European castles are in a league of their own. Every single one seems straight out of a fairy tale. Castles span the ages from medieval ruins to stately fortresses. One thing is for sure, castle visits rarely disappoint. The castles in Scotland entertain kids just as much as those in the Iberian Peninsula and beyond. We never miss an opportunity to visit a castle because you never know what lies inside. These are our choices for the best castles in Europe to visit.
Best Castles to Visit in Europe
Best Castles in Wales
Wales has some of the most beautiful and unique castles in Europe. Most of the Welsh castles date to the time of King Edward I who built these fortresses to protect his newly acquired lands.
We’ve explored Caerphilly Castle, the second largest castle in the UK after Warwick Castle. The structure is an amazing architectural feat, built in the 13th century as one of the first concentric castles in the world.
Conwy Castle, was built by Edward I in the 13th century, along with a walled English town. Today you can take a castle tour and admire the views of the River Conwy or take a walk along the top of the city’s walls.
Caernarfon Castle was built by Edward I to symbolize English dominance over the Welsh. Many view it as one of the greatest buildings to come out of the Medieval Ages. It occupies a massive footprint along the Menai Strait, and offers views over the port and beyond. Guests can learn about the castle’s history and its role as the location where Prince Charles received his investiture as the Prince of Wales.
Cardiff Castle was a favorite with our kids as they could run around the grounds, exploring everything from the Norman Keep to the castle apartments. The castle offers over 2,000 years of history, as it was originally the location of a Roman fort. After exploring the castle, take a walk in town or through the adjacent park.
Castell Coch is a unique European castle, originally built in the 13th century, but falling into disrepair for centuries before it was rebuilt. Also known as the “Red Castle” or the “Fairytale Castle”, it was rebuilt in the late 19th century at the request of the 3rd Marquess of Bute. Kids will enjoy the fabulous opulent decor, and elaborate designs. We recommend you visit all of these Welsh castles with kids.
Best Castles in England to Visit
There are too many castles in England to list, but some of one of our all time favorite European castles is Warwick Castle. Warwick Castle feels like a visit to a medieval Disney World. The castle is massive, and if you are visiting Warwick Castle with kids, be sure to allow the majority of a day (and possibly evening) to explore it all.
Warwick is an easy day trip from London. The castle was built in the 11th century by William the Conqueror, and today there are over 64 acres to explore. Some attractions kids will love include the Mighty Trebuchet, Horrible Histories Maze, and the Time Tower. There are shows throughout the day, including a Bowman Show and falconry display. Families can even stay the night at Warwick Castle. Be sure to see which attractions are open at Warwick Castle and plan your trip before you head out.
Other England castles not to miss include: Kenilworth Castle, The Tower of London, Highclere Castle, St. Michael’s Mount, and Windsor Castle.
Best Castles in Scotland
No list would be complete without Edinburgh Castle, but we’re a bit partial to Caerlaverock Castle (the Maxwell family ancestral home), where we enjoyed a guided tour with Solway Tours. Eileen Donan Castle, Stirling Castle, and Urquhart Castle on the shores of Loch Ness.
Best Castles in Ireland
With over 30,000 castles and castle ruins across Ireland, it can be difficult to choose favorites. Cahir Castle, Dunluce Castle, Ashford Castle, Bunratty Castle, and Ross Castle in Killarney all sit at the top of our list.
Best Castles in France
France has some of our all time favorite castles. Of course Mont Saint-Michel shouldn’t be missed, but we also loved the walled city of Carcassonne, the dueling castles of Château de Beynac and Château de Castelnaud, and Château de Baux. Other ones to add would be Château de Chambord and Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg.
Best Castles in Germany
Germany is right up there when it comes to quantity and quality of castles. With over 20,000 castles and ruins, it’s hard to choose a favorite German castle. We enjoyed Heidelberg Castle and Neuschwanstein Castle, but I hear Burg Eltz, Hohenzollern, and Schwerin are also beautiful.
These countries have the highest concentration of castles in Europe, but don’t miss some of the coolest castles to visit in Europe. These include Akershus in Oslo, Frederiksborg in Sweden, the Alcázar and Alhambra in Spain, and Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal. Castle lovers of all age will love the castles of Europe.