Potterheads might be amazed by the "wizard architecture" that made the Hogwarts Castle magical, but if they want the real deal, they might as well master the art of visiting castles. These fortified structures vary in design, but they all have something in common: grandeur. As they should be, since castles are associated with royalty.
There are beautiful abandoned castles in Europe that are worth a visit, and Harry Potter fans might even recognize the one where the first two movies were filmed. For tourists who want to experience what it’s like to be inside huge and impressive fortifications, listed below are some castles that are more awe-inspiring than Hogwarts.
10 Alnwick Castle
True-blue HP fans will immediately recognize Alnwick Castle as Hogwarts, as seen on Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets. It’s a part of any Potterhead’s English adventure, especially since the castle offers Harry Potter tours. Tourists will enjoy exploring Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, err, Alnwick, where Harry and his friends learned how to fly broomsticks. Maybe guests can challenge others for a quick game of quidditch. From the welcoming arch to the courtyard and baileys, Alnwick won’t disappoint, even for non-Potterheads.
9 Château de Villandry
This French castle is already stunning on its own, but with the presence of wide, welcoming gardens, it’s a true beauty. Château de Villandry is a proud landmark by the Loire, France’s longest river. Strolling by its gardens and exploring the castle will take guests to a château experience like no other. And that’s just the start. The Renaissance gardens might be scene-stealers, but the castle is a star on its own — especially since it has an avant-garde architectural design. Château de Villandry is a sight for sore eyes, thanks to its ensemble of structures that spell elegance. Add the greenery, and it’s the perfect rest stop.
8 Guaita Fortress
A mountain castle overlooking one of the world’s smallest countries. That’s what tourists will experience if they drop by the Guaita Fortress in San Marino. Standing proud in Mount Titano, Guaita is one of the three towers of the European country and is the most famous. It is included in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites as part of the mountain. Guests will have a fun time checking out Guaita's pathways, battlements, bell tower, chapel, and even its prison. The tower looks like it was plucked out of a fairytale book, and visiting it will always ensure a happy ending.
7 Rock Of Cashel
Tourists who want to explore a medieval castle should not miss the chance to visit the Rock of Cashel in Ireland. It is one of the most famous Irish attractions — and rightly so, because it’s teeming with history. The place is a masterpiece, thanks to its Gothic cathedral, round tower, Romanesque chapel, high cross, and the 15th-century Tower House. There’s never a dull moment exploring this landmark because inside or outdoors, the Rock of Cashel knows how to impress. It simply rocks.
6 Bran Castle
If there’s a castle that can compete with Hogwarts, it might be that of Dracula. Bran Castle in Transylvania is famous for being associated with the vampire, but even without that fame, the fortress knows how to wow. Tourists can spend their day exploring the castle's walkways, checking out its shield walls, enjoying views from the balcony, taking pictures of the stunning towers, and inching their way through a secret passage. This Romanian landmark should not be missed by those who want a share of vampire history.
5 Bojnice Castle
The Bojnice Castle is true eye candy, thanks to its medieval design complemented by the pastel-colored exteriors. It seems like it’s from a pop-up fairytale book, and that’s exactly why it’s one of the most visited landmarks not only in Slovakia but in central Europe. Bojnice has the classic look of how most people imagine a castle: steep roofs, imposing towers, and grand structures peppered with Renaissance and Gothic elements. This European castle is simply fantastic, and indoors, tourists will have a fun time learning in the museum and appreciating its splendor.
4 Neuschwanstein Castle
The German castle of Neuschwanstein stands supreme on a hill, a rockstar hugged by Alpine foothills, making any visit to this place picturesque. The structure is young — completed in the early 1880s — and was used by the Bavarian king Ludwig II. This artistic castle is all about beauty, from its intricately designed halls and wide rooms to its welcoming courtyards and well-decorated palace exteriors. Wherever a tourist looks, there’s something new to appreciate at Neuschwanstein Castle. The photos are enticing, and being there is an unparalleled experience.
3 Highclere Castle
The United Kingdom is not to be missed when it comes to castle adventures, as it should be because it’s ruled by a monarch. In Hampshire, England, Highclere Castle aims to be at service to those who want to feel what it’s like to be royal. Drama fans would recognize Highclere as the location of Downton Abbey, and just by that information alone, tourists would already know what to expect when visiting this landmark. It has at least 250 rooms, and guests can have the chance to spend their time in the main staterooms. The castle looks stunning outdoors, and even more so within its walls.
2 Leeds Castle
Another UK offering, Leeds Castle is famous as the location of the television series Doctor Who. This Kent landmark is perfect for friends and families who want to have fun under the sun, thanks to its attractions such as gardens, a maze, playgrounds, an obstacle course, adventure golf, and even a falconry area. Indoors, tourists can spend their day glamorous and grand in the classic dining room, a wide banquet hall, an impressive library, or in the calming drawing-room. From the moat to the rooms, Leeds Castle will lead guests to excitement.
1 Hohenzollern Castle
The Germans really know how to build stunning castles. For instance, the Hohenzollern Castle, located atop a mountain, is a kaleidoscope of wonders. Its military architecture is impressive, as seen right from its gate up to the baileys and bastions. Its chapels look peaceful, and the gardens are welcoming. The palace, which now houses a museum, is one grand structure, and indoors, it even looks spectacular. Some people don’t want to look at the past, but in Hohenzollern, the past looks good, at least when checking out the castle’s majestic decorations and design.