Castles, mystic yet grand architectural establishments: While it may sound a pretty straightforward task, determining the top 10 most famous castles in the world is not that simple. Castles around the world happen to be some of the most popular sites for historic education and studies on the planet. A list of the most famous castles in the world can prove to be long and extremely diverse in its content.
First, there does not exist any clear definition about what a castle is all about. Most people simply define it as a defensive structure that has been set up as a place of residence either for a nobleman or ruler. To disagree with the proposal that Moscow Kremlin is anything but a castle is quite understandable but can the same be said of the numerous fortresses around Japan and India?
Second, how do you actually define the parameter of size for a castle? The Guinness Book of World Records lists Prague Castle as the one with the biggest complex. However, if you check Wikipedia you will find Windsor Castle listed as the castle with the largest number of inhabitants.
The list of the very best: In this article, we have tried to make the impossible seemingly possible by compiling a list of the top ten most famous castles around the world. Read on and enjoy the work.
1• Schonbrunn Palace, Austria:
A former summer residence of the imperial class of society in Vienna, Austria, Schonbrunn Palace is a monument in the country with the greatest cultural heritage. Ever since the 1960s it has garnered a reputation of being one of the most popular tourist attractions in the capital and continues to hold that erstwhile position. The gardens and palaces around the complex are a fine illustration of the aspirations, interests and tastes that successive monarchs in the Habsburg territory possessed. The zoo, garden and palace around the castle complex are open to the visitors while there are also amenities such as guided tours, conference facilities and a restaurant that the tourists can make the most of.
2• Alnwick Castle, England:
A stately home and castle in the Northumberland county of England, UK, Alnwick Castle has served as the residence of the Duke of Northumberland for many years. It was built at the time of the Norman conquest and underwent remodelling and renovation on numerous occasions. The structure is listed as a Grade I building in England and houses a number of spectacular gardens. Alnwick Castle has been featured television programs and blockbuster films.
3• Castle Howard, England:
Castle Howard is better off classified as a stately home and not a castle. Located in the North Yorkshire region of England, it was primarily designed for the Third Earl of Carlisle with the construction work being carried out in between 1699 and 1712. The design for the structure was created by Sir John Vanbrugh. The Heritage Ministry in the country lists the building as a Grade I structure, home to spectacular landscaped gardens. For over three centuries, the Howard family has had this castle as their stately residence. One of England’s largest country houses, Castle Howard has as many as 145 rooms. Movie buffs and television audiences are likely to recognise it as the fictional “Brideshead” castle from the famous television series “Brideshead Revisited.” The heritage group, Treasure Houses of England, has taken it under its wings at present.
4• Windsor Castle, England:
The largest and the oldest occupied castle in the World, Windsor Castle is the official residence of the Queen of England, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. With a rich history that dates back almost thousand years, WIndsor Castle has been standing tall long before William The Conqueror came calling. Spread over thirteen acres of land, some of the key places to visit within the castle complex are St. George’s Chapel (where ten monarchs were buried), the Doll House of Queen Mary (a miniature masterpiece) and magnificent State Apartments fully furnished with collections belonging to the Royal treasury. A part of it that has been opened to the public has become a major tourist attraction. Winter season is the time when an additional five rooms- referred to as Semi-State Rooms- are opened to the touring public.
5• Tower of London, England:
Often regarded simply as “The Tower”, the Tower of London is a scheduled monument and castle that stands on the northern bank of River Thames in the central districts of the city. Technically this place serves as the Fortress and Royal Palace of Her Majesty. Located just outside the city limits of London, it is separated from the eastern edge of the capital by a wide expanse of space referred to as Tower Hill. This is where public executions would be carried out in the older days. An observatory, an office for public records, the Royal Mint, a zoo, a treasury, an armory, a place for torture and execution, a prison, a Royal Palace, a fortress- the Tower of London has been put to numerous uses. At present this is where the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom are housed. This place has housed a number of notorious prisoners, particularly those who had been charged with treason. The Tower of London is regarded as the most haunted building in the world.
6• Chateau de Chambord, France:
The royal building of France, Chateau de Chambord, is one of the most recognisable structures around the world. With an architecture that has a distinct flavor of French renaissance, it blends classical Italian architecture and traditional forms from the French medieval period. It stands as an expression for extravagance and power, and was designed by Francois I to confirm his status of being the greatest revolutionary builder of his age. The largest castle that stands in the Loire Valley, Chambord was originally constructed as a simple hunting lodge for the King who had his royal residences at Chateau d’Amboise and Chateau de Blois. The castle is open for the tour of the public.
7• Chateau de Montsegur, France:
Probably the best known building among all of the Cathar Castles in France, Chateau de Montsegur is famous for being the last stronghold of the Cathars. A field located at the foot of the hill atop which the castle stands is regarded as the place where more than two hundred Cathars were burnt alive for refusing to renounce their faith. A building stood at this site at the end of the twelfth century and served as the shelter for a community of women who belonged to the Cathar faith. Early in the next century, the Chatelain Ramon de Pereille received orders to fortify the establishment in anticipation of the problems that were likely to ensue. At present, it is a major tourist attraction in the region along with a museum in the nearby town of Montsegur. You need to pay an entrance fee for gaining access to both these places.
8• Trim Castle, Republic of Ireland:
A castle built on the Anglo-Norman design, Trim Castle is possibly the first stone castle that was ever built on Irish soil. Located in Meath County around thirty miles to the Northwest of Dublin it stands on the banks of River Boyne. People have voted Trim Castle as the largest and finest castle in the country of Ireland. It was mainly to serve as a center of administration for the Norman rulers in the Meath Liberty. Later on, it became the northern boundary of the Pale territory. While the castle building is faced with decay and degradation, the place is still worth visiting and continues to draw visitors from all around the world.
9• Sao Jorge Castle, Portugal:
Overlooking the Tagus River, the city of Lisbon and all the territory that lies beyond, Sao Jorge Castle boasts of a commanding position. Constructed originally by the Moors, the strong fortifications of this citadel probably dates back to the medieval ages. The castle stands on top of a hill in the historic city-center of Lisbon. One of the main touristic and historical sites in the city, there are well maintained and beautiful gardens around the castle complex. The five-arched Ogival House which was once part of a medieval jail within the castle complex is worth visiting. Also, don’t miss out on the Interpretation Center and museum complex in the city.
10• Floors Castle, Scotland:
The largest inhabited castle in the country, Floors Castle has a unique Scottish feel about it and features magnificent gardens and stunning interiors. It houses the Roxburghe Estate, a large sporting and agricultural estate which also serves as the official family residence of the Duchess and Duke of Roxburghe. The castle complex has been used for setting up the Roxburghe Championship Golf Course and Hotel, a country house retreat in quintessential Scottish style that is best suited for those looking fishing or golfing break in the lap of Mother Nature.
Conclusion: Thus we have completed the difficult task of compiling a list of the ten most popular castles in the world. While we have not followed any strict parameters for our judgement and opinions of individuals are likely to differ, we hope in all earnest that readers have enjoyed going through the compilation. Would you be interested in being a part of history? If so, head out to one of these famous world castles on your next holiday and enjoy the experience of being transported to the medieval age.