle has become famous for its association with Bram Stoker’s famous novel, Dracula. It is a national monument and landmark of Transylvania, and its location has made it become known as Dracula’s Castle, although the decaying structure in the novel bears no resemblance to the well-maintained Bran Castle of modern times.

Bran Castle
Bran Castle is being offered for sale to the Brasov County Council by the U.S.-based owner, Dominic von Habsburg who is a descendant of the Romanian royal family June 23, 2005 in Brasov, Romania. (Photo Credit: Wojtek Laski / Getty Images)