Modern skyscrapers and luxury resorts don’t hold a candle to the raw power projected by a gigantic medieval castle. Castles are fun to explore because they’re full of surprising rooms and terrifying dungeons, but some castles are so gigantic, or intricately designed and built, that our minds are blown just thinking about them.

Many of these castles are located in Europe, the fairy-tale home of castles in popular culture, but civilizations around the world have been building castles for centuries. Japan is famous for its massive castles that blew the minds of the first Europeans to see them. Ethiopia built castles which were later used by invading Muslim armies, then Crusaders, then Italian colonizers. The largest medieval castle in the world overlooks the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, and when we look at it we can’t even fathom how massive it is.

To help you explore the most mind-blowing castles of the world, we’ve put together this list of 20 medieval castles that are so big, so complex and so beautiful that we can’t believe they were built by humans. Whether you are exploring the United Kingdom or traveling through Europe, we have a few castles you can check out. If you find yourself in Asia you’ll want to visit Japan or China and marvel at their sophisticated defensive works, and if you are the adventurous type who travels the Middle-East, you’ll need to visit massive Crusader castles, if your mind can handle it!

20 20. Warwick Castle, England

When William the Conqueror built Warwick Castle in 1068, it dominated the English Midlands and guaranteed Norman control of Britain. The castle sits on a bend of the Avon River in the town of Warwick, right in the center of England. This made it a target for every war and rebellion in medieval Britain, and the castle withstood several sieges and battles. Warwick Castle never fell, possibly because anyone who saw it was impressed into submission, which the castle still manages to do to us today! Warwick Castle is open to the public (with a fee) so be sure to have your mind blow in Warwick!

19 19. Bojnice Castle, Slovakia

Part museum, part art gallery, all mind-blowing castle, this pretty chateaux in central Europe traces its roots to 1013, when it was a wooden fort. Stone and cement were added in the twelfth century, making it a heavily-fortified castle that impressed the surrounding citizenry and blew the minds of any rival noble foolish enough to fight. The castle is open to tourists year-round, and you can explore its galleries and even look in at recreated bedrooms where nobles did their noble-things. If you’re near Bojnice, Slovakia, and you want your mind blown a little, check out Bojnice Castle!

18 18. Matsumoto Castle, Japan

Just outside Tokyo and easily accessible by train or bus, sits one of Japan’s largest castles. Matsumoto Castle was the medieval keep of the Matsumoto clan who ruled this area until the Takeda clan took it by force, and then in the seventeenth century, it fell to Tokugawa Ieyeshi, Japan’s first Shogun. What’s impressive about all these conquests of this castle is that the attackers managed to take it even with their minds blown by the huge size and complex design of this stone fortress. You can visit the castle for a fee, and the best time to visit is in the spring when the surrounding cherry blossoms are in full bloom, blowing your mind even more.

17 17. Kasteel de Haar, the Netherlands

There are many ways to blow your mind in the Netherlands, and one of them is to visit this massive stone castle outside Utrecht. Kasteel de Haar was built in the late fourteenth century as a stronghold and the seat of power for the local fiefdom rulers, the DeHaar family. The castle burned down in 1482 but was rebuilt 1887 in the exact same specifications as the original, something that is itself mind-blowing. If you’re in the Netherlands, be sure to take a tour of the castle. The inside is even more impressive the exterior, with intricately carved wooden walls and a hall of mirrors!

16 16. Alcazar de Segovia, Spain

This is a true medieval fortress, the likes of which you would see in a Peter Jackson film. The castle sits upon cliffs and consists of massive towering walls that can withstand catapults and cannon balls, gigantic turrets where archers could loose their arrows, and a huge central block that has served as a Royal Palace and a dungeon for the Inquisition. The Tower of John II overlooks the city of Segovia, far below, terrifying visitors much as it would have terrified the citizens and invaders a long time ago.

15 15. Fasilides Castle, Ethiopia

Built for Ethiopian Emperor Fasilides Alam Sagad, this massive stone fortress is open to tourism throughout the year. There are many smaller castles in the area, as this was once the capital of the Abyssinian Empire, but none of those castles blow our mind quite like the Fasilides Castle does. The reason this castle is so massive is because each successive Emperor added his own section to the original. The castle grew into the massive monstrosity we see today, which is alright with us because castles of this magnitude is exactly what we’re looking for when we want to be really impressed!

14 14. Cardiff Castle, Wales

Gothic, anyone? If you’re looking to immerse yourself in this strange spiritual period of European history, Cardiff Castle is where you’ll want to be. Originally built by the Romans in the third century, Cardiff Castle evolved over the centuries until it was a full-fledged massive military stronghold in the eleventh century. This massive castle was involved in gigantic battles and medieval sieges by Anglo-Saxon and Norman invaders, as well as by local rebellions and even neighboring lords! The interior of the castle looks nothing like the exterior, with ornate décor and a pure Gothic feel. Pay for a guided tour of “The Apartments” and have your mind blown by how much décor one noble needed!

13 13. Predejama Castle, Slovenia

Predejama Castle is technically a Renaissance Castle whose foundations were laid during the late Medieval Ages, so it counts. What isn’t in dispute is the mind-blowing size of this huge castle! It’s built into the cliff face, making it impossible to assault it from all but one direction, and was owned by a robber baron who liked to plunder neighboring fiefdoms. These fun days came to an end in the 1400s when the Holy Roman Empire besieged the castle and killed the robber baron family who hid there. You’ll need to book your tour of the castle at least three days in advance and pony up $100: just another part of this castle that blows our minds!

12 12. Himeji Castle, Japan

Himeji Castle is the largest surviving medieval castle in Japan. You’ll be impressed with it’s near-invincible fortifications spread out over 83 buildings and the fact that it was besieged ten times in its history and was never taken. Built in 1333, it dominated the Himeji Prefecture and guarded the approaches to Kyoto for centuries until 1871 when it was abandoned. In 1993 it was registered as one of the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan! You can enter admission-free through the Sannomaru and view the cherry blossoms that line the walkway leading to massive stone walls where Samurai once battled!

11 11. Castillo de Coca, Spain

Castillo de Coca is located in the Coca region of Spain, and is one of the most impressive Spanish castles you’ll see. Spain is home to many of Europe’s surviving castles, most of them built during the Reconquista, with Castillo de Coca being one of them. The fortress boasts double walls that are 2.3 meters (8 feet) thick and was meant to defend the center of Spain against Islamic invaders. Later, during the Reformation, it was used to imprison and torture suspected Protestants and Jews. The grim history and the imposing walls and battlements of Castillo de Coca is more than enough to blow anyone’s mind!

10 10. The Moscow Kremlin, Russia

The Moscow Kremlin was built to keep invading Mongols out, and then to defend against warring Russian boyars, and then again to keep more Mongols away. The Kremlin grew over the centuries into a massive complex of towering walls, golden-domed churches and fantastically-rich palaces of the Czars. You can book tours of the Kremlin daily, either online or at the main gate, where you’ll be taken into the historic inner workings of Russian power and intrigue. Be sure to check out the mind-blowingly huge Tsar Cannon, which is also one of the oldest cannons in the world!

9 9. Gyantse Dzong, Tibet

Tibet, and by extension China, isn’t known for its castles, but Gyantze Dzong, or Gyantze Fortress, is one of the few preserved castles from the region. Built in 1390 by an anti-Buddhist rebel army, it guarded an entire town with a 3-km long wall. It was later used by local lords and kings to control the surrounding countryside. If you want a real mind-blowing experience while visiting the area, be sure to make the twenty-minute climb up to the fortress and then marvel at the stunning views of the surrounding valley and Tibetan mountains.

8 8. Chateau Pierrefonds, France

You can find Chateau Pierrefonds just north of Paris, on the edge of the Compiegne Forest. Built during the Hundred Years War as a stronghold that controlled access to Paris, it was eventually ceded to France when the British withdrew all claims on French territory. The Chateau could be the setting for a Three Musketeers movie, with high causeways and battlements for swashbuckling action and elaborately-decorated rooms where our heroes woo noble ladies. Expect to spend a few hours as you tour this meticulously restored and maintained medieval castle!

7 7. Acre Crusader Fortress, Israel

The Crusader Fortress at Acre, Israel is one of the most famous castles of the Crusades. Built in 1104 to protect the eastern approaches to Jerusalem from the armies of Salah al-Din, this was the home of Richard the Lionheart and hundreds of Holy Knights from Europe determined to defend the Holy Land. The fortress was the scene of several bloody sieges and battles during those long medieval conflicts, but today it is peaceful and mind-blowingly impressive. The high-vaulted ceilings and massive defensive walls are testament to the epic scale of the Crusades, and you’re sure to get chills just looking at it!

6 6. Swallows Nest, Crimea

The Swallows Nest, or Lastochkino Gnezdo, is located in Crimea, perched on a high cliff overlooking the Black Sea near Yalta. Although today’s iteration of the castle was built in 1911, the original castle started as an abbey built by Orthodox monks in the fourteenth century. In 1475 the invading Turks besieged the monastery and in response, a larger and more imposing defensive fortress was built. Generation of castles and fortresses were added until the current castle joined them. Enjoy dizzying views of the Black Sea and surrounding coastline, and don’t forget to pick up one of thousands of tourist souvenirs you’ll find all over the area.

5 5. Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

Germany’s most iconic medieval castle is actually the result of three medieval castles joining together to make a fairy-tale fortress suitable for a Kaiser. Neuschwanstein was inspired by one of those three castles, called Schwanstein Castle, and although the castle that you can visit today isn’t medieval (it was built in 1886), it uses the walls, dungeons and some of the turrets from the original medieval castles. Also, it’s incredibly mind-blowing, so we’ve added it to this list anyway. It’s called “the Fairytale Castle” and looking up at it you can picture princesses, knights, dragons and, of course, an evil stepmother plotting wicked deeds.

4 4. Krak des Chevaliers, Syria

Krak des Chevaliers is a Crusader castle located in Syria and is considered by archeologists and the United Nations as the most important medieval castle in the world. The original castle was built by Kurdish warriors in the 11th Century, but it wasn’t until French Crusaders arrived that the monstrosity we see today was built. This imposing fortress has walls 30 feet high with massive towers projecting out from them, designed to break up any siege engines before they can reach the walls. Visiting the castle is difficult given the situation in Syria, but if you can make it there safely, you need to visit this mind-blowing medieval fortress!

3 3. Arg-E Bram, Iran

Arg-E Bram is one of the largest castles in the Middle East. It is so old that archeologists have no idea when it was first built, but they do know that it was expanded in the fourteenth centuries to what we see today. The castle consists of massive stone walls winding up a hill and crowned by a fortified citadel. The castle takes up 44 acres and is protected by walls 20 feet high. There are nearly a hundred different houses and buildings inside, and tourists can meander through most of the castle, although some spots are off limits for archeological purposes.

2 2. Prague Castle, the Czech Republic

Prague Castle is the largest castle in the world, covering 750,000 square feet! The castle is a conglomeration of multiple castles being built on top of each other and additions being added by successive Holy Roman Emperors. The original castle dates back to the year 870, but it was during the medieval period that a true massive castle was built and then expanded upon. Prague Castle contains a mind-blowing 240 buildings, including ten churches, five separate palaces, and eight individual botanical gardens! When you visit, be sure to go in the morning as the site fills with tourists quickly.

1 1. Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

The largest castle in the United Kingdom is also the most mind-blowing castle on this list, as well as one of the oldest castles in the world. A fortress has existed here since the Iron Age, and it was during the High Medieval Ages that Castle Rock grew to dominate everything around Edinburgh. During the wars for Scottish Independence the castle served as a stronghold that the British just couldn’t take, and it wasn’t until artillery battered down the massive walls in 1573 that the castle fell for the first time in its 1100-year history. Today you can explore this massive historic site and marvel at the raw size and power of the greatest castle we have ever seen!