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The medieval Bojnice castle in Slovakia is one of many real-life fairytale castles in Europe. Source: radu79 / Adobe Stock

10 Real-life Fairytale Castles from Across Europe

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The castles we see in movies and picture books were not just inspired by fantasy and imagination. In most cases they were based on real-life castles, many of which can be found in Europe. Evolving out of the concept of walled cities, these castles were created to protect and withstand attack, while also exhibiting power and domination over the surrounding landscape. Found in strategic locations, overlooking valleys, lakes and mountain passes, these stunning fairytale castles and fortifications are remnants of the influence of kings and queens throughout ancient history.

The medieval Eltz Castle, or Burg Eltz, in Germany was first created in the 12th century as part of the formidable Holy Roman Empire. After centuries of warfare it has remained unscathed perched on top of a rock within a small wooded valley. It has even been in the same family for over 800 years! (Freesurf / Adobe Stock)

The medieval Eltz Castle , or Burg Eltz, in Germany was first created in the 12th century as part of the formidable Holy Roman Empire. After centuries of warfare it has remained unscathed perched on top of a rock within a small wooded valley. It has even been in the same family for over 800 years! ( Freesurf / Adobe Stock)

The Alcazar of Segovia in Spain is the epitome of a fairytale castle. Perched at the top of a cliff, this 12th century castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and pays testament to the splendor of a bygone era. It even inspired the castle in Disney’s Snow White. (pcalapre / Adobe Stock)

The Alcazar of Segovia in Spain is the epitome of a fairytale castle. Perched at the top of a cliff, this 12th century castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and pays testament to the splendor of a bygone era. It even inspired the castle in Disney’s Snow White. ( pcalapre / Adobe Stock)

Hogenzollern Castle in Germany was once the ancestral seat of the noble Hohenzollerns. In the style of a typical hilltop medieval fortification, the neo-Gothic castle sits snuggly on top of the Berg Hohenzollern which rises up 855 meters (2,805 ft) high. These days it is a popular tourist destination, due to the stunning architecture of this 140-room fairytale castle. (scaliger / Adobe Stock)

Hohenzollern Castle in Germany was once the ancestral seat of the noble Hohenzollerns. In the style of a typical hilltop medieval fortification, the neo-Gothic castle sits snuggly on top of the Berg Hohenzollern which rises up 855 meters (2,805 ft) high. These days it is a popular tourist destination, due to the stunning architecture of this 140-room fairytale castle. ( scaliger / Adobe Stock)

The medieval fortress castle and commune of Mont Saint Michel was built on a rocky island off the north coast of France. The town and castle featured in Disney’s Tangled were based on this fairytale castle, which is completely surrounded by water at high tide. (JFL Photography / Adobe Stock)

The medieval fortress castle and commune of Mont Saint Michel was built on a rocky island off the north coast of France. The town and castle featured in Disney’s Tangled were based on this fairytale castle, which is completely surrounded by water at high tide. ( JFL Photography / Adobe Stock)

Burg Berwartstein castle is a real-life fairytale castle hidden within the Palatinate Forest of southwestern Germany. First mentioned in 1152, this rock castle was built to defend the Palatinate in the Middle Ages, and some rooms, stairs and passageways were carved into the rock. (Vincent / Adobe Stock)

Burg Berwartstein castle is a real-life fairytale castle hidden within the Palatinate Forest of southwestern Germany. First mentioned in 1152, this rock castle was built to defend the Palatinate in the Middle Ages, and some rooms, stairs and passageways were carved into the rock. ( Vincent / Adobe Stock)

The magical Alhambra palace and fortress in Granada, Spain, is one of the most stunning examples of Islamic architecture. Built overlooking the Albaicín quarter of Granada between 1238 and 1358, it was the royal residence of the Moorish Nasrid dynasty and is known for its stunning decoration and fairytale gardens, filled with roses, oranges and elms. (Taiga / Adobe Stock)

The magical Alhambra palace and fortress in Granada, Spain, is one of the most stunning examples of Islamic architecture. Built overlooking the Albaicín quarter of Granada between 1238 and 1358, it was the royal residence of the Moorish Nasrid dynasty and is known for its stunning decoration and fairytale gardens, filled with roses, oranges and elms. ( Taiga / Adobe Stock)

The 19th century Neuschwanstein Castle, meaning “New Swan Castle,” in Germany’s Bavarian Alps was built by Ludwig II and inspired by Wagner’s operas. Built on a rugged cliff overlooking the surrounding valley, Ludwig wrote to Wagner “the location is one of the most beautiful to be found, holy and unapproachable.” It also served as inspiration for Disney’s 1959 animated film Sleeping Beauty. (pilat666 / Adobe Stock)

The 19th century Neuschwanstein Castle , meaning “New Swan Castle,” in Germany’s Bavarian Alps was built by Ludwig II and inspired by Wagner’s operas. Built on a rugged cliff overlooking the surrounding valley, Ludwig wrote to Wagner “the location is one of the most beautiful to be found, holy and unapproachable.” It also served as inspiration for Disney’s 1959 animated film Sleeping Beauty. ( pilat666 / Adobe Stock)

Hluboká Castle in the Czech Republic is a gorgeous 13th century fairytale castle built in the Gothic style. Over the centuries it has been rebuilt several times, and in 1871 was given a makeover in the style of Britain’s Windsor Castle. It has 140 rooms, eleven towers and sumptuous interiors. (Viliam / Adobe Stock)

Hluboká Castle in the Czech Republic is a gorgeous 13th century fairytale castle built in the Gothic style. Over the centuries it has been rebuilt several times, and in 1871 was given a makeover in the style of Britain’s Windsor Castle. It has 140 rooms, eleven towers and sumptuous interiors. ( Viliam / Adobe Stock)

The picturesque fairytale Château de Chillon, or Castle Chillon, on Lake Geneva in Switzerland is an island castle believed to have been built some time in the 11th or 12th century. These days it is one of the most visited monuments in Switzerland, famed worldwide for its beauty and for being the former home of the Counts of Savoy. (Giles Laurent / CC BY-SA 4.0)

The picturesque fairytale Ch âteau de Chillon, or Castle Chillon, on Lake Geneva in Switzerland is an island castle believed to have been built some time in the 11th or 12th century. These days it is one of the most visited monuments in Switzerland, famed worldwide for its beauty and for being the former home of the Counts of Savoy. (Giles Laurent / CC BY-SA 4.0 )

Top image: The medieval Bojnice castle in Slovakia is one of many real-life fairytale castles in Europe. Source: radu79 / Adobe Stock

By Cecilia Bogaard

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